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Rosh Hashanah 7

ROSH HASHANAH 2-10 sponsored by a generous grant from an anonymous donor. Kollel Iyun Hadaf is indebted to him for his encouragement and support and prays that Hashem will repay him in kind.


OPINIONS: The Beraisa says that Nisan is the Rosh Hashanah for months. What practical Halachic difference does it make if Nisan is the first of months? The RASHBA answers that the only practical consequence of Nisan being the first month is to know what the Torah means when it says "the first month." Aside from teaching when events mentioned in the Torah occurred, this will have a number of practical ramifications.
1. When the Torah says that a festival must be observed in the "first month," we must know when we are obligated to observe it. (RASHBA)

2. The MITZPEH EISAN adds another practical consequence. The laws of Nedarim state that when we a person uses an ambiguous phrase, if it has no clearly accepted meaning based on normal usage of language, then we follow the Torah's usage of that phrase (as Tosfos says in Pesachim 2a, DH ha'Noder, and other places). Therefore, if a person pledges to do something in the "third month," if, in his place, no one refers to months by their numbers, then the "third month" refers to Sivan, the third month counting from Nisan, which is the way the Torah refers to the months.

3. The RAMBAN maintains that there is another Mitzvah in the Torah that is connected to the count of the number of months besides the Mitzvah to observe the festivals. According to the Ramban, the Mitzvas Aseh of "ha'Chodesh ha'Zeh Lachem Rosh Chodashim" (Shemos 12:2) commands us to remember Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, by counting our months from Nisan, the month in which we left Mitzrayim. This is similar to the Mitzvas Aseh to remember Shabbos by counting the days of the week from Shabbos. (See next Insight, regarding counting the number of the secular month.)

The RITVA cites proofs for the Ramban. The Mechilta (end of Bo, Parshah 1) and the Targum Yonasan (Melachim I 8:2) write that in the time of Adam ha'Rishon, Tishrei was called the first month. Only later, at the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, did the Jews start calling Nisan the first month.

The Ramban adds that the names we commonly use for the months (Nisan, Iyar...) are names that the Jews began to use after returning from Bavel. Before that time, they referred to the months only by their numbers. The Ramban suggests that the Babylonian names of months were adopted intentionally, in order to remember that Hashem saved us from the exile of Bavel, just like we begin numering months from the month in which Hashem redeemed us from Egypt to remember that redemption. By mentioning the month's Persian name, we recall Hashem's kindness in saving us from Bavel. (This is in accordance with the Gemara in Berachos 13a, which says that we must thank Hashem for every redemption that He brings for us in this world, and not just for the first or the most recent one).

QUESTION: The Gemara establishes that Nisan is the first of months. Is it permitted to refer to a month by its pagan name or number? There are two reasons to prohibit using the secular names of months and days:
(a) The MAHARAM SHIK (#117) writes that one should not use the secular names of months, and certainly not the common count of the months (putting January as the first month). The reason is because their system does not make Nisan the first month, and we have a Mitzvas Aseh to refer to the months from Nisan, counting Nisan as the first month, in order to always remember the redemption from Egypt (RAMBAN, Shemos 12:1, see previous Insight).

(b) The names of the months and the days of the week are based on names of gods that were used in idol-worship.

Are we permitted to use such names?


(a) In response to these problems, the RAMBAN in Parshas Bo writes that with regard to the months, when the Jewish people returned from Bavel to the land of Israel, they named the months by Babylonian names (which are the names that we now use) in order to remember the redemption from Bavel (see TOSFOS here), the same way that until then, they referred to the months in relation to Nisan in order to remember the redemption from Egypt.

The SEFER HA'IKRIM (3:16) understands this to mean that when the Jews were exiled to Bavel, effectively bringing an end to the liberty they had enjoyed as a result of the redemption from Egypt which occurred 890 years earlier, there was no longer a necessity to count from Nisan to recall the redemption from Egypt (see also CHASAM SOFER, Choshen Mishpat 1, DH Nachzir).

However, the PERUSH HA'KOSEV in the Ein Yakov at the beginning of Megilah (3a) strongly opposes this view and explains that when the Jews left Bavel they only *added names* to the months, but they did not change the numbering system; they continued to count the months from Nisan. It is permitted to refer to each month by its name, but when one gives each month a number, one must count the month based on the original system, with Nisan as the first. This opinion is supported by the GET PASHUT 127:35, MINCHAS CHINUCH 311:3, and RAV OVADIAH YOSEF in YABIA OMER 6:9:4. (It is interesting to note, though, that even according to ha'Kosev, in practice the Sefer ha'Ikrim's conclusion appears to be correct, since once the months were named, it is almost unheard of for anyone to refer to a month by its number, see Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:830.)

Therefore, Rav Ovadiah concludes, one should refrain from referring to the months by the gentile numbering system (e.g. referring to January as "1"). (It should be noted that the months of September, October, November, and December are named according to their numbers ("septem" = seven, "octo" = eight, "novem" = nine, and "decem" = ten). Interestingly, these numbers are not in reference to January, since two months were added at a later point in time. It so happens that they conform to the count from the time of the year which usually corresponds to Nisan!).

Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:830) takes issue with Rav Ovadiah's ruling, arguing that the Mitzvah of counting the months from Nisan has no bearing on the months of the *solar* year; it is only applicable to the months of the *lunar* year. Therefore, it is permitted to even use the secular numbering system. (Rav Sternbuch brings support for his words from practices of the Brisker Rav and Rav Chaim Soloveitchik.)

(b) With regard to mentioning the names of idols, since these idols are no longer known or worshipped in the civilized world, it should not be prohibited to mention their names, since one has no intention to refer to those idols when he says the name of the day or month.

QUESTION: The Gemara cites a number of verses to prove that Nisan is the first of the months. The first verse is from Zecharyah, the second is from Esther, and then the Gemara skips back to Zecharyah for the third proof, and then back to Esther for the fourth proof, and it ends with a proof from an earlier chapter in Esther. Why does the Gemara quote the verses in such an odd order?

ANSWER: The ARUCH LA'NER explains that it is logical for the Gemara to start from Zecharyah before Esther, because the book of Zecharyah is part of Nevi'im while Esther is part of Kesuvim, and Nevi'im come before Kesuvim. This verse in Zecharyah is cited first because it is the earliest verse in Zecharyah.

The month mentioned in that verse is the eleventh (Shevat). Since that is one of the latest months, the Gemara proceeds to cite the rest of the verses in descending order of months listed (so that the third verse cites mentions the tenth month, the next verse mentions the ninth, then the third, and then the twelfth month, which, starting from the eleventh and going backwards, is the last month in the order). The final proof is from a verse which mentions the first month. This verse is mentioned last because the Gemara is going to reject it. Since it is a weaker proof than the others, it is mentioned last.

QUESTION: The Gemara cites a number of verses to prove that Nisan is the first month of the year. The last verse cited is from Megilas Esther and says that Haman drew lots on the "first month which is Nisan." The Gemara says that this is not a good proof that Nisan is the first month of the year, because perhaps it means that Nisan is the first month from the time that Haman started to hate the Jews. The other proofs from Esther, however, remain valid.

Why are the other proofs valid? Those verses also detail the chronology of the acts of Haman. Perhaps the verse that refers to Adar as the twelfth month, and the verse that refers to Sivan as the third month, are also counting from the time at which Haman started to hate the Jews! Why, then, are those proofs any stronger? (MAHARSHA)


(a) The RASHASH answers that the book of Esther only counts the month from the time that Haman started to hate the Jews if by doing so it teaches something new. The verse that says that Haman drew lots in the first month, Nisan, teaches that Haman was very quick to act on his hate for the Jews. In the other verses, though, there is no Chidush in relating the time to the point at which Haman started to hate the Jews, and therefore they must be referring to the first month of the year, Nisan.

(b) The RITVA and TOSFOS HA'ROSH asked this question as well. They answer that when discussing Haman's first action after he started to hate the Jews, the Megilah wants to put things in perspective, so it mentions that the month of Nisan was the first month after he started to hate the Jews so that we would know when he started hating them. There is no necessity in the other verses to count the number of months from that time. Rather, it mentions the number of months based on the order of months of the year, with Nisan as the first.


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