Rosh Chodesh Mazal - 001 Nissan | The Lamb Part 1
Sanctifying The New Months In Our Times
“The head of the months [Roshei Chodashim], to Your nation, You gave.” The concept of Rosh Chodesh came into fruition when we left Egypt, whereupon we received the commandment of Rosh Chodesh [to sanctify the new month]. The actual names of the months [Nissan, Iyar, etc.] were not formulated until the times of Ezra, but the concept of the 12 months of Rosh Chodesh itself was given to us when we left Egypt.
The month of Nissan is called “head of the months, the first unto you” – it is the month in which the redemption from Egypt took place. When we left Egypt and we were given the mitzvah to sanctify the month, this was not just another detail we received; it formed the roots of the entire structure of the Jewish people.
Nowadays, we no longer have the mitzvah of sanctifying the new month. We don’t have a Beis Din to sanctify the new month, and we don’t have the ways with which the appearance of the new moon can be recognized, which our Sages established, as the Mishnah records. Today, it seems that sanctifying the new month is no longer relevant to us. Is sanctifying the new month still of relevance to us, today? [We will explain that it does].
The Twelve Tribes Always Remain
In the beginning of sefer Shemos, the Torah records all of the names of Yaakov Avinu’s descendants who went down to Egypt, which includes the 12 shevatim (tribes) and all of their families. When the Jewish people entered Egypt, there were 12 tribes, and when we emerged from Egypt with the exodus, the 12 tribes were still intact. The lesson that this implies is, that no matter how much we go through exile, our 12 tribes always remain.
This is the depth of the redemption from exodus, and this is the inner meaning of the “great possessions” which we left Egypt with. When we left Egypt, we were given the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh, and the Torah calls it a “time of atonement for all their offspring.”– this was our “great possessions” we left with: Rosh Chodesh, the 12 months of the year, which are are parallel to each of the 12 tribes, are an atonement for us, for all the generations to come (There are many interpretations of the meaning of “great possessions” that we left Egypt with, but this is one of them).
The 12 tribes are present both in time, soul, and place. They are manifest in time, in Rosh Chodesh, the 12 months of the year. And the 12 tribes also exist in the sphere of our own soul. They also manifest in “place” with the 12 allotted portions of Eretz Yisrael, which are each given to one of the tribes.
The Gemara states that we have a tradition, that never will any one of the tribes be destroyed.” All of the 12 tribes of the Jewish people, without exception, will survive exile. Just as there is no Jewish soul can never be extinguished, so is it impossible for one of the tribes to ever disappear. Of course, a member of a tribe can die, but the tribe as a whole will always survive. So the 12 tribes, which manifest in time, can never cease.
Being that this is so, the 12 tribes form the essence of the structure of the Jewish people. They manifest in the soul as 12 tribes, and they manifest in time as the 12 months of the year – Rosh Chodesh.
The Mazalos (Constellations) And How They Affect Time
Time is affected by the 12 months of the year, but besides for this, there is another factor that contributes to time: the heavenly, celestial bodies. These include four factors: the sun, the moon, the stars, and the mazalos (the constellations).
The Jewish people are affected by two different systems: the system of the 12 tribes, which are present in time and in soul, as well as by the system of the “7 shepherds” [Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, and Dovid].
How do they exist in time? The 7 shepherds in time are represented by 7 stars, which are called kochvei leches (“traveling stars”); this system begins from the mazal (constellation) known as “maadin\dam” (red\blood), and so forth. The other system affecting Creation is the system of the 12 tribes, represented by 12 mazalos (constellations) that are in each of the 12 months. To give a few examples, the mazal of the month of Nissan is the lamb; the mazal of the month of Iyar is the bull, and so forth.
Mazal In The Gemara and In Halacha
Of what relevance do the mazalos have to Halacha? In the Gemara, there is a dispute if there Jews are subject to mazal or not. But do we find mazal actually affecting us nowadays, in Halacha? We can find many places where mazal does affect Halachah. It is brought in the Gemara, as well as in Shulchan Aruch, that it is better for a Jew to go to court against a non-Jew during the month of Adar, when the mazal for the Jewish people is at its best, as opposed to the month of Av, where our mazal is at its lowest.
Additionally, the Gemara says that if an ox gores a person, it is contributed to the person’s mazal, This is referring specifically to a Jew, because the Gemara says that one is liable to pay for damages only when his ox gores the ox of a Jew, not the ox of a non-Jew.
‘Mazal’ As It Applies To The Jew’s Soul
With regards to our own souls, how is mazal manifest? There are several terminologies of mazal found throughout the writings of our Sages. Rashi says that mazal is that “a person is bar daas (capable of knowledge) and therefore he knows how to protect himself.”
This needs understanding. What does mazal have to do with a person’s daas? If anything, it should be the opposite; if one knows how to take care of himself, then if he was harmed, it must be because of his bad mazal! And if he doesn’t, then it’s due to his own negligence, not to his mazal! This is perplexing. However, as we will explain, this is only a question that stems from a superficial lens. In reality, mazal is related to daas.
Elsewhere, the Gemara states that if one has a fear which he can’t explain, it is coming from his mazal, which sees the fearful event of the future and thus causes a person to become anxious. Rashi explains that it is an angel who hovers above the person, which shows the person the fear.
In another place, the Gemara states that when the Jewish people stood at Har Sinai, the impurity (‘zuhama’) of the Snake that had been on mankind since the sin ceased. The Gemara asks, what about converts? The Gemara answers that with converts, their mazal was present at Har Sinai. We can imply from this as follows. The converts were not present at Sinai, but their mazal was. Therefore, the entire imprint from Sinai that is on a convert was experienced through the mazal of the convert. But the original souls of the Jewish people who stood at Sinai had not only their mazal present there, but they were given a special commandment then: “Serve G-d, on this mountain.” [So the original souls of the Jewish people received a higher experience of Sinai, besides for what their mazal experienced; whereas the converts only received an experience of Sinai through mazal alone.]
The Two Aspects of ‘Mazal’
What does it mean that the mazal of converts was present at Har Sinai? To understand this, in general, we need to know what the term “mazal” is, in the language of the Torah.
(Furthermore, when Gad was born to Yaakov Avinu, Rashi states, “Ba gad, ba mazal,” – “Gad comes, mazal comes.”)
The matter of mazal consists of two parts: (1) Hashpaah (emanation), from the word shefa (sustenance); being that the word mazal can mean “nozal”, to “flow”, the term mazal implies a ‘flow’ of Heavenly sustenance – shefa. (2) Taharah (purity).
The first aspect, hashpaah, is reflecting one of Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy : “notzar chesed l’olafim,” “He lets kindness flow for thousands [of generations]. The second aspect, taharah, is reflecting another of the Attributes of Mercy: “V’nakei,” “And He cleanses.”
The Gemara says that when the Jewish people stood by Har Sinai, the spirit of impurity that had entered us from the Snake went away. This cleansing process only took place upon the Jewish people, not with gentiles, so the gentiles still remain affected by the impurity of the Snake. As for converts, the Gemara says that since their mazal was present at Sinai, the impurity left them. What this really implies is that their mazal allowed them to receive the “taharah” aspect of mazal; being at Sinai removed the impurity of the Snake upon them, a connotation of being “cleansed”, which alludes to the “V’nakei” aspect in mazal. Those words are explicit in the words of our Sages.
Now we can ask, though: Is there a difference between the souls of the Jewish people, and the souls of converts, being that that they were all cleansed from impurity at Sinai?
According to what we have explained, there is a difference. The converts only received the “taharah” aspect of mazal, which is “V’nakei” – to be cleansed of impurity. In that sense, the souls of converts share the same mazal as the souls of all other Jews. But the converts never received the “hashpaah” aspect of mazal, which is called “Notzar Chessed L’Alafim.” That mazal was given only to the original souls of the Jewish people.
We can now understand the following. In the Gemara, where there is a dispute if the Jewish people are subject to mazal or not, the entire issue is, do the Jewish people possess higher mazal than that of the other nations? Are the Jewish people limited to the mazal of taharah, or do they also possess a higher mazal (hashpaah)? That is the entire issue of the Gemara.
Thus, mazal is not simply a superficial term of ‘mazal’ which people call it as. In terms of the Torah, the Jewish people possess two kinds of mazal: (1) hashpaah and (2) taharah.
