Parshas Nitzavim/Vayeilech 5757 - '97
Outline # 53
M'vakshei Torah discusses the nature of Rosh Hashanah. Quoting from Moreh Nevuchim of Rambam, Rosh Hashanah is described as a preparation for the Day of Atonement -- Yom Kippur. (M'vakshei Torah vol. 3, p. 384.)
According to Rebbi Eliezer, the world was created at Rosh Hashanah. This actually corresponds, not to the creation of the world, but to the formation of man. Many commentaries write (see the Ran, Rosh Hashanah 16a), that Slichos is said from the 25th of Elul, because this date corresponds to the actual creation of the universe.
This Shabbos is the final one of the year. Normally, on the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh (new month), the new moon is announced. Only Parshas Nitzavim is different. The reason usually given is that the entire subject of Rosh Hashanah is concealed, in order to confuse the accuser.
The Talmud and commentaries derive many basic ideas about Rosh Hashanah from the verses beginning: "Sound the shofar when the Chodesh (new moon) is concealed..." (Psalms 81:4, according to the interpretation of the Talmud). The only Yom Tov (festival) taking place at the time of the new moon is Rosh Hashanah. The new moon cannot be seen for six hours or so, as we have discussed in previous issues; thus the Chodesh (new moon) is concealed at Rosh Hashanah time.
Actually, as the Satmer Rav pointed out, the moon is seen at Rosh Hashanah -- by the court. It is only those outside of Yerushalayim that are unaware of the presence of the new moon, because there isn't enough time to notify them. Rashi had already said this -- it is "concealed to those far away." The Satmer Rav questioned why the entire period is considered concealed, when the Beis Din (court) is, in fact, quite aware.
"The Accuser brought charges against the Jewish People. Hashem said, `Bring witnesses.' The sun came to testify. Hashem objected: `The Torah requires two witnesses.' They went to bring the moon, but it did not appear. The case was closed."
The Divre Yoel asked: The moon does not appear to those outside the court, but to the court it does appear! Rather, concluded the Divre Yoel, the Medrash can provide insight regarding the Mishnah:
Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah, chapter 4:
"Once, the witnesses (who spot the moon in order to proclaim the new month) were late. The Levi'im failed to recite the correct Shir (song recited over the korbonos [sacrifices]. The Levi'im were not certain whether it was Rosh Hashanah or not). The Rabbis decreed that if the witnesses came late, both the first and second days be declared Rosh Hashanah."
In light of the Medrash, the Mishnah can be understood as follows:
When the moon had not appeared, the Levi'im were terrified. They feared that the moon refused to testify because the sins of the Jewish People were too great. Therefore, it concealed itself. The Levi'im could not sing, because song requires joy, and they could not come to cheer. The solution was to declare two days of Yom Tov. The first day would be a severe judgment, but the second would be a soft one. (Divre Yoel on Moadim.)
In other words, there are times when the court itself cannot find the moon.
Today the witnesses cannot appear -- the high court does not exist. We all live in a quandary. How can we be in good cheer? The solution is to recall the ancient decree of the Rabbis: there are two days of Rosh Hashanah, even in Yerushalayim. If we are found guilty on the first day, we still have a chance for an appeal on the second day of Rosh Hashanah... (see Sefer Hachinuch, in which Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are described as Hashem's ultimate kindness and demonstration of love for his people, Yisrael.)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
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