April 24, 2024
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This year, as a Jewish “leap year,” Parshat HaChodesh, the special maftir portion we read on the Shabbat before (or on) Rosh Chodesh Nisan, coincides with Parshat Tazria. At first glance, these two parshiyot seem to have little in common; Parshat Tazria deals with laws of tumah caused by childbirth and tzara’at. Parshat HaChodesh (Shemot 12:1–20) details the laws of Rosh Chodesh, Korban Pesach, matzah and chametz in preparation for Yetziat Mitzrayim. Yet, both Tazria and HaChodesh reflect the cycle of time and life; Tazria describes the birth of an individual and HaChodesh the birth of a nation!

Parshat Tazria begins with describing the laws of a woman who brings forth life and simultaneously confronts the “tumah” of the life (i.e., uterine blood) lost from within her. Her state of tumah revolves around a weekly cycle: She is “impure” for seven days after the birth of a boy, and on the eighth day he is circumcised. The mother remains “impure” for 14 days after the birth of a girl, and after the respective days of separating from the Mikdash (40 in total for a boy, 80 for a girl), a sheep is brought as an olah offering together with fowl for a sin-offering. This weekly cycle continues through the parsha with the laws of tzara’at, as the kohen examines the afflicted every seven days for a period of several weeks.

Parshat HaChodesh introduces Am Yisrael to a monthly cycle of birth and renewal. Ten days after the New Moon of the “first month” (i.e., Nisan), a lamb or kid goat must be taken and guarded. On the 14th of the month it is slaughtered and eaten (after the males are circumcised) in the home, and the blood is placed on the doorpost as a sign for salvation from the plague of the deaths of the Egyptian firstborn. Additionally, in the future, for a seven-day period, the people will eat matzot and refrain from chametz beginning with the 14th of the month. The motifs of birth, blood, renewal, seven, 14 days and sheep sacrifice describing the beginnings of the Jewish nation echo in Parshat Tazria with the birth of a Jewish child and the rebirth of a metzora.

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, in examining the verse of “HaChodesh hazeh lachem Rosh Chodashim” with which Shemot 12 opens, explains, “This renewal of the moon shall be a beginning of renewals to you,” i.e., noticing the fresh birth of the moon shall induce you to achieve a similar rejuvenation. Every month provides us with an opportunity for personal reflection, renewal and rebirth, and every year, beginning with Rosh Chodesh Nisan, we recount the story of our national birth. We are reminded of the stories with which Sefer Shemot begins: midwives and mothers who birth and save children from Pharaoh’s decrees of death, circumcision performed by a mother for her son, plagues and pangs leading to the birth of the Children of Yisrael as they exit through their doorposts of blood and the amniotic waters of the Yam Suf.

How appropriate on Rosh Chodesh Nisan to be reminded of the messages of personal birth and national birth expressed through mitzvot that reflect the ongoing waxing and waning of our relationship with Hashem. Prior to retelling the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim on the Seder night, we revisit 14 days that accompany the birth process. The messages of Parshat Tazria and Parshat HaChodesh encourage us to recognize that our individual and national birth stories provide us with weekly, monthly and annual opportunities to transform and renew ourselves.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!


Rabbanit Shani Taragin is educational director of World Mizrachi and teaches at Matan and other educational institutions in Israel. She is a member of Mizrachi’s Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).

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