By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
“Hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim” This month shall be for you the beginning of the months . . . (Sh’mos 12:2). Sanctifying the new month was the first commandment given to the Jewish nation. Commentators question why, at this auspicious moment, the Jews were given the commandment of setting a calendar and not a commandment to trust in Hashem or something else that would seem loftier. The answer lies in understanding the significance of sanctifying the new month.
Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the Jewish month, symbolizes renewal. “Chodesh,” the Hebrew word for month, comes from the Hebrew root of “chadash,” newness. Just as the moon reappears and grows to completion each month, so too the Jewish nation has the ability to renew and restore itself to past greatness.
While in Egypt, the Jews had fallen to the forty-ninth level of impurity. As they were poised to leave Egypt, they received this commandment to sanctify the new month. Only seven short weeks later, they had “renewed” themselves to such an extent that they were able to receive the Torah. Hashem specifically commanded the Jews to sanctify the new month at this juncture of Jewish history in order to stress to the nation that it possessed this ability to achieve renewal.
We all possess this ability of renewal. We need to recognize our shortcomings, face up to our mistakes, and then use the strength of renewal to begin again. In marriage, this is a particularly important trait. Not only do we need to be able to acknowledge our own shortcomings and begin again, but also we have to be able to forgive our spouses for their shortcomings and allow them to begin again. We need to really believe that renewal is possible. Holding a grudge in marriage keeps us “stuck in the past” and keeps us from accessing the trait of renewal that is so vital to any relationship.
Oftentimes in marriage there are certain spots in which a person feels stuck and thinks things will never change. Even couples that have a great overall relationship and have been married for years will acknowledge that there are some areas that they have just accepted as “the way things are.” A person might feel that no discussion of finances with his or her spouse will end without hard feelings, or that they will never get through an erev Shabbos in which harsh words aren’t exchanged. If we can tap into this power of renewal then we can truly make changes to our relationships.
Let us try this week to remember the lesson of sanctifying the new month. Let us recognize in ourselves and in our spouses the spark of renewal that exists within us as members of the Jewish nation. Let us try in one small way to use that power to change our relationships for the better. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org.