Sunday, September 28, 2008
atem nitzavim hayom kulchem - the totality of each person
Hopefully we will each be judged for a good and sweet year - kesiva v'chasima tova!
tekiya-teru'ah-tekiya: three notes or one unit?
The Rogatchover explains the machlokes as follows -- for any series of items that must go together, e.g. 4 minim on Sukkos, 4 kosos on Pesach, tekiya-teru'ah-tekiya, one can make the following chakira: are these seperate independent units which must go together, or does that fact that they must always go together prove that they are not independent units but are parts of some larger whole? Is there a single note called tekiya-teru'ah-tekiya, or are these three seperate notes which must always be played together?
The gemara explains that R' Yehudah learned from the pasuk "u'tekatem teru'a" that the terms tekiya and teru'ah are interchangable; they are one and the same unit and go together. The Tanna of the Mishna holds that the blasts are seperate units based on the pasuk which describes the blowing done to gather the camp in the desert, "tiski'u v'lo tari'u" -- if tikiya and teru'ah together form one unit, says the gemara, how could the Torah tell Moshe to do half a mitzvah?
The Aruch laNer is bothered by the gemara's logic and develops his question through an analogy to the mitzvah of zerikas hadam by korbanos. Some korbanos require 4 sprinklings of blood; some require only one. If a korban requires only one sprinkling of blood, we wouldn't call that 1/4 of the mitzvah of zerikas hadam -- viz a viz that korban, 1 sprinkling of blood is 100% of the mitzvah, not 25%! So too with respect to blowing chatzotzros. If the Torah requires a single tekiya in some circumstances, in those circumstances that single tekiya is 100% of the mitzvah, not 50% of the mitzvah that appears in other circumstances. What does the gemara mean?
Based on the Rogatchover, we can perhaps distinguish between the case of zeikas hadam and chatzotzros. With respect to korbanos, how many sprinkles should be are done is a function of the chovas hagavra, i.e. what action the person must take to fulfill the mitzvah. R' Yehudah and the Tanna are not arguing about what the act of blowing shofar entails or how many sounds must be blown. Their argument is regarding the cheftza shel mitzvah of a tekiya -- what is a shofar note in its simplest form: a three note tekiya-teru'ah-tekiya, or 1/3 of that series. What a person must do can change in different contexts depending on the requirements of the mitzvah, but the definition of an object is something that remains constant -- either a tekiya (or teru'ah) alone is a note, or it is not. But something can't both be a note and not be a note at the same time.
If we consider notes as one unit, it makes sense that they should be blown together, without even a breath in between. Some Rishonim suggest this nafka minah between R' Yehudah and the Tanna. This brings us to the practical question of the shevarim-teru'ah which we blow - is it one note or two notes that go hand in hand; one breath or not? Fortunately there are enough kolos to cover all the bases and not have a safeik.
Kesiva v'chasmima tova to all!
The Netzi”v is not satisfied with this simple lesson alone as the moral of the Sifri's analogy. In the analogy, both paths ultimately lead to the same destination. In the choices faced in life, the choices of the saint and choices of the sinner carry them to quite different destinations. How does the analogy fit?
The message of the Sifri is that our assumption about the destination of the sinner is wrong. No soul is lost forever. A person may have to undergo suffering in this world and the next to purge the soul of its sins, but ultimately every Jewish sould can be and will be rehabilitated and restored to its splendor and rightful place close to Hashem. Precisely because no soul can ever be lost are we exhorted "u'bacharta bachaim". Why take a circituitous and long route to one's destination that requires suffering and punishment when one can choose the correct path and arrive at one's destination with ease?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
which side of his mouth does a lefty blow shofar from?
The Rama (585:3) writes that it is best (“tov”) to blow shofar from the right side of the mouth.
The Mishna Berurah quotes two explanations from the Magen Avraham for the minhag: 1) to counter the influence of the satan who stands to the right, as the pasuk says, “v’hasatan omeid al y’mino l’sitno”; 2) the left is already protected by the tefillin worn on the left hand (quoted in the Sha’ar haTziyun). The Biur Halacha adds another explanation which the C”C heard in the name of R’ Meir Simcha (I am far from a baki in M”B, but for what it's worth, I don’t recall other quotations from RMS in the MB): the gemara derives tekiya from the blowing of chatzotzros in battle; in the description of the battle fought by Gidon in Nach we learn that the chatzotzros were held in the soldiers’ right hand and torches in the left.
Since my son is a lefty I am somewhat more attuned to halachos that emphasize right-handedness and have come to expect debate as to whether things are reversed for leftys. This is no exception. Whether a lefty should blow out of the left side of his mouth should at first glance depend on which reason above is paramount: according to reason #1 and the reason given by RMS, both a righty and a lefty should blow out of the right side of the mouth. However, according to reason #2, a lefty who wears tefillin on his right arm should blow shofar out of the left side of his mouth because the “protections” would be reversed.
The M”B in the Sha’ar haTziyun rejects this nafka minah (and therefore he tucks reason #2 in the Sha’ar haTziyun where most people won’t see it and get confused). When we speak of the protective power of tefillin, we are not speaking viz a viz the particular ba’al toke’a, but viz a viz ba’alei tekiya in general. Since the majority of people are righthanded and wear tefillin on their left arm, the shofar is blown from the right by all.
(R' Menashe haKatan in Mishaneh Halachos Mh”T O.C. #480 was asked halacha l’ma’aseh how a lefty ba’al toke’a should hold the shofar. He replied by quoting this M.B. B’dieved, one is yotzei either way.)
Monday, September 22, 2008
kedusha outside the ivory tower of the beis medrash
Among the brachos promised if we do the right thing is, “Y’kimcha Hashem lo l’am kadosh ka’asher nishba lach ki tishmor es mitzvos Hashem Elokecha v’halachta b’derachav” (28:9) – Hashem will sustain us as a holy people on the condition that we observe the mitzvos and "walk in His ways". The Netzi”v (and many others) asks: the list of brachos is prefaced in the very first pasuk of the chapter with the condition that they would be fulfilled only if we observe Hashem’s mitzvos, "V'haya im shamo'a..."; why is that condition repeated here again in pasuk 9 in the context of the bracha of "y'kimcha lo l'am kadosh"?
The key to understanding the pasuk lies in the words, “v’halachta b’derachav”, which Chazal interpret to mean that a person’s behavior should conform to the model of gemilus chessed demonstrated by Hashem, e.g. Hashem visited Avraham to heal the sick, Hashem helped bury the dead, etc., and therefore we should visit the sick, help bury the dead, and do other acts of chessed. A person may rightfully object that the social interaction that these mitzvos demands carries with it a price. A person who sits secluded in the Bais Medrash in private contemplation, locked in the ivory-tower of Torah, can rise to great heights of holiness and dveikus. However, once a person steps foot into the public domain, inevitably there is a hashpa’ah that the outside world has on a person’s dveikus and intensity.
Our pasuk answers that ta'anah. “Ki tishmor…v’halachta b’derachav” is not a condition – it’s a promise; not “if you observe… you will be holy”, but “when you observe… you will be holy”. Even though the observance of “v’halachta b’derachav” entails sacrificing the ivory tower of Torah, if done properly Hashem guarantees that “y’kimcha Hashem l’am kadosh”.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
tshuvah and kochi v'otzem yadi
Bavli vs. Yerushalmi on chatzi shiur
What is amazing is that the Yerushalmi at the beginning of the 6th perek of Terumos presents Reish Lakish as holding exactly the opposite view. According to the Yerushalmi, although Reish Lakish in other areas holds that chatzi shiur is only an issur derabbanan, davka by Yom Kippur he agrees with R' Yochanan that chatzi shiur is an issur d'oraysa.
The reasoning of the Yerushalmi actually seems to be as follows: When the Torah uses the term "achila" it implies a minimum shiur of a k'zayis. However, the Torah never uses the terms "achila" with respect to the prohibition of eating on Y"K -- it uses the term "inuy". Even eating the smallest amount of food diminishes the feeling of inuy.
What are we to make of these two versions of Reish Lakish completely at odds with with each other? The Tziyun Yerushalayim on the Yerushalmi quotes R' Ya'akov Emden as offering a creative way to reconcile the two. According to the Mishna, the chiyuv kareis for eating on Yom Kippur applies only if the amount of a k'koseves hagasah, a large date (larger than a k'zayis), is eaten. R' Y"E suggests that perhaps there are actually two levels of chatzi shiur. If less than a k'zayis was eaten on Y"K, both the Bavli and Yerushalmi agree that Reish Lakish would hold that the issur is only derabbanan -- since this amount does not constitute what the Torah usually calls achila, there is no Biblical chiyuv. The Yerushalmi Terumos is adding an additional chiddush that applies only where one ate more than a k'zayis on Yom Kippur but less than a k'koseves hagasah, i.e. less than the amount that would generate a chiyuv kareis. Although technically this achila can also be called a chatzi shiur with respect to Yom Kippur, since this achila surpasses the normal threshold for what constitutes achila in other areas, even Reish Lakish would hold it is Biblically prohibited on Yom Kippur as well.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
bowing in the mikdash
The Brisker Rav suggests that bowing was not a function of viduy or of hearing the Shem Hashem, but was a separate obligation incumbent upon anyone who visits the azarah. The GR"A comments on the pasuk in this week's parsha, "v'histachavisa lifnei Hashem Elokecha", that bowing is not as part of the halachic procedure of delivering the bikurim, but part of the ceremony of entering or leaving the Mikdash. Similarly, the Brisker Rav explains that this is why we say in our davening on the shalosh regalim we ask Hashem for the opportunity, "v'na'aleh v'nera'eh v'nishtachaveh lefanecha", to go up and appear in the Mikdash and bow there.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I won't try to dissuade anyone from thinking along these lines, but the sword is double-edged. I don't know what it says about my personality, but I always find it easier to apply the same reasoning to negative outcomes rather than positive. Sometimes a ma'aseh turns out so badly that it seems only Divine intervention can explain what happened. When you consider a 158 year old company (Lehman Bros.) drive to bankrupcy in the course of weeks, insurance giants (AIG) reduced to nothing, banks one after the other on the verge of failure, one is faced with either assuming the best minds in business simultaneously have all been overtaken by a bout of very contagious stupid disease, or someone up there is pulling the strings in ways that are just out of everyone's control.
R' Elchanan in one of his ma'amarim, which if I recall correctly has no date attached but must have been written in the '30s, writes that the failing of the economy (at the time of his writing) was not caused by a lack of money, as plenty of people still had fortunes and great wealth. The economy failed because of a loss of confidence in the institutions of finance - a loss of faith in the economic system. What was true then is certainly true today, as the credit crunch is primarily a loss of confidence and trust. The key to understanding this phenomenon is the principle of middah k'neged middah. R' Elchahan writes that a loss of faith in worldly institutions comes about because of the greater loss of faith in our spiritual institutions - a failing of emunah. And only through the strengthening of emunah can we find the tools to emerge from such a crisis.
I am not a big fan of prophetically trying to attribute specific outcomes or events to specific sins, but I pass on R' Elchanan's insight for whatever it's worth. It's certainly worth spending a minute thinking about as the Dow and S & P find their way to lower and lower depths.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
new issue of Kallah Magazine
homewoner mitzvos - ma'akeh and mezuzah
But why teach this lesson using the example of ma'akeh? I would guess that only a small minority of homeowners have actually had the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of ma'akeh. Yet, every single owner of a new home has the opportunity to perform a different mitzvah -- the mitzvah of mezuzah. Why does the Torah not make the point that a new home should be established through performance of mitzvos by using the illustration of mezuzah?
