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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Shekalim - Chapter Four, Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter One, Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Two

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Shekalim - Chapter Four

1

What [are the funds in] terumat halishcah1 used for? From [these funds] they would purchase the daily offerings sacrificed every day, the additional offerings [sacrificed on Sabbaths, Rashei Chodashim and festivals], all other communal sacrifices, and the wine libations [that accompany them].

Similarly, [these funds were used to purchase] the salt that was placed on all the sacrifices,2 and similarly, the wood for the altar, if no wood was provided3 and it was necessary that it be purchased.

[They were used to pay for spices contained in] the incense offering and the wages of those who prepared it,4 the showbread and the wages of those who prepared it, the omer [of barley], the two loaves, a red heifer, the goat sent to Azazel and the scarlet thread tied between its horns.5

א

תרומת הלשכה מה יעשה בה. לוקחין ממנה תמידין של כל יום והמוספין וכל קרבנות הצבור ונסכיהם והמלח שמולחין בו כל הקרבנות. וכן העצים אם לא הביאו עצים ולא נמצאו אלא בדמים. והקטרת ושכר עשייתה. ולחם הפנים ושכר עושי לחם הפנים. והעומר ושתי הלחם ופרה אדומה ושעיר המשתלח ולשון של זהורית שקושרין בין קרניו כל אלו באין מתרומת הלשכה:

2

In contrast, [the funds to purchase] a bull brought as a sin offering [for a transgression performed by the community due to] lack of awareness, and the goats [offered by the community for transgressing the prohibition against] the worship of false divinities should be collected [from communal donations], and should not be purchased [with the funds of] terumat halishcah.

The curtains before the Sanctuary replaced a [permanent] structure.6Therefore, they should not be purchased [with the funds of] terumat halishcah, but rather [with funds that were] consecrated for bedek habayit ["the upkeep of the Temple"]. The curtains covering the gates, by contrast, should be purchased [with the funds of] terumat halishcah.

It is ordained that [the funds necessary to fashion] the menorah and the other sacred articles should come from [the funds stemming from] the remainder of the libations. In Hilchot Klei HaMikdash V'Ha'ovdim Bo (the "Laws Governing the Temple Vessels and Those Who Serve Within"),7 the term "the [funds stemming from] the remainder of the libations" will be explained.8 If, however, no such funds are available, [the funds necessary for] these [sacred articles] should come from terumat halishcah.

[The funds necessary to fashion] the priestly garments, those of the High Priest and those of all the other priests who serve in the Temple should come from terumat halishcah.

ב

אבל פר העלם דבר של צבור ושעירי עבודת כוכבים בתחלה גובין להן ואינן באין מתרומת הלשכה. פרוכות של היכל תחת בנין עשויות ואינן באין מתרומת הלשכה אלא מקדשי בדק הבית. אבל פרוכות של שערים באין מתרומת הלשכה. המנורה וכלי שרת מצותן שיבואו ממותר הנסכים. ובהלכות כלי המקדש והעובדים בו יתבאר מה הוא מותר הנסכים. ואם לא היה להן מותר נסכים יביאו מתרומת הלשכה. בגדי כהונה בין בגדי כהן גדול בין שאר בגדי הכהנים שעובדין בהן במקדש הכל מתרומת הלשכה:

3

All the animals that are found in Jerusalem or its outskirts should be sacrificed as burnt offerings, as stated in [Hilchot] Pesulei HaMukdashim [the "Laws Governing Consecrated Animals That are Unfit"].9 The wine libations for these offerings should come from terumat halishcah.10

Similarly, if a gentile sent a burnt offering11 from another land, and did not send with it the funds for a wine libation, the wine libation should come from terumat halishcah.

ג

כל הבהמות הנמצאות בירושלים או בחוצה לה בקרוב ממנה באות עולות כמו שיתבאר בפסולי המוקדשין. נסכיהן באין מתרומת הלשכה. וכן עובד כוכבים ששלח עולתו ממדינה אחרת ולא שלח עמה דמי נסכים יביאו נסכיהם מתרומת הלשכה:

4

[The following laws apply when] a convert12 dies and leaves [animals designated as] offerings. If he also designated wine [or funds for] their wine libations, they should come from [what he designated]. If not, they should come from terumat halishcah.

When a High Priest dies, and a successor is not appointed [immediately], we should [pay] for the chavitin offering13 from terumat halishcah.14

The [Rabbis who] inspect blemishes [on first-born animals]15in Jerusalem, the Sages who teach16 the laws of ritual slaughter and the laws of taking a handful from the meal offering, and the women who raise their sons to take part in the offering of the red heifer17 all receive their wages from terumat halishcah.

What would their wages be? An amount decided by the court.

ד

גר שמת והניח זבחים אם יש לו נסכים קרבין משלו ואם לאו באין מתרומת הלשכה. כהן גדול שמת ולא מנו אחר תחתיו מקריבין את החביתין מתרומת הלשכה. מבקרי מומים שבירושלים ותלמידי חכמים המלמדים הלכות שחיטה לכהנים והלכות קמיצה ונשים המגדלות בניהן לפרה אדומה כולן נוטלין שכרן מתרומת הלשכה. וכמה הוא שכרן כמו שיפסקו להן בית דין:

5

In a Sabbatical year, when [the produce of the fields] is ownerless, the court hires watchmen to protect some of the produce that grows on its own,18 so that it will be possible to offer the omer [of barley]19 and the two loaves of bread,20for these offerings may come only from the new harvest. These watchmen receive their wages from terumat halishcah.

ה

בשנת השמיטה שהיא הפקר שוכרין בית דין שומרין שישמרו מקצת ספיחים שצמחו כדי שיביאו מהן העומר ושתי הלחם שאין באים אלא מן החדש. ואלו השומרין נוטלין שכרן מתרומת הלשכה:

6

Should a person volunteer to watch the produce without charge, his offer is not accepted, lest men of force come and take it. [To prevent this,] the Sages ordained that the watchmen be paid from the funds of the Temple treasury. [This] will prompt everyone to avoid that place where the guards are posted.21

ו

מי שהתנדב לשמור בחנם אין שומעין לו משום בעלי זרוע שמא יבואו ויטלום מהן. לפיכך תיקנו להם חכמים שיטלו שכר מן הלשכה כדי שיפרשו הכל מאותו מקום שאלו שומרים שם:

7

Scribes who check Torah scrolls in Jerusalem and judges in Jerusalem who preside over cases of robbery receive their wages22 from terumat halishcah.

How much are they paid? Ninety23 maneh24 a year. If this is not sufficient for their [needs], they are given - even against their will25 - an additional amount sufficient to meet their needs, those of their wives, their children, and the other members of their household.26

ז

מניחי ספרים שבירושלים ודיינין שדנין את הגזלנין בירושלים נוטלין שכרן מתרומת הלשכה. וכמה היו נוטלים תשעים מנה בכל שנה ואם לא הספיקו להן אף על פי שלא רצו מוסיפין להן כדי צרכן הם ונשיהם ובניהם ובני ביתן:

8

Both the ramp that was built from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives, on which the red heifer was led [to the Mount of Olives],27 and the ramp on which the goat sent to Azazel was led [outside the city28 were paid for] from sheyarei halishcah.29

Similarly, [any improvements necessary for] the altar for the burnt offerings, the Temple building, or the Temple courtyards [were paid for] from the sheyarei halishcah.30 The water conduit, the walls of Jerusalem, its towers, and all the needs of the city [were paid for] from the sheyarei halishcah.

Should a gentile, even a resident alien,31 offer to donate money for these purposes, or to labor in these projects without charge, [his offer] should be rejected, for [Ezra 4:3] states: "It is not for you, together with us, to build [the House of our Lord," and [Nechemiah 2:20] states "And you have no portion, right, or memorial in Jerusalem."

ח

כבש היו בונין מהר הבית להר המשחה שעליו היו מוציאין פרה אדומה. וכבש שמוציאין עליו שעיר המשתלח. ושניהם נעשין משירי הלשכה. וכן מזבח העולה וההיכל והעזרות נעשין משירי הלשכה. אמת המים שבירושלים וחומת ירושלים וכל מגדלותיה וכל צרכי העיר באין משירי הלשכה. ועובד כוכבים שהתנדב מעות לדברים האלו או לעשות עמהם בחנם אין מקבלין ממנו ואפילו גר תושב. שנאמר לא לכם ולנו לבנות וגו' ונאמר ולכם אין חלק וגו':

9

[The funds remaining from] terumat halishcah and sheyarei halishcah should be used to purchase male animals to be sacrificed as burnt offerings. For it is a condition made by the court that all the remaining funds be used for burnt offerings.32

They are not, however, used to purchase doves for burnt offerings, for doves are never used for communal sacrifices. These burnt offerings that come from the funds remaining from the collection of the shekalim are referred to as "the dessert of the altar."33

ט

מותר תרומת הלשכה ושירי הלשכה לוקחין בו זכרים ויקרבו כולן עולות שתנאי בית דין הוא על כל המותרות שיקרבו עולת בהמה. אבל לא עולת העוף שאין בקרבנות הצבור עוף. ואלו העולות הבאין ממותר השקלים הם הנקראים קיץ למזבח:

10

Should the [collection from the half-]shekalim not be sufficient [to purchase everything necessary] for all the communal sacrifices, the [funds for] whatever is necessary should be taken from [the articles] consecrated for Bedek HaBayit, the resources consecrated for the purpose of maintaining the Temple structure.34

[The converse, however, does not apply. When improvements are necessary, but the resources of] Bedek HaBayit are lacking, [the improvements] should not [be paid for] from funds consecrated for [sacrifices for] the altar.

י

שקלים שלא הספיקו להן לכל קרבנות הצבור מוציאין את הראוי להם מקדשי בדק הבית. אבל אין בדק הבית מוציא את הראוי לו מקדשי המזבח:

11

From Rosh Chodesh Nisan onward, the communal offerings should be brought from the new collection [of shekalim].35 If, however, [the funds from] the new collection have not reached [the Temple treasury], [funds from] the collection of the previous year may be used.36

Therefore, [the following rule should be applied] if there are animals designated for the daily offerings37 that were purchased from the collection of the previous year when Rosh Chodesh Nisan arrives: They should be redeemed38 and used for mundane purposes,39 despite the fact that they are unblemished. The proceeds should be placed in the collection of funds from the previous year that are used to provide "dessert"40 for the altar. [This is possible because the] court made a stipulation that should there be no need for any of the animals purchased for the daily offerings, it would be possible to [redeem the animals and] use them for mundane purposes.

יא

משיגיע ראש חדש ניסן אין מקריבין קרבנות צבור אלא מתרומה חדשה ואם לא באה החדשה לוקחין מן הישנה. לפיכך אם הגיע ראש חדש ניסן ויש עמהן בהמות לתמידים מתרומה ישנה פודין אותן ויוצאין לחולין אף על פי שהן תמימין ויפלו דמיהן לתרומה ישנה שמקיצין בה את המזבח. שתנאי בית דין הוא על כל הבהמות שלוקחין לתמידין שאם לא יהיו צריכין להן יצאו לחולין:

12

After Rosh Chodesh Nisan arrived, the following [procedure] would be adhered to concerning the remainder of the incense offering:41 They would transfer the consecrated quality [of the incense] to [the funds designated] to be given to the artisans [who prepared it] as their wages. These funds were then used for "the dessert of the altar," and the artisans would take the remainder of the incense offering as their wages.42 Afterwards, they would buy back the incense from [the artisans] with money from the new collection [of shekalim]. If the funds from the new collection had not arrived, they would offer the incense [purchased with funds] from the collection of the previous year.

יב

וכך היו עושין במותר הקטרת. משיגיע ראש חדש ניסן מחללין אותו על שכר האומנין וחוזרין מעות השכר לקיץ המזבח ונוטלין האומנין מותר הקטרת בשכרן וחוזרין ולוקחין את הקטרת מהן מתרומה חדשה כדי להקריבה ממעות תרומה חדשה. ואם אין להן תרומה חדשה מקטירין אותה מתרומה ישנה: סליקו להו הלכות שקלים

Footnotes
1.

As mentioned in Chapter 2, Halachah 4, this term refers to the funds collected from the half-shekalim and placed in the three large baskets. In addition, other funds remained from the half-shekalim in this chamber, and the Temple treasury had other funds from other sources.

2.

This applies even to the private offerings that people would bring. A person was not required to bring the salt (or wood) to be used for his sacrifice (Hilchot Issurei Mizbe'ach 5:13).

3.

As mentioned in Hilchot Klei HaMikdash 6:9, certain families were given the privilege of providing the wood for the altar in the Temple. If, however, the wood they brought did not suffice, additional wood would be purchased from the funds in the Temple treasury.

4.

See also Halachah 12.

5.

Note the Mishneh LaMelech, which states that the text contains a printing error, and that the scarlet thread is a reference to the scarlet thread used in the ceremony of the burning of the red heifer. There are, however, later commentaries that justify the standard text.

6.

Based on Rashi, Ketubot 106a, it appears that this refers to the two curtains that separated the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies. In the First Temple, a wall served this function. The Second Temple was much taller than the First Temple (100 cubits, as opposed to 30), and a wall only a cubit thick and 100 cubits high would not be structurally sound. Therefore, the Sages replaced the wall with two curtains. See Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 4:2. Since these curtains replaced a structure of stone, they were governed by different rules from those governing the other curtains in the Temple. Among the differences was that they were not paid for from these funds.

7.

One of the 83 sections of the Mishneh Torah; the second section of Sefer HaAvodah, "the Book of Divine Service."

8.

In Chapter 7, Halachah 13 of those laws, the Rambam writes that the prices for the wine for the libations and the flour for the meal offerings are fixed with the suppliers every thirty days. If the price for these commodities increases on the general market, the suppliers are still obligated to provide the Temple with the commodities at the price agreed upon previously. If, however, the price for them decreases on the general market, the suppliers must sell them to the Temple at their present market value. The profit realized by the Temple treasury in this manner is referred to as "the [funds stemming from] the remainder of the libations."

Significantly, however, in those laws the Rambam mentions that these funds are used to purchase burnt offerings, and does not mention that they were used to fashion the sacred articles. The commentaries resolve this discrepancy by stating that only rarely was it necessary to purchase sacred articles. Hence, these funds were primarily used for the purchase of burnt offerings.

9.

Chapter 6, Halachah 18.

10.

Shekalim 7:5 relates that the Temple officers would originally require the person who discovered the animal to bring the wine libation that accompanied it. When this led to a negative outcome, they decided to have the wine libations brought from communal funds.

11.

For the burnt offering sent by a gentile may be sacrificed in the Temple (Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 3:2). Were the gentile to send wine for the libations, it would not be acceptable (ibid.:5).

12.

I.e., a convert without Jewish heirs. If he has heirs, and similarly for a native-born Jew who dies after having designated animals as offerings, the heirs are required to supply the wine libations.

13.

A meal offering resembling a pancake, brought daily by the High Priest.

14.

The Kessef Mishneh notes a contradiction between the Rambam's statements here and those in Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 3:22, where he states that the High Priest's meal offering should be brought by his heirs after he dies. (It must be noted that a similar contradiction can be found in the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah. In his commentary on Shekalim 7:5, he renders a decision similar to the ruling in this halachah, while in his commentary on Menachot 4:5, his decision is analogous to that rendered in Hilchot Temidim UMusafim.)

Rav Kapach offers the following resolution: If a High Priest dies without bringing a meal offering on a particular day, his heirs are required to bring it. On subsequent days, however, the offering should be brought from communal funds.

15.

A first-born animal that has a permanent blemish must be given to a priest as a gift. It is not, however, sacrificed on the altar. One of the points of Rabbinic expertise mentioned by the Talmud is the ability to distinguish between a temporary blemish and a permanent one.

Although Tosafot, Ketubot 106a, offers this explanation, they also note that Bechorot 29b forbids accepting a wage for inspecting the blemishes of a first-born. Tosafot, however, differentiate between a wage paid by a private individual and one paid by the community. Alternatively, Tosafot explain that this refers to scholars who inspected animals before they were sacrificed. This was necessary because an animal with a blemish was unfit.

16.

This statement is very significant within a totally different context. In Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:7, the Rambam writes that it is forbidden to accept a wage for teaching the Oral Law. See also Chapter 3, Halachah 10 of those laws, where the Rambam writes:

Anyone who comes to the conclusion that he should involve himself in Torah study without performing work, and derive his livelihood from charity, desecrates [God's] name, dishonors the Torah, and extinguishes the light of faith.... [See also the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Nedarim 4:3; Avot 4:7).]

The above ruling appears to contradict these statements. Among the resolutions offered is that here, the Rambam is allowing the teachers to receive recompense because instructing the students is their occupation. Were they not charged with this responsibility, they would occupy themselves in another profession. Alternatively, they were allowed to receive payment for teaching the practical side of these activities, and not their theoretical dimensions.

17.

See Hilchot Parah Adumah 2:7, which explains that it was customary that a person who never contracted ritual impurity at all be the one who takes part in the purification rite of the High Priest before he offers the red heifer. For this purpose, women would raise their children in a specific area of Jerusalem, making certain that they never came in contact with a source of impurity.

18.

Although we are forbidden to plant any crops in the Sabbatical year, the Torah allows us to benefit from the small amount of produce that grows on its own accord from left-over seeds and the like. Our Sages forbade deriving personal benefit from such produce (Hilchot Shemitah 4:1-2); it may, however, be used for a mitzvah. Nevertheless, because the prohibition was only Rabbinic in origin, it was not observed carefully by the entire population. Hence, to ensure that there was a sufficient quantity of grain available for these offerings, it was necessary to hire watchmen.

19.

Offered on the sixteenth of Nisan (Leviticus 23:11).

20.

Offered on the holiday of Shavuot (Ibid.:17).

21.

Rashi, Bava Metzia 118a, states that hiring people to watch it makes it public knowledge that it was designated for use as an offering. Hence, even men of force will refrain from harvesting these crops.

22.

Hilchot Sanhedrin 23:5 states that a judge is forbidden to receive a wage for presiding over a case. Nevertheless, these judges were paid a wage, for their involvement in these cases prevented them from pursuing any other means of deriving a livelihood.

23.

Ketubot 105a states ninety-nine maneh.

24.

A maneh was 100 dinarim. As can be derived from Chapter 1, Halachah 3, a dinar was equivalent to the weight of 96 barleycorns of silver.

25.

I.e., even if the judges do not feel it correct to impose on the community, the needs of their households are to be met.

26.

Note the Chatam Sofer (Choshen Mishpat, Responsum 5), who states that the judges' needs should be generously provided for.

27.

See Hilchot Parah Adumah 3:1-2.

28.

Yoma 66a states that this ramp was built because the Jews from Egypt would pull the hair of the priest leading the goat to hurry him on his way.

29.

As stated in Chapter 2, Halachah 4, the sheyarei halishcah, "the remainder within the chamber," refers to the funds that remain from the collection of shekalim after the coins were placed in the three large baskets.

30.

The Kessef Mishneh notes that Ketubot 106a states that the funds for these improvements should come from Bedek HaBayit, the resources consecrated for the purpose of maintaining the Temple structure, and not from sheyarei halishcah. Rav Kapach, however, notes that the Shitah Mekubetzet quotes a different version of that Talmudic passage, which appears to be the source for the Rambam's ruling.

31.

I.e., a gentile who commits himself to observing the seven universal laws commanded to Noach and his descendants. (See Hilchot Melachim 8:10, 9:1-2.) This concept is derived from the fact that the Samaritans who volunteered to assist Zerubavel in the construction of the Second Temple were not idol worshipers (Kessef Mishneh).

32.

Since the funds were given with a specific intent, they could not be used for this purpose unless such a condition was made.

33.

Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Shekalim 4:4), which explains that the word kayitz refers to the conclusion of the summer, the days of the fig and grape harvest. In addition to the mainstay of their meals, people often eat these fruits. Similarly, these offerings are brought on the altar in addition to the sacrifices that are usually offered.

34.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam on this point, noting that although the Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 5:4) makes a statement resembling the Rambam's ruling, it proceeds to explain that statement as referring only to a specific type of donation: a collection of used utensils. According to the Ra'avad, other resources donated to Bedek HaBayit may be used only for improvements to the Temple. The Kessef Mishneh and others justify the Rambam's ruling.

35.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 1:1) cites a historical precedent: Just as the first communal sacrifices were brought on the altar in the desert on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, similarly, in subsequent years we renew the practice of bringing communal offerings by using funds from the new collection. In this vein, Rosh HaShanah 7a refers to Rosh Chodesh Nisan as "the Rosh HaShanah for the setting aside of the shekalim."

36.

It is, however, as if one "forfeited a mitzvah" (Rosh HaShanah, loc. cit.).

37.

It was customary that there be a minimum of six lambs prepared to be offered kept in the Chamber of the Lambs (Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 1:9). This custom was also observed on the twenty-ninth of Adar. Thus, there were always four lambs left over on Rosh Chodesh Nisan (Rashi, Sh'vuot 10b).

38.

For the consecrated status of an animal or an article can never be changed without its being redeemed.

39.

Avodat HaMelech asks why, concerning these animals, we do not follow the same procedure mentioned in the following halachah concerning the remainder of the incense offering - i.e., that they be redeemed and then purchased again with the funds of the new collection of shekalim.

As a possible resolution, he explains that it is forbidden to use for mundane purposes a collection of spices identical to those of the incense offering (Exodus 30:38; Hilchot Klei HaMikdash 2:9). Thus, there would be no use at all for the remainder of the incense offering. For this reason, the Sages ordained that it be repurchased. Concerning the lambs, by contrast, once they are redeemed there is no difficulty in using them for mundane purposes.

40.

See Halachah 9 and notes.

41.

Every year, 368 measures of incense were prepared, 365 corresponding to the days of a solar year, and three extra measures for the incense offering of the High Priest on Yom Kippur (Keritot 6a). Since an ordinary lunar year has either 353, 354, or 355 days, in every ordinary year there were always several portions of incense remaining.

42.

From the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Shekalim 4:5), it would appear that the artisans were given the extra portions of the incense at the beginning of the year, they kept the incense in their possession and it was not repurchased from them until the following year. According to either interpretation, the artisans would have to wait an entire year to receive this portion of their wages.

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter One

Introduction to Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh

It contains one positive commandment: To calculate, to determine and to establish the day on which each of the months of the year will begin. This mitzvah is explained in the [following] chapters

הלכות קדוש החדש - הקדמה

מצות עשה אחת והיא לחשב ולידע ולקבוע באי זה יום תחלת כל חדש מחדשי השנה: וביאור מצוה זו בפרקים אלו:

1

The months of the year are lunar months, as [implied by Numbers 28:14]: "... the burnt offering of the month when it is renewed,"1 and [Exodus 12:2]: "This month shall be for you the first of months."2 [Concerning this verse,] our Sages commented:3 The Holy One, blessed be He, showed Moses in the vision of prophecy an image of the moon and told him, "When you see the moon like this, sanctify it."

The years we follow are solar years, as [implied by Deuteronomy 16:1]: "Keep the month of spring."4

א

חדשי השנה הם חדשי הלבנה שנאמר עולת חדש בחדשו ונאמר החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים. כך אמרו חכמים הראה לו הקב"ה למשה במראה הנבואה דמות לבנה ואמר לו כזה ראה וקדש. והשנים שאנו מחשבין הם שני החמה שנאמר שמור את חדש האביב:

2

How much longer is a solar year than a lunar year? Approximately eleven days.5 Therefore, [to correct the discrepancy between the lunar and the solar calendars,] when these additional days reach a sum of 30 - or slightly more, or slightly less - an additional month is added, causing the year to include thirteen months. This is called a full year.

[This is necessary,] because it is impossible to have a year with twelve months and an odd number of days, as [implied by Numbers 28:14]: "... of the months of the year." [On this verse, our Sages6 commented:] "You count the months of a year, but not the days of a year."

ב

וכמה יתרה שנת החמה על שנת הלבנה קרוב מאחד עשר יום. לפיכך כשיתקבץ מן התוספת הזאת כמו שלשים יום או פחות מעט או יותר מעט מוסיפין חדש אחד ועושין אותה השנה שלשה עשר חדש והיא הנקראת שנה מעוברת. שאי אפשר להיות השנה שנים עשר חדש וכך וכך ימים שנאמר לחדשי השנה חדשים אתה מונה לשנה ואי אתה מונה ימים:

3

The moon becomes hidden and cannot be seen for approximately two days - or [slightly] less or slightly more - every month: approximately one day before its conjunction with the sun at the end of the month, and one day after its conjunction with the sun, [before] it is sighted in the west in the evening.7

The first night when the moon is sighted in the west after being hidden is the beginning of the month. Afterwards, 29 days are counted from that day. If the moon is sighted on the night of the thirtieth [day], the thirtieth day will be Rosh Chodesh [of the following month].

If it is not sighted, Rosh Chodesh will be on the thirty-first day, and the thirtieth day will be included in the previous month. There is no need [to sight] the moon on the thirty-first night; whether or not [the moon] is sighted [the new month begins that night]. For there are no lunar months longer than thirty days.

ג

הלבנה נסתרת בכל חדש ואינה נראת כמו שני ימים או פחות או יותר מעט. כמו יום אחד קודם שתדבק בשמש בסוף החדש וכמו יום אחד אחר שתדבק בשמש ותראה במערב בערב. ובליל שתראה במערב אחר שנסתרה הוא תחלת החדש ומונין מאותו היום תשעה ועשרים יום. ואם יראה הירח ליל שלשים יהיה יום שלשים ראש החדש. ואם לא יראה יהיה ראש החדש יום אחד ושלשים ויהיה יום שלשים מחדש שעבר. ואין נזקקין לירח בליל אחד ושלשים בין שנראה בין שלא נראה. שאין לך חדש לבנה יותר על שלשים יום:

4

When there are twenty-nine days in a month, [because] the moon was sighted on the thirtieth night, the month is called chaseir, ["lacking"]. If the moon is not sighted and the previous month has thirty days, the month is called me'ubar ["pregnant"] or malei ["full"].

When the moon is sighted on the thirtieth night, the moon is said to have been sighted at the appropriate time. When the moon is sighted on the thirty-first night, but not on the thirtieth night, the moon is described as having been seen on the night of its fullness.

ד

חדש שיהיה תשעה ועשרים ויראה ירח בליל שלשים נקרא חדש חסר. ואם לא יראה הירח ויהיה החדש שעבר שלשים יום נקרא חדש מעובר ונקרא חדש מלא. וירח שיראה בליל שלשים הוא הנקרא ירח שנראה בזמנו. ואם נראה בליל אחד ושלשים ולא נראה בליל שלשים הוא נקרא ירח שנראה בליל עבורו:

5

The [establishment of Rosh Chodesh] based on the sighting of the moon is not the province of every individual,8 as is the Sabbath [of the weekly cycle]. [In the latter instance,] everyone counts six days and rests on the seventh day.

[The sanctification of the new month,] by contrast, has been entrusted to the court.9 [The new month does not begin] until it has been sanctified by the court, and it is the day that they establish as Rosh Chodesh that is Rosh Chodesh. [This is implied by the verse,] "This month will be for you...," - i.e., the testimony [concerning the new month] will be entrusted to you.10

ה

אין ראיית הירח מסורה לכל אדם כמו שבת בראשית שכל אחד מונה ששה ושובת בשביעי. אלא לבית דין הדבר מסור עד שיקדשוהו בית דין ויקבעו אותו היום ראש חדש הוא שיהיה ראש חדש. שנאמר החדש הזה לכם עדות זו תהיה מסורה לכם:

6

The [High] Court would make calculations in a manner resembling11the calculations of the astronomers, who know the location of the stars and their paths [in their orbits]. They would perform careful research to determine whether or not they would be able to sight the moon at the appropriate time - i.e., the thirtieth night.

If [the judges] determined that it was possible to sight [the moon], they would sit waiting for witnesses [to come and testify] throughout the entire thirtieth day. If witnesses came, and [the court] examined their testimony according to law, and verified the truth [of their statements], the court would sanctify [the new month]. If [the moon] was not sighted, and witnesses did not come,12 they would complete the thirtieth day, thus making the month full.

If, according to their calculations, [the judges] knew that it was impossible for the moon to be sighted, they would not sit [in session] on the thirtieth day, nor would they await [the arrival] of witnesses. If witnesses came, they would know that they are false witnesses, or that clouds appeared to them in a form resembling the moon, but it was not the real moon.

ו

בית דין מחשבין בחשבונות כדרך שמחשבים האיצטגנינים שיודעין מקומות הכוכבים ומהלכם וחוקרים ומדקדקים עד שידעו אם אפשר שיראה הירח בזמנו שהוא ליל שלשים או אי אפשר. אם ידעו שאפשר שיראה יושבין ומצפין לעדים כל היום כולו שהוא יום שלשים. אם באו עדים ודרשום וחקרום כהלכה ונאמנו דבריהם מקדשין אותו. ואם לא נראה ולא באו עדים משלימין שלשים ויהיה חדש מעובר. ואם ידעו בחשבון שאי אפשר שיראה אין יושבים יום שלשים ואין מצפין לעדים. ואם באו עדים יודעין בודאי שהן עדי שקר או שנראת להם דמות לבנה מן העבים ואינה הלבנה הודאית:

7

It is a positive commandment of the Torah13 for the court to calculate and determine whether or not the moon will be sighted, to examine witnesses until the moon can be sanctified, and to send forth [messengers] to inform the remainder of the people on which day Rosh Chodesh was observed,14 so that they will know the day [on which to celebrate] the festivals [as implied by Leviticus 23:2]: "that you will pronounce as days of holy convocation,"15 and [as implied by Exodus 13:10]: "And you shall observe this statute in its appointed season."16

ז

מצות עשה מן התורה על בית דין שיחשבו וידעו אם יראה הירח או לא יראה. ושידרשו את העדים עד שיקדשו את החדש. וישלחו ויודיעו שאר העם באי זה יום הוא ראש חדש כדי שידעו באי זה יום הן המועדות. שנאמר אשר תקראו אותם מקראי קדש ונאמר ושמרת את החקה הזאת למועדה:

8

The calculations and the establishment of the months and the leap years is carried out only in Eretz Yisrael [as implied by Isaiah 2:3]: "For out of Zion will emerge the law, and the word of God [will emerge] from Jerusalem."17

If a great sage who received semichah18 in Eretz Yisrael left for the diaspora without leaving a colleague of equal stature in Eretz Yisrael, he may make calculations, establish the monthly calendar, and institute leap years in the diaspora.19If, however, it becomes known to him that a sage of his stature has arisen in Eretz Yisrael - and surely, if a sage of greater stature has arisen in Eretz Yisrael - it is forbidden for him to establish [the monthly calendar] and [institute] leap years in the diaspora.20 If he transgresses, and [attempts to structure the calendar in this manner], his actions are of no consequence.21

ח

אין מחשבין וקובעין חדשים ומעברין שנים אלא בארץ ישראל שנאמר כי מציון תצא תורה ודבר ה' מירושלים. ואם היה אדם גדול בחכמה ונסמך בארץ ישראל ויצא לחוצה לארץ ולא הניח בארץ ישראל כמותו הרי זה מחשב וקובע חדשים ומעבר שנים בחוצה לארץ. ואם נודע לו שנעשה בארץ ישראל אדם גדול כמותו ואין צריך לומר גדול ממנו הרי זה אסור לקבוע ולעבר בחוצה לארץ ואם עבר וקבע ועיבר לא עשה כלום

Footnotes
1.

The concept of a renewal each month is relevant regarding lunar months, but not with regard to solar months. For the moon is not seen for a day or two each month, while the sun shines continually every day throughout the year.

2.

Although the implication to a lunar month in this verse is not as obvious as in the former verse, there is an explicit teaching from our Sages indicating a connection, as the Rambam proceeds to explain.

3.

Mechilta D'Rashbi on the above verse; see also Midrash Tanchumah, Shemini, sec. 8; Menachot 29a.

4.

Sanhedrin 13b (cited by the Rambam, Chapter 4, Halachah 1) explains that this verse is a charge to arrange the calendar so that the vernal (spring) equinox always falls in the month of Nisan.

5.

The Rambam speaks in more precise figures in Chapter 6. At present, he is speaking in general terms to give an outline of the how the Jewish calendar is structured.

6.

Megillah 5a.

7.

As explained in the notes to Chapter 11, when the sun, the moon, and the earth are aligned in a straight line in that order, the moon reflects the sun's rays directly back to it, and no light can be seen from the earth. This is called the conjunction of the sun and the moon. Afterwards, the moon proceeds in its orbit away from the sun, and within approximately one day's time it will have moved a sufficient distance for it to reflect a small crescent of light to the earth. This crescent will always be sighted first in the western portion of the sky, close to the horizon.

The commentaries note that Rosh HaShanah 20b states that the moon cannot be seen for twenty-four hours every month. Aruch HaShulchan (Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh, sec. 88) explains that there is no contradiction to the Rambam's statements here. There are twenty-four hours every month in which it is impossible to see the moon. There is in addition, however, approximately one day every month when the probability of seeing the moon is very low.

8.

I.e., in contrast to the Sabbath, a person who thinks that he has sighted the moon may not begin counting the days of the new month on his own initiative. Rather, he must go to the Sanhedrin and present his testimony to them, and it is they who decide whether or not to begin the new month. (Note the Rambam's comments in Sefer HaMitzvot , Positive Commandment 153, where he elaborates on this theme.)

9.

I.e., the Sanhedrin, the High Court that held sessions in Jerusalem until the Temple's destruction, and afterwards was located in various cities throughout Eretz Yisrael.

10.

As explained in Rosh HaShanah 22a, this command was addressed to Moses and Aaron. The words "to you" are seemingly unnecessary. Thus, they are interpreted to mean that just as this command is being given to you, so too, the fulfillment of it in subsequent times will be the responsibility of men like you - i.e., the judges of Israel's High Court. (See Chapter 2, Halachah 8, which mentions an application of this principle. See also Chapter 5, Halachah 1.)

11.

Rav Kapach explains that the Rambam chose his wording exactly. The calculations of the High Court merely "resembled the calculations of the astronomers." In truth, however, they operated under a different system. As the Rambam explains in Chapter 17, Halachah 24, the prophets and the descendants of the tribe of Issachar had a method of calculating the movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars, which had been transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai. Although this method resembled the method of calculations employed by gentile scholars, it was unique and different. (See also the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 2:8.)

This method of calculation was lost to our people shortly after the composition of the Mishnah. Subsequent texts, including the Rambam's own system of calculation, as explained from Chapter 11 onward, were based on Greek sources.

12.

Because the moon was covered with clouds or for other similar reasons. (See Chapter 18, Halachah 1.)

13.

See Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 153) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 4), which consider this to be one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot.

14.

The Rambam mentions three activities imperative on the court in fulfillment of this mitzvah: the calculation of the time for the sighting of the moon, the examination of the witnesses, and the notification of the Jewish people.

It is interesting to note that the structure of Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh represents somewhat of a departure from the Rambam's usual style of presentation in the Mishneh Torah. He generally begins by citing a mitzvah and the proof-text from which it is derived, and afterwards he describes it. In this instance, the Rambam begins by describing the basic ground rules for the sighting of the moon, and afterwards he explains the mitzvah that is associated with this sighting.

Rav Kapach suggests that this approach could have been taken in reaction to the position of Rav Sa'adiah Gaon, who maintains that the fundamental aspect of determining the calendar was not the sighting of the moon, but rather the calculations of the Sages. See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 2:6).

15.

As stated in the conclusion of Chapter 2, this verse is an indication that the determination of the days on which the festivals are to be celebrated - and thus the establishment of the monthly calendar on which the former depends - was entrusted to the Jewish High Court.

16.

This verse refers to the Paschal sacrifice and teaches us that there is an obligation to "observe this statute," bring the Paschal sacrifice, "at its appointed time" - i.e., in the spring. This alludes to the second dimension of this mitzvah, the establishment of leap years so that the holiday of Pesach will always fall in the spring.

Note the Ramban (Hasagot to Sefer HaMitzvot, Shoresh 1), who cites opinions that consider these two dimensions - the establishment of Rosh Chodesh and the decision whether to observe leap years - as two separate mitzvot.

The Rambam's citation of this proof-text has attracted the attention of commentaries because of another difficulty. In Menachot 36b, the meaning of this verse is the subject of a difference of opinion between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yosse HaG'lili. While the simple meaning of the phrase "this statute" is the Paschal sacrifice - and this is the interpretation of Rabbi Akiva - Rabbi Yosse HaG'lili interprets the phrase as referring to the mitzvah of wearing tefillin.

What is significant is that in the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam cites both the interpretations of Rabbi Akiva (in this halachah) and that of Rabbi Yosse HaG'lili (Hilchot Tefillin 4:10) as Torah law. The commentaries (see Radbaz, Vol. V, Responsum 1693) explain that this is indicative of a general pattern within the Mishneh Torah. The Rambam's intent in composing the Mishneh Torah was to provide us with a text of Torah practice, not a source book explaining the derivation of Torah law. He refers to verses only when they are necessary as supports. Therefore, in each instance he cites the proof-text that has the most obvious connection to the law or principle he is referring to, although it is possible that there is another verse from which this law was actually derived.

17.

See Sefer HaMitzvot, loc. cit., where the Rambam explains the connection of this mitzvah - and the Jewish people as a whole - to Eretz Yisrael in stirring terms.

18.

The ordination conveyed upon the Sages from Sage to Sage, in a chain that began with Moses himself. (See Hilchot Sanhedrin, Chapter 4.)

19.

Yevamot 122a relates that Rabbi Akiva journeyed to Neharde'a for this purpose, and from the narrative in Berachot 63a, it would appear that Chanina, Rabbi Yehoshua's nephew, lived in Babylon and ordained the order of the calendar from there for several years.

20.

Berachot, ibid., states that the Sages of Eretz Yisrael ordered Chanina to stop ordaining the calendar, because "the kids that you left behind have grown and become billy-goats with horns" - i.e., the Sages who were once on a lower level of understanding had matured and achieved a par with him.

21.

The Rambam is speaking about the era when the beginning of the new month was determined through the testimony of witnesses. The use of the fixed calendar we follow at present is discussed in Chapter 5.

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Two

1

The only testimony that is acceptable with regard to [the sighting of] the new [moon] is that of two1 adult males2 who are fit to testify regarding all matters.3 Women and slaves,4 by contrast, are like other unacceptable witnesses and may not testify.

When a father and a son both see the new moon, they should both go the court to testify. Not because testimony regarding the [the sighting of] the new [moon] is acceptable [from witnesses who are] related, but because one of them may be disqualified because he is a thief or for other reasons, and the other will be able to join with another person and give testimony.

A person who is disqualified from serving as a witness by Rabbinical decree,5 although he is acceptable according to the law of the Torah itself, may not serve as a witness with regard to [the sighting of] the new [moon].

א

אין כשר לעדות החדש אלא שני אנשים כשרים הראויין להעיד בכל דבר ודבר. אבל נשים ועבדים הרי הן כשאר פסולי עדות ואין מעידין. אב ובנו שראו את הירח ילכו לבית דין להעיד. לא מפני שעדות החדש כשרה בקרובים אלא שאם ימצא אחד מהן פסול מפני שהוא גזלן וכיצא בו משאר הפסלנות יצטרף השני עם אחר ויעידו. וכל הפסול לעדות מדברי סופרים אע"פ שהוא כשר מן התורה פסול לעדות החדש:

2

According to the law of the Torah, there is no need to be precise regarding testimony about [the sighting of] the new [moon]. For even if the new moon was sanctified on the basis of the testimony of witnesses, and later it was discovered that those witnesses had perjured themselves,6 [the new moon] remains sanctified.7

Accordingly, in the early generations, testimony regarding [the sighting of] the new [moon] was accepted from any Jew [without further enquiry], for any Jew can be presumed to be an acceptable witness unless one knows with certainty that he is unacceptable. When the followers of Baithos8 began conducting themselves in a debased manner and would hire people9 to testify that they had seen the moon when in fact they had not, the court decreed that it would accept testimony regarding [the sighting of] the new [moon] only from witnesses whom the court knew to be acceptable. Moreover, they would examine and question their testimony.

ב

דין תורה שאין מדקדקין בעדות החדש. שאפילו קדשו את החדש על פי עדים ונמצאו זוממין בעדות זו הרי זו מקודש. לפיכך היו בראשונה מקבלין עדות החדש מכל אדם מישראל שכל ישראל בחזקת כשרות עד שיודע לך שזה פסול. משקלקלו הבייתוסים והיו שוכרין אנשים להעיד שראו והם לא ראו התקינו שלא יקבלו בית דין עדות החדש אלא מעדים שמכירין בית דין אותן שהם כשרים ושיהיו דורשין וחוקרים בעדות:

3

Therefore, if the [High] Court did not know [the character of] the witnesses who sighted the moon, the inhabitants of the city where the moon was sighted would send other witnesses10 together with the witnesses who saw the moon to substantiate their character to the court, and inform [the judges] that they are acceptable [witnesses]. [Only] afterwards would the court accept their [testimony].

ג

לפיכך אם לא יהיו בית דין יודעים את העדים שראו את הירח משלחין אנשי העיר שנראה בה עם העדים שראו עדים אחרים שמזכין אותן לבית דין ומודיעין אותן שאלו כשרים הם ואחר כך מקבלין מהם:

4

The court would make calculations in a manner resembling the calculations of the astronomers, and would know whether the position of the moon - when it would be sighted - would be to the north of the sun, or to its south,11 if its [crescent] would be wide or narrow,12 and the direction in which its corners would be pointed.13

When the witnesses came to testify, they would ask them: "Where did you see [the moon]: to the north or to the south [of the sun]?", "In which direction were its corners pointed?", "How high and how wide did it appear to you?" If their replies were suitable, their testimony was accepted. If their replies were not suitable, their testimony was not accepted.

ד

בית דין מחשבין בדרכים שהאיצטגנינין מחשבין בהם ויודעין הלבנה כשתראה בחדש זה אם תהיה בצפון השמש או בדרומה ואם תהיה רחבה או קצרה ולהיכן יהיו ראשי קרניה נוטין. וכשיבאו העדים להעיד בודקין אותם כיצד ראיתם אותה בצפון או בדרום. להיכן היו קרניה נוטות. כמה היתה גבוהה בראיית עיניכם וכמה היתה רחבה. אם נמצאו דבריהם מכוונין למה שנודע בחשבון מקבלין אותם ואם לא נמצאו דבריהם מכוונין אין מקבלין אותם:

5

If the witnesses say, "We saw [the reflection of the moon] in water," or "...[its form] behind the clouds," or "...[its reflection] in a mirror," [what they] saw is of no [consequence], and this sighting cannot be used as the basis for sanctifying [the new moon].14 [The same law applies if the witnesses say,] "We saw a portion [of the moon] in the heavens, and a portion of [its form] behind the clouds," "...a portion [reflected] in water," or "...a portion [reflected] in a mirror."

If one [potential witness says,] "I saw it and it appeared to me approximately two storeys high," and another [potential witness] says, "It was three storeys high," their testimonies may be combined15 [and the moon sanctified on this basis]. If, however, one says "It was approximately three storeys high," and the other says, "It was approximately five storeys high," their testimonies may not be joined together.16 Either one of them, however, may join together with another witness who gives identical testimony, or [who gives testimony] involving a discrepancy of merely one storey.

ה

אמרו העדים ראינוהו במים או בעבים או בעששית. או שראו מקצתו ברקיע ומקצתו בעבים או במים או בעששית אין זו ראייה ואין מקדשין על ראייה זאת. אמר אחד ראיתיו גבוה בעיני כמו שתי קומות ואמר השני כמו שלש קומות היה גבוה מצטרפין. אמר האחד כמו שלש קומות והשני אמר כמו חמש אין מצטרפין. ומצטרף אחד מהם עם שני שיעיד כמותו או יהיה ביניהן קומה אחת:

6

If witnesses say, "We saw [the moon] without concentrating our attention, and, afterwards, when we concentrated our attention with the intent of sighting it so that we could testify, we did not see it," this is not considered [valid] testimony, and it cannot serve as the basis for sanctifying [the new moon]. Perhaps clouds came together, and appeared like the moon, and afterwards became dispersed.17

If witnesses say, "We saw [the moon] on the twenty-ninth [day] in the morning in the east before sunrise, and [afterwards,] in the evening, we saw it in the west on the thirtieth night," their testimony is believed, and the moon can be sanctified on this basis. [The rationale is] that they saw [the moon] at its appropriate time. [Their testimony] about [what they thought] they saw in the morning is disregarded. We need not pay any attention to what they saw in the morning, for it is obvious that it was the conjunction of clouds that appeared to them as the moon.18

Similarly, if [witnesses claim] to have seen the moon at its appropriate time, but it was not seen on the thirty-first night, their [testimony] is believed. For what is significant for us is only the sighting [of the moon] on the thirtieth night.19

