Thursday, April 20, 2017

welcome to the big leagues

Isn't it amazing how people descend on supermarkets like a swarm of locusts and buy out every crumb of chameitz as soon as Pesach is over?  It defies rational explanation.  I expect to eventually see someone setup a tent on Central Ave in the 5 Towns on chol ha'moed so they can camp out in front of the pizza store to be first on line to get that first pie after Yom Tov.  Anyway, welcome back everybody!

"Yom ha'shmini," the day the opening of our parsha focusses on, was one of the greatest days in history.  Chazal (Shabbos 87) tell us that the day had 10 crowns, i.e. there were 10 reasons why the day was special, from it being the day on which creation happened to it being the day in which the mishkan was inaugurated and Aharon began serving as kohen gadol.  It was opening day x10.  Yet Rashi writes in Yisro (Shmos 24:9) that Nadav and Avihu were really chayav misa back then for improperly gazing at Hashem's presence (whatever that means) but Hashem let the cheit go until our parsha so as to not disrupt the joy of kabbalas haTorah.  "Yom ha'shmini," as joyous and great as it was, could be marred by Nadav and Avihu's death, but the simcha of Torah cannot be disturbed.  There is no simcha as great as the simcha of Torah.

During the 7 days of milu'im Moshe brought korbanos on behalf of Aharon and his children.  Among them was a par offered as a chatas, which was meant, explains Rashi (Shmos 19:1), as a kapparah for cheit ha'eigel.  In our parsha we read that on yom ha'shmini Aharon himself offered the korbanos, and among them was an eigel offered as a chatas meant, as Rashi (9:2) explains, as a kapparah for cheit ha'eigel.  Didn't we do that already?  Why did Aharon need to bring another chatas for kapprah for cheit ha'eigel when korbanos had been offered for that purpose during the milu'im?   

Maharal in Gur Aryeh answers (not exactly in these words) that it's like a minor league player who is the talk of the triple A league, but then makes it to the majors and finds his ability questioned on the back pages every time he has a bad game.  Those very same back pages of the newspaper had only the highest praise when he was in the minors, so what changed?  The answer is simple: welcome to the big leagues.  Stepping up to the next level invites greater scrutiny and demands greater accountability.

The Midrash darshens "u'Pharoah hikriv" by Yam Suf (why hitpa'el?) that we just read at the end of Peach as telling us that Pharoah's pursuit of Klal Yisrael inspired them to teshuvah more than any words of mudsar or chastisement could have done.  But what was Klal Yisrael doing teshuvah for?  They had just come from offering korban pesach, doing milah, experiencing yetzi'as Mitzrayim, not from any wrongdoing (see Imrei Emes)?  Perhaps the point is the same: davka because they were now free from Egypt, free from the environment that dragged them down to sin, Klal Yisrael had a greater responsibility to introspect and improve further.  Climbing to the next level does not absolve one from obligation -- it creates greater obligations.

"Yom ha'shmini" was a different league from the 7 days of milu'im.  Kapparah that may have sufficed in the past now needs to be re-examined and taken to another level.

I have the old edition of the Maharal at home and that's how I understood the point when I read it, but then I saw in Rav Hartman's footnotes in the new edition that he understands it a bit differently.  Maharal holds that there are certain pivotal moments in Jewish history.  Just as we hopefully want to seize those moments for good, the yetzer ha'ra works even harder than usual to thwart us and turn those moments sour.  That's why we find that during what should have been a time of spiritual greatness, matan Torah, there was a cheit ha'eigel.  Precisely because there was such positive energy, there was a counterbalancing of explosive negative energy that the yetzer marshaled to thwart us.  So too, at the time of "yom ha'shmini," because this day was a pivotal moment, an extra kapparah was needed so as to not have a recurrence of an eigel situation.

Perhaps this sheds light on why Moshe reacted with anger when he saw what he thought was an error being made and korbanos being disposed of and not eaten after Aharon and his sons became aveilim.  R' Simcha Zisel of Kelm puts it in context: Aharon has just lost his sons; his other children have lost their brother.  Even if they were in error in disposing of the korbanos, wouldn't it be understandable given their grief?  Did they deserve to be questioned so harshly?  Yet the greater context is that this is a one time pivotal moment in Jewish history, a day that can never be duplicated.  Evil lurks waiting to once again spoilt the show.  As sensitive as he was to his brother's and nephew's plight, Moshe was also sensitive to history hanging in the balance.  

Speaking of auspicious days in Jewish history, this is a great article by Shmuel Sackett. 


  1. Always had the question of disrupting simcha. Still how does it answer? If the yisod logic was not to kill them now cause of simcha, then why kill them now at a time of simcha ??

    1. My guess is that the Milu'im was different because of the context of the avoda of korbanos. I'd appreciate it if someone could make sense out of that pshat, because it feels right.

    2. I checked around on the Otzar Hachochma, and Chaim's pshat is said by several meforshim. But I liked Rav Boruch Sorotzkin's pshat in his Habinah Vehabracha, where (after saying what Reb Chaim says) he says that yes, the same svara would apply, and ein hachi nami there would be good reason to delay punishment once again. The problem was that their "sin" here was an expression of precisely the same flaw of hashkafa that they demonstrated by vayochlu vayishtu.

      ונ"ל שזהו מפני שהחטא של נדב ואביהוא בחנוכת המשכן הי' מאותו שורש של חטא זה שנבע מצד ההתקרבות לד' כי טבע האדם שבהיותו קרוב אפילו להיותר גדול שהכל מעריצים אותו ומכבדים אותו אבל הקרובים חסר להם הרתת והיראה וכן נדב ואביהוא והזקנים מפאת גדלותם וקרבותם לד' הרגישו כ"כ קרבות לד' שאכלו ושתו בעת שהסתכלו בו וזה חטא שאדרבה היותר קרוב לד' צריך יותר להיות ביראה ורתת לפני ד' וכן חטא של נדב ואביהוא בהקריבם אש זרה בחנוכת המשכן הי' ג''כ נובע מפאת קרבותם לד' ולכן לא הרגישו אותה היראה והרתת בהמצאם במשכן והביאו אש זרה בעת שהחליטו שכך צריך לעשות כי הרגישו את עצמם כמו בבית שם כי אם היו מרגישים היראה הגדולה ממקום הקדוש ששם שוכנת השכינה לא היו מהינים בעצמם לעשות כדברים האלו ולכן מכיון שחטא זה הי' כהמשך מהחטא הא' וכתולדה ממנו לכן נפרע אז ד' מהם

  2. I think the Simchas HaTorah is intrinsically different from the Simcha accompanying the Mishkan. Regarding avodas Hashem it says explicitly עבדו את ה' ביראה וגילו ברעדה; the Avodah is necessarily accompanied by a בקרובי אקדש, lest יהרסו אל ה' לראות . The Torah, however, requires no such external fear, since it is itself intrinsically bound up with yir'ah; it is אינה מתקיימת אלא במי שממית עצמו עליה. It therefore has no need of extra rwminders, and any such would constitute irbuv hasimcha.

    1. I understand your use of בקרובי אקדש, but lemaiseh Moshe Rabbeinu said to Mishoel and Eltzofon
      שאו את אחיכם וגו'. כְּאָדָם הָאוֹמֵר לַחֲבֵרוֹ הַעֲבֵר אֶת הַמֵּת מִלִּפְנֵי הַכִּלָּה שֶׁלֹּא לְעַרְבֵּב אֶת הַשִּׂמְחָה
      On the other hand, I'm trying to figure out why Rashi is uncharacteristically roundabout. It seems that Rashi should have just said שֶׁלֹּא לְעַרְבֵּב אֶת הַשִּׂמְחָה, without the intro of כְּאָדָם הָאוֹמֵר לַחֲבֵרוֹ הַעֲבֵר אֶת הַמֵּת מִלִּפְנֵי הַכִּלָּה. How does that clarify or add to what he's saying?
      I don't follow what you're saying about Torah- it is intrinsically Yir'ah, so death would be a bigger irbuv?

