Friday, March 12, 2010

what does kiddush hachodesh have to do with pesach?

Given that we ostensibly read Parshas haChodesh at this time of year because it contains the laws of the chag, one would expect, writes R’ Tzadok haKohen, the parsha to be called “Parshas haPesach,” just as Shekalim, Parah, Zachor are all named in such a way that reflects their content. True, there is a mention of the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh at the opening of the parsha, but the fact that the parsha is read specifically at this time of year rather than before every Rosh Chodesh indicates that the focus is Pesach, the chodesh.

But we might ask more generally: why is it that rosh chodesh gets any mention here at all? We understand that the celebration of yetziyas Mitzrayim had to be preceded by korban pesach and the laws of the chag, but why did Hashem introduce the laws of kiddush hachodesh here and not at some later opportunity?

The answer must be that just as the laws of korban pesach, the laws of chameitz and matzah, are integral to the celebration and experience of Pesach, the idea of kiddush hachodesh is integral to that celebration as well. Our preparation for the chag requires not only a review not only of the parsha and halachos of pesach, but also a review of the parsha of kiddush hachodesh, or our experience of pesach is lacking.

Why is that so? Rav Tzadok suggests that kiddush hachodesh introduces us to the power and ability of klal yisrael to create kiddusha, to sanctify the material world. More specifically, parshas hachodesh introduces us to the idea that the rosh beis din declares mekudash mekudash and the people follow – kedusha can be developed and channeled only through the leadership of chachmei hador.

I am not sure why this idea of introducing kedusah to the world could not be conveyed through the parsha of korban pesach itself, with its demand to be mekadesh an animal for the sake of a korban. Therefore, I would like to suggest a slightly different avenue of thought. The halacha is that a girl over three who is niveles is no longer considered a besulah; under three we assume the besulim grow back. The Yerushalmi (Kesubos 1:2) has the following case: a girl’s birthday is 10 Adar; she becomes niveles on the 15th. QED that she is no longer a besulah. However, before the end of the month goes by beis din declares a leap year; there is now another Adar in the calendar. Poof! – the girl’s birthday is now really 10 Adar II (see previous post here regarding bar mitzvah in leap years) , not Adar I, and the be’ila does not affect her status – she is still considered a besulah. How can this be? Being a besulah depends on empirical fact – changing the calendar can’t change what happens to the girl’s body? But we see from this Yerushalmi that indeed it can. As the Pnei Moshe explains, even nature agrees with the psak of beis din.

The parsha of kiddush hachodesh teaches that not only can the chachamei hador introduce kedushah into a seemingly independent state of nature/teva, but more than that – the chachmei hador, the Torah, is what defines and controls teva itself. [Update: see the Bnei Yisaschar who makes a similar point in his derasha on P' haChodesh and alludes to this Yerushalmi as well.]

All the many questions of Pesach night really boil down to one mystery: How does a people enslaved for hundreds of years suddenly become a nation of free souls? And when we speak of the freedom of Pesach we are not just speaking about legal definitions; were that the case it would make no sense for someone imprisoned in some dungeon because he is Jewish to celebrate Pesach – where is his freedom? What happened at Pesach was not an emancipation proclamation, but a fundamental change in the character of the Jewish people that could never be erased, a quality that remains with us even in the darkest dungeons and at the bleakest moments. Pesach was a change in the metziyus of klal yisrael.

It is this power of the Torah to change metziyus, to alter very fabric of reality, which is the necessary prelude to chag haPesach, which marks our change in metziyus from an enslaved and downtrodden people into the am hanivchar.


  1. החדש הזה לכם הוא מסור בידכם ואין אתם מסורין בידו, מעשה ברבי חייא הגדול שעלה הירח ערב ראש השנה והלכו הספנין לאורו מהלך ג' מילין. ראה אותו ר' חייא נטל צרורות ועפר והיה זורק בה א"ל למחר אנו מבקשין לקדשך ועלית לך עכשיו מיד נבלע במקומו. (ילקוט שמעוני תורה פרשת בא רמז קצ"א).

    I heard this years ago, never was able to find it, but thanks to Google, here it is.

  2. BTW, that Yerushalmi is very relevant to Chanukah; the yevanim couldn't stand the fact that Chazal had control over the briyah.

    It has similarites with the modern day Hellonists who think that Chazal had no superiour knowledge of the briyah. They also can't stand the interface with Torah and the Briyah.

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