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We welcome back Rav Wolicki, who returned on Tuesday from his successful interview trip to Boston, Toronto, Detroit, Montreal, and Philadelphia. This Monday, Rav Kahn will be traveling to New York, New Jersey, and Chicago; if you would like to meet with Rav Kahn or to have an interview, please tell your Israel guidance counselor or email the yeshiva office at

On Sunday and Monday, there were no shiurim, as the yeshiva was on its midwinter break.

On Tuesday evening, Raffi Levi made a siyum on Shas Mishnayot - learned by the entire yeshiva - for the Shloshim of his grandmother, Mrs. Ruth Levi ע"ה. We thank Raffi's parents, Dr. Noah and Mrs. Cherie Levi, for sponsoring the delicious dinner. (Visit the Yesodei HaTorah prospective students page at to see pictures of the siyum.)

On Thursday, Rav Wolicki gave the sicha ruchanit on the topic of,"The Deeper Meaning of Tefillin". Following the mishmar cholent and snacks - and after a siyum by Moshe Schwartz on Masechet Moed Katan - Rav Wolicki taught a shiur on, "The Blood of Pesach and the Blood of Milah", Rav Kahn gave an overview of, "Minhagei HaGra in Tefilliah", and Rav Arram delivered a class on, "Tanur Shel Achnai".

4 Shvat 5775

The Secret of the Jewish Calendar
By Rabbi Moshe Lichtman

This week’s parashah contains the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a whole:
(12:2)החודש הזה לכם ראש חדשים – the obligation to establish a Jewish calendar. We know this from the first Rashi on the Chumash, which states, “The Torah should have begun with החודש הזה לכם, which is the first commandment given to Israel…”

Rashi (there) explains that the Torah begins with BeReishit to establish the Jewish people’s rights to the Land of Israel. Thus, the entire Torah begins with Eretz Yisrael. We have also seen (in Parashat Lech Lecha) that the first commandment ever given to a Jew (Avraham Avinu) was לך לך – go up to Eretz Yisrael. In our present discussion, we will see that the first communal mitzvah is also deeply connected to the Holy Land.

The Rambam writes in Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment # 153):

Know that the calculations we make nowadays, to determine when the new months and holidays fall out, are permissible to be made only in Eretz Yisrael. Only in dire circumstances, and when there are no sages in Eretz Yisrael, is it permissible for a beit din (rabbinical court)ordained in Eretz Yisrael to intercalate the years and establish the months outside the Land… And even that is very difficult…

Contained in this [halachah] is a very great foundation of our belief, one which only deep thinkers will recognize and perceive. That is: The fact that we in Chutz LaAretz currently calculate [the Jewish calendar] using the traditional intercalation methods, and we say that a certain day is Rosh Chodesh or a holiday; under no circumstances do we celebrate that day as a holiday because of our calculations. Rather, we do so because a beit din in Eretz Yisrael already established that day as a holiday or Rosh Chodesh… The only reason we do the calculations today is to determine which day the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael established, since they use the very same system of calculation… We rely on their fixings, not on our calculations. Our calculations simply reveal the matter…

I will explain further. Let us suppose, for example, that there would be no Jews living in Eretz Yisrael – God forbid that He should do such a thing, for He has promised not to destroy the remnants of the nation completely. [Let us suppose] also that there would be no beit din there, and that there would be no beit din in the Diaspora which was ordained in Eretz Yisrael. [Under these circumstances], our calculations would not help us at all. For we may not calculate the months or establish leap years in the Diaspora, unless we fulfill the conditions mentioned above. For, out of Zion the Torah will go forth (Yeshayah 2:3).

The Chatam Sofer interprets this as follows:

Even though Hillel and his colleagues sanctified all of the months and years until the coming of Mashiach, this will not help unless one Jew lives in Eretz Yisrael. Hillel and his colleagues… calculated and sanctified [the months and years] for this one Jew, and the sanctity emanates from there to all of Israel. However, if the settlement in Eretz Yisrael would cease to exist in our days (God forbid), this sanctification (kiddush) would become null and void, and most of the mitzvot would dissolve, God forbid. Therefore, we must support [Jewish] settlement [in the Land] with all of our strength. (Teshuvot Chatam Sofer, Orach Chayim 203)

What is most striking about the Rambam’s words, however, is the parenthetical statement “God forbid that He should do such a thing, for He has promised not to destroy the remnants of the nation completely.” This implies that if no Jews lived in Eretz Yisrael it would be tantamount to the destruction of the Jewish people! Or, as the Chatam Sofer puts it, “His words imply that if, God forbid, no Jews would remain in Eretz Yisrael – even though there are Jews living in Chutz LaAretz – it would be considered the destruction of the [Jewish] nation” (ibid. 234).

So, not only does the first mitzvah contain a reference to Eretz Yisrael, it teaches us that settling the Land is an essential foundation of our faith, for without it, there can be no Jewish nation at all. It follows, then, that the more Jews that settle the Land, the stronger the nation will be as a whole. If Diaspora Jews would only understand this message and place the issue of aliyah on the top of their priority list, they would help strengthen our holy nation and expedite the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days. Amen.

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