Wednesday, August 31, 2016

starting off on the right foot

Rashi comments on “v’limadtem osem es bneichem l’daber bam…” that when a child can speak a father must teach him “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe….” (The Chayei Adam adds a few other things, like bentching – see Emes l’Ya’akov). The difficulty in the pasuk that Rashi is trying to address is the switch in verbs from limud – “v’limadtem” – to dibur – “l’daber bam.” If not for Rashi, you might have argued that “l’daber” qualifies “u’lemadtem,” i.e. the kiyum of talmud torah must be through speaking. The Beis Yosef, unlike the GR”A, holds that there is no birchas haTorah said over thoughts of Torah – you have to articulate your learning to be able to say a bracha on it. While the M.B. writes that this is a din in bracha and not a din in the geder hamitzvah of talmud torah, perhaps one might suggest otherwise based on our pasuk, namely that limud is defined as an act of duibur. Rashi precludes this whole reading. The Torah is not telling us how to fulfill limud, but rather is telling us a new concept, that dibur qua dibur is important. When a child gains the ability to speak, he needs to consecrate that new ability. The way to do so is by immediately using the new skill for Torah.  When you are given a new gift by Hashem, you need to start off on the right foot and use it for good.

Rashi in last week’s parsha also tells is that you get credit only if you complete a mitzvah and do the whole job, “kol hamitzvah.” Based on this din, Maharal in Gur Aryeh writes that you can’t have one person do milah and another do priya since milah absent priya doesn’t count for anything – it’s only a partial mitzvah. Maharal then hedges his bets and says maybe his chiddush is not correct. We find by korbanos that even though there is one mitzvah to bring a korban olah, for example, the work of bringing the korban can be divided among different kohanim, e.g. one person (even a zar) might do shechitah and another do kabbalah and zerikah. If there is no credit for doing part of a mitzvah, wouldn’t it be better for one person to do the whole job, start to finish? Apparently in some cases doing a partial job does count for something. So what’s the geder hadin – when does it count and when doesn’t it?  Something to think about…

Last but not least, Rashi (10:12) quotes the gemara (Kesubos 30) that “ha’kol b’yedei shamayim chutz m’yiras shamayim.” Maharal explains this based on the law of noncontradiction (A and not-A cannot be simultaneously true). By definition, emotions come from within – they cannot be imposed from without. If Hashem were to force someone to have yiras shamayim from without, it would by definition not be true yiras shamayim. (He has another hesber as well.)

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