TEEmail_March 2014_Denker

This Week in Torah

Parshat Tazria – Shabbat HaHodesh

Leviticus 12:1-13:59 & Exodus 12:1-20

Ezekiel 45:16-46:18

Something New

This Shabbat bears the special designation of Shabbat HaHodesh – Sabbath of The Month.  Its moniker refers to this being the Shabbat just before and during which we announce the coming of the month of Nisan (not named for the car) which, by the biblical count, is the first month of the Hebrew year.  We learn this from Exodus 12:1-20, our maftir or additional Torah reading, which specifically states that the month in which the Hebrews were to be freed from Egypt was to be “the first month of the year to you.” 

The passage instructs the coming observance of Pesach Sh’B’Mitzrayim – Passover in Egypt, a one-time Passover that took place on the night of the Exodus.  It also introduces the rudiments of Pesach L’Dorot – Passover for the Generations.  For example, only those of us who were at the Passover in Egypt were required to paint our doorframes with lamb’s blood and, we only did it that one time. By contrast, our ancestors at the Exodus most likely did not have to compare matzah prices at Heinen’s and Giant Eagle.

The spiritual message of Shabbat HaHodesh is derived from the choice of ‘Hodesh’ as the term for the new month.  There are two other perfectly serviceable Biblical Hebrew words that could have been used to signify the approach of a new lunar month.  They are: Yerech – which means moon and from which we get the city name, Jericho (lit. His Moon) and L’vanah – from lavan meaning white.

Both the Bible and later tradition selects Hodesh because it derives from hadash – new.   The usage, thereby, emphasizes the new birth or renewal that was about to take place for the Hebrews as, prepared for the first Passover, they made themselves ready to emerge into reclaimed freedom.  Later in Jewish history, the announcement of this renewal-month meant that we were about to start a new term of office for our communal leaders and officers. 

Today, the approach of our Passover is an opportunity to rejoice in our freedom and a reminder of the efforts needed every year to free ourselves from the slaveries that keep us from spiritual and sanctified lives.  This is our new hodesh, a chance to make hadash – renewed –identification with and attachment to our People and God.

Shabbat Shalom, Hodesh Tov & Pesach Kasher v’Sameach!

Rabbi Steve Denker