Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pass on Over

Some days I have lots to write, and some days I don't have much of anything. Today I learned several things, and each of them would have been great to blog about. In the end I'll just write about the last thing I learned, even if I really should have written about it two weeks ago. Truth is, the if the Rebbe could talk about it late, than so can I. For anyone who's interested in following along, it's in Hisvaadus 1984, part 2, page 1289, followed by 1349-1351. One thought: does the average non-Jew know what leaven is? How does it help him when you explain the prohibition of Chametz by saying, "Oh, that's leaven". He nods his head and has additional proof that most Jews are off their rocker. Just a thought.

The Alter Rebbe writes in his Shulchan Oruch, in the beginning of Orach Chaim 429, that thirty days before the festival preachers begin to expound publicly regarding the upcoming holiday. This means that on Purim, the 14th of Adar, we begin to prepare for Pesach, which falls out on the 15th of Nissan. Similarly, we begin to prepare for Shavuos on the 5th of Iyar, with the holiday following thirty days later on the 6th of Sivan, and with Sukkos, with preparation beginning on the 14th of Elul for the holiday on the 15th of Tishrei.
The reason for this time of preparation is that the nation needed to be taught the laws of sacrifices, as every single Jew who lived in the land of Israel was obligated to bring three sacrifices every festival. These sacrifices needed to be free of any blemish or any other disqualifying feature, and the Rabbis wanted the public to be ready, so they instituted this 30 day rule.
The Rebbe asks a simple question. Why didn't the Rabbi's begin this public preparation for Pesach on the 13th; after all, the Pesach offering is offered on the 14th itself (unlike the other three offerings, which were brought up on the festival), and we search for Chametz on the night of the 14th. Shouldn't the preparations for these integral parts of the holiday begin thirty days prior, like those of Shavous and Sukkos?
The answer isn't that the offering was only after noon on the 14th, because there would still be many hours missing from the total of thirty days, and many things could be learned in that time. There's also the matter of the search for Chametz, on the night of the 14th, which is necessary for the sacrifice. This also has many laws, and the 30 day rule should encompass it as well.
(The Rebbe says) Some people answered (in the booklets put out by Oholei Torah and the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, New Jersey) that Tosafos answers this question in Bechoros by stating that the day of the offering itself is not counted. Also, the Rabbis didn't differentiate between one festival and another, and since we start preparing for Sukkos on the 14th, we do the same for Pesach. In addition, most of the offerings are on the festival itself.
Whoever answered should be blessed, but they're missing the point. First of all, the question is on the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Oruch. He says that this law was not nullified after the destruction of the Temple, even though obviously no sacrifices are being offered outside the sanctuary. The new formulation of the Halacha is, "Every Chacham (wise man) should teach his students the laws of the festival 30 days prior, so that they should be expert in its laws and should know what to do." Meaning, we're not talking about the sacrifices anymore, and instead the question is focused on the search and destruction of the Chametz. So Tosafos' question isn't applicable here, as his answers deal with sacrifices.
In addition, when the Alter Rebbe writes about the "later generations" (post-Temple types) he differentiates between the Shavuos and the other two festivals, when he rules that on the Shabbos before Pesach and Sukkos the local Rav should give a speech dealing with the laws of the upcoming festival, while there is no such law regarding Shavuos. Thus Tosafos' answer, that we don't separate between festivals, isn't followed here.
The point of learning is to know what to do. Most of the laws which a Jew must know for Pesach, and Sukkos, have nothing to do with the sacrifice. The only law a regular Jew must know about the sacrifice is that it has to be free from blemish or other disqualification. Only a Kohen, a priest, needs to know all the other laws, i.e. animal slaughter, the sprinkling of the blood, the incense, etc. Only a superficial knowledge of the laws of blemishes is needed. Rav, an Amora, studied these laws for 18 months with a shepherd. How much longer would it take a regular Jew? There's no way he could finish it in just 30 days. That's why even after these 30 days of preparation a Kohen would still check each animal.
The laws of Chametz, like the laws of the Sukkah and 4 species, must be well known by every Jew. If the laws of sacrifices, which require only a superficial understanding, must be studied for 30 days, how much more so the applicable laws of Chametz!

(The Rebbe ends off) From all the discussion above, we might forget that we're talking about a living, breathing Jew who has to prepare for Pesach, and has to know what exactly to do!

So what's the answer? As far as I can tell, the Rebbe didn't answer it by this Farbrengen, and I'm not sure if it's answered anywhere else. If anyone does know, I'd really appreciate being told. That would be nice. One of the only problems with learning Sichos straight from Hisvaadyus is that the footnotes aren't really too helpful in situations like this one, where the answer could be found in a Sicha that was said four of five years later.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. R.S.
There are many laws that are time/day specific - counting the Omer, bris, post-wedding brochas etc. but this appears to be the only "30-day" rule. Is that correct? Perhaps the answer has something to do with that? At least you have me thinking. LdToot.