This, the central portion of the Torah, begins by stating that we shall
be holy. Holiness has something to do with being separate, being special.
Yet, the same parsha states: "You shall love your fellow as yourself." We
must separate from that which is detrimental, but not from our fellowman.
We must separate from activities which are unhealthy for the body and soul
-- but not separate from our social responsibilities. We must strive to be
holy, and yet not condemn the "unholy." So often, the heroes of Israel, the
holiest people, were not buried in their books, but immersed in the problems
of their flock, and concerned with the salvation of humanity.
Hillel said, "Always be involved with people."
"You shall love your fellow as yourself." Rabbi Akiva said: "This is the
great principle of the Torah."
Unfortunately, we live in a contentious, divisive day and age. There
are so many factions, so many splinter groups.
In an earlier era, the Taz and the Shach (the great commentators to Shulchan
Orech) attacked and counterattacked each other with the pen. When they met,
however, the Taz (who was many years older) kissed the Shach on the head.
How many who debate can act civilly to each other?
The themes of "Haaros" are not always easy to follow. We are not traveling
in a simple, linear path. If we come away with a slight inkling of the vast
history, of the brilliant depths of Torah studies, if we come away with knowledge
that perhaps aids us to understand someone else -- "Haaros" will have
accomplished an important aspect of its mission.
Chodshei Hashanah Part Twenty
Names of the Months
Nachmanides (Ramban) writes:
The days of the week have no name, but are counted according to the Shabbos,
such as "First day of the Shabbos," "Second day of the Shabbos," etc. In
this way, we remember the Shabbos all the time. Similarly, the Hebrew months
had no name, but were counted from the Exodus from Egypt, so that we would
always remember the Exodus.
There are, of course, Persian/Aramaic names for the months (e.g. Nisan,
Tishrei), as is stated in the Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 1:2). How did
this come about? When we were delivered from the Persian/Babylonian exile,
we took the Persian/Aramaic names in order to remember this redemption as
well... (Free translation: Commentary to the Torah, Shmos, chapter 12, also
see Drasha L'Rosh Hashanah, chapter 2.)
The words of Nachmanides, quoted above, became a central point in an
Initially, Nachmanides stated that the months have no names in the Torah.
Later, he wrote that names of the months were acquired from the Babylonian
Sefer Ha'ikarim (3:16) explained Ramban's words in the following way:
Initially, it had been forbidden to use names for the months. After the Persian
exile, however, the law was changed; the Persian names were incorporated
so as to remember the redemption from Persia!
Within a generation, numerous commentaries raised the issue, and rejected
the Sefer Ha'ikarim's point.
Other Opinions Regarding the Months
The Abarvanel wrote that there had never been any kind of prohibition
to name the months, there simply had been a mitzvah to enumerate them from
Pesach. After the Persian exile, there now existed an additional aspect of
the mitzvah: to use the Persian names as well, in order to recall Hashem's
kindness in redeeming us from Persia as well as Egypt. (Commentary to the
Torah, Parshas Bo, end of "limud habeis.")
The Abarvanel did not mention the Sefer Ha'ikarim by name. The Ayn Yaakov,
a younger contemporary of Abarvanel, directly challenged the Sefer
Ha'ikarim. Regarding the months, Ayn Yaakov maintained that the Torah allows
one to use secular names for the months in general. The only requirement
is that, should numbers be used, the months must be the Hebrew months, counted
from Nisan. The Ayn Yaakov wrote specifically that one could use the names
of the non-Jewish months in vogue today. (See Ayn Yaakov: Hakoseiv, Megilah
The work, Get Pashut (127:30) decides in accordance with this interpretation.
(Peirush, Machon L'talmud Hayisraeli on Nachmanides' Drasha L'Rosh Hashanah
column 98, note 46.) We were unable to find a copy of Get Pashut; however,
Names of Secular Months
Recently (Outline #30) we wrote the suggestion to call the secular months
by name, rather than by number (such as 2/12/67). After all, the Torah says
that Nisan should be the first, not January! This was stated in the name
of Chasom Sofer.
Rabbi Reuvain Toplan requested the source for this statement. In a phone
conversation, he mentioned that the suggestion is often stated in the reverse;
on the other hand, we do find -- he mentioned -- the use of secular names
of months in Beis Yoseif 117, p. 101b. This discussion led to the current
examination of the entire issue.
The original source of our quote was: Toras Moshe, parshas Bo. The Toras
Moshe is interpreted in such a manner by Chodshei Hashanah, apparently following
Sefer Haparshios: "Bo," and Sefer Hatoda'ah: "Nisan." However, Hagos
B'parshios (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, often referred to as
"Nachshoni"), interprets the same Toras Moshe in the opposite way -- that
one shouldn't use the non-Jewish calendar at all!
The reason for the difficulty: Chasom Sofer writes that one should use
the number of the day in the week, and the number of the Jewish month; one
should not, however, use the number of the non-Jewish months. Are these words
to be understood literally -- not to use the "number of the non-Jewish
months," implying that the names are acceptable? Perhaps it was meant
figuratively -- not to use the entire accounting system, i.e. calendar.
The Gregorian Year
See the Chasom Sofer's own Drashos. "The Jew should be ashamed to use
the common year, which is based on the birth of their
`Messiah'." (Drashos, Vol. 1, 93, column 4; see also Vol. 2, 315, column
Maharam Schick, one of the primary students of Chasom Sofer, explicitly
prohibited use of the secular dates on tombstones (Responsa: Yoreh Deyah
Kol Bo al Aveilus, p 381, cites the Drashos of Chasom Sofer and Responsa
of Maharam Schick, but comes to a different conclusion. Surely, the numbering
of the years referred to by these authors had religious significance; in
our days, however, it has simply become customary. The author quotes sources
that indicate that the Gregorian years do not actually date back to the
beginnings of Christianity, but were instituted earlier by the Romans. He
then lists numerous Rabbinic works that mention Gregorian dates, including
Responsa of Chasom Sofer (Even Ha'ezer 1:43)! Certainly, Kol Bo concludes,
if the Hebrew date is also used, there is no problem. (See notes)
Regarding the Gregorian year: The system is based on Julius Ceasar's calendar;
the current date of New Year's Day is definitely of Roman origin. The year
number did, at one time, attempt to date the birth of the founder of
Christianity, but is now believed to be in error.
Regarding the Responsa of Chasom Sofer mentioned: The Gregorian date seems
to be mentioned only by the one asking the query, not the author himself.
Nonetheless, the Chasom Sofer would have omitted it from publication, had
there been a prohibition involved. This, presumably, is the intention of
the Kol Bo.
Haaros -- insights presented in a novel manner -- are meant to stimulate
provoke, but are by no means conclusive. Readers are encouraged to look
original sources. Since there are many factors that might be taken into
consideration, actual questions regarding Jewish Practice should be addressed
to the appropriate authorities.
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein 1 Babbin Court Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: 914-425-3565 Fax: 914-425-4296 E-mail: