Thursday, September 8, 2011

Time Before Creation

As Rosh Hashana gets closer I figured that perhaps I might post a little bit about some things that can be found in Maseches Rosh Hashana. As we have discussed in the past, there is a debate in the first chapter of Rosh Hashana whether the world was created in Tishrei or Nissan. Rebbi Eliezer maintains that the world was created in Tishrei and Rebbi Yehoshua posits that it was in Nissan. The Gemara seems to finish its discussion of this matter with an approach that does not resolve this issue, rather, it is a compromised method for practical applications (I have just mentioned the apparent reading of this passage, there is much debate amongst the Rishonim and some do maintain that an actual decision between the two opinions was rendered). This method has certain things recorded based on Rebbi Eliezer's chronology and others based on Rebbi Yehoshua's. (See R"H 12a)

The Gemara had maintained that for calculations of the beginnings of the seasons, tekufos, we utilize the approach that the world was created in Nissan and therefore the system of calculation of these times has its beginning in Nissan in the year of Creation. Rashi references the calculations utilized for this and displays how it reflects a Nissan beginning, but then Rashi adds an extra point. He states that according to Rebbi Yehoshua the first Molad (calculated lunar conjunction used for the purposes of establishing Rosh Chodesh) of the year of Creation was 4:9:642 (this format will be used throughout the rest of this post and is the classic way of displaying Molad calculations. The first number is the day of the week with 1 being Sunday, 2 Monday, etc. The second number is the number of hours into the day that the Molad occurred with the beginning of the day recorded as sunset. The third number is the amount of Chalakim into the hour. One Chelek is 3 1/3 seconds and 1080 Chalakim equal one hour. Thus, the system is Day:Hour:Chalakim.) The first question one must ask is where did Rashi get this figure from? As we will see, the apparent answer seems to create even more questions.

Earlier Tosefos had provided a lengthy discussion of Molad calculations. (See Tosefos R"H 8a-8b) In it they stated that since Adam was created on Friday, 1 Tishrei, we can deduce when the original Molad was. They cite from other talmudic sources and therefore assert that Adam sanctified the new moon on the first day he was created and that he did so in the first moment of the 21st hour of the day (initially Tosefos was discussing hours as having started at sunrise so they referred to this as the beginning of the 9th hour, shortly after Tosefos converted this number into the Molad system which has the hours starting from sunset the night before). Since the calculated conjunction is six hours prior to the moment of sanctification that would mean that the Molad was the beginning of the 15th hour. (In a much earlier post I discussed why this six hour difference between lunar conjunction and first sighting is not problematic with actual observations and science which maintain that a more accurate amount of time would be closer to 15 hours. For more about this click here.) Tosefos then state that for Molad times when the Molad occurs at the exact beginning of an hour we refer to it as the end of the hour just completed. Therefore, Tosefos maintain that the Molad was at 6:14:0.

Tosefos then continue that our system incorporates into it the "year" prior to Creation. Because this "year" precedes Creation most of it did not exist (although Tosefos state that since Adam was created on 1 Tishrei that means that the first day of Creation was 25 Elul, so there were several days of this "nonexistent year" that existed) and is primarily a mathematical concept for the purposes of our systems of calculation. This "year" is referred to as Shnas Tohu, the Year of Desolation.

Tosefos point out that when we calculate the Molad of Nissan of Shnas Tohu we find that it was 4:9:642. This can be done by taking 29:12:793 (the amount of time between two Molads) and multiplying by 6 for the six months between Nissan and Tishrei. Then one need only see how many days:hours:Chalakim are left over to see what day:hour:Chelek the Molad of Nissan happened on. (If we multiply the 29 days of every Molad by the six months between Nissan and Tishrei we get 174. 174 does not divide evenly by 7 for the days of the week, 174/7 = 24R6, which means we have a six day difference. Take the 12 hours of every month and multiply by six and we 3 days. Add these three days to the 6 we had left over from the calculation of days (of 29) and we are left with 9. Since every week has 7 days one can subtract the 7 from the 9 and see that as of now the difference in day of week between the Nissan Molad and that of Tishrei is 2 days. Now, if we multiply the 793 Chalakim by the six months that passed between Nissan and Tishrei we get 4,758. Since there are 1,080 Chalakim in an hour that means that the Chalakim added up to four hours and 438 Chalakim. Thus, the Nissan Molad was 2:4:438 prior to the Tishrei Molad. Since the Tishrei Molad was 6:14:0 that means that the Nissan Molad was 4:9:642. (In order to subtract the 438 Chalakim from the zero you can "borrow" one hour from the 14 and put it as 1080 in the Chalakim section, thus, 6:14:0 = 6:13:1080). Interestingly, this is Rashi's number!!!

The major question that arises is that Rashi seems to be discussing the opinion of Rebbi Yehoshua who maintains that the world was created in Nissan and Tosefos arrived at this calculation based on the fact that Adam was created on 1 Tishrei. Based on those calculations, Rashi should have stated that the Molad of the year of Creation was 6:14:0 in Nissan and the Tishrei prior to this, Shnas Tohu, was 4:9:642!!!

Perhaps the answer could be that the Gemara never stated that the Molad is actually calculated based on Rebbi Yehoshua's opinion, it just stated that the seasons, Tekufos, were calculated as such. According to Rebbi Yehoshua personally the Molad in that Nissan of Creation was, in fact, 6:14:0 and it was the Tishrei prior that was 4:9:642. Perhaps Rashi was adding a fact and not explaining the text of the Gemara when he added the point of the Molad. Keep in mind again that the Molad issue was not discussed in the text of the Gemara, just the Tekufos. Perhaps, the Molad follows Rebbi Eliezer's opinion and are calculated based on the assumption that Adam was created in Tishrei. However, since we utilize Rebbi Yehoshua's opinion for other matters that means that we use a system that starts prior to Rebbi Eliezer's system of Molads. Thus, Rashi is actually saying that the Molad of the Nissan of Rebbi Yehoshua would be calculated by us as 4:9:642 since we use Rebbi Eliezer's approach and are merely extending it backwards to see what he would have said for the time when Rebbi Yehoshua maintained the world existed.

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