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Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Shira Smiles
The first mitzva in the Torah given to the Jewish people as a nation was Kiddush Hachodesh. Why this particular mitzva? The Seforno explains that slaves have no clear concept of time because their time is not their own. In halacha, a slave is not obligated in time related mitzvot because he lacks time consciousness. Sanctification of time and freedom are bound together. Only free men, who can fill their time with spirituality, can understand its essence. Therefore, to mark the Jewish people’s emergence as a liberated nation, they were given the mitzva of Kiddush Hachodesh.
Creation exists in the dimension of time. It continually evolves and reshapes itself. However, only man can sense the passage of time and appreciate its beauty and significance. There are three dimensions of time: retrospection, anticipation, and appreciation. Retrospection is when the past becomes the present. One can relive and retell an experience long gone as if it is happening at the moment. Anticipation is man’s projection of visions and aspirations into the future. This takes us beyond the present and moves us forward into a future vision. Appreciation embraces the present as inherently worthy.
These three aspects come to the fore on the Seder night. The first part of the Hagada focuses on retrospection. We are commanded to see ourselves as if we are leaving Egypt. Hallel is a song of appreciation, in which we rejoice in the present moment. The Seder culminates with anticipation of the future redemption and the hope of returning to our land.
The second aspect of Kiddush Hachodesh is that we have the ability to rejuvenate and renew ourselves, like the moon. Its waxing and waning reflects a dimension within us. Just as we sanctify the moon, we must sanctify ourselves. The Sefat Emet notes that the beauty of Judaism is that no thirty days can go by without rejuvenation. Kiddush Hachodesh is our monthly reminder, prompting us to ask ourselves, “Where are we? What have we done to transform our lives? How have we become different?” It is the power of change and reflection. Rav Wolfson notes that every month is numbered in relation to Nisan, the first month, whose definition is chidush, renewal. Kiddush Hachodesh, as the first mitzva, teaches us that the foundation of all mitzvot is performing good deeds with hitchadshut. Our challenge is to take every mitzva and attach it to the first mitzva, which commands us to grow, change, and re-energize our lives.
Rav Tatz asks, Hashem took us out in haste because we were almost at the fiftieth level of impurity. However, we find that at the culmination of the exile, the Jews were busy with mitzvot such as brit milah and korban Pesach. How can we say that they were at such a low level? The Maharal explains that spirituality is contradicted by unnecessary expansion of physical dimension in time and space. If one moves fast one can overcome its stifling affects. Therefore, Chazal say, “Zrizim makdimim l’mitzvot.” One should perform mitzvot with alacrity. Otherwise, physical concerns will present themselves to prevent a person from fulfilling the good deed. The problem with more time in Egypt was not the effects of impurity. It was time itself. At the moment of conception, the Jewish nation had to rise above nature. The redemption had to be in the blink of an eye so that no physical forces would overpower them.
The definition of a Jew is Kiddush Hachodesh. It is a mitzva that taps into the dimension of time and creates newness. The way to create vibrancy is not to get caught in the sluggishness of the moment but to grab the opportunity. Similarly, the difference between chametz and matza is a difference of time. When chametz is left out for a long time, it will spoil or get moldy. Matza, in contrast, has staying power. When we allow the dimension of time to take effect, we invite the limited forces of nature into our lives. Judaism encourages us to use our time. A difference of a few minutes can alter the status of the same action. If one studies Jewish law, one becomes sensitive to a time-conscious relationship with Hashem.
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I watch my children use blocks to build a large structure, observing the trepidation with which they add each block. As the structure becomes larger there is a greater risk of it collapsing, thus bringing an end to an hour of playful labor. I anticipate what will happen when one child adds a block to the top floor, compromising the integrity of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. The argument that ensues is predictable, as each child blames the other for “ruining” the fun. As an adult, I wonder about the need to attribute blame. Will assigning blame be instrumental in rebuilding the structure?
In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of when one steals from another and when confronted in beis din, the thief swears falsely with his denial that he stole. This parshah was already taught in parshas Vayikra; however, there are two halachos that the Torah adds in this parshah to this topic.
In order to carry from one’s home into the street (even when the area is enclosed by a properly constructed eruv), the eruvin ceremony must be performed. This ceremony involves the placing of food in one designated home on behalf of all Sabbath observers in the enclosed area. In order for the eruvin ceremony to be valid, however, it must be performed on behalf of all owners of streets and homes in the enclosed area.
Question: On Friday night the chazzan in many shuls ascends the bimah for Kabbalat Shabbos but goes to the amud starting for Barchu. Why?
Question: As Shavuot is fast approaching – a holiday on which we dwell on the story of Ruth and the origins of the royal house of David – I was wondering if you could help me resolve something. Some people say that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, the redactor of the six orders of the Mishnah and a scion of King David, purposely kept any mention of Chanukah and the Hasmonean kings out of the Mishnah because the Hasmoneans improperly crowned themselves and ignored the rule that all Jewish kings are supposed to come from the tribe of Yehudah. Is this true?
The Rema writes (Ohr Hachaim, 494:4), “It is customary to spread branches of trees in our synagogues and homes [on Shavuos] in order to commemorate that which the sages say [Rosh Hashanah 16a] that on Shavuos the world is judged concerning [how many] fruits the trees will produce [that year].”
‘A Separate Contribution From Each’
If a man suspects his wife of infidelity, he is to bring witnesses and warn her not to go into private quarters with the man in question. If she violates that warning, he is to bring her to the kohen, who will give her the “bitter waters” to drink. If she was falsely accused and was innocent, she will be blessed with children. If she was guilty, she will die a gruesome death.
A flash of red caught my eye, and I looked up and saw a cardinal perched on the picnic table on my deck. What a miracle, I marveled. You’re beautiful. Thanks, Hashem. And then my mind’s wheels began to roll, and it struck me that several miracle stories had come my way this week. The stories prodded me to think of and feel Hashem’s presence as a more tangible and vivid reality.
Over the years I’ve received letters from all over the world in which people share feelings and thoughts they’ve experienced upon becoming became Torah observant. Usually these letters arrive not long after the writers had heard one of my speeches. No matter where a particular speech took place, and no matter whether I spoke the language or had to use a translator, the magic always works. In reality, it’s not magic at all but a little voice in the soul – the “Pintele Yid,” that spark of G-d’s Word engraved on all our neshamahs. Here is one recent letter.
By the time these words are printed, there will be only a few more days left before Shavuos. We hope that up until that point, we will still have been counting the days of Sefiras Ha’Omer with a bracha, but we also know that too often, despite our best efforts, we drop out of counting with a bracha some time before the count is complete.
In this week’s parshah the Torah tells us that the bechorim were replaced by the levi’im to serve in the Mikdash. The Torah says that there were 273 more bechorim than levi’im. Those bechorim could not simply be replaced, and had to be redeemed. Hashem told Moshe that each bechor should give five shekalim to Moshe, who, in turn, should give them to Aharon and his sons. With that, they would be redeemed.
Question: Is there anything special that one should do on Yom Yerushalayim?
Question: As the shamash in a small community shul with an aging population, I am faced with numerous challenges. The following is only one of them. During sefirah, different people daven for the amud for Ma’ariv. Once, a bar mitzvah was one of them. On another occasion, a very recent ger lead the service. Were these individuals allowed to lead the congregation in counting sefirah? I also wonder, in general, if everyone should be trusted to lead the counting. What if someone forgot to count on one of the previous nights but does not inform anyone of this?
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-bo-creation-of-self/2013/01/15/
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