It’s our most precious commodity.
More valuable than stocks and bonds, more precious than gold and silver.
We wish we had more of it, yet frequently waste it — and once it’s gone we can never get it back.
In this week’s Torah portion we are introduced to the Jewish concept of time – “This renewal of the moon shall be for you . . .” (Exodus 12:2)
What does this mean? Do we control the cycles of the month?
The Rabbis explain that this mitzvah tells us that our calendar is a lunar one, and that it is the responsibility of the Jewish court to sanctify each month. Although today we have a set calendar, and in Biblical times Jewish scholars were already aware of the precise calculations of the lunar cycle, the Torah ideal is still to have the new month dependent on our proclamation. The new moon may appear on the 30th of the month, but if the court doesn’t make the pronouncement, the new month has to wait one more day.
The ramifications of this law are enormous. As opposed to the holy day of Shabbos, a gift sanctified by G-d that comes automatically each week, the Jewish holidays are correlated to the days of the month. The days of the month, in turn, are dependent on the action, or inaction, of the Jewish court. Whether it is fasting on Yom Kippur or eating matzah on Passover, the exact date of observance is in the hands of the Jewish people. G-d himself, so to speak, is completely dependent on our actions.
The underlying message of this mitzvah is that we are meant to be partners with G-d in bringing sanctity into the world. G-d set up a system of nature, and it is His will that this system continues to run its natural course. However, it is also His will that we infuse the natural cycle with sanctity, a spiritual connection of the human and the Divine.
Without the Jewish court and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the mitzvah of proclaiming the new month cannot be practiced today, but the lesson is eternally applicable, a Torah message of time that is timely and timeless. There is never any “time to kill” – only priceless opportunities to create a life infused with sanctity and meaning.
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz is the Rabbi and Director of the Monmouth Torah Links community. Shortly after receiving his semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Bais Medrash Govoha, the famed Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Oratz, along with his wife Toby and family, moved to Marlboro, NJ where they co-founded the MTL community in 2001. Aside for his “Devar on the Par” that he writes for MTL, his writings have also been published on Aish, Times of Israel, Seforim Blog, Hakira, and in various Rabbinic journals. Rabbi Oratz looks forward to continuing teaching Torah in a way that is timely and timeless, and sharing meaningful Jewish experiences with the amazing MTL community.