Torah Tidbits

1 September 2014 / 6 Elul 5774
Issue 1029
Shabbat Parshat Bo
January 17, 2013

Lead Tidbit

And He means LACHEM!

Ed. note: Before writing a Lead Tidbit, I check previous LTs for the same sedra to avoid repeating themes. And sometimes, I purposely repeat an idea if I can add a new twist or a CHIDUSH. The mitzva of the Jewish Calendar has been the topic for Parshat Bo - almost (but not quite) always. Don’t groan or roll your eyes, but here is another one - with a new angle or two. - PhCh

For this Lead Tidbit to do its job, we need your brain, imagination, and feelings all on alert. Imagine that we have a sitting and active Sanhedrin now. (May this imagining come to reality soon in our time and forever after.)
Now picture the following. It is Friday night, Friday having been the 29th of the Jewish month. (This was so just a week ago.) Now picture a fellow (could be you or someone close) who lives in a small hilltop yishuv in the upper Galil. (You can imagine your own location, but a hilltop helps make this musing more real.) He’s in shul, just beginning Kabbalat Shabbat, but it’s a bit stuffy, so he pops out for a bit of fresh air. The air outside is crisp and clear. The sun has recently set and the view to the west is as colorful as it is beautiful. He then notice at about the height of a fist at arm’s length above the horizon, a very thin, small curved line of light in the darkening sky. Hey, he exclaims, I might be looking at the L’VANA B’CHIDUSHA, the first visibility of the lunar crescent. But he’s not sure. It’s the right night for it, and the position in the sky could be correct - but he’s no expert. It’s a maybe. He goes back into shul, finishes davening and by the time everyone is walking out of shul, what he saw - what he thinks it might have been - is no longer there. He’s learned the Mishna and halacha of Kiddush HaChodesh a while back, and decides that it he should the Rav what to do.
The Rav tells him to get into your car and drive to Jerusalem to offer testimony before the committee of Sanhedrin members in charge of Kiddush HaChodesh. But it’s Shabbat, he says. The Rav says a polite version of Duh and tells him that he may travel on Shabbat to testify. He then realize that his car is in for repairs and won’t be fixed until Sunday or Monday. The Rav offers to drive him to Yerushalayim. The surprises him even more, since the Rav didn’t see the moon, and our fellow, at least, might have seen it.
His wife and the Rav’s have each packed some food for the trip, and off they both go to the Sanhedrin headquarters in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, in Yerushalayim, the committee sits in session, having already calculated that the moon would be visible, what size and shape the crescent would have, what position in the sky it would appear. They are duty-bound to know the necessary math and astronomy to determine all of the above, to be able to intelligently question the potential witnesses.
In other words, this fellow driving in on Leil Shabbat, is not really sure if he saw the L’vana b’Chidusha or not. But the judges of the Sanhedrin know every detail for sure, and are waiting for possible witnesses to show up so they can determine with their questions, if at least two kosher witnesses have actually seen the moon on the night following the 29th of the month.
Unlike all other kind of testimony, in which the witnesses supply facts to the court that the judges wouldn’t know without the testimony - with Kiddush HaChodesh, the judges know without witnesses, but need the eyewitness testimony to allow the NASI to declare the day holy, i.e. Rosh Chodesh.
More. The Committee has the authority to declare a day as Rosh Chodesh even if no witnesses come - if they determine that without such a declaration, the calendar would get out of whack if they let the particular month go to 30 days.
So this fellow and his Rav are driving a car for a couple of hours on Leil Shabbat for one of them (to combine with at least one other witness) to state before the court that he MIGHT have seem the first visibility of the lunar crescent. He’s not sure - the court is sure. The court can act - in a pinch - without the witnesses. So what is so important about this whole business that G-d allows His Shabbat to be pushed aside for such a procedure?
The answer comes from the ques- tion. Obviously, this is how much G-d wants the calendar to be OURS. This is how much He wants our active participation in the setting up of the Calendar and its Holy days. The partnership with us is so precious to G-d, that He pushes His Shabbat aside so that we can do our part. Two things follow: One, we should have sincere longing for the Sanhedrin and all it will involve. Two, until its back, we should feel its absence, even with a smooth- working fixed calendar to use until the new Sanhedrin. HASHIVEINU…

In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

Candle Lighting and Havdala

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