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

אֵין כָּשֵׁר לְעֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ אֶלָּא שְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים כְּשֵׁרִים הָרְאוּיִין לְהָעִיד בְּכָל דָּבָר וְדָבָר. אֲבָל נָשִׁים וַעֲבָדִים הֲרֵי הֵן כִּשְׁאָר פְּסוּלֵי עֵדוּת וְאֵין מְעִידִין. אָב וּבְנוֹ שֶׁרָאוּ אֶת הַיָּרֵחַ יֵלְכוּ לְבֵית דִּין לְהָעִיד. לֹא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ כְּשֵׁרָה בִּקְרוֹבִים אֶלָּא שֶׁאִם יִמָּצֵא אֶחָד מֵהֶן פָּסוּל מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא גַּזְלָן וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר הַפַּסְלָנוּת יִצְטָרֵף הַשֵּׁנִי עִם אַחֵר וְיָעִידוּ. וְכָל הַפָּסוּל לְעֵדוּת מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא כָּשֵׁר מִן הַתּוֹרָה פָּסוּל לְעֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ:

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

דִּין תּוֹרָה שֶׁאֵין מְדַקְדְּקִין בְּעֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ. שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ קִדְּשׁוּ אֶת הַחֹדֶשׁ עַל פִּי עֵדִים וְנִמְצְאוּ זוֹמְמִין בְּעֵדוּת זוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה מְקֻדָּשׁ. לְפִיכָךְ הָיוּ בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה מְקַבְּלִין עֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ מִכָּל אָדָם מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁכָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּחֶזְקַת כַּשְׁרוּת עַד שֶׁיִּוָּדַע לְךָ שֶׁזֶּה פָּסוּל. מִשֶּׁקִּלְקְלוּ הַבַּיְתוֹסִים וְהָיוּ שׂוֹכְרִין אֲנָשִׁים לְהָעִיד שֶׁרָאוּ וְהֵם לֹא רָאוּ הִתְקִינוּ שֶׁלֹּא יְקַבְּלוּ בֵּית דִּין עֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ אֶלָּא מֵעֵדִים שֶׁמַּכִּירִין בֵּית דִּין אוֹתָן שֶׁהֵם כְּשֵׁרִים וְשֶׁיִּהְיוּ דּוֹרְשִׁין וְחוֹקְרִים בָּעֵדוּת:

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

לְפִיכָךְ אִם לֹא יִהְיוּ בֵּית דִּין יוֹדְעִים אֶת הָעֵדִים שֶׁרָאוּ אֶת הַיָּרֵחַ מְשַׁלְּחִין אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר שֶׁנִּרְאָה בָּהּ עִם הָעֵדִים שֶׁרָאוּ עֵדִים אֲחֵרִים שֶׁמְּזַכִּין אוֹתָן לְבֵית דִּין וּמוֹדִיעִין אוֹתָן שֶׁאֵלּוּ כְּשֵׁרִים הֵם וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְקַבְּלִין מֵהֶם:

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

בֵּית דִּין מְחַשְּׁבִין בַּדְּרָכִים שֶׁהָאִיצְטַגְנִינִין מְחַשְּׁבִין בָּהֶם וְיוֹדְעִין הַלְּבָנָה כְּשֶׁתֵּרָאֶה בְּחֹדֶשׁ זֶה אִם תִּהְיֶה בִּצְפוֹן הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ אוֹ בִּדְרוֹמָהּ וְאִם תִּהְיֶה רְחָבָה אוֹ קְצָרָה וּלְהֵיכָן יִהְיוּ רָאשֵׁי קַרְנֶיהָ נוֹטִין. וּכְשֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ הָעֵדִים לְהָעִיד בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתָם כֵּיצַד רְאִיתֶם אוֹתָהּ בְּצָפוֹן אוֹ בְּדָרוֹם. לְהֵיכָן הָיוּ קַרְנֶיהָ נוֹטוֹת. כַּמָּה הָיְתָה גְּבוֹהָה בִּרְאִיַּת עֵינֵיכֶם וְכַמָּה הָיְתָה רְחָבָה. אִם נִמְצְאוּ דִּבְרֵיהֶם מְכֻוָּנִין לְמַה שֶּׁנּוֹדַע בַּחֶשְׁבּוֹן מְקַבְּלִין אוֹתָם וְאִם לֹא נִמְצְאוּ דִּבְרֵיהֶם מְכֻוָּנִין אֵין מְקַבְּלִין אוֹתָם:

