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Rosh Hashanah 22

ROSH HASHANAH 21 & 22 (12,13 Av) - dedicated by Rabbi Kornfeld's grandmother, Mrs. G. Turkel, to the memory of her husband, Reb Yisrael Shimon (Isi) ha'Levi Turkel, who loved Torah and worked to support Torah until his last breath. He passed away on 10 Av 5780.


QUESTION: The Mishnah states that witnesses may desecrate Shabbos in order to come to Beis Din to testify that they saw the new moon. However, they may only desecrate Shabbos if they can arrive at Beis Din on the same day that needs to be declared as the new month (that is, the day that would otherwise be the thirtieth day of the previous month). If they will only arrive on the following day, their testimony is of no benefit since the month will already have been declared to be Me'ubar.
1. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Kidush ha'Chodesh 3:15-17) writes that if witnesses arrive after Beis Din declared the month Me'ubar (that is, Rosh Chodesh was the day *after* the witnesses saw the moon), even if they came at the end of the new month their testimony that they saw the new moon a day earlier is accepted, and Beis Din is Mekadesh the month retroactively (making Rosh Chodesh on the thirtieth day of the preceding month, instead of the thirty first day, as it had been until now)! Accordingly, why does the Mishnah say that witnesses who will not arrive at Beis Din within a day of seeing the new moon may not be Mechalel Shabbos? The Rambam holds that Beis Din may declare the new month retroactively, so the witnesses should be permitted to be Mechalel Shabbos to come to Beis Din, since their testimony *will* be of benefit!

2. A further problem with the Rambam's opinion is that the Mishnah later (25b) states that if Beis Din or all of the people saw the new moon in its time but there was not enough time to be Mekadesh the new month before nightfall, the month is Me'ubar. According to the Rambam, why should it be Me'ubar? The Beis Din should simply be Mekadesh yesterday as the new month retroactively!

3. Moreover, the Rambam contradicts his own ruling, for he writes (Hilchos Kidush ha'Chodesh 3:1) that if witnesses saw the new moon but realized that they will not get to Beis Din in time (before nightfall of the thirtieth day), they should not bother going (even if it will *not* entail Chilul Shabbos), because their testimony will be of no benefit since Beis Din will have already made the month Me'ubar. According to the Rambam's own opinion, the witnesses should have to go to Beis Din, because the Beis Din can be Mekadesh the new month retroactively! (RITVA here and in the beginning of Perek 3)

(a) The LECHEM MISHNAH (3:1) answers all three questions by asserting that even the Rambam agrees that mid'Oraisa, Kidush ha'Chodesh cannot be done retroactively, but only on the day itself that is to be the new month. Furthermore, mid'Oraisa there is *no need* to be Mekadesh the month retroactively even if Beis Din was actually mistaken, because whatever day the Beis Din declared to be the new month is Halachically the new month even if Beis Din did so in error (25a). What, then, does the Rambam mean that if witnesses come later, then Beis Din is Mekadesh the month retroactively?

The Rambam holds that if witnesses come later and say that they saw the new moon (so that the preceding month should have been made Mechusar, and not Me'ubar), that Rabanan enacted that Beis Din should accept their testimony in order to prevent people from mocking the rulings of Beis Din, saying that their calculations of the calendar are inaccurate. Since there is no need to correct Beis Din's Kidush ha'Chodesh other than to prevent mockery of Beis Din, the witnesses that come later may not desecrate Shabbos in order to come. In addition, if witnesses see the new moon but realize that they will not be able to arrive at Beis Din in time, there is no reason for them to travel, since Beis Din's declaration (even if incorrect) is perfectly valid. (The Rabanan have the power to rearrange the calendar even retroactively due to above-mentioned rule that whatever they declare to be the new month, is Halachically the new month -- "Atem Afuli Shogegim v'Afilu Mezidim.")

The MINCHAS CHINUCH (Mitzvah 4) asks on the Lechem Mishnah that the Rambam writes that if witnesses come to Beis Din after Yom Kipur and before Sukos saying that they saw the new moon, and hence the preceding month, Elul, should have been Mechusar, Beis Din accepts them right away. Consequently, the date of Sukos comes one day earlier (Hilchos Kidush ha'Chodesh 3:18). How can it be that the Rabanan could change the day of the new month retroactively, causing all of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur Korbanos to have been brought on the wrong day! The Mishnah (30b), which says that Beis Din enacted a decree not to accept witnesses who arrive after Minchah-time, clearly shows that Beis Din went out of there way to prevent bringing Korbanos on the wrong day!

(b) The MINCHAS CHINUCH explains that certainly mid'Oraisa, the testimony of witnesses is accepted retroactively. However, the rule that the month is sanctified even if done so in error ("'Atem,' Afilu Muta'im") applies even if Beis Din already pronounced one day as the new month and later pronounces a different day. The new day which they declare becomes the beginning of the month with regard to all matters *from now on*, while until now, the new month is considered to have been the original date. For the rest of the month, the day of the month is counted from the new declaration. Their declaration is "Mi'kan u'Lehaba Lemafre'a," in technical terms.

