Hachodesh-No Torah Without Novelty
Once Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka and Rabbi Elazar Chisma went to receive Rabbi Yehoshua at Peki’in. He said to them, What novel teaching was taught in the study hall today? They reply, We are your disciples and drink from your waters. He said to them, Even so, there is no study hall without some novel teaching. Who presided on Shabbat?
They replied, It was the Shabbat of Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya.
Rabbi Yehoshua inquired, And what was the topic of the lecture?
After hearing their answer, he further expounded as follows: “The words of the sages are like spurs and like nails well planted are the words of the masters of assemblies, which were given from one shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11).”
Why are the words of the Torah likened to a spur? To teach you that just as the spur directs the cow in its furrow to bring forth life to the world, so the words of the Torah direct those who study them from the paths of death to the paths of life. But you might think that just as the spur is movable so the words of the Torah are movable, therefore it says “nails.” But you might think that just as the nail diminishes as it is hammered in and does not increase, so the words of Torah diminish and do not increase, therefore it says “planted,” just as a plant grows and increases, so the words of the Torah grow and increase (Chaggigah 3a).
Torah is not static but dynamic and organic. This is the theme of HaChodesh, the first mitzvah to given the Children of Israel, the most essential idea for developing true freedom.
The Blessings of Morning Shema begin with the theme of Chodesh – that which is new and renewed. “In His goodness renews daily, the work of creation.” The second blessing, Ahavah Rabbah, focuses on Torah study: “Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah.” We can add a Kavanah that God should enlighten our eyes in Torah with the power of Chiddush – Novelty, being able to discover new insights and ideas.