Friday, May 30, 2014
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-רְאוּבֵן בְּכֹר יִשְׂרָאֵל תּוֹלְדֹתָם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָם כָּל-זָכָר מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה כֹּל יֹצֵא צָבָא:
פְּקֻדֵיהֶם לְמַטֵּה רְאוּבֵן שִׁשָּׁה וְאַרְבָּעִים אֶלֶף וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת:
What’s the difference between the count of “kol sheimos l’gulgelosam” (1:20) and “pekudeihem” (1:21) of the same sheivet being counted? If “kol sheimos l’gulgelosam” means a count of individuals, then why repeat the word “pekudeihem…,” which is also a tally of individuals? And why switch roots from “mispar” to “pekod?”
גָּדוֹל אֲדוֹנֵינוּ וְרַב-כֹּחַ לִתְבוּנָתוֹ אֵין מִסְפָּר
Let me end off with a question: if "mispar" connotes not just tallying, but relating something, telling a story, what is sefiras ha'omer all about?
Friday, May 23, 2014
2)After the count of the shevatim, the Torah devotes itself (1:47-53) to telling us the responsibilities of sheivet Levi, who Moshe was commanded not to count. The perek then ends with the statement that seems completely out of place: “ Bnei Yisrael did all that Hashem commanded to Moshe…” (1:54) Shouldn’t this pasuk have come before the discussion of the role of the Levi’im, as a conclusion and coda to the count of the other shevatim? What does what Bnei Yisrael did have to do with the mission of the Levi’im?
The Midrash answers that what Bnei Yisrael did is vacate the space around the Mishkan so that the tribe of Levi could have their place and fulfill their role.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Monday, May 19, 2014
ולא ידעתי מה הטעם בזה שיאמר הקב"ה כי בשמרנו כל המצוות ועשותנו רצונו לא ימאס אותנו בגעול נפשו
Friday, May 16, 2014
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The technical part of R’ Yosef’s shiur was devoted to answering a R’ Akiva Eiger. If a person has a safeik whether or not he said a birchas hane’henin, the rule of thumb is safeik brachos l’hakeil. Yet, the halacha is that someone who has hana’ah from this world without saying a bracha violates an issur me’ila. Since a safeik bracha amounts to a safeik issur, so why not just skip eating the food and avoid the issur?
R’ Yosef suggested that it’s not that there’s an issur me’ila that a bracha comes to remove, but rather it’s the failure to say a bracha which creates the issur. Since the chachamim never obligated a person to say a bracha in a case of safeik, m’meila there is no issur. He brought a number of proofs that I won’t go into, among them the fact that an onein can eat without a bracha even though an onein obviously cannot do issurim.
The highlight for me was the tangents that he interspersed throughout the talk. For example, on the topic of chumra, he mentioned a Shu”T Ginas Veradim (not the PM”G – not sure who it is) that holds that if all the poskim in Klal Yisrael are meikil on a certain issue, someone who chooses to be machmir is an apikores for disregarding the views of chachamei yisrael! A person needs to have a Rav who is competent to advise on what chumros are proper chumros to take on and what chumros are unnecessary and strange. He did offer some interesting examples of “good” chumros: 1) waiting for the Rabeinu Tam zman to end Shabbos, as Maran the beit Yosef paskens like R”T (even though m’ikar hadin the minhag is like the Geonim); 2) wearing Rabeinu Tam tefillin; 3) women should avoid wearing sheitels.
I've only seen videos of R' Ovadya zt"l, but from the tinted glasses and turban to the ability to quote Maran in Shulchan Aruch all over without opening a sefer, his son is the spitting image of his father.
R’ Dovid Lau said over a nice vort in the name of his grandfather, R’ Yedidya Frankel. Rashi writes at the beginning of Netzavim that when Klal Yisrael heard 100 minus 2 kelalos in the tochacha of Ki Tavo, they were crestfallen. Therefore, Moshe Rabeinu told them that despite all the threatened punishments, “Atem Nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem,” they remain standing proudly before G-d and will always remain that way. Three questions on the Rashi: 1) Why does Rashi say “100 minus 2” – is this a math test? Why did Rashi not just say 98? 2) The tochacha in Ki Tavo includes the line that “kol choli v’kol makah asher lo kesuvim” will also be brought on them, so there are actually more potential punishments then the 98 that are spelled out; 3) Why were Klal Yisrael crestfallen after the tochacha in Ki Tavo but not after the tochacha in our parsha of Bechukosai?
