Tishrei and Nisan

The Gemara (Rosh HaShannah 10b-11a) brings an argument between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua as to when the world was created. Rabbi Eliezer holds that the world was created in Tishrei. However, Rabbi Yehoshua is of the opinion that the world was created in Nisan.

What is the basis for the argument between these two great Sages?

The Netziv, in his introduction to the Book of Shemot, explains the midrashic name of the Book of Shemot, The Second Book. (See Sotah 36b) All the other midrashic names of the books of the Torah are related to the events of that book; the Book of Vayikra is called the Torah of the Cohanim, the Book of Bemidbar the Book of the Countings, and the Book of Devarim is called The Second Torah, i.e. the repetition of the Torah by Moshe. Why is the second book of the Torah not given a name that conveyed the essence and content of the book, such as the Book of the Redemption?

The Netziv answers that the Book of Shemot is in fact part two to the Book of BeReishit. The first book of the Torah dealt with the creation and development of the world. The process of creation was completed in the Book of Shemot. Creation was not finalized when the world came into existence. Rather, the process was only concluded when the Jewish people were born, and when they accepted the Torah on Har Sinai.

This explains the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 3a) in the name of Reish Lakish “Why does it say ‘It was evening it was morning the sixth day?’ It teaches us that God made a condition with the creation and said ‘If Israel accept the Torah, fine, if not I will return you to chaos.’”

The creation was physically complete on the sixth day mentioned in the Book of BeReishit, but this creation was only completed in the Book of Shemot when the Jewish people came into existence when they accepted the Torah.

Thus we can now explain the argument between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabbi Eliezer stated that the world was created in Tishrei and he was taking about the physical creation of the world that is recorded in the Book of BeReishit. Rabbi Yehoshua was talking of the end of the process of creation. This was when the Jewish people were formed by leaving Egypt during the month of Nisan.

Man and Jew

We could also say that these two months, Nisan and Tishrei, represent generic human creation as opposed to specific Jewish creation. Man was created on Tishrei, whereas the Jewish people and the Jews were created on Nisan.

This is reflected by the different festivals celebrated during these months. During Tishrei we celebrate Rosh HaShanah. When the Mishnah discusses the various dates during which the world is judged on a variety of planes, it says, “On Rosh HaShanah all the members of the world pass before Him like a flock, as it says ‘Who forms their hearts together, who understands all their actions’ (Tehillim 33:15)” (Rosh HaShannah 1:2).

We see from this that Rosh HaShannah is a universal festival on which the entire world is judged for it’s actions.

This is distinctly different from Nisan and the festival of Pesach. The Pesach sacrifice cannot be eaten by non-Jews, “All who are uncircumcised cannot eat it” (Shemot 12:48). The celebration of Pesach is among family, the sacrifice only being eaten by those who subscribed and belong to a predetermined group. (See Shemot 12:4 and Zevachim 5:8)

Therefore, while Tishrei represents humanity as a whole, Nisan speaks to the Jew and the Jewish people. This can explain the argument between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabbi Eliezer who stated that the world was created in Tishrei speaks about the creation of man, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua points to Nisan as the creation of the world, referring to the creation of the Jewish people as the definitive act of creation.

Was the world created for man, or was it created for Am Yisrael?

Redemption; Nisan or Tishrei?

The Gemara continues with the argument between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Not only do they disagree when the world was created, but they also argue about when the eventual redemption will occur. Will it be during the month of Tishrei, or the month of Nisan?

Rabbi Eliezer is of the opinion that the redemption will be in the month of Tishrei, but Rabbi Yehoshua states that it will be during the month of Nisan.

This can explain the connection between the Haftarah and the Parshah. Both speak of the redemption and leaving exile, the Parshah speaks about leaving Egypt and the Haftarah speaks of the final redemption.

How can we understand this connection in light of our discussion of the argument between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua? Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua present two different pictures of redemption. Rabbi Yehoshua holds that the redemption will come in Nisan, therefore it will be exclusively for the good of the Jewish people. However, Rabbi Eliezer explains that the final redemption will affect the entire world. The Jewish people will not seek exodus from exile just for their own benefit, rather they hope to revolutionize the entire world and all of existence. The message of the choice of Haftarah is that we cannot detach these two redemptions from each other. The exodus of the Jewish people is not just for their own good, rather it is for the improvement of all the inhabitants of the world. In addition, it must be stressed that the redemption of the world must be achieved only through the redemption of the Jewish people. The world can never be improved unless the lot of the Jewish people is also improved.

Am Yisrael are returning to their Land and establishing a Divine State there, not in order for them to dwell as a nation apart, detached and undistracted by the rest of the world. Rather, our redemption will bring about the exodus and redemption of the entire world.