Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Passover - Pesach
To dedicate this lesson

What’s new, Israel?!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Adar 5783
"HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem – This month is for you!"

This dramatic statement by Hashem - the essence of our special reading for Parshat HaChodesh this Shabbat - declares that our calendar must be re-ordered so Nisan officially becomes the 1st month of the Hebrew year, despite the fact that the world was created in Tishrei (we proclaim Rosh Hashana as "Hayom Harat Olam, the birthday of the world.")

This pasuk has far-reaching consequences. The word "lachem – to you" teaches us that G-d gave mortal man control over the calendar, with the power to manipulate it whenever necessary, such as intercalating it & adding a second Adar when necessary (primarily to keep Pesach in the Spring, the season when it must be celebrated).

But I want to focus for a moment on the word "Chodesh." It means "month," because it connects to "chadash, new." The moon is always renewing itself, going from a tiny silver sliver to a bright, full orb. This epitomizes Am Yisrael; our fortunes wax & wane according to both the merit we accrue due to our actions along with Hashem’s Chesed.

But chadash, I suggest, has another connotation. It hints at our unique ability as a People to renew ourselves, & to re-invent ourselves. This is precisely what we needed to do when we left Egypt for Israel. We had to transform ourselves from a disparate collection of tribes into a unified nation that would fight to win our land, & then farm & develop it. Our tribal leaders would defer to Yehoshua, to judges & to kings.

Then, when, sadly, we were exiled to every corner of the globe, we would have to re-invent ourselves again & find ways to survive in the most difficult of Diasporas, which often cruelly persecuted us & severely limited our ability to make a living or freely practice our religion.

And now, B"H, we have miraculously returned from Exile to Israel. And once more, we had to re-invent ourselves & rebuild all the institutions of a nation: our government, our economy, our army, our social welfare system. After 2000 years, this opportunity has again been awarded to us, & we must now exchange a Diaspora mentality for a nation-state posture where we are the decisors. Rather than being controlled, WE have control.

Now, we must embrace our national identity right along with our ongoing religious identity. The two must go hand-in-hand; we cannot create "states within a state" for that will only divide & then ultimately disillusion us. Even 75 years after declaring statehood, this is still a "new" challenge to be met.

Parshat HaChodesh, fittingly, is Shmot"s final Torah reading; it is a cap to Redemption, both then & now. Hashem, I believe, is looking down upon us & saying, "This month, this year, & all the rest of history is 'Lachem,' for you!"
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