Monday, July 15, 2024

question the experts

Back in 2007 I posted the question of my then 6 year old daughter as to why Aharon had to be punished when the sin of mei meriva was done by Moshe.  Commenting in Zos haBracha on the words  תֻּמֶּ֥יךָ וְאוּרֶ֖יךָ לְאִ֣ישׁ חֲסִידֶ֑ךָ, Rashi echoes the same idea: תריבהו על מי מריבה נסתקפתה לו לבא בעלילה, אם משה אמר: שמעו נא המרים (במדבר כ׳:י׳), אהרן ומרים מה עשו?

R' Chaim Elazari suggests that Aharon was culpable for the following reason: The command to speak to the rock was given to both Aharon and Moshe.  When Moshe picked up his staff to strike the rock, Aharon must have known this was wrong.  Yet Moshe was his rebbe as well as the rebbe of Klal Yisrael.  No one had a greater understanding of the ratzon Hashem than Moshe, and Aharon trusted him completely.  How then could he question Moshe's actions?

Deferring to "expertise" of Moshe instead of trusting his own judgment, what he himself had heard, was Aharon's error.  

R' Chaim Volozhiner interprets הוי מתאבק בּעפר רגליהם like the words by Yaakov and the angel ויאבק אישׁ עמו.  We are not supposed to follow authority like lemmings or yes men.  When something does not appear correct, we are supposed to raise questions, to wrestle and struggle to arrive at the truth.  

Friday, July 12, 2024

A nachash, a saraf, or a combination -- why do the pesukim keep switching terms?

The last Mishna in the third perek of R"H writes:

וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר יָרִים משֶׁה יָדוֹ וְגָבַר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹ׳ (שמות י״ז:י״א), וְכִי יָדָיו שֶׁל משֶׁה עוֹשׂוֹת מִלְחָמָה אוֹ שׁוֹבְרוֹת מִלְחָמָה. אֶלָּא לוֹמַר לְךָ, כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהָיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִסְתַּכְּלִים כְּלַפֵּי מַעְלָה וּמְשַׁעְבְּדִין אֶת לִבָּם לַאֲבִיהֶם שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם הָיוּ מִתְגַּבְּרִים. וְאִם לָאו, הָיוּ נוֹפְלִין. כַּיּוֹצֵא בַדָּבָר אַתָּה אוֹמֵר: עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף וְשִׂים אֹתוֹ עַל נֵס וְהָיָה כָּל הַנָּשׁוּךְ וְרָאָה אֹתוֹ וָחָי (במדבר כ״א:ח׳). וְכִי נָחָשׁ מֵמִית, אוֹ נָחָשׁ מְחַיֶּה. אֶלָּא, בִּזְמַן שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִסְתַּכְּלִין כְּלַפֵּי מַעְלָה וּמְשַׁעְבְּדִין אֶת לִבָּם לַאֲבִיהֶן שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, הָיוּ מִתְרַפְּאִים, וְאִם לָאו, הָיוּ נִמּוֹקִים.

A bunch of years ago I posted the Netziv's amazing pshat on the first half of this Mishna, but this year I want to look at the second half.  

The Mishna quotes the pasuk עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף and then asks וְכִי נָחָשׁ מֵמִית, אוֹ נָחָשׁ מְחַיֶּה.  Shouldn't it say וְכִי שׂרף מֵמִית, אוֹ שׂרף מְחַיֶּה to match the language of the pasuk?  Why does the Mishna switch terms on us?  

The truth is that it's not the Mishna, but it's the pesukim themselves that set the stage for the confusion of terminology.  Let me call your attention to the highlighted words:

 וַיְדַבֵּר הָעָם בֵּאלֹקים וּבְמֹשֶׁה לָמָה הֶעֱלִיתֻנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם לָמוּת בַּמִּדְבָּר כִּי אֵין לֶחֶם וְאֵין מַיִם וְנַפְשֵׁנוּ קָצָה בַּלֶּחֶם הַקְּלֹקֵל.

 וַיְשַׁלַּח ה׳ בָּעָם אֵת הַנְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים...

 וַיָּבֹא הָעָם אֶל⁠ מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמְרוּ חָטָאנוּ כִּי⁠ דִבַּרְנוּ בַה׳ וָבָךְ הִתְפַּלֵּל אֶל⁠ ה׳ וְיָסֵר מֵעָלֵינוּ אֶת⁠ הַנָּחָשׁ וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל מֹשֶׁה בְּעַד הָעָם.

 וַיֹּאמֶר ה׳ אֶל⁠ מֹשֶׁה עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף וְשִׂים אֹתוֹ עַל⁠ נֵס...

 וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת וַיְשִׂמֵהוּ עַל⁠ הַנֵּס וְהָיָה אִם⁠ נָשַׁךְ הַנָּחָשׁ אֶת⁠ אִישׁ וְהִבִּיט אֶל⁠ נְחַשׁ הַנְּחֹשֶׁת וָחָי.

Summary: Hashem sends נְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים.  The people then beg Moshe to remove הַנָּחָשׁ.  Hashem them tells Moshe to make a שָׂרָף.  Moshe responds by making a נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת.  We go from 1) נְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים to 2) נָּחָשׁ , then back to 3) שָׂרָף, and then back to 4) נְחַשׁ again.  

What are we dealing with here -- a נָּחָשׁ, a שָׂרָף , or a combination נְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים?

The SHL"H (quoted in the Yismach Moshe here) explains as follows: the sin of Bn"Y was twofold -- speaking against G-d and speaking against Moshe, וַיְדַבֵּר הָעָם בֵּאלֹקים וּבְמֹשֶׁה  The punishment of נָּחָשׁ was for the sin of speaking against Hashem; the punishment of שָׂרָף was for speaking against Moshe.  

When the people repented for both sins, וַיָּבֹא הָעָם אֶל⁠ מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמְרוּ חָטָאנוּ כִּי⁠ דִבַּרְנוּ בַה׳ וָבָךְ.  Hashem responded and said, "I am mochel my portion, but I can't be mochel for speaking against Moshe."  Therefore,  עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף, since שָׂרָף is the punishment for speaking against Moshe. 

Moshe, however, thought the opposite.  He was willing to be mochel on his kavod, but how can you be mochel on kavod shamayim?  Therefore, he made a  נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת, since נָּחָשׁ is the punishment for speaking against Hashem.

This distinction explains why when Bn"Y requested that Moshe daven for them, they requested  הִתְפַּלֵּל אֶל⁠ ה׳ וְיָסֵר מֵעָלֵינוּ אֶת⁠ הַנָּחָשׁ.  The שָׂרָף portion they knew Moshe could be mochel, but the נָּחָשׁ portion, k'lapei shemaya, they knew needed tefilah and Hashem's forgiveness, and so asked Moshe to intervene on their behalf.

Now that we understand how to read the pesukim, we can appreciate the proof of the Mishna and why it switches terms.  כַּיּוֹצֵא בַדָּבָר אַתָּה אוֹמֵר: עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף וְשִׂים אֹתוֹ עַל נֵס וְהָיָה כָּל הַנָּשׁוּךְ וְרָאָה אֹתוֹ וָחָי .  If there was some magic to the cure itself, i.e. Hashem was revealing the way to cure snakebites, then if Hashem said to make a שָׂרָף, it meant only a שָׂרָף would do the trick.  If your doctor writes a prescription for drug X to cure snakebites and you take drug Y, it won't work.  Since Hashem said שָׂרָף, how is it that the  נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת worked?  

Answers the Mishna: וְכִי נָחָשׁ מֵמִית, אוֹ נָחָשׁ מְחַיֶּה. אֶלָּא, בִּזְמַן שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִסְתַּכְּלִין כְּלַפֵּי מַעְלָה וּמְשַׁעְבְּדִין אֶת לִבָּם לַאֲבִיהֶן שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, הָיוּ מִתְרַפְּאִים, וְאִם לָאו, הָיוּ נִמּוֹקִים.  QED that it's not the נָּחָשׁ and it's not the שָׂרָף itself that does anything.  It's turning to Hashem that is the real cure.  

current events reflected in the parsha

One cannot help but think of current events when reading the short three pasuk episode (21:1-3) that describes the attack against Bn"Y by Canaan, the captive/hostage taken by them, and the eventual victory by Bn"Y.  We hope to see a similar total victory very soon in our days.

 וַיִּשְׁמַע הַכְּנַעֲנִי מֶלֶךְ⁠ עֲרָד יֹשֵׁב הַנֶּגֶב כִּי בָּא יִשְׂרָאֵל דֶּרֶךְ הָאֲתָרִים וַיִּלָּחֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּשְׁבְּ מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁבִי.

Rashi explains  שמע שמת אהרן ונסתלקו ענני כבוד .  It's not clear how the rest of the pasuk follows from this point.  כִּי בָּא יִשְׂרָאֵל דֶּרֶךְ הָאֲתָרִים -- why is the road they took significant, and how does this reason ("כִּי") relate to the death of Aharon as the cause for the attack?   

Netziv and Abarbanel resolve the problem by connecting the parsha not only to the death of Aharon, but to the previous chapter's episode relating to Edom.  In the beginning of the previous perek we read how Bn"Y appealed to Edom for permission to transverse their lands but were denied.  Rather than fight and conquer Edom (which Hashem did not allow), Bn"Y turned away and had to circumnavigate Edom's territory and take a longer route through the desert.  To Canaan, this appeared to be an act of cowardice, proving that Bn"Y wanted to avoid war, even at great cost to themselves.

This was followed by the death of Aharon, which, in addition to the departure of ananei ha'kavid, led the people to rebel and turn back towards Egypt, as Rashi in Devarim (10:6) tells us: 

כשמת אהרן בהר ההר לסוף ארבעים שנה ונסתלקו ענני כבוד, יראתם לכם מן מלחמת מלך ערד ונתתם לב לחזור למצרים, וחזרתם לאחוריכם שמונה מסעות עד בני יעקן,

The net result of these events was that Bn"Y appeared to be marching around like a people lost and afraid, with their morale broken.  

דֶּרֶךְ הָאֲתָרִים was the path taken by the meraglim.  Spies travel surreptitiously, hoping to avoid detection; they don't come into a country in a parade, like a victorious army.  This is how Bn"Y now appeared to be travelling -- slinking around, hoping to fly below the radar.  Abarbanel writes:

וענינו דרך התרים והמרגלים את הארץ שלא ילכו דרך גלויה ומפורסמת אלא דרך עקלתון ונסתרת לאמר לא תשורנו עין

We seem to have done a total about face from the days of yetzi'as Mitzratim where  ובני ישראל יצאים ביד רמה, a total about face from  אָז נִבְהֲלוּ אַלּוּפֵי אֱדוֹם אֵילֵי מוֹאָב יֹאחֲזֵמוֹ רָעַד נָמֹגוּ כֹּל יֹשְׁבֵי כְנָעַן. 

This is what Canaan heard and saw and what led them to attack.  When you appear weak, it provides the enemy with an opening. 

I would add that although Rashi emphasizes the loss of ananei ha'kavod, perhaps the death of Aharon, coming a few months after the death of Miriam, was seen by Canaan as a creating a leadership vacuum.  

If so, the fact that the response davka came dava from the people -- וַיִּדַּ֨ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֥ל נֶ֛דֶר -- without the participation of Moshe or other leaders, and וַיִּשְׁמַ֨ע ה׳ בְּק֣וֹל יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל without Moshe being involved, takes on greater significance, as it showed that Bn"Y were not dependent on any individual leader for their success and continuity. 

Despite all the setbacks which set the stage for Canaan's attack, we need to keep in mind the end of the story: Bn"Y won the war.  The lesson learned over 40 years in the desert was one of resilience.  Loss of leadership, loss of morale, setbacks -- all these are heartbreaking, but all these can be overcome.  

R' Mordechai Greenberg, R"Y of Kerem b'Yavneh, writes as follows:

דור ראשון של יוצאי מצרים היה מלא חששות ופחדים. הקב"ה הסב אותו דרך המדבר, ולא העביר אותו בדרך הקצרה ולא דרך ארץ פלשתים, מחשש "פן ינחם העם בראתם מלחמה ושבו מצרימה" (שמות יג, יז). הפחד שלט בהם גם שנה אחר כך, כשהם דחו את דברי כלב בן יפונה וטענו "לא נוכל לעלות אל העם כי חזק הוא ממנו" (במדבר יג, לא), וסופם שנשארו במדבר ולא נכנסו לארץ. נסתם הגולל על דור המדבר. וכדי להמחיש את חולשתם מסיים הכתוב את פרשת המרגלים במפלתם של ישראל, "וירד העמלקי והכנעני הישב בהר ההוא, ויכום ויכתום עד החרמה" (במדבר יד, מה).

השינוי הגדול ניכר בצאצאיהם של דור המדבר במלחמתם בעמלקי-הכנעני דווקא במקום זה, בחרמה. "וישמע הכנעני... ישב הנגב כי בא ישראל דרך האתרים, וילחם בישראל וישב ממנו שבי" (במדבר כא, א), אך הפעם השיבו מלחמה שערה. ישראל התקדמו באותה דרך שהלכו אבותיהם, "'דרך האתרים'- דרך הנגב שהלכו בה המרגלים (התיירים), שנאמר 'ויעלו בנגב' " (רש"י שם שם), והפעם ברוח נחושה ובגבורה. ואף שהכנעני שבו ממנו שבי, לא נפלה רוחם, אלא נדרו נדר, וה' הצליח דרכם. בעקבות הניצחון נאמר קראו את "שם המקום חרמה" (שם שם, ג), השם שסימל בעבר, לפני ארבעים שנה את הכישלון הגדול, מציין עתה שישראל קיימו את נדרם והחרימו את הכנעני.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

voting Democrat = suicide (3)

Biden's debate performance speaks for itself, so let's turn to other things. 

1) Kamala Harris proved that she can really cut through the haze and focus laser-like on what's most important.  In an interview in The Nation she had this to say:  

“Similarly, I was asking early on, what are women in Gaza doing about sanitary hygiene. Do they have pads? And these are the issues that made people feel uncomfortable, especially sanitary pads.”

As for the flag burning rioters shouting "Death of America, Death to Israel," she's got that covered as well, commenting that, “They are showing exactly what the human emotion should be, as a response to Gaza."   

Not surprising from the woman who helped raise bail for BLM rioters.

2) That same "human emotion" reared its head at an elementary school graduation in NYC, where Jewish parents were attacked.  Hope they win a bundle in their $100 million lawsuit against the city.

3) The D's are trying to formulate their party platform in advance of the convention.  Elianne Farhat, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota, one of three speakers who addressed their committee, advocated for an embargo on arms sales to Israel, and spoke about what happens when our country, "...Misuses that power to spread pain, suffering and genocide.”  The other two speakers disagreed with her, so I guess we should be happy with rov.  

4) 19 people killed and 100 shot this past weekend in Chicago. Democratic Mayor Brandon Johnson, like Kamala Harris, cut right to the heart of the matter and saw what others failed to see, namely, that it is former President Richard Nixon who is responsible for the city's troubles. 

Friday, July 05, 2024

korach and the lesson of rosh chodesh

The gemara (B"B 74a) among the aggadic stories of Rabbah bar bar Channa recounts the following episode that relates to events in our parsha: 

אָמַר לִי: תָּא אַחְוֵי לָךְ בְּלוּעֵי דְקֹרַח. חֲזַאי תְּרֵי בִּיזְעֵי, וַהֲווֹ קָא מַפְּקִי קוּטְרָא. שְׁקַל גְּבָבָא דְעַמְרָא וְאַמְשִׁינֵּהּ בְּמַיָּא, וְדַעֲצִיתֵהּ בְּרֵאשֵׁהּ דְּרוּמְחָא וְעַיְּילֵיהּ הָתָם, וְכִי אַפֵּיק, הֲוָה אִיחֲרַךְ אִיחֲרוֹכֵי. אָמַר לִי: אַצֵּית מַאי שָׁמְעַתְּ, וּשְׁמַעִית דַּהֲווֹ אָמְרִין: ״מֹשֶׁה וְתוֹרָתוֹ אֱמֶת, וְהֵן בַּדָּאִין״. אֲמַר לִי: כֹּל תְּלָתִין יוֹמֵי מַהְדַּר לְהוּ גֵּיהִנָּם לְהָכָא כְּבָשָׂר בְּקַלַּחַת, וְאָמְרִי הָכִי: ״מֹשֶׁה וְתוֹרָתוֹ אֱמֶת, וְהֵן בַּדָּאִין״. 

Sefaria's translation (from Steinsaltz):

Rabba bar bar Ḥana continues his account. The Arab also said to me: Come, I will show you those who were swallowed by the earth due to the sin of Korah. I saw two rifts in the ground that were issuing smoke. The Arab took a shearing of wool, and dipped it in water, and inserted it on the head of a spear, and placed it in there. And when he removed the wool, it was scorched. He said to me: Listen to what you hear; and I heard that they were saying: Moses and his Torah are true, and they, i.e., we in the earth, are liars. The Arab further said to me: Every thirty days Gehenna returns them to here, like meat in a pot that is moved around by the boiling water as it cooks. And every time they say this: Moses and his Torah are true, and they, i.e., we in the earth, are liars.

Rashbam comments: כל תלתין יומין - כל ראש חדש

It seems from Rashbam that this is not some random 30 day cycle, but it is rosh chodesh in particular that brings those who were swallowed by the earth in Korach's rebellion back to the place where they sinned, where they again recant and admit that Moshe is true and that they are liars.  R' Nachman has a hesber why this should be true (Likutei Moharan 10:9), but since understanding R' Nachman is beyond me, let me offer two other suggestions.

Rav Soloveitchik in one of the yahrzeit derashos develops the idea that beis din serves two functions: sometimes B"D acts on their own authority and power, and sometimes B"D acts as representatives of Klal Yisrael, as reflecting the will of the people as a whole.  The Rambam in Sefer haMitzvos sees kiddush hachodesh as reflecting the power of B"D in this second role.  The Rambam writes that there must always be a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael because the will of the tzibur of Klal Yisrael means the tzibur in Eretz Yisrael.  B"D that enacts the calendar are just the representatives of this community.

The tragic mistake of Korach is in thinking that the power of the community to create law based on their decisions has no bounds.  The din by kiddush hachodesh is אתם אפילו שוגגין אתם אפילו מזידין אתם אפילו מוטעין.  Even if B"D, as representative of the community, errs, their decision is binding.  Their will, which is the will of the people, is absolute.  

Every Rosh Chodesh the followers of Korach revisit their error. אתם אפילו שוגגין אתם אפילו מזידין אתם אפילו מוטעין works for mistakes made within the framework of halacha, but not to uprooting the system completely.

I saw a different hesber that is based on a yesod of the Maharal.  The korban chatas in the musaf of rosh chodesh in unique in that the Torah describes it as   וּשְׂעִ֨יר עִזִּ֥ים אֶחָ֛ד לְחַטָּ֖את לַה׳.  Why the extra word  לַה׳?  Rashi quotes from Chazal ומדרשו באגדה: אמר הקב״ה: הביאו כפרה עלי שמיעטתי את הירח.  Rashi here is alluding to the Midrash he quotes in Braishis (1:16).  The Torah describes the creation of the sun and the moon as שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים, equal in size.  However, the moon complained that you can't have two kings sharing one crown, and as a result, Hashem knocked it down in size, as Rashi there comments, שוים נבראו, ונתמעטה הלבנה על ידי שקיטרגה ואמרה: אי איפשר לשני מלכים שישתמשו בכתר אחד.  The Midrash Rabbah there comments:

אָמַר רַבִּי פִּינְחָס בְּכָל הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת כְּתִיב שְׂעִיר עִזִּים אֶחָד חַטָּאת, וּבְרֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ כְּתִיב (במדבר כ״ח:ט״ו): שְׂעִיר עִזִּים אֶחָד חַטָּאת לַה׳, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הָבִיאוּ כַּפָּרָה עָלַי שֶׁמִּעַטְתִּי אֶת הַיָּרֵחַ, שֶׁאֲנִי הוּא שֶׁגָּרַמְתִּי לוֹ לְהִכָּנֵס בִּתְחוּמוֹ שֶׁל חֲבֵרוֹ, וּמָה אִם זֶה שֶׁנִּכְנַס בִּרְשׁוּת כָּךְ פְּגָמוֹ הַכָּתוּב, הַנִּכְנָס שֶׁלֹא בִּרְשׁוּת עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה. רַבִּי לֵוִי בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר אִלְּעָאי אָמַר, דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ הוּא שֶׁיְהֵא הַגָּדוֹל מוֹנֶה לַגָּדוֹל, וְהַקָּטָן מוֹנֶה לַקָּטָן. עֵשָׂו מוֹנֶה לַחַמָּה, שֶׁהִיא גְּדוֹלָה, וְיַעֲקֹב מוֹנֶה לַלְּבָנָה, שֶׁהִיא קְטַנָּה.

אָמַר רַב נַחְמָן וְהוּא סִימָן טַב, עֵשָׂו מוֹנֶה לַחַמָּה שֶׁהִיא גְּדוֹלָה, מַה חַמָּה הַזֹּאת שׁוֹלֶטֶת בַּיּוֹם וְאֵינָה שׁוֹלֶטֶת בַּלַּיְלָה, כָּךְ עֵשָׂו יֵשׁ לוֹ חֵלֶק בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְאֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. יַעֲקֹב מוֹנֶה לַלְּבָנָה שֶׁהִיא קְטַנָה, מַה הַלְּבָנָה הַזּוֹ שׁוֹלֶטֶת בַּלַּיְלָה וּבַיּוֹם, כָּךְ יַעֲקֹב יֵשׁ לוֹ חֵלֶק בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְלָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. רַב נַחְמָן אָמַר כָּל זְמַן שֶׁאוֹרוֹ שֶׁל גָּדוֹל קַיָּם אֵין אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל קָטָן מִתְפַּרְסֵם, שָׁקַע אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל גָּדוֹל, מִתְפַּרְסֵם אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל קָטָן. כָּךְ כָּל זְמַן שֶׁאוֹרוֹ שֶׁל עֵשָׂו קַיָּם אֵין אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב מִתְפַּרְסֵם, שָׁקַע אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל עֵשָׂו מִתְפַּרְסֵם אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב, הֲדָא הוּא דִּכְתִיב (ישעיהו ס׳:א׳-ב׳): קוּמִי אוֹרִי כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ. כִּי הִנֵּה הַחשֶׁךְ יְכַסֶּה אֶרֶץ וגו׳.

Many years ago there was a certain Rosh Yeshiva that visited the community we were living in and on Friday night they had an oneg Q/A session where you could ask anything you wanted to the R"Y.  Someone chose this topic to ask about.  What does it mean that Hashem needs a korban as a kaparah for himself?  Does Hashem sin?  Does Hashem need to offer korbanos?  Who is He offering them to?  This R"Y was a big Brisker style lamdan, but this was not his cup of tea, and he told the guy that he has no idea what it means.  The guy then pressed and asked what he is supposed to tell his little kid who asked about this Rashi and thinks that his Tatte should have all the answers, to which the R"Y responded that the kid will now learn his Tatte doesn't know everything.  That too is an important lesson even if it doesn't explain the Rashi.  Brisker lomdus may not help you here, but the Maharal will (Be'er haGolah ch 4 among other places, and see the Ishbitzer in Mei HaShiloach as well in parshas Pinchas).  

Maharal explains that the idea behind a korban, from the root קרב, is to draw closer.  The moon was made smaller in physical size by Hashem, and was left wanting.  Hashem therefore said that in order to make it up to the moon, he will offer a korban, i.e. he will draw the moon closer to Him.  Hashem dwells among the humble and the small.  

We find the same idea by mattan Torah.  Of all the great mountains available, Hashem chose to give the Torah davka on Sinai, the smallest of the lot.  

That's what Chazal mean when they say that Hashem asked for a kapparah.  The korban, the drawing closer of the moon, is the kapparah, is the answer to the complaint of the moon, because what it lost in physical size was more than made up for by its gain in spiritual greatness.  

What Chazal are telling us is that Korach did not absorb the lesson of Rosh Chodesh.  The sun appears to be much bigger than the moon, which is why Eisav reckons the calendar according to the sun -- the biggest and brightest.  Korach too, was attracted to the trappings of the office of kohen gadol.  With such a position comes wealth and authority and respect, all the greatness olam ha'zeh has to offer.  All the talk about kedusha was just posturing, just a sales pitch.

We follow the moon, because we know that external appearances aren't everything; we know that the meausure of "bigness" in olam ha'zeh's yardstick is not accurate -- there is "bigness" in spiritual greatness too.  Every Rosh Chodesh the followers of Korach come back and proclaim this truth, and acknowledge that ״מֹשֶׁה וְתוֹרָתוֹ אֱמֶת, וְהֵן בַּדָּאִין

Friday, June 28, 2024

rehabilitating the reputation of the meraglim

There is a custom quoted in SA (OC 580) to fast on 17 Elul as this is the anniversary of the day the meraglim died.  The MB (sk 8) quotes the Beis Yosef as asking why we should commemorate their death.  We have fasts for the death of tzadikim, e.g. Aharon's death, Miriam's death.  However, when it comes to reshaim,  וּבַאֲבֹ֖ד רְשָׁעִ֣ים רִנָּֽה.  We should celebrate their death, not mark the day with a taanis.  

The Beis Yosef answers ואפשר דמסתמא שבו ולא זכו שיקובל תשובתם ולכן מתענים.  It's hard to understand what he means.  If their teshuvah was not accepted, then that means they remain reshaim and הדרא קושׁיא לדוכתא.  But even if they had succeeded in doing teshuvah, does that now make them tzadikim deserving of their own fast day?

R' Moshe Tzuriel answers that the fast of 17 Elul is a fast not for the meraglim, but for ourselves, for Klal Yisrael, because it was our acceptance of the meraglim's report and our rejection of Eretz Yisrael that led to the bechiya l'doros of future churban and galus.  You might argue that we already have a fast of 9 Av for that, but there is a need for both days.  9 Av is a day of mourning over the final outcome of churban, which came as a result of sinas chinam.  17 Elul is a day to reflect on וימאסו בּארץ חמדה, the sin that got the ball rolling.

Maybe we can salvage the reputation of the meraglim and explain why we fast in their honor with the help of a Chasam Sofer.  There is a puzzling Yalkut Shimoni that says:

 מֵעִיד אֲנִי עָלַי שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה בְּדַעְתּוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְהָמִית עֲשָׂרָה נְשִׂיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶלָּא שֶׁרָצוּ אַחַר מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן עַד שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ תַּחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה.

Somehow the death of the meraglim is attributed to their following Moshe and Aharon, which is very hard to understand.  How would following Moshe nd Aharon cause someone to die?  On the alhatorah.org website they quoted this Yalkut and add a few words in brackets: שֶׁרָצוּ אַחַר מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן [לִרְגֹּם אוֹתָם בַּאֲבָנִים]  I'm not sure where the bracketed words come from, but they obviously come to address this difficulty by saying it wasn't following Moshe and Aharon that led to their death, but rather trying to kill Moshe and Aharon.  Quite a difference!  The Chasam Sofer quotes the Yalkut and the Tana d'Bei Eliyahu without those words, and has a few different suggestions to explain what Chazal mean.  

Before getting to his hesber, let me preface it with acomment from a talmid of CS in a footnote citing a vort from his rebbe the CS.  He writes that R' Akiva's view in Sanhedrin 108a  דּוֹר הַמִּדְבָּר אֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא וְאֵין עוֹמְדִין בַּדִּין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר {במדבר י״ד:ל״ה} בַּמִּדְבָּר הַזֶּה יִתַּמּוּ וְשָׁם יָמוּתוּ דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא should not be taking at face value.  In potential, the dor ha'midbar might have theoretically been at risk of losing olam ha'ba.  In reality, however, the opposite is the case.  Read the entire pasuk:

 אֲנִ֣י ה׳ דִּבַּ֒רְתִּי֒ אִם⁠־לֹ֣א׀ זֹ֣את אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֗ה לְכׇל⁠־הָעֵדָ֤ה הָֽרָעָה֙ הַזֹּ֔את הַנּוֹעָדִ֖ים עָלָ֑י בַּמִּדְבָּ֥ר הַזֶּ֛ה יִתַּ֖מּוּ וְשָׁ֥ם יָמֻֽתוּ׃

What Hashem is saying is  אִם⁠־לֹ֣א׀ זֹ֣את אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֗ה -- if not for the fact that they are going to be punished, then  בַּמִּדְבָּ֥ר הַזֶּ֛ה יִתַּ֖מּוּ וְשָׁ֥ם יָמֻֽתוּ.  They are, however, going to be punished.  That punishment is therefor in effect their salvation.

Here is the hesber of the CS to the Yalkut (there are different editions of CS, so it's not so easy to find):

In this piece the CS is saying that the dor ha'midbar were punished, but there was a silver lining.  No one died before age 60, giving them each the opportunity to grow to shleimus.  יִתַּ֖מּוּ = achieve temimus, and only then  יָמֻֽתוּ.  (See the chiddush if the Akeidah in this post.)

Does that mean that the meraglim who were killed on the spot were denied that opportunity and were doomed forever?  Quite the contrary, says the CS.  The meraglim were the only members of dor ha'midbar who had the zechus of walking 4 amos in Eretz Yisrael.  The meraglim were the ones who when Moshe and Aharon asked for volunteers to go ahead and spy out the land, they raised their hands and took the mission knowing full well the dangers that would be involved.  These people didn't need 40 more years in the desert to achieve shleimus before they died.  They had achieved shleimus already!  True, upon their return they sinned in bringing a false report, but that sin does not outweigh the merit of their accomplishment. 

What Chazal in the Yalkut are asking is why did the meraglim, unlike anyone else, **merit** immediate death in a state of shleimus?  The answer is אֶלָּא שֶׁרָצוּ אַחַר מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן.  Because they were the pioneers who trusted Moshe and Aharon, who embarked on an uncertain mission, and were thereby the first ones since the Avos to have the zechus of walking in Eretz Yisrael.  Their sin may have been great, but their merit is even greater.

We fast on 17 Elul to celebrate the greatness of Eretz Yisrael, to celebrate the fact that the heroism and faith of being willing to enter the land in the face of risk and uncertainty can overcome and erase other faults and failures.  

Thursday, June 27, 2024

when to hesitate and when not

The gemara (Shaboos 134) says that one is allowed to be mechalel shabbos to wash a baby on the third day after milah.  Some Rishonim hold that this means davka on the third day, as it is on that day that the pain is most intense.  Other Rishonim hold that it means all days up to and inclusive of the third day.  

My SIL in Eretz Yisrael is learning Shabbos and pointed out a very interesting Meiri.  We read in parshas vayishlach (34:25):

 וַיְהִי בַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בִּהְיוֹתָם כֹּאֲבִים וַיִּקְחוּ שְׁנֵי⁠ בְנֵי⁠ יַעֲקֹב שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי אֲחֵי דִינָה אִישׁ חַרְבּוֹ וַיָּבֹאוּ עַל⁠ הָעִיר בֶּטַח וַיַּהַרְגוּ כׇּל⁠ זָכָר.

If the first two days after milah are as painful as the third day, why did Shimon and Levi wait?

The Baalei Tosfos (Daas Zekeinim, Hadar Zekeinim, see also Tur) answer that there were so many people that it took three days to mal the entire city (a bit difficult, as Yehoshua did milah on all those who had been born in the midbar in a single day after Bn"Y crossed the Yarden), or it took three days to convince everyone in the city to do milah.

Meiri (Shabbos 86a, and the Tur also quotes this answer):

 ויהי ביום השלישי בהיותם כואבים כלומר שעדיין היו כואבים וכל שכן שהיו כואבים בראשון ושני אלא שהיו נמלכים בעצמם אם יעשו אם לא יעשו וכשהגיעו לשלישי ודנו בעצמם שאם לא יעשו באותו היום אף הם מתרפאים למחרתו נמנו וגמרו להרגם

Shimon and Levi were uncertain what to do, and debated among themselves for two days.  When the third day came and they realized it was now or never, as the people of Shechem would start to heal the next day, they acted.

My 2 cents: this is the same Shimon and Levi who, with their brothers tacit approval, who immediately wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to kill Yosef once they had him alone, and would have done so if not for the intervention of Reuvain and Yehudah.  No days of deliberation or second thoughts here!

Sadly, this is an all too common story.  When it comes to our aku"m enemies, we klerr back and forth and wring our hands for days deliberating before we finally take action.  However, when it comes to shechting one of our own, the knives are out in an instant and we are at each other's throats without a second thought.  

Baruch Hashem, I think the tide is turning.  We have learned our lesson a bit and we are seeing more achdus in our own camp and more resolve to do what needs to be done to the enemy.  

the suicidal need to vote Democrat (2)

I figured I would post this week's "vote Democrat = suicide" update before the debate, as that will probably be it's own ridiculous parsha.  

1) In LA protestors blocked the entrance to a synagogue and attacked Jews trying to enter.  Here is the description of the police response in the Free Press by eyewitness Noah Pollak

But as I got closer, the truly meaningful spectacle came into view: behind the phalanx of LAPD, on the sidewalk in front of the synagogue, were the Hamas supporters. When I walked up to the police with my boys and asked if I could enter the synagogue, they told me not to come any closer and said that I should leave. 

I asked calmly but incredulously, “Shouldn’t you be making sure this place stays open?” The reply was: “You should leave.”

Police were unwilling to confront, arrest, and prosecute bad actors. Jews were being policed in the name of “safety.” In Los Angeles and other big cities, and on many elite campuses, the message from authorities is essentially: things would be so much easier if you stayed off campus, avoided the library, didn’t go to your synagogue, and overall just stayed away from the mobs that regularly gather to confront you.

If you live in a Democrat run big city know this: the police are there to protect the criminals, not to protect you.  If you are in danger, the police response will come too late, will be ineffective, and even if the the criminals are taken into custody they will be handed over to the Soros sponsored DAs who will release them with no charges.  

2) Another excellent promotion within the Biden administration.  Tyler Cherry, whose qualifications are his gender confusion, his support for Palestine, and his hatred of the police, was given a slot handling White House communications. Yahoo News writes, "In a statement to Fox News Digital, White House senior deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said, 'We’re very proud to have Tyler on the team.'"  

3) Turing to Israel, The Hill writes:

According to an AP report, [General] Brown also warned Jerusalem that “the U.S. won’t likely be able to help Israel defend itself against a broader Hezbollah war as well as it helped Israel fight off an Iranian barrage of missiles and drones in April.” Brown also indicated “the U.S. continues to talk with Israeli leaders and warn against widening the conflict.”

It does not help that the USS Gerald R. Ford was ordered back to the U.S. in January. Nor does Biden’s intentional slow-walking of constriction of weapons shipments to Israel.

Escalation paralysis continues to dominate Biden’s White House, his State Department and now his Pentagon. 

I couldn't have put it better myself.  

Friday, June 21, 2024

the significance of repetition -- lomdus to answer to a Shaar haMelech posted years ago

A mere sixteen years ago when the daf hayomi was doing Nazir I posted a kashe of the Shaar haMelech that I left unanswered. There are Rishonim who hold that given the choice of shechting meat for a choleh on shabbos or feeding the choleh neveila, it is better to violate shabbos.  Even though shabbos is an issur sekilah and neveila is just an issur lav, you potentially violate the issur neveila with every kzayis eaten, multiple times, but violate shabbos only once if you do the shechita.  It is better therefore to minimize the number of issurim.  R' Yosef Engel has an piece that he devotes to discussing the issue of quantity vs. quality, kamus vs eichus.  Here you have it -- kamus trumps eichus, quantity is more important than quality.

Here's the problem.  The Mishna in Nazir (47) talks about a meis mitzvah found by a kohen gadol and nazir.  Who should bury the body?  Neither one is allowed to become tamei, so which is the lesser evil?  

