Thursday, January 6, 2011
Rosh Chodesh Shevat
Today is Rosh Chodesh Shevat - the first day of the month. There is a lot to learn from the fact that every month we celebrate Rosh Chodesh. It is a message to all of us that there is always a chance for renewal. No matter what happened last month, this month is starting anew and you can start again.
The phases of the moon give us this message. The moon starts out very small and then gets bigger and bigger towards the middle of the month and then it gets small again. This is the story of the Jewish People. We started out small, then at some points in our history we got bigger, expanded, were successful and then again we got small. We experienced pain, persecution, embarrassment as a Nation but there was always a chance for us to shine. No matter how many times we were hurt in our history, we were never and will never be fully annihilated. Just like the moon, which at times is so small you can barely see it, but yet it's always there and will always shine, the Jewish Nation will always survive, even if it seems like they are almost extinct. Hashem promised us that we will endure forever.
And each person can take this message to heart - just like the moon expands and grows, even when it seems like it's so tiny and has no chance, every person has a chance to grow and change, even if it seems like there is no hope.
This month specifically, the month of Shevat has special significance to a person's growth. It is the month that is Rosh Hashana L'ilanos - the Rosh Hashana for the trees. It is the month where Hashem decides how the trees will grow and blossom. Some people have a custom to daven for a good esrog (for the following Succos)now for this reason.
Ki Ha'adam Eitz Hasadeh - a person is compared to a tree. There are many explanations for this comparison. One way to explain it is that just like a tree needs water to thrive and grow, a person needs Torah, which is compared to water, to be able to grow spiritually.
Torah is compared to water for a few reasons. Firstly, just as water is cleansing, the words of the Torah are purifying. Also, water is something anybody can drink and appreciate. It's not like wine where you have a certain status or class and that is how you can come to really enjoy that drink. It's the same with Torah - anybody can learn it and a person should never think, "I'm too little to learn this." A person should never be embarrassed to learn from someone else. Everybody has what to learn and share when it comes to Torah!
Just like water quenches the thirst of a person and leaves them feeling refreshed and energized, when one learns Torah or hears an inspiring thought, they feel like their thirst has been quenched! They feel refreshed, they feel energized! Torah has the power to give a person a new and exciting feeling about whatever they have just heard!
Torah is our lifeline - without it we would not be able to survive. It is the Torah that has kept us alive throughout the generations. By holding on strong to the Torah and keeping the mitzvos, we were able to continue to exist no matter what we went through.
Logically and statistically, it doesn't make sense that the Jewish Nation is still around. So many people have tried to destroy us yet they were never successful. How can that be? It is because Hashem promised to us that He will never let us be totally wiped out. And since we held on strong to the Torah and mitzvos even in the hardest times, we are still around to tell our story.
There's a famous quote from Mark Twain about the Jews and he questions: what is their secret?!
The Torah is our secret!
A gutten chodesh! May this month be one of spiritual growth and may you appreciate the Torah as the greatest gift Hashem has given us!