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Monday, Shevat 1, 5779 / January 7, 2019


Today (Monday), is Rosh Chodesh - the first day of the new Hebrew month, Shevat.  Shevat is the eleventh month in the Hebrew calendar. This year, being a Hebrew leap year, there is an additional month between now and Pesach. Thus, Pesach is three and a half months from today.


In the beginning of Deuteronomy (Devarim) the Torah tells us that on this day, Rosh Chodesh Shevat, five weeks before Moshe’s passing, he began his review of the entire Torah with the Jewish people.


The mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh is in this week’s Parsha, Bo. The Torah tells us that on the first day (Rosh Chodesh) Nissan, G-d told Moshe and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: “This month (Nissan) shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the months of the year."


The commandments were given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, at the Giving of the Torah, which took place 50 days after the Exodus. However, the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh was given to the Jewish people in Egypt, two weeks before the Exodus. It was the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people.


The Hebrew calendar is a lunar based calendar. The moon has a twenty nine and a half day cycle from its appearance to its next sighting. During the first half of the month it keeps getting bigger. At the middle point it is full and then begins to get smaller again, until its next reappearance.


Rosh Chodeshis celebrated on the day when the moon starts its cycle of rebirth.  Not always is it visible on Rosh Chodesh. From Rosh Chodesh on it gets fuller each night, until the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month when the full moon is visible.


The cycle of the moon is like a revolving wheel. Life is also compared to a revolving wheel. Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn, fifth leader of Chabad-Lubavitch, explained the comparison: Both those at the top of the wheel of fortune and those at the bottom often betray a lack of wisdom. 


Those at the top may glow with self-satisfaction, even mocking those less fortunate. But they would be wiser to realize that the wheel may turn at any moment and then they could find themselves lower than those upon whom they previously looked down!


On the other hand, those at the bottom may bemoan their cruel fate. But they too, would be wiser to realize that their fortunes are merely an expression of life's revolving wheel. The very fact that now they are at rock bottom is a clear sign that at the wheel's very next turn, their fortunes will improve!


Just like the cycle of the moon, Rosh Chodesh reminds us that the Jewish people have their days of glory and times of difficulty. But we must never lose hope. We know that bright days are sure to come.  





In memory of my father, Reb Menachem Mendel ben Reb Elchanan Dov, Marozov, of blessed memory.

His first yartzeit is today, Rosh Chodesh Shevat. May his Neshama have an Aliya in Gan Eden.