Why is Rosh Chodesh the first commandment given to the entire Jewish people (and why, parenthetically, was Rosh Chodesh one of only three mitzvos prohibited by the Syrian-Greeks at the time of Chanukah)?:
(1) Mitzvos allow us to permeate the world with goodness and holiness and transform the physical into the holy. Rosh Chodesh sanctifies the first day of the month (and time), by transforming it into a special day, and establishes the entire Jewish calendar (and festivals).
(2) Mitzvos allow us to bring something "novel" into the world. The Hebrew word for month ("chodesh") is related to the Hebrew word for "novel" or "new". The novelty was that, through the performance of Torah and mitzvos, the Jewish people can transform the world into a dwelling place for G-d.
(3) Rosh Chodesh symbolizes renewal -- the ability of the Jews to rise up from oblivion and restore ourselves; just as the moon disappears at the end of the month, but returns and grows to fullness, so Jews may suffer exile and decline, but are able to renew ourselves (until the coming of moshiach, when we will never be dimmed again).
-Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Internalize the awareness that Hashem runs the world.
R' Moshe Feinstein commented that the month of Tishrei is the month of creation of the world and the month of Nissan is the month of the Exodus from Egypt. Both are lessons in Hashem's power -- the former teaches that Hashem is the Creator of the universe; the latter teaches that Hashem controls the events of the world. By designating Nissan as the "first of the months," the Torah teaches that the lesson of Hashem controlling world events is the more important of the two. That is, being aware that Hashem created the world may not alter one's behaviors and attitudes. However, believing that one is under Hashem's supervision in our daily events leads us to improve our behavior and, moreover, helps free us from worry.
Parents/Teachers Must Also Be Students.
"And you shall tell in the ears of your son and your son's son . . . that you should know that I am Hashem."
The end of the pasuk "and you should know" seems to be inconsistent with the beginning. The purpose of teaching the exile and Exodus to our children is that these fundamental experiences become an integral part of our Nation's heritage, and a vehicle to embue our children with faith in Hashem. Thus, it should have stated "that they should know." We can learn from this that the lessons to be derived are not only for the children, but also for the parents. In order for this "course" to be a shared family experience, the parents and teachers must also become the students.
-Rabbi Yitzchak Aizik Sher, z'tl
"This month shall be to you the beginning of months . . . "
The Jewish calendar is built around the moon, not sun. Like the moon, which can shine even thought the darkest night, the Jewish people can survive and spread light even in darkness.
The Meaning of Pesach
" . . . and you shall keep it a feast to the L-rd; throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever."
If one veiws Pesach merely as the anniversary of liberation from physical oppression and slavery, it would justifiable to argue that there is no sense in celebrating it as long as Jews continue to be exiled and enslaved anywhere inthe world. However, if the Exodus in understood in its proper meaning as the spiritual liberation of our people, in which Hashem led us forth from the corruption of Egypt to take us to Himself as His people and to have His Presence rest upon us so that we became a Holy Nation, then it can be readily seen why Pesach must be observed even while we are still in physical exile and suffering from persecution and oppression. If you celebrate Pesach as a "feast to the L-rd" -- as a Divinely commanded feast marking the anniversary of the Jews' spiritual liberation, then "you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever" (i.e., you will be able to observe it always, even during the worst periods of your exile).