Rosh Hodesh Nissan Torah Essay
When we read of the Exodus from Egypt in general, and the plague of the first-born, in particular, a seemingly simple question arises. Why in the middle of the planning of the ultimate plague, which is described in Parshat Bo, chapter 11, does the Torah stop, and move suddenly at the beginning of chapter 12 to speak about the mitzvah of blessing the new month and the Pesach sacrifice, and only afterwards, returns to relate the plague of the first-born?
In order to answer this question, we should first stipulate the important principle that the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, or in other words, the creation of Am Yisrael, was both the endpoint of a process and its beginning. It was the culmination of a process that began at the covenant of Brit Bein Habitarim with Avraham, which heralded a new concept in the world – monotheism, and faith in G-d, charity and justice – and culminated in the creation of the people of Israel.
But it was also the beginning of a process. The official entry of Am Yisrael on the stage of history was not an insignificant, local occasion in world history. It was a game changer, an event to influence the world in religious-spiritual as well as in geopolitical aspects. An event of this magnitude would necessitate dramatic changes to all levels of existence.
We believe that holiness manifests in the world in three aspects: man, place and time. The people of Israel are the chosen nation, the manifestation of holiness in its human aspect. Moreover, already at the beginning of the process of the Exodus, it is clear that the ultimate purpose of the Exodus is coming to Eretz Yisrael – the holy place. What is missing? The holiness of time in order to complete the process of general holiness, to make the dramatic event of the Exodus complete.
Therefore, it is impossible to leave Egypt without changing one’s perception of time into one that is more holy and Jewish, which will affect the world in the same way as Eretz Yisrael does, and Am Yisrael should do.
The month of Nissan, which was converted by the exodus into the first month of the Jewish year, expresses the new perception of time brought by the nation of Israel, including Shabbat, and the festivals linked to agricultural seasons – like Shavuot and Sukkot etc. This is a perception of time which acknowledges the presence of G-d in the world.
Only by virtue of changing the perspective on time, could we bring holiness into the world completely, only by virtue of the month of Nissan could we truly and fully have left Egypt.