This past Tuesday we celebrated Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Three thousand years ago, this was the first ever mitzvah given to Bnai Yisrael (the Israelites), commanded with the words, "Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem Roshei Chodashim" (this month should be for you the head/first of the months). The first mitzvah. Of 613. Not Shabbat. Not brit milah. Not Pesach. Why this mitzvah?
Perhaps an answer can be found by focusing on the term "Lachem." It is the plura l form of the term "Lecha" and calls to mind two other times where the form "For You" appears in the Torah. When Avraham is told to leave his home and journey to an unknown land, Hashem speaks the words, "Lech Lecha" (go for you), and when Moshe is told to send spies to scout Canaan, Hashem tells him "Shlach Lecha" (send for you). In both cases, Parshanim (commentators) explain that the word "Lecha" implies that Hashem was "commanding" not for Hashem's sake but for the sake of the commanded. "It's not about Me," says Hashem, "it's about you."
Here too, the term "Lachem" can be read in such a way. There are a lot of mitzvot in the Torah and choosing this one was Hashem's way of reminding us that we are of the utmost importance in the whole endeavor of bringing Hashem to the world. We probably would have "commanded" this mitzvah to ourselves because it is a way to mark time and it commemorates our redemption from slavery and exodus from Egypt.
As we wind down Teacher Appreciation Week at Akiba (Huge Thanks, PTO!), this Dvar Torah seems apt. The model of a "commander" considering the "commanded" (first and foremost and above all else) is what Akiba teachers do every day. While they manage their classrooms and direct the curriculum, their student-centered approach to education always begins with the students in mind and grows from there. And there is something very godly about that.
Rabbi Avi Spodek
Middle School Principal