Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Rabbi Yochanan asked from Rabbi Yanai as when the New Year of an esrog. His response was that it is in Shevat. Rabbi Yochanan questioned further if he was referring to Shevat of the lunar months or of the solar season. Rabbi Yanai responded that he was referring to Shevat of the lunar months. The Gemora continues that Shevat is the New Year for the esrog (and all trees) even in a leap year when the budding of the fruits are delayed (since the lunar year is behind the solar year).

The Gemora’s conclusion requires further explanation. The New Year for trees should depend on Shevat of the solar year since by then, most of the winter season has passed. Why is Shevat of the lunar months the determining time for the New Year?

Tosfos states that the moon also affects the growing and the ripening of the fruits. He proves this from a verse in Devarim. Tosfos adds that the Jewish year follows the lunar cycle.

The Chasam Sofer (O”C 14) is bothered by Tosfos’ additional statement. Why should the Jewish year affect the ripening of the fruits?

There is a Gemora which is quoted l'halacha which supports the idea that the decision of Beis Din can affect reality. The Gemara in Nidda 45a states that a girl under three years old who loses her virginity, the virginity (hymen) will grow back. The Yerushalmi (Kesubos 1:2) comments that even if when she had relations she was over three years old but then the Beis Din made a leap year which in doing so made her at the time that she had relations under three years old, it will grow back. The Yerushalmi bases this on a pasuk in Tehilim. The Pnei Moshe explains the Yerushalmi and states: אף הטבע מסכמת עליהן. Even nature agress with the psak. This is explicit that the decision changes reality. Before Beis Din declared a leap year her virginity would not have grown back, now that they declared a leap year it will grow back. This Yerushalmi is quoted l'halacha in the Rama (E”H 20:1) as well as by the Acharonim (O”C 55:9) (relating to a boy who becomes Bar Mitzva in a leap year. We see clearly that the Beis Din declaring a leap year changes reality. If they hadn't she would not be a virgin (the hymen would not grow back), since they did she is a virgin (it does grow back).

One of the commentators on the Yerushalmi (Kesubos 1:2) brings another example that Beis Din’s decision can affect reality from the Tosefta in Rosh Hashana (1:10). The Tosefta assumes that the manna did not fall on Yom Tov. The Tosefta says that how long the manna fell on erev Rosh Hashana lasted depended on the decision of Beis Din. If Beis Din made the 30th Rosh Hashana, then the manna lasted two days (the 29th and Rosh Hashana). However, if Beis Din made Rosh Hashana on the 31st, then the manna had to last a third day (29,30 because it didn't fall because it could have been Yom Tov, and Rosh Hashana). Again, we see that the decision of Beis Din affected the reality of when the manna rotted away. (Jewish Worker)

The Chasam Sofer states further that the laws of nature are subject to the Torah. Since the sap in the tree which causes the fruits to ripen has relevance to many halachos in the Torah, the laws of nature become secondary to the Torah rules and the fruits ripen in Shevat of the lunar months.