Rabbi Mendel Solomon Chabad at Short Hills Short Hills, NJ Parashat HaChodesh
As we wind down eating the last of Purim’s Mishloach Manot, and prepare for the rapidly approaching holiday of Pesach, this Shabbat we read the last of the four special Parshaot, called Parshat HaChodesh. In it, we read the passages of the Torah where G-d instructs Moshe to observe the Passover, the beginning of the New Year, and subsequently the beginning of every month, Rosh Chodesh, by sanctifying the new moon.
While endless can, and has been, written about the significance of following the lunar calendar, I find it fascinating how the Torah places much emphasis on how we celebrate the passage of time - the way we conduct ourselves - rather than the tracking of it - it's timeline. Specifically interesting is the marked distinction between the way we celebrate Shabbat (weekly cycle) and Rosh Chodesh (monthly cycle).
On Rosh Chodesh we are permitted to work. With regards to Shabbat, however, we are forbidden to engage in any form of active work. While they both are marked as the end and beginning of new cycles, why do they have such radically opposing forms of observance?
Drawing from several Kabbalistic and Chassidic sources, these two forms of observance reflect two different ways of serving Hashem. Shabbat is intrinsically holy; G-d fixed the 7th day into the creation cycle. Holiness therefore, becomes the default state. Once in that mindset, we want to elevate our thoughts, speech and actions and place our mind, heart and very being in a space of Kedusha - holiness. As such, we must refrain from weekly activity as a means to help us focus more on our spiritual growth.
As opposed to the rest of the week, in which we are busy being productive and focusing on the day-to-day strains and stresses of life, on Shabbat, we try to disengage from the physical. We dedicate more time to shul and family, to Divrai Torah, to sing and engage with each other, thereby uplifting our spirits.
On Rosh Chodesh, which is proclaimed only through the mandate of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court), corporeality becomes the default state, and as such, we are asked to re-examine our understanding of the physical and how spirituality can be found in the mundane as well. Hence, we intentionally do not refrain from any activity. We recognize that spirituality is not just found in the negation of the physical, but in fact (if we have the right intentions), we find spirituality in the very physical acts themselves.
This is the true meaning of tikkun olam. For example, upon eating we make a blessing, when we sleep we do so with the knowledge that this will help sustain us by giving us energy to do good things the following day, when we put the monies we have earned to good use by helping the poor, needy and most destitute etc. These are but a few examples of how in the very corporeal, we can find G-d and become His partner in creating a better world.
Just as we have learned to adjust, due to the pandemic, to working from home, and have learned to find the balance between work life and personal life in the same space, so too we should always be cognizant of these two different modes of serving HaShem and how they can be fused together harmonizing beautifully with each other.
On this Shabbat HaChodesh let's reflect on this message, making ourselves and our surroundings a place where we and G-d can be proud of.