19 Apr 2016 Out with the Old, In with the New
Pesach, the festival of redemption and freedom, is upon us.
While still in Egypt, the first national mitzvah given to the about-to-be-freed Israelite slaves was the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh – sanctification of the new month. The verse says:
הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה – This month is for you, the first of the months, it is the first for you for the months of the year (Ex.12:2).
R’ Eliyahu Kitov, in The Book of our Heritage, points out that שָּׁנָה, year, can also be read as שֵׁנָה, sleep, and shares the same root as ישן (yashan), old. On the other hand, the word חֹדֶשׁ, month, can also be read as חָדָשׁ, new.
From here we can derive a very important life lesson.
At times, we go through life, we drift through our year (shana), without giving much thought, perhaps, to our avodas Hashem, to our asiyas ha’mitzvos (performance of mitzvos). While we may be alive, we are spiritually asleep (shayna), bored with what we perceive as the old (yashan) in life. Is there any hope for us, when we are asleep in our year, in our lives, in our ruchniyus?
Yes, the Torah declares! Even those who are asleep can wake up. With redemption comes the gift of time, a new month – חֹדֶשׁ, which signifies the beauty of renewal, the excitement of חָדָשׁ, new. Even those who have been drifting through the year until now can tap into the strength of this auspicious month of Nissan, the first of months.
Nissan is the month, the chodesh, for renewal and chadash – the month for change. Even if we think we lack the courage to change, we can, each one of us, tap into the kochos of this month, and effect that change.
הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה. Nissan is not the start of a regular year – it is the start of a month that is a year, חָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה.
Nissan is, therefore, the start of chodshei ha’shana and chadash ha’shanah. We are reminded and encouraged to take our slumber, our old, our sleep of the past year, and make it the chodesh of chadash!
The Israelites were in Egypt for 210 years and were enslaved for 116 years… As a nation, they seemed bereft, forlorn, exhausted in both body and spirit. As the verse says:
וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, מִקֹּצֶר רוּחַ, וּמֵעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה – and they could not listen to Moshe from shortness of breath (ruach being one of the terms for the soul) and from hard work (i.e., their bodies were broken) (Ex.6:9). All hope seemed lost as the people slogged through year after year (shana) of enslavement and pain, as they dealt with the old (yashan) of embittered lives. Could a nation asleep (יָשֵׁן) awake, arise and renew once again…?
The answer came with the chadash of chodesh, with the blossoming of spring, which represents the blossoming of our nation. What seemed barren now bloomed, what seemed hopeless now gave rise to new life, what seemed lost was now found.
הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה
Take the old, the sleep, the dreariness of shana, and during this chodesh of Nissan, embrace the chadash – embrace the newness of opportunity, the excitement of spring blossoms, the bursting forth of a nation from the cauldron of enslavement to their long march to freedom: physical freedom with the Exodus from Egypt combined with spiritual freedom when we accepted the Torah at Sinai.
May this Nissan be the ultimate chodesh of chadash, as we merit the coming of Moshiach Tzidkainu. For when that long-awaited day arrives, we will merit the redemption of our people and our Land, wherein we will witness the grandeur and beauty of a rebuilt and redeemed Tzion and Yerushalayim… May it be immediate and in our days, amen v’amen.
השתא הכא. לשנה הבאה בארעא דישראל. השתא עבדי. לשנה הבאה בני חורין
Wishing you a very meaningful and uplifting chag kasher v’samayach,