Kiddush Levanah

Question #1: Cloud cover

“Can I be mekadeish the levanah when there is just a slight cloud cover?”

Question #2: Northern lights

“I live very far north, and in the summer months, there is only a short period of time from when it gets dark until it begins becoming light, and that period of time is in the middle of the night. Am I permitted to be mekadeish the levanah either before it gets fully dark or during the post-dawn, pre-sunrise morning hours?”

Question #3: Where’s the Rif?

“My chavrusa and I were studying Mesechta Sanhedrin and found the fascinating topic of kiddush levanah there. When we went to look at the Rif and Rosh on the topic, we easily discovered the comments of the Rosh, but could not find the Rif? Did he not write on this topic? Why not?”

Introduction

The Gemara introduces us to a mitzvah, created by Chazal, which we usually call kiddush levanah, which literally translates as sanctifying the moon. Although today Ashkenazim always refer to the mitzvah by this name, this term is of relatively late origin and is confusing for several reasons. First of all, we are not sanctifying the moon. Rather, this is a mitzvah to praise Hashem for the moon’s regular cycle. As we will soon see, there are other hashkafos related to this mitzvah, but these relate to the relationship of the Jewish people and our royal family, the malchus beis Dovid, to Hashem.

Another difficulty is that the expression kiddush levanah creates confusion with a different mitzvah, kiddush hachodesh, which translates into English as sanctifying the month. Kiddush hachodesh is a mitzvah min haTorah that Hashem gave in parshas Bo and requires the Sanhedrin, or its specially appointed committee, to calculate when the new moon will be visible, to receive witnesses who may have seen the first crescent of the newly visible moon, and to declare Rosh Chodesh. Unfortunately, since we no longer have a Sanhedrin, our calendar is set up differently. Hillel Hanasi (a distant descendant of his more famous ancestor Hillel Hazakein) created the calendar that we currently use, because the Sanhedrin could no longer function in Eretz Yisroel, a halachic requirement for fulfilling this mitzvah. But the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh is not the mitzvah of kiddush levanah.

Therefore, it is somewhat unusual that we refer to the mitzvah by this name, kiddush levanah. The earliest use of the term kiddush levanah that I found was by the Mahar”i Bruno, a talmid of the Terumas Hadeshen, a prominent Ashkenazi posek in the fifteenth century.

Notwithstanding that the term kiddush levanah does not surface in the Gemara or the early authorities, the mitzvah most certainly does. It is called birkas halevanah by Rav Amram Gaon, the rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch, which is what the Sefardim call the mitzvah and is also the way the mitzvah is identified in the siddur of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch. In this article, I will use both terms, kiddush levanah and birkas halevanah.

Background

The background to the mitzvah of kiddush levanah, or birkas levanah, begins with the following passage of Gemara: One who blesses the moon in its correct time is as if he received the Shechinah… In Rabbi Yishmael’s beis midrash, they taught that, if the only merit the Jews have is that they received Hashem every month when they recited the birkas halevanah, this would be sufficient. (The Gemara does not explain — enough merit for what?) Abayei explained that, because birkas halevanah is such an important mitzvah, it should be recited standing. Mareimar and Mar Zutra used to lean on one another when they recited it (Sanhedrin 42a).

The reason why Abayei required people to stand when being mekadeish the levanah is because this is considered equivalent to receiving a monarch, which you would certainly do standing (Yad Ramah ad locum). Clearly, we are not sanctifying the moon; we are praising Hashem and using the moon’s cycles as our means of doing so (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 426:9). There is much more to this idea, and we will shortly explain some of its basics.

Leaning on one another?

What does the Gemara mean that these two great amora’im, Mareimar and Mar Zutra, used to lean on one another when they recited the birkas halevanah? I found two explanations to this practice. According to the first, it was very difficult for either of them to stand, but they felt it important as a demonstration of proper respect for this brocha. They leaned on one another to be able to stand up.

There is an important halachic principle implicit here. In general, halacha considers leaning on something to be akin to sitting, not to standing. Yet, for fulfilling the mitzvah of kiddush levanah, these two great scholars, Mareimar and Mar Zutra, treated leaning as standing, since it was difficult for them to stand (Bi’ur Halacha, 426:2 s.v. Umevoreich).

A practical, but not overwhelming, difficulty with this approach is that it is uncommon for two people who have difficulty standing to be able to help one another remain standing. Usually, they would have people who are sturdy provide them assistance.

An answer to the above question is found in the Yad Ramah, who explains that these two amora’im each had a servant prop them up to recite the birkas halevanah.

An alternative approach is that of the Tur, who understands that the two amora’im were both steady, but that the Aramaic expression used, mekasfei ahadadi, describes a very respectful way of presenting yourself in the honor of a special guest – in this instance, the Shechinah.

Receiving the Shechinah

What does the Gemara mean when it says that reciting this monthly brocha on the new moon is the equivalent of receiving the Shechinah? Did we suddenly become moon worshippers, G-d forbid?!

Use the phase to praise!

The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav 426:4) explains this to mean that the monthly phases of the moon teach us many things for which to praise Hashem, including that He decreased the size of the moon when it complained (see Rashi, Bereishis 1:16). The moon’s phases are also reminiscent of the royal family of David Hamelech, whose prominence has gone through many periods of waxing and waning. As the Pri Megadim concludes: “The entire brocha is praise to Hashem and it is always inappropriate to bless anything other than Hashem. We use the moon as a means for structuring a prayer to Hashem, for His greatness.”

Aleinu

Based on this explanation of the Pri Megadim, the Bi’ur Halacha explains the custom, common predominantly among those whose minhagim originate in Eastern Europe, of reciting Aleinu at the end of the kiddush levanah ceremony. The Bi’ur Halacha explains that to prevent anyone from thinking that this blessing is directed toward the moon, we clearly close the procedure with the prayer of Aleinu, which emphasizes that all our praises are only to Hashem.

What is the brocha?

The Gemara records a dispute as to what brocha one recites on the new moon. According to one opinion, the brocha is very simple: Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam Mechadeish Chadoshim, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who renews the months.”

The Gemara concludes that this is not a sufficient text of the brocha, but that the correct text is much longer. There are several versions with slightly variant readings, but these slight variations have major differences in nuance. Our standard accepted version translates as follows: Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who with His Word created the Heavens and, with the breath of His mouth, all the Hosts. He established rules and a time that they not change their roles. They rejoice and are happy to fulfill the Will of their Owner.

At this point, there are two variant texts, one which says in Hebrew, po’alei emes she’pe’ulasam emes, which translates as They are actors in the truth whose actions are true. This version means that these words refer to the moon and the other heavenly bodies, whose movements are highly predictable. The Pri Megadim prefers the following version, which is the most accepted text of this brocha: po’eil emes she’pe’uloso emes. I found two approaches how to translate these words. According to the Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 426:9), this text also refers to the moon, and means the moon’s path follows the dictates of Hashem and demonstrates to us Hashem’s greatness. Another approach is that it refers to Hashem and is a continuation of the previous sentence, meaning, They are happy to fulfill the Will of their Owner, the Worker of truth, Whose work is true (Hirsch Siddur).

Continuing the rest of the text of the brocha: And to the moon, He said that it should renew itself, a crown of glory to those (the Jewish people) who are burdened from birth, who, in the future, will renew themselves like the moon does, and to glorify their Creator in the Name of the glory of His kingdom. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who renews the months.

There are several versions of the closing text. For example, the Mesechta Sofrim (20:1) closes Boruch Attah Hashem, Mekadeish Roshei Chadoshim, He Who Sanctifies the new months.

What else do we say?

Practice has developed that we add many prayers to the procedure, including quoting many pesukim; in the Sefardic version, there are piyutim included. Many of these pesukim and short prayers are already mentioned by Chazal. For example, Mesechta Sofrim cites several of the passages that are customarily recited after the brocha. This passage of Mesechta Sofrim is quoted by rishonim and poskim, such as the Tur (Orach Chayim 426), Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 12), and the Rema (Orach Chayim 426).

Motza’ei Shabbos

Mesechta Sofrim (20:1) adds that one should recite birkas levanah when in a festive mood and while wearing nice clothes. According to the text of Mesechta Sofrim that we have, it also recommends that kiddush levanah be recited on motza’ei Shabbos. However, it is apparent from several rishonim that their editions of Mesechta Sofrim did not include mention of this practice. Nevertheless, most, but not all, poskim reached the same conclusion: it is preferable to recite kiddush levanah on motza’ei Shabbos (Terumas Hadeshen #35). It is well known that the Vilna Gaon disagreed, contending that it is better to perform the mitzvah at the first opportunity (Maaseh Rav #159). Most communities follow the practice of the Terumas Hadeshen.

Three or seven?

The Rema rules that one should not be mekadeish the levanah until 72 hours have passed since the molad, the exact moment calculated for the new moon. Sefardim and some Chassidim follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 426:2), who contends that one should wait until seven days after the molad to recite the birkas halevanah. This is one of the unusual places where the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling is based on kabbalistic sources (see Beis Yosef ad locum). The Shulchan Aruch rules, also, in accordance with the opinion of the Terumas Hadeshen that one should wait until motza’ei Shabbos to recite birkas halevanah. The Rema stipulates that this is true only when motza’ei Shabbos is before the tenth of the month. If one needs to be mekadeish the levanah on weekdays, first change into Shabbos clothes.

The light of the moon

The Zohar (parshas Ki Sissa) adds another insight and halachic requirement to the mitzvah: we should be able to benefit from the moonlight. Based on this Zohar, the Rema (Orach Chayim 426:1) rules that the mitzvah of kiddush levanah can be performed only at night, when you can benefit from the moon.

The early poskim discuss whether you can be mekadeish the levanah when there is a mild cloud cover. They conclude that when the outline of the moon can be seen clearly and some of its light shines through, you can be mekadeish the levanah.

There is a dispute concerning whether you can recite kiddush levanah when the moon is visible, but you estimate that, in the course of your reciting the brocha, it will slide behind a cloud cover. Some authorities rule that you can recite kiddush levanah under these circumstances, just as you can recite the brocha on seeing lightning or hearing thunder, and there is no concern that you will not hear or see them after you recite the brocha (Rav Chayim Sanzer’s notes to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 426). However, the consensus of opinion is that the rules for kiddush levanah are different from the rules for the other brochos mentioned. Proof of this is the halacha that you are not to recite kiddush levanah just for seeing the moon, but only when you can receive some benefit from its light (see Mishnah Berurah 426:3 and Bi’ur Halacha 426:1 s. v. Asher). There is no requirement that you benefit from thunder or lightning before reciting the brocha.

Before sunrise?

At this point, let us examine one of our opening questions: I live very far north, and in the summer months there is only a short period of time from when it gets dark until it begins becoming light, and that period of time is in the middle of the night. Am I permitted to be mekadeish the levanah either before it gets fully dark or during the post-dawn, pre-sunrise morning hours?

In other words, is it permitted to recite birkas halevanah when the moon is clearly visible, even when it is halachically considered daytime? Halachically, the day begins at alos hashachar (Brachos 2b), when there is some light across the entire eastern horizon. How long this is before sunrise depends primarily on the latitude you are at and the time of the year, although humidity, elevation, amount of light pollution and other details also factor. In Yerushalayim, it usually varies from between 72 to 96 minutes before sunrise.

Whether you can recite kiddush levanah when it is halachically daytime is debated by late authorities (see Hisorarus Teshuvah 1:199, authored by Rav Shimon Sofer, Erlau Rebbe; Shu”t Yaskil Avdi 8:20:53, by Rav Ovadiah Hadayah, a Sefardic mekubal and posek who lived in Yerushalayim; Chut Shani, Yom Tov, Shu”t #12 by Rav Nissim Karelitz). Those who need a definitive answer to this question should discuss it with their rav or posek.

Where’s the Rif?

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions:

“My chavrusa and I were studying Mesechta Sanhedrin and found the fascinating topic of kiddush levanah there. When we went to look at the Rif and Rosh on the topic, we easily discovered the comments of the Rosh, but could not find the Rif? Did he not write on this topic? Why not?”

Of the three major halachic authorities upon which Rav Yosef Karo, author of Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch, heavily relied, the Rif, the Rambam, and the Rosh, the works of the Rif and the Rosh are organized following the layout of the Gemara. As a rule of thumb, they discuss the halachic topic in the same place that the Gemara discusses it, but eliminate all but the final halachic conclusion. Nevertheless, there are a few places where their discussion is not in the same place that the Gemara discusses the topic, but placed elsewhere, where it fits more smoothly.

In general, the Rosh follows the system set up by the Rif, who preceded him by several hundred years. However, there are a few exceptions, one of which is the mitzvah of kiddush levanah. Although the Gemara discusses the topic in Mesechta Sanhedrin, the Rif chose not to discuss this within his comments to that mesechta, but, instead, to quote it among his comments on Mesechta Brachos. The Rosh chose not to follow the Rif in this instance, but to place his comments in Mesechta Sanhedrin, where the Gemara’s discussion is located. Thus, this question really should be why the Rosh chose not to follow the Rif in this instance. Since the Rosh never explains why he organizes his material as he does, it will be completely conjecture on our part to suggest an answer.

Conclusion

We understand well why our calendar involves use of the solar year – after all, our seasons, and the appropriate times for our holidays, are based on the sun. But why did the Torah insist that our months follow the moon? It seems that we could live just fine without months that are dependent on the moon’s rotation around the earth! The accepted calendar for all world commerce is the western calendar, which is completely solar, and all farmers use this calendar almost exclusively.

In parshas Bereishis, the Torah states that the moon will serve as an os, a “sign.” In what way is the moon an os? Rabbeinu Bachya (Bereishis 1:18) explains that this refers to birkas halevanah, when we have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah. As far as I understand, he means that the waxing and waning of the moon is symbolic of our own relationship with Hashem– which is sometimes better and, sometimes, less so. However, we know that we can always improve that relationship, just as the moon renews itself after waning and nearly disappearing.




What If I Goofed and Said Tikanta Shabbos by Mistake?‎

Since this coming Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, this question may become very germane.

What If I Goofed and Said Tikanta Shabbos by Mistake?

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question: In the middle of davening Musaf on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, I realized that I was reciting the Musaf for a regular Shabbos rather than the special Musaf for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. What should I have done?

Answer:

This Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, requiring the recital of a special text for the middle bracha of Musaf. This special Musaf includes elements of the usual Shabbos Musaf, the usual Rosh Chodesh Musaf, and a special introductory passage. This passage, beginning with the words Atah Yatzarta, actually bears closer resemblance to the introductory part of the Yom Tov Musaf than it does to Musaf of either Shabbos or Rosh Chodesh. The rest of the middle bracha of Musaf combines elements of both Shabbos Musaf and Rosh Chodesh Musaf.

I once edited an article in which the author quoted several anthologies, each of which ruled that someone who realizes he is saying Tikanta Shabbos on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh should immediately stop where he is, and go to the beginning of Atah Yatzarta, and recite the entire bracha. However, I believe that this ruling is in error. I will explain shortly why I believe that this answer is erroneous.  But first…

I attempted to trace the sources quoted in the article to see if perhaps I was missing some logic or information that I would clarify in the course of my research.

What I did discover was that each source was simply quoting a previous one, and that they all traced to one obscure 19th century work, which did not explain at all the reason for the ruling. Classic group-think.

I will now explain why I believe this ruling is in error, and what one should do. My major concern is that the approach that these works advocate results in repeating many parts of the shemoneh esrei, and that this repetition constitutes a forbidden interruption in the tefillah. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, there is no essential requirement to recite this middle bracha of the shemoneh esrei precisely in order. Obviously, one should maintain the order as is, but there is ample evidence from major halachic authorities that, in general, mistakenly rearranging the order of a bracha is not calamitous (see, for example, Rosh, Taanis 1:1; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:18 and 4:70:14). Thus, when left with the choice of rearranging the order of a bracha to avoid repetition, or repeating parts of the bracha and ignoring what was already said, one should follow the first approach.

Subsequently, I realized that the position I have followed, is indeed that of Rav Moshe Feinstein. However, it appears that, in general, there are other halachic authorities who feel that the text of a brocha should indeed be kept intact even when repetition will result (see, for example, Mateh Efrayim 582:10; Mishnah Berurah 582:16; Biur Halacha 127:2 s.v. Aval).

Notwithstanding the disputing opinion, I still think that the approach I am suggesting is correct, but I recognize that others may disagree with me. Therefore, I am going to present my approach, as confusing as it may appear.

Based on my opinion, it appears that someone who discovers that he/she began reciting Tikanta Shabbos rather than Atah Yatzarta should mention only those parts of the bracha that he/she has as yet not recited, but not repeat any theme or part of the bracha that one has already said. Although fulfilling this may be confusing to someone unfamiliar with the bracha, this should provide us with a valid reason to pay more attention to the details of this bracha and understand its different parts.

In order to explain how one does this correctly, brachos of Atah Yatzarta and Tikanta Shabbos into their constituent parts, so that we can identify which parts we should not repeat. We can divide these brachos into the following seven sections (the sections for a regular Shabbos have been numbered in a way that parallels the list for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh:

 

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Regular Shabbos
1. The introduction – from the words Atah Yatzarta until and including the words shenishtalcha (some recite the text hashelucha) bemikdashecha.

 

1. The introduction – from the words Tikanta Shabbos until and including the word kara’ui.
2. The prayer for our return – beginning with the words Yehi Ratzon – until (and including) the word kehilchasam. 2. The prayer for our return – beginning with the words Yehi Ratzon – until (and including) the word kehilchasam.
3. The sentence that introduces the mention of the pesukim of the Musaf Ve’es Musafei Yom HaShabbos Hazeh veyom Rosh Hachodesh… until (and including) the word ka’amur. 3. The sentence that introduces the mention of the pesukim of the Musaf Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh… until (and including) the word ka’amur.

 

4. Mention of the pesukim of the korban Musaf of Shabbos. 4. Mention of the pesukim of the korban Musaf of Shabbos.
5. Mention of the pasuk of the korban Musaf of Rosh Chodesh and the passage Uminchasam… until (and including) the word kehilchasam.
6. The paragraph Yismechu Vemalchusecha that concludes with the words zeicher lemaasei vereishis. 6. The paragraph Yismechu Vemalchusecha that concludes with the words zeicher lemaasei vereishis.
7. The closing of the brachaElokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu. 7. The closing of the brachaElokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu.

 

We should note that the closings of these middle brachos of Musaf shemoneh esrei are very different. On Shabbos Rosh Chodesh we recite a version that is almost identical to what we recite on a weekday Rosh Chodesh, but we insert three passages to include Shabbos.

Parts 2, 4 and 6 of the two brachos are identical, whether it is Shabbos or Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. Therefore, one should not repeat these sections if one has said them already.

Part 1 on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, Atah Yatzarta, is very different from what we usually recite on a regular Shabbos. Therefore, someone still in the middle of this bracha should recite this passage again.

If someone missed part 5, mention of the pesukim of Rosh Chodesh, and is still in the middle of this bracha, he/she should recite it and introduce it with the section 3 above, which introduces the korbanos of the Musaf. However, if he/she already recited the pesukim of Shabbos korban Musaf (#4) above, he should omit the reference to Shabbos in this piece and only mention Rosh Chodesh. In the latter case, one should change the plural Musafei to a singular Musaf since he/she now is only mentioning the Rosh Chodesh Musaf.

Having explained the rules governing these halachos, I will now present the conclusions in a hopefully clearer way, depending on when you discover your mistake:

  1. If you were still reciting the beginning of Tikanta Shabbos, and had not yet reached Yehi Ratzon:

Return to Atah Yatzarta and recite it in order without any changes.

  1. If you had already begun the Yehi Ratzon, but are before Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Complete the Yehi Ratzon until Ve’es Musaf; then recite Atah Yatzarta until the words Yehi Ratzon, then resume from the words Ve’es Musafei Yom HaShabbos Hazeh Veyom Rosh Hachodesh from the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Musaf and continue through the rest of the tefillah.

  1. If you had just begun Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Add the words Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh, and then continue in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Musaf until Yismechu Vemalchusecha. Immediately prior to saying Yismechu Vemalchusecha insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to Yismechu Vemalchusecha and recite the rest of the tefillah in order.

  1. If you are already in the middle of Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Recite Uveyom Hashabbas… until Veniskah. Then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say the following: Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section and continue in order.

  1. If you are in the middle of Yismechu Vemalchusecha, complete it until Zeicher lemaasei vereishis, and then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say the following: Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section. Then go to Elokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu (after Yismechu Vemalchusecha) and finish the end of the bracha and the davening.
  2. If you are already in the middle of the closing part of the bracha (Elokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu) complete the clause that you are saying, and then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section. Then return to chadeish aleinu beyom hashabbos hazeh es hachodesh hazeh and finish the end of the bracha in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section.

If you completed the entire bracha of Tikanta Shabbos, but mentioned in the middle of the bracha some reference to the korban Musaf of Rosh Chodesh, you have fulfilled the requirements of this prayer and you should continue Retzei (see Mishnah Berurah 423:6). If you completed the bracha of Tikanta Shabbos but did not yet begin Retzeih, you should say “vena’aseh lefanecha korban Rosh Chodesh hazeh” – “and we shall do before You this Rosh Chodesh offering” and then continue with Retzei (ibid.).

Conclusion

Although all this may sound very confusing, if we spend a few seconds familiarizing ourselves with the divisions of this bracha that I have made, we will easily realize why the halachos are as I have outlined, and will be ready to make the necessary adjustments should we find that we have erred. This readiness has of course a tremendous value on its own: It familiarizes us with the shemoneh esrei, something we always should do, but, unfortunately, often do not pay sufficient attention.

Understanding how much concern Chazal placed in the relatively minor aspects of davening should make us even more aware of the fact that davening is our attempt at building a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three high points — the three times that we daven. Certainly, one should do whatever one can to make sure to pay attention to the meaning of the words of one’s Tefillah. We should gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day from these three prayers. Let us hope that Hashem will accept our tefillos together with those of Klal Yisrael!

 




Bensching in the Dark on Rosh Chodesh

In honor of Rosh Chodesh later this week, and Purim in two more weeks, I present:

Bensching in the Dark on Rosh Chodesh

sunsetQuestion #1: Rosh Chodesh arrival

“I began eating dinner before Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Question #2: Rosh Chodesh departure

“I began eating dinner on Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Introduction

When we recite birchas hamazon on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim, we include special prayers to commemorate the holiday: On Shabbos, a passage beginning with the word Retzei; on Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, and Rosh Chodesh, the prayer Yaaleh Veyavo; and on Chanukah and Purim, Al Hanissim. However, it is inappropriate to recite these prayers on an ordinary weekday. What does one do when the date changes between the beginning of the eating of the meal and the bensching? Do we recite the bensching appropriate to the day on which the meal began or appropriate to when the meal ended?

Weekly seudah shelishis

Let us start this discussion with a very common application. Many people eat the last meal of Shabbos, colloquially but not accurately called shalosh seudos, late in the afternoon, finish after dark, and then recite Retzei in bensching. (The correct way to refer to this meal is seudah shelishis or seudah shelishit.) Most of us are unaware that this practice is disputed by early authorities. The Rosh (Shu’t HaRosh 22:6; Pesachim 10:7) asserts that once Shabbos is over, one cannot say Retzei. He compares this to davening a Shabbos prayer after the conclusion of Shabbos, which is certainly inappropriate. Just as the fitting prayer is determined by when one is praying, so, too, the correct text of bensching is determined by when one is reciting it. Similarly, in the Rosh’s opinion, a meal begun on Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah or Purim that continues into the night following the holiday should not include mention of the special day on which the meal began. This position is followed by the Rosh’s son in the Tur (Orach Chayim 695). According to this approach, the common practice of completing the Purim seudah after the day is over and including Al Hanissim in the bensching is incorrect.

A disputing opinion is quoted in the name of the Maharam (see Hagahos Maimaniyos, Megillah 2:14:1), which states that a meal begun on a holiday maintains its special mention, even when one bensches after the day is over. Thus, when one bensches on seudah shelishis after it is dark, one still recites Retzei. Similarly, if one’s Purim seudah extends into the night, one still recites Al Hanissim in the bensching. These laws apply, as well, on Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 188:10). The practice, already cited in earlier authorities, of completing the Purim seudah after the day is over and then reciting Al Hanissim is based on this position of the Maharam (Rema, Orach Chayim 695:3).

What is the Maharam’s rationale? According to one approach, his position is based on the concept that one can extend the sanctity of Shabbos, even after the day is technically over (Dagul Mei’revavah, end of Orach Chayim 188).

Of course, the question is how this affects Purim. The Maharam is quoted as ruling that one who began his meal on Purim, and completed it after the holiday is over, should still recite Al Hanissim in bensching. However, there is no Talmudic source to say that Purim has a concept of tosefes kedusha. According to the Dagul Mei’revavah’s approach to understanding the Maharam, one must assume that there is tosefes kedusha on Purim, Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh to the extent that one then recites the appropriate addition to the bensching.

Ending Shabbos before bensching

As we just explained, the Maharam rules that one recites Retzei on motza’ei Shabbos for a meal that began on Shabbos. However, if someone recited havdalah and has not yet bensched for seudah shelishis, he must omit Retzei, since recital of havdalah ends Shabbos. The same is true not only regarding havdalah, which clearly ends Shabbos, but even when one does anything implying that Shabbos is over – such as davening maariv or even simply answering Borchu, since these activities occur only after the conclusion of Shabbos (Shu’t Maharil #56). The Magen Avraham (188:17) notes that someone who davened maariv before Shabbos is over (which is halachically permitted under extenuating circumstances) does not say Retzei when he subsequently bensches, even though he is still required to observe Shabbos (since it is before nightfall). This ruling is followed by the Mishnah Berurah (188:32) and other authorities. The Magen Avraham (263:33) and other authorities are uncertain whether one who said hamavdil bein kodesh lechol after Shabbos is over, but has as yet not bensched after seudah shelishis, may still say retzei.

Halachic deciders

How do the halachic authorities decide regarding the dispute between the Maharam and the Rosh?

The Rema consistently follows the position of the Maharam (Orach Chayim 271:6; 695:3). However, it is a bit unclear how the Shulchan Aruch rules. He discusses these laws in three different places in Orach Chayim. In the laws of bensching (188:10), he concludes according to the Maharam that the structure of the bensching follows the beginning of the meal, whether it is Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, Purim or Chanukah. When discussing a Purim seudah that continues into the night, the Shulchan Aruch (695:3) cites as the main opinion the position of the Maharam that one recites Al Hanissim in bensching, yet he quotes the Rosh as an alternative opinion that one omits Al Hanissim once Purim is over. However, regarding someone who concludes a meal on Friday afternoon immediately before Shabbos and who will be bensching on Shabbos, the Shulchan Aruch requires the person to include Retzei (271:6), even if he did not eat anything on Shabbos.

The Bach (188 and 695) views the Shulchan Aruch as being inconsistent, arguing that this last decision contradicts the position of the Maharam, which the Shulchan Aruch himself follows in 188 and 695. The Bach understands, as do other authorities (e.g., the Aruch Hashulchan 188:23), that, according, to the Maharam, the essential factor is when the meal began, whereas, according to the Rosh, the determining factor is what day it is at the moment of bensching. According to the Bach’s understanding of the Maharam, someone who began a meal before Shabbos and continued it into Shabbos should omit Retzei, which contradicts the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch. The Bach’s approach is consistent with the ruling of the Rema.

There are other approaches how to resolve the conflicting rulings of the Shulchan Aruch. The Magen Avraham (271:14) explains that when a ruling is contingent on the dispute between the Maharam and the Rosh, one should say Retzei. That is, someone who eats Friday afternoon and is bensching on Shabbos should say Retzei, following the approach of the Rosh, whereas someone who eats on Shabbos and is bensching after Shabbos should recite Retzei, in accordance with the opinion of the Maharam.

However, other authorities contend that the Shulchan Aruch is following the Maharam consistently, but they understand the Maharam’s position differently from the way the Bach did. Whereas the Bach understood the Maharam to be saying that the sole determinant is when the meal began, they understand that either the beginning of the meal or the time of bensching determines whether we recite the special holiday prayer. In their opinion, if one began a meal on a holiday but bensched only after the holiday was over, one recites the appropriate holiday passage (Taz 188:7; Elyah Rabbah 188:20).

Tosefta

A compromise position

Until now, we have cited two early authorities, the Rosh and the Maharam, as the basic positions on this topic. There are later authorities who present a middle ground that clearly disagrees with both the Maharam and the Rosh (Magen Avraham 188:18, quoting Maharash, quoted by the Shelah and the Eimek Beracha; see also Shu’t Rema 132:5). This approach draws a distinction between a Shabbos meal extending after Shabbos and those of Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah extending after the respective holiday. Since there is a concept of tosefes Shabbos, i.e., the mitzvah to extend the day of Shabbos, the extension of the day retains sanctity, and therefore the meal is still considered a Shabbos meal warranting the recital of Retzei. However, since neither Rosh Chodesh nor Chanukah have a concept of tosefes kedusha, and, in addition, they have no requirement to eat special meals, the special prayer associated with them should not be recited once the day has passed.

Rosh Chodesh arrival

At this point, we can discuss our opening question:

“I began eating dinner before Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

We need to ask a few questions: Did he eat on Rosh Chodesh? If he did, then according to Magen Avraham, Taz, Elyah Rabbah and Mishnah Berurah he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo, whereas according to the Aruch Hashulchan, and probably several other authorities, he should not. I would personally rule that he should follow the majority opinion and recite Yaaleh Veyavo in this situation.

If he did not eat on Rosh Chodesh, according to the Rosh and Magen Avraham, he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo. I refer our reader to his own posek for an answer what to do under these circumstances.

Rosh Chodesh departure

As far as our second question is concerned: “I began eating dinner on Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Assuming that he did not yet daven maariv, according to the Magen Avraham, Taz, Elyah Rabbah, Aruch Hashulchan and Mishnah Berurah, he should say Yaaleh Veyavo, whereas according to the Rosh, Tur, Maharash and Shelah he does not. It would seem to me that, in this instance, the halachah should not be affected by whether he ate after it became dark.

Conclusion

When we show how careful we are to honor Hashem with the appropriate wording of our bensching, we demonstrate our concern and our priorities. Whatever conclusion we reach regarding whether we recite these special inserts, we should certainly pay careful attention to the meaning of the words of one’s bensching at all times.

 




The Creation of the “Permanent” Calendar

calendar-1568148-639x424When the Torah commands us to create a calendar, it includes two different responsibilities: First, to have Rosh Chodesh and the length of each month determined on the basis of when the new moon appears, and, second, to have the holiday of Pesach fall in the spring and the holiday of Sukkos in the autumn (in the northern hemisphere). Thus, we have two separate and very different requirements, one of having the months determined by the moon, which is a little more than every 29½ days, and having years that coordinate with the seasons, which follow the solar year, which is a bit less than 365¼ days.

To accomplish that the dates and holidays should fall according to the seasons, the halacha is that some years have 12 months, or approximately 354 days, and others have 13 months, or approximately 384 days. This ensures that the holidays fall in their appropriate seasons. The mitzvah of the Torah is that the head of the Sanhedrin should be in charge, every month, to decide whether a month is 29 days long or 30, and of deciding whether a year should have an extra month. In the latter case, he appointed a special committee, comprised of members of the Sanhedrin, to review the relevant information and determine whether the year should be 13 months (a leap year) or only 12 (a common year).

By the way, after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the main Beis Din was not located in Yerushalayim, but wherever the Nasi of the Jewish people resided, as long as it was in Eretz Yisrael. This included several communities at various times of Jewish history, including Teverya, Yavneh, and Shafraam.[i] Indeed, during this period, if the head of the Beis Din was in the Diaspora and there was no one of his stature remaining in Eretz Yisrael, the special Beis Din met outside the land of Israel.[ii]

Initially, all these decisions were made by the heads of the Sanhedrin, and, indeed, when Moshiach comes, we will again have this system. This was the system in place for thousands of years – from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu until about 250 years after the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash. At that time, the head of the Sanhedrin, Hillel Hanasi (not to be confused with his ancestor, Hillel Hazakein), realized that, because of Roman persecution, the Sanhedrin’s days were numbered and it would be necessary to switch to a different system for determining the calendar. Hillel Hanasi implemented a temporary Jewish calendar, which is the one that we currently use. Although many people refer to it as a “permanent calendar,” it will be in use only until we again have a Sanhedrin, which will then be in charge of the calendar.

Hillel’s calendar kept the same basic structure of 29- and 30-day months and 12- and 13-month years, but it is based purely on calculation and not on observation. The two major changes in this new calendar are:

  • A Leap of Fate

The leap years now occur following a regular pattern of seven leap years and 12 non-leap (usually called “common”) years in a 19 year cycle. The third, sixth, eighth, eleventh, fourteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth years of the cycle are always leap years, and the rest are common years. This year is the nineteenth year of the cycle, and thus is a leap year.

  • The Haves versus the Have-nots

The length of most months is now predetermined. Tishrei, Shvat, Adar Rishon (which exists only in a leap year), Nissan, Sivan and Av always have 30 days; whereas Teiveis, regular Adar (in a common, non-leap year), Adar Sheini (in a leap year), Iyar, Tamuz and Elul are always only 29 days long. The two months of Cheshvan[iii] and Kislev are the only months whose length varies, sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30.[iv] A year in which both Cheshvan and Kislev have only 29 days is called chaseirah, lacking or defective; one in which Cheshvan has 29 days and Kislev has 30 is called kesidrah, as expected or regular; and one in which both Cheshvan and Kislev have 30 days is called sheleimah, full or excessive.

