Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Har HaMoriya = Har Sinai??
Given that background, there is a very difficult Tosfos in Ta’anis 16a . The gemara darshens the name Moriya as “the place which caused fear (=morah) to the Nations”. Tosfos writes that Har haMoriya is Har Sinai and the fear is the fear of mattan Torah. How could that be? Har Sinai is not in Eretz Yisrael, and certainly not near the makom mikdash! Meforshim struggle with this one… My son suggested that there are two places names Har haMoriya. Though Tosfos sometimes suggests answers like this (e.g. Gittin 2a d”h Ashkelon), it would be quite a chiddush.
Eliezer's mission: using difficulties as motivation
Explains the Shem m’Shmuel, it’s not by accident that Hashem, b’hashgacha, saw to it that Eliezer would have a daughter of marriageable age. What better way to ensure Eliezer set out with his guard up? Just like forcing Yehudah to take full responsibility for Binyamin, even for ones, drew out all his kochos henefesh, having a daughter forced Eliezer to struggle against personal negiyos and not set out on his task lightly.
This naturally explains Eliezer's haste and desire for certainty. Eliezer knew that if he deliberated over who the right girl should be and began dismissing shidduch offers, he would always wonder – “Is that girl really unworthy, or am I perhaps just motivated to keep Yitzchak for my own daughter?” Eliezer davened to Hashem for help, asked for the right girl to immediately be shown to him, and asked for Hasehm to remove all any need for deliberation. Furthermore, he put his own daughter completely out of his mind, so that we only find out about her after he completes his job and Rivka has been chosen. And in the end, these efforts not only cleared his conscience, but left Lavan and Besuel with incontrivertable proof that Rivka was meant for Yitzchak.
Are our difficulties there to make us fail, to trip us up, or to provide the impetus to force us to grow and discover our hidden kochos?
devarim sheb'lev ainam devarim
R’ Naftali Trop’s chakira: are “devarim sheb’lev” meaningless because we have no way of knowing what a person is thinking, or “devarim sheb’lev” are meaningless because even if we know what a person is thinking only words or deeds, not thought, carry legal weight?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
how to tap into all one's hidden kochos
Eliezer's search for a wife for Yitzchak
1) Not satisfied that he is backed by the tefilos of Avraham, the tzadik hador, Eliezer davens to Hashem for help with this shidduch as if it depended on his efforts alone.
2) Instead of interviewing many girls over time and deliberating over his choice, Eliezer davens that Hashem should present him on the day of his arrival with absolute proof of the right girl. Why not consider the candidates and think things over?
3) Eliezer benefits from “kfitzas haderech” and a journey that should have taken a long time was done in a single day. When he arrives his tefilos indicate that he wants Hashem on the spot to help him resolve the issue. What’s the hurry?
4) Strangely enough, the only obstacle that should have weighed on Eliezer’s mind goes unmentioned. Only when Rivka was already chosen and Eliezer begins speaking to Besual and Lavan do we learn that he too had a daughter who might have married Yitzchak, who he indeed hoped might marry Yitzchak, but which Avraham did not allow. Why is this fact not mentioned until after Eliezer had already chosen Rivka? And looking at the larger picture, why did Hashem arrange things in such a way that Eliezer should have a daughter of marriageable age who was rejected – wouldn’t it have been better if he did not have this temptation in his way?
Monday, October 29, 2007
I previously recommended Dr. Jerome Groopman’s “How Doctor’s Think” and found his book “The Measure of Our Days: A Spiritual Exploration of Illness” equally worth reading. This is a heart-wrenching book that deals with illness, death, recovery, and finding meaning in life’s closing moments. Very moving.
Dr. Atul Gawande’s “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance” is remarkably thoughtful and reflective. The focus is on what doctors can do to improve their performance, but the lessons apply equally to many others areas in life. The final chapter of the book was especially enjoyable. What do you do to keep medicine, or whatever job you do (I'm not a doctor either) from becoming a stale, mindless activity? What can a person do to feel like they are making a positive contribution? One of Gawande’s suggestions for becoming a “positive deviant” (a term I had not encountered before) is to write, as sharing ideas with others forces one to reflect. I knew blogging had redeeming value : )
are gezeiros and takanos irrevocable?
