Friday, April 28, 2006

Rosh Chodesh as a women's yom tov

I admit being noge’ah b’davar, but this (click link) is a nice take on Rosh Chodesh. I would just add that we know that klal yisrael exists above the boundry of time. Hashem gives us credit today for that which will occur in the future, and by the same token, we may suffer now to expiate a cheit that has not yet occurred. The Bnei Yisaschar writes that this is the meaning of Rashi that the creation of the world was “bishvil yisrael” who would accept the Torah – the event of mattan Torah had not yet happened in time, but its zechus already caused briyas ha’olam. Similarly, R’ Tzadok writes that when Avraham battled the kings to save Lot he chased them until Dan, where he foresaw his grandchildren would worship avodah zarah – that future event already impacted his ability to be zocheh to continue fighting even though in time it had not yet occurred. Women have the special zechus of being able to rise above the limitations of time and see this true picture. This is why when it came to keriyas yam suf, while Moshe sang “ashira l’Hashem” in the future tense, Miryam sang “shiru l’Hashem” in the present tense (see Ma’or v’Shemesh). The geulah would be completed only in the future, but to Miryam, the zechus of the future was already present – time was not boundry to its celebration. With this we can understand why Rosh Chodesh was taken as a holiday by women. We say by kiddush levana “David Melech Yisrael chai v’kayam” because Rosh Chodesh anticipates the day when the moon will equal the sun, the day of ultimate geulah through Mashiach ben David. For men, we await this day of celebration, but for women, David haMelech is here with us already (see R' Tzadok in Resisey Layla), as time poses no boundry for receiving and celebrating the bracha and zechus Hashem bestows.

Humanism without Torah - the "bor" vs. the "am ha'aretz"

“Ain bor yarei cheit v’lo am ha’aretz chassid.” What is the difference between a "bor" and an "am ha’aretz"? We once discussed (here) whether the Torah builds upon man’s baseline humantic-ethical foundation, or whether without Torah there is no normative ethics at all – this is the philosophical meaning of the debate whether Yisro (ethical man) came to join Bnei Yisrael before mattan Torah or afterwards. The MaHaRaL here takes the view that without Torah, “ethical man” is deficient as well. One who lacks the “sichlyus” of Torah is lacking both the spiritual component of life, “ain bor yarei cheit”, but also lacks the base ethical chassidus of moral man, “v’lo am ha’aretz chassid”.
The Torah explains man’s tumah only after listing all the non-kosher animals in last week’s parsha. The Midrash teaches, if man degrades himself, we tell him that even the little mosquito came before him. However, if man is worthy, we tell him that the thought to create man actually preceded that of all other creations. Isn’t this like discussing whether the glass is half-empty or half-full – the volume of the glass is the same, so it’s just verbal gymnastics? Man was b’machshava first, b’ma’aseh last, so what difference does it make how you say it? The answer is (see Sefas Emes) that if man is sichli, he transforms his whole being into sichliyus, and we measure him accordingly by the yardstick of sichliyus as first. But if man degrades himself, he becomes completely transformed into a sub-animal level of being, and is measured by the yardstick of chomer where he is last. It is not the same glass half empty or full, but two different glasses because you cannot balance in the middle. A person is given bechira to either be the glass full of Torah, or the glass empty of even humanity, but (at least within the MaHaRaLian framework) there is no middle ground.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cooking from Yom Tov to Shabbos and the definition of ofeh

Based on his chiddush that the chiyuv of ofeh is not when the dough is placed in the oven but only after it bakes, the Afikei Yam raises an interesting idea to resolve a question of the Magen Avraham. The gemara in Pesachim (46b) quotes a machlokes Rabbah and Rav Chisda whether one is chayav malkos for cooking on a Yom Tov for a weekday. Everyone must agree that it is permissible m’doraysa to cook from a Yom Tov to Shabbos because otherwise our eiruv tavshilin would never work – an eiruv would have no power to suspend an issur d’oraysa of cooking. The question is what that heter is based on. Rav Chisda’s approach is that “tzorchei shabbos na’asin b’yom tov” – there is no issur of cooking for Shabbos on Yom Tov, which some rishonim explain to mean the 2 days are “kedusha achas”, they share the same kedushas hayom and are like one unit. Rabbah, on the other hand, argues that there is never an issur to cook for the next day, be it Shabbos or chol, because “ho’il v’ey miklaey lei orchim”, since guests may arrive who need that as a meal, the cooking is not defined as done for tomorrow’s needs, but for the needs of the Yom Tov day itself. The Magen Avraham very practically writes that therefore if one wishes to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, one should do so early in the day when there is a potential for that food to be needed for and used by guests. He is surprised that the practice does not appear to conform to his conclusion – people do cook late in the day! Of course, there is always Rav Chisda’s opinion to rely on, but why get involved in an unresolved machlokes? The Afikei Yam offers a novel suggestion. If one assumes that the chiyuv for baking (and cooking follows suit) follows the completion of the act rather than its start, then food placed in the oven late in the day has an advanatage. One can never be chayav for melacha on Yom Tov, because the cooking did not finish on that day. At the same time, one is not chayav on Shabbos, because the act merely completed on Shabbos and one is never chayav for an act’s completion without it having been started also on Shabbos. I’m not sure practically whether all cooking late in the day conforms to the Afikei Yam’s idea, but it is a creative lomdus!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mechuyav derabbanan being motzi mechyav d'oraysa

R’ Chaim Markowitz discusses an interesting shitas haMordechi here. The Mordechai says that a blind person can be motzi others in Kiddush even according to R’ Yehudah who holds that a suma is chayav in Kiddush only m’derabbanan and others have a chiyuv d’oraysa. Just like you can be yotzei kiddush during tosefes Shabbos (which Mordechai holds is derabbanan) because it will eventually become dark where there is a chiyuv d'oraysa, so too, since the suma may potentially regain his eyesight, the present status of chiyuv derabbanan is sufficient to be motzi a d'oraysa. What kind of combination is this? If a mechuyav m'derabbanan is considered a “bar chiyuva” parallel with someone who has a chiyuv d’oraysa, then why do you need the sevara that things may change afterwards? And if the driving sevara here is the later potential for a d’oraysa obligation, then even someone who has no chiyuv at all now should be able to be motzi someone else?
R’ Elchanan Wasserman (Koveitz Shiurim II:30) writes that the Mordechai is addressing two factors that have to coincide for one to be motzi another in a mitzvah -1) being a bar chiyuva 2) being actually obligated b’poel to do the mitzvah at that moment. The potential future obligation turns one into a bar chiyuva. Yet, that is insufficient to be motzi someone if no present obligation exists. For that, the Mordechai holds at a minimum a chiyuv derabbanan is necessary.

Clarification on previous post regarding Valis

In response to an e-mail sent privately, let me just clarify: even if Valis is guilty, the secular press does not have license to villify the entire chareidi community. The writer offered an analogy to an African American charged with a crime in Georgia, 1950 - what would the reaction be in the larger white community to such a crime? Point granted. However, the press abuses of the "other side" do not justify the response that has been forthcoming, especially when that response proports to be driven not by press moguls, but by the leaders of Klal Yisrael. Using the 1950 analogy, if the African community responded to damning evidence of guilt by circling the wagons, rioting, accusing the police of corruption, and asserting the goal of freeing the charged from jail, all with the support of the local leadership, it would be playing right into the stereotypes of their enemies and just heighten the indignation and offense of the crime. Anyone who reads a newspaper is familar with the type press conference a seasoned lawyer would hold in a case like this - call for calm in the community, pledge complete cooperation with the police investigation, and at the same time promise a vigorous defense of the accused. Unfortunately, that has not been the response in this case (the text of the kol korei is online at Cross Currents), to the deteriment of peaceful relations between the chareidi and secular community.

What is the definition of "ma'aseh aveira" in hilchos shabbos - zorea, ofeh, etc.

I missed the forest for the trees in citing Tosfos Shabbos 4 and not the gemara itself. The gemara asks why the person who placed the dough in the oven would need to remove it and violate the derabbanan of rediyas hapas – if he remembers before the baking happens that baking is assur, then he would not be liable a chatas even if the dough is not removed because the melacha was not completed with the “ha’alama” of issur. QED (maybe) that the issur of ofeh is not merely placing the bread in the oven, but must include the state of it being baked (Afikei Yam II:4). I will concede that one can argue that this is not so – the ma’aseh afiya perhaps concludes when the bread is placed in the oven, but one is retroactively liable only if the baking takes place in a state of ha’alama of the issur (see Eglei Tal, meleches zore’a s”k 8). Why should this condition be necessary if the act of issur has already been done? Perhaps there is a distinction between the completion of the ma’aseh aveira qua human action and the completion of the melacha as a total act.
I argued in the comments that one can distinguish between zoreah and ofeh. By zoreah, the act can never be completed on Shabbos as the plant will take root only later, therefore, the definition of the aveira must be the act of placing the seeds alone. The same does not hold true by ofeh where the entire act may have to occur on Shabbos. The Afikei Yam adopts this sevara as well. One is tempted to argue here as well that the rooting of the plant (hashrasha) may be part of the melacha and one becomes liable retroactively days later - nafka minah if one can uproot the plant in the interim. We once discussed a complex yerushalmi which my brother-in-law raised a kasha on
here but he did not quote the punchline that relates to our discussion. According to Reish Lakish, even though one is chayav for kilayim merely by tossing seed (even before they land), in hilchos shabbos one is chayav only once the seed hits the ground. Clearly, according to the Yerushalmi, taking root is not required. The Ohr Sameich proves the Bavli agrees from Rav Papa’s kashe (Menachos 71) that if we learn from “asher tizra” that the omer permits new wheat, then it should permit even wheat which has not even taken root (i.e. because that is also called “zeriya”!) I am not sure if I have muddled the waters too much, or clarified things a bit : )

A word on Valis: presumption of innocence does not mean he didn't do it

I know, I should avoid political discussion, but this stuff bothers me. For those who remember the days of OJ, yes, you are innocent until proven guilty, but sometimes making that argument against the facts demonstrates partisanship more than commitment to justice. In the Valis case, it is disingenuous to describe, as Cross Currents does, the kol korei as, “not a word about a “psak,” rather, “innocent until proven guilty” in a community where there exists a very blurred line between “da’as Torah” advice which is rarely questioned or countermanded and pure psak. Secondly, Cross Currents writes that in the secular press, “…the basic line was that “the Orthodox want a child killer released,” despite the statements from various Rabbis that, simply put, they did not believe he was a killer.” But that gufa is the problem. Aside from his membership in the chareidi community, WHY do they not believe he did it in light of the physical evidence of abuse and the father’s admission of guilt (which he is not trying to retract under claims of coercion)? Is there some exculpatory evidence that only these gedolim are aware of? If so, why keep it secret? Cross Currents is confusing presumption of innocence before the law with “belief” in innocence as used outside the courtroom. As OJ demonstrated, the presumption of innocence protects one from legal prosecution where the police and prosecution blunder, but does not mean we outside the courtroom we should naively maintain that belief when there exists a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. To so so rightly draws the publics ire and condemnation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yom haShoah and chinuch

I asked my son (6th grade) when I got home if he learned what was special about today. He immediatly responded, "Of course!" and told me that the Satmer Rebbe had passed away. I asked, "Anything else?" "Yes", he responded, "It was also the yahrtzeit of Yehoshua bin Nun."
Now, I am not minimizing either of those items in any way. But would it have hurt his Rebbe or even English teacher to simply mention that we remember the Holocaust today? Maybe even do a little lesson about the Aish Kodesh? Just a thought. I'm used to these things by now, but still feel saddened by it.

