"This month shall be to you the head of months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year."
This upcoming Shabbat, in addition to our weekly Torah reading of Tazria, (Leviticus 12:1-13:59), we also read the final of the four special readings that we read during the month of Adar, in anticipation of the upcoming Passover festival. This additional reading, known as parashat HaChodesh, (the reading of the New Moon), (Exodus 12:1-20), concerns the first commandments Israel received, declaring the new moon and preparing the Passover offering - the korban Pesach. By directing Israel to declare the first day of each new moon as Rosh Chodesh, the New, or, literally, Head of the Month, G-d was creating a partnership with man. In effect, G-d was relinquishing a portion of His sovereignty, of His dominion over man and nature. And by doing so, G-d was delegating to Israel tremendous power, potential and responsibility.
Declaring the new moon is not an arbitrary thing. Israel cannot just declare any day to be the first of the month. The new moon must appear in the sky and must be identified by two witnesses, who then give testimony before the judges of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.When their testimony is deemed trustworthy, the court declares the new moon. One could conclude that determining the new moon is merely an act of observing and reporting. And that is true. So how, then, is man being empowered by this declaration? And just what is G-d giving over to man?
In effect, G-d is telling us that His will, the workings of the universe, is utterly inconsequential without its recognition by man. G-d can run the moon through a thousand cycles, but until man has witnessed the new moon, and made testimony to his fellow man, then G-d hasn't done a thing. G-d creates and man confirms. Of course, by performing the commandments that G-d has bequeathed us through Torah we likewise validate our own existence, as we assume our rightful place in creation. This mutual reliance between G-d and man is the spark that informs the entirety of Torah, our covenant with G-d. And of course it is this sharing of responsibility for our world and the love that this engenders between man and his Creator that is the heart and the soul of the Holy Temple and the Divine service that takes place within its Courtyards and Sanctuary.
Today's world is suffering from a protracted energy crisis. Fossil fuel creates life-threatening pollution. Nuclear power has devastatingly tragic consequences. We harness the power of rivers to the great detriment of nature. Wind power is ephemeral. Energy from the sun, while potentially limitless, has thus far proved elusive.
What about the energy of time?
We often think of time as merely a system of measurement, a calibration that helps us to organize our thoughts and actions. We talk of killing time, of saving time, of spending time, wasting time, losing time, finding time, biding our time. Its almost as if time was just one more accessory to life, a luxury that we can afford to squander. But time is energy, and by defining and determining time in accordance with G-d's will we make time sacred, thereby tapping into a vast motherlode of cosmic, spiritual energy.
If we are mindful of time, and treat it as the expression of holiness that it is, we can transform our lives. Each day is different from the next, brimming with the energy of time, waiting to be tapped. Shabbat is time out of time, time beyond time. The pilgrimage festivals of Israel, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot are precisely as they are described in Torah, "appointed seasons," special times in which we rendezvous with the Divine. Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, the Days of Awe, are days in which the spiritual energy is unlike any other time throughout the year. The entire window through which Israel interfaces with G-d is the window of time. When G-d commanded Israel to declare the month of Nisan to be the "first of the months of the year," the exile was effectively over, and the redemption was begun. Exile, in essence, is to allow time to determine who we are. When we determine time we are already on the road to Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven examine this week's Torah portion, Tazria, which, like all of the book of Leviticus, presents the challenge of living life on an accelerated plane of consciousness. The much-misunderstood laws of purity, as embodied by the enigmatic, elusive, metaphysical illness of tzarat, are in reality a Divinely-orchestrated barometer of spiritual sensitivity... or the lack of it. Rather than being a punishment, this illness - admittedly a test - was visited upon Israel by G-d as a sign of His love for His people. G-d still broadcasts these finely-tuned messages to us, through world events and the stuff of our everyday experience. It's just that most people prefer to ignore the frequency. Because the painful truth is that in today's world, humanity's spiritual barometer, mankind's spiritual sensitivity or lack of it, can be measured by the world's attitudes about Israel.