Nissan - The Month of Chessed

Rabbi Yisroel Kornfeld

Adapted from a thought heard in the name of HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shapiro Shlita

There is a dispute in the Gemara 1 concerning the month in which the world was created. R' Yehoshua argues that the world began in Nissan whereas R' Eliezer says that it was created in Tishrei 2.

What would be the difference between a world created in Nissan, or one created in Tishrei? In the northern hemisphere, Nissan naturally brings to mind springtime, to fields full of growing produce, to blossoming trees, all portents of the harvest to come. Tishrei, on the other hand, signals the onset of winter with the prospect of hard work, under grim circumstances, in order to be able to reap a reward at some time in the distant future.

According to R' Yehoshua then, the world was created ready to harvest, without the (normally) required work in advance. This would be in accordance with Hashem's Middas HaRachamim (Attribute of Mercy). It is the ultimate chessed - to eat without working! According to R' Eliezer, however, the world was created ready for work. Work yields results and no work brings no reward. This is Hashem's Middas HaDin (attribute of judgement) 3.

We know that Yetzias Mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt) occurred in Nissan. The Jewish nation miraculously emerged from slavery despite having no merits. Moshe, himself was perplexed by this and asked Hashem at the sne (burning bush) "What merit do our people have to be worthy of deliverance from Egypt?" The answer was "You're right! - they don't have any merit now, but in the future they will stand united at Sinai and receive the Torah." This is the chessed of Nissan - the reward of freedom was granted for the hard work of accepting the yoke of Torah even though that acceptance would not occur for another 49 days.

The same feature of Nissan is apparent when we consider the prayers for geshem (rain) and tal (dew). At the start of the northern winter, we pray for geshem on Shemini Atzeres. If man is worthy, the rain will come. One is a consequence of the other in accordance with Middas HaDin. This natural order is reflected in the accompanying piyut (prayer) which is arranged according to the aleph-beis, starting at aleph and concluding with taf. At the approach of summer, during Pesach, we pray for tal (dew). Dew however, comes every day, whether man is worthy or not. The accompanying piyut is also arranged according to the aleph-beis but it begins with taf and ends with aleph. The chessed of Nissan reverses the natural order.

Din and chessed want the same. They both want our input. Both want our work. Chessed is not just a gift, it is a loan, an extension of credit. Nissan is called "Chodesh asher hayeshuos bo makifos" (a month in which salvations follow quickly one upon the other) 4. Hakofo (from the same root as makifos) also means lending or postponing payment 5. In a play on these words, the Chidushei HaRim explains that it is a month in which the yeshuos are lent out. Nissan is the month in which salvations are given on credit.

May Hashem grant us a bountiful line of credit in this month of chessed, Nissan, and herald in the geula sheleima - the ultimate redemption.

1. Rosh Hashana 10b-11a.
2. The same disputants also disagree as to whether it was the shamayim (sky) or the aretz (earth) that was created first.
3. It should come as no surprise that R' Eliezer was a disciple of the school of Shamai. The Maharal explains that the 'Shoresh Neshama' (root of the soul) of Shamai is from Middas HaDin, whereas Hillel's is derived from Middas HaRachamim (Hashem's attribute of mercy). This fundamental difference accounts for the diverging opinions of these two schools.
4. From the piyut of Mussaf on Parshas HaChodesh.
5. For example a chenveni makif is a shopkeeper who defers payment.

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