There are two interesting Gemaras on this daf that I think illuminate each other. At the top of Amud Beis it states:
It is written: “Blow a shofar at the New Moon, at the covered time for our Festival day” (Psalms 81:4). Which is the Festival day on which the moon is covered, i.e., hidden? You must say that this is Rosh HaShana, which is the only Festival that occurs at the beginning of a month, when the moon cannot be seen.
Then later on the daf we here about an interesting time at the beginning of the Jubilee year:
From here, Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Beroka, said: From Rosh HaShana until Yom Kippur of the Jubilee Year, Hebrew slaves were not released to their homes because the shofar had not yet been sounded. And they were also not enslaved to their masters, as the Jubilee Year had already begun. Rather, they would eat, drink, and rejoice, and they would wear their crowns on their heads like free people. Once Yom Kippur arrived, the court would sound the shofar, slaves would be released to their houses, and fields that were sold would be returned to their original owners.
What is the meaning of this twilight, liminal time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? It is also notable that in the original redemption from Egypt, the Mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh was celebrated for the first time, and then on the 10th of Nissan, the Jewish people were instructed to designate a lamb for the Paschal sacrifice (Shemos 12:3). Once again, we see this pattern of a 10 day incubation period.
Intuitively we can understand how the covering of the moon represents a dark, uncertain time which remains in suspense until Yom Kippur. Indeed, those whose merits and sins are in balance wait in judgment until Yom Kippur (Rosh Hashana 16b). The time of darkness where the moon is not seen until eventually it starts to shine represents the transformation from
Middas Hadin to Middas HaRachamim (see Shalah Aseres Hadibros, Rosh Hashana, Torah Ohr.) It is hard to appreciate the apprehension that the ancients instinctively felt, who did not have street lighting, when the moon was absent for a few days. This is not an issue of primitiveness or superstition. It’s about lived experiences that God built into the world, which we are insulated from.
This is another example of הסתכל באורייתא וברא עולמא Hashem made the world in the image of the Torah. This naturally induced state of fear and liminality is reflective of the importance to recognize and honor that there are moments of uncertainty. Even the slaves and the indebted land owners sat through a “waiting period” before they could really become free. Perhaps it was to induce a meditative state to consider how to turn over a new leaf as they have been given a second chance in life and fortune.
The Torah recognizes liminality in other areas as well. There is the state of betrothal (eirusin), before full-fledged marriage (Nisuin). There is an intermediate age of young maiden (naarus) before she becomes a fully empowered citizen (bagrus), or for young men and women Mufla Samuch Le-Ish, a twelve or eleven year old old, whose vows may be biblically binding (Niddah 46b.) Many of the significant forms of ritual impurity, which itself are triggered by significant life passages such as disease (Tzorass, Zivus), death or childbirth, also go through a partial transitional phase known as MeChusrei Kapparah, whereby they are partially but not fully restored to purity until the sacrifice is brought (Mishna Kerisus 2:1).
By giving liminal states rituals and respect, we provide psychological buffers and structures to help negotiate passage from one state to another. I wonder if the prevalence of anxiety disorders in modern times is due to our ignorance and lack of respect for transitional states. When you do not allow people adequate time to reflect upon, and experience, the natural anxieties of transition to different states, you automatically amplify anxiety instead of reducing it.
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation .)