Author Topic: The First Mitzva  (Read 1707 times)

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The First Mitzva
« on: December 25, 2006, 04:08:23 AM »
The First Mitzva
By Moshe Lerman

According to our Sages, the first Mitzva given to the People of Israel is found in Parashat Bo: "This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year." (Shemot 12:2) 
 
As Rashi explains at this verse, it alludes to two aspects of the Jewish calendar: The appearance of the new Moon is the start of a new month, and Nissan - the month of Pesach - is the first month of the year. It is the task of the Sanhedrin to announce the start of every new month and to announce the start of a new year.
 
After the Jewish population of the Land of Israel had dwindled, the Sanhedrin stopped functioning about 1650 years ago. Since that time we have a fixed calendar based on a cyclic pattern of 19 years, in which years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19 are leap years that have thirteen lunar months instead of twelve. 
 
The average Jewish holiday is now a little more than a week later than it was 1650 years ago, due to a very small inaccuracy of the fixed calendar. For example, before last century, Pesach was solely in March or April. However, in recent decennia it has happened that the seventh day of Pesach was on May 1. And three centuries from now, the first three days of May will at times be Pesach. 
 
It is possible to undo the historical shift of our holidays by changing the formula for the leap years. A simple calculation based on the precise cycle times of the Moon around the Earth and the Earth around the Sun shows that if years 1, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 17 would be leap years, the average Jewish holiday would be very close to what was 1650 years ago. The years 6 and 17 are leap years in both the old and the new pattern and would therefore be the natural times to switch over.
 
It is tempting to say that a renewed performance of the first Mitzva given to the Nation could be the first task of our new Sanhedrin. However, the Sanhedrin cannot use its power in this way without first founding itself. Indeed, such seems to the hidden meaning of the prophetic words of Rabbi Yitzchak, cited by Rashi in his first comment to the Torah:
 
"Rabbi Yitzchak said: the Torah could have started with "This month shall be for you", because it was the first Mitzva which Israel was commanded. What is the reason that it began with Bereshit? Because "He declared the power of His deeds to His people, to give them an inheritance of nations (Psalm 111)." Thus, if the nations of the world will say: "You are bandits, because you conquered the lands of the seven nations," Israel will say to them: "The whole Earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed is He. He created the Land and He gave it to who was proper in his eyes. It was His wish to give it to them, and it was His wish to take it from them and to give it to us."
 
In my humble opinion, the proper foundation of the Sanhedrin presents itself in reality. The world, including the Israeli government, is saying we are bandits. It is incumbent upon the People of Israel to give them the correct answer. Here, I suggest, is the first Mitzva for the new Sanhedrin. It must announce Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel.