Friday, March 23, 2012

Parshas HaChodesh 5632 Second Ma'amar

This week we read Parshas HaChodesh which begins, "החודש הזה לכם ראש חדשים .../This month shall be for you the beginning of the months …" (Shmos 12:2)  The words for month and for renewal – חודש and התחדשות respectively – have the same root.  The new month represents renewal.  The moon waxes, wanes, disappears then reappears at the beginning of each new month.  This is part of the natural order.  However, the idea of renewal seems to contradict the principle that, "... אין כל חדש תחת השמש/… there is nothing new under the sun." 

We can answer this apparent contradiction from an interesting story regarding the Tanna Rebbi Elazar ben Aruch.[1]  The Gemara relates that when all his students went to Yavneh after the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, Rebbi Elazar ben Aruch went to a different city.  He expected his students to follow him but they didn’t.  Alone in a city known for its decadence, he forgot his Torah learning.  When he had the opportunity to read from a sefer Torah, instead of reading, “הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם/This month is for you,” he transposed letters and read, “הַחֵרֵשׁ הָיָה לִבָּם/Their hearts were deaf.”  Although at first glance this appears to be an innocuous mistake, the Sfas Emes explains that Rebbi Elazar actually intended to teach us something about the meaning of renewal in this world.

Rebbi Elazar ben Aruch had the same question we have.  How can we reconcile the concept of renewal – התחדשות – as represented by the new moon, with the principle of, "אין כל חדש תחת השמש/There is nothing new under the sun …"?  Rebbi Elazar's answer was that we have a misconception about renewal.  Renewal does not mean that something new, something that was not here before, is introduced.  Everything is always here.  We fail to see it because our hearts are stopped up.  The reason everything is always here is because the source of everything is a spark of Godliness that gives existence to all.  God is here and therefore everything is here.  The spark of Godliness is within us but because we are numbed by the exile we do not recognize it.  This is what Rebbi Elazar meant when he transposed the letters in the pasuk and read, "... החרש היה לבם/ … their hearts were deaf." 

Renewal – התחדשות – means that our inner spirituality that was concealed from us becomes revealed.  This is what happened at the redemption from Egypt and this is the meaning of, "החודש הזה לכם/This month is for you" which we can now understand as, "Renewal is yours."

[1] Shabbos 147b

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