The Timeless Tale of Freedom

April 5, 2024

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus

As the Hebrew month of Nisan quickly approaches, we are busy preparing our hearts and homes for the holiday of Passover. As part of this preparation, we read a special Torah reading in the synagogue on the Sabbath before the month of Nisan begins. 

This portion, known as Parshat Hachodesh (Exodus 12:1–20), recalls the command to sanctify the new moon and to prepare for the paschal sacrifice. It serves as a reminder that Passover is on the horizon, urging us to commence our preparations.

The commandment to sanctify the new moon holds the distinction of being the first command given to our ancestors, even as they were still ensnared in Egyptian bondage. This begs the question: Of all the 613 Torah commandments, why was this particular commandment chosen as the inaugural one for the emerging Jewish nation?

Rabbi Obadiah Seforno (Italy, 1470-1549) offers a profound insight into this question. He suggests that the essence of freedom lies in mastery over one’s time. Under the yoke of slavery, the Israelites were stripped of this control, their days dictated by the whims of their taskmasters. The command to sanctify the new moon represented a seismic shift from bondage to liberation, proclaiming, “Henceforth, your times is yours to do with as you wish. In the days of enslavement, your days were not your own but belonged to the service and will of others. Now, the way you choose to use your time is up to you.”

This commandment to sanctify the new moon is not merely about marking the passage of time but about reclaiming it. It was a declaration of autonomy and it symbolized the newfound ability to infuse holiness into the very fabric of time, transforming ordinary moments into opportunities for spiritual growth and connection with the Divine.

The responsibility of controlling and sanctifying time is a challenging task. It calls upon us to not only count days but to make our days count, to see time as a sacred gift that must be utilized wisely and purposefully. This is especially pertinent as we approach Passover, a festival deeply intertwined with the concepts of time, memory, and freedom. It is a time to reflect on our personal and collective journeys and to consider how we are using our God-given freedom to make choices that elevate ourselves and those around us.

As Theophrastus so wisely observed, time is indeed our most valuable possession. Freedom is not merely the absence of physical bondage but the presence of spiritual and temporal autonomy. As we read Parshat Hachodesh, let us celebrate our freedom, not just by recounting the miracles of the past but by living purposefully in the present, shaping a future filled with light, holiness, and hope. Let us recognize the power we hold over our time and choose to fill it with meaning, mitzvot, and acts of kindness. As we prepare our homes for Passover, let us also prepare our hearts, using our freedom to forge a path of sanctity, not just for ourselves but for the entire world.

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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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