Rav Yehuda Susman
Former Rosh Kollel in Chicago
Currently Rosh Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi


Chronology counts.

The two elements of this week’s Torah reading neatly bracket exactly one (perhaps the most important) year in the history of Bnei Yisrael, albeit in the inverse order. The maftir of Parshat HaChodesh details events that took place beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan – or in the parlance of the Torah, Chodesh HaRishon – the first month in the first year of the Exodus. While in the Parshat HaShavua – VaYakhel Pekudei – we will read how after the Torah delineates the construction of the Mishkan, it feels it important to inform us of the exact date of its dedication – Rosh Chodesh of Chodesh Rishon in the second year.

Simply noting this fact puts the events of Sefer Shmot in a new perspective. The bulk of the Sefer[1] – including Yetziat Mitzraim , all the Nisyonot leading to Sinai, Matan Torah, the Egel andthe Mishkan – culminates precisely one year after the first mitzvot –Kidush HaChodesh, Korban Pesach, Matzo and Maror – are commanded to Bnei Yisrael. When Yetziat Mitzraim ceases to be a promised future and converts to a reality. The choice of date for the Mishkan‘s dedication seems too symbolic to write off as coincidence,[2] but is there deeper significance to this concurrence?

Two interrelated thoughts come to mind. Ramban, in his introduction to Sefer Shmot, sees the entire Book as an ascendance ofBnei Yisrael – on a national level – to the spiritual heights attained by the Avot – on the personal level – in Sefer B’reishit. That spiritual zenith is only possible with the completion of the Mishkan and the permanent immanence of the Shekhina in their midst. It would therefore seem appropriate that the dedication of the Mishkan should correspond with the anniversary of the birth of Bnei Yisrael as a covenantal nation through the commanding and acceptance of the first communal Mitzvot.[3]

Perhaps of even greater significance, Parshat HaChodesh marks the transition of Bnei Yisrael from mere spectators in Yetziat Mitzrayim to active participants in their own redemption. Without the willingness of each family in Bnei Yisrael to take the lamb, to slaughterit and effectively turn their doorframes into mizbachot, there is no Geula. Similarly, Chazal, in several midrashim,[4]stress the importance of the human component in bringing the Shechina into the Mishkan, and by extension into Bnei Yisrael.This theme is neatly summed up by the Sefer Hasidim:[5]

…And Moshe blessed them that the Shechinashould rest (on them). Did Moshe have any real doubt? Had Hashem not said to him that ‘I will speak to you from on top of the Kaporet’? …Rather his blessing was that the Shechina should be revealed through your handiworks and no where else.From that point on He (Hashem) never spoke to him (Moshe) from Sinai – only in the Ohel Moed…

From Bnei Yisrael’s very founding – its Chodesh Rishon – we have been charged with the responsibility and mission to take an active role in both our redemption and in bringing divine revelation to the world. The chronology of this week’s Kriotreminds us that the challenge has not changed.


[1] In terms of time, the overwhelming majority of Sefer Shmot actually transpires in the first two chapters -briefly describing a period of at least 210 years.

[2] Indeed, according to Chazal(Tanchuma Pekudei siman 11), the actual work of the Mishkan was completed on the 25th of Kislev and was delayed to the 1st of Nisan, the anniversary of the birth of Yitzchak (see the following note).

[3] This may also explain the relevance of Yitzchak’s birth in this context. Yitzchak represents the permanent continuity of the Brit of Avraham (see Breishit 17:19), a theme mirrored first in Korban Pesach and then in the Shachanti B’Tocham of the Mishkan.

[4] See for example, Tanchuma Pekudei siman 11and Sifra Shmini parsha 1.

[5] Siman 546