At the Burning Bush, Moshe had been worried about whether the people would
believe his prophecy. Hashem assured him that eventually he would be believed.
Upon returning to Egypt, Moshe and Aharon first told the elders about
Moshe's prophecy; later, they went to Pharaoh. Pharaoh responded angrily,
and increased the workload of the people. At the beginning of Parshas
V'eira, the people were no longer able to listen to Moshe, because of the
strain of the hard labor.
The commentary Seforno says (Shmos 6:9):
" `They were not able to listen to Moshe' -- that is, to understand and
trust in the salvation of Hashem, as Avraham did... Therefore, the assurance
of the land `I will give it to you' was not fulfilled through them, but rather
through their children... `Due to the hard labor' -- If not for the hard
labor they would have paid attention to Moshe's words."
Rav Yerucham Leibowitz of Mir expressed amazement (Da'as Chochmah Umussar).
Even though their inability to listen was due to the duress of the labor,
nonetheless, they lost the chance to enter the land because they did not
Rav Yerucham refers us to the writings of the Alter of Kelm (Chochmah
Umussar, part one, "Seder Geulas Mitzrayim").
-That Moshe and Aharon entered Pharaoh's palace, is remarkable. Moshe
was, after all, wanted for murder. Further, Moshe and Aharon requested the
freedom of the Jewish slaves. This would certainly constitute outright rebellion!
Their survival is so miraculous, that we must wonder why Moshe didn't go
directly to Pharaoh initially. The miraculous encounter could then have been
presented to the people as a proof of Hashem's concern. The truth is that
the people needed some kind of merit in order to be freed. That they were
willing to trust Moshe initially, was the merit...
-In fact, at the Burning Bush, Moshe was first told to go to Pharaoh;
only later was he informed of the order of events -- that it was necessary
to inform the people first -- in order to give them this merit... Rashi explained
that they trusted Moshe because of the Mesorah (tradition) that the redeemer
would use the special expression "Pakod Pakaditi." Only after their show
of faith, based on the Mesorah, could the redemption come.
-The redemption from Egypt was a guide for the future redemption. We must
prepare ourselves according to this order...
Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2 # 5 Yesod Ha'emunah (The Foundation
Unfortunately, we have numerous contemporary sources, especially in English,
dealing with the calendar. It is unfortunate, because much of the contemporary
material misses the entire point. There is a great difference between a mere
intellectual study, and the study of Torah.
Torah is predicated on "emunah" -- faith. Today, life is so complex, that
simple faith is hard to come by. When we speak of faith -- we are not discussing
belief in creation, providence, or the Biblical verses. Yes, these require
faith. However, Torah study requires a deeper faith.
Approximations of the Jewish Calendar
The Rabbis used a number of devices to approximate. One might think that
the approximations were due to the lack of sophistication of ancient science.
There is another reason, though. Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 138), explains
why the Torah always chooses rounded figures.
The ancient estimate of the Talmud would not produce the exact time of
the molad, rather, the average time for the molad. The significance of the
moon is only in determining the day to begin the month. We need to know the
day of the molad, not the exact split-second. Anyway, Rosh Chodesh is often
pushed off from the day of the estimated molad, according to various rules
2. Tekufas Shmuel and Tekufas Rav Ada
The equinoxes and solstices are required for certain parts of the services.
These are based on the solar calendar, not the lunar calendar. The Talmud
has several methods of estimating the solar year. Because the Talmud's
estimations are general, not exact, over large periods of time the discrepancy
between the estimated and astronomical date becomes noticeable.
Numerous English works discuss these issues, often coming to critical
conclusions. As usual, though, a thorough scrutiny of history would demonstrate
that the issues have been clarified long ago. See, for example, Rambam (Mishnah
Torah), Commentary to Rambam (ibid.), Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 138), Rav
-You indicate that the custom to recite Tal Umutar in the Diaspora according
to Shmuel, rather than Rav Ada, is an error. You think that you are greater
than all of our Rabbis, the earlier and later ones, and all current authorities!
Forgive me, but it is excessive to even think so. How much more so to say
this or write this.
-Even if one large observant congregation has a custom that varies from
other congregations, it mustn't be an error, because it certainly was established
by a Chocham (Sage). We need to find the reason why they act in such manner,
and not take them to be in error... Privately, however, one would keep the
custom of the majority, although each case needs to be examined separately.
-If All of Yisrael have a certain custom, however, one must abide by it.
Even if one feels it is an error, that person must realize that the customs
of All of Yisrael are according to law. Even if YOU have a question regarding
it, and can't find an answer, it doesn't mean anything...
-We find cases where authorities determine actual law from prevailing
custom. This is especially so in regards to the services.
-Nonetheless, no question in this subject actually remains. The Halacha
did not decide between the two estimations. Rambam explains both, and shows
how each are used in certain calculations. At one point Rambam indicates
that one estimate is "closer to the astronomical calculation." Since he says
"closer to the astronomical calculation," it is clear that the other estimate
is not nullified; simply one is closer, and one is further.
-See the Commentary to Rambam, in chapter 9 Halacha 3, which queries:
"According to Shmuel, the Tekufah (estimate for the equinox) will eventually
move to the summer period..." The answer: "This is the truth, until the law
will be clarified at a later date." He asked, but did not reply that the
custom is in error; rather, even Shmuel was aware of this, and did not worry
that we won't know what to do at the later time...
-Shmuel's estimation was chosen because it is much easier to calculate
for the masses...
Yesod Ha'emunah (The Foundation of Faith)
Rav Moshe was an exceptionally humble and respectful person, and always
found reasons for his responses, even where reasons were not sought. Here,
he was simply requesting that we examine thoroughly the prevailing norms,
before we seek to destroy the entire structure.
This is also faith; a kind of faith that is becoming increasingly rare
in our generation. The decisions of the great sages are largely based on
"Mesorah" -- the extension of the Torah handed down from Mount Sinai, and
passed down by word of mouth. Before they are challenged, they should be
understood and appreciated. Custom, too, has a legal basis...
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein Kollel of Kiryas Radin 11 Kiryas
Radin Spring Valley, NY 10977 Phone: (914) 362-5156 E-mail: