בראשית ברא אלקים on the first three words of the Torah Rashi asks why does the Torah begin with the creation of the world and not the first mitzvah of KiddushHachodesh the new moon? After all the Torah’s main concern is the fulfillment of mitzvos. Also, why is Kiddush Hachodesh the first mitzvah? It is only a mitzvah for Beis Din once a month in contrast to Tefillin which is an obligation every day. Why was this mitzvah given to Am Yisrael in Mitzrayim amongst all places and not at Sinai?
We begin Pesukai D’zimra with Baruch Sh’amar, ברוך עושה בראשית ברוך אומר ועושהthe Vilna Gaon explains that ברוך עושה בראשית refers to Hashem’s creation of time. Without time there is no beginning or end to existence. There are some meforshim who learn that the very words of בראשית ברא אלקים themselves mean that Hashem created a בראשית a beginning which refers to time. Unlike other creations which fall into the general realm of ברוך אומר ועושה, time is very subtle, invisible, and not tangible which makes it so elusive and fleeting. Therefore its mention deserves a separate gratitude to Hashem for bringing it into existence ברוך אומר ועושה.
Because of its unique nature one might think that there exits little if any of a relationship with time since he cannot see or feel it nor can he control it by stopping its movement from going forwards. This reminds me of a poem that we were taught in Junior High School by Henry David Thoreau who was an American philosophical naturalist, who’s famous quote was “Time is but a stream I go a fishing in”. When I first saw this analogy I felt what can else one expect from a secular mind void of emunah in Hashem. The stream is symbolic of life which has an element of time. We can measure life by time. One is born, he grows and matures, he gets married, raises a family, he ages and his body weakens, and then he dies. Time is merely a measuring stick of how long the stream flowed for each individual.
In contrast, the Torah’s perspective of time is light years away from Thoreau’s. Chazal (Rashi on the first passuk) explain that this first wordבראשית , does not only mean the creation of time but it also refers to Yisrael who are called בראשית. This conveys that Yisrael and time are rooted in the same source in the sense that the flow of time is meshed together with the flow of life and man walks every day hand in hand together with it. He merely doesn’t throw his fishing rod into the stream hoping to get his desired catch and fantasy but rather with great effort and toil he makes an everlasting imprint by infusing and elevating the stream with spiritual energy and bechirah 24/7.
Let us explain this concept further with the Seforno on the passuk החודש הזה לכם ראש חדשים
מכאן ואילך יהיו החדשים שלכם לעשות בהם כרצונכם אבל בימי השעבוד לא היו ימיכם שלכם אבל היו לעבודת אחרים ורצונם לפיכך ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה כי בו התחיל מציאותכם הבחירי
“From now on, time is in your hands to do with it whatever you desire. Up until now during your bondage in Mitzrayim your days were not yours but rather to serve others and their will. Time which is symbolized by the moon belongs now to you. This is why Nissan is the first month of the year for it is then that your moral essence and existence first came into being”.
What is the difference between a slave and a free man? You would think that the answer is a no brainer, the degree of the severity of work. Wrong! You can have a slave who is lazy and doesn’t apply himself fully to his task and you can have a free man who pressures himself intensely the whole day and night in order to excel and flourish in his job. The true difference between the two is the ownership of time. A free man owns his time and if he so desires he frees himself from the task at hand. A slave doesn’t own his time or days. They belong to someone else. He cannot do what he wants when he wants. That is why the Torah writes החודש הזה לכם now Am Yisrael are truly free for you are the owner of your time.
At Yetzias Mitzrayim we became עבדים to Hashem (Rashi Shmos 21,6). In the light of the above it means that our time and our lives belong to Hashem designated to fulfill the inner design of creation which He has made with His wisdom. This is a serious thought that we have to digest. When Hashem tells us to read Shemah every morning by a certain time one cannot say I want to sleep in late as if you own your time. You don’t because you are an eved to Hashem, and He owns your time. One cannot just say on Shabbos I will be selective of how I will rest from work. Hashem owns your time on Shabbos and He specifically tells you what He wants you to do and not to do during His time.
Let us remember that the word בראשית places Yisrael with time on the same track. Our tachlis in life is to align our time with Hashem’s will and purpose. The Tikunei Zohar says that the word בראשית contains within itself two words ירא שבת . Yes even the 24 hour period of Shabbos time requires fear of Hashem to ensure that “His” time is spent correctly and appropriately by us.
The word זמן also means invitation הזמנה. Time is an invitation by Hashem to serve Him constantly and not just to go fishing in it. Every minute of every day if one has the right intentions, can be elevated and enlisted into the service of Hashem as the Shulchan Aruch elaborates on this concept in Orach Chayim Siman רלא 231. There are six constant mitzvos such as יראת ה’ אהבת ה’ that can be fulfilled at any time. ישראל , time, and avodas Hashem are aligned with each other constantly. That is why this Siman in Shulchan Aruch which elaborates on the passuk בכל דרכיך דעהו to know Hashem in all your ways, is rooted in our nameישראל which is יש רל”א, that Am Yisrael are embodied by fulfilling this mission. Such dedication was in the lives of our Avos and Imahosas the passuk says ואברהם ושרה זקנים באים בימים that as they aged they came with all their days. This conveys that all the time that they lived they were serving Hashem in one way or another.
One Maggid Shiur of the Daf Yomi said it is not so much about the daf but rather the yomi. I am not sure what his exact kavvanah was but the deeper commitment to be an eved Hashem is there – concentrate on the Yom and time. The realization that Hashem owns my time is a consciousness that will definitely elevate one to higher avodas Hashem.
There are 2460 minutes in a day and 246060 seconds in a day. If one occupies himself doing the will of Hashem with the right intentions then even when he sleeps, works or relaxes in order to fulfill Hashem’s mission, he has the ability to fulfill 246,060 mitzvahs per day. In this way one elevates time by giving over one’s time towards Hashem’s service because one recognizes time belongs to Hashem. By doing so Hashem will reward us by giving us His time, which is eternal Olam Habah.
We can now return to our original question, why was this mitzvah of החודש הזה לכם the first mitzvah and why was it given in Mitzrayim? החודש הזה לכם is not merely a mitzvah but it is the badge of servitude and subjugation to Hashem. Time is our spiritual life and our ראשית calling. In our bondage to Mitzrayim, AmYisrael had no life for our time was owned by our slave drivers. In the geulahfrom Mitzrayim we got our life and time back and gave the החודש הזה לכם back to the מלך of the universe who shares the identical letters. We committed to elevate all of our time to fill up Hashem’s busy schedule.
Unfortunately we are so mesmerized with our world cultures which promote all sorts of sport games, many of which include TIME OUTS and “whistle blowers”. When this pause button is pushed, the game stops momentarily, so do the players and so does the big clock in the field. On the surface, the physical clocked stopped, but Hashem’s Inner Designer Clock is still ticking away uninterrupted. As I look back into history I feel that it was very beneficial when the only way to tell time was by the sundial. It would bring to the consciousness and recognition that the source of time is in the heavens ברוך עושה בראשית. Since we are servants to Hashem we must utilize “our” time for His kovid and glory. Now that watches are worn on our wrists, we erroneously think that time is in our hands and it’s ours to do with it as we please.
It is customary to buy a chassan a gold watch. People say that the reason is that since the chassan is now embarking on a new life he must realize time is golden and precious. However presently I have a new take on that minhag. The passuk says (Chagi 2,8) לי הכסף ולי הזהב Hashem says I own all the silver and gold. It is because of this reason that we surround the chassan’s watch in gold in order to remind the wearer that your time belongs to Hashem just like the gold. Make sure we use Hashem’s time purposeful to help actualize His inner design and not just to go fishing.