The articles in this column are transcriptions and adaptations of shiurim by Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l. The Rav’s unique perspective on Chumash permeated many of the shiurim and lectures he presented at various venues over a 40-plus-year period. His words add an important perspective that makes the Chumash in particular, and our tradition in general, vibrant and relevant to our generation.
Mazal tov to Mark and Lynn Hanfling on the engagement of Zehava to Daniel Friedman.
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In the course of our daily interactions, we encounter various people that we would characterize as introverts or extroverts. The introverted personality is characterized by a reticence to engage with others, often viewed as having a common or non-descript personality. On the other hand, an extroverted person seeks to engage with others. His inner and outer personalities exude a dynamism that draws others in. Their presence is palpable and inescapable, affecting others by causing a visible change in their behavior.
The characteristics of introversion and extroversion apply to our holidays as well. Parshat Pinchas details the various sanctified days, including Shabbat, the Yomim Tovim and Rosh Chodesh. While the other festivals have a manifest kedushat hayom, sanctity of the day, derived from issur melacha, work prohibition, that is mentioned in prayer and Bircat HaMazon, Rosh Chodesh does not have the same prohibition. There is no issur melacha on Rosh Chodesh beyond the boundaries of the Temple. (Some women refrain from sewing on Rosh Chodesh by custom, but it is not biblically prohibited.)
The kedushat hayom of Shabbat and Yom Tov is fundamentally different from that of Rosh Chodesh. The sanctity is unique and palpable. On these days, the Jew dresses differently, he converses differently, he prays differently, reciting seven blessings instead of the daily 19. Kriat HaTorah is accompanied by a Haftorah. There are 39 melachot on Shabbat that he must refrain from – many of which apply to Yom Tov, with the exception work activities related to food preparation. Shabbat and festivals exhibit an extroverted, transformative effect that changes the Jew; the Jew disconnects from the world, as he is transported to a world of sanctity and tranquility. The internal and external manifestations of Shabbat and Yom Tov are imbued with sanctity.
Rosh Chodesh is externally unobtrusive. It feels like any other day of the week, yemay chol. There is no prohibition against work. The Jew wears the same weekday clothes, recites the same Shmoneh Esrei, including Ya’aleh VeYavo, and expresses the same concerns for parnassah, health, salvation as any other day of the week.
As with the other festivals and Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh has a distinct korban. Mussaf means addition, a sacrifice that expresses unique additional kedusha. Mussaf means that this day has something that distinguishes it from the rest of the weekdays and imparts sanctity to it. The Gemara expresses this sanctity when it says that one who omits Ya’aleh VeYavo in Shacharit or Mincha must repeat the Amidah, just as he must do if he omits it in Neilah on Yom Kippur. Rosh Chodesh, however, has a very distinct and strong hidden sanctity.
Those familiar with the nuances of Chazal may note that in certain aspects, the sanctity of Rosh Chodesh stands above Shabbat and other festivals. The Torah (Bamidbar 10:10) obligates us to blow trumpets on our festivals and on Rosh Chodesh so that we may be remembered, l’zikaron, before Hashem. Interestingly, Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Yom HaZikaron. The Gemara (Eruvin 40a) says that our custom is to mention Yom HaZikaron and not Rosh Hashanah in the Mussaf service, because Rosh Hashanah encompasses the dual sanctities of the New Year festival as well as Rosh Chodesh. The Gemara says Zikaron achas oleh l’kan u’lkan, a single ideal of remembering applies to both days. Perhaps the aspect of zikaron that is the focus on Rosh Hashanah is due to the Rosh Chodesh element that it contains.
The Rambam (Hilchot Taanit 1:7) says that fasting on Rosh Chodesh is biblically prohibited. The Rav said in the name of his father, Reb Moshe, zt”l, that Rambam derived this from the above noted verse that included Rosh Chodesh with the festivals and days of joy and granted it sanctity. Rosh Chodesh is the hidden jewel that represents an understated sanctity of the highest level. The same trumpets that announced the water drawing during Sukkot and blown in conjunction with the Yom Kippur sacrifices were sounded on Rosh Chodesh. Yet outside of the Temple, this sanctity of Rosh Chodesh was hidden and unremarkable
The idea of extroversion and introversion as it relates to the Jewish calendar also relates to how the Jew must conduct himself. Every person was made in the image of Hashem, and has two different ways to express his internal sanctity. Many Jews lived in the public sphere and were widely known for a life that patterned the overt sanctity of Shabbat and Yom Tov. Sometimes they expressed kedusha by distinguishing their approach to a specific melacha. Their observable kedusha was expressed in their limited speech (sichat chulin) generally and especially on Shabbat, in the way they walked, and their mannerisms. Anyone engaging with them was impressed and recognized a great person worthy of their respect. This is the external sanctity that comes from the korban Mussaf. Even the ignorant Manoach and his wife immediately appreciated the greatness of the angel who appeared to them exuding overt Shabbat charisma.
However, not everybody’s greatness is readily apparent. Am mkadhsei shvi’i refers to the masses, the less notable among us, who exhibit the hidden, Rosh Chodesh type of sanctity. Just as Hashem can be found in the most humble of situations as well as in the most exalted, sometimes we discover unique, hidden qualities in a person. This sanctity quality is masked by a regular weekday amidah instead of the overt beauty associated with Shabbat. Many gedolei Yisrael were hidden by a cloud that obscured their yearning for Judaism and sanctity in chol, mundane weekdays. They were careful to limit their speech and interactions. Their greatness was not expressed in the public kedusha of Mussaf, nor was it appreciated by the Manoachs of the world.
The above analysis provides a view on the conflict between Yosef and his brothers. The brothers were unaccustomed to kedusha expressed through the mundane clothing of a ketones passim, or in emphasis on personal appearance. They viewed Yosef’s dreams as an egocentric domination play. From an external perspective, he was a threat. The ketones passim was an iron curtain that separated him from them. Yosef wanted to come closer to them, to tell them that they misunderstood him. He wanted to explain that they only saw the external ketones passim but missed his burning internal desire to be close to Hashem and follow in Jacob’s footsteps, just like them. Yosef, fluent in 70 languages, was incapable of explaining to his brothers how he strived for sanctity.
The Rav identified with people like Yosef who are misunderstood because they are unable to explain themselves to others. This identification manifested in the passive training he received at home to control and hide emotions. The Torah says that no person may be present in the Ohel Moed when the high priest entered to perform the Yom Kippur service. This restriction applies to anyone seeking to communicate with Hashem. Whether pouring out his heart in despair or expressing joy and gratitude at a joyous occasion, or feelings of pity and pain, the Jew must keep his emotions in check. Just as the paroches separated between the holy and the holy of holies, so to must the Jew guard and shield his emotions from public display. The deeper the sentiment, the greater the need to bury it. The Rav noted that many of his congregants were dismayed at what they perceived to be his cool welcome. The Rav said they did not appreciate how a perceived cool welcome may have internally been an unexpressed warm embrace, while a seemingly firm handshake may have been dismissed internally as perfunctory. The Rav noted that his father displayed limited emotions towards him. His father never kissed him and when taking leave, not knowing if and when they would see each other again, his father bade him a seemingly cursory farewell. Anyone observing the exchange may have dismissed it as typical cold Brisker, misnagdic human interaction. The Rav said nothing could be further than the truth. He knew how deeply his father loved him, but the display of such emotions was reserved for Kodesh HaKodshim beyond the view of strangers. His father represented the Rosh Chodesh amidah, without external flourish.
Judaism wanted kedusha to constantly come in contact with chol, the mundane. Jacob’s sons described themselves as shepherds. That was their external costume. Internally they were Shivtay Kah. Torah contains many laws regarding mundane every-day existence; however each contains a Rosh Chodesh-like inner sanctity.