A New Book! Parsha Vayikra
Posted by Manhattan Jewish Experience on Friday, March 16, 2018
America has lots of expressions involving time. Time is money – Time flies – Ahead of his time – Killing time. Time is a concept that preoccupies us a lot! Since I broke my foot a couple of months ago, I find myself …well … more “pressed for time.” Just getting dressed and getting ready in the morning takes an additional twenty minutes. I still have the same things to do each day, but I need to plan and budget time so much more.
What we do with our time indicates what’s important for us in life. A few months ago, the missile alert alarm was set off in Hawaii. One man recorded a video for his family, of what he thought would be his last few minutes in life. As he wished his family goodbye, he said, “At least I am dying playing golf.”
The concept of time came into being with the creation of the world. Prior to that, it did not exist. This week, as we read Parshas HaChodesh,Hashem instructs Moshe that the Jewish court will determine the new month by the sighting of the moon, thus setting the Jewish / lunar calendar in motion. In effect, Hashem is giving us the gift of being a full partner in setting time. And notice that this mitzvah was given to Klal Yisroel while they were still in Egypt–before Har Sinai and before the giving of the Torah. Why was this mitzvah so critical to moving forward?
The Seforno explains that the gift of HaChodesh (setting the month) involved a lot more than determining the new moon. Until this point, the Jews were slaves with no control over their time. Their Egyptian masters could call them to work at any time of the day or night. Hashem was now removing a key part of their bondage, allowing them to control time and become attached to Hashem, through the mitzvah of creating their own calendar. Every second going forward would be a moment with Hashem. In each of our steps, we would be walking with Hashem. This is the real start of time with a spiritual connection.
Remember back in the days of 9/11, when President Bush announced to the world, “You’re either with us, or against us”? A similar notion is expressed by the Chovos Halevavos: everything we do is either a mitzvah or an aveirah (sin). It’s either the will of Hashem or it’s against His will. The gift of time by Hashem, through having us set the calendar, was an eternal gift, consecrating every moment of every day and thereby presenting us constant opportunities to connect to Hashem, even while sitting at our computer at work, shopping in the store, doing carpool or eating supper.
Our job today is to recognize and utilize this beautiful connection. The Shulchan Aruch opens with shivisi Hashem l’negdi tamid — Hashem is constantly with me. This realization is truly powerful if we truly internalize it. It’s alluded to in the mitzvah of kiddush HaChodesh(blessing the New Moon) in the words, HaChodesh hazeh lachem – this month shall be for you. The word hazeh connotes pointing to a specific item. At the splitting of the sea, Klal Yisroel sang “zeh Keli” – This is my Hashem. Every Jew was able to point to Hashem, such was the awareness and clarity they attained at that moment.
At Pesach, this theme is echoed with our response to the famous question of mah nishtanah halailah hazeh (how is this night different?). The numerical value of “zeh” equals twelve. Pesach, in the month of Nissan, signifies the start of the twelve months and the twelve tribes. It’s a fresh start…a new beginning. There’s no looking back. From now on, every moment is one in which we are walking with Hashem.
This powerful message is integral to Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Time, calendar, freedom, redemption, connecting in a new way to the Almighty-it all comes together at this juncture in time.
As we start this wondrous month of Nissan, we may feel a bit (a lot??) pressured by the time demands on us from all the cleaning, shopping and cooking that needs to happen. Yes, this month of freedom has a sprinkle of irony as we enter it. But the message is clear: our calendars are full, our responsibilities are many, but we are the keepers of our own time clocks. We set the priorities. Keep in mind with responsibility comes opportunity. Let’s answer the call of Nissan, the call of the Chodesh. Let’s use our time to build a stronger connection to Hashem. True freedom is just around the corner.