Parshas Shemini – A Day of Ten Crowns
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Shemini, after much time, effort, donations, and dedication on behalf of the people, under the direction of Moshe and Betzalel, and along with much Siyata d’Shmaya (Divine assistance), the narrative that began in Parshas Terumah – דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה: מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ: And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, speak to the Children of Israel, and take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him to give, take My portion (Shemos 25:1-2) – comes to fruition.
Amidst great fanfare, and before the eyes of the entire nation, וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי – and it was on the eighth day of the inauguration (Vayikra 9:1 with Rashi) that the Mishkan was erected permanently. Aharon is inducted into the kehunah, he offers special korbanos (sacrifices) in honor of the occasion, he blesses the people with Birkas Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing) (9:22 with Rashi), and the glory of Hashem appears before the nation. So great was the joy of the people that the pasuk says: וַיַּרְא כָּל-הָעָם וַיָּרֹנּוּ, וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם, and the people saw and they praised, and they fell upon their faces (9:24 with Onkelos).
וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי – and it was on the eighth day of the inauguration, Chazal teach (quoted by Rashi) that this day was Rosh Chodesh Nissan. The day was so powerful that it took ten crowns.
The ten crowns taken by the first of Nissan on that year were: (1) the first day of Creation, for it was a Sunday; (2) the first day of the offerings brought by the princes of the tribes in honor of the inauguration of the Mizbayach (altar); (3) the first day of the assumption of the kehunah by Aharon and his sons; (4) the first day of the regular Mizbayach service; (5) the first day that fire descended from heaven onto the Mizbayach; (6) the first day of the restriction that offerings be eaten on the grounds of the Mishkan only; (7) the first day of the prohibition against bringing offerings on altars located outside the grounds of the Mishkan; (8) the first day of the first month of the year; (9) the first day that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) rested among Israel in the Mishkan; (10) the first day that the Kohanim delivered the priestly blessing (Quoted in Artscroll Rashi Elucidated, Vayikra, p.94, note 2).
Rosh Chodesh Nissan that year was a day of such substance, opportunity and holiness, that the day itself took (was gifted with) ten crowns. When we think of glory and majesty, we may think of a special person we know, a gadol ha’dor (leader of the generation), the beauty of nature, or a festive gathering. Generally, we do not think of a day, of time, weeks, hours, and minutes as our crowning glory.
And yet, while others may see time as profane, and nothing more than the rising and setting of the sun with each passing day, the Torah outlook differs greatly from such notions.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches that, “Our observance of Tisha B’Av teaches us something very important, the significance of the Jew’s relationship to time, to ‘day.’ For philosophers, a day is nothing. Time is nothing more than a frame of reference… There is no essence, no substance, to time. You cannot speak of, say, ‘bad time’ or ‘lonely time’ or, what shall I say, ‘profane time’ or ‘blessed time.’ It is nothing whatsoever but a number.
“Yahadus (Judaism) disagrees with this. In yahadus time has attributes. There is ‘good time,’ Yom Tov. There is ‘holy time,’ yom kadosh. There is substance to the day that can be filled with sanctity. Days and hours are endowed or saturated with holiness. The Ba’alei ha’Kabbalah, based on the Gemara (Shabos 119a), said that the Shabbos day is personified by the Shabbos Queen. The day is not just a number. It is a creation in and of itself.
“In Yahadus, a day is more than a number; a day is a creation of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. It is something substantive (The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways, p.210-211).
R’ Mordechai Gifter zt’l (1915-2001) taught, “The Vilna Gaon made a calculation once before Rosh Hashanah. He went though the year and found that for six minutes, in the year, he had not been engaged in Torah. Let’s begin to learn from this how the Gaon thought of this commodity called time and how he spent his time, the most precious of commodities. A minute lost is lost forever. You lost a million dollars, you make it back. You lose a diamond, you’ll get another one to replace it. You lose one minute, it’s gone forever, never to come back. How careful must one be in counting every minute in life. That’s how the Gaon lived.
“Just make a calculation for yourself: there are 365 days in a year. Every day has 24 hours. Every hour has 60 mins. Nu… count out how many minutes are in a year. And the Gaon saw that there were six minutes wasted! And for those he wept!
“Where do we stand when we hear such a thing? Do we know how many minutes we waste? Not in a year, in a month, or in a week. Are we aware of how many minutes we waste in a day?! Before we go to bed, we must figure out: How many minutes were wasted by us, for no purpose whatsoever? Do we have such a calculation?
“Time is one of the creations of Hashem. And he wants it to be used for our benefit. Are we aware of it? Is this the way we have lived throughout the year? What are we going to tell Him? ‘Look, Ribbono Shel Olam, look how we took care of this commodity.’ Is this what we are going to tell Him? And if we do know the truth, we are terribly ashamed.
“And I’m not talking to you, gentlemen, I am talking to myself. But I hope you don’t mind if you hear what I am telling myself. If we truly appreciated the value of time, every time we were engaged in something valueless, we would stop immediately and exclaim, ‘Oy! Gevalt! I am taking diamonds and throwing them into the sea!’ (Artscroll, Rav Gifter, p.139-140).
As we prepare to usher in Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day itself that was crowned with glory, let us strive mightily to appreciate the inherent value in each and every passing moment of time.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,