Hebrew Months(7): Nisan

´╗┐Tradition: The Bible marks Nisan as the first month of the year, because in this month the Israelites went forth from Egypt. Pesach (Passover) begins on Nisan 15, and continues for seven days, in memory of the Exodus from Egypt; thus another of Its names, the Festival of Freedom. It is also called the Festival of Matzot (unleavened bread) because the Exodus was conducted in haste and the Israelites had no time for their bread to rise, and therefore ate it unleavened.

The Omer (literally, sheaf) is counted from Pesach to the Festival of Shavuot, and mourning practices are observed until Lag Be-Omer, the `33rd day of the Omer": men do not shave, haircuts are forbidden, and weddings are not conducted, to commemorate the deaths of 24,000 pupils of Rabbi Akiva between Pesach and Shavuot in the 2nd century CE.

Sign of the Zodiak: The Ram.

In nature: the beginning of the barley harvest.

Written by Dr. Dov Herman, Bar-Ilan University.

The stamp was issued in 2002, one of 12 stamps dedicated to the months of The Hebrew Calendar. Designer: Miri Sofer. Zodiak sign stamp issued 1961, designer: I. Blaushild.