In the Torah, we find Hashem giving Moshe an instruction that shaped our calendar. Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon (Shmos 12:2) “This month should be to you the beginning on the months; it should be first to you for the months of the year.” The month that Hashem was referring to is the month of Nissan, the month in which the holiday of Pesach occurs.
The Ramban explains the uniqueness of this command and this month. He writes that the reason the month of Nissan is to be the first, the month which is assigned the place as the first month, by which we count all others, is because of the significance of the event which occurred in that month. Nissan is to serve as a reminder of the tremendous miracles that occurred with our exile from Egypt. It is a reminder that we will encounter on a daily basis. When we state, for example, that today is the 29th day of the 12th month, we are stating that it is the 12th month from our salvation from the Egyptians, from the birth of our nation. Hence, we assure that we are continuously reminded of the event that is to remain primal in our lives.
The Aruch HaShulchan (Orech Chayim 429:1-2 ) elaborates on the importance of the month of Nissan. Why was the month of Nissan chosen to be the first? The Egyptians worshiped the kid, a young goat, which is the first of the astrological signs in the zodiac. The kid is also the astrological sign for the month of Nissan. Pharaoh relied heavily on the astrological signs for power and strength. We find by the plague of Barad, hail, that Pharaoh said “G-d is righteous, but I and my nation are evil.” However, after the cessation of the plague, he still refused to release the nation of Israel. When the next plague of Arbeh, locusts, arrived, he stood steadfast in his refusal to release the nation. Why the change from contrition to brazenness? The plague of Arbeh, and then Choshech, darkness, when Pharaoh instructed Moshe and Aharon never to appear before him again, occurred when the astrological sign of the kid was coming into power. This period is the month we know as Nissan. Pharaoh believed that as the sign of his god was at its full power, there was no way he would succumb to the G-d of his slaves, the G-d of Moshe and Aharon, the G-d that inflicted plagues upon him and his nation. Pharaoh knew that he would emerge on top during this month. He was wrong.
The month of Nissan is the first month because of its great significance. Not only does it contain the reminder about our miraculous departure from Egypt. It is also significant as it is a clear demonstration of the oneness of G-d and his dominion. The month of Nissan, in which Pharaoh, who relied on this month for success, was defeated, illustrates that it is Hashem who is our G-d in heaven and on earth. It is Hashem who controls, whose divine providence shapes our lives. No other entity has any such power, contrary to Pharaoh’s belief. No other force, whether it is our daily toil and effort or the signs in the zodiac, can affect our lives without G-d’s fingerprints on it. Because of the importance of this lesson, Nissan is the first month, the month, by which we count all others.
The month of Nissan is upon us. The month which signifies the power of G-d is here. The month which celebrates our miraculous birth of our nation has arrived. It is our responsibility to recognize what the month of Nissan is all about. In this way, come Iyar, Sivan, and the other months, our reference point has true meaning and significance.