Was Pesach ever postponed? When? May it be? Who did it and did he live to talk about it? How was it received? We shall address these questions below, here we go.
Late on Friday the heylige Oisvorfer was copied on an email from chaver Shlomo Gottesman. This particular mail was regarding a fine gentleman out of Israel who decided to petition the Supreme Court demanding that they order the Chief Rabbinate to push Pesach off for one month. As the petition was being read, I was reminded once again that there is nothing new under the sun: this topic too was covered several thousand years ago. Where? In the heylige Toirah? There too, but a more striking resemblance is discussed in the back of our large Novee Books, in the writings known as Divrey Hayomim (Chronicles II). We shall get to what took place and how our sages reacted, ober let’s begin here with the action by the Israeli farmer. The news read azoy:
JERUSALEM (VINnews) — A resident of the village of Itamar in northern Samaria has petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to order the Chief Rabbinate to explain why it is not declaring a leap year and postponing Pesach by a month due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Yedidia Meshulami explained in his petition that halachically another month of Adar can be added until the 29th of Adar which falls next Wednesday. Meshulami based his petition on the Gemara (Sanhedrin 11-12) and on the Rambam who states that leap years can be performed in Eretz Yisrael even in our time when necessary and the present situation warrants taking such a step.
“This is not the place to discuss in detail the severity of the situation in Israel regarding individual autonomy as well as public stability in matters of health, economy, society, governance and justice, all as a result of the corona outbreak,” Meshulami wrote, adding that making a leap year could be a form of “first aid” for the Israeli public this year.
Meshulami also claimed that the present situation could lead to the sale of Chametz on Pesach in violation of the law which prohibits such activity. Moreover in the present situation of partial isolation which may yet become more severe it will be impossible to obtain all that is necessary to perform the mitzvot of Pesach properly. The petitioner claimed that he had not succeeded in contacting the Chief Rabbinate and due to the urgency of the request he petitioned the court in order to rouse public opinion on the matter.
In plain English: the plaintiff wants the Supreme Court of Israel to direct rabbis to add another month to our lunar calendar. Not just any month but a second month called Adar, and to get it done before Wednesday evening. The ultimate goal being to delay the arrival of the month of Nissan, the month following Adar, the one in which we celebrate Pesach. In other words: he wants Pesach to be pushed off by one full month. The plaintiff assumes and hopes, as do we all, that by that time, life will resume to normal, people will be out and about, and that it will be easier to make and observe Pesach by then.
What the plaintiff did not say but mistama had in mind and should have said is this: by adding a second month of Adar, not just might life resume to normal, but that Pesach would be observed in May vs. April. By that time, hotels might be operational, flights will have resumed, and all those affected by Pesach program closures might also avoid the myriad machloikes – lawsuits, dinay Toirah’s, negotiations and much more. Moreover, Pesach in May gives many a much better chance of warm sunny weather wherever in the world they find themselves; aren’t those valid reasons to delay Pesach? Sneak preview: the Ois is working on a post for later in the week which will dissect this topic as only he can.
Ober is this even remotely possible? Who if anyone in our times has license to play with the calendar? We know and accept daylight savings time, ober adding a full month to the lunar calendar? What’s pshat? Has it been done before?So happens that Shlomo’s email (followed by at least a dozen more on the very same topic) got the Ois to hearken back to an article he read at least five years ago. Back then, he was amazed by its content and saved it. The topic -not at all relevant when written- was about a time in Jewish history when a gentleman came along and pushed Pesach off by a full month. Not just any gentlemen, this one happened to be the King of the Yiddin and his name was Chizkiyohu. Chizky who? Shoin, sadly they didn’t teach us too much Tanach back in yeshiva; we were limited to a cursory review of Shmuel I and II, some Yihoishua and that’s it. Ober way in the back of the all-encompassing Novee, one can find Divrey Hayomim, what the goyim call Chronicles I and II. Many say that Ezra Hasoifer (the Scribe) authored these two books. Ober says the Sha’gas Aryeh, a ga’on who wrote quite a bit about tifilin, that Ezra didn’t write Divrei Hayomim; he but copied it from different texts that were around from before his time. The bottom line: who wrote it? Ver Veyst?
And before we go further, let’s answer these questions? What is Divrei Hayomim? Literally translated, “Divrei Hayomim,” means “the events of the days.” It details the genealogy of all the major figures in the Tanach, from Odom (Adam) to Ezra the Scribe. It is a summary of Jewish history from the beginning of time until the building of the Second Temple. Our sages in Vayikra Rabba (1, 3) tell us that Divrei HaYomim is the transitional seam between the end of the written Tanach and the beginning of the rabbinic midrash, and that it was written for midrashic purposes. Accordingly, its literal meaning is less significant than the other books in Tanach. Yikes! In any event, in Divrei Hayomim (Chapters 29-32) we read this:
Chizkiyohu assumed the throne at the age of 25, and took immediate steps to sanctify the Beis Hamikdash which had become defiled (and more) during the reign of his father, the wicked king Achaz who was a very bad man. Chizkiyohu opened his reign by immediately reversing his father’s sinful policies. He summoned the Kohanim (Priests) and Liviim (Levites) as soon as he ascended the throne, and ordered them to rectify his father’s behavior toward the Beis Hamikdash. Chapter 30 recounts how Chizkiyohu organized a major Pesach celebration in Yirusholayim. Chizkiyohu sought to accomplish two distinct goals through this celebration: Ershtens (firstly), he saw Pesach as an opportunity to formally rededicate the Temple -the culmination of his mission to purify the Temple from his father’s defilement. Moreover, in light of the Kingdom of Israel’s collapse, Chizkiyohu hoped that his major Pesach celebration would attract remnants of Israel’s tribes back to Yirusholayim and thus reunite them under his rule. However, Chizkiyohu’s lofty goals faced formidable challenges. His efforts to prepare the Temple for rededication by the 14th of Nisan, failed “because the Kohanim had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, nor had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem.” The northern tribes had been living as a separate kingdom for roughly 200 years; not surprisingly, many of them scoffed at the idea of traveling to Yirusholayimthe capital of a foreign kingdom (in their eyes) to observe Pesach. Sensing they were not ready to rededicate the Temple, Chizkiyohu consulted with other leaders and citizens, and they decided to delay Pesach by one month. Read that again: Chizkiyohu delayed Pesach by one month! Its’ avada good to be the King! What happened next? Was there an uprising against his edict? Did Chizkiyohu rely on the heylige Toirah for guidance? Did he consult with his local rabbi? Did he at least look on-line for guidance? A nechtiger tug or in English, seemingly not. What happened next?
During this extra time, Chizkiyohu sent letters to the remnants of the dispersed Yiddin urging them to “return to the RBSO” (30:9) by joining the Pesach celebration in Yirusholayim. Although most remaining Israelites mocked this message, “A few men of Asher and Menashe and of Zevulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” (30:11). The text indicates that when the Pesach observance finally took place —one month late—it was a smashing success. The text depicts such tremendous joy that the nation stayed for an additional week after the formal holiday concluded: “And the whole assembly took counsel to keep another seven days; and they kept another seven days with gladness” (30:23). Gishmak! It does then appear that Chizkiyohu made the correct decision to delay Pesach by one month. The bottom line: he took actions and the people enjoyed Pesach. Shoin!
It’s mamish kiday (well worth the effort) for you to read the words innaveynig, ober given the limited attention spans most of you have -especially during this corona virus when every spare moment is spent looking at, and then forwarding one –typically many more- memes to friends, those we haven’t had contact with for years -even decades, rabbis and others, the Ois will instead give you a link to chapter 29 and 30 of Divrei Hayomim. It’s a great read. Click here.
Nu, as is the case in our times, and though he was the king, and though the king can do as he pleases because he is the king, not all our sages of yore were in agreement on his actions and hotly debated them. A few in the heylige Gemora excoriated him. Of course this debate took place way after the king had died; doing so earlier would avada have resulted in consequences, efsher worse than coronavirus. In any event, the text tells us that the korban Pesach (paschal offering) was delayed owing to uncleanness, ober the sages of the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 12) disagree as to the nature of the delay.
Says Rebbe Shimon ben Yehuda in the name of Rebbe Shimon: according to the plain sense of the text, the “second month” refers to the month of Iyar, that is to say, Chizkiyohu set aside the regular Pesach (celebrated in Nissan) and celebrated only Pesach Sheni. Ober, others understand that it was Adar Sheni, and that Chizkiyohu prayed for atonement either because adding a month on account of ritual impurity is questionable, or because they added a month of Nissan. The good news: the Ibn Ezra and the Radak defend Chizkiyohu actions. After adopting the view that Chizkiyohu’s only error was declaring the leap month too late, Ibn Ezra downplays the severity of such an error by claiming that the RBSO would not have responded favorably to this holiday if it had entailed grave sins. Radak (Divrei HaYamim II 30:2) goes even further by asserting that no textual evidence supports the claim that Chizkiyohu waited too long to declare the leap month.
The bottom line and what we know with certainty: King Chizkiyohu delayed Pesach by one month. Did he do it by adding a second month of Adar as the farmer suingthe Chief Rabbis would like done? We don’t know. Did he do it by observing Pesach Shaynee in Iyar, we don’t know, at least not with certainty. What we do know with certainty is this: a few in the heylige Gemora suggest that Chizkiyohu behaved improperly, either because the nation’s ritual impurity was not a sufficient reason to add a leap month, or because Chizkiyohu waited too long to declare this leap month. What’s pshat he waited too long? Explains the heylige Gemora azoy: once the month of Adar ends, the next month automatically becomes Nisan, so a leap month can no longer be added. The Gemora claims that Chizkiyohu failed to declare the leap month until the date that could have been the first day of Nisan. Based on this view, we can chap why the farmer in Israel petitioned the Supreme Court to act with alacrity; with Choidesh Nissan beginning Wednesday evening as we recite Maariv (the evening prayer), time is running out to declare a second month of Adar and pushing Pesach into May when the world will hopefully be safer and calmer.
Another bottom line: Chizkiyohu’s Pesach had a happy ending and we close with these pisukim in Divrei Hayomim (30:25-27): “And all the congregation of Judah, with the Kohanim and the Levites, and all the congregation that came from Israel, and the foreigners who came from the Land of Israel, and who lived in Judah, rejoiced. And there was great joy in Jerusalem; for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the Kohanim the Levites arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, to heaven. All would agree that some form of happy ending is in order!
Is the Israeli farmer onto something?
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv