1. Parshas HaChodesh as all aspects of Torah and Mitzvos can be explained from four different perspectives: Pshat (the simple meaning), Remez (allusion), Drush (homily), Sod (the mystic dimension). It is proper to begin the explanation of a concept by first understanding its’ Pshat.1 The central aspects of Parshas HaChodesh are the description of the Mitzvah of declaring a new month and the Pesach sacrifice. Therefore, on the last of the “Four Parshas,” on the Shabbos which begins the week in which Rosh Chodesh Nissan falls,2 Parshas HaChodesh is read.

The description of the Mitzvah of declaring a new month centers on the “birth of the new moon.” A moment before its’ “birth,” the moon was totally concealed and hidden. Afterwards, the moon begins to radiate anew. From a deeper perspective, we can understand that the birth of the new moon alludes to the revelation of a new light after a period of concealment and hiddenness.

Similarly, the spiritual service of the Jewish people is related to the changing phases of the moon, as our sages declared, “Israel is like the moon.” Just as the new moon represents a revelation that appears after a period of concealment, likewise, Rosh Chodesh represents a new (and hereto unattained) level in the service of the Jew. Even though the preceding month, was entirely devoted to the service of G‑d, on Rosh Chodesh, however, it is necessary to proceed to an even higher level, as our sages declared, “always ascend in matters of holiness.” This higher level, will in turn eclipse the achievements of the previous month to the point where they appear as “concealment and hiddenness,” without even a ray of light. In the new month, one must begin an entirely new phase of service which totally transcends that of the previous month.

This concept is further emphasized by the different phases that the moon passes through, throughout the month. In general, they can be divided into two periods: the first half of the month during which the moon grows and the second half during which it gradually diminishes. Both phases, the first half and (even) the second half of the month, conform to the principle “always ascend in matters of holiness.” — Even though, there is less light (G‑dliness and Yiddishkeit) revealed within the world during the second phase, within the service of each individual there is light and G‑dliness. — Nevertheless, despite his every-increasing service during the previous month, on Rosh Chodesh, a Jew must reach a level that transcends his previous service entirely.

This concept is particularly emphasized in the transition between the months of Adar and Nissan. Adar is a month of success for the Jewish people. Therefore, the Talmud explains that if a Jew is involved in a legal proceeding with a non-Jew, he should try to have the judgment of their case held in Adar. This concept applies to our battle with the “non-Jew” within ourselves as well; it is easier to be successful in the month of Adar. Furthermore, Adar is described as “the month which was transformed for them.” In Adar, all the negative aspects are “transformed” into good.3 Nevertheless, despite all these qualities, the month of Nissan must bring us to a still higher level of service, a level that totally transcends above all past heights.4

This principle is reflected in a story of the Talmud. The Talmud (B. Metzia 85a) relates that “when R. Zeira emigrated to Israel, he underwent 100 fasts so that he could forget the Talmud Bavli,” and thus be able to understand the Talmud Yerushalmi more easily. On the surface, however, the question arises, how was R. Zeira permitted to forget his studies? There is a specific Torah command “Be careful and guard yourself very much, lest you forget.” We are prohibited to forget any aspect of Torah.5 Yet, R. Zeira, who was one of the greatest sages of Babylon, not only wanted to forget the Talmud Bavli that he had learned, but he even made a special effort to do so.6 Furthermore, he could not be sure that he would succeed in reaching a higher level of study in the Talmud Yerushalmi than in the Talmud Bavli and nevertheless, he was willing to take such a radical step.

The above can be understood in terms of the Alter Rebbe’s interpretation of the verse “A Tzaddik will fall seven times and rise.” He explains that before the Tzaddik reaches the higher level, he has “fallen” from his first level. However, this level is “called a fall only in comparison to his first level and not in comparison to other men.” Similarly, in the case of R. Zeira, since he wanted to reach a new height, he had to pass through an intermediate stage, a level of a fall. Therefore, he fasted which prevented him from fully studying Torah and even caused him to forget. However, his fall and forgetting cannot be understood in a simple sense. On his level, it was considered a fall and forgetting, but other people would not view it as such.7

A similar process takes place in the transition from one month to another. Since in the new month, we must rise to a level of service totally above that of the previous month, it is necessary to have a state of nullification in between. Just as before the new moon, the moon does not shine at all,8 similarly, in order for an individual to rise to a new height he must first experience a state of concealment. However, this state of concealment allows us to reach further heights to the point where this level totally eclipses all previous achievements.9

The above applies to the service of Rosh Chodesh in every month but is particularly appropriate in regard to the month of Nissan. Nissan is the month of redemption. The month in which our service is one of “leaping,” i.e. taking a radical step forward. Walking also involves progress, but a connection to one’s previous level remains. Leaping, however, involves a total break with one’s previous position. The fulfillment of the above service on Rosh Chodesh Nissan gives the potential to carry out a similar service each Rosh Chodesh and begin a new and higher phase of service regardless of our achievements in the previous month.

The second aspect described in the reading of HaChodesh is the Pesach sacrifice.10 The Pesach sacrifice also emphasizes the idea of leaping. The very name Pesach means to leap or to jump. When bringing a sacrifice it was necessary to view whatever happened to the sacrifice as happening to oneself. Thus, undergoing the personal service involved in the Pesach sacrifice brought one to a leap, a radical advance in the service of Torah and Mitzvos.

