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Rosh Hashanah 31

ROSH HASHANAH 31-35 (Siyum!) - 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.


QUESTION: The Gemara enumerates nine decrees that Raban Yochanan ben Zakai enacted. These decrees all follow a similar theme. Raban Yochanan ben Zakai lived at the time of the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdash (Gitin 54a), and he found it necessary to make these new decrees in order to help the people adjust to the new situation that existed due to the loss of the Beis ha'Mikdash.

We see this theme clearly in the eight of the nine decrees that he made. (1) The Mishnah (30a) states explicitly that the reason he enacted that the Lulav be held for seven days in all places was because of "Zecher l'Mikdash," to commemorate what was done in the Beis ha'Mikdash after it had been destroyed. (2) The decree prohibiting Chadash (new wheat) for the entire day of the sixteenth of Nisan was also a response to the Churban, as the Gemara explains. (3) The decree of blowing the Shofar on Shabbos of Rosh Hashanah in Yavneh, or in cities that have a Beis Din, was also a result of the new situation brought about by the Churban. Prior to the Churban the Shofar was blown on Shabbos only in the Mikdash (and Yerushalayim, see Insights to Daf 29b), and now that the Mikdash (and Yerushalayim) was destroyed there would be no Teki'os at all when Rosh Hashanah came out on Shabbos. In order that there should be Teki'os blown at least in some places, he instituted that the Shofar be blown in Yavneh (and in other places where there was a Beis Din).

Similarly, the decree to accept witnesses all day (even after the time of Minchah) when they come to testify about the new moon (4) was made because there was no longer a Beis ha'Mikdash or Korbanos, and thus there would be no Kilkul if the witnesses are accepted after Minchah time. (5) The decree prohibiting the witnesses from desecrating Shabbos in order to come testify in Beis Din in all months except Nisan and Tishrei was made because after the Churban, the Korban Musaf was no longer brought on every Rosh Chodesh and therefore there was no need for the witnesses to transgress Shabbos to let Beis Din know when Rosh Chodesh was. (6) Raban Yochanan ben Zakai's decree to annul the original enactment of bringing fruits of Kerem Reva'i to Yerushalayim from nearby cities was a result of the Churban, for after the Churban it was no longer relevant to adorn the streets of Yerushalayim with fruits, since Yerushalayim was left desolate.

The decree that witnesses go only to the place where the Beis Din convenes (Makom ha'Va'ad), and not to the place where the Rosh Beis Din is located (7), was a result of the changed circumstances after the Churban, when the Nasi had to travel frequently (in place of the king that they no longer had), going to distant cities such as Rome to advocate on behalf of the people. If the witnesses would have been required to go to wherever the head of the Beis Din was, they would not know where to go, because the head of the Beis Din was not in a permanent, established place, like he was when the Beis Din was in the Lishkas ha'Gazis of the Beis ha'Mikdash, or when it was in Yerushalayim. (8a) His decree that a convert not set aside money to bring as a Korban when the Beis ha'Mikdash is rebuilt was due to the concern that the Beis ha'Mikdash might not be rebuilt soon and the sanctified money, waiting indefinitely, might be used for personal use.

Although the decree where to tie the Lashon Shel Zehoris (8b) was made before the Churban (when the Yom Kipur service was still being performed in the Beis ha'Mikdash), it was clearly made as a result of the circumstances that *led to* the Churban. Since the Jewish people were sinful in that era, the string no longer turned white on Yom Kipur, indicative of the impending punishment that would befall Yerushalayim and the Jewish people. Raban Yochanan ben Zakai decreed that half of the string be tied between the horns of the Se'ir ha'Mishtale'ach, and half of it be tied to the rock at the cliff where the Se'ir was thrown down, so that the people not see the string and become depressed when it stayed red.

However, there is one exception. (9) His ninth decree, that Kohanim not ascend to bless the people while wearing shoes, seems to having nothing to do with the Churban of the Beis ha'Mikdash. Why was that among the Takanos of Raban Yochanan ben Zakai? And if it indeed is unrelated to the Churban, why was this decree made only in his generation, and not earlier?

ANSWER: The Gemara in Sotah (40a) says that the reason for the decree that Kohanim not ascend to bless the people while wearing shoes is because of the fear that a Kohen might notice that a strap on his sandal has torn, and he will busy himself with fixing it while the other Kohanim bless the people, because he is embarrassed to go up with a torn shoe. When people see that he does not go up to bless them, they will assume that he is not a valid Kohen and it will blemish his family's reputation as Kohanim.

It could be that during the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash, when all the Kohanim served in the Beis ha'Mikdash performing the Avodah, and eating Matnos Kehunah, a Kohen had many ways in which he could assert his status as a Kohen. Therefore, not blessing the people will not cause a blemish to his reputation as a Kohen. However, after the Churban, the only way that remains for a Kohen to show that he is a Kohen is by going up to bless the people. Therefore, Raban Yochanan ben Zakai found it necessary to make a Takanah to strengthen the reputation of Kohanim through Birkas Kohanim by ensuring that they not miss Birkas Kohanim for any reason (such as because their shoe tore). (M. Kornfeld)

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