Yom haShoah

Today, as hopefully most of you know, is Yom haShoah. Now, I agree that there is room to debate from a halachic perspective whether such a day is necessary when we already have 9 Av. (It does strike me as ironic to argue that no mourning period can be designated apart from 9 Av in the midst of sefirah, itself a distinct mourning period.) However, the bottom line is such a day does exist, so ex post facto the debate is moot. To ignore the day risks causing ill will that far outweighs any gain. I think it is a bit disingenuous to think that 9 Av in a typical summer camp is given over to real reflection on the Holocaust. Yes, a kinah or two is added at the end, but that does not do justice to the topic in the way a day like today can. The Holocaust is rightly understood as one of the two defining events of 20th century Jewish life (the other being the creation of the State of Israel), and in fact, an event of unparalleled magnitude in modern world history. I recall when we lived in NJ that even the secular school system had a requirement that the Holocaust be taught as part of the curriculum (I do not know if the same holds true in NY State). Since our students learn world history anyway, why should we also not take the opportunity to use this day for Holocaust study and remembrance?

violating a derabbanan to avoid a d'oraysa (II)

In the comments to the previous post, Bill Selliger suggested that the case in Shabbos is distinct from the Rambam’s case because in the Rambam’s case no aveira was yet done, while in the case of one who placed bread in the oven the ma’aseh issur is already done - enforcing the issur derabbanan of "rediyas hapas" to prevent removing the bread just forecloses the opportunity to undo the crime. I would agree, but have one hesitation: is placing the bread in the oven really a ma’aseh aveira? Yes, it inevitably leads to the bread baking and chilul shabbos (there is no ptur gerama here, see B”K 60), but couldn’t one argue that chilul shabbos is in the conclusion of the baking, not the act of placing dough in the oven (this is raised by achronim)? If so, until the baking occurs, why not undo the neutral act of having placed the bread in the oven?
The gemara in Shabbos (4a) adds a wrinkle to the equation and asks whether someone else can remove the bread dough in violation of the derabbanan of "rediyas hapas" so that our baker should be saved from an issur d’oraysa – do we allow “chatei b’shvil she’yizkeh chaveirecha”, doing a minor aveira to spare someone else a greater wrong? The gemara rules no. Tosfos quotes a contradictory gemara (Eiruvin 32) which says a cheveir may violate the “minor” prohibition of separating terumah “shelo min hamukaf”, without the bulk of tevel being present, so that someone else does not come to violate the more stringent issur of eating tevel. Asks Tosfos: isn’t this an example of “chetei b'shvil sh’yizkeh chaveirecha”, of committing a minor sin to save one’s friend from a greater wrong? The Riva”s answers in parallel to the approach suggested: in our case of the bread stuck to the oven, the baker committed the ma’aseh aveirah already and just needs a way out; by the tevel case, the person who stands to eat the tevel has not done anything wrong. Yet, Tosfos offers a second answer as well: by the case of tevel, it was the chaveir who offered his neighbor a basket of fruit and is the cause of the potential violation of achilas tevel - he must therefore find a way to undo the act and help his friend. By the case of the bread in the oven, the person who wants to remove the bread was not the cause of it being placed there.
Are these simply two possible answers, or is Tosfos debating the issue of whether placing the dough alone is the ma’aseh aveira, or is there perhaps some other issue involved?
Tosfos further asks how one could be chayav for ofeh when there is always the possibility of “rediyas hapas”, removing the bread from the oven before it bakes. Riv”a answers that the ma’aseh aveira is putting the dough in the oven; rediyas hapas just undoes the aveira. Is this the Riv”a l’shitaso of the previous debate, or not?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Does avoiding an issur d'oraysa license violating a derabbanan?

Over Pesach a very bright bachur asked me a kashe on the din that a ger who converts before Pesach has the din of "poreish min hakever", i.e. it is as if he just became tahor from tumas meis and therefore even after "milah and tevilah" he must wait 7 days until bringing his korban pesach (Rambam K.P. 6:7). Why does the Rambam say only "milah and tevilah" and not mention the korban which a ger is obligated to bring? I did not (and still do not) have a good answer.
While on the topic, the Rambam quite unusually presents a little shakla-v'tarya in this halacha. He asks - how could chazal have uprooted korban pesach, which is a chiyuv kareis, with a mere gezeirah derabbanan? Rambam answers that chazal instituted that the ger should not be toveil until after 7 days; since the geirus in incomplete until that point, the chiyuv korban/kareis never sets in. Why did the Rambam not simply answer "yesh koach b'yad chachamim" to uproot a mitzvah b'shev v'al ta'aseh? It would seem from the Rambam that this rule is inapplicable when kareis in involved. Rishonim (e.g. the Meiri) and achronim alike ask why the gezeirah d'rabbah that teaches us not to blow shofar or take a lulav on shabbos lest it be carried in a pubic domain not also apply to cancel a bris milah on shabbos. According to the Rambam, this would not be a kasha, as bris milah is an issur kareis and hence cannot be circumscribed by a gezeirah.
My question for you sharpshooters: the gemara in Shabbos 3b asks whether Chazal prohibited "rediyas hapas" (scraping bread dough out of the oven), an issur derabbanan, if the bread in the oven is about to become cooked in violation of an issur d'oraysa of ofeh. Rashi writes "...rediyas hapas shvus hu v'nigzerah b'minyan, u'mshum shema kodem she-yavo l'yedei chiyuv chatas lo bitlu gezeirasam" - rediyas hapas was a formally enacted gezeirah, and even to avoid the possibility of chatas, the chachamim did not restrict the gezeirah. In the Rambam's case, enforcing a gezeirah derabbanan potentially causes an issur d'oraysa of bittul korban pesach; here enforcing the gezeirah derabbanan of rediyas hapas potentially causes an issur d'oraysa of ofeh. Is this the same issue (albeit anissur Shabbos instead of pesach), or would you be mechaleik? How?

Pesach recovery (II)

I realized that the R' Tzadok quoted before Pesach sheds light on the Midrash in the previous post as well. See here for a more complete essay on the topic.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pesach over - now back to Mitzrayim!

The Midrash records Bnei Yisrael's post-shirah plans (Shmos Rabbah 24:2):

"R' Yehudah said - At that time Bnei Yisrael said, 'Hashem took us out of Egypt for 5 things: to give us the spoils of Egypt, to carry us on the clouds of glory, to split the sea, to exact punishment on the Egyptians, and for us to sing shira. Now, he already has given us the spoils of Egypt, carried us on the clouds of glory, meeted out punishment to the Egyptians, split the sea, and we sang shira, so let us return to Mitzrayim!' Moshe said to them, 'Hashem has said to me that you shall never see the Egyptians again as you have seen them this day'."

For me there are two challenges every Y"T. First is the obstacle going in, and I don't mean the cooking and cleaning, which is of course a challenge, but I mean the preparation in learning, machshava, halacha, etc. - to find some nekudah in this chag that I had not discovered before. Some of my kids each now have 3 or 4 haggados that they saved up from each year to the next and you can see how in pre-1A there is a lot of coloring and a few pages of text, while later years have a full haggadah and multiple divrei Torah - that is real growth! Obviously as one gets older the rate of growth slows, but in some way one should strive to find something new and meaningful each Y"T (if not each shabbos, but that is even harder) that one has not discovered before.
The Midrash is addressing what I think the second challenge is - how to preserve the spiritual energy we got from Y"T (and hopefully we did get some!) after the fact. The Y"T experience shouldn't be eat the matzah, eat the maror, Ok I was yotzei my 8 days, now back to business as usual, back to Mitzrayim! If you go through the experience of a Y"T, especially where "chayav adam liros es atzmo", it has to leave a "roshem" - in some way we are now different people than we were a week ago. I don't know how to formulate that in a halachic Brisker sense, nor do I have any easy suggestion on how to achieve it, but I think that is what Chazal were trying to tell us. Don't go back to Mitzryim when it is all over - become a different, better person from the experience.

Friday, April 21, 2006

book recommendation

If you are looking for a book that explains in a clear and intelligent way the values that are part of basic Jewish thought, I would recommend "A Letter in the Scroll" by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, which I just recently read. It is not a philosophical treatise, a historical study, or a halachic manual; it is simply a collection of personal reflections on what "Jewishness" means. It is extremely well written and well thought out, and without engaging in apologetics, conveys why being a committed Jew means being part of a rich and rewarding heritage. R' Sacks touches on a host of complex issues that include: "chosen people", the problem of evil and the Holocaust, Zionism, education and Torah study, Shabbos, "Revelation" etc. in an intelligent, erudite, and very engaging way. I can't think offhand of a better book that might explain to someone with no background what being Jewish is all about, and at the same time I gained much by reading it myself.

Brachos, nezikin, or pirkei avos?

The gemara (B”K 30) offers three opinions of what one should learn if one wishes to become a chassid: hilchos brachos, hilchos nezikin, or pirkei avos. (Parenthetically: davar pashut to the gemara that chassidus can be attained only through learning – the question is just what). The MahaRaL writes that these three components correspond to the three parts of every person: the body, the mind, and the neshoma. How does the breakdown work out? Here was my guess:
Soul: Brachos (similar to avodah)
Body: Nezekin (damage is physical)
Mind: Avos (derech eretz is intuitive)

Surprise! Not at all how the MaHaRaL approaches it. Here is the MaHaRaL:

Soul: Nezikin, because the body gets no benefit from harming another, it is indicative of a corrputed soul
Body: Avos, because the body requires words of derech eretz and mussar to become civilized.
Mind: Brachos, because dveikus is the product of a developed mind that longs for Hashem.

Very Rambam-ish in associating dveikus with the seichel and not the neshoma. Also interesting that one cannot have a ta’avah to be mazik; it is purely an act of ill-will on the part of the neshoma.

Tosefes Y"T - extension of kedushas Y"T or issur melacha?

