Friday, February 28, 2014

getting rich off the Mishkan

The Midrash writes that Moshe had to go through the accounting made in our parsha because there were scoffers who charged that Moshe had grown rich off the making of the Mishkan.

Why would anyone give credence to such a rumor?  Moshe Rabeinuwas willing to sacrifice himself for Klal Yisrael; he was the one who pleaded on their behalf after cheit ha’eigel.  Does it make sense to think that he was out for the money?

Ain ani eleh b’da’as.”  A person can suffer a poverty of brains.  A person can also have a richness of intelligence.  Sefas Emes (Likutim) explains that there were those who charged that Moshe Rabeinu was rich in ruchniyus, in da’as, because he had worked on the Mishkan.  It was not the money they were complaining about, but rather the spiritual weath, which they charged he had "hoarded” for himself.  Therefore, Moshe gave an accounting.  As we explained yesterday from the Kotzker, this was not a fiscal report, but a spiritual inventory, e.g. Ploni’s kavanos and l’shem shamayim created the kedusha of the aron; Ploni’s nedivus lev and retzinus went into the Menorah, etc.  Moshe Rabeinu proved to every person that he/she was connected directly in some way to the spiritual riches of the Mishkan.  The "wealth" was theirs alone to benefit from.

why should the dati-leumi/hesder world join the protest?

I posted links to a few depressing articles yesterday.  Today I want to give you a positive one

R' Shmuel Eliyahu asks: We differ with the chareidi world in our attitude toward army service, toward the state, and in other areas as well.  Why should we, Roshei Yeshiva of hesder, join with the chareidi world in their million man protest?  (I have read elsewhere that Rav Aviner, Rav Tau, and Rav Shapira are all participating as well).  Why should our talmidim, most of whom serve in the army, participate?  

For me, the important part of the answer was this:

הסיבה השנייה היא הכבוד לעולם התורה של הציבור החרדי. אנשים שמקיימים את המשנה באבות כפשוטה, "פַּת בַּמֶּלַח תֹּאכֵל וּמַיִם בַּמְּשׂוּרָה תִּשְׁתֶּה וְעַל הָאָרֶץ תִּישָׁן וְחַיֵּי צַעַר תִּחְיֶה וּבַתּוֹרָה אַתָּה עָמֵל". גם אם אני חלוק עליהם בכמה דברים אינני יכול להתעלם מהמסירות נפש שלהם לתורה. על זה אמר דוד המלך בתהילים: "חָבֵר אָנִי לְכָל אֲשֶׁר יְרֵאוּךָ".

הסיבה השלישית היא הכאב. אי אפשר להתעלם מכאב של מאות אלפי אנשים שנשבר מטה לחמם בעקבות הקיצוץ החריף שיאיר לפיד כפה על תקציב הישיבות. אי אפשר להתעלם מכאב משפחות שלמות שנשארו בלי פת לחם וטיטולים. גם אם אנחנו לא מסכימים עם אחינו בכל, אנחנו לא יכולים להתעלם מהכאב. "עימו אנכי בצרה".

We do not have to agree with the chareidi world, but we can still respect their committment to Torah and their self-sacrifice.  We can still empathize with the pain of their community as families struggle to make ends meet in the face of government cutbacks in funding.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think the dati-leumi Rabbonim who participate will get any more kavod from the chareidi world for their stance.  They have nothing to gain other than doing what they think is right simply l'shem shamayim.  And to me, that's what makes their position admirable.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

the situation is sad

1) If you want to appreciate the contribution of hesder, read this article by R’ Eliezer Melamed.

2) If you want to be sick, read this article about a letter sent by talmidei hesder to their Roshei Yeshivos asking them not to participate in the million man asifa out of fear for their safety.  Quotes such as this, from a chareidi newspaper, turn your stomach:

 "תמיד ידענו, שהעקימות השכלית, העיוות הדבילי, העיוורון התלמודי - כל מה שיוצר את הטפיל התורני המורה בתורה שלא כהלכה - הם המחלה הממארת של רבים מקרב ראשי ותלמידי ה'הסדר' ודומיהם במגזר הדתל"י..."

Why does the chareidi world think it needs to delegitimize the dati-leumi community, including important talmidei chachamim and Rabbanim, in order to advance their own agenda? 

And don’t ask me why the talmidim think they need to send a letter like this in the first place instead of just letting their Roshei Yeshiva make their own decisions.

3) Lastly, if you’re not sick enough, read this article.  In my opinion the hypocritical leftists who boycott Yehudah and Shomron are either A) plain vanilla anti-semites or B) fools serving as the tools of anti-semites.  How silly would it be if chareidi Jews joined in that boycott as a means of hurting the dati-leumi community? 
It’s a sad, sad situation all around.  No matter who you think is right or wrong, can't we all at least agree on that?
Haman uses a double lashon of "mefuzar u'meforad" - Why?  Maybe the pshat us that "pizur" is physical separation; "pirud" means even if we happen to live in the same place, we are a splintered people, with different factions and camps always fighting with each other.  Maybe that's why the tikun is to drink "ad d'lo yada."  "Im ain da'as, havdalah mi'nayin?"  If you put aside your own deyos to at least hear out the other side, then the havdalah between factions gets erased.

the 1775 missing shekalim

The Midrash writes that when Moshe was making his accounting of where the money collected for the Mishkan was spent, he could not recall what he had done with 1775 shekel.  He was sitting and pondering until Hashem opened his eyes and he saw that he had used them for the hooks on the poles (vavim l’amudim) that held up the walls. 

It sounds a little strange – was Moshe feeling his pockets, searching his drawers, looking in case he had misplaced the money?  Moshe Rabeinu, the person who epitomized “da’as,” could not recall what he had done?

The Kotzker (quoted in the She’eiris Menachem here) explained that Moshe’s accounting was not like something done by the IRS or like a corporate annual report – it was a spiritual accounting.  After the Mishkan was completed, Moshe was able to look back and see how the madreiga of ruchniyus of each item in the Mishkan corresponded exactly to the level of kavanah invested by the person who donated for it.  The donations of Ploni who had tremendous kavanos l’shem shamayim may have been used for the aron or in the kodesh kodashim; the donations of a different Ploni, whose kavanos were a little less intense, may have been used in an outer wall.   You got exactly what you spiritually paid for, so to speak.

Moshe was left with was 1775 shekalim that he identified as has having been tossed in without the right kavanos, without the real l’shem shamayim that a Mishkan demanded.  Moshe couldn’t figure out how these monies translated into a davar sheb’kedusha. How did they have a place in the Mishkan?   

G-d revealed the answer: They were the hooks that stood atop the poles.  There are people who are amudim: They are like the poles that keep the building upright, they have all the right kavanos and the l’shem shamayim. But even those who fall short of those ideals still have a place: They just need to “hook-up” with one of those amudim and attach to their presence.  Recognizing one's own shortcomings and making up for them by following someone greater is itself a tremendous accomplishment.

The gemara has a din that something that a mechubar la’tahor is itself tahor, something attached to taharah is itself treated as tahor.  Reading a deeper meaning into this halacha, the Yehudi haKadosh was asked how it makes sense: Someone who is tahor has worked day and night to achieve a certain spiritual level; why should someone who just attaches himself to that individual deserve the same benefit? 

The answer: It’s harder to be a true mechubar than it is to be a tahor.

