Parshas Bo 5757 - 1997
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
The Rambam states that we are not bound by the mitzvas because of the Patriarchs -- or anyone who preceded Moshe. The laws of the Torah supersede all previous customs and observances; law was not defined as a process until Torah
The first mitzvah of the Torah, given by Moshe to the entire Jewish People, is the mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh -- sanctification of the new moon. The establishment of the dating system, by means of which the festivals can be observed, becomes fundamental to the faith of Israel.
The mitzvah is given to the Beis Din -- the religious court. We find no dispute today, as to when Pesach (Passover) begins. This fact is actually a supreme acknowledgement of the authority of the religious courts and oral traditions of antiquity.
Shabbos is the seventh day of the week. It is "kviya v'kayama" -- fixed, perpetual, independent. It is not so regarding Yom Tov (festivals). The Beis Din must determine when the Yom Tov will actually occur. The Beis Din had power to adjust the calendar, by adding a month at the end of the cycle of twelve months as they so chose, or by adjusting the observance of the first day of the month. (Examples include: The Rambam held that Beis Din can declare the month sanctified retroactively; Tosaphos held that the original decree of two days of Rosh Hashanah meant that the calendar year would only begin from the second day -- the additional day!)
As mentioned last week, our current calendar system was instituted by Hillel the Second around the year 4118 (358 C. E.). Hillel the Second was the son of Rebbe Yehudah Nesiya. There are two main explanations as to how he was able to institute the change. Rambam held that the "Halacha mi Moshe misinai" -- the Torah Law orally handed down from Moshe -- allowed for two possibilities. At a time when the Beis Din is functioning, Beis Din sanctifies through witnesses. When it is unable to do so, the calendar is established through means of the authoritative calculation taught by Moshe. Ramban (Nachmanides) held that the Beis Din of Hillel the Second sanctified all the moons in advance!
This much is clear, though -- the universal Jewish Calendar today is a direct link to the ancient court of Hillel the Second and his astronomical calculation of antiquity.
It is an amazing concept that the court, made up of people, determine the occurence of the festivals. Yom Tov is thus completely different than Shabbos, which is out of man's hands. Yom Tov reflects the holy nature of the Jewish People and their religious practices, when in accordance to a Supreme Religious Court versed in the ancient traditions of Moshe.
It is fitting that this be the first commandment of the Torah; the praise of the Jewish People was their incredible faith -- to wander in a barren desert at the word of Moshe and G-d, without sufficient provisions, without wealth or possessions. See Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah Chapter 2:2-3): "chesed n'urayich, ahavas k'luyosayich, Kodesh Yisrael Lashem" --
I remember you, the devotion of your youth, your love like a bride, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel is holy to G-d...
How did they decide the calendar in the desert? Rebbenu Bachaye 12:2 states that, since the cloud covered them, they could not have seen the moon. They must have used the calculation. Using the calculation is a ruling passed down from Moshe. Recall that Rambam had stated that there are two possible ways to sanctify the moon: by sightings and witnesses, or by calculation.
Rebbenu Bachaye also states that, in the days of Dovid, two days of Rosh Chodesh were already observed. Why were there two days, and how did Dovid know in advance?
Magen Avraham's Question
The Magen Avraham (108:16) discussed the applicable law, if a person forgot to say the proper afternoon davening (prayer) on the first day of Rosh Chodesh or Yom Tov. Normally, one can make up accidentally missed prayers by reciting the following prayer twice. The Magen Avraham concluded the same would apply in these cases.
The commentaries complained. Two days of Rosh Chodesh or Rosh Hashanah are due to doubt. They would not both be equally holy. How is a person to state two identical prayers on the second day, one for the first day and one for the second day? The cannot both be considered of the same sanctity at the same time! (Binyan Ariel, referred to by Rebbe Akiva Eiger and others).
Debates rage in this subject. The following is of particular interest:
Tzlach holds that two days of Rosh Chodesh is the same decree as the two days of Rosh Hashanah (because of thincident discussed previously -- it once occurred that the witnesses arrived late).
Turei Aven questioned this idea. Why do only certain months have two days of Rosh Chodesh, and not every one? The Pri Chadash, however, explained: When the moon would appear before noon on the 30th day, that day alone is holy. If the moon would appear after noon on the 30th day, both that day and the next are holy. In Outline # 16, we showed this idea to be a mathematical and astronomical fact: because the moon occurs every 29.5 days, on certain months it will occur in the middle of the day (of 24 hours), while on alternate months it will occur near the end of the day.
Conclusion: Decree of Early Prophets
None of this will help, however, when it comes to the verses regarding Dovid. The decree of two days was certainly after his time! See the Birkei Yoseif, who concludes that two days Rosh Chodesh on certain months is a decree of N'vi'im Rishonim (early prophets). The Pri Chadash's distinction between the time when the moon appears in successive months, coupled with the empirical reality, will help explain why the prophets chose certain months to have two days, and some to have one day.
[Although Rashi in Baba Metzia 59b does not understand that the verses were actually referring to two days Rosh Chodesh, this is contradicted by Targum Yonason and Talmud Yerushalmi (Art Scroll appendix to Mishnah: Rosh Hashanah, p. 111). It would seem that Tzlach held the view of Rashi.]
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
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Last Revision: January 27, 1997