Wednesday, April 23, 2014

welcome back! - questions and answers left from Pesach

So have you had that first bite of chametz yet? 

Best question I got at the seder: The haggadah darshens the word “amaleinu” in the pasuk “Va’yar es anyeinu v’es amaleinu…” as referring to Pharoah’s decree to throw the Jewish babies into the Nile.  The Kol Bo and some other early meforshim explain that the derush is based on the pasuk’s use of the word “amal,” which they define as work done for naught.  Having children was pointless if they would only be killed.  Daughter #1 asked how this definition of "amal" fits with the concept of "ameilus" in Torah – is the effort we expend on our learning work done for naught?! 

My wife was quick on the draw and immediately answered that what a person gains from studying Torah is a matanah from Hashem.  Yagati u’matzasi” – it’s like finding something in the street, not a byproduct of the labor put in.  Anyone have any other answer?

Daughter #2 raised the following dilemma: Having woken up late, she was davening musaf on the first day of Pesach well into the afternoon after lunch.  Those of us who davened b’tzibur said mashiv ha'ruach in musaf and would only omit it going forward from mincha.  Daughter #2 knows from past experience that when it is past the zman for mincha, she should daven mincha before musaf based on the principle of tadir.  Question: should she say mashiv ha'ruach in her musaf or not?  The tzibur said it when they davened musaf, but that was before davening mincha.  Does the fact that the tzibur already said tal make a difference even if she wasn’t there?  Would it make a difference if she davened musaf first and then mincha?   

This question is l’shitasa of the Shmini Atzeres dilemma (I, II, III, and IV) caused by her coming to shul late so that she was holding in shacharis when the rest of the tzibur was up to musaf,  She therefore wasn't sure whether to add mashiv haruach in shacharis after hearing it announced by the gabai or not.  It all boils down to the same issue of the interplay between the announcement vs. tefilas hayom as a trigger to stop/start saying the tal/geshem additions.  Obviously if you never hear tefilas tal or never hear the announcement to start saying mashiv haruach, you still need to do so at some point.  The announcement is not the trigger of the switch.  On the other hand, the halacha says that you don’t automatically make the switch in the tefilas hayom – even if you are davening b’yechidus, the M.B. writes that you should time your davening to coincide with that of the tzibur so you make the switch when they hear the announcement.  I still don’t have clear how the factors work together.  My daughter is nice enough to continually put herself in situations where I get to revisit my thinking on the issue.
I spent a chunk of time over the chag reading Moshe Halbertal's book Maimonides: Life and Thought, which my public library system was able to get for me.  Excellent, well written study.

The Midrash writes that after kri’as yam suf Bnei Yisrael turned to Moshe and said that they had a list of tasks to do, among them celebrating pesach and singing shirah, and now that the final item was checked off, time to go back to Mitzrayim.  Moshe answered that they still had an outstanding obligation, as they had noy yet received the Torah.  I can’t find it now in my jumbled archives, but I must have discussed this Midrash before because it’s one of my favorites.  How could it be that Bnei Yisrael, after experiencing the geulah, wanted to return to slavery?

The first time I saw this Midrash I thought Chazal knew us all too well.  We are supposed to see ourselves as having experienced geulah, but the clock no sooner strikes time for ma’ariv on the last day of Pesach and people are rushing back to their blackberries, their I-phones, the pizza store, etc.  We are so quick to run back to avdus!  I read Chazal as giving us mussar, projecting our desire to run back onto our forefathers so we see just how absurd our behavior is.

A few years ago I found that R’ Tzadok haKohen reads the Midrash quite differently.  What do your kids do after they get off a roller coaster ride?  They get right back on line to do it all over again.  After experiencing such hisgalus of Hashem’s presence and such closeness to Him during yetzias Mitzrayin, when the ride was over, Bnei Yisrael wanted nothing more than to go back and experience it all over again.  Moshe told them they don’t need Mitzrayim to have that experience again – there will be a kabbalas haTorah that will be even more thrilling.

This year I saw the Shem m’Shmuel has yet another approach.  We know that Hashem had to cut the galus of Mitzrayim short.  Instead of 400 years of slavery, Bnei Yisrael spent only 210 years there because had they remained longer, they would have been lost.  So what happened to those missing years?  We are still making up for them.  We are still working toward the ultimate geulah that would have happened had those 400 years been completed.  Our forefathers who left Mitzrayim knew the burden they would be leaving us with; therefore, after experiencing yetzias Mitzrayim and kri'as Yam Suf they said to Moshe that they wanted to go back.  They assumed that once they had the chizuk of yetzias Mitzrayim and kri'as Yam Suf under their belts they could make it the rest of the way to year 400 and we would be off the hook.  
The Shem m'Shmuel stresses the self-sacrifice involved in that decision, but perhaps the greater lesson is in Moshe's response that they had an obligation to receive the Torah.   Perhaps Moshe was addressing himself to those concerns over the galus of future generations.  One way to avoid those problems would be to return to slavery for another 190 years.  Moshe, however, was showing that there was another way as well: Torah could provide redemption.  That lesson is still relevant to us as we count our way down (or up) to Shavuos.


  1. Famous [I thought] Chofetz Chayim on אנו עמלים והם עמלים. He asks that granted that they may not get schar in Olam Habah, but at least they get compensated for their work in Olam Hazeh. He then defines amailus as work which did not have any positive conclusion. Example: if a tailor contracts to make a suit, and then delivers it without the sleeves, he cannot demand 80% of the agreed-upon price. He gets nothing [in an honest legal system]. This is amailus which has no schar even in Olam Hazeh. IOW, amailus is the effort and not the result, and we get paid in Olam Hazeh only for results [again, in a sane and honest society].

    OTOH, in Torah, you get schar for the effort. Results are not relevant to the schar. Indeed, l'maikam shmait'sah is siyata d'Shmaya [as your Rebbetzin pointed out]. You put in hours working on a presenting a blog article on a Torah concept, and at the end, you are left with questions and no answers, e.g., and the final result is at least as much confusion as when you started. The schar is there.

    Thus, very similar if not identical to the Kol Bo's understanding.

    As far as עמלינו אלו הבנים, the concept, even not in Mitzrayim, is the same. The schar is for what you put into ושננתם. Ultimately, the results are out of our hands. May we be zocheh to have schar from the results also. I think that qualifies as
    אוכל פרותיהם בעולם הבא in the most glorious way.

    1. I knew that C.C., but did not connect it (maybe I should have looked it up again) because I assumed the C.C. was just redefining what the standard for payment is, e.g. a guy who spends 10 hours on a Tos which is hard for him gets more schar that the guy who chaps it in an hour and wastes the other 9, as opposed to making shirts where you get paid per piece, whether it takes 1 hour or 10 to make it. It doesn't necessarily follow that the guy who worked for 10 hours on the shirt was wasting his time (the Kol Bo's definition of ameilus), just that he can't collect for it. I'll trust your recollection of the C.C. better than mine, so I guess it answers the question.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. In the comment I just deleted, I pointed out that you should not trust my recollection; since I don't trust my memory, certainly you shouldn't. I also said it was in חפץ חיים על התורה on the possuk ואת עמלנו.

      Which proves my point. It's not there. It's actually at the beginning of בחקותי.

  2. I heard from my rebbi al pi same CC of amelus that since the RBSO wants the effort, not result, the mitzvah of pru urvu in Mitzrayim was the best example of that, they had babies knowing full well theres a good chance that it would be a boy, and thus thrown into the water- all that pain for a baby that might not live...that's amalenu elu habanim