July 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Rosh Chodesh Message for Today

Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
Parshat Mishpatim

As this Shabbat marks the first day of Adar Rishon, we read the special haftarah designated for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, a selection taken from the 66th perek of sefer Yishayahu which is the final perek of the sefer. Frequently, this parasha coincides with Shabbat Shekalim, however, as this year is a shanah meuberet, a leap year, Shabbat Shekalim is “postponed” to Adar Sheni, and, therefore, we read the haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh.

This last perek of sefer Yishayahu also marks the closing of the section of the navi’s prophecies of comfort from which the post-Tisha b’Av haftarot are read (“shiva de’nechemta”). As a result, this perek focuses on the divine wonders that would herald the future redemption: the return of Israel to her land, the defeat of her enemies and the accompanying celebration of the geula. This promise of the creation of a “new world” is highlighted in the closing pesukim through the model of “chodesh—month,” to suggest “chadash—a renewal:” “hashamayim hachadashim veha’aretz hachadasha—the new heavens and new earth,” explaining how “midei chodesh b’chodsho,” every month all mankind will be renewed in their relationship with God and will gather to worship Him. The concept that the beginning of a new moon and a new month is a time for renewal, leads into the idea that a renewed world would be formed with the arrival of the Mashiach.

It is somewhat puzzling, therefore, why the initial verses of the haftarah do not focus upon yemot haMashiach nor upon comfort or solace. Instead, these introductory pesukim speak of punishments for those in Israel who corrupted their worship of Hashem with meaningless ritual while, at the same time, ignoring the weak and the helpless. It appears that this segment of condemnation was actually echoing the very first perek of the sefer, where Yishayahu bemoans “Lama li rov zivchechem—Why do I need your numerous sacrifices?” regarding their sacrifices as being useless as long as the people oppressed the poor and the weak. In the same way, Yishayahu echoes this in this final perek: “Mazkir levona-mevarech aven—One who brings a ketoret is as if he brings a gift of wickedness,” reiterating that such offerings were meaningless when brought by those who ignore suffering of others.

It must have been difficult for the suffering nation to hear these severe words. They were, after all, a people oppressed by surrounding enemies and standing on the brink of exile (of the 10 tribes)! Why then, did the prophet share these harsh words in a closing chapter meant to instill hope for a promising future?

I would propose that when a nation goes through such trials it is precisely the time that they must be ready to change, to improve, to renew. Yishayahu’s promise of Israel’s return to her land and her complete redemption could be shared with the nation only after the people could recognize their failures and their need to go through their own renewal.

And this is why this week’s haftarah is particularly fitting this year. We are living through some of the most difficult months we’ve ever experienced. Yet, our worries and our difficulties began well before October 7th. The disagreements that plagued our communities and, for months, divided our nation, led to an almost irreparable tear in the unity of Israel. And those disagreements should have brought us to a realization that it’s time to pause—to rethink, review and renew. But it did not … and it is about time that we do!

Before Hashem brings the geula with His renewal of heaven and earth, we too, must bring a renewal—one of our relationship with Hashem; we must reassess our “offerings” of tefillot and the quality of our mitzvah observance. We must review our relationship with others and our performance of mitzvot bein adam lechavero. It is during this most challenging time that we can—and must—build a new world.

That is what our haftarah teaches us to do; this is what Rosh Chodesh urges us to do. This is what Hashem demands us to do!


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee, and now lives in Israel.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles