Monday, April 30, 2007

shome'a k'oneh and the concept of zimun

Over Shavuos I am supposed to say a shiur, and since the other shiurim over Y”T are going to be dedicated to issues of “dibbur”, I decided to be subversive and discuss shome’a k’oneh, speech without speaking. I ran into a difficulty that I can't yet resolve, and while I could avoid the topic in the shiur, it bothers me that I have no answer – maybe someone out there has some idea.

Before I get to my question, I need to first lay a little groundwork with a chiddush of Rav Soloveitchik's. There are a few proofs for the concept the Rav developed, so I'll take one from a sugya discussed before. The chiyuv to bentch requires (b’pashtus) eating to the point of satiation – "v’achalta v’savata u’berachta". Yet, the gemara (Brachos 48) relates that Shimon ben Shetach led a zimun for King Yanai even though Sb"S ate only a k’zayis of bread. One cannot be motzi someone else in a mitzvah unless one shares an obligation in that same mitzvah – for this reason, a minor who has no mitzvah obligation may not be motzi a gadol. If Shimon ben Shetach ate only a k’zayis and was not satiated, he was not obligated in the Biblical mitzvah of bentching; King Yanai, however, was. How could Sb"S have been motzi King Yanai in his chiyuv d’oraysa of bentching if Sb"S did not share his Biblical obligation to bentch?

The Rishonim offer numerous answers to this question. Rashi writes that a gadol who ate a shiur derabbanan can in fact lead a zimun for a gadol who ate a shiur d’oraysa of satiation. One who ate a kzayis, although not satiated, is still obligated on some level to bentch.The case of a minor is different because a minor has no obligation whatsoever – the chiyuv of chinuch rests on the father to educate his child to bentch, but does not transform the child into a bar chiyuva, someone obligated in mitzvos.

R’ Akiva Eiger challenges Rashi's answer based on the following gemara (Brachos 20): the gemara raises the question of whether a women is obligated min hatorah or only m’derabbanan in the mitzvah of bentching, and says that this question impacts whether a women can be motzi a man in the mitzvah of bentching. If a man eats to the point of satiation and has a Biblical obligation to bentch, only if a woman has a parallel Biblical obligation could she be motzi him.

Doesn’t this gemara contradict Rashi’s answer? According to Rashi, even though a man ate only a k'zayis and is not Biblically obligated to bentch, he may lead a zimun for someone else who is satiated and Biblically obligated. Shouldn’t a woman who therefore has at least a Rabbinic obligation in bentching (like someone who ate a k'zayis) also be able to be motzi a man, even though his chiyuv is d’oraysa?

Stay tuned for R’ Soloveitchik’s chiddush…

8 comments:

  1. Mike S12:16 PM

    No, because a man is still in the geder of someone to whom the d'Oraita mitzvah can apply, and according to the opinion that a woman is never obligated d'oraita, she isn't. Although the question is tied up to who is included in the concept of arvut (that jews are responsible for each others' observance) and whether the chinuch obligation is a d'oraita obligation on the father, or creates a d'rabbanan obligation on the child.

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  2. Mike S12:18 PM

    Oops. Should have read the link before commenting.

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  3. >>>a man is still in the geder of someone to whom the d'Oraita mitzvah can apply, and according to the opinion that a woman is never obligated d'oraita, she isn't.

    So what? According to Rashi, a man needs to have eaten something and actually be chayav to be motzi someone else - the fact that he part of a class of people who have the potential to be chayav is not sufficient. Once you restrict yourself to looking at the actual level of chiuyuv, not the potential of the class the individual is part of, how is a man who ate k'zayis different than a woman?

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  4. When it comes to Birkat Hamazon, a man is always a "bar hiyuva medeyorayta" in potencia. That is a quality of the gavra and has nothing to do with his personal obligation at the moment. Of course he cannot recite Birkat Hamazon without an actual obligation of some sort - that would be a beracha levatala.

    So, a man who is obligated miderabbanan is, from the perspective of the gavra, a bar hiyuva medeorayta. The hiyuv mederabbanan enables him to perform the mitsvah in actuality.

    The person's status as a recognized bar-hiyuva medeorayta, combined with his actual license to perform the mitsvah by dint of the rabbinical obligation, gives him the necessary qualification to be motsi someone who is hayav medeorayta - he is arev for that person by virtue of his personal status, and empowered to act by the rabbinic mitsvah.

    A woman, on the other hand, is not a gavra who is recognized as a bar hiyuva from the deorayta standpoint at all.

    Am I making sense or just rambling? I realize I am typing this quickly and it's coming out a bit jumbled.

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  5. I think you're comment echoes the approach of R' Elchanan (Koveitz Shiurim #30 - blogged about it once before). I think the weakness in the argument is this point:
    >>>Of course he cannot recite Birkat Hamazon without an actual obligation of some sort - that would be a beracha levatala.
    How does being mechuyav m'derabbanan help obviate this difficulty? From the d'oraysa perspective, the birkat hamazon is still a bracha l'vatalah, isn't it? (I guess we could debate whether a derabbanan has a chalos d'oraysa as a way out of this...)

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  6. From the d'oraysa perspective, the birkat hamazon is still a bracha l'vatalah, isn't it?

    Can't be. Are you suggesting that every time we say a beracha on a derabbanan the hachamim are telling us to be over on a deorayta b'kum v'aseh?

    By definition, if the hachamim institute an obligation and we are involved in fulfilling it, it is not levatala.

    Levatala means for no purpose - the Torah commands us "al pi hatorah asher yorucha" - surely complying with hiyuvim miderabbanan is not meaningless from the deyorayta perspective.

    The action may not be intrinsically significant in the deyorayta framework, but the requirement to heed the rabbanan is certainly sufficient to remove the action from the category of levatala.

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  7. But by the same logic, why if the chachamim define a woman as a bar chiyuva is that not sufficient? Just like the bracha is valid m'doraysa, her being defined as a bar chiyuva should have validity as well - m'mah nafshach?

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  8. I would argue that the arevut between individuals has to be on the same plane in order to constitute a relationship based upon which one can fulfill the mitsvah for the other. So the gavra category must be commensurate.

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