Wednesday, September 26, 2007

lulav and mitzvos tzerichos kavanah (II)

(See part I first!)
The Sha’agas Arye answers his question by explaining the reason we do not assume “stama lishma” by mitzvos like we do by korbanos (see Zevachim 2), meaning absent kavanah to the contrary we assume a person does have intent to be yotzei, is because there is no reason a person must use a specific shofar, lulav, talis, etc. to fulfill his mitzvah – since any mitzvah object can be used at any time to fulfill these obligations, what designates the object in hand at this moment as the one being used for a mitzvah and not practice or some other use? Intent is required.

This logic applies by most mitzvos, but fails when applied to the korban pesach. Since the korban pesach is eaten only by those who have reserved a place in a chaburah beforehand, the specific animal to be eaten is already designated for the mitzvah purpose. Even Reish Lakish who ordinarily requires kavanh by mitzvos to complete the designation as a mitzvah will agree that this requirement is unnecessary when it comes to the korban pesach.

The same logic holds true, argues the Mahartz Chiyus, in our sugya of to’eh b’dvar mitzvah for one who carries a lulav on Shabbos. Since it is the carrying of this specific lulav for the intent of fulfilling a mitzvah which is what exempts the person from bringing a korban chatas, it is obvious that the person wishes that the act of carrying be counted for a mitzvah purpose. In this case the designation l’shem mitzvah can be assumed even without the additional element of kavanah, answering Tosfos’ question.

I don’t know if I will be blogging much over chol hamoed. I barely scratched the surface with a few sukkos topics - so much good stuff out there to learn over Yom Tov – enjoy!

bracha on sleeping in sukkah - Rogatchover

Will get to part II of previous post bl"n soon, but I almost forgot apropos of the discussion about sleeping in the sukkah - the Rogatchover has an interesting sevara to explain why no bracha. He suggests two dinim in sukkah: 1) a mitzvah kiyumis of being in sukkah 2) an issur aseh of being outside the sukkah when one should be in. When it comes to eating, a bracha is recited because there is a positive chiyuv, a mitzvah kiyumis, when having a meal to do so in sukkah. However, when it comes to sleeping, there is simply an issur aseh of not sleeping outside sukkah. Of course one needs proof for such a sevara, but for that you will have to do your own homework because I don't have enough time. This Rogatchover is found in Mefa'aneyach Tzefunos, p.164 (just an aside: a recall a similar sevara of sukkah being an issur aseh being in the Minchas Chinuch, and discussed as well in Esvan d'Oraysa.)

lulav and mitzvos tzerichos kavanah (I)

The person who sent me the Kisvei Maharatz Chiyus is probably going to be disappointed that I haven’t said a word about some of the major topics he addresses regarding the composition of torah sheba’al peh, but I’m enjoying the other stuff so much I haven’t had a chance to get into those parts yet. One other piece before Yom Tov (footnoite p.602 if you want to see it):

A person who mistakingly carries out his lulav on Shabbos is to’eh b’dvar mitzvah (his mistake is due to trying to fulfill a mitzvah) and is therefore patur from a korban chatas. The gemara (42) wonders how the person could carry the lulav without already having fulfilled the mitzvah – once the lulav is picked up the mitzvah is over! The gemara presents a number of scenarios to resolve this question, e.g. he picked it up upside down. Tosfos asks: why does the gemara avoid offering the simple scenario of a person who picks up the lulav without kavanah to fulfill the mitzvah?

The Mahartz Chiyus takes us on a journey through a Sha’agas Arye to resolve this question. The gemara (Nazir 23) comments that two people can eat the same korban Pesach and one will be categorized as a tzadik and one a rasha – tzadikim yeilchu bam u’poshim yikashlu bam on the same act. How? The tzadik eats l’shem mitzvah; the rasha eats achila gasa, an overindulgence. Reish Lakish objected: true, achila gasa is not ideal, but does that make the person a rasha?!

Asks the Sha’agas Arye – Reish Lakish (Pesachim 113) holds that mitzvos tzerichos kavana. If so, l’shitaso indeed the person is a rasha! Eating with intent to stuff one’s face without kavanah to fulfill the mitzvah would be a bitul mitzvah. Why does Reish Lakish not accept the gemara’s statement at face value?

For easy reading (and easy writing) let me break here and part II later…

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the bracha "la'asos sukkah lishmo" on building a neighbor's sukkah

The Yerushalmi writes that if you make a sukkah for a neighbor you should recite a bracha “la’ason sukkah lishmo”. We don’t find such a bracha in the Bavli, and it seems odd – why the need for a special bracha when ding a mitzvah for someone else? Tosfos (46a) references this Yerushalmi and apparently this idea caused the Maharasha discmofort as well because he changes the girsa to “la'asos sukkah lishma”, and suggests the Yerushalmi holds like Tanaim who hold sukkah must be built lishma.

I think the Yerushalmi can be understood k’pshuto. If you build a sukkah for yourself, the bracha is on the kiyum mitzvah of sukkah (please let's not go down the road of whether it is a hechsher mitzvah or not). But if you build for someone else you are not being mekayeim the mitzvah of sukkah – you are being mekayeim the mitzvah of arvus! On that mitzvah there is a separate bracha of “lishmo”.

Since I’m out on a limb anyway, let me throw this out as well. There is a famous story of a guest visiting R’ Chaim Ozer on sukkos when R’ Chaim Ozer was ill, and R’ Chaim Ozer insisted on coming to sit in sukkah with the guest. When asked why he did so when a choleh is patur from sukkah, R’ C. O. replied that a choleh is not patur from hachnasas orchim. I saw in Shu”t Az Nidbaru that R’ Binyamin Zilber was asked whether since R' Chaim Ozer was mechuyav to entertain his guest in the sukkah m’din hachnasas orchim does that in turn remove the ptur choleh from sukkah and leaving the original chiyuv of sukkah in place. Sounds like a wild idea, but it triggered the thought of a pshat that I ask mechila for in advance if you don't like it. Someone who builds a sukkah for a neighbor is mekayeim two birds with one stone: the mitzvah of sukkah and chessed for a friend. Ordinarily an act of chessed is not mechayeiv a bracha, but when paired with the already existing kiyum of sukkah, perhaps the Yerushalmi holds that the bracha is recited over both kiyumim – “la’asos sukkah” on mitzvas sukkah, and “lishmo” on the act of chessed. (Eve if you don't like it, at least give me points for creativity : )

ptur of an eved from sukkah

I feel bad I have not had time to post enough about sukkos – too much work in too little time. nyway, getting back to the Rashi on an eved being patur, maybe this kashe is too much of a nitpick – see Anon1’s comments to yesterday's post - but I can also see whole hekesh to women as an unnecessary detail to understanding the Mishna. Who cares why an eved is patur? – the fact that he is suffices to understand why Tevi did not sit in sukkah.

The Ran (based on Yersuhalmi) asks what the big deal would have been for Tevi to sit in sukkah – even if an eved is patur, why can't he do the mitzvah anyway? Some explain this is the issue Rashi is addressing. Had Tevi remained in the sukkah, it might have appeared that an eved is indeed chayav in sukkah, leading to the incorrect conclusion that there is no relationship between mitzvos an eved must do and those a women must do. Rashi presents the reason for the ptur as a means of explaining why Tevi davka left the sukkah – Tevi’s behavior underscored the relationship between the chiyuv of eved and that of women.

In this case the kashe (if you liked it at all) seems better than the answer. Is an eved barred from performing mitzvos lest the chiyuv of women be misconstrued (the Yersuhalmi asks why Tevi left the sukkah but R’ Gamliel did not object to his putting on tefillin)?

See the Rashash on this Rashi for a more significant point that I unfortunately do not have time to blog about right now.

sleep and sukkah

I can’t think of any mitzvah other than sukkah (maybe yishuv eretz yisrael?) that one can do while one is asleep. As mentioned yesterday, the Rosh and other Rishonim even ask why no bracha is recited over sleeping in sukkah. The Shem m’Shmuel explains that when one is asleep the neshoma has departed from the guf (for the most part) and all that remains is the physical body. Mitzvos usually require an investment of the neshoma and lev to uplift, yet sukkah apparently has the special power to envelop and uplift even if all a Jew puts into the mitzvah or is capable of putting into the mitzvah is a sleeping body and no more. I would add that perhaps in addition to the power of mitzvas sukkah we see something about the character of Am Yisrael; even stripped of neshoma elyona and left only with an empty guf, that guf still is something that merits the enveloping protection of the walls of sukkah.

Monday, September 24, 2007

exemption of an eved from sukkah

No, I haven’t gotten the mah kashe l’Rashi bug out of my system. For this week I want to focus on a Rashi on a Mishna in Sukkah. The Mishna (20b) tells the story of Tevi, the slave of Rabban Gamliel, who slept under a covered bed in the sukkah, which is not an acceptable way of fulfilling the mitzvah. Rabban Gamliel boasted to the other Chachamim of Tevi’s wisdom, as Tevi’s actions demonstrated that he knew that a slave is exempt from yeshivas sukkah.

Rashi d”h ma’aseh explains: slaves are exempt from sukkah because women are exempt from mitzvos aseh she’hazman gerama [my note: the obligation of slaves parallels that of women], and where a women would be chayeves a slave would also be chayav.

If Rashi had explained that a slave is exempt from sukkah because women are exempt and stopped there, mah kashe l’Rashi is a no brainer – the Mishna leaves one wondering why a slave is exempt, and Rashi helpfully provides an answer. But Rashi doesn’t stop there – note the part I bolded. Rashi adds to his explanation that when a women is obligated in a mitzvah a slave is also obligated. Mah kashe l’Rashi that demands this extra line of clarification? The Mishna is not discussion chiyuvim, it is discussing exemptions!

Just to throw one side difficulty into the mix: the gemara (28a-b) explains that women theoretically are obligated in sukkah just like matzah, but there is a halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai which exempts them in this case. So the real reason women are exempt in this case has nothing to do with zman gerama – it is a special halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai! (Ok, so you will argue that the hllm”s is a just a giluy milsa not to compare sukkah to matzah, and m’meila it is a plain old zman gerama, but I still want to note the issue).

bracha on sleeping in sukkah

When I wrote the previous post before Y”K I had not yet seen the Shem m’Shmuel who addresses himself to the problem of ta’aroves tov/ra and writes that on Y”K one can experience perfect clarity of birur if one only immerses in the kedushas hayom and takes advantage of it. The simcha that is felt at the conclusion of the chag (Tosfos quotes from Midrash that there is a din of having a seudah to celebrate the conclusion of Y”K) is directly proportional to the degree that we open our heart to this experience of tahara. However, that feeling only lasts if we protect it and do not let it dissipate, and here the Shem m’Shmuel is mechadesh that not only can the physical construction of a sukkah serve to nurture that feeling within the protective symbolic walls of kedusha, but involvement in learning Mes. Sukkah and the laws of sukkah also serves the same function.

I mentioned receiving Kisvei Mahart”z Chiyus as a gift from someone before R”H and noticed a beautiful kashe he raises in a footnote. The Rosh writes that the reason a bracha is not recited over sleeping in the sukkah is because there is always the chance that one will not be able to fall asleep, rendering the bracha l’vatalah. By the same logic, asks the M.C., how can we say a bracha of hamapil – why is there no concern that one will recite the bracha and not be able to fall asleep? I’m not sure why he leaves this as a tzarich iyun – I will leave it to the comments for suggestions of chilukim that are possible.

Friday, September 21, 2007

tshuvah thought and piyus

In the spirit of piyus, I ask mechila for things I wrote and things I should have written but didn’t.

I’m just musing aloud: I wish I had the same task of tshuvah that my kids learn about in school – do the things you are told to do, listen to people you are supposed to listen to, and avoid the things you are told to avoid. It seems that as life gets more complex, tshuvah gets more complex – voices you are suppose to listen to offer contrary advice, the “right” thing to do is never as clear as it should be, and avoiding one wrong may open a pandora’s box of other trouble. The temptation of doing wrong is often less troublesome than the ta’aroves of tov and ra that most of us face.

If I could boil down out tefilos into one sentence, it would be the request to always be aware of what the ratzon Hashem is, and to always have siyata d’shemaya and the chochma, lev, and ratzon to carry it out.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

kiddush on shabbos yom kippur for someone who must eat

One issue unique to Yom Kippur which falls on Shabbos is the question of whether a seriously ill person who must eat should recite kiddush. Most poskim opine that on a regular Yom Kippur one who is forced to east should not recite kiddush – kiddush recited over a cup of wine is a Rabbinic takkanah, and the Rabbis never instituted kiddush when most people are fasting. However, if Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, R’ Akiva Eiger suggests that kiddush perhaps should be recited. While there was never a takanah of kiddush on Yom Kippur, there is a takanah to make kiddush every Shabbos, and perhaps that takanah is in force across the board on any day that has kedushas Shabbos.

The way I have heard this issue explained is that R’ Akiva Eiger seems to view the kedushas hayom of Shabbos as completely separate from that of Yom Kippur - the fact that the days coincide has no impact on their respective laws. One could make the counter-argument that when two days with different kedushos coincide the kedushos merge – there are not two separate coincidental kedushos, but a synthesis kedusha of Shabbos-Y’K, different from every Shabbos of the year and different from a regular Y”K. (Parenthetically, and a different discussion, the Rambam holds that Shabbos and Yom Tov are two separate kedushos but Shabbos and Y”K is kedusha achas, but I don’t want to get into the nafka minos of that now.) The fact that kiddush is recited when there is kedushas Shabbos is not a proof that kiddush should be recited when there is a synthesis kedusha, Shabbos-Y”K.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The "Litvishe Admor"it"

Interesting article on Rebbetzin Kanievsky (in Hebrew). A sample:

אישה במעמד רוחני בכיר, שמחלקת ברכות וסגולות, ואלפים נוהרים לפתחה. לא מדובר בתופעה שהפציעה משולי העולם החרדי, אלא מלב לבו של הציבור הליטאי. הביטוי "אדמו"ר ליטאי" נשמע עדיין מוזר, ובטח "אדמו"רית אישה". אבל במקרה הזה יש לנו עסק עם לא סתם אדמו"רית, אלא עם אדמו"רית ליטאית של ממש.

Rough translation – “A women in a spiritual leadership position, who distributes brachos and segulos, whom thousands seek out – this is not some phenomenon of a fringe element of the chareidi world, but from the very heart of the Lithuanian community. The term “Litvishe Admo”r” is strange, and certainly more so the term “Mrs. Admori”t”. But in this case we deal not just with any “Admor”it”, but with a “Litvishe Admori”t”, one who is the genuine article."

sneakers on Yom Kippur

The Rambam (Shevisas Asor 3:7) writes that one is permitted to place some type of wrap around one’s feet on Yom Kippur because the wrap does not diminish the sensation of being barefoot and feeling the hardness of the floor on one's feet.
שהרי קושי הארץ מגיע לרגליו, ומרגיש שהוא יחף

It seems from the Rambam that when evaluating the prohibition of neilas hasandal, wearing shoes on Yom Kippur, more important than whether something is formally defined as a “shoe” in other halachic contexts (e.g. chalitzah) is whether what one is wearing allows for the discomforting experience of being nearly barefoot. If I recall correctly, I remember hearing that the Rav had a hakpada to avoid sneakers with arches – in his view, the fact that one was wearing a non-leather sneaker was insufficient so long as the foot was properly supported and there was no feeling of discomfort. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that most sneakers today, even non-leather ones, are perhaps even more comfortable than regular leather dress shoes. (For further discussion see the Aruch haShulchan; we do not necessarily adopt this view of the Rambam l’halacha).

See also this post from January which is much more timely now.

mitzvah of tshuvah on Yom Kippur

R’ Yonah in Sharei Tshuvah (2:15) has an interesting line where he writes, “Mitzvas aseh min haTorah l’ha’ir adam es rucho lachzor b’tshuva b’Yom haKippurim”, that there is a mitzvah to do tshuvah specifically on Yom Kippur based on the pasuk of “M’kol chatoseichem lifnei Hashem titharu” (VaYikra 16,30). It seems like this is not a halacha in hilchos tshuvah per se but rather a halacha in the celebration of the day of Yom Kippur, i.e. one of the mitzvos hayom unique to the Yom Tov.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Shakespeare Wars

OK, a bit off topic, but I have to recommend reading The Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum. (The wars the title refers to is scholarly battles of interpretation surrounding the reading, understanding, and performance of the greatest of all writers.) One of the things high school lit fails to communicate is the passion which real scholars have for Shakespeare study, something this book manages in a sometimes over-the-top way to capture. You don't have to be a Shakespeare scholar to appreciate the book - aderaba, read the book first and you will probably want to see or read more Shakespeare.

children need to experience tekiyas shofar too

Sephardi Lady on Orthonomic discusses the issue of children being watched on Yom Tov by non-Jewish babysitters who do not exactly convey the spirit of Yom Tov to the children. In that vein I just wanted to mention that that Yerushalmi (unlike the Bavli) explains (R”H 20b in Vilna ed – I am following the interpretation of the Korban haEidah) that the reason tekiyas shofar takes place during musaf and not earlier in the morning is to allow time for children to come to shule to experience the mitzvah. Now, I don't know what age children the Yerushalmi is addressing itself to, or whether the rest of the time those children might be with babysitters, but if Chazal could forfeit the ma'aleh of zerizus and delay the zechus of blowing shofar on one of the holiest days of the year to make sure children as well as adults experience the mitzvah, that should tell us something.