Apparently the Geonim did not place much weight on the counter-argument (advanced by R’ Yonah) that a takanah remains in full force even if the reason behind it is no longer applicable. The idea that takanos are irrevocable is taken as common knowledge in yeshivos based on the rule that a later Bais Din cannot revoke the work of an earlier one. The usual explanation offered (I think based on GR”A) is that takanos are overdetermined - based on multiple reasons - some revealed to us, some hidden, so that even if the given reason is no longer applicable, others may still apply. In fact, there are probably as many exceptions to this rule as cases to illustrate it.
My son recently asked me about people clapping and dancing on Shabbos. I pointed him to Tosfos’ comment (Beitzah 30) that these gezeiros were formulated lest people come to make or fix musical instruments, and since the reason no longer applies, the gezeirah is no longer in effect. Achronim struggle to make sense of this Tosfos, as Tosfos clearly does not assume a takanah is binding if the reason behind it is not applicable. Again, the exception is striking only if you see the rule as absolute. In one of the Maharatz Chiyus’ essays he rounds up a collection of these cases and tries to come up with a pattern that fits - something to keep in mind when these cases come up.
Friday, October 26, 2007
sacrificing the intellect or questioning the world?: lessons from Avraham
The second piece concerns the parsha of the akeida, the command given to Avraham to sacrifice his son. The Ishbitzer explains (this shiur by my rebbe, R’ Blachman of KBY, discusses) that there was a certain ambiguity to the command given to Avraham, starting with G-d’s use of the term “ha’aleihu”, to bring Yitzchak up, but not the word “slaughter”. Had Avraham opened his mind to questions, he would certainly have wondered how a loving G-d of kindness could command him to sacrifice his son; he would certainly have seized upon the possibility of reading G-d’s command to mean something less than actual slaughter; his rational mind would have rejected the possibility of performing an unethical act in G-d’s name and reinterpreted the command. Yet, Avraham closed his mind and unquestioningly accepted the irrational with complete faith.
Two pieces of the Ishbitzer, two seemingly opposite messages. Is religion advanced through questioning and wonder, or through close minded and blind adherence to the discipline of faith? The answer, of course, is both. Our society has lost its sense of balance between these two messages: segments of the Jewish world have seized on “rational” questions as an excuse to reinterpret (or reject) the most basic truths of mesorah, while other segments remain so enveloped in their cocoon of faith that they have lost sight of the value and need to question and probe. There is a need for an “akeidah” of intellectual inquiry in the face of truths too great to be explored or explained by rational thought alone; there is also a need to think deeply, to inquire and explore, if one is to encounter the “ba’al habirah”. Avraham’s journey reminds us of both.
two stories about R' Moshe
At nine years old R’ Moshe learned the entire Mes. Beitzah on Shavuos night with his father. As a parent I appreciated the comment added to the story which notes that this accomplishment is not just a testimony to R’ Moshe’s abilities, but a testimony to the efforts his father invested in his chinuch. I don’t know if the first story is halacha l’ma’aseh, but this one certainly is.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
P' Vayeira: "shalom bayis" is not just for newlyweds
Remember, points out R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz, Avraham at this point was 99 years old and Sarah 90. They probably were well past there 50th wedding anniversary, and may have been past their 75th wedding anniversary. After living with someone for so many years one would imagine that Avraham could anticipate every thought that entered Sarah’s mind. Yet, we see there is still an inyan of “l’chabiva al ba’alah”! There is still more love that Avraham could find in his relationship with Sarah. Shalom bayis is not just something for newlyweds to work on; it is something that needs to be constantly worked on and developed.
are women obligated in tosefes shabbos and yom tov?
While the lomdus sounds nice, the assumption behind it is questionable. Although the gemara explicitly states that women are obligated in tosefes yom hakippurim, there is no source that would indicate an obligation in tosefes yom vov. Recall Tosfos (Kiddushin 34) from yesterday’s post suggested in their question that women are exempt from the aseh of yom tov, and retracted that assumption only because the aseh is attached to a lav. Tosefes yom tov is not attached to any lav, and so the exemption of women should stand. (This of course begs the question of why tosefes y”k is different than tosefes y”t).
Daf Yomi learners, however, will recall Tosfos (Kesubos 47a d”h d’masar) which writes that women may not do work during the tosefes shabbos, indicating that they are chayavos. The Ksav Sofer (O.C. 56) suggests that perhaps women are exempt only from zman gerama mitzvos like tefillin, which demand a kum v’aseh action to perform; they are, however, obligated in issurei aseh, such as the aseh of yom tov, which is fulfilled by the passive avoidance of work. (see also the safeik of R’ Akiva Eiger on perek 5 of mishnayos shabbos re: the issur of shvisas b’heima).
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
don't aspire to be a beinoni!
הרב זצ"ל הדגיש תמיד שלא להיות בינוני, אלא להתגדל בתורה עוד ועוד ולהמשיך להתגדל ולהתגדל
Don't aspire to mediocrity - aspire to be great in Torah, and then to grow still greater and greater.
Lot's daughters - a story from Igros Moshe
a lav and aseh which work together - yom tov
Tofos answers that since the lav of Yom Tov is conjoined to an aseh, it indicates (is a siman) that this lav is stronger than other lavim and cannot be pushed off by an aseh. Not quite the sevara of the Ramban, but close. According to Ramban, the answer is much simpler: since the aseh is associated with a lav, the two function as a single unit. Since women are always obligated in the lav of Yom Tov, the aseh always tags along as well.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
where a lav and aseh intersect
Tosfos answers by devising cases where the aseh applies without the lav. The Ramban, however, offers a more fundemental argument. In these cases the lav does not function as an independent issur, but is the Torah’s way of strengthening the mitzvas aseh – if the aseh does not apply, the lav which goes hand in hand with it does not apply either.
The debate between Tosfos and Ramban seems to be how to understand intersecting lavim/mitzvos – do we treat each factor independently, or do the aseh and lav merge together and function as one unit either based on the criteria of the aseh (in these cases) or the lav (perhaps in other cases).
Returning to the question of the Maharatz Chiyus: how we can say oseik b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah by tzedaka when the mitzvah carries with it two separate lavim? One might argue based on the Ramban that the lavim are not independent issurim, but only serve to strengthen the aseh. If the aseh is cancelled, the lavim do not apply either.
Monday, October 22, 2007
coercion to perform the mitzvah of tzedaka (Kesubos 49)
Tosfos offers three answers:
1) The gemara in Chulin excludes coercion by force; Rava used “verbal coercion” to talk Rav Nasan into it.
2) The gemara in Chullin refers to voluntary pledges of tzedaka, but R’ Nasan lived in a city where there was a contractual agreement among all members to contribute a set monthly payment.
3) Tzedaka is different than other mitzvos in that there are two lavim that go with it – lo t’ametz and lo tikpotz. Coercion can be applied to force fulfillment of lavim.
4) A fourth answer not given by Tosfos but mentioned by other Rishonim: the gemara in Chulin means that Bais Din in these cases is not forced to coerce obedience, but it does not mean that Bais Din is prevented from doing so.
The Maharatz Chiyus in a number of places (e.g. Ateres Tzvi, Shu”t siman 13) questions Tosfos’ third answer. Bava Kama (56) tell us that someone watching/holding a lost article until its owner claims it has the status of a shomeir sachar because the object’s guardian receives the “payment” of being exempt from the mitzvah of tzedaka while watching the object – oseik b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah. Oseik b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah is an exemption from mitzvos aseh, but not lavim – e.g. travelers en route to perform a mitzvah are exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah (Sukkah 25), but cannot eat in a treif restaurant. If Tosfos is correct that the mitzvah of tzedaka carries with it two lavaim as well as the mitzvas aseh, how can oseik b’mitzvah exempt the shomeir from the lavim of tzedaka? How are those lavim different than the lav of eating tarfus?
There are a number of ways to approach answering this kashe…
Friday, October 19, 2007
avraham, lot, and the ishbitzer on mitzvas milah
Why, asks the Ishbitzer, did Avraham wait for G-d’s command before performing the mitzvah of milah, as end of our parsha records? Why did he not take the initiative and do the mitzvah earlier, before receiving an explicit command? The Ishbitzer offers a unique answer to the classic question. Milah makes a statement: G-d created man in an imperfect state, and man must take action to remove the orlah and correct the defect. Such a statement can be seen as audacious, even sacrilegious – who are we to call G-d’s creation imperfect, flawed, in need of our correction?
The command of milah was preceded by the birth of Yishmael to show Avraham that indeed it would be audacious to charge G-d with creating an imperfect world if not for the fact that G-d himself creates Yishmaels even among the children of Avraham, if not for the fact that G-d himself told us the world is imperfect and in need of our repair.
I wonder, coming full circle, if perhaps Lot as a character is a symbolic “orlah”, an “orlah” which Avraham was loathe to abandon and forsake without a commandment to do so. Avraham had been told to abandon his home, "lech lecha m’artzecha, m’moldtecha, m’bais avicha" – could it be that this command was necessary to prevent Avraham from becoming bogged down by other potential “Lots” in his neighborhood and family, ultimately retarding his own growth? Is there perhaps a progression from “lech lecha”, Avraham having to be ordered to abandon a bad situation, to "acharei hipared Lot", G-d waiting until Avraham himself was forced to drive Lot away somewhat unwillingly, to G-d's finally showing Avraham that removing “orlah” is also part of the mission of religion and not every situation or person can be “saved”? I’m just thinking out loud – feel free to add your 2 cents.
Even if you don't buy the Lot connection, the Ishbitzer makes a powerful point. Every teacher today is told to make kids feel good, accentuate the positive, find something done right to focus on. Who does not like to hear that they are a great and wonderful person! But the reality is that true growth is possible only is we are willing to face up to the imperfections in the world and in ourselves and choose to do something about them.
omeir davar b'shem omro
Why does the gemara not consider knowing the exact name of the speaker significant because of the need to be “omeir davar b’shem omro”, to give credit to the source of a statement? If when Esther reported the plot to assassinate Achshveirosh in the name of Mordechai (the source for omeir davar b’shem omro) Achashveirosh had thought she meant Mordechai the shoemaker or Mordechai the tailor instead of Mordechai his advisor, I imagine events might have taken a different turn.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
the personality of Lot and Avraham's efforts at kiruv
In the prophetic revelation to Avraham at the end of ch 13 the Torah stresses that Hashem’s appearance occurred “acharei hipared Lot mey’imo”, only after Lot’s departure. Rashi writes that as long as “the rasha”, i.e. Lot, remained with Avraham, G-d did not appear to Avraham. I think this harsh condemnation of Lot also highlights Avraham’s extraordinary kiruv efforts. It could not have escaped Avraham’s notice that G-d had ceased to communicate with him while he was in contact with Lot. Yet, Avraham never acted to drive Lot away because of that. Only when Lot’s became a menace to others by engaging in theft did Avraham feel a need to part ways.
Not all the meforshim agree with Rashi’s approach. The Seforno writes that this prophecy occurred to Avraham only after Lot’s departure because the reiteration of the promise of all of Eretz Yisrael to Avraham would only embolden Lot to seize more of their neighbor’s land for himself. Lot is a man with a specific problem that cannot be fed or encouraged, an “addict” to a wrong philosophy, but that does not necessarily mean all prophecy from G-d had ceased because of his presence.
does the chosson need to own the chuppah or yichud room? - kesubos 48
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Avraham and realpolitik
mitoch - machlokes Bavli and Yerushalmi?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Official Philosopher of Star Trek
punishing the person or the tools of crime: the dor haflagah
I think the answer is that language is not just a tool, like a gun or a computer - language is part of a person’s essence. The Torah stresses during the Creation story that it is the soul which gives man the capacity to speak. I once wrote a piece on Mishmar arguing, based on the Sapir-Wharf hypothesis, that the jargon of lomdus opened the door to greater conceptual understanding – language is not just a means of expressing thought, but language is the vehicle of thought, influencing how we cognitively map out the world. Changing language is a way to directly transform the people who use it.
Monday, October 15, 2007
why no bracha on mitzvas tzedaka and aseh doche lo ta'aseh
The Maharatz Chiyus points out that this sevara depends on a recent sugya in daf yomi (Kesubos 40). The gemara questions why a rapist cannot marry an anusa if there is an issuer involved in the marriage – why not say aseh doche lo ta’aseh? The gemara answers that classically aseh doche lo ta’aseh applies where there is an unavoidable need to perform the aseh; in this case, if the anusa declines to marry her attacker there is no mitzvah on him to marry her. Rashi explains that we therefore encourage the women to decline marriage. However, the Rashba learns that the woman does not actually have to voice her decision to decline – the fact that the mitzvah potentially can be voided if she declines categorically distinguishes the mitzvah from other mitzvos.
The Avudraham’s approach parallels the Rashba – the potential of the ani to decline tzedaka categorically distinguishes the mitzvah of tzedaka. Whether any particular ani chooses to do so is irrevelant. According to Rashi, potential or categorical distinctions carry no weight – we look only at whether there is an actual mitzvah or not.
Friday, October 12, 2007
chiyuv to have an afro-puff hairstyle?
Ok, can someone please find me the Old Testament source that requires an “Afro-puff hairstyle”? Is this some type of kiyum of nezirus? (If you are as ignorant as I am as to what an Afro-puff is, the article has a picture).
A Wayne County judge today ordered a Detroit charter school to temporarily readmit [a student] whose Afro-puff hairstyle violates the school's dress code.
"This young man has been out of school for more than a month," Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald said before ordering Old Redford Preparatory High School student Claudius Benson II, 14, who hasn't had a haircut since he was 4 years old because of his mother's Old Testament religious beliefs. He was suspended on Sept. 6.
religion and life's great questions
If religion is robbed of its meaning and intellectual content, what exactly is supposed to keep one committed?
…In a brief biographical statement at the beginning of the debate, Mr. Lennox described a childhood in Northern Ireland surrounded by "sectarian violence" in which his parents encouraged him to read everything and "develop an interest in
the great questions of life."
Mr. Dawkins, on the other hand, says he had a "harmless Anglican upbringing." As a teenager, he says he realized that his religion was merely an accident of his birth and soon thereafter gave up his faith. In some sense, it seems he was rebelling less against religion, per se, than against the kind of "harmless" worldview that simply glosses over "the great questions of life." And who can blame him? But if their interest in this debate is any marker, the people in this Birmingham audience did not come out of that tradition.
tzadik b'dorosov - keeping up with life
I think there are two messages here. First, the obvious one: Don’t be the general constantly fighting the last war. Imagine a person who is a big tzadik and watches no TV, but then along comes the internet and he is glued to his browser 16 hours a day. That person was the tzadik hador, but not the tzadik b'dorosov – the world moved on to new challenges and he could not keep up. Second, the more subtle one: imagine a guy who works at perfecting his mitzvah of talmud torah, learning without interruption for 16 hours a day through yeshiva. Along comes marriage, job, child #1, child #2, etc. and the guy is still learning 16 hours a day while his wife gets no rest, his kids run wild, and he has no income or career. That person is working on the wrong mitzvah for his dor. He is putting all his kochos into talmud torah, while ignoring the opportunity and signs Hashem has given him that he should be working on perfecting the mitzvah of chessed (not to say he should ignore talmud torah k’neged kulum, but the experience must change). Again, such a person is the tzadik hador, but fails the test of being tzadik b’dorosov.
another reason to finish shnayim mikra before shabbos
Another reason to try to finish shnayim mikra by Shabbos morning!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
kim lei b'derabbah minei and tnai
R’ Shimon Shkop (Sha’arei Yosher 1:3) draws the inevitable conclusion – according to Rashi, kim lei b’derabbah minei does not require that issurim be simultaneous, it requires that the trigger of two punishments be simultaneous. Since without fulfilling the condition of the anusa being eliminated and killed (in the case discussed in the previous post) there is no punishment for divorce, it is meeting that condition simultaneous with the act of murder which effects klb”m.
