Tuesday, April 28, 2009

stop waiting for angels

You will have to excuse me for being a few parshiyos too early with this vort, but it is inyana d'yoma...

Parshas Balak relates that as Bilam was travelling to carry out his evil plan to curse the Jewish people his donkey abrubtly veered from the path. Bilam responded angrily, taking a poke at his poor animal. The donkey started moving, but again it veered off the path, earning another smack. Yet again the donkey started to proceed, but again it veered off, smashing into a wall, and this time earning a good beating. Suddenly an angel appeared to Bilam. "Why have you hit your donkey!?" the angel demanded, explaining that the donkey only veered because it was frightened at the appearance of the angel that only it, and not Bilam, saw.

The Berdichiver asks a simple question. If Bilam did not see the angel, and indeed no one in his travelling party saw the angel, why is he blamed for hitting his mule? How else should he have reacted when his formerly reliable ride, the donkey that he probably rode day after day without problem, suddenly started crazily veering into walls for no apparent reason?

The Berdichiver answers that Bilam's hitting the donkey was symptomatic of a greater defect in his approach to life. A person who desires to fulfill Hashem's wishes needs first to open his eyes and ears to the messages that Hashem sends. When the ordinary becomes extraordinary and it makes no impression, when a person witnesses the inexplicable and ignores it and just pushes down the same old road, such a lack of hisbonenus is tantamount to deliberatly ignoring G-d. You don't need to wait for an angel to appear to hear Hashem's message! Instead of beating his donkey back on track, Bilam should have reflected on what was occurring -- why would the donkey that always proved reliable suddenly start acting strangely for no reason? -- and realized that these signs point to the fact that he should reconsider his mission. The failure to hear Hashem's message until delivered in an overtly supernatural way was Bilam's failure.

To those waiting for Eliyahu haNavi or some other angel to appear before they acknowledge an "aschalta d'geulah" and find something worth celebrating, all I can say is that maybe it's time to start listening to the lessons of the chamor/chomer; maybe the success that the "chomriyus" secularist pioneers who toiled to build a State have seen against the wildest most impossible odds heralds a lesson we need to hear. Tomorrow is a good day to reflect on what that lesson might be... without waiting for angels.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

fear of hope - a review of Edgar Bronfman's book

I subjected myself to reading Edgar Bronfman's "Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance" and can summarize the book in a few sentences to spare you the effort. I agree with Bronfman that inspiring greater Jewish commitment requires a vision of hope and a demonstration that Jewishness adds to the richness of one's life. Fear that Judaism and Jewish culture will vanish is not sufficient to inspire commitment. So how do we communicate Jewish values to a generation of Jews quickly assimilating into secular culture? Here Bronfman fails miserably. His answer is simply to discard all those tenets of Judaism that one finds unappealing (e.g. kashrus, shabbos, no intermarriage) and lo and behold, the liberal secular humanism that one is left with is objectionable to no one. Of course not! -- it's not objectionable because it makes no demands, asks for no real commitment (even once a year synagogue attendance is not a must), and is essentially no more meaningful than a Seagram's sales slogan. If this is what the left has to offer it is no wonder that the intermarriage rate is skyrocketing and despite the millions that the likes of Bronfman can spend on funding programs, the results amount to less than what a Chabad house in Timbuktu achieves on a shoestring budget.

Using Bronfman's own reasoning I don't know why he stops with intermarried couples and does not take the next logical step. Plenty of people born to 2 non-Jewish parents appreciate the sort of secular humanism he espouses and would enjoying reading Biblical texts and using them as inspiration to think about life-choices. If having a tree in the house in December is not an obstacle for accepting the intermarried couple as fully Jewish, then why is having a tree in the house an obstacle for our accepting any of the millions of Americans who observe Christmas as honorary "Jews" as well? We can expand the flock by millions! All you need to do is pledge to try to be ethical and commit to make the world a better place and you can be as Jewish as anyone else -- we are the peace corps of the world!

A renaissance in Jewish life is deperately needed, but Bronfman's hope is not the answer.

Metzora -- how to turn a rochel into a talmid chacham

The Midrash tells us of the rochel, a peddler, who wanted through the towns near Tzipori calling out "Who wants life?" R' Yanai followed this rochel around to observe what this unusual hawker might be selling. When a crowd gathered the peddler finally revealed his secret -- "Mi ha'ish he'chafeitz chaim -- Netzor leshoncha me'ra..." The pasuk tells us that one who desires life need only avoid evil gossip.

True, the rochel taught the pasuk in a way that was engaging and caught people's attention, but at the end of the day is there any lesson in this Midrash that we would not glean from the pasuk itself?

The prohibition of talebearing is called rechilus because it was the rochel, the peddler who travelled from town to town, who was usually the bearer of the latest juicy news and gossip. The peddler in our story was travelling around Tzipori, perhaps hinting to the birds which are used in the purification of metzora because talebearers endlessly gabber like the chirping of birds. It stands to reason that the rochel who R' Yanai followed had what we might call a gossip problem.

How do you cure such a problem? Some would advocate a simple solution: stop speaking! If the rochel simply would learn to shut his mouth, then problem solved. The rochel might be told by well meaning individuals to "work on himself", to fight against his inclination. The battle would surely consume the rochel's mental and physical energy, but what a small price to pay to correct a midah.

There is, however, another approach. The rochel's problem is not speaking per se, but rather speaking gossip. Instead of fighting his natural inclination, the rochel can solve his problem by using his natural inclination for a positive goal. Speak -- but instead of gossiping, teach people a pasuk! Teach people that even a rochel can use the traits he was blessed with for a holy and positive end.

Chanoch la'na'ar al pi darko -- the lesson of the rochel teaches the often preached but seldom practiced educational methodology of channelling the child's natural inclinations and traits toward positive achievements instead of trying to break those traits and change the child into something he/she is not.

Friday, April 24, 2009

chezkas haguf

In the previous post we discussed a case where there is a safeik whether a baheres preceded the white hair growing from it (in which case the nega is tamei) or the white hair came first and then the baheres grew (in which case the nega is tahor). R' Yehoshua paskened tahor based on chezkas haguf, the assumption of status quo that a person is physically nega-free until proven otherwise.

Achronim ask why this is called a chezkas haguf. A chezkas haguf relates to physical status quo, as opposed to legal status quo, e.g. chezkas taharah. In this case the physical status quo has obviously changed -- both white hair and a baheres which had not previously been on the person's body are now present. The question is not whether the physical body has changed, but rather when and in what order that change occurred. You have a long Shabbos to think this one over... : )

safeik nega'im

A nega is only tamei if a white hair grows in an already existing baheres -- "se'ar lavan ba'baheres" -- but if the white hair grows first and then the baheres develops around it the nega is tahor. Where there is a safeik as to which developed first, the white hair or the baheres, the braysa (Kesubos 75b) tells us that the Tana Kama rules the nega is tamei and R' Yehoshua ruled tahor. What is the reasoning behind the Tana Kama's view in this case? Every person has a chezkas tahor until proven otherwise, so why, absent incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, should we declare a person tamei just because of a safeik alone?

Rabeinu Tam explains that the case being debated must be where there is already an existing nega on the person's body -- the person had a chezkas tumah, not a chezkas taharah, when this additional nega developed. R' Yehoshua nonetheless declared the person tahor because counterbalancing the chezkas tumah is a chezkas haguf, a physical chazakah that the body is free of nega'im until proven otherwise. The debate between the Tanaim boils down to which chazakah carries more weight: the legal chazakah status of tumah or the physical chezkas haguf status of purity.

The obvious difficulty with Rabeinu Tam's view is that it requires assuming that the braysa is addressing only a very specific scenario and leaves us to deduce the details. The Rash (Negaim ch 4) therefore explains that the Tana Kama disagrees because in most cases the baheres done indeed precede the emergence of the white hair. Tosfos (Nida 19a) presents a simialr view that we are dealing with a lopsided safeik because usually white hairs emerge from the baheres and not vica versa.

The common denominator between Rabeinu Tam and the Rash is that they assume the Tana Kama held that the nega in question is definitively tamei. The Rambam (Tumas Tzara'as 2:9) interestingly writes "v'yireh li she'tumaso safeik". Yes, the nega is tamei, but not because we resolved our doubts, but rather because when in doubt, be strict. Apparently the Rambam must have held that the fact that the baheres usually precedes white hairs is not an absolute rov -- it provides only enough weight against our chezkas haguf and chezkah taharah to call this a 50-50 safeik (Chazon Ish Negaim 5:20. This issue is addressed by numerous other Achronim as well.)

shaving for Rosh Chodesh / Yom haAtzmaut

Rav Aviner's psak on shaving on Yom haAtzmaut -- I am not endorsing or disagreeing; make up your own mind. Of course, you can avoid the rush and just shave today since it is Erev Shabbos - Rosh Chodeh (see Jewish Worker's post).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

counting sefira early -- sfeik sfeika l'chumra

Tosfos (Menachos 66) writes that since sfiras ha'omer is derabbanan one is permitted to count during bein hashemashos based on the principle of sfeika derabbanan l'kula (interesting to note that Tosfos clearly holds that sfeika derabbanan l'kula does not just mean that ex post facto one may be lenient when faced with the potential uncertain violation of a Rabbinic prohibition, but one may even create such a situation of uncertainty and take advanatge of it). According to the view of the Rambam that sfira is a din d'oraysa, counting during bein hashemashos would involve the uncertain fulfillment of a mitzvah and therefore not be acceptable.

On a practical level, while we pasken like Tosfos, there is still another factor that needs to be accounted for. When exactly is bein hashemashos? According to the GR"A (explaining the view of the Geonim), bein hashemashos begins immediatly after what we refer to as sunset. However, Rabeinu Tam holds that there are two twilight bein hashemashos periods. The bein hashemashos of the GR"A which begins at sunset according to Rabeinu Tam is still considered day. It is not until 50 minutes later that a second bein hashemashos period begins that ia called twilight and it is that 12 minute period which is a safeik day/night.

(I am using the 72 minute standard for simplicity's sake, but the actual time between sunset and nightfall both according to GR"A and R"T may be a variable measure depending on one's location and the time of year.)

If one wishes to count immediatly after what we call sunset, one is faced with a sfeik sfeika l'chumra as follows: 1) safeik whether the follows the Rambam and one can never count during twilight; 2) even if the halacha is like Tosfos, safeik whether Rabeinu Tam is right and bein hashemashos does not start until much later.

Usually the principle of sfeik sfeika is used as a leniency -- here it results in a stringency!

Had you asked me I would have said that counting right after sunset should therefore be prohibited, but there are smarter people than myself who know that R' Akiva Eiger clearly writes that one can be lenient on a Rabbinic prohibition even where there is a sfeik sfeika l'chumra. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 248) writes that travelling on a boat on Shabbos outside the techum would be prohibited, but if there is even the possibility that the boat sits higher than 10 tefachim off the sea bottom one can be lenient. R' Akiva Eiger points out the the issue of whether the prohibition of techumin applies 10 tefachim off the ground is an unresolved safeik. Therefore, the S.A.'s case should be a sfeik sfeika l'chumra: 1) a safeik whether the boat is within 10 tefachim of the sea bottom and therefore there is a definite techum violation; 2) even if the boat is above 10 tefachim there remains a safeik whether the issur of techumin applies above 10 tefachim or not. Yet, we see in this case that the Shulchan Aruch paskens that we may be lenient. The same applies to our case of sefiras ha'omer (see Yechaveh Da'as I:23).

Now we have a source, but the question remains why this should be so. Sfeik sfeika is usually understood as a type of rov -- I start with a 50-50 safeik and then add an additional doubt that further tips the balance. You flip a coin once and the odds of heads vs. tails are 50-50; flip the coin twice and the odds of getting heads twice in a row is cut down to only 25%. In our case the rov works l'chumra -- the odds are 75% in favor of waiting until real nightfall and there exists only a 25% chance that the two leniences of Tos. and the GR"A are both right and counting early is permitted. I don't know of any source that says that we disregard rov when it comes to a question of whether a Rabbinic prohibition is being violated -- so why is this scenario different? Something to think about (seems to me there is more than one good answer...)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

hashgacha on animals

I don't know why, but I don't feel in the mood to write any lomdus now (a fact which may actually increase the readership here : ) The Rambam famously writes (Moreh Nevuchim III:17) that there is no Divine hashgacha on animals and plants and he explains why -- there is no place in Tanach where we find any hint to such a concept. The Navi Chabakuk compares the wanton destruction of Nevuchadnezer to the killing of animals and beasts in order to illustrate that it was seemingly without rhyme or reason, without a plan (an idea the Navi subsequently rejects as wrong), reinforcing the idea that Divine plans are reserved for humans alone.

There appears to be clear proof against the Rambam from a Yerushalmi cited by Tosfos (Avodah Zarah 16b d"h dimus). The Yerushalmi records that when R' Shimon bar Yochai exited his cave he saw a hunter trapping birds. With each attempt, RSB"Y heard a bas kol declare whether the bird would be caught or not. Apparently the Yerushalmi and Tosfos would agree with Shakespeare's Hamlet that quite literally, "There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow."

If hashgacha is all encompassing, why is it that the only allusion we find to it is this isolated Yerushalmi -- as the Rambam argues, isn't the absence of any mention of such a concept in Tanach telling? The Divrei Chaim (i.e. the Sanzer Rav, Parshas Mikeitz) answers that this is no proof at all. The purpose of creation is to utilize what we find in the world to serve G-d. It is not the fall of the sparrow as an end in itself which is G-d's concern, but rather it is the success or failure of the hunter of sparrows which is His concern. Everything in creation has a purpose relative to man's service of G-d, and it is through Divine hashgacha over man's service and purpose that the rest of creation is watched as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yom HaShoah -- was the Holocaust unique among Jewish tragedies?

Last year I raised the question of whether the Shoah was unique among Jewish tragedies or "just" one more event on the long list of Jewish tragedies that began with the churban and continued through crusades, inquisitions, pogroms. Those who would argue against establishing a seperate Yom haShoah would most likely take the latter view, e.g. R' Soloveitchik held that 9 Av is the day of mourning for all Jewish tragedies down through the ages and the Shoah should be mourned in that context. Before this year I had not been aware that the Piecezna Rebbe, R' Klonamus Kalmish, who died in the Warsaw Ghetto, clearly took the former position. He writes in Aish Kodesh (Chanukah 1942) that he cannot understand why a Jew who learned in gemara or Midrash of the great Jewish tragedies and was untroubled by questions of faith now finds himself in religious crisis, "for those who say that suffering like ours never happened to the Jewish people are mistaken, as in the Churban and destruction of Beiter there was similar suffering..." That line is footnoted with the following -- "This applied to the sufferings we saw until 1942, but based on my knowledge of Chazal and Jewish history, the abnormal suffering, the abnormal and evil death which the evildoes have created and brought upon the Jewish people from 1942 onward, is unprecedented. May G-d have mercy and save us speedily." The footnote is dated Erev Shabbos Kodesh, 18 Kislev. The fact that this appears as a footnote, that there is a "hava amina" and a "maskana" to this discussion, is itself fascinating, but more over, we should not forget the context of the quote -- are questions of faith justifiable in light of the Holocaust? The Piecezna in the body of the text does not offer easy answers to the question of theodicy -- the comfort he offers is the historical lesson that our people have survived and outlived past suffering in many other circumstances with unwavering faith. The footnote is an acknowledgment that this faith which stood us in good stead in coping with past suffering is perhaps alone insufficient when considering the unique persecutions of the Holocaust.

Friday, April 17, 2009

isru chag -- the transition from yirah to shirah

"Vayir'u ha'am es Hashem...", the awe of G-d captivated Bnei Yisrael on the banks of Yam Suf and gave rise to "Az yashir", the desire and thought to sing shirah in the future (hence, as Rashi explains, "yashir" is in the future tense). The Berdichiver elaborates on this transition between the past and future tenses in the two verses. Encountering G-dliness is overwhelming; it leaves a person literally at loss for words. It is only after the encounter has ended, after the experience has passed, that a person can find the means to give voice to the emotions that were part of that moment. The splitting of the sea was a moment of overwhelming yiras shamayim during which speech was impossible. "Az yashir" -- the song of praise to G-d arose in thought, but could only be voiced in the future after that awesome moment had passed.

Isru chag of Pesach. Sometimes we become so entrapped by the experiences of the Chag in every sense, be it the seder or the chol hamoed outing, that we cannot really formulate or articulate what those experiences mean. It is only after the chag, after that encounter with ruchniyus has passed, sometimes long after, that we can pause to reflect and give voice to some of the meaning those moments had. Isru chag starts the transition from "vayir'u ha'am es Hashem" to the song of "Az yashir".

Monday, April 13, 2009

she'hechiyanu on the last days of Pesach

Rogatchover-ish chakira found in the Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: Is the reason we don't say she'ehechiyanu on the last days of Pesach because --

1) Since these days are not considered a new Y"T there is no new obligation of she'hechiyanu.


2) Every second of Y"T, right through the last days, creates a new obligation to say she'hechiyanu, but that obligation is fulfilled through the she'hechiyanu recited on the first day.

(Compare with the machlokes in Chagigah 9 whether each day of Yom Tov is a new chiyuv of aliya la'regel or the chiyuv is fixed on the first day and each of the following days is just an opportunity for tashlumin.)

Here is the language of the Rambam (Shabbos 29:23) --

ובשביעי של פסח, אין מברכין שהחיינו, מפני שאינו רגל בפני עצמו, וכבר בירך על הזמן בתחילת הפסח

Notice that the Rambam does not just say the last days are not a new Y"T, but the Rambam adds that the bracha of she'hechiyanu was already recited at the start of the chag, implying that it is that original she'hechiyanu on the first days which is what exempts the final days from a new bracha.

Would a katan who becomes bar mitzvah in the middle of Pesach recite a new bracha of she'hechiyanu on the last days?

new meaning to the term "aliya la'regel"

This report in science daily gives new meaning to the term "aliya la'regel".

"Foot-shaped" structures have been revealed in the Jordan valley and are among the earliest sites that archeologists believe were built by the ancient people of Israel. The structures are thought to be symbolic of the biblical concept of ownership....

"The discovery of these 'foot' structures opens an entirely new system of linguistic and historical perceptions," Prof. Zertal emphasizes. He explains that the meaning of the biblical Hebrew word for "foot" -- "regel" -- is also a "festival" or "holiday". As such, the source of the Hebrew term "aliya la-regel", literally translated as "ascending to the foot" (and now known in English as a pilgrimage), is attributed to the "foot" sites in the Jordan valley. "Now, following these discoveries, the meanings of the terms become clear. Identifying the 'foot' enclosures as ancient Israeli ceremonial sites leads us to a series of new possibilities to explain the beginnings of Israel, of the People of Israel's festivals and holidays," he stated.
More in the article -- follow the link.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

the hardest mitzvah of Pesach

What is the hardest mitzvah to do on or for Pesach? Is it the cleaning? Stuffing multiple k'zeisim of matzah down your throat? Maror? I think the real answer is none of the above.

The Shem m'Shmuel asks why is it that the Torah devotes a seperate command to Bnei Yisrael to take the korban Pesach on the 10th of the month -- we usually do not find in the Torah that the preparation for a mitzvah is itself a command in addition to the mitzvah itself. He answers by quoting his father, the Avnei Nezer, that although seyagim are normally only derabbanan, there is one exception to the rule -- "md'var sheker tirchak". Here the Torah specifically warns against even coming close to sheker in any form whatsoever. The Shem m'Shmuel explains that taking the korban Pesach involved forsaking any committment to avodah zarah, the ultimate form of sheker. "Mishchu u'kechu -- mishchu y'deychem min avodah zarah." Therefore, not only is the act of the korban pesach itself a mitzvah, but every detail of preparation and everything associated with that act is also counted as a mitzvah just as the harchakos and seyagim of avoiding sheker are all counted as mitzvos d'oraysa.

The Divrei Chaim explains that Hashem "introduces" himself in the Aseres haDibros as G-d who took us out of Egypt as opposed to the creator of the world to emphasize that although we were not deserving of redemption, Hashem nonetheless did redeem us; though we may be unworthy of having a relationship with Hashem, "Anochi Hashem Elokecha", G-d is with each of us no matter on what level we may be at.

Let's be realistic and honest -- do any of us really believe in these few remaining days until Pesach that G-d is sitting and ready at a moment's notice to extricate us from galus? I mean, look at the world, look at our own 4 amos -- are we the people who you think deserve geulah? Al yish'u b'divrei sheker!

Now you know the hardest mitzvah of Pesach. To really believe that no matter how bad things look we can all be sitting in Yerushalayim together in a few days is even harder than swallowing a chunk of maror. And to deny that this is true not only confuses the real emes with sheker, but is a form of avodah zarah. If G-d is the only power in the universe, can it be beyond his ability to rescue his children no matter how far they have fallen?

The Ropshitzer taught "t'chila mikraei kodesh" -- the first step of becoming holy is "zecher l'yetziyas Mitzrayim" -- remembering that a yetziyas mitzrayim that can rescue a person from the 49th abyss of tumah is but a moment away.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

a sampling of Rogatchover chakiros on inyanei pesach

With apologies for not elaborating on these ideas, here is a quick sampling of Rogatchover chakiros on inyanei Pesach from the haggadah:

1) zman -- A) does the start of pesach create an issur on chameitz for eight days, or does each second of pesach create a new shem issur? (Rambam paskens that one gets malkos for buying chameitz of Pesach -- it is not a lav hanitek l'aseh because each second is a new shem issur and one cannot correct the issur which has already passed). B) shetach vs. nekudah -- is there a chiyuv matzah year-round which we can only be mekayeim on pesach, or does the zman of pesach create the chiyuv anew each year.

2) chomer/tzurah -- is the idea of biyur chameitz to nullify the tzurah of chameitz or the chomer of chameitz (machlokes R"Y and Chachamim whether sereifah is required).

3) poel/nifal/peulah -- A) achilas korbanos: there is a mitzvah in the act of eating (peulah), for the meat to be consumed (poel), and for the effect of avoiding nosar (nifal); B) mitzvas milah: there is a mitzvah in the act of cutting (peulah), in the person becoming mahul (poel), and in avoiding the smel areil (nifal) -- nafkah minah: hatafas dam bris for someone born mahul, or would a person who is moshech orlaso need another milah; C) achilas matzah/ maror -- balah matzah yatzah because although there is a requirement for ta'am matzah, the act of eating is an end in itself; swalling maror is not a mitzvah because the halacha of feeling the taste is not in the act of eating but in the effect (nifal) that must be produced.

4) peulah hanimshechet -- food cannot be consumed after afikoman because the eating is a peulah hanimshechet; the act recurrs continuously as a result of the taste that lingers.

5) issur atzmi -- is chameitz a cheftza shel issur or is it the zman of pesach that places it off limits (nafka minah: machlokes R' Shimon and other Tanaim whether chameitz she'avar alav haPesach is an issur d'orasya).

6) klal vs. ribuy pratim -- A) is the mikdash a single klal inclusive of its keilim or is each kli a seprate prat that is required to create the klal of mikdash (see Rambam/Ramban in Sefer haMitzvos whether the menorah, shulchan, etc. are counted a seperate mitzvos or are included in the general mitzvah of binyan mikdash; B) is a zimun or tzibur a quantity of pratim or a seprate new qualitative klal (this is the machlokes Tanaim in Brachos 4:5 whether the nusach of zimun changes with the addition of more people or not [i.e. if zimun is a qualitative entity, one cannot have more or less of it]).

Some other ideas that you Briskers may be familiar with:

6) gavra/cheftza -- is chameitz an issur gavra or an issur cheftza (interesting nafka minah: is a chatzi shiur chamietz created before pesach mitztaref with a chatzi shiur created on pesach; nafkah minah as well whether there is bal yer'ah on a ta'aroves chameitz -- is the ta'aroves a cheftza of chameitz or a seperate issur gavra to eat).

7) two dinim: hallel of chanukah and purim is a mitzvah derabbanan of keriah; hallel of pesach night is hallel of shirah and a chiyuv d'oraysa.

If I whet your appetite you still have a few days to get to the seforim store...

Friday, April 03, 2009

pesach absurdities

My wife asks what is the most absurd product or service you have seen advertised for Pesach. Submit your thoughts here.

The Rogatchover haggadah

My wife Ariella was nice enough to buy me the Rogatchover haggadah this week and I just by chance discovered the Rogatchover in the previous post that related to the two previous posts I had done. A few thoughts on that haggadah: There are so many haggados and new ones keep coming out because all it takes to produce one is the ability to complie from a classic text or texts. However, the Rogatchover haggadah is more than a compilation. The editor actually rewrites each issue the Rogatchover discusses, explaining in clear modern Hebrew what the focal point of the chakira is, citing and explaining the relevant Rambam or gemara, and adding some footnotes to other sources that reference the Rogatchover's chiddush. If you are unfamilar with the Rogatchover, this is a good place to start. The editor sometimes throws in multiple versions of the same chiddush, so the haggadah is somewhat repetitive (Rabbi Kasher in Mefa'aneyach Tzefunos points out that there is a development and refinement of certain ideas in the Rogatchover's writings so a chiddush quoted in a later work may vary slightly from the way it is expressed in an earlier work; the haggadah does not delve into these type of nuances.) I can't tell whether without prior exposure to a work like Mefa'aneyach Tzefunos one's appreciation of the haggadah would be lessened -- my sense is that anyone with a love of lomdus would enjoy it and it would entice the reader's to perhaps approach more of the Rogatchover's works at least through R' Kasher's seforim.

On a different note, why is there no R' Yosef Engel haggadah with a compilation of his chiddushim? This is my son's favorite acharon! Whoever is putting out the Tiferes Yosef on chumash (of which only 2 vol have appeared so far) needs to get cracking on this : )

the relationship between mishkan and korbanos - dayeinu!

The Rogatchover points out that the issue of whether the Mishkan served simply to enable hakravas korbanos or whether it had an independent function as the dwelling place of the Shechina may underly a dispute in the Yerushalmi (Shekalim 4:2 - 16b):

א"ר חזקיה תנא רבי יהודה נדנניות השלחן והמנורה והמזבחות והפרוכת מעכבים את הקרבנות דברי ר"מ וחכ"א אין לך מעכב את הקרבן אלא הכיור והכן בלבד

According to R' Meir all of the kelim of the Mikdash must exist and be in place before korbanos can be offered; a completely functional Mikdash is a necessary ingredient of hakravas korbanos. The Chachamim disagree -- the building of Mikdash and the offering of korbanos are two completely seperate functions.

We end the song of dayeinu with the hope of the rebuilding of Mikdash "l'chapeir al kol avaonoseinu", to atone for our sins. Technically it is not the Mikdash which serves as a kaparah, but the korbanos in the Mikdash. This line of the piyut seems to support the view that the Mikdash is itself necessary to bring korbanos properly, similar to the view of the Rambam.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

the realtionship between mikdash and korbanos (II)

1) The Rambam writes in ch. 1 of Hil. Chagigah:

ומי שבא לעזרה ביום ראשון, ולא הביא עולה--לא דייו שלא עשה מצות עשה, אלא שעבר על מצות לא תעשה: שנאמר "לא ייראו פני ריקם"

If one fails to make aliya la'regel and bring a korban to the Mikdash one has violated both a mitzvas aseh as well as a lav. The Turei Even (Chagiga 7) asks: with respect to the lav of "lo yeira'u panei reikam" the prohibition is clearly defined as coming to the Mikdash emptihanded; however, with respect to the mitzvas aseh of aliya la'regel the Torah never says that anything has to be brought -- the Torah simply says three times a year to come to the Mikdash. Why according to the Rambam if one comes emptihanded has one not at least fulfilled the mitzvas aseh of aliya la'regel?

Putting aside how to answer this question (see the Minchas Chinuch's discussion at the end of parshas Re'eh), on a philosophical level I think the Rambam makes sense l'shitaso. The Rambam views Mishkan/Mikdash as simply an intrument necessary for bringing korbanos. There is no point to coming to the Mikdash just to be there. Coming to the Mikdash, like the Mikdash itself, serves a functional need to enable korbanos to be offered but is not an end in itself.

2) R' Yitzchak (Megillah 10) says one may offer korbanos in Beis Chonyo, a temple that was built in Egypt. The gemara deduces that R' Yitzchak must hold that kedusha rishona of Mikdash was temporary and after the destruction of the Mikdash it became permissable to offer korbanos anywhere. However, the gemara continues that R' Yitzchak backed out of his chiddush and even denied saying it. The sugya concludes with a machlokes Tanaim whether kedusha rishona was permanent or temporary.

Tosfos quotes Rabeinu Chaim's question [parenthetical aside: my son and I were trying to see how many Tosfos we remember that quote Rabeinu Chaim -- we are up to 4 so far. Hint: 2 in Kesubos, 1 in Kiddushin, 1 here in Megillah. I'm sure we haven't exhausted the list -- any others you know of?]: why did R' Yitzchak retract his statement when his underlying assumption is supported by at least some Tanaim?

Tosfos answers that the Tannaitic debate over kedusha rishona is simply whether korbanos can be offered at the spot of the mizbeyach even though no Mikdash stands. No Tanna, however, would allow korbanos to be brought in Beis Chonyo outside Eretz Yisrael.

If the kedushas Mikdash evaporates after its destruction, why is it that korbanos can only be offered in the place of the Mikdash? If the Mikdash no longer functions as the place of korbanos, why can they not be offered anywhere? It sounds to me like R' Chaim Kohen's approach fits better with the approach of the Ramban that sees the Mishkan/Mikdash as having inherent keduash above and beyond its functional sanctity as the place in which korbanos are offered. It is this special sanctity of the Mikdash as the place of the Shechina which remains even after the physical Mikdash is no longer present and it is this kedusha which prevents sacrifices from being offered elsewhere.

(This second idea is admittedly less convincing than the first. See the Meshech Chochma on VaYikra for a different approach to understanding Tosfos in Megillah.)