The beginning of the Maftir of Shabbat HaChodesh (Shmot 12:2), describes how the Jewish calendar is set up: “This month shall be for you the beginning of months it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.”
What is the meaning of the words “for you”?
Ramban points out that the month of the Exodus is not the first month of the year. However, it is the first month of the redemption from Egypt so it is meaningful for the Jewish people and therefore it is the first month on the Biblical calendar. The Torah counts the months from the redemption from Egypt so that the redemption will constantly be on our minds.
In the Yerushalmi, Rosh HaShana 1:2 the Rabbis taught that the names of the months (Nisan, Iyar etc.) were brought to the Land of Israel when the Jews returned from Babylonia thus fulfilling the prophecy of Yirmiyahu (Yirmiyahu 16:14-15) “Therefore behold days are coming, says the Lord, when it shall no more be said, as the Lord lives that brought up B’nai Yisrael out of the land of Egypt, but as the Lord lives that brought up B’nai Yisrael from the land of the north and from all the lands into which he had driven them: and I will bring them back into their land that I gave to their fathers.”
We call the months by the Persian names (Nisan, Iyar etc.) which we see in Megillat Ester 3:7: “In the first month which is the month of Nisan, in the 12th year of King Achashverosh the lot was cast…” to remind us of the redemption and the ingathering of the exiles which took place after the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash.
By using the Persian names of the months, we are commemorating the fact that against all odds the Jews were able to return to the Land of Israel and build the second Beit HaMikdash.
Today, once again we are experiencing the prophecy of Yirmiyahu and Jews are returning to the State of Israel from all over the world.
In a senior center in Jerusalem where I teach there are six women who immigrated to Israel from Persia soon after the founding of the state. When we were studying about Purim they mentioned that they all come from Shushan HaBira! They celebrated Purim on Shushan Purim just as they do now in Jerusalem. They had the opportunity to visit the graves of Mordechai and Ester and they tell stories about how they prepared their own Shmura Matzah every year in honor of Pesach.
In Israel today we still go by the names of the Persian (now considered Jewish) months. When referring to the months on the civil calendar, Israel uses the numerical dates rather than the names of the secular months. Both the Jewish and civil dates are listed on the front page of the newspapers and we have the option of writing out checks using the Jewish or civil date.
At the Pesach seder, we can collectively celebrate all of the times that the Jewish people were redeemed throughout the ages. There are even Hagadot that describe the different times that the Jewish people were redeemed throughout history including the founding of the State of Israel.
For those of us who have already made aliya, the seder is a good opportunity to celebrate our coming home from the Diaspora. For those who have not made aliya, the seder is a time to reflect on making the words “Next year in Jerusalem” a reality!