• Gabbai

Bo – Beating the Clock

My email, during the last week of December, was inundated with messages from various charity organizations appealing for donations, using the end of the year as an incentive for patrons to give. They all qualify, as non profit organizations, for (USA) tax deductions and they encourage donors to give before the end of December 31st so that donors can list the gifts on their tax returns. This is practiced by many organizations and it is a legitimate marketing appeal. Time is running short to reduce one’s tax rate and people are always seeking lawful means of lowering their rates. Any donation made from 12:00am on the 1st of January and onward may not be included on the 2013 tax return. By now it is too late. One can certainly give charity to these organizations, but one must wait until next year to write them off on the tax return. There is no flexibility, no exceptions. Time waits for no one.

Numerous commandments appear in the book of Genesis which number among the 613 commandments we are obligated to observe. The commandment to multiply and populate the world, the Mitzvah of circumcision and the prohibition of eating the sciatic nerve are all recorded in the first half of Genesis. The very first Mitzvah commanded to the Israelites as a nation, however, is found in this week’s reading.

“This month is for you the head of all months, it is the first for you of all months of the year.” (Exodus 12:2)

With this Mitzvah a mandate was given to the Jewish nation to determine the calendar based on the lunar cycle. Technically, a lunar month is 29.5 days long. Some months of the Jewish year are therefore 29 days long and others are 30. (This explains why sometimes Rosh Chodesh is one day and sometimes it is two days – the day after the 29th is always Rosh Chodesh, and the first day of the new month is always Rosh Chodesh. When those two days coincide we have just one day of Rosh Chodesh, as it was on Thursday, and when they don’t, the result is a two day Rosh Chodesh.)

This is not merely a matter of ceremony. Authority is given to the people, with this Mitzvah, to determine the date even when it is not perfectly aligned with the lunar cycle. If the Sanhedrin (the high court seated on the Temple grounds) found it necessary to extend a month to 30 days despite the new moon being sighted, they have the Divine sanction of doing so. This concept i