Kiddush Levana During the Megillah?!
There is an exceptional monthly Mitzva that Chazal singled out by designating one who fulfills this Mitzva as akin to greeting the Presence of the Shechina. That Mitzva is Kiddush Levana, the bracha and following short ceremony of pesukim recited at the beginning of every Jewish month, upon clearly seeing the radiant moon’s light.
The Gemara cites proof to this assessment from the Torah’s choice of similar descriptive terms of the first Mitzva given to Kal Yisrael as a nation: “Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem” (Parashas Bo, Shemos Ch. 12: 12; recounted as Parashas Hachodesh) and that of Az Yashir by Krias Yam Suf: “Zeh Keili V’Anveihu” (Parashas Beshalach, Shemos Ch. 15: 2). Hence, by fulfilling the Mitzva of ‘Birchas Hachodesh B’zmano’ (a.k.a. Kiddush Levana), it is as if one is greeting the Shechina (which was overtly manifest at the Splitting of the Sea).
What Time is Kiddush?
However, it is not so clear from the Gemara when the proper time to perform this Mitzva actually is. We know that at the start of the lunar cycle (which takes 29 days, 12 hours, and 793 chalakim), every Rosh Chodesh, the moon appears almost non-existent, and slowly waxes until the full moon mid-month. After its apex, it slowly wanes until the end of the month and then the monthly cycle starts anew.
Rav Yochanan states that this Mitzva can be fulfilled ‘ad shetismalei pegimasah’, until the moon becomes full from its deficiency. There is an apparent machlokes between Rav Yehuda and Nehardai when exactly that is, with Rav Yehuda maintaining up until 7 days after the New Moon and Nahardai stating that we have up until the 16th of the month.
However, several authorities understand that Rav Yehuda and Nahardai are not truly arguing, but rather that Rav Yehuda was referring to the starting time for Kiddush Levana, day 7, whereas Nahardai was referring to the last possible time, until the 16th, meaning the night of the 15th. Yet, Maseches Sofrimqualifies this, teaching that as it is akin to greeting the Shechina, Kiddush Levana should be recited on Motzai Shabbos, when one is ‘mevusam’ (ostensibly ‘perfumed’) and dressed in his Shabbos finery. On the other hand, Rabbeinu Yona argues that this quote is not referring to people, but rather the moon, when its light is ‘sweet’ and people start getting benefit from the moon’s illumination, meaning from after the 3rd day of the month.
Further complicating matters, based on their understandings of the requirements, various Rishonim set different starting times for this Mitzva, leading to several divergent shittos among Klal Yisrael as to from when one can and / or should recite Kiddush Levana:
- 1 Day. Many Rishonim (and several Acharonim), including the Rambam, rule that Kiddush Levana may be recited from after the first day of the month.
- 3 Days. Following the precedent of Rabbeinu Yona, many Ashkenazic (and several Sefardic) poskim maintain that one may (and some say should) recite Kiddush Levana from this time, and maintain that it is certainly preferable in the winter, when clear views of the moon’s luminosity may be scarce. 
- 7 Days. Although he cites several opinions in his Beis Yosef commentary on the Tur, when he codified the halacha in his Shulchan Aruch, Rav Yosef Karo ruled unequivocally that Kiddush Levana should be recited only after the seventh day. He bases his ruling on a teshuva from Rav Yosef Jiktilia, an early master Kabbalist (he lived approximately 750 years ago) and esteemed author of Shaarei Orah. As this is the Shulchan Aruch’s definitive psak, it is the most common minhag, and definitively followed by Sefardic Jewry. 
- Motzai Shabbos. As mentioned previously, optimally Kiddush Levana should be recited on Motzai Shabbos. However, if worried that by waiting until Motzai Shabbos we will miss out on our chance for Kiddush Levana, then practically it should be performed during the week.
- Many authorities write that although it may be preferable to wait until a Motzai Shabbos after 7 complete days from the beginning of the month to perform Kiddush Levana, nonetheless, in the winter months, with a likely probability of being unable to recite Kiddush Levana due to lacunae of lunar luminosity, it would be preferable to perform it earlier, on a Motzai Shabbos after 3 days, and possibly even during the week (depending on individual situation).
Mitzva Kiyumis or Chiyuvis?
Although stories abound regarding contemporary Rabbanim and the great lengths they would go to to properly observe this important Rabbinic, if somewhat fleeting, Mitzva, including hiring helicopter to fly above the clouds or even taking flights to areas where the ‘air is clear’, all to get a clear glimpse of the moon, nonetheless it is not entirely clear from the words of the poskim, what type of Mitzva Kiddush Levana is.
Is it considered a Mitzva Kiyumis, meaning a Mitzva that one fulfills when seeing and blessing the moon during this timeframe, similar to the Mitzva one fulfills when making the blessing upon seeing lightning or hearing thunder? If so, one would not be under a specific obligation to be mekadesh the levana, but rather if he sees the moon during the correct timeframe, he is required to make the bracha. However, if it is considered a Mitzva Chiyuvis, a mandated Mitzva, then he would be obligated to seek out a clear view of the moon in order to make the bracha.
