Thursday, February 27, 2020

yikchu terumah -- you have something to contribute

1. Mi’shenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha.  How?  It’s hard to decipher the Rogatchover, but at least I get the first line (Shu”T II:23) – “ain simcha b'lo achila v'shetiya.”  You can't rejoice and be happy without food.  I guess it's a bad month for dieting.
2. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “V’yikchu li nedava mei’eis kol is hasher yidvenu libo” instead of saying “yikchu li terumah...?” 
The Midrash comments: “Ani y’sheina v’libi er,” I am asleep, but my heart is awake (Shir HaShirim 5:2)  Klal Yisrael said, “We are sleep, but Hashem is always awake… we are asleep and not doing mitzvos, but our zechus Avos is awake… we are asleep due to cheit ha’eigel, but Hashem is …. 
What can you tell someone when they feel that their avodas Hashem is asleep, when they feel disconnected? 
Pshat in “V’yikchu li terumah” is not “make a donation.”  Pshat in "V’yikchu li terumah” is “give -- because you have something to contribute.” 
The former is all about the $$$ -- the “nedava”.  The latter is all about the person giving – “terumah” = “haramah,” to lift up, as it lifts up the spirit of the person.  When someone thinks their contribution matters, then they want to be part of the program. 
What does the Midrash mean when it says that Hashem is awake, that zechus Avos is awake, if we are asleep?  The answer is that Hashem’s presence is ingrained within us, zechus Avos is ingrained within us.  The Midrash means that there is always something inside of us, deep down, that remains awake.  We just need a little uplift to get back on track.  We need to be reminded that there is something worthwhile inside of us that we can give over, that we need to give over.
3. “K’chol asher ani mareh oscha….”  We would have expected the pasuk to say “mareh lecha,” as the vision of the Mishkan was shown to Moshe.
The Midrash presents a parable: a Ki   mar  off his daughter, but could not bear to leave her.  He therefore requested that she set aside a little room in her house for him so that he knows there is always a place for him.  So too, Hashem could not part with the Torah, so he asked for us to make a Mishkan for him to be with us.    
Everybody is familiar with the derasha of “v’shachanti b’socham” -– it doesn’t say that Hashem will dwell in the Mishkan, but rather that he will dwell within the people.
To become a kli for hashra’as haShechina is something that requires a role model to achieve, not something you wake up one morning and figure out.  “Mareh oscha” =  Hashem is showing off Moshe Rabeinu, so to speak, and telling people to look toward him, as he is a model of what a Mishkan means.  

Monday, February 24, 2020

too much to hope for?

There is an organization that run various -yomi programs that recently did a huge PR blitz with pages and pages of ads and articles (i.e. ads in disguise) in all the various Jewish  newspapers about their own grand siyum (separate from the one done at Met Life Stadium) and all the programs they run.  One piece that caught my eye was entitled “[Program Ploni] Women Tell Their Story.”  It consisted of a selection of letters.  One of the women writes as follows: “You want to know how [Program Ploni] has impacted our lives?  Just as an example: my four-year-old daughter recently exclaimed that she wants to be born again [as a boy**] so that she too can learn the heilege Torah!"
**brackets were in the original letter
Is it worth my hoping that this four-year-old will one day grow up and maybe realize that you don’t have to be born again as a boy to learn the heilege Torah -- you can even do so as a girl?

sipur -- tell me something I don't know

I) Rashi writes that the last chapter of P Mishpatim (Shmos 24) that begins with the words “V’el Moshe amar aleh el Hashem…,” is out of place.  These pesukim are talking about Moshe going up to Har Sinai to get the Torah, and therefore chronologically belong earlier, in P’ Yisro. 
Ramban takes issue with this interpretation.  Aside from the difficulty of jumbling the order of the text, Ramban raises two questions in how Rashi reads pasuk 3 of perek, “Vayisaper la’am es kol divrei Hashem v’es kol ha’mishpatim.”  (24:3)
1) A question based on sevara: If this perek occurs pre-mattan Torah, then the “mishpatim” must be mitzvos bnei Noach.  Those laws should have already all been known to Klal Yisrael.  Why did Moshe need to repeat them again?
2) A question based on language: the word “vayisaper” only is used when relating something new, not old news.  If Moshe is merely reiterating laws that were already known, then the Torah should use a different term here. 
I dealt with the first issue back in 2012, but it’s the second point that grabbed my attention this year.
Based on this second point in Ramban I better understand the mitzvah of “**sipur** yetzi’as Mitzrayim.”  It’s not enough to sit down Pesach night and talk about what happened once upon a time in Jewish  history.  “Sipur” means talking about yetzias Mitzrayim as if it is something that is fresh and exciting, a new experience.
Just a week ago we read “vayishma Yisro kohein Midyan…” –- Yisro knew about yetzi’as Mitzrayim.  Nonetheless, “vayisaper Moshe l’chosno es kol asher asah Hashem…”  Moshe turned what Yisro may have read about in the newspaper into a sipur –- he added a new dimension to the story, a new level of understanding the experience. 
II) I don't know who the דרושי וחידושי הרמבא"ד  is, but this is by far one of the most interesting derashos you will ever read on P' Yisro (suitable for sheva berachos, aufrufs, and weddings as well).  Hat tip to my son -- here's the link to his post.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

ki tireh chamor sonacha -- lending a helping hand

Two editorial notes: 1) The shtickel torah this week should be l'iluy nishmas my father, whose yahrzeit is this Shabbos.  2) If you have time for nothing else, skip down to the Meshech Chochma at the end because it’s too tremendous to miss.
Ki tireh chamor sonacha … azov ta’azov imo (23:5)
כִּי-תִרְאֶה חֲמוֹר שׂנַאֲךָ רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאוֹ וְחָדַלְתָּ מֵעֲזֹב לוֹ עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב עִמּוֹ:
Who is the “sonacha” the pasuk is speaking about?  How can you hate your fellow Jew?  (How do I know, other than the gemara says so, that the pasuk is talking about a Jew?  The Netziv and Malbim in a few places distinguish between an oyeiv and a sonei.  An oyeiv displays animosity openly; a sonei lets it percolate inside.  Had the pasuk been speaking about an aku"m, then it would be an oyeiv -- the animosity would be open -- not a sonei).
Answers the gemara (Pesachim 113b): the pasuk is speaking about a ba’al aveira, someone who it is a mitzvah to hate.
What exactly does the mitzvah here requires of us?  Does it mean we have to make an exception and put aside the hate and help out, or does it mean to help out in spite of the fact that you are allowed to hate this baal aveira?   
It could be that Rashi and the Targum disagree on this point.  Unlike Rashi who learns that “azov” = “ezra,” help unburden the animal, the Targum explains that “azov” here means what we usually think that root means –- to leave/put aside.  The end of the pasuk is not talking about what to do with the animal, but rather what to do with your emotions -– put aside the hatred you may feel towards that sonei and help him out in his time of need (see Ralbag). 
This same point may be a machlokes Rambam and Tosfos. 
The gemara elsewhere (BM 32) writes that given the choice of unloading the animal of an oheiv or loading the animal of a sonei, it is better to load the sonei’s animal and reap the benefit of overcoming one’s yetzer hara.
Tosfos (Pesachim 113) asks: if we are speaking about a baal aveira who one is allowed to hate, then why should one overcome the yetzer to do so? 
Before getting to Tosfos’ answer, here’s how the Rambam (end of Hil Rotzeiach)formulates this din:
השונא שנאמר בתורה לא מאומות העולם הוא אלא מישראל והיאך יהיה לישראל שונא מישראל והכתוב אומר לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך. אמרו חכמים כגון שראהו לבדו שעבר עבירה והתרה בו ולא חזר הרי זה מצוה לשונאו עד שיעשה תשובה וישוב מרשעו. ואע"פ שעדיין לא עשה תשובה אם מצאו נבהל במשאו מצוה לטעון ולפרוק עמו ולא יניחנו נוטה למות שמא ישהה בשביל ממונו ויבא לידי סכנה. והתורה הקפידה על נפשות ישראל. בין רשעים בין צדיקים מאחר שהם נלוים אל ה' ומאמינים בעיקר הדת.
According to the Rambam, Tos question doesn’t even get off the ground.  There is a mitzvah to hate the baal aveira for his specific misdeed, but in this case, failure to help may lead to the sonei’s death.  You are allowed to hate him, not kill him!
(How does that fit the gemara’s words that say this is an issue of being koveish the yetzer?  Shu"T Maharam Shi”k (OC 81) explains that the yetzer we are talking about is that of the baal aveira.  You want to prevent the baal aveira from continuing to succumb to his yetzer and doing sins?  Then show him a helping hand.   Show him you care.  That’s the way to bring people back into the fold.)
Tosfos Pesachim (113b, see B.M. 32b) explains away the contradiction in gemara’s by positing two levels of hatred.   There is the permitted hatred for the baal aveira due to his specific sin, and then there is the problem of that hate spinning out of control and developing into a vicious cycle of recriminations and hostility between both parties.  You can hate the guy for the specific aveira he did, but you still have to help him out lest that hate turn into something greater if left unchecked. 
According to the Rambam, sinah is pushed aside completely because we are dealing with a case that has sakanas nefashos ramifications.  According to Tos, the mitzvah of sinah remains in place, albeit tempered and held in check.
Two points of derush:
The din is that you only have to help unburden the donkey if it’s “imo,” with the owner's participation.  If the owner of the animal sits down for a coffee break and expects you to unload his animal, you have no obligation to do so.  Kli Yakar writes that this same principle applies to tzedakah.  This serves as an open rebuke, he writes very forcefully, to those who expect others to support them but make no effort to earn their own keep or better their situation.

That point is worth a whole post in itself, but it's not my topic.  I want to come back to the Maharam Shi"k.  The chassidishe seforim see the pasuk as alluding to your neighbor who is struggling under the burden of chumriyos, under the burden of aveiros, turning  him into a sonei.  "Imo" has an important lesson here too.  Don’t think you can willy-nilly lift your neighbor up and force him back into the fold against his will.  It only works if happens “imo,” with his participation and cooperation, and that has to be earned. 
Second point is an amazing Meshech Chochma, who points out that this same mitzvah appears in Parshas Ki Teitzei with one important difference:
 לֹא-תִרְאֶה אֶת-חֲמוֹר אָחִיךָ אוֹ שׁוֹרוֹ נֹפְלִים בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ מֵהֶם הָקֵם תָּקִים עִמּוֹ:
Lo tireh es chamor achicha or shoro niflim ba’derch… hakeim takim imo (devarim 23:4)
No longer are we speaking about the “sonei.”  Instead, the mitzvah is defined as helping “achicha.”
Says the Meshech Chochma: Parshas Mishpatim is pre-cheit ha’eigel.  When Klal Yisrael was unsullied by sin, then a baal aveira can be a sonei.  But we don’t live in that world anymore.  Each and every one of us has our own burdens of cheit.  Therefore, don’t be so quick to look down on the other guy.  Now, everyone is achicha.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Ramban on the mitzvah of remembing ma'amad Har Sinai

1) Ramban in two places writes that there is a mitzvah to remember ma’amad Har Sinai, yet in each place he defines what that mitzvah is a little differently: in Sefer haMitzvos (lavim that the Rambam forgot #2) he counts forgetting ma'amad Har Sinai as a lav, “rak hishamer lecha.. pen tishkach es ha’devarim asher ra’u einecha,” yet in his commentary on the Torah (Devarim ch 4) he focusses on the end of that pasuk, “...v’hodatam li’vanecha,” and counts it as a mitzvas aseh to transmit the memory of ma'amad Har Sinai to the next generation.
Ramban is difficult to understand as it seems to be against a Mishna.  In Pirkei Avos (3:8) the Mishna writes that someone who deliberately forgets their learning violates the issur of “pen tishkach.”  According to Ramban, this pasuk is an issur of forgetting maamad har Sinai, not an issur of forgetting Torah. 
(I see on my son's blog he raised this same question last August.  Only because he's my son I'll nitpick on one point of his.  It's not really true that "everyone asks on the Ramban" (as he wrote) from this Mishna.  Actually, the surprising thing is that the Megillas Esther on Sefer haMitzvos does NOT raise this question at all.  Instead, he asks on the Ramban from a gemara in kiddushin (30) that darshens from “v’hodatam li’vanecha v’livnei banecha” that there is a mitzvah to teach torah to one’s grandchildren, implying again that this pasuk has to do with limud haTorah, not remembering ma'amad Har Sinai.  Ramban himself notes that difficulty and tries to resolve it, albeit in a way that the Mg"E finds unsatisfactory.  In any case, why are they bothered by this gemara when you have a clear Mishna in Pirkei Avos to ask from?)
Rav Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, the former Rishon l'Tzion, in his Shu"T Binyan Av vol 3 addresses this Ramban in two places (#20 and #47) and suggests (my son quotes a similar answer from R’ Povarski) that when you learn torah with an awareness that this is the dvar Hashem received at Sinai, it becomes a different limud –- it becomes something unforgettable.  If the learning is just stam a subject, then it makes less of an impression. 
This is how Ramban understood the Mishna in Avos.  If you forget your learning, then that’s a siman that you are missing that awareness of maamad Har Sinai which is a mitzvah to always have in mind. 
I think that may be pshat in the gemara (Brachos 22 for those  of you learning the daf) that learns that a ba'al keri cannot learn Torah without going to mikvah based on a hekesh of "v'hodatam levanecha", i.e. talmud Torah, with "yom asher amadita b'Chorev", i.e. ma'amad Har Sinai -- just like the latter was b'yirah and tahara, so too must the fomer be done b'yirah and tahara.  According to Ramban, "v'hodatam livanecha" has nothing to do with limud haTorah -- the whole pasuk is talking about ma'mamad Har Sinai.  What does the gemara mean? 
Based on Rav Bakshi Doron's yesod, it makes perfect sense.  The gemara is telling us that you have to pass on not just what was learned at Sinai, but the whole context of the experience, the yirah, the awe, etc.  If you are learning in a state of tumah, than it shows you failed to appreciate what ma'amad Har Sinai was all about.
2) The gemara (Brachos 6 - more fodder for those learning the daf) writes that a person who is mesamayach a chasan and kallah through kol sason v’kol simcha will be zocheh to Torah, which was given at sinai through 5 kolos -– 5 times in our parsha the Torah mentions “kol” in connection with mattan torah.  
The Iyun Yaakov on the Ein Yaakov explains the midah k’neged midah: a person who invests in bringing simcha to others is himself zocheh to simcha.  What bigger simcha can Hashem give a person other than Torah -– “pikudei Hashem yesharim mi’samchei lev.”  (I haven’t done a search, but it would be nice to find a makor that says it works in the other direction as well, i.e. a source that says someone who is sameich in their learning and needs a shiduch will be zocheh to one.  It would make for a good segulah.)
Asks the gemara: if you look through the parsha and count you will actually find 6 mentions of kol, not 5.  Right after the aseres hadibors the Torah writes that the people were “ro’im es ha’kolos,” they had synesthesia and were able to see the thunder sounds with their eyes.
Answers the gemara: that pasuk is describing the kolos were experienced before mattan Torah, but is not an additional "kol." 
Imrei Emes asks the obvious question: if the pasuk is describing the nature of the "kolos" that took place before or during mattan Torah, why does the pasuk appear only after the aseres ha'dibbros?  Why not put it beforehand, when those other kolos are mentioned? 
The answer gets to the heart of what mattan Torah was all about.  It wasn't just a transfer of information from shamayim to us.  It wasn't just a “revelation” of laws.  Mattan torah was a transformation of who we are as a people and who we are as individuals.  Chronologically speaking, “ro’im es ha’kolos” happened before mattan Torah.  However, the people could not digest the experience and appreciate it in the state they were in.  It was only after they received the Torah and their neshomos were transformed that they were able retrospectively to understand those kolos that they had experienced beforehand.   

