אִם אֵינָן מַכִּירִין אוֹתוֹ, מְשַׁלְּחִין אַחֵר עִמּוֹ לַהֲעִידוֹ. בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה הָיוּ מְקַבְּלִין עֵדוּת הַחֹדֶשׁ מִכָּל אָדָם. מִשֶּׁקִּלְקְלוּ הַמִּינִין, הִתְקִינוּ שֶׁלֹּא יְהוּ מְקַבְּלִין אֶלָּא מִן הַמַּכִּירִים:
If the members of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem are not familiar with that one who saw the new moon, i.e., that he is a valid witness, the members of his local court of twenty-three send another with him to testify about him. The mishna adds: Initially, the court would accept testimony to determine the start of the month from any person, as all are presumed to be qualified witnesses, absent any disqualifying factors. However, when the Boethusians, a sect whose members had their own opinions with regard to the establishment of the Festivals, corrupted the process by sending false witnesses to testify about the new moon, the Sages instituted that they would accept this testimony only from those men familiar to the Sanhedrin as valid witnesses.
בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה הָיוּ מַשִּׂיאִין מַשּׂוּאוֹת. מִשֶּׁקִּלְקְלוּ הַכּוּתִים, הִתְקִינוּ שֶׁיְּהוּ שְׁלוּחִין יוֹצְאִין:
Initially, after the court sanctified the new month they would light torches on the mountaintops, from one peak to another, to signal to the community in Babylonia that the month had been sanctified. After the Samaritans [Kutim] corrupted and ruined this method by lighting torches at the wrong times to confuse the Jews, the Sages instituted that messengers should go out to the Diaspora and inform them of the start of the month.
כֵּיצַד הָיוּ מַשִּׂיאִין מַשּׂוּאוֹת, מְבִיאִין כְּלֻנְסָאוֹת שֶׁל אֶרֶז אֲרֻכִּין וְקָנִים וַעֲצֵי שֶׁמֶן וּנְעֹרֶת שֶׁל פִּשְׁתָּן וְכוֹרֵךְ בִּמְשִׁיחָה, וְעוֹלֶה לְרֹאשׁ הָהָר וּמַצִּית בָּהֶן אֶת הָאוּר, וּמוֹלִיךְ וּמֵבִיא וּמַעֲלֶה וּמוֹרִיד, עַד שֶׁהוּא רוֹאֶה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֶׂה כֵן בְּרֹאשׁ הָהָר הַשֵּׁנִי, וְכֵן בְּרֹאשׁ הָהָר הַשְּׁלִישִׁי:
The mishna asks: How would they light the torches during that earlier period? They would bring items that burn well, e.g., long poles of cedar, reeds, pinewood, and beaten flax, and tie them together with a string. And someone would then ascend to the top of the mountain and light the torch on fire with them, and wave it back and forth and up and down, until he would see his colleague doing likewise on the top of the second mountain. In this manner he would know that the next messenger had received the message and passed it on. And similarly, the second torchbearer would wait for a signal from the one on the top of the third mountain, and so on. In this manner the message would reach the Diaspora.
וּמֵאַיִן הָיוּ מַשִּׂיאִין מַשּׂוּאוֹת, מֵהַר הַמִּשְׁחָה לְסַרְטְבָא, וּמִסַּרְטְבָא לִגְרוֹפִינָא, וּמִגְּרוֹפִינָא לְחַוְרָן, וּמֵחַוְרָן לְבֵית בִּלְתִּין, וּמִבֵּית בִּלְתִּין לֹא זָזוּ מִשָּׁם, אֶלָּא מוֹלִיךְ וּמֵבִיא וּמַעֲלֶה וּמוֹרִיד עַד שֶׁהָיָה רוֹאֶה כָל הַגּוֹלָה לְפָנָיו כִּמְדוּרַת הָאֵשׁ:
And from which mountains would they light the torches? They would transmit the message from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to Sartava, and from Sartava to Gerofina, and from Gerofina to Ḥavran, and from Ḥavran to Beit Baltin. And from Beit Baltin they would not move to light torches in any other predetermined location. Rather, the one who was appointed for this task would wave the torch back and forth and up and down, until he would see the entire Diaspora before him alight like one large bonfire, as they would light torches to continue transmitting the message from place to place all the way to the farthest reaches of the Diaspora.
חָצֵר גְּדוֹלָה הָיְתָה בִירוּשָׁלַיִם, וּבֵית יַעְזֵק הָיְתָה נִקְרֵאת, וּלְשָׁם כָּל הָעֵדִים מִתְכַּנְּסִים, וּבֵית דִּין בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתָם שָׁם. וּסְעוּדוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת עוֹשִׂין לָהֶם בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁיְּהוּ רְגִילִין לָבֹא. בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה לֹא הָיוּ זָזִין מִשָּׁם כָּל הַיּוֹם, הִתְקִין רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הַזָּקֵן שֶׁיְּהוּ מְהַלְּכִין אַלְפַּיִם אַמָּה לְכָל רוּחַ. וְלֹא אֵלּוּ בִלְבַד, אֶלָּא אַף הַחֲכָמָה הַבָּאָה לְיַלֵּד, וְהַבָּא לְהַצִּיל מִן הַדְּלֵקָה וּמִן הַגַּיִס וּמִן הַנָּהָר וּמִן הַמַּפֹּלֶת, הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ כְאַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר, וְיֵשׁ לָהֶם אַלְפַּיִם אַמָּה לְכָל רוּחַ:
There was a large courtyard in Jerusalem, which was called Beit Ya’zek. And there all the witnesses coming to testify about the new moon would gather, and the court of seventy-one judges would examine them there. And they would prepare great feasts for them, so that they would be willing and accustomed to coming and submitting their testimony. Initially, when witnesses would arrive on Shabbat from a distant place, they would not move from there all day, as they had left their Shabbat limit, and it was consequently prohibited for them to walk more than four cubits in any direction once they had completed their mission. Concerned that this limitation would discourage witnesses from coming, Rabban Gamliel the Elder instituted that the witnesses be permitted to walk two thousand cubits in each direction. The mishna continues: And not only these witnesses are granted two thousand cubits from their new place, but this applies also to a midwife who comes to deliver a child, and one who comes to rescue Jews from a fire, from an invasion of gentile troops, from a flooding river, or from the collapse of a building. All these are considered like the inhabitants of the city where they arrive, and therefore they have two thousand cubits in each direction.
כֵּיצַד בּוֹדְקִין אֶת הָעֵדִים. זוּג שֶׁבָּא רִאשׁוֹן, בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתוֹ רִאשׁוֹן. וּמַכְנִיסִין אֶת הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבָּהֶן וְאוֹמְרִים לוֹ, אֱמֹר, כֵּיצַד רָאִיתָ אֶת הַלְּבָנָה, לִפְנֵי הַחַמָּה אוֹ לְאַחַר הַחַמָּה, לִצְפוֹנָהּ אוֹ לִדְרוֹמָהּ, כַּמָּה הָיָה גָבוֹהַּ וּלְאַיִן הָיָה נוֹטֶה, וְכַמָּה הָיָה רָחָב. אִם אָמַר לִפְנֵי הַחַמָּה, לֹא אָמַר כְּלוּם. וְאַחַר כָּךְ הָיוּ מַכְנִיסִים אֶת הַשֵּׁנִי וּבוֹדְקִין אוֹתוֹ. אִם נִמְצְאוּ דִבְרֵיהֶם מְכֻוָּנִים, עֵדוּתָן קַיָּמֶת. וּשְׁאָר כָּל הַזּוּגוֹת שׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתָם רָאשֵׁי דְבָרִים, לֹא שֶׁהָיוּ צְרִיכִין לָהֶן, אֶלָּא כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֵצְאוּ בְּפַחֵי נֶפֶשׁ, בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁיְּהוּ רְגִילִים לָבֹא:
How do they examine the witnesses who come to testify about the new moon? They deal with them in order, as the pair of witnesses that arrives first they examine first. They bring in the greater of the two witnesses, and they say to him: Say how you saw the moon. Was it in front of the sun or behind the sun? To its north or to its south? How high was the moon over the horizon, and in which direction did it tilt? And how wide was it? If, for example, he said that he saw the moon in front of the sun, he has not said anything of substance, as this is impossible and therefore he is either mistaken or lying. And after they finish hearing the first witness’s testimony, they would bring in the second witness and examine him in a similar manner. If their statements match, their testimony is accepted and the court sanctifies the New Moon. And the court then asks all the other pairs of witnesses certain general matters, without probing into all the details. They do this not because they require the additional testimony, but so that the witnesses should not leave disappointed, and so that the witnesses should be accustomed to coming to testify, and will not hesitate to come the next time, when they might be needed.
