Friday, April 1, 2011

Nisan/Parshas HaChodesh: I Just Can't Wait to be King

Chazal established that we read four special Parshios during the month of Adar. This week we read the final Parsha of the Arba Parshios - Parshas HaChodesh.

Parshas HaChodesh revolves around the commandment given from HaKadosh Baruch Hu to Moshe Rabbeinu in which Hashem says,
HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem, Rosh Chadashim. Rishon Hu Lachem L’Chodshei HaShana” – ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of the months. It shall be for you the first month of the year.’ We learn here about the first commandment given to the Jewish people: Kiddush HaChodesh

Kiddush HaChodesh (literally; ‘Sanctification of the Month’) is the act of declaring that the previous month has ended and the new month has begun. This proclamation, announced by Jewish courts (called a Beis Din) requires Eidus - testimony - that the new moon has been spotted, ending and simultaneously restarting the lunar-month cycle.

This power and responsibility given to Beis Din to declare when months begin and end, starts with Hashem saying HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem - ‘This month’ – meaning, the ability to formulate the months – ‘Shall be for you’ – is now in your hands.

The start of the new month is called Rosh Chodesh; and, as we will see, it is a very powerful moment.

We see in the Torah that this Mitzvah was given just before the redemption from Egypt stepped into high gear. The verses detailing this Mitzvah are found just before that of the Plague of the first-born. Chazal teach us that we learn from here that Kiddush HaChodesh is the Mitzvah of Geulah - redemption. We first need to understand what is the connection between Kiddush HaChodesh and the themes of Geulah/The Coming of Melech HaMoshiach - the Messiah. Because even though we learn about Rosh Chodesh within the context of Mitzrayim, Hashem promises us that the future redemption will be Acharis K’Reishis, that the final redemption, the Geula Adisa will magnify the themes of the first one, namely the exodus from Egypt. So what’s the connection between Rosh Chodesh and Moshiach?

Secondly, like we mentioned before, we aren’t talking about Kiddush HaChodesh for nothing. This Shabbos Kodesh, the week leading into Chodesh Nisan, was specifically set aside by Chazal to be Parshas HaChodesh. The question is, why? What is the connection between ‘Parshas HaChodesh’ and Nisan? And while it’s true that Passuk’s mentioning of, ‘Rishon Hu Lachem’ - ‘It shall be the first month for you’ - is a reference to the fact that Nisan is the first month in the lunar cycle; we still need to understand why it was Nisan specifically that was chosen to be the first month.

And to take it all once step deeper, we will hopefully see how both questions are really independent on one another. If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. If Moshiach relates to Rosh Chodesh, and Rosh Chodesh is tied specifically toChodesh Nisan, then we will hopefully see how Moshiach and Geula are rooted in Nisan.

To understand the commonality between Rosh Chodesh and Moshiah we need to look at a story in Messeches Rosh HaShana. There, the Gemara tells the story of how Rav Chiya was told by Rebbi Yehudah to go to a certain city and perform Kiddush HaChodesh. Rav Chiya was told that when he completed his task, he was to send back the following message back to Rebbi Yehudah, “David Melech Yisrael Chai V’Kayam.” – ‘David, King of Israel, lives and endures.’

Rashi there clarifies why a declaration of the endurance of the Davidic Dynasty was an appropriate message to signify the sanctification of the moon. He explains that David HaMelech’s reign, (and subsequently his whole line after him, eventually leading to Mashiach ben David, the Messiah, who is a part of this lineage) is compared to the moon.

We see this in Tehilim (89:38), “K’Yareiach Yikon Olam” – ‘Like the moon, it (David’s reign) shall be established forever.’ Says the Radak in his commentary on this Passuk, and the Maharal in his explanation of the story above, David HaMelech’s dynasty and the moon share something important in common: perhaps at times they seems down and out – even invisible, but they are still holding on and destined to make a come-back. The moon withers away again and again, but it picks up. And it is specifically at the moment where it hits rock bottom that Rav Chiya was told to send back a message about David HaMelech’s journey through history.

