1) THE FIRST OF TISHREI: THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
QUESTION: The Gemara earlier (10b) quotes the dispute between Rebbi Eliezer and Rebbi Yehoshua with regard to whether the world was created on the first of Tishrei (the day on which Adam ha'Rishon was created) or whether it was created on the first of Nisan.
If the world was created (and Adam ha'Rishon was granted atonement for his sin) on the first of Tishrei as Rebbi Eliezer maintains, it is clear why the inhabitants of the world are called to task on that day every year (see Vayikra Rabah 29:1). However, if the world was created in Nisan as Rebbi Yehoshua maintains, then why was the first of Tishrei designated as the Day of Judgment for the year's deeds?
(a) The RAN suggests that since Yom Kippur was chosen as the Day of Atonement (because Hash-m exonerated the Jews for the sin of the Golden Calf on that day), Hash-m chose a day nine days earlier as the day to begin preparation for Yom Kippur through penitence and introspection. He adds that perhaps the process of Hash-m's decision to exonerate the Jews at Sinai actually began on the first of Tishrei.
(b) RABEINU TAM (cited by TOSFOS 27a, DH k'Man) explains that even according to Rebbi Yehoshua, Hash-m "planned" to create the world at the beginning of Tishrei. Thus, the first of Tishrei commemorates even more of a beginning than the actual beginning of Creation, because it marks the planned beginning of Creation. (See also OR HA'CHAIM to Bereishis 1:1, #16.)
(c) Since the autumnal equinox -- when days and nights are of equal length -- occurs at (or close to) the beginning of Tishrei, this point in time may be regarded as a starting point in the yearly astronomical cycle. However, the days are also of equal length at the vernal equinox, which occurs at the beginning of Nisan (the first month). Why is Nisan not as appropriate a starting point for the yearly astronomical cycle as its fall counterpart?
Perhaps the reason why the year's start is in Tishrei is because Tishrei is the beginning of the rain season in Eretz Yisrael (as the Gemara here and in Ta'anis 2b says). The commencement of the rain season marks the start of the agricultural year. Fields are sown during Tishrei in preparation for the first rains of the season (Berachos 36b; see Rashi here, DH Afla). Crops grow and blossom through the winter, bear fruit in Nisan, and are left to dry until the beginning of Tishrei (Rashi to Devarim 25:11) at which point a new cycle begins. This consideration makes the first of Tishrei a more fitting occasion for the annual judgment of man's destiny and sustenance than the first of Nisan. This may be the intention of RAV SHERIRA GA'ON (cited by the TOSFOS YOM TOV in his introduction to Rosh Hashanah) when he writes that Maseches Rosh Hashanah precedes Ta'anis because Rosh Hashanah immediately precedes the agricultural cycle, which is discussed in Ta'anis. (See also RAV SAMSON RAFAEL HIRSCH in Horeb, paragraph 166 and footnote.)
(d) The Torah states that Nisan should be the first of the months of the year (Shemos 12:2). The RAMBAN explains that the purpose of making Nisan the first of the months is to commemorate Yetzi'as Mitzrayim. Accordingly, even though the beginning of Nisan is a more appropriate time for Rosh Hashanah according to Rebbi Yehoshua since that was the day of the world's creation, nevertheless had Rosh Hashanah been established on that day it would have detracted from Nisan's status as the "month of the Exodus." If the Jews would celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Nisan, they would not realize that it is only because of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim that Nisan is always counted as the first of the months. Hash-m, therefore, "moved" the date of Rosh Hashanah to the other equinoctial month, Tishrei. The peculiar situation of having the year begin in the "seventh" month would enhance, rather than diminish, the commemoration of the Exodus. (M. Kornfeld)
2) AGADAH: THE SOUNDING OF THE SHOFAR TO CONFOUND THE SATAN
The Gemara teaches that we sound an extra set of Teki'os in order to confound the Satan.
The TUR (OC 590) records a beautiful allusion for the Teki'os which are blown in order "to confuse the Satan" and prevent him from indicting us. The verse states, "Ein Satan v'Ein Pega Ra" (Melachim I 5:8). The first letters of four consecutive words in the verse spell the word "Shofar." (This is the only verse in all of Tanach in which the word "Shofar" appears as either Roshei Teivos or Sofei Teivos.) The allusion to the word "Shofar" in the verse which says that "there is no Satan to cause injury" reveals that the Shofar has the power to which confound the Satan.
3) VISITING ONE'S REBBI DURING THE FESTIVAL
QUESTION: Rebbi Yitzchak teaches that one is obligated to visit his Rebbi during the festival. He derives this requirement from the words of the Shunamite woman's husband who asked his wife, "Why are you going to him (the prophet Elisha) today? Today is not Rosh Chodesh and not Shabbos" (Melachim II 4:23). This verse teaches the requirement to visit one's Rebbi on Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos.
Why does Rebbi Yitzchak say that one is obligated to visit his Rebbi on the festival ("Regel")? The verse mentions only Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos. It makes no mention of Yom Tov, and thus it does not provide a source for the obligation to visit one's Rebbi on Yom Tov.
(a) The RITVA (here and in Sukah 27b) addresses this question. He says that the Mitzvah to visit one's Rebbi includes three parts. First, when one's Rebbi is in the same town, he is required to visit his Rebbi every day. Second, when one's Rebbi is outside of the town but within the Techum Shabbos (2000 Amos), he is required to visit his Rebbi only on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh. Third, when one's Rebbi lives beyond the Techum Shabbos of one's town, he is required to visit his Rebbi only on the festival (he travels before Yom Tov or during Chol ha'Mo'ed when there is no prohibition of Techum).
In the case of the Shunamite woman, Elisha lived outside of the town but within the Techum Shabbos, and thus her husband mentioned only Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos. When Rebbi Yitzchak teaches this Halachah, he does not mention the requirement to visit one's Rebbi every day when the Rebbi lives in the same town, because everyone is heedful of that requirement (since it requires minimal effort). He mentions the Halachah only with regard to Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos, because when the Rebbi lives in a different town, a person tends to neglect the requirement to visit him.
(b) The MAHARSHA explains that if one is required to visit his Rebbi on Rosh Chodesh, then certainly one is required to visit his Rebbi on Yom Tov even though the verse does not specifically mention Yom Tov. (The Maharsha does not address why Yom Tov is not mentioned in the verse.)
(c) The TUREI EVEN in Rosh Hashanah (16b) and the VILNA GA'ON (Seder Olam Rabah, chapter 3; see also RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS in "Olelos" #13) point out that it is odd that the verse mentions Rosh Chodesh before Shabbos. It should mention Shabbos first, because Shabbos comes more frequently than Rosh Chodesh. It must be that the word "Shabbos" in the verse refers to Yom Tov (as the Torah itself refers to Yom Tov as "Shabbos," as in Vayikra 23:16).
(d) Although ideally one should visit his Rebbi every day (in order to learn Torah from him), it is not always possible to do so because a person is occupied with his work throughout the week. Therefore, the Mitzvah to visit one's Rebbi requires that he visit him only when he is not working. This is evident from the verse in Melachim. The husband of the Shunamite woman mentioned specifically Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, days on which a woman does not perform Melachah (Shabbos, because of the prohibition of Melachah, and Rosh Chodesh, because of the custom for women to refrain from Melachah on that day), because only on those days would she be obligated to visit Elisha. This implies that on days on which a man does not perform Melachah (Shabbos and Yom Tov), he should visit his Rebbi. A woman, however, is not free to visit the Rebbi during Yom Tov, because on Yom Tov she is occupied with cooking and other responsibilities. A woman has time to visit the Rebbi only on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh. (ETZ YOSEF in the name of the IYEI HA'YAM)
(e) The CHANUKAS HA'TORAH (Rosh Hashanah 16b) explains that since it is inappropriate for a woman to visit the Rebbi when his Talmidim are there (see Kidushin 81a), the only time she would be obligated to visit him is when the Talmidim are not there. Thus, the husband of the Shunamite woman asked her why she was going to the prophet when it was not Rosh Chodesh or Shabbos -- days on which the Talmidim are not with their Rebbi but are home. The verse implies that she has no obligation to visit the Rebbi on the festival, which must be due to the fact that on the festival his Talmidim visit him. Hence, the verse indeed teaches that one is obligated to visit his Rebbi on the festival!
(f) RAV YONASAN EIBESHITZ (Ya'aros Devash 1:12 and elsewhere) explains that during the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash (when Elisha lived), everyone would go to greet the presence of the Shechinah in Yerushalayim. They would visit the Rebbi only on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, when there was no requirement to go to Yerushalayim. After the Churban, the practice was instituted to visit the Rebbi in place of going to Yerushalayim, because a Talmid Chacham reflects the presence of the Shechinah. (See also ARUCH LA'NER, and MALBIM to Melachim II 4:23, who give similar explanations.)
(g) The NODA B'YEHUDAH (OC 2:94) suggests the opposite approach. When the verse mentions Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos, it includes Yom Tov as well. It refers to all days that have additional Kedushah, days on which an additional Korban (the Korban Musaf) is offered. Due to the holiness of those days, the Rebbi has a heightened ability to influence his Talmidim, and his Talmidim are more receptive to his influence. Hence, a Talmid should visit his Rebbi on those days. However, a Talmid is not obligated to visit his Rebbi on all of those days, lest he give more honor to his Rebbi than he gives to the Shechinah (which he visits only on the three festivals). The Gemara in Kidushin (33b) teaches that it is not proper for the honor of the Shechinah to be less than the honor of one's Rebbi, and thus the obligation to visit one's Rebbi can apply only as much as, but not more than, the obligation to visit the Shechinah. Therefore, the Gemara says that one is obligated to visit his Rebbi on each of the three festivals.
Based on this, the Noda b'Yehudah explains that today, when the Beis ha'Mikdash has not yet been rebuilt, there is no obligation to visit one's Rebbi during the festival (unless, of course, one goes with intent to learn Torah from him), since there is no obligation to visit the Shechinah at the Beis ha'Mikdash. The honor given to one's Rebbi should not be greater than the honor given to the Shechinah.
Accordingly, the TUR and the SHULCHAN ARUCH -- who record only the Halachos that are relevant in practice when the Beis ha'Mikdash is not standing -- omit this Halachah. The RAMBAM, though, mentions this Halachah (Hilchos Talmud Torah 5:7), because he includes all of the Halachos that are relevant when the Beis ha'Mikdash is standing.
(See also MAHARATZ CHAYOS to Rosh Hashanah 16b, CHIDUSHEI GE'ONIM in the Ein Yakov, EINEI SHMUEL, and DIVREI SHALOM 2:25 for other approaches. See also Insights to Sukah 27:1.)
4) SIGNING AND SEALING
QUESTIONS: The Beraisa (16a) quotes Rebbi Yehudah who says that Hash-m inscribes the judgment passed on every person on Rosh Hashanah, and He seals their fate on Yom Kippur. Rav Kruspeda'i (16b) says that three ledgers are opened on Rosh Hashanah: Tzadikim are inscribed and sealed for life immediately on Rosh Hashanah, Resha'im are inscribed and sealed for death immediately on Rosh Hashanah, and Beinonim (who have an equal number of Mitzvos as sins) are inscribed for their fate on Yom Kippur, according to the fate they merited.
(a) In the prayers that are added to the Shemoneh Esreh during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we ask Hash-m to inscribe us in the book of life. Why do we continue to pray that Hash-m "write" us in the book of life after Rosh Hashanah? Whoever deserved to be written in the book of life was already written there on Rosh Hashanah, as the Gemara here says. It is more appropriate to pray that Hash-m "seal" us in the book of life, since the sealing is not done until Yom Kippur.
(b) Rebbi Yehudah (16a) says that everyone's fate is inscribed on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur. Later (16b), Rav Kruspeda'i says that both Tzadikim and Resha'im are inscribed and sealed on Rosh Hashanah, while Beinonim are inscribed on Yom Kippur. Neither the dates of inscription nor the dates of sealing conform with each other.