רֹאשׁ בֵּית דִּין אוֹמֵר מְקֻדָּשׁ, וְכָל הָעָם עוֹנִין אַחֲרָיו מְקֻדָּשׁ מְקֻדָּשׁ. בֵּין שֶׁנִּרְאָה בִזְמַנּוֹ בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא נִרְאָה בִזְמַנּוֹ, מְקַדְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בְּרַבִּי צָדוֹק אוֹמֵר, אִם לֹא נִרְאָה בִזְמַנּוֹ, אֵין מְקַדְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ, שֶׁכְּבָר קִדְּשׁוּהוּ שָׁמָיִם:
After the witnesses have been examined and their testimony accepted, the head of the court says: It is sanctified. And all the people respond after him: It is sanctified; it is sanctified. Whether the moon was seen at its anticipated time, on the thirtieth day of the previous month, or whether it was not seen at its anticipated time, in which case witnesses are not necessary to establish the following day as the New Moon, the court sanctifies it and formally proclaims the day as the New Moon. Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Tzadok, says: If the new moon was not seen at its anticipated time, the court does not sanctify the New Moon on the following day, as the celestial court in Heaven has already sanctified it, precluding the need for the additional sanctification by the earthly court.
דְּמוּת צוּרוֹת לְבָנוֹת הָיוּ לוֹ לְרַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל בַּטַּבְלָא וּבַכֹּתֶל בַּעֲלִיָּתוֹ, שֶׁבָּהֶן מַרְאֶה אֶת הַהֶדְיוֹטוֹת וְאוֹמֵר, הֲכָזֶה רָאִיתָ אוֹ כָזֶה. מַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁבָּאוּ שְׁנַיִם וְאָמְרוּ, רְאִינוּהוּ שַׁחֲרִית בַּמִּזְרָח וְעַרְבִית בַּמַּעֲרָב. אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בֶּן נוּרִי, עֵדֵי שֶׁקֶר הֵם. כְּשֶׁבָּאוּ לְיַבְנֶה קִבְּלָן רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל. וְעוֹד בָּאוּ שְׁנַיִם וְאָמְרוּ, רְאִינוּהוּ בִזְמַנּוֹ, וּבְלֵיל עִבּוּרוֹ לֹא נִרְאָה, וְקִבְּלָן רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל. אָמַר רַבִּי דוֹסָא בֶּן הַרְכִּינָס, עֵדֵי שֶׁקֶר הֵן, הֵיאָךְ מְעִידִין עַל הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁיָּלְדָה, וּלְמָחָר כְּרֵסָהּ בֵּין שִׁנֶּיהָ. אָמַר לוֹ רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, רוֹאֶה אֲנִי אֶת דְּבָרֶיךָ:
Rabban Gamliel had a diagram of the different forms of the moon drawn on a tablet that hung on the wall of his attic, which he would show to the laymen who came to testify about the new moon but were unable to describe adequately what they had seen. And he would say to them: Did you see a form like this or like this? There was an incident in which two witnesses came to testify about the new moon, and they said: We saw the waning moon in the morning in the east, and that same day we saw the new moon in the evening in the west. Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Nuri said: They are false witnesses, as it is impossible to see the new moon so soon after the last sighting of the waning moon. However, when they arrived in Yavne, Rabban Gamliel accepted them as witnesses without concern. And there was another incident in which two witnesses came and said: We saw the new moon at its anticipated time, i.e., on the night of the thirtieth day of the previous month; however, on the following night, i.e., the start of the thirty-first, which is often the determinant of a full, thirty-day month, it was not seen. And nevertheless Rabban Gamliel accepted their testimony and established the New Moon on the thirtieth day. Rabbi Dosa ben Horkinas disagreed and said: They are false witnesses; how can witnesses testify that a woman gave birth and the next day her belly is between her teeth, i.e., she is obviously still pregnant? If the new moon was already visible at its anticipated time, how could it not be seen a day later? Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: I see the logic of your statement; the New Moon must be established a day later.
שָׁלַח לוֹ רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, גּוֹזְרַנִי עָלֶיךָ שֶׁתָּבֹא אֶצְלִי בְּמַקֶּלְךָ וּבִמְעוֹתֶיךָ בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים שֶׁחָל לִהְיוֹת בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹנְךָ. הָלַךְ וּמְצָאוֹ רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא מֵצֵר, אָמַר לוֹ, יֶשׁ לִי לִלְמוֹד שֶׁכָּל מַה שֶּׁעָשָׂה רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל עָשׂוּי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כג), אֵלֶּה מוֹעֲדֵי יְיָ מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ, אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם, בֵּין בִּזְמַנָּן בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא בִזְמַנָּן, אֵין לִי מוֹעֲדוֹת אֶלָּא אֵלּוּ. בָּא לוֹ אֵצֶל רַבִּי דוֹסָא בֶּן הַרְכִּינָס, אָמַר לוֹ, אִם בָּאִין אָנוּ לָדוּן אַחַר בֵּית דִּינוֹ שֶׁל רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, צְרִיכִין אָנוּ לָדוּן אַחַר כָּל בֵּית דִּין וּבֵית דִּין שֶׁעָמַד מִימוֹת משֶׁה וְעַד עַכְשָׁיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כד), וַיַּעַל משֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא וְשִׁבְעִים מִזִּקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְלָמָּה לֹא נִתְפָּרְשׁוּ שְׁמוֹתָן שֶׁל זְקֵנִים, אֶלָּא לְלַמֵּד, שֶׁכָּל שְׁלשָׁה וּשְׁלשָׁה שֶׁעָמְדוּ בֵית דִּין עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל, הֲרֵי הוּא כְבֵית דִּינוֹ שֶׁל משֶׁה. נָטַל מַקְלוֹ וּמְעוֹתָיו בְּיָדוֹ, וְהָלַךְ לְיַבְנֶה אֵצֶל רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל בְּיוֹם שֶׁחָל יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים לִהְיוֹת בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹנוֹ. עָמַד רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל וּנְשָׁקוֹ עַל רֹאשׁוֹ, אָמַר לוֹ, בֹּא בְשָׁלוֹם, רַבִּי וְתַלְמִידִי, רַבִּי בְחָכְמָה, וְתַלְמִידִי שֶׁקִּבַּלְתָּ דְּבָרָי:
Upon hearing that Rabbi Yehoshua had challenged his ruling, Rabban Gamliel sent a message to him: I decree against you that you must appear before me with your staff and with your money on the day on which Yom Kippur occurs according to your calculation; according to my calculation, that day is the eleventh of Tishrei, the day after Yom Kippur. Rabbi Akiva went and found Rabbi Yehoshua distressed that the head of the Great Sanhedrin was forcing him to desecrate the day that he maintained was Yom Kippur. In an attempt to console him, Rabbi Akiva said to Rabbi Yehoshua: I can learn from a verse that everything that Rabban Gamliel did in sanctifying the month is done, i.e., it is valid. As it is stated: “These are the appointed seasons of the Lord, sacred convocations, which you shall proclaim in their season” (Leviticus 23:4). This verse indicates that whether you have proclaimed them at their proper time or whether you have declared them not at their proper time, I have only these Festivals as established by the representatives of the Jewish people. Rabbi Yehoshua then came to Rabbi Dosa ben Horkinas, who said to him: If we come to debate and question the rulings of the court of Rabban Gamliel, we must debate and question the rulings of every court that has stood from the days of Moses until now. As it is stated: “Then Moses went up, and Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the Elders of Israel” (Exodus 24:9). But why were the names of these seventy Elders not specified? Rather, this comes to teach that every set of three judges that stands as a court over the Jewish people has the same status as the court of Moses. Since it is not revealed who sat on that court, apparently it is enough that they were official judges in a Jewish court. When Rabbi Yehoshua heard that even Rabbi Dosa ben Horkinas maintained that they must submit to Rabban Gamliel’s decision, he took his staff and his money in his hand, and went to Yavne to Rabban Gamliel on the day on which Yom Kippur occurred according to his own calculation. Upon seeing him, Rabban Gamliel stood up and kissed him on his head. He said to him: Come in peace, my teacher and my student. You are my teacher in wisdom, as Rabbi Yehoshua was wiser than anyone else in his generation, and you are my student, as you accepted my statement, despite your disagreement.