By Rabbi Shawn Zell
Although not intended as such, it is extremely timely that Shabbat HaChodesh, one of the four special Sabbaths that ultimately segue into Pesach, coincides with adjusting our timepieces to be in sync with a century-old governmental mandate that provides us with an hour of additional sunlight during the day for the greater part of the year. Shabbat HaChodesh is all about time. In addition to the Torah (Exodus 12:1- 20) telling our soon-to-be liberated ancestors that it is time for a new start, the Torah instructs us that it is time for us to reset our focus on life as well.
It is time to focus on goals, rather than quotas. Quotas are imposed by outside forces. Quotas are short-term only to be replaced by other quotas. Goals come from within. Goals are long-term. That is why it is quite common as well as acceptable to speak of and discuss one’s goal in life.
Existing as slaves under Pharaoh, our ancestors knew only of quotas. Each day they knew that they had to fulfill a designated number of bricks and mortar set by their taskmasters. Each day they knew that if they failed to meet that quota, there would be dire consequences. Consequently, they had little time, if any, to think of anything else. “The time has come!” announced Amram’s younger son, Moses. “I’m here to take you out of this place of pyramids. For me to be successful in my G-d given task, I need you to reset your thinking. I need you to put quotas out of your mind. The time has come to begin thinking about goals. The time has arrived to embark upon a spiritual journey; the time has arrived for us to embark upon a physical journey that will bring us to a promised land filled with promises”.
It is a time to focus on stones, rather than bricks. Bricks are fabricated and manufactured. Bricks are made either from clay or cement. Stones are products of the Creator of the Universe. Stones are heaven-sent. When it comes to being immutable, words are etched in stone, not brick. As an enslaved nation forced to produce bricks for the building of pyramids, stones got in the way. As a liberated nation led by Moses, stones were the way. The time had come for the Children of Israel to set their sights on stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments that Moses carried down from Mt. Sinai. These were followed by 12 stones designated to be worn on the garment of the Kohen Gadol. Last, but not least, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was constructed on Even HaShtiyah or the Foundation Stone. And even though, no one can lay claim to having seen the Foundation Stone, innumerable worshippers, visitors, and tourist set their sites at the Kotel. As they take in those stones that transcend time, hopefully, they are able to realize, that just as there are people with hearts of stone, so too are their stones with hearts of flesh and blood.
It is a time to focus on the King of Kings rather than the King of Egypt. Pharoah was fallible and flawed. Pharaoh was imperfect and mortal. G-d, the King of Kings is infallible and flawless. G-d is perfect and immortal. Despite his self-perception, Pharaoh was no match for G-d. In time, Pharaoh realized this. He asked that Moses and Aaron take a select group to offer sacrifices to G-d and while doing so put in a good word for him as well. The Children of Israel did not have an easy time focusing on G-d. Time after time, they stumbled; time after time they found it so exceedingly difficult to set their sights on a G-d who sees all, but who cannot be seen. Seeing the great miracles both at the Sea of Reeds as well as in the wilderness could not convince them that it was now time to cultivate a most unique relationship between G-d and His chosen nation. It was time for the Children of Israel to recognize that even monarchs of empires have a specified time here on earth. G-d’s existence however is timeless.
Time after time, the government asks us to participate in a charade of adjusting our timepieces. Time after time, the Children of Israel were reminded how the time had come for our ancestors to concentrate on setting goals rather than meeting quotas, to focus on stone rather than brick, and to set their sights on the King of Kings rather than the King of Egypt. Unlike adjusting our timepieces, these three lessons will most assuredly remain with our people for all times.