Monday, September 17, 2007

halanas hameis

On Erev Rosh haShana I received a surprise gift of a copy of the Kisvei Maharatz Chiyu”s, which is a sefer (as the person who sent it has been telling me for months) I should have had on my bookshelf a long time ago (and thank you again to the sender). Those learning daf yomi will be interested in his defense (in his essay Darkei Hora’ah) of the Chavos Ya’ir who writes that the issur of halanas hameis (delaying burial) is only derabbanan. The gemara (Kesubos 4) writes that if the father of the chasson or mother of the kallah dies on the wedding day, the meis is moved to a side room and the wedding is allowed to take place, after which the meis is buried. The seven days of sheva brachos take place first, followed by seven days of mourning. The motivation to allow the wedding to take place in this case is to avoid the loss of all the food and preparation already done.

The Rishonim ask how the d’oraysa laws of aninus can be suspended by the Chachamim b’kum v’aseh by telling the bride and groom to get married, to which the Rashba answers that when burial is postponed until the day after death, aninus on the day of death is derabbanan, not d’oraysa. But, asks the Maharatz Chiyus, doesn’t the delay in burial itself necessitate pushing off an issur d’oraysa of halanas hameis? How can the Chachamim allow a violation of the issur of delaying burial just to avoid the loss and forfeit of the wedding meal and preparations? It must be, concludes the Maharatz Chiyus, that the Chavos Yair is right – the issur of halanas hameis is only derabbanan.

(For the record, the Chavos Yair is a chiddush gadol rejected by other poskim and is used only as one snif l’hakeil in the larger argument of the Maharatz Chaiyus. At the end of his essay the Mahartz Chiyu”s quotes the response of the Chasam Sofer to his argument, and among the C”S’s critiques is an attack on his minimizing the issur of halanas hameis).

mitzvah of eating erev yom kippur

Hope everyone had a good Rosh haShana and an easy fast yesterday. This week is like the mad sprint at the end of a race where you just have to get moving no matter how tired you are – and depending on your slichos schedule, you probably are as tired as I am : )

It’s fortuitous that daf yomi is learning Kesubos because it is an opportunity to see an important Rashi relevant to hilchos Erev Yom Kippur. The gemara suggests the reason for not scheduling a wedding Motzei Shabbos is “gezeirah shema yishcot ben of” (daf 5a), to avoid the danger of people starting to shect chickens on Shabbos to prepare the feast (aside: the celebration of simchas chassan v’kallah apparently does not demand a meal of meat, as some claim with respect to simchas yom tov where the din of simcha has some relationship to korbanos). By that same logic, asks the gemara, we should not celebrate Yom Kippur immediately following Shabbos because of the danger of beginning to prepare food early for the erev Yom Kippur meal, “l’tzorech seudas machar”, as Rashi explains. Rashi’s emphasis on the seudah of the next day suggests that there is no mitzvah to eat a seudah on the night of Erev Yom Kippur.

The gemara (R”H 9) darshens that just as there is a mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur, there is a mitzvah to eat Erev Yom Kippur. Shouldn’t this mitzvah apply starting from the previous nightfall, just like the mitzvah of fasting? Apparently the relationship is not exactly parallel, and according to Rashi the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur is simply to properly prepare for the fast by having a seudah immediately beforehand.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

kesiva v'chasima tovah

I want to wish everyone a kesiva v'chasima tovah and a good and meaningful yom tov.

tekiyos d'meyushav vs. during musaf - which are the "real" tekiyos? (II)

The Netziv (on the Shi’iltos) notes that most of the Rishonim write that tekiyos d’meyushav were listened to while sitting (hence the name “meyushav”). Yet, the common custom in our shules is to stand for tekiyos. Why, in light of the Rishonim explicitely mentioning to sit, has the minhag changed?

The Netziv cites the chiddush of Tosfos (see last post) that the primary tekiyos were those blown during musaf and explains that sitting was a demonstrative display of the lack of desire to fulfill the mitzvah of tekiyos with the earlier round of blowing. Based on Tosfos' chiddush, the need to avoid a hefsek between rounds of tekiyos is far more pressing, as the bracha on the earlier tekiyos applies to the blowing which will occur much later.

Tosfos' practice exposes one to the risk of being called out of shule for some emergency, for a child who needs attention, for any other need, and missing the latter tekiyos, forfeiting the mitzvah. It also demands a high level of concentration to avoid any hefsek. The reason we stand for tekiyos d'meyushav is not because our standards are higher than those of the Rishonim – quite the opposite. To avoid the danger of something going wrong and missing the latter tekiyos we take the easy route out and stand with concentration to be yotzei while hearing the earlier tekiyos d’meyushav.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

tekiyos d'meyushav vs. during musaf - which are the "real" tekiyos?

If one has no other vegetable and is forced to use maror for karpas (Pesachim 115), Rav Huna holds that the bracha of al achilas maror is deferred until later in the seder when maror is eaten in the context and with the intent of fulfilling the mitzvah of maror. Rav Chisda disagrees – the bracha of maror should be recited before karpas, as what sense does it make to eat one’s fill of maror and only afterwards to recite a bracha?

