Avodah Mailing List
Volume 05 : Number 038
Monday, May 8 2000
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 22:20:15 +0100
From: Chana/Heather Luntz <Chana/Heather@luntz.demon.co.uk>
Subject: Re: Heter Mechira (was Re: Lo S'Choneim (was Re: aniyei ircha))
In message <200005040020.DAA06882@lmail.actcom.co.il>, Carl and Adina
Sherer <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes
>I don't see how you decide that if something is "less than" an issur
>d'Rabbanan, it suddenly becomes mutar lechatchila.
What is the halachic stage between mutal l'chatchila and an issur
d'rabbanan - baal nefesh machmir?
>This is a separate issue, but I always understood the 600,000 as
>meaning that 600,000 people had to go by that place each day and
>that the street in question had to be 16 amos wide (e.g. Ocean
>Parkway in New York and Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, both
>of which cause the respective eruvin involved to become
I think there are two possible readings of the yesh omrim relevant siman
(Orech Chayim siman 345, si'if 6) - the one is that the passing is
occuring within that street (the one that earlier is described to be 16
amos wide). However, it is not necessarily clear that there is
reference back to the street, and otherwise one would say one is talking
about a makom in which there are 600,000 people passing (ie the local
area). I believe the latter interpretation was that given to the sugya
by Rav Moshe Feinstein. If you follow the latter interpretation, then
there is a problem if there are 600,000 people within the city in which
you wish to have an eruv.
I think, in Jerusalem, this is a relatively recent problem, as I believe
(but could be wrong here) that the official census for Jerusalem only
topped 600,000 relatively recently. However, I am not sure to what
extent that census included Arabs, so it may in fact have been that high
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 08 May 2000 01:57:09 +1000
From: SBA <email@example.com>
Subject: Sholom Aleichem (was Ym Jirtzah Hashem vs B'li Neder)]
>Micha Berger wrote: Subject: Re: Ym Jirtzah Hashem vs B'li Neder
>.....Perhaps that's why we use "Shalom Aleichem / Aleichem Shalom", where Shalom
>is explained by many to be a sheim, or at least a kinuy.
M'Inyan L'inyan b'Oso Inyan....I have long wondered: Does Sholom Aleichem
come punctuated with a *?* (question mark)?
My main reason for this is that it is known beHalocho as *She'ilas*
Sholom - which I understand as "asking" Sholom.
And as the posuk says
1) Yaakov on his way to Lovon: "Vayomer Lohem *Hasholom Lo*? Vayomru Sholom."
2) Yisro when meeting Moshe Rabenu: "*Vayishalu* Ish Lerehu leSholom"
I suppose one could find more such examples.
The Kasheh I have on this theory is, why then is the reply to
Sholom Aleichem? - Aleichem Sholom.
This really doesn't answer the question (unlike #1 above).
On the other hand, in #2 above the Torah mentions Yisro and MR
*asking* - but there doesn't seem to be any replying...
SHLOMO B ABELES
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 11:34:14 +0300 (IDT)
From: Eli Turkel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The present daf yomi is discussing various issues of "oneis" and "mefateh"
(rape and seduction). Several issues were raised in our shiur which leave me
The basic halakhot are:
We are discussing only the rape aspect of the crime and not other damages
the rapist does at the same time (eg broken arm etc).
A rapist is subject to a fine but only if the girl is a Naarah (12 - 12 1/2
years) or possibly under this limit. The rapist of a bogeret does not
pay the fine.
In addition to the fine the rapist has to pay damages like any one else
who injures someone else.
For a bogeret the only damages she can claim are nezek and boshet.
nezek is decided by how much would pay for his slave to have a virgin rather
than a nonvirgin. To me it doesn't sound like a lot of money and it
applies only to raping a virgin.
Thus, if someone rapes a nonvirgin single girl over the age of 12 1/2
his only punishment is boshet (embarassment). As the gemara says the
amount for boshet depends on the the rapist and the girl.
I assume if the rapist is a famous boxer, rock star or even a president
than the amount she can collect is minimal.
The questions are:
1. It seems that someone who rapes a bogeret has minimal payments
especially of she is not a virgin.
2. On a hashkafa level rape doesn't seem to rate very high unless the
woman is married or else is underage and belongs to her father.
A single woman on her own doesn't rate very much.
Of course all damages to someone else (posisbly also to oneself) are
prohibited. But on the scale of other prohibitions it is not one of
the major sins.
3. There doesn't seem to be any discussion of the extreme trauma that
the woman suffers and the psychological damage.
Why isn't that included under doctor payments and suffering?
4. One of the damages is for pain.
Rashi says that there is do damages for loss of virginity because
she has pleasure at the same time.
I remember the severe outcry at some police who commented to a woman
who was raped and asked if she enjoyed it.
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 12:09:22 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Heter Mechira (was Re: Lo S'Choneim (was Re: aniyei ircha))
On 7 May 2000, at 22:20, Chana/Heather Luntz wrote:
> In message <200005040020.DAA06882@lmail.actcom.co.il>, Carl and Adina
> Sherer <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes >I don't see how you decide that
> if something is "less than" an issur >d'Rabbanan, it suddenly becomes
> mutar lechatchila. >
> What is the halachic stage between mutal l'chatchila and an issur
> d'rabbanan - baal nefesh machmir?
Mutar b'dieved, mutar rak be'shas ha'dchak.
Carl M. Sherer, Adv.
Silber, Schottenfels, Gerber & Sherer
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.
Thank you very much.
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 15:01:20 -0400
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: RE: shaving during sfira
> R. Aaron Soloveichik Paskins that you may shave during
>ANY time during sfira? Does he also pasken that you can take
>haircuts? If not, mai nafka mina?
My understanding that I heard from a talmid of RYBS is that he held the
geder of avelut during sefira to the avelut of 12 hodesh (not of shiva or
shloshim). During that avelut, the criteria for being matir shaving or a
haircut is kdei sheyig'aru bo. For someone who shaves daily, that criteria
is met daily. Most of us do not take daily (or even weekly) haircuts, and
kdei sheyig'aru does not apply. I believe that this might be in Nefesh
Harav (copy loaned out, so can't check).
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 08:09:57 -0500
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Sholom Aleichem (was Ym Jirtzah Hashem vs B'li Neder)]
On Mon, May 08, 2000 at 01:57:09AM +1000, SBA wrote:
: My main reason for this is that it is known beHalocho as *She'ilas*
: Sholom - which I understand as "asking" Sholom.
Lish'ol can also mean to request. From where we get the usage "sho'eil" for
IOW, a question is thought of as a request for information.
BTW, we have the same thing in Aramaic with "iba'i". Which is why "meisivei"
introduces a she'eilah, not a kushya ("kasha").
Micha Berger (973) 916-0287 MMG"H for 5-May-00: Shishi, Kedoshim
http://www.aishdas.org Rosh-Hashanah 35a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light. Haftorah
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 06:35:38 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: What Constitues a Tzibbur?
On Areivim, RMS raised the interesting question of what defines a tzibbur
vis a vis poreish me'darkei ha'tzibbur. I find the issue fascinating, as it
has many ramifications. For example, one could continue his argument further
and prpose that, say, Yom Ha'Sho'ah has become one of the manners of
expression of the tzibbur of Am Yisroel, and that to be poreish, therefore,
from that commemoration, even if ods it as improper, may be defined as
poreish me'darkei ha'tzibbur.
I would disagree. I think that, at the very least, if the Chacham Ha'Ir has
not participated in promulgating the Derech Ha'Tzibbur, as discussed in BB,
first perek (yes, there is a Bigdei Shesh on the topic, perhaps more on this
later), then it cannot be construed to be the will of the Tzibbur, and
therefore one who is poreish from this Derech is not b'geder poreish
Furthermore, it is interesting to query whether a tzibbur may include
constitutents against their will. In this case, how do the inhabitants of
Me'ah She'arim, who vehemently repudiate the State and refuse its financial
support, fall into the category of members of its tzibbur? Did the State
exercise kinyan kibbush on them? Does riding an Egged bus constitute tacit
recognition of the State?
I bring these points up not because I categorzie myself with the inhabitants
of MS - far from it - although as a talmid in the Mir I dwelt in the for
over a year - but lishem shakla v'tarya (which may end up as milchamta shel
Torah, let's be careful!).
I propose that the concept of tzibbur can only be applied to religious
groupings, not to national or regional societies.
