Thursday, April 30, 2020

Notes from the Underground -- erev Shabbos edition

1) It's a good sign when Bloomberg is willing to run a piece entitled "Lockdown Critics May Have Some Valid Points."  I applaud the writer for at least being willing to consider arguments that the mainstream media have shut out and that most of our community leadership chooses to ignore. 
2) When the kohen gadol does avodah on Y"K, he goes to mikveh before and after changing from the bigdei zahav to bigdei lavan and then again before and after changing back from bigdei lavan to bigdei zahav.  Chasam Sofer asks: the k"g needs to go to mikveh before putting on bigdei lavan because it is a step up in kedusha -- these are the garments worn to enter kodesh kodashim -- but why does he need to go to mikveh when he changes back to the bigdei zahav which are just used for ordinary avodah?
Chasam Sofer answers that after doing avodah in the bigdei lavan, after having an experience of intense kedusha, even ordinary tasks take on a new light and must be done with greater intensity and kedusha.  Switching back to bigdei zahav is not a step down, but needs to be a step up as well.
Like I've said from Day #1, when we eventually do leave the bunker, we need to return to our daily routine, to our bigdei zahav, with greater energy, focus, and kedusha, not return to things as they were before.  We need to grow from the experience and take a step up.
3) U'mi'zaracha lo titein l'ha'avir laMolech v'chilalta es shem Hashem Elokecha...  Seforno and Ramban explain that since korbanos to Hashem consist only of animals, if a person offers to Molech something even more precious, namely his children, it is a chilul Hashem, as it shows that he places more importance in Molech than in HKB"H. 
This is a lesson in life -- where you put your kochos and energy, what you are willing to sacrifice for, shows what you value most.  If a person spends 30 minutes davening lifelessly through a blatt from an English gemara but then spends 3 hours arguing passionately on facebook or twitter  about all kinds of shtuyos, what does that say about which he values more?  He's putting Molech first, and that's the chilul Hashem.  And it's not just a matter of the time invested.  It's also a matter of attitude.  One person might spend 12 hours a day at work and have only a small window to learn because his dream and ambition is to make it to the top of the corporate ladder, while another person might spend the same 12 hours at work and have a small window to learn because he needs to pay tuition bills, a mortgage etc., but that small window of learning time is his whole chiyus, it's his "ki heim chayeinu."  The first person can't stop talking about what new project will lead to his next promotion; the second person can't stop talking about R' Akiva Eiger's kashe on a Tosfos.  What's keva and what's aray?  What's the ikar and what's the tafeil?  What are you passionate about and what is just something you do because you have to?   Daveing, learning, chessed are not just items on a checklist that we have to do each day, but they have to be the #1 priority, they have to be things we are invested in more than anything else that takes up our time and energy. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Notes from the Underground

Before getting to this week's parsha, I want to say one more point on last week's.  The navi in the hafarah for Tazria writes that Elisha told Naaman that his tzaraas could be cured if he went to mikveh in the Yarden.  Naaman responded that if he wanted to bathe in rivers, the rivers back home in Damascus were as good as those of Eretz Yisrael and he needn't have made the trip.  

Chasam Sofer discusses m'ikara mai ka savar and l'b'sof mai ka savar -- why did Naaman originally believe the navi Elisha could help him, but then reject the navi's advice.  What changed? 

I think that there's no mystery here.  Naaman would fit in perfectly with us today.  Naaman expected hocus pocus -- maybe a red string, an amulet, an incantation, etc.  Nobody wants religion if it means dressing like a normal person, acting like a mentch, and spending your spare time in the study of serious books.  Feh!  You can do that back in Damscus, along with swimming in nice rivers.  Tell someone that the segulah for parsnasa is to get a job and daven for success (exactly what the gemara at the end of Mes Nidah says) and they will ignore you.  Tell them to bake a key in their challah, or recite parshas ha'mon on one specific day of the year -- now you're talking.  The stranger it sounds, the better, even more so if you can throw the word "kabbalah" in there.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Notes from the Underground -- Yom ha'Atzmaut

I imagine that when Moshe first appeared on the scene in Mitzrayim, not everyone bought into the message.  Not only was there no letup from the labor, but we know that after Moshe spoke with Pharoah the work was increased.  Sure, there were probably a few people that believed, maybe a few even started adding a special prayer to their davening speaking about "reishes tzemichas ge'ulasainu."  But you had many more who not only could point to the burden now placed upon them to gather straw to make bricks, something they never had to do before, but could also point to the mesorah they had from their forefathers that redemption would come only after 400 years of exile (see Sefas Emes Pesach 5642).  Redemption now?  That's apikorsus -- against the mesorah.  And redemption for whom?  For people that are barely distinguishable from their idolatrous neighbors?  G-d did miracles for Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, but how can you think he would do the same for people who are barely one notch above ovdei avodah zarah? 
"Ki'mei tzescha m'Mitzrayim arenu niflaos."
"Omdos ha'yu ragleinu b'sha'arayich Yerushalayim."  (Teh 122:2) 
"Omdos" means that is what helps us be "machzik maamad," what helps us stand on our two feet.  The Malbi"m points out that it's not the Beis haMikdash, it's not even the city of Yerushalayim that the pasuk refers to -- it's the gates of Yerushalayim.  Just getting to the doorway gives us chizuk. 
Let's not kid ourselves -- the geulah didn't happen on 5 Iyar.  We clearly have a ways to go to get there.  But I think it is fair to say that we are standing in the doorway, on the threshold.  That alone helps us stand a little taller, in a way that we have not been able to for 2000 years.
Yom ha'Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim are mechayeiv those of us in chu"l to do more than eat a blue and white cookie, put out our flag, and maybe say hallel.  It's up to us, if we cannot get to Eretz Yisrael ourselves, for whatever reason (home, job, kids in school, etc are all formidable obstacles), to encourage our children who do not have those same obstacles to move there.  That's where the future of Judaism, of Klal Yisrael is. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Notes from the Underground - more on sfeik sfeika