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

אָמְרוּ הָעֵדִים רְאִינוּהוּ בַּמַּיִם אוֹ בֶּעָבִים אוֹ בַּעֲשָׁשִׁית. אוֹ שֶׁרָאוּ מִקְצָתוֹ בָּרָקִיעַ וּמִקְצָתוֹ בֶּעָבִים אוֹ בַּמַּיִם אוֹ בַּעֲשָׁשִׁית אֵין זוֹ רְאִיָּה וְאֵין מְקַדְּשִׁין עַל רְאִיָּה זֹאת. אָמַר אֶחָד רְאִיתִיו גָּבוֹהַּ בְּעֵינַי כְּמוֹ שְׁתֵּי קוֹמוֹת וְאָמַר הַשֵּׁנִי כְּמוֹ שָׁלֹשׁ קוֹמוֹת הָיָה גָּבוֹהַּ מִצְטָרְפִין. אָמַר הָאֶחָד כְּמוֹ שָׁלֹשׁ קוֹמוֹת וְהַשֵּׁנִי אוֹמֵר כְּמוֹ חָמֵשׁ אֵין מִצְטָרְפִין. וּמִצְטָרֵף אֶחָד מֵהֶם עִם שֵׁנִי שֶׁיָּעִיד כְּמוֹתוֹ אוֹ יִהְיֶה בֵּינֵיהֶן קוֹמָה אַחַת:

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

אָמְרוּ רְאִינוּהוּ בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה וְכֵיוָן שֶׁהִתְבּוֹנַנְנוּ בּוֹ וְנִתְכַּוַּנְנוּ לִרְאוֹתוֹ לְהָעִיד שׁוּב לֹא רְאִינוּהוּ אֵין זוֹ עֵדוּת וְאֵין מְקַדְּשִׁין עָלֶיהָ. שֶׁמָּא עָבִים נִתְקַשְּׁרוּ וְנִרְאוּ כַּלְּבָנָה וְכָלוּ וְהָלְכוּ לָהֶם. אָמְרוּ עֵדִים רְאִינוּהוּ בְּיוֹם תִּשְׁעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שַׁחֲרִית בַּמִּזְרָח קֹדֶם שֶׁתַּעֲלֶה הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וּרְאִינוּהוּ עַרְבִית בַּמַּעֲרָב בְּלֵיל שְׁלֹשִׁים הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ נֶאֱמָנִים וּמְקַדְּשִׁין עַל רְאִיָּה זוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי רָאוּהוּ בִּזְמַנּוֹ. אֲבָל הָרְאִיָּה שֶׁאָמְרוּ שֶׁרָאוּהוּ בְּשַׁחֲרִית אֵין נִזְקָקִין לָהּ שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ אַחְרָאִין לִרְאִיַּת שַׁחֲרִית וּבְיָדוּעַ שֶׁהֶעָבִים הֵם שֶׁנִּתְקַשְּׁרוּ וְנִרְאָה לָהֶם כִּלְבָנָה. וְכֵן אִם רָאוּהוּ בִּזְמַנּוֹ וּבְלֵיל עִבּוּרוֹ לֹא נִרְאָה הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ נֶאֱמָנִין שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ אַחְרָאִין אֶלָּא לִרְאִיַּת לֵיל שְׁלֹשִׁים בִּלְבַד:

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

כֵּיצַד מְקַבְּלִין עֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ. כָּל מִי שֶׁרָאוּי לְהָעִיד שֶׁרָאָה אֶת הַיָּרֵחַ בָּא לְבֵית דִּין. וּבֵית דִּין מַכְנִיסִים אוֹתָן כֻּלָּן לְמָקוֹם אֶחָד וְעוֹשִׂין לָהֶן סְעֵדּוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הָעָם רְגִילִין לָבוֹא. וְזוּג שֶׁבָּא רִאשׁוֹן בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתָן רִאשׁוֹן בַּבְּדִיקוֹת שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ. מַכְנִיסִין אֶת הַגָּדוֹל וְשׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתוֹ. נִמְצְאוּ דְּבָרָיו מְכֻוָּנִים לַחֶשְׁבּוֹן מַכְנִיסִים אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ. נִמְצְאוּ דִּבְרֵיהֶם מְכֻוָּנִין עֵדוּתָן קַיֶּמֶת. וּשְׁאָר כָּל הַזּוּגוֹת שׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתָם רָאשֵׁי דְּבָרִים. לֹא שֶׁצְּרִיכִים לָהֶם אֶלָּא כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֵצְאוּ בְּפַחֵי נֶפֶשׁ, כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ רְגִילִין לָבוֹא:

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

וְאַחַר כָּךְ אַחַר שֶׁתִּתְקַיֵּם הָעֵדוּת רֹאשׁ בֵּית דִּין אוֹמֵר מְקֻדָּשׁ וְכָל הָעָם עוֹנִים אַחֲרָיו מְקֻדָּשׁ מְקֻדָּשׁ. וְאֵין מְקַדְּשִׁין אֶת הַחֹדֶשׁ אֶלָּא בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה. וְאֵין מְחַשְּׁבִין אֶלָּא בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה. וְאֵין מְקַדְּשִׁין אֶלָּא חֹדֶשׁ שֶׁנִּרְאֶה בִּזְמַנּוֹ. וְאֵין מְקַדְּשִׁין אֶלָּא בַּיּוֹם וְאִם קִדְּשׁוּהוּ בַּלַּיְלָה אֵינוֹ מְקֻדָּשׁ. ואֲפִלּוּ רָאוּהוּ בֵּית דִּין וְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא אָמְרוּ בֵּית דִּין מְקֻדָּשׁ עַד שֶׁחָשְׁכָה לֵיל אֶחָד וּשְׁלֹשִׁים. אוֹ שֶׁנֶּחְקְרוּ הָעֵדִים וְלֹא הִסְפִּיקוּ בֵּית דִּין לוֹמַר מְקֻדָּשׁ עַד שֶׁחָשְׁכָה לֵיל אֶחָד וּשְׁלֹשִׁים. אֵין מְקַדְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ וְיִהְיֶה הַחֹדֶשׁ מְעֻבָּר וְלֹא יִהְיֶה רֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ אֶלָּא יוֹם אֶחָד וּשְׁלֹשִׁים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנִּרְאֵית בְּלֵיל שְׁלֹשִׁים. שֶׁאֵין הָרְאִיָּה קוֹבַעַת אֶלָּא בֵּית דִּין שֶׁאָמְרוּ מְקֻדָּשׁ הֵם שֶׁקּוֹבְעִין:

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

רָאוּהוּ בֵּית דִּין עַצְמָן בְּסוֹף יוֹם תִּשְׁעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים. אִם עֲדַיִן לֹא יָצָא כּוֹכַב לֵיל שְׁלֹשִׁים. בֵּית דִּין אוֹמְרִים מְקֻדָּשׁ שֶׁעֲדַיִן יוֹם הוּא. וְאִם רָאוּהוּ בְּלֵיל שְׁלֹשִׁים אַחַר שֶׁיָּצְאוּ שְׁנֵי כּוֹכָבִים. לְמָחָר מוֹשִׁיבִין שְׁנֵי דַּיָּנִין אֵצֶל אֶחָד מֵהֶם וְיָעִידוּ הַשְּׁנַיִם בִּפְנֵי הַשְּׁלֹשָׁה וִיקַדְּשׁוּהוּ הַשְּׁלֹשָׁה:

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

בֵּית דִּין שֶׁקִּדְּשׁוּ אֶת הַחֹדֶשׁ בֵּין שׁוֹגְגִין בֵּין מֻטְעִין בֵּין אֲנוּסִים הֲרֵי זֶה מְקֻדָּשׁ וְחַיָּבִין הַכּל לְתַקֵּן הַמּוֹעֲדוֹת עַל הַיּוֹם שֶׁקִּדְּשׁוּ בּוֹ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁזֶּה יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁטָּעוּ חַיָּב לִסְמֹךְ עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁאֵין הַדָּבָר מָסוּר אֶלָּא לָהֶם וּמִי שֶׁצִּוָּה לִשְׁמֹר הַמּוֹעֲדוֹת הוּא צִוָּה לִסְמֹךְ עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם וְגוֹ':