Regarding the Mishnayos which imply that there is no retroactive Kidush ha'Chodesh, the only reason we declare the month based on the testimony of witnesses is because the Gemara says that there is a Mitzvah to be Mekadesh the new month based on the testimony of witnesses (20a). The Rambam understands that this Mitzvah applies only *on the day of* the new moon. Afterward, there is no Mitzvah to be Mekadesh the new month based on witnesses. That means that even though Beis Din can re-establish the day of the new month retroactively, by doing so they do *not* fulfill the Mitzvah of Kidush based on witnesses.


OPINIONS: The Tzedukim hired two people, for two-hundred Zuz each, to give false testimony in Beis Din that they saw the new moon. One of the hired witnesses decided to reveal the plot during his testimony. As part of his testimony before Beis Din, he gave a very strange description of the moon that he saw. He told the Beis Din that he saw the new moon crouching between two rocks. Its head was like that of a calf, and its ears were like those of a goat. Its horns were like those of a gazelle, and its tail was between its legs. He said he fainted when he saw it, and that if Beis Din does not believe him, he has a bundle of 200 Zuz in his pocket to prove it.

What is the meaning of these metaphors?

(a) The AKEIDAH (#67) says that "Ma'aleh Adumim" refers to the sovereignty of the nation of Edom, who was the controlling power of Eretz Yisrael at the time. What he meant to say was that the reason the Tzedukim are able to plot against the Jews because the Chachamim's authority is so weakened due to the troubles that the Jews have as a result of the harsh rulers.

The moon is a metaphor for the Jewish people. When he said that he saw the moon between two mountains, he meant that the Jews in Eretz Yisrael were under Roman rule, while those outside of Eretz Yisrael were under the rule of the Yishmaelim (or Parsi'im).

"Its head was like that of a calf" refers to the sin of the Golden Calf, the repercussions of which still weaken the power of the leaders of the Jewish people.

"Its horns were like those of a gazelle" refers to the honor ("Keren") of the Jewish people. The gazelle sheds its horns every year, a metaphor for the honor of the Jewish people that has fallen.

"Its tail is between its legs" indicates that it walks like a scared, vulnerable animal. The witness said, "If you do not believe me" -- that the Tzedukim are trying to fool you -- "I have a bundle of 200 Zuz in my pocket." That is, if you do not believe me but instead you accept my testimony about the new moon, I will have carried out the job for which I was hired and I will have earned 200 Zuz from the Tzedukim who hired me.

(b) The MAHARSHA says that the witness was bemoaning the fact that they no longer are able to be Mekadesh the Chodesh properly, because of all the people trying to impede it. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (14a) says that the Romans passed a decree prohibiting Semichah, declaring that anyone who receives Semichah will be put to death and the nearest city will be wiped out. Rebbi Yehudah ben Bava "went between two great mountains and two great cities," says the Gemara, so that if the Roman caught him giving Semichah, they would not know which city to kill and thus they would kill neither. He gave Semichah to five Talmidim.

It is to this that the witness was alluding. He saw the moon between two mountains, meaning that the fate of Kidush ha'Chodesh depended on the action that Rebbi Yehudah ben Bava did between the two mountains (giving Semichah), because without people with Semichah, the Beis Din cannot do Kidush ha'Chodesh. "Its head was like that of a calf" refers to the head of the Jewish people, Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai. The Gemara in Pesachim says that Rebbi Akiva refused to give Semichah to Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai because of the Roman decree. At that time, Rebbi Shimon compared himself to a young calf that is not able to milk from its mother, and thus "the head [of Klal Yisrael] is like a calf," who wanted to eat but was unable to, and did not receive Semichah from Rebbi Akiva.

"Its ears are like that of a kid," means that those who wish to hear words of Torah and to receive Semichah are unable to, and they will instead remain young like a young goat since they will not be able to mature by learning properly from their teachers, nor will they receive Semichah from them. This witness was expressing the sad state of Kidush ha'Chodesh, and therefore he did not want to falsely testify.

(c) The MAHARSHAM cites in the name of the VILNA GA'ON (Aliyos Eliyahu 13b) that "its ears were like those of a goat" means as follows. A goat's ears are doubled over and closed (see Mishnah in Bechoros 40b). The crouching moon refers to the Tzedukim who wanted to make a moon where there really was none. Those, the ears of this moon "were like those of a goat" means that the Tzedukim have ears like a goat, for they are doubled over and closed in their refusal to listen to the Chachamim.

Based on this, we can explain that when he said that he saw the moon crouching between two rocks, he was alluding to the Gemara in Berachos (61a) which says that the Yetzer ha'Ra is like a fly that sits between "the two valves of the heart," and to the Gemara (Berachos 32a) which likens a heart affected by the Yetzer ha'Ra ot a "heart of stone." The Tzedukim follow their Yetzer ha'Ra which crouches between the two sides of the heart, making their hearts to be of stone.

The way they scorn the leadership of the Chachamim resembles the people who built the Golden Calf, who insisted on building it against the word of the true leaders.

"Its ears were like those of a gazelle" means that trusting them is like placing one's money on the horn of a gazelle. The animal will certainly run away, taking all of one's money (Kesuvos 107b).

"Its tail was between its legs" symbolizes the fear of the Tzedukim of being caught by the Chachamim.

(See also CHASAM SOFER, who offers another approach to this Agadah.)

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