(Permission is granted to print and redistribute this material
as long as this header and the footer at the end are included.)


brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld

Ask A Question about the Daf

Previous daf

Sanhedrin, 12


QUESTION: The Gemara states that we do not establish a leap year during a famine. RASHI explains that a leap year makes a famine more difficult by extending the prohibition to eat new grain, "Chadash," for one more month, resulting in a severe grain shortage for that month. Rebbi brings a proof to this Halachah from an incident involving Elisha. A man from Ba'al Shalishah, which was a land known for the alacrity of its growth of grain, brought Elisha "twenty new breads made of barley" -- "Lechem Bikurim Esrim Lechem Se'orim" (Melachim II 4:42). Elisha commanded, "Give the bread to the people and they should eat." Rebbi says that it is clear that after Pesach of that year there was only barley, for even Ba'al Shalishah produced only barley bread. The incident obviously occurred only after Pesach, for otherwise they would not have been able to eat the new breads because of the prohibition of "Chadash." We see from here, Rebbi asserts, that Elisha did not extend the year and make it a leap year because of the famine.

What is Rebbi's proof from Elisha? How do we know that that year was supposed to be extended in the first place? Moreover, even if it was supposed to be a leap year, how do we see from that incident that Elisha indeed did *not* extend it?

ANSWER: TOSFOS answers that it is impossible that Elisha extended the year, because the only bread that they had was barley bread. Had the year been extended, then they certainly would have had other types of grains by the time Pesach had passed.

The RAN adds that this is why it states in the verse that the bread was "Bikurim," referring to the first and only crop of that year.

The YAD RAMAH explains that had there been other crops, the verse would have read, "*v*'Esrim," and not just "Esrim." By saying, "Esrim," the verse is describing what the first fruits, the Bikurim, of that year were comprised of.

The MAHARSHA uses the answer of Tosfos in order to resolve another question. The Gemara later rules that we may not establish two leap years in a row. How do we know that, in the incident of the bread of Ba'al Shalishah, that the year before was not a leap year, and that is the reason why Elisha was unable to make that year into a leap year (and not because of the famine)? Based on the explanation of Tosfos, it is clear that the previous year was not a leap year, because had it been a leap year, then there would have already been more crops by the following Pesach, since it would have been later in the season.

The Maharsha, however, has another difficulty which he does not answer. How do we know that the year in question was not any other type of year that cannot be made into a leap year, such as a Shemitah year, or the year after a Shemitah year?

Regarding the year after a Shemitah year, the ARUCH LA'NER explains that perhaps Rebbi held like the House of Raban Gamliel, who ruled that we may established a leap year after Shemitah.

Regarding the Shemitah year itself, the Aruch la'Ner answers that the Gemara in Kesuvos (105b) asks, regarding this incident, "Did Elisha really eat Bikurim [which may be eaten only by a Kohen]?" The Gemara there answers that "it must be teaching us that whoever brings a gift to a Talmid Chacham is considered to have brought Bikurim [to the Beis ha'Mikdash]." The Gemara equates Bikurim with a gift. This shows that the year could not have been a Shemitah year, because during a Shemitah year it is not possible to give one's produce as a gift, since all produce is ownerless. It could not have been that the gift was merely that the ownerless produce of Shemitah was given to Elisha, because one is not permitted to give a gift of produce during Shemitah which will cause the recipient to have Hakaras ha'Tov towards the giver. Therefore, the year could not have been a Shemitah year.

The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM discusses a more straightforward way to answer the question that perhaps the year was a Shemitah year, and that is why Elisha did not make it a leap year. The ME'IRI in Yevamos (73a) states explicitly that the Mitzvah of bringing Bikurim does not apply in a Shemitah year. Some maintain that this is also the opinion of Rashi. Accordingly, it would not be logical for the verse to refer to this gift as Bikurim during the type of year in which there is no Mitzvah of Bikurim. (The TASHBATZ (2:247) and others, however, explicitly rule that there is still an obligation to bring Bikurim during Shemitah.) (Y. Montrose)

OPINIONS: The Gemara records an argument between the Tana Kama and Rebbi Yehudah regarding whether or not we may establish a leap year due to a concern of Tum'ah. The Gemara initially understands that Rebbi Yehudah is of the opinion that we may establish a leap year in order to give more time for the people to become Tahor (so that they can bring the Korban Pesach on Pesach while Tahor). Rebbi Yehudah continues and says, as a proof to his opinion, that Chizkiyah ha'Melech established a leap year due to Tum'ah, and he subsequently prayed that Hashem have mercy on him and forgive him. The Gemara later (12b) concludes that Rebbi Yehudah actually maintains that not only may we *not* establish a leap year because of Tum'ah, but if Beis Din did establish a leap year for that reason, the ruling is invalid and the year is *not* a leap year. Rebbi Yehudah brings proof for this from Chizkiyah, who needed to ask forgiveness for making the year into a leap year because of Tum'ah.

What is this "Tum'ah" that the Gemara is discussing, for which we would want to make the year into a leap year? What was the Tum'ah in the times of Chizkiyah?

(a) RASHI explains that the Gemara is referring to the Tum'ah caused by the death of a Nasi, which makes the entire nation Tamei. If the Nasi is ill during Adar and the prognosis is that he will die within a few days before Pesach, causing the entire nation to become Tamei (and thus the Korban Pesach will not be able to be brought b'Taharah), then this would appear to be reason to make the year into a leap year. Alternatively, explains Rashi, the Gemara is referring to a situation in which most of the Jewish people are Tamei at the end of the month of Adar, and the ashes of the Parah Adumah have been used up and no new Parah Adumah has been found.

