This week we read the last of the four Parshiyot, Parashat HaChodesh. Parashat HaChodesh discusses the first Mitzvah Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael as a nation, the Mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh. By establishing when months start and end, Bnei Yisrael exerts much control over the calendar, and, thereby, when holidays fall out.
The Pasuk states, “HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem Rosh Chodashim Rishon Hu Lachem LeChodshei HaShanah,” “This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year” (Shemot 12:2). We derive from this Pasuk the setting of our calendar from the lunar cycle. Witnesses would come and testify to seeing a new moon, and the Sanhedrin would declare a new month. Seforno teaches that until the Cheit HaEigel, Bnei Yisrael needed only to recognize a sanctification of time, not of location. However, after the Cheit HaEigel we became distanced from Hashem and required a more physical level of sanctity. We needed a physical Mishkan instead of being satisfied with the presence of the Shechinah being all around us. It is clear that the inherent spirituality and importance of time is ever present, if unfortunately distant. As such, we should have respect for time as we do for physical sanctities. The Talmud Yerushalmi in Masechet Chagigah teaches us that wasting time that could be spent learning Torah is equivalent to the worst of sins.
Additionally, in Parashat HaChodesh, Bnei Yisrael are presented with Mitzvot regarding Pesach. In this section, the Torah states, “UShmartem Et HaMatzot,” “You shall guard the Matzot” (12:17). Rashi (s.v. UShmartem Et HaMatzot) expounds that we should read the word “Matzot” as “Mitzvot.” In other words, we should guard and be expeditious with the Mitzvot. Just like you don’t let the Matzot sit and leaven, you should allow the opportunity to do a Mitzvah sit around unfulfilled. Rather, you should do the Mitzvot with Zerizut, zeal. There is an obvious question. Why does the Torah teach this message through a hidden meaning of the word Matzot? Nachalat Eliezer answers that it is because it is comparable to Matzah that, if you don’t act swiftly, what could be a Mitzvah will pass. If one doesn’t watch Matzah, it will become Chameitz. If one grabs the opportunity, he will grab Olam HaBa; if not, Olam HaBa will pass him.
We can learn the value of time and of using it wisely from this Parashah. It is not only necessary to cherish time, but to utilize it to perform Mitzvot with Zerizut. Entering Pesach, we should keep this message in mind in our performance of its many Mitzvot.