R’ Lau answered that at the end of the tochacha in Bechokosai we have the pesukim of “Lo me’astim v’lo ge’altim…” and “v’Zachti lahem bris rishonim…” After all the threats and punishments, there is a nechama. When Rashi in Nitzavim says that Klal Yisrael were afraid because they had heard “100 minus 2” he doesn’t mean that they heard two kelalos short of 100 –- what Rashi means is that they heard kelalos short the two pesukim of nechama found in our parsha. Tochacha without nechama is unbearable.
I would like to suggest at least to answer question #3 that the difference between the two parshiyos is that the tochacha in Bechukosai was said by G-d; the tochacha in Ki Tavo was Moshe’s words. Even if G-d himself is giving the tochacha, so long as Moshe Rabeinu and our others leaders are standing with us, then we are not that afraid. But if Moshe Rabeinu, if our leaders, turn against us and they too beat us down with words of rebuke, then we know we are in trouble.
Having seen the Rishon l’Tzion and R’ David Lau, I feel pretty confident that our leaders stand with us as our noble defenders should c”v there be tochachos against us.
Friday, May 09, 2014
Other meforshim offer other explanations along these same lines of shemitah being an exception that proves some rule regarding mitzvos in general. Chasam Sofer sees shemitah singled out demonstrating the Divine authorship of all mitzvos, as the promise of a bumper crop in the sixth year before shemitah can only come from G-d. Ksav Sofer writes that observance of shemitah is possible only if one has faith that G-d will provide food for the seventh year and only if Klal Yisrael bands together to help those farmers who have no means of making a living that year. Shemitah is the paradigm of emunah and ahavas yisrael, qualities that are basic to a fulfillment of the rest of Torah.
The assumption of all these approaches is that shemitah is no different than any other mitzvah; there should be no reason to suspect it should not have been given at Sinai, and no need for the pasuk to mention that fact. R’ Tzadok haKohen with his unique perspective forces us to rethink those assumptions . It’s clear from Rashi that there are two “sugyos” in Chumash where Torah was given to Klal Yisrael: 1) Sinai; 2) Arvos Moav, as recounted in Sefer Devarim. It’s not just 40 years of time that separate these events, but rather the two parshiyos address different generations with different goals and different needs. The generation that stood at Sinai looked forward to a life of consuming mon, of studying Torah at the feet of Moshe Rabeinu, a life surrounded by miracles, of living in Eretz Yisrael with the final geulah realized. We know that was not to be. The generation that stood at Arvos Moav forty years later looked to Yehoshua for leadership, looked toward dealing with the challenge of the physical conquest of Eretz Yisrael, of toil in the fields and hard work to simply have food to eat and secure homes.
Who does the mitzvah of shemitah speak to? It addresses itself to the farmer who works the soil year after year and now must stop to recharge and remember that his parnasa is really b’ydei shamayim. The generation that stood at Sinai and anticipated a life living on mon didn’t need this mitzvah; it’s the generation that stood at Arvos Moav and would become farmers who needed this mitzvah. “Mah inyan shemitah eitzel Har Sinai?” The mitzvah was given to the wrong generation!
The lesson here, as R’ Tzadok sees it, is that even as Klal Yisrael was on the highest and most lofty levels, standing at Sinai, the Torah acknowledged human frailty and was addressing itself to the challenges of those farmers who would live 40 years later. Even as a person grows and climbs to greater and greater heights, he must not lose sight of his own shortcomings, of the potential to fall and to fail. Even while standing on Sinai, we need to have in mind mitzvos like shemitah.
Thursday, May 08, 2014
אבל הברית שבמשנה תורה ירמז לגלותנו זה ולגאולה שנגאל ממנו. כי הסתכלנו תחילה שלא נרמז שם קץ וקצב ולא הבטיח בגאולה, רק תלה אותה בתשובה
The galus of Bayis Rishon had a seventy year fixed end date, but the galus of Bayis Sheni has no end date -- it all depends on teshuvah.
