Monday, June 27, 2011

kavata itim laTorah?

My son did his siyum, my daughter had her graduation, so this week was my turn -- on Shabbos I made a siyum on Bavli. Some divrei Torah:

First a comment on On ben Peles. The gemara (Sanhedrin 109) darshens every detail of his name: On - he observed aninus for participating in Korach's rebellion; Peles - pila'os, wonders were done so he could escape, Reuvain - ra'ah v'heivin, he saw what was going on and understood he had to back out. Yet, the very next line of the sugya tells us that it was On ben Peles' wife that talked him out of the rebellion and kept him home safe. Some are puzzled by this gemara: does On deserve the credit for his havana, or does his wife deserve the credit? I don't think the question gets off the ground. Looking for the
sibah and the mesovev in a husband/wife relationship is impossible; the two go together, ha b'ha talya. Like every siyum before this one, I may have been the one reading the hadran, but it was ha b'ha talya on my wife's encouragement and support.

On to the topic of the title of the post: The Midrash comments on the pasuk, “V’ha’aretz hayesa tohu va’vohu v’choshech al pnei tehom,” that “tohu” refers to Madei, “vohu” refers to Bavel, “choshech” refers to Yavan, and “tehom” is Edom. These are the four kingdoms that brought us our four periods of galus. How can a pasuk describing the pre-creation universe be referring to kingdoms that would not exist until hundreds and thousands of years later? Maharal answers that the Midrash is teaching us that galus was built into the bri'ah from day one. The material world, the universe, is inherently imperfect, and the four galiyos are a product of that imperfection. It just took time for history to unfold along its inevitable course to get there.

The only problem with this Maharal is that we know it isn’t true.

We learned at the end of Shlach in Rashi that had Bnei Yisrael had observed one Shabbos (or according to other versions 2 Shabbosos) they would have had immediate geulah. Had Bnei Yisrael not sent the spies they might have entered Eretz Yisrael right away with Moshe and had geulah. Had they not worshiped the eigel they might have had geulah. We can go on and on with other examples, rolling the clock right back to Adam haRishon who would have merited immediate geulah had he not eaten from the eitz hada’as. So how can the Midrash tells us that the galiyos of Bavel, Madai, Yavan, and Edom were built into the fabric of creation from day one and were destined to be when at any one of many points in history we could have made a choice that circumvented the need for galus entirely?

The Koznitzer Maggid addresses this question in a piece printed in the back of the Maharal's Be’er haGolah. He explains that there are two different systems which Hashem put in place to run the universe. The first system is the hanhagas hateva, the natural order. We call the study of this system biology, history, sociology, etc. However, there is also another system Hashem put in place -- the hanhaga Tori'it. There is only one force that controls natural and historical events in this system -- fidelity (or lack of fidelity) to Torah.

Galus was built into the system of hanhagas hateva, the natural order of creation, and was destined to unfold if that system would play itself out. However, had the right choices been made, the universe history might have unfolded through the system of hanhaga l'ma'alah min hateva, the hanhagas haTorah, and there would be no need for galus.

Now comes the knock your socks off part of the Koznitzer Maggid: After 120+ years, question #1 they will ask you in shamayim is, "Kavata itim la'Torah?" The Koznitzer Magid explains that question as follows: Did you let "itim" = time, history, control you, meaning you went along with the flow of hanhagas hateva? Or were you "kove'a itim," did you fix and control time, did you take charge of history and cause it to unfold along a different path, a path directed by the power of hanhagas haTorah alone?

Limud haTorah can change a person's personal destiny; it can also change the destiny of Klal Yisrael.
More to come bl"n if I get some more time.


  1. Anonymous5:15 AM

    >>>...made a siyum on Bavli[!]
    "hafach ba, v'hafach ba..."

    why would the midrash locate
    4 allusions to galus in chapter 1
    of Bereishis, rather than name
    "...terem...terem...lo...ain...", as the guilty 4some (Ber. 2:5)? contextual (& scriptural) proximity to the first cheit would seem to recommend the latter pasuk

  2. Congratulations, and many happy returns.

    Great, great, line, and useful too. My son who is in shidduchim is going to hear it today. When you're learning, nothing else matters.

    Similar: the word kava also means steal, as in Bava Kama 119a, וקבע את קובעיהם. Kavata Itim means to steal time to learn- there might be pressing matters that demand your attention, but you steal away and learn every day despite all.

  3. anon12:55 PM

    Mazel tov!

  4. >>>Kavata Itim means to steal time to learn- there might be pressing matters that demand your attention, but you steal away and learn every day despite all.

    I lent my Ch. Chasam Sofer to someone and never got it back, but IIRC the Chasam Sofer says this pshat at the end of Nedarim on "Mayim genuvim yimtaku."

  5. anon1~9:56 AM

    I always heard the kavata meaning to steal vort in the name of the Rogachover and he quoted the pasuk in Malachi ha-yikba adam Elokim as the source that kavata can mean steal

  6. Now your Chasam Sofer doubly defines "kava".