Thursday, August 30, 2018

kedushas ha'aretz as an extension of the mikdash

1) The Mishna in Kelim (1:6) writes that Eretz Yisrael has greater kedusha than all other lands because bikurim, shtei ha'lechem, and the omer can only be brought from Eretz Yisrael.  Why should the Mishna have seized on only these examples to illustrate kedushas ha'aretz?  Why not refer to any of the mitzvos ha'teluyos ba'aretz that only apply in Eretz Yisrael?

R' Soloveitchik explains that there are 2 dinim in kedushas ha'aretz: 1) sanctity of the land itself, which creates the chiyuvim of mitzvos ha'teluyos ba'aretz; 2) sanctity of the land that is a function of it being the makom ha'mikdash.

The Mishna is speaking about kedushas ha'aretz which is a function of the land being an extension of the mikdash.  Therefore, it refers only to those items which grow in the land and are brought to the mikdash as an offering. 

This explains why that although the Rambam paskens that eiver ha'yarden is chayav m'd'oraysa in terumos u'maasros (Terumos 1:6, Mishne l'Melech ch 4), he paskens (Bikurim 2:1) that the chiyuv to bring bikurim from eiver ha'yarden is only derabbanan.  Eiver ha'yarden has kedushas ha'aretz with respect to mitzvos ha'teluyos ba'aretz, but lacks the kedusha of being an extension of the mikdash.

Rav Wahrman in his She'eiris Yosef (vol 2 siman 26) uses this yesod to answer Tos question as to why the gemara (Baba Basra 81) needs a special derasha of "b'artzecha" to teach us that bikurim applies only in Eretz Yisrael.  Why is that not implicit in its being a mitzvah ha'teluya ba'aretz?  He suggests that since bikurim is connected not to the kedusha of the land in and of itself, but rather to the mikdash, therefore it does not fall under the same umbrella of the other mitzvos ha'teluyos ba'aretz and we need a new limud.

(One wrinkle in all this is that the Rambam Shemita 4:28 paskens that shemita does not apply m'doraysa in eiver ha'yarden.  Rav Wahrman works out a connection between shemita and mikdash -- ayen sham.)

"V'haya ki savo el ha'aretz..." -- "ain v'haya elah lashom simcha."  Coming to Eretz Yisrael, coming to bask in the kedushas ha'aretz, is the greatest simcha, a taste of the simcha of geulah, "az yimalei sechok pinu."   (Ohr haChaim).  Ashrei doreinu that we have such an opportunity.

2) "...Nisativ la'ger la'yason v'la'almanah... lo avarti m'mitzvosecha v'lo shachachti."  Klal Yisrael knows how to open their pocketbooks and give.  There was recently a tragedy in the community where a women passed away and left a family with young children and there was immediately an effort to raise a substantial sum to help them.  We all do a tremendous job of jumping in to help when people need it.

But what happens in a month?  How many people will remember that family and those children?  How many people will think of them in a year?  In 5 years?

When the needs of the ger, yasom, or almanah are staring us in the face on yeshivaworld or some other place, it tugs at the heart strings.  But that's not all the Torah wants.  "V'lo shachachti!"   I didn't forget about them!  The empathy didn't fade away a week, a month, a year, later.   It wasn't out of sight, out of mind.  (based on the Mishnas Sachir)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

millstones and marriage

It's  not clear to me which is the lesser of the two evils: to abandon any hope of trying to explain the smichus ha'parshiyos between all the mitzvos listed in our parsha and just accept that it is a jumble of different ideas, or to risk trying to make connections at the cost of the explanation being forced and unconvincing.  Ibn Ezra 24:6 for one attempts to link together an extended series of mitzvos and parshiyos in the sidra.  Even if the attempt to link everything together with a common theme fails, that does not mean there is no value in thinking about connections between isolated links in the chain.  Not much time to write this week (and I skipped last week too, so my son told me I have to write something), so I want to just look at one example:

