Rabbi Yakov Haber
Rabbi Yakov Haber

Renewal and Enthusiasm

This week we conclude the series of the Arba Parshiyot, the four special Torah readings for maftir and the accompanying haftorot. Parshat HaChodesh begins with the commandment to sanctify the new moon via a Beit Din. It then continues to discuss the commandment of the Pesach Mitzrayim, the unique Paschal offering brought in Egypt. The Haftorah, taken from Yechezkel, describes the korbanot to be brought during the initiation period - Chanukat HaBayit - of the third Beit HaMikdash (see Abarbanel and Malbim to Yechezkel 45:18).

On a simple plane, the connection between the Maftir and the Haftorah is straightforward. Parshat HaChodesh highlights the first redemption from Egypt; the Haftorah addresses the final redemption. Perhaps we can find additional links.

Hashem commands Yechezkel concerning the third Temple: "whoever enters by the northern gate to bow shall exit via the southern gate… he shall not return via the gate through which he entered; rather, he shall exit opposite it" (46:9). The Talmud (Megilla 29a) derives from here that one who enters a Beit Knesset to pray is permitted to then exit from the opposite door even though this quickens his journey. This does not violate the general prohibition against using a synagogue as a kapandarya, a shortcut. Rabbeinu Nissim indicates that this is even a mitzva as doing so endears the Beit Knesset to the person (see glosses of Gr"a on the Gemara). Many explain that by using opposite entrances, a person never becomes used to the synagogue and feels a greater sense of newness. It is noteworthy that this message is taught specifically with respect to the Third Temple. One would have thought that the spiritual splendor of the Divine Presence, the saintly kohanim busy with their ‘avoda, and the moving music and songs of the l'viyim, coupled with the sheer majesty of the magnificent edifice would be sufficient to assure a constant sense of inspiration. There should be no need to exit through a different entrance to be continually inspired. What emerges, then, is that, yes, even visiting the Resting Place of the Shechina in this world can become habitual and lose its special appeal unless care is taken to avoid this pitfall. As Rabbeinu Yona notes (Avos 3:1) constant repetition leads to forgetting the significance of important matters. [There he applies it to sin; the same can be applied to acts of Divine service.]

The requirement to renew and refresh our devotion to G-d and to take active steps to bring this about is clear. Prayer can be enhanced and refreshed by constantly adding in additional requests appropriate for that time's personal or communal needs. Studying the meaning of the tefilot through the hundreds of s'farim available on the topic injects enormous newness into the prayer experience. Shabbos and Yom Tov meals can be enhanced by adding additional z'mirot, new stories, new Divrei Torah or untried delicacies. Torah study by its very nature encourages chiddush, constantly extracting new insights from the same text, no matter how many times it is studied. Learning about the mitzvot, both their halachot and proposed ta'amei ha-mitzvot infuses additional enthusiasm into their performance. More generally, studying Torah constantly both hashkafa and halacha elevates and heightens a person's understanding of the great gift of Torah and its mitzvot and hence injects greater energy into the performance of the commandments. The very reading of the Arba Parshiyot adds "newness" to the "regular" Torah reading. Rashi (D'varim 26:16; 27:8) quotes our Sages' interpretation of several passages in the Torah as indicating that we should view the commandments with the same excitement and fervor as on the day they were first commanded. Each person has the ability to discover new methods to assure that his service of Hashem remains constantly infused with enthusiasm and energy.

This same message is alluded to in the Maftir. The first mitzva given to the Jewish people as a whole is that of sanctifying the new month based on the lunar cycle. Many commentaries compare the waxing and waning of the moon to the ability of K'lal Yisrael to constantly renew itself - both in terms of rising after falling and also injecting higher and higher levels of enthusiasm into Divine service. Rav Y. D. Soloveitchik interpreted the passage (Hoshei'a 11:1) "na'ar Yisrael v'o'havaihu" - "Israel is as a lad, and therefore I love him" as also praising this quality of the Jewish people to consistently inject wonder and energy - as a child would - into Divine service. May Hashem constantly assist us not only in serving Him according to His Will but doing so wholeheartedly with a constant sense of renewal.[1]

[1] Also see Chanukah: A Time of Renewal by Mori V'Rabi Rav Mayer Twersky shlita for additional treatment of themes mentioned in this article.

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