Parshas Shmini/Chodesh 5757 - 1997
Outline # 30
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Death of Nadav and Avihu: The Fire That Wasn't Commanded
The section describing the tragedy of Aharon's elder sons is a mystery.
They brought "strange fire" which "G-d had not commanded." The Rabbis give
many explanations as to their errors, although the verses state explicitly
the reason for their punishment!
Rashi relates that Moshe told Aharon that Nadav and Avihu were greater
than Moshe and Aharon themselves. This is surely strange -- if they were
so great, how did they make such an error?
Nesivos Shalom, in a recently published volume, has a unique answer.
Judaism is based on give-and-take relationships. The leaders of the community
advise and direct. Individuals must be connected to their leaders. Can't
we imagine a circumstance, in which the leader is not as 'great' as the follower?
Certainly. It must happen at times! It makes little difference, however,
if the student is potentially 'greater' than the teacher. The leaders have
been granted the ability to lead; the great students have not yet attained
this milestone. Until such time that the followers themselves become leaders,
they must seek advice from the experienced leaders.
One of the Rabbis' versions of Nadav and Avihu's error is as follows:
They said, "When will Moshe and Aharon die, so we can direct the generation?"
How could such 'great' men make such a statement?
To the Nesivos Shalom, all is clear. They did not actually make such
a statement, and they were truly great men, perhaps greater than Moshe and
Aharon. Their greatness had nothing to do with the fact that they needed
to submit to the authorities of the day... Even if the student is greater,
he needs to take advice from the leader. Their greatness was an obstacle
to the 'command,' and thus -- they brought "strange fire" which "G-d had
Where would Judaism be without Moshe and Aharon, Shmuel and Dovid, Hillel
and Rabbi Akiva? To worship leaders is totally contrary to Judaism; people
are not gods. But the honor we give to Torah Sages is the honor we give to
the Torah itself. "What fools; they stand up for the Torah Scroll, but not
for the Torah Sage!" (Tractate Macos, 22b.)
Chodshei Hashanah (Part Eighteen)
Parshas Hachodesh 5757
Every year, on the Shabbos before the beginning of the month of
Nissan, the special maftir of Hachodesh is read. We are reminded that the
cycle of months begins at Nissan (Pesach time). In addition, we read the
initial commands regarding the Paschal lamb, the matza and morror.
The last issue ended with the question:
"Why does the Todah (thanksgiving offering) include chametz and matza
every day, but upon eating the Pesach Todah, we only find matza?"
At Pesach, why don't we thank for the chametz as well?
From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, many people take special customs seriously,
although the rest of the year they do not. It seems superficial -- only at
the time of judgment they perform, not the rest of the year?
The Jewish attitude is that anything helps. So it seems small, inconsistent.
No matter. Special effort, at any time of year, is indeed meaningful. Who
knows what effect it may have?
The matza is baked with speed, eaten with swiftness and urgency. In the
urgency of the matza, there is no time to fool with the delay of allowing
the bread to rise. Our food shall be like the soldier's grub -- high in
intensity, saturated with energy, devoid of extras. It's filling, there's
only so much you can eat. We may have to move out at any time. We have to
be ready to run. Grab your rations and go!
See Tzidkas Hatzadik: The beginning must always be with urgency, as the
eating of the lamb in Egypt was very swift. We had to tear ourselves away
from the past, and it had to be done swiftly -- no time to hesitate, run!
In years to come, the lamb could be eaten leisurely, but not now.
The food of "command!" is "attention!" The food of matza, the food of
mitzva, cold logic and bare necessity. We're going into the desert, and Pharaoh's
army will follow. He won't be patient now. If they catch us, it will be the
end, just as Bnei Ephraim were slaughtered thirty years before.
What shall we eat? There's nothing there -- well, maybe some manna. Maybe.
"The matza of the desert had the taste of the manna." It was G-d's food.
If we had no faith, we wouldn't have eaten anything. But we had faith, so
we ate all that there was: the soldier's grub.
The food of "command!" is "attention!"
The Order of the Months
The first commandment given the Jews was to count the months from Nissan.
What does this mean? Everyone knows that the Jewish year begins at Rosh Hashanah
-- at the month of Tishre -- in the fall! Ramban points out that it is silly
to say that the days begin with Tishre, but the months begin with Nissan.
Obviously, the days and the months will be counted from the beginning of
There is no question that the year begins in Tishre. It is simply that
we should calculate the numbers of the months from Pesach time, in order
to constantly remember the Exodus from Egypt. Chasom Sofer suggests calling
the secular months by name: January, February, etc. rather than by number
(such as 2/12/67). After all, the Torah says that Nissan should be the first,
Sod Ha'ibbur -- The Secret Calculation
Earlier this year, we quoted Rebbenu Bachaye. Amazingly, he had
proven that the calculations for the new moon were the deciding factor, even
when the moon was to be spotted by witnesses.
The highly regarded authority, Rashba, also explains in accordance with
Rebbenu Bachaye. "Even in the days when the moon was spotted, they were very
precise to make sure the announcement coincided with the astronomical
calculation." (Responsa referred to by Chidah in Ein Zocheir, see Chodesh
Recently, we were perplexed. The month of Nissan always has one day of
Rosh Chodesh (new moon), thirty days after Rosh Chodesh Adar. The above
authorities insist that the current calendar was always the basis of the
court's announcements. If so, there would never be any doubt as to the occurrence
of Pesach -- it would fall precisely 45 days after Rosh Chodesh Adar. Why
are there two days of Pesach in the diaspora?
We found the issue in the name of the Avnei Nezer, responsa 311 (mentioned
in Chodesh B'chodsho 41-42). Although it would be improper initially, it
was nonetheless possible for the court to delay the onset of Nissan one day.
Thus, the people of the diaspora were not certain which day Pesach would
begin until messengers would arrive from Jerusalem, announcing the court's
decision. Those who had not yet heard, would have to keep two days of the
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © 1997
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
and Project Genesis, Inc.