Monday, August 29, 2011

makom goreim and lo tasur

The Rambam (Sefer haMitzvos 153) holds that kiddush hachodesh was done by either the sanhedrin or a beis din authorized by the sanhedrin; Ramban disagrees. His proof is as follows: We know that the sanhedrin was forced to leave its proper location next to the lishkas hagazis 40 years before the churban. From that point onward capital cases could no longer be judged, as the gemara learns from our parsha, "v'kamta v'alisa el hamakom -- melamed she'hamakom goreim," that beis din could judge such cases only when located in its proper place. Yet, says the Ramban, we know that kiddush hachodesh continued to be done for many years afterwards. QED that the sanhedrin was not necessary for kiddush hachodesh.

What does the din of "makom goreim" with respect to dinei nefashos have to do with kiddush hachodesh? Apparently the Ramban understood that "makom goreim" is a halacha in beis din, not in the particular process of dinei nefashos. When beis din is not located near the lishkas hagazis, they lack their full status and authority. Therefore, kiddush hachodesh, which was done even after the sanhedrin was forced to move, must not require the full authority of beis din hagadol to be carried out.

R' Zolti in his Mishnas Ya'avetz asks: If this is correct, why then according to Ramban is there a chiyuv to obey and not rebel against the sanhedrin even when they were sitting in Yavneh (as the Sifri darshens)? How could there be a chiyuv of "lo tasur... asher yagidu lecha min hamakom ha'hu" if beis din lacks full status/authority when not in lishkas hagzais?

He answers that Ramban follows the view of the Chinuch that lo tasur prohibits not just rebelling against beis din hagadol, but rebelling against any of the gedolei and chachamei hador of any time.
Rambam l'shitaso that there is no diminuation of the chalos shem or status of beis din even if they are not sitting near lishkas hagazis disagrees and learns that lo tasur applies only to the sanhedrin, but not to every beis din or chacham.

It's interesting to compare the approach of R' Zolti, who was a Brisker, with that of another Brisker -- R' Soloveitchik (see Koveitz Ch. Torah). RYBS suggested that there are two roles of sanhedrin: 1) the supreme court; 2) the bearers of the mesorah of klal yisrael as their representatives. Kiddush hachodesh according to the Rambam is not a function of B"D's role as supreme judicial body, which, as Ramban correctly notes, came to a close long before the churban. Rather, it is a function of their role as bearers of the mesorah in their representative capacity. Based on this, there is no reason to align the Rambam against the Chinuch l'shitaso. When the Rambam mentions beis din hagadol in the context of lo tasur, he might be referring to beis din as transmitters of the mesorah of klal yisrael, a role that is fulfilled by the chachamim of each generation.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

din on water

Well, the storm came, the storm went, and we made it baruch Hashem without damage. Just to give you a feel for the seriousness of the precautions, Rabbonim here advised those who live below Broadway in Lawrence that it was OK to evacuate on Shabbos as it was a situation of pikuach nefesh.

I saw this Meshech Chochma on Shabbos and thought it very apropos (and it's a good vort to remember for Sukkos): When it comes to the mitzvah of aliya la'regel on Pesach and Shavuos, the Torah in Re'eh writes to go to the place "asher yivchar Hashem l'shakein shemo sham." However, when it describes the same mitvzah of aliya la'regel on Succos, it says to go to the place, "asher yivchar Hashem," but it leaves out the words, "l'shakein shemo sham." Why the difference?

Meshech Chochma answers that on Pesach and Shavuos we are judged respectively on wheat crops and fruit. The Torah adds the words, "l'shakein shemo sham," to remind us that unlike what the other nations think, there is no power other than Hashem that can influence what will happen to these crops. On Sukkos, when we are judged on how much water and rainfall will occur, we don't need a similar reminder. Even the nations realize that Hashem and only Hashem controls rainfall and water (he brings a number of proofs from various gemaras).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

the alarm clock is ringing

Those of us in the northeastern portion of the US experienced an earthquake earlier this week, which is rare enough. Now, we have the most powerful hurricane in decades headed our way. Is the alarm clock ringing to wake us up?

(Yeah, I know, once you start saying stuff like that people start looking at you a little strangely and you might as well get yourself a soap box in Times Square or strait jacket, but on the other hand the Rambam (Ta'anis 1:3) says:
אבל אם לא יזעקו, ולא יריעו, אלא יאמרו דבר זה ממנהג העולם אירע לנו, וצרה זו נקרוא נקרית--הרי זו דרך אכזרייות, וגורמת להם להידבק במעשיהם הרעים, ותוסיף הצרה וצרות אחרות
So make of it what you will.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

good things can't wait

After last post I have to do something a little more uplifting, so here's a really nice vort from R' Yehoshua Rokeach of Belz on the parsha of navi sheker:

Lo tishma el divrei hanavi ha'hu....
Acharei Hashem Elokeichem teilechu v'oso tira'u, v'es mitzvosov tishmoru v'oso ta'avodu u'bo tidbakun
V'hanavi ha'hu... yumas...

Why does the Torah stick the long exhortation to follow Hashem, observe mitzvos, emulate Hashem's midos, etc. in the middle of the parsha, in between telling is not to listen to the navi sheker and the navi sheker's punishment? Why not complete the topic of navi sheker and then come back to what we should be doing instead of listening to false prophets?

The navi sheker is bound to cause confusion, to damage people's committment, to have a negative effect on the community. One might think that there could not be a worse time to start a new Torah endeavor than in the middle of dealing with such a terrible situation. Let the tzarah pass and then we can get to other things!

The Torah here is telling us not to wait. Even in the midst of calamity, one can spark a new positive beginning.

the shelo asani issue non-controversy

Of course halacha responds (I think "changes" would be a poor choice of words here) to circumstance -- that's not the "chiddush" that makes the idea of abolishing the bracha of shelo asani isha controversial. Changes in metziyus often (but not always) prompt changes in din; different facts can lead to a different verdict / outcome. We know hefsed merubah, sha'as hedechak, b'makom eivah, etc. can also lead poskim to provide innovate solutions or to rely on views that otherwise might not be accepted.

The with respect to shelo asani isha is simple: Do we have a right to invoke sha'as hadechak k'dieved dami not in response to an external change of circumstance, facts, or extraordinary need, but instead in response to our own feelings and moral judgments as to what halacha should or should not be?

None of what has been written on the topic (e.g. here, here, here, and here) provides any evidence that that question can and should be answered affirmatively. Case closed.

In Professor Tabory's paper on shelo asani isha (found on the JOFA website), he cites an array of commentators who have explained the bracha of she'lo asani in ways that do not demean women. Sensitivity to the potential (mis)interpretation of the bracha as offensive is not a new phenomenon. Historically speaking, Professor Tabory notes that, "...Orthodox Judaism found only one proponent for a change in the liturgy..." Only one! And the footnotes to the paper reveal that even that one proposal for change was made in response to the particular situation of eivah created by shelo asani aku"m, not in response to shelo asani isha.

With respect to halachic innovation, the dean of YCT, R' Avi Weiss, elsewhere (Judaism, 1997) has written, "...All those who hold to Orthodoxy contend that "new Halakha," which emerges constantly from the wellspring of the halakhic process, must always be based on the highest caliber of religio-legal authority. There must be an exceptional halakhic personality (italics mine) who affirms the new ruling on the grounds of sound halakhic reasoning."

It's a shame his musmakhim and talmidim have not adopted their rebbe's standard. Rabbi Dov Linzer notices that even Rav Henkin, a favored posek within the modern community, often will lay out theoretical approaches that allow great room for leniency, but then pull back from actually allowing more radical ideas to be accepted l'ma'aseh. Instead of ascribing this caution to a fear of "loss of credibility or acceptance," (link, p. 8), perhaps it should better be ascribed to yiras shamayim and respect for mesorah, values that are at least as important as fostering gender equality.

The burden of proof rests on those who clamor for change. Their subjective sense that the explanations of others, among them gedolei haAchronim, are lacking (mere "apologetics"), is far from sufficient.

I don't really understand why this issue has gotten so much play when there is so little to discuss.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

putting the pieces together

The Midrash opens Parshas Eikev:
הלכה אדם מישראל שיש לו מנורה שעשויה פרקים פרקים מהו לטלטלה בשבת. כך שנו חכמים המרכיב קני מנורה בשבת חייב חטאת ומשום מה מחייב א"ר אבהו בשם רבי יוחנן המרכיב את המנורה בשבת כאדם שבונה בשבת ומי שהוא בונה בשבת חייב א"ר יוסי ברבי חנינא אימתי שמרו ישראל את השבת כשם שראוי לה. תחלה כשניתנה להן באלוש מנין שנאמר (שמות יז) וישבתו העם ביום השביעי ואת סבור שמא לרעתך נתתי לך את השבת לא נתתי לך אלא לטובתך כיצד א"ר חייא ברבי אבא את מקדש את השבת במאכל ובמשתה ובכסות נקיה ומהנה את נפשך ואני נותן לך שכר מנין (ישעיה נח) וקראת לשבת עונג וגו' מה כתיב אחריו (שם) אז תתענג על ה' ויתן לך משאלות לבך אמרו לו ישראל ואימתי את נותן לנו שכר המצות שאנו עושים אמר להם הקב"ה מצות שאתם עושים מפירותיהן אתם אוכלים עכשיו אבל שכרו בעקב אני נותן לכם מנין ממה שקרינו בענינינו והיה עקב תשמעון:
What does the halachic question of whether one may put together or move a menorah made of snap together parts on Shabbos have to do with our parsha?

The meforshim explain that the Midrash is answering an implicit question by way of analogy. Why is it that the reward for mitzvos is collected only "eikev," at the end of days, as the Midrash concludes? I did a good deed today -- why can't I collect my reward today? The answer is that each good deed is but one "perek," one bolt, one small piece, of the larger menorah that you and I are supposed to build and become.

At my place of work we had a staff meeting on Friday and one of the topics mentioned in passing was thinking about one's career. Aside from the performing the day in and day out drudgery of work, employers like to think you are planning and aspiring and working toward the greater goal of becoming a better, more efficient worker bee to better server the collective hive. L'havdil, aside from our daily job of Torah and mitzvos, we need to think about the bigger picture -- where is my Torah or avodah career going? How does this individual mitzvah serve not just as an end in itself (certainly important!), but as a part, a piece that helps build towards a larger accomplishment for myself and/or for the klal? How do the pieces fit together to make the menorah that will shine our light into the world?

The hava amina of the Midrash, "shema l'ra'ascha nasati es haShabbos," that perhaps Shabbos was given to our detriment, is hard to fathom, but in light of the analogy above I think we can make sense of it. Thinking about the larger picture takes time, but we are all so busy with the little tasks that make up every day -- there is always so much to do! The Torah provided a solution -- Shabbos. When you are so caught up in the cycle of running from one emergency to the next, one chore to the next, putting out one fire after another, the idea of just sitting back and pushing all that aside to take stock seems like a waste of time -- "shema l'ra'asecha." But the truth is that without that break to look at the bigger picture, all you will have is a pile of "perakim" and you will never be able to build the menorah.

Finally, the conclusion of the Midrash seems to distinguish between the reward for oneg Shabbos, which Hashem pays up front, and the reward for all mitzvos, which comes later. Why the distinction?

Sefas Emes explains that reward comes when we achieve shleimus, tikun -- when the menorah is finished. You can't have shleimus while you are still busy building and fixing the world. However, Shabbos is a m'ein olam ha'ba. Halacha says that when Shabbos comes we have to feel like all the work of the week has been finished and put it aside. On Shabbos we borrow a little bit of the shleimus we will ultimately attain, and can enjoy its reward even while in this world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

quid pro quo

Two quick comments on the parsha:

I think two questions asked about the opening of our parsha resolve each other:
1. "V'haya eikev tishme'un es hamishpatim ha'eileh..." Why the focus on mishpatim as opposed to chukim or other categories of mitzvos?
2. "V'shamar Hashem Elokecha lecha es habris v'es hachesed asher nishba l'avosecha." Why does the Torah need to reiterate that Hashem will keep his word and deliver all the chesed he promised to the Avos -- if Hashem makes a promise, surely he will keep it?!

The Torah is perhaps telling us that even if we obey Torah only because it makes sense to us -- when we see halacha as mishpat, just and fair laws -- but we lack the commitment to obey even when things don't make sense, still, Hashem will keep his word to deliver the full measure of reward he promised to the Avos who had a far superior level of emunah. No wonder the parsha opens with "V'haya," a term of simcha!

On a different note, in the comments of the post on matnas chinam from last week the important point was made that matnas chinam means recognizing that there is no quid pro quo with G-d. A person can't say that because he/she did good deed X, therefore G-d "owes" them one and they deserve some particular reward in return, so special treatment (and the abuse of so-called segulos in this regard goes without saying). Moshe Rabeinu did not demand entrance to Eretz Yisrael in "exchange" for all the good deeds he had done. So here's an amazing Ksav Sofer on this week's parsha that hits the same theme:

"...HaKeil hagadol hagibor v'hanora asher lo yisa panim v'lo yikach shochad." (10:17)
"Oseh mishpat yasom v'almanah v'oheiv ger...." (10:18)

What does it mean that G-d doesn't take bribes -- how could you even try to bribe G-d? And is Hashem defender only of the weak, the widow, the orphan, the convert? Doesn't Hashem do chessed for all of us?

Ksav Sofer writes that the pasuk is not talking about Hashem -- it's talking about people. It takes someone special to go out of his/her way to defend and protect those who everyone else in society ignores and has no pity for. You might think that someone like that deserves "protektziya," deserves to be treated a little differently than everyone else, deserves to have some failings overlooked, deserves to have some special requests granted. But, says the Ksav Sofer, Hashem doesn't do things that way. A good deed done in one area doesn't excuse a lapse in another -- G-d is not a horse-trader. The pasuk should be read as one sentence: "V'lo yokach shochad," Hashem does not take bribes, "Oseh mishpat yasom v'almanah," from those who do charity and good deeds for the widow and orphan. Charity and kindness are important, but they cannot be used as a means of "buying" off G-d to get a favor in return or to excuse lack of attention to other areas of Torah and mitzvos.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

simlasecha lo balsa

"Simlasecha lo balsa mei'alecha..." OK, so they didn't need to visit the dry cleaners during the 40 years in the midbar. But when you read the pasuk in light of this gemara (Shabbos 152b), what a different meaning it has:

ת"ר (קוהלת יב) והרוח תשוב אל האלהים אשר נתנה תנה לו כמו שנתנה לך בטהרה אף אתה בטהרה משל למלך ב"ו שחלק בגדי מלכות לעבדיו פקחין שבהן קיפלום והניחום בקופסא טפשים שבהן הלכו ועשו בהן מלאכה לימים ביקש המלך את כליו פקחין שבהן החזירום לו כשהן מגוהצין טפשין שבהן החזירום לו כשהן מלוכלכין שמח המלך לקראת פקחין וכעס לקראת טפשין על פקחין אמר ינתנו כלי לאוצר והם ילכו לבתיהם לשלום ועל טפשין אמר כלי ינתנו לכובס והן יתחבשו בבית האסורים אף הקב"ה על גופן של צדיקים אומר (ישעיהו נז) יבא שלום ינוחו על משכבותם ועל נשמתן הוא אומר (שמואל א כה) והיתה נפש אדוני צרורה בצרור החיים על גופן של רשעים הוא אומר (ישעיהו מח) אין שלום אמר ה' לרשעים ועל נשמתן הוא אומר (שמואל א כה) ואת נפש אויביך יקלענה בתוך כף הקלע

The rabbis taught: "Return the soul to the Lord as clean as He gave it to thee." This is illustrated by a parable of a king who once gave to his attendants suits of clothes. The wise among them took care of them, kept them clean and folded, and used them on special occasions only. The fools put them on and performed their work in them. Naturally, the clothes became dirty. All at once, the king demanded the clothes back again. The wise men returned them clean and whole, but the fools returned them in a dirty and dilapidated condition. The king was well pleased with the wise men, and told them to depart in peace, and had their clothes stored; but the clothes of the fools he ordered to be sent to the washers, and the fools were sent to prison.
The "simla" of the pasuk is the ruach taharah of Torah u'mitzvos! "Simlasecha lo balsa mei'alecha" -- for forty years that spirit remained untainted and pristine, a model for us to imitate.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tu B'Av

Earlier this month we discussed how the character of Av is defined by the personality of Aharon haKohen, whose yahrzeit and birthday (see Kid. 38) are on Rosh Chodesh Av. Maharal (in Ohr Chadash) explains that the 15th of any month is the point at which the character of the month is expressed most fully (actually the Maharal focuses on the 14th and uses his yesod to explain the date of Purim; be that as it may, the 15th is still significant as the point immediately after the character of the month has attained fullest expression). Aharon was a paragon of chessed; he was oheiv shalom v'rodef shalom. For this reason, the 15th of Av, the holiday of Tu b'Av, is a date replete with shalom and chessed. On this day the ban instituted because of the pilegesh b'Givah incident prohibiting sheivet Binyamin from intermarrying with other tribes was lifted and peace between the tribes was restored. On this day the ban against women of the dor hamidbar who were yorshos intermarrying with other tribes was lifted. This day was the day (as described in the Mishna in Ta'anis, see my wife's posts on the topic here) that women would go out to the vineyards to dance and choose their husbands. The gemara writes that there is an obligation to increase Torah study at night from the 15th of Av onward, as the nights grow longer. The Koshiglover explains the reason is because Torah brings peace and harmony into the world -- "talmidei chachamim marbim shalom ba'olam." Tu b'Av marks the completion of our "shiva week" for churban habayis that began on 9Av (see R' Tzadok haKohen). What better way to end the mourning caused by sinas chinam than to rededicate and celebrate shalom v'rei'us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

va'eschanan - the meaning of matnas chinam

VaEschanan el Hashem… Rashi explains that the word "va’eschanan" hints to Moshe requesting that his request be granted as a mantas chinam, a free gift, rather than in the merit of his mitzvos.

The Midrash (Shmos, parsha 40) comments on the pasuk, “V’chanosi es asher achon…” as follows:

Hashem showed Moshe all the treasure houses in shamayim and he pointed out who each one was for. “Here’s the treasure chest for those who do mitzvos. Here’s the treasure chest for those who raise orphans..." and so on and so forth, until they got to the biggest treasure chest of all.

“Who's that for?” asked Moshe.

“The other treasures,” said Hashem, “Were given to those who earned them. But for those who have nothing, I give them a mantas chinam of my treasure chest.”

V’chanosi es asher Echon” – Hashem gives away a mantas chinam.

What kind of system is this? A guy spends his life doing mitzvos, learning Torah, helping others, and he gets a smaller reward than the guy who has nothing!?

The Shem m’Shmuel explains in the name of his father, the Sochatchover, that for those who pride themselves on the mitzvos they have done, large or small, the reward is the fruits of those mitzvos, and there is a treasure chest of appropriate size. But for those who come to shamayim and despite all that they have done, feel that they have accomplished nothing – for after all is said an done, how much has anyone really accomplished in comparison to what we owe Hashem – for these people, Hashem sets aside the greatest treasure of all, his mantas chinam.

Moshe could have asked Hashem to go to Eretz Yisrael in the zechus of his Torah, his avodah, his leadership of Klal Yisrael. But Moshe realized that after all is said and done, it’s all mantas chinam.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

geirus of yisurim and the missing sin of Yisa(s)char

The Rama writes that we eat egg on leil ha'seder because egg is a symbol of mourning, and we know that whatever night of the week seder night falls out on, 9 Av will be the same night of the week. We find other connections between 9 Av and Pesach -- this relationship is the theme of the kinah which contrasts "b'tzeisi MiMitzrayim," the greatness of Klal Yisrael and the miracles experienced during the exodus, with "b'tzeisi m'Yerushalayim," the tragedy of the churban. At the kinos program at Yeshiva Darcehi Torah this morning R' Naftali Jeger, R"Y of Shor Yoshuv, quoted R' Yonasan David as explaining the connection between the two as follows: The gemara (Yevamos 46a) says that when a ger wishes to convert, he/she is told that the Jewish people are now a persecuted, downtrodden, afflicted people -- why would he/she possibly want to join the nation of Klal Yisrael? If the potential ger answers, "I know -- and I am not worthy, aini k'dai" he/she is immediately accepted. Rashi adds, "u'mi yitein v'ezkeh l'kach," the ger says, "If only I were worthy of suffering along with them!" At the moment of yetziyas Mitzrayim, the Jewish people collectively underwent geirus by accepting malchus shamayim and the mitzvos of leil haseder. 9 Av is another type of geirus we underwent as a people -- 9 Av is the geirus that comes of participating in Jewish suffering.

Ultimately, with the coming of Moshiach, the tragedies of galus will be revealed as necessary steps on the road to geulah and part of Hashem's chassadim. Hashem is a "mavi go'el," in the present tense, because all our trials and tribulations are steps down that road. R' Greenberg, a R"M at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, quoted the Derashos Chasam Sofer on Chanukah that the gematriya of Yisachar = 830, which corresponds to the 410 years of bayis rishon + 420 years of bayis sheni. Chasam Sofer explains that even though the name Yisacher is written with two letter sins, we pronounce only one because the silent sin = 300, the number of years we lived under Greek dominion during bayis sheni, when we were not truly a free country. After the future geulah we will look back and see how even those years were filled with chasdei Hashem. After geulah we will pronounce Yisachar as it is written, with a double-sin. R' Greenberg brilliantly suggested that this is the meaning of Hashem's message of comfort to Rachel Imeinu, "Yesh sachar l'peulaseich v'shavu m'eretz oyev." Yesh sachar = the same letters a Yisachar, a foreshadowing and hint to the day when we will be able to pronounce Yisachar properly. (See here for fantastic another vort said over by R' Greenberg.)

(Any errors in writing these ideas over are mine alone and should not be attributed to the Rosh Yeshiva or R' Greenberg.)

I saw an interesting din quoted by the Chasam Sofer in his derashos. He quotes a Mechilta that after yetziyas Mitzrayim, the year of the date was reckoned from yetziyas Mitzrayim. Had we still had a Beis haMikdash, we would count years since the binyan habayis. However, since we are suffered the churban, the year is counted based on the time elapsed since the churban. The Chasam Sofer goes on to write that he is fulfilling this din and he mentions that the year of his derasha was exactly x number of years since churban habayis. I don't know if your bank will accept a check if you write the year as 1941, the number of years since the churban, but it apparently is something halacha wants us to be aware of. Why? I think the answer is that it's not enough to know there was a mikdash, there was a churban, we are in galus, but more than that -- we we need to be also aware of just how long and painful this galus has been. Nineteen hundred plus years of pain is a long time. Nineteen hundred plus tisha b'Av's spent on the floor reading kinos is a lot of mourning. Ninteen hundred plus years is a long time to keep a memory of a Mikdash alive. Yet, we have done so and continue to do so, and in that zechus will hopefully see the Mikdash again very soon.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

shabbos devarim - chazon

Some random thoughts for the end of the week:

1. Let me start with a little halacha. Hat tip to Havolim for his discussion last week on the issue of mara d'asra, ayen sham. I just want to mention on point applicable to the 9 days.
The Rama writes that on Shabbos Chazon weekday clothes, not Shabbos clothes, should be worn. The minhag of most of the world is not like this Rama, as even during aveilus, one is not permitted to publicly show signs of mourning on Shabbos (see the Aruch haShulchan who tries to justify both positions). The Rivevos Ephraim (II:157) discusses the case of travellers who are in Europe and stay in Cracow over Shabbos Chazon -- should they follow the prevelant custom of wearing regular Shabbos clothes, or follow the custom of the Rama, the m'ara d'asra of Cracow, and wear weekday clothes? His conclusion is that we cannot apply the principle of minhag hamakom to a place like Cracow which no longer has any established Jewish community. Sounds from some of the sources cited in B's post that perhaps the idea of following the mara d'asra is an independent din, perhaps an extension of kavod harav, not just an offshoot of minhag hamakom, but you can argue otherwise if you like.

2. Moshe opens Sefer Devarim by giving tochacha regarding the many sins that took place in the midbar: he cheit ha'eigel, the complaints about the man, the rebellion of Korach, etc. All of these were done by the generation which left Mitzrayim, the generation which perished during the 40 year trek through the desert. The generation to whom Moshe was speaking played no role in these events. Why was Moshe speaking to them about past history?

Sefas Emes explains that each generation is responsible to try to rectify the faults of the past, not just focus only on the present. This is what Chazal meant when they said any generation that does not have the Mikdash rebuilt in its lifetime is as if it was destroyed during its lifetime. The blame for the faults of the past may lie in the past, but if you do nothing to make things better, you are just as culpable.

