August 30, 2021

Sukkah 54

Having been taught that different songs were sung in the Beit HaMikdash on different holy days, today’s daf (Sukkah 54b) notes that when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat, the song for Rosh Chodesh precedes the song for Shabbat.
The problem with this – as noted by the Gemara itself – is that it conflicts with the Talmudic principle of תדיר ושאינו תדיר, תדיר קודם – meaning that when we have two mitzvot, with one being more frequent than the other, then the more frequent takes precedence. But how can the Gemara establish a rule that overrides this principle?
Rav Yochanan responds by explaining that in this situation, the song of Rosh Chodesh is given precedence over that of Shabbat לידע שהוקבע ראש חודש בזמנו – to inform and publicise to the people that Rosh Chodesh (which, unlike Shabbat which begins and ends without human intervention once every seven days, was established each month on the basis of witnesses who attested to seeing the new moon) had been proclaimed by the Beit Din.
What this teaches us is that while the halachic principle of ‘the more frequent takes precedence’ is applied in most cases, in situations when the less frequent has yet to be established and is nagging on the mind of the people, then the less frequent takes precedence in order to ease the mind and bring a sense of reassurance and clarity to the people.
In terms of our lives, we all have many things that we need to do on a daily basis which require managing. Yet while – on most days – our priorities should be clear to us, once in a while decisions, questions or upcoming events can be so significantly on our mind that our inability to liberate ourselves from focusing on them can hold us back from attending to the things that need to get done each day.
If and when this occurs, we learn some pragmatic wisdom from today’s daf that there are times when the principle of ‘the more frequent takes precedence’ can be overridden. And why? So that, once we have achieved clarity and are at peace about the upcoming less frequent event, we can then focus our attention on the more frequent.
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