By: Rabbanit Tamara Spitz | Rosh Beit Midrash, MTVA
This week’s parsha, Parshat Bo, includes the very first mitzvah received by the fledgling Jewish nation
החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה
Where we are commanded to sanctify that first month, the month of our Exodus from Egypt, as the first month of our year. We are in essence, sanctifying time by establishing our own calendar as well as sanctifying the new month, Rosh Chodesh, on a monthly basis.
What is so special about this mitzvah that Rashi quotes Rabbi Yitzchak as saying the entire Torah should have started here and not at Bereishit? If it’s meant to teach us about the sanctity of time, wouldn’t Shabbat have been a better mitzvah to start with? What’s so special about Rosh Chodesh? Rabeinu Bechaii adds to our question by stating that if Am Yisrael were only to receive one mitzvah, this mitzvah would have been enough. What is so unique about Rosh Chodesh?
The Sforno explains that from this point onwards, Bnei Yisrael has control over the months, the calendar. This isn’t just another mitzvah, but control over Time. Something that this new nation has never had before. As slaves, they were at the mercy of their masters, the Egyptians. They had no control over their own bodies, let alone anything else beyond that. Therefore, the first symbol of their freedom, even before they leave Egypt, is receiving the mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh. They are now in control of time. In order to leave slavery, they need to learn to control time. The same thing is true for ourselves. In order to be really free, we need to take control of our time and use it productively.
I find it so beautiful that this week, as we commemorated International Holocaust Memorial Day and 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, we also celebrated Rosh Chodesh. What a perfect message. After years of suffering and slavery, we can truly say that we are free and masters of our own time. A lesson we must never forget.