It’s an age old problem -- everyone wants to be an Indian chief, but no one wants to be an Indian.  Hiskashrus to someone bigger, hisbatlus to someone bigger, pushing one's ego into the back seat, is a very hard thing to do, and what’s worse is that no one sees you doing it and gives you credit.  Even Moshe Rabeinu almost missed it.  We need to celebrate not just the amudim, but the vavim l'amudim as well.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

hilchos chag b'chag -- chovas hatzibur

Rambam in Tefilah 13:8 writes:

  מפסיקין למועדות, וליום הכיפורים, וקוראין בעניין המועד, לא בסדר השבת. ומשה רבנו תיקן להן לישראל, שיהיו קוראין בכל מועד, עניינו; ושואלין ודורשין בעניינו של יום, בכל מועד ומועד. ומה הן קורין: בפסח, בפרשת המועדות שבתורת כוהנים. וכבר נהגו העם, לקרות ביום טוב ראשון "משכו" (שמות יב,כא), ומפטירין בפסח גלגל; וביום טוב שני, "שור או כשב" (ויקרא כב,כז), ומפטירין בפסח יאשייהו. בשלישי, "קדש לי" (שמות יג,ב); ברביעי, "אם כסף תלווה" (שמות כב,כד); בחמישי, "פסול לך" (שמות לד,א); בשישי, "ויעשו בני ישראל את הפסח, במועדו" (במדבר ט,ב). ביום טוב אחרון, ב"ויהי, בשלח" (שמות יג,יז) עד סוף השירה, ומפטירין "וידבר דויד" (שמואל ב כב,א); ובשמיני, "כל הבכור" (דברים טו,יט), ומפטירין "עוד היום, בנוב לעמוד" (ישעיהו י,לב).
The Rambam continues and goes through the leining on the other Yamim Tovim as well.

Why would the Rambam stick the din that you have to learn the halachos of Yom Tov on Yom Tov in the middle of his discussion of what parsha you read on each chag? 
Off the cuff I would have said that the Rambam is teaching you that hearing the krias hatorah is itself a kiyum of learning hilchos chag b’chag.  The M.B. in O.C. 529 in the Sha’ar haTziyun writes that this is in fact how some Achronim learn the Rambam, and they use this as a justification for why people don’t have a seder to learn hilchos hachag on the chag itself – why bother when you can just listen to krias hatorah? 

Where did the Rambam get this idea from?  The gemara (Meg 4b) quotes R’ Yehoshua ben Levi’s that when Purim falls on Shabbos one has to be “sho’el v’doresh” in the inyana d’yoma.  Rashi explains: the turgemon (the person responsible for translating pesukim into Aramaic during krias hatorah) would stand up and expound on the megillah.  Asks the gemara, what is R’ Yehoshua ben Levi telling us – we already know there is a chiyuv on every chag to study hilchos hachag on the chag? 

 ואמר רבי יהושע בן לוי פורים שחל להיות בשבת שואלין ודורשין בענינו של יום מאי אריא פורים אפילו י"ט נמי דתניא משה תיקן להם לישראל שיהו שואלין ודורשין בענינו של יום הלכות פסח בפסח הלכות עצרת בעצרת והלכות חג בחג

Whatever the answer is, the question seems to compare apples and oranges.  The turgemon's job was to explain pesukim as part and parcel of the krias hatorah.  Where Purim falls on Shabbos and the megillah cannot be read, he did his job anyway, expounding on the text, just without a formal kriah.  What does that have to do with learning hilchos hachag?  QED, that kriah is itself a kiyum of learning hilchos hachag.  The turgemon’s job was one of talmud torah.

It's a nice idea, but only as a hava amina, because l'halacha the M.B. paskens that these Achronim are wrong and in his view even the Rambam is not mashma that way.  Hadra kushya l’ducta: why does the Rambam mix in learning hilchos hachag with krias hatorah if they are unrelated?  And how do you learn the gemara?

The Yalkut on last week’s parsha of Vayakhel writes that just as Moshe gathered Bnei Yisrael to teach them about Shabbos, so too on each Shabbos we should gather to learn hilchos Shabbos (not a bad idea...). Continues the Yalkut, not only does this law apply to Shabbos, but it applies to every Yom Tov as well.  It seems from this Yalkut that the learning of hilchos hachag is not just an obligation on the individual, but must be done in a gathering; it's a chovas hatzibur.
Were the chiyuv to study hilchos hachag b'chag just a din in talmud torah, a mandated curriculum for specific times of year, then what difference would it make if the study was done privately or in a public forum?  It must be that it's not talmud torah per se that is the goal here, but rather the learning of hilchos hachag b'chag is part and parcel of how we as a tzibur commemorate our Yamim Tovim.   

Returning to the sugya in Megillah, the turgemon’s darshening of the megillah in a public forum is not just a din in kriah, not just another form of talmud torah (which is what krias hatorah on shabbos is) -- it was also a means of demarcating the day as special.  The fact that we have special parshiyos  on the Yamim Tovim themselves serves the same purpose as well (see Shiurim l'Zecher Aba Mari from the Rav). 

Maybe this is what the Rambam is trying to teach us by mixing these two halachos together.  Just as krias hatorah is a chiyuv on the tzibur (see Rambam in Milchamos at the beginning of Megillah), so too, the chiyuv of learning hilchos hachag is an obligation on the tzibur as well.  They both together serve as a means of defining the keduas hayom and enhancing its commemoration.

all seforim will be bateil except Megillah Esther

Yesterday I posted the Kotzker’s hesber that the Torah speaks at such length about the Mishkan because the cheit ha’eigel distanced Klal Yisrael from G-d.  When people are close, a word, a small gesture, suffices to convey what they mean; when people are distant, it is much harder to communicate.

 Maybe this same idea is what the Rambam (Megillah 2:18) brings based on the Yerushalmi:
כל ספרי הנביאים וכל הכתובים, עתידין ליבטל לימות המשיח, חוץ ממגילת אסתר--הרי היא קיימת כחמישה חומשי תורה, וכהלכות של תורה שבעל פה, שאינן בטילין, לעולם. 

After the final redemption we will no longer need all the kisvei kodesh we have now.  Once we have a close relationship with G-d, we will no longer books and books to communicate (similar to the gemara Nedarim 22 that had we not sinned with the eigel, Chumash and Sefer Yehoshua would be the only seforim we have). 

It’s interesting that Megillas Esther will still be with us.  Of all the seforim in Tanach, Megillah stands out for it’s not once mentioning G-d’s name.  There is also no overt miracle mentioned in the Megillah; there is nothing in the story that stands out and announces itself as G-d’s handiwork.  I think this also fits with the same yesod of the Kotzker.  When you are so close to someone, less needs to be said.  G-d doesn’t need to put his name in the Megillah; G-d doesn’t need to jump out of the story and announce himself to us.  We know he is there anyway. 

The Ra’avad disagrees with the Rambam and writes that every sefer has a limud, a lesson, to teach us, and therefore they will all  always be with us.  I never fully grasped the focal point of the machlokes here.  The Rambam cannot mean that the limudim of Tanach will disappear – Torah is eternal.  What he must mean is that these teachings will be understood from Chumash alone or they will be incorporated in torah sheba’al peh.  It’s the din sefer that will be bateil.  What is the Ra’avad argument?  What does the eternal message of the limud have to do with the canonization of a book as part of kitvei kodesh? 

Rav Zolti has a different analysis here, in which he reads the Ra’avad like I just explained the Rambam.  There is a discussion in the Kuntres Chanukah u’Purim as well with a few possible hesbeirim.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

why does the Mishkan take up so many pesukim?

The details of the Mishkan span four parshiyos (Terumah, Titzaveh, VaYakhel, Pekudei) and encompass hundreds of pesukim.  The Torah is usually very terse and sparing in its words – why here does it elaborate and repeat the details multiple times?

The Ramban answers that the parsha of the Mishkan shows G-d’s love for the Jewish people.  The eigel had us down and out, but then Hashem have us this special gift to help us achieve kapparah and come back.  Love for the Jewish people is something the Torah wants to elaborate on.
The Kotzker, however, takes the opposite position.  Those of you who have been married for a few years can appreciate that sometimes all it takes is a glance or a small gesture to communicate to one’s spouse what would take a mouthful of sentences to get across to anyone else.  Even I, the densest of husbands, can figure this out.  When Klal Yisrael is close to Hashem, we are like a long married couple.  Rabbi Akiva was able to figure out piles of halachos from even the crowns on each letter.  He didn’t need G-d to spell things out – when you are close, you just know what the other person means.  A similar idea: Chazal (Nedarim 32) tell us that had the first luchos not been broken we would have only needed the chumash and Sefer Yehoshua; all the words of musar from the Nevi’im would have been unnecessary.  It’s when two people are distant that it seems to effort to communicate; it takes words upon words to connect.  The cheit ha’eigel distaned us from G-d.  A crown on a letter was not enough – we needed words and words to communicate, four parshiyos worth.

I have a good library and I know how to do research.  Why are any Rabbis more qualified than me to decide halacha?  An outsider reads a letter sent from a child in camp or in Eretz Yisrael to his/her parents and walks away thinking everything is OK – it says so right there in the letter.  The parent reads the same letter and has a completely different reaction.  “Oy, my Reuvain is depressed….  Oy, my Rivka is not eating enough…”  And so you ask, “But where do you see that in the letter?  It doesn’t say any of that?”  And you would be right – only a parent, a husband and wife, someone who is really close, gets that message from a little postcard, but for you it would take four parshiyos and countless repetition.  It’s not about having a good library, having a CD with more books and being able to do better research.  It’s about being close.

Monday, February 24, 2014

v'nahapoch hu

I take what I read in any newspaper with a big grain of salt.  That being said, if this report is accurate, the state of affairs in modern orthodox education is worse than I thought.  It’s been a week or so since tefillin-gate, and Ramaz is in the news again, this time because the students are protesting the decision of the faculty to not allow them to invite the notorious anti-semite Rashid Khalidi to speak in the school.  Hashem yerachem! 

Listen to Rav Gifter from the 52 minute mark: 

V'nahapoch hu: Rabbi Haskel Lookstein complained that Rav Shach incited hatred for other Jews, but his talmidim at Ramaz have no problem with inviting the likes of Rashif Khalidi to address them?! 

I’ve rewritten a few times what I wanted to post here and decided to just stop here.  Enough said - sadly, it's not going to make a difference.

Friday, February 21, 2014

the connection between Chur's kiddush Hashem and Betzalel's wisdom

The Midrash writes that the Torah traces the lineage of Betzalel back to Chur because Betzalel’s wisdom and ability to make a Mishkan was a reward for Chur sacrificing his life in protesting against the making of the eigel.

 ד"א ראו קרא ה' בשם בצלאל בן אורי בן חור מה ראה להזכיר כאן חור אלא בשעה שביקשו ישראל לעבוד עבודת כוכבים נתן נפשו על הקב"ה ולא הניחן עמדו והרגוהו אמר לו הקב"ה חייך שאני פורע לך משל למלך שמרדו עליו לגיונותיו עמד שר הצבא שלו ונלחם עמהם אמר להם על המלך אתם מורדים עמדו והרגו אותו אמר המלך אילו ממון נתן לא הייתי צריך לפרוע לו עאכ"ו שנפשו נתן עלי מה אני עושה לו אלא כל בנים שיצאו ממנו אני מעמידם דוכסים ואפרכים כך בשעה שעשו ישראל העגל עמד חור ונתן נפשו על הקב"ה אמר לו חייך כל בנים היוצאים ממך אני מגדלם שם טוב

What is the midah k’neged midah here?  Why is the reward for Chur’s self-sacrifice specifically the ability to build a Mishkan?  And what happened to the principle of schar mitzvah b’hai alma leika, that the reward for mitzvos is only given in the next world, not this one?

The Shem m’Shmuel explains that the reward for doing a mitzvah is not some extraneous gift, like a lollipop the teacher gives a kid for getting the right answer, but rather the reward is the goodness that is the essence of the mitzvah itself.  Where is that goodness manifest?  Some of it rubs off in olam ha’zeh, as the rationalist philosophers tell us, in the form of a better society, a better, more moral life for ourselves, etc.  But there is much more to mitzvos that goes on behind the scenes, in the form of goodness that gets released in other olamos that our neshoma touches, as the Nefesh haChaim and others explain at length.  The real reward for mitzvos happens up there, in the next world, because the real tikun that mitzvos bring about happens up there.

The exception to the rule is the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem.  The disdain and disrespect for G-d, the chilul Hashem, that goes on in this world has no effect upstairs, where G-d’s presence is so clear and obvious.  The mistake of making an eigel is only possible in olam hazeh, where foolishness blinds us from the truth.  Unlike other mitzvos, kiddush Hashem is not about making tikunim upstairs – it’s about pushing away that foolishness and making G-d’s presence felt down here.  The real tikun happens in our world; therefore, the schar comes in our world as well.

The Shem m’Shmuel doesn’t use those words, but in Chabad it’s a recurring slogan: the Mishkan is kavyachol a “dirah batachtonim” for the Shechina.  Chur gave his life al kiddush Hashem, the goal of which is to reveal G-d’s presence more fully davka in the hester of this world; his reward is a grandson who can build a Mishkan, the goal of which is to bring G-d into this world.

The Midrash ends with a derush on the words “chochma u’tevunah ba’heima,” reading it as “beheima,” animals. 
כל מי שנתעסק במלאכת המשכן נתן בו הקב"ה חכמה ובינה ודעת שנאמר (שמות לו) ויעשו כל חכם לב ולא בבני אדם אלא אפי' בבהמה ובחיה שנאמר (שם) חכמה ותבונה בהמה בהמה כתיב שנתנה חכמה באדם ובבהמה ולא נתפרסם מכלם אלא בצלאל הוי קרא ה' בשם בצלאל:
Does that mean that the goats or the cows suddenly started doing math problems?  What would be the purpose of that miracle be?

What the Midrash means, says R’ Simcha Bunim m’Peshischa, is that the blessing of chochma came down even to our nefesh ha’behamis, even to the lowest levels of our soul.  Meaning, the miracle here is not that since you have a Mishkan, a shul, a beis medrash, now when you feel all spiritual and holy, you have an address to go to.  The miracle is that even when you are eating ice cream in the park on a summer day, you are using only the nefesh ha'behamis, you are still connected with holiness because as a result of the Mishkan, G-d's presence is felt in all aspects of life. 

(Update: R' Chaim Kanievski explains the Midrash based on the Yerushalmi Yoma 4:4 (23a) that one of the typea of gold used in the Mishkan was processed by being eaten and expelled by the na'maiyot birds.  Since the work on the Mishkan had to be done lishma, the animal needed to have intelligence.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

why no arvus for the bracha of hamotzi?

The first Mishna in Arvei Pesachim tells us that on erev Pesach one is not allowed to start a meal from close to mincha time (9th hour of the day onward) until dark .  Rashi explains: there is a hidur mitzvah in having an appetite for the mitzvah of matzah. 

The gemara goes on to say that there is a similar issur on erev Shabbos and erev Y”T of eating from mincha time onward.  Rashi adds, “v’lo tavo seudas shabbos al ha’sova,” so that one should not be full when eating seudas Shabbos.

Question: why when it comes to erev Shabbos/Y”T does Rashi not say that there is a hidur mitzvah in eating with relish and gusto?  Why does Rashi seem to lower the bar and merely say that one must not be already satiated -- what happened to hidur mitzvah?  
At the end of O.C. 167 the Achronim discuss why it is that there is a principle of arvus for the bracha of borei pri hagefen in kiddush or the bracha of hamotzi for matzah (meaning, even if you are not drinking or eating, you can say the bracha on behalf of someone else who is doing the mitzvah) but not for the bracha of hamotzi before seudas shabbos.  A quick review of some of the answers (skip to #5 if you want to just get on with the show):

1)      MG”A – you have to drink the wine for kiddush, you have to eat matzah, but if you enjoy fasting on Shabbos more than eating there is no reason not to do so.  In other words, there is not really a chovas hagavra to eat; the chiyuv is to enjoy shabbos however you like, even fasting.

2)      Taz – A person starting the meal with wine or eating matzah is out of the ordinary and is therefore clearly a kiyum mitzvah.  Seudas shabbos, however, is a meal like any other.

2b) This may be no more than a reformulation of the Taz, but I'll give it it's own spot nonetheless: matzah is a cheftza shel mitzvah; wine is the cheftza shel mitzvah of kiddush.  The individual piece of challah is not the cheftza shel mitzvah of seudas shabbos – it is just one part of the meal as a whole, which is the mitzvah.    

3)      Pri Megadim has one of those sha”s klalim here that you want to put in your back pocket for other discussions.  He suggests that the principle of arvus may only apply to a mitzvah spelled out in the Torah, but not something learned through a derasha or a halacha l’moshe m’sinai.  Since there is no specific mitzvah to eat bread, arvus does not apply to ha’motzi.  You are going to jump and say that there is no specific mitzvah to drink wine at kiddush either (see Rashi/Tos Nazir 4a)?  PM”G answers that since there is a din derabbanan to drink the wine, and all derabbanans fall under “lo tasur,” it is as if drinking the wine was spelled out as part of the mitzvah.  The same cannot be said about seudas shabbos, which is only m;’divrei kabbalah based on oneg.  Based on this you have a big counterintuitive chiddush: dinim derabbanan are more chamur than derashos in this respect -- obviously a bigger discussion for another time.

4)      YU guys would be upset if I neglected to mention RYBS’s chiddush (in Shiurim l'Zecher Aba Mori) from R’ Chaim that the bracha of borei pri hagefen in kiddush is a birchas hamitzvah, not a birchas hanehenin.  You still need to come up with something to say for matzah…

5)      Finally, and this is why I am writing this up now, we have an answer the Kozhiglover quotes from the Avnei Nezer on this week’s parsha.  The Sochotchover suggests that the reason arvus works is because we are all spiritually united – see yesterday’s post and the comments re: Klal Yisrael being one organic unit both spatially and temporally.  When speaking of spiritual neshoma-mitzvos, your mitzvah is my mitzvah and vice versa because we are spiritually all one unit.  Not so when it comes to the guf – here each of us is a distinct entity.

The mitzvos of kiddush, of matzah, are spiritual/neshoma mitzvos and hence arvus applies.  The mitzvah of seudas Shabbos is a mitzvah that pertains only to the guf, and hence there is no arvus.

What exactly does he mean by that?  Wine and matzah are also consumed by the guf – how exactly is seudas shabbos different?  It could be that it’s not eating and drinking per se which is the focal point of kiddush or matzah, but rather the food and drink in these cases is just a means to an end, either to formalize and lend sanctity to the shabbos meal or to help re-experience yetzi’as Mitzrayim.  Not so seudas shabbos, where the meal is an end in itself. 

Or it could be even simpler than that: when it comes to kiddush and achilas matzah, it is the act of consuming the matzah or the wine which is all that counts.  You don’t have to do it with a smile.  When it comes to seudas shabbos, the mitzvah is oneg – enjoying it is the whole point.

With that, I think we can explain the Rashi we started with.  Rashi only invokes hidur mitzvah when the mechanical act of eating and drinking is the mitzvah; physical enjoyment, “l’teyavon,” is icing on the cake that qualitatively adds something.  When it comes to seudas shabbos, on the other hand, the enjoyment is not a hidur – the enjoyment is the mitzvah itself. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

can there be kapparah after death?

The Mishna in Meg (25a) lists parshiyos that are read without any targum (in the days of Chazal the targum was read to the tzibur along with the parsha).  Chazal took the attitude that if you know enough to understand the parsha without targum, then you won’t be confused by what you are hearing; if not, there are ideas that may lead you astray, so better to remain in ignorance.  The Mishna says that the parsha of “eigel harishon” is read with targum; the parsha of “eigel hasheni” is not. Rashi explains that “eigel harishon” is the entire section that describes the events of the eigel up until the pasuk of “va’ashlichayhu ba’eish vayeitzei ha’eigel hazeh.”  “Eigel hasheni” is Aharon’s description of what happened and what he had done, including that pasuk of “va’ashlichayhu…” Rashi explains that the pasuk’s words can be misinterpreted as implying that the eigel had some real magical power; therefore, we don’t translate.

The gemara asks why the Mishna needs to tell us that we read the first parsha of eigel harishon with the targum – why would we think not?  Answers the gemara: the whole episode is an embarrassment to Klal Yisrael, and therefore, one might have thought it better to pass over it with no further explanation or embellishment.  Kah mashma lan that precisely because it is embarrassing it is read, as those involved want to suffer that bit of embarrassment so that they can get a kapparah.

The Meshech Chochma makes the clever point that our not extending the same reasoning to the parsha of eigel hasheni, to Aharon’s explanation of what he had done, proves that Aharon was granted a complete kapparah without needing the added embarrassment.

Be that as it may, I want to focus on a little comment of R’ Ya’akov Emden.  The Yavet”z writes that we see from this gemara that even the dead are capable of achieving kapparah.  Those who worshipped the eigel are no longer with us, but still, apparently they suffer embarrassment at having their misdeeds recounted and through that can achieve forgiveness.  (The Rama similarly writes that the reason we say yizkor on Yom Kippur is because it is a day of kapprah for the dead as well as the living.)

Is this really a proof?  My son’s rebbe in another context has said over a mashal from the Sh"lah: someone being prosecuted for a crime cannot say in his/her defense that the culprit was a bunch of other molecules, but since then their body has produced new skin, new blood cells, etc. and they are now a different person.  The meforshim ask how the oath administered in Parshas Nitzavim as part of the bris between Hashem and Klal Yisrael is binding on future generations – those generations haven’t been born yet and haven’t given their consent?  The answer is that when we speak of Klal Yisrael, those future generations are like new blood cells, new skin cells, etc. – the identity of Klal Yisrael remains constant, even if the parts undergo change.  Here too, the way I understood the gemara is that the kapparah for the cheit ha’eigel is not something being given to the dor ha’midbar, who are long gone, but is being given to us, something we need, because we carry on their identity.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

lo yamish m'toch ha'ohel - no matter what the crisis

Why does the Torah bother to record Yehoshua’s reaction to the sound of the eigel worship, “Kol milchama ba’machanah,” “A sound of war is in the camp,” when he got it wrong, as Moshe immediately told him? 

Because he was not as wrong as we think he was.  The sounds of war that Yehoshua recognized were the sounds he had heard in the fight against Amalek.  At that time, Amalek had attacked the stragglers, those who for whatever reason were left outside the protection of the ananei hakavod.  Now, said Yehoshua, “Kol milchama bamachaneh,” that sound of battle with Amalek were in the very midst of the camp.  What was the tumult over the eigel if not a resurgence of the evil of Amalek? (Sefas Emes)

Moshe davened for Bnei Yisrael, Hashem’s anger was assuaged, the 3000 who worshipped the eigel were killed, but all was still not right, as evidenced from the fact that Moshe moved his tent outside the camp.  It would take forty more days of work for Moshe to restore unity in Klal Yisrael and undo the damage caused by the eigel.  The Torah then again comes back to Yehoshua: “…V’Yehoshua bin Nun na’ar, lo yamish m’toch ha’ohel.” (33:11)   Why does the Torah shift gears and give us half a pasuk about what Yehoshua was doing,right in the middle of the description of Moshe's "cleanup" efforts?

