In addition to Parashat Tazria, this week we will read the Parashat HaChodesh, which discusses the Mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh. In his Sefer Aish Kadosh, the Piezetzner Rebbe wrote a Drasha on Parashat HaChodesh. He cites the famous first Rashi in the Torah, which poses the question why the Torah did not begin with the first Mitzvah given to Bnei Yisrael, that of sanctifying Rosh Chodesh, and why the entire story of Sefer Bereishit is necessary. Rashi answers that Sefer Bereishit is to be used in an argument against those who would protest our conquest of Eretz Yisrael, saying that we were stealing from their lands. Sefer Bereishit allows us to answer that Hashem created the whole Earth, including Eretz Yisrael, and He can give it and take it away as he wishes.
The Piezetzner Rebbe asks yet another question: even if Sefer Bereishit is necessary, why did it have to be written first, before all the Mitzvot? Why couldn’t the Mitzvot have come first, and then the story of the world’s creation? He writes that one answer to this question can be found in the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 3a) which quotes a statement of Rabi Chanina: “Gadol HaMetzuveh VeOseh Yoteir MiSheEino Metzuveh VeOseh,” “It is better to be commanded to do a Mitzvah (Metzuveh), and do it than to not be commanded yet still do the Mitzvah.” Tosafot explain that a Metzuveh has a Yeitzer HaRa not to do the Mitzvah. Thus, the Piezetzner Rebbe adds that there is a special positive benefit to being commanded, not just a greater Yeitzer HaRa. When a Mitzvah is done, Hashem contributes a part of his “light”, an Or Kadosh, to the Mitzvah. But when someone is Metzuveh they also find within themselves this inner “light” and use it to make their Mitzvah special. This is why a being a Metzuveh is preferred. A Metzuveh has the ability to draw out this inner light, while one who is not a Metzuveh cannot.
There is a hint to this idea from the word “Mitzvah.” In At-Bash, the switching of each letter with its opposing letter, such as Aleph with Taf, Bet with Shin and so on, if the letters Mem and Tzadi of “Mitzvah” were switched with their At-Bash pairs, they would become Yud and Hei, and the word would spell out Hashem’s name, Yud “Kei” Vav “Kei.” Only a Metzuveh can bring out his inner light and realize the Sheim Hashem involved in every Mitzvah. This is why the Torah starts with the stories of Avraham and the other Avot. If these were Tzaddikim were without the commandments of the Torah, how much greater is the opportunity for us who have the Torah and are commanded do follow the Mitzvot, making us able to utilize and recognize our own potential inner light.
This message is very important on a daily basis. Instead of seeing a Mitzvah like Tefillin and deciding not to do it because of lack of rhyme and reason, one should look at the Mitzvah and see the ability to bring out his own inner light and resonate with the Shechinah of Hashem in a way that only he can, because he is commanded. This is what Tosafot mean when he state that the Yeitzer HaRa tries to stop a person. The Yeitzer HaRa tries to make us forget the great potential and reward that doing this seemingly pointless Mitzvah will give us. Mitzvot will allow us to see our true selves as the special chosen people of Hashem and to become even closer to him. In truth, that is the best reward for doing any Mitzvah. May we all be Zocheh to muster up this inner light and create a greater connection with Hashem.
Thanks to Rabbi Moshe Weinberg for his help with this Devar Torah.