Rosh Hodesh Nisan Torah Essay
Shanee Hadad (nee Mali)
The Edythe Benjamin חיה בת שלמה beloved mother of Barbara Hanus
Rosh Hodesh Nisan Torah Essay
Blossoms: Renewal in our lives
Rosh Chodesh Nisan heralds the spring season of renewal, as the world wakes from its winter slumber and nature starts the thawing process. The days have begun to lengthen, and the air has shifted from chilly to pleasantly warm. The winter months of hibernation, planning, and waiting are coming to a close. We are now prepared to enter the new year for the Jewish people, the first month, chodesh Nisan. The time of new beginnings is upon us, and we can see this expressed in nature through the blossoming of the fruit trees. The results of the plentiful rain that we were blessed with this year are being seen as our country begins to blossom.
In the Torah, this month is referred to by three names: The first month, Aviv, and Nisan. The first month is used when referencing when we left Egypt, and for counting Jewish kingship etc. Aviv is the spring, we see renewal and we are also taught that Pesach must take place in the spring. Lastly, the Torah uses the supposed Babylonian name Nisan, which is similar to the Aramaic nisan that means buds, like the Hebrew nitzan.
The Gemara in Rosh Hashana (11a) extensively debates in which month the world was created and in which month the Patriarchs were born. Many proofs are brought to assert that these pivotal events occurred in Tishrei and many counter arguments are brought to support Nisan being the auspicious month. It mentions that that the month of Nisan is referred to as ziv–radiant. One possibility mentioned is that ziv refers to the radiant ones, the Patriarchs, suggesting they were born in Nisan. The other meaning suggested of the month of ziv is that it refers to the radiance of the trees that we see in Nisan, the blossoming of the fruit trees.
The Gemara here (and in Brachot 43b) quotes Rav Yehuda as saying:
האי מאן דנפק ביומי ניסן וחזי אילני דמלבלבי אומר ברוך שלא חיסר מעולמו כלום וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובות להתנאות בהן בני אדם
“One who goes out during the days of Nisan and sees trees that are blossoming recites: Blessed…Who has withheld nothing from His world and has created in it beautiful creatures and beautiful trees for human beings to enjoy.”
There are so many interesting facets to this blessing. What is the suggested interplay between creatures, trees, and human beings? Also, the language “nothing is missing,” and Hashem created good things. Is this suggesting that one must not merely lack for nothing, but rather we have to have good things as well? Not hungry is not the same as satiated. These and other philosophical questions should be considered when contemplating this blessing; I will just highlight one.
To explore the question of nothing lacking and the creation of good things, we can turn our attention to Tehillim 34:15:
ס֣וּר מֵ֭רָע וַעֲשֵׂה־ט֑וֹב בַּקֵּ֖שׁ שָׁל֣וֹם וְרָדְפֵֽהוּ׃
“Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”
I think the Psalmist is imploring us to be active. ‘Not bad’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’. It is not enough to refrain from doing the wrong thing, one has to make sure to take appropriate actions in order to do good.
If we apply this idea to our blessing on the blossoms, we see that Hashem has not only created a neutral world where we are not in a state of poverty, but rather, in this blessing, He is telling us that He created the world with our joy and pleasure in mind. Hashem is not passive, He actively bestows all goodness.
Turning from the philosophical perspective, one must remember to consider the Halakhic parameters as well. The general custom/minhag is to make this blessing the first time one sees blossoming fruit trees in the month of Nisan, but one should consult his Halakhic authority for practical implementation.
In any case, this blessing is an opportunity for us to appreciate this time of renewal and new beginnings both in nature and in ourselves as we prepare for Pesach, the holiday that marks the birth of the Jewish nation. The dreams and aspirations of our souls are blooming, just as nature around us blossoms. May we all merit a year imbued with meaning and beauty in our lives in our beautiful homeland.