Yet, Ramban in Parshas Nitzavim (Devarim 32:40), writes that the Torah guarantees that geulah will happen without requiring teshuvah or avodah as a precondition:
והנה אין בשירה הזאת תנאי בתשובה ועבודה, רק היא שטר עדות שנעשה הרעות ונוכל, ושהוא יתברך יעשה בנו בתוכחות חימה, אבל לא ישבית זכרנו, וישוב ויתנחם ויפרע מן האויבים בחרבו הקשה והגדולה והחזקה, ויכפר על חטאתינו למען שמו.
Does geulah depends on teshuvah or does it not?
I saw Rav Drukman raises this question in his wonderful sefer "Kim'a Kim'a" and distinguishes between the start of the geulah process, which is an inevitable certainty at some point irrespective of Klal Yisrael doing teshuvah, and the completion of geulah, which will ultimately entail Klal Yisrael returning to Hashem. Perhaps you can distinguish between different levels or stages of teshuvah as well.
(Parenthetically, it's sad that books like R' Drukman's "Kim'a Kim'a" are not read and discussed in our yeshivos (I mean those, especially in the modern orthodox world, that claim to impart Zionism and/or a love of Eretz Yisrael to their students). I think parents and educators assume certain values get transmitted by osmosis. It's taken as a given that supporting Eretz Yisrael as our homeland is somehow tied into our identity as religious Jews, but why that should be the case and what that means philosophically and/or l'ma'aseh is never really articulated. It seems like the more fundamental the topic, the less likely it is to be discussed inside a classroom, which is why there is no curriculum for ikkarei emunah and other hashkafic issues. Is it because we don't want students to think too much or they might get confused or led astray? Or maybe ask questions that we can't answer?)
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Those two stories, one about the concept of an aliyah of rescue [for the Jews of France] and the other about Israel dispatching trained security professionals to Jews in isolated communities [Ukraine], demonstrate a crucial point about Israel’s value to the Jewish world: not only do Jews feel safer in Israel than in most places in the world, but Jews feel safer all around the world simply because of Israel.However, there is more to the story than that. The gemara (Sanhedrin 97b) has a machlokes R' Eliezer and R' Yehoshua as to how we will get to the point of ultimate geulah:
ר' אליעזר אומר אם ישראל עושין תשובה נגאלין ואם לאו אין נגאלין אמר ליה רבי יהושע אם אין עושין תשובה אין נגאלין אלא הקב"ה מעמיד להן מלך שגזרותיו קשות כהמן וישראל עושין תשובה ומחזירן למוטב
R' Eliezer holds that geulah depends on teshuvah and teshuvah alone. R' Yehoshua holds that even if Klal Yisrael fails to do teshuvah, Hashem will cause a king worse than Haman to be appointed and force us willy-nilly to come back. (What exactly the hesber of the machlokes is is a discussion for another time. Even according to R' Yehoshua it seems the driving force for geulah is teshuvah, just we can be pushed to get there. See Maharasha.)
The gemara concludes with R' Eliezer being unable to respond to the arguments of R' Yehoshua, implying that he is modeh. The gemara then adds another line (98a):
ואמר רבי אבא אין לך קץ מגולה מזה שנאמר ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל וגו
R' Abba says that the blossoming of the fruit trees of Eretz Yisrael is the most obvious indication that the geulah has started.
What does R' Abba's comment have to do with the previous discussion and debate (and note the language "v'amar..., " with a vav hachibur)? How does it relate to the conclusion that R' Yehoshua is right?
Anti-semitism has been with us since the days of the Avos. As Yitzi commented to the previous post, Chazal tell us that it's a law of nature that Eisav hates Ya'akov. How are we supposed to recognize whether we are living through just another historical era of heightened anti-semitism, perhaps being punished by Hashem for some wrongdoing, or whether the suffering we are experiencing is really the start of the process of geulah, i.e. whether Hashem is using those anti-semites to push us to leave the Ukraine, to leave France, to leave even the US and to go to Eretz Yisrael?
R' Abba answers the question for us: look at the trees of Eretz Yisrael. Land that was once desert is now producing fruit. This is the sign that geulah has started, that the suffering we experience is Hashem nudging us in the right direction to move the process along.
(I believe R' Tzvi Yehudah Kook learns the gemara this way.)
