Parshas Kedoshim 5757 - '97
Outline # 34
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
This, the central portion of the Torah, begins by stating that we shall be holy. Holiness has something to do with being separate, being special. Yet, the same parsha states: "You shall love your fellow as yourself." We must separate from that which is detrimental, but not from our fellowman. We must separate from activities which are unhealthy for the body and soul -- but not separate from our social responsibilities. We must strive to be holy, and yet not condemn the "unholy." So often, the heroes of Israel, the holiest people, were not buried in their books, but immersed in the problems of their flock, and concerned with the salvation of humanity.
Hillel said, "Always be involved with people."
"You shall love your fellow as yourself." Rabbi Akiva said: "This is the great principle of the Torah."
Unfortunately, we live in a contentious, divisive day and age. There are so many factions, so many splinter groups.
In an earlier era, the Taz and the Shach (the great commentators to Shulchan Orech) attacked and counterattacked each other with the pen. When they met, however, the Taz (who was many years older) kissed the Shach on the head. How many who debate can act civilly to each other?
The themes of "Haaros" are not always easy to follow. We are not traveling in a simple, linear path. If we come away with a slight inkling of the vast history, of the brilliant depths of Torah studies, if we come away with knowledge that perhaps aids us to understand someone else -- "Haaros" will have accomplished an important aspect of its mission.
Names of the Months
Nachmanides (Ramban) writes:
The days of the week have no name, but are counted according to the Shabbos, such as "First day of the Shabbos," "Second day of the Shabbos," etc. In this way, we remember the Shabbos all the time. Similarly, the Hebrew months had no name, but were counted from the Exodus from Egypt, so that we would always remember the Exodus.
There are, of course, Persian/Aramaic names for the months (e.g. Nisan, Tishrei), as is stated in the Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 1:2). How did this come about? When we were delivered from the Persian/Babylonian exile, we took the Persian/Aramaic names in order to remember this redemption as well... (Free translation: Commentary to the Torah, Shmos, chapter 12, also see Drasha L'Rosh Hashanah, chapter 2.)
The words of Nachmanides, quoted above, became a central point in an extensive controversy.
Initially, Nachmanides stated that the months have no names in the Torah. Later, he wrote that names of the months were acquired from the Babylonian exile.
Sefer Ha'ikarim (3:16) explained Ramban's words in the following way: Initially, it had been forbidden to use names for the months. After the Persian exile, however, the law was changed; the Persian names were incorporated so as to remember the redemption from Persia!
Within a generation, numerous commentaries raised the issue, and rejected the Sefer Ha'ikarim's point.
The Abarvanel wrote that there had never been any kind of prohibition to name the months, there simply had been a mitzvah to enumerate them from Pesach. After the Persian exile, there now existed an additional aspect of the mitzvah: to use the Persian names as well, in order to recall Hashem's kindness in redeeming us from Persia as well as Egypt. (Commentary to the Torah, Parshas Bo, end of "limud habeis.")
The Abarvanel did not mention the Sefer Ha'ikarim by name. The Ayn Yaakov, a younger contemporary of Abarvanel, directly challenged the Sefer Ha'ikarim. Regarding the months, Ayn Yaakov maintained that the Torah allows one to use secular names for the months in general. The only requirement is that, should numbers be used, the months must be the Hebrew months, counted from Nisan. The Ayn Yaakov wrote specifically that one could use the names of the non-Jewish months in vogue today. (See Ayn Yaakov: Hakoseiv, Megilah 4b.)
The work, Get Pashut (127:30) decides in accordance with this interpretation. (Peirush, Machon L'talmud Hayisraeli on Nachmanides' Drasha L'Rosh Hashanah column 98, note 46.) We were unable to find a copy of Get Pashut; however, see further...
Recently (Outline #30) we wrote the suggestion to call the secular months by name, rather than by number (such as 2/12/67). After all, the Torah says that Nisan should be the first, not January! This was stated in the name of Chasom Sofer.
Rabbi Reuvain Toplan requested the source for this statement. In a phone conversation, he mentioned that the suggestion is often stated in the reverse; on the other hand, we do find -- he mentioned -- the use of secular names of months in Beis Yoseif 117, p. 101b. This discussion led to the current examination of the entire issue.
The original source of our quote was: Toras Moshe, parshas Bo. The Toras Moshe is interpreted in such a manner by Chodshei Hashanah, apparently following Sefer Haparshios: "Bo," and Sefer Hatoda'ah: "Nisan." However, Hagos B'parshios (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, often referred to as "Nachshoni"), interprets the same Toras Moshe in the opposite way -- that one shouldn't use the non-Jewish calendar at all!
The reason for the difficulty: Chasom Sofer writes that one should use the number of the day in the week, and the number of the Jewish month; one should not, however, use the number of the non-Jewish months. Are these words to be understood literally -- not to use the "number of the non-Jewish months," implying that the names are acceptable? Perhaps it was meant figuratively -- not to use the entire accounting system, i.e. calendar.
See the Chasom Sofer's own Drashos. "The Jew should be ashamed to use the common year, which is based on the birth of their `Messiah'." (Drashos, Vol. 1, 93, column 4; see also Vol. 2, 315, column 2.)
Maharam Schick, one of the primary students of Chasom Sofer, explicitly prohibited use of the secular dates on tombstones (Responsa: Yoreh Deyah 171).
Kol Bo al Aveilus, p 381, cites the Drashos of Chasom Sofer and Responsa of Maharam Schick, but comes to a different conclusion. Surely, the numbering of the years referred to by these authors had religious significance; in our days, however, it has simply become customary. The author quotes sources that indicate that the Gregorian years do not actually date back to the beginnings of Christianity, but were instituted earlier by the Romans. He then lists numerous Rabbinic works that mention Gregorian dates, including Responsa of Chasom Sofer (Even Ha'ezer 1:43)! Certainly, Kol Bo concludes, if the Hebrew date is also used, there is no problem. (See notes)
To be continued...
Regarding the Gregorian year: The system is based on Julius Ceasar's calendar; the current date of New Year's Day is definitely of Roman origin. The year number did, at one time, attempt to date the birth of the founder of Christianity, but is now believed to be in error.
Regarding the Responsa of Chasom Sofer mentioned: The Gregorian date seems to be mentioned only by the one asking the query, not the author himself. Nonetheless, the Chasom Sofer would have omitted it from publication, had there been a prohibition involved. This, presumably, is the intention of the Kol Bo.
Haaros -- insights presented in a novel manner -- are meant to stimulate or
provoke, but are by no means conclusive. Readers are encouraged to look up
original sources. Since there are many factors that might be taken into
consideration, actual questions regarding Jewish Practice should be addressed
to the appropriate authorities.
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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E-mail: [email protected]
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
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Last Revision: January 27, 1997