The Netziv switches hats to halachic analysis to answer this question. He suggests a fundemental difference between ma'akeh and mezuzah: there is a prohibition of living in a home which does not have a ma'akeh installed; however, there is no prohibition of living in a home without a mezuzah. Such an argument is easy to digest if one accepts that ma'akeh is a lav while mezuzah is only a mitzvas aseh (as the Rambam holds) , but the Netziv goes a step further and makes his argument even according to Tosfos (Kiddushin 36) who holds that the lav of ma'akeh can be avoided so long as one intends to build one at a later time. Given that both ma'akeh and mezuzah are mitzvos aseh, why should there be a distinction? The Netziv explains (and further elaborates in Ha'amek Sh'eilah 126:7) that the mitzvah of ma'akeh is a prerequisite to moving into a home. However, the mitzvah of mezuzah is incumbent upon the resident of a home, i.e. the mitzvah does not take effect until after one has moved in. Ideally, one should perform the mitzvah of mezuzah immediately afterwards, but if one is prevented from doing so for whatever reason, one is not required to move out. In a nutshell, fulfillment of ma'akeh is a necessary condition of setting up residence; setting up residence is a necessary condition of becoming obligated in the mitzvah of mezuzah. Similar words, but very different outcomes. Moving in without a ma'akeh is an active violation of a mitzvah. Moving in before affixing a mezuzah merely establishes acondition of residence; the contination of that state of residence without a mezuzah is a passive violation of the mitzvah which should be performed.
This chiddush of the Netziv helps answer a question raised by R' Akiva Eiger (Shu"t Mh"K #9). R' Akiva Eiger asks why is it that every person who goes on an extended trip (e.g. spending the summer in a bungalow colony) does not make a bracha on the mitzvah of mezuzah when re-establishing residence in one's home? The implication of the question is that the act of taking up residence is what generates the obligation to affix a mezuzah, and hence when that act recurrs, a new obligation and new bracha is required. According to the Netziv, this is not the case at all. The act of taking up residence is not a mitzvah act; it is just a means to establishing a condition necessary for the mitzvah of mezuzah to then take effect. Once residnce is re-established, one cannot remain in a passive state without a mezuzah affixed to one's door, but since the mezuzah is already up, such a condition is automatically avoided. No new mitzvah occurs, and no new bracha is required.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
minuy melech and binyan hamikdash
It is possible (see Margoliyas haYam Sanhedrin 20:20) to salvage the Ramban without necessarily being forced to such a sweeping conclusion. Perhaps we can distinguish between the need for malchus as a prerequisite for binyan Mikdash, for which any form of Jewish government suffices, and the mitzvah of establishing a monarchy as an indepedendent goal in its own right, which might demand specifically the appointment of a king.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
the mitzvah to appoint a king - is democracy assur?
[This post has been updated - the idea of an issur aseh which I mentioned originally is in fact rejected by the Netziv.]
Thursday, September 04, 2008
beis din of the city which performs eglah arufah
The Netziv suggests a nafka minah between the two approaches. The measurement to determine which city is closest only takes into consideration cities which have a Beis Din. What type of Beis Din is required? According to the Bavli, it would seem any Beis Din of three is sufficient. However, according the the Yerushalmi that reads the pasuk as addressing itself to Zekeinim who could punish a murderer, a Beis Din of twenty-three capable of carrying out capital punishment is required. The Rambam paskens that a B"D of 23 is needed.
The halacha is that the ir miklat city of refuge must have Zekeinim in residence. The Minchas Chinuch (410) questions what type of B"D is necessary and suggests the law of eglah arufah which requires 23 as a point of comparison. Based on the Netziv's approach one can distinguish between the cases. The requirement of B"D by eglah arufah according to the Yerushalmi is a function of the necessity of being able to administer capital punishment; the same requirement is not needed for ir miklat.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
l'shichno tidrishu - nevuah as a requirement for binyan habayis
My impression from Rashi in last week’s parsha was that the halacha requiring a Navi to put a stamp of approval on the selection of the makom mikdash (Rashi on “l’shichno tidrishu”) was a one time event. The Navi was needed to identify the makom mikdash, but once selected, there is no requirement for further consent of a Navi to start building again.