The Netziv writes that Moshe had a tremendous amount of work to do in rehabilitating the damage done by the cheit ha’eigel.  Even though Yehoshua is described here as a “na’ar,” in reality he was in his 50’s and had been learning in “kollel” at the feet of Moshe for years.  Wouldn’t Yehoshua have been the natural choice to help Moshe in his efforts to repair the damage that had been done? 

That’s exactly the thinking that the Torah here tells us is wrong.  Moshe’s job was being the manhig ha’dor, being the leader, and with that came the responsibility of shouldering the burdens and work that was needed.  Yehoshua’s job was being a talmid engaged in learning.  Doing that job means no matter what the crisis, no matter how important the needs out there may seem, “lo yamish m’toch ha’ohel,” one must keep learning. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Shem m'Shmuel on Ki Tisa

Having done a few other Shem m’Shmuel’s this week, might as well finish it off with some more (apologies to those who want lomdus):

1) Earlier in the week
we spoke about the Ramban’s question of why Moshe Rabeinu did not object in Parshas Mishpatim when Hashem said that he would send an angel to guide Bnei Yisrael, but now, after the cheit ha’eigel, when he is in a far worse bargaining position, Moshe insists that Hashem himself guide them. Another approach: We know from the Haggadah shel Pesach that the redemption from Egypt was also not done via a malach or any other intermediary, but by Hashem himself. When there is such a strong force of tumah, like in Egypt, even an angel is in danger of being sucked in; Hashem himself must intervene. Here too, when Klal Yisrael first accepted the luchos, they were on a tremendously high level. Being led by an angel in those circumstances was acceptable. But now, after the cheit ha’eigel, davka because Klal Yisrael had fallen to such depths, Moshe had to call on Hashem himself to pull them out.

Even if G-d forbid a person has fallen to a place that even angels would be sullied were they to tread there, there is still hope. G-d himself is willing to go down and pull a person out of the filthy quicksand when it needs to be done. 

2) The word “ach” is usually darshened as a miyut, a limitation. Rashi comments that the word “ach” in “Ach es shabsosai tishmoru,” teaches us that building the Mishkan is limited to weekdays and cannot be done on Shabbos. Ramban asks: the word “ach” in the pasuk refers to Shabbos; therefore, the derasha should tell us some limitation of Shabbos. According to Rashi, the pasuk is telling us a limitation in the mitzvah of building Mishkan, not Shabbos?

Shabbos elevates a person, but where Shabbos takes you depends on what you put into it. Around where I live there is one street where on nice days there is a seder kav’ua for a Shabbos pickup basketball game. Some people have a seder kavu’a in the beis medrash, or at a tisch. Imagine what Shabbos would be like if we could combine the holiness of Shabbos with the holiness of doing mitzvah of building Mishkan – that would be one special Shabbos! But the Torah tells us, “Ach es Shabsosai tishmoru,” we have to celebrate Shabbos on its own terms without the mitzvah of Mishkan, even if it means Shabbos itself is lessened as a result. [Why this should be so is something to think about...]

 3) Why was the kiyor placed betweeh the mizbeyach and the Ohel and not closer to the entrance to the Mishkan, so that kohanim could wash themselves as soon as they walked in the door? The Targum Yonasan in Parshas Pikudei tells us that the kiyor represents teshuvah -- the kohanim cleansing themselves for avodah represents washing off the shmutz of aveirah.  It is very hard to do teshuvah alone in a vacuum; the inspiration and energy of others is needed to move forward. Just as the kohen must pass the mizbeyach to get to the kiyor, a Jew needs to see the fire and sacrifice of others to help him get back on track.

4) Unlike the first luchos that came directly from G-d, the second luchos were made by Moshe. However, let's get rid of the misimpression that there was no miracle involved. Rashi writes on “Psol lecha…” that Hashem showed Moshe that there was a sapphire mine in his tent that had the stones he needed. Obviously, the mine being located right there was a miracle.  Once G-d was making a miracle anyway, why not just deliver the luchos the same way as the first time around?

We've been hitting this theme all week -- one more time won't hurt. The Torah here is telling us that the miracle of the luchos now has an address; it comes into the world only through the tent of Moshe.  For there to be luchos, there has to also be chachmei hamesorah to help deliver them.

5) “V’kasavta al haluchos es hadevarim asher ha’yahu al haluchos ha’rishonim…” It doesn’t say v’ksavata… KA’devarim,” words like you wrote the first time, but rather “HA'devarim,” the words, i.e. the exact same ones as before.  Chazal tell us that when Moshe broke the first luchos the letters jumped off and floated away.  Those exact same letters now came down and were engraved on the second tablets.

I don't know if this is what the Shem m'Shmuel wants us to take away from this vort, but this is what I take away: Klal Yisrael has had more than its fair share of periods of "sheviras haluchos."  David HaLivni has a book called, "Breaking the Tablets: Jewish Theology After the Shoah."  Baruch Hashem, we survive, we rebuild.  But there are those who always argue that "mai d'hava hava" and we need a new "torah" for new luchos.  There are those who argue that we cannot remake what once was even if we wanted to - if a Rembrant or Vermeer gets damaged, it can be restored so it looks like the original, but it will never be Vermeer's paint or Rembrant's brushstrokes.  When it comes Torah that's not how it works.  The tablets may be different, but we can and must inscribe "HA'devarim,"  the exact same ideas, ideals, and traditions as before onto them.  We can bring the past back to life.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

lo mistaya milsa -- brains alone are not enough

My family likes to makes fun of me when we talk about the parsha on Shabbos and I sometimes say things like, “Yeah, I wrote that up back in…. “ which of course no one remembers.  So for the benefit of those who were not reading this blog in 2006, I want to revisit a sugya in Kesubos 60.  Abaye was asked a shayla and gave an answer.  When he came before Rav Yosef, Rav Yosef corrected the psak.  Abaye ran after the person he gave the wrong answer to, but was unable to catch him.  Said Abaye: I used to think that the reason a talmid cannot rule on halacha in the presence of his rebbe is merely out of respect.  Now I know that it’s because he will not have the siyata d’shemaya necessary to get the right answer.  I knew the halacha in this case [before hearing it from Rav Yosef] and I still I got it wrong.

If you think you can pasken halacha from a Bar Ilan CD or just by doing reseach into the sources that pertain to a particular sugya, I have no idea how you read this gemara.  It makes no sense.  Abaye knew the halacha.  He had done the research.  He was an accomplished scholar.  Yet he still got it wrong because he lacked one crucial ingredient – “siyata d’shemaya.”  That’s something you can’t get from a CD and no amount of research can provide.   

Torah is not an academic discipline.  Success does not depend only on brains, on creativity, on academics.  The Chazon Ish asked a great question: Why don’t we have any R’ Akiva Eigers these days?  It’s the same 2800 or so blatt in shas now as existed back then.  We now have computers to help us, we have Mossad haRav Kook texts of the Rishonim, we have electric lights so we can stay up all night and learn in heated homes in the middle of winter.  So where are the R’ Akiva Eigers of our world?  The Chazon Ish answers that we are just as smart as R’ Akiva Eiger; we don’t lack brains.  What we lack is the yiras shamayim of R’ Akiva Eiger.

Earlier in the week we were talking about the Avnei Nezer because it was his yahrzeit, so let me tell you another beautiful Shem m’Shmuel.  The Midrash writes that for 40 days Moshe was on Har Sinai learning, and every day at the end of the day he promptly forgot everything that he had covered.  At the end of 40 days he had nothing.  At that point Hashem gave him the Torah as a gift; Hashem planted the knowledge in Moshe’s brain.  The Shem m’Shmuel asks: So what was the point of struggling with it for 40 days?  Why didn’t Hashem just cut to the chase and give Moshe that gift on day 1?

The answer is that gifts from Hashem have to be earned.  The Koreans who came to Ponevich to see what the study of Talmud is all about because they thought that studying this book, this academic discipline, will make you smarter got it all wrong.  Toil over Torah won’t really make you smarter or increase your IQ – but it will make you a better person.  That’s what Hashem wants; that’s what Moshe accomplished in those 40 days.  If you pull that off, then the Torah comes m’meila as a gift; if you fail, then “lo mistaya milsa,” you can be an Abayei or even a Moshe Rabeinu and are just not going to get it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the "imposition of select religious authority" and slippery slopes

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein's logic (link) with respect to women wearing tefillin -- "since nobody really does it the right way [with proper attention and proper mindset] as the Halacha cautions us why are women any different from men in this respect" -- escapes me. Were his assumption correct, the proper response would be to stop wearing tefillin, or to minimize even further the amount of time they are worn even by men. What sense does it make to throw women into the mix and add to the number of people doing the mitzvah incorrectly?   Does he mean that the requirement of hesech hada'as (whether the issue of guf naki has anything to do with hesech hada'as is another discussion) is null and void, irrelevant, since it is too high a bar for anyone to meet? So since “nobody” follow the halacha, we just wipe it off the books?  

You can't ask for a better illustration of the dangers of the slipperly slope than Rabbi Lookstein's argument: "Today, my granddaughter, Julia Straus Baruch, is learningTorah and Halacha in Nishmat, preparing to be a Yoetzet Halacha, something which would have been inconceivable in the time of the Aruch Ha-Shulchan, 150 years ago. Why is tefillin different?"  I don’t know what learning Torah has to do with putting on tefillin, but once you are headed down the slope and are matir X, then why not Y?  In 10 years from now (and I’m pretty confident we won’t even have to wait 10 years) I wonder if we will be hearing the following argument from the pulpit of KJ or other synagogues: “Women wearing tefillin was once inconceivable. Now every other girl in our school is wearing them. Why should X be different?” Fill in the blank for what X is. 

Rabbi Lookstein's remark shows his admiration for the Nishmat program and the openness shown by R’ Yehudah Herzl Henkin, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mishmat and the posek who stands behind the Yoetzet program, to women’s participation in advanced learning. Yet, interestingly (as noted by Rabbi Eli Mansour), R’ Henkin himself addresses the question of whether a woman may wear tefillin in his teshuvos (
Shu”T Bnei Banim vol 2, #3) and prohibits it.   Clearly Rabbi Henkin, a noteworthy posek in his own right, does not join Rabbi Lookstein's in making the leap from Torah study to tefillin. 

I already linked to Rabbi Shachter’s response to this issue. Rabbi Shacter’s point was not, as one Rabbi tweeted (quoted with a response
here), “The shorter version of R. Herschel Schacter's missive (it's not a 'teshuvah') is that the greatest sin a Jew can do is disagree with him.”  This individual objects to the “imposition of select religious authority” – “select” I assume, given R' Shachter's point, meaning “competent.”  Should we instead allow anyone armed with a passing grade on a smicha test the right to determine right from wrong for his constituants, no matter how delicate or complicated the question, and no matter how far and wide outside the community (given the speed at which news travels on the 'net) the repercussions may be?

This Rabbi caught R’ Shachter as omitting sources: “He does not cite Tosafot B. Berachot 14a which records that it was once prevalent for women to put on tefillin, even with a blessing, just as they shake the lulav on Sukkot.” Indeed, it’s not just Rabbi Shachter who does not cite this Tosfos -- neither does the Rama. In fact, there are hundreds of other places in the Shulchan Aruch that the Rama chooses to decide Jewish law like one set of Rishonim against others, sometimes even against Tosfos. Do we now have the authority to rewrite 500 years of Jewish law and custom and choose, absent any compelling need or argument, to adopt views that the Rama rejected? Or is the Rama perhaps just one “select religious authority” who has no right to impose his views on us either?

Not content with Rabbi Lookstein’s leap from the apples of women learning Torah to the oranges of wearing tefillin, this Rabbi
argues that, “Furthermore, someone who has access to a Bar Ilan CD (and know for what to look) can easily find examples where the current Ashenazi practice does not follow the Ramo…” One exception to paskening like Rama invites others, irrespective of custom and tradition, or context for that matter. The slippery slope revisited.

I have to say I am disappointed. Originally I had a degree of sympathy at least for the dilemma faced at SAR -- kick kids out of school, or make an exception and allow girls to wear tefillin -- irrespective of whether the conclusion was the wrong one.  We were talking about a sha'as hadechak that demanded an ad hoc resolution.  Now, we are far beyond a conversation about what may or may not be appropriate for a particular school in a perhaps unique situation.  Now, the sha'as hadechak is being championed as an ideal and being turned into a fight about halachic authority.  The arguments being tossed about are broader and broader in their strokes, and in turn, are less and less credible.  If this is the best those who champion the cause of women being allowed to wear tefillin can muster, I'm afraid their arguments carry little credence.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a ticket out of gehenom

Today is the yahrzeit of the Avnei Nezer, the Sochotchover, and considering how often I quote his son, the Shem m’Shmuel, on the parsha it would be remiss to not learn a little of his torah today.

The Sochotchover makes a guarantee: any Jew who has a true “teshukah,”a thirst and desire for G-d, will not end up in gehenom.  That desire will carry them out of there.

The Shem m'Shmuel uses his father's yesod to answer Ramban's question on Rashi in our parsha.  In Parshas Mishpatim, after the giving of the aseres hadibbros, Moshe was told by Hashem that he is going to send an angel to guide Bnei Yisrael (23:2).  Moshe goes back up the mountain for forty days, and at the end of those forty days we have the events in our parsha, the making of the eigel and the destruction of the luchos. 
Hashem again promises to send an angel (33:2), but this time, as Rashi explains the pasuk, Moshe objects, “Im ain panech holchim al ta’aleinu mi’zeh,” you, G-d, need to personally attend to us.  If you are sending an angel, don’t bother, as that’s not good enough.

Ramban asks: how does Rashi’s reading here makes any sense?  In Parshas Mishpatim, before Bnei Yisrael made the eigel, Moshe didn’t speak up or object when G-d promised to send an angel.  Now, after  Bnei Yisrael did wrong, after Moshe had to plead with G-d just to spare their lives, now he voices his objection to an angel and makes demands for more?!  Moshe is certainly not in a good position to bargain here!

Maybe this is not a good mashal, but I'll try anyway.  In many if not most jobs these days there is an annual performance review.  I want you to imagine a guy who has been a slacker the whole year, who barely kept pace with his colleagues, who is the worst producer on the team. 

The boss asks him, “So what are your performance goals for the upcoming year?” 

“I want to become the CEO.”

The boss nearly falls out of his chair laughing, but then he sees that this guy is serious. The guy really no longer wants to be the slacker – he genuinely wants to make something of himself. 

Who would you rather have on your team – the guy who racked up the best numbers last year, but is content to stay at that level and coast, or the guy who, even if he hasn’t done it in the past, is hungry to make something of himself now? 

The difference, explains the Shem m'Shmuel, between the promise of an angel that Hashem made in Parshas Mishpatim and the promise he made now after cheit ha’eigel boils down to one pasuk: “Va’yishma ha’am es ha’davar ha’ra ha’zeh va’yisabalu.” (33:5)  Klal Yisrael heard that Hashem was angry and would only be sending an angel and they mourned over the loss of the presence of the Shechina (Rashi).  Klal Yisrael had been on the highest of high levels, they had just received the aseres hadibbros, but at that time they had no problem with being led by a malach.   They were happy with where they were.   Now, even though they were on the lowest of lows, having just done cheit ha’eigel, the news of the malach, the news of the loss of the Shechina, bothered them.  They yearned to reconnect with G-d.  It doesn’t matter where you are holding, even if it is in gehenom mamseh – what matters is where you want to be holding. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

misasek=not knowing; not wanting to know is deliberate

From Ma’aseh Ish, the biography of the Chazon Ish, vol 4 p.105:

The Chazon Ish was asked why he objected so strenuously to [problematic] eiruvin. The laypersons who carry in those eiruvin are relying on their Rabbi.  Even if in fact they are violating Shabbos by carrying, it is misasek, an unwitting crime. 

The Chazon Ish answered: The ba’alei batim know to whom they should listen – they simply don’t want to know. 

The editor spells out the lesson: Not knowing is misaksek; not wanting to know and not asking the person who does really know is a deliberate crime.

Rav Hershel Shachter, writing in response to the tefillin issue (link):

וכל שאלות קשות שכאלו [דלפסוק נגד רמ"א המפורש בשו"ע ,בודאי שאלה קשה היא ,אשר בודאי צריכה כתפיים רחבות], צריכים להציע בפני ת"ח מורי הוראה שיש להם היקף בידיעת ההלכה ,ואין לכל מוסמך או רב מקומי ,אף אם כוונתו לטובה ,לחוות את דעתו בשאלה שכזו ,וכ"ש שלא לפרסם את דעתו הפרטית דרך התקשורת או האינטרנט ,כי שאלה חמורה כזו נוגעת לכל כלל ישראל הנאמנים למסורה ,ורק גדולי ההוראה רשאים להכריע בה. ואין תלונתנו בזה בכלל על הנשים שהתנדבו לקיים מצות תפילין ,אלא על הרבנים (שהוסמכו כולם מישיבתנו) שחיוו את דעתם המוטעת בזה ,מבלי להתייעץ עם מורי ההוראה שאליהם אכן פונים לשאלות אחרות ,ושפרסמו את דעתם כאילו הדבר פשוט להיתר.

Are there are no gedolim to ask these shaylos to in the modern orthodox community, or people know what the answer will be from those gedolim and therefore deliberately prefer to ask others? 

I know that sounds a bit harsh.  Unfortunately I can't think of  a way to soften the point : (

R' Tzadok haKohen on why the mizbach haketores belongs at the end of Titzaveh

Ramban, Seforno and many other meforshim ask why the mizbach haketores is put at the end of Parshas Titzaveh and not in Parshas Terumah.  The focus of Parshas Titzvaeh is Aharon haKohen – the clothes of kohanim, the initiation process by which kohanim were was invested in their job – not the klei hamikdash, which were discussed in Terumah. What is the mizbach haketores doing here?

The ketores contained not only sweet smelling incense, but also the chelbinah, a foul smelling spice.  There are Jewish souls who unfortunately are like the chelbinah.  By themselves, they don't have such a good fragrance and are not something you would imagine G-d would accept, but when you mix them back in with all the other spices, they too come out like perfume. 

Aharon’s mission in life was “oheiv shalom rodef shalom oheiv es habriyos,” and the part everyone forgets, “u’mekarvam laTorah.”  Aharon haKohen, through his love, was able to draw these chelbinah-like souls back into Klal Yisrael and back to Torah.  Therefore, explains R’ Tzadok haKohen, the mizbach haketores appears only after the initiation of Aharon into his job as Kohen Gadol.  Without Aharon and those like him, without his love and outreach, there could be no ketores.   

Friday, February 07, 2014

Yerushalmi on which Adar is the 'real' Adar

The Yerushalmi (Meg 1:5) has a debate as to which Adar is the real Adar (1 or 2) and which is the added month. What’s the nafka minah? It depends on your girsa. The Korban haEidah and Ridbaz learn the nafka minah is with respect to counting whether the korban tamid is more than a year old and pasul or not. Let’s say an animal was born last year on 15 Adar. On 15 Adar 1 this year it turns one year old. On 20 Adar the Beis Din decides to make the year a leap year. If Adar 1 is the “real” Adar, then even if a new month is added, the animal’s birthday has passed. But if Adar 2 is the “real” Adar, then the animal still has another month to go.

Ridba”z asks a question from a famous Yerushalmi that everyone knows from Torah and science debates. Halacha says that a girl’s besulim will grow back as long as she is under three years old. After that, if something happens, she has the status of a beulah. Let’s say a girl’s birthday is 15 Adar, and something happened to her on 20 Adar. She would no longer have the status of a besulah. But if Beis Din on 25 Adar declares the year a leap year, the Yerushalmi says a chiddush that her besulim grow back. Beis Din has the power to determine not just legal reality, but the physical reality of whether her besulim are there or not changes as well.

I’m not interested in Torah and science debates now, only in how this fits with our Yerushalmi in Megillah. If a girl is retroactively considered less than three and therefore still a besulah irrespective of which Adar is the real Adar or not, then why don’t we consider our korban retroactively to be less than a year old irrespective of which Adar is the real Adar or not? What’s the difference between these two cases?

I don’t think I understand the Ridba”z clearly, but from what I gather his answer is that there is a special din by korbanos that once something is nidche, you can’t undo the psul. If Adar 1 is the “real” Adar, and on the 15th of the month the korban was correctly declared pasul, then you can’t say that it is nidche v’chozeir on the 20th even if you add a month. However, if Adar 2 is the real Adar, then it turns out on the 15th you only mistakenly thought a year had passed. Really, it was not the 15thof Adar yet, but rather only the 15th of a tosefes month. That’s called nidche b’ta’us and the korban would be acceptable.

I'm wondering if you can say a different answer, and I admit it’s a bit shaky, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. The determination of besulah vs. beulah is a function of a girl’s development over a span of time. The question is whether the *span* of three years has passed. When it comes to a korban, perhaps the crucial question is whether the animal has had a birthday or not, i.e. whether a particular *point* in time has been reached. Where the concern is a specific point in time, then the question of which Adar is the real one is very relevant to whether that point has passed or not. If we are just measuring a span of time, i.e. have three years passed, then it makes no difference which month is the extra one. Why the focus when it comes to korbanos is a point in time rather than the span of time that has elapsed, I don't know – I’m just suggesting a logical structure in lomdus, not the philosophy behind it (Briskers don’t do philosophy, right?)

leap years and Moshe's birthday

The Midrash has a machlokes when baby Moshe was placed in a basket and put in the Nile: on 6 Sivan or on 21 Nisan (see this post where we discussed what the machlokes is all about).  According to tradition, Yocheved was able to hide Moshe for three months before having to send him off because the Egyptians counted on babies being born full term, but Moshe was born three months early.  According to the view that Moshe was put in the river in Sivan, counting three months from 7 Adar is a no-brainer.  But how do you get three months from 7 Adar to 21 Nisan?  The Midrash answers that the year Moshe Rabeinu was born was a leap year, and we count partial months as full months: Adar 1 = month #1, Adar #2 = month #2, Nisan = month #3.

It makes more sense to assume that the two views in the Midrash are not in disagreement about the calendar.  Since there was no mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh yet, the determination of how many months in the year must have been according to some cheshbon, or maybe according to G-d, but it’s not the sort of thing that easily lends itself to disagreement about in sevara.  It’s fair to assume everyone agrees that the year Moshe was born was a leap year – the question is whether he was born in Adar 1 (so the three month count ends at Nisan) or in Adar 2 (and it ended in Sivan).

Is there any way to figure out whether the year Moshe died was a leap year or not?  I have no idea, but maybe someone else does.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

the yetzer ha'ra of idealism

If you have 2 minutes, I strongly recommend that you read this post on Mevakesh Lev on women's issues.  If it's a choice of reading this or reading that post, click the link and ignore me.

I hope I am not being "kol hamosif gore'a" but there is so much more to be said on this topic and so much more needs to be said because it's not just about women's issues.  That's just one symptom.