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 10:40:11 -0500
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Calendar Controversy Artivle
I, with much help from RYGB, finally got an ASCII version of the article
Our Very Own Y2K Problem (More Precisely: Y0.92K):
The Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon - Rabbi Aharon ben Meir Controversy
Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer with Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky
Rabbi Yochanan said: From where do we learn that it is a mitzvah for
a person to calculate seasons and constellations? Because it is said:
"And you shall guard and you shall do, for it is your knowledge and
understanding before the eyes of the Nations" (Devarim 4). Which knowledge
and understanding is before the eyes of the Nations? You must say,
this is the calculation of seasons and constellations. (Shabbos 75a;
see the Ritva and Maharsha there and the Yerei'im siman 104).
What You Might Have Thought
"""" """ """"" """" """""""
The Y2K problem that was supposed to have wrought havoc with computer
systems around the world on the first day of January 2000 CE, doubtless did
not escaped your attention. You probably assumed - correctly - that this
problem was of no importance to the Jewish calendar.
There was a time, however, a little more than one millennium ago, when we
faced a severe calendar problem in our very own midst. True, there were, then,
no computers to cause the unique grief only they can provide. Nevertheless,
the Jewish calendar is subject to computation.
You probably presumed that a fixed Jewish calendar has been in place since
Hillel II ("Ha'Sheni") established it in the 4th century CE. At first glance,
this premise seems borne out by a teshuva in which Rabbi Hai Gaon writes
that a fixed Jewish calendar has been in effect since the time of Hillel the
Second, the son of Rabbi Yehuda Nesi'ah (grandson of Rabbi Yehuda Ha'Nasi)
in approximately 4119 okugv ,thrck (358-9 CE).  The Rambam dates the
fixed calendar to a similar period:
When did all the Jews begin to go by these calculations [of the
calendar]? From the end of the time of the Sages of the Gemara, when
the land of Israel was destroyed and there was no longer a regular court
sitting there ... but until the days of Abaye and Rava they relied on what
was determined in the land of Israel. (Hilchos Kiddush Ha'Chodesh 5.2)
Since Abaye and Rava lived around the middle of the fourth century, the two
views are very similar.
What Is More Probably the Case
"""" "" """" """""""" """ """"
Nevertheless, it is not clear what, precisely, Hillel II fixed. It was not
the final version of the calendar we use today and it did not ensure that
there were no future debates over various details of the calendar.  There
are several problems (other than the one that will preoccupy us here) that
preclude the possibility that Hillel II firmly set in place the precisely
fixed calendar we use today. 
Eventually, one of the last Ge'onim, Rabbi Nachshon Gaon, formalized a 247 year
(thirteen nineteen-year cycles) cycle. A perpetual luach based on that cycle
(Iggul d'Rabbi Nachshon Gaon) is reproduced in the Tur Orach Chaim, at the end
of siman 428. All modern luchos, such as the ubiquitous Ezras Torah luach and
others, are based on that table. But that only occurred in the 11th century CE.
Which Leads Us to Our Problem
""""" """"" "" "" """ """""""
So, we now know, the calendar was not completely fixed in the tenth
century. There, was, therefore, an annual ceremony in which the Rosh Yeshiva
of the yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel would formally announce - on Hoshana Rabba,
from atop Har Ha'Zeisim - the calendar for the coming year. In 920 CE the
leader of Eretz Yisroel Jewry, Rabbi Aharon ben Meir, proclaimed that the
following Marcheshvan and Kislev (4681 according to our count) would both have
only twenty-nine days. Pesach 921 CE would, then, fall on Sunday, instead of
Tuesday as everyone had anticipated.  This would also move up Rosh Hashana
of 4682 two days earlier. This led to a great debate regarding the calendar
between two preeminent Gedolei Torah of the time (and former friends), Rabbi
ben Meir and the leader of Babylonian Jewry, Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon (882-942 CE).
Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon vigorously opposed this change. Records suggest that
part of the Jewish world, mostly in Eretz Yisroel and Egypt, followed Rabbi
ben Meir's ruling, actually observed the holidays two days earlier than
their co-religionists that year.  The rest of the Jewish world, however,
followed Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon's psak.
The dispute centered on a calendar rule well known to those who recently
studied Rosh Hashana 20b in Daf Yomi: The rule of "Molad Zakein."
The rule of Molad Zakein is appears in Rosh Hashana 20b. This rule states
that if the Molad of Tishrei (or any other month ) occurs at noon or later
(according to "Jerusalem Standard Time") then we postpone Rosh Hashana to
the next allowable day. Rabbi ben Meir proposed relaxing that rule by 642
chalakim (= thirty-five minutes and forty seconds). His opinion caused the
two-day postponements that would otherwise have occurred in 4682 and 4683 to
be canceled and all Yomim Tovim in those two years to occur two days earlier.
Issue No. 1: The Centrality of Eretz Yisroel
""""" """ "" """ """""""""" "" """"" """""""
In the records we possess, Rabbi ben Meir never explains the actual basis for
his position - an assertion that flies, it seems, in the face of an explicit
Gemara. His primary public defense of his position was that Eretz Yisroel held
supremacy in matters of the calendar. This position is codified l'halacha in
the Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush Ha'Chodesh 5:1. The Gemara Rosh Hashana 25a cites
the halacha that the ruling of a Beis Din on matters of the luach is binding -
even if they are mistaken in their reckoning, and even if they intentionally
manipulate the luach. This halacha also seems to back up Rabbi ben Meir.
In response, Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon  argued that since Moshe and Aharon received
the mitzvah of Kiddush Ha'Chodesh from Hashem at Har Sinai, the luach has
always been fixed based on reckoning, not on sightings of the new moon. The
knowledge and principles of that reckoning was transmitted by the shevet of
Yisaschar, who are called "yod'ei bina la'ittim" - "knowers of understanding
for times" (Divrei Ha'Yamim 1:12). This was the exclusive practice until the
days of Antigunos Ish Socho and his infamous students, Tzadok and Beitus. The
schools of heretical thought founded by these individuals cast aspersions on
the accuracy of Chazal's knowledge of the methodology of reckoning. It was
only to demonstrate that their reckoning was precise and accurate that Chazal
instituted Kiddush Ha'Chodesh based on visual sightings by witnesses. Thus,
Eretz Yisroel never had superior authority in fixing the calendar, only
superior knowledge of the calculations. By the 10th century, however, Bavel
and Eretz Yisroel held this knowledge equally. The calculation of Rabbi ben
Meir - contradicting the principle of molad zakein as explicitly laid out
in the Gemara - was, therefore, not definitive.
Still, this will not help sustain Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon's position according
to the Rambam. The Rambam and Ramban (Sefer Ha'Mitzvos, aseh 153 )
argue about how Hillel II could establish a fixed calendar, bypassing the
requirement that Beis Din sanctify each Rosh Chodesh. The Ramban holds that
Hillel II sanctified all future new moons in advance. This causes no problems
for Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon, as he would say that those new moons were sanctified
based on the proper reckoning.
The Rambam, however, holds that Kiddush Ha'Chodesh remains the prerogative
of the residents of Eretz Yisroel - even in the absence of a Sanhedrin. The
Rambam says that if we were to have experienced a time in history during
which the yishuv in Eretz Yisroel would have ceased to exist, the calendar
system would have collapsed! (He says that the fact that this never occurred
is a clear manifestation of Hashgocho.) We do not require a formal monthly
sanctification, explains the Rambam, because we assume that there is a tacit
consent by the yishuv in Eretz Yisroel to follow the reckoning that Chazal have
bequeathed to us. The Rambam goes as far as to say that Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon's
approach was not meant as a genuine perspective, but only as a debating tactic!
So, were the Rambam alive at the time of the Y0.92K controversy, how would he
have ruled? It is, possible that were the Rambam around, he would have held
that although Rabbi ben Meir's position runs counter to an explicit Gemara,
the principles of Hilchos Kiddush Ha'Chodesh nevertheless would require the
Jewish world to follow his ruling.
I think we may say, however, that even the Rambam might have sided with Rabbi
Sa'adia Gaon. Since, as the Rambam writes in his introduction to Mishne Torah,
the Talmud Bavli is the final and universal arbiter of halachic standards,
then even the Chachmei Eretz Yisroel are also bound by "Rav Ashi v'Ravinah
sof horo'oh" - Rabbi Ashi and Ravinah's compilation of Talmud Bavli marks
the end of the period that set universally binding halachic standards (Bava
When, therefore, a Posek subsequent to the end of the Talmudic period
decides a halachic matter, he must do so based on the "benchmarks" set in the
Talmud. Since Rabbi ben Meir attempted to introduce a mode of reckoning that
varies (by 642 chalakim) from that authorized by the Talmud, his proposal
is to be disregarded. Since the Rambam holds that the Jews of Eretz Yisroel
perform their Kiddush Ha'Chodesh by tacit consent, we assume their consent
to Torah true standards, i.e., those set by the Talmud Bavli.
Issue No. 2: What Might Have Been Rabbi ben Meir's Basis?
""""" """ "" """" """"" """" """" """"" """ """""" """"""
Rabbi ben Meir was a great talmid chochom and leader. While his ruling
was subsequently rejected, we must seek to understand what his premise
was. After all, as we know "the hava amina [rejected premise] is also Torah"
- how much more so the maskono (conclusion) of a Gadol b'Torah of the Geonic
period. Perhaps we may propose the following rational explanation:
Chazal adopted the Molad Zakein rule, according to the Kuzari and Ba'al
HaMa'or, so that someone, somewhere in the world, would experience a full
day of Rosh Chodesh after the Molad, and, therefore, might likely see the
New Moon before that day elapsed.
This works as follows:
Since the Halachic International Dateline is 90deg east (and 270deg west)
of Yerushalayim, the inhabitants of the area just over the Dateline are
eighteen hours behind Yerushalayim. I.e., when in Yerushalayim it is high
noon, say, on Rosh Hashana when it comes out around the autumnal equinox
(Sept. 21), it is 6:00 p.m., i.e., sunset, at the beginning of Rosh Hashana
on the other side of the Dateline. That place is the last place on Earth
where Rosh Hashana will begin.
Generally, the New Moon may first be seen approximately twenty-four hours
after the Molad. The moon is not visible at the very end and very beginning
of the Jewish month because it is, then, perfectly aligned between the Sun
and the Earth. All the Sun's light reflects, then, on the other side of the
moon, and does not reach us. The Molad is the moment when the moon moves out
of that perfect alignment. Even after the Molad, however, the moon's surface
is too much face to face with the sun and too little opposite the Earth for
its light to be discerned here on Earth's surface. The moon does not reflect
enough light toward Earth to allow it to be spotted for at least six hours,
and generally not for twenty-four hours after the Molad (all this is explained
in the Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Ha'Chodesh).
So, if the Molad occurs before high noon in Yerushalayim, then at that
"last place on Earth," the Molad, although in "real time" taking place
simultaneously, is, on the clock, occurring eighteen hours earlier - before
the 6:00 p.m. sunset - so, as the Gemara says in Rosh Hashana, there is,
somewhere on Earth, a place where a complete night and day of Rosh Chodesh
occur subsequently to the Molad, and it is likely that the New Moon will
actually be seen in that place on that day.
If, however, the Molad occurs after high noon in Yerushalayim, then at that
"last place on Earth," the Molad, is, on the clock, occurring eighteen
hours earlier - after the 6:00 p.m. sunset - so, then, there is no place
on Earth where a complete night and day of Rosh Chodesh occur subsequently
to the Molad, and it is unlikely that the New Moon will actually be seen in
that place on that day. Since people might find the setting of such a day as
Rosh Chodesh somewhat dubious, Chazal decreed that in cases of Molad Zakein,
Rosh Chodesh should be delayed.
Now, according to Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon these constructs are abstract -, i.e.,
there need be no specific place 90degE/270degW of Yerushalayim to serve as
the focal point to which we apply the Molad Zakein rule. It applies to a
theoretical place, and is based on abstract astronomical calculations. 
It seems that Rabbi ben Meir held that these constructs are actual, i.e.,
we need to seek out the furthest easterly Jewish settlement - which may not
be 90degE/270degW of Yerushalayim.  After all, the Molad Zakein rule was
designed around the possibility of individuals witnessing the New Moon! At
that time, that settlement was in Kaifeng, China.  That settlement is
actually not as far away as 90deg from Yerushalayim - it is about eighty
or so degrees away. In his generation, at least, Rabbi ben Meir placed
the Halachic International Dateline further west than did Rabbi Sa'adia
Gaon. The Dateline would have to run slightly to the east of Kaifeng - in
a place they could reach within a day's journey, so they might be able to
testify to having seen the New Moon on that day.
Since, therefore, the sunset which is the final "beginning" of the previous day
takes place somewhat later (just as Shabbos begins later and later the more
westerly you travel), that also gives the Molad some leeway after high noon
"the next day" in Yerushalayim. This adjustment gives about 35-40 minutes
leeway beyond high noon. This very closely approximates the 642 chalakim
that Rabbi ben Meir proposed adding to the Molad Zakein rule! 
Is this Relevant to Mevorchim Chodesh?
"" """" """""""" "" """"""""" """"""""
Every Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh, we recite Birchas Ha'Chodesh. The
origin of this practice is somewhat unclear. It is not mentioned in Shas,
Rambam or Shulchan Aruch. It is mentioned by the Sefer Yere'im (siman 103,
quoted by the Magen Avrohom and Mishna Berura in Orach Chaim 417:1). The
Yerei'im makes it clear that our practice is only meant to publicize the
date of Rosh Chodesh, not to sanctify that date. 
But why, then, are we not mevarech Chodesh Tishrei? The Mishna Berura posits
that since the purpose of Birchas Ha'Chodesh is to publicize the date of
Rosh Chodesh, then it follows that a date for which we have (hopefully!) so
much prepared, Rosh Hashana, needs no publicity. Others say that since Rosh
Hashana is called "Ba'Keseh", the day of concealment, it is proper to diminish
the publicity accorded the day.
Perhaps, in light of the Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon / Rabbi Aharon ben Meir controversy
we might propose a simple, pragmatic reason why Birchas Ha'Chodesh is omitted
on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashana: Since Birkas Ha'Chodesh centers on the
Molad, which has the potential to rouse a dormant controversy, in the spirit
of "Chaverim Kol Yisroel" it was decided, because of our topic of discussion,
not to declare the molad of Tishrei in public ever again!
Let us end this essay on this note: The most remarkable aspect of the Y0.92K
controversy is that it is the exception that proves the rule. Over the
course of over sixteen hundred years of the administration of Hillel II's
calendar, in far-flung, diverse and disparate Jewish communities, we find
only one significant halachic dispute concerning its implementation! Even
our brethren that have deviated from so much that is near, dear and holy to
us, have never tampered with all that is connected to the phrase "Mekkadesh
Perhaps the secret of this uniformity is the remarkable Mishna in Rosh
Hashana 25a that relates the story of how Rabbi Yehoshua was compelled by
the Nasi, Rabban Gamliel, to come visit him on the day that, according to
Rabbi Yehoshua's reckoning, should have been Yom Kippur (but according to
Rabban Gamliel was not) with his staff and purse. The Gemara there relates
that Rabbi Akiva consoled the dejected Rabbi Yehoshua by reminding him of
the derosho that is derived from the repetition of the word "atem" ("you")
three times in the context of Beis Din's authority over the calendar. From
this we derive that even if Beis Din - intentionally or unintentionally,
correctly or incorrectly - manipulates the calendar - their ruling is binding
and effective. No other are of Halacha so dramatically demonstrates the
kedusha that Ha'Kadosh Baruch Hu has granted his nation and its leaders. The
Yerushalmi (Kesuvos 1:2) notes that Hashem changes the course of nature to
accord with the Beis Din's determination of the calendar.
The calendar is the "chibbur" (connection) of all Jews, world over. Perhaps
the Hashgocho, manifest in the wisdom of Gedolei Ha'Doros that orchestrated
this uniformity through the generations and across the globe is also part
of our "knowledge and understanding before the eyes of the Nations."
Chaverim Kol Yisroel v'Nomar Amen.
1 Sefer ha-Ibbur (3.7) by Rabbi Avrohom Bar Chiya Ha'Nasi of Barcelona, Spain,
written circa 1123 CE; cited in Otzar Ha'Geonim, Rosh Hashana 10b, p. 16.
2 The fixed calendar is not mentioned in the Mishna or Gemara. Rabbi
Hai Gaon is our earliest source for the mesorah that Hillel II fixed a
calendar cycle. There are many places in Shas that indicate the absence of
a completely fixed calendar - for example, Abaye's discussion in Ta'anis
29b of the halachos of a Tisha b'Av that falls on a Friday.
3 It is possible that Hillel II only established the rule that the seven out
of nineteen years be leap years. Thus, for several more centuries there
was some variability regarding which years should be the leap years. One
argument in favor of this relates to the four "dechiyos" - rules for
postponing Rosh Hashana that exist within the calendar rules. As we shall
see, only two of the four are mentioned in the Talmud. Tosafos, Arachin 9a
d.h. Mai, clarifies that the other two dechiyos were later developments. A
wealth of material concerning the luach comprises the entire thirteenth
volume of Rabbi Menachem M. Kasher's Torah Sheleima. See the discussion
of this and other proofs in Torah Sheleima there pp. 166-167 and 176-179.
In a recent essay, published by Bar Ilan University, Engineer Yaakov
Lewinger provides astronomical information that reflects the accuracy of
our mesorah that Hillel II took the initial steps to set up the luach:
Our calendar is based on the molad - the time each month when the moon begins
its cycle around the Earth anew. Our mesorah teaches us that the mean length
of a lunar month is twenty-nine days, twelve hours and 793 chalakim ("parts"
- a chelek is 1/1080 of an hour or 3&1/3 seconds) - known by the Hebrew
acronym KaT YaB TaShTzaG. Lunar months, therefore, vary between twenty-nine
and thirty days. Were we, however, to make our years of twelve lunar months,
then our lunar years would be approximately 354 days, 8.8 hours long. In
short order, Pesach would begin to fall in the middle of the winter. The
Spring equinox (the day that night and day have precisely the same length,
the first day of Spring) determines whether a leap month must be added so
that Pesach will continue to occur in the Spring. Ideally, as Nissan is
"Chodesh he'Aviv", the month should begin with the Spring, on the equinox
(March 21). Since we lose about eleven days every year, to keep pace with the
solar calendar, we had an extra month every three years or so. Our calendar
is therefore based on a 19-year cycle, consisting of 12 twelve-month years,
and seven thirteen-month leap years, which approximate nineteen solar years.
It is, reasonable to assume that those who set our calendar cycle in
place began counting these nineteen-year cycles from a year in which
the Spring equinox coincided closely with the molad of Nissan. Because
nineteen solar years are actually a trifle shorter than the 235 lunar
months in one nineteen-year lunar cycle of the calendar, as the years go
by since the founding of the calendar, the spring equinox will no longer
coincide with the molad in the first year of each cycle, but will move
up about one day every 216 years (average Jewish solar year = 365.2468
days; Gregorian year = 365.2425 days; actual mean tropical solar year =
365.2422 days). If we find that the Spring equinox and the molad of Nissan
coincide around the year 359, this would suggest a link between this year
and the introduction of a fixed calendar.
Counting backwards, 359 CE, which is 4119 by our calendar, falls in the
217th lunar month of a cycle. In the first year of this cycle, 4105, both
the actual spring equinox and the molad of Nissan fell on 29 Adar, March
20, 345, with only about a six-hour difference. Engineer Lewinger concludes:
Therefore, in terms of astronomy, the tradition that our calendar was
founded near this time appears quite reasonable. In contrast, in 839
[the date that secular scholars have proposed] - the first year of
the 243rd lunar cycle, 4599 by the Jewish calendar, and close to the
later date claimed for the establishment of the calendar--the actual
equinox had already shifted about two days earlier than the new moon
of Nissan. Therefore, it is not reasonable to assume that the 19-year
cycle of our calendar was established close to this time. For reasons
of astronomy, a more suitable year than 4599 would have been chosen to
be the first year of the 19-year cycle...
4 Thirty days hath Nissan / Av, Tishrei, Shevat, Sivan,
All the rest twenty-nine days they keep / Except Adar in a year that's leap.
Adar Rishon then comes with thirty / Cheshvan and Kislev - they always vary.
5 A website with comprehensive material on the Jewish calendar is:
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/1584. Mr. Remy Landau, who compiled the
website, has calculated all the years in which the 642 chalakim difference
would generate discrepancies. The difference generated a discrepancy in
both 4682 and 4683 (921-922 CE and 922-923 CE). After 922-923 CE the next
relevant year for this debate was 927 CE (4688), in which it would have made
a one day difference. It would not have been germane again until 1108 CE and
then 1330 CE, 1334 CE, and 1335 CE. There are no records of a split again
occurring in 927, and perhaps by then things had been settled. Mr. Landau
also has calculated that before 922 CE, the last time the difference
would have generated a discrepancy was in 783 CE. The large gap between
occurrences probably explains why the controversy was "new" in 922 CE. Our
controversy was recorded by Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon in "Sefer Ha'Mo'adim"
(a work that was mostly lost). It was also chronicled by the Karaites,
gleeful over the machlokes among adherents of Torah she'be'al Peh. The
correspondence of Rabbi ben Meir and Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon that was found in
the Cairo Geniza is collected in the Otzar Ha'Geonim on Sanhedrin. Some of
it was translated in a 1921 CE work by Prof. Henry Malter: Life and Works
of [Rabbi] Sa'adia Gaon (Philadelphia) pp. 69-88 and pp. 409-419. Much of
the historical information here is culled from Prof. Malter's work.
