This Torah portion includes G‑d's first commandment to the Jewish people as an entity: the sanctification of the new month. (See Sefer HaChinuch for an in depth explanation.) On the first verse of the Torah, Rashi comments that G‑d began with the story of Creation until the Egyptian exodus (as opposed to beginning with the first official mitzvah) in order to demonstrate that He is the Creator of everything, and therefore it is His privilege to give the land of Israel to whomever He chooses - and He chose the Jewish people. G‑d's intention in the creation of the world was His desire to create for Himself a dwelling place in the lower realms…

Nevertheless, we can still question His reason for choosing to sanctification of the moon as the first commandment? It must be that there is something especially significant in this mitzvah, a founding principle, which made it the first one to be commanded to the nation.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe cites the Midrash on Naso that G‑d's intention in the creation of the world was His desire to create for Himself a dwelling place in the lower realms. This means that He wanted His sanctity to dwell even in this physical plane. This is accomplished when we perform G‑d's commandments. By doing divinely inspired actions in a physical world, we reveal His holiness. Every time we use something physical in the performance of a commandment - for example, Chanuka candles, or challahs on Shabbat, or a coin for charity - we draw divine energy upon our body, soul, and on the physical object itself, making a dwelling place for G‑d in this plane. Time was created before space…

But what does making for G‑d a dwelling place have to do with the sanctification of the new moon? The first Chabad Rebbe makes an interesting distinction. (Tanya 2:7) The physical world consists of two different elements: time and space. Different sources explain that time was created before space and was the very first creation, a prerequisite for everything else. Therefore, the first commandment of the Torah relates to the nature of time: the commandment of the sanctification of the moon.

The Jewish calendar is based on the 29½ day lunar cycle yielding a 29 or 30 day month. Years begin and end when the months are completed. The dates of holidays are all determined by the cycle of the moon. By our fulfilling the commandment of sanctifying the arrival of the new lunar month, we draw down divine energy on the entire construct of time.

This is the meaning of the blessing, "[G‑d] sanctifies Israel and [the events at that] time." Matter is conserved, and even a soul can never die; the one commodity we can never hold on to is time. Let us try from now on to use every fraction of time to make this world a dwelling for G‑d, to be revealed with the imminent redemption.

All firsts are related. This first mitzvah is connected to the first verse of the Torah, which teaches that the Land of Israel was given to the Jewish people. This is to remind us that in addition to time, physical matter (i.e. the Land) also must be instilled with holiness. By imbuing both time and space with holiness, we will hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d, as the waters cover the sea". May it be now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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