While Rebbi Yehudah in the Beraisa may be referring only to a specific group of Jews and not to all Jews, Rav Kruspeda'i clearly includes all Jews in his statement, and no one in his list is inscribed on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur. The righteous and wicked are inscribed and sealed on Rosh Hashanah, and the Beinonim are not inscribed until later.
(c) Rav Kruspeda'i says that the fates of the righteous and wicked are inscribed and sealed on Rosh Hashanah. He says that the inscription of the fate of the intermediate Jews, the Beinonim, is delayed until Yom Kippur. There is no mention of a "sealing" for the intermediate class. What is the reason for this omission? When does their sealing take place? (This question is posed by the RAMA MI'PANO in MA'AMAR CHIKUR DIN, part 3, chapter 20.)
(a) The answer to the first question may be derived from a statement of the Zohar (Vayechi 220a). The Zohar asks why there is a ten-day interval between the writing of man's judgment and its sealing. Why is his judgment not sealed immediately after it is written? The Zohar answers that when a judgment is only written, it still can be retracted and rewritten. (Indeed, in the liturgy of the high holidays we ask Hash-m numerous times to "tear up" any evil decree against us.) However, after a Divine decree is sealed, to have it rescinded is very difficult. This is why there are ten days between the "writing" and the "sealing." These days enable people to make a final effort to repent and beseech Hash-m to "tear up" any unfavorable decree that may have been issued against them and to replace it with a more favorable judgment. (See also BI'UR HA'GRA, end of OC #582.)
(b) A number of approaches are given to reconcile the discrepancy between Rebbi Yehudah's statement that everyone's fate is inscribed on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, and Rav Kruspeda'i's statement that both Tzadikim and Resha'im are inscribed and sealed on Rosh Hashanah, while Beinonim are inscribed on Yom Kippur. Neither the dates of inscription nor the dates of sealing conform with each other.
1. The Zohar (cited in answer (a) above) teaches that the fate of the Beinonim is written first on Rosh Hashanah and again on Yom Kippur (if it is "torn up" between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), at which point their fate is sealed. Accordingly, Rebbi Yehudah refers specifically to the Beinonim when he says that "they are written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur."
2. The RAMA MI'PANO in ASARAH MA'AMAROS (cited by the MAGEN AVRAHAM, end of OC 582) explains that the fate of all people, and not only the fate of Beinonim, is sealed on Yom Kippur. When the Gemara says that Hash-m seals the fate of the Tzadikim and Resha'im "l'Altar," it does not mean that their fate is sealed on the same day it is written. Rather, it means that it is sealed "Al Atar" -- "in its place," in the same book in which it was written on Rosh Hashanah. The actual seal is applied only on Yom Kippur.
3. The VILNA GA'ON (Bi'ur ha'Gra, end of OC #582; Likutei ha'Gra with Be'er Yitzchak, p. 350) also suggests that the fate of all of mankind is sealed on Yom Kippur. He explains the Gemara with a novel approach based on a comment of TOSFOS (DH v'Nechtamim).
How can the Gemara assert that the righteous are always sealed for life on Rosh Hashanah and the wicked for death? There are many righteous people who suffer greatly year after year or who die, and there are many wicked people who are granted life and prosperity year after year.
Tosfos explains that when the Gemara here speaks of three ledgers and a yearly judgment, it does not refer to a person's fortune or wellbeing in this world. Rather, each man is judged for his share in the World to Come, where the righteous and wicked alike will be given what they earned during their worldly lifetimes. Every year on Rosh Hashanah the righteous are inscribed for "life" -- eternal life in the World to Come, and the wicked are inscribed for "death" -- also in the World to Come.
The TOSFOS HA'ROSH explains why it is necessary to judge a person's status in the World to Come while he is still in this world. The Torah states that Hash-m "repays evildoers to their faces, to destroy them" (Devarim 7:10). RASHI there explains that if a wicked person happens to deserve reward because of some good deed he performed, Hash-m makes sure to repay him in this world. This is done in order "to destroy them," so that they will have no merits left that deserve reward in the World to Come. Accordingly, a person's ultimate status in the World to Come is relevant to his fate in this world. If a person is designated as righteous as far as the World to Come is concerned, then he is punished in this world for his sins in order to enable him to receive a greater share in Olam ha'Ba. If he is designated as wicked, then he is rewarded for his good deeds in this world. When the heavenly court decides the fate of a person's future in this world, it must evaluate whether he is righteous and is destined for Olam ha'Ba, or whether he is wicked and is destined for Gehinom. This evaluation takes place on Rosh Hashanah, when man's destiny during the coming year is determined.
Does Tosfos mean that the fate of one's physical existence in this world is not decided on Rosh Hashanah? If this is Tosfos' intention, then Tosfos contradicts a common theme in the prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which we say, "Concerning the fates of the countries of the world, it is decided on this day which will have war and which will have peace..." (Zichronos prayer of Rosh Hashanah Musaf); "Who will live and who will die... who [will perish] by water and who by fire..." (u'Nesaneh Tokef).
The Vilna Ga'on explains that Tosfos does not mean that there is no yearly judgment for man's physical existence during the coming year. Rather, he means that there are two separate judgments that take place on Rosh Hashanah. The first judgment decides a person's physical fate in this world for the new year. The second judgment decides his spiritual fate in the World to Come.
According to this approach, the Gemara's two statements about when a person's fate is inscribed and sealed refer to two different judgments. Man's fate for the World to Come is decided in one stage; for the completely wicked and completely righteous on Rosh Hashanah, and for the intermediate people on Yom Kippur. In contrast, man's physical existence in this world is inscribed, for everyone, on Rosh Hashanah. Hash-m then has mercy and gives all of mankind until Yom Kippur to appeal, through penitence, his fate and to repeal any evil decrees that may have been issued against him on Rosh Hashanah.
(c) The PNEI YEHOSHUA suggests an intriguing answer for why no date is mentioned for the "sealing" of the fate of the Beinonim. The Gemara later (17b) explains the verse, "You show kindness, Hash-m, for you repay each man according to his actions" (Tehilim 62:13). Why is Hash-m said to "show kindness" if He gives every person exactly what he deserves? The Gemara answers that Hash-m "initially" pays each person according to what he deserves, according to strict justice (which the Gemara later refers to as "Emes"). Ultimately, however, Hash-m sees that the world cannot exist under such circumstances, and He judges the person with kindness and mercy ("Chesed").
The statement of the Gemara is puzzling. What is meant by "initially" and "ultimately"? When do these two stages of man's judgment take place?
The Pnei Yehoshua suggests that the Gemara refers to the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On Rosh Hashanah ("initially"), Hash-m judges man according to what he deserves on a scale of absolute justice. In His mercy, however, he delays acting on that judgment until Yom Kippur in order to afford people the opportunity to repent and to have the original judgment revised.
The Gemara says that "the seal of Hash-m is Truth" (Shabbos 55a). "Truth" refers to strict justice, the attribute with which Hash-m punishes or rewards a person according to the exact nature of his deeds. The Pnei Yehoshua explains that it is appropriate to say that Hash-m "seals" the judgment of the wholly righteous and wicked, for their judgments are decreed through the strict letter of the law. The "seal of Hash-m" (i.e., "Truth") thus can be said to have been applied to them.
In contrast, the Beinonim are given a grace period of ten days during which they have the opportunity to accrue merits to influence the outcome of their judgment. Since their judgment is determined by Hash-m's attribute of mercy, the Gemara does not use the term "seal" for them, because the "seal" of Truth is applied only when the attribute of absolute, strict judgment is used. The Beinonim are judged with mercy and forbearance until Yom Kippur.
(According to this explanation, it is not clear why Rebbi Yehudah in the Beraisa (16a) asserts that the fate of man is "sealed" on Yom Kippur, even though it follows a ten-day grace period. Perhaps he refers to the default situation in which a person does not accrue new merits before Yom Kippur. Such a person does not merit to be judged with the attribute of mercy and his fate is "sealed" on Yom Kippur by the attribute of strict justice. Rav Kruspeda'i does not mention "sealing" because he prefers to use parallel phrases to describe those who merited, and those who did not merit, a positive judgment on Yom Kippur.) (M. Kornfeld)