There are two possible ways to understand Rav Chisda’s disagreement: 1) Rav Chisda may holdsthat the bracha of maror is fulfilled when the vegetable is eaten as karpas regardless of whether one has kavanah to fulfill the mitzvah at that point or later – kavanah is not required; 2) Rav Chisda may agree with the fundamental point that the mitzvah of maror is not fulfilled until later when it is eaten with intent for the mitzvah of maror, but nonetheless holds that the bracha should be recited earlier over karpas. Even though there is an interruption of reciting the hagadah, the bracha recited by karpas can still count for the mitzvah of maror fulfilled later.

Tosfos (d”h maskif) in Pesachim takes the latter approach, and draws an analogy to tekiyas shofar. Even though the primary fulfillment of mitzvas shofar is hearing the shofar blown during the brachos of malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros of musaf, we recite the bracha of tekiyas shofar earlier, before the tekiyos d’meyushav blown before musaf.

This analogy which Tosfos mentions in passing is a very significant point. To answer the question posed by the title of this post, tekiyos during musaf according to Tosfos are the "real" tekiyos d'oraysa of Rosh haShana. More to come bl”n…

yom tov seats - is there a better way to do things?

I don’t know why I am struck by it this year, but the whole concept of selling seats for Yom Tov turns me off. Thank G-d we daven in a local Bais Medrash that has a simple policy: reserve seats and pay whatever you think you can afford. There are no box seats and bleachers, no seats with names engraved on them, and most importantly, no one as far as I know is ever turned away because they cannot afford to pay. The davening is quiet and kavanah filled, which is why we go there. But not every place shares this philosophy, and if you are on a tight budget, this time of year is gehennom. Your kids will be clammering for school supplies after you have already shelled out a fortune in registration and tuition, you need extra meat and more expensive foods for Yom Tov meals, this kid needs shoes, this one needs a dress, etc., sukkos is coming and you need a lulav and esrog, and on top of all that you get hit with a bill of a few hundred dollars just to sit down and daven so you can ask G-d for the $ to pay for all this. I left out the Kol Nidrei, Yizkor, or some other appeal or two where donations are often announced and how would it look for Yankel to give a nice check and for you to pledge nothing?

Don’t get me wrong – shules need money too. Someone has to be the electric, gas, rent, rabbi’s salary. And I am sure that if someone is needy many places will forgo the price of seats. But why put people in a position where they have to ask and compromise their dignity? Why turn the holiest moments of the year into an auction (for aliyos), a telethon (for pledge dollars), or some kind of event where box seats vs. nosebleed section separates the haves from the have-nots?

So much for my idealistic rantings. I don't know if there is a better way to raise money than seat sales and appeals, and I don't know if the honor system of pay what you like would work everywhere, but since I have not seen anyone else in blogger-land raise the issue, just my 2 cents.

Monday, September 10, 2007

mah kashe l'rashi - bal tosif and sfeika d'yoma

Getting back to the Rashi discussion in this post from Friday, I had lined up five questions on Rashi but did not offer any answers (please read that post first or this will make no sense).

The gemara suggested that there cannot possibly be a problem of bal tosif with performing a mitzvah outside its allotted time as long as one has no kavanah, otherwise someone who sleeps in sukkah on the eighth day of sukkos should get malkos. Rashi commented - “d’mosif shmini al shevi’i, v’anan meisav yasvinan b’shmini b’safeik shevi’i l’chatchila – elah, she’lo b’zmano b’lo kavanah lav tosefes hu ul’hachi sharinan, d’i shmini hu lo mechavein l’miztvas sukkah”.

Returning to the questions raised on Friday:
1) What’s bothering Rashi? The gemara’s arguments is in the form of a reduction ad absurdum - you can’t say bal tosif on a mitzvah she’lo b’zmano without kavanah because you would therefore also be forced to say someone who sleeps in sukkah on the eighth day gets malkos. But how do we know that there is no malkos in that case?! Rashi fills in the knowledge gap by reminding us that common practice is to sit in sukkah on Shmini Atzeret because of sfeika d’yoma.
2) The gemara’s language refers to “hayashein”, one who sleeps in the sukkah, but Rashi refers to “meisav” sitting. I think perhaps Rashi is alluding to the fact that our common practice is to eat, but not sleep in the sukkah on Shmini Atzeret, though one could argue that the term “meisav” is a generic term for the mitzvah of yeshivas sukkah in all its forms – eating, sitting, sleeping. I’m just raising the thought.
3) I am a bit perplexed by Rashi’s stress on “l’chatchila”. Perhaps Rashi wanted to avoid the though that there is a potential of bal tosif, but in deference to sfeika d’yoma we sit in sukkah anyway, but this is only a b’dieved concession.
4 a-b) The simple reading of the gemara’s would suggest a scenario of someone in Eretz Yisrael who decided to sit in sukkah for an extra day violating bal tosif. In fact, some Rishonim do present this as the scenario. Going back to question #1, I think Rashi would have wondered why it was so clear that such a person does not get malkos. On the other hand, Rashi raises a different question – if Chazal decreed that there is a Rabbinic obligation to sit in sukkah, that decree may preclude bal tosif (see this post), but who says it would not apply in other cases?
5) The Aruch laNer sees the Rashi in R”H which omits the elaborate scenario as a retraction of sorts – Rashi felt that once the Rabbinic obligation of sitting in sukkah because of sfeika d’yoma is invoked the discussion of bal tosif is moot. However, I would just note that the topic of the two sugyos is different. The focus in R”H is on kavanah, not the issue of zman. Would Rashi perhaps simply feel less pressed to explain why someone is sitting in sukkah during that extra day if the timing is not an issue?

new issue of kallah magazine - book review of BeYom Chasunaso

My wife has completed pulling together another issue of Kallah Magazine, which should be out right after Rosh haShana in 5T, Queens, Brooklyn, Baltimore, and now also Teaneck, but if you want a sneak preview see her post with a link to the .pdf file. I contributed a review of a new sefer, BeYom Chasunaso, by Rabbi Zev Cinamon, RY of Yeshiva Gedolah of West Hempstead. Instead of a simply listing what to do, R’ Cinamon discusses the conceptual underpinnings of halachos of the wedding, starting with an analysis of whether there is a mitzvah to get married and ending with details of sheva brachos. Even if you are familiar with the basic lomdus of these sugyos, a nice feature of the book is the many piskei halacha he cites from R’ Soloveitchik z”l and R’ Chait shlit”a of Yeshiva Bnei Torah in Far Rockaway (I know I have a few R’ Chait readers, so you will definitely be interested). For more information or to purchase a copy you can contact the Yeshiva Gedolah of W.H.

mazal tov to chaim m.

Mazal Tov to Chaim Markowitz (aka Nefesh haChaim) and family on the birth of a baby girl! Tizkeh l'gadlah l'torah l'chuppah ul'ma'asim tovim

Update: Just got an e-mail from Chaim - the baby's name is Gittel.

Friday, September 07, 2007

sukkah on shmini atzeret - an analysis of rashi

Last week I wrote about asking “mah kashe l’Rashi” in gemara and said I liked the close reading of Rashi so much I may make it a regular feature. Well, here goes round #1 and I’ll see if I continue. Just as an editorial aside, I think I chose a far too long Rashi to start the ball rolling, but it has something to do with an earlier post, so I got hooked. (BTW, my daughter came home with a chumash Rashi worksheet last night, and sure enough, first question was to identify Rashi’s question).

Gemara Eiruvin 96a debates whether there is an issur of bal tosif in performing a mitzvah without kavanah in a time period where no obligation exists (shelo b’zmano) – e.g. is there an issur of bal tosif in putting on tefilin without mitzvah-kavanah at night?

Asks the gemara, if there is an issur of bal tosif shelo b’zmano even without kavanah, “hayashein b’sukkah b’shmini yilkeh” – one should get malkos for sleeping in the sukkah on the eighth day of sukkos.

Rashi d”h hayashein: “d’mosif shmini al shevi’i, v’anan meisav yasvinan b’shmini b’safeik shevi’i l’chatchila – elah, she’lo b’zmano b’lo kavanah lav tosefes hu ul’hachi sharinan, d’i shmini hu lo mechavein l’miztvas sukkah”

Just in case my transliteration (sorry, no Hebrew keyboard) is unclear, the gist of Rashi is that we sit in sukkah l’chatchila on the eighth day [i.e. the day after sukkos] because of a safeik whether it might really still be the seventh day, proving that a mitzvah done shelo b’zmano without kavanah is not bal tosif, for we have in mind that if it really is the eighth day [i.e. not sukkos] we have no kavanah.

A long and unusually verbose Rashi, which is a usually a tip-off that lots of explanation of something is called for:
1) What in the text demands explanation?
2) “HaYashein”=one who sleeps. Is there a difference with respect to this din between sleeping and eating in sukkah according to Rashi? Why might you think otherwise?
3) Why does Rashi stress that we sit in sukkah “l’chatchila”?
4a) Rashi presents a scenario of someone in chutz l’aretz who eats in sukkah on the eighth day because of sfeika d’yoma. What other simpler scenario fits the words “hayashein b’sukkah b’shmini”?
4b) Why didn’t Rashi give that simpler case as a scenario?
5) See Rashi Rosh haShana 28b d”h hayahein: “shelo l’shum mitzvah”. No explanation of the scenario! It certainly seems striking in comparison to the long explanation of Rashi in Eiruvin. Significant omission/difference or not?

Something to think about over Shabbos : )

takanos, gezeiros, and bal tosif

Tosfos in Rosh haShana (16) asks why blowing shofar twice, once during musaf and once before musaf, as instituted by Chazal, does not violate bal tosif, the issur of adding to the Torah - there is only one mitzvah of shofar, not two? The simplest answer to Tosfos’ question is offered by the Rashba: by definition, Rabbinic enactments do not violate bal tosif; they are not new, additional mitzvos being added to the Torah, but are categorically included in the Torah granted right of Chazal to legislate. Tosfos does not give this obvious answer and instead suggests that the repitition of a mitzvah (without adding anything to it) is not a violation of bal tosif; e.g. a kohen can fulfill the mitzvah of birchas kohanin in one shule and then repeat the bracha again in another shule with no harm – only adding to the Torah’s formula of the bracha would constitute bal tosif. Why did Tosfos avoid giving the Rashba’s answer?

One possibility is that tekiyos before musaf are described as a minhag. Perhaps Tosfos accepts the Rashba’s idea, but limits it to Rabbinic law, not minhag. Mike S. in a comment in a different context suggested that there may be a distinction between gezeiros and takanos. Perhaps this distinction applies here: Tosfos may accept that the Rabbis have legislative authority to make a gezeirah to protect Torah law, but see as more problematic the institution of a completely new takanah (see PM”G, Pesicha haKolleles 1:40 who suggests such a distinction). The Pnei Yehoshua similarly distinguishes two types of Rabbinic laws – laws which historical necessity forced the Rabbis to implement to protect the Torah, and laws which could have been enacted at any time/place and are completely independent of historical circumstance. In the latter case, since these laws could theoretically have existed from the moment the Torah was given, their absence, their not having been given or formulated earlier, is itself indicative of that fact that these enactments are not needed and would be an addition violating bal tosif.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

should women daven ma'ariv? - interesting line in Iggeres haTshuvah

My wife's report on her conversation with one of my daughter's teachers re: her davening at home so she can eat breakfast afterwards reminded me: has anyone else noticed R' Yonah's statement in Iggeres haTshuvah (#79) that a women should be careful to daven "erev va'voker v'tzaharayim", i.e. three times a day? I was under the impression that most contemporary poskim hold that women do not have to daven ma'ariv because tefilas arvis reshus and they never accepted it as a chiyuv, but this R' Yonah would indicate otherwise.

