In the Torah, we find Hashem giving Moshe an instruction that shaped our
calendar. Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon (Shmos 12:2) "This month should be
to you the beginning on the months; it should be first to you for the months
of the year." The month that Hashem was referring to is the month of Nissan,
the month in which the holiday of Pesach occurs.
The Ramban explains the uniqueness of this command and this month. He writes
that the reason the month of Nissan is to be the first, the month which is
assigned the place as the first month, by which we count all others, is
because of the significance of the event which occurred in that month. Nissan
is to serve as a reminder of the tremendous miracles that occurred with our
exile from Egypt. It is a reminder that we will encounter on a daily basis.
When we state, for example, that today is the 29th day of the 12th month, we
are stating that it is the 12th month from our salvation from the Egyptians,
from the birth of our nation. Hence, we assure that we are continuously
reminded of the event that is to remain primal in our lives.
The Aruch HaShulchan (Orech Chayim 429:1-2 ) elaborates on the importance of
the month of Nissan. Why was the month of Nissan chosen to be the first? The
Egyptians worshiped the kid, a young goat, which is the first of the
astrological signs in the zodiac. The kid is also the astrological sign for
the month of Nissan. Pharaoh relied heavily on the astrological signs for
power and strength. We find by the plague of Barad, hail, that Pharaoh said
"G-d is righteous, but I and my nation are evil." However, after the
cessation of the plague, he still refused to release the nation of Israel.
When the next plague of Arbeh, locusts, arrived, he stood steadfast in his
refusal to release the nation. Why the change from contrition to brazenness?
The plague of Arbeh, and then Choshech, darkness, when Pharaoh instructed
Moshe and Aharon never to appear before him again, occurred when the
astrological sign of the kid was coming into power. This period is the month
we know as Nissan. Pharaoh believed that as the sign of his god was at its
full power, there was no way he would succumb to the G-d of his slaves, the
G-d of Moshe and Aharon, the G-d that inflicted plagues upon him and his
nation. Pharaoh knew that he would emerge on top during this month. He was
The month of Nissan is the first month because of its great significance. Not
only does it contain the reminder about our miraculous departure from Egypt.
It is also significant as it is a clear demonstration of the oneness of G-d
and his dominion. The month of Nissan, in which Pharaoh, who relied on this
month for success, was defeated, illustrates that it is Hashem who is our G-d
in heaven and on earth. It is Hashem who controls, whose divine providence
shapes our lives. No other entity has any such power, contrary to Pharaoh's
belief. No other force, whether it is our daily toil and effort or the signs
in the zodiac, can affect our lives without G-d's fingerprints on it. Because
of the importance of this lesson, Nissan is the first month, the month, by
which we count all others.
The month of Nissan is upon us. The month which signifies the power of G-d is
here. The month which celebrates our miraculous birth of our nation has
arrived. It is our responsibility to recognize what the month of Nissan is
all about. In this way, come Iyar, Sivan, and the other months, our reference
point has true meaning and significance.