For those who aren't aware, today is the 1st day of Elul, which is a very special and important day on the Jewish calendar:
It is the New Year's Day for Animals.
The first mishna in tractate Rosh HaShana teaches that there are four days in the year that are regarded as New Year's Days. Each one is considered a cut-off point that begins a new year for certain specific respective purposes in Jewish law:
- The 1st of Nisan is the New Year's Day for dating the reigns of kings, and for caclulating the cycles of festivals.
- The 1st of Tishrei is the New Year's Day for calculating calendrical years, shemitot (sabbatical years), and yovelot (jubilee years), as well as for planting (with regard to the law of orla), and for the ma'aser (tithing) of vegetables.
- The 15th of Shevat is the New Year's Day for the ma'aser of (fruit) trees.
- The 1st of Elul (today) is the New Year's Day for the ma'aser of animals.
And thus, in the exact same way, it is certainly most fitting to celebrate the New Year's Day for the tithing of animals -- today -- by eating meat grown in the land of Israel.
So happy New Year's Day!
And enjoy your barbecues!
The mishna actually gives two opinions regarding the date of the New Year's Day for tithing animals: The first, unattributed, opinion (stam mishna) is that it is on the 1st of Elul, whereas R. Elazar and R. Shimon hold that it is on the 1st of Tishrei. The rishonim (medieval rabbinic authorities) are divided on the question of which view to accept: The SMaG (positive mitzva 212), Meiri (Rosh HaShana 2a, s.v. "והמשנה"), and Ritva (Rosh HaShana 2a, s.v. "באחד") all rule that the date is the 1st of Elul. Rambam, on the other hand (Hilkhot Bekhorot 7:6), rules that it is on the 1st of Tishrei. [Hattip to MB for pointing out Rambam's opinion.]
Therefore, those who wish to be cautious and stringent, and are careful to follow all opinions, should make it a point to do barbecues on both the 1st of Elul and the 1st of Tishrei.
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