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Yonatan ben Shaul; A True Friend


Parsha Halacha - Parshat Bamidbar

Sponsored by Jessica and Brent Levison and Family in loving memory of Brent’s mother Eileen Levison, Chana Necha Bas Yaacov, whose Yahrtzeit is 29 Iyar 5774 . 

Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner and Dr. Morton Berg in loving memory of Stephen's father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella's parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen.

Click here for a print version of this article 

This week’s Haftorah is called “Machar Chodesh” (”Tomorrow Is Rosh Chodesh”) which is read whenever the first[1] (or only) day of Rosh Chodesh occurs on Sunday, as it does this month. The Haftorah begins with Jonathan, the son of Saul, speaking to his brother-in-law David, son of Yishai, the future king of Israel. King Saul had grown jealous of David and had already attempted to kill him several times.[2] As such, David was staying away from Saul. But Jonathan, who loved him,[3] wanted to convince his father to make peace with David. In that context, Jonathan said to David,[4]“Tomorrow will be the new moon; and you will be missed (at the king’s table) when your seat remains vacant.” They made a plan that when Jonathan would explain to the king that David had excused himself in order to go to a family event, Jonathan would gauge his father’s reaction and would then inform David either that it was safe to return or that he should flee.

In fact, King Saul’s reaction was very harsh as he said,[5] “As long as the son of Jesse lives on earth, neither you nor your kingship will be secure. Now then, have him brought to me, for he is marked for death.” When Jonathan tried to defend David, Saul threw a spear at him, and Jonathan realized his father was serious. As such, he met David in the secret hiding-place in the field that they had agreed upon, and he advised David to run for his life, which David proceeded to do.

Why Read this Haftorah?

Several reasons are given as to why we read the Haftorah of Machar Chodesh when Rosh Chodesh falls out on Sunday:

1)     To Publicize Rosh Chodesh

Some say that the reason we read this Haftorah is in order to publicize that the next day will be Rosh Chodesh.[6] Some say that this is also the reason we do not say Tachanun at the Mincha before Rosh Chodesh and other special days.[7]

2)     To Publicize the Laws of Rosh Chodesh

Several laws about Rosh Chodesh can be learned from this Haftorah. As such, it is appropriate that we read it before Rosh Chodesh so that the people review these laws.[8] Specifically, the importance of the Rosh Chodesh feast as well as the custom to refrain from certain types of work on Rosh Chodesh are alluded to in this Haftorah.

      Rosh Chodesh Meal

According to the commentaries it is clear from the text that it was customary for all of King Saul’s household to attend the meal on Rosh Chodesh, which is why David’s absence would be noticed. This provides the basis for the law recorded in Shulchan Aruch;[9] “It is a mitzvah to increase (the size of) one’s meal on Rosh Chodesh.” The Mishnah Berurah cites the Midrash[10] that whatever money one spends on the Rosh Chodesh meal is not included in the income that was allotted to him on Rosh HaShana (i.e., it will be added to their predetermined income). The Mishnah Berurah explains that one should add (at least) one extra dish to one’s meal on (the daytime of) Rosh Chodesh whether it occurs on Shabbat or on a weekday.

      Not a Working Day (for Women)

Another Rosh Chodesh observance that can be gleaned from the Haftorah is that it was customary for people to refrain from working on Rosh Chodesh. This is why Yonatan refers to the day before Rosh Chodesh as יוֹם הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂה – “a day of action,” to differentiate between that day and the day of Rosh Chodesh, which was considered a day of rest.[11]The Radak explains that this was the custom in those days due to the fact that many people would attend the sacrifice of the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh in the Mishkan (and later, in the Beit HaMikdash). Nowadays, this custom is kept by women who traditionally refrain from doing certain types of labor on Rosh Chodesh.

There are differing customs as to which work women refrain from doing. The common custom is that on Rosh Chodesh women do not:[12]

o  Sew clothing

o  Wash clothing (some permit this nowadays in a washing machine)

o  Iron clothing (some permit this).

It is considered permissible, however, for women to

o  Work at their regular jobs as not doing so would present a financial loss.

o  Wash clothing that is needed for Rosh Chodesh.

o  Do any type of work that is permissible on Chol HaMoed.[13]

It has been suggested[14] that the reason Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid forbade taking haircuts on Rosh Chodesh is because this is considered “work.”

      Two Days Rosh Chodesh

Some say that the Haftorah is a biblical source for the idea of celebrating two days of Rosh Chodesh, as the prophet says, that it was “On the next day, the חֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי”, which can be translated as “on the second day of Rosh Chodesh.”[15]

3)     Not Like the Moon

Some say[16] that we read the Haftorah before Rosh Chodesh to contrast the behavior of the moon with the actions of Yonatan. According to the Midrash,[17] the moon complained about having to share its role with the sun, which is why G-d made it smaller and set it up so that it waxes and wanes.

This behavior can be contrasted with that of Yonatan who loved (King) David and assisted him on numerous occasions although he knew that this meant that he, Yonatan, would not become the monarch.        

The Talmud says[18] that, in our history, only two other people showed as great humility as did Jonathan. One was the sons of Beteirah who abdicated in favor of Hillel when they realized that Hillel was greater than they. The other was Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel (the head of the Sanhedrin) who called himself a fox in comparison to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai whom he called a lion.

Like the Love of Women

When eulogizing Yonatan, King David said,[19] “Your love was more wondrous than the love of women.” Some say[20] that King David was comparing Yonatan’s love to him like the love that our matriarch Rachel exhibited towards her sister Leah. According to our sages,[21] Rachel revealed to Leah the secret code that Yaakov had made with her so that Leah not be embarrassed. Similarly, Jonathan supported David, protected him, and treated him like a brother even though it was clear that David was going to supplant him on the throne.

May we merit to have true friends!

[1] Megillah 31a Tosfot HaRosh explains that, although the second day of Rosh Chodesh is the main day of Rosh Chodesh (in terms of it being the first day of the next month), the first day is also considered Rosh Chodesh as far as the Torah and Haftorah reading is concerned.

[2] See I Samuel 18:11 (where King Saul tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him), 18:25 (where he tried to have him killed by sending him to battle the Philistines), 19:1 (where he discussed killing David with his advisors), verse 10 (where he threw a spear at him again), verse 11 (where he sent agents to his house and kill him) and 24 (where he followed him to the prophet Samuel with the intention to kill him).

[3] See I Samuel 18:1 (“Jonathan’s soul became bound up with the soul of David; Jonathan loved David as himself”), 19:1 (“But Saul’s son Jonathan was very fond of David”), 20:17 (“for he loved him as himself”) 23:17 (“You are going to be king over Israel, and I shall be second to you”) and II Samuel 1:26 (“Your love was more wondrous than the love of women.”)

[4] I Samuel 20:18

[5] I Samuel 20

[6] Kikayon DeYonah on Megillah, ibid

[7] Siftei Chachamim by Rabbi Avraham Abba Hertzel on Tractate Megillah (Benei Berak 1994).

[8] Chidushei Batra on Megillah by Rabbi Chaim Dov Altuski (Jerusalem, 1991)

[9] Siman 419. (I believe this is the smallest Siman in the Code of Jewish Law as it contains only five words: מצוה להרבות בסעודת ר"ח)

[10] Pesikta. See Vayikra Rabbah 30:1. See there that the same applies to the tuition (or tip) that is paid to the teachers on Rosh Chodesh.

[11] See Rashi on the verse, based on Targum Yonatan

[12] See O.C. 417 in the Mishnah Berurah with Dirshu based on various sources.

[13] Eshel Avraham (Butchach) on O.C. 417

[14] Igrot Kodesh of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 16, page 272, see Shulchan Aruch HaRav 260:2

[15] Verse 27. See Targum Yonatan and Aruch HaShulchan 417:5. But see Rashi.

[16] Chidushei Batra ibid

[17] Chullin 60b

[18] Bava Metziah 85a

[19] II Shmuel 1:26

[20] Rabbi Menachem Azariah  of Pano in Asarah Ma’amarot, Ma’amar Chikur Din, 4:17

[21] Megillah 13b

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

Sun, June 23 2024 17 Sivan 5784