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









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Opinion & Comment
Rosh Chodesh: A Yom Tov — But Why?

By HaRav Tzvi Weisfish

Part II

In the first part, HaRav Weisfish noted that a difference between Klal Yisroel and the nations of the world is that we use a lunar calendar and they use a solar calendar. "The sun and the moon can be said to represent these two opposing viewpoints. The sun is constant and unchanging. . . . Its fixed path symbolizes the nations' belief that the world has always existed and that nothing new is ever introduced by a higher guiding Hand. The moon, on the other hand, is constantly changing. This symbolizes the faith of Yisroel, who see the whole of nature as something new and innovative, that is under constant supervision and that therefore has the potential for change." It was later given to the women since they had not ever abandoned this faith in Hashem's guidance by making the Golden Calf. "Rosh Chodesh is the day that emphasizes our separation from the nations. . . . Yisroel. . . believe in the world's creation from nothing and in all the consequences of that belief. Our lives are therefore always being renewed in Hashem's service and are constantly filled with vitality."

Far-Reaching Implications

Having come this far, we can further deepen our understanding, quoting again from the Yalkut (#191): Rabbi Pinchos and Rabbi Chilkiyo said in the name of Rabbi Shimon, `The mal'ochim gather before Hakodosh Boruch Hu and say, "Ribono Shel Olom, when is Rosh Hashonoh?"

`He says, "You are asking Me? Let you and I ask the earthly beis din" . . . '

We see from this medrash that Yisroel have the power to determine when the various yomim tovim will be, because they decide when to proclaim Rosh Chodesh.

I found a passage in the writings of the Alter of Slobodka, which dwells on the great consequence of this power and its application to many different areas of Torah: "The Torah put the power to change the order of creation into the hands of Yisroel. Odom Horishon and the Ovos counted according to the solar cycle, but Yisroel were commanded to count according to the lunar cycle.

"Moreover, the fixing of the new month depends on them. If they fixed Rosh Chodesh on the wrong day by mistake, or even if they did so purposely, the months and the yomim tovim follow them. It is the same with years. According to Rabbi Eliezer, who holds that the world was created in Tishrei, the counting [of months] should be from then, whereas the Torah empowered Yisroel to count from Nisan . . . and even to add an extra month at their discretion.

"This . . . has real consequences, with regard to the attainment of the various stages of halachic maturity and the liability for punishment for [aveiros]. One youth might have been born at the beginning of Adar Sheini and another before him, at the end of Adar Rishon. If they become bar mitzvah in an ordinary year however, the younger one will become obligated in mitzvos at the beginning of Adar, before the elder one.

"The physical world is also bound by the beis din's decisions, with regard to a young girl [who reached her third birthday in Adar, after which the beis din decided that there would be an added month, and that the current month would be Adar Rishon. In such a case, the girl reverts to her physical state prior to her third birthday] . . . We see that the natural world is dependent upon beis din's calculations of time."

It seems likely that this power was given to Yisroel as a reward for the power of their faith, to which their declaring of Rosh Chodesh alludes: Yisroel manage to overcome the attraction of the natural world, which appears to run by itself. They establish a connection between the lower and upper worlds and continually strengthen their faith in the world's creation and its constant supervision. For this, they were awarded a degree of control over creation. They decree when Rosh Chodesh and the yomim tovim will be and when a year ends and a new one begins.

Rising above Time

In addition to all this, we should reveal yet another aspect of the topic that is discussed by HaRav Yitzchok Hutner zt'l (in Pachad Yitzchok, Rosh Hashonoh, siman 27). HaRav Hutner contrasts the power of renewal with habit and rote. "Knesses Yisroel's innermost soul is connected to the idea of the world's renewal. The prophets spoke of new heavens and of a new earth. The Sages learned that, "At some time in the future, Hakodosh Boruch Hu will renew His world." The covenant of mitzvoh observance is therefore a covenant of the world's renewal.

"The idea of the world's renewal is not only of relevance to Knesses Yisroel as a whole; each individual member of Klal Yisroel is also obligated to make use of the power of renewal that is hidden away in his soul.