The Ramban tells us that a nazir who is metamei himself violates four separate issurim (Nazir 5:21):

הא למדת שהנזיר שטמא עצמו לוקה ארבע מלקיות משום לא יטמא ומשום לא יחל דברו ומשום לא תאחר לשלמו ומשום לא יבוא אם היתה ביאה וטומאה כאחת כמו שבארנו:

You would think therefore that the kohen gadol should be metamei himself since he violates only one issur.  Yet that is not how the Chachamim rule, or how the Rambam paskens (Nazir 7:13):

נזיר וכהן שפגעו במת מצוה יטמא נזיר אע"פ שהוא סותר הימים הראשונים ומביא קרבן טומאה. ואל יטמא כהן שזה קדושתו קדושת שעה ואפילו היה נזיר עולם והכהן קדושתו קדושת עולם:

Why in this case, asks Shaar haMelech (Maachalos Assuros 14:17), don't we apply the principle that quantity trumps quality, i.e. that even though the kohen gadol has a more chamur kedusha,  קדושתו קדושת עולם, the fact that the nazir violates multiple lavim make it the greater evil?

The Minchas Chinuch (376:6) has an answer, but I want to share with you my wife's grandfather's (R' Dov Yehudah Shochet) answer since it relates to our parsha and is beautiful amkus in understanding the sugya.

Rashi explains the smichus ha'parshiyos between the gifts of the nesiim and hadlakas hamenorah:

למה נסמכה פרשת המנורה לחנוכת הנשיאים, כשראה אהרן חנוכת הנשיאים, חלשה דעתו כשלא היה עמהם בחנוכה, לא הוא ולא שבטו. אמר לו הקב״ה: חייך, שלך גדולה משלהם, שאתה מדליק ומטיב את הנרות בקר וערב.

Many of the mefoshim are bothered by Rashi's contention that שלך גדולה משלהם.  What makes lighting the menorah greater than the gifts of the korbanos?  How do we weigh one mitzvah against another?

My wife's grandfather (see my wife's post) suggested that what makes lighting the menorah greater is the fact that it was done every day, as opposed to the gifts of the nesiim were a one time deal.  Something done repeatedly outweighs something that is a once time event.  

He proves that sevara from the din we just saw above: the lav of neveila outweighs the lav of shabbos even though shabbos has a stricter punishment because the lav of neveila would be violated repeatedly in eating.  Repetition gives something significance and weight.

[Editorial note: We can learn a yesod in shalom bayis from here as well. What you do repeatedly day in and day out carries more weight in a relationship than a grand gesture of a big present for an anniversary or birthday.]

In that proof lies a subtle difference from the way others, like R' Yosef Engel, understood the sugya.  It's not the number of lavim involved in the issur neveila that makes it more chamur (kamus vs eichus), but rather it's the repetition of the lavim, the fact that the person earing takes bite after bite, repeating the issur again and again.  

M'meila, we can answer the Shaar haMelech's question.  The case of the nazir and kohen gadol who chance upon a meis mitzvah is a one time occurrence.  There (hopefully) will never be a repetition of that same scenario.  Therefore, even though the nazir violates more issurim, that does not outweigh the kedushas kohen gadol.  

Hope this was worth the 16 year wait : )

the suicidal need to vote Democrat

For some reason there are people still clinging to the belief that voting for Biden and Democrats is the right thing to do, even though it is the equivalent of pointing a gun at your own head.  Here's a sample of some of the damage our Democrat "friends" have inflicted on us this week:

1) 30 Columbia students were arrested for occupying a campus building during their anti-Jew protest, but that means nothing because Alvin Bragg, who embraced the most ridiculous legal theories in his witch hunt against Trump, had a prosecutor tell the judge to dismiss the charges:
Inside the courtroom—where audio and video recording is not allowed—a prosecutor in Bragg's office argued that the defendants should not face criminal penalties, citing their lack of criminal histories and arguing that the protesters will face internal discipline at Columbia.

The prosecutor also argued that Bragg's office lacked evidence to land convictions in the cases, given those who occupied Hamilton Hall wore masks and covered up surveillance cameras. New York City police arrested the occupiers while they were inside Hamilton Hall.

Still under the illusion that the police and DA are going to stop the criminals? 

2) Senator Tom Cotton reveals the truth behind the White House lie that they have no idea what Bibi is talking about when he accuses them of withholding arms from Israel:
As you are aware, the Arms Export Control Act requires the administration to notify Congress before sending weapons to a foreign country. Your administration has manipulated this requirement by withholding this formal notification to Congress of approved weapons sales, including F-15s, tactical vehicles, 120-mm mortars, 120-mm tank rounds, joint direct attack munitions, and small diameter bombs. Your administration can then claim that the weapons are “in process” while never delivering them.

But the law also includes an exception for “when emergencies exist,” which allows you to waive the requirement for congressional review and expedite weapons sales. Your administration is obviously aware of this exception since you invoked it just last year. Yet, it appears that you stopped acknowledging the emergency in Israel after receiving a letter from nearly twenty congressional Democrats in January, urging you to end expedited weapons sales to Israel.
3) As missiles rain down on the North in Israel in violation of the UN agreed to cease fire between Hezbollah and Israel, you will be happy to know that the Biden administration has spoken out forcefully on the matter:
“The message to Israel is, don’t do anything in the North,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, as US President Joe Biden’s special envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel on Monday, with plans to head to Lebanon on Tuesday.

“We don’t want to see escalation at all in the North. We’ve made that clear to the government of Israel directly,” Miller said.
What are allies for if not to tell you to be a human punching bag for your enemies?

4) Six months after the fact, on the verge of being tossed out of office, Democrat Congressman Jamaal Bowman has finally apologized for denying that Hamas committed rapes in their 10/7 attack.  Amazing how the threat of losing an election brings such clarity of mind.   Who knows, maybe even dimwitted Biden will finally see the truth sometime before November, but I would not hold my breath.