Parshat HaChodesh: Rosh Hashana is at the commencement of the seventh month of the year!
The Chief Rabbi’s D’var Torah for Parshat HaChodesh.
Yes, it is true. Rosh Hashanah takes place at the commencement of the seventh month of the year. This anomaly is a feature of our Jewish calendar thanks to a portion in the book of Shemot, which we will be reading this coming shabbat – Parshat HaChodesh. The Torah says:
“HaChodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim.” – “This month of Nissan shall be for you the head of the months of the year.”
So Nissan starts the months of the year while Tishrei starts the year itself.
Why is Nissan so central and significant for us? It is because in this month we attained our freedom from slavery in Egypt. This unusual phenomenon on our calendar comes to teach us four important lessons:
First of all, ‘zecher lemaasei Bereishit’ – remembering the acts of creation – takes us back to the commencement of life on earth. In a similar way, ‘zecher leytziat Mitzrayim’, remembering the Exodus from Egypt, during Nissan, takes us back to the commencement of the Jewish nation.
Secondly, we are reminded here of the greatness of Hashem, who against the odds was able to deliver our people. And as is very often the case, Hashem asks us to have ‘bitachon’, trust in Him. He also calls upon us to do ‘hishtadlut’ – to try our best to attain our own freedom. Moshe went back to Egypt; he stood before Pharaoh; he devised a plan – and all the miracles that transpired in Egypt for our people came about in the context of the Jewish people trying our best.
The third lesson – the month of Nissan, reminds us of the persecution of our people in Egypt. Here, there is a call for us always to speak out; to try our utmost to neutralise the forces of persecution and never to be silent when we witness the suffering of others. Here too there is a further reminder that no nation on earth, however powerful, should ever presume that it can indefinitely persecute innocent people, because ultimately history shows us that what is right will prevail.
The fourth lesson – we attained our freedom from Egypt in Nissan not merely just to exist as a people but as a means towards leading a responsible way of life. That is why the counting of the Omer serves as a bridge between Pesach and Shavuot – taking us from Nissan through to Mount Sinai where we received the Torah. We are privileged not just to have a physical existence – to have something to live with – but in addition, to have something wonderful to live for. And as a result, thanks to our Torah, we can inspire others and have a joyous and meaningful life always.
So yes, it is true. Rosh Hashanah takes place in the seventh month of the year but Nissan is the head of the months of the year, and from Shabbat Parshat HaChodesh we learn so many important lessons for our lives.
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