ו

אמרו ראינוהו בלא כוונה וכיון שהתבוננו בו ונתכוננו לראותו להעיד שוב לא ראינוהו אין זו עדות ואין מקדשין עליה. שמא עבים נתקשרו ונראו כלבנה וכלו והלכו להם. אמרו עדים ראינוהו ביום תשעה ועשרים שחרית במזרח קודם שתעלה השמש וראינוהו ערבית במערב בליל שלשים הרי אלו נאמנים ומקדשין על ראייה זו שהרי ראוהו בזמנו. אבל הראייה שאמרו שראוהו בשחרית אין נזקקין לה שאין אנו אחראין לראיית שחרית ובידוע שהעבים הם שנתקשרו ונראה להם כלבנה. וכן אם ראוהו בזמנו ובליל עיבורו לא נראה הרי אלו נאמנין שאין אנו אחראין אלא לראיית ליל שלשים בלבד:

7

What is the process through which the testimony regarding the sighting of the moon is accepted? Anyone who saw the moon and is fit to testify20 should come to the court. The [judges] should bring them all to a single place,21 and should make a large feast for them, so that people will come regularly. The pair [of witnesses] who arrive first are examined first according to the questions mentioned previously.22 The one of greater stature is invited [into a private chamber] first and asked these questions. If his testimony is accurate according to [the data that the court arrives at through] calculations, they invite his colleague in. If their statements are comparable,23 their testimony is substantiated.

[Afterwards,] the remaining pairs are asked questions of a broader nature. [In truth,] their testimony is not required at all, [and they are being asked] only so they will not depart disheartened, so that they will come frequently [in the future].24

ז

כיצד מקבלין עדות החדש. כל מי שראוי להעיד שראה את הירח בא לבית דין. ובית דין מכניסים אותן כולן למקום אחד ועושין להן סעודות גדולות כדי שיהיו העם רגילין לבא. וזוג שבא ראשון בודקין אותן ראשון בבדיקות שאמרנו. מכניסין את הגדול ושואלין אותו נמצאו דבריו מכוונים לחשבון מכניסים את חברו. נמצאו דבריהם מכוונין עדותן קיימת. ושאר כל הזוגות שואלין אותם ראשי דברים לא שצריכים להם אלא כדי שלא יצאו בפחי נפש כדי שיהיו רגילין לבא:

8

Afterwards - i.e., after [the witnesses'] testimony is substantiated - the head of the court declares, "It has been sanctified." And all the people respond, "It has been sanctified. It has been sanctified."

A minimum of three judges is required to sanctify the new moon.25 Similarly, the calculations [regarding the moon's position] must be made by three judges. The new moon is sanctified only when it is sighted at its appropriate time.26 Moreover, the moon is sanctified only during the day.27 If it was sanctified at night, the sanctification is of no consequence.

Furthermore, even if the court and the entire Jewish people saw the moon, but the court did not declare that "It has been sanctified"28 before the nightfall beginning the thirty-first day, or if the witnesses were cross-examined, but afterwards the court was not able to declare that "It has been sanctified" before the nightfall beginning the thirty-first day,29 it should not be sanctified,30 and the month should be full. Despite the fact that the moon was sighted on the thirtieth night, it is the thirty- first day that will be Rosh Chodesh. For [the sanctification of the new month] is not established by the sighting of the moon, but by the court that declares, "It has been sanctified."31

ח

ואחר כך אחר שתתקיים העדות ראש בית דין אומר מקודש וכל העם עונים אחריו מקודש מקודש ואין מקדשין את החדש אלא בשלשה. ואין מחשבין אלא בשלשה. ואין מקדשין אלא חדש שנראה בזמנו. ואין מקדשין אלא ביום ואם קדשוהו בלילה אינו מקודש. ואפילו ראוהו בית דין וכל ישראל ולא אמרו בית דין מקודש עד שחשכה ליל אחד ושלשים. או שנחקרו העדים ולא הספיקו בית דין לומר מקודש עד שחשכה ליל אחד ושלשים. אין מקדשין אותו ויהיה החדש מעובר ולא יהיה ראש חדש אלא יום אחד ושלשים אע"פ שנראית בליל שלשים. שאין הראייה קובעת אלא בית דין שאמרו מקודש הם שקובעין:

9

If the court themselves see [the new moon] at the conclusion of the twenty-ninth day, before a star has emerged on the thirtieth night, the court may declare, "It has been sanctified; it has been sanctified,"32 for it is still day.33

If [the judges] sight the moon on the night of the thirtieth day after two stars have appeared,34 [they should adhere to the following procedure]. On the morrow, two other judges join one of the three [to form a court]. The other two [judges] then testify before [this court] of three, who then [sanctify the new month].

ט

ראוהו בית דין עצמן בסוף יום תשעה ועשרים. אם עדיין לא יצא כוכב ליל שלשים. בית דין אומרים מקודש שעדיין יום הוא. ואם ראוהו בליל שלשים אחר שיצאו שני כוכבים. למחר מושיבין שני דיינין אצל אחד מהם ויעידו השנים בפני השלשה ויקדשוהו השלשה:

10

Once the court sanctifies the new month, it remains sanctified regardless of whether they erred unwittingly, they were led astray [by false witnesses], or they were forced [to sanctify it].35 We are required to calculate [the dates of] the festivals based on the day that they sanctified [as the beginning of the new month].

Even if [a person] knows that [the court] erred, he is obligated to rely on them,36 for the matter is entrusted to them alone. The One who commanded us to observe the festivals is the One who commanded [us] to rely on them, as [implied by Leviticus 23:2]: "Which you will pronounce as days of holy convocation."37

י

בית דין שקדשו את החדש בין שוגגין בין מוטעין בין אנוסים הרי זה מקודש וחייבין הכל לתקן המועדות על היום שקדשו בו. אע"פ שזה יודע שטעו חייב לסמוך עליהם שאין הדבר מסור אלא להם ומי שצוה לשמור המועדות הוא צוה לסמוך עליהם שנאמר אשר תקראו אתם וגו'

Footnotes
1.

For all evidence must be substantiated by the testimony of two witnesses, as implied by Deuteronomy 19:15 which states, "The testimony of a single witness will not stand." See Hilchot Edut, ch. 5.

2.

Both these concepts are implied by the Hebrew word anashim.

3.

See Hilchot Edut, Chapters 9-10, 12-14.

4.

Who are not acceptable for testimony in court (Hilchot Edut 9:2,4). The slaves referred to here are "Canaanite slaves," gentiles purchased as slaves. A Jewish servant, eved ivri, may give testimony in court on this and other matters.

5.

E.g., gamblers, usurers, and other individuals described in Hilchot Edut, Chapter 11.

6.

More particularly, the term used by the Rambam, zomemim refers to witnesses who claimed that they saw the moon while they were located in a specific place at a specific time, and later it was proven that they had been in another place at that time. (See Hilchot Edut, Chapter 18.)

7.

See Halachah 10.

8.

Avot D'Rabbi Natan 5:2 relates that Antigonus of Socho had two talented students, Tzadok and Baithos. When Antigonus taught: "Do not be like students serving a master in order to receive a reward," they turned away in disgust, commenting, "Is it proper for a worker to toil the entire day without receiving any recompense?"

They began splinter groups that rejected the core of Jewish practice and coveted material wealth. They found that they could not convince the majority of the people to reject the Torah entirely, so they adopted a different tactic. They claimed that they were true to Torah, but the only Torah that was Godly was the written law. The oral law, they maintained, was merely a human invention.