The Noda B’Yehuda’s Purim Psak
A practical difference between these two understandings of the Mitzva was highlighted when the renowned Rav of Prague and Gadol Hador of his time, the Noda B’Yehuda, Rav Yechezkel Landau zt”l, issued a groundbreaking psak. The Noda B’Yehuda noted that generally speaking, the last night of a month one can safely perform the Mitzva of Kiddush Levana is the night of the 14th. As Purim is the only holiday that falls out on the 14th of a month, he poses a fascinating question:
What should a congregation do if due to inclement weather and overcast skies they were unable to recite Kiddush Levana the whole first half of a month, and the first time the moon was clearly visible was in the middle of the leining of the Megillah?
The Noda B’Yehuda surprising response was that the entire tzibbur should stop the reading, go outside and recite Kiddush Levana! Afterwards, they should immediately resume the Krias HaMegillah where they left off. He qualifies that this ruling is only applicable if the entire tzibbur was unable to perform Kiddush Levana up until that point, as certainly one’s individual lack of Kidduah Levana would not warrant an entire congregation’s interruption of the Pirsumei Nisa of Krias HaMegillah.
The Noda B’Yehuda cites several reasons why this is the appropriate ruling:
- There is a machlokes between the Magen
Avraham and the Bechor
Shor regarding one who is the middle of reciting Krias
Shema and hears thunder, whether he should stop and recite the bracha for hearing thunder or not. The Magen
Avraham writes that as the bracha mandated upon hearing thunder is due to Kavod
Hashem, one should pause his recital of Krias Shema momentarily and recite the bracha. He explains that this pause should certainly be deemed more significant than the allowance for certain interruptions whilst in the middle of reciting Krias
Shema given in specific situations simply for Kavod Bassar V’Dam (‘flesh and blood’; meaning human honor).
The Bechor Shor, on the other hand, argues that as since the entire Krias Shema is essentially Kavod Hashem, one cannot pause while performing a more important type of Kavod Hashem merely to recite a lesser one, such as as the bracha on thunder. As such, in that situation, he mandates continuing Krias Shema without pausing.
Although there does not seem to be a clear consensus on this debate, the Noda B’Yehuda applies it to our case and asserts that we certainly may rely upon the Magen Avraham’s shittah b’shaas hadchak, as this very well may be the last opportunity for the month to recite Kiddush Levana at all.
- There is a Talmudic dictum of ‘Tadir V’She’aino Tadir, Tadir Kodem’, that if one has the opportunity to perform one of two Mitzvos, he should give precedence and begin with the one that is performedmore frequently. Since Kiddush Levana is performed monthly and Krias HaMegillah biannually, this dictum counsels us to perform Kiddush Levana first.
Although one may argue that Kiddush Levana is a Mitzva Derabbanan and thus ‘Tadir Kodem’ should not be sufficient reasoning to push off the Pirsumei Nisa of Krias HaMegillah, as it is mandated as a ‘Mitzvas Asei D’Divrei Kabbalah’, conversely, the Noda B’Yehuda asserts that that assessment only holds true regarding the ikar Krias HaMegillah on Purim day.
In his opinion, the Megillah reading on Purim night is classified as a regular Mitzva Derabbanan. Hence, the rule of ‘Tadir Kodem’ still holds true, as both Mitzvos share equal footing, as both are classified as Mitzvos Derabbanan. Especially in this specific instance, as Kiddush Levana is a Mitzva Overes (a fleeting Mitzva), which if we do not fulfill immediately we may not be able to perform at all, whereas the Megillah may still be read for the rest of the night, the ruling to pause the Megillah reading for the tzibbur to recite Kiddush Levana, is the correct course of action.
Opposing Principles and Mitzva Maxims
However, opposition to the Noda B’Yehuda’s novel ruling was not long in coming. Later authorities raised several points of contention to his approach:
- There is a well-known Talmudic dictum of ‘Ha’Osek B’Mitzva Pattur Min HaMitzva’, if one is involved in performing one Mitzva, he is (at least temporarily) absolved from performing a different Mitzva that may arise. Hence, while performing the Mitzva of Krias HaMegillah, how can we justify a congregation stopping in the middle of the public Megillah reading, simply to perform an additional Mitzva of making a bracha on the moon?
- There is a different Talmudic dictum of ‘Chovas HaYom Adif’, that a Mitzva that pertains specially to that specific day maintains preference over others. Although there is debate in the Gemara whether or not this rule trumps that of ‘Tadir Kodem’ regarding which bracha to make first during Kiddush on the first night of Sukkos, the Gemara concludes that indeed the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukka (‘Chovas HaYom’) should be recited before Shehechyanu (‘Tadir’; as it is recited on every Yom Tov, not just Sukkos), due to this dictum. Applying this principle to our case should mean that Krias HaMegillah, which is the Mitzvas HaYom of Purim, should take precedence to that of Kiddush Levana, which is in fact germane for the beginning of every month. Accordingly, why should we interrupt the fulfillment of the Chovas HaYom solely for Kiddush Levana?
