Parshas Emor - אלה מקראי קודש אשר תקראו אותם במועדם


The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (23:4)

אֵלֶּה מוֹעֲדֵי ה' מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם בְּמוֹעֲדָם

These are the appointed times of Hashem, the holy convocations, which you should declare in their appointed time.

The mishna says in Rosh Hashanah (2:9)

שָׁלַח לוֹ רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל:  גּוֹזֵר אֲנִי עָלֶיךָ, שֶׁתָּבֹא אֶצְלִי בְמַקְלָךְ וּבְמָעוֹתָךְ, בְּיוֹם שֶׁחָל יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים לִהְיוֹת בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹנָךְ.

הָלַךְ וּמְצָאוֹ רְבִּי עֲקִיבָא מֵצֵר. אָמַר לוֹ: יֶשׁ לִי לִלְמוֹד, שֶׁכָּל מַה שֶּׁעָשָׂה רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, עָשׁוּי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: (וַיִּקְרָא כ"ג, ד') אֵלֶּה מוֹעֲדֵי ה' מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ, אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם; בֵּין בִּזְמַנָּן, בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא בִזְמַנָּן, אֵין לִי מוֹעֲדוֹת אֶלָּא אֵלּוּ.

[There was a machlokess between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabban Gamliel when rosh chodesh was for the month of Tishrei.] Rabban Gamliel sent a message to Rabbi Yehoshua, “I decree on you that you must come to me on the day which is Yom Kippur according to your calculation, with your stick and with your wallet.”

Rabbi Akiva went and he found that Rabbi Yehoshua was upset (that he would have to transgress Yom Kippur according to his own reasoning). Rabbi Akiva said, “I can deduce that whatever Rabban Gamliel did takes effect, as the passuk says ‘אלה מועדי ה' אשר תקראו אותם, these are the appointed times of Hashem which you will call them.’ Whether you call them in their time or not in their time, there are no other יומים טובים besides these.”

According to this mishna, it would appear that there is a special halacha which we derive from the passuk of אלה מועדי ה' that Hashem will always agree that the day on which בית דין announce it is rosh chodesh, is actually rosh chodesh so that Yom Tov will fall on the days of the month according to the declaration of בית דין.

However, the Ramban (ספר המצות, שורש א') says

והעובר על דברי בית דין הגדול שבדורו וסומך על דעתו, עובר על עשה ועל לא תעשה הללו... כי התורה נתנה לנו על ידי משה רבינו בכתב, וגלוי הוא שלא ישתוו הדעות בכל הדברים הנולדים, וחתך לנו יתעלה הדין שנשמע לבית הדין הגדול בכל מה שיאמרו... כי על המשמעות שלהם הוא מצוה ונותן לנו התורה.

וזהו מה שאמרו: אפילו אומרים על שמאל שהוא ימין ועל ימין שהוא שמאל, שכך הוא המצוה לנו מאדון התורה יתעלה, שלא יאמר בעל המחלוקת: האיך אתיר לעצמי זה? ואנכי היודע בוודאי שהם טועים. והנה נאמר לו: בכך אתה מצווה, וכענין שנהג ר' יהושע עם רבן גמליאל ביום הכפורים שחל להיות בחשבונו, כמו שהוזכר במסכת ראש השנה.

If someone transgresses the words of the בית דין הגדול and relies on his own opinion, then he transgresses an עשה and a לא תעשה and he becomes a זקן ממרא.

This is because the Torah was given as a written document to the בני ישראל, and it is clear that not everyone will agree about the halacha for matters which come up over the course of time, therefore Hashem decreed that we should listen to the בית דין הגדול in everything they say. Hashem’s initial intention in giving us the Torah was that we should adhere to the Torah according to the interpretation of the בית דין הגדול, in other words, the Torah that we are commanded to keep is the Torah as interpreted by the בית דין בגדול.

And this is what they meant when they said, “Even if they say to you that right is left and left is right you should still listen  to them,” because this is what Hashem has commanded us to do.

This is in order that someone who disagrees with the בית דין should not say, “How can I permit this thing to myself, but I know that they are wrong?”  Behold it will be stated to him, “In this you are commanded.” As we find that Rabbi Yehoshua went to Rabban Gamliel with his stick and his wallet on the day that was Yom Kippur according to his calculation, as is mentioned in Rosh Hashanah.

It would appear from the Ramban, that the reason that Rabbi Yehoshua had to submit to the opinion of Rabban Gamliel was because of the general halacha of זקן ממרא, which says that the halacha in all matters follows the interpretation of the בית דין הגדול.

If so, according to the Ramban, it is difficult to understand why the mishna quotes the passuk of אלה מועדי ה' to explain why Rabbi Yehoshua submitted to Rabban Gamliel’s ruling. Since the reason that Rabbi Yehoshua submitted to the ruling of Rabban Gamliel was because of the general principle that we always follow the opinion of the בית דין הגדול, why does the mishna expound a passuk that relates specifically to the halachos of קידוש החודש?

