This week we have the longest Torah reading of the year. While the longest Parsha is actually “Nasso”, which we will read in the summer, this week we combine two Parshiyot, “Vayakhel” and “Pekudei”, and in addition we read the fourth of the special Parshiyot related to Purim and Pesach, Parshat “Hachodesh”. So altogether, it is the longest Torah reading ever. Personally it carries nostalgia for me, because I read it for my Bar Mitzvah. We take two Torahs from the ark. In the first, we read the double Parsha of “Vayakhel” and “Pekudei”, concluding the book of Shemot (Exodus), and the community calls out in unison “Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazek” – be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened – as we do at the conclusion of every book.
Then in the second Torah, we read Parshat “Hachodesh”. The literal translation of those words is “the Parsha of the Month,” and it relates to the opening words of the Parsha. “Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the Land of Egypt saying: ‘Hachodesh haze lachem’ – ‘this month shall be for you the head of the months,’” meaning that on the Jewish calendar, the first month is Nissan. This dichotomy, having our New Year in the seventh month because the beginning of the year is Tishrei and the beginning of the months is Nissan, has great spiritual significance. Everything in the world, from humans to inanimate objects, has a body and a soul. While the soul of each human is clearly recognizable in his or her actions and in the fact that without a soul the body is dead, we don’t necessarily recognize the soul of inanimate objects. Their soul is the word of Hashem that created them and continues to create them every moment.
The Torah teaches us that the entire universe was created “by the word of Hashem”. Hashem said: “Let there be light” and there was light, and the Talmud tells us that there were ten such utterances with which Hashem created everything. This means that the universe is not a natural occurrence, and it is Hashem’s word that brought it into existence. In nature, if you exert outside pressure on something to make it behave differently from its nature, once the pressure is removed it will revert to its natural state. For example, the natural state of a stone is to rest on the ground. When someone tosses it into the air, the pressure of the thrower causes the unnatural upward motion of the stone, and as soon as that pressure dissipates, the stone reverts to its natural state and falls to the ground. In the same way, since the universe has no natural existence and it is Hashem’s word that created it, should that word be removed, the universe would revert to nothingness.
That soul - the spiritual source of Creation, is hidden from our physical view, and it is the job of human beings to reveal it and to synthesize it with the physical universe--the body. This synthesis is accomplished by using physical possessions for a higher purpose, to improve the world with goodness, kindness and Mitzvot. The Jewish people were given the task of bringing this message to the world and leading the way in bringing this synthesis to fruition. In order to fulfill this mission, Hashem revealed Himself to us and gave us the Torah. That revelation began in the month of Nissan, when Hashem Himself, as we say in the Haggadah, came down into Egypt and redeemed us, leading us into the desert with a pillar of fire at night and a cloud during the day. This is why we have two New Years. Rosh Hashana marks the creation of the physical universe, the body, and Nissan marks the beginning of spiritual revelation, the soul.
There is an additional aspect to this explanation. There is both a solar and a lunar calendar. In the special Parsha we read this week, “Hachodesh”, Hashem gives us the Mitzvah of following the the lunar calendar. The mystical reason for this is that just as the moon reflects sunlight to the world, so we, the Jewish people, reflect Hashem’s light and reveal its purpose and mission. This is why Nissan is the first of the months, reminding us that our priority in life is to bring Hashem’s light to the world and reveal the soul of all of Creation.
Parshat “Hachodesh” also tells us of the Mitzvah to keep Passover and to eat matzah on Pesach. There are many expenses associated with this holiday, and it has been a custom through the ages, for every member of the community who is able to, to contribute to a fund that provides matzah, wine and other holiday needs to the poor. This is considered a sacred obligation. On our website, the order form for hand-baked Shmura matza provides you with an opportunity to contribute to this fund (click here). 100% of these funds will be distributed to those who need help with Pesach expenses. If you know of someone who needs assistance, please let me know. We are also happy to assist with any of your Pesach needs, whether you need a hagaddah, a Seder to attend, or information on any aspect of the holiday. Please do not hesitate to contact us.