This past week marked Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the beginning of the month of Nisan Nisan is a Babylonian term meaning setting out or putting to sleep. Both of these meanings are appropriate for the month. Nisan is the first month of Spring. It is a time of putting the old agricultural year to bed and bringing in the new. Nisan is also the month in which the Exodus from Egypt occurred. In this sense, the Hebrews literally set out for the Promised Land during the month of Nisan.
Judah is representative of Nisan. Judah is the ruler or leader of his siblings. Although he was the fourth born son, he was the one blessed to be king. Numbers Rabbah tells us that Judah’s color is that of the sky and that this tribe is represented by a lion. Judah’s stone, nofech, isn’t a stone that we are aware of today by that name. We do know from the midrash that it must be the sky blue of the tribe. My belief is that nofech is what we know now as turquoise. Pure turquoise is the sky blue color required, and it represents leadership and power. Turquoise is known to traditionally have been a stone of kings and queens, so it makes sense that it would be Judah’s stone.
The sense of speech is central to the act of leadership. Speech is the highest mitzvah during the month of Nisan. It is central to the Pesach seder with the retelling of the Exodus story. The great speech of the seder- the retelling- begins with the letter hei. The first portion of the retelling is the magid. It begins hei lachma anya– this is the poor man’s bread.
The letter hei (ה) is representative of Nisan in that it is the sound of the breath of creation. When G-d created the world it was done by breath, as was the breath of life that brought Adam into living form. Whisper the letter hei (ה) and you have the sound of breath- the sound of life.
With Nisan being the first month of Spring, we are fully in the direction of East. In the wilderness, Judah was camped to the east of the mishkan. East is represented by the eagle in Shamanism. Eagle is regal and majestic. Eagle comes to us on the rays of the rising sun. Eagle medicine is the connection to the divine. Eagle represents strength and power. It is easy to see the association between Eagle medicine and the kingly rulership of Judah.
Aries rules the month of Nisan, as does the planet Mars. Both of these are fiery symbols that denote leadership and kingship. The ram of Aries also represents the pesach lamb.
Nisan is a month of leadership and redemption. It is the month that begins the kingly and agricultural year. The Jewish holiday cycle begins in Nisan with the redemption of Passover. It is a time of leaving behind the bonds of our past for the unknown of our future. Nisan is a time of transition.