כשם שאדם מצווה על שביתת בהמתו בשבת, כך הוא מצווה על שביתת עבדו ואמתו; ואף על פי שהן בני דעת, ולדעת עצמן עושין, מצוה עליו לשומרן ולמונען מעשיית מלאכה בשבת, שנאמר "למען ינוח, שורך וחמורך, ויינפש בן אמתך והגר
עבד ואמה שאנו מצווין על שביתתן--הם עבדים שמלו וטבלו לשם עבדות, וקיבלו מצוות שהעבדים חייבין בהן. אבל עבדים שלא מלו ולא טבלו, אלא קיבלו שבע מצוות שנצטוו בני נוח בלבד--הרי הן כגר תושב; ומותרין לעשות מלאכה בשבת לעצמן בפרהסיה, כישראל בחול. ואין מקבלין גר תושב, אלא בזמן שהיובל נוהג.
The Rambam defines for us which eved is not allowed to do work on Shabos and which eved is allowed to. Why does the Rambam add in the comparison to get toshav with respect to the latter case? I think the simple answer is that he does it as a lead in to the next halacha:
הואיל וגר תושב עושה מלאכה לעצמו בשבת, וגר צדק הרי הוא כישראל לכל דבר, במי נאמר "ויינפש בן אמתך, והגר" (שמות כג,יב)--זה גר תושב שהוא לקיטו ושכירו של ישראל, כמו בן אמתו: שלא יעשה מלאכה לישראל רבו בשבת, אבל לעצמו עושה; ואפילו היה זה הגר עבדו, הרי זה עושה לעצמו.
What I don't understand (I haven't looked at the Frankel Rambam) is why when discussing the halachos of an eved the Rambam sticks in:
ואין מקבלין גר תושב, אלא בזמן שהיובל נוהג
What does that have to do with the topic at hand in hilchos Shabbos? With respect to work on Shabbos, all we need to know is that anyone who does not fall into the category of eved, i.e. anyone who did not do milah and tevilah l'shem avdus, is allowed to do work. Whether that person is technically defined as a ger toshav or not or whether you can have a ger toshav when there is no yoveil is irrelevant to the topic at hand, unless I'm missing something.
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
A State Dept. official is quoted by the Times of Israel as saying, “I guess we
need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress.” I guess killing a few Jews is a small price to pay to get the ball rolling, but what can you expect when the Secretary of State labels Israel an “apartheid state” and the US former ambassador to the UN correctly notes (link) that, “The Obama administration has had the worst relationship, the most hostile relationship with Israel than any American presidency since the state of Israel was created.”
In Europe, the Jews of Odessa are getting ready for a mass evacuation (link). In Brussels the government had to intervene to cancel an “anti-Semitic hatefest” rally that would have been attended by hundreds (link).
I could go on and on and talk about the rampant anti-Semitism in France, what goes on in England, and we haven’t even touched on the Arab world.
Do you need any other excuse to celebrate Yom ha’Atzmaut? Look around the world – where can we be safe and secure except in our own homeland? Where have we ever seen Torah flourish the way it has in our homeland? Where can the character of Am Yisrael be free to express itself except in our own homeland?
Sure there are problems. The Yerushalmi says that geulah is going to come “kim’a kim’a,” bit by bit, like the sun that rises slowly in the morning. Geulah is a process, not an event. But at least we are privileged to watch the first stages unfold before us. How can you not give thanks?
Monday, May 05, 2014
Friday, May 02, 2014
אמרות ה' אמרות טהורות. דבר אחר, אמור אל הכהנים ואמרת אליהם, הרי אמירה שני פעמים. משל למה הדבר דומה, לטבח שהיה נכנס ויוצא לפני המלך. אמר המלך, גוזר אני עליך שלא תראה את המת כל ימיך, מפני שאתה נכנס ויוצא ורואה פני, שלא תטמא את פלטרין שלי. כך גזר הקדוש ברוך הוא על הכהנים הנכנסים לבית המקדש, שלא יטמאו למת. לפיכך הוא אומר, לנפש לא יטמא בעמיו:
יראת ה' טהורה עומדת לעד א"ר לוי מיראה שנתיירא אהרן מלפני הקדוש ברוך הוא זכה ונתנה לו הפרשה הזו שאינה זזה ממנו ולא מבניו ולא מבני בניו עד סוף כל הדורות ואיזו זו פרשת המת שנא' ויאמר ה' אל משה אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן:
How then are we to understand the mashal of the Tanchuma?