After Egypt has been afflicted with nine plagues, and before the final most devastating plague that will herald their freedom, the Israelites are given a surprising instruction, described by many as the first mitzva to the nascent national collective. It is the inauguration of a new calendar.
This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you. (12:1-2)
And that is it! No explanation or elaboration. From this point on, the month of Israel’s redemption, the month we nowadays call Nissan, is designated numerically as “the first month.” Similarly, in most of Tanakh until the Babylonian Exile, months have numbers rather than names, always counting back to the Exodus.
What is this peculiar mitzva? Why, on the verge of freedom, before the instruction regarding the Paschal Lamb, does God instigate a new Jewish calendar?
Click here to read more from Rabbi Alex Israel in this week’s Parsha Discussion: Bo — Jewish time.