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Parshas Shmini / Parah - Seek Knowledge Willfully      21 Adar II 5782

03/23/2022 07:51:46 PM


Do you ever feel that you simply need/want to know everything? Realistically, it is highly unlikely that any person can really know everything, but, there are times when I don’t know something and I really do not care to learn anything related to that information. There are other times, however, when I actively seek out that knowledge. It is always easier, and certainly more convenient, to let the unknown or even the initial curiosity just pass. Why bother taking the time and effort to find out about something when I will most likely hardly ever need it. Personally, I do think that way sometimes while at other times I subconsciously say to my self I can just Google it and access the information almost instantaneously. For me, this may be true regarding secular knowledge, but when it comes to Torah, I have an affinity, a deep need to dig and seek an answer to something I do not know or have a need to learn more in depth.

My quest is connected specifically to this week’s Parsha. The Torah in this week’s Parshas Shmini states in Vayikra 9:1 "ויהי ביום השמיני קרא משה לאהרן ולבניו, ולזקני ישראל"  “On the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon, his sons, and the elders of Israel”. The eighth day was Rosh Chodesh Nissan and it was the day of consecration, the first day of Nissan - the very day which the Tabernacle/Mishkan was erected. In Parshas Tzav we learned about the Seven Days of Miluim, from the twenty third of Adar until the first of Nissan. During these seven ceremonial days of the inauguration of the Mishkan, Moshe Rabbeinu acted as the Kohen Gadol. This was the only time in his life that Moshe acted as High Priest – during that week he had the status of a High Priest. Now it is the eighth day, following this seven-day period. Moshe called to Aharon and his four sons to invest them and their descendants with the status of Kehuna for the rest of eternity. This was preceded by a seven-day period of learning and practice by concluded the seven-day consecration period. Rosh Chodesh Nissan has great significance, but perhaps a lesser-known consideration is part of the Mussaf Amidah recited on Rosh Chodesh. It is here, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, where there is a point of contention in the liturgy.

The Mussaf service of Rosh Chodesh has twelve blessings representing each of the twelve months.  In addition, there is one more blessing mentioned for a leap year, when we have a thirteenth month. The Artscroll siddur commentary regarding the place where it explains   “we conclude with a final plea that that God fill the new month with every form of happiness and blessing. Since the year has twelve months, we specify twelve sorts of blessings. They are grouped in six pairs and the congregation answers ‘Amen’ after each of them. [In a Jewish leap year, which has a thirteenth month, a thirteenth term of blessing is added: ולכפרת פשע   and for atonement of willful sin. Most congregations recite the additional phrase only until the Second Adar, the extra month, while some recite it all year long.] I always had two questions: first, why do we have an extra description in a leap year, and second, why do some say it up until and including Adar II while others, as the Artscroll mentions, say it throughout the entire year? The source of this commentary in Artscroll is from the Anaf Yosef, which is a commentary found in Siddur Otzer Tefillos. The thirteenth blessing is added only for the leap year. But once the “added on” month of that leap year is completed, we cease saying it because the addition was expressly for that thirteenth month. Once that month is over, we stop saying it. The Sefer Taamei HaMinhagim (page 197) explains we add the words ‘and for atonement of willful sin’. Where and what is this willful sin? Avraham Yitzchak Shperling, author of Sefer Taamei HaMinhagim answers, ”Perhaps the year should not be a leap year, and thus we might be eating Chometz on Pesach!” Therefore, since we willfully arranged this, we need an atonement, because, perhaps, we are actually sinning. Rav Yakov Kopshitz adds that it was known that Reb Eliyahu Lopian zt”l explained that the observance of Yom Kippur Katan* every Erev Rosh Chodesh is comparable to a sick person waiting to reach a place of healing on Yom Kippur! Since the leap year is now a longer year, we need some extra strengthening, and therefore with Yom Kippur a bit further away we need some atonement in the middle of the year. Rav Hutner zt”l explains an additional reason based upon the Gemara Sanhedrin 12b regarding Chizkiyahu HaMelech, who announced and proclaimed ‘an additional month’ in Nissan, past the appropriate time of Adar, in  essence making it a leap year after the fact. The sages vehemently disagreed with him and he the king davened to Hashem and asked "ה' הטוב יכפר בעד"  :“Hashem the good will atone for them”. From this story come the words ולכפרת פשע   and for atonement of willful sin. The Mishna Brura in 423:6 brings a variety of opinions regarding how to proceed. Some say the additional words every year, leap year or not. Others only say it during a leap year, and even during the leap year will only say it until Adar II. The Chazon Ish only said it up until Nissan (not including Nissan), while the Aruch HaShulchan and the Ben Ish Chai wrote to say it throughout the entire year. The final option given by the Yosef Ometz and Mekor Chaim is to say the additional words ONLY in the additional month of Adar II, only one month out of the year. The Chofetz Chaim concludes, “…in all of these, some do this way and some do that way,” meaning any custom is valid. Just be consistent with whichever custom one has.

This Shabbos we announce the incoming new month of Nissan that will take place the following Shabbos. The Rabbis have taught that it is in the month of Nissan that the redemption from Egypt took place and in Nissan the Jewish people will be redeemed once again. We hope and pray we will have attained an atonement, and this year Nissan will be the Nissan of the ultimate redemption.  

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Yom Kippur Katan יום כיפור קטן translation from Hebrew: "Minor Day of Atonement", is a practice observed by some Jews on the day preceding each Rosh Chodesh. The observance consists of fasting and supplication but is much less rigorous than that of Yom Kippur proper.

The custom is of comparatively recent origin and is not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch. It appears to have been inaugurated in the sixteenth century at Safed by the kabbalist Moshe Cordovero who called the fast Yom Kippur Katan. It was included by Yitzchok Luria in his Seder HaTefillah. Reb Yeshaya Horowitz refers to it by that name, explaining that it should be observed by fasting and repentance: "Following the custom of the very pious, one must repent of his ways and make restitutions both in money and in personal acts, in order that he may enter the new month as pure as a new-born infant.” The custom has roots in the Torah Bamidbar 28:15 where a sin offering is sacrificed on Rosh Chodesh, indicating judgment and atonement is provided by God on that day. Therefore, the idea of fasting would seem obvious. Because fasting is prohibited on Rosh Chodesh,  the fast is observed on the day prior to Rosh Chodesh.

Thu, June 8 2023 19 Sivan 5783