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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rosh Hashanna and the Creation of the World

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanna (8a and mainly 11b) brings a machlokes between Rebbi Eliezer and Rebbi Yehoshua whether the world was created in Nissan or Tishrei.

Parenthetically, it is worth knowing that, as Reb Meir Simcha towards the beginning of Breishis points out, they argue on all the big three as categorized in the Sefer Yetzira-- Olam, Shanna, and Nefesh, because they argue whether the world was created from the ends inward (R'Y) or from the middle outward (R'E), and whether a child is generated from the ends toward the middle (R'Y) or from the heart outward (R'E), and here in the sugya of Shanna, whether time began in Tishrei or Nissan, even though Nissan is "Hachodesh Hazeh lachem Rosh Chadashim. This is just an unrefined fact; I don't know what it signifies about Shammai (the rebbi of R'E) and Hillel (the rebbi of R'Y).

Back to our topic. The Gemara says that as far as the dates in Chumash, we pasken like Rebbi Eliezer, but regarding Tekufos, the calculation of which is based on the actual creation, we pasken like Rebbi Yehoshua, that the world was created in Nissan. Why, then, does the dating system in the Torah count from Tishrei? Tosfos says that the creation really was in Nissan like Rebbi Yehoshua, and the Torah's dating system gives assigns primacy to the Yom Hadin over the chronological fact of creation. The Ran says that the briyah was really in Tishrei like Rebbi Eliezer, but we count for tekufos like Rebbi Yehoshua because of the reality of the solar year's effect on crops.

Tosfos on 27a asks, though, how is it that in his Piyutim, Reb Elazar Hakallir states contradictory positions regarding the factual moment of creation? The Gemara (27a) says that the words "Zeh Hayom techillas ma'asecha" comport only with Rebbi Eliezer, but Reb Elazar Hakallir's piyutim in tefillas Tal say like Rebbi Eliezer and in tefillas Geshem like Rebbi Yehoshua.

Rabbeinu Tam in Tosfos answers that Eilu Ve'eilu Divrei Elokim Chayim. The intention to create occurred in Tishrei, like Rebbi Eliezer, and the actual briyah took place in Nissan, like Rebbi Yehoshua, and so it is correct to say that the briyah was in either one of the months.

The Ran on 16a asks, why is Mankind judged on Rosh Hashanna? It doesn't seem to have any particular significance or relevance to human development. And if you want to answer that if, as Rebbi Eliezer holds, the world was created in Tishrei, it makes sense that the first day of Tishrei should be Rosh Hashanna, but according to that reasoning, then the Rosh Hashanna for everything in the universe should be that day, and, as the first Mishna in Rosh Hashanna says, that is not the case. So, he asks, what is it about the first day of Tishrei that has specific significance for Mankind? He answers with a Pesikta that Rebbi Eliezer, who says the world was created in Tishrei, really holds it was created on the 25th of Ellul, and Man was created in Tishrei, on Rosh Hashanna. Since Adam sinned and was forgiven on that very day, it was set to be the eternal day for the judgment and forgiveness of Mankind.

The Ran further asks, what is the significance of Rosh Hashanna according to Rebbi Yehoshua (Nissan)? He answers that Hashem began to forgive the sin of the Eigel on Rosh Hashanna and fully forgave it on Yom Kippur, when Moshe was given the second Luchos and brought them to Klal Yisrael. Since during these days we faced a terrible gzeira and were forgiven, they were forever established as the days of Judgment and Forgiveness.

All the above is generally known. I recently saw a Chasam Sofer (not in the new prints: in the old print, it's in a drasha almost at the end of Nitzavim, and it has a star, which means it was brought to the printers by a talmid that heard it from him) that has a very interesting approach to this sugya that brings everything together.

The Chasam Sofer says that really , the briyah was in Tishrei, like Rebbi Eliezer, as the Ran says. The reason we count astronomical calculations from Rebbi Yehoshua's Nissan is this: The Ramban in Breishis says that the universe was "Tohu va'Vohu" until it was justified by the giving of the Torah to Klal Yisrael. Tohu va'Vohu means that the world was insubstantial, it was lacking an inherent reality. Only with the beginning of Matan Torah, when we were given the mitzva of "Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem," was the creation of the world confirmed and solidified.

So, he says, even though the briyah was in Tishrei, it was only ratified in Nissan, and this is why we count the tekufos from Nissan.

But, he says, we still have a problem. If you look at the actual creation, that was the twenty fifth of Ellul, as the Ran brought from the Pesikta. If you look at the confirmation of the briyah, that was Nissan. So the first day of Tishrei is neither the beginning nor the confirmation. What, then, distinguishes Rosh Hashanna?

He answers that yes, certainly the Torah gives the world reality, it is the Kiyum Ha'Olam. But if not for the gift of Teshuva, the world could not have existed in any state at all for even one day, as the Ran says regarding Adam Harishon. So in a sense, Teshuva is as essential to the existence of the world as Torah is. And so it is correct to say that there were two creations of the real world: The first day of Tishrei, which ushered in Teshuva, and the first day of Nissan, which saw the beginning of Kabalas Hatorah. There are, then, two Rosh Hashannas, two days when the world was created; neither is the day of Breishis Bara Elokim. They are the Rosh Hashanna of Teshuva and the Rosh Hashanna of Torah. Those are the only two realities of our world.


great unknown said...

And birchat hachama in Nissan is based on exactly what?

Barzilai said...

Barzilai said...


great unknown said...

Them as can, do.
Them as can't, teach.
Them as can't even teach, administer.
Them as can't even administer, comment.

Michael Kopinsky said...

Excuse my ignorance, but what is the significance of tekufos? I know that the start of v'sein tal umatar (in Chu"l at least) is based on tekufas Shmuel (unless I'm messing that up), but is there anything else in halacha that's based on tekufos?


Barzilai said...

Different tekufos. The Shmuelian/Julian/Hillelian/Gregorian tekufa relates to the length of the solar year, while Reb Eliezer and Reb Yehoshua are talking about when the whole system began.

Michael Kopinsky said...

So what does it mean that we pasken like R' Yehoshua for Tekufos? L'mai nafka mina?

Barzilai said...

nafka mina is whether birkas hachama is in Nissan, as we do it, or in Tishrei, or according to the pesikta, in the end of elul, as it would be according to Reb Yehoshua.