Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5765 - April 13, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
A Gut Chodesh!

Dear Sir

"Rosh Chodesh: a Yom Tov - but Why?" (26 Adar II) reminded one of how only the masterful intercalary Jewish calendar has managed to reconcile so well for so long the three distinct geocentric motions of the solar (the year), lunar (the month) and diurnal (day) periods: "to be for seasons, and for days and years" (Bereishis 1). "For this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations (Devorim 4) - this refers to the calculations of astronomy and calendars" (Shabbos 75).

How unlike the calendars of the nations. The Christian world has its years correctly calculated, but not the months. The 365 days of the year are arbitrarily divided into twelve months, which themselves have no relation to the orbit of the moon.

The Moslems have correct months, but incorrect years. They simply make the twelve lunar months into a year of 354 days, which is eleven short! The result is that their festivals are not bound to the seasons of the year, and keep shifting, now to the spring, now to the winter, and then to the summer: not exactly conducive to menuchas hanefesh! Some hold this as being partly responsible for the volatility of the Muslim character!

At the time of the bloody schism of the Julian-Gregorian calendrical reform, when it was suggested to Pope Gregory (1582) that it might be easier to adopt the Jewish calendar, he exclaimed: " 'tis better to be wrong with the calendar than right with the Jews!"

The Moon's motions are so complex that Sir Isaac Newton was almost driven to a nervous breakdown attempting to resolve them: "The Sun knows his own course, but the Moon does not know hers!.....the lunar month can never be less than 29 and a half days, two-thirds of an hour and 73 chalokim" (Rosh Hashonoh 25) i.e. 29.53059 days. This figure is to within a thousandth of a second of the length of a synodic month (the time between one new moon and the next) given by NASA and the US Naval Observatory! Only a G-d-given mesorah can explain how Chazal arrived at their figures.

Eclipses only occur because of the fantastically exact Sun- Earth/Moon-Earth size-distance ratio, which is unique in the universe and hints of the primordial days of Creation, before the Moon's diminution and bespeaks of Geocentricity and of the Earth's special location in the cosmos. The halting of the Moon at Yehoshua's command, "the precious things put forth by the Moon" (Devorim 33:14), ocean tides, weather forecasting, eclipses, lunar phases, nutation, libration, the Jewish calendar, gyroscopy, satellite and space-shot calculations etc. are best understood in a Geocentric context: "The Earth is suspended at the center of the Universe" (Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 3). See At the Center of the Universe, Rabbi Mordechai Plaut, and Geocentricity, Dr. Gerardus Bouw.

Dr. Hugo Mandelbaum ("The Problem of Molad Tohu" in The Proceedings of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists 1976), showed that a true repeating lunar- solar cycle occurs only every 689,272 years, and that an absolute reconciliation of the lunar calendar with the solar year is an impossibility. After 1600 years of use, discrepancies in Hillel II's calendar are now starting to be noticed, but the Chofetz Chaim wrote in 1903 that "we need not be overly concerned much beyond the next century because certainly at that time there will be the Geulah and we will sanctify the New Moon by visual observation"!

Until then we do not have the authority to alter the calendar until a new Sanhedrin is reestablished. In Eretz Yisroel the "New Moon Society" and the "Institute for Kiddush Hachodesh Studies" practice observing and determining criteria for the limits of visibility of the New Moon in order to be ready for when the Sanhedrin is restored in Messianic Times to come, when "the light of the Moon will be as the light of the Sun!" (Yeshayohu 30)

Yours truly,

Amnon Goldberg


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