Israel Forever

For the week ending 29 March 2003 / 25 Adar II 5763

Whats New?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

A new mitzvah, a new month, and new hope. These are the messages of the special Torah chapter we will read in our synagogues this Shabbat in addition to the regular weekly portion. The fourth and final of the special chapters which characterize the Purim Pesach season, Parshat Hachodesh recalls the first mitzvah commanded to our ancestors while they were still in Egypt.

This command, issued on Rosh Chodesh Nissan 3315 years ago, charged the emerging Jewish nation with the responsibility of maintaining a lunar calendar, with the month of Nissan in which the Exodus took place as the first month. Our Talmudic Sages and future commentaries saw in this mitzvah a Divine equation between the moon and the Jewish People. The most striking dimension of that equation for our times is the nature of the lunar cycle.

Unlike its big brother, the sun, the moon is not always visible. There are days in the month in which it is completely obscured from our view although it is always in its place in the heavens. After this absence it never fails to reappear. When G-d informed our ancestors that "This new moon shall be yours," this was a comforting reassurance that, like the moon, we too would have periods, only temporary, of decline and darkness. The terror and economic problems of today, like the persecutions of the past, sometimes create an illusion of total darkness. The mitzvah of sanctifying the new month which we will recall this Shabbat should serve as a reminder that we, like the moon, will reappear again and, like the full moon, illuminate the world with the light of Israel forever.

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