intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
Thoughts on Korbanot Rosh Chodesh
Since theChatat had a higher level of Kedusha (sanctity) than did Musafim, it was offered first, that is immediately after the morning Tamid. If Rosh Chodesh fell on Shabbat, the Musafim of both Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat (two lambs) were offered, with Musaf of Shabbat going first. On that day, the Levitical choir sang only Shir Shel Yom of Rosh Chodesh and this was to emphasize the importance of Rosh Chodesh. The Leviyim did not sing Mizmor Shir Shel Yom HaShabbat.
On Rosh Chodesh, King Saul and his entourage had a festive banquet to which David, though invited, refrained from attending. King Saul, upon noticing David's absence said, "…he is (ritually) impure, surely he is impure." Radak and Ralbag raise the possibility that the meat ingested at Saul's Rosh Chodesh feast were from Sh'lamim sacrifices. (Before the building of the Beit HaMikdash, Korbanot could be offered up on "private altars" anywhere in Eretz Yisrael). This would explain why it was necessary for the invitees to be in a state of ritual purity. Previously, Saul's son Jonathan had told David, "And on the third day… come to the place where you hid yourself in the day of work (i.e. the day before Rosh Chodesh) (Shmu'el Alef 20:19). Rashi quotes the Targum (Aramaic translation) of R. Yonatan ben Uziel which translates Beyom Hama'aseh as Beyoma Dechola. The day before Rosh Chodesh is considered an ordinary work day but Rosh Chodesh itself is not a work day. The prophet Amos describes how dishonest merchants cried out. "When will the New Moon be gone, that we may sell grain… and falsify the balances of deceit? (Amos 8:5). These unscrupulous merchants may have been cheats, but they "kept" Rosh Chodesh! Rosh Chodesh was celebrated by a suspension of productive labor and trading. On Rosh Chodesh, David's family celebrated a Zevach Mishpacha - a family sacrifice - in Beit Lechem, their home town (Shmu'el Alef 20:29). On Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat women would go to the Navi for spiritual instruction. The husband of the "great woman" of Shunem was surprised when his wife expressed a desireto visit Elisha HaNavi during the middle of the week. "Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? It is neither New Moon nor Shabbat" (Melachim Bet 4:23). In the beginning of the Bayit Sheini period, the Anshei K'nesset HaGedola ordained that, similar to Chol Hamo'ed, four men would be called up to the Torah on Rosh Chodesh. These sages wished to accentuate the fact that Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamo'ed were in their eyes not work days. (On Mondays and Thursdays, which are work days, only three men are called up to the Torah.)
Nevertheless, the popular observance of Rosh Chodesh seems to have declined during and after the Babylonian exile. One interesting theory was that as long as the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh was offered in Bayit Rishon, the Isur Melacha (prohibition of work) was in force, but with the suspension of the Bayit Rishon Musaf, the Isur fell into abeyance. Yechezkel HaNavi indeed prophesies that "the people of the land shall worship at that gate (oft he restored Beit HaMikdash) before G-d on the Sabbaths and on the New Moons (Yechezkel 46:3). But standing by the rivers of Babylon, Yechezkel already places Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh. Today men are permitted to work on Rosh Chodesh but women are permitted to do only what is "really necessary". The Midrash notes, "When the men came to remove the golden earrings from the ears of their wives to make the golden calf… the women refused and would not give their jewelry to their husbands to make the calf. They said, 'To make an abomination which is an abhorrence and which has no power to help! We will not listen to you. Therefore the Holy One Blessed be He gave the women a reward in this world, they were exempted from working on Rosh Chodesh. In the Future World, women will be renewed monthly as is the moon (Perkei De'rabbi Eliezer 45).
In an extraordinary Gemara, R. Simeon ben Pazi points out a contradiction (between the beginning and the end of Bereishit 1:16). "One verse says, 'And G-d made the two great lights, and then immediately continues, "the greater light… the lesser light". The moon said unto the Holy One Blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Is it possible for two kings to wear one crown? He (G-d) answered, 'Go then and make thyself smaller.' 'Sovereign of the Universe! Because I have suggested that which is proper, must I then make myself smaller?' G-d answered,' Go and thou wilt rule by day and by night.' 'But what is the value of this?' cried the moon, 'Of what use is a lamp in broad daylight'. He replied, 'Go and Israel shall reckon by thee the days and the years.' 'But it is impossible', said the moon, 'to do without the sun for the purpose of reckoning of the seasons, as it is written, 'And let them (the moon and the sun) be for signs, and for seasons,, and for days and years' (Ibid 14)…. On seeing that the moon would not be consoled, the Holy One Blessed be He said, 'Bring an atonement for Me for making the moon smaller.' This is what is meant by R. Shimon ben Lachish when he said, 'Why is it that the Chatat - sin offering he-goat - offered on Rosh Chodesh is distinguished by that it is written concerning it, "unto the Lord" (Bamidbar 28:15). Because the Holy One Blessed be He said, "Let this he-goat be an atonement for Me because I made the moon smaller'" (Chullin 60b).
Some authorities postulate that R. Simeon ben Pazi, by means of a parable, is touching on the "secrets of Creation, its 'foundation' and order". The Rif, who seldom comments on Aggadita (the homiletical sections of the Gemara), writes, "this (Chatat) does not atone for the Holy One Blessed be He… rather it atones for Israel… G-d said to the moon, 'in exchange for your diminution, I am bestowing upon you an exceptional honor… that Israel will offer to Me every Rosh Chodesh a Chatat to effectuate atonement for their sins…'" The Maharal notes that the Korban is offered on Rosh Chodesh when the moon is at its smallest. It is peculiarly at this time of humility and self-depreciation, when the moon is but a sliver, a special Korban is offered to effectuate repentance and to symbolize reconciliation with G-d. The Gur Aryeh insists that "it cannot be that the Holy One Blessed be He requires atonement for his acts, as if He did something that He should not have done and is contrite" (Bamidbar 28:15).
Perhaps we should look at this Gemara from a totally different vantage point altogether. Even if HaKadosh Boruch Hu does not really "sin", nevertheless, by asking that a Korban Chatat be offered on His behalf, He points the way to repentance.
Catriel's book in progress: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service