The Anatomy of a Mitzvah

For the week ending 31 March 2018 / 15 Nisan 5778

From Renewal to Redemption

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
ArtscrollLibrary

“This month (Nissan) shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.” (Shemot 12:2)

Kiddush HaChodesh” — the sanctification of the New Month — was the first commandment given to the Jewish People as a nation before leaving Egypt. Determining the beginning of a new month, whether a month would have twenty-nine or thirty days (based on testimony), when it would be necessary to add a thirteenth month (a second Adar), and the yearly holidays, were all established by an authorized Jewish Court (Beit Din). Because of the difficult circumstances of exile there was a great risk that the Jewish Court would one day lose its authorized status. To solve this problem Hillel HaNassi II and his Beit Din sanctified all future months before it would become too late (circa 500 CE).

Although today we follow a fixed calendar, it is important to understand the eternal lessons latent within the concept of Kiddush Hachodesh: 1) The Torah calls Nissan the first month of the year. 2) The Jewish calendar follows the cycle of the moon. 3) The sanctity of the months and holidays are determined by the Jewish People.

The month of Nissan is called Chodesh Ha’Aviv (Spring), a time of renewal, as well as Chodesh HaGeulah, a time of redemption. G-d infused the power of redemption and renewal in this month. That is why we were redeemed from Egyptian enslavement in during Nissan, and it is also why in this month we were given the commandment to sanctify the new moon.

The moon, which (from our perception) goes through a cycle of growth and decline, also symbolizes the process of redemption and renewal. Thus, the Hebrew word for month is Chodesh, which means “renewal.” During each month the moon is diminished and then restored to its original grandeur. The Jewish People are compared to the moon, and likewise go through a similar process of exile and redemption. In the end, like the moon, we will be restored to our true position of honor and glory.

Mankind represents the pinnacle of Creation. We have been given both the privilege and the responsibility of completing and perfecting ourselves as well as the world around us, and in doing so we become G-d’s partner in this magnificent miracle of Creation. Time itself has been placed into our hands. Through fulfilling our Divine mission in this world, mankind together with the dimensions of time and space all become eternally sanctified.

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