January 2021, Parshat Bo

Welcome back!

I hope that all of you have had a restful and relaxing summer break. I look forward to welcoming you all back to Shule, as we continue to enjoy our relaxed restrictions in Melbourne and enjoy the hard-won freedoms we worked so hard to earn over the past few months.

The beginning of the year always gives me a little bit of nostalgia for the feeling of starting afresh. This year I have some extra nostalgia as my eldest son Ave, will be starting his first year of school.

As we all return to our daily lives and the summer winds down and new beginnings start, I think it is an excellent chance for a spiritual refresh and remind you all that now is the perfect time to reserve your seat for Shule this week.

This week’s Parsha, Bo, stresses the importance of setting a calendar and understanding how the cycles of life and time affect us.

The Parsha recounts the commandment for the Jewish people to set the calendar so that they know when each Rosh Chodesh, the Jewish New Month, starts. This is the first Mitzvah given to all the people of Israel that is recorded in the Torah, in the middle of a Parsha that mainly discusses the plagues that were pelting the land of Egypt as a result of Pharaoh refusing to set the people of Israel free.

Why Rosh Chodesh? What is so important about knowing when the Jewish month falls, that it was granted the status of being the first Mitzvah given to the people of Israel?

Casting an objective eye it seems to make more sense that something like studying Torah or adhering to specific principles of G-d’s law like being kind to the sick, orphaned or poor would be a more logical first choice of Mitzvah to give to all the people of Israel?

One suggested answer is that this Mitzvah was given to the Jewish people on the cusp of freedom from slavery when they were about to be set free from Egypt and become a free nation. It was critically important that they learnt and knew how to calculate the months of the year according to the Jewish lunar calendar. This was in contrast to the vast majority of other nations who used solar-based calendars.

There is no question that the sun has infinity more natural light than the moon. However, the Jewish people are consistently compared to the moon.

This is because, just like the moon reflects the light of the sun and that’s where its light is derived from, so too, the Jewish people reflect and receive their light and power from G-d and the Torah.

By understanding that the power that the Jewish people have is from the Torah and distinguishing the Jewish people from other nations who used the solar calendar, as opposed to the lunar one, this Mitzvah is helping the Jewish people understand their point of difference.

Without following G-d’s Torah and laws the Jewish people do not have their unique power and abilities to endure and stay true to their path.

Therefore, as a reminder of this fact, the Jewish people were given a first Mitzvah that helped them to understand their point of difference and also help them to understand what will secure them as a people forever.

As we return from summer, we need to return to the rhythms of life that provide us meaning and happiness.

I look forward to welcoming you back to Shule this week!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gabi