The MG”A (siman 491) has a safeik if one is permitted to eat chameitz before ma’ariv and havdalah in the case where one starts a meal before night on the last day of pesach and it continues past tzais. His psak is l’kula based on the fact that the issur chameitz is independent of kedushas Y”T, as we see from chol hamoed – no kedushas Y”T (as we see from the fact that no havdalah is recited), yet there is still an issur matzah. During tosefes which we add after nightfall there would be kedushas Y”T, but only with respect to the issur of doing work, not viz. chameitz. I spoke about this issue last night in shule. The MG”A raises a fundamental question – whether tosefes is a generic issur melacha, or an extension of the entire kedushas Y”T. Tosfos (Kesubos 47) has 2 deyos whether the issur of “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha” (one cannot get married on Y”T because the simchas chasan interefes with simchas Y”T) applies during tosefes Y”T – again, the issue would seem to be does tosefes have a full kedushas Y”T including simchas Y”T, or just an issur melacha. The Divrei Yechezkel (#45) quotes a kasha from R’ Chaim: we learn out through a gezeirah shavah that just as on leil pesach one is obligated to eat a k’zayis matzah only after nightfall, so too one must eat a k’zayis in sukkah only after nightfall. By Pesach, one cannot fulfill that obligation during tosefes, because the chiyuv does not depend on the kedushas Y”T of pesach, but specifically on it being night – e.g. the kedushas Y”T of the chag applies during the day, but there are only chiyuvim of pesach, matzah, and maror at night. However, asks, R” Chaim, the same is not true for sukkah – there the chiyuv of sukkah depends on kedushas Y”T, as we see from the fact that there is an obligation of sukkah anytime you have a meal during the chag. So why not eat during tosefes, and just after nightfall make sure to consume a k’zayis to fulfill the chiyuv of eating k’zayis during real night? The entire kasha is predicated on the assumption that tosefes has a full kedushas Y”T which would obligate one in sukkah; if one assumes that tosefes is just an issur melacha, then one cannot use the sukkah during that time period. There is one monkey-wrench in this whole analysis. Tosfos (Pesach 99b) writes that we learn from “b’layla hazeh” that the mitzvah of korban pesach can only be done at actual nighfall, but not during tosefes. If tosefes is just an issur melacha and not a full kedushas Y”T, of course you cannot be mekayeim the mitzvoth hachag during that time period – why do you need a separate gezeiras hakasuv to teach this halacha? (R’ Elchanan asks this in Koveitz Shiurim; in the new Ch HaGRI”Z stencil in the sugyos section there is a teitutz from the GRI”D, but it is a different approach.)
One side note: R’ Chaim held that chol hamoed has a kedushas Y”T with a heter melacha – seems to be against this MG”A.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'm not desperate for chameitz, I'm just makpid on the GR"A

WELCOME BACK EVERYBODY!!! I spoke today between mincha-m'ariv at shule, and mentioned the minhag haGR"A (Ma'aseh Rav #185) to eat a seudas ne'ilas hachag davka on Pesach because of chibuv matzah. For the same reason, on motzei Y"T the GR"A tried to eat chameitz and chadash immediatly - this was a heker that achilas matzah was done not because it tastes good, but simply to fulfill the ratzon Hashem. So the big rush to the pizza store is not because we miss chameitz, but because of this GR"A!
(Truth is, we are not switching back the kitchen till after shabbos : )
Hope everyone's Y"T was joyous and inspiring... more to come.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Galus hadibbur and geulah

The contrast between Mitzrayim as the "galus hadibbur" and Peh-Sach is already well known, but what does it mean for speech to be in galus and need redemption? I think we can get an inkling from a kashe of the Ramban. Moshe Rabeinu is told to come to Bnei Yisrael with the message of "pakod pakaditi", which they knew b'mesorah was the signal of the goel. Ramban asks: if everyone knew this mesorah, what guaranteed that the goel had arrived instead of some imposter just using the codewords? Ramban answers that the mesorah was taken so seriously no one would have dared try to undermine it with a false attempt at redemption. R' Tzadok HaKohen approaches the question differently, and argues that 'pakod pakaditi' inherently could not be falsified. Most people think dibbur is a reflection of the world around them; it is a way to create a "verbal" model of the physical and mental universe and communicate that to others. However, the Jewish idea of dibbur is different. We don't experience the universe and create a map of it through dibbur; rather, we speak and through dibbur create the reality of existance. Rav Kook writes that dibbur is "poel" (see Derech HaKodesh #10, 17, 21). It reveals and opens channels of ruchniyus into this world. An animal which is chulin can become hekdesh through dibbur. Weekday is turned into Shabbos through dibbur (kiddush). A women becomes sanctified as eishes ish through dibbur. Dibbur is a mekadesh. Just like if you say kiddush on a weekday it will accomplish nothing, so too, if 'pakod pakaditi' was uttered by an imposter, nothing would happen. But when uttered by the right neshoma at the right time, it served as the 'mekadesh' of the hearts of minds of Klal Yisrael, changing their reality from downtroden avadim to those who await geulah.
Probably no more posting till after Yom Tov. At this point the cleaning is over and my wife is busy cooking and preparing, and I just note that without her tireless efforts, Yom Tov would be an impossible burden to overcome - for transforming these 8 days into the spirit of 'zman cheiruseinu', she has my public gratitude and thanks.
Good Y"T everybody!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ma'ariv and bedika at the same time and other sefeikos

I got home tonight from work at about 7:20. My cheshbon at the time was if I rush to the early ma'ariv (a few minutes after shkiya) I would then have to skip washing for supper until after bedikas chameitz. The next ma'ariv was 8:15 - enough time to eat, daven then, and immediatly do bedika. We almost did not have a minyan at 8:15, but while waiting for a few more to arrive it dawned on me that I sacrificed "b'rov am hadras melech" for ma'ariv (albeit early) and jumped right into the safeik of which to do first once the zman hits: ma'ariv or bedika. Was that correct? I'm not sure, but at least I got in supper before thinking of it : )

Chag kosher v'sameiach

Trying hard to finish up at work, so I don't know if there will be more postings before Pesach. If not, chag sameiach to all, and more to come probably after last days of Yom Tov.
Still working on topics to do to keep some focus. Two thoughts that have come to mind: (1) Sefer haMitzvos (2) Shav Shmaytza - but I'm still thinking about it. These are not to the exclusion of everything else, just kind of like a spoke in the center so that there will be something to discuss when nothing else is on my mind. I like the idea of a hashkafa/parsha topic once a week also.
Anyway, so much for my thoughts. Back to work, and then rush home for the last minute stuff there.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Nitna rosh v'sashuva Mitzrayma - a return to Egypt

