Haftarah Parshat Terumah
Shabbat Rosh Hodesh
February 5, 2011
1 Adar I, 5771
Parshat Terumah – Shabbat Rosh Hodesh (Isaiah 66:1-24)
The names we use now for the months of the Jewish calendar were adopted from the Babylonians during the exile which followed the destruction of the First Temple. In the Torah, the names of the months were numerical, each of the months numbered in relation to the first month (Nisan), the month in which we celebrate the redemption from Egypt (Pesah). Adar is the last of the months of the year according to this reckoning. This year, being a leap year, has two Adars, since the Jewish calendar adjusts itself so that Pesah will be a spring festival, by, on occasion, adding a month. While this process, in fact, makes the year thirteen months long, both Adars are considered the twelfth month.
When the Temple existed, Rosh Hodesh was marked with a special sacrificial offering in the Temple: \”That shall be the monthly (hodesh b\’hodsho) burnt offering for each month of the year\” (Numbers 28:14) The special haftarah, which we read on Shabbat when it coincides with Rosh Hodesh, marks both Rosh Hodesh and Shabbat as special days of pilgrimage to the Temple in the idyllic future: \”And new moon after new moon (midei hodesh b\’hodsho), and Sabbath after Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship Me, said the Lord.\” (Isaiah 66:23)
Both of these verses use the phrase \”hodesh b\’hodsho\” to indicate that the observance of Rosh Hodesh will take place on a regular basis – \”month in and month out\”. Rabbi Zadok Hakohen from Lublin (19th-20th century) made special note of the doubling of the word \”hodesh\” in the phrase. Since the word \”hodesh\” is derived from the word \”hadash\” which means \”new\”, he marks Rosh Hodesh as a special time \”l\’hadesh\” – to innovate or create new insights into Torah and \”l\’hithadesh\” – to renew ourselves as we enter this new period of time.
This renewal, he further asserts, explains why the months were given different names. He claims that these names were given as a new inspiration when the Temple was destroyed. This new innovation, he symbolically associated with the Torah she\’Baal Peh, the Oral Torah. Adar is a month traditionally associated with Moses whose birthday and yartzeit fall on the 7th of Adar. This makes Adar a terrific month to associate with the study of the Torah both written and oral. It is a good time to dedicate oneself to Torah study and to institutions like the Conservative Yeshiva which embody the spirit and love of Torah to which we aspire.