Thursday, May 06, 2021

mah inyan naaseh v'nishma to the farmer observing shemita?

Barchu Hashem malachav giborei koach osei devaro lishoma kol d'varo (Teh 103:20).  The angels are described as serving G-d through their actions simply for the privilige of hearing what Hashem says, for no other reward (Metzudas David, Ibn Ezra).   

Chazal focus on the fact that the angels put action before hearing/understanding, and apply the pasuk to Klal Yisrael's acceptance of the Torah by saying naaseh v'nishma:

 א״ר ישמעאל בשעה שהקדימו ישראל נעשה לנשמע יצאה בת קול ואמרה להם בני מי גלה לכם רז זה שמלאכי השרת משתמשים בו דכתיב ברכו ה׳ מלאכיו גבורי כח עושי דברו וגו׳, ברישא עושי והדר לשמוע.

Yet Chazal also darshen then same pasuk as referring to the farmers who are giborei koach and manage to keep shemita for a whole year:

רבי יצחק נפחא אמר אלו שומרי שביעית, בנוכהג שבעולם אדם עושה מצוה ליום אחד לשבת אחד לחדש אחד שמא (לשאר) [לכל] ימות השנה ודין חמי חקליה ביירא כרמיה ביירא ושתיק יש לך גבור חיל גדול מזה. נאמר כאן עושי דברו ונאמר להלן וזה דבר השמטה מה להלן שביעית אף כאן שביעית, ושנו רבותינו אי זהו גבור הכובש את יצרו, 

Mah inyan shemita eitzel har Sinai?  So which is it -- are talking about naaseh v'nishma or about farmers?  

Sefas Emes (5646) explains that the machlokes we discussed last week (Brachos 35) between R"Y and Rashb"Y --  R"Y holds a person has to plant when its time to plant, plow when its time to plow, harvest when its time to harvest, but Rashb"Y said if you do that, what becomes of talmud Torah? -- is only a question after the cheit of Adam haRishon.  Everyone agrees that the ideal situation, the kodem ha'cheit, the kodem "b'ze'as apech tocham lechem," is only Torah.  

When Klal Yisrael stood at Sinai, they were like malachim, like Adam before the cheit.  No misa, no need for food -- lo nitna Torah elah l'ochlei ha'mon, the food of malachim -- totally focused on the one goal of fulfilling ratzon Hashem.

That situation did not last, but there is a m'ein that survived.  Once a week we put down the shovel and the plow, we put away our iphone and computer, and we come back to that level of Torah only, like we were when we stood at Sinai like angels.  We become like the ochlei ha'mon, but in this case it's ochlei cholent.  

The farmer goes a step further.  He puts everything aside not just for a day, or a month, but for an entire year he lives without "b'ze'as apecha,like Adam before the cheit  "V'tzivisi es birchasi..." we all know the vort from R' Zusha, that it's only those who ask "mah nochal" who need the "tzivisi," but otherwise during shemita the farmers is sustained derech nes, ochel min ha'shamayim, just like the ochlei ha'mon.

Eilu v'eilu, the pasuk "osei devaro..." is talking about maamad Har Sinai and also about observing shemita because they are one and the same idea.  Shemita is a return (the "v'shavtem... el achuzaso" of yoveil is the same return to one's shoresh), albeit temporarily, to that ideal achieved at Sinai, of life as it was in Eden.

healthy risk?

Last weekend there was an event run by Renewal in our neighborhood.  This is an organization devoted to encouraging people to donate kidneys to those who are in need of them.  Sounds like a good cause, and it is supported by many Rabbis in the neighborhood.  But here is what I don't understand.  Kidney donation is a RELATIVELY low risk operation -- but low risk does not mean no risk.  The odds of death are about .07%, the odds of other complications from the surgery greater.  Your seichel should tell you that walking into a hospital for an operation is not the same as a walk in the park.  So how is it that this risk is an acceptable one for a person to even voluntarily enter into, but we had to close down every yeshiva and every shul last year, not even allowing young healthy people to come together to daven, and even ad ha'yom ha'zeh I can tell you there are shuls in our neighborhood still holding minyanim outside in tents with young people wearing masks and still sitting 6 feet apart?  If you want to argue that in the former case there are dire, serious consequences if someone does not get that kidney that they need, are there not also serious consequences to closing down shuls and yeshivos?   Do we need the NY Times to tell us about the devastating effects lockdowns have had on school children (which was pashut l'kol bar bei Rav m'ikara and useless to bemoan after the fact)?  Is the fact that we have to have campaigns to come up with ways to entice people to return to shul not enough proof of the damage done to the communal religious structure in many communities?  Is the chiluk the % of risk?  If so, as I've asked before, where exactly do you draw the line and what is the makor?   What makes taking a .07% chance of death halachically OK, but some higher point-something-or-other not?  The only standard I've seen is "follow the doctors," which means follow the doctors we (whoever "we" is) think are authoritative as opposed to the ones you do.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

still a ways to go

Towards the end of the tochacha (26:41) the Torah says that Bnei Yisrael will say viduy on what they did wrong:

וְהִתְוַדּ֤וּ אֶת־עֲוֺנָם֙ וְאֶת־עֲוֺ֣ן אֲבֹתָ֔ם בְּמַעֲלָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר מָֽעֲלוּ־בִ֑י וְאַ֕ף אֲשֶׁר־הָֽלְכ֥וּ עִמִּ֖י בְּקֶֽרִי

And 2 pesukim later the Torah promises that as a result Hashem will remember zechus avos and the zechus of Eretz Yisrael:

וְזָכַרְתִּ֖י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י יַעֲק֑וֹב וְאַף֩ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֨י יִצְחָ֜ק וְאַ֨ף אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶזְכֹּ֖ר וְהָאָ֥רֶץ אֶזְכֹּֽר׃

But sandwiched in between, we have a pasuk that doesn't seem to fit:

 אַף־אֲנִ֗י אֵלֵ֤ךְ עִמָּם֙ בְּקֶ֔רִי וְהֵבֵאתִ֣י אֹתָ֔ם בְּאֶ֖רֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶ֑ם אוֹ־אָ֣ז יִכָּנַ֗ע לְבָבָם֙ הֶֽעָרֵ֔ל וְאָ֖ז יִרְצ֥וּ אֶת־עֲוֺנָֽם׃

Once Bnei Yisrael said viduy, then why would Hashem make things even worse in galus?  As Ramban puts it:

והנה אחר: והתודו את עונם (ויקרא כ״ו:מ׳) היה ראוי שיאמר: וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב (ויקרא כ״ו:מ״ב), כי מה טעם: והבאתי אותם בארץ אויביהם עכשיו במקום הזה, ואין עתה הזמן שיגלה אותם ויביאם בארץ אויביהם.

Ohr haChaim explains (HaKsav v'haKabbalah as a similar interpretation) that this pasuk is a continuation of the viduy, an acceptance that Hashem had to send us into galus to achieve the tikun that we needed and it was not just happenstance.  

לזה כשאמר ה׳ והתודו זכר שיאמרו גם כן בוידוים כי צדיק ה׳ במה שהלך עמהם קרי, ולאותו הטעם ולאותו המבחן הביאם בארץ אוביהם כדרך מעשה המקרה בלא כיון אל הצריך.

But Ramban and Seforno explain that ain hachi nami, once there is viduy Hashem will return Klal Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael, but that doesn't mean we are out of the woods yet.  Ramban refers you to what happened in Ezra and Nechamia's time, how the nations who were in the land tried every which way to thwart Klal Yisrael from gaining a foothold in the land, from rebuilding Beis haMikdash.  There will be a הֵבֵאתִ֣י אֹתָ֔ם, but the Eretz Yisrael we come back to will be אֶ֖רֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶ֑ם, a land filled with our enemies.  

Sound familiar?

R' Chaim Elazari points out that in the piyutim in the avodah on Y"K we talk about the tefilah the kohen gadol said when he entered kodesh kodashim.  He davened, "Y'hi raton... shanah she'tolicheinu komimiyus l'artzeinu, shnas taaleinu smeichim l'artzeinu."  If there was a kohen gadol doing avodah in a beis ha'mikdash, then we must already be in Eretz Yisrael, in Yerushalayim, so why was the kohen davening that we should be able to return to our Land?!

He suggests based on this Ramban and Seforno that we might be in the land and even have a beis ha'mikdash, but so long as we are under the thumb of some other ruler, so long as we have to struggle against enemies within our borders, there is no "komimiyus b'artzeinu," there is no "smeichim" yet.  We still have a ways to go.

Monday, May 03, 2021

the issur of korcha al meis

On the pasuk of לֹֽא־יִקְרְח֤וּ קׇרְחָה֙ בְּרֹאשָׁ֔ם the gemara, quoted by Rashi, comments:

קרחה בראשם – מה ת״ל בראשם, לפי שנאמר (פ׳ ראה) ולא תשימו קרחה בין עיניכם, יכול לא יהא חייב אלא על בין העינים בלבד, ת״ל בראשם – לרבות כל הראש

The Taz in his commentary on Rashi is bothered by the gemara's diyuk.  What do you mean מה ת״ל בראשם -- you need בראשם to tell you that you are chayav for a korcha on the head as opposed to anywhere else on the body?  

Taz writes a chidush l'halacha that even though all the poskim refer only korcha on the head, it must be that a person would in fact be chayav for a korcha anywhere on the body, and that is why the word is extraneous.  In the notes in the Mosad haRav Kook edition the editor writes that the Taz seems to be a daas yachid, as he looked all over and could not find anyone else who refers to the issur as applying to anywhere else other than the head.

Torah Temima raises the same question as the Taz and answers:  וצ״ל כיון דהאי קריחה איירי בקורח מפני הצער על מת, כפי שנתבאר לעיל, ודרך הקריחה של צער הוא לגוז שער הראש, וא״כ מיותר המלה בראשם דממילא משתמע  The pasuk is speaking about the behavior of someone in mourning, where the custom was to make a korcha on the head; therefore, the word בראשם should go without saying.

Friday, April 30, 2021

silence, please

There simply are no words that are adequate to capture the pain, tragedy, and loss that was suffered in Meiron.  Unfortunately, the fact that there are no words and can be no words will not stop people from trotting out the usual platitudes (already heard this from someone and saw the same quoted online b'shem a gadol) that we need to work on sinas chinam and achdus, etc.  Please stop.  If every tragedy large and small, wherever and whenever it occurs, is an occasion to trot out the same speech about the same issues and same problems that we have had in Klal Yisrael for 2000 years, then the message becomes trite and meaningless.  And for those who somehow blame the attendees for what happened or for even holding such an event, please stop.  Save making yourself sound like an idiot for some other day.  "Sod Hashem li'reiav."  Maybe Rashb"Y, the greatest baal sod, has some understanding of what happened on his Y"T, at his kever, but I cannot even begin to grasp at it.  

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Lag ba'Omer: Rashb"Y and Moshe Rabeinu

After more than a year locked in our bunkers, most parents have had enough with being home all day with their kids.  Imagine R’ Shimon bar Yochai, locked in his bunker with just his son for 13 years!  If I had to stay locked up with my son for 13 years I probably would have just walked out and surrendered (just joking).  Maybe that’s part of the gadlus of Rashb”Y.

Branded a criminal by the government, forced to flee and hide out for years, only to then re-appear and help lead Klal Yisrael – the story of Rashb”y, the story of Moshe Rabeinu.  Torah sheb’ksav, Torah she’baal peh (see R' Tzadok's first piece on Lag ba'Omer in Pri Tzadik).  The emergence from the cave only to be forced to go back in because the Torah absorbed the first time around was too great for this world, or maybe the world was too small for it, is the sheviras ha’luchos of the Rashb”Y story. 

In Brachos 35 the gemara tells us that Rashb”Y held that one must learn 24x7.  If a person goes out to plant in the planting season and harvest in the harvest season, Torah mah ye’hei aleha, what will become of Talmud Torah?  Yet, the gemara in Menachos 99 tells us that Rashb”Y held that one can be yotzei T”T simply by reciting shema in the morning and at night.  How do you reconcile the two gemaros?

Sdei Chemed explains that the gemara in Brachos is Rashb”Y's view before he emerged from the cave; the gemara in Menachos is his view after he emerged the second time.  Rashb”Y developed and adjusted his position because he grew from his experience.