Kesubos 3 - changing / uprooting a takanah

I really regret how a simple Ramban turned into so much more, so please can we get back to meat and potatoes? Tosfos (Kesubos 3b d"h takanah derabbanan) makes an interesting distinction between modifying a gezeirah and uprooting a gezeirah. The gemara is unwilling to accept permanently doing away with the takanah of getting married on Wednesday even in response to a situation of duress, but is willing to tolerate moving the wedding to a different day on a temporary basis. This Tosfos has always bothered me. I imagine the problem with uprooting a takanah is "ain bais din yachol levateil divrei bais din chaveiro", one court does not have legal authority to overrule enactments of an earlier court (with certain exceptions). If so, wouldn't even changing the wedding date also be subject to the same problem? The gemara indicates elsewhere (Megillah 2a) with respect to the Purim that even a change of date is viewed as impinging on the original takanah and the rule of "ain bais din..." applies.
(As an aside: see Tos Meg 5b d"h bikeish which you have to fit with that gemara on 2a).
(Double aside: it feels good to get back on the right track again).

final thoughts on emunah - misquotes, ducking issues, and definitions of judaism

I want to close out this topic of emunah with some final thoughts. I have no problem with people offering their own views in comments, but I do have a problem with people misquoting what I say and distorting it to satisfy their misguided ends.

A certain commentator here in response to the Ramban argued that “Rabbi… [editing out the name because I cannot verify the quote] himself told me that you only need to not categorically deny any beliefs.” However, as noted, that interpretation does not fit the words of the Ramban being discussed - “yodeh b’libo, y’heyu emes b’einav, ya’amin”. No response was offered to justify what amounts to a completely implausible reading.

That commentator also claimed, “You can certainly be agnostic and be ok, especially nowadays when according to the Chazon Ish everyone is a tonok shenishbah.” The Chazon Ish explained why we do not apply the rule of moridin v’lo ma’alin, but never chas v’shalom justified agnosticism. No further explanation was offered.

This person argued that, “Also, since when is the Ramban the final word on hashkafah??” and was invited to present alternative theological views found in Rishonim, but offered none.

Finally, this person claimed, “You can't mandate belief. That's a psychological fact.” This assertion is contradicted by the Ramban’s count of emunah as a mitzvah d’oraysa, a mandate to have belief, as well as by a host of non-Jewish philosophers and theologians who argued belief can be mandated; among them, ironically was William James, the father of psychology – so much for psychological facts. The only response offered to this was a re-assertion of the same opinionated statement as “fact”.

Not content to simply avoid answering pointed questions on their misplaced critiques, this person has now done a blog posting claiming I said “If you don’t believe in God, there’s no reason he should let you into Heaven” and “Also anyone can make themselves believe anything”. Anyone who has read the previous posts knows I have said nothing to that effect. I guess it is easier to respond to a straw-man position than to actually address what I did write. I commented there asking that person for quotes - still waiting....

I believe Judaism is defined by Chazal and Rishonim, and all matters of halacha, theology, morality must be grounded in those roots. This other person on the other hand writes, “Why? Chazal believed in Shedim and the Rishonim had no clue. Neither group knew modern science or were exposed to anything like the stuff we are exposed to. They are both entirely unqualified to present opinions on modern issues.”

Is whether Judaism tolerates atheism and agnosticism a “modern issue”? Do Chazal offer timeless guidance and insight into theology, morality, hashkafa, or are we to simply ignore their views a tainted and irrelevant to our modern dilemmas? Is Judaism an opinion survey of what makes sense to you or makes you feel good, or is it grounded in a tradition of ontological truths revealed by G-d ?

The purpose of my blog is not kiruv, justifying Judaism based on external criteria; I presuppose my readers share my belief in the authority of Chazal and Rishonim and value their words. For those who don't, I sincerly hope they rediscover those values, but until then I'm afraid the Judaism they discuss and the Judaism I discuss are worlds apart.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

mitzvos and kabbalas ol

One more point on the Ramban I cited yesterday: Why is disbelief in the Divine origin of mitzvos, even if one is perfect in his/her observance, a more severe offence than violating mitzvos in practice? I think the answer is found in Rabeinu Yonah, Sharei Tshuvah 1:6, who quotes the same pasuk as the Ramban and also notes the Torah’s stress on “yakim…la’asos”, not just “ya’aseh”, i.e. acceptance and belief, not just performance. R' Yonah adds an analogy to explain the idea: if a slave tells his master that he is willing to obey all the master’s instructions except one, the yoke of servitude is broken and the slave’s actions are in reality obedience only to his own will. Acceptance of the Divine authorship of mitzvos is acceptance of servitute to G-d.

In other words (you Briskers will like this), mitzvah performance really consists of two components: 1) the performance of G-d’s will; 2) kabbalas ol – the demonstration that one is subservient to G-d’s will. Even if one performs mitzvos, if that performance is undertaken as an expression of one’s own desires and sense of right and wrong (I cited in the past opinions who hold that even mitzvos sichliyos should be performed because of G-d’s command and not simply because they are reasonable), one’s religious persona is lacking. Ana avda d’KB”H! An eved can make mistakes in carrying out service and at times disobey, but nonetheless remains an eved. One who refuses to accept the yoke of avdus is in a different category entirely.

you "can't" mandate belief - or can you?

