Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Torah's Twilight Zone

A fascinating theory that totally turns the concept of how day and night work in Judaism has been proposed by Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt"l in his commentary to this week's parsha. The Torah states that one is forbidden to leave over meat from his korbon pesach. All meat must be eaten prior to dawn. (Shemos 12:10) Rashi informs us that one would have thought that the prohibition was not to leave over meat till after sunrise, but the wording in this pasuk teaches that the time period is dawn and not sunrise (dawn is the twilight period prior in which there is light, but the sun is not visible above the horizon).

Rav Kaminetsky ponders why one would have thought that the time period discussed is sunrise. Regarding all other Torah matters dawn is considered to be the beginning of day. Why is it that in this specific instance that sunrise would have been more applicable had the Torah not specified that this mitzvah is similar to the rest?

Firstly, Rav Kaminetsky suggests that prior to Matan Torah day preceded night (this is also the opinion of the Rashbam in Bereishis on the pasuk of there being evening and morning for the cessation of a day of creation) and he cites many instances where this is clearly expressed. Regarding korbonos, day also appears to precede night as most korbonos are able to be eaten on the day they are slaughtered and the following night (with the exception of a shelamim). Also, the limbs of the korbonos were processed on the mizbeach throughout the night the follows their slaughtering. (Although, see Tosefos Menachos 49a - 49b who seem to have a different understanding)

Secondly, even after Matan Torah day is normally defined as when the sun is above the horizon and night is when it is below and twilight is night (even for non-kodshim mitzvos). The doubt of when night begins that is referred to as bein hashmashos is not a doubt of when day becomes night, rather, it is when the date changes (there is no bein hashmashos in the morning twilight in the post-Matan Torah world). This doubt is going to occur at the time period when the date should be changing, so prior to Matan Torah this occurred in the morning and after Matan Torah it happens in the evening. This means that, nowadays, at sundown on Friday it is night. However, we are uncertain if it is Friday night and it has not become Shabbos, or if this time period is attributed to Shabbos and it is the night of Shabbos. The day has become night, but we don't know whether it has become the next date.

Therefore, prior to Matan Torah, and referring to kodshim, one could have thought that the prohibition of leaving over meat would be from sunrise because that is when it would certainly be the next day. Since the date change happens in the morning, there is an amount of time that would have been bein hashmashos (prior to Matan Torah and for kodshim). The Torah, therefore, clarified that this prohibition starts from the earliest possible time to be called the next morning and that is dawn and not sunrise. Effectively making no bein hashmoshos for kodshim ever (see Rambam regarding leaving over meat from a shelamim as he seems to support this theory; also see my Tiferes Aryeh Zevachim chapter 32, available at, regarding if one needs to wait on the first night of Pesach to make kiddush).

This general concept is also discussed at great length by Rav Yitzchak Isaac Chaver zt"l in his Seder Zemanim, although he attributes the twilight period to daytime and not night.

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