During the many trials of the travels in Midbar, a constant refrain of Bnei Yisrael was "nitna rosh v'nashuva Mitzrayma", lets go back to Mitzrayim. R' Tzadok has an unbelievable vort in Machshavos Charutz (p. 9) to explain this phenomenon. Light can only come from darkness, and we find historically that BN"Y experienced renewed revelation only after great tragedy: Mitzryim led to Mattan Torah, the eigel led to mishkan, the capture of the aron led to binyan hamikdash, etc. When Bnei Yisrael fell from their heights, they assumed that they only way to rise again was to be submerged fully in the darkness and depths of evil from where they came. Therefore, "nitna rosh v'nashuva Mitzrayma" to once again experience a hisgalus of Elokus as occurred in Yetziyas Mitzrayim! (Only R' Tzadok could saya vort like this)

Forced achila by bracha and by matzah (II)

The MG"A asked why if you are coerced to eat, you recite no bracha, but "bala matzah yatzah" because han'ah validates the act of eating as willful even if done under duress - if so, say a bracha because of the hana'ah? Bill Selliger answered in the comments that the hana'ah does turn the ma'aseh achila into a willful act, but there is a seperate din that a bracha should not be recited over a hana'ah that comes ba'al korcho. I was thinking of a similar approach, but with a slightly different twist. My chakira: is the mechayeiv of bracha the hana'ah which happens to come b'derech achila, or is the mechyeiv the ma'aseh achila provided it gives hana'ah? If you assume the cheftza shel hana'ah is the mechayeiv (the first tzad) one could perhaps say that hana'ah can make the ma'aseh into a willful act, but is not a cheftza shel hana'ah which would be mechayeiv a bracha. I think there are other ways to answer this...

Mishchu y'deichem min avodah zarah

Mishcu u'kchu lachem tzon - Rashi explains "mishchu" was a command to seperate from avodah zarah. The Aish Kodesh asks: how could it be that through all the makkos and hisgalus Hashem Moshe had not told the people to abandon avodah zarah? How is it that there could still be a need for a tzivuy against avodah zarah at this point?I heard b'shem R' Chait (of Far Rockaway) that there is a difference between "AVODAh zarah", i.e. worship which is foreign worship, e.g. paganism, and "avodah ZARAH", worship of Hashem which is twisted to become strange and bizarre. A similar distinction lies at the root of the Aish Kodesh's explanation of Rashi. In the comment section of a different blog I had an interesting debate about "truth" and frames of reference. There is an inherent paradox to the entire command of belief in G-d and leaving a world of idolatry - to the believer, the command is redundant; to the skeptic, the command accomplishes nothing. If one does not already accept G-d, then a command in his name to accept him is meaningless. R' Tzadok haKohen (Tzidkas haTzadik #207) writes that for this reason "Anochi" is not stated as a command, but as a declarative sentence. You do not prove G-d's existance with commands or logic; you experience G-d's existance. A person is thrown overboard off a ship and miraculously is carried alive through the sea to shore. Afterwards, a comrade sits down with tidal maps and weather readings and tries to demonstrate that it is impossible for the event to have occurred. The entire story is absurd - logic cannot trump the reality of the experience. For a person standing "outside" the world of Torah and mitzvos, all the reasons in the world may not be sufficient to justify what we do. It is all so strange - an avodah ZARAH! But to the person who experiences it, all the logic in the world is unnecessary - it is part of who you are. "Mishchu yedeichem min avodah ZARAH" - don't look at things like an outsider, searching for the reason and logic, but accept the experience of yetziyas mitzrayim as proof in an of itself.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Forced eating with respect to matzah and brachos

The Rama (siman 204) paskens that if one is forced (ones) to eat a bracha is not recited on the food. The Magen Avraham (s"k 20) asks two very strong questions: (1) The Rama in hil Yom Kippur paskens that one who is forced to eat must say a bracha on the food. Why should there be any difference between being forced by a person, where the Rama paskens no bracha is said, and being forced by circumstance (b'ydei shamayim) where Rama paskens a bracha is recited? (2) M'inyana d'yoma, the halacha is "bala matzah yatzah", if one is forced to eat matzah against one's will, the mitzva of achilas matzah is fulfilled. The Magid Mishne explains in the name of Ran that even though the Rambam elsewhere paskens that mitzvos tzrichos kavanah, here, by virtue of having enjoyment (han'ah) from the food, one is automatically considered a mitkavein, just as there is no ptur if mitasek by eating cheilev or by issurei arayos because one gets han'ah. If so, why in the Rama's case do we not say that even though the eating was against one's will, there is still an inevitable enjoyment of the food and a bracha should be recited? The Magen Avraham leaves this with a tzarich iyun. Something to think about as you continue the cleaning, speaking of which....back to work!

'Twas the Sunday before Pesach

...And try to get any bread for lunch! Just put in the second bundle of wash and are going through the kitchen cabinets. Fridge is for later, garbage cans soon... and the clock is ticking! For all the males reading this: I hope you are helping your wives as well : ) Should I do a rant to match all the females blogger on the pain of preparing for pesach? This has been my Sunday project each week for the past three, the one and only day I have free from work. Yet, as my wife knows, I actually get enjoyment of conquering the mess accumulated by 4 kids over an entire year. Just for the record: my wife has been to Brachs, Supersol, Gourmet Glatt, (for those not in 5T - these are the local kosher supermarkets), and Stop and Shop enough times this past week so that our minivan goes there on autopilot. The question is when will cooking commence - that I can't do, so it is all her department. My daughters have been off since last Thursday to "help", i.e. to whine and nag about each minor chore so that the misery of avdus is fully experienced. On top of this, my wife is grading SATs (which was scheduled for this week and can't be put off), and did our taxes before this all started. No, we do not have a housekeeper, cleaning help, etc. Back to work! Maybe some lomdus later....