3. "B'shuv Hashem es shivas Tziyon hayinu k'cholmim." R' Zevin (in his sefer on Torah u'Moadim) explains that when one is dreaming, one is unencumbered by the constraints of logic -- mutually exclusive opposites have no problem coexisting. In galus a person can rise to the greatest heights for a few minutes each morning during tefilah and then fall into the opposite abyss of gashmiyus once he leaves to deal with the outside world. Once the geulah comes we will realize "hayinu k'cholim," this type of existance is possible only as a dream, but is not reality.

4. Some more Rav Zevin: The Midrash teaches that had we been zoche, we would read, "Eicha esa levadi...," but now that we have not been zoche, we read, "Eicha yashva badad..." A person can stand out, alone, for different reasons. There is the person who stands apart because he has risen above his colleagues through hard work and effort -- it's lonely at the top. There is the loneliness that occurs when everyone sinks and just being left standing sets one apart. "Eicha esa l'vadi" is the cry of struggling to stay on top of the mountain of ticha and burdens once one has risen above them. "Eicha yashva badad" is the cry of one left standing after everyone else has sunk and been crushed.

5. Why did Moshe share with Klal Yisrael the fact that he was overburdened and overwhelmed and therefore needed to appoint helper judges? Shouldn't Moshe's job problems have been shared only with his manager (Hashem), not his customers? Pashut pshat is that Moshe was telling Klal Yisrael they were being too troublesome, but the Ishbitzer has another twist. Moshe made the plan to appoint assistant judges public because he was hoping Klal Yisrael would take a hint -- instead of applauding the plan, he was hoping they would protest and clamor for his leadership alone. This would (Moshe hoped, at least) have given him a leg to stand on in requesting to stay on and guide Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately, Klal Yisrael were perfectly happy accepting the lesser judges. They just listened to the plan and went along without a murmur. So many other times Bnei Yisrael gave voice to protest one imagined injustice after another, yet here -- silence! Moshe ends his tochacha by telling Klal Yisrael that he found chachomim to appoint, but he could not find nevonim -- he could not find anyone who could infer his intent and realize what the situation called for.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

debt ceiling psak

From R' Aviner's website:

Question: Our debt continues to grow. Is there a Segula to reverse this trend?

Answer: Certainly. You should spend less than you bring in, and not rely on the miracle of overcoming a simple mathematical principle. The Tur wrote that one should limit his expenses. The Mishnah Berurah explains that this is a harsh criticism against those who are enticed to spend money on luxuries without seeing the consequences, which in the end lead to theft and disgrace. Biur Halachah chap. 529. One should plan well.

Was the Rav perhaps weighing in on the debt ceiling debate? If so, I would have to say halacha sides with the Tea Party and not Obamanomics, but that's a davar pashut anyway.

two nice meshech chochma's on parshas masei

Two nice Meshech Chochma's on last week's parsha:

1. Why is it that the arei miklat were not koleit until after kibush v'chiluk, until after the conquest and apportionment of Eretz Yisrael? The only way a murderer was allowed out of an ir miklat was if the kohen gadol died. A person who killed b'shogeg lived every day with the hope that today might be the day of the K"G's passing. The Mishna tells us that the mother's of the kohanim used to bring treats to distribute in the cities so that those in galus would not daven for their son's demise. Since Hashem had said that the division of Eretz Yisrael would be done by Yehoshua and Elazar, it meant that Elazar would live at least another fourteen years -- anyone sent to an ir miklat before that had no chance of getting out. A person can't live without hope! It's not enough to know that a few years or months down the road things may be better -- a person needs to feel there is some chance of things getting better today.

2. The pasuk refers to the shogeg not leaving ir miklat until the passing of the kohen gadol "asher mashach oso," who was annointed by the murderer. It sounds like the murderer b'shogeg was the one who annointed the Kohen, which makes no sense. The gemara therefore interprets the pasuk to mean, "asher nimshach," the kohen who was annointed (passive voice instead of active). So why, asks the Meshech Chochma, does the Torah phrase things in such a misleading way? He explains that Hashem dictates b'hashgacha pratis precisely how long each shogeg must stay in the ir miklat. One person may deserve to stay there 10 years; another person might only deserve to be there 10 days. Who would be appointed kohen gadol and how long that kohen gadol would live was directly dependent (hence the active voice) on the sentence deserved by the murderer. This is a powerful lesson in hashgacha pratis is. We are talking about the kohen gadol who served all of Klal Yisrael in an enormously important capacity, yet who gets that job might depend on the needs of a single person in ir miklat.