    2. Not that it intrinsically /is/ yir'ah, but that even it's Simcha must also contain an internal yir'ah, else it is not true Simchas haTorah

  3. if* the 10 hands of Aharon & his sons upon the head of a bull can be construed as 10 "crowns", and those same hands on the 7 bulls of the week as 70 crowns, alluding to the 70 nations/the 70 bulls of Succot (so as to include the whole world at the priestly investiture), could we then say that yom ha'shmini is as shmini atzeres, a day set apart for the Jews alone, and as such would indeed require its own, single chatas**(Succah 55b), a chatas of "greater accountability"?

    but, if Nadav & Avihu "were really chayav misa" b'y'dei shamayim, how could Hashem proceed to post (those already) dead men-- and their 4 yadayim -- in priestly positions? that seems not only a recipe for disaster (or at least for ketores zarah, as the case may be), but also a technical foul of some sort! did He implant predictable corruption in the ceremony (as per Rav Eliezer's/Rav Sorotzkin's point above about repetition), and plan to spoil the joy, in order to indicate plainly that all was not really well with klal Yisrael notwithstanding His new residency?

    **to be consistent: Aharon's solitary semicha on day 8 [not mentioned in the Torah, as was the five-man weigh-in previously] would constitute two "crowns" upon the eigel's head, rather than one, a perhaps fuzzy implication of a hand-by-hand cheshbon

  4. Re: Eliezer Eisenberg @6:16 PM

    Why Rashi doesn't just say that the bodies had to be removed for קבורה is answered by the נושאי כלים on Rashi there, e.g., the גור אריה.* Once we know that it was therefore שלא לערבב, Rashi is bothered how it would help - the event happened, klal Yisroel was b'aveilus, this was just window dressing.

    Answer: if ר"ל this would happen at a chasuna, we would do the same thing - although the aveilus would be chal immediately, and the simcha would have gone out the window. Chazal says that window dressing in such a case is significant, in order to save whatever simcha can be saved.** This is why Rashi gives the analogy of a chasuna.

    *Why they didn't have to be removed simply to remove טומאת מת from the kodesh is a different issue. And it's not because they were such great tzadikim that they were not מטמא. a) that concept hadn't been invented yet and b) if it were true, the entire discussion of how the porah adumah interacted with Mishoel and Eltzofon re Pesach Sheini.

    ** in modern "yiddishkeit" it's incomprehensible [and perhaps anathema] how much Chazal, and the Torah, valued every iota of simcha.

    Re: the issue of why now and not by ויחזו, seems to be that there it was a חסרון in middos [albeit, both incomprehensibly enormous and incomprehensibly subtle] whereas here it was a public מעשה - as ר' עקיבא distinguishes between היד ה' תקצר and hitting the rock.

    Also see the Netziv, who points out the special severity of a chait בפלטין של מלך. [On the other hand, the ויאכלו וישתו while on Har Sinai, was not the same, both at the time, and במשוך היובל.]

  5. I like your pshat in Rashi's מִלִּפְנֵי הַכִּלָּה. Out of sight, out of mind.
    How we know it was שלא לערבב and not just because of Tuma/Kevura is very simple, as Rav Dovid Zupnik told me lo these many years ago - because the passuk says שְׂא֤וּ אֶת־אֲחֵיכֶם֙ מֵאֵ֣ת פְּנֵי־הַקֹּ֔דֶשׁ אֶל־מִח֖וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶֽה, and michutz lamachaneh was not necessary unless it was שלא לערבב.
    As for "oy, Tumah!," of course, a Meis is muttar in the Azara, Reb Leizer Silver used the Sifri Zuta to say that although it's assur to bring a meis into the Azara, there's nothing wrong with leaving a dead body there, because it's not tamei.
    As for the centrality and importance of Simcha, who are you, exactly?
    Valid chiluk about public and private, and I did hear something similar from Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz some years ago, so you should feel validated. But your chiluk of paltin is somewhat forced. I like Reb Boruch's pshat, because Rav Huna told us that you do something twice, hutra lo, and as for the punishment, נכון הדבר מעם האלקים וממהר האלקים לעשתו. Actually, I hope that's not true.

