Vayakhel: Shabbos Chodesh

A few years ago a government organization came out with a report showing which sectors of the population received which percentage of the money that they are due according to their population levels.  Not surprisingly, it was confirmed that the Ultra-Orthodox sector received inappropriately less than all other sectors.  That’s right.  Even Arab schools received more funding that they were due than the Ultra-Orthodox.  Fine, nothing new there.


I live 20 seconds from a secular preschool/kindergarten.  They have a beautiful open space to play with, with a huge amount of toys, lots of decorations, well kept, and every six months or so, they bring in something new to replace something old.  If you walk around the city, this is a normal situation.  Go to any of the religious ones, and you’ll find a big piece of un-kept dirt with rusty "toys" to play with.


Several months ago, a few parents in our daughter’s kindergarten were trying to get other parents to go to the kindergarten on a certain day, since representatives from the city will be there.  They were hoping to speak with them about the lack of everything that our kindergartens have.  Two weeks ago or so, we received a letter from the teacher thanking the parents for their hard work and the new things the kindergarten received.  My wife, when dropping off my daughter, asked if she could see what was new.  Both teachers traded looks with each other, and let my wife in.  What was new?  A third-hand metal frame of a toy car that kids can sit in and turn the steering wheel.  Oh, and the wheel was rusted so much, it doesn’t turn.


Knowing the answer already, I went to somebody in our community who’s heavily involved with local government to ask him why we are in this situation.  He’s a very “cool” person, non-emotional, highly-intelligent.  I knew I could get a straight, non-political answer from him.  He simply smiled and replied, “Because the city council and the ministry of education refuse to give us any money for the upkeep of our schools.”  He then went on to cite many more blatant examples throughout the city. 


It’s one thing to see things in a report; it’s another to see it personally happening to your children.


Okay, on to Torah.


“This month (Nissan) shall be the first of the months to you . . .” (Shemos 12:2).


Pesach is special for many different reasons.  One of the things that stick out about Pesach is the amount of preparation one does for it.  No other holiday has such preparations.  Even the Shabboses leading up to Pesach are special and are connected to Pesach.  Last week was “Shabbos Parah,” regarding the purification of the individual so he can go into the Beis HaMikdash.  This week is “Shabbos Chodesh,” the one before Pesach is “Shabbos HaGadol.”  Indeed, we not only prepare physically, but spiritually.


Pesach is referred to as the birth date of the Jewish nation.  It is when Hashem took us out of [the “womb” of] Egypt in order to make us a nation.  Sefiras HaOmer is the childhood, Shavous is the Bar Mitzvah, Yom Kippur is the Wedding, etc.


If Pesach is the birth date, then Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first of Nissan (this coming Tuesday), could be considered the conception.  It is the first day of the new year (according to the cycle of holidays).  As we know, an expecting mother needs to be very careful on how she treats herself during her time of pregnancy.  So too with us, from Rosh Chodesh Nissan until Pesach, we need to be more careful, in order that  we will be healthy when we are born.


Rosh Chodesh is calculated according to the cycle of the moon, and falls out shortly after the moon becomes new.  From this, says Rav Pincus, we can learn an important thing about what we can do during this time.


The sun is often compared to Hashem, while the moon is compared to the Jewish nation.  When the moon begins anew, a sliver, a very fine sliver, can be seen.  Which direction is it facing?  Towards the sun.  Every single day, that small sliver grows and grows, until the middle of the month where the moon is completely full.


Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the time where we need to simply “turn our faces” towards Hashem.  Even just a little bit.  We need to ask ourselves, “Where do I want to go this year?  What do I want to become?”  Nissan is the first month of the year.  It is where we begin anew.  What do we want to do with ourselves?


We should use this time to turn to Hashem, even just a little; by strengthening a mitzvah here, putting more focus there, taking something out of our lives that interferes with our relationship with Hashem.  Something small.  But holding on to the idea of focusing on Hashem for 14 days, we will come to the Seder on Pesach, full of light, just like the moon is on Seder night.


Have a wonderful Shabbos Chodesh!


Michael Winner