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Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Tazria) Renewal With the Moon

Every year, on the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh Nisan, we read an additional segment from a second Torah scroll. In this portion, G-d commanded Moshe to sanctify the new month with the appearance of the new moon. This command was issued while the Jews were still in Egypt in anticipation of the month of Nisan when the Jews were freed from Egypt.

The Hebrew word for month is “Chodesh,” which also means renewal.

Why does the appearance of the moon each month bring us a greater sense of renewal and revitalization than the appearance of the sun?

The Arugas Habosem points out that the nature of the moon is different than the sun whose pattern is the same every day. The moon waxes and wanes until it disappears from sight, and then reappears a few days later.

The renewal of the moon reflects on our existence as a nation. Although at times our situation seems dark and bleak we always renew. The moon’s pattern of revitalization serves to energize us to think and act positively and optimistically.

In fact, for this reason G-d commanded the laws of the new month right before our redemption from Egypt. The Medrash relates that when Moshe related the laws of the new month and its significance of redemption and renewal to the Jewish nation, they asked him, “How can this be? Didn’t G-d tell our forefather Avraham that his descendants will be enslaved for four hundred years and it has only been two hundred and ten years?” Moshe responded, “Since G-d yearns for our redemption He does not pay attention to your calculations. He has other ways to fulfill the four hundred years. Either the servitude was so intense that it was considered as if they fulfilled their quota, or G-d began counting from an earlier point of time to satisfy the 400 years of servitude.”

Had our existence been based on the seemingly ‘natural’ pattern of the sun, then the 400 years would have to have been 400 actual years and it could not have been hastened. However, G-d proclaimed the command, “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem – the calculation of time and the monthly cycle belongs to you – the Jewish nation.” This was a sign that we are not bound by the rules of nature, and that our existence is beyond the constrictions of time. Thus, our redemption was able to come earlier.

Rabbi Gedalia Schorr o.b.m. cites the students of Rabainu Yonah who ask, “How do the calculations of the moon reflect on our extraordinary and renewed existence? After all, there is a pattern and calculation to the moon’s orbit and appearance.”

The answer they offer is that since to the human eye, the moon seems to reappear after it was hidden, we as a nation will follow the same pattern.

The Maharal of Prague points out that the Torah associated the three festivals with the seasons of the year. Passover corresponds to spring, Shavuos to the harvest and Succos to the ingathering of the crops. Even though the changing of the seasons appear to be a result of a natural cycle of events, King Solomon in the Book of Koheles writes that anything that happens on this world is a reflection of metaphysical event in the Heavens above.

Therefore, if we see in the seasons, renewal, growth and production, it means that Heavenly energies of these types stimulated such events in the world. The apparent seasonal changes are a result of a Heavenly system of renewal, and therefore worthy for celebration. G-d chose for us to celebrate through our observance of the holidays.

Based on this Rabbi Schorr says, that although the cycle of the moon follows a natural pattern, since it becomes hidden from us and then reappears, we know that it became energized by Heavenly metaphysical powers of renewal which reminds us to invigorate ourselves with a spiritual boost of renewal.

This especially applies in the month of Nisan which is destined to be the month of our ultimate redemption, which will bring recognition of G-d’s Dominion, peace, tranquility and harmony; all of which we are in desperate need of in these trying times.

Wishing you a most restful, uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks