By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)
Who has the authority to sanctify the New Moon? The answer to this question is extremely important because the sanctification of Rosh Chodesh determines the date for all of HaShem's festivals except Shabbat (Sabbath).
Who has the authority to declare what HaShem meant when He said "choice fruit" and "leafy branches", as He did in:
Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before HaShem your God for seven days.
These questions all deal with what Jews call halakah, which means a way of walking. We need to know the answers to these questions if we are to properly worship and obey HaShem. If we say that each individual or each congregation has the right to answer each of these questions, then HaShem's congregation lacks unity and displays chaos to the world. Imagine the effect on a traveler if he arrives in town to celebrate Pesach and each of the different congregations in that town have assumed the right to sanctify Rosh Chodesh. The traveler discovers that the calendar date set by the Pharisees is ignored and that the two congregations in town have two different dates because it was cloudy over one congregation and not over the other. The clouds prevented the sanctification of Rosh Chodesh, on the first day, for one congregation, but not for the other congregation. What day should the traveler celebrate as Pesach? Since Pesach is called "moed" by HaShem; it is literally an appointment with HaShem! The day we celebrate is extremely important if we are to meet with the G-d of Abraham.
Paul declares that the Jews are special when it comes to the Word of HaShem:
Romans 3:1-2 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.
The words of HaShem were both written and oral. Without the oral we would have no way of understanding the "choice fruit" or "leafy branches" of Leviticus 23:40. We would not know what a succah (tabernacle) looked like. We would not be able to properly celebrate Chag HaSuccoth. Romans 3:1-2 declares that HaShem entrusted Jews with His word. So, our search for answers has been narrowed to Jews. The Jews must sanctify Rosh Chodesh and Jews must be the interpreters of the words of HaShem. Since each of our questions has an impact on Temple and synagogue worship, it is important that we understand who had the authority over Temple worship:
The People of Israel were responsible for the
We can come closer to answering these questions, if we can figure out how the Hakham Shaul answered them. Hakham Shaul was a Pharisee:
Philippians 3:4-5 Though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
Since Paul was a Pharisee, we know what dates they celebrated because these are the dates printed on every Jewish calendar in the world! The Pharisees have also written down what fruit we should use when the scriptures tell us to take "choice fruit". They have written what we are to take when the scriptures say "leafy branches".
Well, just because the Apostle Paul was a Pharisee does not mean that he did everything the Pharisees did, does it? Oh, yes it does! Let’s see how we can prove this. I have made the assumption that Paul obeyed Yeshua. So, let's see what Yeshua commanded:
Matitiyahu (Matthew) 23:1-2 Then Yeshua said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
To understand the authority given to the Pharisees, we need to understand the authority of Moses. Let's look at what Moses did:
Shemot (Exodus) 18:13-26 The next day Moses took his seat to serve
as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When
his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said,
"What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge,
while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moses
answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek HaShem's
will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between
the parties and inform them of HaShem's decrees and laws." Moses'
father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these
people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for
you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some
advice, and may HaShem be with you. You must be the people's representative
before HaShem and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws,
and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select
capable men from all the people--men who fear HaShem, trustworthy men who hate
dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties
and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them
bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.
That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you
do this and HaShem so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all
these people will go home satisfied." Moses listened to his father-in-law
and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all
Moses took disputes like: "Who should sanctify Rosh Chodesh", and he made a determination. I
doubt that he decided in favor of the congregation in
The first command given to Moses and Aaron as representing the highest authority in the nation, was the sanctification of the New Moon. From this, it is derived that the authority for sanctifying the new moon and for establishing the order of the months lies with the highest authority in the nation, namely the Bet Din Gadole, the Sanhedrin:
Rosh HaShana 22a MISHNAH. IF A FATHER AND A SON HAVE SEEN THE NEW MOON, THEY SHOULD BOTH GO [TO JERUSALEM], NOT THAT THEY CAN ACT AS JOINT WITNESSES BUT SO THAT IF ONE OF THEM IS DISQUALIFIED THE OTHER MAY JOIN WITH SOME OTHER WITNESS. R. SIMEON, HOWEVER, SAYS THAT A FATHER AND SON AND ALL RELATIVES ARE ELIGIBLE TO TESTIFY TO THE APPEARANCE OF THE NEW MOON. R. JOSE SAID: IT HAPPENED ONCE WITH TOBIAH THE PHYSICIAN THAT HE SAW THE NEW MOON IN JERUSALEM ALONG WITH HIS SON AND HIS EMANCIPATED SLAVE, AND THE PRIESTS ACCEPTED HIS EVIDENCE AND THAT OF HIS SON AND DISQUALIFIED HIS SLAVE, BUT WHEN THEY APPEARED BEFORE THE BETH DIN THEY ACCEPTED HIS EVIDENCE AND THAT OF HIS SLAVE AND DISQUALIFIED HIS SON.
GEMARA. R. Levi said: What is the reason of R. Simeon? — Because it is written, and the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months, which implies, ‘this testimony shall be valid [when given] by you’. And the Rabbis? — [It implies], this evidence shall be entrusted to you.
This authority is reiterated in:
Rosh HaShana 25a Our Rabbis taught: Once the heavens were covered with clouds and the likeness of the moon was seen on the twenty-ninth of the month. The public were minded to declare New Moon, and the Beth din wanted to sanctify it, but Rabban Gamaliel said to them: I have it on the authority of the house of my father's father that the renewal of the moon takes place after not less than twenty-nine days and a half and two-thirds of an hour and seventy-three halakin. On that day the mother of Ben Zaza died, and Rabban Gamaliel made a great funeral oration over her, not because she had merited it, but so that the public should know that the Beth din gadole had not sanctified the month.
Yeshua commanded us to do things the way that the Pharisees told us to, in Matitiyahu 23:1-2. This would explain why Paul was so eager to tell us that he was a Pharisee. This would also explain why Paul did everything that the Pharisees commanded. This passage also tells us that Yeshua celebrated the festivals on the dates that were set by the Pharisees, and that he celebrated them in the way that the Pharisees commanded. Yeshua followed the oral law that was given to Moses.
It is, therefore, clear that each individual, congregation, or synagogue can not set the dates for the festivals. Each individual, or congregation, can not celebrate HaShem's festivals their own way, they must do it the way that they were commanded by the Pharisees.
Yeshua was not making up something new when He commanded us to obey the Pharisees. Yeshua was reiterating what HaShem had said through Moses:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:8-13 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge--whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place HaShem your God will choose. Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place HaShem will choose. Be careful to do everything they direct you to do. Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to HaShem your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.
The only judges associated with the Levites were those who were part of the Sanhedrin which met in the court of hewn stone, in the Temple. The Sanhedrin was made up of those who were zealous for the law. In Yeshua's day, those who were zealous for the law were called Pharisees. Because they were zealous for the law, they did not act as individuals, they acted as a group. When Chanukah and Purim were established, they were established by those who had the authority of the Pharisees.
The Pharisees, in the Sanhedrin, continued to sanctify Rosh Chodesh, to institute festivals,
and to make binding interpretations of the Torah until the fourth century. In
the fourth century, Rabbi Hillel II codified and sanctified all the Rosh
Chodeshim (New Moons) until such time as the Sanhedrin would be reestablished
in the third
Rabbi Hillel, and the Sanhedrin, determined that the oral law needed to be written down because it was in danger of being lost because of persecution. The oral law contains the decisions of those who "sit in the seat of Moses". The oral law tells us how to build a succah (tabernacle), what is "choice fruit", and what is a "leafy tree". In short, the oral law tells us how to carry out the commands of the written law.
By following the Torah's commands and by obeying Yeshua, the Living Torah, we avoid the confusion that would be created if each individual, or congregation, made their own determinations. If we do it HaShem's way then we can be assured that we will be keeping our appointments with HaShem. By doing things HaShem's way we will be worshipping Him the way He wanted to be worshipped.
There are some significant ramifications to what we have learned:
1. Chag Shavuot is determined by counting fifty days from Nisan 16. This implies that we will celebrate this feast on the date set by the Pharisees. We will not be celebrating as the Sadducees suggested, on the seventh Sunday.
3. We will not be calling Christmas and Easter Holy days because these days were never declared "holy" by the Pharisees.
5. We will not be worshipping our own way on Shabbat or on the festivals. We will be worshipping according to the way HaShem asked us to, as written in the Siddur (prayer book) and Machzor (festival prayers).
6. We will eat kosher because this is what HaShem commanded and the Pharisees concurred.
The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that we need to be Torah observant because it is what HaShem commanded and it is the way of those who sit in the seat of Moses.
* * *
Many Christians study the Bible and do things that are not practiced by the Orthodox Jews. They, therefore, conclude that the Jews are wrong and that they are right. Often they start new movements to propagate these revelations. In the end, there is much confusion in the body.
Jew study the oral as well as the
written law. They are so concerned that they follow
EXACTLY what HaShem wants, that they actually memorize the law. This law is
communicated to them by teachers who memorized what was handed over to them by
their teacher. This teacher / student chain stretches all the way back to
The tradition also told them why certain letters had crowns and why certain letters were made in an abnormal manner. The teacher taught the student why certain letters had to be very tall, very wide, very narrow, or very small. Contained within the shapes of the letters was contained the cosmic blueprint of the world. So important was the copying of the Torah, that if a single letter were defective, the whole scroll became invalid. It became invalid because it would destroy the world. The copying had cosmic significance.
This same teacher / student chain also preserved the pronunciation of the words and the proper times to pronounce them. It also determined whether any particular student would learn everything or only the hints, so that only those capable of grasping and passing on certain aspects, were entrusted with those aspects. Since the yod-kay-vav-kay name had such cosmic significance and was pronounced only by the Kohen Gadole, and only on the day when the Jewish people could stand the incredible spiritual power that it produced. To have pronounced the name on any other day would have "fried" the people.
The Name of HaShem is one of the Names which is linked only to the higher world. To drag it into the lower world would be a total desecration of what this Name is. This concept of the Names of HaShem and the appropriate times to use them, was passed on from teacher to student. By the proper use of the Names, the pious ones could create miracles. The Sefer Yitzirah contains various permutations of His Names and how they were to be used. The Teacher would expose the student to this book, then explain the background and tradition that went with it. Armed with the written and the oral, the student could accurately reproduce.
No one wants to accurately fulfill the Torah more than the pious Jews, NO ONE! This means that the Jews themselves are the most convincing argument that they have the proper understanding. For someone to come along, without a proper teacher, and suggest that they are more pious than the Orthodox Jew is arrogance and ignorance. The use of the Divine names can not be properly understood without a teacher and the oral tradition.
So, go to the Orthodox Jew if you would like to learn about The Name.
This study was written by
Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David
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