Tuesday, February 20, 2007

miracles - af hein hayu b'oso ha'nes

The gemara (Meg 4) explains that although women are normally exempt from mitzvos that must be done only at specific times (zman gerama), they are obligated in the mitzvah of reading megillah because af hein hayu b’oso hanes. Rashi interprets the gemara to mean that women were also included in the miracle of being saved from the threat of Haman’s plans. Rashbam, however, interprets the gemara to mean that the concept of af hein to mean that women (or in this case a specific woman – Esther) were instrumental in bringing about the miracle, not just beneficiaries of its occurance. Tosfos attacks the Rashbam based on a textual nuance. The word af means even, secondarily. According to Rashbam, the gemara should not say even women were included in the miracle, as they were the primary agents in bringing about the miracle!

The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe, P’ Beshalach) suggests an answer to this question. One’s sense of what is miraculous is relative to one’s assumptions about what is to be expected in the natural course of events. Precisely because women had no doubts that G-d would bring about the redemption from Egypt, the escape of the Purim story, and the victory of Chanukah, they did not view these occurrences as miracles. Only those who doubted redemption were shocked at the remarkable turn events took and responded with hallel and praise to G-d. The gemara’s insight is that even women, who took for granted G-d’s help and initiated events that led to redemption, on some level af hein also felt something miraculous in the course of what occurred, and therefore are also obligated to celebrate.

Leaving this bit of pilpul and Tosfos’ linguistic nuance aside, what conceptually is the point of disagreement between Rashi and Rashbam?


  1. anon12:44 PM

    The lomdus that I have heard to explain this (in two slightly different versions -- once by my rosh yeshiva, R'CY Goldvicht ztl and once in the name of the R'Moshe Soloveichick) is how to understand the chiyuv of af hein hayu. Is the pshat that because of that sevara women have the same chiyuv as men or is it that men have a direct chiyuv in mikra megilah, etc. but women have a secondary chiyuv based on the din of af hein hayu? The way I just formulated it as being a separate "din" is the way I saw it quoted inthe name of R'Moshe Soloveichik. R'Goldvicht used less-brisker terms and explained that a man is chayav directly as a chad derabanan but a woman is based on trei derabanan -- the chiyuv to hear megilah is derabanan and their chiyuv in a zman grama mitzvah in this case because of af hein hayu is also derabanan. The rosh yeshiva ztl used this approach to explain the famous shitah of the Behag quoted on the gemara there whether women can be motzi men. If you hold that women have the same chiyuv then they can be motzi men; if women's chiyuv is based on separate din of af hein hayu -- in other words, as trei derabanan, then they would not be able to be motzi men.

    Returning to the two pshatim in af hein hayu, if you say that they were the ikar reason for the nes (Ester, Yehudis, etc.) then they should have no less chiyuv than the men. If you have say that they were also included, perhaps their status would only be a trei derabanan and not motzi the men.

    By the way I had then thought if you follow this through, it lines up well with whether avadim kenaanim are chayav. Based on the first sevara that women were the ikar they would not be because the sevara does not apply to them (see Gra in 689); based on the af=tefeilos, they would be. This is consistent that the Rambam implies that women can be motzi men and also implies that avadim kanaaim (who are not meshuchrarim) would not be chayav. The behag on the other hand who says that women cannot be motzi men holds that avadim are chayavim. See Biur halach beginning of 689. I think I remember seeing, though, that someone else made this chesbon (maybe the Sfas Emes -- dont hold me to this, it's on memory) but I also recall reading a piece from R'Asher Weiss shlita who did not think the cheshbon was muchrach.

    Sorry for the long comment.

  2. Tal Benschar9:22 PM

    Here are my thoughts, take them for what they are worth.

    Rashi holds what one would expect -- that the reason why one should be obligated in Mikra Megillah (or any of several other mitzvos) is an expression of hakaras ha tov. Anyone who benefitted from the miracle (by being saved) owes a debt of gratitude to the Almighty, and that obligates him (or her) to read the Megillah. In lomdishe language, the mechayev of mikra megillah is hanaah min ha nes.

    Not so the view of the Rashbam. For him one needs to have participated in the miracle. One might speculate that such participation gives the person some recognition of the special hasgachas Hashem involved in a nes, a special gilui shechina. It is that participation/recognition which obligates one in Mikra Megillah. To use the lomdishe language, the mechayev
    of mikra megillah is chavayyas ha nes or perhaps hakaras ha nes.

    Of course, one might ask on the Rashbam, that is all well and good for the Esther or the generation of women and even men who were alive when a particular miracle took place. But why should we, in later generations, read the Megillah when we did not particpate in the miracle. (For Rashi, that is not a question, we are all still beneficiaries of the salvation of the Jewish people at the time of Esther and Mordechai).