This is Shabbat Mevarchim (the Sabbath of blessing) for Chodesh Nissan (the month of Nissan) and Shabbat “Chazak” (for what we say) as we conclude the reading of the Book of Exodus. It is also Shabbat HaChodesh. To translate, that means we are getting closer and closer to our celebration of the holiday of Passover!
On this Shabbat, two Torah Scrolls are removed from the Ark. The special Maftir reading for this Shabbat is Exodus 12:1-20: “HaShem spoke to Moshe and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: This month is the first of your months, it is the first of the months of your year…”. This constitutes the commandment that we sanctify the months and that the Sanhedrin calibrate our calendar. It is also the first commandment to what would become the Jewish people as a nation.
Many are unaware that the month of Nissan (renamed in Babylonia or Persia from the Torah’s word Aviv —“Spring”) is the first month of the Jewish Calendar. They often think of Tishrei as being the first month because of Rosh Hashanah—the “Jewish New Year.”
Tishrei is the actually the 7th month, so the “Jewish New Year” occurs on the first day of the Seventh Month!
Some are unaware that there are actually 4 new years described in the Talmudic World. The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1) tells us that “the first of Nissan is New Year for kings and for the Festivals; the first of Elul is New Year for tithing animals, [and Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say it is on the first of Tishrei]; the first of Tishrei is New Year for years, for the Shmitah years, for the Jubilee years, for agriculture, and for vegetables; and the first of Shevat is New Year for trees according to the School of Shammai, and the School of Hillel say on the fifteenth”.
Perhaps it is not so strange that the Talmud recounts different new years for different purposes when we think of our own modern parallels such as the calendar year beginning January 1, but fiscal year’s starting July 1 or October 1 and school years commencing in September.
It is also interesting to note that the very first mitzvah given to us as “free” people would be to take control of our time. Prior to freedom, the slaves lived according to their masters’ calendar.
Now that the Israelites would be free, they would have choices about their time and calendar or would they?
Next Shabbat, God willing, I will plan on discussing that new freedom to choose.
Until then, try to think about time: what you do with it and how you prioritize it. Is there such a thing as time that is sacred to you? Is there holy time? Are those concepts different? How so?
Since it is Shabbat HaChodesh perhaps spend some of your time in the next week thinking about Passover time and how you can be making it a most meaningful—perhaps sacred for the memories you will create. Perhaps visit http://www.haggadot.com/ to see what a resource it can be for you, your family and friends. Perhaps visit https://onetable.org/ to see if that site gives you any ideas.
This Shabbat we will learn with Jodi Gross, Adat Shalom Synagogue’s Director of Adult Learning who will focus on how the Mishkan as tabernacle for the people, built by the people and described in detail in this week’s parshiyot translates into creating scared space and time today.
Please join us at 9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.