Wednesday, May 27, 2020

kedushas ha'yachid and kedushas ha'tzibur

Boaz tells Rus “…U’t’hi maskurteich shleima” –- your reward will be complete.  Of course it will be complete -– Hashem doesn’t short change people.  What did Boaz mean?
The TIferes Shlomo explains that when it comes to other holidays, there are specific individual mitzvos that we have to do.  On Pesach you fulfill the mitzvah of matzah and you get schar for eating matzah.  On Sukkos you shake a lulav or eat in sukkah and get schar for those specific mitzvos.  It is like taking individual vitamins -– one holiday is your B12, another is your vitamin D, etc.  Shavuos is different.  Shavuos is the multivitamin holiday.  There is no one specific mitzvah associated with it, but rather Shavuos is about accepting the Torah = accepting all mitzvos.  It is just like geirus; the gemara in fact learns hil geirus from what Klal Yisrael did in preparation for kabbalas haTorah.   The reward of Shavuos, of geirus, is therefore a complete reward, as it encompasses the totality of all mitzvos together.
Even though we learn halachos of geirus from mattan Torah, there does seem to be a slight difference between the way the Rambam formulates the geirus of maamad Har Sinai and the way he formulates what happens in an individual geirus.  In Hil Issurei Bi’ah 13:1 the Rambam writes:
בשלשה דברים נכנסו ישראל לברית במילה וטבילה וקרבן:
A few halachos later the Rambam continues with respect to an individual ger:
וכן לדורות כשירצה העכו"ם להכנס לברית ולהסתופף תחת כנפי השכינה ויקבל עליו עול תורה צריך מילה וטבילה והרצאת קרבן.
R’ Bakshi-Doron z”l (sichos on Moadim) points out that the Rambam add those extra words ולהסתופף תחת כנפי השכינה ויקבל עליו עול תורה when speaking about the individual, but not when speaking about  the geirus of ma’amad Har Sinai.  There, the Rambam merely mentions entering a bris.  It is this bris which necessitates milah, tevila, etc.  If the bris the Rambam is speaking of is not kabbalas hamitzvos, not kabbalas ol, then what is it?  And why is it the first ingredient on the list, taking precedence even over kabbalas miztvos and kabbalas ol, which would seem to be the essence of what defines a Jew?
I want to frame what is going on in the Rambam (and this is essentially R’ Bakshi-Doron’s answer in different words) using a hesber of R’ Aharon Soloveitchik to a famous machlokes Ramban and Chachmei Tzorfas.  Chazal tell us that the mikalel mentioned at the end of parshas emor had a Jewish mother but a Mitzri father and was megayeir.  Ramban and Chachmei Tzorfas disagree as to why geirus was needed.  Chachmei Tzorfas held that pre-mattan Torah membership in “Klal Yisrael” (or whatever you want to call the entity that existed) was based on patrilineal descent, just like all  halachos of yichus for bnei Noach.  It is only post-mattan Torah that we follow matrilineal descent.  Therefore, the ben Mitzri mikalel needed geirus to become a Jew.  Ramban disagrees and writes that from the time of Avraham Avinu membership in Klal Yisrael was based on matrilineal descent and the mikalel was a J  from birth.  The geirus Chazal were speaking of is the geirus of mattan Torah that all of Klal Yisrael underwent, not some special requirement unique to him.
What is the neukdas ha’machlokes?  Parashas Derachim (as we’ve discussed before) explains the issue here revolves around the question of whether the Avos had the status of bnei Noach, or whether they were already considered Yisraelim.  According to Ramban, the Avos were Yisraelim; therefore, lineage follows matrilineal descent.  According to the Chachmei Tzorfas, the Avos were bnei Noach; therefore, the standards of yichus followed dinei ben Noach, which looks at paternal descent
