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Vayakhel Pekudei 5766

By: Rav Michael Susman

This week, as our preparations for Pessach move into high gear, we are privileged to once again read Parshat HaChodesh (Shemot 12:1-20). We are accustomed to viewing the reading of Parshat HaChodesh through the prism of Pessach. For example, in his Sefer HaToda’a, Rav Eliyahu Ki Tov explains that one of the reasons for reading Parshat HaChodesh is to remind the people of the mitzvah of Aliyat HaRegel, going to Yerushalayim for the festival. While this is a mitzvah for all three Regalim, it is particularly pertinent to Pessach. This is because the Korban Pessach, which can only be sacrificed in the Beit HaMikdash, carries the particularly severe penalty of Karet for those who fail to bring the korban. To reduce the mitzvah, however, to a sort of adjunct to the famous dictum “shoalim v’dorshin b’hilchot haPessach kodem HaPessech shloshim yom”, “we ask and teach about the laws of Pessach thirty days prior to the festival”, is to miss the point. As we shall see, the mitzvah, while certainly having a connection to Pessach, as reflected in the comment of the Sefer HaToda’a, is primarily one of reflection on the meaning of Rosh Chodesh and renewal. The notion that the reading of Parshat Hachodesh is linked to the halachot of Pessach is partially due to the content of the reading itself, the laws of the Korban Pessach. However, from even a casual reading of the passukim we can already see that if this were the reason for the reading, then Chazal have chosen the “wrong” parsha. The focus of the laws quoted here is the mitzvah of Pessach Mitzrayim, the Korban Pessach as it was brought the first time in Mitzrayim, and not the laws of Pessach Dorot, the laws of how the korban would be brought in all subsequent years. A further indication of the distance between the festival of Pessach and our reading of Parshat HaChodesh can be found by comparing the Haftara that we read (Yechezkel 45:16-46-18) to the Parsha. In the Haftara the Navi describes the dedication of a future Temple and the korbanot that will be brought at that time. While it is true that amongst the korbanot which the Haftara highlights as being brought by the leader (Nasi) are those which are brought on Pessach (45;21-22), this is clearly not the focus of the Haftara. The Sefer HaToda’a also, links the Haftara to Pessach in a peripheral fashion. As we have already noted, the Sefer HaToda’a saw a link between the Parsha and the mitzvah of Aliya laRegel. The haftara deepens that link, by describing the Beit HaMikdash in its splendor, when it was filled with all strata of Am Yisrael, from the loftiest of leaders to the most simple of peasants. But again, this link seems tenuous at best. The real focus of Parshat HaChodesh is the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, of declaring the new month. This was the first mitzvah to be give to the Jewish people as a nation, and in fact is crucial to the nation building process. The Seforno (12:2), commenting on the passuk “HaChodesh hazeh lachem”, “This new moon is for you”, notes that the major difference between a slave and a free person lies in the concept of time. For a slave, there is no concept of being in control of his own time. He is constantly beholden to his master and is at his beck and call. From this point onward, however, the Jewish People “own” their time, and are free to use it as they wish. This, of course, is the harbinger of freedom for the nation as it prepares to move out of Mitzrayim. The Ramban, commenting on the same passuk, advances a related idea. The Ramban notes that the Torah does not name the months, referring to them numerically instead. The reason for this, he explains, is that the months themselves, like the days of the week, have no intrinsic value, and therefore it is sufficient to refer to them as the first, second and third of the series, rather than giving each month (or day) its own name. The value of the months (and the days) is in that they lead up to something of note. In the case of the months it is the first month that we re counting toward, the month of Yitziat Mitzrayim which marks the beginning of our nationhood. (In the case of days it is obviously the count to the seventh day, Shabbat, which preoccupies us). From the perspective of the Ramban, as well as the Seforno, we see Parshat HaChodesh as the starting point of nationhood. In his work on Haftara, “Ben Haftara L’Parsha”, Rav Yehuda Shaviv points out that it was not only the Rosh Chodesh Nissan of the year of Yitziat Mitzrayim that proved critical to nationhood. In was in the year after Yitizait Mitzrayim on Rosh Chodesh Nissan that the Mishkan was dedicated. This event was no less critical in our becoming a nation than Yetziat Mitzrayim itself. The Ramban points out in his introduction to Sefer Shemot that the entire Sefer may be considered the Book of Redemption. However, the redemption of Bnai Yisrael from Mitzrayim is neither the complete nor the ultimate redemption. Rather, it was only the physical redemption, which in and of itself is a necessary but insufficient condition for full redemption. The complete redemption is only achieved when the people are spiritually redeemed, at the time of Matan Torah. But even Matan Torah is insufficient for the fulfillment of true and lasting spiritual redemption. That redemption can only be achieved through the building of the Mishkan, a place where the spiritual achievement of Matan Torah will be remembered and perpetuated. As we have seen, that fulfillment was also reached on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. With this in mind, the choice of Yechezkal’s nevua of the dedication of the rebuilt Temple as the Haftara for Parshat HaChodesh becomes clear. The true link between the Haftara and the Parsha is not due to the korbanot which will be brought on Pessach of that year of the rebuilt Temple, but to the dedication of the Mikdash on the same day that the original Mishkan was erected and consecrated, and the very day that Bnei Yisrael began their march to nationhood a year earlier. How appropriate is the insight of Rav Mendel Hirsch in this context. Throughout history, it is easy to lose sight of our ultimate destination and the Geula that will bring us there. But each year, on Shabbat of Rosh Chodesh of Nissan, we read of the beginning of our journey in that first Nissan in Mitzrayim, and the Haftara reminds us of the end of the journey, when we will experience full renewal and redemption. Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov

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