Monday, March 31, 2014

taking religion seriously

I don't know if you will agree with everything Charles Murray writes in this piece in the Wall Street Journal, but this point in particular is a good one:
Taking religion seriously means work. If you're waiting for a road-to-Damascus experience, you're kidding yourself. Getting inside the wisdom of the great religions doesn't happen by sitting on beaches, watching sunsets and waiting for enlightenment. It can easily require as much intellectual effort as a law degree.

Even dabbling at the edges has demonstrated to me the depths of Judaism, Buddhism and Taoism. I assume that I would find similar depths in Islam and Hinduism as well. I certainly have developed a far greater appreciation for Christianity, the tradition with which I'm most familiar. The Sunday school stories I learned as a child bear no resemblance to Christianity taken seriously. You've got to grapple with the real thing.

The sad thing is how many of our brothers and sisters put in the time and effort to get an Ivy league education in law, medicine, or business, but are content with a nursery school understanding of Judaism.

Friday, March 28, 2014

the "bracha" of the punishment of tzara'as

The kohein is the paradigm of the ish chessed, so we understand why it is the kohein goes out to the metzorah after his nega heals and declare him rehabilitated.  But it is also the kohein who examines the nega to begin with and if need be declares it tamei.  Why does this job fall to the kohein to perform?

Sefas Emes answers that not only is becoming healed a chessed of Hashem, but being afflicted is chasdei Hashem as well.  There is so much cooking inside a person that he/she sometimes doesn’t even realize all the negativity boiling inside.  The idea behind tzara’as is that what’s inside becomes apparent on the outside so that it can no longer be ignored – it’s a wakeup call to do teshuvah.  Imagine G-d forbid if a person had some sickness that he/she was unaware of.  If untreated, it could prove fatal, but with the proper care it could be cured. That individual would undoubtedly thank the doctor who discovered the problem and put them on the path to recovery!  Getting an opportunity to mend one’s ways and have a kapparah, even if it takes some work and is painful for a period of time, is something to be thankful for. 

The gemara (Brachos 5) writes that sometimes nega’im are yisurim shel ahavah, sometimes not, depending on whether you live in Eretz Yisrael or Bavel.  The Netziv learns (not like Rashi) that it is in Eretz Yisrael where the metzora is subjected to the greater yisurim of being kicked out of his home in a walled city that the punishment is one of ahavah, because it is by going through that bit of suffering that one can achieve kapparah.

The punishment of tzara’as is caused by the sin of lashon ha’ra.  Rashi comments on the pasuk of “Zachor es asher asah Hashem Elokecha l’Miriam b’derech b’tzeischem m’Mitzrayim that we are supposed to remember that Miriam was punished for this sin of speaking lashon ha’ra and learn from this episode to avoid evil gossip.  Why did the Torah not simply tell us directly “Don’t speak lashon ha’ra?”  And why does the Torah include not only what happened, but also when it happened, “b’derech b’tzeischem m’Mitzrayim,” right after we left Egypt?

What we are supposed to be remembering when we think about that episde with Miriam, explains the Sefas Emes, is not the issur of lashon ha’ra or the threat of punishment, but rather the “bracha” of tzara’as.  Even in our national infancy, right after we left Egypt, the Jewish people were blessed with an intolerance for sin.  It’s like we break out and have an allergic reaction to lashon ha’ra.  You can be the biggest tzadik like Miriam, but you can’t cover it up – to the contrary, the stronger your reaction will be.  A non-Jew will not get tzara’as because they lack that same level of holiness that we have and therefore don't have that adverse reation to sin.  The Torah is not reminding us that G-d gives us patches; the Torah is reminding us of how special we are.
V’hizartem es Bnei Yisrael m’tumasam” – the Sefas Emes writes that this word of “v’hizartem” may not only mean warn, but may come from the same root as “nezer,” a crown.  The fact that we can suffer tumah is a crown on our heads, a badge of honor. 

This week we will aso be reading parshas hachodesh.  Rashi writes in that parsha (12:6) that when it came time for the geulah, Hashem saw that Bnei Yisrael lacked the zechus of any mitzvos and so he gave them the mitzvos of milah and korban Pesach.  The Shem m’Shmuel asks: but the Navi Yirmiyahu praises Bnei Yisrael for the love of Hashem they exhibited at the time of yetzi’as Mitzrayim – “Lechteich acharay bamidbar b’eretz lo zeru’ah…”  How do we reconcile the picture of Bnei Yisrael as lacking any zechuyos with the picture of a people so filled with ahavhas Hashem and emunah that they walked into the desert with nothing? 

Midrashim offer two mashalim for this mitzvah of parshas hachodesh.  One Midrash compares G-d’s giving us control over the calendar to a king who waited for his son to mature and then bestowed his treasure on him.  Another Midrash compares the gift to a husband who gave an engagement gift to his bride.  What we have now is but a taste of the gifts we will receive in the days of Moshiach, when the marriage of Klal Yisrael to Hashem is completed.  What’s the difference between these two parables?  A son does not need to earn the right to that name – it is his by birth.  The person we choose as our spouse, on the other hand has earned their place at our side by virtue of shared interests, companionship, and love.  Klal Yisrael’s relationship with G-d operates on two levels.  On the one hand, “B’ni bechori Yisrael,” no matter what we do.  On the other hand, we are expected to earn that closeness to G-d through Torah and mitzvos.  (See this shiur by R' Yehoshua Shapira for a more complete analysis.) 

Lechteich acharai bamidbar…” The love of G-d was already present within the hearts of Bnei Yisrael.  The love of a parent for a child is always there, no matter how distant the relationship.  However, like the love of a husband and wife that grows and develops as they invest in their relationship, the zechus of mitzvos was necessary for us to allow that love to flourish and express itself.

At the beginning of Sefer Shmos, when Moshe heard that word was being spread that he killed a Mitzri guard, he said to himself (Rashi Shmos 2:14) that he now knows why the Jewish people were suffering in exile.  The sin of speaking lashon ha’ra, thought Moshe, is part of the Jewish character; therefore, they deserve galus. 
Moshe got it backwards.  The Jewish character is innately holy and pure.  We are "B'ni bechori."  It’s only because we are stuck in galus, because our true character cannot express itself, that we sink to sinning.  Lashon ha'ra is not the cause of our galus; galus is the cause of our lashon ha'ra.  “Zachor es asher asah Hashem… l’Miriam b’derech b’tzeischem m’Mitzrayim.” Once Mitzrayim is left behind, once we use the tools of Torah and mitzvos to bring out who we truly are, then the Jewish character shines and our souls no longer tolerare those sins. 

(Side note: R' Micha Berger commented to a post earlier in the week that it would be a nice idea to compile links to the websites that have torah from the chardal/dati-leumi world.  I've started putting together a list in the side bar.  Suggestions for sites to list are welcome.  I don't think I need to cover the ones everyone knows about, e.g. the Gush VBM.  Some of the sites I listed (e.g. Yeshivat Birkat Moshe) have vast libraries of shiurim, others (e.g. Har HaMor) don't have a lot and are updated very infrequently, but I included them anyway.  Consider this a work in progress.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

what is the answer for the 99%?

Rabbi Ehrman has done a few posts (e.g. here, here, here, here, here) on the events in Eretz Yisrael, and although he has a different view than my own on some of these issues, I respect the sincerity and thought he put into the topic and therefore would like to offer a response to some of what he wrote, not (as I communicated to him personally) l’kanteir, but l’labein and l’vareir and also to expand a little more on what I wrote yesterday.  For me, writing is cathartic.  On one issue I think R' Ehrman and I both agree: we respect the concern and passion of all those who are thinking about and struggling l’shem shamayim with the question of how to fulfill their responsibility to Hashem and to Klal Yisrael, no matter what derech they take or which gadol they follow. All too often I think, especially here in chutz la’aretz, people are more concerned with whether the Knicks will make the playoffs than with finding the correct derech hachaim! 

I willingly concede the point that the bachur jailed for not responding to a draft summons was acting in accord with what he views as da’as Torah, of R’ Auerbach, in particular. Yet, I don’t see how rationalizing it in that way makes a difference. The bachur could have b’tzinah take his lumps for civil disobedience (by definition, civil disobedience means you flaunt the law knowing you will pay a price – you can’t say “I’m going to disobey but don’t punish me”) and be done with it. Let him be the chareidi Ghandi or Martin Luther King if he wants to be. However, I would be very, very surprised if you told me that R’ Auerbach says you should make a whole simcha of the event and sing songs about “shilton hakofrim,” especially when anyone there could have been learning instead. That’s the chilul Hashem

In a post on Understanding The Charedi Weltanschauung, R’ Ehrman writes, “For a charedi the word "national" is essentially two four letter words [count...:-)]. They feel that that the State has been waging war against them from the very outset. Would you want to work for your enemy??”  I think that it is not from a want of understanding that people react so negatively to this point of view -- it is precisely because they understand it all too well. They see the sacrifices of soldiers defending the State’s borders, they see the tax dollars spend by the State on yeshivos, they see stipends and support for Torah on an unprecedented scale, and instead of a thanks, the State is still considered “the enemy” in the eyes of far too many (but thankfully, not all.)

I think about the behavior of this jailed bachur and compare it with that of a bachur I know about in yeshiva here in the US who, on the day of the big rally, when he heard that his yeshiva encouraged, but did not require that they go, stayed behind, said tehillim in his beis medrash with the others that were there, and then learned k’seder because he sticks to his sedorim no matter what. You can ask him any gemara in nashim and nezikin and he knows it cold. In my opinion a bachur like that, were he in Eretz Yisrael, deserves a draft exemption and as much support as possible. I don’t need him to give me a speech or hold a rally to tell me about how important Torah is – I see it from his behavior. If all bachurim were like that, we would not be having this conversation – I think most Torah Jews would support their continuing to learn. But all bachurim are not like that and never will be.  I might be wrong, but I highly doubt that those dancing in the street around the jailhouse are the types who won’t miss a seder for anything (they obviously missed seder to go there and celebrate) or who you can farher on all of nashim and nezikin and they know it cold. Eleph nichnasim l’mikra, but only one comes out a real talmid chacham.  So what happens to this jailed bachur at age 28, or at age 38, when he has no job, he has a few kids to support, he has no skills, he is of average talent and ability in learning and cannot get a position as a RA”M or Rav? What is R’ Shmuel Auerbach’s solution to the inevitable poverty he (and the other 999) will face at that point? As I wrote here , the simple question is this: what’s the plan? Without a concrete vision of how the ideals being impressed on this bachur can translate into a working reality for his life and the lives of countless others in a similar situation, then what are we doing and where are we going? 

If R’ Auerbach answered that question and I rejected what he said in favor of my own 2 cents, then you can say I lack emunas chachamim. But as far as I know, he or anyone else in the chareidi world has not offered a real answer.  Demanding government support is not a solution. You can’t decry the situation of people writing and doing “ish kol ha’yashar b’einav” without offering something better.

Rabbi Ehrman writes about chareidim that, "....they are also the group of Jews who are doing everything they can to preserve Torah..."  I would like to think that Jews like myself are also doing all we can to preserve Torah as well.  We may differ in methods in outlook, but our goal is the same.  As R' Aviner has written, "Charedi Judaism represents the authentic first floor of the Jewish People. Yet now the time has come to add a second floor, or more precisely, to restore the second floor that disappeared in the Exile: the rebirth of the Nation in its Land, according to its Torah."  If you identify as dati-leumi, modern orthodox, etc. that is not a ptur -- it is a mechayeiv.  It means learning as intensly as the chareidim, davening and being immersed in avodah as deeply as the giants of chassidus, but on top of that also building Eretz Yisrael, using the positive peiros of humanism and secularism to benefit ourselves and contribute to the world around us.  Holding rallies about it and talking about it is not going to convince anyone through.  The best proof is to live it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

this is not a kiddush Hashem -- it's lunacy

I do not know how you can watch clips like this:

Or this:

And not want to cry.  Dancing and singing triumphantly that you defeated the “shilton hakofrim” that wanted to do what exactly – have you show up and fill out a form to get your draft deferment?!  For refusing to do that you think you accomplished a kiddush Hashem on par with what Avraham Avinu did?!

I wanted to write more about bitul b’rov today, but es chatai ani mazkir wading through technicalities of dinei bitul while insanity is taking place is hard to do. 

This whole debate about draft laws is just a symptom.  The real question is this: Do you believe that the establishment of the State of Israel is theologically significant and that the building and support of the State has inherent religious value?

Do you want to stand hand in hand at rallies with Satmar, who view the State is a sin?  Or do you think that the State is at best a vehicle to secure the safety of Jews and provide a nice place to setup yeshivos and no more than that?  You can get that here in the United States.  If that's all the State means, then how can you blame the chassidim who are ready to pack it in and leave because the means (in their view) no longer supports the end? 

In the years I spent in MTA/YU I never once heard a Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva speak about R’ Soloveitchik’s views on Zionism, much less Rav Kook’s.  It was assumed that we supported the State, but why we should do so, is it aschalta d’geulah, how we should respond to that idea, etc. were just not addressed.  The study of Zionism is not for a political science or history class – it belongs in the beis medrash, in the curriculum of our yeshivos.  For shame that it's not there.

For shame that our talmidim don't even know the names of talmidei chachamim and gedolim in the dati-leumi and chardal world.  Unless you live under a rock, if you are in the MO world you probably heard of R' Hershel Shachter, R' Aharon Lichtenstein, and a few other names, but that's about it.  If you are a Rebbe in a MO high school, share a nice ma'amar on the parsha from R' Ya'akov Shapira.  Share something from R' Ariel, from Rav Drukman.  Dispel the notion that the chareidi world has a monopoly on Torah study and Jewish thought.

