The Sedra of Bo is very familiar as it contains a variety of themes that are well known. These include the second half of the Pesach Story, many of the laws associated with Pesach and a plethora of mitzvot, which up until now were rarely found in our weekly parshiot.
At the beginning of the 12th Chapter, Moshe and Aaron are called before God and shown the new moon. They are instructed that at the beginning of each month, when the new moon appears, the Jewish People would be obligated to sanctify it. This was the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, and from within the birth pangs of their redemption, this was the first commandment given to the Jewish People as a nation.
The timing of this incident is puzzling. Up until now, God had unleashed his vengeance on the people of Egypt, continually pounding them with plagues to force Pharaoh’s hand to grant the Jewish People their freedom. However, the mitzvah of sanctifying the new moon is awkwardly placed just before the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn. Seemingly interrupting this great climax towards the Exodus, God saw fit to pause and teach a mitzvah that appears, on the surface, unrelated.
As we have come to learn, there clearly is a reason and purpose for the order of events, therefore it is incumbent on us to seek out its meaning.
Up until now, the Children of Israel had suffered immensely, but in recent days they had witnessed the downfall of their captors. The punishments were severe, but the Jewish People had played little to no part in these great plagues. They were able to watch Egypt crumble without the need for their involvement. It was at this point, close to the time of Exodus just before they were to witness the death of the Egyptian first born, that God commanded them to sanctify the moon.
This mitzvah is dependent on us becoming partners with God. It is our obligation to venture to the courts when we see the new moon appear in the skies. Once the validity of the sighting was agreed, the court would announce the start of the new month and the appropriate sacrifices would be brought to the Temple.
God was telling us that our relationship with him is a partnership. We have to want to come towards him as he waits for us on his holy throne. We have to sanctify the new month and, in turn, take control of when our festivals would be. As a nation, we could no longer sit idly by.
God places this commandment at the cusp of freedom to teach us that, even though it was through His great strength and power that we were freed from slavery, we would need to take responsibility in order to forge a relationship with him. He had taken them this far but now they would need to overcome personal challenges and develop their faith in order to further their relationship with Him.
We would be ignorant to believe that things happen by coincidence. Whether we have good times or bad, it is all from God; He is in charge and has an outstretched arm protecting us all, as we see so clearly when He led us out of Egypt with the 10 plagues. However, just as we learn through the sanctification of the new moon, God performs daily miracles, but He also requires us to take personal steps to maintain and develop our relationship with Him. We must not sit back simply watching the world and thinking there is nothing we need to do. We all have a responsibility to take the lesson that we learn this week and act as faithful partners with God, even though sometimes it might be hard or uncomfortable.