Sun and moon
Sun and moonISTOCK

In our Parasha, we read that Moshe and Aaron, are commanded:(12:1-2)’in the land of Egypt:’This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.’

Rashi comments:’’This month’: He (Hashem) showed him the moon in its renewal and said to him:’When the moon renews itself, you will have a new month’.

This is the source of the Mitzvah of קידוש החודש: the sanctification of the new month.

The Ramban adds:’’This is the first Mitzvah that Hashem commanded Israel by the hand of Moshe, and therefore the Torah says ‘in the land of Egypt’, because all the other Mitzvot in the Torah were given at Har Sinai.

‘The Torah should have have said first:’Speak to the entire assembly of Israel, saying’ - as it does in the next passuk, as to the korban pesach shall be ..’ - ‘this month..’; but Moshe and Aaron were in place of Israel, and it therefore said ‘for you’, meaning for Bnei Israel to their generations.’

The Sforno elucidates:’From now and henceforth the months will be yours, to do with then as you will; but in the days of your subjugation the days were not yours, but were to serve others and their wishes.

‘Therefore - for you it is ‘the first of the months of the year’, because in it began the existence of your choice.’

The Kli Yakar proffers a reason, as to why the Mitzvah of the sanctification of the new month, was the first Mitzvah given, and also why it is juxtaposed in our psukim, with the mitzvah of the korban pesach.

Expounds the sage:’ The explanation of this, is that the Egyptians believed that the constellation of Taleh was ‘the shepherd of all existence’.

‘For this reason, the Egyptians abhorred human shepherds, as it could not be - they held - that a human shepherd should seemingly be in charge of their deity.

And, for this very reason, Hashem commanded that the sheep be slaughtered for the korban pesach, because the constellation of taleh - whose symbol was the sheep - was the first of all the constellations.

The month of Nisan is the month in which the sun enters the constellation of taleh. For this reason, Nisan was made the first of the months of the year, so that the memory of the exodus from Egypt would always be before our eyes.

‘This posed the danger that because of this Mitzvah, the mockers might say that because it is the month of taleh, this month was made the first and head of the months of the year.

‘Therefore, Hashem commanded the slaughter of the taleh in the view of all, and its taking on the tenth - in the first third of the month, when it was at its peak —and all could see its helplessness to save the sheep it was thought to shepherd and guide.

‘This would prove to all that there is a deity above all others.

‘This is why the Mitzvah of sanctification of the new month was given before all other Mitzvot - since Hashem commanded the taking of the sheep on the tenth of the month, the Torah had to instruct the date from which the tenth is to be counted.

‘Hashem therefore said to Moshe and Aaron - as Rashi brings - ‘when you see like this, sanctify’, from that day begin to count ten days, to show the helplessness of the head of the constellations, and just as it is vanquished, so too will all the first-born amongst the Egyptians who put all their faith in the first of the constellations.

‘This is the reason why Bnei Israel were given two Mitzvot in which to be engaged: the blood of the korban pesach, and the blood of the brit milah, the former to put an end to those who believed in the power of taleh, and the latter, as the uncircumcised could not partake of the korban pesach.’

Rav David Hofstedter also delves into these questions, and answers that this Mitzvah preceded all others, and had to be given whilst Bnei Israel were still in Egypt, because:’it contains one of the foundations of our emunah: the power of renewal.

‘One of the prime heretical views of the Egyptians, was their belief that the forces of nature are not subject to the will of Hashem.

‘The natural fertility of their land, due to the bountiful waters of the Nile, reinforced their belief, leading to they never having to lift their eyes upwards, and pray for the blessing of rain.

‘In addition, it was a land in which sorcerers abounded, who believed that they had been made the repositories of super-natural powers, by which they could change the nature of things, even against the will of the Creator.

‘Bnei Israel, in their lengthy servitude in Egypt, were influenced by its impurity, and by these heretical views, until they too became idolators. This led to their losing the ability of renewal.

‘Therefore, before they could be redeemed, they had to abandon this idolatry, and to renew in their hearts the emunah that there is ‘none but Hashem’.

‘This included casting aside the heretical creed of the Egyptians, that the work of the Creator concluded in the six days of creation, and that since then natural laws governed the world; and, instead, to recognize that Hashem’s providence guided all that happened in this world, and renewed each day the work of creation - that even the things which appeared to be laws of nature, such as sunrise and sunset, are not pre-programmed, but are renewed each day, at the Creator’s Will.

‘This became evident to all in the selective manner in which the ten plagues operated, afflicting the Egyptians yet sparing Bnei Israel.

‘We can now understand why the Mitzvah of sanctifying the new month was given in Egypt, before the exodus, as the blessing on this sanctification, as Rabbeinu Bahya expounds, as it is an acceptance of the dominion of the Creator, that he created this world, and so too, each month continues to create and conduct this world.

‘This Mitzvah was given then to Bnei Israel, to instill in their midst that Hashem is continuously engaged in renewing Creation, and to completely uproot from their hearts the false belief of Egypt, to which they had become captive, in the merit of which, they were redeemed.’

The Ktav Sofer sweetens the message of renewal, in the blessing on the sanctification of the new month, noting:’This is why the blessing is in the present sense: ‘creator of the firmaments’, and not in the past tense:’who created the firmaments’, to signify that this occurs now and each and every day.

‘This is why our Sages say, as to this bracha, that ‘whoever pronounces the bracha in its right time, is as if he sees the Shecina, as the bracha testifies that each and every day the process of creation continues, by Hashem.

