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Rosh Chodashim - New Year's Day

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Nisan and the Biblical New Year

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Introduction

Nisan 1 is the Biblical New Years Day, the start of the month of the Exodus from Egypt and the beginning of Jewish national history. It is also the first month used for counting the festivals (mo'edim) of the Hebrew Calendar and for reckoning the years of reign of the Kings of Israel.

Rosh Chodeshim

The Biblical New Year begins at the appearance of the first "new moon" of spring, that is, when the waxing crescent of the moon is first sighted. Biblically, this new moon is called called Rosh Chodashim (ראשׁ חֳדָשִׁים), "the head of the months," and its observance is considered the very first commandment given to Israel before the great Exodus from Egypt took place:

Exodus 12:2

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months:
it shall be the first month of the year to you.
(Exodus 12:2)

Names for Rosh Chodashim

In the Scriptures and Jewish tradition there are various names given to "this month," including the following:
 

  1. Rosh Chodashim (ראשׁ חֳדָשִׁים), the "head of the months." The month of Nisan is counted as first for the purpose of counting the days, months, and holidays of the Hebrew calendar.
  2. Chodesh Ha-Aviv (חדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב), "the month of spring," so named because it marked the time of the Exodus from Egypt (Exod. 13:3-4; 23:15; 34:18; Deut. 16:1). From the verse, "Guard (שָׁמוֹר) the month of spring and make Pesach for the LORD" (Deut. 16:1), the sages inferred that an additional month (of Adar) should be inserted into the calendar when necessary to ensure that the holiday of Passover would always occur in the spring. (For more, see the Jewish Calendar pages.)
  3. Chodesh Ha-rishon (חדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן), "the first month," so named because the other months are named in relation to it, similar to the days of the week in the Hebrew calendar (i.e., the first day, the second day, etc.). This is the most frequent designation of this month in Scripture. The Ramban (Nachmanides) wrote: "By counting every month from Nisan, we constantly commemorate the miracle that God performed when He took us out of slavery."
  4. Chodesh HaGeulah (חדֶשׁ הַגְּאֻלָּה), "the month of the redemption." This is an inferred name from the Scriptures, since the redemption from Egypt took place during the month of Nisan. The Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 11a) states: "In Nisan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt and in Nisan we will be redeemed." In that sense, Nisan is also Chodesh ha-Yeshuah (חדֶשׁ הַיְשׁוּעָה), the "month of the salvation," both in terms of the physical deliverance from Egypt, but more profoundly in terms of the spiritual salvation given at Zion/Moriah through the Messiah. 
  5. Chodesh Nisan (חדֶשׁ נִיסָן), "the month of Nisan," the name given to the first month after the Babylonian Exile (Esther 3:7; Neh. 2:1). Some think that the word Nisan (נִיסָן) derives from a Sumerian word that means "first fruits" (indicative of aviv, or spring), though most Jewish commentators think nisan derives either from the word nissim (נִסִּים, "miracles"), suggesting a link to the miracles of the Exodus, or to the word nitzan (נִצָּן), meaning "bud" (Song 2:12). Still others suggest that Nisan comes from the verb nus (נוּס), meaning "to flee," both in relation to Israel's flight from Egypt and Egypt's flight from Israel (i.e., when the pursuing Egyptian cavalry fled (נָסִים) before the sea closed upon them (Exod. 14:25, 27).

    According to the sages, after the Babylonian Exile and the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled (i.e., "it will no longer be said 'as the LORD lives, who took the people of Israel out of Egypt,' rather it will be said 'as the LORD lives, who raised up and brought the people of Israel from the Northern Land' (Jer. 16:14-15), the Jews began to call the months by the names commonly used in exile as a reminder of God's faithfulness.
     
  6. Chodesh HaMelakhim (חדֶשׁ הַמְּלָכִים), "the month of the kings." The 1st of Nisan is counted as the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings of Israel (in Exodus 12:2, the word lakhem (לָכֶם), "to you," can be rearranged to form the word melekh (מֶלֶךְ), "a king."). For instance, if a king ascended the throne just a week before the new moon of Nisan, that week would be reckoned as a year in the chronicles of Israel's kings.
     
