We read in the book of Shmot, “This month shall be to you the head of the months” (Exod. 12:1).
Yet throughout Jewish history the Jewish new year or Rosh Hashana, has been viewed as occurring on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.That is the day that traditionally is understood as the day in which the world was created.
In fact the first day of Tishrei, (the seventh month,) actually does not commemorate the actual birth of the world, but rather the birth of Adam and Eve. Their arrival and actions ushered in the concept of time as well. When man was immortal the passage of time was unperceivable. But when Adam and Eve became mortal, the prospect of death gave the passage of time great importance.
The ticking clock of mortality was meant to prod man to find meaning in a life that otherwise tumbles towards death and lack of purpose.
Yet as we have seen in the Torah Portion of Bo:
“This month shall be to you the head of the months. It shall be to you the first month among the months of the year’ (Exod. 12:1).This month later identified and given a name in the Scroll of Esther: ‘In the first month, which is the month of Nisan’ (Esth. 3:7)”
So which month is the first month? Which is the month that begins?.
To understand we need to relook at the verse:
“This month shall be to you the head of the months”. The word HAZEH, ‘this’, becomes very significant. The Midrash metaphorically understands the use of the word HAZEH -‘this’ as a Divine finger pointing to the newly emerged sliver of a moon with HaShem saying to Moshe: ‘When you see the moon at this state you must sanctify it as the head of all months
What HaShem is actually telling these people that have just come out of slavery ; “I have given you the power to sanctify the month. Not only can you declare the month’s beginning but I have given you the power to actually fill it with sanctification and with holiness”
That is an incredible revelation to a slave people that had no control over their own lives, let alone their time. Yet now HaShem was telling them that based on their sanctification of the new month He declares the fifteenth of that month to be a time of holiness and an appointed time of meeting, the feast of Pesach.
That is a great lesson for a subjugated people They have been given a great power and mastery over time They have been given the power to fill time with meaning.
That is the deeper meaning of the words “This month shall be to you”. This month will be the month that will begin all months for them as a people. Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei, continues to represent the beginning “of the years”. It denotes the continuing and repetition of the laws of nature.
Rav Moshe Shapira of Jerusalem teaches that this idea is inherent in the Hebrew word for “year”, SHANAH. That word implies repetition. On the other hand the new year “of the months” is in Nissan. The Hebrew word for month “ HODESH” implies newness and change. On Tishrei, the world was created with grounding in the natural and yet with great spiritual potential .The month of Nissan whose name implies NES or miracle represents the spiritual actualization of that potential. HaShem formed a people who would bring the concept of sanctification into the world.
He created a people that will teach the world that mankind has the miraculous potential of filling “the natural” with holiness and sanctification. Therefore there are two beginnings in the year, one denoting “the natural” imbued with potential and the other denoting the miraculous actualization of that potential.