- What exactly is this mitzvah?
- Why do you think our first mitzvah as a nation is this one?
- What do you think the connection is between seeing the moon and seeing the Divine?
- What factors do you think are driving the desire to go for Rabban Gamliel's start of the month?
- Why does Rabbi Yehoshua ultimately go with Rabban Gamliel even though he thinks Rabban Gamliel is wrong?
- What do you think of Rabban Gamliel's behaviour?
THE TAKEAWAY: HUMAN PARTNERSHIP IN DIVINE LAW
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Seeking His Presence: Conversations with Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, pgs. 147-148
"...But if even if there are other witnesses, and even if we are already talking about the thirty-first day, when we know even without witnesses when the new month will be celebrated, (because a month cannot last thirty-two days) why are the witnesses allowed to desecrate the Sabbath in order to go up to Jerusalem?
The Mishna in Rosh haShana (2:7) teaches that 'whether the moon was seen at its proper time or not, they sanctify it.' This means that even if thirty days have gone by, and there is no need for witnesses to help determine the start of the new month, nonetheless the court sanctifies it. There is a qualitative difference between a month sanctified automatically and one sanctified by the court based on the testimony of witnesses, and this discrepancy even justifies desecrating the Sabbath...
We see from here that even in a case where the start of the month is already obvious, and thus the witnesses will have no impact on setting the calendar at all, the witnesses make a qualitative difference in the nature of the sanctification of the new moon. The question is always whether the new month be established with sanctification by man or not. If witnesses come forth, then the new month will be sanctified by man, and this warrants desecrating the Sabbath."
- Why does Rav Lichtenstein say that sanctifying the moon is important enough to desecrate Shabbat?
- With this understanding, why do you think then sanctifying the moon is the first mitzvah for the Jewish people?