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Shabbat Parashat Bo 5772

Parashat Hashavuah: Like this, see and sanctify

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, pp. 215-216

“This month is for you the ‘head’ of the months” (Shemot 12:2). “Moshe had difficulty with the emergence of the new moon until Hashem showed him the moon as its crescent emerged, and said to him: ‘Like this, see and sanctify’” (Rashi, ad loc.).

The nations of the world count the months from Tishrei, and Bnei Yisrael count from Nisan. Our tradition is that not only is this the month of past liberation, but also of the future one (Rosh Hashana 11a). It also comes with a special mitzva: “Observe the month of the spring.”

Deepening our observations, we can conclude that our strength is in our ability for self-renewal. Our deterioration, while existing, is never permanent. Just as spring teaches, winter is the preparation for a new blossoming. Our difficult stay in Egypt was the cauldron out of which our nation emerged. During the Babylonian exile, the yetzer hara for idol worship ceased. During the 2,000 years of the latest exile, not only did we survive, but we developed a renewed desire to take root in the Land of our Fathers.

What is the source of our staying power? It is not in tanks and airplanes; our enemies have plenty. Moshe also had trouble identifying the new moon, i.e., the secret to our ability for renewal. The answer is: “See and sanctify.”

“I am a wall …” (Shir Hashirim 8:10) – this is Torah, “…and my breasts are like towers” – these are houses of prayer and of study” (Pesachim 87a). In exile, in strange lands, under subjugation, we maintained our uniqueness. When we gathered in the shuls, our spiritual fortresses, we dreamed of a return to Zion and to a Jewish kingdom, and we observed the Month of the Spring with its various meanings. We knew that even if liberation took its time, it would come. And indeed, the light of dawn has begun to shine.

However, the danger has not passed. Even as we stand in the “beginning of the flowering of our liberation,” we must remember the imperative of the month: “Like this, see and sanctify.” When you see this national renewal, do not say that it is just a happy coincidence of history. See it for what it is and sanctify it.

We hear the claims: “What is this work for you?” They claim that mitzva observance made some sense only in the Diaspora to ward off assimilation, which is not a problem in a Jewish State, and so, now, a Jew is whoever and however he sees fit. Our answer is: “Take for you sheep for your families and slaughter the Pesach offering” (Shemot 12:23). There are two elements to the Pesach. One is that all of Bnei Yisrael can fulfill the mitzva with one offering (Kiddushin 42a), an idea epitomizing national unity. On the other hand, it is a “feast of Pesach for Hashem …” (Shemot 12:27).

Let us learn the lessons of the times. “In every generation, they stand up against us to destroy us.” Not just in foreign lands, but in our Land as well, there is still anti-Semitism. It goes up and down, is covered by different facades, and is fueled by new claims. We are once accused of militarism, other times, of capitalism. They devise new names and new lies. The common denominator is that we are seen as a strange nation, which prompts nations both to hate us and to fear us, as the pasuk says: “Nations heard and trembled, fear took hold of the inhabitants of Peleshet” (ibid. 15:14).

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Tamir Matan Pushett,

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