Saturday, October 12, 2019

leishev ba'sukkah on sleeping

The Rosh (Sukkah 4:3) asks why it is that we don't say a "leishev ba'sukkah" on sleeping in the sukkah.  Two answers: 1) If it should happen that you don't fall asleep the "leishav ba'sukkah" would be a bracha l'vatala, so we don't say it; 2) Rabeinu Tam argues that ke'va is defined as having a meal (everything we Jews do revolves around food); sleeping, learning, schmoozing and everything else you do in the sukkah are all tafeil to the seudah and are covered by the bracha of "leishev" done at the meal. 

A possible nafka mina: what if someone ate at a neighbor's house and came home to sleep in his own sukkah (or what if one had nothing to eat)?  According to the first answer, there would still be no requirement to say "leishev" before going to sleep.  However, one could argue that according to Rabeinu Tam the "leishev" on the keviyus in a different sukkah has no connection to your sukkah and a bracha would be required.  Aruch haShulachan even suggests that even though Rama paskens like Rabeinu Tam and we usually only recite a "leishev ba'sukkah" when we have a meal in the sukkah (GR"A disagrees), that is only the case when you are sitting in your own sukkah and all the other activities of the day are tafeil to the meal you ate there.  If you go to visit a friend and sit there for awhile, even if you have no meal, you would need to say a bracha there.

Be that as it may, a question to ponder: what's the difference between the bracha of "leishev" on sleeping, which we avoid lest one fail to doze off and it be a bracha l'vatala, and the bracha of "ha'mapil" that we recite every night before going to sleep?  Why are we not concerned lest a person fail to doze off and that bracha be a bracha l'vatala?

(If you are going to tell me ha'mapil is a birchas ha'shevach, pls be prepared to defend that assertion.  And please don't bother to tell me about Brisker shitos on not reciting ha'mapil -- I'm obviously asking according to Shulchan Aruch psak.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Shirah -- how to look at the world

Al regel achas: the concept of the "shirah" of haazinu comes from the same root as "ashurenu v'lo karov" (in parshas balak) -- it refers to seeing.  Shirah is about how we see the world.  Do things just happen, or is it "haTzur tamim pa'alo?"

The Rambam writes that the mitzvah of "kisvu lachem es hashirah ha'zos" refers to writing shiras haazinu.  However, since there is din that you can't write a sefer of an individual parsha, so m'meila you have to write an entire sefer Torah.

To be able to see the world properly, to absorb the shirah-vision, one needs the context of kol hatorah.  The individual parshiyos of life, of history, may not make sense on their own unless they are put in broader context.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Becha chosmin -- Yom Kippur is the chag of chessed

Neila is the time of the chasimas ha'din.  "Chasmeinu l'chaim...". Rashi in parshas Lech Lecha comments that the brachos given to Avraham, "v'e'escha l'goy gadol va'avarechicha..." etc refer to the fact that we mention the Avos in our shmoneh esrei -- Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak, v'Elokei Yaakov.  Rashi continues, "yachol yehiyu **chosmin** b'kulan?  Talmud lomar 'v'heyei bracha' -- becha chosmin."  We end the bracha "magen Avraham" -- the chasima is only with Avraham's name.  The Tiferes Shlomo quotes the Tikunei Zohar that Rosh haShana, "vaHashem pakad es Sarah...," is the holiday of Yitchak; the Tur (417) writes that Sukkos is the holiday of Yaakov, "ulmikneihu asah sukkos." Yom Kippur, says the Tif Shlomo, is the holiday of Avraham Avinu, and particularly neila, the chasima, is in his merit -- becha chosmin.  Avraham personified the midah of chessed, and it is only through chasdei Hashem that we are given a chasima ltovah.

How do we earn chasdei Hashem?  By emulating Avraham and doing chessed ourselves.

On erev Y"K there is a halacha of ritzuy.  True, the shulchan aruch says this means that we should ask each other for forgiveness, but, as the Sefas Emes explains, that's not exactly all that ritzuy means.  Tikabeil brachamim ub'**ratzon** tifilaseinu.  Y'yehu na amareinu **l'ratzon**. We want Hashem to want to listen to us and want to accept our tefilos.  How do we earn that?  By doing ritzuy ourselves, which means that we should not just forgive, not  just to tolerate, but that we should have "ratzon" for our friends -- we should want good for them.

Wishing you all a gmar chasima tovah, that our tefilos should be accepted bratzon, that we be zocheh to chasdei Hashem, and that we be zocheh to see the good in others and accept each other b'ratzon as well.  

Friday, October 04, 2019

Oseh ha'shalom

Although there seems to be an old established minhag to change the ending of the last bracha of shmoneh esrei from ha'mevarech es amo yisrael ba'shalom to oseh ha'shalom during the aseres ymei teshuvah, many (I would say most) shuls these days opt to keep the standard ending rather than tamper with the nusach of the chasimas habracha.  I've noticed most of these same shuls have no problem on Yom Tov changing the chasimas habracha of retzey from ha'machazir Shechinaso l'Tzion to she'odcha levadcha b'yirah naavod. 
Tartei d'sasrei, or can you come up with a difference?

Thursday, October 03, 2019

mitzvah of hakhel

Ramban writes that the children who the Torah says should be brought to hakhel, "u'bneihem asher lo yad'u yishm'u v'lamdu," must be children of the age of chinuch, otherwise how could they learn anything by coming -- what kind of "lamdu" could there be for children too young to understand anything.  However, continues Ramban, it does not appear from the gemara that this is the case, as the gemara quotes R' Elazer ben Azarya as saying that the children are brought "litein schar l'mivi'eihem," only to give their parents more reward for shlepping them. The Minchas Chinuch goes so far as to suggest that even newborns should be brought, as there is no shiur given for the definition of "taf."

The question of what age child should be brought may hinge on what the purpose of the mitzvah of hakhel is. "L'ma'an yishm'u u'lma'an yilmidu v'yar'u es Hashem Elokeichem" (31:12): Is the mitzvah of hakhel one of limud, and yiras shamayin is a byproduct, or is the mitzvah to inculcate yiras shamayim, and the limud is just a means to set the stage and create the experience that engenders yirah?

Ramban clearly views the mitzvah as one of limud. Therefore, only children who are old enough to learn and understand need to be brought. Contrast that with the language of the Rambam (Chagigah 3:6):

 אפילו חכמים גדולים שיודעים כל התורה כולה, חייבין לשמוע בכוונה גדולה יתרה.  ומי שאינו יכול לשמוע--מכוון ליבו לקריאה זו, שלא קבעה הכתוב אלא לחזק דת האמת; ויראה עצמו כאילו עתה נצטווה בה, ומפי הגבורה שומעה--שהמלך שליח הוא, להשמיע דברי ה-ל

According to the Rambam, even chachamim who are already versed in the pesukim must participate in hakhel, and even those who cannot hear must try to be attentive to the kriah. In other words, even when there is no limud involved, the mitzvah still applies.  The purpose of the kri'ah is not learning, but rather the  because the purpose is "l'chazek das ha'emes" -- the inculcate yiras shamayim.

The tension between the two elements of the mitzvah can be seen in the pesukim themselves. The parsha first tells us "mikeitz sheva shanim... tikra es haTorah ha'zos" -- read from the Torah. But then the parsha continues "hakhel es ha'am..." -- the miztvah is for the nation to gather together. Sadya Gaon in fact counts these as two seperate mitzvos: one to read the Torah, one to gather together. The majority of monei ha'mitzvos, however, count them as one mitzvah.  The question is which element is the engine and which is the caboose -- is the ultimate goal limud haTorah, and that's what the nation gathers for, or is the experience of coming together, children included, and end in itself, and the Torah reading is just a means to get us together. 

(A bit of derush: Shouldn't the order of the pesukim be reversed?  First the people have to gather -- "hakhel es ha'am" -- and only then is the Torah read -- "tikra es haTorah ha'zos."  Why does the parsha put it the other way around?  Maor vaShemesh explains that the "Torah ha'zos" that is read to the people, the Torah that they are supposed to learn and take with them, is "hakhel is ha'am" -- we have to come together as a people, men, women, and children included.)
See Shu"T Binyan Av vol 2 re: the parallel between the idea of bringing even little children to hear megilas esther and the mitzvah of hakhel.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Yesh tikvah l'achriseich

I think there are two elements that contribute to 'ha'ben yakir li  Ephraim' bring chosen as the haftarah for the second day of Rosh haShana:

1) As a parallel to the kriah on the first day which speaks about our matriarch Sarah and Hashem's fulfillment of her desire to have a child we read about our matriarch Rachel and her desire for the return of all her children.

2) Lest a person think that the job of repentance is too great and too overwhelming we read the words "yesh tikvah l'achriseich," Hashem's encouragement not to give up hope.

I don't know how you can read the final words of that pasuk, "v'shavu banim li'gevulam," without being moved by the fact that for hundreds and hundreds of years Jews have read this promise of return and it was always a distant dream, but we have been zocheh to see it happening in our lifetime.  

Saturday, September 28, 2019

it's not about the past

If the avodah of Rosh haShana is to review the past and do teshuvah on what we messed up during the previous year, then it would make the most sense to celebrate Rosh haShana on the last day of the year.  On the last day we could take stock of all that transpired over the previous year and make an accounting of where we did well and where we fell short.  But that's not what we do.  We celebrate not on the last day of the year, but rather on the first day of the year, before anything has even transpired in that new year yet.  How does that make sense?

Secondly, if you notice, our Rosh haShana davening actually does not have in it viduy, we don't klap al cheit, we don't say slichos on Rosh haShana.  All that is part of the avodah of Yom Kippur, but is not part of Rosh haShana.

So what is the avodah of the day?

Meforshim explain (see for example, the Sifsei Chaim, or the Sichos of R' Noson Tzvi Finkel) that Rosh haShana is not about the past, but rather it's about the future.  What do you want the new year to be?  What are your she'ifos for the future?   That's what you need to consider on day #1.

That is what the din of the day is all about: firstly, because a person is defined by his/her aspirations.  You may not get there, but you at least have to know where you are going.  And you have to ask Hashem help you get there. Secondly, and this is where teshuvah fits into the picture, our aspirations are inevitably shaped by where we are coming from and where we are currently holding.  The triple AAA baseball player hopes next year to move up to the majors, but the player on some low level minor league team is nowhere land can't realistically have that same dream.  If you come to the table with last year's baggage, it is hard to aspire to something radically different this year.  It's hard to ask Hashem, "Let me become a baki in sha"s this year," when you are coming to the table with a history of barely keeping up with daf yomi.  Hashem is not going to give a person a mission that will inevitably end in failure or be an exercise in futility.  It's a struggle to overcome the past, but that's what teshuvah is all about.

Around two weeks ago I did a post on the word "avah," and the question of how to understand the pasuk in our parsha speaking about the person who rebels against Hashem, "lo yoveh Hashem slo'ach lo."  How is it possible that G-d should not want to forgive even such a person?

The problem is I put the comma in the wrong place.  What actually makes the person rebellious is that, "Lo yoveh," he, this rebellious individual, does not want, comma, 'Hashem slo'ach lo," for G-d to forgive him (Mishne Sachir quoting Kreizer Rav of Sanz).

G-d is willing to forgive anyone.  All we have to do is want that forgiveness.

So that's what the next two days of Rosh haShana is all about -- finding amidst the nigunim, the chazzanus, the piyutim, the speeches, the tekiyos, one real moment of introspection, one moment where we really desire to be forgiven, one moment when we actually have a desire for true growth in the coming year and ask Hashem for help.

Hopefully we will all be successful in finding at least one moment like that and making the most of it.