1) Shitas haRambam is that there is a mitzvah to be mekadesh shabbos "b'knisaso u'b'yitzi'aso," when shabbos comes in and when shabbos goes out.  Meaning, that both kiddush and havdalah are d'oraysa, and therefore, since it is a mitzvah of Shabbos, both men and women are equally obligate in both.  In contrast, the Orchos Chaim holds that havdalah is just a chiyuv derabbanan, and women have no obligation in the mitzvah.  Many Rishonim split the difference and hold that havdalah is indeed derabbanan, but the takanah was made "k'ein d'oraysa," patterened after the chiyuv d'oraysa of kiddush, and women are therefore bligated in the mitzvah.
R' Ovadya Yosef (Yechaveh Da'as vol 4 #27) writes l'halacha women should be able to recite havdalah based on a sfeik sfeika (R' Ovadya loves to build sfeik sfeikos): safeik whether the halacha is like the Rambam and they have a chiyuv d'oraysa, and even if havdalah is only derabbaban, maybe the halacha is like the Rishonim who disagree with the Orchos Chaim.
He proves his point by drawing an analogy to the Terumas haDeshen (#37) that we discussed last week: if a person is not sure if he missed counting a night of sefira, he may continue counting with a bracha -- safeik whether the halacha is like the most Rishonim that view each night as an independent mitzvah and you can continue counting with a bracha even if you miss a night, and even if halacha is like BH"G that all 49 days are one mitzvah, safeik whether you really missed counting or not.  Here too, a sfeik sfeika allows a person to fulfill a mitzvah with a bracha.
R' Ovadya asks on himself: the rule of safeik brachos l'hakeil usually precludes saying a bracha even in a case of sfeik sfeika.  (The hesber b'pashtus is as follows: sfeik sfeika is a rov, and a rov just means we are 51% sure, not that we have removed all doubt and elimated the safeik.  Therefore, we are still left with a safeik bracha.)  Why are these cases different?
I wish I could offer you an answer, but I' have none.  I don't understand R' Ovadya's explanation or have a hesber.  The way R' Ovadya puts it is that these cases (sefira, havdalah) are different than a normal sfeika sfeika in hilchos brachos because there is a tzad d'oraysa that is mechayeiv doing the mitzvah.  I looked up the Th"D (here) and am not even sure that's what the Th"D means (I'll take R' Ovadya's word for it), nor do I understand why that distinction makes a difference with regards to the issue of bracha.
2) Definition of temurah -- a korban copy.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Notes from the Underground -- Monday morning edition

1) Apologies for starting off your day with an opinion note instead of Torah -- skip to part 2 if you like -- but I want to get this off my mind.

"We must not look for pro forma loopholes or so-called solutions which --at best-- may mitigate, but certainly will not eliminate, the dangers of this disease. The Torah absolutely condemns and forbids acting in a way which - under any circumstances - may allow for the death of a Jew."  (source for the quote, emphasis added by me)

If this is the standard our Rabbis are now adopting, then forget leaving your house ever again.   You drive a car -- you may get into an accident.  You walk the streets -- you may get attacked, run over, etc.  It is simply impossible to eliminate danger from life, whether it be from this disease or any other illness, threat, or source of danger.

Especially in the current situation, there is simply no way to prevent the death of a Jew "under any circumstances."   See here -- one of what I fear will be many suicides to come See here -- "Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who researches health policy at Stanford University, said...The coronavirus can kill...but a global depression will, as well."  See here -- "The looming global recession... could cause hundreds of thousands of child deaths..."  I could go on and on with many similar citations and examples.  This is a trolley problem -- there will be deaths no matter what course of action is taken.  The ONLY strategy that makes any sense is to try to MITIGATE the worst of the consequences.  By not realizing that that is the goal -- not the elimination of death due to the disease -- we risk wasting time, money, and resources and doing more harm than good. Again, just my opinion.  With all due respect, I am really at a loss to understand the thinking here. 2) On to something a little more inspiring since we are still stuck in our bunkers: 
V'nasati nega tzaraas b'beis eretz achuzaschem...  Rashi explains that the Amoraim hid treasure in their homes, so the nega was actually l'tovah, as it brought about the discovery of those riches when the house walls were knocked down.  The Aish Kosdesh asks: so why must the house become tamei for 7 days?  Why not just say that when the nega is found, you have to immediately tear down the house?
He answers that the Torah wants to teach us that even if the "bayis" -- the beis knesses, the beis medrash -- has to remain closed for a period of time, in the end it will be l'tovah; you will walk away with a treasure.  

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Notes from the Underground -- erev Shabbos + Rosh Chodesh Iyar

The parsha tells us that the metzora would have to sit isolated in his bunker for seven days to see if his nega would heal.  Why davka seven days?  R' Leibel Eiger writes in Imrei Emes that Shabbos is the source of all refuah -- Shabbos can transform the lowest of the low, the nega, into oneg, oneg Shabbos.  You can't have seven days without a Shabbos, so the metzora needs seven days.  If one Shabbos is not enough, so he waits for a second Shabbos, another seven days. 

Shabbos has the power to bring us the refuah we need, b'frat, as R' Leibele Eiger writes, this Shabbos, where the parsha contains the words "nirpeh nega hatzara'as..., and I would add b'frat Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Iyar, roshei teivos "Ani Hashem Rofecha."

K'nega nirah li ba'bayis -- Chazal say that even if the person knows for sure that it's a nega, he should still use the kaf ha'dimyon and not say so with certainty.  The masorah brings that there is one other pasuk in Tanach that uses that expression "nirah li" -- "mei'rachok Hashem nirah li Hashem."  The Ba'al haTurim (see also Agra d'Kallah) connects the two: when you see something from a distance, it is unclear, you can't be certain what it is.  So too, when you come with your nega, don't judge things in advance and don't be certain things are as they appear to you.  Just show it to the kohen and let him pasken.
Chazal (see Kli Yakar who quotes this Yalkut) interpret this parsha homiletically as referring to the churban of Beis haMikdash.  Hashem comes to the kohen, to Yirmiyahu haNavi, and says that his house is filled with negaim, with the avodah zarah that the people have put in to defile it. 
The sefer She'eiris Menachim (two doses of it this week) puts these two Chazals together.  Hashem certainly knows what's going on in the Beis haMikdash, Hashem sees how things have been defiled.  But when speaking about Eretz Yisrael, when speaking about the Beis haMikdash, when speaking about Klal Yisrael, even Hashem does not say "nega" -- it's just "k'nega," with the kaf ha'dimyon.  Hashem does not want to be the one to say affirmatively, with complete certainty, that the makom Mikdash, that Eretz Yisrael, that Klal Yisrael is bad.
Mah hu -- af atah.  The lesson is obvious.

R' Tzadok haKohen (Pri Tzadik #5 l'girsas ha'Geonim) quotes from Sefer Yetzira that the month of Iyar corresponds to the letter vav.  You can't have a mattan Torah in Sivan without the freedom from the arayos and avodah zarah of Mitzrayim in Nisan; you can't have the freedom of Pesach without "ta'avdun es ha'Elokim al ha'har ha'zeh" of Sivan to control it.  Iyar is the vav ha'chibur that connects the two holidays.  It's when we work on acquiring for ourselves the gifts Hashem gave to us through is'arusa d'l'eila on Pesach so that we are prepared to be a kli kibul for Torah on Shavuos. 

I would suggest that the vav ha'chibur means working on the connection between each other.  As we discussed, Pesach was the first step -- to take a korban with "shecheino ha'karov el beiso," recognizing your neighbor should be close; that was when the Tanaim sat up darshening "kol oso ha'layla," oso = os vav, the vav ha'chibur.  Shavuos is the culmination, the "k'ish echad b'lev echad."  But it takes work to get there.; it takes overcoming the "lo na'hagu kavod zeh la'zeh" that led to the demise of R' Akiva's students.  That's the avodah of Iyar -- to connect with each other, to not be "badad yeisheiv" like the metzora.  Even when you are convinced 100% that you are right and Ploni is dead wrong, remember it's only k'nega nirah li...  It really may only be 99%, if that much.  

Notes from the Underground - sfeik sfeika

Rav Omri Kraus of Kerem b'Yavneh raised an interesting sefira question.  Two halachos you need as background:
A) If a person is not sure whether he remembered to leave out mashiv ha'ruach after the first day of pesach (same rule would hold true for when we have to add mashiv ha'ruach after shmini atzeres), until 30 days have passed we assume the person davened as he had in the past and said it -- chazakah.
B) There is a machlokes between BH"G and all other Rishonim whether a person who misses counting one night of the omer may continue counting with a bracha (most Rishonim) or not (BH"G).  B'pashtus, the issue is whether sefira is one mitzvah to count 49 days, or whether counting each day is an independent mitzvah.  The halacha is to continue counting, as according to most Rishonim he can still fulfill the mitzvah, but not say a bracha out of consideration for the BHG's view.
What if a person is not sure whether he missed a night or not?  The Terumas HaDeshen paskens that in this case he can count with a bracha, as there is a sfeik sfeika: safeik whether he really missed a night or not, and even if he did miss, safeik whether the halacha is like the majority of Rishonim or like the BH"G. 
Question: don't these two halachos conflict?  In the first case we say until 30 days have elapsed, there is a chazakah that you missed saying the right thing.  So when it comes to sefira, if you have a safeik whether you counted, why not say that until 30 days have gone by you have a chazakah that you did not count?  Why do we say sfeik sfeika instead of ruling based on chazakah?
There are a few ways to approach this.  I won't give away the answers, but will give you a link to the shiur:
On the same topic of sfeik sfeika, the one halacha everybody seems to know with respect to sefira is that if someone asks you what day to count, once it is bein ha'shemashos you should say "yesterday was X" because if you say what night it is, you have been yotzei the mitzvah and won't then be able to count with a bracha. 
At least during bein ha'shemashos, even if you told your friend what night it is, why not say sfeik sfeika -- safeik whether it is still day and so even if you said what night it is, the statement is meaningless, and even if it night, safeik whether mitzvos tzrichos kavanah (see the GR"A and Biur Halacha on that din!) and you didn't have kavanah to be yotzei?  Why can't you count with a bracha in this case?

