Friday, November 02, 2007

did the Imahos do mitzvos aseh she'hazman gerama?

I noticed the Netziv at the end of Chayei Sarah writes that the Imahos did not keep mitzvos aseh she’hazman gerama. I never really thought about it before, but why should this be so? The fact that women are not commanded to do these mitzvos is irrelevant because the Avos and Imahos had not been commanded to do any mitzvos.

Let me put it this way – is a woman who voluntarily does a zman gerama mitzvah, e.g. she listens to shofar, fulfilling the ratzon Hashem? If the answer is no, then why can she say a bracha and get schar, and if the answer is yes, then why would the Imahos have not done these mitzvos?

11 comments:

  1. I am familiar with the Netziv -- that the avos' lifespans are described in days because the days vs. nights mattered -- it's an interesting point, still thinking about it.

    Can I ask an unrelated question but at least in the same aliyah of the parsha? We are all familiar with the medresh which Rashi quotes that Keturah is Hagar (the Rashbam goes out of his way to say that is not the pshat). If taken literally (which I know is an assumption), Hagar would presumably be at least in her 80s when she had her last child. Remember, Avaraham marries Ketura after Yitzchak marries Rivka, so Yitzchak is 40 and Avraham 140. We first met Hagar as Avaraham left mitzrayim when he was 75 (Rashi in lech lecha explains that Avraham didnt spend more than a few months in mitzrayim). That is a 65 year gap. Even assuming Hagar was 10 years old when she was left mitzrayim (which I think is a low assumption) -- she would be 75 years old after Yitzchak got married. She then has 6 kids. Assuming one after the other (and assuming no multiple births), that puts here in her 80s for the last kid. Changing some of the assumptions she could be 90.

    Now I know the Ramban and Ibn Ezra in Vayigash note that Yocheved was 130 when Moshe was born and the Torah does not publicize every miraculous birth. But still, what would be the point of Hagar miraculously giving birth at an old age? If anything it would almost undercut the miraculous nature of Yitzchak's birth.

    Any thoughts? Sorry for being off topic but I though I would take advantage of having a thoughtful population to respond. Thanks

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  2. By Sarah it was not just her age which was remarkable, but the fact that she was an aylonis. But the question is still good - I never thought about it. What was Sarah's cheshbon in giving Hagar to Avraham - why not suggest his marrying a younger girl?

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  3. I thought about that -- you're right that there is that aylonis aspect but still the age is up there. As for the first time, it was 55 years earlier -- Avraham married Hagar after 10 years in Eretz Yisrael. So she was in still child bearing age then.

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  4. This post rests on the premise of taking certain midrashim literally that I would interpret in a metaphoric sense.

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  5. RJM - the question I am posing is not how to interpret Chazal's statement that the Avos observed the entire Torah. The question I am posing is given the Netziv's interpretation that the Avos literally kept the mitzvos, why does he draw a distinction between zman gerama and not (a view which to the best of my knowledge is not found elsewhere)?

    Since you raise the issue, the Ramban and Maharal struggle to explain how Ya'akov married two sisters in defiance of halacha, and the Ramban in particular (26:5) lists a whole host of behaviors of the Avos that require explanation. Neither of these Rishonim suggest interpreting Chazal metaphotically, which I imagine is why the Netziv and many Achronim took a literalist approach.

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  6. Even if the questions do presuppose that the idea that they kept the mitzvos is literal, the various answers to the question seem to question that premise or at least chip away at it. You're a Rav Tzadok guy -- I have some vague recollection that in R'Tzadok's discussions, he doesn't take it literally (though I could be totally off on that).

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  7. Neither of these Rishonim suggest interpreting Chazal metaphotically

    I don't understand your take on the Ramban. One of his answers is that only the 7 mitsvot are intended. Another answer has it that the Avot came to the mitsvah lifestyle from their own understanding, without revelation, in which case there is no reason to assume it would precisely accord with Torat Moshe in all of its details.

    Is it really rational to assume the Avot commemorated events that had not yet occurred? Most ritual mitsvot revolve around Yetsiat Mitsrayim which was centuries after their deaths.

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  8. And is the Maharal a Rishon?

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  9. The Ramban suggests that the Avos may have kept all the mitzvos, but only in Eretz Yisrael. Ya'akov married 2 sisters in chu"l.

    As for the question on celebrating events which have not yet occurred, how do you explain Rashi 29:3 that Lot baked matzos? Is it not possible to celebrate an event which you anticipate will occur in the future?

    I am not denying the possibility of understanding the Midrash metaphorically (as I wrote above), but I do not understand why you turn a blind eye to the many meforshim who have taken it literally. Whether the Maharal is a Rishon or not is irrelevant - the point is the Midrash was taken literally by Maharal, Parashas Derachim, Chasam Sofer, Hafla'ah, and many others. Should we just dismiss everything they have written as without vakue just because you find pashtanim who undermine the premis? I think you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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  10. RJM - since all I am doing is quoting a Netziv, let me ask you: how do you approach a comment of the Netziv like this?

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  11. Anonymous11:57 AM

    You and the Netziv approach the text with different assumptions. The Netziv does not presume "reasonableness" in the sense that most of us (perhaps influenced by the Scientific Revolution) do today. You *do* presume this sort of "reasonableness".

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