Jewish Calendar: Months of the Jewish Year

The Month of Nisan
According to Sefer Yetzirah

According to Sefer Yetzirah, each month of the Jewish year has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body that correspond to it.

Nissan is the first of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar.

The first commandment given to the newly born nation of Israel before the Exodus from Egypt was: "This month [the month of Nissan] shall be for you the first of the months" (Exodus 12:2).

The month of Nissan begins, in particular, the "period" (tekufah) of the spring. The three months of this tekufah--Nissan, Iyar, Sivan--correspond to the three tribes of the camp of Judah--Judah, Issachar, Zebulun--who were situated to the east). In the Torah, Nissan is referred to as "the month of the spring" (chodesh ha'aviv).

In addition, Nissan begins the six summer months, which correspond to six levels of "straight light" (in Divine service--"arousal from above"). This is alluded to in the name aviv which begins with the two letters alef beit, in the "direct" or "straight" order of the alef-beit.

Nissan is referred to as "the month of the redemption." According to the accepted opinion of our sages: "In Nissan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt and in Nissan we will be redeemed" (Tractate Rosh HaShana 11a).

Nissan is a month of miracles (nissim). The fact that the name Nissan possesses two nuns implies, according to our sages, nissei nissim--"miracles of miracles." Of the redemption of the future it is said: "As the days of your exodus from Egypt, I shall reveal to him wonders." In Chassidut this verse is explained to mean that the wonders of the redemption of the future will be wondrous and miraculous relative to the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt--"miracles of miracles."

Letter: hei.

The letter hei is the phonetic origin of all the 22 letters of the alef-beit.

Our sages teach us that "with the letter hei G-d created this world," as is said at the beginning of the second account of Creation (which corresponds to the Jewish calender, beginning from Nissan): "b'hibaram--b'hei bera'am." Thus, the month of Nissan signifies the annual renewal of the creation of this world.

Mazal: taleh (Aries--lamb).

The taleh symbolizes the Pesach sacrifice, the first sacrifice of the Jewish people to G-d upon their redemption. The Jewish people itself is symbolized as a lamb (amongst seventy wolves). Of all of G-d's creations, the lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by its voice (the origin of the sense of speech of the month of Nissan).

Tribe: Judah.

Judah is the king (the "first") of the tribes of Israel. His name means to give thanks, in speech (the sense of Nissan). The king rules his people by the power of his speech, as is said "for the word of the king is his rule." The month of Nissan is "the new year for kings" (Mishnah Rosh HaShana 1:1).

Sense: Speech.

The sense of speech implies ones ability to express his deepest feelings and insights to an other. All forms of expression are referred to generically as "speech."

"This world" (created by the letter hei of Nissan) is one that is founded upon (verbal) communication. Personifying the sefirah of malchut (kingdom), it is often referred to as "the world of speech" (or "the revealed world").

The very root for "speech" means as well "to lead." Thus the sense of speech is in essence the sense of leadership.

The central mitzvah of the month of Nissan, on the seder night, is the telling of the story of the Exodus--"the more one tells of the Exodus from Egypt, the more is he praiseworthy." This is the foremost mitzvah of speech of the entire year. Of the 15 stages of the seder (15 = the sum of all numbers from 1 to 5), magid--the telling of the story of the Exodus--is the 5th stage. 5 = hei. The stage of magid begins with the word "hei" (hei lachma anya, "this is the poor-mans bread").

The redemption from Egypt (the existential state of "confinement," the inability to truly express oneself--"all exiles are referred to as Egypt") symbolizes the "freedom of speech."

Controller: right foot.

Just as "speaking" means "to lead," so does one's walking (with one's right foot, the foot of trust and confidence) direct and control one's sense of speech, as is said: "walkers on the way, speak" (Song of Deborah, Judges 5:10). Speaking words of Torah while walking on the way inspires new insights into the secrets of the Torah. And so do we find that many of the secrets of the holy Zohar were revealed in the context of "walking on the way."