כִּֽי־יִקַּ֥ח אִישׁ֙ אִשָּׁ֣ה חֲדָשָׁ֔ה לֹ֤א יֵצֵא֙ בַּצָּבָ֔א וְלֹא־יַעֲבֹ֥ר עָלָ֖יו לְכׇל־דָּבָ֑ר נָקִ֞י יִהְיֶ֤ה לְבֵיתוֹ֙ שָׁנָ֣ה אֶחָ֔ת וְשִׂמַּ֖ח אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֥וֹ אֲשֶׁר־לָקָֽח׃

לֹא־יַחֲבֹ֥ל רֵחַ֖יִם וָרָ֑כֶב כִּי־נֶ֖פֶשׁ ה֥וּא חֹבֵֽל׃

What's the connection between the newly married husband being freed from army service and the prohibition of taking a millstone as collateral for a loan?

Netziv explains that people are often faced with competing obligations.  A man has a duty to server his country, but he also has a duty to his wife.  The Torah here tells us that during shanah rishona, the duty to society, as important as it is, is set aside because it would infringe too greatly on the home.  So too, while the Torah allows a lender to take security for a loan and guarantee his shibud on a debtor, if that infringes on the debtor to the point of robbing him of his living things have gone too far.

This Netziv speaks to modern life.  You are sitting and trying to learn, or trying to talk to your wife --suddenly you hear that annoying "ping ping" of your phone telling you another message has arrived.  Remember the good ol days when all we had to worry about was talking in shul an not a cacophony of electronic noise?  Society -- our jobs, etc. -- has a right to make demands on our life, but there has to be a balance.  Sometimes the intrusion is too much and has gone too far. 

Meshech Chochma offers another explanation for the smichus haparshiyos based on shitas haRambam that just like there is an issur of the lender taking the millstone even if the debtor voluntarily surrenders it, so too the husband may not go out to war even if his wife voluntarily allows him to do so. Why not?  If she doesn't care, why can't he go?  I think the answer is that the tachlis of the mitzvah is not to be home because your wife needs you around, but rather to home because you need to be around your wife.  Even if she allows it, the new husband should feel that he can't go and can't leave his bride.

2) On a completely different note, I wanted to share a tremendous vort on this pasuk from the Mishnas Sachir.  The pasuk starts "ki yikach isha..."  Why does it need to echo the same idea in the closing, "...ishto asher lakach?"

Every Friday night we sing eishes chayil.  It's nice to think of your wife when you sing it, but Chazal tell us that the chapter is really speaking about Torah.  "Yom chasunaso," the Mishna is Ta'anis tells us, is mattan Torah.  Each of us had a bride before we every got married -- we are married to Torah. 

When a couple gets married there are all kinds of details that need to be taken care of.  They need an apartment, they need furniture, they need pots and pans, and everything else to set up a house.  It's hard.  But there is something even harder than putting all that together -- what's even harder is filling your new home with ruchniyus. 

The Torah tells us, therefore, that when a person takes a new wife -- in addition to his "old" wife of Torah that he has been married to at Har Sinai -- he needs to set aside a whole year.   The truth is that the job takes a lifetime, but at least for one year a person needs to concentrate and dedicate himself to building his new home with ruchniyus.  "...V'simach es ishto" -- because if he does that with his new wife, than "ishto," his wife of Torah, his wife from Har Sinai, will share in his rejoicing as well.  And that's the most important simcha of all.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

be careful with your shabbos candles

After telling us to destroy the altars and asheirot of idolaters and obliterate any trace of avodah zarah, "v'ibadtem es shemam min ha'makom ha'hu," the Torah tells us not to do the same to Hashem, "lo ta'asun kein l'Hashem Elokeichem." (12:4)

It sounds strange -- we need to be told not to go into the mikdash and start smashing things?!

Rashi explains in his first pshat that "lo ta'asun kein" is not speaking about the act of destroying things, but is a continuation of the earlier pasuk which describes the many places in which idolatry was worshipped and needs to be rooted out from -- on the mountains, in the valleys, across the fruited plains (whatever).  Don't worship G-d like that, the Torah tells us.  There is one central place of worship -- a beis ha'mikdash. 

Sefas Emes suggests that "lo ta'asun kein" is a continuation of the end of the pasuk, "v'ibadtem is shemam."  When avodah zarah is destroyed, it is gone and forgotten.  Does anyone worship Zeus on Mt Olympus any more?  There are a lot of crazy people in NY, but I have never heard of anyone who carves little statutes out of wood or stone and then starts bowing down to them.  The avodah zarah is gone and no one even cares.  Klal Yisrael is not like that.  "Lo ta'asun kein" is followed by "...l'shichno tidrishu u'basa shama."  Sefas Emes writes that the pasuk is not talking about when we have a mikdash, when we are living in peace in our land.  It is talking about after the churban, after we have experienced destruction.  We don't forget.  There is no "ibud shemam" by us.  "Im eshkacheich Yerushalayim tishkach y'mini."  We long for the mikdash, we long for avodah.

Rashi has a second pshat in which he explains that the Torah is warning not to do aveiros that will cause the mikdash to be destroyed.

R' Sorotzkin in his Oznayim laTorah asks: the Torah in so many places warns not to do avodah zarah, not to do aveiros chamuros.  These crimes have severe punishments and penalties.  If that's not enough to stop people from violating those issurim, how is telling them that it will cause churban ha'bayis going to make a difference?

Just posted on is a sefer called L'Ma'alah l'Maskil by R' Avraham Yitzchak Kook (the contemporary Rosh Yeshiva in Rechovot).  He relates (p.491-492) that there was a certain R' Mordechai Weinstein who was zocheh to be meshamesh the Chofetz Chaim and who later came to live in Bnei Brak.  R' Mordechai's "thing" was kedushas Shabbos.  One day he hung up fliers in the Lederman shul reminding people to tell their wives to light neiros Shabbos early because otherwise they do not get credit for lighting Shabbos candles and they violate Shabbos.  Apparently in Bnei Brak people are medayek even in the shul announcements.  People came over and asked a kasea: obviously chilul Shabbos is far more severe than missing lighting Shabbos candles.  Why on the sign did R' Mordechai first warn that the women who lit late would not get credit for lighting, and only after that mention chilul Shabbos?

R' Mordechai answered that he had a kabbalah for that specific "nusach" for his sign from the Chofetz Chaim himself years ago.  And he had asked the Chofetz Chaim the same kashe everyone was asking him.  The Chofetz Chaim answered that to the simple, pious women, it was unthinkable to have Shabbos without Shabbos candles.  They did not know from 39 melachos, from zmanin -- they knew from Shabbos lights.  So you have to speak their language.  First, you have to explain that lighting after the zman was not lighting -- it was as good as no Shabbos candles.  After that, after you have their attention, you can mention by-the-way, it's also chilul Shabbos.

To a Jew living b'zman ha'bays, the mikdash was his Shabbos candles.  A Jew might do aveiros galore, but it would have been inconceivable to him for there not be avodah in the mikdash.  You have b'zman ha'zeh, to use R' Sorotzkin's example, Jews who are mechelel everything under the sun, but then they have a baby boy and suddenly want a traditional bris milah (unfortunately even this is growing less common).  This attachment to the mitzvah does not come from logic; it comes from some deep vestigial connection within the Jewish heart and soul. 

The Torah therefore warns that issurim would inevitably take away the mikdash.

I hate to end on a negative note, so let me just throw in a Chasam Sofer: "l'shichno tidrishu v'basa shama," he writes, is a guarantee.  If we are doresh the makom haShechina, then the result will be "u'basa shama," we will be zocheh to get there. 

So we have our work cut out for us. 


Thursday, August 02, 2018

the bridge between rugalach and the mikdash

Chazon Ish (28:8) rejects the view of the Maadanei Y"T that the mitzvah of birchas ha'mazon was only given in year 40 when Klal Yisrael was in Eiver haYarden, which is the setting of our parsha where the mitzvah appears.  All mitzvos, writes the C.I., were given at Sinai (see Chagigah 6).  The details may be recorded in a different context, but that has nothing to do with when the mitzvah was given.

