Rabbi Yisrael Shachor
Former Rosh Kollel in Chicago
In the Sefer HaMitzvot, (Positive Commandment 153) the Rambam introduces a novel ruling that only the beit din (religious court) in the Land of Israel is permitted to establish the declaration of the new month. Therefore, if one could imagine that the entire Jewish people would reside in the Diaspora and there would be no beit din in Israel, the declaration of the months would be nullified and, as a result, the holidays of the Jewish year. The Rambam immediately adds that we should not fear such an eventuality because G-d has promised us that it will never happen.
From this emerges the understanding of the Rambam that within this mitzvah there lies an incredible revelation, an awesome promise to the Jewish nation that throughout the years of exile there will always be a settlement of Jews in their land. How amazing is our long history of thousands of years of exile that has proven this fact – Jewish continuity in the Land of Israel has never been broken!
The Chatam Sofer in his famous responsum (Yoreh Deah 234) understands the opinion of the Rambam that if one would entertain the possibility that the entire Jewish people would be scattered throughout the world and there would be no Jews in the Land o Israel, this would be the total disintegration of the nation. This cannot be for G-d has promised us that the Jewish people will never be destroyed. Therefore, there must always be Jews in the Land of Israel.
This amazing statement of the Chatam Sofer that the Jewish nation cannot exist without the Land of Israel is true. “משה אמת ותורתו אמת!” “Moshe is true and his Torah is true!” However, there seems to have crept in a mistake in the source of this concept.
It appears that the Chatam Sofer did not have an original copy of the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot in front of him. He copied his words from the Peirush – the “Commentary” on the Rambam’s laws of Kidduah HaChodesh (5:13) in the Mishne Torah. The Peirush omitted one word from his quotation of the Sefer HaMitzvot. In the original it is stated: “And He promised that the “אותות האומה” – “astronomic authority of the nation” will never be destroyed.” The Peirush omitted the word “אותות” -“astronomic authority” and so it became misunderstood that the nation itself would never be destroyed.
It is obvious that the intention of the Rambam was that the Jewish people will always declare the new month and the holydays. As it is written in Sefer Breishit, “והיו לאותות ולמועדים”. Therefore the Rambam wrote that if the Jewish nation will not reside in its land there will be no one to declare the new month, and, as such the “astronomic authority” of the nation will be nullified. Heaven forbid that such should ever happen to the Jewish people!
In conclusion, the sanctity of the human being, space, and time are connected to each other. The sanctity of the Jewish people, the Land of Israel, and the new months and holydays are one!