Sorry for the rant and the lack of coherency.  I really don't know what you can say anymore in response to the lunacy out there, and feel like it's a waste of time anyway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

field trips

One of my daughters is on a school trip today, which is a rare occasion for her.  I often bemoan the fact that while we NYers live in one of the most culturally interesting cities in the world, with no end of museums, theaters, historical sites, and interesting programs, most schools do not take advantage of these resources.  For example, I could not believe when one of my kids once told me that members of her class had never even been to the Museum of Natural History.  People come from all over the world to see this museum, and here, kids born and raised in NY, have never been there.  I was standing in the library a week or two ago and overhead the librarian speaking with someone about going to Sagamore Hill, home of Teddy Roosevelt, and the person said that while he had been there years ago, he had never taken his kid there.  I floated the idea to my kids of starting a club for kids with parents like me who love going to these type places so we can all shelp our kids together, but it was shot down by them as being too geeky.  I should have thought of it when they were younger before teen rebellion set in : ) 

I don’t think the main roadblock to doing trips is cost.  There are many discounts and freebies: Bank of America Museums on Us program, ASTC reciprocal membership, botanical garden reciprocal memberships, many places have free days once or twice a week or ask for a “suggested” admission = pay what you like, park programs are free, and in NY you can go spend just about every summer Sunday seeing some form of outdoor theater even without standing in line for hours to get Shakespeare in the Park tickets.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  People shell out over $50 a kid for an amusement park trip on Chol haMoed – the best museums  will cost you around half that even if you pay full price.  The biggest obstacle is desire.  You have to believe that education can take place outside a classroom, and if you are a parent you need to make time to do it, and of course, it helps if you are personally a geek and enjoy learning something as well as being entertained. 

I’ve always wanted to do a series of posts on interesting places to go and things to see in our area (there are books and books on this already, but so what? )  It’s become more and more challenging to find something new and would love to hear other people's ideas.  What’s funny is that almost every Chol haMoed when I think I’ve finally found someplace completely off the beaten track, we get there and always find at least one other family with kids with kipot and schlepping bags with their food.  Nice to know I’m not the only one.

from the ashes of parah to hischadshus

Why do we read parshas parah before parshas hachodesh?  Chronologically, the new month/year would have started before Bnei Yisrael would have had to become tahor for Pesach using the parah?

The order of the parshiyos does not reflect the chronological order in which events occurred, but rather it reflects the spiritual steps we need to climb.  The Sefas Emes quotes from the Ch haRI”M that hischadshus can only be built on the ashes of parah adumah.  As we discussed yesterday, the taharah of parah comes from someplace higher than a person’s da’as.  “Ain kol chadash tachas ha’shemesh.”  As long as a person remains imprisoned by the limits of his own assumptions, ideas, and intelligence, he/she will discover nothing new.  Throw out the hubris of da’as, throw out the assumption that chok doesn’t exist, that there is an answer that can be discovered for everything, reach beyond “tachas hashemesh” and then you can have real hischadshus.

It sounds so neat and clean, but in reality, at least the way I read it, the Ch haRI”M is describing a messy, painful process.  Sometimes people’s whole world collapses.  They can be faced with terrible pain and tragedy and struggle understand, “Why is this happening to me?”  In truth, the only answer we can often offer is that it’s a chok that no amount of explaining can unravel.  The Ch haRI”M is reassuring us that the ashes of tragedy that rip apart what is are the first steps to creating what will be.

When I saw this Ch haRI”M I also could not help but think about modern Jewish history, about the journey from the ashes of the crematoriums to the hischadshus of shivas Tzion.  I don’t mean to suggest that one event precipitated the other or was necessary for the other to occur; I’m just observing the parallel between history and our parshiyos.

Monday, March 24, 2014

the mystery of parah adumah

Why is the parsha of parah adumah considered such a mysterious chok when the Rishonim give reasons for it: it is the mother cow that comes to clean up the mess of the cheit ha’eigel?  Chasam Sofer explains that parhas parah was one of the parshiyos given to Bnei Yisrael at Marah, right after yetziyas Mitzrayim, before the cheit ha’eigel occurred.  How can G-d give a means of kaparah for a sin yet to occur without predetermining that such a sin will occur?  This, writes the Chasam Sofer, was Aharon’s complaint to Moshe in response to the eigel: “Atah yadata es ha’am ki b’ra hu” – You knew this was going to happen, because there already was a parshas parah.  The mystery of parah adumah is the great mystery of how yediya and bechira coincide.

It was the sin of Adam of eating from the eitz hada'as which brought death into the world.  Therefore, explains the Sefas Emes, for the parah adumah to serve as a metaheir for that tumah of death it must remain an unfathomable mystery, something that our da'as cannot comprehend.  The correction for the pollution of the eitz hada'as must come from a higher source than da'as itself.

Friday, March 21, 2014

why kashrus is discussed in Shmini, Moshe's anger, and a Rashi question

1) What are the laws of kashrus doing in Parshas Shmini, following on the heels of the previous parshiyos’ discussion of the Mishkan, korbanos, and the appointment of kohanim?  The topic seems completely out of place.

Ramban suggests that the focus of the parsha may not be eating, but rather tumah and taharah, a topic of special importance to kohanim.  Alternatively, kohanim served as the teachers of Torah and poskim.  What shaylos does a Rav deal with most of the time?  Yoreh de’ah – kashrus.

Chasam Sofer cites a tradition that the chazir will transform into a kosher animal in the Messianic era.  Had the Mishkan dedication gone smoothly, the ultimate redemption would have been accomplished and the laws of kashrus would have been completely different – we would have been able to have bacon and eggs for breakfast.  The parsha of kashrus had to wait until the events of that inauguration day played out to determine what would be included. 

Rashi (11:2) writes that along with Moshe, Aharon and his children were privileged to teach this parsha of kashrus as a reward for Aharon’s silence in the face of the death of Nadav and Avihu.  Based on Rashi, I would suggest that the parsha of kashrus comes here as a response to the death of Nadav and Avihu.  The Sefas Emes explains that the offering of Nadav and Avihu was not inherently a bad thing; what made it wrong was that they acted based only on their own intuition without any command from G-d.  When it comes to kashrus, Chazal tell us that a person should not say, “I don’t like pig,” but rather should say, “I would love to have a bite of bacon, but Hashem told me I can’t.”  What you like or don’t like makes no difference – it’s all about following the rules, about accepting commands.

2) The parsha tells us that Moshe reacted with anger when he saw that the korban musaf of Rosh Chodesh had been burnt and not eaten.  He had forgotten that only kodshei sha’ah could be eaten, but not kodshei doros.  Ralbag makes two interesting points.  First, he transforms Moshe’s mistake from a shortcoming into a positive, explaining that Moshe’s error was due to his living a life of hisbodedus, connected more to other-worldly matters than day to day life.  Dealing with the halacha l’ma’aseh of what was going on was not his forte.  Today people talk about gadol X or Y not being connected with reality as some kind of major defect; the Ralbag saw it as something laudable, even if it sometimes leads to error.  Second point: Even though Aharon’s children, Nadav and Avihu, had just passed away, Moshe still expected that the korbanos of the day would be treated appropriately and no error in avodah would occur.  Moshe reacted immediately when he thought something was out of place; he did not hold back his anger, saying to himself, “Give them a break – look at what they’ve been through today.”  I don’t think this means that Moshe did not respect the feelings and pain of Aharon.  What I think the Ralbag means is those feelings can be acknowledged outside the Mishkan, outside Aharon’s role as Kohen, but within the walls of the sanctuary, there are rules that have to be followed -- without compromise and under any and all circumstances. 

3) Finally, I want to leave you with a Rashi question.  Commenting on “Va’yeitzu vayivarchu es ha’am,” Rashi (9:23) writes that the bracha given was:

 אמרו ויהי נועם ה' אלוהינו עלינו (תהילים צ יז), יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם.

In Parshas Pekudei, when the Mishkan was finished, Moshe gave a bracha as well (39:43), and there Rashi writes:

אמר להם יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם.
(תהילים צ יז) ויהי נועם ה' ...והוא אחד מאחד עשר מזמורים שבתפילה למשה

Same bracha, but in our parsha does Rashi puts the "vihi noam" before the "y'hi ratzon," while in Pekudei he puts the "y'hi ratzon" first and afterwards the "vihi noam."  Why the switch? 

Extra credit: Why in Pekudei does Rashi add this this is one of 11 mizmorim of "tefillah l'Moshe?"

Thursday, March 20, 2014

bitul b'rov and rubo k'kulo

We have on the one hand a principle of “rubo k’kulo” that tells us that 51% of something is the same as 100%.  For example, cutting 51% of the simanim of an animal is a kosher shechita – you don’t need to cut 100% of the way through.  We have on the other hand a principle of bitul b’rov that tells us that a lesser quantity can be ignored when mixed in with a larger quantity.  Both of these rules are learned out from “acharei rabim l’hatos,” the pasuk that tells us to follow the majority vote in any case that comes before beis din.  But how can that be?  Let’s say two dayanim vote chayav and one dayan votes patur: if we use the principle of rubo k’kulo, the majority vote counts as the decision of the entire court – there is no miyut that needs bitul.  If we say that the one vote of patur is bateil and therefore doesn’t exist, we don’t need to come on to rubo k’kulo – all the votes are accounted for.  How do we learn both principles from the same pasuk – it seems it’s a choice of either/or?

R’ Mordechai Greenberg, R”Y of KBY, uses (link) the Oneg Y”T from yesterday’s post to resolve this question.  The Oneg Y”T writes that bitul can only be used to negate a quality, but not to assign some new quality to an object.  A piece of treif meat can lose its status of issur through bitul, but tzitzis not spun lishma cannot be treated as if they were made lishma through bitul.  R’ Chaim Brisker (stencil) explains that beis din has two functions: 1) to determine truth and 2) to rule based on that determination.  If we didn’t have a din of rov, then anytime there was disagreement among the dayanim we would have to assume 1) they could not discover the truth and 2) a divided court could issue no verdict.  We need bitul b’rov to allow us to ignore the vote of the dissenting dayanim and say that the truth is with the majority.  However, based on the Oneg Y”T’s principle, bitul cannot convert dissenting votes into votes of agreement.  Beis din may know the truth, but two dayanim cannot issue a verdict without a third partner to complete the court.  It's the din of rubo k’kulo that transforms  the majority vote into what effectively is considered a ruling of the entire court.

v'chapeir b'adcha -- and then look at everyone else

The meforshim ask why the expression “v’chapeir b’adcha u’b’ad ha’am,” (9:7) to be a kapparah for yourself and for the nation, is used in the command to Aharon to bring his korbanos.  The people had their own korbanos for kaparah; the offerings brought by Aharon were for himself and his children, not for the nation as a whole?

Ramban answers that Aharon’s personal kaparah was the first step toward his being able to serve as an agent to bring korbanos on behalf of the tzibur.  V’chapeir b’adcha” is a precondition to “u’b’ad ha’am.” 

I want to echo and add to the sentiments expressed here.  We all have opinions about why what that other group is doing is wrong and misguided and we of course are all motivated l’shem shamayim, because if only those guys would shape up, then shalom al yisrael and the world would be a better place.  But there is a precondition to working “b’ad ha’am,” and that is the “chapeir b’adcha.”  Start with yourself first.  Whether the word open, modern, or ultra appears before the flavor of orthodoxy you align yourself with, there is work to do in your own backyard.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oneg Y"T on how bitul b'rov works

Rambam (K.P. 3:9) writes (based on Pesachim 88) that if a group of korbanos pesachim got mixed up together and it was later discovered when looking at the hides that one of the animals was a ba’al mum, none of the korbanos may be eaten. 

Achronim ask (see the Steipler for a nice piece): Why we don’t say that the one korban that is pasul is bateil and all the animals can be eaten?

(Even if you hold that a whole animal is a chaticha ha'reuya l'hiskabeid, that's only a din derabbanan.  Here, you risk bringing chulin l'azarah on pesach sheni if bitul doesn't work and you discover the problem before zerikas ha'dam.)

The Oneg Y”T has a chiddush that tzitzis which were not spun lishma (or matzah not baked lishma) cannot become bateil if it is mixed in with other kosher threads (or good matzah).  Bitul can only nullify a property of an object, e.g. a piece of meat that is assur loses that status if it falls into a mixture.  Bitul cannot assign a new property to an object.  The tzitzis thread (or matzah) that was not made lishma cannot attain that quality of being lishma just because it fell into a mixture.

The Mishna in Parah (9:7) tells us that if some fireplace ashes got mixed in with the ashes of parah adumah, even though the fireplace ashes are bateil to the parah adumah ashes, the mixture cannot be used to be metaheir someone.  Why not?  Once the ashes are bateil, shouldn’t the whole mixture be treated as parah adumah ashes, just like we treat a pot of cholent that a piece of treif meat fell into the same as a pot filled with kosher meat?  The Oneg Y”T answers that this Mishna proves his yesod: meat can loses it’s status of issur through bitul, but fireplace ashes cannot attain the status of ashes of being parah adumah through bitul.

If you are the Oneg Y”T, the answer to the korban pesach question is simple: a pasul korban cannot be made into kosher hekdesh by virtue of bitul.

I wanted to share R’ Wahrman z”l's twist to this story.  He suggests (Oros haPesach siman 74) that even if you reject this Oneg Y”T, there is a still a difference between bitul by korban pesach and other cases.  Bitul changes halachic reality, but it cannot change physical reality.  A thread of tzitzis not spun lishma is physically the same as any other thread; a matzah not baked lishma is still the same physical matzah as any other matzah.  Perhaps bitul can rectify these defects, but cannot rectify a korban found to be a ba’al mum.  At the end of the day, the physical reality of the blemish is still present, and it is that physical reality which prevents the korban from being accepted.

Friday, March 14, 2014

rafu y'deihem min haTorah

A few weeks ago I pointed out the Wired article about researchers who proved that intellectuals use specific hand motions when the talk.  We all know this is true -- watch how a lamdan swings his thumb when he says a sevara while learning. 

Now I understand what Rashi means when he explains Refidim, the place Amalek is said to have attacked us, is called by that name because it hints that "rafu *y'deihem* min haTorah" -- the hands of Klal Yisrael were not strong in learning.  Without the hand motions, it's not the same learning.

the minchas chavitim and the midah of hischadshus

I feel bad for Parshas Tzav – between Zachor and Purim, it gets lost in the shuffle. 

Chazal learn from a gezeirah shavah that the minchas chavitim of Aharon offered every day was as pleasing to G-d as the presents the Nesi’im brought for chanukas hamishkan:

 ורבנן אמרי חביב קרבנו של אהרן לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא כקרבן של נשיאים בקרבנות של נשיאים כתיב זה קרבן נחשון בן עמינדב וכאן כתיב זה קרבן אהרן

There is nothing like opening day.  We all know that by June the Mets will be 10 games (halevai only 10) out of first place, but on March 31, home opener, everyone will still be excited.  The Nesi’im’s gift was brought to celebrate the inauguration of the Mishkan – opening day, with all the excitement.  Aharon’s korban was the dog days of August korban; it was the midseason, day in and day out long haul korban.  Nonetheless, it was equivalent to that of nesi’im – it was brought with the same enthusiasm as opening day (Sefas Emes).
As we once discussed, Rashi writes by the hadlakas hamenorah that the Torah teaches us that Aharon “lo shinah,” he did not deviate.  It goes without saying that Aharon never deviated from the halachic requirements of the mitzvah.  What made Aharon special is that he never deviated from lighting with that same enthusiasm that he had on the first day, even when it was the 1000th day.
The kohen gadol brought on a daily basis the same korban as other kohanim bring on their first day of service because the kohen gadol embodied this midah of hischadshus - of always feeling renewed in his avodah, as if this day was the very first day all over again.

The Shem m’Shmuel points out that the word chinuch seems to have contradictory meanings.  On the one hand, we speak of chanukas habayis, an inauguration, the first time something is done.  On the other hand, chinuch means training, ensuring a behavior is repeated again and again.  Good chinuch is just that – a repetition of that first moment, with all its excitement and enthusiasm, over a lifetime. 

ad d'lo yada and milchemes amalek

The Sefer haChinuch holds that women are exempt from the mitzvah of remembering Amalek because they are exempt from the mitzvah to wage war with Amalek.  The Achronim ask that we find by milchemes mitzvah that everyone, even a kallah, must participate in some way – there are no exemptions.  If you are not on the front lines, you can help manage the supplies, the food, etc.  Even women are included!  R’ Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi answers that there is a difference between having a chovas hagavra to wage war, which applies only to men, and being included as a participant in the war, which applies to everyone.
I think most people assume women are not obligated to drink ad d’lo yada on Purim.  The usual explanation is that it would be a breach of tzniyus.  However, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt in his Shu”T Rivevos Ephraim (I:458) suggests a chiddush: the whole point of drinking is to reach a state of bliss that can be achieved (at least while sober) only when Amalek no longer exists.  It’s a taste of the Messianic era, when  the mitzvah of war with Amalek will finally be won with a victory and there will be no more "arur Haman" to hate.  The celebration therefore only applies to men, who have the mitzvah of fighting Amalek – for women who are exempt from going to war, there is no chiyuv. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

parshas zachor: kavanah for the brachos on krias haTorah

A short while back I did a post discussing the chiyuv to learn hilchos hachag b’chag, which the Rambam lumps together with the halachos of krias hatorah on the moadim.  The simple pshat in Rambam is that krias hatorah, which itself is a kiyum of talmud torah, is a way to fulfill the chiyuv of learning hilchos hachag b’chag.  However, as we discussed in that post, the M”B does not accept that reading of the Rambam.  We suggested that the Rambam understood that both the chiyuv to learn hilchos hachag and the chiyuv of kriah share the common denominator of helping define the kedushas hayom of the day.

In light of that post, I think you can better appreciate a chiddush of R’ Shternbruch in his Shu”T (link) as to why you need to have in mind to be yotzei hearing the bracha before reading parshas zachor as well as the kriah itself.  On a regular shabbos, b’pashtus there is no such requirement (see R’ Yosef Engel in Tziyunim laTorah) because Chazal did not create a new bracha for what simply is a public kiyum of talmud torah.  However, in addition to talmud torah, the kriah of the four parshiyos and the kriah on the moadim fulfills an added requirement to recite these parshiyos as part of a requirement of the day.  Proof to the distinction: on the four parshiyos we need to invoke the rule of shome’a k’oneh so it is as if the listener himself recited the pesukim that he is hearing – there is no need for shome’a k’oneh if all we are talking about is a kiyum of talmud torah.  Therefore, R’ Shternbruch feels that kavanah to be yotzei the brachos is required.

Meiri: ta'anis Esther should be held on Friday

Interesting mareh makom: The Meiri writes in Magen Avos (Inyan #23) that when Purim fell on Shabbos/Sunday the minhag where he lived in Provence was to fast on Friday, not on Thursday as we do.  He presents the argument not to fast on Friday as being based on two factors: 1) even though a ta'anis chovah can be fasted on Friday, ta'anis Esther is not a "chovah gemurah;" 2) the principle of avoiding "akdumei pura'nusa" that would prevent the fast from being moved up a day does not apply to ta'anis Esther because that fast is really a day of simcha. 

Meiri has a simple proof that even a minhag is a good enough mitzvah reason to allow a fast on erev Shabbos or erev Yom Tov: ta'anis bechoros. 

The Mishna Berura in O.C.686 writes that we do not fast ta'anis Esther on Friday because the added time for davening would take away from time spent preparing for kavod Shabbos.  I saw someone ask why the M"B cites this as the reason instead of quoting the halacha (O.C. 249, which the MG"A the M"B is quoting refers to!) that one is not allowed to take on a voluntary fast on erev Shabbos/Y"T.  As Rama paskens, ta'anis Esther is not really a "chovah gemurah," so Fridays should be out.  In light of the Meiri (which I don't know that the M"B saw), perhaps the M"B did not feel that this sevara enough. 

The Divrei Chaim (the real one -- the Sanzer Rav) was so busy on ta'anis Esther he could not even speak with his talmidim (see here). Just as in the days of Esther it was this day which was the day of preparation for war against Amalek (see first Rosh in Megillah quoting R"T) through tzom and tefilah, so too in all generations, on this day in which we can ask for rachamei Shamayim to defeat Amalek.  It's a day to be busy on!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"hakimosi es dvar Hashem" -- what was Shaul thinking?!

If you read the comments to one of the earlier posts this week, you know why I like this Chasam Sofer:

Shaul haMelech’s expression when he greets Shmuel after the war with Amalek is striking:  Baruch atah l’Hashem, hakimosi es dvar Hashem.” (Shmuel I 15:11)  It’s almost like he is reciting a nusach habracha here, and the statement “hakimosi es dvar Hashem” could not be more brazen given that he left Agag alive.  What was Shaul thinking?

