Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues
"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 first of the months of the year.' " (Shemot 12:1-2)
Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, France, 1040 - 1105) asks why the Torah begins with creation rather than Israel's first commandment; "This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you first of the months of the year." Rashi contends that since the Torah is the "Law of the Jewish people" and not just a historical account of mankind (as well as the Jews), it should have begun with the first commandment given to the Children of Israel, while still in Egypt.
He answers that when the Children of Israel attempt to resettle the land after leaving Egypt, the indigenous nations that had settled the land during their absence would cry out, "Robbers, you left the land and we now possess it." So the Torah starts in the beginning, with Hashem, the Creator, who assigns nations to lands, some for a short time and others forever. The Children of Israel were given the land of Israel as "an everlasting inheritance" and no matter how many times they leave it, whenever they return to the land, it will be theirs, regardless of how many times other nations will accuse them of colonialism.
The ability to reclaim the land after hundreds or thousands of years away from it, can only be done based on a biblical precedent. This same biblical precedent also obligates Israel to behave as Hashem's people. Deviating from acceptance of the Torah might negate our claim to Israel after other nations have settled the land.
So, if we as a nation do not live by the Torah's precepts and at some time we wish to return to Him and His Torah, how can we do it? The above mentioned Mitzvah (commandment) regarding the obligation to establish a lunar calendar as the calendar for the Jewish people, with the month of Spring as the first of the months, is the key.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1808-1888) in his profound work, HOREB, likens the Jewish people to the moon rather than the sun. It would seem that the only nation on the planet to whom G-d spoke should use the sun as their symbol rather than the moon. This is not so, for like the moon which grows stronger every night until it is full and then diminishes, getting weaker and weaker until it disappears from view entirely, suddenly begins anew, rejuvenated. We must remember that the moon's light is but a reflection of the sun. From the Earth's perspective the moon seems to wax and wane, however, this is but an illusion of position. One side of the moon is always bright, but our perspective does not enable us to perceive this fact.
So, too, it is for the Jew who sometimes forgets his mission and begins to lose his light, his purpose. Often times, after a period of darkness from his traditions, he is rejuvenated into a powerful beacon of light that illuminates the darkness. It is specifically this ability that makes this Mitzvah so important, that Rashi felt that it should have been the starting point of the Torah.
The word for "month" in Hebrew is "Chodesh" and its root word is Chadash also means new. Just as the moon loses its light and then renews itself, so too, the Jew as an individual and a nation can renew themselves to their former greatness.
Rabbi Yissochor Frand of Baltimore taught another aspect of this explanation. When renewed, the moon doesn't change its color, size, or its shape. Though it does renew itself, it does so only in relation to its former cast. So too, the Jew cannot renew himself by changing form, his renewal takes on the form of his former spiritual self.
Often we try to change our traditions and culture in order to rejuvenate ourselves and possibly give more meaning to our lives. But when it comes to Torah-true Judaism, only an authentic representation of our former selves can be considered a true renewal.
I hope and pray that as we try to regain our spiritual place in the world, we always remember these lessons. Whether as Jews living in the Diaspora, or as Jews attempting to reclaim our Holy Land, we acknowledge that it is the Torah that is the source of the light that gives us any reflection at all.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to email@example.com
Shema Yisrael Torah Network