Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Daf Yomi - Rosh Hashana 2 - Counting the Months

brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Yerushalayim
Rosh Kollel: Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld
Rosh Hashanah 002: Counting Months
avrohom adler asked:
can you explain pshat in the ein yaakov that learns the ramban in parshas bo as follows. there is no positive mitzva to count the months acc to nissan however if one is counting them, it must be from nissan and not from tishrei l'zichron haneis hagadol.
If we are so concerned to remember yetzias mitzrayim in the months why isnt the mitzva that way always and therefore it should be ussur to say nissan , iyar, etc.? (minchas chinuch 311 agrees with ein yaakov)
avrohom adler, usa
The Kollel replies:
Reb Avrohom,
The Ramban himself explains why it is permissible and even important to use the Persian names. Here is a copy of our Insights to Shabbos 129 where we address that issue.
Be well,
Mordecai Kornfeld
We have seen how the days of the week are derived from the names of gods in Greek and Norse mythology (see previous Insight). This raises the question of whether it is permissible for a Jew to refer to the days of the week by such names. This question is related to the broader question of whether a Jew may refer to the months of the year by their Julian names, four of which are named after Roman gods (January, named after Janus, known as the god of the doorway; March, named after Mars, the god of war; May, named after Maia, the goddess of plant growth; June, from junius, Latin for Juno, the queen goddess and wife of Jupiter).
Similarly, is one permitted to refer to the year by the number used by the Gregorian calendar, which refers to the year of the death of the god of the Nazarenes?
Furthermore, is one permitted to refer to the hours of the day (e.g., 6:00 in the morning), which begin their count from midnight? The count of hours from midnight is based on a foreign belief that maintains that their god was born at midnight.
QUESTION: There are two reasons to prohibit using the secular names of months and days, as follows. Based on these reasons, are we permitted to use such names?
(a) The MAHARAM SHIK (#117) writes that one should not use the secular names of months, and certainly not the secular count of the months (counting January as the first month). The reason is because the secular system does not make Nisan the first month, and the Torah commands us, with a Mitzvas Aseh, to count the months from Nisan, and to count Nisan as the first month, in order to always remember the redemption from Mitzrayim (RAMBAN to Shemos 12:1). The same logic applies to the days of the week. The Gemara in Beitzah (16a) says that we should refer to the days of the week in reference to Shabbos ("the first day from Shabbos" and "the second day from Shabbos," etc.) as a way of honoring Shabbos. Consequently, we should not be permitted to use the secular names of the days of the week.
(b) The names of the months and the days of the week are based on names of gods that were used in idol worship.
(a) The RAMBAN (in Parshas Bo) addresses these questions. With regard to the months, he points out that when the Jewish people returned from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael, they referred to the months with their Babylonian names (which are the names that we now use -- Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, etc.) as a way of commemorating the redemption from Bavel (see TOSFOS to Rosh Hashanah 7a), just as, until then, they counted the months from Nisan in order to remember the redemption from Mitzrayim.
The SEFER HA'IKARIM (3:16) understands that since the exile to Bavel effectively ended the liberty the Jews had enjoyed as a result of the redemption from Mitzrayim (890 years earlier), there was no longer a necessity to count the months from Nisan in order to commemorate the redemption from Mitzrayim (see also CHASAM SOFER, Choshen Mishpat 1, DH Nachzir).
However, the PERUSH HA'KOSEV in the Ein Yakov at the beginning of Megilah (3a) strongly opposes this view and explains that when the Jews left Bavel, they only *added names* to the months; they did *not* change the numbering system. They continued to count the months from Nisan. One is permitted to refer to each month by its name, but when one gives each month a number, he must count the month based on the original system, with Nisan as the first month. This opinion is supported by the GET PASHUT (127:35), MINCHAS CHINUCH (311:3), and RAV OVADYAH YOSEF (in YABI'A OMER 6:9:4). (It is interesting to note that even according to the Perush ha'Kosev, in practice the Sefer ha'Ikarim's conclusion appears to be correct, since once the months were named, it was rare for anyone to refer to a month by its number; see Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:830.)
Rav Ovadyah Yosef concludes, therefore, that one should refrain from referring to the months by the secular numbering system (with January as month "1" and so on). (It should be noted that the months of September, October, November, and December are named according to their numbers ("septem," or seven, "octo," or eight, "novem," or nine, and "decem," or ten). However, these numbers are not in reference to January, since two months were added at a later point in time. It happens that they conform to the count from the time of the year which usually corresponds to Nisan.)
RAV MOSHE STERNBUCH shlit'a (in Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:830) takes issue with Rav Ovadyah Yosef's ruling. He asserts that the Mitzvah to count the months from Nisan has no bearing on the months of the *solar* year. The Mitzvah applies only to the months of the *lunar* year. Therefore, one is permitted to use even the secular numbering system. (Rav Sternbuch cites support for his approach from the practice of the Brisker Rav and Rav Chaim Soloveitchik.)
Based on a similar line of reasoning, it seems that according to all opinions, one who uses the names of the days of the week and not their numbers does not transgress a Mitzvas Aseh. However, it might be prohibited to refer to the days of the week by a different *numbering* system (for example, to call Monday the first day of the week).
(b) With regard to mentioning the names of idols, since these idols are no longer known or worshipped in the civilized world, one should be permitted to mention their names, since he has no intention to refer to the idols when he says the name of the day or month.