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February 02, 1990 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TORAH PORTION

57th InternCongregational
Men's Club Dinner

hosted by

Temple Israel Brotherhood
Thursday, February 8, 1990

6:00 p.m. Cocktails

7:00 p.m. Dinner

at

Temple Israel

5725 Walnut Lake Rd.
West Bloomfield

This unique dinner brings the Men's
Clubs of the Orthodox, Conservative
and Reform congregations in the
Detroit area together to show the
solidarity of the Detroit Jewish
community.

'

Rabbi David Saperstein
Religious Action Center,
Washington, D.C.

Leonard Trunsky,
Dinner Chairman

Tickets may be obtained
at your individual synagogue

Dietary laws will be observed

ATTENTION

HUNTINGTON WOODS RESIDENTS

HUNTINGTON WOODS MINYAN

invites you to

Explore the world of the Talmud
through A Weekly Course
using the Steinsaltz Edition

of the



Talmud - Baba Metzia

Instructor: Rabbi Yehoshua Marazov

Wednesdays
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.

1st Lecture begins
February 7th

For more information, call:

David Morrison at 542-7200 or 542-1491

42

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1990

How The Jews, Like The Moon,
Constantly Change And Renew

SHLOMO RISKIN

Special to The Jewish News

T

he commandment
given to the Jewish peo-
ple by God must not be
seen as a commandment
which "just happens" to be
first. Rather, it must have
special significance and have
been chosen as the cardinal
commandment. It also must
reveal basic philosophic
truths about who we are as a
nation.
We read in Bo, this week's
portion: "This month shall be
head month to you. It shall be
the first month of the year."
(Exodus 12:2)
The Midrash tells us it is
necessary for God to actually
guide Moses' gaze toward the
sky so that when the new
moon looks like "this," he
should sanctify it.
Even though the calendar ,
has long been fixed, since the
third century by Hillel, there
are many traces in our halach-
ic ritual of the ancient prac-
tice for witnesses who first
saw the new moon to rush to
the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem,
even desecrating the Sabbath
if necessary, for the religious
court to declare: "The month
is sanctified; the month is
sanctified."
The first day of the month is
a minor festival. On the Sab- ,
bath before a new month, the
moon's appearance to a frac-
tion of a second is announced
after the public Torah reading,
echoing the Sanhedrin's
public declaration. On Rosh
Chodesh itself, during the
Amidah and the grace after
meals, we add a special prayer
and chant the half-Hallel dur-
ing the morning service.
There is a special scriptural
reading, just like any festival,
and we add additional Musaf
prayer, a reminder of the extra
sacrifice in the temple.
Women are freed from certain
domestic tasks, and fasting
and eulogizing are forbidden.
During the first days of the
new month, generally on
Saturday evening, special
prayers are recited and Jews
even dance in a circle while
gazing at the new moon in a
ceremony called "sanctifying
the moon."
Thus, we still need to
understand why, out of so
many possible command-
ments, the Torah chose this
one to introduce the Jewish
people to their future destiny,
and why there is so much
fascination with the moon.
There are many possible

answers, but this week ours
begins in Egypt, a land where
the calendar followed the sun.
The Maharal of Prague points
out that when the Jews were
given this first command-
ment, they were actually
given more than just a law
telling them to start counting
months according to lunar
cycles. It emphasized a new
way of life that would stand in
sharp contrast to Egypt.
The sun is symbolic of con-
stancy and power — the very
image of Egypt. But under the
moon, there is something new
at least 12 times a year. It is
forever changing, going
through its phases, getting
smaller and then bigger; '
mutability is its character.
When it seems to have disap-
peared completely, there's a
sudden turnaround and re-
birth. lb the ancient imagina-
tion, the permutation of the
moon in its 28 day journeys
were a constant source of
heavenly wonder and
speculation.
The holy Zohar compares
the Jewish people to the moon
because both the moon and
the people of Israel go through
phases, disappearing little by
little until it seems that it's
the end — a centuries-long ex-
ile climaxing in Europe's
death factories. Suddenly, a
new moon is sighted and the
messengers run to Jerusalem.
The repetition of a monthly
cycle, this law of change, firm-
ly established within the Jew-
ish psyche the inevitability of
renewal. Built into the Jewish
pattern of history is the
moon's disappearing and
reappearing acts. We, too,
seem to disappear, but we
don't. We can't. Our sanctity
as a nation is tied to this
potential of renewal, and our
history attests to the disap-
pearing of a Jewish culture in
one land and the almost
simultaneous appearance of a
new Jewish culture in a dif-
ferent land. Like the moon,
our disappearance is never
forever.
The first Torah command-
ment is given when it's clear
that pharoah himself cannot
change. After nine terrifying
plagues, one might expect
him to have a change of heart,
but the leader of Egypt cannot
relent! Despite all that he has
witnessed, he refuses to let
the Jews go.
The message of this first
commandment is that in con-
trast to the blind Egyptians
(darkness is the ninth plague)
the Jews can, and do, change,
emerging again and again out

of the fangs of evil to enter the
gates of redemption.
Rabbi Kook, Israel's first
chief rabbi, often wrote of the
old being made new and the
new becoming holy. Egypt ,
was an old, great civilization
but it allowed no room for
change or renewal. Atro-
phying, its ruling families
encouraged brother-sister
marriages; thus, they died
young. Israel, as it receives
the first commandment in the
very shadows of the 10
plagues, is being told that its
potential for survival will be
based on the understanding of
this commandment which
looks toward every new month
as a new birth.
I have a good friend,
Yehuda, from Kibbutz Ein-
Tzurim. Years back, a parent
of one of the kibbutznikim, a
resident of Kfar Chassidim
near Haifa, died and several of
us from Ein-Tzurim headed'
north.
Before the funeral started,
the head of the town's yeshiva,
a man dressed in the typical

Shabbat Bo:
Exodus 10:1-13:16,
Jeremiah 46:13-28.

black hat and coat of a rosh
yeshiva from the old world,
stepped outside with several ,
students, the clothes in sharp
contrast to the light shirts and
summer shorts of the kibbutz
residents. I sensed that the
rosh yeshiva looked disdain-
fully upon these men, though
they wore kippot and were
from a religious kibbutz. All
of a sudden, his eyes fell on my
friend Yehuda, and he cried
out to him in Yiddish:
"Yudke? Yudke illui (genius)?
Is that you?" Yehuda looked
up and smiled bashfully, re-
sponding in Hebrew: "Yes,
that's what they used to call
me at the yeshiva." It turned
out that the two men had been
students together in a yeshiva
in Petach Tikva.
The rosh yeshiva then asked
the kibbutznik why someone
as brilliant as he had been in-
terrupted his talmudic
studies and left the yeshiva
world. "I wouldn't think that
our rosh yeshiva, Rav Shach,
would have let you go."
"You're right. Rav Shach
wrote many letters trying to
dissuade me."
Thundered the head of the
yeshiva: "And those letters
will be the prosecuting at-
torney when you stand before
the heavenly throne."

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