Sign up to TorahFax


Monday, Shevat 1, 5783 (Hakhel Year) / January 23, 2023


Today is Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new Hebrew month, Shevat. In the Torah the months are not identified by name, only by numbers. Shevat is the eleventh month in the Hebrew calendar year.

Q.   How is it possible that the month of Shevat, which is five months from Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New year, should be the eleventh month?

A.    The answer to this question is in this week’s Parasha, Bo.  Two weeks before the Exodus, G-d gave the Jewish people the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh – designating the first day of each month as a special day.  In honor of the Exodus, G-d assigned the month of Nissan, the month of our redemption, which is the seventh month after Rosh Hashana, as the head and first of all months of the year.

Thus, in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashana is celebrated in the seventh month, while seven months later is Nissan, which is considered the first month.

In the Parasha we read about the mitzvah of Tefillin; “It shall be for you as a sign upon your hand and as a remembrance between your eyes.”

This refers to the mitzvah of Tefillin which every Jewish male is required to perform every day, except for Shabbat and holidays.  The Tefillin are two black boxes containing four parts of the Torah.  One box is placed on the arm and one on the head.  The hand Tefillin is placed first and then the Tefillin on the head.  The hand Tefillin is one compartment, but the head Tefillin consists of four compartments.

Q.    Why do we put on the hand Tefillin first?

A.     The binding of the Tefillin on our hand and head is to show that we are binding ourselves to G-d’s service.  The Tefillin on the hand represent action and deeds.  This symbolizes the performance of mitzvot, G-d’s commandments, that our actions will be dedicated to G-d.  The Tefillin on the head represent thought, study and intellect.  This symbolizes that our mind and intelligence will be dedicated to the study of Torah.  The Talmud says, “It is not the study which is most important, rather, it is the action which is most important.”

Putting on our hand Tefillin first symbolizes that action is most important.  The following story illustrates the point: Reb Shneur Zalmen, first Rebbe of Chabad and his son, Reb Dov Ber were both engrossed in Torah study.  As they were so involved in study, Reb Dov Ber’s child happened to fall out of bed.  Reb Dov Ber being so engrossed in study didn’t hear his child crying and continued studying. His father, Reb Shneur Zalmen, who lived on the second floor, did hear the crying and came down and attended to the child.

When he later asked his son, why he didn’t attend to the child, he told his father that he was so engrossed in study that he didn’t hear the child crying.  His father reprimanded him and said, “When one doesn’t hear the cry of a child because of their Torah study, there is something wrong with that study!”   This is the lesson of putting the Tefillin of the hand first to show that action is what comes first and counts most!