Nisan, the first month on Jewish calendar (according to the Torah), coincides with March-April on the civil calendar.
The Torah calls it chodesh ha-aviv—the month of spring, as it marks the beginning of the spring months.
On the first day of Nisan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), two weeks before the Exodus, G‑d showed Moses the crescent New Moon, instructing him regarding the setting of the Jewish calendar and the mitzvah of sanctifying the new month.
“This month shall be for you the head of months, the first of the months of the year” (Exodus 12:2). This ushered in the first Jewish month and commenced the lunar calendar that Jews have been following ever since. It was the first mitzvah (“commandment”) given to the newly born nation of Israel, even before the exodus from Egypt.
It is in this month that we celebrate the eight-day holiday of Passover, from the 15th through the 22nd of Nissan. It commemorates the Jewish people’s miraculous redemption from slavery in Egypt, and the birth of the Jewish nation.
We observe the anniversary of the Exodus each year by removing all leaven from our possession for this week, eating matzah and telling the story of the redemption to our children. By following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true spiritual freedom that our ancestors achieved.
It took seven weeks—49 days—from when the Jewish people left Egypt until they received the Torah from G‑d at the foot of Mount Sinai, celebrated today as the holiday of Shavuot. It is explained that the 49 days that connect Passover with Shavuot correspond to the 49 drives and traits of the human heart. Each day saw the refinement of one of these sefirot(“traits”), bringing the people of Israel one step closer to spiritual perfection. Each year, we retrace this inner journey with our “counting of the Omer.” Beginning on the second night of Passover, we count the days and weeks to the holiday of Shavuot, the “Festival of Weeks.”
A year after the Exodus, on each of the first 12 days of this month, another one of the 12 princes of Israel brought offerings to inaugurate the Mishkan, the traveling sanctuary that the people had built for G‑d. Nowadays, on each of these days we read the portion of the Torah that details the gifts brought on that day as well as a special Yehi Ratzon prayer.
A Special Month
A special mitzvah which can be fulfilled only once a year—anytime during the month of Nisan—is to recite the berachah (“blessing” or prayer) made upon seeing a fruit tree in bloom. Many people visit botanical gardens during this time, so as to avail themselves of an opportunity to observe this beautiful mitzvah.
It is mentioned in the Talmud that according to one tradition, the three patriarchs of the Jewish people—Abraham (1948–2123 from creation, 1813–1638 BCE), Isaac (2048–2228 from creation, 1713–1533 BCE) and Jacob (2108–2255 from creation, 1653–1506 BCE)—all were born and passed away in the month of Nisan.