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Shabbos Mevorchim Nissan: Spring … Rebirth … Renewal

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On this Shabbos, Shabbos Parshas Ha’Chodesh, we bentch the new month of Nissan — referred to in the Torah as Chodesh Ha’Aviv, the month of spring. Rosh Chodesh falls on Yom Shlishi (Tuesday), heralding the start of a new lunar year and commemorating the inception of the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh.

HaChodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim” – this month is for you the head of all months (Shemos 12:2). Thus did Hashem command Moshe and Aharon to observe Nissan as the first of the twelve lunar months, thereafter instructing Moshe Rabbeinu in how to ascertain the onset of a new month and, accordingly, its sanctification (Kiddush HaChodesh), by the light of the moon.

Moshe Rabbeinu was indisputably the quintessential leader and teacher of all time and at the forefront of the events that shaped the future of our nation. Still, as the Talmud authenticates, it was the virtuous women behind the scenes that made Bnei Yisrael worthy of rescue and redemption.

Six-year-old Miriam prevailed upon her parents, Amram and Yocheved, to reunite after they had divorced following Pharaoh’s decree to toss all newborn male infants into the sea. The sagacious youngster reasoned that their act – subsequently emulated by all other Jewish households – would forestall the birth of both male and female souls, depriving them of both this world and the next, while any children who would lose their lives as a result of Pharaoh’s ruling would merit Olam Haba. Moreover, contended Miriam, Hashem was more than capable of disrupting the Egyptian ruler’s evil intent.

At that point the older sister of Aharon (Moshe was yet to be born) was gifted with Ruach Hakodesh and prophesied that her parents would give birth to a baby boy who would be instrumental in easing the plight of the Jews at the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters.

The saying in Mishlei, “Chochmas nashim bansa beisah” – the wisdom of a wife can save a household – is attributed to Yocheved, the mother of three righteous individuals and prophets – Aharon, Moshe, and Miriam – each of whom played a major role in edifying the Jewish nation.

Water surged in abundance in the dry desert in Miriam’s merit; the Annanei HaKavod that safeguarded the Jews from harm in the wilderness is accredited to Aharon, the consummate peacemaker; and it was by way of Moshe Rabbeinu’s virtuousness that Bnei Yisrael were nourished by the manna that fell from the heavens.

It can be truly said that Basya went the extra mile (with some assistance from the Almighty) to save Moshe from her father’s evil mandate. Afflicted with tzora’as, Basya approached the river’s edge intending to immerse herself in the cool waters and soothe her burning skin lesions. Her arm was miraculously elongated as she reached for the basket that contained the 3-month old Moshe — who Basya discovered was voicelessly shedding tears.

Her heart stirred for the little one she believed was too weak from hunger to cry out loud. No sooner did she touch the basket than her skin magically healed. Basya instantly sensed the uniqueness of this Jewish child and called him her own.

The name Basya literally denotes “daughter of God.” Said Hashem: “Moshe was not your son and yet you called him your son. You are not my daughter (one of my nation) yet I will call you Basya – my daughter.”

Among the elite and righteous souls whose yahrtzeits are observed during the month of Nissan: Miriam HaNeviah (10 Nissan); the Shelah HaKadosh and the Ramban (11 Nissan); the Bais Yosef – R’ Yosef Karo, and the Tzemach Tzedek – 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe (13 Nissan); Yitzchak Avinu and Yehuda ben Yaakov Avinu (15 Nissan); Levi ben Yaakov Avinu (16 Nissan); R’ Itzikel of Skver – 7th son of R’ Mordechai of Chernobyl (17 Nissan); the Divrei Chaim m’Sanz (25 Nissan); R’ Chaim Vital and R’ Yakov Amdin – son of the Chacham Zvi (30 Nissan).

Of all the significant events recorded as having transpired on Leil Pesach throughout the generations, one of the most far-reaching involved the night Yitzchak asked his eldest son Eisav to bring him good food as befits the auspicious time. When Eisav tarried in carrying out his mission, his brother Yaakov, inspired by his mother Rivka to take advantage of the propitious occasion, brought two kid-goats to his father — one as a Korban Pesach offering, the other as food for Yitzchak… and we are all familiar with the ultimate outcome.

The Yismach Moshe poses an intriguing query: Tzaddikim of yore had the ability to discern the character of the shochet who had rendered their meat edible. In fact, the Baal Shem Tov is said to have known what the shochet had been thinking during shechita. Could Yitzchak Avinu conceivably have trusted the kashrus of the meat brought to him by Eisav the apostate?

Eisav was no fool and understood that his father, Yitzchak, would detect the unclean source of the meat his less-than-observant son would serve him. Hence he would ask his brother Yaakov to slaughter the animal. Yaakov agreed to his brother’s request out of respect for their father and applied himself to the task with devotion and diligence.

Thus, when Eisav would present the meat to his father, Yitzchak Avinu promptly perceived the shochet to be a tzaddik, a holy man. Consequently, Yitzchak retained a high opinion of Eisav. (Despite being aware of Eisav’s ways, Yitzchak believed his son was merely using them as cover for his higher middos.)

It was only after Yaakov had received his father’s blessings that Eisav’s lies were divinely revealed to Yitzchak, who inquired fearfully, “Whose shechita had I been eating of until now?” [Divrei Yoel]

As touched upon in the essay on Shabbos Mevorchim Teves, it is to Avraham Avinu’s credit that we are endowed with a discernible aging process (which he had beseeched Hashem for in order that proper respect be conferred upon the elder). This article would be incomplete without ascribing proper acknowledgement to Yitzchak Avinu who prayed to Hashem to make man feel some pain in this world, so that by physical suffering one could atone for his sins and arrive to the next world somewhat cleansed of his wrongdoings.

There are opposing views in the Talmud as to whether we will actually be redeemed during Tishrei or Nissan. Should Israel prove itself worthy, redemption will come in Tishrei – the month of judgment. But should we, G-d forbid, prove to be unworthy, Nissan – a time of divine mercy – will be our saving grace. [Kedushas Levi]

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