The fourth and final of the special readings that are added to the regular Torah portions during this time of the year occurs this week. Parshat HaChodesh, read just prior to Rosh Chodesh Nisan, contains the command to re-order our calendar and place Nisan as the 1st month of the year, in honor of our Exodus from Egypt during this month. In a very real sense, our lives - both personal and national - began again at that unique moment in time.
Nisan, in particular Pesach, is supremely concerned with Time. The z’manim (times) of Pesach, from Bedikat Chametz through the end of Passover, are crucial to the Mitzvot and strictly observed. When can we begin our
search for Chametz? When is the last time to eat or own it on erev Pesach? When do we start our Seder? By when must we eat the Afikoman? How much time do I have to swallow the required amount of Matza? And that
most popular of all Seder questions: What time do we eat?!
The Hebrew word for "time" is z’man. It’s interesting to note three other Hebrew words with the very same root: "Hazmana", an invitation; "Zimun," the calling to order of a quorum in order to introduce Birkat HaMazon; and "Zamin," which means,"accessible," as in being reachable by cell phone (a must for every Israeli!).
What do these seemingly disparate derivatives of Zman, time, have in common?
I suggest the following: Time is one of G-d’s greatest gifts and one of humanity’s most precious commodities. It is invisible, yet it surrounds us at every moment. It is ephemeral, yet we cannot stop it or slow it, despite all our
mighty efforts. At times we waste it - even kill it! - but we will fight for every ounce of it when it is running short.
G-d gives each of us a certain supply of Time in this world. We are "called to order" in order to fulfill a holy mission, the essence of which is to cause G-d’s name to be revealed and revered. We will receive many invitations
from Hashem during our life-Time to justify our having been created, but we will only be able to answer the call if we are zamin, accessible at that precise moment.
Life, in many ways, is like a train. It runs on a schedule and if you miss it, you may wait a long time to catch that train again - if ever. So we must "train" ourselves accordingly to keep careful "track" of our valuable time; "engineering" our time so that we spend every minute of it wisely. For at the end of the day, Time will tell us what befell us.