Friday, April 01, 2011

Parshas HaChodesh 5646 Second Ma'amar

The Midrash[1] teaches us that when God created the world, He established months and years.  When he chose Ya'akov and his children, He established the month of redemption.  Apparently there is a special relationship between the nation of Israel and the month of Nissan.  What is that relationship?  What is the Midrash really teaching us?

The Sfas Emes explains that God established the month of Tishrei as the beginning of the year because that is when He created the world.  Although we were created with the creation of the world just like every other creation, our spiritual beginnings were in Nissan when God chose us to be His servants and to observe his mitzvos.  Our spiritual beginnings hold more import for us than our physical beginnings.  We find, for example, Chazal say that it is worse to goad someone into sinning than it is to kill him.  Spiritual death is worse than physical death.

Because our spiritual beginnings are so much more important that our physical creation, God tells us in the first of the ten commandments, "אנכי ה׳ א־להיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים/I am God your Lord who took you out of the land of Egypt," (Shmos 20:2) instead of, "I am God your Lord who created you."  Of course, our physical creation is a prerequisite for our spiritual growth and is therefore a crucial part of God's plan.  However, the goal of and reason for the physical creation is revealing and experiencing God in this world, coming close to Him, as it were.  This beginning occurred in Nissan.

This is also why the Torah says, "החודש הזה לכם ראש חדשים .../This month is yours, the beginning of the months …" (Shmos 12:2)  instead of, "This month is the beginning of the months …"[2] We can relate to the novelty of Nissan, the month that we were made into a nation, more than to the month Tishrei in which we were created.  The novelty of Nissan, the redemption and revelation of God's glory through the wonders, the Torah and the mitzvos was given specifically to us, the nation of Israel.

We find an interesting relationship between Nissan and Tishrei, or more specifically, between Pesach and Rosh HaShana in the Zohar[3].  The Zohar teaches that Chametz represents the evil inclination.  Eating Matzah on Pesach protects us against the evil inclination represented by Chametz.  In fact, the Zohar refers to Matzah as medicine (lit. healing food).  On Shavuos we received the Torah which is also an antidote against the evil inclination.  The Zohar says that this is the reason that the Shtei Halechem/two loaves that we bring on Shavuos is made specifically of Chametz.  On Shavuos we totally conquer the evil inclination.   

The Zohar goes as far as to say that all those who took the medicine of Matzah on Pesach and learned Torah as well are not judged on Rosh Hashana.  Judgment on Rosh HaShana is reserved, according to the Zohar, for those who did not take the medicine on Pesach and left the medicine of the Torah in favor of Chametz, the evil inclination.     

On an individual level, to the extent that serving God and advancing spiritually is more important to us than the physical world, our judgment is in Nissan, when God displays the aspect of love and kindness rather than in Tishrei when He reveals the aspect of judgment and awe.[4]

[1] Shmos R. 15:11
[2] Viz. Shmos R. 15:1
[3] Zohar 2:183b
[4] Viz. Sfas Emes HaChodesh 5639 for more on the differences between Nissan and Tishrei regarding God's love and awe.

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