plain meaning of the text is to see that the rabbinic sages were aware of
the social dimension in determining holy time-indeed, they affirmed thevalue of socially ascribed authority precisely for the process of setting thecalendar.
la) Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 2:8b
We begin in the midst of Mishnah
having previously encountered two sets of
"We saw it in its time," but
witnesses that others rejected but whom
night of the extra day
Rabban Gamliel, the leader familiar to us
seen. Rabban Gamliel accepted their
R. Eliezefs excommuni-
cation, accepted. We meet the ultimate im-
Dosa ben Hyrcanus said:
possibility: two saw the new moon on one
they iesti$ that
night, and it could not be seen the next
birth and then the next day her belly
night. Due to their evidence, the day that
is between her teeth?"
was either the first of the new month or
the last of the previous was made the first,
but on that night it could not be seen. Asis usual in this set of stories. RABBAN AMLIEL
Some commentaries argue that Gamliel was only trying to encouragewitnesses to come forward and that he knew (who would not?) that theywere wrong. But on the other hand, the decision to accept their evidenceis false to empirical reality. Hence two rabbis dissent: first Dosa ben Hyr-canus. He uses a metaphor of the pregnant woman who is still pregnantthe day after having reportedly given birth. R. Joshua also from thestorywith Eliezer, now joins him,
The question herebegins as a simple astronomy question: When is the moon new? But thetext itself moves beyond the question of astronomical events: instead theissue is accepting witnesses, declaring them false, and even approving an-other's words. Indeed, it just this performative set of actions that raisesGamliel's ire.The first act of the story concludes with
Again, a specific prag-
matic act occurs: the patriarch of the
your money on the Day of Atone-
ment according to your reckoning."
ment has abandoned the moon and be-come one solely of authority: Gamlielreauires Toshua to violate the Day of Atonement
Because the Day of Atonement is a solemn fast day, one is al-lowed to carry neither objects nor money-one cannot do any work at all onit. But Joshua's calculation will make the "wrong" day the Day of Atone-ment-hence, to carry on that day will not be a violation of anything-exceot his own calculation. The challenge here is whether Toshua will stickto his own reasons (which are actually Dosa's), or will submit to what heknows is false. It is, moreover, not happenstance that the day in question isthe Day of Atonement, the single Day that atones for sins. This is the same
day that we have been discussing-the day that must be communal in orderto work, in order to help an individual repent. Gamliel is requiring Joshuato loin the community at the cost of his intellectual integrity.
A fourth character opens Act 11,
Akiva went and found himtroubled.
R. Akiva. He goes to make peace between
teach you that all that ~~bb~~
he two factions: a peace ot obedience
lie1 has done is validly done, as it is
without compromising intellectual integ-
said: 'These are the appointed sea-
rity. loshua is
He suffers from
just ;he dilemma we have already seen.
cations, which you shall proclaim'[Lev,
Akiva argues that Gamliel has acted val-
not in their time,
have no other ap-
idly, that Joshua's Day of Atonement,
while accurate astronomically, is not actu-ally the Day of Atonement. Akiva arguesby use of a Biblical verse. The warrant for Gamliel's decree lies beyond polit-ical power in the very legitimation of political power. The evidence of per-ception in the 'real' world is displacedby recourse to a verse.The verse is extremely repetitive. There
2) Leviticus 23:4 These are the a
is the repetition of the
son of God and
Mishnaic text, Akiva does not repeat the
chin heir seasons.
second one, but it is clear that the season isappointed for God. The other repetition is that the word for
shares its root with
A convocation is made by proclamation, orperhaps is itself for the sake of the proclamation. The plain sense of the textis that God is setting up a series of holidays that Moses is to announce to thepeople.But Akiva reads the need to proclaim the seasons as proof that only by
do the days become holidays.
Indeed,Akiva argues that the 'timeliness' of the holidays is not relevant. The holi-days are gppointed by
the Jewish people. Again we can see Levinas'interpretation of
is linked to the authority of the commu-nity to proclaim and to convene (words with the same root in Hebrew). Theconvention is achieved by proclamation, or even, if we dare, they are thesame activity: whenever the community proclaims a holiday, the communityas proclaimer already has convened. already is celebrating. The calendar isthe purpose for convening: to draw the people together is to hallow it. Acommunitv needs a calendar. needs convocations and communal time-toquestion that need is to destroy the community. Gamliel is not the issue, andthe Mishnah records his mistake, precisely in order to illuminate how thecommunity has need of its court.We introduced the issue of the calendar from Levinas' discussions of theindividual's need for social help in repenting and in constituting timethrough the other's forgiveness. We see in this Mishnaic text that the de-termination of the calendar involves a set of speech-acts, and that the