    1. Not my chiluk of paltin - the Netziv's.
      Reb Dovid's pshat is that of the Gur Aryeh and the other nos'ei kailim there.
      The question if not "Who are you, exactly?", it's "Exactly what religion do you practice?"

  6. Minor observation - the word is palatin, from which palace and, indirectly, Paladin. But don't feel bad. Lots of educated people say Maseches Erchin when it is really Arachin. Same mistake, nothing to worry about, I only mention it just in case you're the sort of person that says "There is no Maseches Erchin, it's Arachin."

    1. Thank you [although I meant the "l" to have a שוא נא]. But I agree, since I also never learn maseches Yuma [why would Chazal discuss a city in Arizona?], and my fist is a tofach wide.

    2. Re: tofach, so you are suggesting that we revowelize Melochim I 7:26 and the corresponding possum in Divrei Hayomim? ;)

    3. To correspond to Shemos 25:25, 37:12, and Yechezkel 40:5, 40:43, and 43:13? As pointed out by Rabbi Eisenberg?

      Of course not. At the very least, you are entitled to the vowelization of the yam shel Shlomo. My fist prefers that of Moshe Rabbeinu and the Bayis Shlishi.

      At the very most, that vowelization may be connected to the far more precise value of pi, or to the fact that the thickness of the walls was not uniform, since the base of the yam shel Shlomo was a square, and only the rim was circular.

  7. Hooray for Avrohom Wagner! Especially since his proof is from the passuk dealing with the Yam shel Shlomo, from which some people like to prove that Chazal were well aware that pi is not just 3. To make life easier, here's the cited passuk:
    עֹמֵ֞ד עַל־שְׁנֵ֧י עָשָׂ֣ר בָּקָ֗ר שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה פֹנִ֣ים ׀ צָפ֡וֹנָה וּשְׁלֹשָׁה֩ פֹנִ֨ים ׀ יָ֜מָּה וּשְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה ׀ פֹּנִ֣ים נֶ֗גְבָּה וּשְׁלֹשָׁה֙ פֹּנִ֣ים מִזְרָ֔חָה וְהַיָּ֥ם עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם מִלְמָ֑עְלָה וְכָל־אֲחֹֽרֵיהֶ֖ם בָּֽיְתָה׃
    וְעָבְי֣וֹ טֶ֔פַח וּשְׂפָת֛וֹ כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה שְׂפַת־כּ֖וֹס פֶּ֣רַח שׁוֹשָׁ֑ן אַלְפַּ֥יִם בַּ֖ת יָכִֽיל׃

    Truth be told, the more common use is Tofach, as in Yechezel 43:13
    וְאֵ֨לֶּה מִדּ֤וֹת הַמִּזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ בָּֽאַמּ֔וֹת אַמָּ֥ה אַמָּ֖ה וָטֹ֑פַח וְחֵ֨יק הָאַמָּ֜ה וְאַמָּה־רֹ֗חַב וּגְבוּלָ֨הּ אֶל־שְׂפָתָ֤הּ סָבִיב֙ זֶ֣רֶת הָאֶחָ֔ד וְזֶ֖ה גַּ֥ב הַמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃

    So, accuracy be darned, and I say YUUUUUma, TEEEEhfach, and EEEEirechin.

  8. I haven't checked in in a week and I see I missed all the fun : (

    Thank you all for the comments

    1. So sad; you missed pivotal days in Jewish history. On your own blog.

  9. Speaking to a dikduk expert about Tefach/Tofach, he said two things. That Tefach refers to the fist, and Tofach refers to the measurement derived from the size of a fist. In English, a "Foot" would be the same either way with no distinction, whether limb or measurement. In Hebrew, the Tofach is an alternative that exclusively refers to the measurement.
    More interestingly, he told me that his father and Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky pronounced the Maseches "Yabmus" or "Yavmus," like Malchus. It's the institution, not the women. If I were to do that, you'd hear eyes rolling.

    1. Which doesn't explain the yam shel Shlomo tefach. Unless the rim was actually comprised of fists [perhaps copper-plated].

      And if you were to hear eyes rolling, it's because the sound would be reverberating in the empty space behind them.