Wednesday, April 06, 2011

An interesting peshat in the importance of Nissan

I saw the following idea in the Aruch HaShulchan the other day, and it is somewhat topical, given that yesterday was Rosh Chodesh Nissan:

סימן תכט סעיף א

ניסן הוא ראש החודשים. ומפני גדולתו לכן אף על פי שהשנה מונין מתשרי, מכל מקום החודשים מונין מניסן שנאמר: "החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים, ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה". כלומר: שמפני שהוא הראש לכל החודשים – לכן ישאר ראשון למנין החודשים.
ומה הוא גדולתו של חודש ניסן? מפני שבו היתה יציאת מצרים. שבזה נגלה השגחת ה' יתברך על ברואיו, ואותותיו ונפלאותיו; ושמשלם רע לרשע כרשעתו, ומשלם טוב לאוהביו. כמו שהכה לפרעה ולמצרים, וגאל את ישראל.

סימן תכט סעיף ב

ולמה נבחר החודש הזה? מפני שהמצרים עבדו לטלה, שהוא ראש המזלות באפודת העגולה, ומזל טלה משמש בחודש ניסן. ופרעה סמך על כוחו ומזלו. ולכן אף כי במכת ברד נשבר לבו הזונה, עד שאמר "ה' הצדיק, ואני ועמי הרשעים" – מכל מקום אחר כך במכת ארבה הרים ראש, כדכתיב: "ויגרש אותם". ובמכת חושך יצא בחוצפה גדולה, עד שאמר למשה רבינו: "אל תוסף ראות פני". והטעם: מפני שאז קרבו ימי ניסן, ובטח על מזלו שבחודש הזה.
וזהו שאמר הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: "החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים", כלומר: החודש הזה שפרעה ממתין עליו – יהיה לכם ראש חודשים, שבזה תתברר כי אין ממש במזלות. וה' הוא האלקים, בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת, אין עוד; וישראל הם עם סגולתו. ולכן ראשון הוא לכם לחודשי השנה.
429:1: Nissan is the head of the months, and because of its greatness, therefore, even though we start enumerating the year from Tishrei, we still enumerate the months from Nissan, as is states {in Shemot 12:2}, "This month is to you as a head of months, it is first to you of the months of the year." That is to say: because it is the head to all the months, therefore it remains first to the count of the months.

And what is the greatness of the month of Nissan? Because within it was the exodus from Egypt, for in this was revealed Hashem's Providence upon his creations, and His signs and wonders; and that He repays evil to the evildoers in accordance with his wickedness, and repays good to those who love Him. Just as he smote Pharaoh and Egypt, and redeemed Israel.

429:2: And why was this particular month chosen? Because the Egyptians worshiped the ram, which was the head of the signs of the zodiac, and the the constellation of the ram, Aries, serves during the month of Nissan. And Pharaoh relied upon his might and his mazal, astrological sign. And therefore, even though during the plague of hail his straying heart was broken, such that he said "Hashem is the righteous one, while I and my nation are the wicked ones", even so, afterwards during the plague of locusts he raised up his head, as is written {Shemot 10:11} "and he drove them out" {referring to Moshe and Aharon}. And during the plague of darkness he went forth with great chutzpa, such that he said to Moshe Rabbenu, "do not further see my face". And the reason is that at that time, the days of Nissan were approaching, and he relied upon his mazal, astrological constellation, which was in this month.
Thus, this shows Divine Providence, outside any sort of automatic astrological workings. As far as I understand it, the ancients regarded astrology to be derech hateva. And we say ain mazal le'Yisrael, because we have Hashem's direct providence. Of course, according to Rambam, astrology is absolute bunk:
Know, my masters, that every one of those things concerning judicial astrology that (its adherents) maintain—namely, that something will happen one way and not another, and that the constellation under which one is born will draw him on so that he will be of such and such a kind and so that something will happen to him one way and not another—all those assertions are far from being scientific; they are stupidity. There are lucid, faultless proofs refuting all the roots of those assertions. 
Of course, there are kabbalistic references to the Zodiac. For example, in Sefer Raziel HaMalach.
It draws heavily on Sepher Yetzirah and Sepher Ha-Razim. There are multiple manuscript versions, containing up to seven tractates. The printed version of Sefer Raziel is divided into five books, some of it in the form of a mystical Midrash on Creation. It features an elaborate angelology, magical uses of the zodiacgematria, names of God, protective spells, and a method of writing magical healing amulets.
and Sefer Yetzirah:
The twelve "simple" letters created the twelve signs of the zodiac, whose relation to the earth is always simple or stable; and to them belong the twelve months in time, and the twelve "leaders" in man. The latter are those organs which perform functions in the body independent of the outside world, being the hands, feet, kidneys, gall, intestines, stomach, liver, pancreas, and spleen; and they are, accordingly, subject to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
and the Zohar:
Yessod includes the whole Zodiac, 12 constellations and 7 planets from the Holy side, Which is Binah. It is also called “Bat Sheva”, meaning daughter of seven that are the lower 7 Sefirot.
The letter Vav וו, has the value of 12, representing Vav of the central column, Tiferet and Vav of Yessod. They reveal the 12 constellations.
The Vav represents the 6 planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus , Mercury and the Heh ה represents the seventh, Moon.
שבתאי, צדק, מאדים, חמה, נוגה, כוכב, לבנה
The letters of the planets are בגדכפרת and each of those is the seed and the control of a different planet. The 12 letters of the months are דוזחטילנסעצק and each controls a different constellation.
The 3 letters above the Zodiac and the mothers of all that below are אמש. We have 19 letters that activate and control the Zodiac, 7 בגדכפרת and 12 דוזחטילנסעצק. In the Hebrew calendar we have 7 leap years in the cycle of 19 years. Every 19 years the light and vessel join in complete sync and it is significant in each person’s life.
Each of the 12 tribes, 10 sons of Jacob and 2 of Joseph has their soul root from a different constellation.
The four sides of the Holy Throne also relate to the four elements
Earth = Bull (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn),
Fire = Lion (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius),
Air = Man(Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
Water = Eagle (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
I side much more with the Rambam, that it is all stupidity and nonsense. Though I differ with the Rambam in his assertion that it was not 'science'. It was faulty, incorrect 'science', and was incorporated into Jewish mysticism as it developed, because they thought that these were true things about the world.


Devorah said...

That was fasntastic, until the last paragraph. :)

joshwaxman said...


Ben-Yehudah said...


I still need to review the Ramba"m's Igereth Hakhamei Marseilles, in which he mentions that Bayit HaSheni fell due to [too much] dependence on astrology.

I though that meant a little bit would be ok. Apparently, that is not the case.

From where are you quoting him?

joshwaxman said...

from his letter on astrology, also known, as his Letter to Marseilles. which is in fact what you are referring to.



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