Forethoughts and Afterthoughts.
Commentary on the weekly Torah reading.
In memory of Father, Yosef Ben Zelig.
March 25th 1911 - May 2nd 2008
In memory of Mother, Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh.
June 9th 1925 - April 16th 2003
In memory of Uncle, Moshe Binyamin Ben Tzvi Hirsh.
December 12 1929 - February 2nd 2010
In Loving Memory of Moreinu Horav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh HaYeshiva Ner Yisroel
Chukas (Numbers 19-22)
Shabbos Hagadol / Passover 2014 / 5774
During the Temple era we may not eat newly grown grain until the Omer offering is brought. This was always done by noon of the sixteenth of Nisan.
During pre / post Temple eras, when we have no Omer offering, there are views that the new grain is Biblically permitted by daybreak.
The Mishnah says that Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai made a ruling that we must refrain from eating the new grain until the end of that day. He led the Jewish people during the painful period when the Second Temple was destroyed.
The Talmud (Succa 41a) provides the rationale for his ruling. It has to do with the fact that "the (Third) Temple will be built very quickly."
Until we merit the rebuilding of the Third Temple, if people get used to eating the new grain on the morning of the sixteenth of Nisan then they may come to transgress the prohibition should the Temple is rebuilt on that day. This is because only the offering will permit the new grain, not daybreak.
The Talmud asks why we should have to wait the entire day. The priests acted with great zeal and the Omer offering was always done by noon. Why didn't it suffice for Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai to prohibit the new grain until the noon of the sixteenth? Why is the entire day forbidden?
The Talmud answers that it is possible for the Temple to be built shortly before or during the night of the sixteenth. This could provide sufficient time to harvest the grain for the offering, which must be done that night.
Now, we will not know when the Third Temple will be rebuilt until it happens. Understandably, when it does happen, we will all be extremely busy reconstructing the national infrastructures that are needed to operate it.
(Given all that must be done, I would think having it operational by the next day will itself be another miracle. But that should be no problem, especially given all the others.)
And, explains Rashi, the grain must undergo a special process before it's offered. So that year, even if there is enough time to make the preparations, we may not have enough time to make the offering by noon.
Therefore, the Talmud concludes, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai had no choice but to extend the prohibition until nightfall.
It puzzled me that the Talmud connects the prohibition with the fact that the Third Temple will be built very QUICKLY. The concern really surrounds the timing of the construction, not the speed of the construction.
As the redemption and the restoration of our Temple are closely bound together, perhaps, the speed of the construction is synonymous with the speed at which we will be redeemed.
That is, the Messianic Era, which includes the restoration of the Third Temple, will occur very quickly, regardless of how dark things look, regardless of how far away we think we are.
Passover is all about our redemption from Egypt. And we are taught that Passover was a preparation for this final redemption.
This appears like a lead-up to a possible answer: It is likely that the Moshiach/Third Temple will be rebuilt on the fifteenth of Nisan. Both will occur very quickly and Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai was planning for a likely scenario.
The only problem is that we are one day off. Passover is on the fifteenth of Nisan and the Omer offering was brought on the sixteenth. If the redemption occurs on the fifteenth and reconstruction occurs speedily on that day, then the Temple should be fully operational by the morning of the sixteenth and the offering should process by noon. Why was the new grain forbidden that entire day?
The following came to mind.
So WHEN is that day going to be?
There are two answers. (Sorry).
The first answer is that the redemption will occur on THAT day. But nobody knows when THAT day really is. Only G-D knows. G-D manages history and He'll make it happen precisely then, down to the microsecond / nanosecond / picosecond / etc.
That's the "in its time" redemption (Yeshiah / Isiah 60:22).
So which day is it, already?
While we really have absolutely no idea which year it will be, it's not a bad bet to put money on the fifteenth of Nisan. After all, the Talmud clearly states that we will be redeemed during the month of Nisan (Rosh Hashanah 11a). And what better day in Nisan can you pick? The Hagaddah kind of says it. The Medrash kind of says it.
So in your Passover preparations this year, do take the time to figure out where the passports of your family members are. But then again, you may not need passports. Just hop onto the cloud.
Next question: What's going to happen and when?
One thing we know is that Eliyahu (Elijah the prophet) will precede the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah) by one day (Talmud Eruvin 43b).
So, if Moshiach arrives on Passover, does that mean that Eliyahu will arrive to announce the redemption on the day before Passover?
The Talmud says that the Jewish people are assured by Heaven that Eliyahu will never arrive on the eve of Shabbos or a holiday because the Jewish people are busy preparing for the celebration. We simply won't be able to properly greet him.
And of all the days before a holiday, nobody has time to do anything on the eve of Passover because everybody is in a frenzy doing everything to get ready for Pesach.
OK, nix the fourteenth of Nisan for the arrival of Eliyahu the prophet.
That takes us to the FIFTEENTH, Passover night! No wonder they had us fill a fifth cup for Eliyahu!
We'll have no trouble staying up all night that Pesach, no matter how many extra cups of wine we drink. And we'll become so amazed with all the wonderful things he'll be saying and explaining that we may need to be reminded in the morning to say the Shema, just like it happened in the Hagaddah.
So if Eliyahu does arrive on the fifteenth then Moshiach will arrive on the sixteenth, in time for the Omer offering!
But there can be no Omer offering on that day unless the Third Temple is rebuilt, "VERY QUICKLY."
Perhaps that's why the Talmud linked Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai's ruling with the Temple being built very quickly.
Historically, the precious Jewish people who ascended to the Jerusalem to joyously celebrate the last Passover in the Second Temple were the ones who were trapped by the invading Roman legions.
Perhaps Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai embedded with his ruling a ray of hope for his and future generations. There will be a better and much brighter Passover, some day.
But why doesn't he come today? What's holding up the redemption?
Our teachers tell us that we will not find the answer in a book. Rather, we will find it by looking in a mirror, at ourselves individually and collectively.
If we can only look at ourselves honestly, stop making excuses, giving up, and belittling others, stop running away from the Torah, stop fragmenting. If we can only get our act together and be together, if we can only extend ourselves a bit more and both obey and LISTEN to the Torah then Moshiach can arrive ANY day.
And this is the second answer to the question of when Moshiach will come. It's the "I shall RUSH it" redemption day (Yeshiah / Isiah 60:22).
Until we do this, G-D's process of refining us through Jewish history will roll on, painful as it has been.
But we can do it, no matter how impossible it seems. The farther away it seems to be, the closer it really can be.
We may now look at Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai's ruling as another ray of hope for both his generation and ours.
Have a wonderful Passover preparation. Act quickly but keep cool.
I sincerely hope we all meet this year in the greatest of all rushes.
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