I am surprised that the C.I. does not cite Ramban's introduction to sefer Devarim where Ramban writes explicitly that there are no new mitzvos in our sefer. 

Ramban asks on himself: but there are 70+ mitzvos that in fact are first recorded in sefer Devarim? 

Ramban offers two answers: 1) these new mitzvos only apply in Eretz Yisrael, so Moshe had no need to teach them earlier; 2) these were uncommon mitzvos that might not have come up earlier.

Neither of these two reasons seem relevant to birchas ha'mazon which 1) must be done in all locations 2) and comes up as frequently as we eat.  The question that therefore begs itself is why Moshe waited to command or teach the mitzvah until now.

(One might have thought that eating the mon was not a satisfying meal -- va'yincha va'yarivecha"-- and therefore there was never an opportunity of "v'achalta v'savata" that required benching in the midbar.  The gemara (Brachos 48), however, writes that Moshe instituted the text of the first bracha of birchas ha'mazon on the mon [see R' Shteinman's Ayeles haShachar].)

I would suggest that contrary to what we learned in elementary school, birchas ha'mazon is not a thank you to G-d for our food.  It is a thank you for Eretz Yisrael.  The pasuk does not say, "v'achalta v'savata u'beirachta... al ha'ochel hatovah."  It says "...u'beirachta al ha'aretz ha'tovah."  (See Ramban!)  In the bracha of bareich aleinu, according to nusach haGR"A (see post here) we say "v'sabeinu m'tuvah" because even though you might live in America, all of our sustenance and food and parnasa comes into the world only via the brachos Hashem bestows upon Eretz Yisrael.

The Netziv in Bamidbar (20:13) has a yesod that may help us as well.  The mitzvah of tefilah, which according to the Rambam is a mitzvah d'oraysa, also only first appears in our parsha as well.  Why did Moshe not teach this mitzvah earlier -- did not one daven in the midbar?

The Netziv (while not asking the question in that way) writes that in the midbar, Klal Yisrael was sustained by miracles -- the mon, the be'eir, etc.  Tefilah, says Netziv, does not apply when everything is running l'ma'alah min ha'tevah.  Tefilah is needed only when things are running b'derech ha'teva.  What makes a tree grow?  Sunlight, rain, Co2, and prayer.  Rashi writes (Braishis 2:5) that G-d withheld rain from creation until man was created and could pray.  Prayer is part of nature -- not the supernatural.

(Parenthetically, the Netziv there quotes a Midrash that says that Hashem values the lowest member of Klal Yisrael as much as Eliyahu haNavi.  It's a pli'ah -- you mean a guy who barely keeps mitzvos gets as much great as the greatest of nevi'im?!  Five years ago I posted R' Bloch's hesber, but now we have a Netziv: tefilah is the great equalizer.  My mitzvos are not Eliyahu's mitzvos; my learning is not his learning.  But when I cry to G-d in need, my tears are as valuable as Eliyahu's tears.  Human suffering is democratic -- the lowest of us cries out in pain to Hashem with as much feeling as the greatest among us.)

True, according to the Chazon Ish, birchas ha'mazon was said over the mon, but I think like tefilah, the mitzvah essentially relates to our derech ha'teva life -- what can be more natural than eating -- and challenges us to connect that to a higher value that merely stuffing our mouth.  The mitzvah may have been given earlier, but it is put in the context of our parsha because on the doorstep of Eretz Yisrael, when Klal Yisrael was about to truly become engaged in building a country, with all that entailed, all through derech ha'teva, the mitzvah took on its true meaning. 

R' Yehoshua Shapira, R"Y of Yeshivat Ramat Gan, writes on our parsha that if a person eats rugalach and recites al hamichyah but has no idea how and why suddenly because of rugalach he is speaking in the bracha about Yerushalayim, about the mikdash, "mechonach v'heichalach," then he has missed the essential meaning of what the bracha is all about. 

Our brachos and tefilos are there to help us bridge the gap between the world of rugalach and the world of spirituality.  In the midbar, when you live surrounded by miracles, you don't need that bridge.  When you the life that we must live, b'derech ha'teva, you do.