Tuesday, June 30, 2020

misplaced derech eretz

Despite knowing that it was not what Hashem wanted, Bilam still saddled his donkey and went to curse Bnei Yisrael.  The pasuk (22:22) tells us that he did not travel alone:

 וְהוּא֙ רֹכֵ֣ב עַל־אֲתֹנ֔וֹ וּשְׁנֵ֥י נְעָרָ֖יו עִמּֽוֹ

The Midrash Rabbah (Rashi quotes a similar derash) comments on why this detail is mentioned:

 זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ שֶׁהַיּוֹצֵא לַדֶּרֶךְ צָרִיךְ שְׁנַיִם לְשַׁמְּשׁוֹ וְחוֹזְרִים וּמְשַׁמְּשִׁין זֶה לָזֶה.

Derech eretz -- for a chashuv person to go out without two others to escort him would be like an important person going out without his tie on, or without his shoes shined.  (I don't know whether to be happy or sad that these these days no matter who you are you can go outside in your pajamas and no one will give you a second glance.)

It would be a peleh if we had not seen similar things not so long ago in our history.  Here we have someone going to commit genocide and he is worried about the niceties of derech eretz, that he should not be seen as not comporting himself properly on the trip!

Friday, June 26, 2020

united we stand

1. Yesterday we discussed the idea that Korach thought his greatness was a product of his ability, but in reality he was like the cows that carried the aron and were able to sing shirah -- whatever gifts he had were a bracha that stemmed from the role he filled, not from any innate talent.  Some meforshim explain that this is the idea behind the Midrash's question, "Korach, who was one of the carriers of the aron -- how did he fall into the stupidity of this machlokes?"  Why does the Midrash stress in its question that Korach carried the aron?  Chazal tell us that the aron was "nosei es nos'av."  A casual observer who saw the aron being carried might have thought it took great strength, but in reality it took no strength at all. The aron carried itself, and shlepped along those who were "carrying" it for the ride.  Korach should have known from first hand experience that in life sometimes it seems that we are doing the driving, but in reality, we are just being carried along for the ride.  Just like his ability to carry the aron was not due to his great strength, so too, he should not have assumed his ruach ha'kodesh or any other talent he had was because he was better than anyone else, but rather was just a gift from Hashem.

2. Korach ben Yitzhar ben Kehas ben Levi.  Rashi comments that the Torah omits tacking on "ben Yaakov" at the end because Yaakov did not want his name associated with Korach's rebellion.

We all know that Levi is "ben Yaakov" even if the Torah doesn't mention it explicitly, so what did Yaakov accomplish by davening that his name not be mentioned?  (See Maharal in Gur Aryeh that we discussed back in 2009, and last year we discussed R' Baruch Sorotzkin's approach, but there is always something new to add : )

The Midrash on our parsha writes as follows:

(משלי יח)אח נפשע מקרית עוז ומדינים כבריח ארמון, זה קרח שפשע בתורה שהיא עז, שנאמר: (תהלים כט)ה' עוז לעמו יתן ה' יברך את עמו בשלום.

Korach is called a "poshei'a ba'Torah."  What are Chazal trying to tell us?  Shem m'Shmuel asks: Isn't anyone and everyone who commits an aveira a "poshei'a baTorah?"

My wife this week on her blog made an interesting observation.  Korach claimed  "Ki kol ha'eidah kulam kedosham."  It sounds very noble, echoing the words we heard by mattan Torah, "V'Atem tihiyu li mamlechos kohanim v'goy kadosh," but there is one important difference, and this difference gets to the very heart of what Korach got wrong.  At Har Sinai we were called a "goy kadosh" in the singular.  We were united -- one people, k'ish echad b'lev echad.  Korach, however, saw us as "kulam kedoshim," in the plural -- every one is holy, but it's every man and woman to him/herself.  

Every chotei is a poshei'a in the sense that there is a system of law, but the chotei chooses to disregard the rules.  That's not Korach.  Korach is poshei'a **baTorah** -- he is undermining the system itself.  Torah was given not to a collection of individuals, but to a single entity called Klal Yisrael.  Torah itself unites us with Hashem as one -- oraysa, KB"H, and Am Yisrael is one unit.  Without unity, the whole system falls apart.

"VaYikach Korach" -- "ispalig" the Targum says.  Korach set himself apart.  Korach's message was the antithesis of unity.

What Korach set out to do deliberately many other people do out of ignorance, laziness, etc.  Your average American Jew who lives somewhere in Anytown, USA and spends Saturday at the mall or eating out in some treif restaurant identifies more as an American, a New Yorker, etc. rather than as a Jew.   They don't feel as one with the hassid in Williamsburg.  They wont interfere with what others do -- kulam kedoshim, you do your holy thing, I'll do mine -- but to feel like one with them?  Sorry, not happening.

What Yaakov Avinu, the amud haTorah, davened for was that no matter how far you check out of Klal Yisrael, no matter how much you try to separate yourself, whether by choice, like Korahc did, or by not knowing any better, there should be a little bit of him left within that can never be totally severed.  There should always be something that remains apart from machlokes.  That little something is the spark that can lead to return.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

shogeg does not apply to midos

Rashi quotes from Chazal that Korach was led astray because he saw b'ruach ha'kodesh that Shmuel haNavi would be among his descendants.  R Shteinman asks in Ayeles haShachar that if so, Korach was shogeg and should have been judged more leniently (Maharasha on Sanhedrin 110 holds this is in fact why Korach was neither from those burnt or those swallowed by the earth.  The pashtus, however, is that he was the ringleader and more guilty than others, not less.)  

I don't understand the question.  Shogeg usually means there is necessary and sufficient conditions to cause a sin in error.  If you think you are allowed to water your lawn on Shabbos, that error alone is sufficient to cause chilul Shabbos.  There being a Shmuel haNavi who is shakul k'Moshe v'Aharon does not seem to be a sufficient condition in and of itself to cause any rebellion.  It may have caused Korach to feel confident in his chances of success, but is that enough to warrant his being called shogeg?  Maybe R' Shteiman just meant that there are mitigating circumstances here.

R' Shteinman answers that the sin of Korach stemmed from midos ra'os.  You can claim shogeg when it comes to doing a maaseh aveira like chilul shabbos or not putting on tefillin, but when the sin is one of bad midos, all bets are off.  A person has a responsibility to double and triple check to make sure they are acting properly and therefore there is no claim of shogeg.  

How is it that a rasha like Korach was zocheh to see b'ruach hakodesh that Shmuel would come out of him?  See the Tiferes Shlomo, and we once discussed a R' Tzadok on this (here and here).  The Shem m'Shmuel quotes the gemara's derasha (A"Z 24) that the oxen that carried the aron back after it was captured and then returned by the Plishtim sang shirah.  These oxen were certainly no more brilliant than other oxen and were not otherwise capable of speech.  It is the role they served as carriers of the aron that made them special and gave them special power.  Korach was also one of the bearers of the aron.  It was the role that he served that elevated his soul to where he could catch a glimpse b'ruach ha'kodesh of the future.

R' Shteinman (I dont know why I keep coming back to his sefer this week) comments on "boker v'yoda Hashem es asher lo" that Moshe's message was that even though originally avodah was supposed to be done by the first born, the election of the kohanim and the election of Aharon in particular should not be viewed as an accident of history, but rather as an inevitable outcome built into the laws of creation, much like day and night are built into the laws of creation.  It is an immutable fact, not a historically conditioned conclusion.

Aharon and Korach are the perfect foils for each other.  Korach thought he was great man, but in fact his greatness was not inherent in his character but was rather a product of the circumstance of his being a carrier of the aron.  Aharon, in contrast, was in fact a great person.  It was not the role of kohen gadol that made him who he was, but rather it was who he was that caused Hashem to choose his as leader.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

silence is not always golden

This article by Dennis Prager is a must read.  Prager talks about the test American Jews and Christians face given what is going on around us -- the test of whether we will speak out or whether we will remain silent.  Two short paragraphs to whet your appetite.
America is being taken over by violent mobs; a vast amount of destruction and stealing has taken place (with little police intervention and the apathy of our political leaders). Why aren’t all clergy delivering thundering sermons about the Seventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”? Does it now come with an asterisk?
A central part of a major American city has been seized and occupied by people who hate America and its values, including its Judeo-Christian values. Heard any clergy (aside from some evangelical Christians) speaking out against it?
Where indeed is the voice of our clergy?  Rather than speak out in protest, they have in the past endorsed candidates whose values are antithetical to all we believe in.  For example, one of the few things the two factions of Satmar agreed on is their endorsement of Bill DeBlasio.  "Bill De Blasio Gets Agudah Leadership' Endorsement" reads this Yeshiva World headline.  What exactly did they find appealing about this man?  Was it his stance on LGBTQ issues?  Abortion?  His anti-police rhetoric?  His support of a far left progressive/socialist agenda?  What possible benefit does DeBlasio bring to the table that would outweigh his stance on these items?  What is the price for our principles?  Just standing in the same 4 amos with this man is the chilul Hashem.

Our leaders and clergy have been steamrolled over and they are only first starting to wake up to the damage that has been done.  Agudah now has two lawsuits pending in NY State, one regarding reopening summer camps, one regarding more fully reopening shuls.  I will be very surprised if either lawsuit succeeds.  You can't put the cat back in the bag!  The time for action was on day #1, when Cuomo closed down the shuls, when DeBlasio was threatening to permanently close down any place of worship that reopened.  Even if you thought shuls should close, it should have been on our own terms -- not dictated by government.  Not by allowing the state to usurp our right to free worship.  Our leaders surrendered without even a whimper, without firing a verbal shot, with their powder still dry.  We were told to be good citizens and comply with the law.  No one told the protesters looting in Manhattan to be good citizens and comply with the law, did they?  But that's what we are told by leaders of our community.  That's why the NYC Police have time to come to Williamsburg to put locks on playgrounds while mobs loot and destroy the rest of the city -- because they know we are good citizens and won't fight back.  That's why firecrackers can go off all night in our neighborhoods and the police will do nothing.  Given the choice of taking action and risking your life or your career or doing nothing knowing full well that the Jews wont protest, can you blame the police for sitting on their hands?  We are good citizens and wont make a fuss.  It will all blow over, don't make waves, follow the rules, or it will be a chilul Hashem.  I say feh to such rhetoric.

The chilul Hashem is our silence in the face of all that is happening around us.

Dennis Prager again:
Religion doesn’t have all that much impact on most religious people. During comfortable times, it provides two essentials to a happy and fulfilled life — community and meaning — but when tested, it often fails like an umbrella that fails to expand just as it starts to rain.
We are in the middle of a thunderstorm and our umbrella is worthless.

the "segulah" of ketores

The parsha tells us that Aharon tried to stop the plague that came upon Bnei Yisrael as a punishment by offering ketores.  Rashi comments 17:13

יעמוד בין המתים וגו׳ – אחז את המלאך והעמידו על כרחו. אמר לו: הנח לי לעשות שליחותי. אמר לו: משה צוני לעכב על ידך. אמר לו: אני שלוחו של מקום, ואתה שלוחו של משה. אמר לו: אין משה אומר כלום מלבו אלא מפי הגבורה, ואם אין אתה מאמין, הרי הקב״ה ומשה אלא פתח אהל מועד, בא עמי ושאל, וזהו שנאמר: וישב אהרן אל משה וגומ׳

The malach ha'maves did not want to stop, claiming that he was doing G-d's shlichus and Aharon was only doing Moshe's shlichus.  Aharon had to show the malach that Moshe did not initiate this tactic of offering ketores of his own accord -- everything that Moshe said came from Hashem.

R' Shteinman asks: Rashi two pesukim earlier tells us that at mattan Torah the malach ha'maves revealed to Moshe the secret that ketores stops a plague.  So why now was the malach putting up an argument?  Why was the malach not responsive to the segulah of ketores?  

We learn from here an important yesod: a segulah is not a magic trick.  The ONLY way to stop the midas ha'din is by a kiyum mitzvah, by doing the ratzon Hashem.  

The malach said to Aharon that true, ketores has the power to stop a plague, but in this context its being offered is not a kiyum of ratzon Hashem.  To the contrary, he, the malach, is carrying out Hashem's command and Aharon was just doing Moshe's shlichus.  Aharon had to prove to the malach that his offering was in fact a mitzvah as well, that it was a fulfillment of ratzon Hashem, and then it worked to stop the plague. 

Don't put your trust in magic tricks!  Don't think that by mumbling through saying the parsha of ketores, even if you do it from a klaf, then you will be immune from illness or magically cured.  The best segulos are Torah, tefilah, mitzvos, teshuvah. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

a worthwhile trade-off

Rashi comments on "shelach lecha" that Hashem told Moshe that he already said that Eretz Yisrael is a fantastic country and no more should be needed, but if the people demand spies and Moshe wants to send them, then the choice is his.  

It seems from Rashi that the sending of spies shows a lack of bitachon.  Ramban asks: if that is the case, then not only are the people guilty of not trusting Hashem's promise, but Moshe is guilty as well, as in Parshas Devarim the Torah tells us that he also thought sending spies was a good idea, "va'yitav b'einay ha'davar."

Ramban answers:

ויתכן, כי משה בעבור שידע כי היא שמנה וטובה, כמו שנאמר לו: אל ארץ טובה ורחבה וגו׳ (שמות ג׳:ח׳), בעבור כן אמר להם שיתנו לב לדעת כן, כדי שיגידו לעם וישמחו ויחליפו כח לעלות שם בשמחה.

Moshe did trust that the land was good and fantastic, exactly as Hashem said.  That belief in Hashem's promise is precisely why he thought sending the spies was a good idea -- let the people see for themselves just how good Hashem is going to make it for them, and then they will be happy and excited to enter the land.

R' Zilberstein (in NIfleosecha Asicha) points out that we see from this Ramban the tremendous importance of doing a mitzvah b'simcha and with hislahavus.  Even if sending the spies showed a lower level of bitachon, even if it carried with it certain risks, the net result of being able to fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv ha'aretz with greater joy made it a worthwhile trade-off.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

seeing is believing

In response to the cheit ha'meraglim Hashem tells Moshe that (וְכׇל־מְנַאֲצַ֖י לֹ֥א יִרְאֽוּהָ (14:23 all those who rebelled will not get to see the land, with the one exception of Kaleiv,  וְעַבְדִּ֣י כָלֵ֗ב עֵ֣קֶב הָֽיְתָ֞ה ר֤וּחַ אַחֶ֙רֶת֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וַיְמַלֵּ֖א אַחֲרָ֑י וַהֲבִֽיאֹתִ֗יו אֶל־הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֣א שָׁ֔מָּה וְזַרְע֖וֹ יוֹרִשֶֽׁנָּה.  

Sefas Emes asks (5645): What do you mean, "Not see the land?"  The 10 bad spies already saw the land -- they spent 40 days there touring in order to report back to Moshe!

There are people who come to Eretz Yisrael on vacation and they spend their time in its wonderful restaurants, seeing the "historic" sights, etc.  Hard to believe, but even your Yankel or your Rivkah for whom you are spending 20k+ for them to go to yeshiva or seminary and grow in avodas Hashem might be found late on a Thurs night in some bar in Yerushalayim or some other hangout.  Or maybe they are taking the opportunity to try something they would never get to do at home, like scuba diving or parasailing, or who knows what.  They are seeing the land, they are enjoying the experience!  

Says the Sefas Emes, if that was what you came to Eretz Yisrael to see and do, then you haven't really seen Eretz Yisrael.

Sure, the meraglim saw the land in the same way that we see mountains, valleys, trees, people.  But that's not what Eretz Yisrael is all about.  To see Eretz Yisrael means to see the pnimiyus of the land, to see a place that is governed by direct hashgacha, to see a place that has einei Hashem focussed on it 24x7.  If you want restaurants, museums & bars, historic sites, you can go to Paris, go to England, go elsewhere.  Eretz Yirael has all those things too, but those are just icing on the cake so you wont be deprived.  The ikar, however, is to see and experience ruchniyus.  Kaleiv went to Chevron -- a cemetery! -- and still came back giving a glowing report because he was not seeing graves in his travels, he was seeing kedusha.  The other meraglim saw and brought back the most beautiful fruits, but they saw nothing in it because if you are blind to the kedushas ha'aretz, then in truth, there is nothing to see.

Baruch Hashem I think for the most part, kids who spend a year in Eretz Yisrael do sense that there is something special about it beyond the not so wonderful things they can do and see while out from under their parent's eyes.  V'techezena eineinu b'shuvcha l'Tzion.  We have to learn how to look at things correctly.

2) וִיהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֔וּן וְכָלֵ֖ב בֶּן־יְפֻנֶּ֑ה חָיוּ֙ מִן־הָאֲנָשִׁ֣ים הָהֵ֔ם הַֽהֹלְכִ֖ים לָת֥וּר אֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ

This entire pasuk (14:35) seems unnecessary, as the previous pasuk told us וַיָּמֻ֙תוּ֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים מוֹצִאֵ֥י דִבַּת־הָאָ֖רֶץ רָעָ֑ה בַּמַּגֵּפָ֖ה, that those who spoke bad about Eretz Yisrael died.  It should be obvious that Yehoshua and Kaleiv who were not guilty of speaking against the land were not punished.  

Chazal explain that the "chayu" here means that the Yehoshua and Kaleiv got the portion of land in Eretz Yisrael that the meraglim would have been entitled to.  Various other meforshim (e.g. Netziv, Kli Yakar) offer different answers as well.  I want to highlight the Ohr haChaim's approach:

ויתבאר על פי מה שאמרו במס׳ בבא בתרא (קכא:) תניא יאיר בן מנשה נולד בימי יעקב, והקשו ממה שמצינו שנכנם לארץ דכתיב ויכו מהם אנשי העי כשלשים וששה איש וגו׳ זה יאיר בן מנשה ששקול כרובה של סנהדרין, ותירץ רב אחא שלא נגזרה גזירה לא על פחות מכ׳ ולא על יותר מס׳ עד כאן. והנה ממה שלא תירץ הגמרא שיאיר היה צדיק גמור הראת לדעת כי צדקת הצדיק לא הצילתו מהגזרה ההיא, והוא מאמר הכתוב ויהושע וגו׳ חיו וגו׳ פירוש טעם שחיו הוא להיותם מן האנשים ההולכים לתור היא שעמדה להם, אבל אם לא היו מהתרים והיו נשארים בכלל ישראל היתה באה הגזירה גם עליהם הגם שהם צדיקים גמורים לצד שהיו למעלה מעשרים כשיצאו ממצרים ולמטה מס׳.

He writes that it is only because Yehoshua and Kaleiv had the extra zechus of being among the spies and not being influenced by them that they escaped punishment.  However, had they not been among the spies, then despite their tzidkus, they would have still been subject to the gezeirah of death in the midbar.  When the klal is punished, then personal tzidkus is not enough.   

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

marching along

1) "Shuvah Hashem rivivos alphei Yisrael."  (10:36)

Not only is it a pasuk in our parsha, but it's a pasuk we say in davening every time we return the sefer Torah to the aron.  Rabbi Artscroll in his sidur translates: "Return Hashem to the myriad thosands of Israel."  Rabbi Artscroll in his chumash, however, translates it differently, following Rashi's pshat: "Reside tranquilly, O, [can anyone explain why they stick in "O" here?} Hashem, amoung the myriad thousands of Israel."  

I don't know how you resolve shnei Artscrolls ha'makchishim zeh es zeh.  

2) More to say on the parsha below, but first a small interlude.  Apparently some of acheinu either done say those pesukim of "ya'yehi binso'a" or have no idea what they mean.  "V'yanusu mi'sanecha mi'panecha..."  Who are the sonei Hashem that we are talking about?  Chazal tell us: "eilu sonei Yisrael."  We also have this up coming week's parsha to warn us about speaking against Israel, no matter what the motives may be.  So how can it be that "orthodox" Jews, wearing kippot, can walk in a march, can carry signs, in support of a movement that declares that Israel is an "apartheid state" that practices "systemic discrimination?"  It's right there, on the m4BL (am umbrella group that includes BLM and others) website:

"In addition, approximately 3 billion dollars in US aid is allocated to Israel, a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades. "

"Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people.  Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US­funded apartheid wall."

Is this a platform we should be supporting?

The article I linked to about the march has a quote from a "rising juinor" from a local "yeshiva" high school who was there to represent the "Jewish LGBTQ-plus community."  

Hashem yerachem.  How very sad.

Back to our regular program.

3) לָמָ֤ה הֲרֵעֹ֙תָ֙ לְעַבְדֶּ֔ךָ וְלָ֛מָּה לֹא־מָצָ֥תִי חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ

Moshe says to Hashem, "Why have you done harm to me, and why have I not found favor in your eyes?" (11:11)

Shouldn't the phrases be reversed?  Doing harm is far worse than simply not finding favor -- is this a "lo zu af zu?"  

HaKsav vhaKabbalah says the word "harei'osa" here is not from the root ra, to do bad.  Chas v'shalom that Moshe shou;d say that about G-d.  Rather it is from the same root like the word "ro'eh," a shephard.  (See this post as well.)  Moshe was saying to Hashem, "Why have you made me the shepard to the nation but not given me the tools I need to do my job properly?"

4) We once discussed whether the word "na" in "K-l na refa na lah" means please or whether it means right away.  When I did that post I should have caught that the same issue comes up earlier in the parsha.  Moshe says to Yisro, "Al na ta'azoz osanu."  Rashi says na=bakasha, please.  Ibn Ezra. however (as well as Targum Onkelus), says it means atah=now, and he adds that this is how the word should always be translated.  What Moshe is telling Yisro is that now is a terrible time to leave because we're almost at our destination.  It would be like sitting for hours for a long car ride and then deciding to turn around and head home just as you were approaching your destination.  

5) In complaining to Hashem that he cannot possibly provide the people with meat, Moshe says (11:15)

וְאִם־כָּ֣כָה׀ אַתְּ־עֹ֣שֶׂה לִּ֗י הׇרְגֵ֤נִי נָא֙ הָרֹ֔ג אִם־מָצָ֥אתִי חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ וְאַל־אֶרְאֶ֖ה בְּרָעָתִֽי

Rashi comments on the last word:

׳ברעתם׳ היה ליכתב, אלא שֶכינה הכתוב, וזה אחד מתיקוני סופרים בתורה לכינוי לתיקון לשון.

I'm not going to get into what Rashi means by tikun sofrim.  Simpler question: why is the tikun necessary?  What would be so bad about saying to G-d that he does not want to see "ra'asam" of the people?  

The Taz in Divrei David says a bold chiddush, but without realizing it he is mechavein to the way Sefer haIkkarim quotes our Rashi.  He sets the stage by pointing out a Rashi in Iyov 32:3 on the pasuk וּבִשְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת רֵעָיו֮ חָרָ֢ה אַ֫פּ֥וֹ עַ֤ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־מָצְא֣וּ מַעֲנֶ֑ה וַ֝יַּרְשִׁ֗יעוּ אֶת־אִיּֽוֹב׃  

Rashi writes

וירשיעו את איוב – זה אחד מן המקראות שתקנו סופרים את לשון הכתוב וירשיעו כלפי המקום בשתיקותם היה לו לכתוב אלא שכינה הכתוב וכן וימירו את כבודם בתבנית שור כבודי היה לו לכתוב אלא שכינה הכתוב וכן ואל אראה ברעתי (במדבר יא) ברעת׳ היה לו לכתוב אלא שכינה הכתוב וכן הרבה מקומות בספרי ובמסורת הגדולה.

The tikun of the pasuk in Iyov is necessay because the chavrei Iyov were making G-d c"v into a bad guy.  Rashi gives other examples of the same, among them our pasuk.  Taz therefore suggests that the text of our Rashi is corrupt, and the tikun is not to avoid saying  ׳ ברעתם׳ but rather to avoid saying ב,רעתך, referring to G-d.  

Amending the text of a Rashi is no small thing.  The footnotes in the Mosad haRav Kook edition of the Divrei David note that there are no early texts of Rashi that would support the Taz's suggestion. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

it's all about me

1) Yesterday I was walking with my wife and we saw gazebo / tents setup in the chatzeir of a shul for people to daven in.  I said to my wife that maybe people should put up their sukkos for davening.  Afterwards I happened to listen to a speech by Sivan Rahav Meir and she told a story of Chabad sheluchim in Odessa who put up a tent for davening on Shavuos and were approached by Ploni and Plonis who asked to take the 4 minim -- these Jews, so distant from everything, saw a tent and thought it is Sukkos, time for lulav and esrog!  You don't know whether to laugh or cry.  If it's Sukkos, what happened to Rosh haShana, Yom Kippur?  Kashya.  Who knows.  But at least they wanted to do something.  

2) The first Mishna in the last perek of Brachos has a tefilah to say when you enter a big city and when you manage to get out of the city in peace.  See Rashi there, see the poskim, who say the practice is not to say this tefilah because today there is not such a great danger.  I'm beginning to wonder if we should reinstitute this prayer.  When you go into NYC (was there on Monday) and you see all the stores that have not yet been looted all boarded up and closed, when they tell you that the gate to the parking garage will be closed at 3:00 so no one can get in, then I'm not so sure the danger is slight.  If you close down every shul and business because of the .3% mortality rate of those who become infected with Corona, is this less of a sakana?  

3) On to the parsha:

 וַיִּשְׁמַ֨ע מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶת־הָעָ֗ם בֹּכֶה֙ לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֔יו אִ֖ישׁ לְפֶ֣תַח אׇהֳל֑וֹ

Not only was Hashem angry when the people began to complain about unchanging diet of mon, but "b'eini Moshe ra," even Moshe thought this was evil.  (11:10)  

Uncharacteristically, Moshe turned to Hashem and complained about the impossible job he had as leader, the no-win situation he was in in trying to constantly satisfy the complaints of the mob.  

What happened to Moshe the defender of Klal Yisrael, the man who could and did carry it all on his shoulders?  Why here was he not only angry at the people, but he turned to Hashem to complain instead of turning to Hashem in prayer on their behalf as he had done so many other times before?

I meant to write about this a few months ago and never got around to it, so let me make up for it now.  Back in Parshas Beshalach there are a number of episodes where Klal Yisrael complained.  

In 16:3 the people complained about the lack of food:

וַיֹּאמְר֨וּ אֲלֵהֶ֜ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל מִֽי־יִתֵּ֨ן מוּתֵ֤נוּ בְיַד־יְהֹוָה֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם בְּשִׁבְתֵּ֙נוּ֙ עַל־סִ֣יר הַבָּשָׂ֔ר בְּאׇכְלֵ֥נוּ לֶ֖חֶם לָשֹׂ֑בַע כִּֽי־הוֹצֵאתֶ֤ם אֹתָ֙נוּ֙ אֶל־הַמִּדְבָּ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה לְהָמִ֛ית אֶת־כׇּל־הַקָּהָ֥ל הַזֶּ֖ה בָּרָעָֽב

In 17:3 the people complained about the lack of water:

 וַיִּצְמָ֨א שָׁ֤ם הָעָם֙ לַמַּ֔יִם וַיָּ֥לֶן הָעָ֖ם עַל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לָ֤מָּה זֶּה֙ הֶעֱלִיתָ֣נוּ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם לְהָמִ֥ית אֹתִ֛י וְאֶת־בָּנַ֥י וְאֶת־מִקְנַ֖י בַּצָּמָֽא׃

The reaction to these complaints is strikingly different.  In response to the first complaint, Moshe did not even need to turn to Hashem in prayer.  The very next pasuk tells us that Hashem promised "lechem min ha'shamayim," that the people would get mon to eat.  However, in response to the second complaint, Moshe cried out to Hashem saying that the people were on the verge of stoning him.  No only was there no benevolent response by Hashem, but even Moshe felt threatened this time around.  

Why the difference?

If you read the first complaint carefully, it is written all in the plural: "mi itgein MUSEINU... SHIVTEINU... hotzeisem OSANU...l'hamis es ha'KAHAL."  WE need food, why did you take US out of Egypt, was it to endanger the entire CONGREGATION.

The second complaint, in contrast, speaks about the individual: "l'hamis OSI v'es BANAI v'es MIKNAI."  You are going to kill ME, MY children, MY cattle.

The first complaint is all about the suffering of the community.  The second complaint is about the suffering of the individual and his/her selfish self-interest.  

Chasam Sofer writes on our parsha that it was after seeing the people "bocheh l'mishpichosav," each sitting by his own tent, each concerned only with his own welfare, that Moshe grew angry.  In theory each person might have come up with an excuse for his complaints; he might have said, "If it was just me I wouldn't say anything, but what about others?"  At least this would give the murmuring a window dressing of legitimacy.  However, "bocheh l'mishpichosav" allows for no excuses -- it's just about you, your self-interest, your ego.  That Moshe, who the parsha later calls "anav me'od m'kol adam," had no patience for. 

When people complain that the system is unfair, sometimes it shows true concern for the community at large, but unfortunately sometimes it's just an excuse to advance their own self-interest.  Be careful which complainers you are rooting for.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

it's all about what's inside

וְהָֽאסַפְסֻף֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּקִרְבּ֔וֹ הִתְאַוּ֖וּ תַּאֲוָ֑ה וַיָּשֻׁ֣בוּ וַיִּבְכּ֗וּ גַּ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל

Chasam Sofer explains: "V'ha'safsuf asher B'KIRBO" (11:4) there is a little bit of rabble rouser and baal taavah inside each and every one of us.  The key is to keep it under control.  What happened in this episode is that the part of us that should be kept at bay caused "va'yivku gam Bnei Yisrael," the pure Jewish soul, the neshomo Elokis, that is also inside of us, to join in the complaints.  

Based on this Chasam Sofer we have a deeper insight into what Moshe meant when he accuses the people (11:20) of "m'astem es Hashem asher B'KIRBICHEM" -- he means they have soiled the nehoma Elokis that is within.  

And when Hashem then does promise enough meat for people to stuff themselves with for a month, but at the price of a steep punishment for all who partake, Moshe responds:

וַיֹּ֘אמֶר֮ מֹשֶׁה֒ שֵׁשׁ־מֵא֥וֹת אֶ֙לֶף֙ רַגְלִ֔י הָעָ֕ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י בְּקִרְבּ֑וֹ וְאַתָּ֣ה אָמַ֗רְתָּ בָּשָׂר֙ אֶתֵּ֣ן לָהֶ֔ם וְאָכְל֖וּ חֹ֥דֶשׁ יָמִֽים׃

Remember, there's a little bit of me, says Moshe, that has also rubbed off on them and is inside each and every one of those complainers -- "asher anochi B'KIRBO."  Do you really think people that have a little but of me inside of them will sit around and just stuff themselves in an orgy of taavah for a full month?  Hashem, you know your people are better than that.  (see Malbim!) 

There is another point here worth reflecting on.  There are people who "justify" their sins by claiming that they r"l hate G-d, and they will happily provide you with a whole list of complaints, of things G-d has done to wrong them, etc.  

Moshe says to the people, "M'astem es Hashem ASHER B'KIRBICHEM."  When you say you hate G-d, what you are really saying is you hate yourself.  It's not some Supreme Being out there in the Heavens that's making you miserable, but rather it's what's B'KIRBECHEM, what's inside your own hearts that you hate and that is making you angry.  And that's something you have the power to change.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

a nazir who became tamei -- Ibn Ezra's secret

1) Rav Baruch Sorotzkin (in haBina v'haBracha) points out that the korbanos offered by the nazir -- chatas, olah, and shelamim -- are the same as those offered by the kohein during miluim.  Just like the miluim served as a training period for the kohanim, so too the days of nezirus serve as a training period for the nazir to live a life of kedusha.

2) The Ibn Ezra makes one of his cryptic comments with respect to the korbanos olah and chatas that a nazir who becomes tamei brings:

 והסוד הוא שאמרו חכמינו ז״ל: ושכר עברה עברה

The secret is "schar aveira aveira."  What's bothering Ibn Ezra and what's the meaning of this secret (shhhh!) that he is talking about?

R' Elazar haKapar holds that a nazir who becomes tamei brings a korban chatas because "tzi'er atzmo min ha'yayin," he caused himself to suffer by depriving himself of wine.  According to this view, why does the nazir only bring the chatas if he becomes tamei?  Shouldn't every nazir who gives up drinking bring a chatas?  And how does this view fit with the Torah's description of the nazir not as a sinner, but as someone who is kadosh?

Kli Yakar answers if the nazir was truly happy with his state of nezirus, then he would indeed be a kadosh.  However, the nazir was not really happy with his lot.  When you are truly happy, then you do everything you can to make sure you maintain that happiness -- no slip ups, no accidents.  You are extra careful.  Take someone who loves their new car -- they are careful to make sure it doesn't get a single scratch and not a single dent.  They dont let anyone near their car.  Someone who is not so in love with their car doesn't care as much -- so what if it gets a little ding here or there?  The fact that the nazir became tamei, that he got a a dent in his nezirus, proves that he didn't care so much.  The nezirus was "tzi'eir atzmo," what happened proves that nezirus is something that caused tza'ar, not something that cherished and viewed as a path to holiness.  

Maybe the Ibn Ezra was alluding to something similar.  Why should the nazir who "b'pesa pisom," through no intentional fault of his own became tamei, have to bring a chatas?  What did he do wrong?  The answer is that becoming tamei was the end of a process.  The start of the process was not feeling so happy about his nezirus and therefore not taking the extra care to avoid even a chance dent or scratch.  "Schar aveira aveira."  Once you start down that wrong path, the end result is inevitable.

The big take away from all this is one word: ATTITUDE.  I was going to end this post with some specific examples, but it's not necessary -- we are all smart enough to figure out when someone is going through the motions, when he's doing the mitzvos but it's really "tzi'eir atzmo," and when someone is living Torah like it's something cherished, like it's a source of simcha.  "Schar aveira aveira" -- you get back what you put in.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

no first place, no last place

Zos chanukas ha'mizbeiach b'yom himashach oso... (7:84)
...Zos chanukas ha'mizbeiach acharei himashach oso (7:89)

"B'yom" or "acharei" -- which one is it?  