- There is a third Talmudic dictum of ‘Ain Maavirin Al HaMitzvos’, or not to pass by a Mitzva. According to Tosafos, this precept applies when one has the choice and ability to perform two Mitzvos and is unsure with which one to start, he should not pass over a Mitzva but rather observe the first one that comes his way. Although generally speaking, ‘Tadir Kodem’ would take preference over ‘Ain Maavirin’, as mentioned previously, that is when two equal Mitzvos present themselves at the same time. In our case, the second Mitzva which is ‘Tadir’, Kiddush Levana, is only presenting itself while in the middle of performing the Mitzva that ‘arrived first’. Accordingly, how can we stop the observance of a Mitzva, especially one that is public Pirsumei Nisa, just because another Mitzva, particularly a Mitzva Derabbanan, ‘showed up’ in the middle?
- It is not so clear-cut that the Purim night Megillah reading is classified as a Mitzva Derabbanan, and there are many who are of the opinion that the Leil Purim Krias HaMegillah shares the status of the daytime reading – that it is similarly considered a ‘Mitzvas Asei D’Divrei Kabbalah. According to these shittos, the Mitzva Derabbanan of Kiddush Levana should not be able to interrupt the ‘Mitzvas Asei D’Divrei Kabbalah’ of Krias HaMegillah.
- It seems from his psak that the Noda B’Yehuda must have held that Kiddush Levana is a Mitzva Chiyuvis, a mandated Mitzva, to have the ‘strength’ to interrupt Krias HaMegillah. Yet, such a classification is not so straightforward, as it can be argued that it is essentially a Mitzva Kiyumis, since if one does not see the moon during the prerequisite timeframe he would not be obligated to perform Kiddush Levana. Consequently, if this classification is accurate, then Kiddush Levana should not be considered a true ‘Tadir’, and thus lacking the ability to interrupt Krias HaMegillah.
Although due to these salient points, the poskim who raised each of these objections ruled that we should not interrupt the Megillah reading simply to perform Kiddush Levana, on the other hand, it nonetheless seems that practically the common consensus is indeed to follow the psak of the Noda B’Yehuda in this instance, as holds true in almost every case. Indeed, the majority of poskim accepted his psak and maintain that a congregation should interrupt the Krias HaMegillah to recite Kiddush Levana if until that point they were unable to perform this Mitzva.
Kiddush During Krias Shema?
However, that is not all folks. At the end of his far-reaching teshuva, the Noda B’Yehuda adds that the same din would apply if one was unable to recite Kiddush Levana the whole beginning of the month, and then when in the middle of reciting Krias Shema on the last relevant night the moon suddenly put in a surprise shining appearance. Although preferable to finish the paragraph, so the interruption should be ‘bein haperakim’, nonetheless, if not an option due to strong prospect of disappearing moon, he rules that one should still interrupt his Shema recital for Kiddush Levana, even though it is certainly not ‘Tadir’ vis-à-vis the twice daily Mitzva Deoraysa of Krias Shema.
The Noda B’Yehuda contends that this certainly applies if one has not yet started Maariv on the last available night and the moon suddenly showed up, that Kiddush Levana should be recited before Maariv. Not one to rest on his laurels and rule exclusively for others, he concludes his teshuva stating that he personally conducted himself this way many times in such a situation, having Kiddush Levana precede Maariv.
Similar to his ruling regarding Krias HaMegillah, this psak was accepted by virtually all later authorities. However, as the Mishnah Berurah points out, this allowance for Kiddush Levana in the middle of Krias Shema is only referring to making the actual bracha of Kiddush Levana (‘asher b’maamaro bara shechakim’), not the additional prayers that are part of Kiddush Levana.
As Rav Asher Weiss notes, from the wide acceptance of the Noda B’Yehuda’s psak, as well as the divergence of several important halachic nuances in contrast to other brachos of Re’iyah, and the Gemara’s unique designation of Kiddush Levana as comparable to greeting the Presence of the Shechina, in the final analysis, it is clearly evident that Kiddush Levana is conclusively considered a Mitzva Chiyuvis, a mandated Mitzva, and not simply a Mitzva Kiyumis.
Thanks are due to Rabbi Eliyahu Lev, whose shiur was the impetus for this author’s research on topic.
This article was written L’Iluy Nishmas Yisrael Eliezer ben Zev a"h - my dear Great-Uncle Larry Spitz, who was niftar this month, L’Zechus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua teikif umiyad, and l’Refuah Sheleimah for Shoshana Leah bas Dreiza Liba, Mordechai ben Sarah, and Shayna bas Fayga.Rabbi Yehuda Spitz, author of M’Shulchan Yehuda on Inyanei Halacha, serves as the Sho’el U’Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also writes the ‘Insights Into Halacha’ column for Ohr Somayach’s website: https://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/.
For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gemara Sanhedrin (42a).
It is worthwhile to read the Abudraham’s explanation (pg. 392 s.v. v’garsinan) of this maamar Chazal.
Rabban Gamliel’s statement (‘mekublani m’bais avi abba’) in Gemara Rosh Hashana (25a). See Rambam (Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh Ch. 6: 2 and 3), the Tur’s Seder HaKvius (Orach Chaim 427 – 428), the Mishnah Berurah’s Seder La’asos Luach B’Ketzara (end Orach Chaim 428), and Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 138: 4). This comes out to 29.53059 days. According to ‘Discovery’ by Rabbi Shraga Simmons (pg. 31), this data has recently been corroborated by NASA: “After years of research based on calculations using satellites, hairline telescopes, laser beams, and super computers, scientists at NASA have determined that the length of the ‘synodic month’, the time between one new moon and the next, is 29.530588 days”.
Gemara Sanhedrein (41b – 42a), according to the pashut pshat in Rashi (ad loc. s.v. v’travayhu). The Tur (Orach Chaim 426: 3) seems to understand the Gemara this way as well. Accordingly, this does not mean that Rav Yehuda held a full moon occurs on the seventh of the month, but rather that when it is half-full it is already considered ‘malei mei’pegimasah’. The Kol Bo (43; cited by the Beis Yosef, Orach Chaim 426: 3 s.v. amar Rabbi Yochanan) holds that therefore lechatchilla we should perform Kiddush Levana until the seventh of the month, and if not, b’dieved one has until the 15th.
See Shu”t Rama M’Fano (78), Elyah Rabba (Orach Chaim 426: 14), and Birkei Yosef (ad loc. 4).
Maseches Sofrim (Ch. 20: 1). Also cited lemaaseh by the Tashbetz Kattan (87), Tur (Orach Chaim 426: 2), and Shulchan Aruch (ad loc. 2). In Rav Karo’s sefer Maggid Meisharim (Shir Hashirim; cited by the Mishnah Berurah ad loc. 4), he relates that his Maggid (essentially an angel who learned with him; see previous article titled ‘(Not) To Eat Meat On Rosh Hashana’) taught him that reciting Kiddush Levana on Motzai Shabbos is a siman for a successful month.
If so, wouldn’t it be preferable to perform this Mitzva on Shabbos? For different approaches why this does not hold true, see Piskei Ricanati (86), Shu”t Rama M’Fano (78), Shu”t HaRadbaz (vol. 4: 133), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parashas Vayikra 26 s.v. v’ha ), Shaar Hatziyun (426: 12), and Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (vol. 2: 150, 2). An additional reason may be gleaned from Rabbeinu Bachaye (Parashas Vayishlach s.v. vayehee bayom hashlishi) regarding the need for Besamim on Motzai Shabbos as it is Yom Hashlishi Mei’Brias Ha’Adam. Practically, if the last night (and according to some, even the penultimate night) to perform Kiddush Levana falls out on Shabbos, many poskim permit its recital then. See Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 426: 7), Pri Megadem (Eishel Avraham ad loc. 7), Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 5), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 208: 15), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 10), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 12).
Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona (Brachos 21a in the Rif’s pagination s.v. Nahardai). The Abudraham (pg. 391 s.v. v’amrinan) and later the Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGr”a,Orach Chaim 426: 1) write that this interpretation is ‘hanachon’. This understanding is not simply allegorical, as the Sefer Hachinuch (Parashas Pinchas, Mitzva 403) writes that it is well known to ‘kol chachmei lev’ that the beginning of the month, when there is lack of moonlight, has practical (mostly negative) ramifications in the physical realm. That is one of the reasons why we bring a Korban Mussaf on Rosh Chodesh, to strengthen our focus that the Koach of ‘Hischadshus’ comes from Hashem alone.
 See Rambam (Hilchos Brachos Ch. 10: 16), Piskei Ricanati (86), SMa”G (Asein 27), SMa”K (end Mitzva 151), Rashal (Biur on the SMa”G ad loc.), Sefer Hakaneh (cited by the Magen Avraham ad loc. 13), and Mor U’Ketzia (ad loc. s.v. davar).
See Bach (Orach Chaim 426 s.v. v’kasav Beis Yosef), citing that ‘kibalnu mei’rabboseinu shekach nahagu kol hakadmonim shelo lechmitz es haMitzva ulekadeish osah B’Motzai Shabbos le’achar sheavru aleha gimmel yamim”. This ruling is cited as proper by many authorities, including his son-in-law, the Taz (ad loc. 3), Magen Avraham (ad loc. 13), Pri Chodosh (ad loc. 4), Elyah Zuta (ad loc. 7), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 10), Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav ad loc. 3), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 208: 14), Maaseh Rav (159), Yeshuos Yaakov (ad loc. 6), Daas Torah (ad loc. 4), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (97: 10), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 13), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 20 and Biur Halacha s.v. b’Motzai Shabbos), the Tukachinsky Luach Eretz Yisrael (Tzom Gedalya; citing ‘Minhag Rov Ashkenazim’) and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 2: 208). The Levush (ad loc. 4 s.v. v’nirah li) writes that based on Rabbeinu Yona, if Motzai Shabbos falls out on the fifth day then we should perform Kiddush Levana, even though he generally holds to wait seven; a psak echoed by the Malbushei Yom Tov (ad loc. 2).
Although the Rema (ad loc. 2), citing the Maharil (Hilchos Shiva Asar B’Tamuz), holds that there are exceptions to the to Kiddush Levana rule – Chodesh Tishrei, when it is preferable to wait until after Yom Kippur, and Chodesh Av – when it is preferable to wait until after Tisha B’Av, and this is indeed the common minhag [see for example, Matteh Efraim (624: 4)], on the other hand, there are poskim (especially in Eretz Yisrael where this is considered ‘Minhag Yerushalayim’) who follow the Vilna Gaon’s lead (Maaseh Rav 159), that even in the aforementioned months (as he holds every month), it is nonetheless preferable to recite Kiddush Levana after the third day, in order to ‘chop’ the Mitzva right away. See Biur Halacha (ibid. s.v.b’MotzaiShabbos andv’lo), the Tukachinsky Luach Eretz Yisrael (ibid.), and Halichos Even Yisrael (Moadim vol. 2, Ch. 11: 2). The Levush (ibid.) held that it is preferable to perform Kiddush Levana prior to Yom Kippur, in order to gain an extra Mitzva to hold us in better stead before Yom HaDin.
Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 426: 4). Although it is noteworthy that several authorities, including the Chida (Machzik Bracha ad loc., Shiyurei Bracha Hamelukat) and Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) questioned why the Shulchan Aruch did not even cite the Rambam’s opinion, and instead paskened for the general populace al pi Kabbalah, which is not de riguer for him, perhaps the answer lies in the fact that in his Maggid Meisharim (Shir Hashirim), Rav Karo relates that his Maggid taught him that this was indeed the correct psak from a Kabbalistic perspective.
See Machzik Bracha (ad loc. 6), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Vayikra 23; who actually seems to state briefly a different Kabbalistic reason for this psak), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 61), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (97: 10 and 11), and Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 426:26).
Truthfully, it seems that there are actually two separate reasons for this and hence two separate nuanced opinions. As mentioned previously, there are those, including the Rema M’Fano (Shu”t 78) and Elyah Rabba (ad loc. 14) who understood the opinion of Rav Yehuda in the Gemara to be stating that the starting time for Kiddush Levana is day 7. Accordingly, they understood the position of the Shulchan Aruch et al., and even according to the Kabbalistic view to allow reciting Kiddush Levana on the night of the 7th, and not after the 7th. They hold that if the 7th falls out on Motzai Shabbos, it would then be preferable to recite it then and not wait an additional night. Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Shu”t Yechaveh Daas vol. 2: 24) cites other sefarim who hold this way as well, and ultimately rules that although it would generally be preferable to wait until after 7 days, as per Rav Jikitalia’s Kabbalistic teshuva, nonetheless in the winter months “rau’i lehoros” like the Rama M’Fano. He concludes that in countries where the moon is generally not visible for much of the winter, it would even be preferable to perform Kiddush Levana after the 3rd day, like most Ashkenazic poskim, and not wait and possible lose out on performing the Mitzva at all.
See Rema (ad loc. 2); citing precedent from the Terumas Hadeshen (35). This is followed by virtually all later authorities.
Including the Levush (ibid.), Magen Avraham (ibid.),PriMegadim (ibid.), Chayei Adam (ibid.),Yeshuos Yaakov(ibid.), Daas Torah (ibid.), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (ibid.), Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.), and Mishnah Berurah (ibid.). See also Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 2: 24).
As this author has heard several times over the years about “Mein Alte Shachein”, the famed Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Halberstam zy”a.
As revealed about renowned kashrus expert Rav Chaim Goldzweig zt”l at his levaya and was recently featured on Rabbi Yosef Wikler’s ‘Kashrus on the Air’ radio show [accessible at: https://soundcloud.com/jroot-radio/yosef-wikler-oct-22].
Shu”t Noda B’Yehuda (Kama, Orach Chaim 41).
This is because although one technically has up until half the month from that month’s Molad, or half of 29 days 12 hours and 793 chalakim [see Tur, Shulchan Aruch and Rema (Orach Chaim 426: 3; citing Shu”t HaMaharil 19) and Pri Chodosh (ad loc. 3); and although the Pri Megadim (ad loc. Eishel Avraham 13) grapples with whether or not this is truly a nuanced machlokes, or perhaps three distinct shittos, and the Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha ad loc.s.v. v’lo) implies this way as well, conversely, the Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. end 11) understands the Shulchan Aruch and Rema to be agreeing, just expressing themselves using their own terminology], nonetheless, this does not include the 16th of the month and generally does not translate to including the fifteenth of the month for much of the Jewish world either, as this zman follows the Molad and it’s halfway point as they occur in Yerushalayim. Hence, when that time transpires, although in Europe it may still be night and thus enable the reciting of Kiddush Levana, on the other hand, seven hours earlier on the United States’ east coast, it is not usually late enough to recite Kiddush Levana, even according to the Magen Avraham (ad loc. 13) and Chayei Adam’s (vol. 2, 118: 14) shittah that one may still recite Kiddush Levana me’ais la’ais (to the exact minute) of half a lunar month from the Molad [see however, Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) who disagrees with this understanding]. See the annual Tukachinsky Luach Eretz Yisrael (Tishrei, Yedios L’Shaos HaMolad), and Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s Ezras Torah Luach (Bereishis, He’aras HaGrie”h), as well as his Shu”t Gevuros Eliyahu (Vol. 1 – Orach Chaim 123: 4 and 124: 2). Although there are several Gedolim, including the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Orach Chaim 102) and the V’Heishiv Moshe (14) who ruled that b’shaas hadchak one may rely upon the zman as it would occur in his own location [following the minority opinions of Talmidei Rabbeinu Peretz and the Meiri as cited by the Shiyarei Knesses Hagedolah (ad loc. Hagahos on Tur, 2) that even the sixteenth of the month is acceptable], and the Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha ad loc. s.v. v’lo; ‘efshar sheyeish lismoch’) and Rav Henkin held that one may rely on this b’dieved as long as it was still the fifteenth (not the 16th), nonetheless,most poskim reject this understanding completely. See for example, Shu”t Dvar Shmuel (216), Shu”t Avnei Tzedek (Orach Chaim 46), and Shu”t Sefer Yehoshua (14; also citing the ‘Gaon M’Lissa’, better known as the Chavas Daas and Nesivos Hamishpat). Putting it simply, since the Gemara (Sanhedrin ibid.) qualifies the time for this bracha, stating that it is until the moon is ‘shetimalei pigamaso’, once this occurs at the exact midpoint of the lunar month, past that time is simply too late. [Additionally, in his hagahos on the SMa”K (end Mitzva 151: 34) Rabbeinu Peretz writes “ad shtimalei pigamasa, v’lo yud-vav b’chlal”; quite the opposite of how his talmid is quoted by the Shiyarei Knesses Hagedolah]. As Rav Tukachinsky writes, it is ‘kasheh lazuz m’psak HaRema’, especially as often the ‘Molad Ha’amiti’ actually occurs earlier than announced and hence one does not truly have until complete days to be mekadesh the levana. Other Gedolim, in this situation, during the winter with no visible moon until past halfway through the month, ruled to recite Kiddush Levana without shem u’malchus [Yeshuos Yaakov (ad loc. 5); in order not to be ‘nichnas b’chshash safek bracha b’chinam’; however, the Sefer Yehoshua (ibid.) dismisses this idea], or that only one person should recite the bracha properly and have kavanna to be motzi the tzibbur [Rav Shlomo Kluger in his Hagahos Chochmas Shlomo on the Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.); in this manner it would minimize any potential Aveirah, which is only being committed to help the masses desperate to fulfill a Mitzva B’Tzibbur; however, it seems that the Yeshuos Yaakov would not agree to this], or to recite the bracha on the last night even if the moon is not clearly visible, as long as its light (shine) is discernible [Shu”t Sefer Yehoshua (ibid.); he compares this to a blind person being obligated me’ikar hadin to recite Kiddush Levana, as he still receives benefit from the moon [Shu”t Maharshal (76); cited lemaaseh by the Magen Avraham (ad loc. s.v. nashim), Elyah Rabba (ad loc. 7), Pri Chodosh (ad loc.), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 218: end 14), and others; however, the Chavas Daas (in his teshuva printed ad loc.) argues that this is non-comparable and does not accept this rationale, as the Shulchan Aruch and Rema (ad loc. 1; see also Shu”t Radbaz, vol. 1: 341 and Magen Avraham, ad loc. 1) ruled explicitly that the moon must be clearly visible to recite this bracha], or to recite the bracha ‘derech limudo’ by reading out the passage from Gemara, Rif, or Rambam [Shu”t Yagel Yaakov (Orach Chaim 60; citing sefer Derech Pekudecha, end Mitzva 20); however, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yabea Omer vol. 6, Orach Chaim 38) argues extensively against doing this and effectively concludes ‘shev v’al taaseh adif’)].
As the Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha ad loc. end s.v. v’lo) points out, this is only referring to making the actual bracha of Kiddush Levana (‘asher b’maamaro bara shechakim’), not the additional prayers that are part of Kiddush Levana.
Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 66: 5).
See Mishnah in Brachos (13a) and following Gemara, as ruled by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 66: 1), following the psak of the Rosh (Brachos Ch. 2: 5; citing the Gaonim) and Tosafos (Brachos 13b s.v. shoel).
Bechor Shor (Brachos 13a).
Others who remain uneasy with the Magen Avraham’s psak include Rav Akiva Eiger (Hagahos ad loc. s.v. yafsik), the Elyah Rabba (ad loc. 5; who simply writes that the Magen Avraham’s words are ‘aino muchrach’), the Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 5), Levushei Srad (ad loc.), and the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 19), who uncharacteristically does not issue a definitive ruling, even after citing that the Chayei Adam (vol. 1, 20: 4) seems to imply like the Bechor Shor as well. On the other hand, the Maamar Mordechai (ad loc. Divrei Mordechai 2) writes that there must be a printing mistake in the Elyah Rabba, as the Magen Avraham’s psak is indeed correct. The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 6) rules like the Magen Avraham as well (as the bracha on thunder is considered a ‘heishiv’ and not a ‘shoel’; similar to Rav Akiva Eiger’s understanding of the Magen Avraham’s position).
This klal is found throughout Shas, including Brachos 51b, Pesachim 114a, Sukka 54b & 56a, Megillah 29b, and Zevachim 90b - 91a.A prime Biblical example is that even on Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh, the Korban Tamid, the communal daily sacrifice, was offered before the Korban Mussaf, the special sacrifice exclusive for those particular days. [See Bamidbar (Parshas Pinchas) Ch. 28 and Gemara Zevachim 89a].