Zuhama (Impurity): Zilzul (Cheapening of Holiness)
Mazal is from the word mezalzel, to cheapen. Being that mazal is essentially about taharah – being cleansed from impurity – it will mean that mazal cleanses us from zilzul (cheapening). When the Snake coaxed Chavah to eat from the tree and sin, it placed a spirit of impurity (zuhama) upon her. What exactly is this zuhama that entered mankind since the sin? It is defined as the nature to be mezalzel – to cheapen holiness.
When the Jewish people stood at Sinai, they were cleansed from the zuhama placed on mankind that came from the Snake: they were purified from zilzul. And its place, their holy mazal was revealed.
“V’nakei” is thus the trait of Hashem which refers to cleansing the Jewish people from impurities placed upon them by outer forces. It essentially cleanses us from the zuhama of the Snake, which is the evil habit of zilzul. The soul needs to be cleansed from zilzul. What does a person tend to be mezalzel in? Chazal say that that there are “matters which stand at the exalted heights of the world, yet people are mezalzel in them”. It is those matters of zilzul which we need to be cleansed from.
This is the depth of the festival of Pesach, in which we are cleansed from sin. The mitzvah of Korbon Pesach has a special halachah when carried out by converts: it had to be cleansed from any chometz. The mitzvah to get rid of chometz on Pesach, on its deeper level, is to cleanse ourselves from the yetzer hora, who is called the ‘yeast in the sourdough.’ It is essentially meant to cleanse us from zuhama.
The Mazal of Nissan: “T’leh” – The Lamb
The month of Nissan, “the head of the months”, is the root of the other months; therefore, its mazal is the root of the other mazalos.
The mazal of the month of Nissan is called ‘t’leh’ (טלה), the lamb, which is also called ‘seh,’ the calf, the animal used for the korbon pesach (paschal sacrifice);it is called g’di (the goat). It is written, “Pull, and take for you” – the Sages expound this to mean, “Pull away your hands from idol worship, and take a korbon pesach”.
The depth of this matter is as follows. The mazal of Nissan, which is t’leh (טלה), (the lamb), is the opposite of the word לט, lat, “curse.” When a person sins, he causes ruination to himself. When man sinned, he ruined the earth. T’leh\טלה (or the korbon pesach) contains the lettersט and ל, which alludes to the ל"ט מלאכות (the 39 forms of forbidden labor on Shabbos); for melachah (labor) is a curse placed upon mankind. When the Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, they rectified the sin of Adam, who was ruined through the curse of melachah (or ‘39 melachos’) placed upon him. The exodus from Egypt revealed the aspect of “V’nakei”, the cleansing and purification process of the Jewish people, which cleanses mankind from the curse and ruination that was placed upon us from the sin. This was the secret behind the t’leh\טלה(otherwise known as the korbon pesach) – the opposite of the state of being “cursed” (לט).
The word t’leh\טלה is also related to the word טל\tal, the dew. The dew has a special nature of transforming curse into blessing. In the future, the revival of the dead will happen through dew, the tal techias hameisim, which will transform the ruined into the blessed.
Thus, the exodus of Egypt cleansed our souls. When Adam sinned, mankind fell into a cursed level, to the “yeast in the sourdough” [the evil inclination], the zuhama (spirit of impurity) of the Snake. This was what created a need for the subjugation to Egypt: to cleanse us from the cursed state of mankind, from the zuhama of the Snake, and to return us to the perfect state of Adam before the sin. The exodus from Egypt began the purification process, and when Hashem said “Serve G-d, on this mountain”, this was the complete level of the rectification.
Nissan: The Month of Renewal
The purification process of the Jewish begins, though, with the month of Nissan. The month of Nissan is called “Hachodesh hazeh lachem” (This month shall be to you) – it represents the power of chiddush (renewal), from the word “chodesh” (month).
What is the power of chiddush\renewal that is present in the month of Nissan? When Adam sinned, Creation entered a ruined state, it became lat\cursed, and in the month of Nissan, we have the power to be cleansed from that cursed state which mankind fell into ever since the sin of Adam.
This is the secret behind the concept of teshuvah (repentance), in which a person becomes like a ‘berya chadashah’, a new being; the Rambamsays that when a person does teshuvah, he must view himself as a totally new person, who is not the same person as before.
The power that we have to be cleansed from sin, “V’nakei”, to become a new being, is reminiscent of a convert, who is considered to be like a child born anew. When we left Egypt, we gained the status of being a like a newborn child; we became entirely new. And when we stood at Sinai, we were like converts. A newborn child and a conversion to Judaism are both examples of being born anew.
Thus, the month of Nissan, represented by the mazal of t’leh (lamb), bears the power of renewal to the Jewish people, to cleanse us from the sins of before and to make us completely new. It is the power to begin again anew.
On one hand, there is a continuation in Creation, of the same reality. From that perspective alone, teshuvah is not possible. But Hashem gave us the power of chiddush, to renew ourselves – to be cleansed from all previous damage.
Nissan is called the ‘head of the months’, the month that is renewal and cleanses us from the past. How does the t’leh\lamb [which is the mazal of Nissan] cleanse us off from sin? It is through the soul’s power of chiddush (renewal), which is alluded to in the words, “Hachodesh hazeh lachem.”
When Moshe Rabbeinu was taught about the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh (sanctifying the new month), he found it to be difficult. The depth of this is because it was the mitzvah about Rosh Chodesh, which is a beginning, and “all beginning are hard”, Chazal teach. But the difficulty of the beginning can be mitigated when a person makes sure to begin completely anew.
The Depth of Bechirah: Choosing To Begin Anew
Earlier we brought from the Gemara that man has mazal, which Rashi defines as being a “bar daas”. This refers to man’s power of bechirah (free will) – man can choose between good and evil, but on a deeper level, man can choose to begin from a new start, and that is the depth of he we use our bechirah. The Sforno writes that our bechirah is to choose to imitate Hashem’s ways, just as Hashem ‘chooses’, so to speak, to act kind and compassionate.
How does Hashem ‘choose’? He chooses to renew His creation every day. As it written, “He renews, in His goodness, the act of Creation, every day.” This is the “bechirah” which Hashem chooses, so to speak – He chooses to utilize His daas, to begin everything anew each moment.
Renewal Is Exclusive To The Jew’s Soul
This is the depth of the exodus from Egypt: to separate from the previous situation, and to begin from new. When we left Egypt, we were born as a nation, and we received the power from then onward to be able to totally begin again anew, no matter what previous situation we are in.
The nations of the world begin from the new year, but they do not have the power of a new month. Therefore, a gentile does not possess the power of renewal in his soul. Only through conversion, can a gentile ever gain the power to become renewed – and the depth of this is, because only a Jew has the power of renewal.
Renewal and Continuation
There are really two sides to mazal. So far, we have explained ‘one side of the coin’: the power of renewal. But there is ‘another side to the coin’: the fact that we descend from the Avos (our forefathers), for “the merit of our Avos did not cease”. In that sense, we are a continuation of our great past, of the Avos. This is the opposite power of renewal: it is the power to continue the past.
So there are really two opposite powers we possess: the power of renewal, to change our situation – and the power of continuation, which is to continue the same situation as before. These two concepts contradict each other, but our soul is built from these two contradictory forces.
[We need both of these powers, renewal and continuation].
If we would only have the power of renewal, a person could come to deny the reality of sin, chas v’shalom, by always believing that he can be renew himself after he sins, and he loses his concept of consequence for sin.
Yet, if a person were to only believe in his power of continuation of the Avos, and he is unaware of his power of renewal, such a mindset is imprisoning to the soul; if he were to be in Egypt, he would believe that he can never leave it, chas v’shalom, because it is an exile decreed from the times of the Avos, and there is no way out, no way to be renewed…
Renewal (chiddush) is the power that we have which can help us rise from all past failure and sin. However, it needs to be balanced with its opposite power, the power of continuation (hamshachah), in order for it to be properly used and not taken overdone. Only if we have already developed the power to continue from the past, can we know how to use the power of renewal properly.
Two Levels of Repentance: Renewal, and Renewal With Continuation
Based on the above, we can understand a deeper difference between two levels of teshuvah (repentance): teshuvah m’yirah, repenting out of fear, and teshuvah m’ahavah, repenting out of love.
The Gemara says that when a person does teshuvah m’yirah, although his sins are forgiven, the sins do not become transformed into merits; but with teshuvah m’ahavah, not only is he forgiven, but even his sins become transformed into merits. The understanding of this is that with teshuvah m’yirah, a person wants to disconnect from his past sins and move on; he gains the ability of renewal, but he is missing the concept of continuation of the past. But with teshuvah m’ahavah, the person is not only forging a new beginning; he is still connected to the past and continues it. Thus, his sins become transformed into merits for him.
The Inner Mazal: “Notzar Chessed L’Alafim”
Thus, there are two aspects of mazal in every Jew. There is the aspect of “Notzar Chesed L’Alafim” (or hashpaah\hamshachah), and there is the aspect of “V’nakei” (taharah).
The power of V’nakei\taharah is essentially the power of chiddush\renewal, to be cleansed and to become new, disconnecting from the past situation. But there is a power even deeper than this: along with becoming renewed, a person also needs to acknowledge his past [the Avos that he comes from]. This is the more inner kind of mazal [which, as it was explained earlier, is only for the original souls of the Jewish people, and not converts]: “Notzar Chessed L’Alafim”. The concept of Notzar Chessed L’Alafim implies that Hashem remembers the merits of previous generations, for thousands of generations to come.
If you think about it, we haven’t even gone through thousands of generations yet, and this is not even possible within the allotted time span for Creation. So what does it mean that Hashem remembers the merits of our Avos, for thousands of generations to come? It means that there is a constant continuation of those merits.
The Balance Between Continuation and Renewal
Nissan is called, “HaChodesh Hazeh lachem” (“This month shall be to you”), from the word chiddush\renewal, which hints to the renewal contained in it. But it is also called “Rishon hu lachem, l’chol chodshei hashanah” (“The first it shall be to you, for all the months of the year”) – the possuk also mentions that Nissan contains a “shanah” (year) aspect besides for its “choidesh” (month) aspect. The ‘shanah’ aspect mentioned in the possuk alludes to the other power of the month of Nissan: continuation of the past. It is essentially the power to return to a previous situation.
Thus, we need [a balance of these] two opposite abilities, which are both present in the month of Nissan: the power of renewal, and the power to return to the past.
Understandably, the powers of renewal and continuation (returning to the past) are opposite concepts of each other, and they are in contradiction. If someone is not a bar daas, he does not know how to contain these two opposites. One who possesses daas, though, understands the secret of incorporating opposing and contradicting abilities within himself.
So on one hand, we must be able to renew ourselves, which is to change ourselves. On the other hand, we need to be able to attach ourselves with the Reality that never changes. When we have these two abilities together and they are in proper balance of each other, this is the perfection of a Jew’s soul.
The mazal of Nissan is the t’leh (the lamb), which symbolizes the renewal, the ability to disconnect from the past, for as we explained, t’leh is related to the word tal, the dew, which symbolizes new beginnings; in the future, the dew will revive the dead.
On the other hand, as we explained, Nissan also contains a power that is the opposite of renewal: the power to continue the past, the same-old reality that never changes. This is also known as sichah, talking, the ability that is also associated with the month of Nissan. Sichah is when a person talks simply about what he enjoys, and he can keep talking about it, continuing his conversation more and more, because he is enjoying the conversation so much.
The non-changing aspect of the soul is a deeper power than our power of renewal. In the non-changing aspect of our soul, we connect to the same-old reality that never changes; to the timeless aspect known as “Ask your fathers, and they will say to you; you elders, and they will tell you”. This is what lies behind the concept of “Notzar Chessed L’Alafim”, the inner aspect of mazal; it is the fact that we received a tradition passed down from our forefathers.
But as we explained, this alone will not suffice. Although we must continue the great past of our Avos, which is our power to be connected to the past, we also need the power of renewal, so that we can become a whole new being, and leave past failures behind.
May we merit from Hashem to connect to havayah, to the unchanging dimension of reality [which will be fully revealed in the future], along with the renewal [of the future] in which Hashem will renew His world, with the coming of the complete redemption; may it came speedily. Amen.