It’s not always good for us to become creatures of habit.
This shabbat we read the special maftir for Parshat HaChodesh from the Book of Shemot (12:2). There we have the important mitzvah,
“HaChodesh hazeh lachem rosh chodashim,” – “This month (of Nissan, which is just about to commence) must always be for you the head of the month.”
The usage of the term ‘lachem’ is unusual in the Torah. Why is this mitzvah given specifically to ‘you’? Surely every mitzvah is given to all of us! From here our sages teach us that Hashem wants us to know that this mitzvah must be performed based on our calculations. It’s left up to us to determine when the new month commences.
The great Hassidic master, the Sfat Emet, gives added depth to this mitzvah. He says that included in this imperative is the importance for us to sometimes change our habits, and this is how he explains it. Within halakha, something is defined as a habit once 30 days have passed. So, for example, outside of Israel we are required to put up a mezuzah on our new homes, but the mitzvah of mezuzah only applies once we have stayed in a home for at least 30 days. That’s how we establish the permanence of our residence.
Similarly, according to halakha, if you haven’t seen or heard from a very close friend for a period of 30 days, when you next see them, you recite the bracha of shehecheyanu.
If you arrive at a place where a miracle happened for you and you haven’t seen it for more than 30 days, a bracha is required.
Therefore says the Sfat Emet, the Torah tells us, “Hachodesh hazeh lachem” – you must renew yourselves every single month by sanctifying the moon just before 30 days are up, to guarantee that our performance of Judaism will never become stultified. We do this through singing fresh songs, having fresh approaches, all within the context of Hashem’s Torah law.
It is in this spirit that at Pesach time we will sing the words, “Venomar lefanav shira chadashah.” We are excited to have an opportunity to sing new songs. This is so very relevant for us at a time when we are competing with so many other interests and passions. In order to keep the freshness, excitement and magic of our Judaism alive, we need to constantly engage in acts of renewal.
In the spirit of the Sfat Emet’s teaching, let us therefore contribute towards a time which the prophet Ezekiel (36:26) spoke about when Hashem will give us a “lev chadash veruach chadashah” – “a new heart and a new spirit”. That’s something that we can achieve at least once a month.