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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Hachodesh

WHAT’S NEW? ISRAEL!

Rabbi Stewart WeissAdar II 28 5779
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Whenever I would ask my Bubbie z"l, "What’s new?" she would invariably smile & answer, "56!" ("new," nun-vav, in gematria, is 56!). But when people ask me "what’s new?" I answer "Israel!" Because Israel is never monotonous or dull; something new is always happening here – every day in every place, all year round. That is one of the meanings of the pasuk we read this Shabbat in the maftir, in the last of the 4 special readings that revolve around Purim & Pesach. (I remember them - Zachor, Sh’kalim, Para & HaChodesh - as the 4 "M’s": Memory, Money, Moo & Moon!). The pasuk tells us, HaChodesh Ha-Zeh Lachem, this month (of Nisan) will be to you the 1st of the months in the Hebrew calendar – in celebration of our Exodus from Egypt & our start as a nation. This phrase has numerous meanings: That G-d is giving us the gift of Time, to use wisely (as opposed to slaves, who have no control over their time); or that we human beings have the ability to manipulate the calendar, & "tweak" some dates of the holidays (e.g. when moving around Fast days that fall on Shabbat, or as we once did by intercalating the year).

But I suggest there is another level of meaning, as well: Without vowels, the phrase can be read, Ha-Chadash Ha-ze, this "newness," Lachem, is something unique to you, the Jewish People. Hashem has bestowed upon us the amazing ability to renew ourselves, to re-create ourselves (as we have miraculously done in Israel), to be the most creative & industrious people in history. And with this uncanny power, we are able to perpetually discover new insights into the Torah (something we fittingly refer to as Chidushim!) for the Torah itself is a living thing (Torat Chayim) that stays ever fresh & new throughout the ages.

Yet if we are New, then the Almighty is Old. Not old in the sense of outdated or archaic, of course, but old in the sense of eternal, permanent, reliable, fixed. There is great comfort in knowing that some things – Divine protection & guidance, a firm hand on the wheel of history, a moral standard for humanity to emulate & obey – never lapses or goes out of style. That is the essence of what we refer to as "Hashem Echad:" One G-d that is both imminent & immortal, the same G-d that was with our grandparents & their grandparents, all the way back to Avraham & Adam.

Nisan, as its name clearly implies, is the month of nisim, miracles. It reminds us that as long as we have Hashem’s blessings, we are capable of performing miracles & wonders that not only have the power to change us for the better, but to change the entire world for good.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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