The terms chaseirah, kesidrah, and sheleimah apply in both common and leap years.[v] Thus, in the new calendar, all common years are either 353 days (if both Cheshvan and Kislev have 29 days), 354 days (if Cheshvan has 29 days and Kislev has 30) or 355 days (if both Cheshvan and Kislev have 30 days); all leap years are either 383 days (if both Cheshvan and Kislev have 29 days), 384 days (if Cheshvan has 29 days and Kislev has 30) or 385 days (if both Cheshvan and Kislev have 30 days). Since Adar in a common year always has 29 days, Adar Rishon always has 30 days, and Adar Sheini always has 29 days, like the regular Adar, the addition of an extra month of Adar in a leap year always adds exactly thirty days.

(Because the nineteen-year cycle synchronizes the lunar calendar with the solar year, the Hebrew and English dates of births, anniversaries and other occasions usually coincide on the nineteenth anniversary of the event. If yours does not, but is off by a day or two, do not fret. Your record keeping is accurate, but the cycle of nineteen years only relates to whether it is a leap year, not to whether the years are of the exact same length. The lengths of Cheshvan and Kislev are determined by other factors, and this will affect whether your 19th, 38th or 57th birthday or anniversary exactly coincides with its Hebrew/secular counterpart, or whether it is slightly off.)

The new calendar bases itself on an estimate, an average time that it takes the moon to revolve around the Earth. This molad calculation is that each new moon appears 29 days, 12 hours, and 793 chalakim (singular: chelek) or 793/1080 of an hour after the previous new moon. Once one knows when the new moon, called the molad, occurred on the previous Rosh Hashanah, one could now add either 12 or 13 times the above figure and determine the time of the molad in the next year, which is the most important factor in determining the date of the next Rosh Hashanah. (The term chelek, used on Shabbos Mevorchim when announcing when the molad is, equals 1/1080 of an hour, or 3 and 1/3 seconds.)

There is one other factor: Sometimes Rosh Hashanah takes place not on the day of the molad, but the next day, because the molad occurred on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah and would not be visible in Eretz Yisrael until the next day. When Rosh Hashanah was determined by the observation of witnesses, this information was important not only in determining when Rosh Hashanah falls, but also for interrogating potential witnesses testifying to the appearance of the new moon. However, Hillel’s calendar is no longer dependent on witnesses, Rosh Hashanah is still not established on a day when the molad falls on its afternoon, but is postponed. Based on this information, one can determine which day should be Rosh Hashanah in the coming year.

Another major innovation

Did you ever notice that Yom Kippur never falls on Friday or Sunday? If it did, we would observe two consecutive days that both have the stringency of Shabbos. Indeed, when the calendar was based on observation, this could and did happen.[vi]

However, Hillel Hanasi’s calendar included some innovations that were not part of the earlier calendar. His calendar does not allow Yom Kippur to fall on either a Sunday or a Friday, thus avoiding the difficulty of having two Shabbos-like days fall consecutively. Hillel Hanasi’s calendar also does not allow Hoshana Rabbah to fall on Shabbos, which would cause the cancellation of the Hoshanos ceremony. As long as the calendar was determined on the basis of eyewitness testimony, it was halachically more important to have Rosh Chodesh fall on its correct day than to be concerned about difficulties created when certain holidays fall on or next to Shabbos.[vii] However, once we are fulfilling the mitzvah in a less-preferred way with Hillel’s “permanent” calendar, keeping Yom Kippur from falling on Friday or Sunday, and Hoshana Rabbah from falling on Shabbos, are factors to be included in establishing the calendar.

In order to accommodate these innovations, Rosh Hashanah could fall only on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Shabbos, since if it falls on Sunday, Hoshana Rabbah falls on Shabbos; if Rosh Hashanah falls on Wednesday, Yom Kippur falls on Friday; and if Rosh Hashanah falls on Friday, then Yom Kippur falls on Sunday. This would mean that when Rosh Hashanah in the coming year would naturally fall on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, an extra day is added to the calendar to make sure that Rosh Hashanah falls on Monday, Thursday or Shabbos instead.[viii] This calendar concept of guaranteeing that Rosh Hashanah not fall on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday is called לא אד”ו ראש, lo adu rosh, meaning that the beginning of the year, Rosh Hashanah, does not fall on א, the first day of the week, Sunday; ד, Wednesday; or ו , Friday. It is predominantly for this reason that there was a need to have Cheshvan and Kislev sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30, in order to make the exact length of the years flexible.

Although the innovation of adding one day to the year so that Rosh Hashanah not fall on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday seems relatively simple, it sometimes leads to more complex considerations. In some years, adjusting Rosh Hashanah to avoid Sunday, Wednesday and Friday creates a problem in the year before or the year after. Since Hillel Hanasi’s calendar did not allow a common year to be longer than 355 days and a leap year to be shorter than 383 days, the only way to avoid problems is to plan the calendar an additional year in advance and adjusting the calendar appropriately. In order to accomodate all these various calendar requirements, Hillel Hanasi established four rules, called dechiyos, which, together with the sod ha’ibur calculation and the 19 year leap year rotation, form the basis for determining our calendar.[ix]

To explain how this works, let us choose a sample year in which the molad calculation for Rosh Hashanah fell on Wednesday evening, and Rosh Hashanah therefore falls on Thursday, which is what we would expect. However, the next year’s molad for Rosh Hashanah falls on Tuesday less than two hours before the end of the day. Although the molad falls on Tuesday, it is too late in the day for this molad to be visible in Eretz Yisrael, and therefore, Rosh Hashanah cannot occur before Wednesday. However, since Rosh Hashanah cannot fall on a Wednesday because of the rule of lo adu rosh, it must be pushed off to Thursday, or two days after the molad. For this reason, that year must have an extra day. However, each year is limited how long it may be. In order to accommodate the proper dating of the second year, the year prior would have to have more days than the calendar allows. In order to resolve this, the year before is made longer than necessary. What is happening is that one Rosh Hashanah is postponed to allow that the next Rosh Hashanah should fall out in an acceptable way.

As I mentioned above, although the leap years follow an absolute nineteen-year cycle, whether the year is chaseirah, kesidrah, or sheleimah is determined by the other factors we have noted, and therefore does not follow the nineteen-year pattern. Rather, one first calculates when Rosh Hashanah should fall out based on the sod ha’ibur, checks the rules of the dechiyos to see what adjustments need to be made, and then determines on which day Rosh Hashanah should fall. As a result, whether the year in question needs to be chaseirah, kesidrah, or sheleimah requires calculating not only this year’s schedule, but also the coming year’s calendar requirements.

Based on all these calculations, there are seven prototype years for a common year and seven for a leap year that fulfill the calendar rules. Each of these fourteen prototype “years” is called by a three letter acronym in which the first letter identifies the day of the week of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the second letter denotes whether the year is chaseirah, kesidrah, or sheleimah, and the third letter identifies the day of the week of the first day of Pesach. No letter is used to denote whether the year is common or leap, because this is understood by knowing how many days of the week Pesach follows Rosh Hashanah. In a common year that is kesidrah, Pesach falls two days later in the week than Rosh Hashanah, and in a leap year, it falls four days later, the two additional days being the extra two days that the extra month of Adar Rishon, thirty days long, adds to the day of the week count. Of course, these calculations must be adjusted one day in either direction, if the year is chaseirah or sheleimah. Either way, calculating how many days are between Rosh Hashanah and Pesach tells us whether it is a common or leap year, so there is no need to include this in the acronym.

