Parshas Beshalach 5757 - 1996
Outline # 20
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Faith and Rebellion
The Book Shem Mishmuel notes some interesting peculiarities in our parsha. During the Macos (the Egyptian Plagues), Moshe and Aharon are mentioned together. After the departure from Egypt, only Moshe is mentioned for some time. The Torah mentions in our parhsa that Moshe took the bones of Yoseif with him from Egypt, in accordance with Yoseif's last wishes. The Medrash relates that at the same time the Jews were collecting silver and gold from the Egyptians, Moshe was locating Yoseif's remains. Why did the Torah wait until now to indicate that Moshe had already taken Yoseif's bones?
The Kotzker Rebbe (the grandfather of the Shochotchover -- the author of Shem Mishmuel), once said that there are two types of sanctity -- sanctity of deed, and sanctity of mind. This was the difference between Yoseif the Tzaddik and the other eleven sons. They were all righteous, but not in a similar way. The tribes had sanctified their actions, by purifying the feelings of the heart. Yoseif, however, had sanctified his mind. This was considered a higher calling.
The first night of Pesach (Passover) represents the unbridled kindness of the Creator, Who saved the Jews, not due to merit, but out of compassion. Yet, they would have to have some kind of merit somewhere along the way. The Splitting of the Sea, on the Seventh day of Pesach, represented their opportunity. Moshe was able to convince the Jews to turn back towards Egypt, in order to draw the Egyptians after them. They did not question him. At the show-down at the Sea, they again did not question (after he subdued them with the statement: "Stand back and watch the salvation of Hashem!") By convincing them to surrender their thoughts before his, Moshe was able to bring them to the sanctity of the mind. It was a taste of what they would experience at the Giving of the Torah.
It is for this reason that Moshe and Aharon were mentioned together until now, but only Moshe is mentioned here. Aharon represents sanctity of deed and heart; Moshe alone is sanctity of mind. In a similar manner, can be understood the importance of relating that Moshe had taken Yoseif's remains. The Jews had been commanded to secure silver and gold from the Egyptians; certainly, however, they had interest in doing so. Moshe had no personal interests. His "silver and gold" were the bones of Yoseif. He was trying to impress upon the Jews the need to remember Yoseif and his quality -- sanctity of the mind -- for this would be the only saving grace of the Israelite nation.
Even though they got the message in time, it was only due to Moshe. As such, sanctity of the mind was not an intrinsic quality for them, but had been externally imposed. This is why we find a constant reversal concerning their faith and rebellion: After crossing the sea, they complain about food and drink; after receiving the Torah, they build the Golden Calf; after constructing the Mishkan, they rebel during the incident of the Meraglim (Spies). Only in the future era will we merit true sanctity of mind.
Chodshei Hashanah (Part Nine)
Note: Thanks to Aaron Goldman for his comments regarding last week's issue. I had written: "Hillel the Second was the son of Rebbe Yehudah Hanasi..." Aaron Goldman noted that although our texts of Ramban's commentary to Sefer Hamitzvos do state this, nevertheless many have noted that it appears to be an error. Hillel the Second was the son of Rebbe Yehudah Nesiya, generations later. I checked my sources and found that my words came from Sefer Hachinuch -- an outstanding early authority -- but the version of Minchas Chinuch reads: "Hillel the Second was the grandson (i.e. descendant) of Rebbe Yehudah Hanasi..." We have corrected the text for the archives.
There are three factors in determining the new month: The ancient calculation of the Rabbis regarding the average lunar month; the actual molad "conjunction" -- the point when the moon truly vanishes from view; and the spotting of the witnesses, which could only relate to the first stage of the moon (six hours later).
The quote from Rebbenu Bechaya, which we discussed the last two issues, clearly stated that the important factor was only the calculation. This is how Dovid knew in advance when the new month would be declared: Every 30th day following the previous beginning of the month is holy. Already from very ancient days, when the Court would add a day, they would make two days of the Rosh Chodesh festivities (but not remove the sanctity of the first day). So Dovid knew that the 30th day would certainly be Rosh Chodesh. (Whether Dovid knew that the second day would also be Rosh Chodesh, will be discussed in a coming issue, G-d willing, when we examine the story told in Sefer Shmuel in detail).
If so -- that the calculation used today for the calendar had always been the basis of the Court Decision -- what was the purpose of the Torah's requirement of having witnesses? Rebbenu Bechaya indicates that the witnesses were for the purpose of publicizing, bringing everyone's attention to the calendar process -- "pirsum."
Submission to the Court -- Sanctity of Mind
What is the point of the publicizing? To bring about a realization that the High Religious Court, alone, is responsible for decisions that affect the entire Jewish People. Thus the dwellers of the Diaspora would have to observe two days of the festival if they had not yet heard of the establishment of the new month, even if they knew the calculation. Why? Because the Torah states that the Court alone decides the months, (and can take exception to the rules). Therefore, without having heard the actual decision of the court, it would not be known whether they had added a day, or not.
This concept -- not to rely on our own judgment, but to surrender our minds to a higher authority -- is rare today. We all need to work at achieving the Sanctity of Mind.
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © 1997
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
and Project Genesis, Inc.