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The following question came up in this week's Parshat Hashavua' Chat:

Rashi, at the beginning of his commentary to the Torah:

אמר רבי יצחק: לא היה צריך להתחיל [את] התורה אלא (שמות יב ב) מהחודש הזה לכם, שהיא מצווה ראשונה שנצטוו [בה] ישראל, ומה טעם פתח בבראשית

Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from “This month is to you,” (Exod. 12:2) which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments, and although several commandments are found in Genesis, e.g., circumcision and the prohibition of eating the thigh sinew, they could have been included together with the other commandments). Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning?"

But wait... how is "החודש הזה לכם" the "first mitzva"? It is certainly not the first mitzva mentioned in the Torah, for there are three before it in Sefer Bereshis (p'ru ur'vu, mila, and gis hanashe). It is not the first mitzva following Matan Torah; that would be anochi Hashem (although some hold that that's not a mitzva, but you get the point).

So in what respect is "החודש הזה לכם" the "first commandment that the Israelites were commanded"?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's the first mitzva commanded to the Jews as a nation. In Breishit, we weren't yet a nation. And Mattan Torah is not the beginning of commandments to the people as a group.

Source: my intuition.

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Was this mitzva not received again at Matan Torah? –  jake Jan 25 '12 at 19:14
    
@jake Why don't you ask? I bet there are a number of explanations for the timeline in the commentators. –  Double AA Jan 25 '12 at 19:16
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@jake The same could be asked about the three from breishit as well as the things that were already forbidden to us as Bnei Noach. If I remember correctly the Rambam somewhere in Peirush HaMishnayot talks about this. –  Double AA Jan 25 '12 at 19:18
    
My point is that this answer depends on the fact that it wasn't repeated at matan torah, since if it was, it would be the same as the three in Bereshis. –  jake Jan 25 '12 at 20:05
    
@jake Even if it was repeated, it was still first said 2 months earlier as the first mitzva to the nation. –  Double AA Jan 25 '12 at 20:11

Rambam writes in perush hamishnayot on Hullin 7:6 that the reason we keep certain mitzvot today such as ever min hachai isn't cuz it was commanded to Biney Noach, but rather because it was given over at Sinai. The reason why we keep pre-matan-torah mitzvot such as Milah isn't because it was commanded by god to Avraham avinu, but rather because it was (re)given to Moshe from God to give to Am Yisrael. The first mitzva given to Am Yisrael thru Moshe was hachodesh hazeh lachem. (Also, according to Hachamim in that mishnah, gid hanashe wasn't actually given to Ya'akov but was rather given at sinai and only written in Vayishlach retroactively.) וע"ש

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Vram, welcome to J.SE, and thanks for that source! I hope you stick around and enjoy it. (We recommend registering your account to get the full benefit of the site.) –  Alex Jan 26 '12 at 4:42
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Could you clarify this answer to show what part of the question it's addressing and how it answers that part, please? –  msh210 Jan 29 '12 at 18:54
    
@msh210 The reason why we keep pre-matan-torah mitzvot such as Milah isn't because it was commanded by god to Avraham avinu, but rather because it was (re)given to Moshe from God to give to Am Yisrael. The first mitzva given to Am Yisrael thru Moshe was hachodesh hazeh lachem –  Baal Shemot Tovot Jan 29 '12 at 19:22
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Could you clarify that in your answer, then? That last sentence you just wrote, in particular, is noticeably absent from your answer and would improve it greatly IMO. –  msh210 Jan 29 '12 at 19:29

The Gur Aryeh (Bereshit 1:1) points out that all the Mitzvot were given over by Moshe to the Jewish People. As our Sages teach, the verse (Devarim 33:4) says "תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב", and "תּוֹרָה" is the numerical value of 611 and "Anochi" and "Lo Yiheye LeCha" were said by G-d.

"HaChodesh Hazeh" is (chronologically) the first Mitzvah given over by Moshe to the Jewish people. If the Torah would have started from there then Milah and Gid Hanesheh would have been recorded later in the Torah. Once we started from Bereshit, those Mitzvot were placed there and did not even need to be repeated (Milah was repeated to teach us something).

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