month will be for you the beginning of all months (Sh'mos
The first practical mitzvah given to the Jewish people was
the mitzvah of sanctifying the new month. Upon receiving testimony
from two acceptable witnesses that they had observed the renewal
of the moon, the court would state that the new month had begun.
This served as the basis of the Jewish calendar (with some adjustments
to reconcile the lunar and solar calendars).
first glance it seems that this mitzvah is simply ceremonial, since
the new month will commence whether the court sanctifies it or not.
In addition, it seems unusual that this is the Torah's choice for
the opening mitzvah that G-d gives the Jewish people as they were
about to emerge into the world as his nation.
answer to these questions lies in a very fundamental principle of
Judaism. Our nation was created to testify to G-d's greatness in
this world. As the prophet Isaiah states "This nation I
created for me, they will tell my praises." At the
time of the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people stood at the threshold
of a great change. They would cease to be a family, internally dedicated
to G-d's work, and become a nation that would change the face of
achieve our task as Jews we must overcome two major obstacles: A.
The mundane veneer and materialistic glamor of the world in which
we live. B. The inevitable failures that lie in the path of man,
no matter how great. As our history progresses, we can see the triumphs
and failures we have experienced, both on the personal and on the
communal level. This ongoing struggle can discourage us to the point
that we abandon any hope for accomplishing our duty in this world.
concerns are addressed in the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, the
sanctification of the new moon. We are commanded to take a physical
and most predictable phenomenon and to give it spiritual meaning.
When G-d created the celestial lights, the stated purpose was to
"..be as markers for the holidays and the passage
of days and years."(Breishis1:12) It is only secondary
that they serve as a source of light and energy to earth. When we
gaze into the heavens and see the renewal of the moon, we state
that we understand and accept that G-d's wisdom is infinitely broader
then ours and that his purposes for physical phenomena are much
deeper than our understanding. Rabbi S.R.Hirsch adds that this is
the idea of holidays in Jewish thought. The term "Moed"
or meeting is the Torah view of holidays. It is the time we take
to renew our spiritual selves by "meeting" with G-d and
celebrating our commitment to his service. Here again we accomplish
this by celebrating both physically and spiritually, as we observe
all of our holidays both with specific mitzvos and the physical
enjoyment of Yom Tov. In this harmonious coexistence of body and
spirit, we can achieve the goal that we are destined to fulfill.
facet of this mitzvah is the realization that as often as we fail,
we can continue to strive for greatness and achievement. Just as
the moon waxes and wanes every month and goes from a position of
darkness to bask in the energy and light of the sun, we too experience
the ups and downs in the road of life and continue to march on.
We make this point in the blessing made upon viewing the new moon,"..to
the moon he commanded that she renew herself as a crown of glory
to the chosen ones that will be renewed in the future to give glory
to their creator." This cycle of triumph and failure is
not an imperfection in the creation. It is the divine blueprint
for the ultimate triumph of light over darkness and the foundation
of the utopian world for which we all are striving.
from the writings of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch by Rabbi Avrohom Shimon
and © Thursday, January 29, 1998 by the Chicago Community Kollel