I believe the Piecezna already makes the point that nature abhors a vacuum; if the mind is not filled with Torah, it will find something else to fill itself with.  If you are not excited by learning gemara, so you will find excitement somewhere else.  The truth is that it’s already a Rambam: at the end of Hil Issurei Bi’ah the Rambam tells us “yefaneh atzmo u’machshavto l’divrei Torah” because immorality strikes at a “lev panuy min hachochma.”   Now we understand, says R’ Ya’akov Shapira, the gemara’s lashon of “panuy ha’ba al ha’penuya.”  I recently heard R’ Eli Mansour say that people who say they don’t want their kids to learn Torah are just kidding themselves.  Their kids will learn Torah whether they like it or not, just instead of being Torah emes, it will be the torah of the street, the torah of drugs, the torah of licentiousness.  So true. 

The gemara in Chulin debates whether the malach who fought with Ya’akov appeared to him as a bad guy or as a talmid chacham.  It’s one thing to immerse oneself in Torah to escape the malach of Eisav that looks like a bad guy, but it’s much harder when the yetzer comes dressed up as a talmid chacham.  That yetzer wants you to learn torah – with him as chavrusa or rebbe.  That yetzer has a lomdus to explain why a bas yisrael should wear tefillin to increase her spiritual connection to G-d, why a Jew should not eat meat for a Yom Tov seudah because animals are such special holy creatures, why joining an interfaith discussion is so beautiful because we all have a tzelem Elokim and children of G-d and this can encourage peace and understanding.  You mean to tell me that you are against having a spiritual connection with G-d, or hate animals, or don’t want to live in peace with your neighbor?  Extremist! 
It’s early for parshas zachor, but maybe this is what the seforim mean when they talk about klipas Amalek being "da’as pagum."  A "lev panuy m'chochma" can be filled with nahrishkeit, but it can also be filled with wonderful chochmos and beliefs and ideals all of which are just as treif as kinah, tayvah, and kavod.  You want to sell rishus?  Package it as an ideology, as some -ism, and the most well meaning people will defend it with all the passion they can muster. 
The $64,000 question is how to dispel the muddled, confused ideals, the “torah” the talmid chacham yetzer ha'ra is pawning as real, without extinguishing that fire of idealism.  

crushed like the zayis

The Midrash on this week's parsha opens as follows:

ואתה תצוה הה"ד (ירמיה יא) זית רענן יפה פרי תואר קרא ה' שמך וכי לא נקראו ישראל אלא כזית הזה בלבד והלא בכל מיני אילנות נאים ומשובחים נקראו ישראל בגפן ותאנה שנאמר (תהלים פ) גפן ממצרים תסיע תאנה שנאמר (הושע ט) כבכורה בתאנה בראשיתה כתמר שנא' (שיר ז) זאת קומתך דמתה לתמר כארז שנא' (תהלים צב) כארז בלבנון ישגה כאגוז שנאמר (שיר ז) אל גנת אגוז ירדתי וקראן בכל מיני שלחים שנאמר (שם ד) שלחיך פרדס רמונים ובא ירמיה לומר זית רענן יפה פרי תואר אלא מה הזית הזה עד שהוא באילנו מגרגרין אותו ואח"כ מורידין אותו מן הזית ונחבט ומשחובטין אותו מעלין אותו לגת ונותנין אותן במטחן ואח"כ טוחנין אותן ואח"כ מקיפין אותן בחבלים ומביאין אבנים ואח"כ נותנין את שומנן כך ישראל באין עובדי כוכבים וחובטין אותם ממקום למקום וחובשים אותן וכופתין אותם בקולרין ומקיפין אותן טרטיוטין ואח"כ עושין תשובה והקב"ה עונה להם

Chazal tell us that although Bnei Yisrael are compared to many types of trees, Yirmiyahu haNavi singled out the zayis, the olive tree, to compare them to.  Just like the zayis is beaten and pounded and crushed until it releases its oil, so too, Klal Yisrael is beaten and pounded and crushed by the aku”m until they do teshuvah. 

 Well, that’s a nice heartwarming message for you!  Beat us up enough and we eventually scream “Uncle” and do the repentance that G-d wants.  How inspiring!
The Shem m’Shmuel writes that Chazal here are in fact telling us something that should lift us up.  Beat anyone up enough and they will agree to whatever you want, but everyone knows that they won’t really mean it.  Why does the teshuvah inspired by the threat of an Achashveirosh, a Haman, an Obama (halevai we should realize that we need teshuvah) mean anything to G-d?  The answer is because we are like the zayis – the precious oil is already inside just waiting to get out; you just sometimes have to press a bit.  The pounding and crushing is not there to impose something on us willy-nilly, to force us to pay lip service to something we don’t really believe.  It’s there because we do already believe, we already have something precious inside; we just sometimes need a little pounding to clear away the outside shell and get to it.    

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

bigdei kehunah for a kohen gadol she'avar

The gemara (Meg 9b) has a machlokes R’ Meir and R’ Yosi what the din is with respect to a kohen gadol she’avar, i.e. someone who served as a fill-in kohen gadol but then lost the job when the regular kohen gadol became available again. R’ Meir holds that he still has the din of a kohen gadol (with some exceptions) and would do avodah wearing the bigdei kohen gadol. R’ Yosi holds he is stuck in a catch-22. He cannot serve as kohen gadol, wearing eight begadim, because of eivah – it would make the regular kohen gadol jealous. However, he also cannot serve as a kohen hedyot in those begadim because of the principle of ma’alin bakodesh v’ain moridin, you go up in kedusha, not down.

Tosfos asks: Since in principle the kohen she’avar should be treated like a kohen gadol (if not for the factor of eivah), why do we need the sevara of ma’alin bakodesh to tell us that he cannot serve as a kohen hedyot? He's a kohen gadol, not a kohen hedyot, unless proven otherwise?

Tosfos answers that a kohen gadol can be fired from his job by beis din and his fellow kohanim (see Tos Yoma 12b). There is no guarantee that it’s a lifetime tenured appointment. Therefore, if not for the sevara of ma’alin bakodesh, we would have assumed that a kohen she’avar is someone whose kohen gadol is revoked, and therefore can do avodah wearing bigdei kohen hedyot. Kah mashma lan that because of ma’alin bakodesh, even if the status of kohen gadol is revoked, this kohen she'avar is not allowed to go back to wearing bigdei kohen hedyot.

The picture that emerges is a little strange, no? There is no problem of ma’alin bakodesh v’ain moridin in knocking someone who has kohen gadol status down to the role of kohen hedyot, but there is a problem of ma’alin bakodesh for that same person to wear bigdei kohen hedyot in place of bigdei kohen gadol once his status has been revoked.

Monday, February 03, 2014

kosher superbowl - oxymoron

The oxymoron “kosher superbowl” captures in two words what’s wrong.  Of course it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to skip watching the biggest sports spectacle of the year.  But does it have to become a Yom Tov?  Does it have to be accompanied by “kosher” catering bonanza, a “kosher” halftime show, etc as advsertised all over the "frum" newspapers, as if this was a reason to celebrate?   Was there a daf yomi offered at the stadium too? 

Yesterday we passed through one supermarket parking lot and I saw a guy outside with long boxes.  I thought maybe it’s an early sale on lulavim, but no, it was just a guy standing outside with the huge (and they were huge) hero sandwiches people had ordered and were awaiting pickup.  I felt bad for the poor guy I saw inside with a few Italian breads and a big bag from the deli counter.  Nebach, he had to put the meat and mustard on the bread himself.

Chazal tell us already how to watch the superbowl.  Chagigah 16a, bottom of the page. 

In our society a teenage girl wrapping tefillin -- that’s an avlah, that something that’s not “Orthodox.” People are up in arms because we all know the Rama says that’s not allowed.  But a bacchanalian food and beer orgy around the TV “bamah,” the Rama nowhere says that’s not allowed, does he?  Show me where the Rama says you have to lead a holy life and not be consumed by the materialism and not be caught up in the mores of outside society?
We are missing the forest for the trees...