Thursday, November 29, 2007

a Munkatcher collection of halachic paradoxes

Is it too early to start thinking about Chanukah? The halacha is that a guest at someone else’s home fulfills the mitzvah of hadlakas neiros by being mishtateif b’priti – by giving some token amount of money to the homeowner so the oil is added on his/her behalf. The Minchas Eluzar (4:69) creates a wild paradox: what if the homeowner is mekadesh a girl based on the value of this perutah and oil? 1) If the oil has value, then the girl is mekudeshes; 2) if the girl is mekudeshes, she can fulfill the mitzvah of hadlakah through her husband; 3) if she fulfills hadlakah through her husband, the girl does not need oil and it has no value; 4) if the oil has no value, the girl is not mekudeshes; 5) if she is not mekudeshes, the girl needs to light for herself; 6) if she needs to light for herself, the oil has value…back to step #1 and repeat!

Similar paradoxes exist elsewhere. The halacha is that a parah adumah becomes disqualified if it is used for work or bears a burden, provided that these services are “neicha lei”, desired by or beneficial to the cow’s owner. The gemara (Pesachim 26) disqualifies a parah adumah which is mounted by a bull. Tosfos asks: since the owner would much rather have a valuable kosher parah adumah than a disqualified pregnant red cow, why is this considered “neicha lei”? Tosfos answers that since it would be neicha lei if not for the cow being a parah adumah, the cow is disqualified. In other words, explains the Minchas Eluzar, the din is based on a paradox: 1) if mounting is neicha lei to the owner, the cow is disqualified; 2) if the cow would be disqualified, mounting is not neicha lei; 3) if mounting is not neicha lei, it is not a disqualification; 4) if it does not a disqualification, the owner wants the bull to mount… back to step #1 and repeat.

At some point we enter the domain of “klutz kashe”. How does kiddushei kesef ever work? Since whatever a women takes possession of is transferred to her husband’s ownership – mah she’kansa isha kansa ba’alah - the following paradox occurs: 1) the groom presents his wife with a ring to become mekudeshes; 2) by becoming his wife, the kallah surrenders her rights to ownership; 3) since she surrenders her ownership rights, the kallah cannot take possession of the ring; 4) if she has not taken possession of the ring, she is not mekudeshes… back to step #1! Why is this a klutz kashe?... well, I guess you will be going in circles until you figure that out.

(You obviously need to step outside the paradigm of Litvishe learning and gavra/cheftza sevaras to appreciate the twists and turns here on its own terms, which is what makes this stuff fun to read!)

12 comments:

  1. Excuse me, the ring is for kiddushin, not nesu'in.

    Funny, I heard Reb Moshe describe a kashe as a klutz kashe, and he meant is as a compliment-- what we would call a bomb kashe; a klutz being a hunk of wood, a good kashe is like being struck by a big block of wood. If, on the other hand, the term klutz refers to the person asking, that's definitely not a compliment.

    So, mimoh nafshoch, your kashe is a klutz kashe.

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  2. Tal Benschar10:22 AM

    3) if she fulfills hadlakah through her husband, the girl does not need oil and it has no value

    I think the paradox breaks down here. Just because the girl does not need the oil to fulfill a mitsvah does not make it valueless. To the contrary, shaveh kessef has value not because it is useful to perform mitzvos, but because it has value in the marketplace.

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  3. Tal Benschar10:28 AM

    In other words, explains the Minchas Eluzar, the din is based on a paradox: 1) if mounting is neicha lei to the owner, the cow is disqualified; 2) if the cow would be disqualified, mounting is not neicha lei; 3) if mounting is not neicha lei, it is not a disqualification; 4) if it does not a disqualification, the owner wants the bull to mount… back to step #1 and repeat.

    This does not seem correct, either. Nicha lei seems to mean that under ordinary circumstances -- without the overlying mitzvah/irru -- the persons state of mind desires the outcome.

    For example, take psik reisha de nicha lei. One could in any psik reisha say that if the person knew he would get sekila for violating meleches shabbos, he would rather the certain outcome NOT occur (and thereby avoid capital punishment!) Thus every psik reisha is lo nicha lei and is pattur. That conclusion is clearly incorrect. Why? I think because the possibility of a punishment for violating meleches Shabbos is not part of what is factored into "nicha lei."

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  4. >>>Just because the girl does not need the oil to fulfill a mitsvah does not make it valueless.

    The owner is being mekadesh her based on the value of the oil he is mechuyav to add on her behalf. If he is not mechuyav to add any oil on her behalf, there is no mamashus whatsoever to use for the kiddushin.

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  5. Anonymous10:56 AM

    Your "klutz kasha" is one reason we use a ring b'zman hazeh - tachshitin are exempt from nichsei milug/tzon barzel.

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  6. An arusah still has a yad and can receive presents, make acquisitions and inherit money without them immediately becoming the possession of the husband. This is particularly true in the case of the qiddushin money which is most certainly not written into the ketubah as nichsei tson barzel.

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  7. BTW, I would love your input on the questions I asked "elamdan" regarding aharonim and Brisker "lomdus" on the comment thread of his most recent post there.

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  8. >>>An arusah still has a yad and can receive presents, make acquisitions and inherit money

    This is my fault and not a mistake in the Minchas Eluzar. I was trying to simplify things a bit for the sake of the post, but you caught me. The M"E does make note of this din and sets up a scenario where the ba'al hands her the ring or proposes kiddushin with oil while she is standing under chuppah.

    I need to think about your brisker comment.

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  9. It seems like, based on the latter two cases, we have something of a "no inversion" clause invoked. In the case of the bull, being that mounting is usually nicha lei, the cow is disqualified - the fact that the disqualification makes it lo nicha lei doesn't kick in since it would contradict a conclusion we already reached. Similarly, once a man is m'kadeish his wife, she is mekudeshes - the fact that once she is mekudeshes she cannot be koneh does not kick in because it would contradict a previous conclusion.

    You didn't resolve the first paradox, but it would seem, based on this sevara, that the kiddushin would be mo'il, since we don't allow the logic to turn back on itself to produce a contradiction. What does the ME say there?

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  10. Josh M - that is exactly the M"E's conclusion.

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  11. IIRC, The same Kasha that you bring up in the third paragraph in regard to Kiddushin, also would apply to Gittin. If anything she receives goes directly to her husband, how can she receive a Get on her own accord?
    The Ritva solves this issue with the idea of Ba'in K'echad. That her accepting the Get, and her receiving the ability to own it, happens simultaneously. Yet, that seems to be a different question then the original. (Which was just answered by Josh M)

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  12. the minchas chinuch has a question like this WRT writing a get on shabbat bi-ktav al gabei ktav.
    1) ktav al gabei ktav on shabbat is not assur mi-deorayta, because it's not melechet machshevet, unless you actually accomplish something by being maavir kulmus.
    2) maavir kulmus lishma on a get that was written shelo lishma is machshir that get. thus, doing so on shabbat would be assur mideorayta, because it is not melechet machshevet.
    3) writing a get be-issur disqualifies the get.
    4) if the get is passul, then the writer never accomplished anything by being maavir kulmus.
    5) if he never accomplished anything, then there was no melechet machshevet and no issur deorayta.
    6) if there was no issur, then the get is kosher.
    7) return to step #2

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