The Sefas Emes (Parshas Hachodesh 5645) calls Parshas Hachodesh “the key to geulah.” He explains somewhat enigmatically that “this [mitzvah of sanctifying the New Moon] was the first commandment given to Klal Yisroel (see Rashi, Bereishis 1:1, and Ramban, Shemos 12:2). Therefore, when the sound of the Torah was revealed, all the bonds of their bondage were removed.”
He continues to cite pesukim in Shir Hashirim (2:8-9) that refer to our rapid exit from Mitzrayim when “even an iron wall could not intervene between ourselves and our Heavenly Father” (Pesachim 85b). However, the reference to the “revelation of the sound of the Torah” is still mystifying, since in actuality the full “sound of the Torah” was not heard until Mattan Torah some three months later. Now, we know of course that the entire purpose of Yetzias Mitzrayim was the monumental event of Mattan Torah (Shemos 3:12). Yet, aside from these flaming words of the Sefas Emes, we would not know that Parshas Hachodesh was “the key to redemption.” Delving more deeply into this concept will allow us a glimpse of the importance of this often misunderstood last of the Four Parshiyos.
Rav Gedalyah Schorr zt”l (Ohr Gedalyahu, page 122) reminds us that, in truth, every Rosh Chodesh represents renewal, since every thirty days, a human being becomes somewhat stale and worn out. He proves this from the halacha (Orach Chaim 225:1) that if one has not seen a friend for thirty days, he may recite the brocha of Shehecheyanu over him. Nissan is the first month to demonstrate the revival and new spirit that arrives every month. The Shela Hakadosh even goes so far as to say that each of the first 12 days of Nissan is a microcosm of Rosh Chodesh itself.
This concept seems to be based upon the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 429) that those first 12 days should each be treated like a Yom Tov, since the nesi’im, the princes of each shevet, offered their inaugural korbanos during those days. However, the Chiddushei Harim is troubled by this statement. He contends that we should no longer commemorate those 12 days, since their special status is found in Megillas Taanis and we no longer celebrate any of the days mentioned in that ancient work.
The Chiddushei Harim answers that the parts of Megillas Taanis that have become obsolete are those that depend upon the Bais Hamikdosh. Since we sadly no longer have a Bais Hamikdosh, days devoted to its greatness have been nullified. The first 12 days of Nissan, however, flow from the greatness of the Mishkon and the Mishkon was never destroyed. In the same vein, the days of Tishrei reinvigorate us all every year when they return.
My rebbi, Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt”l (Maamorei Pachad Yitzchok, Pesach 44:7) also notes that we do not fast during the first 12 days of Nissan (Tur 429) because those were the days of the inauguration of the Mishkon, despite the fact that Megillas Taanis is no longer in effect. Thus, there must be some powerful effect of early Nissan that precludes fasting and requires a certain degree of joy. What, exactly, is this quality?
Rav Schorr’s own answer to this question (page 63) is that Nissan transports each one of us to a place where teva never gets old, because it is manifestly superseded by the supernatural, as represented by neis, the quintessential character of the month.
Rav Shimshon Pincus (Shemos, page 123) reminds us that Nissan is called Chodesh Ha’aviv (Shemos 13:4) because spring represents physical as well as spiritual renewal. Even the most basic reflections about the new season evoke the fact that what appeared dead and decayed has now blossomed into new life. Thus, Pesach and indeed the entire Nissan give us hope that we can rediscover life even when destruction and the bleakness of winter appeared to triumph.
Rav Hutner (Pachad Yitzchok, Shavuos, last maamar) explains that a child can be expected to accept the yoke of maturity simply because he sees growth and renewal constantly in his own physical self. On the grander scale of our nation, we experience the reawakening of nature in spring and realize that it was all there because of us and for us. Rav Hutner emerged from a difficult shivah for a relative and was consoled by a blooming tree that he felt had been placed there just for him (Sefer Hazikaron). We, too, watch trees coming to life, recite Birkas Ha’illanos, and reflect upon our own potential to grow and improve once again.
However, the ultimate lesson of Parshas Hachodesh may be that as Am Yisrael, we not only learn from nature, but transcend the mere gashmiyus by embracing the Torah we began to receive with the first mitzvah. The Rogatchover Gaon teaches us thousands of times that the Torah transcends the laws of nature, even as it defines those very laws (see Rav Mendel Kasher, Sefer Mefaaneach Tzefunos).
The makkos and Krias Yam Suf were not there just to prove that Hashem is great. They were teach us that it is we who control nature, just as we have power over which day becomes Rosh Chodesh and determines the day of Yom Tov. The brocha is “mekadeish Yisroel vehazemanim because, unlike Shabbos, it is we who decide which day shall be Yom Tov, thus strengthening our conviction that we have been given the mandate to conquer the world, as long as we do so lesheim Shomayim. This is the ultimate grandeur of Nissan. It is not the miracles per se but our G-d-given mandate to use every bit of nature for avodas Hashem. Sometimes this means accepting nature as is and sometimes it is our ability to “let the vinegar burn as well as the oil” because Hashem has so willed it.
Nissan is truly the key to redemption, for this month empowers us to believe and know that Hashem can end the 400-year bondage in 210, since time is His and has been given to us. May we soon see that power fulfilled speedily in our time.