Sunday, February 09, 2020

shvu ish tachtav

1) The Oznayim laTorah suggests that the rock that Moshe was given to sit on during the battle with Amalek, "vayikchu even va'yasimu tachtav vayeishev aleha...," is symbolic of the rock / even we read about earlier in the same parsha in the shirah: "tipol aleihem aimasa va'pachad bigdol zero'acha yidmu k'even..."  Shiras ha'yam was a prophecy of the fear that would overtake Amalek and our future enemies in battle.

My wife suggested that the rock / even that Moshe sat on may allude to another rock.  When Yaakov is fleeing from Eisav, en route to Lavan's house he stops to sleep and rests his head on an even.  Chazal tell us that there were actually many stones there, but they united into one stone under his head to protect him.  Yaakov then takes that rock, "vayikach es ha'even asher sam m'ra'ashosav..." and he makes it into an altar to give thanks to Hashem for the promise of protection that was given to him in a dream.  It is this promise of protection from Eisav, from future enemies, which Moshe drew upon in our encounter with Eisav's descendants, Amalak. 

2) I haven't sorted out this sugya myself, but wanted to pass along the mareh makom.  In O.C. 396 the SA quotes a din based on "shvu ish tachtav" (tachtav = shiur of personal space) that a person who walked outside the techum is free to move around 4 amos, as that is the definition of their personal resting space. 

These 4 amos are measured relative to the person, i.e. if the person is a basketball player, then he gets more space to move around.

Flip back to siman 349 and there is another din based on the same pasuk of "shvu ish tachtav" that you can move an object around within your own 4 amos of personal space even in a reshus ha'rabim (interestingly there is a daas yachid of the Raavad who holds this is only b'sha'as hadechak, not lichatchila, either because moving a lesser amount is a chatzi shiur or because you may come to go past the 4 amah limit.  The other Rishonim may hold that 4 amos is not a shiur, but rather is part of the definition of the issur -- anything less than "tachtav" is qualitatively not part of meleches Shabbos). 

Here too, you would expect the din to be that the  4 amos are relative -- if you are a basketball player, you get more room.  However, the M.B in Shaar haTziyun #3 quotes the Pri Megadim who writes that this is true only if you move the object bit by bit, but if you move an object all 4 amos in one shot, then the 4 amos are "beinoniyos," they are of fixed standard, average size.

Why should this din in siman 349 be different than the din in siman 396?  

(MB asks the question and rejects the Pri Megadim, but it still needs a hesber.) 

choose your battles

Something to think about -- from an article by R' Melamed posted on Arutz Sheva:
Unquestionably, a rabbi’s role is also to stand up against potentially harmful views and attitudes, even if they are voiced with good intentions, however, with two reservations: 1) The majority of effort should be directed to empowering a person to act according to his positive aspects, out of his natural tendency of emunah (faith) and achva (brotherhood) and ma’asim tovim (doing good deeds), and to elevate and perfect his good tendencies through the study of Torah. 2) Even when one has to fight, the correct wars must be chosen, and it is best not to fight against trends that are not so bad.
For example, I have heard from some rabbis that they are going to great lengths in the fight against the wishes of some women who want to dance on Simchat Torah with a Torah scroll, or to read the megillah on Purim by themselves. I asked: What’s so bad about that? After all, we’re not talking about profaning Shabbat, or something similar!? They replied: ‘This is a dangerous process stemming from ulterior motives that will eventually lead them to want to be called up to the Torah’. I asked: And what’s so terrible about that? After all, in principle, our Sages said that it’s possible, and only because of k’vode ha’tzibbur (respect for the congregation) we should not do so (Megillah 23a). They responded: ‘Because this leads to reform, and the Gedolei Yisrael (eminent rabbis) have already banned the Reform Jews’. However, in my opinion, this is an unnecessary war. From here until the reform movement, the road is very long, and in the meantime, there are countless important issues a rabbi can deal with.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