A response to 2 comments yesterday:
First one - "if someone comes and says "I don't believe and hence, by definition, I can't believe", it would be better to have a more extensive explanation."
Second one - "You can't mandate belief. That's a psychological fact."

In lieu of the extensive explanation the first comment asked for (sorry, I have a day job) here are 4 reasons why the above opinion (stated as a fact) is highly debatable:

1) Doxastic Voluntarism – Simply put, who says belief is not a function of will? The fact that some people claim as a “fact” otherwise only reveals their ignorance of hundreds of years of scholarship by numerous philosophers who think otherwise. Google the term.

2) Even if you assert belief is involuntary, all that assertion establishes is that environment, education, etc. impacts upon belief. Who is to say that the commandment of emunah does not charge us with creating an environment (e.g. havai goleh l’makom torah, etc.) which will be conducive to creating the proper beliefs?

3) Belief is ingrained in human nature and it takes an act of will to counter it. Isn’t it remarkable that belief in a deity cuts across cultural, geographical, historical boundaries? Is it perhaps part of the human condition which the atheist must make a deliberate decision to ignore? If so, belief is the effort to not succumb to the temptation to deny what we inherently feel to be true and instead to affirm the natural state of faith.

4) Belief is not an emotional or psychological state but is a philosophical proposition that can be proven based on reason. Arguing that one cannot mandate belief is like arguing that one cannot mandate belief that 2+2=4. True, but unless there is an assumption of reason, all human discourse collapses.

I imagine there are other arguments that I missed, but this should be enough. Each of these arguments has flaws, but taken together they make a powerful case that a command of belief is not illogical or unreasonable, not something that “can’t” be done, as was stated. The agnostic/atheist blogs always try the same routine – state arguments as facts, present philosophical points that have been disputed for centuries as great discoveries and settled arguments, etc. Along those lines, the counter-arguments to this post will be along the lines of disputing one of the 4 approaches above because of some similar “fact” which is really an opinion in disguise, trying to knock off one of the 4 arguments and presenting that as demolishing all of them, arguing that none of this proves Judaism (correct, but the topic is not Judaism, the topic is belief), saying that the counter-arguments are equally reasonable (just because a counter-argument is out there doesn’t mean these arguments “can’t” be made, which was the original point stated), and finally, donning the mantle of nevuah to ask if G-d really wants this or that type of belief, which begs the question. Just wanted to go through the run down in advance to save myself time later.

R' Shimon Shkop and American Jewry

In the most recent issue of Chavrusa, a publication of RIETS (YU) Rabbinic Alumni, there is an interview with R’ Charlap, the outgoing menahel. In discussing the life of Dr. Belkin, R' Charlap noted that when Dr. Belkin first came to YU from Europe as a yeshiva-only educated iluy, his inclination was to return to the yeshiva world of Europe rather than remain at YU. It was none other than R’ Shimon Shkop who (quoting R’ Charlap), “presciently told him, well before World War II and Hitler MHBR, that the future of Yahadus lies in American and that Yiddishkeit-wise, Europe is lost”. Of course, Dr. Belkin went on to shape that future of Yahadus in the US.
I thought it was an interesting point.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

mitzvos lav l'henos nitnu (III)

I fixed a post from last week on mitzvos lav l’henos nitnu because I had reversed the opinions involved. The Ran holds that mitzvos lav l’henos means only that the spiritual benefit of doing a mitzvah does not count as a hana’ah. A neder not to listen to shofar is chal because there is no physical pleasure involved in hearning shofar, only the spiritual benefit of the kiyum mitzvah which is not a hana’ah. However, if someone took a neder not to fulfill the mitzvah of onah with his wife, according to Ran the mitzvah cannot be performed because there is physical hana’ah involved in addition to the spiritual hana’ah of fulfilling the mitzvah. Rashba offers a different reason why a neder on onah is chal: a person is not bound to remain married to the particular woman he took the neder on. If not for that reason, even physical hana’ah that goes with a mitzvah is permitted because mitzvos lav l’henos nitnu.

The point of disagreement seems to be: According to the Ran, the cheftza of hana’ah is prohibited, regardless of how it is attained; according to the Rashba, only a ma’aseh hana’ah is prohibited, i.e. an act a person engages in for the sake of pleasure, but any act engaged in l’shem mitzvah is permitted.

So why according to the Rashba does the gemara (R”H 28) prohibit someone who took a neder from a spring to be toivel on a hot day? Even the physical hana’ah of cooling off should be permitted because the act of tevilah is a mitzvah? Some explain that concern is for the droplets of water that remain cooling the person even after they emerge from the spring and are done with tevilah. But I think R’ Shternbruch’s answer in Moadim u’Zmanim is more satisfying. The Rashba set out his position in the case of onah, where the mitzvah by definition is to give hana’ah. In the case of tevilah, where the mitzvah is not to receive hana’ah from the water but the act of dunking, perhaps the Rashba would agree with the Ran.

Monday, September 03, 2007

the issur of orthopraxy

What's worse: being mechalel Shabbos, or keeping Shabbos but not believing it is a Divine commandment? The Ramban explains "Arur asher lo yakim es haTorah hazos" (27:26) to mean that a Jew must believe in his/her heart that mitzvos are a Divine truth and believe that G-d rewards their observance and punishes their desecration. One who disbelieves is subjected to the curse of "Arur...". However, says the Ramban, if a person simply violates commandments, e.g. a person who eats pig or does not observe sukkah or lulav, but still believes they are true and that ultimately there is reward and punishment, that person is not subject to the curse in the parsha.

Of course, the fact that belief is essential is obvious from our mesorah and it seems only if your exposure to Judaism comes from the internet would you even have a hava amina otherwise (which is why the whole topic is silly), but l'ravcha d'milsa it is mefurash in Ramban.