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dear reader: where to go from here?

Dear Reader(s) of this blog:
I take this blog as sort of an open forum to discuss sugyos in halacha and hashkafa (yes, there are non-lomdus posts, but they are still the miyut) - sort of like an on-line chavrusa. Lately the focus has been on inyana d'yoma: before Purim we did inyanei Purim, and the past few weeks have been inyanei Pesach. The big question is what should we learn after Pesach.
I do not intend to change the format from off-the-cuff postings into full chaburos and shiurim, as there are other sites that already do a good job of providing that (e.g. Gush's VBM, among others) and I don't have the time/energy/inclination to do that. However, even within the off-the-cuff format, I feel strongly that to range over shas or halacha with no focus, as whim dictates, probably does my writing and your reading no good. I would like to focus on a limited set of sugyos/topics/seforim that people can offer feedback on, but that can still be done in this format.
The floor is open to suggestions in the comments field. I am not learning the daf (at least not Bavli), so that is not on the table. I will (bli neder) offer my own thoughts before this blog goes into Pesach recess next week.

Was Rus a katlanis?

OK, jumping ahead to the next Yom Tov a bit early, my wife asked whether Rus had the status of a katlanis after the death ofBoav (assuming 2x makes ones a katlanis) considering that the death of her first husband occurred before she became a geyores? I don't have any seforim with me now to check, but it sounds like a good question.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Shabbos haGadol - machlokes Tosfos and Tur

Tosfos (Shabbos 87b) writes that Shabbos haGadol commemorates the Egyptian civil war which was started on Shabbos, 10 Nissan, when the bechorei Mitzrayim saw Klal Yisrael taking the korban pesach and preparing for geulah and realized that if Egypt does not surrender then their heads are in the noose. The Tur quotes an additional reason for Shabbos haGadol based on the fact that the Egyptians saw their "god" taken as a korban and could do nothing to stop it. Still working on a formulation of exactly what the machlokes here is....
The classic questions everyone asks: 1) Why do we commemorate Shabbos and not 10 Nissan; 2) Why is this nes "gadol" relative to other nissim and makkos. Some answers (by me) here:

Mitzvos tzrichos kavanah - bracha on maror

On 115b the gemara attempts to prove that "mitzvos tzrichos kavana" from the fact that if one uses maror in place of another vegetable for karpas, one must still do an additional dipping for maror to fulfill mitzvas maror. Rashi explains that since the bracha of "al achilas maror" is not recited by karpas, there is a chance that one will not have kavana for the mitzva of maror, and therefore it must be repeated. While many people recite "lshem yichud" or some other fomula before mitzvos to arouse kavanah, we see from Rashi that this is in fact on of the functions of saying a birchas hamitzva.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Swallowing matzah in one gulp or bite by bite

The gemara 115b writes "achal maror l'chatza'in", i.e. one ate less than a k'zayis, then again less than a k'zayis. etc. within the shiur of k'dei achilas pras, "yatzah", one has fulfilled the mitzva. The term "yatzah" implies that this is a b'dieved act only. In other words, it sounds like l'chatchila one should/must swallow the entire k'zayis in one gulp! Interestingly, this halacha is not cited by the Rambam, and appears in Shulchan Aruch only with regard to matzah, where it is highlighted by the Magen Avraham. While it fits the language of the gemara, it difficult to see how swallowing an entire k'zayis in one shot is considered the regular "derech achila", but eating smaller bites is not. Sure enough, the Aruch haShulchan rejects the whole idea. In his view, the gemara simply means that eating with significant pauses, even within the context of k'dei achilas pras, is not a l'chatchila. However, eating in bites and swallowing a bit at a time would not be a problem.
Since we learn a hekesh of 15-15 connecting the mitzvah of achilas matzah with the mitzva of achila in sukkah on the first night, would anyone say that the k'zayis eaten on the first night of sukkot should be done in one gulp (like the MG"A)? The Mishna Berura in Hil Sukkah does say the k'zayis must be eaten within "kdei achilas pras", but does not make the logical jump to say in one gulp - I'm not sure why not.

They call this charity?

AP reports that three of the Powerball winners who spilt the largest jackpot in history ($365 million) dropped by a homeless shelter to contribute $6000 - and this was linked to on the front page of some web news sites. I will go out of my way to be dan l'kaf zechus and say that the eight winners probably received less than half of their winnings after taxes, so lets say the pool of money is $160 million, divided by 8 winners, means each one got $20 million dollars. Lets also say that each gave $6000 (though the mashma'us was that was the total gift from all three). That means each person parted with .0003% of their earnings for charity and it made front page news!
U'mi k'amcha yisrael, I would bet many of us parted with .0003% of our earnings for kimcha d'pischa charity without thinking twice, without another $19,994,000 in the bank, and without it making headlines. So much for perspective.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ma'aser sheni mamon gavoha and achilas matzah