Torah she'bksav is kedusha that is keviya v'kayma, unchanging and permanent.  Torah shebaal peh grows and develops.  We don't celebrate the death of Moshe Rabeinu with a holiday; we celebrate Rash"Y on Lag ba'Omer because there is an aliyas ha'tzadikim, meaning even after death the tzadik grows, we grow from the tzadik, and so we celebrate what we have achieved and what he hope to continue to achieve (see the Kozhiglover here.) 

I wrote a little over a year ago that those who want the pandemic to end and “things to return to the way they were before” have it all wrong.  If things just return to the way they were before, then we have failed to grow and learn from our experience.  Those years in his bunker changed Rashb”Y: they changed his outlook, his Torah, his view of other people.  Has the year in the bunker changed us and helped us grow and develop, or has it just been time spent hiding from reality?

Monday, April 26, 2021

Can a minhag trump halacha?

Rosh haShana 15b  (I copied from Sefaria with the translation below) --  the upshot of the gemara is that even though though the minhag to maaser carobs based on the harvest year contradicts what the din should be, since we are dealing only with an issur derabbanan, the minhag stands.  

(In this case the minhag was based on a legitimate minority view.  Sometimes what people call a "minhag" is based on nothing and therefore may not carry the same weight.)

אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן נָהֲגוּ הָעָם בֶּחָרוּבִין כְּרַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה 

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The people were accustomed to act with regard to carobs in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Neḥemya, that their tithe year follows the time of the fruit’s picking.

kedoshim in a nutshell

What are the parameters of kedoshim ti'hiyu?  Each individual has to figure out what is appropriate for their situation, their time, their place.  There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The last Rambam in Hil Shecheinim:

כל הרוצה למכור קרקע ובאו שנים כל אחד מהן אומר אני אקח בדמים אלו ואין אחד מהן בעל המצר. אם היה האחד מיושבי העיר והאחד משכני השדה שכן העיר קודם. שכן ות"ח ת"ח קודם. קרוב ות"ח ת"ח קודם. שכן וקרוב השכן קודם שגם זה בכלל הטוב והישר הוא. קדם אחד וקנה זכה ואין חבירו שראוי לקדם לו יכול לסלקו הואיל ואין אחד מהן בעל המצר שלא צוו חכמים בדבר הזה אלא דרך חסידות ונפש טובה היא שעושה כך: סליקו להו הלכות שכנים

Magid Mishne comments:

 מבואר בהלכות וכ"כ ז"ל ועניין דין בן המצר הוא שתורתנו התמימה נתנה בתקון מדות האדם ובהנהגתו בעולם כללים באמירת קדושים תהיו והכוונה כמו שאמרו ז"ל קדש עצמך במותר לך שלא יהא שטוף אחר התאוות וכן אמרה ועשית הישר והטוב והכוונה שיתנהג בהנהגה טובה וישרה עם בני אדם ולא היה מן הראוי בכל זה לצוות פרטים לפי שמצות התורה הם בכל עת ובכל זמן ובכל ענין ובהכרח חייב לעשות כן ומדות האדם והנהגתו מתחלפת לפי הזמן והאישים והחכמים ז"ל כתבו קצת פרטים מועילים נופלים תחת כללים אלו ומהם שעשו אותם בדין גמור ומהם לכתחלה ודרך חסידות והכל מדבריהם ז"ל ולזה אמרו חביבין דברי דודים יותר מיינה של תורה שנאמר כי טובים דודיך מיין:


What amazes me is that certain organizations had no problem even taking kids out of yeshiva to rally in NY against an imaginary situation of "shmad" (as they called it) and protest in public against the State of Israel, but when there is actual shmad, when there are Jews actually being killed because they are Jewish, like in the case of Sarah Halimi, these same groups are out to lunch.  

You know what it looks like to show care and concern when you see injustice done?  This is what it looks like:

That is sadly not one of our rallies.  Do we care less about our causes than they do theirs?  Does anyone really think that a letter to some officials is enough to make a real difference?

Shamd is when the gvt targets our religious practice.  That's exactly what the courts found that NY State was doing, writing that Cuomo's “rules can be viewed as targeting the ‘ultra-Orthodox [Jewish] community...”  Yet where were the protests?  Where was the outcry?  A lawsuit that takes months to work its way through court is the best we can muster?  Shame on us.  Why am I not surprised that another major organization is throwing grant $ at shuls to try to come up with ways to to get people to return to davening now that things are opening up.  Who'da thunk it that when your wife can go to the supermarket wearing a paper thin mask and fight through the aisles filled with shoppers before Y"T or Shabbos so you have a nice brisket but the shuls remain locked (as was the case last year on Shavuos in many places), that people would get the message that shul is not so important?  

Everyone knows the pasuk that speaks about וַתְּהִ֚י יִרְאָתָם֙ אֹתִ֔י מִצְוַ֥ת אֲנָשִׁ֖ים מְלֻמָּדָֽה (Yeshayahu 29) but most people I think don't know the continuation:  לָכֵ֗ן הִנְנִ֥י יוֹסִ֛ף לְהַפְלִ֥יא אֶת־הָעָם־הַזֶּ֖ה הַפְלֵ֣א וָפֶ֑לֶא וְאָֽבְדָה֙ חָכְמַ֣ת חֲכָמָ֔יו וּבִינַ֥ת נְבֹנָ֖יו תִּסְתַּתָּֽר

Friday, April 23, 2021

briso shel Avraham

I had the pleasure this morning of going to the bris of my niece's new baby.  It just so happens that in this week's perek in Avos there is a Mishna that speaks about milah.  The Mishna tells us (3:11) that וְהַמֵּפֵר בְּרִיתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם has no cheilek in olam ha'ba.  As we once discussed, what הַמֵּפֵר בְּרִיתוֹ  means is not clear.  Rashi learns it means the person did not get a milah; Rambam learns that he is mosheich b'briso and tries to hide the milah.  According to Rashi, why doesn't the Mishna just say simply "ha'mevateil milah?"  Why the long winded הַמֵּפֵר בְּרִיתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם?  Secondly, are more fundamentally, we always start Avos by saying "kol yisrael yesh lahem cheilek l'olam ha'ba."  Everybody gets olam ha'ba.  There are few exceptions which are discussed in the last perek in Sanhedrin, but the sugyos there never mention being mevateil the mitzvah of milah as being on the list.  Where does this din come from?

Maharal explains that meifer bris has no olam ha'ba because it falls into the category of someone who denies Torah min ha'shamayim, which is mentioned there at the end of Sanhedrin.  Bris is not just about cutting off a bit of skin; it's about forging a relationship with G-d. That's why the Mishna speaks about "meifer bris" and not just about "mevateil milah."   Belief in Torah is the foundation for and the means of forging that relationship.  

The gemara darshens that the pasuk "sas anochi al  imrasecha k'motzei shalal rav" is speaking about bris.  It's like finding a treasure, winning the mega millions.  A normal person who wins the mega millions jackpot cannot spend those hundreds of millions in one day, in one month, in one year.  That much $ should last a lifetime.  So too bris milah forges a relationship with Hashem that sticks with a person through his entire lifetime.

While we are holding in sefirah it's worth touching on another point with regards to milah.  There is a minority view in Rishonim that says milah done at night is kosher; there is a minority view that says milah done before the 8th day is kosher.  The common denominator between both views is that they allow for milah done at the wrong time.  Rama for some reason splits the psak and holds that milah done at night is completely pasul; milah done before the 8th day is kosher b'dieved.  

Shach asks: the gemara (Menachos 72) makes a l'shitaso between the view that holds the cutting of the omer must be done only at night and not by day and the opinion that cutting the omer is doche Shabbos.  The logic of the gemara is that if even b'dieved the omer can be cut by day, then why break Shabbos to harvest it -- cut the omer on Friday before Shabbos starts.  By the very same token, asks the Shach, if b'dieved a milah can be done before day 8, then why do we allow a bris milah on Shabbos?  Just do it the day before!

Many Achronim point out that the Rambam seems to contradict this gemara as well.  Rambam paskens in Temidim 7:4 וזמנו קבוע ולפיכך דוחה את השבת ואת הטומאה: yet he also paskens in 7:7 וכל הלילה כשר לקצירת העומר. ואם קצרוהו ביום כשר:  

Too long a topic to deal with now on a Friday : (