R’ Ahron Soloveitchik in his sefer Perach Mateh Aharon is medayek in the Rambam otherwise. The Rambam prefaces his description of the mizbeiyach (Beis haBechira ch 2) with a historical overview – the mizbeiyach was the place from which the dust to create Adam was taken, it was the place Noach offered korbanos, it was the place of the Akeidah, and because of its great historical significance its location was known b’mesorah. Yet, continues the Rambam (based on Zevachim 62), the rebuilding of Bayis Sheni required that a Navi certify the location of the mizbeiyach. Even though there was no question as to where the mizbeiyach should be located, a stamp of approval from a Navi was still necessary.
I did a quick check of R’ Kalisher’s Derishat Tzion, which collects some of the correspondence between R’ Kaslisher and the Aruch laNer, R’ Akiva Eiger, and others regarding whether a mizbeiyach could be built to offer korbanos in contemporary times. The Aruch laNer raises an objection based on this gemara in Zevachim, but R’ Kalsiher seems to interpret the need for a Navi mentioned by the gemara as based on inexact knowledge of the makom mizbeiyach. Since we today have the kosel extant from Bayis Sheni (while those rebuilding Bayis Sheni had nothing), R’ Kalisher felt that we could figure out the makom mizbeiyach. I could not find any treatment of this Rambam in the letters, but I was skimming quickly.
Monday, September 01, 2008
shlichus and zechiya
The gemara (Bava Kama 102b) discusses a case where a shliach charged with purchasing goods changes the order and purchases a different item. For example, Reuvain is charged with buying wheat for Shimon, and instead purchases barley. According to one braysa, if the price of barley goes up, Shimon still collects a share of the profit. Why? One explanation offered is that this braysa follows the view of R' Yehudah that shinuy eino koneh, and the shliach's change does not make him the owner of the barley.
The Bnei Ma'arava laughed at this explanation -- true, shinuy aino koneh, but the barley seller thinks he/she is selling barley to Reuvain (the shliach), not Shimon. How does Shimon come to own the barley if there is no da'as makneh to sell barley to him?
The gemara retorts: but even if Reuvain correctly carries out his shlichus and buys wheat for Shimon, there is no da'as makneh to sell wheat to Shimon -- the seller only knows about Reuvain and thinks he/she is selling to him!
R' Abahu replied that the point of the Bnei Ma'arava is valid. If Reuvain correctly carries out his charge, he fulfills the criteria of shlichus. Only if Reuvain changes the terms of his charge and is no longer acting as a shliach does the question of seller's intent (da'as makneh) come into play.
A little elaboration before getting to the heart of the problem: The halacha is that zachin l'adam shelo b'fanav, an person can aquire something on another's behalf without being officially appointed an agent provided there is no downside. In our case, even if Reuvain gets the order wrong, since there is only an upside gain, Reuvain should theoretically be able to act through zechiya as Shimon's agent even unappointed. The barley should belong to Shimon, who would share in the profit. So why do the Bnei Ma'arava assume that a lack of proper da'as makneh, the fact that the seller thought he/she was selling to Reuvain and not Shimon, is a fatal flaw in this theory of zechiya that allows Reuvain to act as Shimon's agent, but if Reuvain correctly fills the order as charged, acting as Shimon's appointed agent through the theory of shlichus, the issue of da'as makneh, who the seller thought he was selling to, is irrelevant ? In both cases Reuvain is acting on behalf of Shimon -- shouldn't the same rules of kinyan apply to both scenarios?
The punchline of the sugya and the distinction being drawn opens the door to explaining other issues, but you need this as a starting point. If you are a Telzer, see Sha'arei Yosher end of 7:7. If you are a Brisker, see Birchas Shmuel in Kiddushin 15:4.