Sunday, August 27, 2006

the second sefer torah of the king

Heard over Shabbos an interesting question on the Rambam's formulation of the mitzvah of a king to write a second sefer Torah. The gemara (Sanhedrin 21b) implies that both the sefer of each individual as well as the sefer of a king must be written by them and not inherited from a parent. The Rambam is clear in hilchos sefer Torah that each individual must write his own sefer and not merely inherit one. Yet, when it comes to the king, the Rambam writes (Melachim 3:1) that the mitzvah is to write a sefer "in addition to the sefer left [to the king] by his father...If his father did not leave a sefer or it was lost, the king must write two toros". What does the Rambam mean by the words "in addition to the Torah left by his father" - the king is obviously not yotzei his mitzvah to write his own individual sefer with the sefer inherited from his father, and is not yotzei writing a second sefer either through inheriting one?! The Kesefe Mishne as well as Minchas Chinuch raise the issue - M.C. offers no answer; KS"M rereads the whole gemara b'dochak.
While on the topic, the Rashash sometimes throws a radical curveball at you, and this mitzvah is one of those places. He writes (Sanhedrin 21) that the king could not shlep around a full sefer Torah with him. This second sefer was no more than an abridged version listing the 613 mitzvos. You definitely do not get this impression from any of the rishonim!

8 comments:

  1. yehuda2:01 PM

    Despite the lack of rishonim who say like the Rhsa's he isn't so radicly differant from those who say the kiyum of kesivas sefer torah today is with wrtiting or buying seforim to learn from.

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  2. Chaim: I have a mahaloch in dealing with your questions. I believe that the mitzvoh for a melech, m'din malchus, is not that he must write two sifrei Torah. Rather, the Shitas HaRamban is that it is a mitzveh for the Melech to have in his possession two Sifrei Torah, one of which must be written by him as Melech and copied from the Sefer Haazarah. The Torah seems to require a Melech to write a Sefer Torah but usually, he might not have to write any Sifrei Torah, as I will provide below.

    To explain:
    The pasuk states that there is a mitzvoh for a king to write two sifrei torah. The pasuk states “from before the cohanim the leviim”. The Chizkuni explains this phrase refers to the fact that the cohanim have original copy of a sefer torah, the melech will have to use the copy of the cohanim to write his own Sefer Torah. The Rambam, in hilchos Melachim (3:1) states that the melech has to write his Sefer Torah from the “sefer haazarah”, which seems to correspond with this Chizkuni I cited.

    The Rambam in hilchos tefillin mezuzos v’sefer torah (7:2) also indicates that this requirement of copying from the sefer torah of the azarah only applied to the melech and not to a hediot. Therefore, a Sefer Torah written by a hediot could never satisfy this requirement, as it would not be copied from the "sefer haazarah". This raises another issue. According the Rambam (hilchos sefer torah 7:3), if the melech wrote a sefer torah when he was a hediot, he only has to write one sefer torah. However, if he did not write a sefer torah before his ascendancy to the throne, then he must write two sifrei torah. Therefore I believe the answer to your question is that every individual has a mitzveh of writing his own Sefer Torah. However, the melech has two mitzvehs: of having in his possession two sifrei, one which must be transcribed from the "Sefer Haazarah", which only a Melech has an obligation to copy from. Therefore, a Melech can rely on the Sefer Torah that he received as an inheritance or that he wrote as a hediot to help fulfill his obligation to have two Sifrei Torah in his possession. The Melech, however, must still write another Sefer Torah to fulfill the requirement that one of the two was written when he ascended to the throne and that it must be copied from the "sefer haazarah".

    I wish to propose that according to the Rambam, even if the Melech inherits two Sifrei Torah, if neither was copies from the "Sefer Haazarah", than the Melech must write a 3rd Sefer Torah from the Sefer Haazarah! However, one could postulate that if the Melech inherits one Sefer Torah from his father, the previous king, which was transcribed from the "Sefer Haazarah", and also wrote his own Sefer Torah as a hediot, than he would not need to write a Sefer Torah at all!

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  3. I just wish to add the following: when a person is appointed Melech, he of course is still mechuyev to write a Sefer Torah, like another other "hediot" and the Melech could very well fulfill that mitzveh simultaneously when writing his Sefer Torah as Melech. However, that has no bearing on his mitzveh m'din malchus that a Melech must possess 2 Sifrei Torah, and that one Sefer Torah must be copied from the Sefer Haazarah.

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  4. >>>he isn't so radicly differant from those who say the kiyum of kesivas sefer torah today is with wrtiting or buying seforim to learn from.

    Even those shitos think the word 'sefer' mean a sefer torah, just they allow a substitute. The Rashash denies there is a mitzvah to write a full sefer at all.

    IJ - take a look at the kesef mishne who has a similar approach, but it is a dochak in the lashon hagemara.

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  5. >>>he isn't so radicly differant from those who say the kiyum of kesivas sefer torah today is with wrtiting or buying seforim to learn from.

    Even those shitos think the word 'sefer' mean a sefer torah, just they allow a substitute. The Rashash denies there is a mitzvah to write a full sefer at all.

    IJ - take a look at the kesef mishne who has a similar approach, but it is a dochak in the lashon hagemara.

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  6. I would say it slightly differently (& I think this is what the KSM meant). The melech needs 2 ST & everyone is mechuyav to undergo the experience of k'sivas ST (albeit sometime al yidei shakiach), the melech included. But since he will write the 2nd one anyway, he may use an inherited STto reach his required 2.

    As for the lashon hagemara - I hear. It wouldn't be a first for the Rambam. I wonder if there's a Yerushalmi that implies this way.

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  7. jeffrey smith12:26 AM

    Perhaps the Rambam wanted to make clear that each king had to write his own scroll, and that there was not a scroll held for ceremonial purposes and passed along from king to king like the crown jewels of a modern monarch: in other words, the sefer Torah was not a ceremonial adjunct the king used when appearing in state, like his throne, but something which was unique to him and not linked to previous generations.
    (I hope I'm being clear in that?)

    As for the Sefer Torah itself, I've seen what might be called dwarf Torahs--complete Torahs, but the scroll ahd lettering is sized so the Torah stands about one or two feet tall, and weighs little enough to be carried around by the average person without much difficulty; and it's my understanding that these Torahs are completely kosher.(The lettering is large enough to be read without need of magnification.) Perhaps the kings carried around such a scroll?

    Completely OT, but much on my mind because of current circumstances: are there any tehillim or prayers set by custom or halacha to read/say if one expects to come within the impact area of a hurricane or tropical storm? Let's just say that this situation has come up several times in the last three years for me, and will be the case again by this time tomorrow, but I've not had the opportunity to inquire before.

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  8. >>>are there any tehillim or prayers set by custom or halacha to read/say if one expects to come within the impact area of a hurricane or tropical storm?

    I don't know the answer but hope you are OK!!

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