  7. Chodesh Yehudah (חדֶשׁ יְהוּדָה), "the month of Judah." Jewish tradition assigns the month of Nisan to the royal tribe of Judah (יְהוּדָה), in whose merit both the Holy Temple was built and from whom the Messiah Yeshua would descend.   The tribe of Judah was divinely favored because:
    1. Judah was functionally the "firstborn" son of Israel (Reuben, Shimon, and Levi had been disqualified).
    2. Judah saved Joseph from death (Gen. 37:26).
    3. Judah saved Tamar from death and disgrace (Gen. 38:26).
    4. Judah had interceded on behalf of his father Jacob to preserve Benjamin's freedom at the cost of his own (Gen. 44:16-34). This last quality, in particular, is known as mesirat nefesh (מְסִירַת נֶפֵשׁ), "self sacrifice," and reveals Judah's role as Israel's intercessor.
    5. When Jacob blessed his sons on his deathbed, he prophesied that Judah would be praised by his other brothers and ultimately be the source of the Messiah of Israel (Gen. 49:8-10).
    6. According to Jewish tradition, at the time of the Exodus from Egypt it was a descendant of Judah - Nachshon ben Aminadav (Num. 1:7) -- who initiated the parting of the Sea of Reeds by walking into the waters until the sea split (Shemot Rabbah).
    7. The name Judah (יְהוּדָה) includes the Name YHVH (יהוה) with the insertion of the letter Dalet (ד), suggesting that Judah would be the "door" or "gate" into the presence of God (Yeshua was from the tribe of Judah who described Himself as ha-sha'ar (הַשַּׁעַר) "the gate"(John 10:9)). The arrangement of the tribes placed Judah directly in front of the door into the Mishkan (Num. 2:3; see Bamidbar for more information).

      Indeed, according to Jewish tradition, the dedication and inauguration of the Mishkan also occurred on Nisan 1: "Rabbi Yossi used to say, 'When did the Inauguration of the Mishkan occur? It began on the twenty third of Adar, and concluded on the first of Nisan. And on all of the first seven days, Moses used to set up the Mishkan and take it apart at the end of the day. On the eighth day, he set it up, and did not take it apart. And that eighth day was Shabbat, and it was the Rosh Chodesh of Nisan" (BaMidbar Rabbah).

Rebirth of Creation

According to the sages, there are two orders of creation: the natural and the supernatural. The natural order of creation refers to the physical creation of the heavens and the earth, whereas the supernatural refers to spiritual re-creation, or rebirth.  On the Jewish calendar, the natural order of creation is celebrated during Rosh Hashanah (i.e., Tishri 1), whereas the supernatural is celebrated on Rosh Chodashim (i.e., Nisan 1). 

The midrash states: "When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, He established the beginning of months and years (i.e., Rosh Hashanah), but when He chose Ya'akov and his children for service, He established Nisan as the month of redemption and rebirth" (Shemot Rabbah). According to the medieval Jewish sage Nachmanides (i.e., the Ramban), the Egyptian belief in the zodiac implied that God had abandoned the affairs of the natural world by consigning them under the forces of the stars and constellations. In response, the LORD chose the month of Nisan (the constellation of the lamb) for the Passover sacrifice in order to demonstrate that Israel did not leave on account of the influence of the stars but entirely because of the power of God....

How Many "New Years Days"?

As we've seen, the Torah designates the month of Nisan (Scripturally called aviv, or "spring") as the first month of the year (Exod. 12:2). Originally, then, the Hebrew calendar was lunar and observational. When the new moon was sighted, a new month begun.  Since the Torah also identified Sukkot as "the end of the (harvest) year" (Exod. 23:16), the sages of the Mishnah later identified the Fall month of Tishri (i.e., the "seventh month") as the start of a new year.... During the Babylonian exile (6th century BC), Babylonian names for the months (i.e., Tammuz) were adopted. This might harken back to the earlier Summerian Calendar of Abraham's day...

By the time the Mishnah was compiled (200 AD), the sages had identified four new-year dates for every lunar-solar year (the modern Jewish calendar was apparently ratified by Hillel the Elder in the 3rd century AD):

