May 29, 2024
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Creating a New, Better Reality

Gary Schrager, a former student at my yeshiva, used to work as a cameraman for Channel 7 News. He told me that whenever there was a severe weather storm, he would go out with his news truck to shoot footage of the news reporter standing outside with his scarf and hair blowing in the wind, reporting on the storm. Funny insight: He said they could have used the footage from past severe weather stories, as it was always the same!

News sites and news feeds are very popular because people have a desire to constantly hear or see something new. But truly, most “news” is the same thing happening again. There’s always traffic on the L.I.E., unrest in the Middle East, and something happening in Afghanistan. If someone wrote the news today for next week, it would have a good chance of being accurate!

The same might be said of Jewish publications writing about Yom Tovim. If one would take the Pesach edition of any Jewish magazine from seven years ago and replace the cover with a current picture, headline and date… it would be almost just as timely and relevant.

This week we will read the last of the four special parshios, Parshas HaChodesh. Shortly before taking them out of Mitzrayim, Hashem instructed Klal Yisrael regarding the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh—sanctifying the new month—and also created a lunar calendar. Why the rush? Why was it so important for the Jewish nation to be given a lunar calendar before they left Egypt?

Rav Moshe Shapiro explains that Kiddush HaChodesh, involving a lunar cycle, was a critical component of klal Yisrael being freed from Egypt. The Jewish nation was enslaved by Pharaoh. The Shelah says that the gematria (numerical value) of the word “Pharaoh” equals 355, the same as the word shana—year. The word shana, which literally means “to repeat,” has the same root letters as the word sheina—sleep and yashan—old. This signifies that Pharaoh, following the concept of shana as a solar year, which is an exact repetition of the prior year, was telling the Jewish nation that it was stuck in Mitzrayim forever.

Look at a picture of New Year’s Eve in Manhattan from this year and from 15 years ago. It’s the same— just different styles of eyeglasses and cars. Same ball dropping, same videos of people cheering. People are excited about the “new,” but it’s often the same old stuff!

In order for the Jewish nation to be freed, they needed freedom from the Pharaoh mindset of being stuck in their current reality. With the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, Hashem provided us with a new way of life. Klal Yisrael would now count by the lunar calendar, which signifies ups and downs as the moon waxes and wanes, unlike the sun which is constant and steady. The word chodesh, month, is the same as chadash, new. The freeing of the Jewish nation was a new reality for them. Hashem was not just taking them out of Egypt physically, but also spiritually removing them from the world of shana—repetitious years which became old and stale.

At the end of Parshas Bo, the Torah says, “Remember this day that you left Egypt…. Today you are leaving in the month of spring.” The Torah repeats this in Parshas Re’eh. The Ramban says that included in the mitzvah to remember that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim is to remember that Hashem took us out in the spring. Why is springtime so crucial? And when do we fulfill this aspect of remembering that Hashem took us out of Egypt in the spring?

Rav Moshe Shapiro explains that spring, with all the budding vegetation, represents the idea of renewal—not remaining in one’s current state. Spring shows that there is something underneath the surface, even if we can’t see it yet. Changes are happening without us realizing it. Hashem is constantly doing things behind the scenes to change our reality. We fulfill this mitzvah to remember Hashem took us out in the spring with the reading of Parshas HaChodesh. Klal Yisrael will have its own calendar system, a new reality not limited by any other system, since Hashem governs the world.

Each Pesach is a new opportunity for change. We are not stuck in the same routine. Nor are we stuck in our individual actions. We always have the ability to break free from past behaviors and mindsets. Every year, with Hashem’s help, we become something different and it’s up to us to make that difference… better.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com

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