The gemara (pesachim 38a) writes that whether one may use matzah made of ma'aser sheni depends on the machlokes Rabbi Meir and the Chachamim that appears in many places whether ma'aser sheni is mamon gavoha or mamon hedyot. The Rambam (chu"m 6:8) paskens that matzah of ma'aser sheni can be used in yerushalayim but not outside (gevulin). The Lechem Mishne cites a gemara in sanhedrin (112) as the basis for the distinction between Yerushalayim and gevulim, but that distinction assumes that the whole machlokes R"M and the Chachamim is only within Yerushalayim (in gevulin it would be mamon gavoha according to everyone) proper and the Rambam paskens like the Chachamim. The difficulty is that the Rambam clearly writes in hil ma'aser sheni 3:22 that ma'aser sheni mamon gavoha hu, which sounds exactly like R"M, and the Rambam draws no distinction between Yerushalayim and gevulin!
The Rav has a long essay on the machlokes R"M and Chachamim which is a work of art (see Koveitz Chiddushei Torah. In a nutshell: there are 2 aspects to the issue of whether ma'aser sheni is mamon gavoha or mamon hedyot - 1) a question of dinei mamonos: is the ba'alim on this food its owner or hekdesh; 2) a question of issur v'heter: is this money consumable for mundane use or must it be used only for designated purposes. For example: by kiddushei isha, ma'aser sheni is excluded not just because if it is mamon gavoha the mekadeish is not the ba'alim, but because the cheftza shel ma'aser sheni is something that has a kedusha of being nitan for ma'aser and not usable for kiddushin.

By matzah and other dinim that depend on ba'alus - "lachem" (not mecessarily that you own the matzah, which is a seperate discussion, but simply that the matzah be something which has an owner), the Rambam distinguishes between Terushalyim and gevulim. But when it comes to kiddushin and other uses of ma'aser sheni that depend on its being a cheftza shel ma'aser which is nittan only for certain purposes, the Rambam paskens across the board that ma'aser is mamon gavoha. (I don't know if I have done justice to the piece in this one paragraph - it is worth seeing inside).

Eating wrapped up matzah

The din is that if you eat matzah wrapped in something ("karcho b'siv" - pesachim 115b) you are not yotzei the mitzvah of matzah. Rashi and Rashbam explain that the wrap does not work because "lo haya mamash b'piv", it is like the matzah was never in your mouth. The Mishne l'Melech in Hil Ma'achalos Asuros suggests that this may be true by issurim as well - i.e. if you wrap a davar issur in something and swallow it, you would not be chayav because that is not called derech achila.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Lechem oni and hallel as a kiyum of haggadah

Tosfos (114a) writes that the matzah and maror must be on the table while haggadah is recited to fulfill the halacha of "lechem oni - lechem sh'onim alav devarim harbei", bread over which things are recited. One can understand this halacha in two ways: 1) it is a din in sippur yetziyas mitzrayim that it be recited using the "props" of matzah and maror; 2) it is a din in the shem matzah that its status is dependent on the haggadah being recited over it. (By way of analogy, if you hold kiddush b'makom seudah is a din in seudas shabbos, the words of kiddush serve of define the meal as a shabbos meal. Here, the words of haggadah serve to define the matzah as "lechem oni").
Rashi (daf 36) writes that lechem oni refers to the fact that "gomreim alav es ha'hallel v'omrim alav haggadah". It is interesting that Rashi puts hallel before haggadah, reversing the chronological order. I would suggest that Rashi is based on a diyuk in the words "devarim HARBEI". The chiddush, which Rashi highlights by placing it first, is that not only haggadah, but even hallal is recited over matzah. In any case, one can understand Rashi in one of two ways as well: 1) hallel is part of sippur yetziyas mitzrayim (which the Rambam makes explicit in Sefer HaMitzvos) and therefore must be done using the "prop" of matzah; 2) for matzah to be defined as "lechem oni" it must have hallel recited over it. Based on this, it would seem that even after the seudah is over, one should have a piece of matzah on the table for the duration of Hallel of one wishes to be yotzei this chiddush of Rashi.

Chinuch for 4 kosos

In hil pesach there seems to be an idea of each person, even a katan/ketana, having his/her own kos for the seder. I do not fully understand why there is such a hakpada on kos. According to Tosfos, each person could theoretically be yotzei just with the ba'al habayis's drinking. Even if you hold each person needs to drink, they could partake of the bh"b's kos shel bracha. What is this inyan of each person having a kos?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Tosefes Shvi'is: strange yerushalmi

The first Mishna in Shevi'is (I am a bit ahead on the daf) discusses the shiur for tosefes shmittah. This halacha no longer applies because (as the gemara explains) Rabban Gamliel and his bais din nullifed the original takkanah (the right of the latter b"d to do that was built into the original takkanah). Asks the gemara: if the takanah of tosefes was nullified, why is it still recorded in the opening Mishna?
Now, for those of us who are natively bavli-biased, we expect the answer to be something along the lines of saying R' Gamliel is mishna achrona, this is the original takkanah, "v'mishna lo zazah m'mkoma" (as the bavli answers in various places to this type kashe).
Answers the Yerushalmi - just because a flood will never happen do we erase Parshas Noach? Just because there will never be another weekof miluim, do we erase Parshas Miluim?
All I can say is I don't know what to make of this.

The value of bekiyus

Kiddush 10b: "baki atah b'kol chadrei Torah v'lidrsoh b'kal v'chomer ei atah yodeia?!" - "you are an expert in all areas of Torah and do not know how to darshen a kal v'chomer?!"
Kal v"chomer does not require a mesorah to be used; it is a purely logical inference that one can use to derive a new halacha. R' Chaim (quoted in the Koveitz Shiurim) therefore asks: what does being a baki have to do with being able to darshen a kal v'chomer? Even someone who is not a baki can derive a kal v'chomer with logic?
R' Chaim answers: to darshen a kal v'chomer is simple logic, but to know if the kal v'chomer is correct requires b'keiyus in kol hatorah. How do you know the kal v'chomer you are making does not have some pircha based on a din in taharos, or kodshim, or some obscure gemara?