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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Three, Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Four, Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Five

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Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Three

1

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.

א

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:

2

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

ב

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:

3

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.

ג

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:

4

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

ד

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:

5

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].

ה

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:

6

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.

ו

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:

7

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.

ז

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:

8

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.

ח

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:

9

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

ט

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:

10

[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.

י

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:

11

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

יא

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:

12

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

יב

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:

13

[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

יג

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:

14

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

יד

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:

15

[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

טו

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:

16

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.

טז

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:

17

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.

יז

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:

18

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.

יח

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:

19

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

יט

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

Footnotes
1.

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.)

2.

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).

3.

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.

4.

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).

5.

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

6.

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

7.

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

8.

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).

9.

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).

10.

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.

11.

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

12.

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.

13.

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.

14.

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

15.

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.)

16.

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.

17.

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

18.

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).

19.

The Rambam is referring to Rosh HaShanah.

20.

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.

21.

And there were no longer any difficulties concerning the sacrifices.

22.

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

23.

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.

24.

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

25.

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.

26.

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

27.

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.

28.

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).

29.

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.

30.

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.

31.

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).

32.

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

33.

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).

34.

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).

35.

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).

36.

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

37.

See Chapter 2, Halachah 9.

38.

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

39.

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.

40.

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.)

41.

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.

42.

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

43.

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.

44.

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

45.

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.

46.

See Halachah 7.

47.

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.

48.

Rosh HaShanah, op. cit.

49.

Note another interpretation of the expression, "The month is made full out of necessity," in Chapter 18, Halachah 11.

50.

This opinion is also mentioned in the abovepassage.

51.

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.

52.

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.

53.

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.

54.

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.

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Four

1

A leap year is a year that includes an additional month.1The extra month that is added is always Adar,2 and thus the year contains two Adarin: the first Adar and the second Adar.3

Why is this month added? Because of the season of spring, so that Pesach will fall then, as [implied by Deuteronomy 16:1]: "Take heed the month of spring"4 [This command can be interpreted to mean, "Take heed] that this month falls in the spring season. Were the month [of Adar] not to be added [from time to time], there are times when Pesach would fall in the summer, and times [when it would fall] in the rainy season.

א

שנה מעוברת היא שנה שמוסיפין בה חדש. ואין מוסיפין לעולם אלא אדר ועושין אותה שנה שני אדרין אדר ראשון ואדר שני. ומפני מה מוסיפין חדש זה מפני זמן האביב כדי שיהא הפסח באותו זמן שנאמר שמור את חדש האביב שיהיה חדש זה בזמן האביב. ולולא הוספת החדש הזה הפסח בא פעמים בימות החמה ופעמים בימות הגשמים:

2

[An extra month is added,] making the year full, because of three factors: a) the vernal [spring] equinox;5 b) the ripening6 [of the barley crop], and c) the blooming of the fruit trees.

What is implied? When the court calculates7 and determines that the vernal equinox will fall on the sixteenth of Nisan or later, the year is made full. The month that would have been Nisan is made the second Adar, and thus Pesach will fall in the spring. This factor [alone] is sufficient for the court to make the year full;8 other factors need not be considered.

ב

על שלשה סימנין מעברין את השנה. על התקופה ועל האביב ועל פירות האילן. כיצד בית דין מחשבין ויודעין אם תהיה תקופת ניסן בששה עשר בניסן או אחר זמן זה מעברין אותה השנה. ויעשו אותו ניסן אדר שני כדי שיהיה הפסח בזמן האביב. ועל סימן זה סומכין ומעברין ואין חוששין לסימן אחר:

3

Similarly, if the court sees that [the barley crop] has not ripened, but that it is late in sprouting, or that the fruit trees that usually bloom at the time of the Pesach holiday have not bloomed, these two factors are sufficient,9 and the year is made full, even though the vernal equinox will fall before the sixteenth of Nisan.10

[The reason the year is] made full [because of these factors] is so that there will be [an abundant quantity] of ripened [barley] accessible, so that the wave offering of the omer can be brought from it on the sixteenth of Nisan,11 and so that the fruits will bloom, as they always do in the spring.

ג

וכן אם ראו בית דין שעדיין לא הגיע האביב אלא עדיין אפל הוא. ולא צמחו פירות האילן שדרכן לצמוח בזמן הפסח. סומכין על שני סימנין אלו ומעברין את השנה. ואף על פי שהתקופה קודם לששה עשר בניסן הרי הן מעברין. כדי שיהיה האביב מצוי להקריב ממנו עומר התנופה בששה עשר בניסן. וכדי שיהיו הפירות צומחין כדרך כל זמן האביב:

4

There are three territories that are of consequence regarding the ripening [of the barley]: Judea, Transjordan, and the Galilee. If [the barley] ripened in two of these lands, but not in the third, the year is not made full.12 If, however, [the barley] ripened in one of these lands, but not in the other two, the year is made full if the fruit trees have not bloomed.

These are the primary grounds for making the year full, so that the years will follow the solar calendar.13

ד

ועל שלש ארצות היו סומכין באביב. על ארץ יהודה ועל עבר הירדן ועל הגליל. ואם הגיע האביב בשתי ארצות מאלו ובאחת לא הגיע אין מעברין. ואם הגיע באחת מהן ולא הגיע בשתים מעברין. אם עדיין לא צמחו פירות האילן. ואלו הן הדברים שהן העיקר שמעברין בשבילן כדי שיהיו השנים שני החמה:

5

There are other factors for which the court makes [the year full] in the case of necessity.14 Among them: that the roads are not suitable,15 and it is impossible for the people to make the pilgrimage. [In such an instance,] the year is made full, [to allow time for] the rains to stop and the roads to be fixed.

That the bridges have been destroyed and there are rivers interrupting [the roads], and preventing the people [from continuing their journey]. The year is made full, so that the bridges can be fixed, lest the people endanger themselves and die.

That the ovens for the Paschal sacrifice were destroyed by the rains,16 and thus there will be no place for [the people] to roast their Paschal offerings. We therefore make the year full, so that the ovens can be built and can dry [in the sun].

That Jews from the diaspora who have left their homes have not arrived in Jerusalem. We make the year full, so that they will have the time to reach [Jerusalem].17

ה

ויש שם דברים אחרים שהיו בית דין מעברין בשבילן מפני הצורך. ואלו הן. מפני הדרכים שאינן מתוקנין ואין העם יכולין לעלות מעברין את השנה עד שיפסקו הגשמים ויתקנו הדרכים. ומפני הגשרים שנהרסו ונמצאו הנהרות מפסיקין ומונעין את העם ומסתכנים בעצמן ומתים, מעברין את השנה עד שיתקנו הגשרים. ומפני תנורי פסחים שאבדו בגשמים ואין להם מקום לצלות את פסחיהם מעברין את השנה עד שיבנו התנורים וייבשו. ומפני גליות ישראל שנעקרו ממקומן ועדיין לא הגיעו לירושלים מעברין את השנה כדי שיהיה להם פנאי להגיע:

6

We do not, however, make the year full because of snow, nor because of a cold climate,18 nor because of Jews from the diaspora who have not yet left their homes.

[Similarly, the year is not made full] because of ritual impurity - e.g., when most of the people or most of the priests are impure.19 The year is not made full so that they will be able to purify themselves and offer [the Paschal sacrifice] in a state of ritual purity.20 Instead, they should offer [the sacrifice] while ritually impure. Nevertheless, if the year has been made full because of ritual impurity, it may be left full.

ו

אבל אין מעברין השנה לא מפני השלג ולא מפני הצנה ולא מפני גליות ישראל שעדיין לא נעקרו ממקומם. ולא מפני הטומאה. כגון שהיו רוב הקהל או רוב הכהנים טמאים אין מעברין את השנה כדי שיהיה להם פנאי לטהר ויעשו בטהרה אלא יעשו בטומאה. ואם עיברו את השנה מפני הטומאה הרי זו מעוברת:

7

There are factors that, in and of themselves, are never sufficient cause to make the year full. They are, however, mentioned as contributing factors when a year must be made full so that [Pesach will fall after] the vernal equinox, because of [the barley that has not] ripened, or the fruit trees.

These factors are: That young goats or lambs have not been born, or are merely few in number, or that young doves have not [matured to the point where they can] fly.

We do not make the year full so that the goats and the lambs will be available for the Paschal sacrifices, and the doves will be available for the pilgrimage sacrifice,21 or for those individuals22who are obligated to bring doves as a sacrifice. Nevertheless, these are mentioned as contributing factors [to make] the year [full].

ז

יש דברים שאין מעברין בשבילן כלל אבל עושין אותן סעד לשנה שצריכה עיבור מפני התקופה או מפני האביב ופירות האילן. ואלו הן. מפני הגדיים והטלאים שעדיין לא נולדו או שהן מעט. ומפני הגוזלות שלא פרחו. אין מעברין בשביל אלו כדי שיהיו הגדיים והטלאים מצויין לפסחים והגוזלות מצויין לראייה או למי שנתחייב בקרבן העוף. אבל עושין אותן סעד לשנה:

8

What does mentioning them as contributing factors [to make] the year [full] imply? The court says: "This year must be made full because the equinox falls late, or because [the barley] has not ripened and the fruit trees have not bloomed,23 and also because the young goats are small and the doves are frail"

ח

כיצד עושין אותן סעד לשנה. אומרין שנה זו צריכה עיבור מפני התקופה שמשכה או מפני האביב ופירות האילן שלא הגיעו ועוד שהגדיים קטנים והגוזלות רכים:

9

The year can be made full only by [judges] who were invited [to participate in the deliberations].24 What is implied? The head of the High Court25 tells [several] members of the court, "Be present at a particular place, where we will make calculations and decide whether or not it is necessary to make the year full" It is only those who were invited who [have the authority to] make [the year] full.

How many [judges participate in the deliberations whether] to declare a leap year? We begin with three judges from the High Court who have received semichah. Should two [of these judges] say, "There is no need to sit to decide whether or not [the year] should be made full" [their opinion is accepted]. [Although] one [judge] says that they should continue their deliberations, his statements are of no consequence.

If two [of these judges] say, "There is a need to sit [further] to decide whether or not it is necessary to make [the year] full" and the other [judge] says that they should not continue their deliberations, we add two of the judges who had been invited previously, and the discussion of the matter [is continued].

ט

אין מעברין את השנה אלא במזומנין לה. כיצד יאמר ראש בית דין הגדול לפלוני ופלוני מן הסנהדרין היו מזומנין למקום פלוני שנחשב ונראה ונדע אם שנה זו צריכה עיבור או אינה צריכה. ואותן שהוזמנו בלבד הן שמעברין אותה. ובכמה מעברין אותה מתחילין בשלשה דיינין מכלל סנהדרי גדולה ממי שסמכו אותן. אמרו שנים לא נשב ולא נראה אם צריכה עיבור אם לאו ואחד אמר נשב ונבדוק. בטל יחיד במיעוטו. אמרו שנים נשב ונראה ואחד אומר לא נשב. מוסיפין עוד שנים מן המזומנים ונושאים ונותנין בדבר:

10

Should two [judges] say that it is necessary to make [the year] full, and three say that there is no necessity, [the opinion of] the two is of no consequence. If three [judges] say that it is necessary to make [the year] full, and two say that there is no necessity, two more [judges] who were invited are added to the court, and the subject is debated.

These seven [judges should] arrive at a conclusion. If they all agree to make the year full, or not to make the year full, their decision is followed. If there is a difference of opinion among them, we follow the majority, whether to make the year full, or not to make the year full.

It is necessary that the head of the High Court - i.e., the one who presides over the seventy-one [judges of the Sanhedrin] - be one of these seven. If [the three original judges] conclude26 that it is necessary for the year to be made full, it should be made full, provided the nasi27 is among the three, or consents [to their ruling].

Concerning the institution of a leap year, the opinions of the lesser judges should be offered first.28 Concerning the sanctification of the new month, we begin from the head of the court.29

י

שנים אומרים צריכה עיבור ושלשה אומרין אינה צריכה. בטלו שנים במיעוטן. שלשה אומרין צריכה עיבור ושנים אומרין אינה צריכה עיבור. מוסיפין שנים מן המזומנין לה ונושאין ונותנין וגומרין בשבעה. אם גמרו כולם לעבר או שלא לעבר עושין כמו שגמרו. ואם נחלקו הולכים אחר הרוב בין לעבר בין שלא לעבר. וצריך שיהא ראש בית דין הגדול שהוא ראש ישיבה של אחד ושבעים מכלל השבעה. ואם גמרו בשלשה לעבר הרי זו מעוברת והוא שיהא הנשיא עמהן או שירצה. ובעיבור השנה מתחילין מן הצד. ולקידוש החדש מתחילין מן הגדול:

11

Neither a king30 nor a High Priest should be [included in the group entrusted with deciding] whether or not to institute a leap year. A king [should not be included, lest he be influenced] by consideration for his soldiers and his wars.31

A High Priest should not be included because of the cold - i.e., he may choose not to institute a leap year so that Tishrei will not fall in the winter, and he would [thereby not] have to immerse himself five times on Yom Kippur [in such weather].

