THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) MONDAYS AND THURSDAYS
QUESTION: The Gemara says that one should not perform blood-letting on
Mondays or Thursdays, because those are the days on which the heavenly
court of justice convenes, and a person's merits and transgressions are
likely to be reviewed. RASHI (DH sh'Beis Din) adds that Mondays and
Thursdays are also the days when the earthly courts convene as instituted
by Ezra (Bava Kama 82a).
2) THE IDOLATORS WEEK
A Midrash derives from this from thee verse, "Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof" -- "You
shall pursue righteousness" (Devarim 16:20). From here we see, says the
Midrash, that Jewish courts should convene on Mondays and Thursdays. Where
at all in this verse is there an allusion to Mondays and Thursdays?
ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu, Parshas Shoftim, #119) explains,
based on the explanation that RASHI (DH d'Kayma Lei) gives regarding the
seven Mazalos which rotate hourly (see Graphic #7), that the only time the
Mazal of Tzedek begins a night is on Monday, and the only time Tzedek
begins a day is on Thursday. Thus, "Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof" means that one
should pursue justice when the Mazal of "Tzedek" begins the day or night,
which is Monday and Thursday!
Rashi explains how, according to ancient astrology, the moving heavenly
bodies (from the perspective of a geocentric earth) rotate hourly
throughout the hours of the day. (See Graphic #7)
3) USING GENTILE DAYS AND DATES
An interesting outcome of this system is an insight into the Pagan source
for the names of the days of the week in several languages. It is evident
that the prevalent system for referring to the days of the week has its
source in Pagan mythology. In fact, each of the seven days corresponds to
another of the seven motile bodies which Rashi refers to in our Sugya.
However, they seem to be all out of order; they are not arranged from the
innermost to the outermost, nor from the outermost to the innermost.
Instead, they jump around: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and
Saturn. There seems to be no explanation for this oddity.
A look at our chart reveals, though, that they indeed follow a very clear
pattern. Apparently, the idolaters behind the current naming system
believed in the hourly rotation of the Mazalos. A look at line #13 of our
chart shows that the order of the Pagan names for the days exactly follows
the order of the Mazalos that "rule" at the *first hour of the day* each
day. (The gentile day begins by day, and not by night.)
A list of the Pagan sources for naming the days of the week follows:
1) On the first day of the week, at the first hour of the day the sun
"rules" the heavenly hosts. The nations of the world, whose day starts at
sunrise, call the first day of the week Sunday (Old English sunnandoeg, day
of the sun).
2) At the first hour of the day of the second day of the week, the moon
"rules" the Heavenly Hosts. The nations of the world call the second day of
the week Monday (O.E. monandoeg, day of the moon; French: Lundi, similar to
the word Lunar; Spanish: Lunes).
3) At the first hour of the day of the third day of the week, Mars "rules"
the Heavenly Hosts. The nations of the world call the third day of the week
Tuesday (O.E. Tiwes doeg, Tiw's day, after the Norse god of *war* [=
Ma'adim] Tiu, or Tyr. In other languages, the name of the day is even more
clearly related to Mars: Fr. Mardi; Sp. Martes; It. Marted).
4) At the first hour of the day of the fourth day of the week, Mercury
"rules" the Heavenly Hosts. The nations of the world call the fourth day of
the week Wednesday (O.E. Wodnes doeg, day of the Norse god Wodin; in
languages of Latin origin its relationship to Mercury is more clearly
preserved: Latin: dies Mercurii; Fr. Mercredi; Sp. Miercoles; It.
5) At the first hour of the day of the fifth day of the week, Jupiter "rules" the Heavenly Hosts. The nations of the world call the fifth day of
the week Thursday (O.E. Thunres doeg, Thor's day. Jupiter, Jove, Thor and
Zues [the latter related to the word Tzedek] are all names for the god of
thunder, who was also the king of the idolatrous gods, from different
mythologies; Fr. Jeudi; Sp. Jueves; It. Giovedi. In German it is called
Donnerstag, "thunder day.").
6) At the first hour of the day of the sixth day of the week, Venus "rules"
the heavenly hosts. The nations of the world call the sixth day of the week
Friday (O.E. Frige doeg, day of the goddess Frigga, Norse goddess of love
and wife of Wodin (#4, above), apparently the equivalent of Venus; Fr.
Vandredi; Sp. Viernes; It. Venerdi).
7) At the first hour of the day of the seventh day of the week, Saturn
"rules" the heavenly hosts. The nations of the world call the seventh day
of the week Saturday (O.E. Soetern doeg, the day of Saturn; Fr. Samedi; Sp.
Sabado, very similar to the word Shabbos).
In the previous insight, we showed that the days of the week come from the
names of gods in Greek and Norse mythology. This raises the question of
whether it is at all permissible to refer to the days of the week by such
names. This also raises the broader question of whether we may refer to the
months of the year by their Julian names, some of which are named after
Roman gods (such as January, from Janus, known as the god of the doorway).
4) ADJUSTING BODILY PARTS ON SHABBOS
QUESTION: Rav teaches that it is permitted to wrap up a baby who was born
on Shabbos in order to promote the straightening of her limbs and joints.
Rav Chama bar Gurya taught the same earlier (66b; "Lefufi Yenuka").
Similarly, is it permitted to refer to the year by the number used by the
Gregorian calendar, which refers to the death of the god of the Nazarenes?
Furthermore, is it permitted to refer to the hours of the day (e.g. 6:00 in
the morning), which begin their count from midnight, which stems from a
system of belief that maintains that their god was born at midnight?
(1) MONTHS AND DAYS
QUESTION: There are two reasons to prohibit using the gentile names of
months and days:
(2) YEARS AND HOURS
(a) The MAHARAM SHIK (#117) writes that one should not use the gentile
names of months, and certainly not the gentile count of the months (putting
January as the first month). The reason is because their system does not
make Nisan the first month, and we have a Mitzvas Aseh to refer to the
months from Nisan, counting Nisan as the first month, in order to always
remember the redemption from Egypt (RAMBAN, Shemos 12:1). The similar logic
applies to the days of the week. The Gemara (Beitzah 16a) says that the
days of the week should be referred to in relation to Shabbos ("the first
day from Shabbos" and "the second day from Shabbos", etc.) in order to give
honor to Shabbos. It should, therefore, be prohibited to use the gentile
names of the days of the week.
(b) The names of the months and the days of the week are based on names of
gods that were used in idol worship. Are we permitted to use such names?
(a) In response to these problems, the Ramban in Parshas Bo writes that
with regard to the months, when the Jewish people returned from Bavel to
the land of Israel, they named the months by Babylonian names (which are
the names that we now use) in order to remember the redemption from Bavel
(see TOSFOS, Rosh Hashanah 7a), the same way that until then, they referred
to the months in relation to Nisan in order to remember the redemption from
The SEFER HA'IKRIM (3:16) understands this to mean that when the Jews were
exiled to Bavel, effectively bringing an end to the liberty they had
enjoyed as a result of the redemption from Egypt which occurred 890 years
earlier, there was no longer a necessity to count from Nisan to recall the
redemption from Egypt (see also CHASAM SOFER, Choshen Mishpat 1, DH
However, the PERUSH HA'KOSEV in the Ein Yakov at the beginning of Megilah
(3a) strongly opposes this view and explains that when the Jews left Bavel
they only *added names* to the months, but they did not change the
numbering system; they continued to count the months from Nisan. It is
permitted to refer to each month by its name, but when one gives each month
a number, one must count the month based on the original system, with Nisan
as the first. This opinion is supported by the GET PASHUT 127:35, MINCHAS
CHINUCH 311:3, and RAV OVADIAH YOSEF in YABIA OMER 6:9:4.
Therefore, one should refrain from referring to the months by the gentile
numbering system (e.g. referring to January as "1"). (It should be noted
that the months of September, October, November, and December are named
according to their numbers ("septem" = seven, "octo" = eight, "novem" =
nine, and "decem" = ten). Interestingly, these numbers are not in reference
to January, since two months were added at a later point in time. It so
happens that they conform to the count from the time of the year which
usually corresponds to Nisan!)
For the same reason, as far as the days of the week are concerned, it seems
that one who uses their names and not their numbers does not transgress a
Mitzvas Aseh. However, it may be prohibited to refer to the days of the
week by a different *numbering* system (for example, calling Monday the
first day of the week).
(b) With regard to mentioning the names of idols, since these idols are no
longer known or worshipped in the civilized world, it should not be
prohibited to mention their names, since one has no intention to refer to
those idols when he says the name of the day or month.
QUESTION: There are also two problems when it comes to using the year and
hour of the gentile system.
IN CONCLUSION: Rav Ovadiah Yosef shows that many of the great Torah sages
signed their letters with the gentile months and years. Although most only
signed as such in letters to non-Jewish government officials (Chasam Sofer,
Shach), some also signed letters to other Jews in this manner (such as the
Rema in Teshuvos #51, Teshuvos Maharam Padava #36 and #77). If it is
forbidden, they would not have use the gentile dates even in letters to
non-Jews. However, the CHASAM SOFER in TORAS MOSHE (Parshas Bo) writes
that someone who uses such a system instead of using the Jewish system when
he is able to is abominating the ways of Hashem's Torah, and therefore it
is best to avoid using the gentile system when possible and use the Jewish
months and years.
(a) The MAHARAM SHIK (#171) writes that a person should not refer to the
gentile year, because by doing so he *reminds himself* of the god that they
worship, and he transgresses the Torah prohibition of "Shem Elohim Acherim
Lo Tazkiru" ("You shall not mention the names of other gods").
(b) It should be prohibited because of "b'Chukoseihem Lo Selechu" ("You
shall not go in the ways of the gentiles").
(a) With regard to the first problem, Rav Ovadiah Yosef and others permit
using the gentile numbering system because the SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 147:2)
rules that it is prohibited to use the name of a gentile god *only* if one
thereby gives importance to it. However, the opposite may be argued. For
this reason using the gentile number of the year should be forbidden, since
it thereby gives importance to the event to which they refer by their count
of the year.
It could be that since one has no intention to refer to their god when he
mentions the year, he is not giving it any importance, and therefore it
might be permitted.
(b) As far as the problem of "b'Chukoseihem" is concerned, Rav Ovadiah
Yosef (Yabia Omer 6:9:2) shows that this is not applicable here, because of
the ruling of the MAHARIK cited by the Beis Yosef and Rema (YD 178). The
Maharik states that the prohibition of going in the ways of the gentiles
applies only with one of two conditions: (1) this particular mode of
conduct is an inexplicable custom that does not make any sense (and is thus
likely related to idol worship), or (2) it is a conduct of promiscuity. In
our case, referring to the year and hour by the gentile system, neither
condition is met, and therefore it should be permitted.
When writing for business purposes, even devoutly G-d-fearing Jews are not
strict to use Jewish dates. However, when possible, one should use the
names and not the numbers of gentile months (Rav Ovadiah Yosef). Some also
have the custom to abbreviate the names of the month (e.g. "Jan" instead of
January") and to write an abbreviated form of the gentile year (e.g."98"
instead of "1998").
However, we learned that there was an argument (123a) whether straightening
the limbs of a child ("Asuvei Yenuka," according to Rashi's explanation,
see Insights there) is permitted on Shabbos or not. Furthermore, the
Mishnah later (147a) says "Ein Me'atzvin Es ha'Katan" -- it is *not*
permitted to make adjustment to a child's bones and joints in order to
straighten them. How do we resolve these seemingly contradictory rulings?
ANSWER: RASHI here (DH Melafefin) and later (147b, DH b'Chomrei) addresses
this issue. It appears from Rashi that there are four different ways of
adjusting the limbs and joints of a baby:
(a) On the day that the baby is born, it is permitted to straighten her
limbs by *wrapping her in a cloth*, even if the spinal column is
straightened as well (129b, 66b).
(b) On the day the baby is born, *manually manipulating* (with one's hands)
the bones and joints is subject to an argument ("Asuvei Yenuka;" 123a).
(c) *Wrapping the baby in a cloth* in order to straighten the limbs on a
day *after the day of birth* is the subject of the Gemara later (147b),
which differentiates between adjusting the vertebrae in such a manner
(which is prohibited), and adjusting other limbs of the body (which is
(d) To *manually manipulate* the limbs of the baby on a day *after the day
of birth* is the subject of the Mishnah on 147a, which prohibits doing so
even for limbs other than the spinal column.
(e) It is interesting to note that TESHUVOS ADMAS HA'KODESH (OC 7, cited by
the Gilyon ha'Shas here) discusses at length whether it is permitted to
crack one's knuckles on Shabbos; may such an action be compared to a manual
adjustment of the bones or joints, which is prohibited (above, (d) )? He
concludes that it is permitted, because cracking one's knuckles does not
involve actual adjustment of the joints.