Honorable Mensch-ion

Three Mitzvot

A piece of Rabbinic trivia: Only a few times do we take out more than two Torahs from the ark, and this Shabbat is one of them.

We celebrate Rosh Chodesh Chanukah. Now to the real trivia: How do we know which Torah to take our first?

We use the rabbinic principle, tadir vsheeino tadir, tadir kodem, when you have something that happens often, and another that does not happen often, the more familiar one comes first. That is why we will read the Torah of the regular parsha first, the Rosh Chodesh Torah that comes monthly, and then finally the Chanukah Torah, which is annual.

And one final question—what if you only have one Torah? In this case, we roll the Torah from one place to the next. Yet, in our situation, our order will change, for we also learn, ain maavirin al hamitzvot: “Don’t pass over any Mitzvah.” If we rolled the Torah according to the first principle, we would be rolling over the Rosh Chodesh mitzvah, and so we should read that portion first.

All these technicalities really begs the most significant point–no mitzvah is greater than the other. In our busy lives, it takes discipline to fulfill mitzvot. We must put the time in our calendars for prayer, for study, for time to take care of each other. But on a Shabbat like this, where we have three mitzvot at once, let us rejoice in each one, thanking God for the gift of our Torah, its wisdom, and the opportunity to bring the light of our tradition into our lives.

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