Rosh Chodesh [the new month] is basically the essence of teshuva [returning to G-d]. Shabbos is not so much teshuva. Shabbos is mamash simcha [joy] and oneg [bliss].
Rosh Chodesh is mamash teshuva. Why is it teshuva? Because the moon begins to shine again at the new month. What is it when a person does teshuva, what happens to you? You are beginning to shine again. You were mamash dead before. And suddenly you begin to shine again.
So how do you begin to shine?
There is something very special in always becoming more, and more, and more… Rosh Chodesh is not that suddenly the moon becomes more than last month. Rosh Chodesh is that the moon mamash stopped, there is no more moon, and then it begins again.
Most people don’t do teshuva because they always think; “The way it is now is the way it will be all the time.”
Teshuva is that, at a certain period, I mamash say, “No, it can’t be like this anymore.” And I mamash am getting off my high horse. I am getting less, and less, and less, and less. And at that moment when it is clear to me that I am mamash like dead, that the way it is now mamash can’t continue, at that moment I begin to shine again.
Shabbos, therefore, does not need the Beis Din [Rabbinic court] to announce it, though Rosh Chodesh does need the tzadikim [holy people] to do it. Because, there is a certain torah which I can learn, such as, if someone tells me, “Hey, you know, you have to buy kosher meat. You have to bench licht [light Shabbos candles] at 5:25 p.m.,” that is something I can learn. But then there are certain things that are so deep, that unless I see people mamash doing it, I wouldn’t know how to do it. So Rosh Chodesh has to be announced by the Beis Din of seventy one. The Beis Din of seventy one were obviously the biggest tzadikim, and they were the ones who mamash, mamash do it. They mamash have already reached the highest level, and yet, they are thinking all the time, “Oy, I didn’t do anything yet.”
It is not that they think, “I have to do more.” There is something very holy in: “I want to always be more.” That is one thing; but that is not what Rosh Chodesh is all about. Rosh Chodesh is that I am mamash like dead, chas veshalom. Nothing is there.
The Gemara says, “En haTorah mitkayemes ela bemi shememis atsmo aleha.” It has a lot of meanings. The ordinary meaning is that the Torah is only with someone who mamash completely kills his own ego, his own personal desires, for the Torah. This is one meaning. But Rebbe Nachman says another meaning: Mamash, he has to make himself like dead. It means to feel like everything I did so far is nothing. Mamash nothing.
When G-d created the world, the sun and the moon had the same light. So the moon came to G-d and said, “Two kings having the same light? It doesn’t go.” So G-d says to the moon, “Ok, you become smaller.” And not only does the moon become smaller, but the entire moon is constantly coming and going.
The world always says that G-d was punishing the moon for the chutzpah [audacity] of saying that. But obviously G-d was not punishing the moon. If G-d was punishing the moon, why is Dovid HaMelech [King David] likened to the moon?
The answer is that there is a light like the sun which is always the same. It is very holy, and very beautiful. But the moon realizes that it has got to be mamash deeper; teshuva is deeper than all of this.
The Mittler Rebbe of Lubavich
The Mittler Rebbe was, so to speak, the expert on teshuva. Someone came to the Mittler Rebbe and said, “Rebbe, I heard you are an expert on teshuva. You wrote so many volumes of teshuva, can you please teach me how to do teshuva?”
He said, “You know, the truth is, though I wrote so many sforim [holy books], I still don’t know how to do teshuva.”
On one hand, this is a Torah teaching which you can give over to somebody, and then there are Torah teachings which you have to bring down to the world, they are not here yet.
I can’t tell you, “Ah, this is the way to do teshuva.” like a cook book. “You put in a little teshuvale here, a little teshuvale there, and you take a bal teshuva spoon, and then you make teshuva soup.” It doesn’t go this way.
Teshuva is something which doesn’t exist in the world. It is not part of the world.
Being part of the world means that it exists, and I do it or don’t do it. “Teshuva kadma leolam” means teshuva doesn’t exist yet, it is not there yet.
So the moon was saying to G-d, “It has got to be more than this. There has to be something from beyond. Something from beyond the world.”
The deepest knowing
And therefore the Beis Din Hagadol, only they knew something which, so to speak, doesn’t exist yet. “Tachlis hayedia shelo neda [The deepest knowing is not knowing].” Knowing how to make Rosh Chodesh is not the deepest knowing, it is, like, the deepest not knowing.
What is the sun? The sun is G-d’s light. And I can walk around all my life, and I think, “I really know all about G-d.” And even if I do know a lot, I may be the biggest Kabalist, and the biggest gaon [genius], knowing every word of the Torah. Let’s say, I know a little bit about G-d. Still Rosh Chodesh is when it is clear to me that I have no idea what G-d is all about. I don’t know anything.
Everybody knows that Torah shebechtav [written Torah] is the sun, and Torah shebalpeh [oral Torah] is the moon.
How do I get to Torah shebal peh? I am learning a passuk [passage], and last year I thought that I knew what it says, and this year it is clear to me that I don’t have the faintest idea. I am learning Gemara, I learned this Gemara a hundred times, I know every word by heart. Suddenly something happens to me; it is clear to me that I don’t know anything. Mamash nothing.