This question holds true leshittaso, as the Noda B’Yehuda himself (Tzla”ch, Brachos 51b) is of the opinion that the ‘Tadir’ of a Mitzva Derabbanan does not take precedence over a Mitzva Deoraysa. The Pnei Yehoshua (ad loc. s.v. b’Mishnah) also concurs with this assessment. On the other hand, the Shaagas Aryeh (Shu”t 22) and the Melo Haro’im (erech Tadir Kodem 20) hold that ‘Tadir’ of a Mitzva Derabbanan trumps an Aino Tadir of a Mitzva Deoraysa. The Sdei Chemed (Klalim, Os Tav 49) cites this as the Radbaz’s shittah as well (Teshuvos Hachadashos 251) that ‘Tadir Derabbanan Kodem Aino Tadir Deoraysa’, but adds that regarding Mikra Megillah, as it is Divrei Kabbalah is “k’Divrei Torah Dami”.
As the obligation of reading the Megillah on Purim is alluded to in the Megillah itself (Esther Ch. 9: 28) ‘V’hayamimha’eilah nizkarim v’naasim b’chol dor v’dor’, specifying daytime. The Noda B’Yehuda argues that the Megillah reading on Purim night is classified as a regular Mitzva Derabbanan. He brings proof to this position from a diyuk in Tosafos (Megillah 4a s.v. chayav). However, see also Ohr Somayach (Chiddushim to Megillah 4a) and Sdei Chemed (Asifas Dinim, Maareches Purim 9 s.v. v’ra’isi), who raise issue with this assertion.
The Shaagas Aryeh (Turei Even, Megillah 4a s.v. k’gon) concurs with this assessment that Krias HaMegillah on Purim night is only considered a Mitzva Derabbanan and not part of the ikar chiyuv. This is implied as well from Maseches Sofrim (Ch. 21: 8; see the peirush of the Nachalas Yaakov ad loc.), the Ran (Megillah 1a in the Rif’s pagination s.v. ela bakfarim), the Ohr Zarua (vol. 2: 369), and the Ohel Moed (vol. 2, 62a). On the other hand, other Rishonim, including the Rashba (Megillah 4a), Ritva (Megillah 2b), and Rokeach (end 363) seem to understand that the obligation of Krias Megillah at night is also part of the Divrei Kabbalah. Additionally, the Mishneh L’Melech (Hilchos Matnos Aniyim Ch. 8: 1) writes that that ‘b’lashon bnei adam” ‘laylos’ is included as part of ‘yamim’. Conversely, the Chida (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chaim 687: 1) implies that he concurs with the Noda B’Yehuda’s assessment, as he maintains that if one forgot or was unable to read the Megillah at night, he is exempt from ‘tashlumin’ of making it up; a position unlikely if it was mandated as a ‘Mitzvas Asei D’Divrei Kabbalah’. For more on this debate, see Shu”t Yabea Omer (vol. 1, Orach Chaim 43: 2 – 14) at length.
In an important related note, the Sdei Chemed (Klalim, Os Tav 47) points out a klal from the Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chaim 431, Kuntress Acharon 1 s.v. u’mah) that ‘Tadir Kodem’ is only applicable to two Mitzvos on equal footing in terms of timing. However, if one Mitzva is a Mitzva Overes and the other is not, even if it is more frequently performed, nonetheless ‘Tadir Kodem’ is not invoked, but rather ‘d’chayav l’kayem shteihen’.
Mishnah and following Gemara in Sukka (25a – 26a). See also Rema (Orach Chaim 38: 8), who explains that this rule is generally invoked, with the exception being if one can satisfy both Mitzvos ‘k’echas’, without any additional tircha. Making an entire congregation stop the Megillah reading in the middle to go outside and perform Kiddush Levana, and then re-enter the shul and resume reading would presumably be considered ‘tircha’.
See Shu”t Maharshag (vol. 3: 5, 5) and Shu”t Sefer Yehoshua (Babad; Psakim U’Ksavim 244). The Maharshag avers that this in fact was the Bechor Shor’s and Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s main point of contention with the Magen Avraham’s ruling regarding hearing thunder in the midst of Krias Shema..
Gemara Sukka (56a). Although there are different sevaros debated back and forth in the Gemara, this still seems to be the rationale of the Gemara’s conclusion as halacha according to the ‘pashut pshat’.
See Shu”t Maharam Schick (Orach Chaim 50 s.v. v’al pi) and Rav Shlomo Kluger’s Shu”t Shnos Chaim (131). However, the Machazeh Avraham (Shu”t, Orach Chaim 126 s.v. amnam) disagrees with this application of proof from the Gemara in Sukka, asserting that the scenarios are not truly analogous. He explains that regarding the Mitzva of sitting in the Sukka, it can be argued that every second of sitting in the Sukka is considered a different Mitzva. Accordingly, it is not only due to Chovas HaYom why the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukka is recited before Shehechiyanu on the first night of Sukkos, but rather that Yeshiva B’Sukka is also considered a Mitzva Overes; a parallel not extant in our case of Krias HaMegillah.
This klal is found throughout Shas, including Pesachim (64b), Yoma (33a –b, 58a, and 70a), Megillah (6b) and Menachos (64b).
Tosafos in Yoma (33a s.v. ain), Megillah (6b s.v. mistaver), and Menachos (64b s.v. eeba’is).
