[Avodah] What date was the Torah given?

Joe Slater avodah2 at slatermold.com
Mon Jan 7 03:20:48 PST 2013

I don't know if anyone has provided this suggestion, but I think it
satisfies the considerations of both peshat and derush:

The reason we are unsure of the date of Matan Torah is that everyone other
than Moshe was unsure of it. The mitzva of kiddush hachodesh was given in
Egypt, but subsequent new moons fell when the Jews were protected by the
ananei hakavod ("clouds of glory"). The Jews (certainly Moshe Rabbeinu)
knew the length of a lunar month and the number of days since Rosh Chodesh
Nisan (because of the mitzvot of preparing the first Seder, which were
specified by the relevant dates), but subsequently nobody was in a position
to observe the new moon - the thing which determines the day on rosh
chodesh. The lengths of the months of Nisan and Iyar (and hence the date of
Matan Torah) were not only unknown, but unknowable. So, you might ask, why
couldn't Moshe sanctify the new moons based on the same logical principles
that would be used by the Sanhedrin? My answer is that perhaps he could and
perhaps he did, but what would kiddush hachodesh mean at that point in
time? There was no Sanhedrin and therefore no need for a vote; there was no
Mishkan at the time in which to offer the musafin (extra sacrifices) of
rosh chodesh and no mitzva to offer them, in any event; there was no
intervening yom tov for which the date would need to be known. So unless
Moshe Rabbenu told someone what the date was, nobody knew - they would have
reasoned that it was one of two possible dates, but that's as far as they
could go. Later, when the Mishkan was built, Moshe would have needed to
instruct Aharon to offer the special sacrifices of rosh chodesh and *that*
was probably what kiddush hachodesh consisted of, at that time. But  I
presume that before then kiddush hachodesh was something which Moshe
Rabbenu did either mentally or verbally by calculation, and in his great
humility he saw no need to go around telling everyone that he had just
performed a mitzva on behalf of Klal Yisroel. Once the moon had been
sanctified the date had no halachic relevance and there was no point
gossiping about it.
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