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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

United by the Moon

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This week, Jewish communities will be reading three parshiyot: in Israel, Tazria and Metzora, and, in Chutz La’aretz, Shemini. We might expect to read different haftarot as well, but baruch Hashem, we are united by the upcoming Rosh Chodesh and thereby the famous haftara, "Machar Chodesh." The haftara is ostensibly chosen because of the phrase Yonatan said to David, "Tomorrow, is the new moon." This was the introduction to his secret plan to let David know if he must flee from the ire of Yonatan’s father, King Shaul, or whether he could return.
There is, though, a deeper connection between the haftara and the upcoming semi-festival of Rosh Chodesh. We should take note that David is related to the new moon. The fact that we recite Hallel, consisting of psalms from his Tehillim, may not be so telling, as we recite his psalms on a daily basis. But in the prayers of Kiddush Levana, we recite the famous saying: "David, King of Israel, is alive and remains." This statement is also found in an esoteric gemara discussing the emergence of the new moon (Rosh Hashana 25a). Several sources point out the connection between the Kingdom of David and the moon. The Rama (Orach Chayim 426:2) says that we recite this statement because the Davidic dynasty is compared to the moon and will be renewed like it. Rashi (ad loc.) cites the metaphor of the moon for the Davidic dynasty in the context of the long description of Hashem’s promise of the eternality of the kingdom of the House of David (Tehillim 89:38). The Maharsha (Aggadot, Sanhedrin 38a) explains the comparison as follows. Just as the moon increases for fifteen days and then starts to wane, so were there fifteen kings from the Davidic dynasty after which destruction came and only minor leadership remained (the Exilarchs in Babylonia, the nasi in Israel – see Sanhedrin 5a). However, after disappearing, the moon returns, as will David’s family. Actually, this idea of Jewish sovereignty growing and retreating is already referred to in Yitzchak’s blessing to Eisav (Bereishit 27:40).
With this introduction, we can find an additional message in the opening of the haftara. Yonatan told David, "Tomorrow is the new moon." In other words, "Your kingdom is just around the corner." One can add that we do not classically (when the new moon was declared based on witnesses appearing in court) know exactly when the new month will be declared. In that way, the imagery is that Yonatan was saying that David was basically ready to assume leadership. It was just a matter of time, whose exact details depended on when, through Hashem’s providence, Shaul and/or the people would be ready to admit it and accept it. Indeed there were many stages in David’s ascendance to leadership, from his status as a war hero, to his leadership over a band of supporters, to acceptance by part of a fractured nation, to his rule in Hebron, and finally his fully accepted kingdom in Yerushalayim.
We find ourselves in a juncture in history where there are undeniable signs of the development of an upcoming return of the House of David with all its glory. In the meantime, we read together "Machar Chodesh" and wonder when the clouds will move away and how the moon will look when it will finally be fully visible
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