The Pachad Yitzchak offers the following explanation of this contradiction:

The gemara says in Sanhedrin (12a)

אמר רבי יהודה מעשה בחזקיה מלך יהודה שעיבר את השנה מפני הטומאה ובקש רחמים על עצמו דכתיב (דברי הימים ב' ל', י"ח) כי מרבית העם רבת מאפרים ומנשה יששכר וזבולון לא הטהרו (דה"ב ל', י"ח) כי אכלו את הפסח בלא ככתוב... רבי שמעון אומר אם מפני הטומאה עיברוה מעוברת אלא מפני מה ביקש רחמים על עצמו שאין מעברין אלא אדר והוא עיבר ניסן בניסן

Rabbi Yehuda said: There was an incident involving Chizkiyahu the king of Yehudah, who added a month to the year because many people were טמא and he wanted them to be able to bring the korban pesach. And after doing so, he requested mercy for himself, as it is written: “For a multitude of the people, including many from Ephraim and Menasheh, Yisachar and Zevulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the korban pesach not as is written…”


Rabbi Shimon says: If the beis din added a month to the year due to tumah, then the year is indeed extended. But then if tumah is a legitimate reason for adding a month to the year [and this was the reason that Chizkiyahu extended the year], why did Chizkiyahu request mercy for himself? Because the beis din may only add an extra month during Adar, and he added an extra month after beis din had already declared the month of Nissan.

The Yad Remah explains that Chizkiyahu added אדר שני to the calendar on the last day of אדר, and since that day could theoretically have been declared as ראש חודש ניסן, it was as if Chizkiyahu made an extra month once it was already ניסן, and therefore he had to ask forgiveness from Hashem.

The Yad Remah asks (Sanhedrin 12a, ד"ה אמר מר);

...אלא על כרחך האי דאין מעברין לכתחילה קאמרינן ומשום גזרה. וקשיא לי א"כ מאי כי אכלו את הפסח בלא ככתוב. לא תקשי לך דכיון דלכתחילה אין מעברין קא חשיב ליה כאלו אכלו את הפסח בלא ככתוב דהיינו דקאמר תנא והוא עיבר ניסן בניסן דכיון דראוי לקבעו ניסן ואין ראוי לעברו לכתחילה חשיב ליה כאילו עיבר ניסן בניסן

“That which we say that בית דין may not add an extra month when it may already be ניסן is only a דין לכתחילה. But if so, how does the gemara explain the passuk which says כי אכלו את הפסח שלא ככתוב – they ate the korban pesach incorrectly. [If the month in which they celebrated Pesach was indeed ניסן, because the halacha of not making an extra month once it may already be ניסן is only לכתחילה, if so, although Chizkiyahu did an עבירה in making an extra month in the fashion that he did, however when they kept Pesach a month later it was indeed ניסן, so they ate the korban pesach on Pesach and fulfilled the mitzva correctly?]
The answer is, that since Chizkiyahu made an extra month once it could already have been ניסן, therefore it is as if the month which he made into אדר שני was actually ניסן and the בני ישראל kept Pesach in the incorrect month.”

It is evident from the יד רמה that even although the halachos that relate to the calendar always follow the decision of בית דין, nevertheless if בית דין adjusted the calendar in an inappropriate manner, there is a lack of quality in the mitzvos which the בני ישראל will keep according to the בית דין’s decision. Since that which בית דין did קידוש החודש is only מותר בדיעבד, it is as if all of the mitzvos which are kept on Yom Tov during that month are also only כשר בדיעבד.

Using this reasoning, it would have been possible for Rabbi Yehoshua to acquiesce to Rabban Gamliel, in order not to be deemed to be  a זקן ממרא, but still to be of the opinion that Rabban Gamliel’s pesak was בדיעבד, and that the Yom Kippur that Rabbi Yehoshua would keep accordingly, would also be בדיעבד.

Even although the Ramban says that the Torah was given על דעת the interpretation of the בית דין הגדול, and therefore it would appear that there would be no room for Rabbi Yehoshua to think that Rabban Gamliel’s pesak was only valid בדיעבד, it is possible that there is a difference between a מחלוקת in מציאות and a מחלוקת in הלכה. So that where there is a מחלוקת in the correct סברא להלכה, we can apply the reasoning of the Ramban that the Torah was given to be interpreted according to the הכרעת הדעת of the בית דין הגדול. In this case it would not be possible to say that the pesak of the בית דין only applies בדיעבד.

However where there is a מחלוקת in מציאות, as in the מחלוקת between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabban Gamliel, it is possible that although the pesak halacha follows the decision of the בית דין הגדול, this would not annul entirely the opinion of the חולק, so that the decision of the בית דין הגדול could be construed to apply בדיעבד from the perspective of the person who disagrees with the בית דין.

Subsequently it would have been valid for Rabbi Yehoshua to be of the opinion that Rabban Gamliel’s pesak was only applicable בדיעבד, and that the Yom Kippur that came out according to Rabban Gamliel’s calculation would also be a Yom Kippur בדיעבד. Therefore an additional סברא of אין לי מועדים אלא אלו was needed to confirm that since Rabban Gamliel was justified in following his own opinion of when ראש חודש was, then the קביעות החודש would be performed לכתחילה even from Rabbi Yehoshua’s perspective, and he need not worry that the Yom Kippur he would keep would only be a Yom Kippur בדיעבד.

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