Parshat Hachodesh: the New Moon and the Passover Offering

Mar 31, 2022

הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה׃

This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.

ha-KHO-desh ha-ZEH la-KHEM ROSH kho-da-SHEEM ri-SHON HU la-KHEM l'-khod-SHAY ha-sha-NAH

Exodus 12:2

On the Shabbat that falls out on or before the first day of the month of Nissan, a section of the Torah is read in addition to the regular Torah reading. This Torah reading is called Parshat HaChodesh (Exodus 12:1–20), and relates what God told Moses in Egypt two weeks before the Exodus. 

The Jewish people are to set the Jewish calendar by witnesses viewing the monthly new moonIn Parshat HaChodesh, God declares that Nissan id to be the first month of the year. The Israel Bible explains:

Rosh Chodesh (ראש חודש), literally ‘head of the month,’ is celebrated when the first sliver of the new moon appears. In this verse, Hashem declares that the Hebrew month of Nissan is to be considered the first month in the Jewish calendar. It was in the month of Nissan that the Children of Israel were redeemed from Egypt and became a nation, and therefore God refers to this month as “the beginning of the months.” Even though the Jewish year begins with the Hebrew month of Tishrei (when Rosh Hashana is celebrated), the months are numbered starting with the month of redemption. According to the Sages, just as Israel was originally redeemed during Nissan, so too, Nissan will also be the month in which our final redemption occurs.

In this Torah reading, God also commands the Jews to bring the Passover offering.

Kohanim blowing silver trumpets in a reenactment of a Temple service. (Photo: The Temple Institute)

The meat was roasted and eaten with matzah (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs. This first Passover meal served as the template for the Passover seders that are celebrated yearly to this day, but with some significant differences. The original Passover involved each family taking a lamb into their home on the tenth of the month in order to slaughter it at midnight on the fourteenth. The blood was sprinkled on the doorposts and, as the Jews were celebrating inside their homes, the Angel of Death wandered the streets of Egypt but “passed over” every house with blood on the door.

Sprinkling blood on the doorposts (Shutterstock.com)

The Passover seder which took place in Egypt on the eve of the Exodus was observed while the people prepared to leave on their desert journey:

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly: it is a Pesach offering to Hashem. Exodus 12:11

Jewish family eating Matzah at the Passover Seder (Shutterstosck)

Jewish family eating Matzah at the Passover Seder

The focus of Parshat HaChodesh is emphasized by the haftarah (the corresponding reading from the Prophets) which is taken from Ezekiel 45:1846:15. It relates Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding the third Holy Temple—its structure, inauguration and some of the practices that will be observed therein. It also relates the prophecy of the Passover sacrifice that will be brought in the Third Temple during the Messianic Era.

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