MASTERS OF OUR DESTINY
Rabbi Reuven Stein
If you had one chance to communicate with your people about their future and help them understand what receiving the Torah was all about, what would you tell them? Would you teach them about Shabbat, the Ten Commandments, morality?
If you had one chance to communicate with your people about their future and help them understand what receiving the Torah was all about, what would you tell them? Would you teach them about Shabbat, the Ten Commandments, morality? In this week's Torah portion, Hashem tells Moses to speak to the Children of Israel and teach them about Rosh Chodesh, the new month. In fact, this commandment is the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a nation. What is so significant about Rosh Chodesh that it should be the first?
The mitzvah of sanctifying Rosh Chodesh is a mitzvah that is absolutely given over to the beit din or Jewish court. Unlike Shabbat which automatically comes every seven days, Rosh Chodesh is totally dependent upon the Jewish people. If two witnesses come to testify that they saw the new moon in the sky and the court declares Rosh Chodesh to be sanctified, it will be sanctified. If not, then the Jewish calendar will be held up, even to the point of affecting the placement of the holidays.
Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, the rosh yeshiva (dean) of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, explains that the Torah specifically writes the word lachem, to you, with regard to the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh (Exodus 12:2). This teaches us that Hashem wants us to be the masters of the calendar. A slave is not the master of his own time; he works only according to the will of his owner. The Jewish people were developing into a free nation for the first time. Hashem wants them to know that they need to control time. They need to be masters of their own destiny and not slaves to it.
So many of us believe that our family or our religion is the most important part of our lives, yet we do not find the time to pay adequate attention to them. Hashem commands us to sanctify our calendar and realize that time is a gift to us with which we can accomplish tremendous things.
There is another idea that while Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the beginning of the month of the exodus, marks the birth of the Jewish people. Hashem wanted the Jewish people to know that with their freedom, a new entity was created that would change the destiny of Mankind. They could no longer count from creation, but instead have to count their months and their lives from the month of Nissan. Every Jew has to realize the special destiny we as a people were chosen for, to be a light unto the nations and spread the message of Hashem and the Torah to the world. We were not freed from Egypt simply for the sake of freedom. Slavery was not abolished throughout the world at that time. We were freed from our human masters to serve the much greater Master of the world
Rabbi Reuven Stein is administrator of the Atlanta Kashruth Commission.
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