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Young Israel of Plainview

Parshat Re’eh
Rosh Chodesh Elul The Prophecy Project
Isaiah’s final chapter (66) displaces the third Haftorah prophecy of consolation (Isaiah 54). While this Haftorah offers consolation as well, it opens with a caustic rebuke: “they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations” (66:3). The rebuke is appropriate for Rosh Chodesh as the day represents in Jewish tradition a Yom Kippur Katan, a minor Day of Atonement. The day of Rosh Chodesh, in Temple times, demanded a sin offering, marking the day as a time for repentance and change. The lion’s share of our Haftorah then offers a vision of the “end of days”, with a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and the return of the sacrificial rites. At the conclusion of the Haftorah, the Navi mentions specifically the return of the Sabbath offerings and those of Rosh Chodesh: “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all humanity come to worship before Me, saith the LORD” (66:23). Isaiah prophesies a future existence where the entirety of the world turns to Jerusalem and serves God. R. Yitzchak Abravanel asks what seems to be the obvious question: It’s hard to believe that all of humanity will come weekly or even monthly to sacrifice to God? Abravanel answers that the “chodesh” and “shabbat” of the verses refer in fact to two specific times during the year. Chodesh refers to the specific first day of the month of Tishrei, meaning Rosh Ha-Shanah. Shabbat refers to the time between Pesach and Shavuot, which is referred to in the Torah as macharat hashabat (Leviticus 23:15). Malbim answers more simply that each Rosh Chodesh and each Shabbat a new set of foreigners will come to pay their respects to God’s Temple in Jerusalem. In either case, there is an often unnoticed aspect to Rosh Chodesh within Tanach. Rosh Chodesh, the time when the first light of the new moon appears, represents the opportunities that exist for renewal and change. It belies the oft-paraphrased defeatist statement of humanity “I am who I am and can never change.” Rosh Chodesh represents renewal and redemption, the opportunity to transform destiny, by transforming our actions. Shabbat and Sunday are Rosh Chodesh Ellul, the month that is the preamble to the 10 days of Teshuva. We will begin blowing the Shofar. Maimonides declares (Laws of Teshuva 3:4): “Even though the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a decree, it contains an allusion. It is as if [the shofar's call] is saying:Wake up you sleepy ones from your sleep and you who slumber, arise. Inspect your deeds, repent, remember your Creator.” Rosh Chodesh Ellul is the ultimate time of renewal.