Parshas Shmini/Chodesh 5757 - 1997

Outline # 30

Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Death of Nadav and Avihu: The Fire That Wasn't Commanded

The section describing the tragedy of Aharon's elder sons is a mystery. They brought "strange fire" which "G-d had not commanded." The Rabbis give many explanations as to their errors, although the verses state explicitly the reason for their punishment!

Rashi relates that Moshe told Aharon that Nadav and Avihu were greater than Moshe and Aharon themselves. This is surely strange -- if they were so great, how did they make such an error?

Nesivos Shalom, in a recently published volume, has a unique answer.

Judaism is based on give-and-take relationships. The leaders of the community advise and direct. Individuals must be connected to their leaders. Can't we imagine a circumstance, in which the leader is not as 'great' as the follower? Certainly. It must happen at times! It makes little difference, however, if the student is potentially 'greater' than the teacher. The leaders have

been granted the ability to lead; the great students have not yet attained this milestone. Until such time that the followers themselves become leaders, they must seek advice from the experienced leaders.

One of the Rabbis' versions of Nadav and Avihu's error is as follows: They said, "When will Moshe and Aharon die, so we can direct the generation?" How could such 'great' men make such a statement?

To the Nesivos Shalom, all is clear. They did not actually make such a statement, and they were truly great men, perhaps greater than Moshe and Aharon. Their greatness had nothing to do with the fact that they needed to submit to the authorities of the day... Even if the student is greater, he needs to take advice from the leader. Their greatness was an obstacle to the 'command,' and thus -- they brought "strange fire" which "G-d had not commanded."

Where would Judaism be without Moshe and Aharon, Shmuel and Dovid, Hillel and Rabbi Akiva? To worship leaders is totally contrary to Judaism; people are not gods. But the honor we give to Torah Sages is the honor we give to the Torah itself. "What fools; they stand up for the Torah Scroll, but not for the Torah Sage!" (Tractate Macos, 22b.)

Chodshei Hashanah (Part Eighteen)

Parshas Hachodesh 5757

Every year, on the Shabbos before the beginning of the month of Nissan, the special maftir of Hachodesh is read. We are reminded that the cycle of months begins at Nissan (Pesach time). In addition, we read the initial commands regarding the Paschal lamb, the matza and morror.

The last issue ended with the question:

"Why does the Todah (thanksgiving offering) include chametz and matza every day, but upon eating the Pesach Todah, we only find matza?"

At Pesach, why don't we thank for the chametz as well?

From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, many people take special customs seriously, although the rest of the year they do not. It seems superficial -- only at the time of judgment they perform, not the rest of the year?

The Jewish attitude is that anything helps. So it seems small, inconsistent. No matter. Special effort, at any time of year, is indeed meaningful. Who knows what effect it may have?

The matza is baked with speed, eaten with swiftness and urgency. In the urgency of the matza, there is no time to fool with the delay of allowing the bread to rise. Our food shall be like the soldier's grub -- high in intensity, saturated with energy, devoid of extras. It's filling, there's only so much you can eat. We may have to move out at any time. We have to be ready to run. Grab your rations and go!

See Tzidkas Hatzadik: The beginning must always be with urgency, as the eating of the lamb in Egypt was very swift. We had to tear ourselves away from the past, and it had to be done swiftly -- no time to hesitate, run! In years to come, the lamb could be eaten leisurely, but not now.

The food of "command!" is "attention!" The food of matza, the food of mitzva, cold logic and bare necessity. We're going into the desert, and Pharaoh's army will follow. He won't be patient now. If they catch us, it will be the end, just as Bnei Ephraim were slaughtered thirty years before.

What shall we eat? There's nothing there -- well, maybe some manna. Maybe. "The matza of the desert had the taste of the manna." It was G-d's food. If we had no faith, we wouldn't have eaten anything. But we had faith, so we ate all that there was: the soldier's grub.

The food of "command!" is "attention!"

The Order of the Months

The first commandment given the Jews was to count the months from Nissan. What does this mean? Everyone knows that the Jewish year begins at Rosh Hashanah -- at the month of Tishre -- in the fall! Ramban points out that it is silly to say that the days begin with Tishre, but the months begin with Nissan. Obviously, the days and the months will be counted from the beginning of the year.

There is no question that the year begins in Tishre. It is simply that we should calculate the numbers of the months from Pesach time, in order to constantly remember the Exodus from Egypt. Chasom Sofer suggests calling the secular months by name: January, February, etc. rather than by number (such as 2/12/67). After all, the Torah says that Nissan should be the first, not January!

Sod Ha'ibbur -- The Secret Calculation

Earlier this year, we quoted Rebbenu Bachaye. Amazingly, he had proven that the calculations for the new moon were the deciding factor, even when the moon was to be spotted by witnesses.

The highly regarded authority, Rashba, also explains in accordance with Rebbenu Bachaye. "Even in the days when the moon was spotted, they were very precise to make sure the announcement coincided with the astronomical calculation." (Responsa referred to by Chidah in Ein Zocheir, see Chodesh B'chodsho 40).


Recently, we were perplexed. The month of Nissan always has one day of Rosh Chodesh (new moon), thirty days after Rosh Chodesh Adar. The above authorities insist that the current calendar was always the basis of the court's announcements. If so, there would never be any doubt as to the occurrence of Pesach -- it would fall precisely 45 days after Rosh Chodesh Adar. Why are there two days of Pesach in the diaspora?

We found the issue in the name of the Avnei Nezer, responsa 311 (mentioned in Chodesh B'chodsho 41-42). Although it would be improper initially, it was nonetheless possible for the court to delay the onset of Nissan one day. Thus, the people of the diaspora were not certain which day Pesach would begin until messengers would arrive from Jerusalem, announcing the court's decision. Those who had not yet heard, would have to keep two days of the holiday.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
PC Kollel
1 Babbin Court
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: 914-425-3565
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Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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