R’ Aharon offered a different hesber.  He explained that there are two overlapping elements to kedushas Yisrael –- there is the kedusha of the individual and there is the kedusha of the tzibur.  Avraham Avinu established kedushas yisrael as an individual; kabbalas haTorah at Har Sinai established the kedushas yisrael of the tzibur.  The machlokes Ramban and Chachmei Tzorfas is whether matrilineal descent is a din in passing on the kedushas yisrael of the tzibur, and therefore applies only post matan Torah, or whether it applies to passing on even the kedushas yisrael, and applied from the time of Avraham Avinu.
Longtime R’ Aharon talmid R’ Josh Hoffman z”l suggested that this is the meaning behind the oxymoronic term “b’mispar sheimos” used in the count in parshas bamidbar.  Mispar= you’re just a number, a small unit in a larger whole; sheimos = unique identity  of the individual.  This is the overlap of the kedushas ha’klal and the kedushas ha’prat.
This distinction gives us a new perspective on the Rambam in Peirush haMishnayos in Chulin who writes that we don’t keep the mitzah of milah or gid ha’nasheh because it was given to one of the Avos; we keep these mitzvos because they were given to Klal Yisrael at mattan Torah.  What the Rambam is saying is that mitzvos are not a function of the kedusha of the individual, but rather are a function of the kedushas ha’tzibur that we took on at mattan Torah.
We also now better understand what in fact we are celebrating on Shavuos.  Didn’t the Avos already do mitzvos and learn Torah?  Didn’t they pass that on to their children?  The answer is that their observance was the observance that stemmed from the kedusha of the individual.  Mattan Torah marks the creation of a kedushas ha’tzibur, and ties observance to being a member of the community.
Coming back to the Rambam, the Jewish people at Har Sinai already had a tradition of mitzvah observance and had accepted the yoke of the Shechina when they left Egypt.   The ingredients of ולהסתופף תחת כנפי השכינה ויקבל עליו עול תורה were not lacking.  What was lacking was becoming a tzibur = entering a bris as a collective unit, attaining kedushas a a klal, not just kedusha individuals.   That is what happened at Sinai.  The first step for any ger has to be choosing to throw his lot in with the collective unit of Klal Yisrael -– deciding to enter that bris.  
And to come back to the Tiferes Shlomo: how can we ever have “maskurteich shleima,” complete reward for all mitzvos, when we can’t ever do all mitzvos?  The Shem m’Shmuel asks this question in a few places.  His solution is that we as individuals can’t do all mitzvos, but we as Klal Yisrael can.  “U’t’hi maskurteich sheleima” because througg geirus you will no longer be just a righteous individual, getting reward for his/her individual deeds, but you will be part of the community of Klal Yisrael.  You will have the kedushas yisrael of the tzibur, not just kedushas yisrael of a yachid.  That’s why the Rambam mentions ולהסתופף תחת כנפי השכינה ויקבל עליו עול תורה only after he mentions entering the bris.  What is required of the ger is not just kabbalas mitzvos and kabbalas ol as an individual, but kabbalas mitzvos and kabbalas ol as a member of the collective unit of Klal Yisrael -- a qualitatively different thing entirely.  This is what our kabbalas haTorah, our kabbalas hamitzvos of Shavuos is all about -– not our individual commitment to Torah, but our commitment as a nation.


  1. do we see in the text a national soul shift in the men, from "patrilineal" to "matrilineal"?

    >ko tomar< l'beis Yaakov, softly to the women (Rashi, Shemos 19:3c); v'tagid >livnei Yisrael< (to the men, harsh, 19:3d).

    during the process of group conversion, the men had enough of the stressful Voice-over (20:16); comes a heavenly modification: >ko tomar< >el-bnei Yisrael< (20:19)... [not to say that the men became supernatural wusses, v'radaf osam kol aleh nidaf, but that something within them registered/underwent a change]

  2. maybe the aseres ha'dibros, as a sample of the mitzvos, were what was given at Mara to the prospective ger nation? (at har Sinai, the ten became visceral national imperatives)