Category Archives: Shabbat HaChodesh

Shabbat HaChodesh

This Shabbat is the last of the four special Shabbatot. We read Parshat HaChodesh that relates the commandment of Rosh Chodesh and of the first Pesach, and the Haftarah is of from Yechezkel, describing the dedication of the final Temple.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Shabbat HaChodesh

There are so many interesting ideas that the Haftarah brings up in connection with Rosh Chodesh Nissan, and Rosh Chodesh Nissan itself is such an interesting date, it was hard to find just one thing to focus on. So perhaps some day in the future I will write about whether the world was created in Nissan or Tishrei and what difference it makes, and about the Gates of the East and the return to Gan Eden. This time I wrote about the 1st of Tishrei as the New Year for kings.

This is also a chance to summarize the 4 special Shabbatot that prepare us for the season of national independence and achievement:

  • Shekalim on the power and utility of money, which is one of the bases of society.
  • Zachor on the shared values that are worth standing up to protest
  • Parah on the paradoxical nature of Jewish history, and on the potential for change
  • HaChodesh on how we became a nation in the first place.

    May this season bring only good news and joy to the entire Jewish People, wherever they may be.

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Shabbat HaChodesh – New Year for Kings

Shabbat HaChodesh is the fourth and last of the special Shabbatot, the Shabbat immediately preceding Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

On Shabbat HaChodesh we read Parshat HaChodesh, the very first commandment that G-d gave to all of Israel as a nation[1]:

(א) וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר:

(ב) הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה:

1) Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon, in the Land of Egypt, as follows:
2) This month will be for you the first of months, it will be the first for you among the months of the year.  (Shemot 12)

Not only was this the first commandment that Israel was given as a nation, it is this commandment that made Israel a nation in the first place. In the ancient world, what distinguished a nation from a bunch of tribes was that nations had kings. The Jewish People in exile were still just a large family, a dozen tribes. By giving us commandments, G-d made Himself our king, and made us a nation.

The 1st of Nissan is associated with kings in Halacha. When listing the various new years in our calendar, the Mishna states:

ארבעה ראשי שנים הם באחד בניסן ראש השנה למלכים ולרגלים :

There are four new years: 1st of Nissan is the new year for kings and for holidays (Mishna, Rosh Hashana 1:1)

What is a “new year for kings?” In the times of the Tanach, people would date their documents based on the reign of the current king, eg: “in the 2nd year of the King Yehoshafat.” The year was incremented not on the date of the coronation of that king, but rather on the 1st of Nissan. Let’s say King Yehoshafat had been crowned during Adar; starting with the 1st of Nissan of that year, we would start dating our documents as the 2nd year to his reign, even though he had only been king for a month.

The “coronation date” of the Jewish People is not the coronation date of a particular human king, like all other nations. Instead, it is the date that we accepted G-d as our king and became a nation, the date when G-d gave us our first commandment: the 1st of Nissan.

The Haftarah of HaChodesh describes the dedication ceremony of the final Temple, which begins on the 1st of Nissan[2]. It talks about the offerings that will be made on that day, in particular, by the leader of the Jewish People, whom Yechezkel calls “nassi.”[3] Surprisingly, the Haftarah begins a few verses before the description of the dedication ceremony, and ends a few verses later. Those extra verses refer to a seemingly unrelated topic: the laws that limit the power of the leader of the Jewish People.

This “nassi” has an important role, especially in the dedication of the final Temple: he must collect the taxes, and he must represent the people in bringing their offerings. He is shown respect: certain gates are opened especially for him, and he is allowed to use certain passages that others are not. But the Haftarah states explicitly that these privileges are only given to him when he is actively representing the nation. When he comes to the Temple as a private person, as an individual, he does not get any special treatment.

The Haftarah goes out of its way to point out that the leader of Israel, whether he be called “king”, or “nassi”, is given power only to the extent that he serves the nation. He represents them, he organizes them, he leads them, but he does not truly rule them. It is not his authority that defines them as a nation. Their years are not dated from the beginning of his reign, but from the beginning of G-d’s reign – the date of the first commandment given to Israel.

The nation of Israel may have many new years, but we have only One King.

PDF for printing, 2 pages
Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל

[1] Avraham’s commandment of Brit Milah was given to him as an individual and the head of a family.

[2] The Mishkan’s dedication ceremony was also on the 1st of the 1st.

[3] “Nassi”, which is used in modern Hebrew to mean president. It is sometimes translated as “prince”, but a prince in English connotes the child of a king. It literally means,  “one who is raised”, as in “his highness”, or in the case of the Jewish People, “first among equals”. Which is why I went with “president”.

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