Shmuel goes on to criticize Shaul, “Ki chatas kesem meri, v’aven terafim haftzar…,” (15:23) comparing Shaul’s sin to kesem and terafim, sorcery and avodah zarah practices.  Shaul surely realized the seriousness of being accused of rebellion against G-d.  Why did the Navi have to lay it on thicker and add this comparison?

Ramban on the pasuk of “Arur asher lo yakim es divrei haTorah hazos” (Devarim 27:26) quotes a Yerushalmi that explains that the pasuk refers to someone who has the ability to strengthen Torah observance in others and fails to do so.  The Yerushalmi writes that this is what spurred King Yoshiyahu to start his mass campaign to eradicate avodah zarah throughout Eretz Yisrael – he realized that he had a responsibility to the public.

If there is an “arur” for one who fails to live up to that charge, there has to be a “baruch” for one who does.

Chasam Sofer explains that this was Shaul’s agenda.  We all know how politics works – you give a little here, you give a little there, but it’s all in the name of building a broad and strong enough coalition to get the main planks of your agenda accomplished.  If you are a stickler on every point, it may come at the cost of losing followers and/or the ability to achieve bigger gains.  Shaul figured better to give a little here and spare Agag.  Better fight bigger battles with the support of the people intact than to make an issue here and lose it all. 

Baruch atah l’Hashem,” I may have spared Agag, but I earned that baruch, because “hakimosi es dvar Hashem,” in the long run, this will allow me to carry the public and be mechazeik Torah in other areas.

Except it doesn’t always work out that way.  You can give a little for the sake of fighting another day and willing bigger battles, but the danger is that all people will remember is that you gave a little… and can be relied on to give a little more.  Shmuel warned that unlike Yoshiyahu who was able to use his influence to eradicate avodah zarah, Shaul had squandered his influence over the public, therefore he would be unable to stop the spread of avodah zarah.
The backroom politics, horse trading, and cheshbonos are for little people.  Leaders need to stand on principle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

what Mordechai knew

וּמָרְדֳּכַי, יָדַע אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה, וַיִּקְרַע מָרְדֳּכַי אֶת-בְּגָדָיו, וַיִּלְבַּשׁ שַׂק וָאֵפֶר; וַיֵּצֵא בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר, וַיִּזְעַק זְעָקָה גְדוֹלָה וּמָרָה.
The megillah (4:1) tells us that Mordechai knew what had happened and he therefore put on sackcloth and ashes and went crying through the streets.

What did Mordechai know that no one else knew?  The end of the previous chapter in the megillah says that messengers went out to the entire kingdom with the decree to carry out Haman’s plot, and the city of Shushan was in a state of confusion.  Everyone knew what was going on!
Amazing Sefas Emes: Mordechai knew that in shamayim the refuah for this decree was already in place.  There was no chance of it becoming a reality!  Nonetheless, he went out to the streets mourning and crying to arouse people to teshuvah and be mishtatef in their pain.

It’s davka because tzadikim will cry out to Hashem anyway that they are privileged to be privy to Hashem’s plan and can see the yeshu'ah even before it happens.  If you are I knew that things would work out for the best, we wouldn’t be motivated to do daven and teshuvah.  Therefore, Hashem conceals from us what the future holds.  We see only the bleak reality of the here and now, and must daven and trust that it will get better.

Monday, March 10, 2014

the crux of the issue in one sentence

Rabbi Yair Hoffman writes:

"Serious-minded Chareidi Jews do not merely recite the words of the blessings of the Shma perfunctorily. No. When they recite the words, “Ki haim chayeinu – for they are our life – v’orech yameinu and the pathways of our life..” – they truly mean it."

B'mecholas kvodo, Rabbi Hoffman, those of us who do not identify with the Chareidi world also recite those same words -- and we truly mean it as well.

the sentence that should have been part of the "official statement"

The whole “atezeres” thing that took place yesterday in NY has robbed me of any cheishek to write at all – forget writing about that topic.  Look at the logo – Torah with barbed wire?  Is this for real?  Anyway, I just have one small comment about the official statement read at the conclusion.  If I was writing the statement, I would have added just one sentence at the end of this paragraph:

B’siyata diShmaya, we have been privileged in recent years to witness the flourishing of Torah study across the globe, and especially in Eretz Yisrael. In the aftermath of the destruction of European Jewry 70 years ago, when so many predicted the demise of Torah-true Judaism, we take pride and solace in this open manifestation of the Yad Hashem.

My addition:

We give our thanks to those who have served and those who continue to serve in the IDF for protecting our homeland and our people and enabling with G-d’s help that growth of Torah to occur in safety and security.

Perhaps I have a too dim and cynical a view of the world, but sadly, I don't think we will ever see a paragraph like that anytime soon.

Friday, March 07, 2014

looking inside

The Midrash at the beginning of our parsha tells us that even a neveilah is better than a talmid chacham without da’as.  Why do Chazal draw an analogy davka to neveilah?  Sefas Emes explains that a neveilah has bones, has flesh, has skin – it looks just like a live animal.  What’s missing is the neshoma and pnimiyus on the inside.  So too, a talmid chacham without da’as has a frock, a nice hat, etc. but what’s missing is the pnimiyus, the da’as on the inside. 

Problem is in our world, all people look at is the outside.

 On the flip side, the Torah says regarding the korban olah that it is offered “…lirtzono lifnei Hashem.” (1:3)  Why does the Torah need to add the words “lifnei Hashem?”  We all know where and to whom the korban is being offered.  Ksav Sofer answers: Chazal say that beis din has a right to coerce a person until he says “rotzeh ani” and consents to bring the korban.  Were you or I to see this person getting hit by beis din until he cries “Uncle!” we would say to ourselves that there’s no way he really means it.  However, the Rambam (Hil Geirushin ch 2) explains that in a person’s heart of hearts he really does want to do the right thing.  The coercion is not to force him to do something against his will; it’s to force his brain and body to respond to his deeper inner will.  We see it as coercion, but ”…lifnei Hashem,” in G-d’s eyes, where the truth of what’s in a person’s heart is known, it is “lirtzono.”

Thursday, March 06, 2014

see no evil, hear no evil

The Netziv brings an amazing Tosefta on the pasuk, “V’nefesh ki techetah v’sham’ah kol alah… im lo yagid v’nasa avono.” (5:1)  Lichorah the first phrases should be reversed.  A person needs to first hear a shevu’ah and decide to ignore it and then he becomes a choteih.  Why does the Torah put the “v’nefesh ki tachetah” first and only then say what the person did wrong?

 רבי אלעזר בן מתיא אומר אין אדם מתחייב אא"כ חטא שנא' (שם) נפש כי תחטא ושמעה

Before the person actually decided not to testify, he had to witness something worth coming to court to testify about.  The circumstance of “v’sham’ah ko alah” had to arise and present itself.  That, says the Netziv, did not happen by chance.  The Tosefta (Shavuos 3:3, see the Netziv’s girsa changes) explains that what a person hears and sees is dictated by Hashem.   It’s only because the person already was guilty of wrongdoing that Hashem put him in the difficult situation of “v’sham’ah kol alah,” of seeing something that would force him to have to serve as a witness. 

Chazal say that someone who sees the sotah disgraced should take a vow of nezirus.  Everybody asks: Isn’t it the guy who *doesn’t* see what happens to the sotah and is not shocked who needs nezirus?  The guy who sees the sotah already got the message?!  In light of the Netziv the answer perhaps is that the very fact that the person witnessed such a terrible thing proves that he has work to do on himself. 

The Netziv doesn’t say it, but maybe with his pshat we can answer another question the meforshim ask.  Why does the pasuk end, “v’nasa avono?”  The word “avon” means deliberate crime.  The pasuk, however, is talking about someone who is a shogeg?  Perhaps “avon” is not referring to the mistake of the shevuas ha’eidus mentioned in the pasuk, but rather to the wrongdoing that precipitated the person being put in the shevu’ah situation to begin with. 

When you turn on the internet, radio, TV, newspapers, etc. and see or hear all the tragedies out there, yes, you can say, “Baruch Hashem – it’s not me!” but the truth is that it is us.  The very fact that we are seeing or hearing such things is a wakeup call.   

Maybe it’s the approach of Purim that made me think of the connection to what we say on Yom Ki-Purim.  In musaf, when we describe the avodah of the Kohen gadol, we say the piyut of “emes mah nehedar” and we say “ashrei ayin…,” how fortunate were the eyes able to see such a beautiful sight.  The Tosefta quoted by the Netziv ends on a positive note:
וכן היה ר' אלעזר בן מתיא אומר מתחייב לראות הרואה עושי מצוה זכה לראות.

Maybe we are not speaking about seeing the avodah itself when we say “ashrei ayin,” but rather seeing the the avodah is a siman that, “ashrei ayin,” the person who was zocheh to witness that sight must indeed have kadosh and tahor eyes, and is so very fortunate.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

you can't make this stuff up

From the Jeffrey Goldberg interview with Obama published earlier in the week:

OBAMA: I believe that President Abbas is sincere about his willingness to recognize Israel and its right to exist, to recognize Israel’s legitimate security needs, to shun violence, to resolve these issues in a diplomatic fashion that meets the concerns of the people of Israel.

Headline news this morning, from the AP:

Israeli naval forces raided a ship in the Red Sea early Wednesday and seized dozens of advanced rockets from Iran destined for Palestinian militants in Gaza that would have significantly boosted their ability to strike Israeli citizens, the military said.

More from Obama:

“We’ve now seen 15 to 20 percent of those chemical weapons on their way out of Syria with a very concrete schedule to get rid of the rest,” Obama told me. “That would not have happened had the Iranians said, ‘Obama’s bluffing, he’s not actually really willing to take a strike.’ If the Russians had said, ‘Ehh, don’t worry about it, all those submarines that are floating around your coastline, that’s all just for show.’ Of course they took it seriously! That’s why they engaged in the policy they did.”

Headline  article in the Fiscal Times - "Assad Thumbs His Nose at Deal to Remove Chemical Weapons"

"In other words, 18 months of negotiations between Assad and the opposition have yielded next to nothing....Under a deal struck with the Russians and Americans, Assad is supposed to give these weapons up. But reports Wednesday indicate that he’s gotten rid of less than 4 percent of them."

And from the Iranian FARS news agency:

TEHRAN (FNA)- Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces for Cultural Affairs and Defense Publicity Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri called the recent statements of US President Barack Obama on Iran as "the joke of the year"...

Too bad the American people still haven't realized it.

chinuch for mikra megillah

When I told my wife the GR”A mentioned in yesterday’s post, that “zichram lo yasuf m’zar’am” refers specifically to mikra megillah, she remarked that practically this makes sense because we all bring our children to shul to hear megillah.  This minhag is actually brought by the Tur and S.A. (end of siman 689).  It seems the S.A. is not talking about the normal din of chinuch, as why would that deserve special mention more than by any other mitzvah?  Also, the Achronim warn not to bring too young children, as they disturb everyone, which implies that the age children we are talking about is not the same as the normal chinuch age. 

The gemara (Meg 4) tells us that even women are obligated in mikra megillah because “af hein hayu b’oso ha’nes.”  The Yerushalmi (quoted in the Hagahos Maimoni, Hil Megillah perek 1) goes a step further and applies the same sevara to ketanim as well.  (Parenthetically, you see from this Yerushalmi that “af hein” applies to those who were in danger and saved, not only to women because Esther caused the miracle, as some Rishonim learn.)  R’ Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi asks: why do we need to come on to the din of “af hein” to obligate children in mikra megillah?  We have a din of chinuch in kol hatorah kulah!?

You can read Rav Ezrachi’s answer here.  Maybe the Yerushalmi is not talking about a din of chinuch at all.  This is the same Yerushalmi that is the source for the din in S.A. above which deals with little kids.  Perhaps there is some kind of unique din here that obligates all to hear megillah. 

Whatever the lomdus and however you explain it, there is undeniably some kind of special connection between Purim and children.  The L. Rebbe discusses how so many of the minhagim of the day – banging for Haman, dressing up, etc. – are an attraction for children in particular.  Chazal tell us that Mordechai countered Haman’s decree by gathering thousands of children and learning with them and it was in that zechus that the nes happened.  Limud haTorah by Jewish children is a powerful, powerful force. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

chinuch on mitzvos where the kiyum is b'lev

 וְהַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה נִזְכָּרִים וְנַעֲשִׂים בְּכָל-דּוֹר וָדוֹר, מִשְׁפָּחָה וּמִשְׁפָּחָה, מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה, וְעִיר וָעִיר; וִימֵי הַפּוּרִים הָאֵלֶּה, לֹא יַעַבְרוּ מִתּוֹךְ הַיְּהוּדִים, וְזִכְרָם, לֹא-יָסוּף מִזַּרְעָם.

