This week, in Parshat Bo, the Jewish People receive the lesson about the Lunar calendar and learn how Nissan is the first Jewish month. God showed Moshe the new moon, a small crescent in the sky, and He said “This (new) moon is, for you, the first month” (12:1).
How/why is this a relevant message right now, before the Jews leave Egypt in the Exodus? Why does Moshe need to hear about this now and tell the new Jewish nation? What could this idea be teaching them and why now?
Hint: How was the new moon declared each month during Temple times? What is the people’s relationship with declaring the new moon?
Answer: In the time of the Temple, each month 2 witnesses had to see the beginning of the new moon (a small crescent) and then travel to the Temple and testify, in front of the Jewish court, about what they saw. Then the court would declare it the new month, and they would light a bonfire on top of a mountain, so the next village/city would know. They, in turn, would then do the same to proclaim the news for the next village/city etc. etc. until news spread.
What we see is that the Jews had control over time in this way, and THEY created the new month through these testimonies. This gave the Jews a feeling of control over time – after all, the actual holiday of each month was dependent on when the new month started.
Perhaps the idea here for these slaves by raising this idea of the new moon was this: “You are about to be free and in control of your time.” That’s really the one thing a slave has no control over. Someone else is always telling him what to do and when. Now, the Jews will be free and this special mitzvah we have, to declare the new moon, really reflects the ability we have to control time. And this was a new idea and much-anticipated gift that the slaves were about to receive.
Of course, with any privilege comes responsibility. What do we do with our time? How do we spend it? Are YOU able to say that you use your time well and are in control daily of all the hours you are given?
Discuss how you use your day, what your free time is used for and how you can, perhaps, improve your use and appreciation of this gift of time.
Bracha Krohn has been a Jewish educator in Cleveland, Jerusalem and Efrat. She currently lives in Israel with her husband and three children. Her contribution, "Table Talk," is based on the ideas she and her husband, also an educator, discuss with their children around their weekly Shabbat table.