Parshat Bo From Southern Region NCSY

Posted on July 21, 2008

In this week?s parsha, Bo, we are commanded, right before the tenth plague of the killing of the Egyptian first born, the very first mitzvah as a nation. This is the mitzvah of the Jewish Calendar, ?This month shall be for you the beginning of months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year? (Shemot 12; 2). The month that is being talked about is the month of Nissan, a name of Babylonian origin. The Torah uses only ?the first month? or ‘the third month? etc., not the names by which we call the months now. Therefore, it is our mitzvah not only to name the months, but also to count them.

Every month we perform Kiddush Levana, when we go outside to see the moon and declare a new month. The new month is dependant on our declaration. But why did Hashem command us to decide when each month starts? Couldn?t He have just set up a calendar and given it to us and then it would be just as easy for us to figure out when holidays fall out as it is for secular holidays in the solar calendar?

The Sforno answers that from this point on, the months will be ours to do anything we want with. But when we were in slavery in Egypt, our days and our time was not ours-it belonged to our Egyptian masters and they controlled us. We could not take a break any time we wanted or not show up?we were working for others, so we had to do as they said, whenever they said. Therefore, Nissan becomes the first month of the year and not Tishrei, which has Rosh HaShana, because from now on, Jews are masters of their own time. The only Master over us will be Hashem, and no one else. Since we are masters over time, then we can do anything with it, respecting the fact that Hashem is still our Master. We have the obligation, and it is up to us, to use our time wisely and use it to develop ourselves in Torah. We have the opportunity to reenact what was done when there was a Sanhedrin, the Great Court of Israel, who established each month when two witnesses saw and testified about the new moon and announced it to the world through fire signals atop mountains.

Every month, the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh, we say announce when the moon will appear in Jerusalem and when the month will begin. The other act that we do is in the beginning of the month, we go outside, look at the moon, and say a bracha that there is a new month. It is not a new month until we declare that it is, and that is just one of our responsibilities as Jews?to control the calendar.

Just remember that time is a terrible thing to waste. You should always be involved in something and try not to be slack off and procrastinate, because there are so many things to do and there is not enough time to do it all.