Monmouth Torah Links

Parshas Bo – It’s About Time


It’s our most precious commodity.

It’s 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 . . .” (Bo 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 based on the lunar cycle and that it is the responsibility of the Jewish court to sanctify each month at the start of the new moon.

 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 for each new month to depend on the Jewish court’s 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 arrives at a preordained time each week, the Jewish holidays correlate to the days of the lunar month. Whether fasting on Yom Kippur or eating matzah on Passover, the exact date of observance is in the hands of the Jewish people. 

The Jewish holidays are a time of meeting between G-d and the Jewish people. If the court delays the date, G-d Himself waits another day for the meeting. 

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 the 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 between the human and the Divine.

Without the Jewish court and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, we cannot practice the mitzvah of proclaiming the new month. However, an echo of this mitzvah can be found in the diasporic practice of adding a rabbinically ordained extra day to the number of festival days mandated by Biblical law. 

More fundamentally, we can incorporate the timeless message of this mitzvah into our everyday life. G-d has entrusted us with the gift of time. Realize that there is never any “time to kill” – only priceless opportunities to create a life infused with sanctity and meaning.

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