יא

אין מושיבין לעיבור השנה לא מלך ולא כהן גדול. מלך למפני חיילותיו ומלחמותיו שמא דעתו נוטה בשבילן לעבר או שלא לעבר. וכהן גדול מפני הצנה שמא לא תהיה דעתו נוטה לעבר כדי שלא יבא תשרי בימי הקור והוא טובל ביום הכפורים חמש טבילות:

12

If the head of the High Court, the nasi, was on a distant journey, [the court] may institute a leap year only with the proviso that the nasi will consent. If the nasi comes and consents, the year is full. If he does not consent, it is not full.

A leap year may be instituted only in the territory of Judea, for the resting place of the Divine Presence32 is there, as [implied by Deuteronomy 12:5]: "And you shall seek out his dwelling" If a leap year is instituted in the Galilee, the year remains full.

A year should be made full only during the day.33 If it is made full during the night, it is not full.

יב

היה ראש בית דין הגדול והוא הנקרא נשיא בדרך רחוקה אין מעברין אותה אלא על תנאי אם ירצה הנשיא. בא ורצה הרי זו מעוברת לא רצה אינה מעוברת. ואין מעברין את השנה אלא בארץ יהודה שהשכינה בתוכה שנאמר לשכנו תדרשו. ואם עיברוה בגליל מעוברת. ואין מעברין אלא ביום. ואם עיברוה בלילה אינה מעוברת:

13

The court has the authority to calculate, institute, and decide which year(s) shall be full whenever it desires, even several years in advance.34 Nevertheless, a particular year is not declared a full year until after Rosh Hashanah, at which time a public statement [can be] made [to the effect that] the year has been made full.35

[A leap year is announced at such an early date] only in a pressing situation.36 If the situation is not pressing, the announcement that a leap year has been instituted is not made until the month of Adar. [At that time, the court announces,] "This year is a leap year, and the following month is not Nisan, but rather the second Adar" If a court announces before Rosh HaShanah, "The year to come will be a leap year" this announcement does not make the year a leap year.

יג

יש לבית דין לחשב ולקבוע ולידע אי זו שנה תהיה מעוברת בכל עת שירצה אפילו לכמה שנים. אבל אין אומרין שנה פלונית מעוברת אלא אחר ראש השנה הוא שאומר שנה זו מעוברת. ודבר זה מפני הדחק אבל שלא בשעת הדחק אין מודיעין שהיא מעוברת אלא באדר הוא שאומר שנה זו מעוברת וחדש הבא אינו ניסן אלא אדר שני. אמרו לפני ראש השנה שנה זו מעוברת אינה מעוברת באמירה זו:

14

If the thirtieth day of Adar arrived without the year having been declared a leap year, it should never be made a leap year.37For that date is fit to be Rosh Chodesh Nisan, and once Nisan begins without the year having been declared a leap year, [the court] no longer has that option. If, however, they declared a leap year on the thirtieth of Adar, their ruling is binding.

If witnesses came after the leap year had been declared and testified regarding [the sighting of] the moon, the court sanctifies the new month on the thirtieth day, and makes it the Rosh Chodesh of the second Adar.38 If they had sanctified the new month on the thirtieth day before they declared a leap year, they would not have been able to declare the leap year. For a leap year may not be declared in Nisan.

יד

הגיע יום שלשים באדר ולא עיברו עדיין השנה לא יעברו אותה כלל. שאותו היום ראוי להיות ראש חדש ניסן ומשיכנס ניסן ולא עיברו אינן יכולים לעבר. ואם עיברוה ביום שלשים של אדר הרי זו מעוברת. באו עדים אחר שעיברו והעידו על הירח הרי אלו מקדשין את החדש ביום שלשים ויהיה ראש חדש אדר שני. ואילו קידשוהו קודם שיעברו את השנה שוב לא היו מעברין שאין מעברין בניסן:

15

A leap year may not be declared in a year of famine39 when everyone is hurrying to the granaries to partake [of the new year's harvest] and derive vitality. [In such a situation,] it is impossible to prolong the time when the prohibition against eating from the new harvest [is in effect].40

We do not declare the Sabbatical year41 a leap year, because everyone is entitled to take the crops that grow on their own.42 Therefore, grain will not be available to offer the omer [of barley] and the two loaves of bread [offered on Shavuot].43 It was customary to make the year preceding the Sabbatical year a leap year.44

טו

אין מעברין את השנה בשנת רעבון שהכל רצים לבית הגרנות לאכול ולחיות ואי אפשר להוסיף להן זמן לאסור החדש. ואין מעברין בשביעית שיד הכל שולטת על הספיחין ולא ימצאו לקרב העומר ושתי הלחם. ורגילין היו לעבר בערב שביעית:

16

It appears to me45 that our Sages' statement that a leap year should not be declared in a year of famine and in the Sabbatical year means that a leap year should not be declared because of the condition of the roads or the bridges, or because of factors of this nature. If, however, it is appropriate to declare a leap year because [Pesach will fall before] the vernal equinox, because [the barley has not] ripened, or because the fruit trees [have not bloomed], a leap year is declared always.46

טז

יראה לי שזה שאמרו חכמים אין מעברין בשנת רעבון ובשביעית. שלא יעברו בהם מפני צורך הדרכים והגשרים וכיוצא בהם. אבל אם היתה השנה ראויה להתעבר מפני התקופה או מפני האביב ופירות האילן מעברין לעולם בכל זמן:

17

When the court institutes a leap year, they write a letter to all [the people in] distant places, notifying them that a leap year has been instituted, and the reason for which it was instituted.

These letters were written in the name of the nasi.47 They would say, "Let it be known that I and my colleagues have agreed to add to this year this many days" - for it was possible for them to declare a month of twenty-nine days or a month of thirty days.

[The intent is that] the court had the option of notifying the people in the outlying areas that the month would [probably] be either full or lacking.48 [In fact, however,] the determination of whether the month is full or lacking is dependent on the sighting of the moon.

יז

כשמעברין בית דין את השנה כותבין אגרות לכל המקומות הרחוקים ומודיעים אותן שעיברוה ומפני מה עיברו. ועל לשון הנשיא נכתבו. ואומר להן יודע לכם שהסכמתי אני וחברי והוספנו על שנה זו כך וכך. רצו תשעה ועשרים יום רצו שלשים יום. שחדש העיבור הרשות לבית דין להוסיפו מלא או חסר לאנשים הרחוקים שמודיעין אותם. אבל הם לפי הראיה הם עושים אם מלא אם חסר

Footnotes
1.

This month is added to juxtapose the lunar calendar upon which the months are based, with the solar calendar, which governs the years.

2.

The Mechilta (commenting on Exodus 12:2) states that just as when a month is made full the addition is made at the end of the month, so too, when a year is made full the addition is made at the end. (The year is considered as beginning in Nisan and ending in Adar.)

3.

Based on Hilchot Nedarim 10:6, it appears that the Rambam considers the first Adar to be the additional month of the leap year. The Tur and the Ramah (Orach Chayim 427:1) differ and consider the second Adar to be the additional month.

In practice, Purim is always celebrated in the second Adar (Hilchot Megillah 1:12). There is a difference of opinion with regard to whether to commemorate birthdays, yahrzeits, and the like that took place in Adar of an ordinary year in the first or the second Adar of a leap year. The accepted custom in the Ashkenazic community is to commemorate them in the first Adar of a leap year (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 221:3).

4.

Based on this verse, Rav Sa'adiah Gaon considers the adjustment of the yearly calendar to be a separate mitzvah. The Rambam, by contrast, considers it one dimension of the mitzvah of establishing the calendar.

5.

In astronomical terms, the vernal equinox is defined as the entry of the sun into the constellation of Aries the ram (Chapter 9, Halachah 3).

6.

We have translated the Hebrew word אביב as "ripening," as in Exodus 9:31. Because the agricultural cycle was so much an integral part of the calendar, the word אביב also means "spring" in Hebrew.

7.

The calculations that the court would consider are outlined in Chapter 9.

8.

The Ra'avad (in his gloss on Halachah 16), the Ramah and others take issue with the Rambam on this point, maintaining that even when Pesach falls before the vernal equinox, another factor is necessary for a leap year to be declared.

9.

Both these factors are, however, necessary. Neither in their own right is sufficient.

10.

Based on Sanhedrin 13a,b, the Ramah (cited in the gloss of the Kessef Mishneh on Halachah 15) notes that our Sages required that the festival of Sukkot occur after the autumnal equinox. If the vernal equinox falls on the fifteenth of Nisan, it is possible that the autumnal equinox will not take place until the twenty-first of Tishrei, six days after Sukkot begins.

Several different perspectives are offered to resolve this point. Among them: The Or Sameach maintains that the Rambam's text originally contained a reference to the autumnal equinox, and it was omitted by the later printers. Aruch HaShulchan, by contrast, maintains that, according to the Rambam, the entire discussion in Sanhedrin is not accepted as halachah. We are not at all concerned with the autumnal equinox; all that is significant is that Pesach fall after the vernal equinox.

11.

See Leviticus 23:9-14; Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 7:3.

12.

The climates of these lands are different, and it is possible that the barley will have ripened in one land, but not in the others.

13.

As opposed to the factors mentioned in the following halachot.

14.

I.e., these factors are not associated with the juxtaposition of the lunar and solar calendars, but rather related to the celebration of the pilgrimage festival of Pesach in a complete manner.

15.

Because they were damaged by the rains.

16.

The ovens were earthenware, and could be damaged by substantial rains.

17.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 1:2) states that an effort should be made to enable the entire Jewish people to celebrate the pilgrimage festivals in Jerusalem.

18.

Rashi, Sanhedrin 12a, writes that these factors will make the people's journey to Jerusalem uncomfortable, but will not prevent them from making the journey.

19.

In his commentary on the tractate of Sanhedrin (one of the few tractates of the Gemara on which the Rambam wrote a commentary), the Rambam quotes Rav Hai Gaon as explaining that this instance refers to a situation in which the people were impure because of contact with a human corpse, and no ashes from the red heifer remained to purify them. One might think that the year should be made full to enable the priests enough time to offer a new red heifer and prepare ashes. Therefore, our Sages feel it necessary to explain that this measure is not taken, and in this instance the Paschal sacrifice should be offered by a priest in a state of ritual impurity.

20.

On the one hand, an individual who is ritually impure may not offer the Paschal sacrifice at its appropriate time, but instead should offer it a month later, on Pesach Sheni. On the other hand, when the majority of the Jewish people, or the majority of the priests, are impure, the sacrifice should be offered in a state of ritual impurity. (See Hilchot Korban Pesach 7:1; Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 4:16.)

21.

Our Sages interpret Deuteronomy 16:16, "You shall not appear before God empty-handed," as obligating a person to bring an olah ("burnt") offering on the pilgrimage festivals. The Rambam maintains that doves could be brought for these offerings. (See Hilchot Chaggigah 1:1.) Other authorities differ, as explained in the commentaries on that halachah.

22.

E.g., a woman who gives birth (Leviticus 12:8), zavim (Leviticus 15:14), and zavot (Leviticus 15:29). It was customary for people living far from Jerusalem to delay offering the sacrifices they were obligated to bring until the pilgrimage festivals.

23.

By mentioning both factors (the barley and the fruit trees), the Rambam indicates that he does not follow the perspective suggested by Rashi (Sanhedrin 11a), which states that the lack of lambs or doves coupled with either a delay in the ripening of the barley or the blooming of the fruit trees is sufficient cause to make the year full.

24.

See Sanhedrin 11a, which relates that Rabban Gamliel once invited seven members of the Sanhedrin to participate in the deliberations regarding whether or not to make a year full. He requested that they meet him in the loft of the court early the following morning. When an additional member of the court came, Rabban Gamliel protested and taught the Sages this halachah.

25.

For a leap year can be declared only by the High Court, or by a court deputized by the High Court (Chapter 5, Halachah 1).

26.

When there are fewer than seven judges in the court, a leap year is instituted only when the decision to do so is unanimous. Only when the court is expanded to include seven judges is a majority ruling accepted as binding (Rabbenu Chananel, Sanhedrin 10b).

27.

I.e., the head of the court.

28.

Lest the lesser judges be intimidated after hearing the decision of the head of the court, and refrain from expressing their own opinion.

29.

For the matter is more of a formality; the head of the court merely pronounces the month as sanctified.

30.

Based on this ruling, Rabbi Akiva Eiger questions why King Chizkiyah was able to institute a leap year, as related in Pesachim 4:10.

31.

Rashi (Sanhedrin 18b) states that the king would pay his soldiers a yearly salary, and therefore, by instituting an extra month, he would gain.

The B'nei Binyamin explains that there is also a reason for a king to desire to refrain from instituting an extra month. Bridegrooms, those who have built new homes, and those who have planted vineyards are freed from army service for a year. If a leap year is instituted, they benefit. Therefore, if a sizable portion of the population fell into these categories, and men were required for the army, it would be preferable for the king not to institute a leap year.

32.

I.e., the Temple in Jerusalem. Curiously, however, it does not appear that the Rambam requires the proceedings to be carried out in the Temple, or even in Jerusalem.

33.

Sanhedrin 11b states that there is an equation between the institution of a leap year and the sanctification of the new moon. As mentioned in Chapter 2, Halachah 8, the new moon can be sanctified only during the day.

