Photo Credit: pixabay

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

I picture myself as one of a group of people sitting at Moses’ feet listening as our great teacher explains how God’s laws speak to the heart of each of us, when Moses is suddenly silent with a faraway look in his eyes, as if listening to a voice calling to him. He rises and walks toward the Tabernacle with our group silently following him to the Courtyard. People join our quiet procession. We understand that God is calling Moses to reveal more to our great teacher. It’s different than when, “And God called Moses to the top of the mountain (Exodus 19:20),” at Sinai. Wondrous things were happening at Sinai, the mountain was smoking and shuddering accompanied by an ever-louder blast of the Shofar. We expected such moments at Sinai. It was different when such calls came while Moses was teaching. It was as if we, who were studying with Moses, were also being called.

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God caught the attention of the Children of Israel with the plagues, but when did they first hear God calling to them? “God said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year (12:1-2)” Rabbeinu Ovadiah Seforno explains that “for you” appears twice in the verse to stress a new relationship between the Children of Israel and time. As slaves, time belonged to their masters. From this point on, they would be masters of time, and their only Master would be God.

Rashi, on the opening verse of this week’s portion, defines this expression of God’s love for the people as God’s Call. Moses experienced each of God’s Calls as a connection to God calling to him for the first time, to ascend Sinai. The people who observed Moses being called to the Tabernacle connected the Call to that first loving call, “Hachodesh haZeh lachem – This month shall be for you,” Hachodesh also meaning, “that which is new,” as in, “when you heard Me call to you for the first time.”

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

-T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”a

We explore life through the lens of Torah through the entire year. Now that Pesach approaches, we pause and listen as this week we hear God’s loving call as if For The First Time. It is a call to prepare for Pesach, observe its laws, and study the Haggadah, and hear each question, as our answer to hearing God’s Loving Call as if For The First Time.

Shabbat Shalom and First Time Rosh Chodesh,

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