Parshas Vayakheil, Pekudei and Parah 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 21

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Part 13

The Song of the Wine

The sacrifices included "nesachim" -- pouring wine on the altar. The Levi’im sang special songs during the nesachim.

Commenting on the verse "Wine, which causes Hashem and man to rejoice" (Shoftim 9:13), the Talmud asks: ‘Wine may make man’s heart rejoice, but how does it make Hashem’s heart rejoice? From here we see that song must be recited over the (pouring of the) wine.’ (Brochos 35a.) It is apparent that the song served an exalted purpose...

Although brochos are to be recited before consuming food, the brocho over wine is often more than an ordinary blessing. Various mitzvos involve formulations declared over a cup of wine; for example, Kiddush, Bris Milah, Kidushin and Nesu’in (stages of the Wedding Ceremony). Here, the brocha recited over the wine is a "Birkas Mitzva," a component of the services (See Rosh Hashanah 29b). In fact, the brocha represents the song of the altar recited over the pouring of wine. (See Birkas Refael, Pesach, chapter 72)

The Talmud declared that the Cup of Brocha should be raised a hand’s breadth (Brochos 51a). This law was derived from King Dovid’s statement: "I will lift up the cup of salvation, and will call the name of Hashem." (T’hilim [Psalms 116:13].) Rashi (T’hilim, ibid.) explained that the verse was referring to the sacrifice. The "cup of salvation" was the wine of the altar, which Dovid would bring for his thanksgiving offering; the "calling out in the name of Hashem" referred to the songs of praise that would be recited at that time. Just as the Levi’im sang at the wine libation of the public sacrifice, Dovid would sing praises at the pouring of the wine on the altar for his private thanksgiving offering.

The four main parts of the Pesach Seder are distinguished by four recitals over wine: Kiddush, Hagada, Bentching and Hallel. The entire Seder takes on the form of the songs of the altar, which brings rejoicing in the higher spheres...

The Error in the Song

The Talmud explained the history of two days’ observance of Rosh Hashanah (Beitza 5a, Rosh Hashanah 35b). Rosh Hashanah occurs at the beginning of the month. In order to know for certain that the new moon had appeared, witnesses would report to the court, located on the Beis Hamikdash grounds. Witnesses would not appear until daytime, usually after the morning services. Until then, there would be no way of ascertaining that it was actually Rosh Hashanah.

Every day, the Tamid (perpetual burnt-offering) was brought in the morning and afternoon. The Levi’im sang the daily song with the pouring of the wine. At Yom Tov, special songs were recited, rather than the ordinary, weekday song.

At the first offering on Rosh Hashanah morning, since the witnesses had not normally arrived yet, the established protocol was to recite the regular, weekday song. (See Rashi, Beitza 5a.) After the witnesses would arrive, the Yom Tov song would be said with the later sacrifice. Since the witnesses usually arrived before the afternoon services, everything normally went smoothly.

Once it happened that the witnesses had not arrived in time for the afternoon Tamid. The Levi’im were concerned that the witnesses would not appear on the first day at all, in which case only the following day would be Rosh Hashanah (and not the first day). The Levi’im were in a quandary as to which song to sing, and erred. One version is that the Levi’im did not recite any song; the other version is that they recited the week-day song, but the late entrance of the witnesses and the proclamation of Rosh Hashanah that day demonstrated that the Levi’im miscalculated.

Because of the error in the song, a decree was formulated: Should the witnesses not appear by the afternoon Tamid, the court would close for the day; witnesses would not be accepted. Both that day and the next would be sanctified as Rosh Hashanah.

The full implications of this story, and resulting two days’ observance of Rosh Hashanah, need to be discussed at a later date. For now, we will briefly look at one explanation of the incident, as explained in Chidushei Chasom Sofer (Beitza, 5a.)

First Day’s Musaf of Rosh Hashanah

There is an additional offering on Yom Tov -- the Musaf. Anticipating that witnesses might suddenly appear, the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah was brought at its regular time. The nesachim -- pouring of wine -- was delayed, for it can be performed days later, if need be. If witnesses should come on the first day, the wine pouring would be performed at that time, with the Levi’im reciting the song for Rosh Hashanah. If, however, it would be determined that the witnesses were not coming, the wine pouring would be performed with the week-day song, and the offering would instead be considered a "nedavah" -- voluntary offering.

What actually occurred one particular year, could not have been anticipated. Once, the witnesses came so late, that there was not enough time for the wine-pouring. As we said, the nesachim can be performed days later, if need be; however, the song of the Levi’im accompanies the wine-pouring. Since the witnesses came the first day, they were accepted, and the first day -- only -- was declared Rosh Hashanah. The song had to be recited the next day -- with the wine-pouring -- but the second day was no longer Rosh Hashanah! There remained no choice, but to recite the week-day song on the second day. Consequently, the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah took on the form of a different offering altogether, because it was associated with the week-day song.

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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