Thursday, July 26, 2018

the nechana in Moshe's tefilah

What's the connection between the end of the previous parsha -- where Moshe charges Yehoshua not to fear war against Canaan because G-d will help with that conquest just like he helped with the conquest of the lands of Sichon and Og -- and the tefilah of Moshe which opens our parsha? 

Ramban (see also Ibn Ezra) explains that there is a gap in the narrative that Moshe is filling in. Moshe told us at the end of last week's parsha that Yehoshua would be in charge, but he never explained why he would not be filling that role himself.   Our parsha fills in the rest of the story.

I am not sure how Ramban would explain why the Torah needs to record the entire tefilah of Moshe in all its detail.  The only point that we need in order to close the narrative gap is the fact that G-d rejected Moshe's tefilah for whatever reason.  In fact, all we really need to know is that Moshe sinned and would therefore not be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.   
Alshich suggests that the Torah here is delivering a powerful psychological boost to the people.  Moshe records his tefilah as a nechama (Shabbos Nachamu!) to Klal Yisrael.  Imagine the people's reaction to hearing that Yehoshua would be the one in charge: You took us this far and are now abandoning us?  You took us this far and now are giving up the fight?  So Moshe tells them that's not the case.  To the contrary, he davened because he wanted to join them and continue the journey.  He was even willing to give up his role as leader and enter Eretz Yisrael as just a simple Jew, a regular member of the klal, if only to be with them at that moment when they were zocheh to come into the land.  Moshe was in effect telling the people look at the great effort I made through tefilah so as not to forsake you.
Hashem turned Moshe down, "Va'yisaber Hashem l'ma'anchem," for the sake of the people.  Moshe spent his life working miracles; the dor de'ah of the midbar needed that type of leadership.  The generation which entered Eretz Yisrael had to find G-d in the mundane world -- no miracles.  Their leader is Yehoshua.  Moshe here told the people that G-d had to turn his prayers down because his neshoma was needed in chutz la'aretz, in the midbar, because he was the eternal leader of the dor de'ah; at the time of ultimate redemption he would need to be there to lead them into Eretz Yisrael. 
Alshich writes that we see from here that no Jewish soul is forsaken.  The dor de'ah were stuck in the midbar because they rejected Eretz Yisrael and trusted in the report of the meraglim.  They took the word of the spies over that of Moshe, Aharon, Yehoshua, and Kaleiv.  Nonetheless, G-d did not let Moshe enter Eretz Yisrael so as to allow for the future redemption of even these souls.
We've discussed What of the souls of the dor ha'midbar, the generation Moshe served as the leader of for some many years?  Who would lead them to Eretz Yisrael in the future if there was no Moshe Rabeinu?  Therefore, Moshe had to remain outside the land.  Amazing: to bring the generation who had sinned with the meraglim and rejected the land eventually into the land, Moshe is denied the privilege he so wanted.  To prevent Jewish souls from being lost, Hashem denied the dying request of the great Moshe.

Monday, July 23, 2018

incompatible headlines

Just before 9 Av I was looking at Arutz 7 and noticed one tragic headline story after another.  In Paris a Jew was beaten, in Vienna Jews were attached, there was the usual fire kites in southern Israel.  All over the world it seems Jews are under attack and in peril.  The I chanced upon another site and I discovered that for the first time a kosher restaurant will open and be shooting for a Michelin rating.  For the first time you can take a kosher cruise to Antartica (I guess we are running out of places to go.)  

How can these two worlds exist side by side?

Those who learned the sugya of the churban in the Gitin will recall the story of the great city of Tur Malka, where while the enemy was slaughtering its inhabitants on one side of the city people were dancing and partying on the other end.

I don't think Chazal are just trying to convey to us the great size of Tur Malka.  I think Chazal are trying to show us how oblivious people can be to the plight of their neighbors, blind to what is happening until tragedy finally strikes them.

Even if we are not altruistic enough to think about what is happening to others for its own sake, we might well do so if only for selfish reasons.  

Midrash Eicha writes that had we been zocheh we would read the pasuk of "Ra'oh ra'isi es ani ami asher b'Mitzrayim," but now we have to deal with the pasuk of "R'ei Hashem ki tzar li mei'ay chamarmaru."

R' Yisachar Teichtel in his derashos explains that if we look at what is befalling others, "asher b'Mitzrayim," who are in difficult straits, that should motivate/ inspire/ shock us to correct our own sins if only to avoid the same plight.  But if we are blind to what is happening elsewhere, then, "mei'ay chamarmaru," we will be eating our own kishkes up with grief down the road because the same fate will eventually catch up with us.   

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Shabbos Chazon - 9 Av

First a little lomdus, then a little machshava:

1) When 9 Av is a nidche, the halacha is that a ba'al bris does not have to finish the fast because it is his Y"T.  

You still have to fast even though it is a nidche.  Why should a ba'al bris have a different halacha than on a regular 9 Av?  

Rav Wahrman (Sheiris Yosef vol 5) quotes from R' Leizer Silver and the Rogatchover that a ta'anis tzibur is not just a chiyuv on the gavra not to eat, but there is a chalos in the day.

It could be that a fast which is nidche does not have that chalos in the day.  It is not 9 Av on Sunday -- it's 10 Av.  There is still an obligation to fast, but that is a chovas ha'gavra, not a result of the status of the day itself.  Therefore the Y"T of the individual can override it.

He has a number of proofs, but on to other things...

2) Vi'varech eschem ka'asher dibeir lachem…(1:11)  Chazal tell us as a general rule that dibur = kashos, harsh words, as opposed to amira = pleasant talk.  Why then does the Torah use the expression "dibeir" when it is speaking about brachos given to Klal Yisrael?

It's Shabbos Chazon; it's 9 Av.  We are at the climax of the season of kashos, or difficulties and harshness.  What the Torah is telling us, explains the Tiferes Banim (the son of the Bnei Yisaschar), is that even when we are faced with dibur=kashos, there is always a "vi'vareich eschem" behind the scenes.  Even when we are getting smacked, it is a bracha in disguise.

The gemara always uses the expression ta shema, come and hear; the Zohar uses the expression ta chazi, come and see.  When you are learning pnimiyus haTorah, you have to look more deeply inside (inside the ideas, but inside yourself as well).  Shabbos reveals the pnimiyus which is hidden the rest of the week.  Shabbos Chazon, ta chazi, is about seeing the pnimiyus of the tzaros of churban; it's about looking forward to the day when we can understand how there can be an element of bracha even there.

The Shulchan Aruch gives us a siman to remember that 9 Av always falls out the same day as the first day of Pesach: aleph-taf.  Aleph, the first day of Pesach, always corresponds to taf, Tisha b'Av.  

R' Leibele Eiger (Toras Emes last piece in Devarim) writes that this is not simply a mnemonic, but it tells us that there is a relationship between these two days.  At the moment of geulah from Mitzrayim, the seed of churban was already planted -- the aleph, the beginning, contained within in the end, taf.  But by the same token, the end, Tisha b'Av, contains within it the seed of future geulah, a new beginning.

The gemara (Ta'anis 29) writes that when 9 Av falls on Shabbos one can eat even a meal like that of Shlomo ha'Melech. Why does the gemara use that expression -- why not just as "a big meal?"  R' Leibele Eiger explains that the gemara is telling us that Shabbos reveals to us a little of the pnimiyus of 9 Av.  Shlomo built the Beis haMikdash, fulfilling the dream of "zeh K-li v'anveihu" (see Targum Onkelus there) that we had at Yam Suf.  When 9 Av is on Shabbos we experience a little taste of that fulfillment of geulah that ordinarily lies hidden within the day.  We can celebrate as if we lived in Shlomo's times, with a Beis haMikdash, with hashra'as haShechina.

Hopefully we will see it b'poel in our time.

Monday, July 16, 2018

feelings trump facts in tefilah

Two ideas on Masei, one a great yesod in tefilah, one a great Meshech Chochma:

1. Someone who killed b'shogeg must stay in an ir miklat until the kohen gadol dies.   The Mishna writes that mothers of kohanim gedolim used to deliver food to the ir miklat so that the killers would not pray for their children to die so they could get out. Why is the sentence of the murderer tied to the kohen gadol?  The gemara explains that the kohen should have davened for the killer to not suffer such a fate.

The gemara says that even if the kohen gadol is appointed just before the verdict on the case is announced, the murderer must still stay put until the death of the new kohen gadol. 

Why is this new kohen gadol held responsible for not davening when the facts of the case are in already before he is appointed?  What good will his prayers do at this point?  If the murdered committed a crime, he will be sentenced; if he is innocent he will go free.  Prayers can't change what happened in the past!

R' Baruch Sorotzkin (in HaBinah v'HaBracha) answers that when it comes to davening, the facts don't matter.  Imagine r"l if a parent or a child is in the hospital -- does anyone say, "Well, the doctor says this is the likely outcome, so there is no point of davening?"  Of course not.  Tefilah is an emotional response; we don't weigh odds or facts or logic before crying out to Hashem.  Here too, if the kohen gadol truly empathized with the plight of this fellow Jew, regardless of whether the facts were in, regardless of whether it was obvious how beis din would rule, he would still cry out on his behalf.  To not do so is a pgam in the kohen's ahavas Yisrael and midas hachessed.

2. The halacha is that one must tear kriya on seeing the ruins of the cities of Yehudah.   Sha'arei Teshuvah O.C. 561 quotes a sevara to explain why people don't tear kriya on seeing the city of Chevron: since it is an ir miklat and a city for the Leviim to live in, it no longer has the status of being part of Yehudah's portion.

This sevara makes two major assumptions.  The first assumption is that cities designated for the Levi'im to live in actually become their nachala.  In other words, it is no longer a city of Yehudah (or whatever sheivet) that Levi'im happen to live in, but it is a city that *belongs* to sheiveit Levi as their portion in Eretz Yisrael.  The Rambam paskens (Ma'aser Sheni 11:17) that Leviim and Kohanim can recite viduy ma'aser because even though they did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael they received cities to live in.  This is their nachala.

The second assumption: The gemara at the end of Sota tells us that after churban haBayis there were no longer cities designated for the Levi'im -- even when Ezra returned and resettled Eretz Yisrael.  Why not?  The Meshech Chochma on our parsha (Masei) admits that he is baffled by the question, but suggests that perhaps it is because unlike in the days of Yehoshua where there was a division of land through the urim v'tunim and each tribe was allocated a portion, Ezra never divided the land between the tribes.  (R' Chaim Brisker says a similar sevara to explain why there was no chiyuv terumos u'ma'asros in the days of Ezra even though m'doraysa the kedushas ha'aretz was re-established.) 

If this is correct, then the status of Chevron as one of the cities in the nachala of the Levi'im is null and void.

But, you will ask, then why do we have to tear kriya at all -- the status of the cities as "arei Yehudah" is null and void as well?  The answer to that is that it is not the ownership of the tribe of Yehudah which demands kriya (why Yehudah more than any other tribe?), but rather it is the cities of Yehudah's proximity to the mikdash which is why we tear kriya for them.  It's a geographical reality, not a din in nachala.  

See R' Zolti's Mishnas Yaavetz #48 who takes issue with this Meshech Chochma and has a full discussion of the topic.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

leftover fleishigs on the 9 days

M'ikar ha'din there is no issur of eating meat during the 9 days.  The minhag is not to, but technically the issur applies only during seudah ha'mafsekes.  R' Yisrael Ya'akov Fischer (quoted in the MB printed with his notes) asks how such a minhag could have gotten started, as it poses a problem of ba'al tashchis.  What are you supposed to do with all your fleishig leftovers?  Throw them out and waste them?  He suggests that perhaps since a child is allowed to eat fleishig during the 9 days it removes the problem. 

The gemara (Chulin 17) raises the question of whether leftover meat, which was allowed to be eaten in the midbar without shechita, could be eaten once Klal Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael and shechita was required.  The Rosh comments that this is not just a historical question, but has a nafkah minah l'halacha: if a person took a neder not to eat a certain food from day X, can they eat leftovers of that food that remain from beforehand?  Since the gemara concludes l'kula, the Rosh paskens l'kula as well.

(Noda b'Yehudah Mh"T Y"D 64 discusses whether a nazir can drink wine that was prepared before he accepted his vow of nezirus, or be mitamei to a meis that died before he accepted his vow of nezirus.  Same idea... maybe.)

At first glance the Rosh is difficult.  In the desert, killing an animal was matir its meat. The question of the gemara boils down to whether that status-quo of heter remains in place despite the change in circumstance, or whether it falls off.  In the Rosh's case, there was never a matir for anything.  The question is not whether the status quo of a matir remains, but rather whether the neder can create a new issur on leftovers.  Why should it not?  

R' Noson Gestetner (in his shiurim to Nedarim daf 3) suggests a solution based on a yesod of the Avnei Nezer (O.C. 483): shechita is not a one time matir, but rather is a peulah na'nimshechet (to use the Rogatchover's jargon).  It's like the act of shechita continuously recurs on the animal and continuously recreates the heter.

Based on this, the gemara in Chulin takes on a completely different meaning.  An animal was killed in the midbar.  That act is a peulah ha'nimshechet, so the heter continuously renews itself.  However, once Klal Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael, meat has a different matir -- it now needs shechita to be eaten.  What good is it if the act of killing the animal is nimshechet if that act no longer serves as a matir?  The gemara is not sure -- on the other hand, maybe since this meat is leftover meat, the new requirement does not effect it.

This is exactly the Rosh's argument.  Just like we see from the gemara that the meat is not effected by the new oser created by the need for shechita, so too, leftover food cannot be effected by the new oser of a neder.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

nedarim define the real you

Chazal tell us that as a result of the sin of not keeping nedarim a person's children can die.  Ayom v'nora, a tragic punishment!  What is the connection, the midah k'neged midah, between the crime and the outcome?

Sometimes a person feels inspired by a great shiur or a great davening or some other positive experience.  At that moment the person feels the urge to make all kinds of changes.  "Konam my smartphone alay k'cheirem" -- they take a neder not to use a smartphone any more, for example  "Ashkim v'ashaneh perek zeh" (Nedarim 7) -- they take a neder to add a seder of learning., for example.  How long does the commitment last?  Let's be real.  Does it last a day or two, or a week or two?  By that point the inspiration is gone and life returns to normal until the next upswing, at which point the process repeats itself.

So who is the real you?  Is it the person who is inspired and wants to do better, if only the mundane morass of day-to-day life did not suck you down?  Or is the real you the person who lives in the hum-drum of daily existence and those moments of inspiration are the exception to the rule?

The nafkah minah is what you give over to your children.  Do you give over inspiration and idealism, even though you may not be able to maintain those height?  Or do you give over the daily struggle in the jungle of corporate life, where idealism is just escapism from the work needed to make more money or earn a better position?

Explains Rav Kook, if nedarim -- if those commitments you make when inspired or in need or seeking something greater -- are not real, i.e. if your idealism is just an escape but is not part of your essence, then you cannot properly raise the children Hashem has given you.   You sadly view the world backwards, and therefore Hashem c"v will take back the gift he has entrusted you with. 

Monday, July 09, 2018

just a thought

Can you imagine how much safer the Middle East would be today if Chucky Schumer had been as vocal in speaking out against the Iran deal as he is in speaking out against whoever Trump wants to nominate for SCOTUS?  

And yet this man is celebrated a honored by orthodox institutions.  I can't figure it out.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

leadership lessons

My wife says it's OK to be intense.  Bilam even gave us a bracha for it -- "Mah tovu ohalecha Ya'akov."  

A few thoughts on Moshe's request for Hashem to appoint a new leader:

1) "Vayidaber Moshe el Hashem leimor, 'Yifkod Hashem... ish al ha'eidah.'"  There should have been no mystery about who the new leader of Klal Yisrael would be.  Chazal tell us that Eldad and Meidad prophesized that Moshe was going to die and Yehoshua would lead the people into Eretz Yisrael.  According to another Midrash (see below) Moshe thought his own kids might be worthy of taking the reins from him (not sure whether you can get these two Midrashim to fit together).  Whatever the case, Moshe could have simply chosen whoever he thought fit.  Yet that's not what he does.  "Yifkod Hashem... ish al ha'eidah" -- Hashem, you choose.  M'lo ha'Omer writes that an appointment by Moshe would have meant the new leader was a shliach of Moshe.  Moshe wanted more than that -- he wanted the new leader to be the shliach of Hashem.  That's a completely different level of leader.

2) "Vayidaber Moshe el Hashem leimor…"  Why does the pasuk add "leimor" here?  This is a private conversation between Moshe and Hashem -- there is nothing to communicate to Bnei Yisrael?  

Rashi explains that Moshe not only made the request, but he wanted a response from Hashem -- "leimor" here means Hashem should say something back.  (Rashi on "Va'Eschanan el Hashem...leimor" lists one other place besides that pasuk and ours where Moshe demanded a response. However, there are actually five pesukim in Chumash, as the Midrash notes, where Moshe makes a request followed by "leimor," so you have to figure out why Rashi only quotes three.)  See Ohr haChaim as well here. 

The Igra d'Kallah offers a different answer.  He suggests that Moshe was not just davening for that generation, but he was speaking to all future generations.  When there is a leadership vacuum in Klal Yisrael, then "leimor," we have to echo Moshe's tefilah and ask Hashem to send us people to direct us.  "Hu segulah lomar ha'tefilah ha'zos b'chol dor v'dor k'she'ro'im ha'dor shameim m'bli moreh u'manhig," says the Igra d'Kallah.  Reciting Moshe's words is a segulah to get Hashem to respond to our need for a new captain for our ship.  There are segulos for all kinds of things.  A segulah for leadership is one that we sorely need.  How many people daven that Klal Yisrael should have proper leaders?

3) The Midrash writes that when Moshe heard the parsha of the inheritance of bnos Tzelafchad he thought to himself that it was time to consider his own children's inheritance.  When he asked Hashem to appoint a leader, it was his own children who he had in mind.  (The pashtus is that Moshe's request is linked to the previous pesukim, where he was told by Hashem to climb up Har ha'Avarim and look out over Eretz Yisrael because he was going to die without reaching the land.  It sounds like Moshe is being given notice that the end is near, and so he begins to think about find a new leader.  Why the Midrash ignores the obvious link to the previous pesukim and instead links this parsha back to bnos Tzelafchad is something to think about.)  Hashem responded to Moshe that his children were not up to the task because they had not dedicated themselves enough to learning.  Instead, the leader would be Yehoshua, who for years had served as Moshe's faithful helper.

What was Moshe's hava amina here?  Did he not know his own children's character?  Was Moshe no different than every Jewish parent who thinks his/her child is a genius, until Hashem comes to him and tells him kah mashma lan that they are not?

Rabbi Rakeffet tells the story (I hope I have it right) of the students who asked R' Aharon Kotler back in the day whether on Shabbos they could walk around with their suit jacket draped over their shoulders or is that carrying.  R' Aharon answered that the bachurim in Slabodka used to wear their jackets like that and the Alter never said anything, so it must be OK.  He didn't pull our a Shulchan Aruch or dig up a Mishna Berura -- R' Aharon simply knew the din because that is what he saw by the Alter.

The Ksav Sofer says something fascinating here.  Moshe Rabeinu's kids grew up in the home of Moshe Rabeinu.   So what if maybe they were not beki'im in every Shach and Taz -- they knew what was right because they got it through osmosis!  They lived with and saw a living, breathing Torah.  (I find it fascinating because the Ksav Sofer might as well be writing about himself.  Of course he was a gaon olam in his own right, but he also grew up in the home of the Chasam Sofer absorbing Torah through osmosis.)

It's a nice hesber of the hava amina, but now you have to struggle a bit to explain why Moshe was in fact wrong and it was Yehoshua who was meant to take over.  (See Ne'os Desheh from Ishbitz for a different hesber.)

4) Moshe asks Hashem to appoint a leader who will take charge in times of war and in times of peace (see Seforno), "V'lo ti'hi'yeh adas Hashem k'tzon asher ain lahem ro'eh," so we should not be like a flock with no shepherd.  

It's clear from the beginning of his request that Moshe wants Hashem to give us a strong leader.  What does he add by saying we should not be like "a flock with no shepherd?"  (See Netziv)

If you understanding this pasuk, then you understand what a Jewish leadership is all about.  Explains the Sefas Emes (5648), the shepherd of Klal Yisrael is only the Ribono shel Olam.  Sadly, we don't always realize that.  Sometimes we as sheep wander off.  Sometimes we are not even aware of the presence of the shepherd guiding the flock.  We think we are all alone, exposed to all kinds of dangers, when really we are being watched over every minute.  Moshe said to Hashem, "Please give Klal Yisrael a leader who will help them realize they are not a flock without a shepherd."  

True leadership is not about saying, "I'm in charge."  True leadership is about making people aware that Hashem is in charge.  "Hashem ro'i -- lo echsar…"