Based on the equation between these two practices, the Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 4) questions the law mentioned previously: Why may the moon be sanctified throughout Eretz Yisrael (Chapter 1, Halachah 8) if a leap year may be instituted only in the territory of Judea?

34.

Sanhedrin 12a relates that once, when Rabbi Akiva was imprisoned by the Romans, he instituted three leap years for the future.

35.

Shorshei HaYam cites the fact that the year can be declared a leap year well in advance, as support for the Rambam's thesis (Halachah 2) that the fact that Pesach would be celebrated before the vernal equinox is, by itself, sufficient cause to declare a leap year. At the beginning of the year, it is impossible to know the state of the barley harvest, or the fruit trees.

36.

Rashi (Sanhedrin, ibid.) relates that this refers to a situation when it was feared that the Romans would prevent the leap year from being instituted if the court waited for the usual time.

Note the Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 4), which explains that an early declaration should be made only in a pressing situation. The court may, however, calculate months and even years in advance, even in cases where the situation is not pressing.

37.

I.e., although, as the Rambam continues, if they instituted a leap year on this date their ruling would be binding, at the outset they should not take such a step.

Pesachim 4:10 relates that declaring a leap year on this date was one of the three acts performed by King Chizkiyah that did not find favor in the eyes of the Sages.

38.

Retroactively, it appears that the thirtieth day was fit to be Rosh Chodesh Nisan, and therefore the institution of the leap year would not have been effective. Nevertheless, since in actual fact, the declaration of the leap year preceded the sanctification of the new month, it is effective.

39.

Sanhedrin 12a credits Elisha the prophet with the institution of this prohibition.

40.

The prohibition of chadash prevents one from partaking of grain from the new harvest until the offering of the omer of barley on the sixteenth of Nisan (Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 10:2-5). When the previous year has been plagued with famine, it is undesirable to keep this prohibition in effect any longer than necessary.

41.

The Rambam follows the opinion in Sanhedrin (loc. cit.), which forbids instituting a leap year only in the Sabbatical year. Another opinion forbids instituting a leap year in the year following the Sabbatical year.

42.

Our translation follows the commentary of the Perush, which explains that according to the Torah, all agricultural labor is forbidden in the Sabbatical year. It is, nevertheless, permitted to take crops that grow from seeds strewn by the wind or that grow from other causes that did not result from conscious human labor. Although our Sages forbade benefitting from such crops for personal use, it was from these crops that the grain used for the omer offering and the two loaves of bread were harvested.

The Sages forbade using these crops for personal use. Nevertheless, since the prohibition did not originate in the Torah, our Sages feared that it would not be observed by the common people and the crops would not remain for these sacrifices.

Significantly, Rashi and others offer a second rationale for this practice, that our Sages did not want to prolong a year when it was forbidden to do agricultural work.

43.

See Leviticus 23:17. As the verse states, this offering and the omer must be from the harvest of the new year.

44.

So that the farmers would have an extra month to work the land and gather its crops (Rashi, Sanhedrin, loc. cit.).

45.

This expression indicates a ruling that the Rambam derives from his own logic without an explicit source in the works of our Sages. The Or Sameach cites a passage (Sanhedrin 26a), which appears to indicate that it is impossible to declare a Sabbatical year a leap year. There are, however, other interpretations of that passage. (See Tosafot, loc. cit..)

46.

It appears that the Rambam's logic is that since according to the Torah, it is necessary to declare a leap year under such circumstances, the leap year should be declared. There is no obligation from the Torah to declare a leap year, because of problems with the roads or because of the other circumstances mentioned in Halachah 5. The Sages prescribed ordaining a leap year in these circumstances out of consideration for the people. In a Sabbatical year or a year of famine, the considerations mentioned in the previous halachah override those that would ordinarily require the year to be declared a leap year.

Significantly, the Ra'avad, the Ramah, and others do not accept the distinction made by the Rambam, and maintain that a Sabbatical year and a year of famine should never be declared leap years.

47.

The Rambam's statement is based on the narrative in Sanhedrin 11b, which relates that Rabban Gamliel sent letters to Jews throughout the diaspora notifying them of the declaration of a leap year.

48.

Since through calculations, it is possible to know whether or not it is likely for the moon to be sighted on the thirtieth night, the court would notify the people in the outlying areas accordingly. This notification would, however, be conditional on the actual sighting of the moon.

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Five

1

All the statements made previously regarding the [prerogative to] sanctify Rosh Chodesh because of the sighting of the moon, and [to] establish a leap year to reconcile the calendar or because of a necessity, apply to the Sanhedrin in Eretz Yisrael. [For it is they] alone, or a court of judges possessing semichah that holds sessions in Eretz Yisrael and that was granted authority by the Sanhedrin, [who may authorize these decisions].1

[This concept is derived] from the command given Moses and Aaron [Exodus 12:2]: "This month shall be for you the first of months" The Oral Tradition as passed down, teacher to student, from Moses our teacher [throughout the generations, explains that] the verse is interpreted as follows:2 This testimony is entrusted to you and those [sages] who arise after you and who function in your position.3

When, however, there is no Sanhedrin in Eretz Yisrael, we establish the monthly calendar and institute leap years solely according to the fixed calendar that is followed now.

א

כל מה שאמרנו מקביעות ראש חדש על הראיה ועיבור השנה מפני הזמן או מפני הצורך. אין עושין אותו אלא סנהדרין שבארץ ישראל או בית דין הסמוכים בארץ ישראל שנתנו להן הסנהדרין רשות. שכך נאמר למשה ולאהרן החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ומפי השמועה למדו איש מאיש ממשה רבינו שכך הוא פירוש הדבר עדות זו תהיה מסורה לכם וכל העומד אחריכם במקומכם. אבל בזמן שאין שם סנהדרין בארץ ישראל אין קובעין חדשים ואין מעברין שנים אלא בחשבון זה שאנו מחשבין בו היום:

2

This concept is a halachah communicated to Moses on [Mount] Sinai:4 When there is a Sanhedrin, the monthly calendar is established according to the sighting of the moon. When there is no Sanhedrin, the monthly calendar is established according to the fixed calendar that we follow now, and the sighting of the moon is of no consequence.

