15 Mar 2018 Parshas HaChodesh: Well On In Years
On Shabbos we will read the final of the four special parshios (Shekalim, Zachor, Parah & HaChodesh) read in preparation for Pesach. In addition to beginning Sefer Vayikra, and reading Parshas Vayikra, we will read from Shemos 12, regarding Kiddush ha’Chodesh – the sanctification of the month, through the declaration and establishment of Rosh Chodesh (the new month based on the sighting of the new moon).
Though we left Egypt in the middle of the month of Nissan, the first national mitzvah we were given was commanded to Moshe and Aharon two weeks prior to the Exodus. הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה – This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year (Shemos 12:2). Rashi (ibid) teaches that G-d showed Moshe the new moon of Nissan in its renewal, and said this is the first of the months of the year, Iyar is second, Sivan is third, and so on.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “While G-d Himself vested holiness into Shabbos, it is the Jewish people who sanctify the festivals through their establishment of each new month: הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם. For this reason, the blessing on Yom Tov is phrased, Who sanctifies Israel and the Festivals; G-d sanctified Israel, who in turn sanctifies the festivals.
“Although the time for Rosh Chodesh is calculated today, rather than declared by Beis Din (Jewish courts) as it was during the Temple period, there is still a role for this declarative statement even today, in that the collective of Israel must explicitly accept the appointed time for each Rosh Chodesh. It is this declarative element which is the function of today’s kiddush ha’chodesh… The public announcement of Rosh Chodesh is a symbolic enactment of kiddush ha’chodesh by Beis Din on behalf of the nation of Israel. The words recited during kiddush ha’chodesh, חברים כל ישראל (friends, all of Israel), symbolize the collectivity of Israel, whom Beis Din represents” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Shemos, p.84-85).
Regarding the power and significance of Rosh Chodesh, R’ S. R. Hirsch teaches, “It is not the meeting of heavenly bodies, (nor) the renewed illumination of the moon by the sun, that produces the beginning of the month; it is not this natural phenomenon that the New Moon celebrates. Rather, each time the moon reunites with the sun and receives from it new light, G-d wants His people to find their way back to Him, so that His light may again shine forth on them, no matter where they may be or through what periods of darkness they may have to pass in their path through history.”
As our world continues to run ever faster in our day and age; as people rush about at a frenetic pace, from one place to another; as time seems to go faster and faster (did we not just begin the winter season, post the chagim last fall…?) as it marches on, it behooves us to contemplate that the first national mitzvah was none other than sanctifying, appreciating, owning, and utilizing something we all too often take for granted: time.
R’ Yisrael Meir Lau recalls his rebbe, R’ Eliyahu Lapian zt’l, who “often expressed his wish that we grow to be well on in years. He said this was an expression used in regard to two individuals: Avraham and King David. It’s clear why it’s used in regard to Avraham, who reached the age of 175, but why does it also apply to King David, who was only seventy when he died?
“This teaches us that the expression applies to special individuals. When they present themselves before their Creator on Judgment Day, they bring with them their entire lives, without one day lost or wasted. They were active each and every day of their lives, expanding their knowledge, serving the public, and helping others. They made the most of each moment. ‘Be well on in years,’ he would exhort us from the vantage point of his advanced age, and we devoured every word of his admonishment and moral lesson” (Out of the Depths, p.151-152).
Rosh Chodesh, and the renewal of the moon as one month ends, and the next begins, reminds us that with each new month we are presented with new chances for renewal. If we failed to accomplish our goals last month, or fell short of where we hoped and wanted to be, we can start anew, or continue, this month.
With the new month, chodesh, comes the power of chadash, renewal.
And yet, the Sages teach that it is possible to err, and instead of reading החדש הזה לכם, this month is for you, one may mistakenly read החרש היה לבם, their hearts were deaf (mute, blocked). The difference in the letters between the two phrases are minute… yet the difference in meaning between the two phrases are worlds apart.
The former means we grab onto the power inherent in time and utilize it well, serving G-d and fellow man with each passing moment; the latter means we are immune to the gift of time, the rush of time, the passing of time, and the opportunities that abound in every minute of time.
As we usher in the new month of Nissan this Shabbos, and as the light of the moon yet shines again, let us answer its call and rise to the occasion. For in every chodesh is the gift of chadash.
וְאַבְרָהָם זָקֵן, בָּא בַּיָּמִים – And Avraham was old, well on in years, and Hashem blessed Avraham with all (Bereishis 24:1).
Let us be active each and every week, day, hour and minute of our lives, so that we too will live a life that is well on in years.
בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,