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Notes from the Underground - va'yidom Aharon

Although Chazal and meforshim attribute a whole panalopy of aveiros to Nadav and Avihu, we need to take things in context. A flaw that Hashem holds a great person accountable for might be ignored in a lesser person. Why is it that Nadav and Avihu's death is mentioned at the beginning of parshas Acharei Mos, which talks about the avodah of Yom Kippur? To teach us, answers the Yalkut, that the death of tzadikim brings as great as kaparah as Y"K. "Tzadikim" the Midrash calls them -- despite their cheit.

In last week's parsha we find that even before we finish with the laws of aninus and the story of which korbanos Aharon ate and which were left over, there is a break and Hashem speaks to Aharon directly and tells him the law of not entering the mikdash or paskening halachos in a state of drunkenness. Rashi comments that the parsha being told directly to Aharon was a reward for "va'yidom Aharom," Aharon accepting the din on his children in silence.

And if the parsha would have been given later, or if we would not have a special parsha from which Rashi can derive that Aharon got a reward for his silence, would we have thought that Hashem would not give him the schar he deserved???

The sefer She'eiris Menachem answers that sometimes a person accepts tragedy in silence, but inside he is eating his kishkes out in torment. The parsha here comes to tell us that this was not the case with Aharon -- he was tocho k'boro. How do we know? Because "ain ha'Shechina shorah ela mitoch simcha." By telling us that Hashem spoke directly to Aharon and revelaed Torah to him, the it means Aharon was in a state of inner simcha -- he was capable of receiving the dvar Hashem despite what he had just gone through. When you can accept tragedy in that way, then you deserve special schar.

In current events, today is Earth Day.  It is amazing how many predictions the climate fanatics and earth lovers (we all love the earth, don't get me wrong) have made that have never come true, but they are never held accountable or taken to task.  The same is true for the virus models.  No matter how often they update the models, they are wrong, and wrong by a lot.  I don't know about you, but in my job, if I consistently got things wrong, I would soon find myself unemployed.  Not these folks.  No matter how wrong they were in the past, they get to take another crack at it and another crack it, and no matter how often they are wrong their "expert" opinions will be cited and their recommendations are followed by the herd.

I want to go on record with a prediction that I hope comes to be proven false: at the rate NY/NJ is going, they will not allow minyanim to happen on R"H and Y"K.  If there is some enterprising person out there, rent a hotel in a state that is outside the northeast and maybe some of us will be able to get there to daven for Yamim Noraim.

Again, I hope this proves to be wrong.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Notes from the Underground

After 75 years the question still being kicked around in the community is whether the Holocaust was a unique event in Jewish history, or whether it is but one of many similar tragedies of galus -- outstanding in its severity, in its magnitude, but nonetheless, qualitatively still on the tragedies-of-galus spectrum that includes the Inquisition, pogroms, etc.  The nafka mina is how to respond.  There is a long list of kinos to say on 9 Av that commemorate many tragedies -- do we just add one more for Holocaust?  Or should we be doing something more, something that says this event was like no other? 
There are no answers on a day like this...  only questions. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Notes from the Underground - Monday edition: mandelorian comes to NY and a chakira of the Rogatchover

1) A little inspiration to start the week off right:

2) Yesterday I was out of the bunker with Wife and Daughter #3.  Here's a picture of where we were:
I'm afraid I cannot reveal the location and had to avoid capturing any of the hundreds of other people there in my photo because Mayor De Blasio is now encouraging all NYers to rat out their neighbors and friends who might be breaking social distancing rules.  I did not want to put anyone in jeopardy or risk having the stormtroopers police come to shut the place down.

This is a great opportunity the mandelorian bounty hunters out there.  I assume there is some kind of reward for bringing your fellow citizen to "justice."  Or maybe it works like the good ol' days of the Inquisition when you got to keep the property of the neighbor that you turn in to the authorities.  Good luck all NYers, and thank you for voting this guy in.

3) The Mishna in Bechoros has a din "ha'yotzei min ha'tamei tamei" -- if, for example, you have a chamor that gives birth to an animal that has split hooves and chews its cud just like a cow, the animal is still considered not  kosher.  The Pischei Teshuvah (Y.D. 79:2) has a lomdishe chakirah whether this din means that the animal is considered a chamor, or whether the animal is a cow, just the Torah does not allow you to eat this type of cow.  There are many nafka minos.  For example, can you use the klaf of such an animal to write sta"m on?  If you shecht such an animal, is does it have tumas neveila (shechita is not a matir on a tamei animal) or not? 
Ralbag on last week's parsha writes that simanei kashrus serve to identify the species of the animal.  We know an animal born from a donkey is a donkey -- it can't be a different species than the parents it came from -- and therefore even if this particular donkey looks strange and has split hooves and chews its cud, it still is not permitted to be eaten.  This explanation seems to resolve the chakira of the P.T.  Ha'yotzei min ha'tamei is the same animal as its parent.
The underlying issue behind the P.T.'s chakira and this Ralbag is the question posed by the Rogatchover: are simanei kashrus a siman or a sibah?  Are simanim just a means of identifying what family the animal belongs to (as Ralbag indicates), or do the presence of the siman actually make the animal into a kosher animal?  (The L. Rebbe has a discussion of this Rogatchover in Likutei Sichos, see vol 3 of the English edition.)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Notes from the Underground - erev shabbos edition

1) Our chametz toaster oven broke just before pesach and a new one came in the middle of the chag.  Do you know what it's like to sit through pesach staring at a box with a picture of toast and bagels on the cover? 
R' Shlomo Zalman (footnote 79* in ch 31 of the S"ShK) had a safeik what the din should be if a ben chu"l is in Eretz Yisrael on Y"T sheni and decides mid-day that he wants to stay in Eretz Yisrael, e.g. what if a ben chu"l was in Eretz Yisrael observing Thurs as Y"T and mid-day decided he could not take it anymore and just needed a bagel -- would he have to say havdalah and put on tefillin right away?  Can you even make a change like that mid-day? 
R' Shlomo Zalman does not clarify what the tzedadim of the chakira are, but I assume at least part of the issue may revolve around the Rogatchover's chakira of what the mechayeiv of shabbos or Y"T is: whether bein ha'shemashos is mechayeiv observance of the entire day, or whether each minute of shabbos or Y"T is a new mechayeiv.
2) When this lockdown started I wrote that this is a large scale trolley problem -- we are saving lives at the cost of other lives, because make no mistake, robbing people of their jobs will lead to divorce, foreclosure, suicide, alcoholism, etc. Families will be destroyed, businesses destroyed, children's lives impacted, not to mention the loss of our freedoms and civil rights that have all but gone out the window (a topic that deserves its own discussion).  Cuomo's extension of the lockdown for another full month will be the final straw for many small businesses and even large firms will be forced to make further reductions simply to be able to meet operating expenses.  Amazing that such actions can be dictated by a small unnamed group of "experts" whose models have been consistently proven wrong just as quickly as they are updated. 
"...You don’t know what you need to do to contain the virus if you don’t actually have the details or facts,” said Marty Martinez, Boston’s chief of Health and Human Services.
I couldn't have said it better myself.  But lack of details or facts appear to not stand in the way of our leaders.
3) A quick idea on the parsha:
"Va'yar kol ha'am va'yaronu..."  After the korbanos Aharon offered on the 8th day of the miluim were consumed by the fire that came down from shamayim, the people were awestruck and said shira.  The Sefas Emes (5639) suggests (based on a zohar) that the shirah recited was shiras ha'yam.  As we discussed last post, the shiras ha'yam begins "vayomru leimor;" the word "leimor" seems redundant as there was no one being spoken to.  Sefas Emes says that "leimor" is l'doros -- Klal Yisrael sang shirah with such fervor that the shirah became part of our Jewish DNA.  Unfortunately, cheit  ha'eigel put a damper on things and we lost the melody.  The korbanos of the yom ha'shmini were a kapara for cheit ha'eigel, and so we resumed singing our long lost song.
I think the S.E.'s parallel between va'yaronu and shiras ha'yam is already implicit in the Yalkut Shimoni: 
״וַיַּרְא כָּל הָעָם וַיָּרֹנּוּ״, וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (דבהי״ב ז, ג) ״וְכָל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל רֹאִים בְּרֶדֶת הָאֵשׁ״ וְגוֹ׳ לְכָךְ נֶאֱמַר ״רַנְנוּ צַדִּיקִים בַּה׳״ רַנְּנוּ צַדִּיקִים לַה׳ אֵין כְּתִיב כָּאן, אֶלָּא ״בַּה׳״ בִּזְמַן שֶׁהֵם רוֹאִין אוֹתוֹ. וְכֵן אַתָּה מוֹצֵא (שמות יד, לא) ״וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַיָּד הַגְּדֹלָה״ הִתְחִילוּ מְרַנְּנִים (שם טו, א) ״אָז יָשִׁיר מֹשֶׁה״ וְגוֹ׳, וְהָרְשָׁעִים אֵינָם מְרַנְּנִים עַד שֶׁהוּא מֵבִיא עֲלֵיהֶם מַכּוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שם ט, ז) ״ה׳ הַצַּדִּיק וַאֲנִי וְעַמִּי הָרְשָׁעִים״.
Both "vayaronu" and the shiras ha'yam according to the Yalkut are responses to directly experiencing G-d's presence.  Both have a common shared thread. 
The Targun interprtes "v'anveihu" in the shirah as a desire to build a home for G-d, i.e. the Mikdash.  Shiras ha'yam is the response to the temporary experience of seeing G-d's presence in the miraculous.  "Va'yaronu" is the same shirah, but this time in response to seeing G-d's presence in a permanent dwelling of the Mishkan, i.e. in our daily lives. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Notes from the Underground - shiras ha'yam

Az yashir... va'yomru leimor.  Why the extra word "leimor" -- it should be enough to say they sang and va'yomru, here are the words to the song?
The Tiferes Shlomo in many places says a derush on "motza sefasecha tishmor v'asisa ka'aser nadarata."  A person might be moved by some event or some cause and makes a pledge of a korban to the beis ma'kikdash, or in our times makes a gift to the shul or to some charity.  More often than not, between the time of the pledge and the time the person reaches into his/her pocket to write the check, some of that good feeling, that hislahavus, that desire to give, has worn off.  The Torah warns us to be careful -- fulfill your pledge "ka'asher nadarta," with the same intensity of feeling as when you first made it. 
Klal Yisrael wanted to capture the ecstasy of that moment of shirah so it would last forever, so that every time in the future they would sing shirah it would be done the same way.  Va'yomru, they sang the shirah, leimor with such exuberance that it would be said that way again and again for eternity. 
Maybe that's in fact why it's called a shirah.  When a song becomes a hit people listen to it again and again, it seems to never grow stale.  We're still singing the song, hopefully with the same enthusiasm.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Notes from the Underground - eiruv tavshilin, spilling wine for the makos

Took some time to get out of the bunker yesterday to get some fresh air, but today was back to the grind. 

1) Question from Daughter #1: since Pesach is one of the pilgrimage holidays, is that why my wife cooked a turkey?

2) The gemara (Pesach 46b) discusses why it is that one is allowed to cook on Y"T for Shabbos.  An eiruv tavshiln is a heker that the rabbanan added, but why is there no issur d'oraysa?  The gemara gives 2 answers: either "ho'il," since guests might come on Y"T and eat the food being cooked, therefore the cooking is really l'tzorech Y"T, or "tzorchei Shabbos na'asin b'Y"T," there is no issur of cooking on Y"T for Shabbos.  The latter answer is ambiguous; Rashi explains that since both shabbos and Y"T are called days of "shabbos" they have a shared kedusha and are treated like one big 48 hour day, i.e. you are not cooking from one day for another, but rather you are cooking food to be eaten within the same long single kedusha 48 hour day. 

Nafka mina between the two reasons: can one cook food for Shabbos late in the day on Y"T?  If the justification for the cooking is "ho'il," then one can cook only if there is time for the meal to be consumed by potential guests.  If the justification is "tzorchei shabbos na'asin b'Y"T," then one can cook all day up until shekiya.

So how do we pasken?  The MG"A writes that on Y"T which is erev Shabbos one should be mekabeil shabbos early so that one avoids cooking late in the day -- i.e. one can only cook when there is a heter of ho'il.

My son asked: this year, when due to corona there is no chance that any guests will be stopping in your house for a meal, the heter of ho'il should not work.  So how does our eiruv tavshilim work?

My cop out answer: see Aruch haShulchan 627:3 that m'ikar ha'din we pasken tzorchei shabbos na'asin b'Y"T.  But that's not going to help if you take the MG"A seriously.  Anyone have a better answer?

3) I have trouble with the the idea that we spill a drop of wine when we recite the plagues in the haggadah as a "symbolic tear for those who suffered." (R' Jonathan Sacks in The Koren Haggada)  What sounds like the usual liberal, humanistic, kumbaya stuff is actually pretty frightening.  Aside from technical problems with the idea (see post from 2011 "bi'npol oyvecha al tismach" does not apply to aku"m), ask yourself the following question: on Holocaust Remembrance Day, do you also shed a tear for the SS officers killed in the liberation of the camps?  The only difference between them and the Mitzrim is that the memory of the Holocaust is thank G-d still somewhat alive for us, but the Biblical story is a 3000+ year old tale that does not resonate or cause us the same pain -- in other words, a total failure to feel "k'ilu hu yatzah, which is the raison d'etre of the whole seder. 

See GR"A to O.C. 473 -- we are spilling drops from the kos of punishment set aside for the Egyptians.  Others add that we are showing that these drops are but the tip of the iceberg -- the cup has a lot more in it to dish out.  Not a politically correct message there.

My wife suggested that we are spilling drops in sympathy for the pain caused to nature by Hashem having to disrupt its laws in order to bring punishment upon our enemies. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Notes from the Underground - Day 11 - Erev Pesach edition

While sitting in the bunker I was thinking about R' Elazar and R' Akiva and the other great Tanaim sitting in their bunker during the Roman occupation.  Where were the talmidim who only showed up at sunrise to tell them it was the zman of kir'as shema?  Secondly, even I have a little window in my bunker -- did the Tanaim not even have that to notice that it was sunrise?  And what does it mean that they were talking "kol OSO ha'layla" -- as opposed to some other night?  Why not just say "kol ha'layla?"
I spent too much time trying to find where he says it but couldn't (so much for using the old editions of seforim w/o an index), but if I remember correctly the Tiferes Shlomo someplace reads the word "oso" derech remez as "os vav," the letter vav.  I want to suggest as follows: the story behind the story of those Tanaim was that due to the occupation (we were "occupied people" before it was trendy), they were separated from their talmidim.  Due to the situation, rather than each Rav being with his kehila (in those days I think Rabbis still spent Yom Tov with their kehilah and not at a Pesach program, but I may be wrong) these Tanaim were all stuck together in their bunker.  That Yom Tov was spent suffering the pain of separation.  And so these great Tanaim spent the night darshening "os vav," the "vav ha'chibur," the letter that connects -- they spoke about the longing for connection between Rebbes and talmidim, parents and children, neighbors and friends, the Shechina and Klal Yisrael.  "Ad she'ba'u talmidei'hem," they continued learning, they continued davening with that in mind, until they effected being united with their talmidim, until the dawn of a brighter day was upon them. 
There are people (not me) who say before doing mitzvos that it should be "l'shem yichud KB"H u'Shechintei.." etc.  I have a heretical thought that maybe we need to spend some time davening to be m'yacheid Klal Yisrael with each other.  The Shechina, I think, will in the end be able to take care of itself if we take care of what we have to do.
Hashata avdei l'shana ha'ba'ah bnei chorin...  We say in pirkei avos that “ain lecha ben chorin ela ha'oseik baTorah.”  Little kids think that going to school to learn things is avdus, and now, when they get to sit home and don't learn as much, that's being a ben chorin.  Hopefully we all one day grow out of that mindset -- maybe Pesach is about freeing us from that mindset.  We should IY”H have a chag of geulah from Mitzrayim = meitzarim, from the confines of the bunker, both the physical bunker and our mental bunkers, and enjoy the cheirus of Torah.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Notes from the Underground - Day 10

