Parshat Vayak'hel-Pekudei: Exodus 35:1--40:38

Parshat Vayakhel from
Parshat Pekudei from

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A special thanks to G-dcast for the weekly parasha cartoon.

"Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek"

"Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!"

(We just finished the book of Shemot/Exodus! We say this phrase when we finish a book of Torah. Now that wasn't so hard, was it?)

On this Shabbis we read the additional portion of HaChodesh. This year, this Shabbis falls just before the month of Nissan begins (on March 16th). This Shabbis is called Shabbat HaChodesh. Nissan is the first month of the Jewish year.

But wait, isn't Rosh Hashanah the Jewish new year? Yes, it is. In fact we have four of them! Rosh Hashanah is the new year for years, when the numbered year changes (like from 2009 to 2010... well, for us 5770 to 5771) and falls on the 1st of Tishrei, around September/October. 1st Nissan is the first month of our calendar and that falls around March/April. Then there is Tu B'shvat, the new year for the trees on the 1st of Shevat, and finally the 1st of Elul (August/September) is considered the new year for tithing.

But back to Shabbat HaChodesh.  The month of Nissan is when Pesach (Passover) occurs. Additionally, G-d taught us how to sanctify the new moon and the beginning of our months. Thus began the Rosh Chodesh celebrations that are traditionally the women's domain.

We read HaChodesh to get us in the Pesach mood. We have to start preparing for Pesach and cleaning out the chometz (bread or leavened items). HaChodesh consists of Exodus 12:1-20 where G-d is talking to Moshe two weeks prior to the Exodus from Egypt.

G-d tells us to set a calendar with Nissan as our "head of months" and tells us to bring the Passover offering and eat it with matzah and bitter herbs. G-d also tells us that we must refrain from eating leavening for seven days, thereby observing Pesach.

Note: Since this year is not a leap year, thereby adding four to five extra weeks of time to read the parashot, we combine several to fit all 55 weeks of Torah portions. Hence the combination here of Vayak'hel and Pekudei.


Talia Davis is the daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandaughter of rabbis. She directs the Jewish Portal at Patheos and manages the site's online community.

3/10/2010 5:00:00 AM