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Parshas Vayechi 5757 - 1996
Outline # 16
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
The Patriarch Yaakov lived his final days in Egypt in peace.
If we question the suffering of the Jewish People, perhaps we have not duly considered history.
Yaakov had been through many hardships. He fled from his brother for fear of being killed; his father-in-law cheated him for years; he ran from Lavan, fought an angel, survived another encounter with Eisav; Rochel has died, his daughter molested, Yoseif given up for dead, Shimon imprisoned. Suddenly, Yaakov goes to Egypt, and finds all his sons -- alive, in good health, righteous and steadfast, powerful and successful.
The Zohar states: Of all of Yaakov's sufferings, the worst was the loss of Yoseif. Not a day went by that Yaakov did not cry for Yoseif -- seventeen years! The applicable verse is from Eyov (Job 3:26): "I had no peace, no quiet, no rest, but trouble came."
Our parsha begins, "Yaakov lived in Egypt seventeen years..." The Zohar notes that all during his lifetime, the Torah does not discuss Yaakov's "living." At the end of his life, suddenly -- Yaakov "lived" in Egypt seventeen years. He was not "alive" until now... All of his days were in pain... Now Yaakov lives!
Therefore, "Yaakov lived in Egypt seventeen years..." why seventeen? Hashem had informed Yaakov: (46:4) "Yoseif will place his hands over your eyes." "Seventeen years you cried? Behold, here are seventeen years."
All of Yaakov's sufferings were for one purpose: In order that he not be haughty towards his brother Eisav. (Ibid.)
Notice that Eisav, who had lost the coveted blessings, does not have the suffering and hardship. Eisav was always wealthy and powerful. So where were those mysterious blessings?
The Ramban explained (parshas Vayeishev): Because Eisav took land outside of Eretz Yisroel -- when the forefathers were told to wander in a land not theirs -- he no longer could be considered of the "seed of Avraham." Remember that Eisav "despised the birth-right," and traded it for lentils? Once again, by taking land for a perpetual inheritance outside of the holy land, he has traded away other-worldy blessings for wealth in this world.
Yaakov, however, must not be too proud -- his blessing will come in due time, as long as he keeps his attention towards the spiritual inheritance. Seventeen years you cried? I have heard your tears... Behold, here are seventeen years...
Humility that becomes fortified through hardship is a vital steppingstone toward the ultimate blessings.
The duration of the lunar month is about twenty nine and a half days. This presents a problem -- months are always expressed in whole days, not parts of days. Since the Jewish calendar is to be based primarily on the moon, how could the month accurately reflect the lunar month and still have a round number of days?
The arithmetic gets complicated; for the purposes of simplicity, we're going to approximate and round off here and there. Basically, it boils down to this: 29.5 days doesn't make a month, but one month of 30 days followed by one month of 29 days comes out to be the same -- 59 days. If every two months add up to 59 days, 12 months will equal 354 days, the same as 12 months of 29.5.
The Calendar has a complex cycle of 19 years -- let's skip that for now and just look at a simple year. The basic pattern would be 30 days followed by 29, followed by 30, followed by 29, etc.
So the length of the lunar year comes out to be correct 354 days -- but doesn't this solution seem arbitrary? On what basis is it decided that one month be 30 days and another 29 days?
Actually, the Gregorian Calendar, in use by the secular world, is very arbitrary. "Months" have nothing to do with their original moons. The Jewish Calendar, however, is extremely logical. As we have discussed, the month was not based solely on the conjunction -- the moment when the moon no longer reflects the light of the sun -- but the sighting of the moon by the witnesses, and their reporting to Bais Din -- the Jewish Court. Remember that it is six hours after the conjunction before the moon can be seen by the naked eye (the moon's first phase). Only then did the witnesses begin the trek to the Bais Din. The Court only met in daylight hours. If the witnesses could not reach the court that day, they would appear the next day.
What we are suggesting is that, when the moon would appear late in the day, the witnesses could appear in court on one of two days. If, however, the moon appears early in the day, there is a great likelihood that the witnesses would have time to reach the court in the course of the day.
The following diagrams show alternate months of 30 and 29 days. When the month is 30 days, the moon appears late on the 30th day; consequently, that day and the following are both sanctified as "Rosh Chodesh," (new moon celebration). Following a 29 day month, however, the moon appears during the middle of the day, in which case that day alone should be sanctified.
Press here for diagram
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Spring Valley, NY 10977
E-mail: [email protected]
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.