This year, as in many other years, the Torah portion Shemini is read on the Shabbos that precedes Rosh Chodesh Nissan. There is yet another connection between this Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh Nissan, for this Shabbos is also “Parshas HaChodesh,” the Shabbos when we read the passage of “HaChodesh, the section that deals with Rosh Chodesh Nissanand the festival of Pesach.

Since all festivals are related to the Torah portion during which they are read,1 there must be a connection between Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Parshas HaChodesh, and the portion of Shemini. What is that connection?

The most obvious association is that the opening section of Shemini: “It was on the eighth day [of the Sanctuary’s consecration],”2 took place on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. However, since Rosh Chodesh Nissan is not specifically mentioned in the portion, it is more logical to assume that the primary connection between Shemini and Rosh Chodesh Nissan/Parshas HaChodesh is a result of it being the eighth day of the Mishkan’s consecration. What is this association?

When Parshas HaChodesh is read on the same Shabbos as the portion of Shemini, the section of the Red Heifer, Parshas Parah, is read on the preceding Shabbos of Tzav, the portion that speaks of the “seven days of consecration” of the Mishkan.

Parshas Parah precedes HaChodesh for it involves the preparatory “purification of all Israel” before they could bring the Paschal offering described in Parshas HaChodesh.3 So, too, the “seven days of consecration” in Parshas Tzav set the stage for the eighth day of Shemini. We may thus say that the superiority of Parshas HaChodesh over Parshas Parah is similar to the superiority of the “eighth day” over the first “seven days of consecration.” Wherein lies the similarity in superiority?

Our Sages say,4 “Ten crowns were bestowed on that day (the ‘eighth day of consecration’).” Tosafos asks:5 “[Why is it termed the ‘eighth day’ and] it is not called the ‘first day of the erection of the Mishkan’?” Tosafos responds: “Because the Midrash states that during the entire “seven days of consecration,” Moshe would erect the Mishkan and then take it apart. Another answer: Because we are already referring here to the erection of the Mishkan, and this is what is being said: ‘That day, [emphasizing specifically the eighth] when the Mishkan was erected, was bestowed with ten crowns.’”

The difference between these answers is the following. The “eighth day” possessed a qualitative superiority, for only then was the Mishkan erected in a permanent fashion; on the previous days it was taken apart at the end of each day.

Moreover, that day saw the indwelling of the Divine Presence within the Mishkan, which did not occur during the first seven days. On the other hand, the erection of the Mishkan during the first seven days possessed a quantitative superiority, as the Mishkan was then erected (at least)6 daily.7

The relationship between the first seven days of consecration described in Tzav and the eighth day (described in Shemini) with Parshas Parah and Parshas HaChodesh will be understood accordingly:

Our Rabbis note:8 “By right, Parshas HaChodesh should precede Parshas Parah, since the Mishkan was erected on the first of Nissan and the parah was burned on the second. Why, then, is Parah first? Because it pertains to the purification of all Israel.” Since the aspect of Parshas HaChodesh comes only after Parshas Parah,how did the erection of the Mishkan — the aspect of Parshas HaChodesh — precede the burning of the Parah?

In terms of our spiritual service, the difference between Pesach — the main aspect of Parshas HaChodesh — and the service of Parshas Parah, is that Pesachsymbolizes our birth as a nation, and like newborns who are free from sin, this represents the spiritual service of the righteous. However, the Red Heifer, Parah Adumah, which brought about atonement for the Golden Calf,9 is symbolic of the spiritual service of the penitent.10

Each of the above possesses its own distinct quality. The superior quality of the righteous is in drawing down spiritual illumination from above, while the superior quality of the penitent is in his service emanating from below.

Thus, with regard to these services within the framework of time, the service of the righteous, Parshas HaChodesh, precedes Parshas Parah, the service of the penitent, a service that becomes necessary only if and after the person actually succumbs to sin.

Consequently, the difference between Parshas Parah and Parshas HaChodesh is similar to the difference between the “seven days of consecration” and the “eighth day”:

Just as the first seven days of consecration possessed a quantitative superiority and the eighth day possessed a qualitative superiority, so, too, Parshas Parah, with its aspect of refining and elevating that which is below, symbolizes quantitative superiority, while Parshas HaChodesh, with its aspect of drawing down a spiritually superior illumination from above, is symbolic of a qualitative superiority.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, pp. 57-62.