Thus, this year 5776 is known as בשז because Rosh Hashanah fell on Monday (ב), it is a sheleimah (ש) year in which both Cheshvan and Kislev contain 30 days, and the first day of Pesach falls on Shabbos (ז).

At this point, we have the basic information to figure out how our calendar operates. Although we may not realize it, we actually already have enough information at our fingertips that we could already calculate the calendars for the coming years – indefinitely.

Conclusion

We understand well why our calendar involves use of the solar year – after all, our seasons, and the appropriate times for our holidays, are based on the sun. But why did the Torah insist that our months follow the moon? It seems that we could live fine without months that are dependent on the moon’s rotation around the earth!

One answer to this question is that the waxing and waning of the moon is symbolic of our own our relationship with Hashem – which is sometimes better and sometimes less so. However, we know that we can always improve that relationship, just as the moon after its waning and almost disappearing always renews itself.

 

[i] Rosh Hashanah 31b

[ii] Berachos 63a; Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 1:8

[iii] Although the correct name of the month is Marcheshvan, we will follow the colloquial use of calling it Cheshvan.

[iv] Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 8:5

[v] By the way, because Kislev is sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30, the last day of Chanukah is sometimes on the second day of Teiveis, and sometimes on the third.

[vi] She’iltos of Rav Acha’ei Geon, #67; Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 5:21; Ha’emek She’eilah ad loc., Note 22.

[vii] Ha’emek She’ailah ibid; Gri”z, Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh

[viii] Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 7:1.

[ix] Because these dechiyos are extremely technical, I did not explain all of them.




Ata Yatzarta – An Unusual Beracha

 Question #1: An Unusual Bessing

“Why does Shabbos Rosh Chodesh have a completely different middle beracha rather than simply having a Rosh Chodesh insert in the Shabbos davening or vice versa?”

Question #2: Missing my Chatas

“Why is no korban chatas offered on Shabbos?”

Question #3: Shortchanged Yom Tov

“Why is Rosh Chodesh the only special day mentioned in the Torah that is not a Yom Tov?”

Answer:

When a holiday falls on Shabbos, the tefillah that we recite is usually the regular prayer either of the holiday or of Shabbos, with an addition or additions to include mention of the other special day. For example, when the major Yomim Tovim (Sukkos, Pesach, Shevuos, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) fall on Shabbos, we recite the regular Yom Tov prayer, with added mention of Shabbos in the middle beracha. On the lesser holidays (Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim), for most tefillos we recite the customary Shabbos prayer and add an extra paragraph, either Yaaleh Veyavo or Al Hanissim, at its appropriate place, to reflect the sanctity of the holiday. On Musaf of Shabbos Chol Hamoed, we recite the Musaf of Yom Tov with added mention of Shabbos in the middle beracha.

Ata Yatzarta — A Special Prayer

The one exception to this rule is the Musaf that we recite when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos. On Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, the middle beracha of the Musaf is an entirely new beracha that does not simply combine the elements of the Shabbos Musaf and that of the weekday Rosh Chodesh Musaf. Rather, it includes aspects of the Musaf of Yom Tov, and the prayer includes a unique introduction that appears is in no other prayer. Thus, the sum is greater than its parts – the combination of Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh creates a greater kedusha than either has on its own. Explaining this phenomenon is the thrust of this week’s essay, but first I need to explain certain themes more thoroughly.

Background to Musaf

To understand the tefillah of Ata Yatzarta better, we first need to understand why Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and the Yomim Tovim are embellished with a tefillah called Musaf. Each of our three daily tefillos, Shacharis, Mincha, and Maariv corresponds to a part of the service that was performed daily in the Beis Hamikdash (Berachos 26b). Musaf corresponds to the special korbanos described in parshas Pinchas that were offered in the Beis Hamikdash on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and holidays.

A Review of Rosh Chodesh Musaf

With this background, we can now examine the unique text of the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Musaf. As I mentioned above, the central beracha of this tefillah is unusual in that it contains aspects of four different themes. The beracha begins with a declaration, Ata Yatzarta Olamcha Mikkedem, “You fashioned Your world from the very beginning,” a declaration that certainly reflects the inherent concepts of both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh; yet, this declaration appears in none of the four regular Shabbos tefillos nor in the weekday Rosh Chodesh Musaf. This is highly unusual, particularly when we realize that, on all other occasions when Shabbos coincides with another special day, the wording of the prayers always reflects the exact text of either Shabbos or Yom Tov, and never a new version.

The special Musaf beracha then proceeds: Ahavta osanu veratzisa banu, “You loved us and desired us,” a text that appears in the Musaf of Yom Tov. Again, this is unusual, since this wording never appears either in the usual Shabbos or in the usual Rosh Chodesh prayers. How does a theme unique to Yom Tov find its way into Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, which is not a Yom Tov?

The next sentence, beginning with the words Vehi ratzon, is a text that is common to both the Shabbos and the Yom Tov Musaf prayers, and this passage then introduces the actual korbanos of both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh. From this point onward, the prayer continues along predictable patterns, blending together the Musaf of a common Shabbos and a weekday Rosh Chodesh into one beracha commemorative of both occasions.

Yismechu Bemalchuscha

Included in the Ata Yatzarta prayer is the passage, Yismechu bemalchuscha shomrei Shabbos, “Those who observe the Shabbos shall celebrate Your kingship,” a special prayer that the Jewish people enjoy their celebration of Shabbos as they recognize Hashem’s dominion and beneficence. In Nusach Ashkenaz, this prayer is recited every Shabbos Musaf, even when Shabbos coincides with Yom Tov or Rosh Chodesh. Nusach Sfard includes this passage also in Maariv and Shacharis of Shabbos. (The Avudraham records a custom in some communities not to recite Yismechu bemalchuscha in regular Shabbos Musaf and to recite it only on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. The Avudraham himself disapproves of this practice, and I am unaware of any community that follows this custom today.)

Closing the Beracha

Returning to Ata Yatzarta, we close this beracha with a text that is standard for the central beracha of all Shabbos and Yom Tov prayers. The conclusion of the middle beracha of Musaf always notes the special features of the day we are celebrating.

Why Ata Yatzarta?

At this point, we can address the original question we posed: “Why does Shabbos Rosh Chodesh merit its own special Musaf prayer, rather than simply having a Rosh Chodesh insert in the Shabbos davening, or vice versa?”

