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Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Three

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Three

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When witnesses see the new [moon], and there is a journey of the night and a day or less between them and the place where the court holds sessions,1 they should undertake the journey and testify. If the distance between them is greater, they should not undertake the journey. For the testimony [that they will deliver] after the thirtieth day will be of no consequence,2 since the month will already have been made full.


עדים שראו את החדש אם היה ביניהם ובין מקום שיש בו בית דין מהלך לילה ויום או פחות הולכין ומעידין. ואם היה ביניהן יתר על כן לא ילכו שאין עדותן אחר יום שלשים מועלת שכבר נתעבר החדש:


The witnesses who see the new [moon] should journey to the court to testify even on the Sabbath, as [implied by Leviticus 23:2]: "[These are the festivals] you should proclaim in their season." Whenever [the Torah] uses the word "season," the Sabbath [prohibitions]3 may be overridden.

Therefore, [the Sabbath prohibitions] may be violated only for the sake of Rosh Chodesh Nisan and Rosh Chodesh Tishrei,4 to commemorate the festivals in their proper season. In the era of the Temple, [the Sabbath prohibitions] were violated for the sake of every Rosh Chodesh, because of the musaf offering sacrificed on Rosh Chodesh,5 since its [sacrifice] supersedes the Sabbath prohibitions.6


עדים שראו את החדש הרי אלו הולכין לבית דין להעיד ואפילו היה שבת שנאמר אשר תקראו אותם במועדם וכל מקום שנאמר מועד דוחה את השבת. לפיכך אין מחללין אלא על ראש חדש ניסן ועל ראש חדש תשרי בלבד מפני תקנת המועדות. ובזמן שבית המקדש קיים מחללין על כולן מפני קרבן מוסף שבכל ראש חדש וחדש שהוא דוחה את השבת:


Just as the witnesses who see the new [moon] should violate the Sabbath [to testify], so too, the witnesses who substantiate their credibility7 should violate [the Sabbath to accompany] them, if the court is not familiar with the witnesses.

Even if only a single individual can testify regarding the witnesses, he should accompany them and violate the Sabbath,8 because of the possibility9 that they might encounter another individual who can [testify] together with him.


כשם שמחללין העדים שראו את החדש את השבת כך מחללין עמהן העדים שמזכין אותן בבית דין אם לא היו בית דין מכירין את הרואין. ואפילו היה זה שמודיע אותן לבית דין עד אחד הרי זה הולך עמהן ומחלל מספק שמא ימצא אחר ויצטרף עמו:


When a witness who sighted the moon on Friday night is sick, he may be mounted on a donkey [and transported to the High Court].10 [Indeed,] even [if he is bedridden,] his bed [may be transported].11

If an ambush awaits them on the way,12 the witnesses may carry weapons. If the distance [to the court] is long, they may carry food.

Even if the moon was sighted [with a] large [crescent], and [one is certain that] it was also sighted by many others as well, he should not say, "Just as we saw [the moon], so did others, and there is no necessity for us to violate the Sabbath laws."13 Instead, every person who saw the new moon, who is fit to serve as a witness, and who is within a distance of the night and a day14 or less is commanded to violate the Sabbath laws and go and testify.15


היה העד שראה את החדש בליל השבת חולה מרכיבין אותו על החמור ואפילו במטה. ואם יש להן אורב בדרך לוקחין העדים בידן כלי זיין. ואם היה דרך רחוקה לוקחים בידם מזונות. ואפילו ראהו גדול ונראה לכל לא יאמרו כשם שראינוהו אנחנו ראוהו אחרים ואין אנו צריכין לחלל את השבת אלא כל מי שיראה החדש ויהיה ראוי להעיד ויהיה בינו ובין המקום שקבוע בו בית דין לילה ויום או פחות מצוה עליו לחלל את השבת ולילך ולהעיד:


Originally, [the High Court] would accept testimony regarding the new moon throughout the entire thirtieth day. Once the witnesses were delayed and did not come until the evening. This created confusion in the Temple, and [the priests] did not know what to do:16 If they would offer the afternoon sacrifice, [a difficulty would result] if witnesses [in fact] came, for it is impossible to sacrifice the musaf offering [of Rosh Chodesh] after the daily afternoon sacrifice.17

At that time, [the High] Court instituted the [following] edict: Testimony regarding the new moon would be accepted only until the time of minchah,18 so that there would be enough time in the daylight hours to offer the musaf sacrifices, the daily afternoon offering, and the wine libations [that accompany these sacrifices].


בראשונה היו מקבלין עדות החדש בכל יום שלשים. פעם אחת נשתהו העדים מלבוא עד בין הערבים ונתקלקלו במקדש ולא ידעו מה יעשו אם יעשו עולה של בין הערבים שמא יבאו העדים ואי אפשר שיקריבו מוסף היום אחר תמיד של בין הערבים. עמדו בית דין והתקינו שלא יהיו מקבלים עדות החדש אלא עד המנחה כדי שיהא שהות ביום להקריב מוספין ותמיד של בין הערבים ונסכיהם:


If the time of minchah arrives without witnesses having come, the daily afternoon offering should be sacrificed. If witnesses come after the time of minchah,19 this day should be observed as a holiday,20 and the following day should be observed as a holiday. The musaf offering, however, should be offered on the following day, because the new moon should not be sanctified after the time of minchah.

After the Temple was destroyed,21 Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and his court22 instituted a decree [requiring the High Court] to accept testimony regarding the new moon throughout the entire day. Even if witnesses come at the end of the thirtieth day before sunset,23 their testimony should be accepted and the thirtieth day alone should be considered a holiday.


ואם הגיע מנחה ולא באו עדים עושין תמיד של בית הערבים. ואם באו עדים מן המנחה ולמעלה נוהגין אותו היום קדש ולמחר קדש ומקריבין מוסף למחר לפי שלא היו מקדשין אותו אחר מנחה. משחרב בין המקדש התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי ובית דינו שיהיו מקבלין עדות החדש כל היום כולו ואפילו באו עדים יום שלשים בסוף היום סמוך לשקיעת החמה מקבלין עדותן ומקדשין יום שלשים בלבד:


When the court would make a month full because the witnesses did not appear on the thirtieth day at all, they would ascend to a previously designated place and hold a feast on the thirty-first day, which would be Rosh Chodesh.24

They would not ascend there during the [thirty-first] night, b ut rather at daybreak, before the sun rose.25 No fewer than ten men would ascend [to participate] in this meal. They would not hold this meal without bread made from grain and legumes, of which they would partake during the meal. This is the intent of all the sources that refer to the feast associated with the mitzvah of the full month.


כשמעברין בית דין את החדש מפני שלא באו עדים כל יום שלשים היו עולין למקום מוכן ועושין בו סעודה ביום אחד ושלשים שהוא ראש חדש. ואין עולין לשם בלילה אלא בנשף קודם עלות השמש ואין עולין לסעודה זו פחות מעשרה. ואין עולין לה אלא בפת דגן וקטנית ואוכלין בעת הסעודה. וזו היא סעודת מצוה של עיבור החדש האמורה בכל מקום:


Originally, when the court would sanctify the new moon, they would light bonfires26 on the mountaintops to notify the people in distant places.27 When the Samaritans began conducting themselves in a debased manner and would light bonfires [at the wrong times] to confuse the people,28 [the Sages] instituted the practice of having messengers journey to notify the people.29

These messengers may not violate [the sanctity of] the holidays, nor of Yom Kippur [by traveling on these days]. Needless to say, they may not violate [the sanctity of] the Sabbath. For one may not violate the Sabbath to uphold [the sanctification of] the new month, only to [actually] sanctify it.


בראשונה כשהיו בית דין מקדשין את החדש היו משיאין משואות בראשי ההרים כדי שידעו הרחוקים. משקלקלו הכותים שהיו משיאין משואות כדי להטעות את העם התקינו שיהו שלוחים יוצאין ומודיעין לרבים. ושלוחים אלו אינן מחללין לא את יום טוב ולא את יום הכפורים ואין צריך לומר שבת שאין מחללין את השבת לקיימו אלא לקדשו בלבד:


Messengers are sent out [to inform the people] for six months: For Nisan, because of Pesach. For Av, because of the fast [of Tish'ah B'Av].30 For Elul, because of Rosh HaShanah - i.e., so they could wait in readiness on the thirtieth day of Elul.31 If it became known to them that the High Court had sanctified the thirtieth day, they would observe only that day as a holiday. If it did not become known to them,32 they would observe both the thirtieth and the thirty-first days [as Rosh HaShanah] until the messengers of Tishrei arrived.

For Tishrei, because of the festivals. For Kislev, because of Chanukah. For Adar, because of Purim.33 While the Beit HaMikdash was standing, [messengers] also would be sent out for the month of Iyar, because of the small Pesach.34


על ששה חדשים היו שלוחים יוצאין. על ניסן מפני הפסח. ועל אב מפני התענית. ועל אלול מפני ראש השנה. כדי שישבו מצפין ביום שלשים לאלול אם נודע להם שקדשו בית דין יום שלשים נוהגים אותו היום קדש בלבד. ואם לא נודע להם נוהגים יום שלשים קדש ויום אחד ושלשים קדש עד שיבואו להם שלוחי תשרי. ועל תשרי מפני תקנת המועדות. ועל כסליו מפני חנוכה. ועל אדר מפני הפורים. ובזמן שבית המקדש קיים יוצאין אף על אייר מפני פסח קטן:


[Even when the moon was clearly sighted on the previous night,] the messengers for the months of Nisan and Tishrei would not depart35 until the sun rose and they heard the court pronounce, "It has been sanctified."36 If, however, the court sanctified the moon at the conclusion of the twenty-ninth day, [which is possible,] as we have explained,37 and the messengers heard the court pronounce it sanctified, they might depart that evening.

The messengers for the other months, by contrast, may depart in the evening after the moon has been sighted. Although the court has not sanctified the new month, since the new moon has been sighted, they may depart, for the court will surely sanctify the new month on the following day.


שלוחי ניסן ושלוחי תשרי אין יוצאין אלא ביום ראש חדש אחר שתעלה השמש עד שישמעו מפי בית דין מקודש. ואם קדשו בית דין בסוף יום תשעה ועשרים כמו שאמרנו ושמעו מפי בית דין מקודש יוצאין מבערב. ושלוחי שאר הששה חדשים יש להם לצאת מבערב אחר שנראה הירח אף על פי שעדיין לא קדשו בית דין את החדש הואיל ונראה החדש יצאו שהרי למחר בודאי מקדשין אותו בית דין:


Wherever these messengers would arrive [before the celebration of the festivals], the holidays would be observed for [only] one day, as prescribed by the Torah. In the distant places, which the messengers would not reach [before the celebration of the festivals],38 the holidays would be observed for two days because of the doubt [involved]. For they would not know the day on which the High Court established the new month.39


כל מקום שהיו השלוחין מגיעין היו עושין את המועדות יום טוב אחד ככתוב בתורה. ובמקומות הרחוקים שאין השלוחים מגיעין אליהם היו עושין שני ימים מפני הספק לפי שאינם יודעים יום שקבעו בו בית דין את החדש אי זה יום הוא:


There are places where the messengers [sent out for] Nisan would arrive [in time for the celebration of Pesach], but the messengers [sent out for] Tishrei would not arrive [in time for the celebration of Sukkot].40 According to [the letter of] the law, it would have been appropriate for them to observe Pesach for one day, since the messengers reached them and informed them when Rosh Chodesh had been established, and for them to observe Sukkot for two days, since the messengers had not reached them. Nevertheless, so that there would be no difference between the festivals, the Sages instituted the ruling that two days were celebrated [for all holidays] in all places that were not reached by the messengers for Tishrei. [This includes] even the festival of Shavuot.41


יש מקומות שהיו מגיעין אליהם שלוחי ניסן ולא היו מגיעין להן שלוחי תשרי. ומן הדין היה שיעשו פסח יום אחד שהרי הגיעו להן שלוחין וידעו באי זה יום נקבע ראש חדש. ויעשו יום טוב של חג הסוכות שני ימים שהרי לא הגיעו אליהן השלוחין. וכדי שלא לחלוק במועדות התקינו חכמים שכל מקום שאין שלוחי תשרי מגיעין שם עושין שני ימים אפילו יום טוב של עצרת:


[How many more] days do the messengers for Nisan journey than the messengers for Tishrei? Two. For the messengers for Tishrei do not travel on the first of Tishrei, because it is a holiday, nor on the tenth, because it is Yom Kippur.42


וכמה בין שלוחי ניסן לשלוחי תשרי שני ימים. ששלוחי תשרי אינן מהלכין באחד בתשרי מפני שהוא יום טוב ולא בעשירי בו מפני שהוא יום כפור:


There is no need for there to be two messengers. Even a single individual's [statements] are believed. Moreover, this does not apply to messengers alone. Even when a [traveling] merchant of no particular distinction passes through on his journey, and says: "I heard from the court43 that it sanctified the new month on such and such a date," his statements are believed, and the [celebration of] the festivals is arranged accordingly.

[The rationale is that] this is a matter that will [eventually] be revealed.44 Therefore, the testimony of a single acceptable witness is sufficient.45


אין השלוחין צריכין להיותן שנים אלא אפילו אחד נאמן. ולא שליח בלבד אלא אפילו תגר משאר העם שבא כדרכו ואמר אני שמעתי מפי בית דין שקדשו את החדש ביום פלוני נאמן ומתקנין את המועדות על פיו. שדבר זה דבר העשוי להגלות ועד אחד כשר נאמן עליו:


[The following rules apply when] the court held session throughout the entire thirtieth day, but witnesses did not arrive, [the judges] arose early in the morning and made the month full, as we stated previously in this chapter,46 and after four or five days witnesses came from distant places and testified that they had sighted the moon at the appropriate time, the thirtieth night. [Indeed, the same principles apply if the witnesses2 come at the end of the month.

We unnerve them in a very intimidating matter, and we seek to disorient them with queries. We cross-examine them very thoroughly and are extremely precise regarding their testimony. [For] the court endeavors not to sanctify this month, since it has already been declared full.47


בית דין שישבו כל יום שלשים ולא באו עדים והשכימו בנשף ועברו את החדש כמו שבארנו בפרק זה. ואחר ארבעה או חמשה ימים באו עדים רחוקים והעידו שראו את החדש בזמנו שהוא ליל שלשים. ואפילו באו בסוף החדש. מאיימין עליהן איום גדול ומטריפים אותם בשאלות ומטריחין עליהן בבדיקות ומדקדקין בעדות ומשתדלין בית דין שלא יקדשו חדש זה הואיל ויצא שמו מעובר:


If the witnesses remain steadfast in their testimony, if it is compatible [according to the calculations of the court], if the witnesses are men whose character is well known, they are men of understanding, and if their testimony was scrutinized in a proper way - the moon is sanctified [retroactively]. We recalculate the dates of the month beginning from the thirtieth day [after the previous Rosh Chodesh], since the moon was sighted [on the appropriate] night.


ואם עמדו העדים בעדותן ונמצאת מכוונת והרי העדים אנשים ידועים ונבונים ונחקרה העדות כראוי. מקדשין אותו וחוזרין ומונין לאותו החדש מיום שלשים הואיל ונראה הירח בלילו:


If it was necessary for the court to leave the month full, as it was before the witnesses came, it is left as it is. This is what is meant by the statement,48 "The month is made full out of necessity49." Some great Sages differ concerning this matter and maintain that the month is never made full out of necessity. Rather, if the witnesses come, the month is sanctified and they are not intimidated at all50.


ואם הוצרכו בית דין להניח חדש זה מעובר כשהיה קודם שיבאו העדים אלו מניחין. וזה הוא שאמרו מעברין את החדש לצורך. ויש מן החכמים הגדולים מי שחולק בדבר זה ואומר לעולם אין מעברין את החדש לצורך. הואיל ובאו עדים מקדשין ואין מאיימין עליהן:


It appears to me51 that there is a difference of opinion among the Sages regarding this matter only in [the following circumstances]:

a) The other months besides Nisan and Tishrei, or

b) When witnesses come in Nisan and Tishrei after the holidays have passed, [all the festive practices] have already been observed, and the time to offer the sacrifices and observe the festivals has passed.

When, however, the witnesses come in Tishrei and in Nisan before the middle of the month,52 their testimony is accepted, and no attempt is made to intimidate them at all. For we do not attempt to i ntimidate witnesses who testify that they sighted at the appropriate time so that the month will be full.


יראה לי שאין מחלוקת החכמים בדבר זה אלא בשאר החדשים חוץ מן ניסן ותשרי. או בעדי ניסן ותשרי שבאו אחר שעברו הרגלים. שכבר נעשה מה שנעשה ועבר זמן הקרבנות וזמן המועדות. אבל אם באו העדים בניסן ותשרי קודם חצי החדש מקבלין עדותן ואין מאיימין עליהן כלל. שאין מאיימין על עדים שהעידו על החדש שראוהו בזמנו כדי לעברו:


We do, however, intimidate witnesses whose testimony has been disputed, and it appears that their testimony will not be upheld, a nd the month will be made full. We pressure them so that their testimony will be upheld and the month will be sanctified in its proper time. Similarly, when, before the new month has been sanctified, witnesses come to nullify53 the testimony of the witnesses who saw the moon at its appropriate time, [the court] intimidates the witnesses who want to nullify the original testimony, so that the challenge will not be accepted and the new month will be sanctified at its appropriate time.54


אבל מאיימין על עדים שנתקלקלה עדותן והרי הדבר נוטה וגנאי שלא תתקיים העדות ויתעבר החדש. מאיימין עליהן כדי שתתקיים העדות ויתקיים החדש בזמנו. וכן אם באו עדים להזים את העדים שראוהו בזמנו קודם שקדשוהו בית דין הרי אלו מאיימין על המזימין עד שלא תתקיים ההזמה ויתקדש החדש בזמנו


The Rambam does not say "a one-day distance from Jerusalem," because after the destruction of the Temple, the High Court would sanctify the new month in other places. (See Rosh HaShanah 22b.)


Note the apparent contradiction in Halachah 15. In the light of that halachah, it would appear that the Rambam's intent is that since the court endeavors to nullify such testimony, it is undesirable for the witnesses to come and offer it (Lechem Mishneh).


The Rambam is referring to the prohibitions associated with going beyond the Sabbath limits and the performance of any forbidden labors necessary for their journey - e.g., carrying food or weapons.


Significantly, the month of Sivan is not mentioned, although the holiday of Shavuot is celebrated then. The celebration of Shavuot depends, not on a particular day of the month, but on the conclusion of the counting of the Omer. Thus when Rosh Chodesh was determined by the testimony of witnesses, Shavuot could be celebrated on the fifth, sixth, or seventh of Sivan (Rosh HaShanah 6b).


See Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 7:1,4, Hilchot Korban Pesach 1:18.


The sacrifice of any offerings associated with a fixed time supersedes the Sabbath prohibitions.


I.e., the character witnesses mentioned in Chapter 2, Halachah 3.


This law is based on an actual historical account. Rabbi Nehorai traveled to Usha together with witnesses to substantiate their credibility, in the hope of finding another person there to testify together with him (Rosh HaShanah 22b).


The Perush questions why the Sabbath laws are broken when there is only a possibility of performing a mitzvah, citing a similar situation - a baby born after sunset on Friday. He should not be circumcised on the following Sabbath, because there is a doubt whether circumcision should be performed on Friday or on the Sabbath (Hilchot Milah 1:12).

The subsequent commentaries offer several resolutions to this difficulty. Among them:

a) Circumcision can be performed at a later date, while the sanctification of the new moon cannot be postponed (Lechem Mishneh);

b) Traveling to Jerusalem to testify always involves violating the Sabbath laws with only a possibility of performing the mitzvah, for it is possible that the court will reject the witnesses' testimony (Rav David Arameah).


Leading a healthy person on a donkey is not considered to be transporting him in violation of the Sabbath labors, because "a living being carries himself." If, however, the person is sick, this principle does not apply, and he is considered a burden, so that transporting him on a donkey involves a prohibition (Hilchot Shabbat 18:16, 20:1-2). Nevertheless, this prohibition is waived in the endeavor to sanctify the new moon.


Rav David Arameah interprets this to mean that men are allowed to carry him to the court on his bed.


Rashi, Rosh HaShanah 22a, relates that the Sadducees would lie in ambush for the witnesses, with the intent of delaying their appearance in court until after the thirtieth day had passed.


In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:5), the Rambam explains that although the moon might be seen very clearly in one place, in other locales it might have appeared low on the horizon, or covered by clouds. Therefore, it is desirable for all potential witnesses to journey to Jerusalem to make sure that the new moon is sanctified in its proper time.


I.e., there is sufficient time for the witness(es) to arrive at the High Court on the thirtieth day.


In this vein, it is worthy to note a story related in Rosh HaShanah 1:6. Forty pairs of witnesses passed through Lod on their way to Jerusalem to testify regarding the sighting of the moon. Rabbi Akiva held them back, because he saw that their testimony would not stand up under cross-examination by the court. Rabban Gamliel rebuked him, explaining that this would prevent them from journeying to Jerusalem at a future date, when their testimony might be of consequence. (See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah.)


More specifically, Rosh HaShanah 30b states that the problem concerns the song to be sung by the Levites in connection with the sacrifice. Had there not been a difficulty with the song, the afternoon sacrifice could have been offered conditionally: If no witnesses come, the lamb would be considered the afternoon sacrifice; and if the witnesses do come, it would be considered part of the musaf offering (Rishon LeTzion).

Significantly, as reflected in the discussion in Rosh HaShanah (ibid.), the instance in question concerned the celebration of Rosh HaShanah, and not an ordinary Rosh Chodesh.


For once the afternoon sacrifice is offered, no other offerings may be sacrificed (Pesachim 58b; Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 1:3).


This refers to the time of the afternoon sacrifice, nine and a half seasonal hours (שעות זמניות) after sunrise (The Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 4:4, Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 1:3).


The Rambam is referring to Rosh HaShanah.


Indeed, the people would observe the day as a holiday from nightfall on the previous day, lest witnesses come and the new moon be sanctified (Rashi, Rosh HaShanah 30b). See Halachah 9, and Chapter 5, Halachah 8.


And there were no longer any difficulties concerning the sacrifices.


Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai lived at the time of the Temple's destruction, and this decree was instituted shortly after that event.


The Lechem Mishneh and others have raised questions about the Rambam's choice of wording, based on his previous statements in Chapter 2, Halachah 9. Merkevet HaMishneh offers a simple resolution of this difficulty. Here we are speaking of the acceptance of the witnesses' testimony, and it is necessary to take time to cross-examine them. This process cannot be completed in the meager amount of time between sunset and the appearance of the stars.


The purpose of holding this feast would be to publicize that the month had become full.


Sanhedrin 70a relates that the participants in this meal would ascend in a time that is neither day nor night. Thus, the Rambam interprets this as referring to the time between the appearance of the first rays of the sun and sunrise itself. Rashi and others maintain that the participants would ascend in the evening, between sunset and the appearance of the stars.


The fires would be lit in the evening of the thirty-first night.


There are mountains surrounding Jerusalem on all sides. The bonfires on these mountains could be seen by people on further mountains, until in a short amount of time people throughout Eretz Yisrael could be notified that the new moon had been sanctified.


The Samaritans lived between Jerusalem and the Galilee. At one point, they desired to disrupt the calculation of the calendar and would light bonfires on the evening before the thirty-first day, regardless of whether or not the moon was sighted. The people in the Galilee would think that the chain of bonfires had begun in Jerusalem (Rosh HaShanah 22b).


The Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh HaShanah 2:1) states that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi was the one who nullified the bonfires, and substituted messengers instead. This, however, is somewhat difficult to accept because, as the Rambam mentions in Halachah 9, there were times when the messengers were sent out while the Temple was standing. Perhaps the intent is that until the time of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi there were times when both messengers were sent out and bonfires were lit. From his time onward, the bonfires were no longer used.


Rosh HaShanah 18b relates that in that era, fasting on the other commemorative fasts - the tenth of Tevet and the seventeenth of Tammuz - was not mandatory. Therefore, it was not necessary to send out messengers for these months.


The Rambam maintains that the people would observe Rosh HaShanah for two days, because of the doubt. Thus, if the people did not know when the month of Elul began, they would have to observe three days (Lechem Mishneh).


This is speaking about the villages in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem.


The commentaries note that Rosh HaShanah 19b also mentions the possibility of the messengers' being sent out in the second month of Adar if a leap year is declared. This, however, is an infrequent event, because generally, the decision to make the year a leap year was not made at the last moment (Aruch HaShulchan).


Pesach Sheni, when all those who had not offered a sacrifice on the first Pesach were given a further opportunity to bring this offering.

Messengers were not sent out for the month of Sivan, because the celebration of Shavuot is not dependent on the date of the month, but on the Counting of the Omer (Perush).


The messengers for the month of Tishrei could travel only 2000 cubits beyond Jerusalem (or 4000 cubits, if they made an eruv t'chumim) on Rosh HaShanah, because of the sanctity of that day (Perush).


Since the holidays observed in these months were prescribed by the Torah itself, this further stringency was required (ibid.).


See Chapter 2, Halachah 9.


The observance of an additional day of the holidays is described in greater detail in Chapter 5.


Thus, if the thirtieth day following Rosh Chodesh Adar fell on the Sabbath, they would not know whether Pesach (the fifteenth day of the following month) would be celebrated on the Sabbath or on Sunday.


For, as explained in the following halachah, the messengers sent out for Tishrei would not travel on Rosh HaShanah or on Yom Kippur.

In the brackets, we mention the holiday of Sukkot, but not Yom Kippur. For Yom Kippur was never observed by a community at large for two days. Rosh HaShanah 21a relates that Rabbah would fast for two days, but this was a stringency that he accepted on himself as an individual. The people in the diaspora would fast ten days after the thirtieth day following Rosh Chodesh Elul, for the court always endeavored to make Elul a month of 29 days. (See Or Sameach.)


As mentioned several times, Shavuot is unique, because its observance is dependent, not on a date in the month of Sivan, but on the Counting of the Omer, which begins after Pesach. Thus, even Jews living in the outer reaches of the diaspora were able to know when Shavuot was to be observed.


There is also the possibility of additional days, if there are more Sabbaths in Tishrei than in Nisan.


From the Rambam's wording, it would appear that it is necessary that the merchant receive his information from the High Court directly; hearing from others is not sufficient.


Rosh HaShanah 22b states that people will not lie about a matter when it is certain that eventually the truth will be revealed.


The commentaries compare the Rambam's statements here with those at the conclusion of Hilchot Gerushin. In the latter source, he employs the same rationale - that the truth of the matter will eventually be revealed - to explain why leniency is shown concerning testimony given to determine that a woman's husband has died, which enables her to remarry. In that instance, however, even greater leniency is shown, and the court accepts the testimony of witnesses who are otherwise unacceptable. The commentaries explain that the greater leniency is granted in consideration of the agonizing situation of the widow.


See Halachah 7.


The Rambam's statements in this and the following four halachot are based on his interpretation of Rosh HaShanah 20a. Significantly, his understanding of that passage differs from that of Rashi.

Rosh HaShanah, op. cit.
Note another interpretation of the expression, "The month is made full out of necessity," in Chapter 18, Halachah 11.
This opinion is also mentioned in the abovepassage.

Generally, when the Rambam uses the expression "It appears to me" in the Mishneh Torah, he is introducing an original interpretation. In this instance, the resolution offered by the Rambam is also suggested by Abbaye in the above passage. Nevertheless, there is a certain justification for the use of the phrase, because there are other interpretations offered by the Talmud, and no conclusion is reached. Therefore, the Rambam's choice of the interpretation to follow was motivated by his own comprehension of the passage.


When Pesach and Sukkot are celebrated. One might ask why consideration was not given to the observance of Yom Kippur on the tenth of Tishrei.

The Or Sameach offers the following resolution: Yom Kippur was observed for only one day in the outlying diaspora. The communities would assume that the moon had been sighted at its appropriate time, and they would observe Rosh HaShanah on the thirtieth day after Rosh Chodesh Elul, and Yom Kippur ten days afterwards. Thus, by accepting the witnesses' testimony, the court will have assured that a large portion of the Jewish people observed Yom Kippur on the proper date.

Although this explanation has its advantages, it does not address itself to the observance of Yom Kippur in Eretz Yisrael, or to the sacrifices that had to be offered on that sacred day in the Temple.


The Hebrew term used, lehazim, means to nullify their testimony by stating that, at the time they claimed to have seen the moon, they were in a different place from the place where they claimed to have sighted it.


It would appear that, in both of the instances mentioned in this halachah, this law applies only when, according to the court's calculations, the moon should have been sighted on the thirtieth night.

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