The Tum'ah in the days of Chizkiyah was the Tum'ah caused by Chizkiyah's father, Achaz, who was a Rasha who promoted idol worship among the people, during whose time the people were not concerned with the observance of the Torah.

The IMREI TZVI asks why Rashi adds that "they were not concerned with the observance of the Torah" ("Lo Chashashu la'Torah")? He explains that the Tum'ah caused by Avodah Zarah does not necessarily make one Tamei for seven days (see Rashi to Pesachim 92a, DH Machlokes, and RAMBAM, Hilchos Avos ha'Tum'ah 6:6). He suggests that Rashi is saying that the reason why the people were Tamei is because they did not observe the laws of the Torah regarding Tum'as Mes, and therefore they required purification from having become Tamei from the dead. (However, this does not seem to be the simple explanation of the words of Rash; see MAHARSHAM.)

(b) TOSFOS cites the Yerushalmi which says that the Tum'ah during the time of Chizkiyah was that they found the skull of Aravnah ha'Yevusi (the original owner of the land on which the Beis ha'Mikdash was built) underneath the Mizbe'ach.

Tosfos questions this explanation, and Rashi's explanation that the Gemara is referring to a situation in which all of the people were Tamei at the end of Adar. Even if the Mizbe'ach was Tamei, or if most of the people were Tamei, they still had the means with which to become Tahor before Pesach. The Mishnah in Parah (3:5) states that the ashes of Moshe Rabeinu's Parah Adumah were extant during the entire period of the first Beis ha'Mikdash. Tosfos answers that perhaps there was not enough time to be Metaher everyone by Pesach.

The NODA B'YEHUDAH (Mahadura Tinyana OC 86) points out that the reason of the Yerushalmi would not render the Jewish people Tamei, because the Tum'ah was found in a place where most Jews cannot go. However, it did render all of the Kohanim Tamei. This, he says, was Chizkiyah's mistake. The Gemara in Pesachim (79a) says that in such a case -- when all of the Kohanim are Tamei -- the Korbanos must be brought nevertheless, even b'Tum'ah. The fact that the Kohanim are Tamei does not render all of the Korbanos Tamei, because of the Halachah that the liquids that come from the animals being slaughtered as Korbanos do not make the meat fit to become Tamei, as do other types of liquids. Therefore, the Jewish people still could have eaten their Korban Pesach in Taharah, even though it would have been offered by a Kohen who was Tamei.

The TZION YERUSHALAYIM asks a different question on this opinion of the Yerushalmi. The Gemara (12b) says that Rebbi Shimon accepts this explanation of the Beraisa that Rebbi Yehudah maintains that a leap year may not be established because of Tum'ah. However, Rebbi Shimon is also of the opinion that the corpse of a Nochri does not cause Tum'as Ohel. We know that Aravnah was a Nochri. How can Rebbi Shimon accept that it was not proper to make a leap year because of the Tum'ah caused by the corpse of Aravnah, when Rebbi Shimon is also of the opinion that the corpse of a Nochri does not cause Tum'as Ohel? The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM answers that we find in many cases that the Beis ha'Mikdash had stringent rules regarding Tum'ah. Perhaps Rebbi Shimon would agree that in the Beis ha'Mikdash, the corpse of a Nochri would make everyone Tamei.

The Margoliyos ha'Yam answers further, in the name of TESHUVOS V'SHAV HA'KOHEN (#75) that Aravnah was a Ger Toshav, and even Rebbi Shimon agrees that the corpse of a Ger Toshav causes Tum'as Ohel. (Y. Montrose)


QUESTION: The Gemara states that when Chizkiyah thought that he had made a mistake in establishing a leap year, he prayed, "Hashem ha'Tov Yechaper b'Ad" (Divrei ha'Yamim II 30:18). The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (25a) states that the authority of Beis Din in establishing the calendar is absolute, and the decision of Beis Din is binding even if Beis Din errs accidentally, advertently, or because of lack of knowledge. Why, then, was Chizkiyah distressed about his mistake? What he did was binding and was Halachicly considered to be the appropriate date, and thus no one transgressed any prohibitions because of his error in calculation. Why, then, was he bothered by what he had done?


(a) The TZELACH (Berachos 63a) writes that the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah applies only to making an extra day in the month in error, and not to establishing an extra month in the year in error. Hence, Chizkiyah obviously wanted to pray for forgiveness, since many people were acting in accordance with his erroneous ruling assuming that it was one month earlier than it actually was.

(b) The MINCHAS CHINUCH (Mitzvah 4:6) argues with the Tzelach. He cites the Toras Kohanim that specifically states that the case of a leap year established in error is included in the Halachah that whatever Beis Din decrees with regard to the calendar is binding, even if done in error.

Perhaps the Minchas Chinuch understands that Chizkiyah was distressed about his error (even though his ruling was binding), because the Chachamim did not agree to his decision. This caused him to doubt whether his decision indeed was covered by the Derashah that Beis Din's decrees concerning the calendar are binding even when made in error; perhaps the Derashah applies only when everyone is in agreement about the ruling.

The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM notes that Chizkiyah's prayer, "Hashem ha'Tov Yechaper b'Ad," is the source for our practice to add the words, "ul'Chaparas Pasha" ("and for the atonement of iniquity"), in each Musaf Shemoneh Esreh of Rosh Chodesh during a leap year. It is a prayer that nothing inauspicious should result from our changing the natural course of the year, as that which happened to Chizkiyah. (Y. Montrose)

Next daf


For further information on
subscriptions, archives and sponsorships,
contact Kollel Iyun Hadaf,