6 This is one of the two dechiyos - reasons to delay Rosh Hashana- mentioned
in Talmudic sources. The other is the familiar lo AD"U rosh - we do not
allow Rosh Hashana to fall on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, so that Yom
Kippur should not fall on Friday or Sunday, nor Hoshana Rabba on a Friday
- see Yerushalmi Sukkah 1:1 and Yerushalmi Megillah 1:2. There are two
additional dechiyos that are intended to ensure that no molad ever occurs
past noon on any Rosh Chodesh. For simplicity's sake, they are based on
Rosh Hashana, even though they are not directly relevant to the molad of
Tishrei. These are:
1) GaTRaD: If the molad of Tishrei for a non-leap year is on a Tuesday (d)
nine hours (y) (3:00 a.m.) and 204 chalakim (sr) or later, Rosh Hashana
is delayed. Since Rosh Hashana cannot take place on a Wednesday, it is
delayed until Thursday. The controversy of 920 actually concerned this
dechiya, as the molad of Tishrei that year was on a Tuesday at nine hours
and 441 chalakim.
2) B'Tu TaKPaT: If the molad of Tishrei following a leap year is on Monday
(c), fifteen hours (uy) and 589 chalakim (y"pe,) or later, Rosh Hashana
is delayed until Tuesday.
7 His opinion is cited in many places, see Torah Sheleima, ibid., chap. 5, and
particularly in the commentary of Rabbeinu Chananel on the Torah, Shemos
12:2, and elsewhere.
8 See the Meshech Chochmo, beginning of Parashas Bo d.h. Ha'Chodesh for a
detailed explanation of the Rambam's approach based on the many places in
which the Rambam discusses his opinion.
9 See the Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim, Kuntres Yud Ches Sha'os for an extensive
discussion of this principle, applied to the celebrated case of Yom Kippur
in Japan, 1941, and his dispute in this matter with Rabbi Yechiel Michel
Tukachinski zt"l. Perhaps we shall find an opportunity to discuss this
issue in the future.
10 It seems, however, that this spot must be on the Asian continent.
11 See the Encyclopedia Judaica entry on China. There were more than one
thousand Jews in Kaifeng at the time.
12 The actual 642 number was probably chosen because it is a number that is
close to precise and was well known, in other contexts, to those involved
in calculating the Luach - see Tosafos Rosh Hashana 8a d.h. Letekufos. To
be sure, many other explanations of Rabbi ben Meir's 642 chalakim are
advanced by scholars that wrote concerning the controversy. Much material
and many references may be found in the Torah Sheleima, ibid., Chap. 9,
and Prof. Malter's work cited above. To put it gingerly, however, most
existing theories fall short of any standard of credibility.
In a recent essay in Kovetz Or Yisroel (Tishrei 5760, Monsey, NY), Rabbi
Yosef Y. Keller proves from a letter written by the Reish Galusa in 4596
(835 CE), printed in the Otzar Ha'Geonim Sanhedrin pp. 35-36, that at
that time the Roshei Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel were of the opinion that
a Molad Zakein was permitted in Tishrei (if the preceding Nissan was not
subject to a Molad Zakein). The community in Bavel at the time accepted
that ruling issued in Eretz Yisroel as binding. Rabbi Keller notes that
Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon states that it was around that time that the Ge'onim
in Bavel mastered the reckoning of the calendar - perhaps because of
this event. While they submitted to the ruling at the time, they might
not have wanted it repeated. (We must note, however, that Rabbi Keller
there writes that Rabbi ben Meir eventually capitulated to Rabbi Sa'adia
Gaon. This would seem to be an error.)
13 It is interesting, however, to note that an earlier source, the Siddur Rav
Amram Gaon, has Birchas Ha'Chodesh taking place on Rosh Chodesh itself! The
commentary Tikkun Tefilla in the Siddur Otzar Ha'Tefillos has a very long
discussion of this position. He conjectures that perhaps Rabbi Amram Gaon
did not agree with the Ramban that Hillel II was prospectively mekaddesh
all chodoshim from his time on. The Tikkun Tefilla, therefore, ventures
that perhaps, since we have no Beis Din, it is the collective body of the
Jewish people that is mekaddesh the chodesh every month (perhaps stressed
by the phrase, in Birchas Ha'Chodesh, "Chaverim Kol Yisroel"). This theory
can be regarded as no more than mere speculation. Nevertheless, since
Birchas Ha'Chodesh centers on the announcement of the molad, and since
it is pronounced throughout the Jewish world, including the diaspora,
it is tantalizing to muse on connection between the Tikkun Tefilla's
interpretation of Rabbi Amram Gaon's position and Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon's
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