Why the difference between the use of “ymei haPurim”/”yehudim” in the first half of the pasuk and zichram”/”zar’am” in the second half?   The GR”A explains that “V’Ymei haPurim ha’eilu lo ya’avru m’toch hayehudim” (9:28) refers to the chiyuv of partying; “V’zichram lo yasuf m’zar’am” refers to the chiyuv of mikra megillah.  …”  (Compare with Malbim’s explanation of the double language of “nizkarim v’na’asim” earlier in the same pasuk: "nizkarim" refers to mikra megillah; "na'asim" refers to mishteh, simcha, and mishloach manos.)   R’ Moshe Shternbruch in Moadim u’Zmanim (vol 2 footnote to p 184) deduces a chiddush l’halacha from here: there is only a din of chinuch, a mitzvah on “zar’am,” for mikra megillah, but not for mishteh and simcha. 
Why should this be the case?  R’ Shternbruch suggests that the mitzvah of chinuch only applies to mitzvos where the ma’aseh mitzvah is everything, but not to mitzvos where the act done is just a means to a kiyum b’lev, an emotional or intellectual reaction.  A child can be trained to perform a rote act; he/she cannot be trained or expected to have an emotional response.  When it comes to eating and drinking on Purim, the meal is just a means to an end of creating a state of simcha – the kiyum b’lev is what is key.  
I don’t understand.  The Rambam in Hil Yom Tov ch 6 writes that included in the mitzvah of simchas Yom Tov is buying clothes for one’s wife and buying toys or candy for one’s children.  Doesn’t that imply that the mitzvah of simcha applies to children as well?  And if you tell me that the Rambam does not mean the child has his own mitzvah of simcha, but rather you fulfill your mitzvah of simcha by entertaining the child and your family, then why not apply the same standard to Purim as well?  Why would the pasuk not tell us that mishteh and simcha applies to “zar’am” as well because we have to make them happy on the day of Purim in order to fulfill our mitzah of simcha? 
If anything, it seems that simchas Yom Tov is more of a kiyum b’lev than simchas Purim.  Rav Soloveitchik (Shiurim l’Zecher Aba Mari) contrasts the Rambam’s view, which allows for a subjective kiyum of simcha through food, new clothes, toys, etc. with that of Tos (M.K. 14), who holds that m’dorasya simcha is fulfilled only by eating a korban shelamim.  According to Tos., it’s the act of eating korban meat which is key; according to the Rambam there is no specific act mandated to fulfill simcha because the kiyum is the emotional state, not what you do.  However, when it comes to simchas Purim, the Eimek Bracha writes that it’s the act of drinking in and of itself which is the mitzvah, not the state of simcha it brings you to.  "Ad d'lo yada" is a ptur; it's the point beyond which one is exempt from mitzvah performance -- it's not a state of mind that one is required to ellicit for the kiyum mitzvah.
Secondly, does R’ Shternbruch mean to suggest that there is no din of chinuch on mitzvos like tefilah?  Reciting kri’as shema?  Aren't these kiyumim sheb'lev?  Even haggadah, where children are the centerpiece of the mitzvah, is some degree is not about reciting words, but is about eliciting the reaction of “ro’eh es atzmo k’ilu hu yatzah m’Mitzrayim,” experiencing the Exodus as a reality.  These are a few examples that came to my mind, but you probably can think of others.
It’s a little bit of a kvetch, but I want to suggest that we can understand the GR”A in light of the Rambam we learned last week (Meg 2:18):
  כל ספרי הנביאים וכל הכתובים, עתידין ליבטל לימות המשיח, חוץ ממגילת אסתר--הרי היא קיימת כחמישה חומשי תורה, וכהלכות של תורה שבעל פה, שאינן בטילין, לעולם.
The Rambam paskens based on the Yerushalmi that the megillah and chumash are the only seforim in Tanach that will still be with us after Moshiach comes.  The Rambam doesn’t say anything about the celebration of Purim as a holiday.  (The Yalkut Shimoni in Mishlei does imply that Purim as a mo’ed will not be bateil.  I don’t see this in the Rambam’s words or in the Yerushalmi, which only talks about megillah as a text.  Still, I admit you can easily argue that I am splitting hairs.) 
Coming back to the pasuk, read according to GR”A, what it is telling us is that mishteh and simcha, the drinking and partying, has been with us since the days of Mordechai and Esther.  However, what will remain with our children, "zara'am,"who IY”H will be living in the days of Moshiach, will be not be the partying, but “zichram” alone, the text of megillah and the lessons it teaches. 
Is this torah about Purim or Purim torah? 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Rosh Devarcha Emes = ADaR

Kiddushin 31a:

 דרש עולא רבה אפיתחא דבי נשיאה מאי דכתיב יודוך ה'כל מלכי ארץ כי שמעו אמרי פיך מאמר פיך לא נאמר אלא אמרי פיך בשעה שאמר הקב"ה אנכי ולא יהיה לך אמרו אומות העולם לכבוד עצמו הוא דורש כיון שאמר כבד את אביך ואת אמך חזרו והודו למאמרות הראשונות רבא אמר מהכא ראש דברך אמת ראש דברך ולא סוף דברך אלא מסוף דברך ניכר שראש דברך אמת

The gemara says that Ulla darshened that the nations of the world thought that G-d was giving commandments for his own aggrandizement until they heard the commandment of “Honor your Mother and Father.”  Rava continued and darshened the pasuk of “Rosh devarcha emes” (Tehillim 119:160) – from “sof devarcha,” the truth of the end words, we know that the first words are true as well.

The simple pshat in the gemara is that Rava was just building on Ulla, using a pasuk in Tehillim as a springboard for the same idea.  However, this opens the door to a few questions:

1)      Maharasha asks: The pasuk only refers to “Rosh devarcha.”  Where did Rava get the idea that we learn anything from “sof devaracha?”

2)      Maharasha’s second question: Why is the commandment of kibud va called “sof devarcha?”  It is not the last commandment of the aseres hadibbros?

3)      Lastly, Rashi writes that “l’achar zman” the nochrim admitted that “rosh devarcha” is also true.  This implies some passage of time, yet it should have only taken seconds to get from the first dibros to “kabeid…?”

The Imrei Baruch of Vizhnitz explains that Rava is teaching us a new idea.

Rosh Devarcha Emes is roshei teivos ADaR.

 רֹאשׁ-דְּבָרְךָ אֱמֶת; וּלְעוֹלָם, כָּל-מִשְׁפַּט צִדְקֶךָ.

The nochrim for hundreds of years complained (see A”Z 2b) that “kafah aleihem har k’gigis,” that Hashem forced us into taking the Torah, but it was not something we earned or deserved.  “L’achar zman,” later in time, as Rashi explains, i.e. when we got to the Adar of Mordechai and Esther, the kabbalas haTorah of that Purim, which done with love, validated in retrospect the original kabbalas haTorah.  “Rosh devarcha emes”  = Adar spelled backwards, because thanks to Purim we could look back in history, back in time, and prove that we alone deserve a special relationship with Hashem and deserved the Torah.

v’halachti imachem b’chamas Kerry

I’m not a navi, I don’t have ruach hakodesh, this is not da’as Torah.  I think it’s common sense.  If we, Klal Yisrael, threaten boycotts of Yehudah and Shomron, threaten to leave Eretz Yisrael, midah k’negged midah our enemies will be spiritually empowered to attack us with boycotts and with threats against our sovereignty over the land, etc. 

Here’s a Bloomberg article; a similar one ran yesterday in the Times of Israel.  Read about Obama and Kerry y’mach shemam’s threats and ultimatums.  Read about their illusions -- the "success" they think they have had with Iran, even as Iran continues its efforts to build a nuclear weapon; the "success" they think they have had in Syria, which still has not dismantled its chemical weapons and where over 100,000 have been killed; the "success" they have had in Russia, which just invaded the Ukraine.  (Update: Another excellent piece in Commentary here.)  Melech tipeish or simply a rasha?  Who knows.  V’halachti imachem b’chamas Kerry.
What is most upsetting about the situation is how little it seems we can do.  It is a tremendous challenge when all avenues of hishtadlus are basically moot and all we have is Torah and tefillah.  We as a people need a lot of chizuk...