• Gabbai

Bo – Its About Time!

I don’t remember whether I received one, but when I was growing up a common Bar Mitzvah gift was a watch. Nice pens were also common gifts. A young Jew, taking steps toward adulthood, might appreciate gifts which reflect that move rather than receive age appropriate toys. A watch is appropriate not only because it is a “grown-up” device, however. A timepiece reflects the message that we are responsible for our time. We have the maturity to use time well, and we have the means to be punctual, wasting not our own time nor the time of others.

The very first commandment dictated to the people of Israel was the concept of counting time through consecrating the new month. While until now only individuals were directed with commandments affecting themselves and their descendants, this is the first time the nation as a whole is instructed with a Mitzvah. The nation was still in a stage of early adolescence. During the centuries of their sojourn in Egypt the family of Jacob had grown unnaturally in numbers, which had alarmed Pharaoh and prompted him to place controls over Israel. The enslavement defined the people of Israel as chattel belonging to Egypt. Their movements were restricted, the borders were closed. The numbing labor made one day much like the next. Any sense of time was blurred by the routine of making bricks and mortaring them into Egypt’s future tourist economy. The drudgery and grinding toil crushed their spirit so they could not process the call of Moses for redemption. In such circumstances time meant very little. They had no independence and their time was not their own.

All this was reversed during the plagues. The months of disasters striking Egypt put the country into a state of emergency. The routine was disrupted and work ground to a halt. Israel had an opportunity to begin to live on their own terms, to become independent. At this coming of age God gave the people a timepiece, the Mitzvah of the calendar. Each new moon marked a new month, a new beginning. The month of Nisan would be the first of the 12 cycles of the year. The people now had a framework, a way of counting time that was integrated into their religious worship. They were now accountable for their time, they were deemed to have the maturity to honor time and use it effectively.