When the fixed calendar is followed, there are times when the day established [as Rosh Chodesh] will be the day on which the moon is sighted, and there are times when the sighting will either precede or follow it by a day.5 It is, however, an extremely extraordinary phenomenon for [the day established as Rosh Chodesh] to be a day after the sighting [of the moon], [and this is possible only] in the lands that are west of Eretz Yisrael.6

ב

ודבר זה הלכה למשה מסיני הוא. שבזמן שיש סנהדרין קובעין על פי הראיה ובזמן שאין שם סנהדרין קובעין על פי החשבון הזה שאנו מחשבין בו היום ואין נזקקין לראיה. אלא פעמים שיהיה יום שקובעין בו בחשבון זה הוא יום הראייה או קודם לו ביום או אחריו ביום. וזה שיהיה לאחר הראייה ביום פלא הוא ובארצות שהן למערב ארץ ישראל:

3

When did the entire Jewish people begin using this calendar? At the conclusion of the Talmudic period, when Eretz Yisrael was in ruin, and an established court no longer remained there.7 In the era of the Sages of the Mishnah, and in the era of the Sages of the Gemara until the time of Abbaye and Ravvah,8 [the people] would rely on the establishment [of the calendar] in Eretz Yisrael.9

ג

ומאימתי התחילו כל ישראל לחשב בחשבון זה. מסוף חכמי הגמרא בעת שחרבה ארץ ישראל ולא נשאר שם בית דין קבוע. אבל בימי חכמי משנה וכן בימי חכמי הגמרא עד ימי אביי ורבא על קביעת ארץ ישראל היו סומכין:

4

When the Sanhedrin functioned and the calendar was established based on the sighting [of the moon], the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael and, [similarly, the inhabitants of] all the places where the messengers of Tishrei10 would arrive, would celebrate the holidays for one day only.

The inhabitants of the distant places that were not reached by the messengers of Tishrei would celebrate two days because of the doubt involved. For they did not know the day that the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael established as [the beginning of] the new month.

ד

כשהיתה סנהדרין קיימת והיו קובעין על הראייה. היו בני ארץ ישראל וכל המקומות שמגיעין אליהן שלוחי תשרי עושין ימים טובים יום אחד בלבד. ושאר המקומות הרחוקות שאין שלוחי תשרי מגיעין אליהם היו עושים שני ימים מספק לפי שלא היו יודעין יום שקבעו בו בני ארץ ישראל את החדש:

5

In the present era, when the Sanhedrin no longer exists, and the court of Eretz Yisrael establishes [the months] according to the [fixed] calendar,11 according to law, it would be appropriate for [Jews] throughout the world to celebrate the holidays for one day alone.12 For [the inhabitants of] the distant regions of the diaspora and the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael rely on the same [fixed] calendar and establish [the festivals] accordingly. Nevertheless, the Sages ordained [that the inhabitants of the diaspora] retain the custom of their ancestors.13

ה

בזמן הזה שאין שם סנהדרין ובית דין של ארץ ישראל קובעין על חשבון זה. היה מן הדין שיהיו בכל המקומות עושין יום טוב אחד בלבד אפילו המקומות הרחוקות שבחוצה לארץ כמו בני ארץ ישראל. שהכל על חשבון אחד סומכין וקובעין. אבל תקנת חכמים הוא שיזהרו במנהג אבותיהם שבידיהם:

6

Therefore, [the inhabitants of] all the places that the messengers of Tishrei would not reach in the era when the messengers were sent out should celebrate two days even in the present era, just as they did when the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael established [the calendar] according to the sighting of the moon.

In the present era, the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael continue their custom and celebrate one day;14 for they never celebrated two days. Thus, our celebration of the second day of the holidays in the diaspora at present is a Rabbinic institution.15

ו

לפיכך כל מקום שלא היו שלוחי תשרי מגיעין אליו כשהיו השלוחין יוצאין. יעשו שני ימים ואפילו בזמן הזה כמו שהיו עושין בזמן שבני ארץ ישראל קובעין על הראייה. ובני ארץ ישראל בזמן הזה עושין יום אחד כמנהגן שמעולם לא עשו שני ימים. נמצא יום טוב שני שאנו עושין בגליות בזמן הזה מדברי סופרים שתקנו דבר זה:

7

[Even] when the calendar was established based on the sighting of the moon, the majority of the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael would celebrate Rosh HaShanah for two days, because of the doubt involved.16 They would not know the day on which the court established the new month, because the messengers would not depart on the holiday.17

ז

יום טוב של ראש השנה בזמן שהיו קובעין על הראייה היו רוב בני ארץ ישראל עושין אותו שני ימים מספק. לפי שלא היו יודעין יום שקבעו בו בית הדין את החדש שאין השלוחין יוצאין ביום טוב:

8

Moreover, even in Jerusalem, where the court would hold session, there were many times when the holiday of Rosh HaShanah was celebrated for two days. For if witnesses did not arrive on the thirtieth day [following Rosh Chodesh Elul], the day on which they had awaited [the arrival of] witnesses would be regarded as holy,18and the following day would be regarded as holy.19

Since [there were times when] they would observe [Rosh HaShanah for] two days even when they sanctified the months according to the sighting [of the moon], [our Sages] ordained that even the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael20 should always celebrate [Rosh HaShanah] for two days in the present era, when [the holidays] are established based on the fixed calendar. Thus, even [the observance of] the second day of Rosh HaShanah in the present era is a Rabbinic ordinance.

ח

ולא עוד אלא אפילו בירושלים עצמה שהוא מקום בית דין פעמים רבות היו עושין יום טוב של ראש השנה שני ימים. שאם לא באו העדים כל יום שלשים נוהגין היו באותו היום שמצפין לעדים קדש ולמחר קדש. והואיל והיו עושין אותו שני ימים ואפילו בזמן הראייה התקינו שיהיו עושין אפילו בני ארץ ישראל אותו תמיד שני ימים בזמן הזה שקובעין על החשבון. הנה למדת שאפילו יום טוב שני של ראש השנה בזמן הזה מדברי סופרים:

9

The celebration of the holidays for one or two days is not dependent on geographic distance [alone]. What is implied?

If a place is located within a five-day - or less - journey from Jerusalem, and thus it was surely possible for the messengers to reach them, we do not postulate that the inhabitants celebrate only one day. For we have no way of knowing whether or not the messengers [of the High Court] would journey to this place.21 Perhaps the messengers did not journey to this place because it was not populated by Jews at that time. [And if] it became populated by Jews after it [had become customary] to establish [the festivals] according to the fixed calendar, they [would be] obligated to celebrate two days.

Alternatively, [perhaps the messengers did not reach there,] because there was a blockade on the way, as existed between Jerusalem and the Galilee during the time of the Mishnah,22 or perhaps the Samaritans would prevent the messengers from passing through their [territory].

