By the Grace of G-d
Third Day of the Week,
Twice blessed with “good,”l
Rosh2 Chodesh3 Nissan,4 5744
To the Sons and Daughters of our
People Israel, Everywhere,
G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
Coming from Shabbos5 Parshas HaChodesh,6 and into this day of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first thought that immediately comes to mind is the first Rosh Chodesh Nissan in the Torah, in the said Parshah, when this day was designated as the first day of the first month, the month of Yetzias-Mitzraim, Zman Cheiruseinu (the Season of Our Liberation).
The Torah relates7 that on that day, Rosh Chodesh Nissan — two weeks8 before the deliverance from Egyptian enslavement — our Jewish people received the first Mitzvah9: Kiddush-HaChodesh, Sanctification of the New Moon, whereby the first day of each month is sanctified as “Rosh Chodesh,” in conjunction with the Molad (“rebirth”) of the moon as it reappears as a narrow crescent. Together with this came other details of our Jewish Luach (annual calendar), including Ibbur Shonim10 (proclaiming a Leap Year by inserting an additional month of Adar). Thus our Luach was instituted on the basis of the Lunar year11 (twelve lunar months), coupled with an adjustment to the Solar year by the intercalation of an additional month after every two or three years,12 making that year a Jewish Leap Year (consisting of 13 months). In this way, the “accumulated” deficiency of the Lunar year relative to the Solar year is filled in, as required by the Torah13 that the month of Nissan — Chodesh haAviv (“Spring Month”) — be kept in the spring, as at the time of the Exodus; thereafter all our other festivals also occur in their proper season.
At the same time,14 on the same day of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, our Jewish people were instructed by HaShem concerning the Korban-Pesach (Pesach sacrifice) and Chag HaPesach,15 as to how Jews are to celebrate the Festival of Our Liberation, Zman Cheiruseinu, not only as the anniversary of our deliverance from physical slavery, but also — and especially — as our Festival of Freedom in the spiritual16 sense, namely liberation not only from enslavement to Mitzrayim of yore, but to all “Mitzrayims” at all times and in all places. This surely is a basic instruction in Torah (“Torah,” from the word hora’ah,l7 meaning “instruction”), which, like all instructions of the eternal Torah,15 is eternal and valid at all times and wherever Jews live; certainly instructions that are connected with Pesach, the Season of Our Freedom, which is a preparation for Matan Torah and Kabbalas HaTorah19 (being given and accepting the Torah at Sinai and ever since).
This year being a Leap Year20 in our Jewish Luach, it focuses attention, in tangible relevant manner, on the significance of theXst Mifflan r Kiddush HaChodesh and Ibbur Shonim, mentioned above. Hence it provides a particularly timely occasion to reflect21 an the significance of our Jewish Leap Year, which, like all Jewish matters, is, first of all, relevant to the state of Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos in our everyday life.
Especially as till22 the first day of Nissan, the matter of a year being a leap year — is not settled, for the Beis-Din (Highest Rabbinical Court) had the prerogative to intercalate a month and make it a Leap Year.
Rosh Chodesh of the Month of Geulah thus also brings deliverance from the aforementioned uncertainty, and provides assurance23 and strength24 of now being ready to hear about and “take up”24* the Mitzvah of Pesach and Korban Pesach, and in two weeks’ time to come out of “Mitzrayim” (in all implied meanings); hence also to begin counting the days of the Omer in anticipation of receiving the Torah, etc. — Avodas HaShem (serving HaShem) in all days ahead.
As we have already discussed the subject of the Leap Year several times before,25 we will dwell here on one aspect of it, namely, the special relevance of the Leap Year to Avodas HaShem, bearing in mind that Avodas HaShem is the foundation of true cheirus (freedom), as our Sages express26 that the true ben-chorin (free person) is one who is osek27 (immersed) in Torah and lives by the Torah.
* * *
The significance of our Leap Year, as mentioned above,25 is closely associated with the uniqueness of our Luach. It is based on the rule that our Jewish people count29 the days and the months by the moon. This means that our Luach is basically lunar,
but takes into account the sun
(which determines the seasons of the year), thus assuring that Pesach and all our other festivals occur in their proper season.
Now, both the sun and the moon were created “to give light upon the earth”30 and to serve mankind;3l while the task of a human being is, to quote our Sages, “I was created to ‘serve’ my Creator,”32 namely, to serve HaShem.
There is an obvious difference between the sun and the moon in the manner of their providing light on the earth: The sun radiates its light in the same constant manner, without perceptible change from day to day. On the other hand, the moon “renews” itself (which is why the moon is also called chodesh,32* “new”) as it reappears, or is “reborn” (molad) at the beginning of each month, first as a narrow crescent33 and then becoming fuller and brighter from day to day, until it attains its complete fullness and brightness on the fourteenth-fifteenth day34 of the month.
In other words: The sun and the moon symbolize two different characteristics. The sun represents the element of sameness and constancy; the moon — change and renewal.
Both these elements are found in Avodas HaShem. And although at first glance they appear contradictory, both of them combined together are indispensable to achieve completeness in Avodas HaShem. The explanation is as follows:
There are those aspects of Avodas HaShem which are the same from day to day, without change. For instance, a Jew begins every day, immediately upon rising from his sleep, with the declaration of Modeh Ani, acknowledging and thanking HaShem, the “Living and Eternal King,” for giving him life and fresh powers to serve Him; so is also the Mitzvah of reading the Shema, expressing total commitment to HaShem and to His commandments to the point of self sacrifice; so are the blessings and prayers which are recited every day; so also the Mitzvah of learning, and of Ahavas Yisroel,35 and a host of other Mitzvos which a Jew is obligated to do each and every day.
At the same time, a Jew is expected to generate a renewal and resurgence of inspiration and joy in all matters of Yiddishkeit, particularly those that are repeated every day, so that they should be experienced as if they had been just given that day by Hashem36 for the first time;
And an additional measure of inspiration on special days, Shabbos and Yom-Tov, etc., which are associated with additional prayers and special Mitzvos that have to be fulfilled only on those special days, such as lighting candles, making Kiddush on Shabbos and Yom-Tov, eating Matzah during the Season of Our Freedom, and so forth. These certainly call for special inspiration and joy — so much so, that the holiness of Shabbos should be felt37 every day of the week, and the teachings of the festivals should be an inspiration throughout the year.35 Thus, for example, it is explained by our Sages39 that the “Season of Our Freedom” should be experienced daily,40 in terms of freedom from all inner and outer limitations that hinder the fullest pursuit of Avodas HaShem wholeheartedly and with joy, being truly free.
May HaShem grant that, as of this Rosh Chodesh Nissan and increasingly in the days ahead, everyone should deeply meditate on the topic enunciated above, as well as on the other aspects which are associated with Chag HaMatzos, the Season of Our Liberation, which, as noted above, are all relevant to everyone’s everyday life and conduct throughout the year;
And may this also hasten the complete and true Geulah of every Jew and all Jews, and thereby also the true freedom of all the peoples of the world;41
And the fulfillment of the prophetic words, “for42 You [HaShem] will rule over all the nations,” and “they43 shall know that You, whose Name is HaShem, is the only Supreme Ruler over all the earth.”
With esteem and with blessing
for a Kosher and joyous Pesach
/Signed: Menachem Schneerson/