It’s for this reason that in our Kiddush HaChodesh that we do today, we say about the moon that the Jewish people are Asidim L’Hischadesh KaMosah, in the future, with the coming of Melech HaMosiach (who, like we mentioned, needs to be a direct descendant of David HaMelech), we will be refreshed just like the moon.

If Kiddush HaChodesh is all tied up with David HaMelech then it is important to point out his spiritual significance. We are taught by the deeper sources that HaKadosh Baruch Hu interacts with us via seven Divine Attributes called, Sfiros or Midos. Specific key characters in Jewish history ‘mirror’ each one of these Traits. These select few are the representatives, or ‘Channels’ for the Sfiros. The seven people who serve as representatives of the Sfiros are the seven Ushpizin - Guests - that we invite over the course of Succos: Avraham Avinu, Yitzchak Avinu, Yaakov Avinu, Moshe Rabbeinu, Aharon HaKohen, Yosef HaTzadik and lastly David HaMelech.

David HaMelech parallels the final of the seven Midos called Malchus -Royalty. Royalty means control. A good king keeps all the various details of his kingdom in balance. In spiritual sense, the role of the Midah of Malchus is to ensure that the other six are in harmony. While it is beyond the scope of this essay to delve into everything that this means, it’s important to keep in mind that the concepts of David and Malchus go hand-in-hand, after all, we do call him David HaMelech .

With this we can begin to understand what it is about Nisan that highlights these messianic messages that HaChodesh contains. The Bnei Yisachar makes a few connections.

First, we are taught by the Ari’Zal that each of the twelve months parallels a one of the Shivtei Kah, the Twelve Tribes. Nisan, the first month, parallels Yehudah, who was ‘King’ of the tribes, and from whom David HaMelech and subsequently Moshiach descend.

We are taught by Chazal that the year has several starting points. There is the Rosh HaShana for holidays, the Rosh HaShana for the Trees, and there is also the Rosh HaShana for Melachim, for the Kings. It’s no longer surprising that the Rosh HaShana for Melachim is also Rosh Chodesh Nisan.

And this last one is simply fun. HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem, Rosh Chodashim - The letters that make up the word Lachem - ‘to you’, also spell “Melech” – King.

This explains the many references throughout Pesach-related literature to the concept of how via the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people transcend to a new level called Bnei Melachim, ‘Kings and Sons of Kings’ – The energy of Malchus enters into the world in a big way during Nisan, and it transforms Lachem - You, into Melech, a King.

What does it mean that I am transformed into a Melech, a ‘micro-king’ during Nisan? Melech serves as an acrostic for Moach Lev Kaved - Brain, Heart, Kidneys. A king, as we mentioned before is in control. His guts don’t control him, nor do his emotions. First and foremost he’s collected and under control. He sees things objectively. His brain is up and running. He’s able to distinguish right from wrong without biases (heart) or base desires (guts) puling him astray. When it comes to Malchus, it’s first and foremost, Moach, then we can talk about Lev and Kaved.

(By the way, the system of Melech is the set-up of the human body: The Brain sits at the top, the heart beneath it, and the guts even lower.)

Chazal tell us in Messeches Rosh HaShana, “B’Nisan Nigalu, U’B’Nisan Asidim L’HiGa’el.” – In Nisan they were redeemed (from Egypt) and in Nisan they will be redeemed in the future. Like we said at the very start, the Geulah comes Acharis K’Reishis, only bigger and better. The first Geulah came together with Kidush HaChodesh to show that Jews can put the world around them in order. The Geulah Asida is going to come when Jews can show that they are Bnei Melachim - that they can put themselves in order¬ - Moach Lev Kaved.

HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Bracha to realize our true value. If we only knew how precious we were, each on a prince and princess, then it would surely show in the way we act day-to-day. If we live life with through the lenses of Bnei Melachim, then there is no doubt that we will live lives of Simcha and Shleimus, moving closer to Melech Malchei HaMelachim HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and if we try really hard, hopefully - U’B’Nisan Asidim L’Higael.

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