Saturday, March 24, 2012

Shabbat Parshat Vayikra - Rosh Chodesh Nissan

Three sifrei Torah were brought out today in Shul - one for Parshat Vayikra, one for Rosh Chodesh, and one for Parshat HaChodesh. We read in the third sefer Torah from Parshat Bo, "Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt, saying, '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)
My granddaughter Shir Tehilla and I learned in Horim v'Yeladim (this week with Rabbi Reuven Rosenstark) on Thursday night that there are two first months. Rosh Chodesh Tishrei is the first month of the creation of the world. Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the first months of the creation of the Jewish people. And since we know that the world was created for the Jewish people, the two months are very intertwined.
Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, Orchard of Delights, says that when G-d created the world (Tishrei), He did so with ten utterances. When ten rituals were performed on the first day when the Tabernacle was erected (Nissan), they corresponded to the ten utterances at the start of the world. And that Hashem had promised the Jewish nation that He would make them "a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. (Shemot 19:6) Well, in Vayikra/Nissan it was finally happening!!
I wanted to mention something very beautiful that I read in the Artscroll's explanation of Parshat HaChodesh. It is long, but I know you will be moved by it. Please read:
"The first day of Nissan was and always remains a historic day for the Jewish nation. It was the day when the people received their first commandment as a nation: Sanctify the New Moon. This ritual has a profound spiritual and historic significance. It is noteworthy that it was one of three commandments that the Syrian-Greeks, in the time before the Chanukah miracle, attempted to nullify by force. The other two were Shabbat observance and circumcision. Clearly, therefore, Israel's enemies understood that the sanctification of the New Moon was basic to the existence of Israel as a nation of Torah."
"Commentators explain that, by virtue of this commandment, G-d gave the Jewish people mastery over time. From that moment onward, the calendar with its cycle of festivals could exist only when the Sages of Israel declared the new month. This signifies more than control over the reckoning of time, the dating of legal documents, and all the banalities to which man is subject in his everyday life. It represents the potential for renewal. The Jewish people is symbolized by the moon because, although the moon wanes, it waxes as well. It stands for hope, for the confidence that there is a future as well as a past. This vibrancy assures that any conquest of the Jewish people can never be more than temporary. Israel may seem to disappear from the panorama of history - but so does the moon. The moon returns - and Israel, by means of the power vested in it by the Torah, sanctifies the new month. So too, the nation constantly renews its vigor, constantly defies the laws of history that insist it should have long since become extinct, constantly demonstrates its ability to make itself the vehicle for the prophecies of redemption and a great spiritual world."
I wanted to add to this something that I have heard many times from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. If anyone looked at the Jewish people on the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, and he saw the Temple in flames, Jews lying dead all over Jerusalem, others screaming in fear, etc., they would have thought the Jewish people were at their end. But then like the moon, they reappeared.
If people had seen the Jews hung on the cross in Spain during the Inquisition,  they would have thought the Jewish people were at their end. But then like the moon, they reappeared.
If people had seen Chelminicki ride into a Jewish shtetl and murder every Jew in site,  they would have thought the Jewish people were at their end. But then like the moon, they reappeared.
If people would have witnessed the Jews murdered in concentration camp, or at the edge of a mass grave, or on a death march,  they would have thought the Jewish people were at their end. But then like the moon, they reappeared.
G-d created the Jewish people to be like the moon. Our strength may fade and our very existence may seem to vanish, but B"H, like the moon we rise again. B"H. Am Yisrael chai.

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