Do you know our calendar?

The mitzva of Kiddush HaChodesh is one of our favorite topics to present in Torah Tidbits Audio. What about us? Are we part of this mitzva?

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Phil Chernofsky,

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By now, we have all been reminded that Parshat Bo contains the first mitzva commanded to the People of Israel - the mitzva to make the Jewish Calendar, with months based on the cycle of the Moon's phases, and with the years adjusted to the seasons by adding an extra Adar every so often.

The mitzva of Kiddush HaChodesh is one of our favorite topics to present in Torah Tidbits. As offen as we write about this topic, we try for different aspects and angles each time. The mitzva to make the Jewish Calendar is one that is addressed, not to the individual Jew, but to the Jewish People as a whole.

How are such mitzvot fulfilled? By the chief representative body of the Jewish People - the Sanhedrin. Sanhedrins of the past have actively performed this mitzva monthly and yearly.

One Sanhedrin gave us the method of continuing the Jewish Calendar in the absence of a sitting Sanhedrin. And, IY"H, in the hopefully near future, the Sanhedrin will be restored and will take on the responsibility of Kiddush HaChodesh once again.

What about us? Are we part of this mitzva? The answer is definitely yes, on a few different levels. First, we will have to say that the main and primary fulfillment is what the Sanhedrin does. Possibly, the eye-witnesses to the first visibility of the lunar crescent also fulfill a mitzva when they testify.

After that, we can say that our study of the calendar and knowledge of its workings - both past and future with a Sanhedrin and present without a Sanhedrin - involve us on some level with the mitzva of HaChodesh HaZeh. Then there is using the calendar. Even in a society where the January-February calendar is more practical on a day-to- day basis, we still should be aware of the Jewish date, and use it when we can. More than 30 years ago, Rabbi Elihu Marcus z"l spoke at a Rosh Chodesh Melave Malka at the OU Israel Center on Straus Street, and inspired a small gesture towards this mitzva.

He encourages us to date our checks with the Jewish date. Don't try this outside of Israel, but here it is perfectly kosher and acceptible. There are sources that indicate that our study of astronomy and math (and other sciences), both of which are part of understanding our calendar, is a fulfillment of D'varim 4:5-8 - See I have taught you decrees and ordinances... You shall safeguard and perform them, for it is your knowledge and wisdom in the eyes of the other nations... What follows in the wake of knowledge of the Calendar is the longing in the heart for the closer relationship we will have yet again with HKB"H, when we become His junior partners with the calendar and the cycle of Holy days that flow from it - rather than our current status of bystanders on the sidelines.

The Greeks knew well how important our having our own calendar was to our nationhood and our relationship with G-d. They banned this mitzva to us because they knew how important it was and is. When we value it as high as the Greeks did, we'll be in good shape and for Kiddush HaChodesh Primary.


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