Wednesday, January 21, 2009

milah: zman gerama

Tosfos (Kiddushin 29) asks why a special limud is needed to exempt women from the mitzvah of milah. Why are women not exempt based on the blanket rule that women are exempt from any time bound mitzvah, any mitzvas aseh she'hazman gerama?

The Mahara"Ch Ohr Zarua answers Tosfos' question by suggesting that the exemption from zman gerama mitzvos applies where the mitzvah demands a specific act. The mitzvah of milah is not the act of cutting, but rather is the ongoing state of being nimol which is produced. The act of milah is just a means to an end, but not itself the essence of the mitzvah.

As we discussed last post, this question of whether the mitzvah of milah is the act of cutting or the effect produced of being in a state of being nimol may explain the dispute between the Rambam and Ra'avad as to whether one who is not nimol is chayav kareis every second until getting a milah, or chayav kareis only upon death. If the mitzvah is to be nimol, then every second of not being nimol is a new chiyuv kareis; if the mitzvah is the act of cutting, then until the moment of death when that act can no longer be performed there is no chiyuv.

YD commented that there may be a different way to learn this Rambam/Ra'avad. Perhaps the focus of their dispute is not the definition of the mitzvah of milah, but rather the definition of what a bitul mitzvah is -- is a deliberate delay considered a bitul mitzvah (in other words, bitul=lack of kiyum), or can we only say there is a bitul mitzvah when there is no longer a possibility of fulfilling the mitzvah? (See Chazon Ish to Kiddushin 29 who suggests a similar approach).

Just to clarify what I left out of the original post, RY Engel and others avoid this explanation because, for example, choosing to perform milah next week as opposed to today certainly displays a lack of zerizus and attention to the mitzvah, but it is, in their view, hard to classify that as a bitul of the mitzvah in an absolute sense.

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    As we discussed last post, this question of whether the mitzvah of milah is the act of cutting or the effect produced of being in a state of being nimol

    If Miloh is just the act of cutting alone and not also being nimol, what is the problem of being Mefer Bris later on?

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  2. You would say that being meifer bris is a seprate ma'aseh issur and has nothing to do with erasing the milah.

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  3. Did you happen to see my most recent post on Vesom Sechel? I thought you would appreciate it.

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  4. Is MO"Z saying this in regards to the general chiyuv of milah, or specifically the chiyuv of milah on women?

    You could say that the chiyuv of the mother is like the chiyuv of beis din which I would assume is not the ma'aseh milah but just to make sure the kid is nimol.
    (I think Ramban says this but I'm not sure...I'll check it out)

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  5. RJM - just saw it. Nice.

    MO"Z is in general.

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  6. ...what bitul mitzvah is -- is a deliberate delay considered a bitul mitzvah (in other words, bitul=lack of kiyum), or can we only say there is a bitul mitzvah when there is no longer a possibility of fulfilling the mitzvah?

    isn't this discussed in the gemara - 3rd perek of Makos & end of Shulin - bitlu v'lo bitlu vs. kiymu v'lo kiymu, like in the case of an oness who divorced his wife in violation of the pasuk lo yuchal lshalcha kol yamav?

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