From the above, we can appreciate a lesson from Parshas HaChodesh that is applicable throughout the year. Though the four special Torah readings are read only once a year, they are relevant at all times. The reading of Shekalim is related to the sacrificial offerings brought everyday of the year, the reading of Zachor is tied to the remembrance (of Amalek) on each day of the year, and the reading of Parah relates to Teshuvah which is constantly relevant. Similarly, from HaChodesh we learn the need for radical advances.

This leads to a simple lesson: It’s possible for a person to argue that he fulfills Torah and Mitzvos as they should be. Furthermore, he may consider himself to be a Talmid Chochom.11 Therefore, it is possible for him to think that he need not make any radical changes, he may proceed gradually step by step. Parshas HaChodesh teaches him that each day our service must be viewed as a new thing. Today we must proceed further in a manner where we rise to a level totally above our service of yesterday.

Subsequently, when it comes to Mivtza Pesach and the other Mivtzoim we must involve ourselves totally.12 This in turn will cause G‑d to hasten the true and complete redemption, when “as in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders” with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

2. The above applies to Parshas HaChodesh every year. However, each year we can learn unique lessons from the day with which Parshas HaChodesh coincides. Those lessons can be derived from a) the weekly Torah portion read with Parshas HaChodesh b) the day of the month on which Parshas HaChodesh falls.

This year Parshas HaChodesh is read on Shabbos Vayakhel Pekudei.13 On the surface, these two Parshiyos represent two totally different concepts. Vayakhel means to gather together. Furthermore, it has a unique and specific connotation. Generally in similar instances, the Torah would use the word ‘Vayosef’ or ‘Vayikabetz.’ In most instances, the word ‘Vayakhel’ is connected with undesirable occasions; only twice throughout the Tanach, in the present instance and in the description of King Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, was it used in a positive context. The other terms connote a collection of separate entities. Vayakhel denotes a fusion of individual beings into one community.14

In contrast, Pekudei means “a counting,” i.e. the consideration of each person as an individual. Rather, than look at each person as part of a whole, it emphasizes each individual’s personal identity. Hence, the two Parshas appear to be contradictory — Vayakhel stresses unity. Pekudei individuality.15 Nevertheless, this week they are read as one Parshah, fused together into a single entity.

(In the personal sense) both the service of Vayakhel and Pekudei are inspired by Moshe Rabbeinu (and in the individual sense, by the spark of Moshe which we possess in our souls). How was Moshe able to gather together the entire Jewish people and fuse them into one single entity? Moshe’s level was complete self-nullification, as evident from his statement “what are we.” [Trans. note: Particularly according to Chassidus this expression emphasizes the quality of self-nullification. The Hebrew word for ‘what’ — Mah — refers to the ultimate level of self-transcendence.) Because there is a spark of Moshe in every Jew, each Jew possesses the ability for self-transcendence and hence can unite together with the entire Jewish people as a single entity. The “heads of the tribes” come together with “the choppers of wood and drawers of water” as one, “before the L‑rd, your G‑d.”

On the other hand, Pekudei emphasizes the dearness and importance of each Jew in his own right. This quality is also brought out by Moshe. For it is Moshe who can understand each Jew’s individual importance. Thus Pekudei brings out the statement of the Mishnah “Each person is obligated to say ‘the world was created for me’.” (The Rambam, in his introduction to Mishnayos, writes that other men were created to serve a Talmid Chochom — a tailor, a farmer, etc. — and to provide for his needs; thus enabling the sage to study. The Mishnah goes even further than that. It states that every individual, not only a Talmid Chochom, should say “the world was created for me.”)

A similar concept is expressed in prayer “and grant us our portion in Your Torah.” Each individual has a specific “letter” (aspect) of the Torah that is relevant to him. He has the power to bring out unique innovations in Torah. Surely the innovation must be based on the general principles and elements that are present in Torah, however, there is a particular “place where one’s fathers (and teachers) left for him to become great.” Each Jew has an aspect of Torah that is intrinsically related to him which he must reveal and expose. In regard to this quality all others, even his teachers, must receive from him. Hence, to this degree the entire world was created for him. This is the lesson from Pekudei — to stress the unique individual aspects of each person.

As mentioned before, both aspects, Vayakhel and Pekudei, are accomplished through Moshe Rabbeinu. Likewise, it is the unique nature of Moshe that allows us to fuse both seemingly contradictory services together. Moshe was the one who stood “between G‑d and you.” He brought the Jews close to G‑d, serving as an “intermediary that connects” rather than an “intermediary that divides.” Just as G‑d’s essence can combine two opposites, so too, Moshe allows for the possibility of combining two opposite services.

3. The second unique aspect of HaChodesh this year is that it falls on the 27th of Adar. Whenever Parshas HaChodesh falls on the 27th of Adar then Rosh Chodesh will fall on a Tuesday, since, as the Alter Rebbe writes in his text of the Siddur, Adar always has only 29 days.16 Also, according to the Talmudic opinion that the world was created on the 25th of Adar, the 27th of Adar represents the third day of creation.17 The third day, and every Tuesday thereafter, emphasizes the quality of “Good to Heaven, and good to the creatures” for then the expression “and G‑d saw that it was good” was repeated twice, implying a two-fold good. The intention is not that the day is to be divided between these two services — half to one and half to the other — but that each moment of the day combine both these services.

Since G‑d “does not ask according to His power, but according to their (the Jewish people) power,” it is obvious that we have been given the potential to carry out the service. Through this service, we will bring about an arousal from above and G‑d will bring the Messianic redemption, and will reveal the Temple, an eternal building, and then we will bring the Pesach sacrifices.