gap year in israel

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In addition to the weekly Torah reading, this Shabbat we read Parshat HaChodesh. In it, we recount the first commandment given to the nation of Israel; the sanctification of the new moon. Even before the exodus and the giving of the Torah, G-d commanded the nation to pay attention to the first appearance of the glimmering new moon in the night sky. Then, by tracking its progress, they would be able to know exactly when the exodus was to occur by the moon reaching its fullness.

Beyond the practical utility of the sanctification of the moon which would enable the Jews to keep track of time and festivals, it had a deeper message which G-d hoped to convey for all time. During their slavery in Egypt, the Jews had hit rock bottom. They had been dehumanized to the extreme. The idea that they would one day be a priestly and holy nation was so beyond the realm of their conception. In their eyes, they would only ever be trapped in the darkness of this lowly existence.

In like manner, we live in a time where people suffer with terrible anxieties, insecurities, traumas, and low levels of self-esteem. Like the enslaved Jews, people live in such darkness. They see no bright future, for when they look at themselves they see only lowliness. So long as a person sees themselves as nothing but lowly and void of any possibility of brightness in their future, they will only ever remain in such a deplorable state.

In the first commandment to sanctify the moon, G-d wished to teach a lesson for all-time on how to escape the bondage of a lowly state of self-worth. G-d said, “I want you to look at yourself. If all you see is nothing but darkness, the first step to healing is to search and search for even the slightest glimmer of light.” It cannot be the case that a person has absolutely no redeeming qualities. G-d implores us, “search until you find at least one little redeeming quality. When you find it, hold onto it, and search further.”

Like the progressive growth of light in the moon, inevitably when a person finds a singular positive point in himself and he grabs a hold of that, that positive point will lead to another and another. In time, a person will climb from his dark and negative space to a place of personal redemption. In His first instruction to the enslaved Jews, G-d revealed a method for all people in all times to escape any personal entrapments. We are all unique, holy, and so very precious. May we merit to see ourselves in this light and to encourage each other to do the same.

– Rabbi Liad Braude

Parashat hachodesh