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"This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you" (Shemos 12:2).
"Is this another special parasha, Abba?"
"Yes it is, Avi. It is the last of the four parshios - Parashas HaChodesh."
"Is it about this month?"
"What is so unique about this month of Nissan, that it receives a special parasha, Abba?"
"Ahhhh. The month of Nissan is a glorious month, Avi. The Yalkut Shemoni (Parashas Bo) states that we were redeemed [from Mitzrayim] in Nissan, and are destined to be redeemed [from the present golus] in Nissan. The Torah counts Nissan as the first month for the Jewish people, because Yetzias Mitzrayim occurred then, and because it is our 'birthday' as a nation. In fact, the Gemora (Shabbos 87b) relates that Rosh Chodesh Nissan was such a holy day, that it acquired ten crowns! The Avodah of the Mishkan, in all of its magnificent glory, began on that day. The princes of the twelve tribes began bringing their inaugural offerings on that day. So you see, Avi, Nissan is truly the first of the months. Such a unique month deserves a special announcement in the Beis HaKinesses."
"I am sure that Rav Zeidel Epstein zt"l adds more explanation to Parashas HaChodesh."
"Correct, Avi. He speaks about the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh (sanctifying the new month.) When Hashem gave this mitzvah to Klal Yisrael, he gave us tremendous koach (power). We control the holiness of the z'manim (appointed times.) For example, Beis Din can decide which day is Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Thirteen days later will be Erev Pesach. One who does not bring the Korbon Pesach on that day receives the punishment of kares (spiritual excommunication). One who eats chometz during the following seven days receives the same punishment. Who decided which day would bring the punishment of kares? We did! We hold the power of kedusha (holiness), which carries along with it spiritual life and death."
"Awesome." "Rav Epstein cites other examples to show how we control the forces of nature also. Therefore, he concludes that Hashem's empowerment of Klal Yisrael with this mitzvah shows His great love for us. He would only give such a great gift to a people whom He loves dearly."
"Abba, I feel so good! Hashem loves me! What can I give Him in exchange for that love?"
"You can follow His instructions. You can live your life as He wishes. You can live 'l'maan Shemo b'ahavah' - for the sake of His name, with love. This is our way of reciprocating Hashem's love for us."
Kinderlach . . .
Hashem loves us! He gave our ancestors a very big mitzvah that proves it - Kiddush HaChodesh. He put control of the kedusha of z'manim in their hands. Although we do not have this mitzvah today, we still have Hashem's love. It is every bit as strong as it was back then. We surely want to show Him that we appreciate that love, and want to return our love to Him. How? By learning His Torah and keeping His mitzvos. By living our lives for His sake. This is our final preparation for Pesach, kinderlach. When we live "l'maan Shemo b'ahavah," then we become kelim (vessels) which are ready to receive all of His blessings and goodness. We can gather all of great hisorerus (spiritual awakening) that Hashem showers upon us the night of the Pesach Seder. This is what we give, and this is what we get. For His Name with love.
What is the connection between the end of Parashas Shemini and the beginning of Parashas Tazriah? The Torah was not written haphazardly, chas v'shalom (G-d forbid); therefore, there must be a good reason for Tazriah to follow Shemini. The sefer MiMamakim devotes an entire chapter to this question. Parashas Shemini ends off with the simonei tumah (signs of impurity) in animals. Parashas Tazriah begins with the simonei tumah in humans. Rashi adds that just as man was created after animals, so too his laws were written after the laws of animals (Vayikra 12:2).
This answer leads us to a famous question. Man is the pinnacle of creation; therefore, he should have been created first, and not last. Why was the most important creation left for the end? The answer touches the very essence of the human being - his neshama (soul). The creation of his spiritual side preceded one of the most exalted spiritual creations - the Maase Merkava (Hashem's Holy Chariot)! This is an awesome thought. Man was created first and last. His soul the first, is from the highest spiritual worlds, and his body the last, is the lowest of physical creations. This leads to another question. We think of the human body as being wondrously complex. Why is it called the lowest of creations?
The Netziv, in his commentary on Shir HaShirim, sets down a very important principle. There are four types of creations: inanimate objects, plants, animals, and humans. Inanimate objects (minerals) are the least sophisticated form of creation. Plants have an advantage over minerals - they sprout and grow. However, if they are cut off from their source of life, they will decay and become even less useful than minerals. Animals have an even greater advantage - they are alive. However, when they lose their life, they become even more rotten and useless then dead plants. Humans have the highest quality - they speak. This gift of speech, and the thought behind it, allows them to reach the highest heights. Unfortunately, when people disregard their humanity by misusing their gift of speech, they abandon any advantage that they have over animals. Therefore, they revert to nothing more than their body. When the human body loses its source of life, it is the most useless thing in the universe. Worse than this, improper speech can cause massive destruction, more than any animal, vegetable, or mineral.
This concept is reflected in the laws of tumah of animals and people. Live animals do not become tomei at all. Even when they die, their tumah is very weak, lasting just until the end of the day. Contrast this with the tumah of human beings listed in Parashas Tazriah. People can become tomei even while they are alive. The tumah of metzorah can last for weeks or months! We learn from this that a person is composed of two extremes: body and spirit. The choice is his, which side to strengthen. If he lives for his neshama, using his thoughts and speech to serve Hashem, then he will become the highest of all creations. On the other hand, if he lives for his body, chas v'shalom, he will sink to the lowest of the low.
Kinderlach . . .
Do you want to be first or last? Do you want to be on the top or the bottom? The choice is yours. If you use your most precious gifts, thought and speech, to learn Torah, do mitzvos, and come close to Hashem; you will be on top of the world. You can reach a madrayga (spiritual level) that is beyond even the Heavenly Angels. You live for your neshama, which was created first. Therefore, you will be counted among the first ones. One who does the opposite, chas v'shalom, and misuses his gift of speech, drags himself down to the bottom. He is last, created after the lowest plants, animals, and rocks. Where do you want to end up? On top, B'ezras Hashem.
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