FROM THE TORAH
In the preceding Sedra Shemini, the Eternal charges Moses and Aaron with rules to teach the Children of Israel how to distinguish between the sacred and the common, the pure and the impure, the “clean” and “unclean,” what is permitted and what is forbidden, the authorized and the spurious, in the central Sanctuary and in the smaller sanctuaries that constitute life throughout the camp. In this week’s Sedra Tazria these distinctions are continued as they relate to the essential mysteries of the body in health and disease and of its clothing. Determination of infection is supervised by the Kohen. The pattern introduced in Sedra Shemini, of a discrete unit of seven days, continues in these distinctions.
PURITIES OF CHILDBIRTH
The Eternal charges Moses to impart to the Children of Israel that when a woman bears (Tazria) a male child, she shall be ritually impure for seven days, as the period of impurity for her indisposition. On the eighth day (cf. Leviticus 9:1; 14:9) the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. For thirty-three days she continues in blood purification: she may not touch any holy thing nor enter the Sanctuary until the completion of her purification days. If she bears a female child, then she shall be ritually impure for two weeks as during the period of her impurity, and for sixty-six days she continues in a state of blood purification.
At the completion of her purification days, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a dove or turtledove for a sin offering to the Kohen at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The Kohen shall offer it before the Eternal and seek atonement for her that she may be purified from the source of her blood. If her means do not suffice for a sheep, then she shall take two turtledoves or two doves, one for the burnt offering and one for the sin offering.
DETECTION OF PERSONAL TSARA’AT
The Eternal speaks to Moses and to Aaron as follows:
If a person should have in his skin a swelling or an eruption or a bright spot such that it becomes a tsara’at-like affection in his skin, he should be brought to Aaron the Kohen or one of his sons the Kohanim to be examined. If the Kohen observes that the hair of the affected spot has turned white and the affection appears to be deeper than his skin, it is the affliction of tsara’at, and the Kohen who examines him shall declare him impure.
If, however, the bright spot is white while the aforementioned symptoms are not present, the Kohen shall isolate the affection for seven days. If, after examining him on the seventh day, the Kohen observes no change, he shall isolate him for another seven days. If, upon examining him on the following seventh day, the affection has faded and not spread, the Kohen shall declare him pure, it is a benign rash, he shall wash his clothes and be pure. But if, thereafter, the affection has spread on the skin, it should be shown again to the Kohen. If the Kohen confirms that the rash has spread, he shall declare him impure, as it is tsara’at.
If, notwithstanding the symptom of whitened hair in a white swelling of the skin, there is also some healthy flesh in the swelling, it is chronic tsara’at and the Kohen shall declare him impure without isolating him, as he is known to be impure without isolation.
If the tsara’at should so erupt in his skin that it covers his entire body, the Kohen shall declare the affected person pure, as he has turned all white. But at such time as healthy flesh appears in it, the Kohen shall declare him impure, it is tsara’at. If the healthy flesh again turns white, he shall be examined by the Kohen, who upon confirmation shall declare him pure.
If he should have an inflammation in his skin which subsequently heals, but there then appears in the place that was inflamed a white swelling or a white bright spot streaked with red, he shall show it to the Kohen. If the Kohen observes that it appears to be lower than the rest of the skin and that its hair has turned white, the Kohen shall declare him impure. It is a tsara’at affliction that has broken out in the inflammation. But if the Kohen does not observe the two symptoms and it is faded, the Kohen shall isolate him for seven days. If it should spread in the skin, the Kohen shall declare him impure; it is an affliction. If the bright spot does not spread, it is the scar of the inflammation, and the Kohen shall declare him pure.
If there is a spot in his skin that was burned with fire, and the burned spot is bright, white streaked with red, or white, and the Kohen sees that the hair in the bright spot turned white and it appears to be below the other skin, it is tsara’at broken out in the burn, and the Kohen shall declare him impure. But if the Kohen does not observe the two symptoms and it is faded, the Kohen shall isolate him for seven days. The Kohen shall examine him on the seventh day: if it has spread in the skin, the Kohen shall declare him unclean. It is the affliction of tsara’at. But if the bright spot does not spread in the skin and is faded, it is swelling from the burn, and the Kohen shall declare him pure, because it is the scar of the burn.
Head or Beard
If a man or a woman should have an affection on the head or in the beard, the Kohen shall examine it. If it appears to be deeper than the rest of the skin and there is thin yellow hair in it, the Kohen shall declare him impure; it is netek, tsara’at of the head or the beard. But if the netek affection does not appear to be deeper than the rest of the skin, yet there is no black hair in it, the Kohen shall isolate the netek affection for seven days. If, upon examination on the seventh day, the Kohen sees that the netek has not spread and does not have yellow hair in it and does not appear to be deeper than the rest of the skin, the subject shall shave himself but not the netek, and the Kohen shall isolate the netek for another seven days. On the following seventh day, if the Kohen sees that the netek has not spread in the skin and its appearance is not deeper than the rest of the skin, the Kohen shall declare him pure. He shall wash his clothes and be pure. But if, after his purification, the netek spreads in the skin and the Kohen sees it, the Kohen need not look for yellow hair; he is impure. If he sees that the netek has remained unchanged and black hair has grown in it, the netek is healed, he is pure, and the Kohen shall declare him pure.
If a man or woman has many bright spots throughout their skin, the Kohen shall examine them. If he finds the whiteness to be dull, then a benign bohack has broken out in the skin and the subject is pure.
A man who loses the hair of his head is bald; he is pure. A man who loses the hair of his head from the corner of his face is bald of forehead; he is pure. But if there should be in either of those baldnesses a white affection streaked with red, a tsara’at-like eruption, and the Kohen should see an affected swelling, white streaked with red, in his head baldness or in his forehead baldness, of the appearance of tsara’at in the skin, the man is afflicted with tsara’at, he is impure; the Kohen shall declare him impure. The affliction is upon his head.
The clothes of one afflicted with tsara’at shall be rent, his head shall be bare, and his moustache shall be covered. “Impure! Impure!” shall be proclaimed. He shall be considered impure as long as the affliction is upon him. He shall dwell apart, outside of the camp.
TSARA’AT OF GARMENTS
If there is a tsara’at-like affection in a garment of wool or linen, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in a skin or anything made of skin, streaked with green or streaked with red, it should be shown to the Kohen, who, upon seeing the affection, should isolate it for seven days. If, on the seventh day, the Kohen sees that the affection has spread in the cloth or skin, it is a malignant tsara’at; it is impure. It shall be burned in fire.
If the Kohen sees that the affection has not spread, he shall order that the affected cloth or skin be washed and isolate it for another seven days. If, after the item has been washed, the Kohen sees that the affection has not changed color and has not spread, it is impure. It shall be burned in fire. It is altogether a pechetet. But if he sees that the affection has faded, he shall tear it out of the cloth or skin. Then, if the affection occurs again in the item, the affection is eruptive, and the item shall be burned in fire. On the other hand, if the affection has disappeared, the item shall be washed again and be pure.
Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
The Eternal orders Moses to command the Children of Israel
to present to Him His offering of food,
fire offerings of a pleasing aroma,
each at its appointed time:
On the Sabbath day, along with the regular burnt offering and its libation, a burnt offering of two year-old lambs without blemish, two-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil as a meal offering, and its libation.
On your New Moons, a burnt offering of two bulls of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, without blemish. For the meal offering, three-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull, two-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for the ram, and a tenth of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb. Their libations shall be of wine, a half-hin for each bull, a third of a hin for the ram, and a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In addition there shall be a sin offering of a goat and its libation along with the regular offering.
Maftir for Shabbat Hachodesh
Fourth of the Four Special Parashiyot
Pesach and Matzot
Commandment of Pesach
The Eternal explains to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month is the beginning of months to you; it shall be for you the first month of the year (Exodus 12:2). Direct all of the Congregation of Israel to take, on the tenth of this month, a lamb for each father’s house, a male without blemish, a yearling from the sheep or from the goats. If the household be too small for a whole lamb, then let two neighbors in close proximity share in the cost of one lamb for their two households. Calculate the proportionate cost, taking into account what each household member consumes. Keep watch over the lamb until the fourteenth day of this month, then all the community of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter their lambs at dusk. They shall put some of the blood on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they will eat the lamb that night—its head, legs and entrails—roasted, not cooked in any way with water. They shall eat it fire-roasted with unleavened bread over bitter herbs. They shall be careful not to leave any of it overnight until the morning. They must consume it or burn it up with fire before the morning.
“In this manner shall you eat it: your loins girded, your sandals upon your feet, and your staff in your hand. Eat it purposefully: it is Pesach for the Eternal. On that night I shall pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn of man and beast, and I shall execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt, I the Eternal. The blood that you put upon your houses shall serve as a sign that you are there, such that when I see the blood, I shall pass over and protect you so that my plague of destruction throughout the land of Egypt will not affect you” (Exodus 12:11-13).
Festival of Matzot
“Then the day shall be your commemoration, Matzot, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, a festival to the Eternal throughout your generations, a statute for all time, for by this very day I shall have brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. For seven days you shall eat Unleavened Bread, beginning on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening and concluding on the twenty-first day of the month in the evening. Remove all leaven from your homes by the first day, and throughout the seven days let no leaven be found in your homes. The person who eats anything leavened during these seven days shall be cut off from Israel. In addition, the first day and the seventh day shall be holy convocations for you on which no work shall be done, except for the preparation of food.”
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Hachodesh
Procedures for the Nasi and Offerings
Role of the Nasi
All of the populace shall provide the specified terumah (sacred gift) for the Nasi (elevated leader). The Nasi will then have the responsibility for providing the burnt offerings, the meal offering, and the libation, for all of the Sabbaths, New Moons and Festivals, also the sin offering and the peace offerings, to seek atonement on behalf of the House of Israel.
The Pesach and the Festival
Thus declares the Lord God: On the first day of the first month, purify the Sanctuary with the offering of a bull of the herd without blemish. Put some of the blood of the sin offering upon the doorpost of the House and upon the four corners of the ledge of the Altar and upon the doorpost of the gate of the inner court. Repeat this on the seventh day for those who might have erred or did not understand, thereby gaining atonement for the House.
Then on the fourteenth day you shall have the Pesach, a seven-day festival during which Matzot (Unleavened Bread) shall be eaten. On that day the Nasi shall prepare for himself and for all of the people of the Land a bull of sin offering. For each of the seven days of the festival he shall make a burnt offering to the Eternal—seven bulls and seven rams without blemish—and a sin offering of a male goat each day and a meal offering of an ephah for each bull and an ephah for each ram, and of oil a hin for each ephah.
In the seventh month on the fifteenth day of the month, on the Festival, he shall do the same for seven days: for the sin offering, for the burnt offering, for the meal offering, and for the oil.
The Nasi and the Offerings
Thus declares the Lord God: The gate of the inner court that faces east shall be closed during the six days of work, but it shall be opened on the Sabbath Day and on the New Moon Day. The Nasi shall enter by way of the vestibule and stop at the doorpost of the gate. The Kohanim shall perform his burnt offering and his peace offerings, he shall prostrate himself upon the threshold, then he shall depart. The gate shall not be closed until the evening. The people also shall prostrate themselves at the entrance of the same gate on Sabbaths and on New Moons before the Eternal.
The burnt offering of the Nasi on the Sabbath Day shall consist of six lambs and a ram, all without blemish, and the meal offering, an ephah for the ram and as much as he chooses for the lambs, and of oil a hin for each ephah. On the New Moon Day it shall consist of a bull of the herd and six lambs and a ram, all without blemish, and the meal offering, an ephah for the bull, an ephah for the ram, and as much as he can afford for the lambs, and of oil a hin for each ephah. On the Festivals and the Appointed Days the meal offering shall consist of an ephah for the bull, an ephah for the ram, and as much as he chooses for the lambs, and of oil a hin for each ephah. On a Day you shall make a burnt offering of a lamb, a year old, without blemish, every morning, and along with it a meal offering, a sixth of an ephah of fine flour and a third of a hin of oil to moisten the fine flour. These are everlasting statutes to be performed regularly. Offer the lamb and the meal offering and the oil every morning as a continual burnt offering (tamid).
On the Sabbath Day and on the New Moon Day, the Nasi enters by way of the vestibule of the gate, and he departs by the same way. On the Appointed Days, when the people come before the Eternal, whether they enter by way of the north gate or the south gate to worship, they should continue on the same course and depart by the opposite gate. This includes the Nasi, when he enters with them: he should enter and depart in the midst of the people by the same course that they follow.
If the Nasi should elect to make a burnt offering or peace offerings on a weekday, the gate facing east shall be opened for him and the procedure should be followed as on the Sabbath Day, except that when he departs, the gate should be closed behind him.
The Nasi and Property
Thus declares the Lord God: The Nasi may transfer his own property to his sons. However, if he seeks to transfer property to his servants, that property returns to the Nasi with the year of release (cf. Leviticus 25:10ff.). The Nasi may not appropriate the property of the people.
FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Leviticus Rabbah 15:4
Have no fear!
“Judgments are issued against scorners,
and flogging is for the back of fools.”
The laws of tsara’at are promulgated against transgressors…
It is common in the world that one riding upon a donkey may strike it for its disobedience and also even when it is not disobedient. But with respect to the laws of tsara’at, the judgments and the punishments are executed against transgressors alone.
This may be likened to one who visits the king in his palace and is terrified when she sees various instruments of torture. “Have no fear,” says the king; “those are used against my slaves, but you have come to eat and drink and be happy!” Thus, when Israel heard the laws of tsara’at, they were frightened. Moses reassured them, “Have no fear; these laws appertain to the other nations, but you are destined to eat, drink and be happy, as was said, ‘If a person should have in his skin…’ (Leviticus 13:2), not ‘If a person among you should have….’”
“Many are the pains of the wicked,
but the one who trusts in the Eternal—
lovingkindness will surround him!”
Rabbi and Rabbi Ishmael son of Rabbi Yosi were studying the Megillah of Lamentations on the Eve of Tisha B’av which was also Erev Shabbat. They had to stop in honor of the Sabbath and decided to resume their study the following Sabbath afternoon where they had left off, at the verse, “Our very breath, the anointed of the Eternal, was captured in their pits, under whose shadow we determined to live among the nations” (Lamentations 4:20). On his way home Rabbi suffered a minor injury and ascribed to himself the verse, “Many are the pains of the wicked” (Psalms 32:10).
Rabbi Ishmael son of Rabbi Yosi said to Rabbi: Even if we were not planning to study that verse (cf. Lamentations ibid.), you could have ascribed it to yourself (Margoliot: “This happened to you, Rabbi, because of our sins,” as the righteous suffer for the sin of the generation, for thus is written, “Our very breath, the anointed of the Eternal, is captured because of the pits (the sins) of his generation”!), and now that we are planning to study that verse, how much the more so!
But Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Tanchum of Bozrah in the name of Rabbi Jeremiah parsed the same verse:
“Many are the pains,
but the wicked one who trusts in the Eternal—
lovingkindness will surround him!”
Even the wicked, if he repents—the Holy One, blessed be He, will accept him!
Leviticus Rabbah 15:5
The Sins of the Parents…
Before the laws of tsara’at, in our Sedra we find, “When a woman bears a male child…” (Leviticus 12:2), then the laws of tsara’at begin: “If a person should have in his skin a swelling…” (Leviticus 13:2). Why does woman’s bearing a child lead into the laws of tsara’at?
Rabbi Tanchum son of Rabbi Chanilai taught: We may learn the answer from the allegory of a she-ass who was injured and was then cauterized: her son came out with a flame mark. Who caused the foetus to come out with a flame mark? The fact that the mother was cauterized! Likewise, who caused the human foetus to be afflicted with tsara’at? His mother when she did not attend to the days of her impurity!
Rabbi Avin taught a similar lesson but implicitly with respect to both parents: It may be compared to an herb garden with a fountain in it. As long as the fountain flows, it produces mildew. Likewise, whoever goes near his wife when she is impure makes children with the skin affections of tsara’at! On this Rabbi Avin cited: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jeremiah 31:28)! and the children may cite concerning their parents: “Our parents sinned and are no more, but we bear their iniquities” (Lamentations 5:7)!
Leviticus Rabbah 15:6-7
The Blessing of the Giver
“When a woman bears a child, at the completion of her purification days…
if her means do not suffice for the prescribed offering of a sheep,
then she shall take two turtledoves or two doves…
—by all means she should bring the offering to the Kohen!”
Why, then, does there follow immediately:
“If a person should have…a tsara’at-like affection in his skin,
he should be brought to Aaron the Kohen…”
The Holy One, blessed be He, is teaching us (by this juxtaposition)—
I first said to you: Bring the offering of childbirth to the Kohen;
and if you do not bring it, then I shall make you appear before the Kohen
by reason of the tsara’at-like affection!
Similarly, the Eternal instructed Moses:
“Whatever holies the Children of Israel bring to the Kohen shall be his ;
whatever a person gives to the Kohen shall be his!”
–and then immediately following He says:
“Any man whose wife goes astray…”
The Holy One, blessed be He, is teaching us (by this juxtaposition)—
I have said to you: Bring your gift to the Kohen;
and if you do not, then I shall make you appear with your wife before the Kohen
by reason of your suspicion of adultery!
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish explained this in reference
to the Eternal’s repetition:
“Whatever holies the Children of Israel bring to the Kohen shall be his”—
shall belong to that particular Kohen;
“whatever a person gives to the Kohen shall be his”—
shall redound to him (the giver) as a blessing!
Thus does Rabbi Levi teach:
Blessings bless those who bless, and curses curse those who curse—
“Whole and honest weights and measures
shall there be for you” (Deuteronomy 25:15):
If you have “whole and honest weights and measures,”
then property to buy and sell “shall there be for you!”
“There shall not be for you
differing weights and measures…” (Deuteronomy 25:13-14):
If you have “differing weights and measures,”
then your property will dwindle
until “there shall not be for you” anything to buy or sell!
Rabbi Yochanan interpreted the mitzvah of challah, a loaf of dough set aside for the Eternal (Numbers 15:17-21), to be followed immediately by the Eternal’s warning against idolatry—
“If you go astray and fail to perform any of these commandments…”
—teaching us thereby that whoever upholds the commandment of challah, it is as if he is stamping out the sin of idolatry, and whoever foregoes the commandment of challah, failing to set aside the gift due to the Eternal, he has ignored his God and thereby perpetrated the sin of idolatry. How is that? Like the merchant who deceives with dishonest weights and measures, he will eventually have nothing left to buy or sell, as the Eternal charged Moses to say to the Children of Israel:
“You shall not make with Me gods of silver,
and gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.”
“You shall not make with Me gods of silver or gods of gold”—
and if you do—“you shall not (be able to) make (anything) for yourselves!”
If he does, he will not have enough left to make even idols of wood or stone, whereas “challah” or “whatever a person gives to the Kohen shall be his”—shall redound to him (the giver) as a blessing (Numbers 5:10)!
Leviticus Rabbah 15:8,9
The Ultimate Purifier
“If a person should have in his skin a swelling
or an eruption or a bright spot
such that it becomes a tsara’at-like affection in his skin,
he should be brought to Aaron the Kohen
or one of his sons the Kohanim to be examined…”
A person can recognize all afflictions except for his own. Rabbi Meir adds: Also except for his relatives’.
So who examined the afflicted areas of Miriam when she was punished with tsara’at (cf. Numbers 12:1-15)? If you say Moses, he was not a Kohen! If you say Aaron, he was a relative! Said the Holy One, blessed be He: I am the Kohen; I isolate her, and I purify her! That is what is meant by the words, “And the people did not continue on their journey until Miriam was readmitted” (Numbers 12:15). How could that be, when, “At the command of the Eternal, the Children of Israel would journey; and at the command of the Eternal, they would encamp” (Numbers 9:18)? The people was bound to the Divine Presence, and the Divine Presence waited for her!
Said Rabbi Levi in the name of Rabbi Chama son of Rabbi Chaninah: Moses was quite distressed over this commandment. Does it befit the honor of Aaron my brother, he thought, to examine skin affections for tsara’at? The Holy One, blessed be He, responded: Don’t you think that he is well compensated from the twenty-four different gifts to which the Kohanim are entitled (e.g. first fruits: cf. Deuteronomy 26:1-10)? This is expressed in a proverb: If you enjoy the palm’s heart, expect to be struck by its stick!
In this world the Kohen examines for spots of tsara’at, but in the world to come, says the Holy One, blessed be He: I shall purify you! This is what is written: “Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be pure…” (Ezekiel 36:25).
Talmud Rosh Hashanah 22b-23b
Yerushalmi Rosh Hashanah 2:1
Lights of Rosh Chodesh
When testimony of witnesses to the sighting of the New Moon crescent was accepted in Jerusalem and Rosh Chodesh was sanctified, torches would be raised along a line of promontories, beginning on the Mount of Olives, radiating out to Sartava in the hills of Samaria overlooking the Jordan Valley, followed by Agrippina in the Lower Galilee, then to Auran east of the Jordan, and ending at Beit Baltin between the borders of the Land of Israel and Babylonia. As the burning torch on the previous mountain became visible, those on the next mountain would kindle their torches and wave them back and forth, up and down, until they saw the torches afire on the mountain ahead, and so on for each promontory. From Beit Baltin the torch signaled to all of Babylonia: Pumbeditha was lit up as everyone would hold a torch in his hand and raise it up on the roof of his house.
Later, Rabbi discontinued the display of torches because of counterfeit signals from the Samaritans. (The Samaritans raised torches on the first of the two possible days since the previous Rosh Chodesh, even though there was no accepted sighting on that day, in order to mislead the Jews who depended upon the torches to know when to begin the new month and observe the festivals.) But those who lived in Tsefat, having received notification of Rosh Chodesh by messengers, continued to display torches when they learned that Rosh Chodesh was sanctified, just to announce and celebrate.
Various commentators report on the subsequent practice of kindling lights in the synagogue and at home on Rosh Chodesh, such as Pri Chadash to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 419 (Hezekiah da Silva, Italy & Land of Israel, 17th cent.): “There is one who wrote that there is the practice of kindling extra lights in honor of Rosh Chodesh.” See Sefer Hamoadim, Vol. 5, p. 14.
Exodus Rabbah 15:11-12
The Month of Redemption
“This month is for you the beginning of months,
it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.”
This is elucidated in:
“By the word of the Eternal were the heavens made,
and by the breath of His mouth, all of their array…
Happy is the nation whose God is the Eternal,
the people whom He has chosen to be His inheritance!”
When the Holy One, blessed be He, chose His world, He established its months and years—“God said: Let there be lights in the expanse of heaven to distinguish between day and night, serving as signs for the set times, for days, and for years” (Genesis 1:14)—and, similarly, when He chose Jacob and his sons to be redeemed, He established his beginning month of redemption—“This month is for you the beginning of months…”(Exodus 12:2a)—the month in which the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt.
Moreover, “…it shall be for you the first of the months of the year” (Exodus 12:2b), suggests that for Israel it is the prime month for redemption. It was the month in which Isaac was born, the month in which Isaac was bound, and the month in which Jacob received the blessing of his father Isaac. It is the same month in which Israel’s descendants would be redeemed in the future, as the Prophet said, “I shall show him wonders as in the days of your going out from the land of Egypt” (Micah 7:15)!
This may be compared to a king who liberates his son from prison and thereupon declares: “Make this day a holiday for all time, for on this day my son went out from darkness to light, from the iron yoke to life, from slavery to freedom, and from servitude to redemption!” Thusly the Holy One, blessed be He, liberated Israel from prison, as was said, “God brings home the lonely, liberates the imprisoned to security…” (Psalms 68:7), from deathly darkness, as was said, “He brought them out from darkness and the shadow of death…” (Psalms 107:14), from the yoke of iron to the yoke of Torah, from slavery to freedom, as was said, “You are children of the Eternal your God…” (Deuteronomy 14:1), from servitude to redemption, as was said, “All of their captors held them in their grasp, they refused to release them, [but] mighty is their Redeemer, the Eternal of Hosts is His Name, He champions their cause…” (Jeremiah 50:33-34)!
Fittingly, He gave them cause to rejoice, wreaking vengeance upon their enemies, as was said, “For I, the Eternal, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I have made Egypt your ransom, Ethiopia and Saba in exchange for you, because you are precious in My sight, you are honored and I love you, I give men in exchange for you, and other nations in place of your life” (Isaiah 43:3-4)!
Rabbi Meir taught: It was a redemption not only “for you” (Exodus 12:2a) but also, redundantly, “for You” (ibid. 2b), that is, for Me! This is as if to say, “I (God) was redeemed with you!” This is supported by the words of King David: “Who is like Your people Israel, a nation unique on the earth…which You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, nation and God” (II Samuel 7:23)! So establish this month both for yourselves and for Me!
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 5:13
Israel declares the Appointed Days of the Eternal
“The Eternal says to Moses and to Aaron
in the land of Egypt:
This month is to you the beginning of months,
numbered first for you of the months of the year.”
“This month (chodesh) is to you…” (Exodus 12:2): The New Moon (Chodesh) is handed over to you to determine and sanctify every month!* “These are the appointed days of the Eternal, holy convocations, which you shall declare in their appointed time” (Leviticus 23:4)—Rabbi Krispa in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: In the past, “These are the appointed days of the Eternal,” but for now and in the future, “which you shall declare!” In other words, if you declare them, they are My appointed days, but if not, they are no longer My appointed days! “These are the appointed days of the Eternal, holy convocations if you declare them…” (ibid.).
*Talmud Rosh Hashanah explains how the Beit Din determined the beginning of each new month based upon testimony of witnesses to the first appearance of the New Moon crescent. The dating of the “holy convocations” (the festivals such as Pesach) in their respective months would then depend upon the day that the Beit Din determined to be the beginning of that month.
“For who is a great nation to whom God is as close as the Eternal our God is to us whenever we we call to Him” (Deuteronomy 4:7)! What do we “call” to Him? This can mean: “We declare to Him.” We declare to Him the appointed days!
“Blow the Shofar on the New Moon,
when it is concealed,
for our feast day,
as it is a statute for Israel,
a law for the God of Jacob.”
Rabbi Pinchas, Rabbi Hezekiah in the name of Rabbi Simon: All of the ministering angels gathered near the Holy One, blessed be He, and asked Him: Master of the universe, when is Rosh Hashanah? He said: Me you ask? Let Me and you ask the terrestrial Beit Din, which determines the New Moon, as the verse may be understood, “Blow the Shofar on the New Moon, even though it is concealed (the astronomical new moon, preceding the thin crescent, is not visible; cf. Talmud Betzah 16a, Pirkey d’Rabbi Eliezer 7 end, and Talmud Rosh Hashanah 19b, regarding the invariability of the preceding month of Elul), for our feast day (presumably Rosh Hashanah, which is the only “feast day” to occur on a New Moon); if it is a statute for Israel (if it is determined to be the New Moon by the terrestrial Beit Din even though it is not visible), then it is a law for the God of Jacob” (Psalms 81:4-5). [Even though it is not yet observable], when it is a statute for Israel, it is a law for the God of Jacob; and if it is not a statute for Israel, it is not, as it were, a law for the God of Jacob!
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 5:14
Light of Large, Light of Small
“The Eternal says to Moses and to Aaron…:
This month is to you…”
“This moon is for you…”
You use the moon for counting, while the other nations do not.
Rabbi Levi in the name of Rabbi Yose bar La’i: It is natural for the large to count by the large and for the small to count by the small. Esau (Rome), who is large, counts by the sun, which is large, while Jacob, who is small, counts by the moon, which is small.
Said Rav Nachman: This constitutes a good sign. Just as the large rules over the day and does not rule over the night [the sun can be seen only during the day and never during the night], thus is Esau the wicked ascendant in this world (the world that is seen) but he is not ascendant in the world to come (the world that is unseen). Just as the small rules over the day and over the night [the moon can be seen both during the day and during the night], thus is Jacob ascendant both in this world and in the world to come!
“Arise, shine [ori], for your Light has come [vah],
the Weighty Presence [K’vod] of the Eternal
shines forth upon you [alayich]!”
Rabbi Nachman explained: As long as the light of the large one (such as the sun) shines in the world, light of the small one (such as the moon) is not noticed. But when the light of the large one sets, then the light of the small one is noticed. Similarly, for as long as the light of Esau the wicked shines forth in the world, the light of Jacob is not noticed. But when the light of Esau the wicked sets, the light of Jacob shall be seen, as the Prophet can be understood:
“Arise, O my light [ori], for your light has set [vah];
now the glory [k’vod] of the Eternal
shines forth over you [alayich]!”
Talmud Menachot 45a
“On the New Moon Day the offering shall consist of a
“On your New Moons, you shall offer a burnt offering of two bulls of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, without blemish. For the meal offering…”
What does the Prophet (Ezekiel) mean to teach us by saying only “a bull” when the Torah (Numbers) requires “two bulls?” He is providing the Talmudic Inference (Oral Torah) that if two bulls cannot be found, one should offer a (single) bull!
What does the prophet mean to teach us by saying only “six lambs” when the Torah requires “seven…lambs?” He is providing the Talmudic Inference that if seven lambs cannot be found, he should offer six lambs, and that if six lambs cannot be found, he should offer five lambs, and that if five lambs cannot be found, he should offer four lambs, and that if four lambs cannot be found, he should offer three lambs, and that if three lambs cannot be found, he should offer two lambs, and that if two lambs cannot be found, should he then offer only one? Yes, even only one, as the Talmudic Inference from “for the lambs as much as he can afford!” But then, since such is written (“for the lambs as much as he can afford”) to imply even only one, what is the point of the prophet’s saying “six lambs?” To make the point that every effort should be made to provide as many of the required number of lambs as possible! Moreover, however many lambs can be found, if they are more than one, they must all be offered; withholding one invalidates all of the others, as the prophet implies Talmudically with his additional words not already found in the Torah, “shall they be,” i.e. “shall they all be offered!”
“On the New Moon of the First Month, purify [chiteytah] the Sanctuary with the offering of a bull of the herd…”
“On your New Moons, you shall offer a burnt offering of two bulls of the herd…”
Should I read the prophet’s (Ezekiel) word “purify [chiteytah]” as “sin offering [chatat]” [also in accordance with the following verse, “Put some of the blood of the sin offering upon the doorpost of the house…” (Ezekiel 45:19)? But the Torah (Numbers) requires “a burnt offering”! Said Rabbi Yochanan: This portion of Ezekiel will be explained in the future by Elijah the Prophet. Rav Ashi explained: Ezekiel refers to the sin offering of special sacrifices that would be offered in the time of Ezra of the type that were offered in the time of Moses at the inauguration of the Temple Service on the New Moon of the First Month (cf. Leviticus 9:2 and Talmud Shabbat 87b). (Rashi: Ezekiel was prophesying on the Second Temple.) Both opinions are taught in a baraitha by Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Yosi, respectively. As contemporaneous Mishnaic teachers, Rabbi Judah said to Rabbi Yosi: May your mind be at ease as you have set mine at ease!