ט

אין עשיית יום טוב אחד תלוייה בקריבת המקום. כיצד אם יהיה מקום בינו ובין ירושלים מהלך חמשה ימים או פחות שבודאי אפשר שיגיעו להן שלוחין. אין אומרין שאנשי מקום זה עושין יום טוב אחד. שמי יאמר לנו שהיו השלוחים יוצאין למקום זה. שמא לא היו שלוחים יוצאין למקום זה מפני שלא היו שם ישראל ואחר שחזרו לקבוע על החשבון ישבו שם ישראלים שהן חייבין לעשות שני ימים. או מפני שהיה חירום בדרך כדרך שהיה בין יהודה וגליל בימי חכמי המשנה. או מפני שהיו הכותים מונעין את השלוחין לעבור ביניהן:

10

If the matter were dependent on geographic distance alone, all the inhabitants of Egypt would observe the holidays for only one day, for it is possible for the messengers of Tishrei to reach them. The distance between Jerusalem and Egypt via Ashkelon is a journey of eight days or less. Similar concepts apply regarding the majority of Syria. One thus can conclude that the matter is not dependent solely on geographic distance.

י

ואילו היה הדבר תלוי בקריבת המקום היו כל בני מצרים עושין יום אחד. שהרי אפשר שיגיעו להם שלוחי תשרי. שאין בין ירושלים ומצרים על דרך אשקלון אלא מהלך שמנה ימים או פחות וכן רוב סוריא. הא למדת שאין הדבר תלוי בהיות המקום קרוב:

11

Thus, the principles governing this matter can be summarized as follows: Whenever the distance between Jerusalem and a particular place exceeds a ten-day journey, the inhabitants should observe [the holidays] for two days, as was their previous custom. For the messengers sent out for Tishrei [cannot be guaranteed] to reach places other than those within a ten-day journey from Jerusalem.23

[T he following rules apply when, by contrast,] places are a ten-day journey or less from Jerusalem, and thus it is possible that the messengers could have reached them: We see whether that place is [located in the portions of] Eretz Yisrael that were inhabited by Jews during the time the calendar was established on the basis of the sighting [of the moon] during the second conquest [of the land] - e.g., Usha, Shefaram, Luz, Yavneh, Nov, Tiberias, and the like. [The inhabitants of these places] should celebrate only one day.

If the place is part of Syria24 - e.g., Tyre, Damascus, Ashkelon,25and the like - they should follow the custom of their ancestors. If [the custom was to celebrate] one day, [they should celebrate] one day. [If the custom was] two days, [they should celebrate] two days.

יא

נמצא עיקר דבר זה על דרך זו כך הוא. כל מקום שיש בינו ובין ירושלים מהלך יתר על עשרה ימים גמורים עושין שני ימים לעולם כמנהגם מקודם. שאין שלוחי כל תשרי ותשרי מגיעין אלא למקום שבינו ובין ירושלים מהלך עשרה ימים או פחות. וכל מקום שבינו לבין ירושלים מהלך עשרה ימים בשוה או פחות שאפשר שיהיו שלוחין מגיעין אליו. רואים אם אותו המקום מארץ ישראל שהיו בה ישראל בשעת הראייה בכבוש שני כגון אושא ושפרעם ולוז ויבנה ונוב וטבריא וכיוצא בהן עושין יום אחד בלבד. ואם אותו המקום מסוריא כגון צור ודמשק ואשקלון וכיוצא בהן. או מחוצה לארץ כגון מצרים ועמון ומואב וכיוצא בהן. עושין כמנהג אבותיהן שבידיהן אם יום אחד יום אחד ואם שני ימים שני ימים:

12

When a place is located within a journey of ten days or less from Jerusalem, and it is part of Syria or the diaspora, and [its inhabitants] have no [established] custom conveyed [from previous generations], they should celebrate two days, as is customary in the world at large. [The same rules apply to] a city that was created in the desert of Eretz Yisrael, or a city first populated by Jews in the present era.26

[At present,] the celebration of the second day of a holiday is always a Rabbinic institution. This applies even to the celebration of the second day of Rosh HaShanah, which is observed by all Jews in the present era.

יב

מקום שבינו ובין ירושלים עשרה ימים או פחות מעשרה והוא סוריא או חוצה לארץ ואין להם מנהג. או שהיא עיר שנתחדשה במדבר ארץ ישראל. או מקום ששכנו בו ישראל עתה. עושין שני ימים כמנהג רוב העולם. וכל יום טוב שני מדברי סופרים ואפילו יום טוב שני של ראש השנה שהכל עושין אותו בזמן הזה:

13

The calculations that we follow in the present era, every individual in his community, to ascertain which day is Rosh Chodesh and which day is Rosh HaShanah, do not determine [the calendar], nor do we rely on these calculations. For we do not institute leap years or establish the monthly calendar in the diaspora. We rely on the calculations of the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael and their establishment of the calendar.

The reason we make calculations is merely for the sake of information. For we know that the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael rely on the same calendar. Thus, our calculations are intended to determine the day that the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael establish as Rosh Chodesh or a festival. For it is the establishment of the calendar by the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael that establishes a day as Rosh Chodesh or a festival, not our calculations of the calendar.27

יג

זה שאנו מחשבין בזמן הזה כל אחד ואחד בעירו ואומרין שראש חדש יום פלוני ויום טוב ביום פלוני. לא בחשבון שלנו אנו קובעין ולא עליו אנו סומכין. שאין מעברין שנים וקובעין חדשים בחוצה לארץ. ואין אנו סומכין אלא על חשבון בני ארץ ישראל וקביעתם. וזה שאנו מחשבין לגלות הדבר בלבד הוא. כיון שאנו יודעין שעל חשבון זה הן סומכין אנו מחשבין לידע יום שקבעו בו בני ארץ ישראל אי זה יום הוא. וקביעת בני ארץ ישראל אותו הוא שיהיה ראש חדש או יום טוב. לא מפני חשבון שאנו מחשבין

Footnotes
1.

The Ramban [in his gloss on Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 153)] differs and explains that although it was necessary for the judges who established the calendar to have semichah, there was no necessity that this function be carried out by the Sanhedrin or a court deputized by it.

2.

This explanation was recorded for posterity in Rosh HaShanah 21b.

3.

I.e., to the Sages of the Sanhedrin, who preserve the tradition of the Jewish court as initiated by Moses and Aaron.

4.

In the Introduction to his Commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam defines a halachah communicated to Moses on [Mount] Sinai as a law that is neither explicitly stated nor alluded to in the Written Law, but communicated through the Oral Tradition.

See also the statements of the Ramban (loc. cit.), who objects to the Rambam's statements, and asks which source states that this is a halachah communicated to Moses on Mount Sinai.

5.

As explained in Chapter 6, the fixed calendar is based on the mean motion of the sun and the moon - i.e., their average rate of progress in the heavens. As explained in Chapter 11 onwards, the progress of the sun, and to an even greater extent that of the moon, deviates from this mean from time to time. Although ultimately these deviations will balance out, at any given time the day established as Rosh Chodesh may be before or after the day on which the moon can be sighted.

6.

As explained in Chapter 18, Halachah 13, in the lands west of Eretz Yisrael the moon is sighted earlier than in Eretz Yisrael.

7.

Based on the Rambam's statements in Sefer HaMitzvot (loc. cit.), the Chatam Sofer (Yoreh De'ah, Responsum 234) explains that the Rambam's intent is that, from that time onward, a formal court no longer held sessions in Eretz Yisrael; the land, however, remained populated by Jews. (See the notes on Halachah 5.)

8.

This concept is derived from Rosh HaShanah 21a, which states that Ravvah fasted two days on Yom Kippur, because he did not know which day was established by the court in Eretz Yisrael.

9.

This refers to the establishment of the fixed calendar by Rabbi Hillel (Hillel II), approximately two generations after the composition of the Jerusalem Talmud.

Most commentaries assume that the Rambam's intent is that until the time of Rabbi Hillel (not Hillel the Great, but a descendant of his, who lived several hundred years afterwards), the court sanctifiede moon based on the testimony of witnesses. Rav Kapach objects to this interpretation, noting that the sanctification of the moon required judges with semichah, and it appears that the practice of semichah had been nullified prior to this time.

Noting the precise words used by the Rambam, "[The people] would rely on the establishment [of the calendar] in Eretz Yisrael," Rav Kapach explains that the sanctification of the moon based on the testimony of witnesses had ended several generations previously, with the cessation of the practice of semichah. Nevertheless, the international Jewish community would look to the court in Eretz Yisrael for the establishment of the calendar. For the family of the Nesi'im had a private tradition regarding the calculation of the calendar. Nevertheless, at the time of Rabbi Hillel, this practice was also discontinued, and a fixed calendar was established that did not require the authority of any particular court.

10.

See Chapter 3, Halachot 11-13.

11.

Implicit in the Rambam's words is a concept explained in greater detail in Halachah 13: The determination of the calendar depends on the establishment of the calendar by the court in Eretz Yisrael.

12.

As prescribed by the Torah. Once the date on which the festivals should be celebrated could be universally known because of the fixed calendar, the safeguard of celebrating the holidays for two days was no longer necessary.

13.

Beitzah 4b explains that this rule was ordained lest the gentile authorities oppress the Jewish people and prevent the inhabitants of the diaspora from communicating the tradition of the calendar to their descendants. They would then have to rely on information conveyed from Eretz Yisrael again.

14.

See, however, Halachot 11 and 12.

15.

I.e., originally, the second day of the holidays was observed because of the doubt of the day on which to observe the Torah's commandment. In the present era there is no longer any doubt, and the observance of the second day of a holiday has the status of a Rabbinic ordinance.

16.

To explain: Generally, the court would endeavor to structure the calendar so that the moon would be sighted on the thirtieth night of Elul. In expectation of the probability that the following day would be declared Rosh HaShanah, the people would observe all the holiday prohibitions and sound the shofar on the thirtieth day. Nevertheless, since it was possible that the moon had not been sighted, the people outside the immediate surroundings of Jerusalem would observe the following day as well.

See the Jerusalem Talmud (Eruvin 3:9) which states that the observance of Rosh HaShanah for two days was ordained by "the prophets of the earlier generations." Sotah 48b states that this term refers to the prophets of the First Temple era.

17.

See Chapter 3, Halachah 8.

18.

As mentioned above, except for the offering of the Rosh HaShanah sacrifices, the thirtieth day following Rosh Chodesh Elul was always observed as Rosh HaShanah in expectation of the arrival of witnesses.

19.

For it would actually be observed as Rosh HaShanah.

20.

Including even the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

21.

As the Rambam continues to explain, the determining factor is not the geographic distance of a place from Jerusalem, but rather the custom followed in this place at the time when the High Court sent out messengers.

22.

See Bava Batra 38a and Ketubot 17b, which tell of a time when a blockade prevented communication between Jerusalem and the Galilee.

23.

For the messengers were forbidden to travel on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and the two Sabbaths between Rosh HaShanah and Sukkot. In the years when Rosh HaShanah is observed on the Sabbath, the messengers could proceed a further day. Nevertheless, since this is not so in the majority of the years, a ten-day journey is accepted as the standard measure.

24.

Note Hilchot Terumah 1:3, which defines Syria as referring to lands conquered by King David before the entire territory of Eretz Yisrael proper had been conquered. Therefore, it was not considered part of the Holy Land with regard to most ritual questions according to the Torah itself. Nevertheless, the Rabbis extended many of the laws applying to Eretz Yisrael to this territory as well.

25.

The inclusion of Ashkelon, which is located to the southwest of Eretz Yisrael, in Syria clearly indicates that the Rambam is referring to the halachic conception of the latter term, and not the geographic one, since Syria is to the northeast of Eretz Yisrael.

There is, however, a slight difficulty with the Rambam's statements: In Hilchot Terumah 1:9, he describes Ashkelon as being part of the diaspora.

26.

Based on this halachah, according to the Rambam, most Jews living in Eretz Yisrael today should celebrate the holidays for two days. Indeed, the Eretz Tzvi, a text that documents the prevailing customs in Eretz Yisrael before the waves of European immigration, states that in cities like Ramlah, that did not have an existing custom dating back to the Talmudic period, the holidays would be celebrated for two days, as the Rambam states.

It was not until the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael in the present era that such cities began observing the holidays for only one day. The source for this practice is the commentary of the Ritba (Rosh HaShanah 16b), who states that, in the present era, it is the geographic definitions of Eretz Yisrael and the diaspora that determine whether or not one should celebrate one day.

[It must be emphasized that even according to the Ritba, it is questionable whether the inhabitants of areas of the Negev below Beersheba should celebrate the holidays for only one day. For these places are also beyond the geographic limits of Eretz Yisrael of the Talmudic period.]

27.

The Rambam's statements in this halachah are a reiteration of the principles he expresses in Sefer HaMitzvot, loc. cit. Citing Isaiah 2:3, "Out of Zion shall come forth the Torah," the Rambam emphasizes that the determination of the calendar is solely the province of the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael.

Until the time of Rabbi Hillel, the court of Eretz Yisrael determined the calendar through their independent calculations. Even after the court ceased to function and the fixed calendar was adopted, the determination of the calendar still depends on the establishment of the calendar in Eretz Yisrael. The only difference is that from the time of Rabbi Hillel onward, instead of determining the calendar independently, the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael would rely on the fixed calendar.

For this reason, the Rambam points to a Divine covenant insuring that there will always be Jews living in our Holy Land. For were there not to be any Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, heaven forbid, we would not be able to determine the calendar. (See Chatam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah, Responsum 234).

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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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