Friday, March 17, 2023

A New Season Has Arrived

The Pesach season begins to go into high gear with the arrival of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. This date does not merely signal the arrival of the month that Pesach finds itself in or that Pesach is two weeks away. Rosh Chodesh Nissan is significant in its own right. In fact, the Haggadah entertains a possibility that the Mitzvah of retelling the story of the Exodus should take place not on Pesach but two weeks earlier on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. What would be the rationale for observing the core Mitzvah of Pesach two weeks before the Yom Tov begins? Is there any other Yom Tov with the core Mitzvahs observed two weeks before it starts? The basis for this conversation is our tradition's appreciation for the month of Nissan. The Mishkan was inaugurated in the desert on the first of Nissan. The date was not a coincidence in scheduling. The purpose of the Mishkan was for the Jewish People to have a central house of worship in which they could connect to God’s presence. According to Rashi, the mandate to construct the Mishkan was immediately after Yom Kippur in the aftermath of the debacle of the Golden Calf. Over 40 days, Moshe engaged in intense prayer, and on the tenth of Tishrei, G-d responded with the words, I have forgiven. The following morning, the campaign to construct the Mishkan began. The purpose of this campaign was not only to build a structure but also to restore the Divine Presence in the Jewish Community. The construction was completed in the month of Kislev, but the Mishkan was only inaugurated on the first of Nissan. This date was not chosen by accident but rather carefully selected. The Rabbis have taught that different dates have not only different meanings but also have various spiritual manifestations in this world. As the Torah states about the First of Nissan, This Month is the First of All Months for You. The First of Nissan represents this powerful spiritual manifestation in this world where the Jewish People become a Nation. This date is so auspicious because it ushers the first stages of freedom to a beleaguered nation that was subjugated to foreign rule. As we learn throughout the Haggadah, authentic freedom is the ability to live with meaning and purpose and not be subject to the will of other entities. Since the First of Nissan was such a turning point in our history, it is no wonder that the Haggadah entertains the notion that we should begin retelling the story of the Exodus on the First of Nissan. Although the debate concludes that we start this Mitzvah on Pesach night and not on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the process of preparing for this season begins as the month of Nissan begins. It is time to contemplate the question of what freedom means to you. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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