Friday, July 04, 2014

the biggest tragedy is becoming like them

1) "Lecha i'atzecha asher ya'aseh ha'am ha'zeh l'amcha..."  Chasam Sofer says an amazing pshat here.  Bilam was telling Balak that the way to attack Bnei Yisrael was to take "ha'am hazeh," our nation, and make them into (ya'aseh = make into) "amcha," the same as your nation of Moav.  When we become like them, then we're finished.

2) While on the topic of the Chasam Sofer, he quotes the recent daf yomi (Ta'anis 20) that compares the curse of Achya haShiloni, who compared Bnei Yisrael to a reed, with the "blessing" of Bilam who compared us to a cedar tree.  A reed will bend with the wind, but never break.  A tree may look mighty and tall, but when a strong wind comes it can be ripped out by its roots.  Chasam Sofer suggests that the reason why we shuckle when we daven and learn is because it represents the swaying of the reed.

3) A final Chasam Sofer, which he quotes from R' Akiva Eiger: in a normal year there should be 132 days where tachanun is not recited and 222 where it is.  From Bilam's words of blessing we can infer what he had in mind as a curse.  L'kov oyvai likachticha -- I thought you would help me overcome the power of those lamed-kuf-beis (=gematriya 122) special days,  but hinei, not only did you not help me with those days, but beirachta beireich, you added bracha to those beis-reish-chaf (=gematriya 222) days which were otherwise not special, as tachanun is recited.

I leave it to your to count up the days where tachanus is/is not recited and figure out in which column Yom ha'Atzmaut or your favorite Rebbe's yahrzeit belongs.

4) A widely respected local Rabbi is quoted in one of our newspapers regarding the tefilos for the teens in Israel as saying, "I feel that he [G-d] owes us big time."   I don't understand how anyone can say such a thing or what it means.  We are indebted to G-d big time; He owes us nothing.  I have no idea how to take the quote in question.

Those learning daf yomi may remember Ta'anis 10b where the gemara talks about someone who took upon himself to fast for a person who was sick or for some other tragedy.  Even if the person recovers (or c"v dies) or the tragedy is averted, the gemara says the person still has to finish the ta'anis.  Rashi (d"h al ha'tzarah) writes that if a person doesn't finish the fast it appears that he is making a deal or condition with G-d -- you do this for me and I'll fast for you; if you don't uphold your end, my end of the bargain is off too. Rashi is telling us that we don't make deals with G-d.  Pray and fast and do teshuvah because it's the right thing to do -- not because of an expectation of some quid pro quo.

I'll leave you with a question: why does Rashi need this sevara ("...nireh k'masneh im kono") when the previous Rashi explained that the ta'anis must be completed because the kabalas ta'anis has a din neder.  Even if there was no issue of appearances, i.e. it's not "nireh k'masneh," you would still have to finish the fast because m'din neder?  


  1. It seems to me that the two Rashis go together: were it not for the problem that noncompliance makes it appear that one is bargaining with Hashem, the neder could be excused as a neder bitnai, or even nidrei onsin. Conversely, if the declaration lacked the tokef of a neder, we would.not be concerned with the appearance of bargaining, since, even were Hashems's "part" (k'vayachol) fulfilled, the kabalah would not be binding on the declarant.

    1. I didn't think that was the pshat because 1) why would Rashi split his pshat into 2 dibur hamaschils on two seperate cases instead of putting both ideas into one comment; 2) I'm not convinced on the second point -- even if it doesn't meet the formal criteria of neder, why is there no problem of it looking like bargaining?

    2. I don't have an answer for your first point, but, to the second, just as we understand that it is not a bargain if Hashem "doesn't have to" fulfill His part (meaning that the declarant is doing what he said he would regardless of whether the desired result is achieved), so too it is not a bargain if the declarant doesn't have to fulfill his portion.