Monday, March 26, 2012

A Belated Hodesh Tov for Nisan!

In the beginning of the Maftir portion this past Shabbat, we read as follows:

HaShem said to Moshe and Aharon in the Land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of the months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.” (Shemot 12: 1 – 2)

It was especially poignant this year to read this on Shabbat because it was in fact a Shabbat Rosh Hodesh, but not just any Shabbat Rosh Hodesh, but Shabbat Rosh Hodesh Nisan. So why should we care? After all, with all the Pesah preparations and planning, who has time for this additional Jewish observance? WHO HAS TIME, you ask? Why, WE DO, as free people!!!!!

This commandment to observe not just Rosh Hodesh, but specifically ROSH HODESH NISSAN, and this year as SHABBAT HAHODESH, is the first mitzvah given by G-d to the nation of Israel as a free people, a collective of free individuals tied together by nationhood, by the shared experience of leaving Egypt and slavery behind under the watchful eye and outstretched arm of G-d. AND IT IS QUITE IMPORTANT!

Consider this --- a few months ago, we celebrated and observed Chanukah. With that holiday, we cherish the spirit and fortitude we as Jews have had to fight for and value our freedom. Antiochus and the oppressive Greek/Syrian entity that dictated so much for the lives of its Jews so long ago forbade three practices specifically, Brit Milah for our baby boys, the observance and celebration of Shabbat and the marking of our months through Rosh Hodesh. Why these three? Without a Brit Milah, one’s very identity is questioned as he cannot bear the mark of being a Jew and living as G-d commanded. Without Shabbat, we cannot celebrate and refresh ourselves as community and as individuals – the very essence of our weeks and lives was removed. And Rosh Hodesh – by marking our new moons and keeping track of our days and cycles of time, we were living as people who had a sense of control. Take that away, have someone else mark and define your time, and you lose a basic right of existence and freedom.

We as Jews are always conscious of the marking of time. Our days begin with sundown and the transition continues until the coming out of stars. We pray according to daily markers of time. We mark our weekly Shabbatot and keep track of our holidays and celebrations through our luni (some say loony) solar calendar. THIS CANNOT BE DONE WITHOUT FREEDOM. Any survivor of the Holocaust or of the days before Soviet Jews were able to leave the land of their oppression will tell you this is so.

We know that one of the worst forms of torture and inhumane treatment of fellow human beings is to take away their sense of time. This is used in torture of prisoners, and is the source of so much depression and disorientation for those who live in regions where time may not be so easily marked by simple things we all take for granted – sun rise and sun down.

Marking our time for us is a gift – OUR GIFT as free people who left the slavery and the beatings and the determination of our schedules by our oppressors in Egypt so long ago. Let us appreciate this gift and use it well. May the new year of time, beginning with Rosh Hodesh Nissan be one in which we use our gift of time purposefully, appreciatively and without taking it for granted.


1 comment:

  1. If you say "I don't have time", then you can only reason that Time has you. We can be careful with our language and declare that we do have time. This is our Freedom, to choose how we spend our time. Let's recognize the choice this Nissan. Chodesh tov@