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Let's Get Together

By: Mrs Leora Bednarsh

The first mitzvah given to Am Yisrael appears in our parsha, the mitzvah of Kiddush hachodesh.  The Beit din has the obligation to declare when Rosh Chodesh is based on testimony.  This declaration determines not only when we celebrate Rosh Chodesh, but also when all of the festivals will take place.  What is the purpose of this mitzvah? Why was it the first mitzvah? And what meaning does it have for us, today, given that the calendar has already been set and has not depended on the sighting of the new moon for two thousand years?

Sanctifying the new moon is not simply a record of an astronomical fact.  It is rather a reflection of the capacity that we have to sanctify time.  In fact, even if witnesses come, and the Beit Din accepts their testimony, but they do not have a chance to declare “mekudash´ until nightfall, the day is not Rosh Chodesh.  The kedusha of the day, and therefore of all of the festivals, depends on the human decaration of sanctity, not on an objective astronomical reality.  Hashem says in VaYikra 23:4, “Eleh mo'adei Hashem mikraei kodesh asher tikre'u atem bemo'adam” – the days are holy when we call them holy, even if we get them wrong. 

Rosh Chodesh is called a mo'ed.  What is a mo'ed? It is a special time. We know what is special about all of the other mo'adim; each has a special agricultural and historical nature.  But what's special about Rosh Chodesh? Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains that the appearance of the new moon is the excuse for having a mo'ed. He understands mo'ed to mean hitva'adut, or meeting with Hashem. Hashem wants us to “get together” with Him on a regular basis.  He sets a time, but wants it to be a mutually agreed upon meeting, approached with free choice and willingness on the part of both sites, and therefore leaves some room for us to choose the exact time.  We participate in making the plans.  We have a say.

What does this mean for us today? If the calendar is set, what became of the human participation of sanctifying time? Rav Hirsch gives an interesting insight into yom tov sheini shel galuyot. We keep two days because at the time when Kiddush hachodesh was done the Jews living outside of Israel would not find out when Rosh Chodesh was in time for the holidays.  Keeping a second day of chag in chu”l revives our awareness of the process of Kiddush hachodesh as it existed in the time of the Mikdash and reminds us of a time when we had the ability to set the times of our “meetings” with Hashem. It reminds us of better days, when we were in such a close relationship with Hashem that we had a say in setting up our regular get-togethers. 

Let’s experience this Rosh Chodesh as an opportunity to come closer to Hashem, and to recognize that He wants a close relationship with us.

Shabbat Shalom





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