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Shabbat HaChodesh: The Dark of the Moon

03/27/2022 03:49:47 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin

The very first Mitzvah given to the Jewish people might be surprising.   It wasn't to be fruitful and multiply -- that was the blessing given to Adam and Eve.  It wasn't to be holy or to be sure to do Mitzvot.  It was in fact to start our own calendar. 

In other words, a prerequisite to being free is to be in charge and responsible for your own schedule. A prerequisite to being a community is to share a calendar and a prerequisite to living a meaningful life is to be conscious of time, to take ownership of time.

The Mitzvah of creating the Jewish calendar is twofold.  Part one is to be mindful of the past and its impact on the present and future.  The Festival of Freedom, Pesach, which we are soon to celebrate and is rooted in our sacred history has a message and meaning for us today.  Jewish holidays, Shabbat, even the day's cycle of night, morning and evening, all come with messages and mitzvot: to light Shabbat candles, to wrap Tefillin, to schedule time for study, Tzedaka, community and alone time.

Part two is to be mindful of the present.  Time is the fabric of life itself.  Our lives and our schedules are closely interrelated.  We do what we value, and we become what we do.  Becoming fully ourselves means to take responsibility for our time.  While obligation and exigency lay claim to us, we do have freedom within those limits.  And it is our choices within the days allotted to us that determine our lives, our character, our destiny. 

This awesome responsibility and even more awesome gift is the theme of this coming Shabbat.  In the Torah, G-d shows Moses and Aaron the New Moon, declaring that this marks the beginning of freedom, even while we are still enslaved.  But the New Moon is actually invisible- it is the darkness before the first crescent of the new month appears.  In the same way, beginnings are dark, unrealized, hidden.  The emptiness of possibility that launches action, the sleep before awakening to action and life, the gestation of the seed within the dark earth.  There are times of darkness indeed- but in every case, they are really precursors to light.

King David begs G-d in Psalms to "Teach us to number our days."  We don't like to think that our lives here are finite, but it is in confronting the strictures and limits of each moment that we touch eternity by living our lives mindfully, consciously.  May we move forward into Passover and beyond with a sense of the excitement of creation: creating our lives, creating and repairing the world, adding to the light of the waxing moon.  Happy Rosh Chodesh, Happy Passover, Shabbat Shalom!  

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784