‘From where do we know this? From the miracles of the exodus, as the Torah states, regarding Shabbat:’Because I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt’, because that exodus was proof as to the creation of the world, and Hashem’s hashgacha pratit ever since.

‘As the Torah states: until Bnei Israel saw the splitting of the sea, they did not believe in Hashem and in Moshe His servant, because they thought that Moshe, by his special powers, did so from himself.

‘This is the meaning of the saying of our Sages, that by this bracha we testify that we believe in Hashem’s hashgacha pratit, and that we always stand before Hashem - just as Bnei Israel pointed, at the splitting of the sea, as with their finger:’This is my G-d and I shall adorn Him’.

In another dvar torah, Rav Hostedter adds, that, due to this Mitzvah, not only were Bnei Israel deserving of redemption, but, by this Mitzvah, ‘were given the power of renewal it bears, as they were thereby entrusted with the fixing of the moadim, and, as it were, made partners with Hashem in the renewal of creation process.

‘This also gave them the power to renew themselves, and, as the Sfat Emet concludes, by each one accepting that all is in the hands of Hashem their redemption from Egypt and its idolatry was no longer merely a superficial, external redemption, but, through it, the power of renewal in their hearts they comoletely left that past, and were elevated and departed whole-heartedly from that house of bondage, to become the chosen nation.’

Rav Gedalia Scharr adds:’In its simplest form, till then Bnei Israel were subjugated, and the time of a slave is not his own, but is that of his master.

The redemption from slavery meant that Bnei Israel were now the masters of their own time.

‘By this first Mitzvah, Bnei Israel rose to a new domain, where they could determine time, including the power to set the dates for the moadim, binding even the forces Above by their determination.

‘Whilst Bnei Israel were in galut in Egypt, time itself was also ‘in exile’, as, by the belief of the Egyptians that all is governed by the laws of nature, the power of renewal was also ‘in exile’.

‘When Moshe brought to Bnei Israel the Parasha of ‘this month shall be for you’, he, as it were, infused into them a new breath of life, at the heart of which lay the power to utilize time, as it now was ‘for you’ - to renew themselves and to draw closer to the source of life and renewal - Hashem.’

The Netivot Shalom expounds:’From the creation of Adam till the exodus from Egypt, we counted by the sun; only from the exodus, did we start to reckon by the moon.

‘Whilst we reckon by the moon, the nations of the world continue to reckon by the sun; this leads us to ask: why specifically in this Mitzvah, does the Torah emphasize that it is ‘for you’ - for us, and not the nations.’

‘Further, we need to note that the Torah sees the need to relate that it was said ‘in Egypt’, whereas we don’t find in the Torah, that it tells us where a saying was said.

‘We need first to have in mind, our Sages stress the importance of the sanctification of the new month, likening it to ‘receiving the face of the Shechina.’

‘The underlying message of our reckoning by the moon, is that the moon is at times in absolute darkness, without even a sliver of light, yet even at this time, we know that it will soon return to illuminate as at first, and will return to its full illumination - so too, the history of our people, our times are replete with periods of darkness, much of our history being in the throes of galut, with all the attendant suffering and privation.

‘Bnei Israel, like the moon, we know that we shall return to illuminate, and even in these darkest times, we serve Hashem with joy and emunah.

‘In this way ‘this month is for you’ - for you, and not for the nations, because the secret of our continued existence is that, despite this darkness, we return to illuminate as in days of yore.

‘This is why this was the first Mitzvah given at this time, because it is a foundation and root of our emunah, that what appears as total darkness is also by Hashem’s hashgacha pratit.

‘A further allusion, in this Mitzvah being only ‘for you’ - Bnei Israel - is that a Jew is obligated to always seek renewal, to become a ‘new creation, and this is the message of this first Mitzvah, because whilst the sun’s light is constant and unchanging , the moon constantly waxes and wanes, a model to us, to guide and reassure us, with the knowledge that even when to our naked eye there is no sliver of light from it, it will then starts to wax, and illuminate.

‘This is why it is only ‘for you’, because we know that we are not to ,despair, even in the blackest hour - as in the exile in Egypt - but to see it as a challenge and call to renew and rise to our glorious destiny.’

A beautiful parting insight from Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl:’The meaning of ‘this month shall be for you’, is that it is YOURS, and this message of our mastery over time, was given precisely before the exodus from Egypt, to emphasize that this was the essence of the exodus to freedom - that from then on, time was given into our hands.

‘But here one rightfully asks: this gift, of ‘time being ours’, was given fourteen days before the exodus - and some six months after the enslavement ceased.

‘Therefore already then ‘time was theirs; so what did the Torah mean when it said on Rosh Chodesh that ‘from this day, time is yours?’.

‘The answer is that, true, time was indeed ‘in our hands’ - but not so that we do in it all that comes to mind; time is ours - only to serve Hashem. Since, Bnei Israel had not yet been given any Mitzvot, there was no meaning to time being theirs.

‘Only now, when they were commanded:(12:3)’On the tenth of this month, let each take a lamb…’, and then given the Mitzvot of the korban pesach and of brit milah, to be engaged in - can it truly be said, that indeed:’this month shall be for you’.

‘This is why, as Rashi brings the teaching of Rabbi Yitzchak, on the very first words of the Torah, that the Torah should have started by bringing the very first Mitzvah: the sanctification of the new month, from our Parasha, because it emphasizes the key point of utilizing time.

‘By it we can come to understand - and one who opens the Torah and wants to filfill it, must understand - that Hashem took us out of Egypt for the purpose that time should be ‘ours’; that we should utilize it for the service of Hashem, and not to waste a moment of it on other pursuits!’.

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, וכל החיילים בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.