Thursday, August 09, 2018

be careful with your shabbos candles

After telling us to destroy the altars and asheirot of idolaters and obliterate any trace of avodah zarah, "v'ibadtem es shemam min ha'makom ha'hu," the Torah tells us not to do the same to Hashem, "lo ta'asun kein l'Hashem Elokeichem." (12:4)

It sounds strange -- we need to be told not to go into the mikdash and start smashing things?!

Rashi explains in his first pshat that "lo ta'asun kein" is not speaking about the act of destroying things, but is a continuation of the earlier pasuk which describes the many places in which idolatry was worshipped and needs to be rooted out from -- on the mountains, in the valleys, across the fruited plains (whatever).  Don't worship G-d like that, the Torah tells us.  There is one central place of worship -- a beis ha'mikdash. 

Sefas Emes suggests that "lo ta'asun kein" is a continuation of the end of the pasuk, "v'ibadtem is shemam."  When avodah zarah is destroyed, it is gone and forgotten.  Does anyone worship Zeus on Mt Olympus any more?  There are a lot of crazy people in NY, but I have never heard of anyone who carves little statutes out of wood or stone and then starts bowing down to them.  The avodah zarah is gone and no one even cares.  Klal Yisrael is not like that.  "Lo ta'asun kein" is followed by "...l'shichno tidrishu u'basa shama."  Sefas Emes writes that the pasuk is not talking about when we have a mikdash, when we are living in peace in our land.  It is talking about after the churban, after we have experienced destruction.  We don't forget.  There is no "ibud shemam" by us.  "Im eshkacheich Yerushalayim tishkach y'mini."  We long for the mikdash, we long for avodah.

Rashi has a second pshat in which he explains that the Torah is warning not to do aveiros that will cause the mikdash to be destroyed.

R' Sorotzkin in his Oznayim laTorah asks: the Torah in so many places warns not to do avodah zarah, not to do aveiros chamuros.  These crimes have severe punishments and penalties.  If that's not enough to stop people from violating those issurim, how is telling them that it will cause churban ha'bayis going to make a difference?

Just posted on is a sefer called L'Ma'alah l'Maskil by R' Avraham Yitzchak Kook (the contemporary Rosh Yeshiva in Rechovot).  He relates (p.491-492) that there was a certain R' Mordechai Weinstein who was zocheh to be meshamesh the Chofetz Chaim and who later came to live in Bnei Brak.  R' Mordechai's "thing" was kedushas Shabbos.  One day he hung up fliers in the Lederman shul reminding people to tell their wives to light neiros Shabbos early because otherwise they do not get credit for lighting Shabbos candles and they violate Shabbos.  Apparently in Bnei Brak people are medayek even in the shul announcements.  People came over and asked a kasea: obviously chilul Shabbos is far more severe than missing lighting Shabbos candles.  Why on the sign did R' Mordechai first warn that the women who lit late would not get credit for lighting, and only after that mention chilul Shabbos?

R' Mordechai answered that he had a kabbalah for that specific "nusach" for his sign from the Chofetz Chaim himself years ago.  And he had asked the Chofetz Chaim the same kashe everyone was asking him.  The Chofetz Chaim answered that to the simple, pious women, it was unthinkable to have Shabbos without Shabbos candles.  They did not know from 39 melachos, from zmanin -- they knew from Shabbos lights.  So you have to speak their language.  First, you have to explain that lighting after the zman was not lighting -- it was as good as no Shabbos candles.  After that, after you have their attention, you can mention by-the-way, it's also chilul Shabbos.

To a Jew living b'zman ha'bays, the mikdash was his Shabbos candles.  A Jew might do aveiros galore, but it would have been inconceivable to him for there not be avodah in the mikdash.  You have b'zman ha'zeh, to use R' Sorotzkin's example, Jews who are mechelel everything under the sun, but then they have a baby boy and suddenly want a traditional bris milah (unfortunately even this is growing less common).  This attachment to the mitzvah does not come from logic; it comes from some deep vestigial connection within the Jewish heart and soul. 

The Torah therefore warns that issurim would inevitably take away the mikdash.

I hate to end on a negative note, so let me just throw in a Chasam Sofer: "l'shichno tidrishu v'basa shama," he writes, is a guarantee.  If we are doresh the makom haShechina, then the result will be "u'basa shama," we will be zocheh to get there. 

So we have our work cut out for us. 


Thursday, August 02, 2018

the bridge between rugalach and the mikdash

Chazon Ish (28:8) rejects the view of the Maadanei Y"T that the mitzvah of birchas ha'mazon was only given in year 40 when Klal Yisrael was in Eiver haYarden, which is the setting of our parsha where the mitzvah appears.  All mitzvos, writes the C.I., were given at Sinai (see Chagigah 6).  The details may be recorded in a different context, but that has nothing to do with when the mitzvah was given.

I am surprised that the C.I. does not cite Ramban's introduction to sefer Devarim where Ramban writes explicitly that there are no new mitzvos in our sefer. 

Ramban asks on himself: but there are 70+ mitzvos that in fact are first recorded in sefer Devarim? 

Ramban offers two answers: 1) these new mitzvos only apply in Eretz Yisrael, so Moshe had no need to teach them earlier; 2) these were uncommon mitzvos that might not have come up earlier.

Neither of these two reasons seem relevant to birchas ha'mazon which 1) must be done in all locations 2) and comes up as frequently as we eat.  The question that therefore begs itself is why Moshe waited to command or teach the mitzvah until now.

(One might have thought that eating the mon was not a satisfying meal -- va'yincha va'yarivecha"-- and therefore there was never an opportunity of "v'achalta v'savata" that required benching in the midbar.  The gemara (Brachos 48), however, writes that Moshe instituted the text of the first bracha of birchas ha'mazon on the mon [see R' Shteinman's Ayeles haShachar].)

I would suggest that contrary to what we learned in elementary school, birchas ha'mazon is not a thank you to G-d for our food.  It is a thank you for Eretz Yisrael.  The pasuk does not say, "v'achalta v'savata u'beirachta... al ha'ochel hatovah."  It says "...u'beirachta al ha'aretz ha'tovah."  (See Ramban!)  In the bracha of bareich aleinu, according to nusach haGR"A (see post here) we say "v'sabeinu m'tuvah" because even though you might live in America, all of our sustenance and food and parnasa comes into the world only via the brachos Hashem bestows upon Eretz Yisrael.

The Netziv in Bamidbar (20:13) has a yesod that may help us as well.  The mitzvah of tefilah, which according to the Rambam is a mitzvah d'oraysa, also only first appears in our parsha as well.  Why did Moshe not teach this mitzvah earlier -- did not one daven in the midbar?

The Netziv (while not asking the question in that way) writes that in the midbar, Klal Yisrael was sustained by miracles -- the mon, the be'eir, etc.  Tefilah, says Netziv, does not apply when everything is running l'ma'alah min ha'tevah.  Tefilah is needed only when things are running b'derech ha'teva.  What makes a tree grow?  Sunlight, rain, Co2, and prayer.  Rashi writes (Braishis 2:5) that G-d withheld rain from creation until man was created and could pray.  Prayer is part of nature -- not the supernatural.

(Parenthetically, the Netziv there quotes a Midrash that says that Hashem values the lowest member of Klal Yisrael as much as Eliyahu haNavi.  It's a pli'ah -- you mean a guy who barely keeps mitzvos gets as much great as the greatest of nevi'im?!  Five years ago I posted R' Bloch's hesber, but now we have a Netziv: tefilah is the great equalizer.  My mitzvos are not Eliyahu's mitzvos; my learning is not his learning.  But when I cry to G-d in need, my tears are as valuable as Eliyahu's tears.  Human suffering is democratic -- the lowest of us cries out in pain to Hashem with as much feeling as the greatest among us.)

True, according to the Chazon Ish, birchas ha'mazon was said over the mon, but I think like tefilah, the mitzvah essentially relates to our derech ha'teva life -- what can be more natural than eating -- and challenges us to connect that to a higher value that merely stuffing our mouth.  The mitzvah may have been given earlier, but it is put in the context of our parsha because on the doorstep of Eretz Yisrael, when Klal Yisrael was about to truly become engaged in building a country, with all that entailed, all through derech ha'teva, the mitzvah took on its true meaning. 

R' Yehoshua Shapira, R"Y of Yeshivat Ramat Gan, writes on our parsha that if a person eats rugalach and recites al hamichyah but has no idea how and why suddenly because of rugalach he is speaking in the bracha about Yerushalayim, about the mikdash, "mechonach v'heichalach," then he has missed the essential meaning of what the bracha is all about. 

Our brachos and tefilos are there to help us bridge the gap between the world of rugalach and the world of spirituality.  In the midbar, when you live surrounded by miracles, you don't need that bridge.  When you the life that we must live, b'derech ha'teva, you do.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

the nechana in Moshe's tefilah

What's the connection between the end of the previous parsha -- where Moshe charges Yehoshua not to fear war against Canaan because G-d will help with that conquest just like he helped with the conquest of the lands of Sichon and Og -- and the tefilah of Moshe which opens our parsha? 

Ramban (see also Ibn Ezra) explains that there is a gap in the narrative that Moshe is filling in. Moshe told us at the end of last week's parsha that Yehoshua would be in charge, but he never explained why he would not be filling that role himself.   Our parsha fills in the rest of the story.

I am not sure how Ramban would explain why the Torah needs to record the entire tefilah of Moshe in all its detail.  The only point that we need in order to close the narrative gap is the fact that G-d rejected Moshe's tefilah for whatever reason.  In fact, all we really need to know is that Moshe sinned and would therefore not be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.   
Alshich suggests that the Torah here is delivering a powerful psychological boost to the people.  Moshe records his tefilah as a nechama (Shabbos Nachamu!) to Klal Yisrael.  Imagine the people's reaction to hearing that Yehoshua would be the one in charge: You took us this far and are now abandoning us?  You took us this far and now are giving up the fight?  So Moshe tells them that's not the case.  To the contrary, he davened because he wanted to join them and continue the journey.  He was even willing to give up his role as leader and enter Eretz Yisrael as just a simple Jew, a regular member of the klal, if only to be with them at that moment when they were zocheh to come into the land.  Moshe was in effect telling the people look at the great effort I made through tefilah so as not to forsake you.
Hashem turned Moshe down, "Va'yisaber Hashem l'ma'anchem," for the sake of the people.  Moshe spent his life working miracles; the dor de'ah of the midbar needed that type of leadership.  The generation which entered Eretz Yisrael had to find G-d in the mundane world -- no miracles.  Their leader is Yehoshua.  Moshe here told the people that G-d had to turn his prayers down because his neshoma was needed in chutz la'aretz, in the midbar, because he was the eternal leader of the dor de'ah; at the time of ultimate redemption he would need to be there to lead them into Eretz Yisrael. 
Alshich writes that we see from here that no Jewish soul is forsaken.  The dor de'ah were stuck in the midbar because they rejected Eretz Yisrael and trusted in the report of the meraglim.  They took the word of the spies over that of Moshe, Aharon, Yehoshua, and Kaleiv.  Nonetheless, G-d did not let Moshe enter Eretz Yisrael so as to allow for the future redemption of even these souls.
We've discussed What of the souls of the dor ha'midbar, the generation Moshe served as the leader of for some many years?  Who would lead them to Eretz Yisrael in the future if there was no Moshe Rabeinu?  Therefore, Moshe had to remain outside the land.  Amazing: to bring the generation who had sinned with the meraglim and rejected the land eventually into the land, Moshe is denied the privilege he so wanted.  To prevent Jewish souls from being lost, Hashem denied the dying request of the great Moshe.

Monday, July 23, 2018

incompatible headlines

Just before 9 Av I was looking at Arutz 7 and noticed one tragic headline story after another.  In Paris a Jew was beaten, in Vienna Jews were attached, there was the usual fire kites in southern Israel.  All over the world it seems Jews are under attack and in peril.  The I chanced upon another site and I discovered that for the first time a kosher restaurant will open and be shooting for a Michelin rating.  For the first time you can take a kosher cruise to Antartica (I guess we are running out of places to go.)  

How can these two worlds exist side by side?

Those who learned the sugya of the churban in the Gitin will recall the story of the great city of Tur Malka, where while the enemy was slaughtering its inhabitants on one side of the city people were dancing and partying on the other end.

I don't think Chazal are just trying to convey to us the great size of Tur Malka.  I think Chazal are trying to show us how oblivious people can be to the plight of their neighbors, blind to what is happening until tragedy finally strikes them.

Even if we are not altruistic enough to think about what is happening to others for its own sake, we might well do so if only for selfish reasons.  

Midrash Eicha writes that had we been zocheh we would read the pasuk of "Ra'oh ra'isi es ani ami asher b'Mitzrayim," but now we have to deal with the pasuk of "R'ei Hashem ki tzar li mei'ay chamarmaru."

R' Yisachar Teichtel in his derashos explains that if we look at what is befalling others, "asher b'Mitzrayim," who are in difficult straits, that should motivate/ inspire/ shock us to correct our own sins if only to avoid the same plight.  But if we are blind to what is happening elsewhere, then, "mei'ay chamarmaru," we will be eating our own kishkes up with grief down the road because the same fate will eventually catch up with us.   

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Shabbos Chazon - 9 Av

First a little lomdus, then a little machshava:

1) When 9 Av is a nidche, the halacha is that a ba'al bris does not have to finish the fast because it is his Y"T.  

You still have to fast even though it is a nidche.  Why should a ba'al bris have a different halacha than on a regular 9 Av?  

Rav Wahrman (Sheiris Yosef vol 5) quotes from R' Leizer Silver and the Rogatchover that a ta'anis tzibur is not just a chiyuv on the gavra not to eat, but there is a chalos in the day.

It could be that a fast which is nidche does not have that chalos in the day.  It is not 9 Av on Sunday -- it's 10 Av.  There is still an obligation to fast, but that is a chovas ha'gavra, not a result of the status of the day itself.  Therefore the Y"T of the individual can override it.

He has a number of proofs, but on to other things...

2) Vi'varech eschem ka'asher dibeir lachem…(1:11)  Chazal tell us as a general rule that dibur = kashos, harsh words, as opposed to amira = pleasant talk.  Why then does the Torah use the expression "dibeir" when it is speaking about brachos given to Klal Yisrael?

It's Shabbos Chazon; it's 9 Av.  We are at the climax of the season of kashos, or difficulties and harshness.  What the Torah is telling us, explains the Tiferes Banim (the son of the Bnei Yisaschar), is that even when we are faced with dibur=kashos, there is always a "vi'vareich eschem" behind the scenes.  Even when we are getting smacked, it is a bracha in disguise.

The gemara always uses the expression ta shema, come and hear; the Zohar uses the expression ta chazi, come and see.  When you are learning pnimiyus haTorah, you have to look more deeply inside (inside the ideas, but inside yourself as well).  Shabbos reveals the pnimiyus which is hidden the rest of the week.  Shabbos Chazon, ta chazi, is about seeing the pnimiyus of the tzaros of churban; it's about looking forward to the day when we can understand how there can be an element of bracha even there.

The Shulchan Aruch gives us a siman to remember that 9 Av always falls out the same day as the first day of Pesach: aleph-taf.  Aleph, the first day of Pesach, always corresponds to taf, Tisha b'Av.  

R' Leibele Eiger (Toras Emes last piece in Devarim) writes that this is not simply a mnemonic, but it tells us that there is a relationship between these two days.  At the moment of geulah from Mitzrayim, the seed of churban was already planted -- the aleph, the beginning, contained within in the end, taf.  But by the same token, the end, Tisha b'Av, contains within it the seed of future geulah, a new beginning.

The gemara (Ta'anis 29) writes that when 9 Av falls on Shabbos one can eat even a meal like that of Shlomo ha'Melech. Why does the gemara use that expression -- why not just as "a big meal?"  R' Leibele Eiger explains that the gemara is telling us that Shabbos reveals to us a little of the pnimiyus of 9 Av.  Shlomo built the Beis haMikdash, fulfilling the dream of "zeh K-li v'anveihu" (see Targum Onkelus there) that we had at Yam Suf.  When 9 Av is on Shabbos we experience a little taste of that fulfillment of geulah that ordinarily lies hidden within the day.  We can celebrate as if we lived in Shlomo's times, with a Beis haMikdash, with hashra'as haShechina.

Hopefully we will see it b'poel in our time.

Monday, July 16, 2018

feelings trump facts in tefilah

Two ideas on Masei, one a great yesod in tefilah, one a great Meshech Chochma:

1. Someone who killed b'shogeg must stay in an ir miklat until the kohen gadol dies.   The Mishna writes that mothers of kohanim gedolim used to deliver food to the ir miklat so that the killers would not pray for their children to die so they could get out. Why is the sentence of the murderer tied to the kohen gadol?  The gemara explains that the kohen should have davened for the killer to not suffer such a fate.

The gemara says that even if the kohen gadol is appointed just before the verdict on the case is announced, the murderer must still stay put until the death of the new kohen gadol. 

Why is this new kohen gadol held responsible for not davening when the facts of the case are in already before he is appointed?  What good will his prayers do at this point?  If the murdered committed a crime, he will be sentenced; if he is innocent he will go free.  Prayers can't change what happened in the past!

R' Baruch Sorotzkin (in HaBinah v'HaBracha) answers that when it comes to davening, the facts don't matter.  Imagine r"l if a parent or a child is in the hospital -- does anyone say, "Well, the doctor says this is the likely outcome, so there is no point of davening?"  Of course not.  Tefilah is an emotional response; we don't weigh odds or facts or logic before crying out to Hashem.  Here too, if the kohen gadol truly empathized with the plight of this fellow Jew, regardless of whether the facts were in, regardless of whether it was obvious how beis din would rule, he would still cry out on his behalf.  To not do so is a pgam in the kohen's ahavas Yisrael and midas hachessed.

2. The halacha is that one must tear kriya on seeing the ruins of the cities of Yehudah.   Sha'arei Teshuvah O.C. 561 quotes a sevara to explain why people don't tear kriya on seeing the city of Chevron: since it is an ir miklat and a city for the Leviim to live in, it no longer has the status of being part of Yehudah's portion.

This sevara makes two major assumptions.  The first assumption is that cities designated for the Levi'im to live in actually become their nachala.  In other words, it is no longer a city of Yehudah (or whatever sheivet) that Levi'im happen to live in, but it is a city that *belongs* to sheiveit Levi as their portion in Eretz Yisrael.  The Rambam paskens (Ma'aser Sheni 11:17) that Leviim and Kohanim can recite viduy ma'aser because even though they did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael they received cities to live in.  This is their nachala.

The second assumption: The gemara at the end of Sota tells us that after churban haBayis there were no longer cities designated for the Levi'im -- even when Ezra returned and resettled Eretz Yisrael.  Why not?  The Meshech Chochma on our parsha (Masei) admits that he is baffled by the question, but suggests that perhaps it is because unlike in the days of Yehoshua where there was a division of land through the urim v'tunim and each tribe was allocated a portion, Ezra never divided the land between the tribes.  (R' Chaim Brisker says a similar sevara to explain why there was no chiyuv terumos u'ma'asros in the days of Ezra even though m'doraysa the kedushas ha'aretz was re-established.) 

If this is correct, then the status of Chevron as one of the cities in the nachala of the Levi'im is null and void.

But, you will ask, then why do we have to tear kriya at all -- the status of the cities as "arei Yehudah" is null and void as well?  The answer to that is that it is not the ownership of the tribe of Yehudah which demands kriya (why Yehudah more than any other tribe?), but rather it is the cities of Yehudah's proximity to the mikdash which is why we tear kriya for them.  It's a geographical reality, not a din in nachala.  

See R' Zolti's Mishnas Yaavetz #48 who takes issue with this Meshech Chochma and has a full discussion of the topic.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

leftover fleishigs on the 9 days

M'ikar ha'din there is no issur of eating meat during the 9 days.  The minhag is not to, but technically the issur applies only during seudah ha'mafsekes.  R' Yisrael Ya'akov Fischer (quoted in the MB printed with his notes) asks how such a minhag could have gotten started, as it poses a problem of ba'al tashchis.  What are you supposed to do with all your fleishig leftovers?  Throw them out and waste them?  He suggests that perhaps since a child is allowed to eat fleishig during the 9 days it removes the problem. 

The gemara (Chulin 17) raises the question of whether leftover meat, which was allowed to be eaten in the midbar without shechita, could be eaten once Klal Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael and shechita was required.  The Rosh comments that this is not just a historical question, but has a nafkah minah l'halacha: if a person took a neder not to eat a certain food from day X, can they eat leftovers of that food that remain from beforehand?  Since the gemara concludes l'kula, the Rosh paskens l'kula as well.

(Noda b'Yehudah Mh"T Y"D 64 discusses whether a nazir can drink wine that was prepared before he accepted his vow of nezirus, or be mitamei to a meis that died before he accepted his vow of nezirus.  Same idea... maybe.)

At first glance the Rosh is difficult.  In the desert, killing an animal was matir its meat. The question of the gemara boils down to whether that status-quo of heter remains in place despite the change in circumstance, or whether it falls off.  In the Rosh's case, there was never a matir for anything.  The question is not whether the status quo of a matir remains, but rather whether the neder can create a new issur on leftovers.  Why should it not?  

R' Noson Gestetner (in his shiurim to Nedarim daf 3) suggests a solution based on a yesod of the Avnei Nezer (O.C. 483): shechita is not a one time matir, but rather is a peulah na'nimshechet (to use the Rogatchover's jargon).  It's like the act of shechita continuously recurs on the animal and continuously recreates the heter.

Based on this, the gemara in Chulin takes on a completely different meaning.  An animal was killed in the midbar.  That act is a peulah ha'nimshechet, so the heter continuously renews itself.  However, once Klal Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael, meat has a different matir -- it now needs shechita to be eaten.  What good is it if the act of killing the animal is nimshechet if that act no longer serves as a matir?  The gemara is not sure -- on the other hand, maybe since this meat is leftover meat, the new requirement does not effect it.

This is exactly the Rosh's argument.  Just like we see from the gemara that the meat is not effected by the new oser created by the need for shechita, so too, leftover food cannot be effected by the new oser of a neder.