Sunday, June 24, 2018

R' Sadya Gaon on "mei" vs "meimei" and the three exceptions to his rule

1) This column on the parsha by R' Nachman Kahane is simply a MUST READ.

I hesitate to excerpt any of it because then people won't click the link; OTOH, some people won't read it anyway and therefore better an excerpt than nothing.  He writes:
In the process of bringing purity and kedusha to the world, one must be prepared to dirty one’s hands and soil one’s clothing if necessary.

This is the diagnosis of the ailment from which we religious people suffer. How much more pleasant to escape the responsibilities of being an active partner in bringing about the redemption of our nation. It was more pleasant to go on with one’s life in Europe in the early 20th century than going to the Galil to drain — the Chula swamp, or to clear the fields of the Jezreel Valley of the stones to prepare the land for planting after 2000 years of dormancy.

We who believe in the Torah and the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael didn’t do it; the Chalutzim (pioneers), whom we mock for their alienation from Torah, did. They fell from malaria, fought off the Arab gangs with no more than sticks in their hands, went into the ocean to bring in our brothers from the refugee ships under the noses of the brutish-British, and they established the State. And the nearly one million religious Jews in chutz la’aretz led by certain people continue to mock, degrade, despise, scorn, and disdain, the “Tzionim”; but to this day continue to sit on the sidelines, spectators of the renaissance of our nation.
Please read the rest.

2) The Chasam Sofer quotes a yesod from R' Sadya Gaon that Rabeinu Bachei cites on parshas va'eira: there is a difference between the words "mei" and "meimei."  "Meimei," like "meimei Mitzrayim," means water that is potable and tastes good.  The makah of dam turned the "meimei Mitzrayim," the good, drinkable water of Egypt, into blood.  "Mei," like "mei Yam Suf," is water that is not usable.  

Chasam Sofer writes that he found what appears to be three exceptions to the rule.  One is in our parsha.  When Bnei Yisrael want to pass to through the land of Sichon, they say "lo nishteh mei be'eir," we won't drink from the water of Miriam's well.  Instead, we will buy your water, "meimecha nishteh…"  Asks the Chasam Sofer: what could be better than the water from Miriam's well?  Shouldn't it be "meimei be'eir," not the "mei be'eir?"

Unfortunately, the Torah got it right.  When they came to the land of Sichon, Klal Yisrael looked at what the people of Edom had and suddenly they lost their appreciation for the gifts Hashem had given them.  They viewed the special water of the be'eir as "mei be'eir," something unpleasant to drink.  The water their neighbor had was "meimecha," it was Perrier.  It's no wonder that immediately following this incident Aharon was taken from them.

The second exception the Chasam Sofer notes is a pasuk we are all familiar with.  Mizmor l'David Hashem ro'i lo echsar…  b'nos desha yarbitzeini al mei menuchos y'nahaleini.  Simple pshat in the mizmor is that we are talking about Hashem giving us pleasant pastures with tranquil springs.  So why "mei menuchos" and not "meimei menuchos?"

Chasam Sofer answers that the mizmor actually means that even when Hashem punishes us, it is still pleasant.  Even if we have only "b'nos desha," vegetables to eat -- we are not living on prime rib or steak; even if it's only "mei menuchos" that we have, water that is unpleasant to the taste, "gam ki eiliech b'gei tzalmaves lo ira ra ko Hashem imadi," under the worst circumstances we are still satisfied because we know despite it all, Hashem is with us.

The third seeming exception is a pasuk less familiar to most of us, so for that you will have to look up the Chasam Sofer : )

3) The Mishna in Parah (2:1) writes that a cow which is pregnant cannot be used as a parah adumah.  The R"AB explains that the you cannot use an animal which has carried a burden for parah adumah.  The pregnant cow is considered to be transporting a burden -- the fetus -- within itself and is therefore pasul.  

The Chelkas Yoav asks (in the Kaba d'Kusyisa): How then can a pregnant woman walk in a reshuas ha'rabim on Shabbos?  Is she not carrying the fetus, just like the cow is carrying the calf within itself?

You probably want to work out some chiluk between hil Shabbos and parah to find an answer, or maybe you have something better to suggest?


  1. 1) what/where is the actual ARGUMENT? no one denies that the Chalutzim sweat(ed) and sacrifice(d), but at the end of the day (or the beginning), soap and water do not make dirty hands clean, but netilas yadayim. the yesod on which to build/settle is not right (unless by seeming kal vachomer, if one can move into that left behind/built by canaanites, he surely can move into/onto that built by irreligious Yehudim; but there's a heter min haTorah for the former, or more, a directive outright; but for the latter??)

    2) a. "it was Perrier"

    the opposite: if klal Yisrael drank from the well while passing through, it would only rouse envy/ayin hara-- 'look at all those uppity Jews sipping their Perrier Plus @#*!'

    b. the "steak"house sends a rei'ach nicho'ach from somewhere upwind: ta'aroch l'fanai shulchan...

    3) a. if the Chachamim hold lav yerech imo, then why not chai nosei et atzmo (which would mean that there is no burden to carry)?!

    b. maybe the visibly pregnant woman bears on Shabbos only a badge of honor, or an ornament, rather than a burden?

  2. I was surprised you didn't bring the third one, and thought there was some tricky message involved. But no, it's just not a well known passuk, as you said, and his answer is a Kli Chemda style lomdus, very out of character for the CS. To make life easier for your readers, the link:

    1. No trick -- it just is a more obscure pasuk, so I didn't bother and figured those who are interested would look it up.