We have grown accustomed to the security and reliability of a Jewish calendar. Months in advance we turn its pages to ascertain the days of the week on which Yom Tov will fall. Life without a calendar seems almost inconceivable.
However, as Harav Samson Raphael Hirsch, zt”l, points out, “It is no sign of progress but a lamentable drawback that Israel in its dispersion is without Kiddush [Hachodesh] al pi re’iyah.”
How glorious were the days when the teachings of Chazal on the verse “Hachodesh hazeh lachem — This month shall be for you [the beginning of the months]” — were actually practiced! Rashi explains that this passuk not only instructs us that Nisan must be the first month, but also implies that the Ribbono shel Olam taught Moshe Rabbeinu the complex halachos of the consecration of the New Moon.
It also teaches us a crucial lesson about us as a people, as well as individuals.
The brachah we recite during Kiddush Levanah says: “To the moon He said that it should renew itself as a crown of splendor for those borne [by Him]… those who are destined to renew themselves like it, and glorify their Molder…”
In the middle of each month, the moon is round and full. Then it begins to wane, getting smaller and smaller until, by the end of the month, it seems to disappear. But the disappearance is followed by renewal: first just a sliver of light, the moon grows and grows until it is once again full.
As a people, we have seen periods of great glory, when all the nations perceived the eternal bond between Hashem and His beloved children. For more than 1900 years now we have found ourselves in various periods of darkness, as we eagerly await the spiritual heights we merited when the eyes of all of Klal Yisrael searched the heavens for a sign of the new moon.
As individuals, this week we are reminded of the limitless power of renewal that lies within every Jewish soul. No matter how far we have fallen in our relationship with Hashem, we can always start anew. No matter how many mistakes we have made in our personal lives, including in our relationships with family members, co-workers or neighbors, we can always seek ways to start afresh.
All it takes is a tearful tefillah to Hashem, and a sincere commitment to rid our hearts of the tangled cobwebs of the past.