In the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (19b) it says:

והאמר רבי חיננא בר כהנא א"ר מימות עזרא ואילך לא מצינו אלול מעובר לא מצינו דלא איצטריך הא איצטריך מעברינן ליה

Didn’t Rabbi Chinnana bar Kahana say that Rav said: From the days of Ezra and onward, we have never found that the month of Elul had an additional day. We have not found that the month of Elul ever had an additional day, because it was not necessary to add a day. But if it had been necessary, they would have added an additional day.

But then one daf later it says (20a):

כי אתא עולא אמר עברוה לאלול אמר עולא ידעי חברין בבלאי מאי טיבותא עבדינן בהדייהו

When Ulla came from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia, he said: This year they added an extra day to the month of Elul. Ulla continued and said: Do our Babylonian colleagues understand what benefit we did for them?

Which is it? If they never needed to add a day to Elul, what is Ulla saying? And similarly if they did, what is Rabbi Chinnana bar Kahana saying?

  • 2
    Maybe Ulla was after R Chinnana? – Joel K Sep 3 '18 at 16:41
  • I have a little hint, when I learned R"H the first time I thought Rosh Chodesh has to be one all over the Jewish world, as the Mishnah says about lighting fire or sending messengers. But after learning some more, I have an impression that at last every single community (by its Rabbi) decided on its own. The best example would be when R Yehoshua didn't agree with Rabban Gamliel on Rosh Hashana and decided to celebrate Yom Kippur on his own. Such a difference explains different views brought by the Gemmorah. – Al Berko Sep 3 '18 at 17:31
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    @AlBer You're wrong. R Yehoshua didn't celebrate on his own. He joined the ruling of the court. – Double AA Sep 3 '18 at 17:36
  • 1
    @DoubleAA As if R"Y that was his Rabbi didn't know that - give me a break. – Al Berko Sep 3 '18 at 17:55
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    I don’t understand the question, you seem to bring the answer in the question. – Dr. Shmuel Sep 3 '18 at 19:27

As Rashi points out on 19b (ד״ה הא), the second Gemara you’ve brought 20a, answers 19b, as well as 19b answers itself.

The Gemara (Rabbi Chinnana bar Kahana) does indeed assert that since the days of Ezra Elul has not been מעובר, but on the next line the statement is qualified. When did we not find it מעובר? When it didn’t need to be, but if it did need to, we did it!

לא מצינו דלא אצטריך הא אצטריך מעברינן

So, that is the condition to Rabbi Chinnana bar Kahana’s statement.

Some of the reasons that they would need to make Elul מעובר, are discussed immediately following Ulla’s statement on 20b. They range from having fresh vegetables to preventing corpses from decomposing outside prior to burial.

read on there for the exciting conclusion

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