This week, we read one of the four additional portions of the Torah that are read in the weeks before Pesach. These four Parshiyot - Zachor, Parah, Shekalim, and HaChodesh - seem to have nothing to do with each other. Rav Aharon Soloveitchik connects these four Parshiyot, explaining that they are designed to psychologically prepare the Jewish people for Pesach, the holiday of salvation.
“Koh Amar Hashem: Al Yit’halleil Chacham BeChochmato VeAl Yit’halleil HaGibur BiGvurato, Al Yit’halleil Ashir BeOshro. Ki Im BeZot Yit’halleil HaMit’halleil Haskeil VeYadoa Oti Ki Ani Hashem, Oseh Chesed Mishpat UTzdakah BaAretz, Ki VeEileh Chafatzti Neum Hashem.” “So says Hashem: Let not the wise man glorify himself with his wisdom, and let not the mighty man glorify himself with his might, let not the rich man glorify himself with his riches. But let one glorify himself only through understanding and knowing Me, that I am Hashem, Who does kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for in these is My desire, says Hashem” (Yirmiyah 9:22-23).
Rav Aharon states that this Pasuk in Yirmiyah mentions the defining factors of each of the four Parshiyot.
The first aspect the Pasuk deals with is wisdom, which is the theme of Parashat Parah. The Parah Adumah is a Chok, a Mitzvah that we must follow simply because Hashem told us to. Even Shlomo HaMelech did not know the reason for the Parah Adumah. Parashat Parah therefore shows us the limit to human knowledge and relates to how we should not praise ourselves for it.
Parashat Shekalim alludes to wealth. A rich man and a poor man both pay the same half Shekel, since everyone is equal in the eyes of Hashem.
We learn not to praise ourselves for strength from Parashat Zachor. In Milchemet Amalek, We could not rely on our military might alone to destroy Amalek. Instead, we needed Moshe to raise his hands to remind us that everything is in the hands of Hashem.
What about the fourth Parasha, Parashat HaChodesh? How is that connected to the Pesukim in Yirmiyah? When Yirmiyah is done saying what one shouldn’t praise himself for, he says what one should praise himself for – knowing and understanding God. How can we know and understand God? Only through doing His Mitzvot.
Parashat HaChodesh, which we read this week, describes the first Mitzvah given to Bnei Yisrael as a whole. Rashi even points out (in the opening insight of his commentary to the Torah) that the Torah could have started from here, since the Torah’s primary function is to list laws.
We read HaChodesh before Pesach to show us that the only reason we are free is so that we can do the Mitzvot, the first of which is HaChodesh.
We should prepare for Pesach, the time of our freedom, by taking pride not in our own strength, wisdom, or wealth, but rather in love, justice, and righteousness, and, as the second Pasuk says, knowing Hashem through Torah and Mitzvot.