1. Parshas HaChodesh contains many lessons. One of them expresses a fundamental principle1 regarding a Jew’s service to G‑d.2 There are many levels in divine service. Some people fulfill Torah and Mitzvos out of habit. Others are more careful. The highest level of service is “Mesirus Nefesh,” serving G‑d with total self-sacrifice.3

Each mitzvah brings out a particular level of service. The Sefer Charadim explains that each mitzvah is related to a particular limb of the body and performs a function in the service of G‑d similar to the function of that limb in the human body. However, the level of Mesirus Nefesh transcends the particular limited nature of any one limb and relates to the totality of the person. Similarly, a mitzvah must exist which parallels this service. In general, the mitzvah which relates most closely to this service is the mitzvah of “Korbanos” (sacrificial offerings) and in particular the Olah offering.4 The lesson from the Olah offering is particular relevant to Parshas HaChodesh, since the beginning of Nissan (the event mentioned in Parshas HaChodesh) marked the beginning of a new year in relation to communal sacrifices. From that time on, the offerings were purchased with funds collected for that year.

The Olah offering was totally consumed by the fire of the’ altar. It rose to heaven and became “a pleasant odor before G‑d.” The Olah offering also brought about atonement for the Jewish people. Therefore, the Talmud comments, “If you see a sage transgress a precept of the Torah, do not think badly of him” — Why not? Because his sin was-atoned for by the daily Olah offering. The atonement effected by the Olah wiped away the sin totally. It brought the Jew even closer and dearer to G‑d than before the sin.5

How could the Olah offering bring about this level of atonement? Because the offering motivated the Jew to a high level of Teshuvah. When a sacrifice is brought, a Jew should regard everything that is happening to the animal as if it is happening to himself. The only reason the animal is sacrificed instead of him, is that G‑d, in His grace, desires man to keep his body healthy and complete in order that his soul may continue and fulfill its mission of service to G‑d. When a Jew gives a Half-Shekel, his share of payment for the communal offerings, G‑d considers him to have gone through a process of total commitment, ultimate Mesirus Nefesh, as if he, and not the animal, were totally consumed by G‑dly fire. Furthermore, the Olah is offered every morning and evening, meaning in its spiritual parallel, that the Jew’s service is constant. Everyday he makes the same commitment.

Now that the Bais HaMikdash is destroyed, physical sacrifices can no longer be brought. However, the spiritual counterpart of the service is still possible. Our prayers were instituted in place of the Bais HaMikdash offerings. Then, the world was spiritually more refined. G‑dliness was openly revealed. Therefore, the whole process of the sacrifices including the service of the Kohanim and the Levi’im could actually be seen. Now, no matter where and when a Jew lives, he can accomplish that same service through prayer.

The above is particularly relevant at this time, the beginning of the month of Nissan. Then a new year of sacrifices began. Similarly, now, a Jew must bring himself to a new and deeper level of service. Before beginning that service, a Jew should look to the Torah for instruction.6 For that reason, the reading of HaChodesh was instituted. Through this G‑d gives him power to carry out this service and then the month of Nissan becomes “the month of redemption” and a:-month of miracles7 with the coming of Mashiach. As the prophet Micah declared, “Just as when you left Egypt, so (in Messianic times) will I show you wonders.”

2. The portion read this Shabbos was Vayakhel — Pekudei. Parshas Vayakhel describes how Moshe called the Jewish people together and relayed to them the commandment to build the Mishkan, the Sanctuary. Parshas Pekudei relates how that work was completed, an account made, and the necessary sacrifices offered.

An obvious question arises concerning both Parshiyos. Torah does not contain an extra word or letter. Many laws and principles are communicated through hints and inferences to keep the text concise. However, in this case, though G‑d’s command to build a sanctuary with a description of the particulars is related in the Parshiyos Terumah and Tetzaveh, all these details are repeated in Parshas Vayakhel and in Parshas Pekudei. Why not merely state that Moshe gave over G‑d’s command and that the Jewish people carried it out? Mention all the new concepts that were not touched on before,8 but why repeat those topics dealt with in previous Parshiyos? Even when the Tanach describes King Solomon’s construction of the Bais HaMikdash, the details are not repeated three times.

The answer to this question is based on the principle of the eternality of the Torah. Everything mentioned in the Torah serves as a constant lesson, applying in all times and places. Even the details of the sanctuary, and the Bais HaMikdash which are no longer physically present, provide necessary lessons in the service of G‑d. The three different narratives: Terumah — Tetzaveh, Vayakhel, and Pekudei represent three different stages in service to G‑d. In the first stage, G‑d commands Moshe Rabbeinu to build a sanctuary. He shows him on Mt. Sinai a spiritual vision of the tabernacle. In the second stage, Moshe relays that command to the Jewish people. One might think that after teaching about G‑d’s command once with proper emphasis, it would not be necessary to repeat it. Torah tells us no and stresses equally Moses’ command to the Jews and G‑d’s command to Moses. Later, in the third stage, when describing and making an account9 of how the Jews carried out that command; the Torah finds it necessary to repeat every detail again, emphasizing the importance of actually carrying out the deed.

This lesson applies throughout a Jew’s life. You should start by following “the candle of Mitzvah and the light of Torah.” They serve as beacons, illuminating a path and a direction for your activity. Through learning Torah, you find out what to do. Furthermore, the study and knowledge of Torah motivate you to act accordingly. Torah study possesses a unique quality that brings you to carry out in action what you learned in theory.

Secular knowledge does not possesses such a quality. On the contrary, quite often a gap separates understanding and action. We received clear evidence of such a separation in the events of the last generation. The nation which stood at the peak of intellectual and cultural sophistication, the people regarded as the most refined ethically and philosophically — turned around completely and demonstrated the utmost cruelty and brutality. Furthermore, they exalted that very brutality as the purpose for their lives.

Torah, on the other hand, is called a Torah of “truth” and of “life.” Torah study eventually brings about deed. Our Sages comment, that G‑d requested “May it be that the Jews forsake Me but remember My Torah. Why? Because the light of Torah will make them return to good.” Even someone who is so estranged from Judaism that he has forsaken G‑d, will be influenced by Torah, if he applies himself to it. The Torah he studies will lift him up and bring him to the level of a Baal Teshuvah, a level of divine service higher than that of a perfect Tzaddik.

The three stages described above serve as a paradigm in the process of “study brings to deed.” The Jew starts at Terumah-Tetzaveh hearing G‑d’s command. Then he proceeds to Vayakhel he teaches it to someone else. Even if he himself is only a child, even before his Bar-Mitzvah, nevertheless he looks for a child even younger than himself and relates to him what he heard from Moshe (who repeated G‑d’s command). He collects and brings together (the meaning of “vayakhel”) all the Jews under his influence and teaches them. Just as much stress and emphasis is placed on teaching others as on learning oneself. Then he proceeds to Pekudei, the task of carrying out the command and making an account of the activities. Here, also, Torah places equal stress. In all three stages, not only at the beginning of the service, he must stand “fearful and trembling” just as if he had received Torah from G‑d on Mt. Sinai. In the first stage, when he is learning, the Talmudic statement “G‑d sits and studies opposite every Jew” applies.10 Even in the final stages when teaching and when making an account of his actions, he must realize he is still connected to Torah and the same “fear and trembling” must be felt.

Since one of Torah’s fundamental principles is “G‑d only asks according to your powers,” we must understand that we all have the potential to feel G‑d’s presence in all three levels of service.

And through this, even though there is a “cloud covering the sanctuary” G‑d will create a “path for Moshe between the clouds” and thereby a path for every Jew. Until we will reach the level of “and G‑d called to Moshe.” And this will hasten the fulfillment of all the above in the third Bais HaMikdash speedily, in our. days.

3. The above lesson also relates to Parshas HaChodesh. No one’s feelings are static. A person generally goes through stages, he is constantly climbing higher. The more he grows and learns, the less he is satisfied with the old. He needs something new. That which was able to arouse his feelings the day before, is not sufficient the following day. Two simple examples illustrate the point: If a poor man receives a large donation or a gift of special food he will be very happy. However, if his position improves and he achieves moderate success, that same sum of money or gift of food will not excite him. Likewise in our own lives, if at work we are given a middle ranking position by next year we will be unhappy with the same position. Naturally, we feel the desire for higher rank.

The same applies regarding the new year beginning this Nissan. The service ,of the new year must surpass and go beyond the boundaries of last year’s service. There is a need for new excitement and new dedication. In this case, the G‑dly soul must learn from the animal soul. The animal soul is looking for new and greater blessings from G‑d in the new year and will not be excited with the same as he received previously. Similarly, since your mind and feelings grew during the last year, you should also progress in the realm of prayer and study. This growth need not be accompanied by pride. On the contrary, you should proceed with modesty, but a real advance should be made in the areas of prayer, study, and fulfillment of Mitzvos.

4. This year Parshas HaChodesh is enhanced by another factor. It falls on the 25th of Adar. According to the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua, the 25th of Adar marks the creation of the world. The Talmud lists two opinions; one stating the world was created on the first of Nissan, and the other, the first of Tishrei. In either case, the first of the month marks the creation of man. The creation of the world preceded it by six days.

This coincidence teaches us a fundamental lesson. All the above applies to material as well as spiritual matters. Torah teaches “Know G‑d in all your ways” and “all your deeds should be for the sake of G‑d.” Even those elements which are yours; your deeds, your ways — can and must be brought into contact with G‑d.