Divrei Torah (Words of Torah)

Parshat HaChodesh   by Rabbi Ilana Goldhaber-Gordon

“When I taught in public schools, I could barely use the restroom once a day.”  CBJ’s Inclusion Specialist, Darby Auerbach Morris, revealed this reality to a roomful of religious school teachers at a session she taught for a Special Needs Education conference last Sunday. “That was not a good thing,” she said. No kidding! But Darby’s not alone in that experience. Public school teachers have astoundingly full schedules, as do many workers in our society.

At the other end, when my mother first retired from a successful career as a high-school teacher, she felt her calendar gaping. Too much unstructured time can also be oppressive.
This Shabbat, we read an extra Torah portion (or maftir), in recognition of the start of Nissan, the month of Passover. The first mitzvah God gives the Israelites as a freed people is to structure time according to God’s will. “This month (Nissan) will be for you Rosh Chodashim (the head of months),” God says.
In the face of this biblical commandment to proclaim Nissan, the month of Passover, as Rosh, the Talmud boldly proclaims the first of Nissan to be one of four “Roshei Hashanah” (heads of the year).    The other three — including the holiday that most of us call “Rosh HaShanah” — were chosen by people.
So who controls your time?
When my children were infants, my time was at the mercy of their bodies. Now my teenagers often strive against me to wrest control of their time. We sustain such a push-and-pull throughout life, straining against employers, family, our own bodies, our false gods and our true God, for a sense of control over time. The threat of oppression — too much free time, or too little — is real and constant. But the struggle is part of the glory of being alive and free.