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One of the most common difficulties people of all backgrounds and professions come across in their careers is how to manage their calendars. Finding time for all our competing demands and priorities, as well as time to relax, take vacation or time off for major chagim, and allow for the inevitable disruptions and surprises that come up over the course of a calendar year, is no easy task for the Jew in the modern workforce.

Fascinatingly, the very first comment Rashi makes in his glosses to the Torah identifies a verse in this week’s parshah, regarding the establishment of the lunar calendar and its starting point from the month of Nisan, as a potential alternative starting point for the entire corpus of biblical literature. Although Rashi clarifies that the Torah instead begins with Bereishit to solidify the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as the rightful inhabitants of the Land of Israel, it is still fascinating that Rashi entertains the real possibility that the Torah could have begun right in the middle of parshat Bo. What does that say about this week’s sidra, and what is the significance of the lunar calendar that allows it to warrant such a possibility?


Although there are more than a few answers given by commentators ancient and modern, one of the most notable was offered by Ibn Ezra, who posits that until this commandment, the Israelites simply used the solar calendar that had been employed by their Egyptian hosts. Hence, this commandment effectively gave Bnei Yisrael temporal autonomy from their captors, making this commandment – the first that G-d commanded Moshe (see Ramban’s comments to Shemot 12:2) – a crucial stage in liberating the nation from slavery. In other words, by establishing the lunar calendar, which is demarcated in months, as opposed to the solar calendar, which is demarcated in years, as the official calendar of the Jewish people, the Jewish people saw their first real expression of freedom by measuring time differently than they had in the past and differently from the other nations of the world, especially the Egyptians.

Returning to our original question, although the stories that compose Sefer Bereishit were, in fact, indispensable to Jewish tradition to the point that they begin the narratives and laws that comprise Tanach, it is not an accident that our parshah is identified as a potential alternative. Although it is easy to simplify this “debate” as a matter of whether the Torah delegates greater importance to its narrative or legal sections, it is important not to downplay the newfound significance that time played and continues to play in the Jewish consciousness, as it was the first step in the Jewish people’s march to freedom.

Perhaps you recently hung a new yearly planner to your fridge and it’s already filling up. Maybe you agonized over which calendar app to download, or made a resolution to better manage your time and already feel overwhelmed by everything you want to accomplish in 2022. Or you simply find yourself losing control of your time as work, family, and other obligations seem to deny you the feeling of accomplishment each week. Know that you are not alone. And keep in mind that the calendar was the first expression of the Jewish people’s freedom. Moreover, even in contemporary halacha, the knowledge and ability to keep track of time remains a hallmark of freedom, and dissociation with time is characteristic of slavery (see the Mishnah in Berachot 3:3). Thus, one of the surprising takeaways from Rashi’s comments at the beginning of the Torah is that no matter how much time seems like a constraint, especially in our modern lives and workplaces, it is important to take a step back to appreciate our ability to track and measure time, one of the prime examples and expressions of freedom in the Torah.

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Rami Nordlicht is a recent graduate of Yeshiva University, where he studied biology and history in hope of pursuing a career in medicine. He is fascinated by the depth and scope of Tanach, and is currently finishing his thesis on Rabbi David Zvi Hoffman's commentary to the Book of Leviticus. In his free time, he enjoys hiking the trails of the New York metropolitan area.