Home > Divrei Torah > Parashat Tazria-Shabbat Hahodesh

Parashat Tazria-Shabbat Hahodesh

April 7, 2016

A Meditation for Shabbat Hahodesh – Tazri’a

by Rabbi Len Levin

“Let this New-Moon be for you the beginning of New-Moons, the beginning-one let it be for you of the New-Moons of the year.” (Exodus 12:2, transl. Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses, Schocken, 1995)

Hodesh = “new-moon” (from hadash, new): the renewal of the moon at the beginning of its monthly cycle. Related to hiddush, renewal.

We thank You, God, for Your many acts of renewal, from ancient times to the present:

Renewal, as the moon, after vanishing to nothing in the morning east, reappears as a silver crescent in the evening west, with promise of fullness in the days and weeks to come.

Renewal, as the earth, shedding its blanket of snow, peeks up green and violet shoots, harbingers of the blaze of glorious vegetation in the months ahead, and we begin a new calendar year.

Renewal, as each young mother produces new life in her womb, as the Torah states: Isha ki tazri’a – “when a woman produces seed” (Leviticus 12:2).

Renewal, as the farmers in times of old would consecrate the first sheaf of the spring harvest and would mark its pristine state through celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasting seven days.

Renewal, as the shepherds, marking the firstlings of the flock for the new year, would celebrate with a sacred feast of roasted lamb, precursor of the Paschal lamb festival.

Renewal, as our Israelite ancestors, downtrodden by backbreaking slavery under the whips of their Egyptian taskmasters, set out and marched eastward, across the marshes and into the wilderness, braving the unknown to become a people consecrated to God.

Renewal, as this same people crossed into the Promised Land and settled in it, founding a confederation of tribes that grew over the years into a thriving monarchy.

Renewal, as the young lovers in ancient Israel expressed their yearning for each other in counterpoint to the sprouting of the blossoms of the field and the sound of the turtle-dove in the land, composing the Song of Songs that we sing at this season.

Renewal, as the Jewish people returned from their First Exile and rebuilt the Temple, where they continued to celebrate their origin as a nation, each year in the springtime pilgrimage festival, with unleavened bread and Paschal lamb.

Renewal, as the people, exiled a second time, founded communities in Diaspora, maintained by prayer and study of Torah, memorializing the Temple service through the home Seder ceremony, and voicing hope that the ancient redemption might be a harbinger of the future redemption, restoring the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland.

Renewal, as in modern times the halutzim (pioneers) returned to the Land of Milk and Honey, remaking themselves into a people rooted on their land, and recasting their ancient ceremonies in new forms and melodies.

Renewal, as we, the latest generations of an ancient people, continue to draw on the forms and memories of our tradition and forge a new Jewish life in which the old spirit breathes anew.

For all these renewals, O God, we give thanks!


Rabbi Len Levin teaches Jewish philosophy at AJR.