"The power of renewal is one of the wondrous properties of the soul. When this power governs a person, his soul whispers messages like the following: `Even though my limbs and senses see what I am doing as nothing more than a repetition [of what I have done in the past], my emotions feel that I am doing it for the first time.' Such is a person's spiritual power, that it enables him to place the stamp of originality upon things that he has already done a hundred and one times. We maintain the belief that the root from which a person's power of renewal draws sustenance is the power of renewal that is hidden in the creation. Since Hakodosh Boruch Hu is going to renew His world, it continually revolves around its renewal.

"On the other hand, there is the ironclad rule of time, the rule of repetition . . . The reality of time is a reality of constant repetition. The rule of time is part of the rule of repeated movement . . . Here we encounter a clash of Titans: the rule of man versus the rule of time. Man's soul exerts a colossal pull towards renewal, while the passage of time exerts a colossal pull towards periodicity.

"Not only does Knesses Yisroel as a whole break the iron law of periodicity; it even transforms the essence of this law into renewal. The law of the periodicity of time is a consequence of the movement of the heavenly bodies. Yisroel stand in front of the moon and says [in kiddush levonoh] that it is, "a crown of glory for mortals, who will one day be renewed like it [is renewed]." We thus inject an element of renewal into the very heart of the constant flow of periodicity. We declare the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh, fixing the new month, as a victory for man's rule over the control exerted by time."

These ideas call us to experience a constant feeling of renewal in our lives, our deeds, our Torah, our prayer and in everything else that we do. We should carry out every action with a feeling of novelty, of renewed submission to the Creator and renewed pleasure at having merited the opportunity to bring Him satisfaction.

Every Day, Every Hour, Every Moment

We will now show how the entire creation is imbued with capacity for renewal. This will enable us to internalize this awareness.

Each month has a different name which is evidence of a particular spiritual illumination for its duration. At the end of maseches Sofrim we find that the months are parallel to the twelve tribes, and the months are there enumerated according to the order of the births of the tribes. (Elsewhere we find that the months correspond to the order of the tribes as they travelled through the desert.) Every month has its special light, corresponding to the tribe that parallels it. A Jew who lives by the `power of renewal,' can elevate himself and align himself with the light that is bestowed during each month.

The days, hours and minutes are also subject to the same principle of renewal. Each day, the Leviim would say a different perek of song during the offering of the korbon tomid. The gemora (Rosh Hashonoh 31), lists the perokim for each weekday: on Yom Rishon, "The world and everything in it is Hashem's" (Tehillim 24), because on that day He acquired heaven and earth . . . and ruled alone, because the mal'ochim were only created on the following day; on Yom Sheini, "Hashem is great and is praised highly" (Tehillim 48), because He divided the upper and lower skies and was elevated and dwelt on high, and so on.

Why were perokim that speak about the events of the Six Days of Creation chosen? What relevance do these events have now?

The answer is that on each day of the week, the particular illumination of that Day of Creation shines again, as the Netziv explains. Every Yom Rishon, the special spiritual light of, "The world and everything in it is Hashem's," shines. Therefore, we say this perek on Yom Rishon.

With the changing hours of the day too, the spiritual illuminations change. At different times of day, Chazal instituted different tefillos, each of which has its own particular kind of acceptance of Heaven's yoke, as the Maharal explains (in Nesiv Ho'avodoh). Moreover, in Reishis Chochmoh (Shaar Hayir'oh, perek 10), we find, "Throughout the twelve hours of the day and the twelve hours of the night, the twelve different combinations of Hashem's Name revolve, each one at a different hour. If a person chas vesholom sins, he affects the particular Name of that hour . . . There are 1280 parts in each hour . . . parallel to which there is a[nother] Name [of Hashem] which has the same number of combinations."

From here we see that every instant of the twenty-four hours of each day has its own particular spiritual light, which reappears daily at that instant. The pure-hearted, who are privy to "Hashem's secrets, that are [divulged] to those who fear Him" (Tehillim 25:14), can direct their thoughts towards receiving the particular bounty that is bestowed at each specific instant.

Rosh Chodesh then, is a day with profound spiritual implications. It ought to be used for strengthening the foundations of one's faith, and for engendering a feeling of vitality and renewal in serving Hashem. There can be no doubt that these feelings will bring tremendous happiness in their wake, enabling us to savor the joy of this Yom Tov.

HaRav Tzvi Weisfish is rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas HaRan in Ramot and its affiliated institutions throughout Israel.

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