A few Tiferes Shlomo's to get through the day:
1) "V'lakach hu u'shechino ha'karov el beiso..."  Does the Torah need to give you the address of your neighbor -- "ha'karov el beiso?"  Why not just say "shecheino?"
Unfortunately, too often you can have a neighbor who is not exactly "karov el beiso," and I don't mean because of a virus.  The Torah is hinting to us that if you want a korban pesach, then put your issues aside -- we need to be close with our neighbors and friends, especially in times like these. 
2) Another Tiferes Shlomo: Long before Moshe Rabeinu arrived on the scene in Egypt, Yosef was struggling to maintain his kedusha in Mitzrayim.  "Va'yivarech Hashem es beis ha'Mitzri biglal Yosef..."  Why should the aku"m owner of Yosef get to reap the brachos and hatzlacha brought about by Yosef's tzidkus? 
Explains the Tiferes Shlomo: "mitzri" is the same gematriya as "Moshe."  That's the "beis Mitzri" who benefited years after Yosef was gone. 
3) "Ba'erev tochlu matzos" -- the root a-r-v is like we say every morning in birchas haTorah "v'ha'arev na" -- it should be pleasing and pleasant.  (The Rishonim explain the issur achila after karov l'mincha on erev yom tov (Pesachim 99) is to be able to have an appetite for eating the matzah, as that is a hidur mitzvah in the ma'aseh achila.)  Some years that is harder to do than others, but hopefully to some degree we can be mekayein not just eating the matzah, but eating it b'areivus
4) My wife just warned me that my post would be about a bunch of philosophizing and I would ignore important things like reminding people to make an eiruv tavshilin.  
REMINDER: make an eiruv tavshilin before yom tov.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Notes from the Underground - Day 9 - machlokes Ohr Zarua and Rambam

A little halacha today, but first, I want to claim the rights to market an official quarantine hat.  Everyone these days is wearing gloves and masks, but, why, you wonder, do we need a quarantine hat?  Well, our local barber is closed, so in an attempt to not enter the chag looking like a menuval or a nazir, I decided to do the job myself.  I am sure some other people might get the same idea.  The official quarantine hat will cover the results of your handiwork until the hair grows back and you can get to a real barber. 
According to the Tana Kamma in The last Mishna in Pesachim, the bracha on korban pesach exempts one from having to recite a seperate bracha on the korban chagiga, but saying a bracha on the korban chagiga does not exempt the korban pesach from it's bracha.
I always thought the din of "pesach ne'echal al ha'sova" meant that the korban pesach was served like dessert, at the end of the meal, after one ate all the other food served, similar to how we eat our afikoman, which is the zecher for the pesach.   If so, it is hard to understand the Mishna.  How can the bracha on korban pesach at the end of the meal exempt the birchas ha'zevach if the korban chagiga was eaten at the beginning of the meal?
It would seem this Mishna is a proof to the view of the Ohr Zarua, quoted by the Rama in Hil Shechita (Y.D. 19) that if a birchas hamitzvah can be recited even after the fact, even after one has completed the mitzvah.  Rama paskens that if there is an animal that one suspects might be a treifa, then one should do shechita without a bracha and then, if the animal turns out to be kosher, recite the birchas ha'shechita after the fact.
The Shach (see also R' Akiva Eiger) strongly disagrees with this Rama and holds that a birchas ha'mitzvah must be recited before the mitzvah or not at all.  The Rambam paskens this way as well in Hil Brachos ch 11:
אין לך מצוה שמברכין אחר עשייתה אלא טבילת הגר בלבד שאינו יכול לומר אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו שעדיין לא נתקדש ולא נצטוה עד שיטבול. לפיכך אחר שיטבול מברך על הטבילה מפני שהיה דחוי מעיקרו ולא היה ראוי לברך
So what do you do with our Mishna?  The Rambam in Hil Chametz u'Matzah ch 8 writes:
ואחר כך מברך ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על אכילת הזבח ואוכל מבשר חגיגת ארבעה עשר תחלה. ומברך ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על אכילת הפסח ואוכל מגופו של פסח. ולא ברכת הפסח פוטרת של זבח ולא של זבח פוטרת של פסח:
The Rambam writes a few halachos further:
ואחר כך נמשך בסעודה ואוכל כל מה שהוא רוצה לאכול ושותה כל מה שהוא רוצה לשתות. ובאחרונה אוכל מבשר הפסח אפילו כזית ואינו טועם אחריו כלל.
According to the Rambam, which fits perfectly l'shitaso, the korban pesach was actually served at the beginning of the meal as well as at the end of the meal.  The debate in the Mishna is whether the bracha on that first k'zayis of korban pesach exempts the chagiga from its own bracha.
(Why do you need to eat the korban two times?  I haven't thought it through, but I am wondering if this is linked to a different issue: why does the Rambam need to mention the din of "ne'echal al ha'sova" specifically by korban pesach when in fact it is a din by all kodshim, as the Rambam himself quotes in Hil Maaseh Korbanos ch 6?  R' Soloveitchik (see Mesorah journal vol 12 p 25) explained that there is a special din by korban pesach to eat it al hasova of other kodshim, meaning, that one must eat other kodshim, like the chagiga, first,and only then the korban pesach.  All other korbanos can be eaten al ha'sova of any other foods that make up a meal.  Perhaps the Rambam has one achila of korban pesach which is the standard mitzvah of achilas kodshim, no different than the chagiga, and then has another achila to fulfill the din achila al ha'sova unique to pesach.  Still needs some work...)
What is the hesber of this machlokes Ohr Zarua and the Rambam?  We are so accustomed to think that a bracha has to be recited before the mitzvah that to us the Ohr Zarua sounds strange.  In fact, the Rambam's view is the more difficult one to explain.  B'shlama a birchas ha'nehenin, it makes sense to say that once you eat your food, you can no longer say a bracha.  The bracha serves as a matir -- you can't have a matir after the fact.  However, a birchas hamitzvah seems to just be praise to Hashem that we are able to fulfill a particular mitzvah.  What difference does it make if that praise is recited before doing the miztvah or afterwards? 
The Rambam writes in Hil Brachos 1:3
וכשם שמברכין על ההנייה כך מברכין על כל מצוה ומצוה ואח"כ יעשה אותה.
R' Soloveitchik explained (see R' Shachter's Eretz haTzvi p31) that by comparing the takanah of birchas ha'mitzvah to the takana of birchas ha'nehen the Rambam is telling us that the two categories of brachos are similar: just like birchas ha'nehenin is a matir, birchas hamitzvah is a matir as well.  Chazal put in a stop sign before our doing mitzvos that can only be released if a bracha is first recited.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Notes from the Underground - Day 8, Erev Shabbos

