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D'VAR TORAH The Mystery of Birth and Rebirth Naamah Kelman
This week’s portion Tazria falls in sync with the fourth of our five pre–Purim through pre–Passover special Shabbatot, when we include special readings for Torah and haftarah.1This week on Shabbat HaChodesh, the haftarah from Ezekiel prepares us for the important new month, the month when we celebrate our Exodus from Egypt. The reason that this week is a “double whammy” is because it also includes the particular Rosh Chodesh, “new month,” that is also the first month of the biblical calendar; it is the month associated with aviv, “spring,” which was later called Nisan. Later still in our history, this first month in the biblical calendar was replaced by the seventh month, Tishrei, when that became the “official” New Year in the Jewish calendar. According to the later Rabbinic traditions, Tishrei is the first month of the New Year and Nisan usually is the seventh month (and in leap years, it's the eighth month) (see Leviticus 23:4–44 and Numbers 28:1–29:39 for the biblical order of the holy days).
The welcoming of the new month is another recurring chorus in our lives. Our Jewish calendar revolves around a number of inner cycles. The original cycle is agricultural. The next interconnecting cycle includes historic events that move us from creation to redemption, destruction, and renewal. The month of the holiday of Passover sits on the agricultural foundation of spring, when the Land of Israel is most green, lush, and covered with radiant and colorful flowers. In addition, this first biblical month announces the birth of the nation of Israel: it is the month we became a nation. Twelve months a year, we get our chance to renew; and on this particular Shabbat, we have the “renewal of renewal.” In addition, the weeks leading up to Passover revolve around the inner cycle of the five special Sabbaths. Jewish time is a never-ending spiral of interconnecting events, phases, seasons, and stories.