Thus we see that the Rosh Chodesh of Rosh HaShana is a VERY potent moment! Chazal, therefore, teach that we should be very careful about our actions on this day. Not only is it the beginning of the month, but it is also the beginning of the year. Since the end goes after the beginning, it makes sense that we should pay attention to beginnings.
New Moon Calculations
The oral Torah tells us how the Sanhedrin calculated the time of Rosh Chodesh. These calculations were used to check the veracity of the witnesses.
1. The beginning of the lunar month occurs at the moment of conjunction between the sun and the moon; i.e. at the moment when the position of the moon is exactly between the earth and the sun. At this point, termed as the molad, or "birth", the moon is not visible from the earth. At least six hours must pass before a very small portion of the moon will reappear. The day on which this occurs is regarded as the first day of the new month. (Rashi)
Rosh HaShana 20b — The latter statement would be seen to be false, the former statement is not seen to be false.
Samuel said: I am quite able to make a calendar for the whole of the Diaspora. Said Abba the father of R. Simlai to Samuel: Does the Master know [the meaning] of this remark which occurs in [the Baraitha known as] the secret of the Calendar? ‘If the new moon is born before midday or after midday’? — He replied: I do not. He then said to him: Since the Master does not know this, there must also be other things which the Master does not know. When R. Zera went up [to Israel], he sent back word to them [in Babylon]: It is necessary that there should be [on New Moon] a night and a day of the new moon. This is what Abba the father of R. Simlai meant: ‘We calculate [according to] the new moon's birth. If it is born before midday, then certainly it will have been seen shortly before sunset. If it was not born before midday, certainly it will not have been seen shortly before sunset’. What is the practical value of this remark? — R. Ashi said: To [help us in] confuting the witnesses.
R. Zera said in the name of R. Nahman: The moon is invisible for twenty-four hours [round about new moon]. For us [in Babylon] six of these belong to the old moon and eighteen to the new; for them [in Israel] six to the new and eighteen to the old. What is the practical value of this remark? — R. Ashi said: To confute the witnesses.
The Master has just said: It is necessary that there should be [on New Moon] a night and a day of the new moon. Whence is this rule derived? — R. Johanan said: [From the text]. From evening to evening; Resh Lakish said: [From the text], Until the twenty-first day of the month in the evening. What practical difference is there between them? — Abaye said: The difference between them is only one of exegesis. Raba said: They differ in regard to [the hours up to] midnight.
2. The moon resembles a cosmic clock which orbits the earth on the average of 29 days, 12 hours plus 793 parts of an hour (29.53059 days). This figure allows for computing in advance all new moons and their respective holidays.
3. In order to calculate the appearance of any new moon in advance (especially Tishri and Nisan) it is necessary to know in addition to the rate of the moon's orbit, the exact moment at which the cosmic clock went into operation.
Bereshit (Genesis) 1:14-15 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, And let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so.
A. According to the position of Rebbi Eliezer (Pirke D'Rebbi Eliezer chapter 8, Pesikta Rabbati 46, Midrash Vayikra Raba Parashat Emor chapter 29a) when Adam was created on the sixth day of creation, that day was the first of Tishri, New Year's day. Days 1,2,3,4, and 5 of Creation took place successively on the 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29th of the month of Elul of the previous hypothetical year. This entire hypothetical year preceding the first New Year's day is called Shanat Tohu or Primordial Year.
New Year's Day, Tishri 1, is called Yom Harat Olam, the birth-day of the world referring not to the world which was created on the 25th of Elul but to Adam for whom the world was created. (Rashi's commentary to Mahtzor Vitri.)
B. According to the Oral Tradition (Tosefot on Rosh HaShana 8a, Rabbi Ovadiah ben David on Rambam Sanctification of the month 6:8) the first New Moon occurred exactly at the end of the second hour of the sixth morning (12 + 2 hours from sun set at the end of the fifth day of Creation) when Adam was created. This first New Moon is called 6/14 (14 full hours into the sixth day) and is coded in Hebrew as V/YD. (Vav equals 6, Yod-Dalet equals 14). The Oral Tradition therefore reveals that the verse "they shall be as signs..." places the first actual New Moon, not on the fourth day when the luminaries were suspended, but on the sixth day of Creation, when Adam, for whose use they were made, was created.
5. Now we know not only the mean-length of the lunar month but the exact moment when the "cosmic clock" went into operation (V/YD). We may now ascertain the appearance of any New Moon is advance by calculating the number of months that have passed since the first New Moon (V/YD) and multiplying by 29.53059. (For a discussion of "simple" (12 months) and "plenary" or "pregnant" years (13 months) which would have to be taken into consideration for such a calculation see Rambam Sanctification 6:10-13.
6. However, it is critical to bear in mind that the hypothetical year (Shanat Tohu) that preceded the first actual New Moon V/YD consisted of only five days (Elul 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29) and that the present Jewish calendar takes the beginning of Shanat Tohu as its starting point in order not to omit these 5 days! Our calculations therefore must make up for the approximately 11 months 24.5 days which are missing if we would start at V/YD.
7. In order to prevent unnecessary complications of this sort and enable us to calculate in whole years, the sages employed a method which is scientifically accepted today as well, of calculating backwards or extrapolation.
8. Calculating backwards: By means of extrapolation we can calculate the first hypothetical New Moon which would have occurred if the World (time) had been created at the beginning of the year instead of at its end. By simply calculating backwards 12 lunar month cycles of 29 days 12 hours 793 parts from V/YD we arrive at Molad Tohu, the Primordial New Moon.
9. It is understood that this extrapolation is built in such a way that from the Molad Tohu a period of exactly 12 months would bring us forward to the first actual New Moon V/YD.
10. The advantage of employing the concept of Molad Tohu (Primordial New Moon) as the starting point for the Jewish calendar, allows us to work in whole years in the ascertaining of any New Moon we wish to know. (The missing 11 months 29.5 days of the first hypothetical year are automatically included).
11. The calculation: When we subtract twelve times 29 days 793 parts from the 14th hour of the sixth day (V/YD) we obtain the Primordial New Moon: 2 days 5 hours 204 parts (or 5 hours and 204 parts of an hour into the second day of the first week of the previous hypothetical year). In Hebrew this number is coded B/H/RD, 2d 5h 204p. (Beit equals 2, hey equals 5, Resh-dalet equals 204).
B/H/R/D is derived from Genesis chapter one. If we were to list out the first chapter of Bereshit (Genesis) as one letter after another, with no spaces, we could find the B/H/R/D encoded at 42 letter increments. This 42 letter increment is based on the 42 letter name of G-d: The Book of Our Heritage, by Eliyahu Kitov.
Rambam (Maimonides), who lived about 1200 AD, commented on the synodic Lunar month of the Jewish calendar as being 29 days, 12 hours, and 793/1080 of the next hour, for a total of 29 + 12/24 + 793/(1080x24) = 29.530594 days.
Bachya (13th century AD) used an ELS (equidistant letter sequence) with spacing 42 that started with the first letter of Genesis:
then went to the 42nd letter following that D - R
then went to the 42nd letter following that R - H
then went to the 42nd letter following that H - B
to produce the sequence DRHB, which he showed to produce the 29.530594 day synodic Lunar month.
Bachya did not claim to have discovered the Torah-coding of the Jewish Lunar month, but gave credit to Nechunya (1st century AD).
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This study was written by Hillel ben David
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