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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The First National Mitzvah

By Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

“Hachodesh hazeh lechem rosh chadoshim”, this month shall be for you the first of months.

In a beautiful essay Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch explains – כי הנה הסתיו עבר the winter has passed, the spring is coming and Shlomo Hamelech is describing the beauty of the coming of Spring.

But real men don’t have time for spring. They are busy, trying to make a living, feed their families, and make ends meet. Do you really expect them to notice the singing of the birds and the buds on the trees? Only the young who haven’t dealt with life, or the shipwrecked, those whom life has been unusually harsh with and they’ve given up, speak of poetry and such. But the rest of us – it doesn’t do anything for us, doesn’t make our lives any easier or better, and we cannot appreciate it.

There was a group of the most downtrodden, despised, oppressed and ill-used people on earth. They knew nothing but slave labor and broken marriages, drowned children and broken backs and spirit.

They were taken outside by their Father, led by Hashem Himself, in the beginning of the spring and were shown the new moon, and the beginnings of life on the earth. Hashem told them החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים - this is not only a new time for the moon and for the earth, renewal and illumination for the celestial body, and germination for the plants and the trees, but lechem – for you as well. Just as there is a new light and a new spring, you too can have your own new and fresh illumination and growth.

This is why Kidush Hachodesh is so important אלמלא לא זכו ישראל אלא להקביל פני אביהם שבשמים פעם אחת בחודש דים the new moon signifies the capabilities of rebirth that are latent In every Jewish soul, and we are reminded of this when we bless the new moon every month.

Just as Noach was shown a rainbow as a sign of the promise that there would never be another flood, so too the Bnei Yisroel were shown the moon as a sign that the can renew, be mechadaish and extract themselves from the shackles of earthiness. We’re promised to appreciate the springtime, to live the
renewal!

Jews are עתידים להתחדש כמותה, to renew ourselves just like the moon! We all have this power to illuminate anew and use it לפאר ליוצרם על שם כבוד מלכותו.  – to glorify the Great Name of God. This is why Sanctifying the ne month, the first mitzvah, was given specifically in the spring. We bring together the ideas of renewal of the moon, renewal of the spring, and the renewal of the Jewish People.

Charles Dedereich (or Abbie Hoffman or The Diggers, bkitzur a hippie) – once said “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” – Jews get that every day, we always have the capability to start fresh, to renew.

Tu Bshvat is in the middle of the winter, when the sap starts to rise in the trees. This invisible process can only happen if the core and root of the tree is strong and healthy, and eventually bring to beautiful and healthy fruits. Judaism places primary importance on this process more so than the actual fruits themselves!

This too symbolizes the budding and yearnings of good deep within us. Rav Hirsch explains that the Torah cares less about the fruit, which are our deeds, then the origins and beginnings, “the invisible germination of righteousness and iniquity” within us.

With Tu Bshvat we show that we are focusing on the inner core of the tree, which if healthy, intact and strong, will yield beautiful fruit.

So too in our own lives if we focus on protecting and developing our neshamah and our hearts then we will produce beautiful actions and deeds.

The Mishna tells us that a Lev tov includes all other positive character traits and midos. (Avos 2-11) Once the core is strong it will develop and reflect outward from the Lev. Our focus has to be on having a correctly calibrated heart – like Tu Bshvat, from there everything will come to fruition properly and healthily.

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