Parshas Bo contains within it the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, the commandment incumbent upon Beis Din to sanctify the Jewish calendar by properly assessing and establishing the first day of each month. The first month sanctified by the Jewish people was the month of Nisan which the Torah refers to as “The first Month”. The truth is that if you look through the Torah you will never find a month called by the colloquial names of Nisan, Iyar, Sivan and so forth, but rather the “First Month” “Second Month”, and so on.
The Ramban points out that the names of modern day months were adapted when Bnei Yisrael returned from the exile in Bavel following the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash. All of the names are therefore Babylonian in origin and not from the Hebrew language. Why is it then that the Jewish people use these secular names to refer to the months as opposed to the names given by the Torah?
The Ramban explains that the purpose of the naming of the months is linked to its being the first mitzvah of the exodus from Mitrayim. The Torah gives no name to the months and rather calls them by numbers because the purpose of the months is for us to understand our origins and reflect on the fact that we became a nation through our redemption from Mitrayim. Therefore, whenever Bnei Yisrael would mention a calendar date in their daily affairs, they would be instantaneously reminded of our national development as a result of Yitzias Mitrayim.
Once Bnei Yisrael were exiled from Eretz Yisrael after the Churban Bayis Rishon, however, the focus of the Jewish nation shifted. No longer were they defined as the nation that was redeemed from Mitzrayim, but rather as the nation that was redeemed from Babylonia. As such, the names of the months changed from reflecting the Yitzias Mitrayim to the reflection of the Babylonian redemption. Based on this explanation, the Ramban asserts that the names of the months will be changed once again during the time of Mashiach, for at that time we will no longer view ourselves as the nation that was redeemed from Mitrayim or from Babylonia, but rather as the nation that was redeemed from the present Galus- the Galus of Bayis Sheini.
The concept of reflection, which can be defined as knowing from where it is that we come and where it is that we are heading, is a fundamental notion in Judaism. I was recently forwarded an email which told the story of a man driving down a road in his beautiful new expensive car. Out of the clear blue, a rock, clearly thrown by a child in the neighborhood, hit his car, causing serious damage to its outer frame. Enraged, the man left his car to find the boy who had thrown the rock in order to give him a piece of his mind. Approaching the child he asked “Was it you who threw that rock at my car?” The child responded, “Yes it was. But I didn’t know what to do. My handicapped brother has fallen out of his wheelchair seriously injuring himself, and I simply needed someone to help me lift him back into his wheelchair. There was no one else around and so I used threw the rock to catch your attention.”
Unfortunately there are many times in life where our attention is caught by a stirring circumstance that gives us the opportunity to reorient and reflect on the direction of our lives. The concept of the Jewish calendar impresses upon us the value of being constantly aware of where it is that we are coming from and where it is that we are heading towards, enabling us to be focused without the use of unexpected awakenings. Perhaps it is for this reason that the mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh begins the narrative of all the mitzvos in the Torah, as it always refocuses our awareness towards both our beginnings as well as towards our broader goals.