In Parshat Bo, the Jewish people are given the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh the sanctification of the new moon (Exodus 12:2). Rosh Chodesh was the first mitzvah given to the Jewish nation as a whole.
In Parshat Bo, the Jewish people are given the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh the sanctification of the new moon (Exodus 12:2). Rosh Chodesh was the first mitzvah given to the Jewish nation as a whole. What was so significant about the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh that it became the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as they were about to exit Egypt?
Another fact to note is that along with brit milah (circumcision) and Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh was one of three mitzvot banned by the Greeks during the time of the Chanukah story. Brit milah represents our entering into the covenant between Abraham and Hashem. Shabbat represents our steadfast belief in Hashem as the Creator of the world. What could possibly be so great about Rosh Chodesh that it was one of three mitzvot banned by the Greeks?
The reason that Rosh Chodesh posed such a threat to the Greeks was because the Greeks tried to abolish the Jewish festivals, and Rosh Chodesh was the determining factor of when the festivals would take place. By attempting to abolish the festivals, the Greeks hoped to thwart the Jewish people's belief of G-d's constant involvement in the world, as expressed through the Jewish festivals.
However, there is an even more spiritual message to Rosh Chodesh. Rabbi Aharon Feldman, a great Torah scholar in Israel, stated that Rosh Chodesh sets the calendar, and the calendar connects the physical world to the spiritual world. How is that possible?
In Mishnaic times, when two people would see the moon they would go to the great court in Jerusalem and testify. If their testimony was accepted, a big feast would take place because they realized they brought the physical world closer to the spiritual world. For instance, when it was declared that it was Rosh Chodesh for the Hebrew month of Nissan (the month in which we celebrate Passover), our level of rejoicing increased to such a level that it was deemed forbidden to recite the sorrowful tachanun prayer for the entire month. Conversely, when the start of the Hebrew month of Av was announced (the month in which we commemorate the destruction of both Temples), a deeper level of mourning would be observed. These were just some of the ways that the court would affect the spiritual world.
How does this answer the question of why Rosh Chodesh was the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a whole? It was given first because it represented a direct connection between the physical world and Hashem. Perhaps this understanding can also explain the Talmud which states: "Anyone who blesses the month in its proper time, it is as if he greeted the Divine presence" (Tractate Sanhedrin 42a). We must realize that we, just like our ancestors who made up the court, have a relationship with Hashem. We can learn a great lesson from this, in that, Rosh Chodesh represents a time for reflection, introspection, and repentance.
David Schulman, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying in the Derech Program at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem.
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