The Midrash (Netziv as well, but also see Rashbam) explains that even though it took 12 days for the Nesiim to complete the process of offering their gifts, one per day, and only after -- "achrei" -- day 12 was the chanukah complete, since they were all equal in merit it is as if they all brought the gifts on day 1, "b'yom himashach oso."

The yesod here is that these were not 12 separate individual gifts, each of which stood alone, but rather these gifts of the Nesiim were 12 parts of one whole.  When you are dealing with multiple things, then there is a first, a second, a third, etc.  Not so here when we are dealing with one thing -- one gifts, 12 parts to it.  

We see the same idea earlier in the parsha when Hashem tells Moshe "nasi echad la'yom naso echad la'yom yakrivu es korbanam" (7:11 - easy pasuk to remember).  Netziv is medayek that the tense is wrong.  Since the pasuk is speaking about the individual nasi, it should say "yakriv" in the singular, not "yakrivu" plural.  He answers:

 אלא בא ללמד דנשיא אחד ליום יקריב בשביל כולם, וכמו שכולם מקריבים בכל יום משנים עשר יום. 

One person may be doing the offering, but he represents the klal, hence the use of the plural.

Maharal uses this same yesod to explain the smichus haparshiyos of the gifts of the Nesiim to the parsha of birchas kohanim.  The culmination of birchas kohanim is the bracha of "v'yaseim lecha shalom."  The way the Nesiim offered their gifts is a model of how a community built on shalom functions.  On the first day the korban of Nachshon was offered.  The parsha describing his gifts starts, "V'korbano..."  Why the extra vav here?  This is the first pasuk in the description of the first gift -- what came beforehand that we need a "vav" to connect it to?  Maharal (in Gur Aryeh, see Midrash Rabah 13:11 for a different answer) answers that the Torah is teaching us not to look at the 12 Nesiim in linear heirarchical fashion, where there is a first in line and a last in line, but rather to look at the 12 as a circle, where there is no beginning and there is no end. We start with a "vav" because the beginning connects to the end, and the end connects to the beginning.  When each individual acts "b'shem kol yisrael," then there is no individual in first place or in last place.

2) The famous smichus ha'parshiyos issue the Midrash, the Ramban, and others deal with is the connection between the gifts of the Nesiim and the lighting of menorah by Aharon that follows afterwards in next week's parsha.  What is overlooked is that there is another pasuk in between those two topics (7:89): 

וּבְבֹ֨א מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵד֮ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אִתּוֹ֒ וַיִּשְׁמַ֨ע אֶת־הַקּ֜וֹל מִדַּבֵּ֣ר אֵלָ֗יו מֵעַ֤ל הַכַּפֹּ֙רֶת֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־אֲרֹ֣ן הָעֵדֻ֔ת מִבֵּ֖ין שְׁנֵ֣י הַכְּרֻבִ֑ים וַיְדַבֵּ֖ר אֵלָֽיו׃

The Torah sticks in a description of Moshe entering Ohel Moed and hearing the dvar Hashem.  How does that fit in?

The classic answer for why the parsha of lighting menorah appears here is because Aharon was jealous that he did not get to contribute something with the Nesiim, so Hashem revealed that his job of lighting menorah is a greater prize.  Alshich explains that this pasuk describing Moshe speaking to Hashem in Ohel Moed comes to address the question of why only Aharon felt left out -- why didn't Moshe feel left out?  The Torah therefore reminds us that Moshe heard Hashem's voice speaking to him.  He did not feel like his not bringing a gift in any way diminished his closness to Hashem.  (I would have said that only Aharon as the leader/nasi of Levi felt he should have been included.   Moshe was not the nasi of any particular sheivet.)

Tzror Ha'Mor offers an explanation (see Seforno as well) that also addresses the question we started with or "acharei himashach" vs "b'yom himashach":

וחזר לומר זאת חנוכת המזבח אחרי המשח אותו כדי לסומכו לפסוק ובבא משה. להורות שהחנוכה הראשונה היתה ביום המשח אותו באלו הקרבנות. והחנוכה השניה היתה חנוכת השכינה לדבר עם משה. כי תכלית המשכן ואלו הקרבנות לא היה אלא להוריד השכינה לתחתונים. וזהו אחרי המשח אותו. כי החנוכה הראשונה היתה ביום המשח בענין הקרבנות. והחנוכה האחרת שהיתה אחרי המשח אותו. היתה זאת ובבא משה אל אהל מועד לדבר אתו וישמע את הקול מדבר אליו. וזה להורות במעלת משה שהשיג עתה בחנוכת הנשיאים מה שלא השיג עד עתה. והוא כי פעמים אחרות כשנכנס משה היה ממתין עד שבא הדיבור אליו. אבל עכשיו בבא משה וישמע את הקול. שכבר היה שם השם ממתין ומדבר. לפי שזה המקום אוה למושב לו. 

As we've discussed in the past, there is a dual function to the Mishkan.  The mitzvah to build a Mishkan, Rambam writes in the beginning of Hil Beis haBechira, is to make a place where korbanos can be offered.  Ramban in many places takes a different approach and writes that the Mishkan was the place of revelation, a duplicate of Har Sinai.  Corresponding to these two roles we have two chanukos.  We have the chanukas haNesiim "b'yom himasach oso" which was done through the korbanos that they brought.  Secondly, we have "acharei himashach oso," after those offerings were completed, "b'vo Moshe el Ohel Moed...," a second chanukah done through haShechina, revelation. 