  1. Nisan 1 (i.e., Rosh Chodashim) marks the start of the month of the Exodus from Egypt and the beginning of Jewish national history. As such, it represents the start of the Biblical year for counting the festivals (Exod. 12:2). Note that the month of Nisan is also called Aviv since it marks the official start of spring.
  2. Elul 1 marks the start of the year from the point of view of tithing cattle for Temple sacrifices. Since the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the rabbis decreed that this date should mark the time of Selichot, or preparation for repentance before Rosh Hashanah. Elul 1 marks the start of the last month of summer.
  3. Tishri 1 was originally associated with the agricultural "Feast of Ingathering" at the "end of the year" (Exod. 23:16, 34:22), though after the destruction of the Second Temple, the sages decided it would mark the start of the civil year in the fall. Tishri 1 was therefore called Rosh Hashanah ("the head of the year") which begins a ten-day "trial" of humanity climaxing on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
  4. Shevat 15 (i.e., Tu B'Shevat) originally marked the date for calculating the tithes of the harvest (ma'aserot) that farmers would pledge to the priests of Israel. This was the start of the year from the point of view of tithing of fruit trees. Today Tu B'Shevat represents a national Arbor Day in Israel, with tree planting ceremonies in Israel.  Unlike the other three "new years," Tu B'Shevat begins in the middle of the month, during a full moon in winter.
     

In practical terms, however, there are two "New Years" in Jewish tradition. The first occurs two weeks before Passover (Nisan 1) and the second occurs ten days before Yom Kippur (the other two "new years" are not regularly observed, except by the ultra-orthodox).  The first New Year marks the month of the redemption of the Jewish people -- and it is also the month in which Yeshua was sacrificed upon the cross at Moriah to redeem us from our sins. The second marks the month of Israels' corporate salvation that will be fulfilled in the End of Days.  Oddly enough for most Christians, "New Years Day" should be really celebrated in the spring, certainly not in "January."

All of this is in striking contrast, however, with the most widely used calendar in the world today -- the "Gregorian Calendar" -- named after Pope Gregory XIII who reigned over the Catholic Church in the 1500's. For more information about this calendar, click here.

Shabbat Hachodesh

The New Moon of Nisan is the most significant of the "new moons" of the Jewish calendar since it initiates the first month of the Biblical Calendar - and therefore represents the Biblical "New Year's Day." Of all the various Rosh Chodesh celebrations, then, Rosh Chodesh Nisan is foundational, since it presents the starting point for the cycle of the yearly festivals (mo'edim) that reveal prophetic truths about the LORD God of Israel and His beloved Son, Yeshua the Mashiach, blessed be He.

The Shabbat preceding Nisan 1 is called HaChodesh and is one of the four special Shabbatot (special Sabbaths) intended to ready oneself for the holiday of Passover (which begins two weeks later on Nisan 15). In addition to the regular Torah reading for Shabbat, Exodus 12:1-20 is read and Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 is recited as Haftarah.

Chodesh tov, chaverim!

Rosh Chodesh Nisan Blessing

Since Rosh Chodesh Nisan marks the new beginning of the Biblical year, we humbly ask the LORD to help us prepare for the coming month and the season of Passover:
 

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֵיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ חדֶשׁ טוֹב בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אָמֵן

ye·hi · ra·tzon · mil·fa·ne·kha · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu · ve·lo·hei · a·vo·tei·nu
she·te·cha·desh · a·lei·nu · cho·desh · tov · ba'a·do·nei·nu · Ye·shu·a · ha·ma·shi·ach · A·men
 

"May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good month in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Amen."



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Thanking God for the Appointed Times

It is surely appropriate to thank the LORD God of Israel for the holidays as a revelation of Yeshua our Messiah at this time, as well:
 

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵנוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָנוּ חַגִּים חֻקּוֹת וּמוֹעֲדִים לְשִׂמְחָה
לִכְבוֹד יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אֲדוֹנֵינוּ ־ אוֹר הָעוֹלָם

ba·rukh · at·tah · Adonai · E·lo·he·nu · me·lekh · ha·o·lam,
a·sher · na·tan · la·nu · chag·gim, · chuk·kot, · u'mo·a·dim · le·sim·chah,
likh·vod · Ye·shu·a · ha·ma·shi·ach · A·do·ne·nu - ohr · ha·o·lam
 

"Blessed art You, LORD our God, King of the universe,
who has given to us holidays, customs, and seasons of happiness,
for the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah - the Light of the world"



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To a good year in our Messiah!

The following prayer is customarily said during Rosh Hashanah, but it is equally applicable for the New Year of Nisan and the Season of Passover:
 

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ
וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה
בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אמן

ye·hi · ra·tzon · mil·fa·ne·kha, · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu
ve·lo·hei · a·vo·tei·nu,
she·te·cha·desh · a·lei·nu · sha·nah · to·vah · u·me·tu·kah
ba·A·do·nei·nu · Ye·shu·a · ha·Ma·shi·ach  [a·men]
 

"May it be your will, LORD our God
and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good and sweet year
in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah." [Amen]

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