This helps answer the Rambam (see previous post) as well. Once a cow is borrowed, the borrower is liable to return or replace the cow from that moment, which is why even if the borrower dies, his estate is liable. If so, why is a borrower who slaughters a cow on Shabbos exempt from payment because kam lei b’derabbah minei – the obligation for repayment occurrs when he borrowed the animal, not simultaneous with Shabbos? The answer is (see Ktzos 341) that when it comes to klb”m we don’t look at when the potential obligation of repayment occurred, we look at when the actual obligation of repayment is triggered. It is as if the obligation to pay exists on condition (tnai)– the lien is in effect from the moment the obligation is set, but klb”m applies to themoment the condition effecting payment is fulfilled.
For more on klb”m and tnai, see the Divrei Yechezkel who has a nice roundup of sources. These type topics are very hard to break into bite-size chunks and render into English. Sorry if the ride was a bit rought.
lav hanitak l'aseh - Makkos 16
Learners of daf yomi will be familiar with the scenario the gemara uses as a test case to determine whether the kiymo or bitlo model is correct. A rapist must marry his victim (assuming she doesn’t object); divorcing one’s victim is a lav hanitak to the mitzvah of marrying her. If the rapist fails to fulfill the aseh, he would potentially get malkos. Asks the gemara (Makkos 16): if one must proactively perform the aseh to be exempt from punishment, kiymo, then the possibility of malkos exists if the rapist refuses to remarry his victim and fulfill the aseh. However, if only the negation of the aseh leads to punishment (bitlo), how can one negate the possibility of fulfilling the mitzvas aseh in this case? – so long as his wife lives, there is the possibility of remarriage! And, continues the gemara, even if the rapist kills his wife, there is still no punishment of malkos that would be given – since he would receive the death penalty for murder, there is no double-jeapordy (kam lei b’derabba minei) and hence no malkos! Take a look at Makkos 16 if you want to know how the gemara answers, but that’s enough for my purpose.
The Ritva jumps in here with a brilliant comment (recall that bitlo is interpreted differently by Rashi and Ritva). The rule of no double-jeopardy applies only when two issurim occur simultaneously. According to Ritva's understand of bitlo as meaning a lav is not violated until its attached aseh is negated, the act of muder simultaneously completes the lav of divorce and violates the lav of murder. But according to Rashi, bitlo only means that potential punishment is held in abeyance until the attached aseh is negated - the lav itself is done and complete at the moment of divorce. Since the lav of divorce occurs earlier than the lav of murder, why is there an exemption from malkos based on kam lei b’derabba minei?
Hopefully no one is lost yet – one more post to wrap this up.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
rabbi as toastmaster
I would like to wish Mazel Tov to Mr. and Mrs.________ on the occasion of their child’s bris/wedding/bar mitzvah/bas mitzvah (choose one). We are all sure their son/daughter (choose one) will grow to be a fine ben/bas (choose one) Torah and follow in the footsteps of the parents and Bubby________/Zeidy_________/other significant relative (choose one), bringing much nachas to them and our community. Our congregation is proud of the wonderful chessed Mr. and Mrs._________ perform, their fine middos and character, and know they have been and will continue to be fine role models.