The Tzror haMor ties these two chanukos together.  It is the offering of the korbanos of the Nesiim which transformed the Mishkan into a place that would also serve as the focal point of Hashem's revelation.  The second chanukah is not independent, but goes hand in hand with the first.

compare and contrast

Can someone explain to me why the mayor of NY personally came to make sure the police disbanded this crowd:

But this crowd is 100% OK and is applauded:


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

bal yacheil on nezirus

A person who takes a neder to keep nezirus for one day, for example, is automatically a nazir for 30 days, as that is the minimim shiur of nezirus.  Similarly, if a person takes a neder to be a nazir only from drinking wine, there is no such thing, and he becomes a full nazir with all the associated prohibitions.  Minchas Chinuch has a safeik whether there would be bal yacheil in these cases if the nazir violates the part of nezirus that he has not verbally accepted, but which halacha imposes upon him.  Is the issur about contradicting the words that come out of a person's mouth, or is the issur about undermining the effect/outcome of those words.

The Rambam paskens that if Reuvain takes a neder that all of his property should be assur to Shimon and then gives Shimon something he owns, Reuvain would get malkos for violating bal yacheil.  The Ran, however, disagrees and holds the opposite: it is Shimon that gets malkos for violating the neder, not Reuvain (see Lechem Mishna, Hil Nezirus 5:1).  The Steipler points out that here we have a test case where Reuvain is the one uttering the words that are being violated, but the effect those words have stop Shimon, not Reuvain himself, from doing something.  Rambam is mechayeiv Reuvain in malkos because Rambam understands bal yacheil as a violation of the words.  Ran is mechayeiv Shimon because he looks at the net effect.

One can also understand the safeik of the Minchas Chinuch is a more narrow way.  Accepting upon onself a neder of nezirus is not really the same as taking a neder not to drink wine, take a haircut, and become tamei.  Achronim point out (see Avnei Miluim in the teshuvos #15 quoting Mahari"t, also brought by the Shalmei Nedarim on 2b in Nedarim) that the issurei nezirus are the result of a chalos that transforms the person.  A person who says "hareini nazir" never mentions wine, haircuts, or tumah, but nontheless becomes a nazir and as a result is bound by all those issurim + bal yacheil for violating them.  So perhaps the safeik of the M.C.. applies specifically to nezirus, because specifically here bal yacheil is about violating a status, not about violating specific terms/words of a neder.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

shavuos leftovers

1) Interesting Masechet Sofrim that says Meg Rus is read in two parts, half on the first night of motzei Y"T and half on the second.  I have a hunch motzei here actually means the night on Y"T, not the night after.  In any case, I would also assume that the Mes Sofrim means that there is one chiyuv to read the book in its entirety over the span of the two days of Y"T, not that there is a chiyuv of kri'ah on 2 perakim the first night and a separate chiyuv on the second night.  The reading at night part makes sense -- we read megilas Esther by day only because we have a derasha that says that in addition to the chiyuv at night, there is a chiyuv "l'shanosa," to repeat it by day.  According to some Rishonim, the ikar chiyuv is in fact at night.  There is no such chiyuv "l'shanosa" with respect to Rus.  There are some sefardim who follow this minhag of mes sofrim, but I am not aware of any ashkenaz practice like it.

2) The Chok Yaakov (OC 473) has a chidush din that if you did not say she'hechiyanu on Shavuos, you may say it during the tashlumin days up to a week after the chag.  It is very difficult to understand how this can be the case when those days are regular weekdays.  Maharil Diskin tries to muster a defense of the Chok Yaakov by suggesting, also a big chidush, that you can fulfill the mitzvah l'hakbil pnei rabbo ba'regel during those tashlumin days and therefore they have some vestige of Y"T to them.  He then rejects this as sufficient basis for reciting she'hechiyanu, as there is no mitzvah if the rav is mochel.  This implies that the chiyuv l'hakbil pnei rabbo is a din in kavod ha'rav (Rashi in Chagiga 3a says this explicitly), and hence is subject to mechila, not a din in talmud torah (the Rambam quotes the din in Hil Talmud Torah), to visit your rebbe in order to learn something from him on Y"T.  My son pointed out that R' Chaim Kanievsky says it is a din in the kedushas ha'yom of the Y"T, part of how you celebrate the day.  Don't know where he got that from in Rishonim.

3) The Mishna in Bikurim 3:4 writes that once the procession bringing bikurim reaches Har haBayis, even someone as important as a king has to personally take his basket in hand and carry up to the Mikdash.  In our parsha (Naso) the Torah tells regarding the wagons donated by the Nesiim, "Va'yavi'u es korbanam... va'yakrivu osam lifnei haMishkan." (7:3)  Why the need to mention "va'yakrivum" after "va'yavi'u?"  Rashi explains that Moshe was hesitant and did not want to accept the gifts of the Nesiim, so they had to wait at the entrance to the Mishkan until Hashem gave the go ahead to take their gifts.  Netziv, however, explains that the pasuk is telling is that the Nesiim themselves were the ones who brought the wagons -- they did not send them by wagon driver or with a servant.  Similarly, the gemara (Pesachim 65b) writes that after the korban pesach was shechted, each person would personally carry his korban home with the hide -- they did not give it to a servant or anyone else to shlep for them.  Kavod for a mitzvah means taking a personal interest in seeing that it is done, not delegating the task to someone else. 

4) In previous years I wrote that staying up all night and learning while half awake does not accomplish much.  To be meyasheiv the minhag, it seems that staying up all night is not a kiyum of talmud torah, but is a kiyum of the mitzvah to remember ma'amad Har Sinai.  (Similarly, I heard R' Aharon Kahn shlit"a explain that the reason according to many shitos we read the dibros with ta'am elyon only on Shavuos is as a kiyum of the mitzvah to remember ma'amad Har Sinai, which is when we got the 10 dibros.  All the other times we read the parsha as a regular krias ha'torah = a kiyum of talmud torah b'rabim, and therefore we read with the regular trop that divides the sentences into pesukim, not dibros.)