This thesis was only a ruse to sway the people from the performance of the mitzvot. Accordingly, the Sages would refer to all those who deny the Torah and its tradition as Sadducees (from Tzadok) or Baithosees (from Baithos) [the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot 1:3]. Not only did these individuals scorn Torah observance themselves, but they tried, as indicated by this halachah, to undermine the observance of the Jewish nation as a whole.

Our translation follows the standard printed text of the Mishneh Torah. Many original printings and manuscripts state minnim, "non-believers," rather than "the followers of Baithos." Similarly, the Rambam's source, Rosh HaShanah 2:1, uses this term. Some consider this as a reference to the early Christians.

9.

Rosh HaShanah 22b relates that the Sadducees paid witnesses 400 zuzim to testify falsely with regard to the sighting of the moon.

10.

The Rambam uses a plural term, implying that two character witnesses are required. This prerequisite is apparent from Rosh HaShanah 22b. The Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh HaShanah 2:1), by contrast, requires only one character witness.

11.

As the Rambam states in his Commentary on the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 2:7, this refers to the latitude of the moon. This subject is explained in Chapter 16.

12.

As the Rambam explains in his Commentary on the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the size of the moon's crescent grows as it moves further away from the sun.

13.

See Chapter 19 for an explanation of how the court can determine these matters.

14.

To sanctify the moon, it is necessary to see the moon itself - and not its reflection - and to see it clearly, not as it is hidden by clouds.

15.

Although there is a discrepancy between them, the two testimonies are not considered to contradict each other, since it is possible for a person to err slightly in making such an estimation.

16.

For this discrepancy is too great for the two to be considered a single statement.

17.

Rosh HaShanah 24a and 25a mentions instances where the conjunction of the clouds appeared to resemble the moon.

18.

The Rambam's statements are based on his interpretation of the difference of opinion between Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri mentioned in Rosh HaShanah 2:9. (See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah for a detailed analysis of this matter.)

Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri maintains that the witnesses' testimony should be disregarded, because it cannot possibly be true. Everyone knows that, at the beginning of the month, the moon always appears on the western horizon for a brief period after the setting of the sun. At this time of the month, seeing it in the morning, before sunrise, is impossible. (See Chapters 15 and 17 for an explanation of this phenomenon.) Since the testimony of these witnesses contains an obvious error, the testimony should be disregarded entirely.

Rabban Gamliel, as his opinion is explained by the Rambam, was aware of this astronomical concept as well. Nevertheless, in the instance mentioned in the Mishnah, he knew that according to the calculations, it would have been possible for the moon to have been sighted on the night mentioned by the witnesses. Why then, he argued, should their testimony be discounted entirely because of the error they made regarding the morning. The fact that then, they mistook the condensation of clouds for the moon should not cause their testimony to be disregarded entirely.

19.

This represents a parallel difference of opinion mentioned in Rosh HaShanah (op. cit.). Rabbi Dosa ben Hyrkanos maintains that it is impossible for the moon to be sighted on one night, and then for it not to be sighted on the following night.

Rabban Gamliel (as his position is explained by the Rambam in his Commentary on the Mishnah) accepted the witnesses' testimony in this instance, because he knew that, according to the calculations, it was possible for the moon to be sighted on the thirtieth night. The fact that it was not sighted again on the thirty-first night was merely a matter of circumstance: no one was trying to see it, their view was obstructed by clouds, or the like.

20.

I.e., there is no benefit to be derived from a witness whose testimony will not be accepted by the court because of his conduct - e.g., a transgressor, a gambler, or a usurer.

21.

Rosh HaShanah 23b states that there was a large courtyard in Jerusalem called "the house of Ya'azak" where the witnesses would gather.

22.

In Halachah 4.

23.

See Halachah 5.

24.

The Rambam (based on Rosh HaShanah 2:7) is communicating an important lesson in human dynamics. Since the court might need these witnesses in the future, it is important that they feel that consideration is shown to them, and that their coming was not futile.

25.

Rosh HaShanah 25b derives this concept as follows: The commandment "This month shall be for you..." was addressed to both Moses and Aaron, implying that at least two judges are necessary. A court must be composed of an odd number of judges, and hence a third judge is required.

26.

I.e., as the Rambam continues to explain, for the new month to be sanctified, the moon must be sighted on the thirtieth night, the witnesses must testify on the thirtieth day, and the court must declare the month to be sanctified - all before sunset of that day.

27.

Based on Psalms 81:4-5, Rosh HaShanah 25b draws an equation between the sighting of the new moon and the delivery of a judgment. Just as a judgment may be delivered only during the day, so too, the mitzvah of the sanctifying the new moon applies only by day.

28.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 3:1, the Rambam explains that one might think that since the court and the entire Jewish people saw the moon, there was no need to sanctify the new month. Therefore, as he concludes in this halachah, it is necessary to emphasize that it is the sanctification of the court that establishes the new month, and not the sighting of the moon alone.

29.

Rosh HaShanah (loc. cit.) explains that although a decision regarding a monetary case may be rendered at night if the testimony was received by the court during the day, this concept does not apply regarding the sanctification of the new month. The court must actually sanctify the new month during the day.

30.

Based on Chapter 3, Halachot 15-18, it would appear that the Rambam's intent is that, since the new month was not sanctified at its appropriate time, the court endeavors to have the witnesses' testimony disqualified. If, however, the witnesses' testimony is substantiated despite the court's efforts, the month can be sanctified retroactively.

31.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, Halachah 5, the mitzvah of sanctifying the new month has been entrusted to the court.

32.

Rosh HaShanah 25b explains that this teaches us that hearing the testimony of the witnesses is not more effective than the actual sighting of the moon itself.

33.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 3:1), the Rambam writes that although the sun has set, the night does not begin until the appearance of the stars, and it is still possible to sanctify the new moon.

(The Rambam's wording in this halachah and in the related portions of his Commentary on the Mishnah have raised questions concerning his conception of the limits of the day, the night, and the intermediate period referred to as beyn hash'mashot. See the Radbaz (Vol. V, Responsum 1379), the Ralbach, the Or Sameach and others, who address themselves to this issue.)

It is also significant to mention that Rashi (Rosh HaShanah, loc. cit.) and others differ with the Rambam's interpretation of the Mishnah, and consider it as referring to the citing of the moon at the conclusion of the thirtieth day, on the eve of the thirty- first.

34.

From this time onward, they can no longer sanctify the new month on the basis of their sighting alone. Instead, the procedure outlined by the Rambam must be followed.

35.

Significantly, instead of mentioning the court as being forced to sanctify the month on the wrong day, Rosh HaShanah 25a states "even if they purposefully sanctified the moon on the wrong day" - i.e., they accepted the testimony of witnesses even when they knew that it was flimsy. The Rambam chooses not to mention such an instance, and instead quotes the Mechilta D'Rashbi and the Sifra.

36.

Rosh HaShanah 2:10 relates that once Rabbi Yehoshua differed with Rabban Gamliel concerning the acceptance of the testimony of witnesses with regard to Rosh HaShanah. Since Rabban Gamliel was the head of the High Court, his opinion was accepted. To emphasize the importance of following the necessity for uniform adherence to the decisions of the court, Rabban Gamliel ordered Rabbi Yehoshua to appear before him carrying his staff and his wallet on the day that Rabbi Yehoshua thought should be considered as Yom Kippur.

After consulting with his colleagues, Rabbi Yehoshua obeyed Rabban Gamliel's instructions. Afterwards, Rabban Gamliel honored Rabbi Yehoshua for his humility and deference to the court's authority.

37.

אתם, meaning "which" in the above verse, can also mean "you," when vocalized differently. Thus, the authority of "you," the Jewish court to whom this matter is entrusted, is emphasized more powerfully (Rosh HaShanah, loc. cit.).

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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