Parshas Shmos 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 12

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Yesod Ha'emunah (The Foundation of Faith)

At the Burning Bush, Moshe had been worried about whether the people would believe his prophecy. Hashem assured him that eventually he would be believed.

Upon returning to Egypt, Moshe and Aharon first told the elders about Moshe's prophecy; later, they went to Pharaoh. Pharaoh responded angrily, and increased the workload of the people. At the beginning of Parshas V'eira, the people were no longer able to listen to Moshe, because of the strain of the hard labor.

The commentary Seforno says (Shmos 6:9):

" `They were not able to listen to Moshe' -- that is, to understand and trust in the salvation of Hashem, as Avraham did... Therefore, the assurance of the land `I will give it to you' was not fulfilled through them, but rather through their children... `Due to the hard labor' -- If not for the hard labor they would have paid attention to Moshe's words."

Rav Yerucham Leibowitz of Mir expressed amazement (Da'as Chochmah Umussar). Even though their inability to listen was due to the duress of the labor, nonetheless, they lost the chance to enter the land because they did not trust.

Rav Yerucham refers us to the writings of the Alter of Kelm (Chochmah Umussar, part one, "Seder Geulas Mitzrayim").

-That Moshe and Aharon entered Pharaoh's palace, is remarkable. Moshe was, after all, wanted for murder. Further, Moshe and Aharon requested the freedom of the Jewish slaves. This would certainly constitute outright rebellion! Their survival is so miraculous, that we must wonder why Moshe didn't go directly to Pharaoh initially. The miraculous encounter could then have been presented to the people as a proof of Hashem's concern. The truth is that the people needed some kind of merit in order to be freed. That they were willing to trust Moshe initially, was the merit...

-In fact, at the Burning Bush, Moshe was first told to go to Pharaoh; only later was he informed of the order of events -- that it was necessary to inform the people first -- in order to give them this merit... Rashi explained that they trusted Moshe because of the Mesorah (tradition) that the redeemer would use the special expression "Pakod Pakaditi." Only after their show of faith, based on the Mesorah, could the redemption come.

-The redemption from Egypt was a guide for the future redemption. We must prepare ourselves according to this order...

Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2 # 5 Yesod Ha'emunah (The Foundation of Faith)

Unfortunately, we have numerous contemporary sources, especially in English, dealing with the calendar. It is unfortunate, because much of the contemporary material misses the entire point. There is a great difference between a mere intellectual study, and the study of Torah.

Torah is predicated on "emunah" -- faith. Today, life is so complex, that simple faith is hard to come by. When we speak of faith -- we are not discussing belief in creation, providence, or the Biblical verses. Yes, these require faith. However, Torah study requires a deeper faith.

Approximations of the Jewish Calendar

The Rabbis used a number of devices to approximate. One might think that the approximations were due to the lack of sophistication of ancient science. There is another reason, though. Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 138), explains why the Torah always chooses rounded figures.

1. Molad

The ancient estimate of the Talmud would not produce the exact time of the molad, rather, the average time for the molad. The significance of the moon is only in determining the day to begin the month. We need to know the day of the molad, not the exact split-second. Anyway, Rosh Chodesh is often pushed off from the day of the estimated molad, according to various rules ("dechiyos").

2. Tekufas Shmuel and Tekufas Rav Ada

The equinoxes and solstices are required for certain parts of the services. These are based on the solar calendar, not the lunar calendar. The Talmud has several methods of estimating the solar year. Because the Talmud's estimations are general, not exact, over large periods of time the discrepancy between the estimated and astronomical date becomes noticeable.

Numerous English works discuss these issues, often coming to critical conclusions. As usual, though, a thorough scrutiny of history would demonstrate that the issues have been clarified long ago. See, for example, Rambam (Mishnah Torah), Commentary to Rambam (ibid.), Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 138), Rav Moshe Feinstein.

Rav Moshe Feinstein Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4 #17

-You indicate that the custom to recite Tal Umutar in the Diaspora according to Shmuel, rather than Rav Ada, is an error. You think that you are greater than all of our Rabbis, the earlier and later ones, and all current authorities! Forgive me, but it is excessive to even think so. How much more so to say this or write this.

-Even if one large observant congregation has a custom that varies from other congregations, it mustn't be an error, because it certainly was established by a Chocham (Sage). We need to find the reason why they act in such manner, and not take them to be in error... Privately, however, one would keep the custom of the majority, although each case needs to be examined separately.

-If All of Yisrael have a certain custom, however, one must abide by it. Even if one feels it is an error, that person must realize that the customs of All of Yisrael are according to law. Even if YOU have a question regarding it, and can't find an answer, it doesn't mean anything...

-We find cases where authorities determine actual law from prevailing custom. This is especially so in regards to the services.

-Nonetheless, no question in this subject actually remains. The Halacha did not decide between the two estimations. Rambam explains both, and shows how each are used in certain calculations. At one point Rambam indicates that one estimate is "closer to the astronomical calculation." Since he says "closer to the astronomical calculation," it is clear that the other estimate is not nullified; simply one is closer, and one is further.

-See the Commentary to Rambam, in chapter 9 Halacha 3, which queries: "According to Shmuel, the Tekufah (estimate for the equinox) will eventually move to the summer period..." The answer: "This is the truth, until the law will be clarified at a later date." He asked, but did not reply that the custom is in error; rather, even Shmuel was aware of this, and did not worry that we won't know what to do at the later time...

-Shmuel's estimation was chosen because it is much easier to calculate for the masses...

Yesod Ha'emunah (The Foundation of Faith)

Rav Moshe was an exceptionally humble and respectful person, and always found reasons for his responses, even where reasons were not sought. Here, he was simply requesting that we examine thoroughly the prevailing norms, before we seek to destroy the entire structure.

This is also faith; a kind of faith that is becoming increasingly rare in our generation. The decisions of the great sages are largely based on "Mesorah" -- the extension of the Torah handed down from Mount Sinai, and passed down by word of mouth. Before they are challenged, they should be understood and appreciated. Custom, too, has a legal basis...

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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