בס”ד

לשכנו תדרשו

Requesting the Shechina in Our Holy Land

“החודש הזה לכם ראש חודשים…”

והיה כי יביאך ה’ אל ארץ הכנעני… אשר נשבע לאבתיך לתת לך ארץ זבת חלב ודבש ועבדת את העבודה הזאת בחודש הזה”

Why do Jews of the Diaspora observe two days of Yom Tov? Many know that during the time of the Sanhedrin messengers were sent to tell Jews of the Diaspora when the Sanhedrin established the new month, and it took a while for these messengers to reach the Diaspora, thus causing a period of doubt as to which of two days is Yom Tov. Out of doubt Jews of the Diaspora observed two days, and the power of this practice, even though its cause is obsolete, is binding till this very day. However, few know that role of the Land of Israel is totally crucial for the whole establishment of our calendar. To preface, it is important to note that Rambam rules in hilchos Kidush Hahodesh 5, 1: “This month shall be for you the first of months” (our opening quote from this week’s parsha) The Oral Tradition as passed down, teacher to student, from Moses our teacher [throughout the generations, explains tha] wh t] the verse is interpreted as follows:2 This testimony is entrusted to you and those [sageso arise after you and who function in your (Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon’s) position“. The ramifications of this matter are indicated by the Rambam earlier in this halacha: “All the statements made previously regarding the [prerogative to] sanctify Rosh Chodesh because of the sighting of the moon, and [to] establish a leap year to reconcile the calendar or because of a necessity, apply to the in Eretz Yisrael. [For it is they] alone, or a court of judges possessing semichah (special ordination passed down from sage till sage till Moshe Rabeinu – not the so-called “smicha” of today) that holds sessions in Eretz Yisrael and that was granted authority by the Sanhedrin, [who may authorize these decisions].” That is, by the word “lachem” – you – in the forementioned verse it is learned that only sages of special rank and importance, i.e. The Sanhedrin in The Land, may establish the calendar. The importance of The Land in regard to this matter is learned (in Brachot 63a) from the verse: “For from Zion will Torah be delivered and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2, 3) (inference is also cited by Rambam in ibid ch. 1, 8). The obvious question is: how do we have a calendar when is not operating today? Rambam explains this matter in his Sefer Hamitzvos 153: This that we outside Eretz Yisroel use our system to make calculations and we declare that “this day is the first of the month,” and “this day is a holiday,” does not in any way mean that we are making this day based on our calculations. Rather, it is because the Bais Din in Eretz Yisroel has already established that the day is a holiday or Rosh Chodesh. The day becomes a holiday or Rosh Chodesh upon their declaration, “Today is Rosh Chodesh, or “Today is a holiday”; regardless of whether they based their actions on calculations or testimony.” That is, when the sages saw that the Sanhedrin began to deteriorate, the Sanhedrin in The Land pre-enacted our calendar to operate even without witnesses seeing the new moon and without a present Sanhedrin (this is explained by the Rashba and others, and of course, this is not the ideal pratice of this mitva).  In Sefer Hamitzvos (ibid) takes this concept even further, pinning the present calendar on present dwelling in the Land: “let us assume, for example, that there would be no Jewish inhabitants in Eretz Yisroel , G‑d forbid such a thing, since He has already promised that he will never completely wipe out or uproot the Jewish nation; that there would be no Bais Din there, nor a Bais Din outside Eretz Yisroel which had been ordained in Eretz Yisroel. In such a case, our calculations would be totally futile, since we, who dwell outside Eretz Yisroel, may not make the calculations, nor declare leap years nor establish the months without the conditions mentioned above, since, “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L‑rd from Jerusalem.”

As we have shown before, “the Shechina only rests in the Land of Israel” (Zohar Vayehi). As our opening quote tells us, this is the Land promised to our ancestors in the past, the Holy Ones of Hebron, and this is The Land of the future, the goal of the Exodus, the ultimate goal in the Pesach service (“avodah hazot”), the goal of our Torah (see Sifri Ekev on commandment of tfilin as reminder in Exile of the  primary observance of mitzvos in The Land).

 

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