Friday, April 04, 2008

DVAR TORAH S3: Tazria/Shabbat HaChodesh (Next, on a very special month...)

One of my fellow First Year Rabbinical Students asked me to quickly tell her what the Torah portion was about earlier this week. I smiled at here and said, "bodily excretions!". Luckily for us, this happens to be the fourth of the four special Sabbaths (there are really five, but we don't talk about that one) leading up to the Festival of Passover.

We learned in our parshanut (rabbinic analysis of the Bible) class that some say that the Torah should have began with the mitzvah recorded in Exodus 12, that "this month is to be the first of months for you". The month we know by the Babylonian name Nisan and was known in Biblical times as Aviv is supposed to be the one with which we start the year.

The Exodus is the central event in all of Jewish history. More than Creation, more than Abraham's realization of God or his Covenant with God, Isaac's binding on the altar, Jacob's fight with the angel and subsequent name change, the Building or the Destruction of two Temples, the Exodus from slavery into freedom. Passover is the first holiday given to the Israelites; it actually is celebrated by them as they prepare to leave Egypt and it commemorates this night that was a dawn of a new era annually.

As we recite the psalm of the day at the conclusion of morning services daily, for Monday we say "today is the second day of the Sabbath". Shabbat is recalled daily. So too, we are to actually count our months from the month of Nisan. In my opinion it makes more sense to begin a year in spring, with rebirth. However Rosh Hashannah begins on the exact opposite side of the year with the autumn. Mishnah Rosh Hashannah 1:1 records actually FOUR New Years in Judaism (all referred to as Rosh Hashannah), two of which are the 1st of Nisan (two days from now) and the 1st of Tishrei (that which we refer to as the holiday of Rosh Hashannah). The month of Tishrei is referred to as "the Seventh Month" in the Torah because Nisan is supreme.

Nisan is possibly the most important month in the calendar. One might say that Tisrei with its many holidays which include Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur as well as the holiday which the Talmud refers to as "The Holiday", Sukkot, is the ultimate month. However, Nisan is the month in which we were redeemed in the past and according to legend is the month in which we will be ultimately Redeemed again through the Messiah. The month is so joyous that we don't recite the penitentiary service of Tachanun throughout the month. Fasts and eulogies are forbidden for the duration of the month, something which cannot be said about Tishrei.

So Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov, and indeed Shanah Tovah, on this Biblical New Year.

1 comment:

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