"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months" Exodus 12:2

By Sally Berkovic, March 31, 2011

The moon has inspired poetry, art and popular music: think Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison and Pink Floyd. This Shabbat an additional paragraph - Exodus 12:1-20  - will be read and we will be told hachodesh hazeh lachem, "this month will be to you".

We are commanded to count the month of Nisan, the month in which we are freed from Egyptian slavery, as the first month of the year. Why does the Torah say "to you? One commentator, Sforno, suggests, that until now, our time was not our own, but belonged to our masters, but from now on, time will be our own. 

From that moment, we became active partners in sanctifying time. The calendar with its cycle of Shabbat and festivals could exist only when human witnesses declared the new month. It is also a salutary lesson for parents; we control our children's time from the moment they are born, and yet, there comes a point when they rebel and they want mastery over their own time. Our challenge is to equip them with the ability to balance their time between their own selfish desires and responsibility to the community in which they belong. 

The word chodesh shares its root with the word chiddush, to renew and to create. Creativity is the key to survival; as a nation, we have overcome tremendous obstacles with tenacity and renewed ourselves for the future.  It our responsibility to nurture the spiritual creativity of the next generation, and yet this is difficult if we rely only on familiar paradigms. By encouraging our children to see things from a different perspective, by supporting their struggle to discover themselves, we enable them to find their own chiddush as Paul Simon sang: "If you want to write a song about the human race, write a song about the moon."

Last updated: 11:42am, March 31 2011