Yisrael Deren
Yisrael Deren

Missing in Action

Of all the holidays on the Jewish calendar, why is Rosh Chodesh the only one that gets a special haftorah the day before it happens? There is no such thing as an Erev Chanukah or Erev Purim Haftorah, no such thing as an Erev Shavuot or Erev Tisha B’Av Haftorah – only Erev Rosh Chodesh gets a Haftorah of its own.

It’s not even that the Haftorah talks about the day before Rosh Chodesh. In fact other than the first sentence, everything that happens in the story takes place on or after Rosh Chodesh, not the day before!

Let’s take a look at that first sentence: “And Jonathan said to David, tomorrow is (Rosh) Chodesh, ונפקדת– you will be counted, כי יפקד מושבך because you(r place) will be missing. It seems almost contradictory – you would think going missing is a reason not to be counted – here Jonathan seems to be telling David, using almost the very same word: pakad you’ll be counted precisely because yipakad you’re missing.

Rosh Chodesh (other than Shabbat) is the most frequent holiday on our calendar. Shabbat is our weekly reminder that creation has a Creator; Rosh Chodesh is our monthly reminder that our calendar is not solar, based on a sun that is constant; it’s lunar, based on a moon that waxes and wanes. At the very dawn of our existence as a nation, even before the exodus from Egypt, G-d tells us, your program chart is not going to be a constant. Sure, there will be ups, but there will also be downs.

Yet, He promises, you will always come back. The world may watch you wane, and dismissively predict your demise, but you’ll always come back. In fact, you’ll come back greater than ever before. And for more than 3000 years we have.  Historians scratch their heads – it makes no sense – we shouldn’t be here, but we are.

The secret? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained it, it’s about Erev Rosh Chodesh, it’s the day the moon goes missing, it’s the day Jonathan tells David you’ll be counted because you’ll go missing.

Going missing isn’t just the things you don’t do – it about what you proactively do. It’s the key to every successful relationship. You want to be a successful parent, you need to tell your self-centered self “go missing”, and then focus entirely and completely on what your child needs. You want to be a teacher that will make a difference, you need to let all your pre-conceived ideas of how you are going to make a difference go missing, and concentrate on what your student needs and how he or she best learns.

And then there is marriage. A marriage that is based on “me”, a relationship whose success is measured by what I get, will not endure. It’s only when I realize that it’s not about me – I need to go missing – it’s about my spouse and what she needs and how can I give it to her.

As a people, we’re still here because of our willingness to go missing. To go missing from work on Shabbat, even when the boss says, “if you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother coming in on Monday”. To go missing from the prom because you’re the only Jewish kid in the class. To go missing from the cocktail party in the non-kosher restaurant, even though the networking promises an incredible business opportunity because it’s Pesach.

As I write these words 4000 of my colleagues are gathered in Brooklyn at the International Kinus Hashluchim the Conference of Chabad Emissaries. At the closing banquet seven thousand people will experience the exhilaration and energy generated by the most dynamic, powerful and trans-formative force in the entire Jewish (and arguably even non-Jewish) world today.

How do they do it? It’s not that they are brighter, more charismatic, energetic, creative, or organized than other Rabbis and Rebetzins. The secret? It’s right there in their name. Shliach, messenger.

I’m not a rabbi, a Jewish activist, social organizer, mentor, teacher, counselor, administrator, consoler, fund-raiser, or executive. I’m a shliach. It’s not about me, it’s about the message. It’s not me, I’m just a messenger, it’s the one who sent me. As for me? I’ve gone missing.

About the Author
Yisrael Deren serves as Regional Director of Chabad Lubavitch in Connecticut and Senior Rabbi of Chabad of Stamford Born in Davenport Iowa and raised in Pittsburgh to a family of Chabad Lubavitch emissaries.
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