by Rabbi Meir Goldvicht
Dedicated to the memory of r' Yosef ben Yaakov
At the end of Parashat Kedoshim, the Torah says, "And you shall be holy unto Me, for I, G-d, am holy, and I set you apart from the nations to be Mine" (Vayikra 20:26). Rashi explains: "And I set you apart from the nations to be Mine: To desist from sin and to accept upon oneself the yoke of Heaven." Let us attempt to understand what is unique about the level of kedusha that Am Yisrael has that makes it a higher level of kedusha than the standard kedusha every human being has. Certainly, we have 613 mitzvot, while the nations of the world have only seven. However, the fact that we have been given more mitzvot is only a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one. After all, in keeping their seven mitzvot, the other nations must also "desist from sin and accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven." If so, how do we understand the true nature of the difference between us, according to Rashi’s definition that the difference between us and them is desistence from sin and acceptance of the yoke of Heaven?
To answer this question, we must open with the words of the Ramban in Parashat Bo. Commenting on the passuk of "hachodesh hazeh lachem," the Ramban writes that there is a mitzvah to count months without giving them names. The purpose of this is to remind us of the very first month, the month in which we left Mitzrayim, and all of the miracles performed for us in that month. Every time we mention the ninth month, for instance, it is the ninth month from Exodus. This is similar to the way we remember Shabbat, referring to the second day of the week, for example, as "sheini baShabbat." This is how the calendar was counted until Churban haBayit. When we returned to Eretz Yisrael from Bavel, however, we brought with us the names which we still use today: Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, and so on. However, in Tanach we find two months named even before Churban haBayit, despite the prohibition. The first naming appears in I Melachim 1:6, where it says that Shlomo began construction of the Beit HaMikdash in the month of Ziv, the second month (Iyar). The month in which he finished construction, the navi tells us in the eighth perek, was chodesh ha’eitanim, the seventh month (Tishrei). Why did Shlomo change the established halacha, giving names to the months when it was still forbidden to do so?
The word ziv appears in Uva L’Tzion as part of the translation of "the entire world is filled with His glory – malya chol ar’a ziv yekarei." Ziv is the light that shines from within nature, light that comes from daily service. Shlomo wished to teach, through the building of the Beit HaMikdash, that wherever we go in life, we must bring the Beit HaMikdash with us as an example of how to reveal the glory of Heaven through the physical existence. In the same way, we must try to reveal the glory of Heaven through our own daily lives. This is why Shlomo named the month in which the Beit HaMikdash was built Ziv, to remind us of our mission to spread the light of Hashem. One who remembers this lesson, and lives it, will merit true strength.
The day of the week in which we see a little bit of the light of HaKadosh Baruch Hu revealed through nature is Shabbat. This is why the gemara in Rosh HaShana says that the shir the levi’im sang over the mussaf of Shabbat was called "haziv lach." Tosfot explains that this refers to Shirat Ha’azinu, which, when divided into six parts, has the roshei teivot "haziv lach." This is the kedusha that is unique to Am Yisrael, which the other nations do not have. Through us, the glory of Heaven is revealed in every other object that exists in this world.
The month in which we left Mitzrayim has the zodiac sign of the lamb. The lamb is an animal that is led, rather than choosing its own path. In Nissan, Hashem led us out of Mitzrayim miraculously. But one cannot receive the Torah through nissim. In order to receive Torah, you must have the ability to make your own independent decisions. Therefore, the month of Iyar, which was a month of traveling through the desert, has the zodiac sign of the ox. The ox is an animal that moves on its own. After a month of learning to act like the ox, we could receive the Torah. This occurred in the month of Sivan, which has the zodiac sign of the twins, symbolizing our partnership with Hashem in Torah.
We were granted the privilege of perceiving Hashem’s light twice in the month of Ziv in our own times – on 5 Iyar and on 28 Iyar. And to the extent that we understand our mission, to bring glory to Heaven through all of our actions, we will merit kedusha, taharah, and to see the light of Hashem in our times once again, with a geulah shleimah speedily in our days.