Vayakhel: Shabbos HaChodesh

My oldest daughter came to my wife with some "intelligence" she picked up from her younger sister.  It seems, she’s planning on stealing the Afikomen this year (we usually hide it from them without them seeing).  She has a whole plan set up to get it from me without my even knowing.  And what is her blackmail going to be?  She wants a siddur with Lecha Dodi in it.  Currently, she has a siddur from her school, which has only the davening for the week, and not Shabbos.  And this is what she wants really bad.


I think we can let her steal it.


The first mitzvah that the Jewish nation received was given two weeks before Pesach occurred.  It was the establishment of the new moon, and hence, the establishment of the month of Nissan.  This week’s parsha, two weeks before Pesach, and this year, on Rosh Chodesh (the first of the month) itself, is called Shabbos HaChodesh.


As we spoke about last week, before building something, you first need to clean up the building area, which we started to do with Parshas Parah.  This week, we begin to build the foundations of the building with a new focus that should last not only until Pesach, but hopefully even Shavous, and hopefully even beyond.


It is known that the Jewish people are often compared to the moon and Hashem is compared to the Sun.  The Jewish people don’t give off their own light.  Whatever they give off is only a reflection of Hashem.  How much light the Jewish people bring into the world is completely dependent on how much we, the moon, are facing Hashem, the sun.  The more we face towards Him, the more light we give off.


Rav Shimshon Pincus says that this Shabbos we begin the work of “turning to Hashem."  Just as the New Moon is but a sliver at first, the more it “holds it’s position” towards the sun, the more it grows.  Similarly, the more we face towards Hashem, the more we will naturally grow.  However, the opposite is also true.  One small deviation away from Hashem will naturally lead a person away from Hashem.  Our job during this time is to try to focus on Hashem and His Torah.  We are to try to put our energy into “Hashem-based” activities, rather than “non-Hashem-based” activities.  We’re not talking about allowed vs. non-allowed.  We talking of Hashem vs. not-Hashem.  The goal is to try to be above normal for the next two weeks, and try to keep our focus on our goal.


There is a story I saw about the famed Kabbalist, The Arizal (who lived in Tzfas) who asked his students if they wanted to go with him to Jerusalem, using a spiritual shortcut.  Many agreed but asked to return home first to tell their wives where they were going.  The Arizal broke down crying and said that had they agreed to come, they could have gone immediately and brought the Redemption, but because the students wanted to go home first, they lost their opportunity.


Of course, there is some depth to the story, which we will not cover, however Rav Pincus was always bothered by this.  What’s wrong with going home to tell their wives where they are going?!  If anything, what they did was correct!


After much thought, he realized the lesson.  Of course, the Arizal was not just somebody who knew a lot of Torah, he was a great Tzaddik, and of course having basic “derech eretz," is something that he practiced to perfection.  So, when such a tzaddik makes such an offer, one should jump at the opportunity, because it is a given that the Arizal has taken everything into consideration.


But that wasn’t the “sin” of the students.


Rav Pincus explains that when a child, before school, is driving his bicycle around the block, and the parent informs him that it’s time to go, what’s the reaction of the child going to be?  “Just one more time!  PLEASE!”  Why?  Because the child wants to savor the moment of “life" before he leaves for school.  Similarly, the students, who DID want to have a life of holiness, still couldn’t break away from the "normalcy of life."  They needed to have a BIT more of it!


It’s similar to a person's playing a game on the computer and being told that it’s time to go daven.  Of course he plans to go and daven, but, I need JUST A FEW MORE MINUTES! Yes, he wants to be part of the spiritual world, but . . . . It’s so hard to break from “life” itself.


This is our work for the next several weeks.  It’s to turn towards Hashem and to try to lift ourselves above “normalcy," even just a little bit!  And of course, it’s important that all people be honest with themselves and work on a level that they are comfortable with.  Their “move towards Hashem” should not be painful, perhaps a BIT uncomfortable?  But certainly not painful.


Either way, we should use this Shabbos to find a way to point our lives towards Hashem, even a little.  And just like the moon, as long as we keep facing Him, we will continue to grow in His light.


Have a wonderful Shabbos!


Michael Winner