Today is the 8th work day in the bunker, 8 = l'maalah min ha'teva.  What can we take away from Shabbos, from Shabbos haGagol?

 (8:33) וּמִפֶּ֩תַח֩ אֹ֨הֶל מוֹעֵ֜ד לֹ֤א תֵֽצְאוּ֙ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֔ים עַ֚ד י֣וֹם מְלֹ֔את יְמֵ֖י מִלֻּאֵיכֶ֑ם
(8:35)וּפֶ֩תַח֩ אֹ֨הֶל מוֹעֵ֜ד תֵּשְׁב֨וּ יוֹמָ֤ם וָלַ֙יְלָה֙ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֔ים

The redundancy here is apparent.  What does pasuk 35 add that pasuk 33 does not already tell us?
This year we can connect to this parsha like no other year before.  For seven days Aharon and his sons were isolated in the bunker -- just like us.  This was their training ground to learn how to properly do avodah.  Netziv explains that "teishvu yomam v'layla ushmarten es mishmeres Hashem" means that Aharon and sons were sitting and were kove'a yeshiva, learning and being mechadesh in halacha.  Netziv says a chiddush: the gemara in Menachos 99 writes that a person who learns something in the morning and something in the evening has been yotzei the minimum shiur of v'hagisa yomam v'layla.  Why does the gemara use davka the term morning and evening -- why not just say if ha person learns something by day and something by night?  Netziv answers that the makor for this Chazal is our pasuk.  The Yerushalmi learns that there was a special inyan of connecting the day and night which demanded that the kohanim be oseik in Torah davka in the morning, as night was turning to day, and/or the evening, as day was turning to night.  So too, there is such an idea in limud haTorah, to begin your day with Torah, to close out the day and come into night with Torah.  Aharon and his sons were modeling for us what it means to be oseik in Torah.  That's why they retreated from the world, that's what they were in Ohel Moed for, and maybe that's what we are supposed to be doing in our bunkers too.  It is amazing how these days you can tune into a shiur on zoom at almost every hour of the day or night without having to leave your desk. The opportunities for limud haTorah have expanded to an unimaginable degree thanks to this crisis.  The shame is that it took a crisis to create this.
Af al pi kein, the goal of life is not to live in a bunker.  The miluim lasted 7 days and that was it.  We've been inside for more than a week already and we are all sick of it.  We want to leave the bunker, but what we need to be careful of, and maybe this is the tnai in the former happening, is that the bunker shouldn't leave us.  Pasuk 33 is the command to spend 7 days in the bunker, in Ohel Moed.  Pasuk 35 is a different idea entirely.  Pasuk 35 is telling you (see Chasam Sofer, Maor v'Shemesh) that when you return to "yoman v'layla," day and night of normal life, you should carry with you and reflect on the "teishvu shivas yamim," to the days of miluim, to the days of the bunker. The experience needs to make a lasting impression.