Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Tazria) Renewal!
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki - universally known as Rashi - is the foremost commentator on both our written Torah and our Oral Law - the Talmud.
In his commentary on the first verse of the Torah he asks, why did G-d begin the Torah - which is essentially a Book of Law - with the order of creation rather than beginning the Torah with the first law given to the Jewish nation?
He quotes a Medrash that explains that G-d began the Torah with stating the order of creation to establish His ownership over the world for the sake of the Jewish nation. For when the nations of the world will deny our claim of ownership over the Land of Israel, the Torah will stand as proof to our entitlement. G-d, in His capacity of owner and ruler over the world, gifted the Land of Israel to whomever He felt fit. The Torah states that G-d promised our forefather Avraham that the Land of Israel will belong to his descendants Yitzchok and Yaacov.
What is the first law the Torah commands the Jewish Nation?
It may sound surprising, but it is the law of sanctifying the new month - Rosh Chodesh - which is based on the appearance of the new moon.
G-d presented this law to Moshe and Aaron while the Jews were still in Egypt. The first month established by identifying the initial crescent of the new moon, was Nisan, the month in which the Jews were freed from Egypt.
Our Sages teach us that it was difficult for Moshe to perceive the minimum size of the moon necessary for it to be sanctified to establish a new month. G-d, in a prophetic vision, pointed out the size of the moon teaching Moshe the law.
The law of the establishment of the new month was critical for the Jews before they left Egypt because they were commanded many mitzvos based on the month. They were commanded to take the free roaming Egyptian's deity, the sheep or lamb, into their homes on the Tenth day of Nisan; they were to slaughter it on the fourteenth of Nisan, and roast and eat it with Matzah and Morror on the night of the Fifteenth of Nisan.
The Torah does not give names to the Hebrew months, such as, Nisan, Sivan, Elul, rather, it calls the months by number, thus, the Torah calls Nisan the first month of the year. Nisan was called the first because during this month G-d redeemed us from Egypt and took us as a nation.
Our Sages point out that the Jews would have been thrilled to be freed at any time or season, however, G-d in His kindness took the Jews out of Egypt in the spring, a beautiful time, to display His love towards them for joining His ranks.
This Shabbos marks Rosh Chodesh Nisan. This week, three different portions are read from three Torah scrolls. We call up six people, honoring them with reading the weekly portion Tazria, and the seventh person is honored to read from the second Torah, the portion where the sacrifices of the Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh are described. The Maftir is called to a third Torah which describes G-d's command to sanctify the moon and the laws pertaining to the Pascal Lamb that the Jews brought in preparation for leaving Egypt. This special portion is read each year on the Shabbos that precedes Rosh Chodesh Nisan or if Rosh Chodesh fall on Shabbos as it does this year we read it on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh.
The Chidushai Harim provides us with an exceptional thought about the concept of renewal on Rosh Chodesh.
The spiritual power of renewal is endowed to the Jewish People. As long as we capitalize on this ability and strength, it remains with us. However, if we don't engage in renewal it becomes available to the nations of the world.
For example, Yosef, one of our greatest people, epitomized the power of renewal, yet, our Sages tell us that when Yosef passed away, the Jews gave up Yosef's spiritual lessons and began blending into the Egyptian society. Interestingly, the Torah describes the transition of the power of renewal from the Jews to Egyptians by stating, "A new King arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef." This newness reflected the power of renewal which was now taken over by Egypt, while the Jews became enslaved without the ability to regenerate or renew themselves.
Two weeks before the Jews left Egypt, they were once again endowed with the ability to spiritually renew themselves when G-d said to Moshe and Aaron, "Tell the Jewish people, Hachodesh - which can be translated as "this newness" or the ability for Renewal - is Lachem - to you." This instruction was referring to the appearance of the new moon, but the symbolism of the regeneration of the moon reflects on our nature to renew and refresh our spiritual expansion and growth!
The day of the anniversary of any significant occurrence is energized with that which occurred previously. Rosh Chodesh Nisan along with the entire month is bursting with the spiritual energy of Pesach, its preparations and aura of redemption. We have the capacity to tap into this wellspring of energized renewal, appreciation and deeper connection to the Almighty.
Our positive approach and excitement can make a real difference in bringing deliverance for ourselves and our entire nation!
Wishing you a most enjoyable Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks