As our study of Massechet Shekalim draws to a close, the final lines of Shekalim (22b) refer to the fact that the Mishkan was first erected in the month of Nissan and it wonders in which month the future Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt.
Significantly, during the time-period of the Torah, the months did not actually have names. Instead, they were simply numbered with the first month being the month when Bnei Yisrael left Egypt (Shemot 12:1). This meant that each time a date is mentioned in the Torah, it reminds the reader of Yetziat Mitzrayim (see Ramban’s commentary on Shemot 12:1). Thus we read that ‘in the first month of the second year [of the Exodus], on the first of the month, the Mishkan was erected’ (Shemot 40:17).
Then, when discussing the building of the First Beit HaMikdash, we are told that ‘in the 480th year after Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim, in the month of Ziv – that is, the second month – in the fourth year of his reign over Israel, Shlomo began to build the House of the Lord’ (Melachim I 6:1).
In this verse, reference is made to the number of years from Yetziat Mitzrayim, while the name ‘Ziv’ also makes its first appearance in association with this second month (which we now refer to as the month of Iyar). But, as R’
Alex Israelasks in his ‘I Kings: Torn in Two’ (pp. 82-83), why, at this point, did Shlomo Hamelech abandon the number system of the months and create new names?’. To this he suggests that, ‘these new Jewish names reflect Solomon’s perspective on his era, closing the chapter of the Exodus and opening a new era of a strong nation-state and a stable monarchy… The Temple represents the culmination of the process of the Exodus; new names indicate a fresh historical frontier, [and] Solomon’s ambitious reframing of the months of the year…reflects his anticipation of a new national epoch’.
Interestingly, it was also in the second month that the building of the Second Beit HaMikdash began (see Ezra 3:8). However, by this point, new names (eg. Nissan, Iyar etc.) which ‘came up with us from Babylon’ (Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashanah 1:2) had been assigned to the months. As the Ramban (ibid.) explains while quoting from Yirmiyah 16:14-15 and 23:7-8, this is because, having experienced exile, a new national epoch and a new frame of reference was added to our calendar whereby, ‘it will no longer be said, “As Hashem lives, Who took the Children of Israel up from the land of Egypt,” but rather, “As Hashem lives, Who took up and brought back the Children of Israel from the land of the North.” What this means is that whenever we refer to the name of a month, it reminds us of our return from exile to rebuild the Second Beit HaMikdash.
As mentioned, today’s daf (Shekalim 22a) raises the question whether the future (3rd) Beit HaMikdash will begin to be built in Nissan like the Mishkan. However, based on what I have explained, an equally likely – and perhaps even more likely – suggestion is that the foundation for the future Temple will spring from events occurring in Iyar.
Today we don’t yet have a 3rd Beit HaMikdash. However, 73 years ago, on the 5th of Iyar, a new national epoch began, and though we continue to use the names of the months which ‘came up with us from Babylon’, this new national epoch reflects a period where it will no longer be said, “As Hashem lives, Who took up and brought back the Children of Israel from the land of the North”, but “As Hashem lives, Who took up and brought back the Children of Israel from the four corners of the earth.” And what is the currency of Israel in this new epoch? The New Shekel!
Mazal Tov to all those who have completed their study of Massechet Shekalim!