See Rav Shlomo Kluger’s Shu”t Shnos Chaim (131). See also the Mahari Assad’s Shu”t Yehuda Yaaleh (vol. 2, Yoreh Deah end 310) who debates whether ‘Tadir’ trumps ‘Pirsumei Nisa’, and although citing the Noda B’Yehuda as proof that it should, he nonetheless concludes ‘tzarich iyun’.
As cited in previous footnotes. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, in his Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (97: 14) rules this way lemaaseh and not like the Noda B’Yehuda. Others who invoke this understanding include the Sdei Chemed (ibid.), however, and quite interestingly, although he argues on the Noda B’Yehuda’s proof to his position, nevertheless, he does not explicitly argue on his psak.
See Shu”t Dvar Yehoshua (vol. 2: 13). He cites proof to this position from the Shaagas Aryeh’s (Shu”t 28) categorization of wearing tzitzis. Although this is a daily Mitzva, he explains that it cannot truly be considered a ‘Tadir’ as there is no actual obligation to wear them; rather, when one wears them, he fulfills the Mitzva of wearing tzitzis. The Dvar Yehoshua asserts that the same should apply in our case. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt”l is quoted (see Minchas Asher al HaTorah, Parashas Bo, 15: 4, citing an article in the ‘HaNe’eman’ newspaper from 5716 / 1956) as taking this position as well (although not necessarily regarding this specific scenario), that Kiddush Levana is considered a Mitzva Kiyumis. One can also make the case for this position from the fact that the Yerushalmi (Brachos 65a) as well as several eminent Rishonim, including the Rambam (Hilchos Brachos Ch. 10: 16), SMa”G (Asein 27), SMa”K (end Mitzva 151), and Abudraham (Hilchos Brachos s.v. Haro’eh Levana), place the halachos of Kiddush Levana among the rest of Hilchos Birchos HaRe’iyah.
See the introduction to Machon Yerushalayim’s recent Noda B’Yehuda Hashaleim (vol. 1, pg. 13 s.v. doro and v’lo).
See the Chida’s Machzik Bracha (Orach Chaim 426, Kuntress Acharon 4), Shaarei Efraim (Shaar 6: 57), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (97: 15), Shu”t Imrei Noam (Jikob; vol. 1: 31; who emphatically declares that the Noda B’Yehuda is correct, but asserts that his ruling should hold true even if the Megillah reading was not the last potential time to perform Kiddush Levana), and Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 426: 56), who rule like the Noda B’Yehuda explicitly regarding Krias HaMegillah. Many others simply cite his psak lemaaseh regarding Kiddush Levana during the more stringent and Biblically mandated Krias Shema; this would certainly apply with interrupting the Megillah for Kiddush Levana as well.
See for example Machzik Bracha (Orach Chaim 426, Kuntress Acharon 3), Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 9), Shaarei Efraim (ibid.), Shu”t Imrei Noam (ibid.), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (97: 14), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 218: end 13; regarding preceding Kiddush Levana to Maariv when necessary), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 426: 9), Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha ad loc. end s.v. v’lo), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 55)
Biur Halacha (ibid.).
Minchas Asher al HaTorah (Parashas Bo, 15: 4).
Rav Asher Weiss gives several examples of this: 1] As opposed to Kiddush Levana which one has at least a week to perform no matter how many times he sees the moon, regarding a standard bracha of Re’iyah, although there is some debate about this, the consensus is that one only makes the bracha the first time one sees (or hears) the occurrence that mandated the bracha (i.e lightning, thunder etc.) [See Biur Halacha (218: 1 s.v. makom), Mishnah Berurah (227: 12), and Shaar Hatziyun (ad loc. 17). Although Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2: 208) mentions that some claim that Rav Chaim Volozhiner and the Shaagas Aryeh held that one is obligated to perform Kiddush Levana the very first time one sees the moon in the month (similar to Birchos HaRe’iyah), nonetheless, both Rav Sternbuch and Rav Weiss express astonishment at such an unprecedented idea, and cast aspersions on the shemuah’s authenticity.] 2] As mentioned in a previous footnote, a blind person is obligated me’ikar hadin to recite Kiddush Levana since he still receives benefit from the moon. Although there is some debate about this as well, and some prefer that he does not recite the bracha himself, nonetheless this is the ikar hadin [aside for mareh mekomos presented previously, see Biur Halacha (426: 1 s.v. nehenin, at length); however, it seems that Sefardic poskim are more notteh that a blind person cannot make Kiddush Levana due to safek brachos lehakel, as both the Maharikash (Erech Lechem ad loc.) and Radbaz(Shu”t vol. 1: 341) seem to argue on the Maharshal’s understanding and psak – see the Chida’s Birkei Yosef (Orach Chaim 224: 1) and Machzik Bracha (ad loc. 229: 6), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parashas Vayikra 24), Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 426: 2), and Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 4: 18, footnote 12).] As a blind person would not make any other of the Birchos HaRe’iyah, this proves that Kiddush Levana is not halachically classified as a standard Mitzva Kiyumis, but rather a Mitzva Chiyuvis. Rav Weiss adds that the Chazon Ish ruled this way as well in the aforementioned ‘HaNe’eman’ article from 5716, arguing on what was quoted in the name of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer [which Rav Weiss contends was likely misquoted, as in his opinion, the rationales presented by the author in Rav Meltzer’s name was “klushim u’mevulbalim”].
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.
L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!