By Rav Shmuel Brazil
In Melachim 1 perek 18 passuk 21 Eliyahu on Har Hakarmel admonishes the people “until when will you skip over two paths [se’eefim].. Either you are to Hashem or the Baal. You cannot be committed to both”. The Rishiner Rebbi interpreted this passuk in another light. The set up of the Shulchan Aruch is that the halachos are divided into general categories called simanin which contain listings of halachos called se’eefim. There are two simanim that contain only one se’eef which is very unusual. They are siman shin 300 which deals with the halacha of the meal of melava malka and siman 419 which deals with the meal of Rosh Chodesh. The reason why the Bais Yosef who set in order the simanim and se’efim of each category of halachos, specifically created a singular se’eef just for these two meals even though it could have been easily included in the more expanded siman of Melava Malka and Rosh Chodesh with the other pertinent denim, is because they are both meals that people deem insignificant and skip them. In order to give them their proper importance the Beis Yosef felt it necessary to give them special attention.and status by crating their exclusivity. This says the Rishiner is hinted in the words of Eliyahu when he admonished “how long will you skip over the two se’efim”
hinting to these two meals that are positioned in a se’eef all alone without any other accompanying halacha.
I truly believe that this vort of the Rishiner was not just said out of context but it relates directly to the admonishment of ridding oneself from idolatry as we will now explain. We find in this week’s parsha that Benai Yisrael were given the mitzah of Kiddush hachodesh of sanctifying the new moon. It was here that they were commanded that the Jewish calendar is to follow the lunar months not the solar calendar. Why was it necessary to command this mitzvah while they were still in Mitzrayim?
I would suggest that through this mitzvah it would be easier to rid themselves of the avodah zarah of Mitzrayim that they worshipped and found challenging to depart from. The sefarim explain that by creating the moon alongside the sun it would bring to the realization that the sun is not G-d since a second luminary exists as well. That is why we find that the acronym of the words hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim is gematria 248 the same as Avraham. Avraham Avinu brought monotheism to the world and therefore is hinted in the mitzvah of sanctifying the new moon.
This can also be seen from the Chazal who say that whoever sanctifies the moon in the correct time is considered as if he receives the face of the Shechina. Reb Yerucham ztl the mashgiach from the Mir interpreted this Chazal according to Rabbeinu Yonah who explains that if one would unscientifically look at the birth of the moon on Rosh Chodesh he will experience the renewal and change in creation and thereby turn to Hashem and realize that His providence with creation is continual. This is therefore deemed as if one receives the face of the Shechina.
A further proof of this power of Rosh Chodesh to negate avodah zarah can be gleaned from the women of Klal Yisrael to whom was given the day of Rosh Chodesh as a Yom Tov not to perform during its hours certain types of work. The reason it specifically was given to them is because it served as a reward for refusing to worship the Golden Calf. The connection between these two is as we mentioned above. The inspiration of Rosh Chodesh is to reinforce the belief in Hashem as the sole creator and constant sustainer of the world. Women have this power to be faithful more than men. This is the reason, says the Maharal, why the word emunah is found in a feminine gender. For the identical reason women are prohibited to have more than one husband because they unlike men can withstand the test of being faithful only to one spouse. It was their unwavering belief that landed them with the Yom Tov of Rosh Chodesh which strengthens one’s emunah with the same principle. The celebration of Rosh Chodesh through its seudah reinforces the nullification of avodah zarah.
The meal of Melavah Malka parallels Rosh Chodesh with the same nurturing.. Shabbos testifies to Hashem as the Master and Creator of the universe. The passuk says [Yeshaya 56,2] shomer Shabbos “meichalelo” which means from desecrating it. However Chazal read a different interpretation in this word [Shabbos 118b] that whoever keeps the Shabbos “machul lo” he is forgiven even for avodah zarah. This derasha could be understood in the way that by keeping the Shabbos which reaffirms this belief in Hashem one will do teshuvah for his worshipping avodah zara and withdraw from it thereby acquiring atonement.. The purpose of the seudah of Melava Malka is to take this concept of Shabbos and bring it into the week when one is constantly bombarded with all sorts of avodah zarah [money, the pursuit of honor and aggrandizement of ego, believing that success in business is from his own endeavor outside of Hashem, and even the avodah zara of listening to his yetzer harah which the passuk calls “ail zar” a strange deity within man].
As we explained, the two seeifim that Eliyahu admonished Am Yisrael with referring to the unacceptable avodah zarah was also referring to these two seefim of Rosh Chodesh and Melava Malka as the Rishiner hinted in his novel interpretation. For it is these two meals that has the power to nourish a Yid helping him to fight against the lures of the varied avodah zarahs.
We are not within the weeks of “shovavim” which is the acronym of the parshiyos of sefer Shmos This is a time of teshuva especially in areas of kedusha and immorality. The inyanim of kedusha are very linked to avodah zarah for we always find the term vezanu which translates as illicit and promiscuous behavior in reference to idolatry. We have a kabbalah that every avodah zarah was interwoven with some type of zenus and immorality. Even today the avodah zarah of money profiting is linked with innuendos of male and female relations such as fidelity and mutual funds. All this leads us to the understanding that the turning to avodah zarah is tantamount to being unfaithful and infidel to one’s spouse which in our case is Hashem. [as we say when we wrap the tefillin around our finger symbolic of a wedding ring veairastich lee leolam I am married to you forever] For our Chazal say that whoever rejoices the chasan and kallah he has fulfilled the five kolos of Matan Torah. The connection? At Har Sinai we were married to Hashem like a choson to his kallah.
We need no greater proof than the avodah zara of the Golden Calf which Moshe grinded and from which he concocted the Sotah water of the wayward women which he gave to Klal YIsrael to drink in order to verify their fidelity if they served avodah zarah or not.
We can now finish the deeper connection of the Rishiner’s interpretation of Eliyahu’s admonishment to Klal Yisrael. If by being scrupulous in fulfilling the two seefim of seudas Rosh Chodesh and Melava Malka we can be saved from avodah zarah, by eating these two meals we can also be saved from illicit actions and thoughts against Hashem which are directly linked to avodah zarah. This is incredibly hinted in the same word that the Torah describes the wayward women [Bakmidbar 5,19-20] “satis” – you turned away from the right path [similar to the spelling of sotah as the letters sin and samech are interchangeable]. In the letters of the iniquity we can find the remedy to resist the temptation to the varied avodah zarahs. For the letter “sin” of satis which is gematriah 300, symbolizes the siman 300 in Shulchan Aruch that deals with one se’eef of the seudah of Melava Malka. The remaining letters of the word “satis” is “tis” which is gematria 419 pointing to the siman of seudas Rosh Chodesh. To all this Eliyahu instructed Yisrael giving them the remedy for protecting oneself from avodah zarah and its accompanying zenus – Just be be careful in the observance of these two se’eefim and seudas. In these days of Shovavim we have the extra power and segualh to do teshuva and correct our illict thoughts and behaviors which are connected with our varied avodah zarahs. These two seudas will help us.