This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year. (Exodus 12:2)
As we read the Torah this Shabbat, we read the story of Pesah – the story of our ancestors fleeing Egypt and beginning their long journey to Israel. As the journey begins, a new month begins and Gd explains to Moses that this new month will mark the beginning of a new year – a new beginning for the Israelite people. Tradition teaches us that at the moment Gd told Moses that a new month was beginning, Gd pointed out that the moon was beginning her cycle again. A new moon, explained Gd, was the sign of a new month.
We just began a new month in Judaism this week – the month of Shevat. And, in a few days, we will celebrate Tu B’Shevat – the 15th of Shevat – the new year of trees. Just like Moses, we know Shevat began this week because the moon began her cycle again. With good eyesight and clear skies, you should be able to see the new moon in the sky tonight.
The moon is incredibly important in Judaism. It helps determine our months, years, holidays – all of our holy times. Why the moon? Why not the all-powerful sun? Why an object so much smaller than the sun? An object that is forever changing – and sometimes even disappearing from the night sky? An object that does not give off its own light – but rather reflects the light of the sun?
Because, the moon captures the essence of humanity.
We are not all-powerful. We are constantly changing and evolving. There are days when we feel whole and days when we feel like a fragment of ourselves. There are even days when we disappear into the darkness of night. But, if we persevere, we know that we will shine again – our light will only get stronger. And where does our light come from? It comes from the world around us. We can’t live alone. We need others in our lives. We need relationships. We need interaction. These are the things that fill our lives with light. And this is the light that we reflect back into the world – light that makes the world a more beautiful place.
At the beginning of every month, Judaism teaches us to bless the new month saying: And Gd told the moon to renew herself, as a crown of beauty to those He carries from the womb (meaning humanity), for they (we) are likewise to be renewed. Each month our tradition reminds us we get a new beginning – a new beginning to grow stronger and fill the world with incredible light.
This new Jewish month – this new secular year – may it be a time of renewal for all of us. And may we all grow stronger each day, filling the world with the light we receive.