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.


  1. "2) On a completely different note"

    or can the Mishnas Sachir point us back [ << << << ] to our millstones? why mention in 24:6 both lower and upper?
    the lower millstone is wife one, Torah, the stationary bedrock, the upper millstone the animate bride: her kneading dough on the kitchen Baseboard is his very life (kee-nefesh hu)

    that every man is married first to Torah could suggest She be polyandrous!? perhaps we answer simply that the men received Torah at Sinai as one nefesh...

  2. Yow, your second vort is awesome. It is especially vital to be kovei'a ittim during the first year of marriage. Be mesamei'ach both nashim asher lakach in order to build a bayis ne'eman. Lav davka kovei'a ittim more than normal, but whatever is a way of being mesamei'ach the Torah, whether the scholarly aspect or the mussar aspect or the mitzvos ma'asiyos aspect. Yasherkoyach.
    As soon as I figure out a way of making it part of a bigger hemshech, I'm taking it.

  3. while not a short comment, the following is a nice answer
    לא יחבל רחים ורכב כי נפש הוא חבל
    The first four pesukim in Perek 24 detail the laws of divorce and remarriage. The fifth pasuk describes the shanah rishonah, where the husband is exempt from various communal responsibilities, so he can “gladden his wife whom he has married.”
    Then in pasuk 6, we are told that for collateral, the lender may not take an item that the borrower uses to earn his livelihood. Why does the pasuk go from laws of marriage to a law pertaining to collateral?
    What compounds this question is that many other laws regarding pledges are mentioned at the end of this aliyah, but not directly after this pasuk. Why is this pasuk separate from those pesukim? And why put this law of collateral after the law of shanah rishonah? What connection is there?
    The rules governing the taking and holding of collateral, both in this parashah and in Parashas Mishpatim all favor the borrower. The lender is the one who has to go the extra mile to accommodate his debtor.
    Is the borrower truly entitled to such consideration, with his creditor receiving the short end? After all, the lender is essentially at the beck and call of the borrower, both in terms of what he may take as collateral and how long he can hold onto the item.
    Why is this the case? Why can`t I take and hold what I want as collateral? I`ll lend the money, I`ll do the chesed, but why am I expected to settle for terms that are not in my favor? What force underlies and motivates these laws?
    It says in Mishpatim that if the lender takes a garment as security, and doesn’t return it at sunset so the borrower can sleep with it, his only garment, then Hashem says (V. 26), “Ve’hayah ki yitzak eilai ve’shamati ki chanun Ani – So it will be that if he cries out to Me, I shall listen, for I am compassionate.” Rashbam explains that even if according to the law, the lender has no obligation to return the garment, Hashem will still hear the borrower’s cry when he is left without it. This is because Hashem is compassionate and merciful.
    The Rashbam so beautifully informs us that by the letter of the law, the borrower is, in fact, in the weaker position and it is he who should be imposed upon. Nonetheless, the Torah expects the lender to act lifnim mi’shuras hadin and let the borrower hold onto his garment if he needs it.
    This could be why the Torah extracted one of the several pesukim dealing with collateral, and inserted it just after the pasuk describing the beginning of a marriage relationship, the shanah rishonah. Everyone enters a relationship with various degrees of expectation and differing notions of entitlement. This mix can become explosive in a marriage. Many people walk into their new homes with some feelings of privilege, a sense of “ess kumt mir.” There will be times when one party wants to scream out loud and say, “Hey, that’s not fair. Why do I have to put up with this?” or “It`s not my job; you should be doing this.”
    The Torah, with the out-of-place juxtaposition of a law predicated on lifnim mi’shuras hadin, is teaching us how to make the “honeymoon” last a lifetime. Yes, there will be times when you feel that you are being put upon, that you are being deprived of a legitimate entitlement. But rather than lashing out and claiming your due, you can learn from the example of the creditor and his collateral, to go above and beyond the letter of the law.

    My daughter-in-law called me this morning to let me know that today is the end of Shonah Rishonah-from her engagement, and she plans to share the vort with her husband. .

  4. How do you reconcile the Meshech Chachma with the story of R Akiva going away for years and years based on the permission of his wife? Why not say that he needed to be around her even if she allows it, etc. - ? Of course you could say that Hevei Golah L'Makom Torah is different than joining in a milchama, but not so fast - the chiyuv to go to war for an already married man is D'oraisa, nothing to sneeze at ...