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ב"ה

Cleaning House

Friday, 1 April, 2022 - 6:17 am

World events leave us wondering how the world will look in a year or two.  The current war and terror spike in Israel give rise to the speculation of whether we will be so fortunate to live in a more peaceful world.

Some argue that democracy and progress is inevitable in our new internet-driven global community. It’s only a matter of time before the despots are deposed and the masses are empowered.  Others caution that for every step forward we seem to experience a step or two backward, as evidenced in the ongoing conflict and terror.

Perhaps our own history can shed some light on the process of transition.

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This Shabbat is known as Shabbat HaChodesh. On it we study the final of four distinct Torah readings, leading up to the festival of Pesach. The additional Torah reading highlights the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, sanctifying the new month.  It is always read the Shabbat preceding Rosh Chodesh Nissan, which is considered the first of the Jewish months.

The portion relates the instruction of establishing a calendar based on the monthly birth of the new moon.  This mitzvah was the very first mitzvah given to the Jewish people. In fact, G-d considered it so important that He commanded it to the Jews while they were still enslaved in Egypt.

Why the rush? What is so important about this mitzvah that sets it apart as the first amongst 613? Why the urgency to establish this law before the Jews are a free people?

***

The Talmud declares that the Jewish people are compared to the moon. Just as the moon waxes and wanes, so do the Jewish people. It may appear, at times, that the Jewish nation is slated for obliteration or extinction.  Remarkably, just when it seems that the Jews – or Judaism – will be no more, a rebirth occurs.

Thus, our calendar is not set to the sun, but to the moon, reflecting our destiny and nature.

Our moon-like character teaches us something powerful about the very ability to rebuild, or reemerge.  The moon’s birth occurs after it has disappeared from view. After it seems to no longer exist, it resurfaces again.

In order for us to achieve a new status, to reach a goal beyond our previous capacity – we must first recede.  If we are to emerge from Egypt a free nation, a chosen people, we need to start with a blank slate. Our previous standing must be discarded, or we run the risk of being – psychologically, spiritually and physically – haunted and bogged down by it.

We pray and demand a quick end to all the violence. Simultaneously, we search inside for a message.

The not-so-subtle message was conveyed to the yet-to-be-liberated Jews of Egypt. And it’s one we ought to internalize every year a couple weeks before Passover.

It’s time to clean house, in more ways than one.

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