Parshas Bo 5757 - 1997
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
The Kedushah of Klal Yisrael
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
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...
Chodshei Hashanah -- Part Eight: Two Days Rosh Chodesh
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
1 Babbin Court