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During the time that the Sanhedrin existed, witnesses had to come to the Sandhedrin and testify to their viewing of the "new" moon. The Sanhedrin would sanctify the month after confirming their testimony. (On some occasions, Sanhedrin would declare it automatically without witnesses.)

Prior to the Sanhedrin, before kings existed, during the days of the Judges, did they use witnesses, and who made the final decision to declare Rosh Hodesh?

I'm inferring that the Sanhedrin as well as those who were in charge knew the exact time of the molad. During the time that Sanhedrin existed in Jerusalem, and later in Yavneh, etc., they waited for witnesses to appear, and thus, there were times when there were 2 days of Rosh Hodesh because of doubt of the length of the month. I'm inferring that if they didn't use witnesses and relied on the declaration of the Sanhedrin, there would be no doubts.

I will ask, separately, regarding how the message was sent to far away places.

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    What do you mean by "prior to the Sanhedrin"? What do kings have to do with anything? Courts have existed since Torah-times (Exo 18, Deu 17, Deu 25, etc.) – Double AA Feb 6 '17 at 17:42
  • Rosh Chodesh Iyar at least was prior to the courts (and maybe Sivan Tamuz Av Elul Tishrei, depending when Yitro came). @DoubleAA – Heshy Feb 6 '17 at 17:51
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    Pirkei Avot 1:1 The Sanhedrin have been around since Mattan Torah. They are known as the Elders. See also Shemot 4:29 – ezra Feb 6 '17 at 18:18
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    I seem to remember a mishnah that talks about two witnesses coming forward stating they had seen the New Moon, the rabbis verifying this info, and then setting bonfires on the tops of large hills in chains so all of Israel would know. – ezra Feb 6 '17 at 18:32
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    @ezra I think that's in Mas. Rosh Hashannah, and I believe that was during the time of Sanhedrin. However, even that required witnesses. Thus, it was still possible to have two days Rosh Hodesh. – DanF Feb 6 '17 at 18:34
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Rabbeninu Bachya Parshas Bo - in the name of Rabbeinu Channanel - says that during the 40 years that the jews were in the Midbar they did not do Kiddush Hachodesh when they saw the moon, as they were unable to see the moon as the Amud Anan and Amud Aish always blocked their vision. They made Rosh Chodesh through calculations. Thus they earliest they started doing Kiddush HaChodesh was when the Jews came to Eretz Yisrael.

  • While this is true (well, not according to Rambam. He said this is not true) how does it answer the question? What happened film entrance to Eretz Yisroel until 'the days of the judges' that the OP wondered about? – user6591 Feb 7 '17 at 1:14
  • @user6591 Yehoshua was both leader and shofet, was he not? And this was after the institution of a court system. So this answer basically says that the first 40 years (of which some were without and some were with a court system) they did not have the capacity to see the moon. Thus "they made Rosh Chodesh through calculations." The court system was lead by Moshe (as explicated in Parshas Yisro) and later Yehoshuah, so they were the final arbiters. Seems to fit as an answer. – Isaac Kotlicky Apr 24 '17 at 18:49
  • @Isaac although we can guess that Yehoshua continued that practice I see no proof or reason to assume he did. Especially since according to this idea they only did this in the desert because there was no other choice. And I'm not sure what you mean by pointing out his job title. What does that have to do with anything? – user6591 Apr 24 '17 at 18:59
  • @user6591 how do we know they kept Shabbos or treifah? It doesn't specifically mention it in Yehoshua... The assumption made by Chazal is that the mitzvot were kept except where we have specific reference to them not being kept (Korban Pesach, for example). The proof/reason is that they were given the mitzvah and the assumption is they followed it. The Ran quoted said the ikar is by calculation. Regarding the title, the OP specifically asked "who made the final decision to declare Rosh Hodesh?" That responsibility would fall to the head of the court system, which would have been Yehoshua. – Isaac Kotlicky Apr 26 '17 at 4:32

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