May they raise this child l’torah, chuppah, u’ma’asim tovim
May the couple be zocheh to build a bayis ne’eman
May the bar/bas mitzvah continue in the ways of Torah for years to come
UGGGGHH! I can’t stand speeches like this. I hate it even more when a little ditty of a vort is thrown in just to add some flavor of Torah to it. Yet, it seems to make people happy. They expect the Rabbi to do this, and it makes them feel good and more “Jewish” by calling on him to do so. If I was a professional Rabbi in many of these congregations I would probably just write out the above on an index card and carry it with me as an all occasion speech. Why do more when no one really expects it or cares?
I know many Rabbis do try hard to impart some real wisdom and thought, but when I hear stuff like this I am reminded that for many people Judaism is a completely banal religion filled with empty platitudes and fluff designed to provide comfort for pain and make people feel more“Jewish” at “lifecycle events” that carry some traditional significance. Nothing of real intellectual significance or even deep emotional feeling. Are Rabbis doing people a service by offering them at least something of Torah flavor? I guess so. But at the same time I am bothered by flavor without substance.
boys do take years off their mother's life!
kesubos 34 - kam lei b'derabbah minei and borrwed cows
1) Rav Papa holds if someone slaughters a borrowed cow on Shabbos, he is exempt from paying for the cow since he receives the death penalty for violating Shabbos – one cannot receive two punishments for the same crime (kam leih b’derabba minei). The gemara elaborates on what the chiddush of this case is. Double-jeopardy, kam leih b’derabba minei, exempts only payments of restitution, not fines (knas). One might have thought that the obligation of restitution takes effect when the cow is borrowed, which has nothing to do with the Shabbos violation; slaughtering only adds the additional obligation of paying a fine for tevicha, which the death-penalty does not exempt, leaving the borrower obligated on all counts. Rav Papa rejects this argument and holds that the obligation of restitution does coincide with the slaughter of the cow on Shabbos, not earlier. Since we cannot penalize a person to pay and receive death, the obligation to pay restitution is cancelled, and since a fine cannot be imposed unless a base obligation exists, the fine is also removed.
2) If someone borrowed a cow and died, and his heirs unwittingly killed the borrowed cow, the gemara assumes that whether the heirs must repay the lender from their father’s estate depends on the same question raised by Rav Papa’s previous case. If the obligation to make restitution for a borrowed animal (or return it) is incurred at the moment the animal is borrowed, a lien exists against the father’s estate from before his death; however, if Rav Papa is right, then the obligation to make restitution does not begin until the time the cow is slaughtered, at which point the father is dead and no lien is in place.
The Rambam breaks the link between these two laws and paskens (Gneiva 3:4) like Rav Papa that a borrower who kills a cow on Shabbos is exempt from payment, but against Rav Papa (Sh’eila 1:10) that heirs who slaughter a cow which their father borrowed must make restitution from their father’s estate. Leaving aside how the Rambam reads the gemara (the meforshim suggest a different girsa), how can the Rambam be explained as internally consistent? Stay tuned...
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
pidyon haben - financial obligation or mitzvah?
By defining pidyon haben as working within the parameters of dinei mamonos, the Chazon Ish opens a pandora’s box of other issues, some of which we dicussed in the past (link)– e.g. can a kohen be mochel payment of pidyon haben money? If we treat the mitzvah purely as a financial obligation, the answer would seem to be yes, but if it is a mitzvah like other mitzvos, than not. (Daf Yomi learners: see Tosfos 30b d”h zar regarding whether a kohen can be mochel tashlumei terumah).
Monday, October 08, 2007
some random thoughts
After attending no NY Mets games this entire season, I planned to start Chol haMoed with a visit to Shea. Lo and behold I found myself with tickets to what most NYers assumed would be one of the great games of all time. Game over before we even made it from the parking lot to our seats. Please do not re-sign Glavine.
Why do people think there is a mitzvah to beat every leaf off their hoshanos and leave them scattered over the shule floor?
Parshas Braishis is too long to start shnayim mikra Friday afternoon after hakafos and finish before seudas Shabbos – or perhaps I should say I was not up to the task. When Tosfos (Brachos 8b) writes that shnayim mikra can be started from the mincha of the preceding Shabbos because we begin leining the next parsha then, did you think that applied to Braishis as well even though we leined Zos haBracha at the preceding mincha?
Regular readers here know that I sometimes like to write about thinking skills and problem solving. Just finished reading and highly recommend How Doctors Think by Dr. Jerome Groopman. The book discusses the heuristics and cognitive skills doctors use in diagnoses and deciding on treatment. Do other professions have a unique set of cognitive skills that successful practitioners master? My guess is yes – I wonder if research has been done on this.
My son asked whether during hakafos he should rest the Torah on his right shoulder as most people do, or on his left because he is a lefty. I thought he should follow everyone else – see Mishna Berura 134:14; right and left here have nothing to do with one’s stronger hand. If you are a lefty and disagree or have heard differently, please explain.
Are Cliff and Spark brothers, both members of the Notes family? Just wondering...
Yom Tov proves that it is possible to live without blogging. But that is pashut.
how much should one spend on a mitzvah?
I have been learning Bava Kamma with my son and over Yom Tov pushed to get to the sugya of hidur mitzvah (daf 9). The gemara writes that one must add/spend 1/3 on hiddur mitzvah to obtain a more beautiful mitzvah object, e.g. a nicer esrog. Obviously if one spends 1/3 of one’s net worth on each act of hidur mitzvah, one will be bankrupt after doing only three mitzvos! – the gemara clarifies that adding 1/3 means adding 1/3 of the value of the particular mitzvah being performed, e.g. spending 1/3 more than other esrogim cost to buy a nicer one, or buying an esrog 1/3 larger than others (see Rashi, Tosfos).
While the gemara accepts that having to spend 1/3 of one’s total net worth to perform any given mitzvas aseh is ridiculous, it leaves ambiguous how much maximally one is obligated to spend. Tosfos suggests that the upper limit is 1/5 of one’s worth, based on the rule that one should not give more than 1/5 of one’s property to charity.
The Mishna Berurah in Biur Halacha points out that the gemara elsewhere (Kiddushin 29b) discusses a case of a man who has only 5 dollars and must choose between performing pidyon haben for himself or his son (see that sugya for details). If the maximum a person is obligated to spend on any mitzvas aseh is 1/5 of one’s total wealth, then the dilemma is moot as there should be no obligation of pidyon haben at all in this case! Why does the gemara call on a person to spend his last $5 on pidyon haben in excess of the requirement for lulav, esrog, or other mitzvos? Stay tuned for a lomdish Chazon Ish…
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
dirah vs. sleep in sukkah - beautiful diyuk in Rambam (II)
In halacha 6:6 the Rambam is simply enumerating those activities which must be performed in the sukkah, and here the Rambam includes sleeping in the list.
(The Mefa'aneiach Tzefunos seems to suggest the Rogatchover intended to distinguish between dirah, which is a kiyum mitzvah, and not sleeping outside sukkah, which is a prohibition but not a chiyuv in and of itself, but in light of the citation of the gemara in Eiruvin I think this formulation fits better.)
Monday, October 01, 2007
sleeping/dwelling in sukkah - beautiful diyuk in the Rambam
In ch six of hilchos sukkah, the Rambam in halacha 5 writes:
כיצד היא מצות הישיבה בסוכה: שיהיה אוכל ושותה ודר בסוכה, כל שבעת הימים בין ביום בין בלילה
What is the mitzvah of yeshivas sukkah? A person should eat, drink, and dwell in the sukkah all seven days [of sukkot] both by day and night…
In halacha 6 of the same chapter, the Rambam writes:
אוכלין ושותין וישנין בסוכה כל שבעה, בין ביום בין בלילה
We eat, drink, and sleep in the sukkah all seven days [of sukkot] both by day and night…
Two issues stand out: 1) Aren’t these two halachos identical – why does the Rambam repeat himself? 2) Why in halacha 5 does the Rambam refer to eating, drinking and dwelling (“dar”), but in halacha 6 he refers to eating, drinking, and sleeping (“y’sheinin”)? Have a look inside at the halachos and stay tuned for more...