THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) NOT ESTABLISHING A LEAP YEAR DURING A FAMINE
QUESTION: The Gemara states that we do not establish a leap year during a
famine. RASHI explains that a leap year makes a famine more difficult by
extending the prohibition to eat new grain, "Chadash," for one more month,
resulting in a severe grain shortage for that month. Rebbi brings a proof to
this Halachah from an incident involving Elisha. A man from Ba'al Shalishah,
which was a land known for the alacrity of its growth of grain, brought
Elisha "twenty new breads made of barley" -- "Lechem Bikurim Esrim Lechem
Se'orim" (Melachim II 4:42). Elisha commanded, "Give the bread to the people
and they should eat." Rebbi says that it is clear that after Pesach of that
year there was only barley, for even Ba'al Shalishah produced only barley
bread. The incident obviously occurred only after Pesach, for otherwise they
would not have been able to eat the new breads because of the prohibition of
"Chadash." We see from here, Rebbi asserts, that Elisha did not extend the
year and make it a leap year because of the famine.
2) "TUM'AH" IN THE TIMES OF CHIZKIYAH
What is Rebbi's proof from Elisha? How do we know that that year was
supposed to be extended in the first place? Moreover, even if it was
supposed to be a leap year, how do we see from that incident that Elisha
indeed did *not* extend it?
ANSWER: TOSFOS answers that it is impossible that Elisha extended the year,
because the only bread that they had was barley bread. Had the year been
extended, then they certainly would have had other types of grains by the
time Pesach had passed.
The RAN adds that this is why it states in the verse that the bread was
"Bikurim," referring to the first and only crop of that year.
The YAD RAMAH explains that had there been other crops, the verse would have
read, "*v*'Esrim," and not just "Esrim." By saying, "Esrim," the verse is
describing what the first fruits, the Bikurim, of that year were comprised
The MAHARSHA uses the answer of Tosfos in order to resolve another question.
The Gemara later rules that we may not establish two leap years in a row.
How do we know that, in the incident of the bread of Ba'al Shalishah, that
the year before was not a leap year, and that is the reason why Elisha was
unable to make that year into a leap year (and not because of the famine)?
Based on the explanation of Tosfos, it is clear that the previous year was
not a leap year, because had it been a leap year, then there would have
already been more crops by the following Pesach, since it would have been
later in the season.
The Maharsha, however, has another difficulty which he does not answer. How
do we know that the year in question was not any other type of year that
cannot be made into a leap year, such as a Shemitah year, or the year after
a Shemitah year?
Regarding the year after a Shemitah year, the ARUCH LA'NER explains that
perhaps Rebbi held like the House of Raban Gamliel, who ruled that we may
established a leap year after Shemitah.
Regarding the Shemitah year itself, the Aruch la'Ner answers that the Gemara
in Kesuvos (105b) asks, regarding this incident, "Did Elisha really eat
Bikurim [which may be eaten only by a Kohen]?" The Gemara there answers that
"it must be teaching us that whoever brings a gift to a Talmid Chacham is
considered to have brought Bikurim [to the Beis ha'Mikdash]." The Gemara
equates Bikurim with a gift. This shows that the year could not have been a
Shemitah year, because during a Shemitah year it is not possible to give
one's produce as a gift, since all produce is ownerless. It could not have
been that the gift was merely that the ownerless produce of Shemitah was
given to Elisha, because one is not permitted to give a gift of produce
during Shemitah which will cause the recipient to have Hakaras ha'Tov
towards the giver. Therefore, the year could not have been a Shemitah year.
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM discusses a more straightforward way to answer the
question that perhaps the year was a Shemitah year, and that is why Elisha
did not make it a leap year. The ME'IRI in Yevamos (73a) states explicitly
that the Mitzvah of bringing Bikurim does not apply in a Shemitah year. Some
maintain that this is also the opinion of Rashi. Accordingly, it would not
be logical for the verse to refer to this gift as Bikurim during the type of
year in which there is no Mitzvah of Bikurim. (The TASHBATZ (2:247) and
others, however, explicitly rule that there is still an obligation to bring
Bikurim during Shemitah.) (Y. Montrose)
OPINIONS: The Gemara records an argument between the Tana Kama and Rebbi
Yehudah regarding whether or not we may establish a leap year due to a
concern of Tum'ah. The Gemara initially understands that Rebbi Yehudah is of
the opinion that we may establish a leap year in order to give more time for
the people to become Tahor (so that they can bring the Korban Pesach on
Pesach while Tahor). Rebbi Yehudah continues and says, as a proof to his
opinion, that Chizkiyah ha'Melech established a leap year due to Tum'ah, and
he subsequently prayed that Hashem have mercy on him and forgive him. The
Gemara later (12b) concludes that Rebbi Yehudah actually maintains that not
only may we *not* establish a leap year because of Tum'ah, but if Beis Din
did establish a leap year for that reason, the ruling is invalid and the
year is *not* a leap year. Rebbi Yehudah brings proof for this from
Chizkiyah, who needed to ask forgiveness for making the year into a leap
year because of Tum'ah.
What is this "Tum'ah" that the Gemara is discussing, for which we would want
to make the year into a leap year? What was the Tum'ah in the times of
(a) RASHI explains that the Gemara is referring to the Tum'ah caused by the
death of a Nasi, which makes the entire nation Tamei. If the Nasi is ill
during Adar and the prognosis is that he will die within a few days before
Pesach, causing the entire nation to become Tamei (and thus the Korban
Pesach will not be able to be brought b'Taharah), then this would appear to
be reason to make the year into a leap year. Alternatively, explains Rashi,
the Gemara is referring to a situation in which most of the Jewish people
are Tamei at the end of the month of Adar, and the ashes of the Parah Adumah
have been used up and no new Parah Adumah has been found.
The Tum'ah in the days of Chizkiyah was the Tum'ah caused by Chizkiyah's
father, Achaz, who was a Rasha who promoted idol worship among the people,
during whose time the people were not concerned with the observance of the
The IMREI TZVI asks why Rashi adds that "they were not concerned with the
observance of the Torah" ("Lo Chashashu la'Torah")? He explains that the
Tum'ah caused by Avodah Zarah does not necessarily make one Tamei for seven
days (see Rashi to Pesachim 92a, DH Machlokes, and RAMBAM, Hilchos Avos
ha'Tum'ah 6:6). He suggests that Rashi is saying that the reason why the
people were Tamei is because they did not observe the laws of the Torah
regarding Tum'as Mes, and therefore they required purification from having
become Tamei from the dead. (However, this does not seem to be the simple
explanation of the words of Rash; see MAHARSHAM.)
(b) TOSFOS cites the Yerushalmi which says that the Tum'ah during the time
of Chizkiyah was that they found the skull of Aravnah ha'Yevusi (the
original owner of the land on which the Beis ha'Mikdash was built)
underneath the Mizbe'ach.
Tosfos questions this explanation, and Rashi's explanation that the Gemara
is referring to a situation in which all of the people were Tamei at the end
of Adar. Even if the Mizbe'ach was Tamei, or if most of the people were
Tamei, they still had the means with which to become Tahor before Pesach.
The Mishnah in Parah (3:5) states that the ashes of Moshe Rabeinu's Parah
Adumah were extant during the entire period of the first Beis ha'Mikdash.
Tosfos answers that perhaps there was not enough time to be Metaher everyone
The NODA B'YEHUDAH (Mahadura Tinyana OC 86) points out that the reason of
the Yerushalmi would not render the Jewish people Tamei, because the Tum'ah
was found in a place where most Jews cannot go. However, it did render all
of the Kohanim Tamei. This, he says, was Chizkiyah's mistake. The Gemara in
Pesachim (79a) says that in such a case -- when all of the Kohanim are
Tamei -- the Korbanos must be brought nevertheless, even b'Tum'ah. The fact
that the Kohanim are Tamei does not render all of the Korbanos Tamei,
because of the Halachah that the liquids that come from the animals being
slaughtered as Korbanos do not make the meat fit to become Tamei, as do
other types of liquids. Therefore, the Jewish people still could have eaten
their Korban Pesach in Taharah, even though it would have been offered by a
Kohen who was Tamei.
The TZION YERUSHALAYIM asks a different question on this opinion of the
Yerushalmi. The Gemara (12b) says that Rebbi Shimon accepts this explanation
of the Beraisa that Rebbi Yehudah maintains that a leap year may not be
established because of Tum'ah. However, Rebbi Shimon is also of the opinion
that the corpse of a Nochri does not cause Tum'as Ohel. We know that Aravnah
was a Nochri. How can Rebbi Shimon accept that it was not proper to make a
leap year because of the Tum'ah caused by the corpse of Aravnah, when Rebbi
Shimon is also of the opinion that the corpse of a Nochri does not cause
Tum'as Ohel? The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM answers that we find in many cases that
the Beis ha'Mikdash had stringent rules regarding Tum'ah. Perhaps Rebbi
Shimon would agree that in the Beis ha'Mikdash, the corpse of a Nochri would
make everyone Tamei.
The Margoliyos ha'Yam answers further, in the name of TESHUVOS V'SHAV
HA'KOHEN (#75) that Aravnah was a Ger Toshav, and even Rebbi Shimon agrees
that the corpse of a Ger Toshav causes Tum'as Ohel. (Y. Montrose)
3) THE SIN OF WRONGFULLY ESTABLISHING A LEAP YEAR
QUESTION: The Gemara states that when Chizkiyah thought that he had made a
mistake in establishing a leap year, he prayed, "Hashem ha'Tov Yechaper
b'Ad" (Divrei ha'Yamim II 30:18). The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (25a) states
that the authority of Beis Din in establishing the calendar is absolute, and
the decision of Beis Din is binding even if Beis Din errs accidentally,
advertently, or because of lack of knowledge. Why, then, was Chizkiyah
distressed about his mistake? What he did was binding and was Halachicly
considered to be the appropriate date, and thus no one transgressed any
prohibitions because of his error in calculation. Why, then, was he bothered
by what he had done?
(a) The TZELACH (Berachos 63a) writes that the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah
applies only to making an extra day in the month in error, and not to
establishing an extra month in the year in error. Hence, Chizkiyah obviously
wanted to pray for forgiveness, since many people were acting in accordance
with his erroneous ruling assuming that it was one month earlier than it
(b) The MINCHAS CHINUCH (Mitzvah 4:6) argues with the Tzelach. He cites the
Toras Kohanim that specifically states that the case of a leap year
established in error is included in the Halachah that whatever Beis Din
decrees with regard to the calendar is binding, even if done in error.
Perhaps the Minchas Chinuch understands that Chizkiyah was distressed about
his error (even though his ruling was binding), because the Chachamim did
not agree to his decision. This caused him to doubt whether his decision
indeed was covered by the Derashah that Beis Din's decrees concerning the
calendar are binding even when made in error; perhaps the Derashah applies
only when everyone is in agreement about the ruling.
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM notes that Chizkiyah's prayer, "Hashem ha'Tov Yechaper
b'Ad," is the source for our practice to add the words, "ul'Chaparas Pasha"
("and for the atonement of iniquity"), in each Musaf Shemoneh Esreh of Rosh
Chodesh during a leap year. It is a prayer that nothing inauspicious should
result from our changing the natural course of the year, as that which
happened to Chizkiyah. (Y. Montrose)