the gift of shabbos

L'kavod Shabbos a double portion, lechem yomayim, of Sefas Emes:
1) The parsha of the mon is the first place where we find an explicit command of shmiras Shabbos.  Hashem told Klal Yisrael to take note that “Hashem nasan lachem es ha’shabbos al kein hu nosein lachem ba’yom ha’shishiu lechem yomayim.”  Chazal, however, tell us that the mitzvah of Shabbos was in fact revealed to Klal Yisrael one week earlier, when they camped at Marah and were tested with its bitter waters. 
Tosfos (Shabbos 87b) raises a problem with this interpretation.  The pesukim tell us that despite being told not to, people still went out to gather mon on Shabbos, and the gemara comments that had Klal Yisrael only kept this first Shabbos, they would have been immune from all enemy attacks.  According to Chazal, this Shabbos after the mon fell was not the first Shabbos in the midbar -- the first Shabbos was the Shabbos at marah.  This Shabbos was in fact the second Shabbos.  How do you get the two gemara’s to fit? 
Sefas Emes answers that Klal Yisrael was in fact commanded to keep Shabbos already in Marah.  What was given to them in the parsha of mon was not the command to keep Shabbos –- what was given was the gift of Shabbos.  The gemara tells us that Hashem had a precious present in his storehouse that he decided to bestow upon Klal Yisrael.  That present is Shabbos.    
The gemara in Baba Basra has a machlokes R’ Akiva and the Chachamim whether one who sells does so “b’ayin yafeh” -– if you sell a pit, is the path to get to the there included automatically, or can the seller be stingy and demand extra for it?  Everyone agrees, however, that if something is being given as a present, then it is given “b’ayin yafeh” –- everything needed is included, both the item and the means to get there and use it. 
“Hashem nasan lachem as ha’shabbos” – Shabbos is a gift.  Therefore, “hu nosein lachem… lechem yomayim” –- he gives us the means of access as well.  Everything is included.  You get a double portion of mon in advance and won’t go hungry by not working on Shabbos.
This is not just some technical distinction to resolve the two gemaras, but reflects how we approach Shabbos and how we celebrate Shabbos.  If Shabbos is just a day when you have to follow some rules that prevent you from doing a bunch of things that you want to do, then it’s a pretty miserable day.  But if Shabbos is a gift with all the trappings included, then that’s a different story.  Who doesn’t like presents?
2) “Ichluhu ha’yom ki Shabbos ha’yom l’Hashem…”  Sefas Emes (5651) asks: the parsha earlier tells us that a person was not allowed to collect more mon than could be consumed in a single day.  Anything leftover would spoil by the next morning.  So on Monday, you could collect only the amount of mon you could eat on that Monday; on Tuesday, you could collect only what you could eat on Tuesday, etc.   Why then do we need a separate, new command of “ichluhu ha’yom,” to make sure to eat the portion of mon that fell on Shabbos on Shabbos and not leave it over  -– Shabbos is no different in this regard than any other day?
Sefas Emes answers that when you were told to finish all the mon on your plate on Monday, it was so that there would not be leftovers that would automatically spoil on Tuesday.  When the Torah says to eat all the mon on your plate on Shabbos, it’s not just to avoid leftovers -– it’s because “ki Shabbos ha’yom la’Hashem,” because the day of Shabbos is special and therefore needs a seudah in celebration.  Eat l’shem kedushas Shabbos, for the day’s own sake.