To explain why we recite the unique beracha of Ata Yatzarta, we need first to understand that each korban Musaf reflects something special about that day. An obvious example is the offering of bulls that is incorporated in the korbanos Musaf of the seven days of Sukkos. Over the seven days of Sukkos, we offer seventy bulls as part of the Musaf in a particular order, beginning with thirteen on the first day and decreasing by one each day until we offer seven on Hoshanah Rabbah, the last day of Sukkos. These seventy bulls correspond to the seventy nations of the Earth who descended from Noah. Thus, one theme of Sukkos is that our korbanos service is to benefit not only the Jewish People, but for the sake of the world and its entire population.

One unusual goat

The vast majority of korbanos offered as part of the Musaf are korbanos olah, which, Rav Hirsch explains, are to assist in our developing greater alacrity in observing Hashem’s commandments (Commentary to Shemos 27:8). In addition to the many korbanos olah offered as part of the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh and of all Yomim Tovim, there is also always one goat offered as a korban chatas. A chatas is usually translated as a “sin offering” and, indeed, in most instances its purpose is to atone for specific misdeeds. The offering of a korban chatas on every Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh provides specific atonement on that day that we cannot accomplish on an ordinary weekday (see Mishnah, Shevuos 2a; also see Vayikra 17:10 and Rashi ad loc.).

The Shabbos Musaf

However, the Musaf offering for Shabbos contains no korban chatas. As a matter of fact, Shabbos is the only special day mentioned by the Torah on which a korban chatas is not offered. Clearly, the purpose of Shabbos is not to atone, but to commemorate the fact that Hashem created the entire world in the six days of Creation and then stepped back. Thus, observing Shabbos is our acknowledgement of Hashem as Creator of the Universe, but the discussion of sin and its atonement is not part of the role of Shabbos.

Uniqueness of Rosh Chodesh

The celebration and role of Rosh Chodesh in our calendar is different from Shabbos or any of the Yomim Tovim, since the monthly waning and waxing of the moon that Rosh Chodesh commemorates symbolizes that people occasionally wane and wax in their service of Hashem (Rav Hirsch’s Commentary to Shemos 12:1-2). Although we sometimes falter or are not as devoted to serving Hashem as we should be, we always can and do return to serve Him. Rosh Chodesh is celebrated at the first glimmer after the disappearance of the moon, after one might lose all hope. The reappearance of the first sliver of the new moon brings hope that, just as the moon renews itself, so, too, we can renew our relationship with Hashem. The chatas offering of Rosh Chodesh, therefore, allows atonement for our shortcomings of the past month, and, at the same time, reminds us to focus on our mission as Hashem’s Chosen People.

Uniqueness of the Rosh Chodesh Korban Musaf

The Musaf of each of the Yomim Tovim also includes a korban chatas, and each Yom Tov therefore includes a concept of judgment and atonement (Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 16a; Mishnah, Shevuos 2a). However, the Torah’s description of the korban chatas of Rosh Chodesh differs from its description of the korbanos chatas that are offered on the other Yomim Tovim. The chata’os of the other Yomim Tovim are always mentioned immediately after the other Musaf offerings of the day. However, when the Torah teaches about the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh, the Torah first lists the other Musaf offerings, then sums up with the statement, Zos olas chodesh bechodsho lechodshei hashanah, “these are the olah offerings of Rosh Chodesh for all the months of the year,” as if it has completed the discussion of the Musaf for Rosh Chodesh. Only then does the Torah mention the chatas offering, implying that the chatas of Rosh Chodesh fulfills a unique purpose – almost as if it stands alone.

More significantly, the wording of the chatas of Rosh Chodesh is different from that of the other chatas offerings. Whereas in reference to all the chata’os of Yom Tov the Torah simply says that one should offer a chatas, on Rosh Chodesh the Torah says that one should offer a chatas to Hashem (Rav Hirsch’s Commentary to Bamidbar 28).

The Gemara itself notes this last question and provides a very anomalous answer: Hashem said, this goat is atonement for My decreasing the size of the moon (Shevuos 9a). From here, Chazal derive that the sun and moon were originally created equal in size, and that later Hashem decreased the size of the moon.

This statement sounds sacrilegious – how can one imply that something Hashem did requires atonement?

Indeed, I have seen commentaries say that the explanation of this Gemara is kabbalistic and should be left for those who understand these ideas.

Others explain that the korban that the Jews offer on Rosh Chodesh appeases the moon for its stature being decreased (Ritva, Shevuos 9a). What does this mean?

Man’s Relationship with G-d

This could be understood in the following way: Rav Hirsch (Commentary to Bamidbar 28) explains that the “atonement for decreasing the moon” means that Hashem created Man with the ability to sin, and thereby he can create evil and darkness. For, after all, sins committed by human beings are the only evil in the world. Thus, someone might “accuse” Hashem of creating evil, by creating Man with the ability to sin. This can be called “decreasing the size of the moon,” since the moon’s waning and waxing carries with it the meaning of the waning and waxing of the relationship of Man to Hashem.

However, the message of the chatas of Rosh Chodesh is that Man can return to serve Hashem, and that, on the contrary, this was the entire purpose of Creation. In error, someone might have accused Hashem of having brought sin into the world, and therefore decreasing the moon. In reality, Man’s serving Hashem is the only true praise to Him. The offering of the korban chatas on Rosh Chodesh demonstrates this. Indeed, man is fallible, but when fallible man serves Hashem this demonstrates the truest praise in the world for Him.

Why Rosh Chodesh is not Yom Tov

According to a Midrash, prior to the debacle of the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf, the eigel hazahav, Rosh Chodesh was to have been made into a Yom Tov. Unfortunately, when the Jews worshipped the eigel hazahav, this Yom Tov was taken from them and presented exclusively to the women, who had not worshipped the eigel (Tur, Orach Chayim 417, and Mahalnach commentary ad loc.). The sin of the eigel hazahav demonstrates how low Man can fall. This is symbolically represented by the decrease of the moon. As a result of this sin, Rosh Chodesh could not become a Yom Tov, but had to remain a workday.

However, when Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh coincide, no melacha is performed on Rosh Chodesh, so that it can now achieve what it would have accomplished as a Yom Tov. This is the goal of a Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, and for this reason, we include a Yom Tov aspect to our davening.

And not only does Shabbos increase the sanctity of Rosh Chodesh, but Rosh Chodesh increases the sanctity of Shabbos. The Gemara conveys this idea by declaring that the korban Musaf of Shabbos has more sanctity when Shabbos falls on Rosh Chodesh (Zevachim 91a).

Conclusion

Shabbos is our acknowledgement of Hashem as Creator of the Universe, whereas Rosh Chodesh demonstrates the role of mankind as the purpose of the Creation of this world. Since Man is the only creation capable of sinning, he is the only one able to make a conscious choice to serve his Maker.

Based on this, we can understand why the coming of Shabbos, which demonstrates the Creation of the universe, together with Rosh Chodesh, which demonstrates Man’s role in Creation warrant a special beracha and a special declaration Ata Yatzarta, You created the world.