Friday, September 25, 2020

rav chessed v'emes

Way back in March I discussed the Netziv's pshat in "rav chessed v'emes", that “rav” modifies both terms –- Hashem is both “rav chessed” and “rav emes.”  Meaning, when a person appears before a judge, the judge may say that while it’s true/emes that the law says that for crime X the punishment is Y, he will be merciful and give a lesser punishment.  Or the judge may refuse to hear any grounds for leniency -– no chessed –- and instead, dispense exactly the punishment on the books.  It's either or: either you get the letter of the law, or the law goes out the window and you get mercy in its place.  Hashem somehow –- and this is beyond our human capacity to understand –- shows both an abundance of mercy, he is “rav chessed,” and at the same time, does not deviate one iota from being “rav emes,” from dispensing exactly what the letter of the law requires (see post here.)

The problem is that we are talking about the 13 midos ha'rachamim here -- not stam 13 ways G-d runs the world.  If emes is a stira to rachamim, then what is it doing here?  

Revisiting another post from a long time ago: The Midrash writes that for 26 generations before mattan Torah Hashem sustained the world through pure chessed.  We have 26 "ki l'olam chasdo"s.  But after mattan Torah, we are responsible to earn our keep by doing Torah u'miztvos.

So does that mean that mattan Torah diminished Hashem's chessed?

Rav Hutner answers as follows: Ramchal and others explain that chessed that is an undeserved handout is not the pureset form of chessed because who really feels good about taking a handout?  The highest form of chessed is giving someone an opportunity to earn what you want to bestow upon them.  Mattan Torah was therefore a greater chessed than existed ever before because Torah and mitzvos give us the opportunity to earn what Hashem wants to grant us.

This is what we mean, says the Tiferes Shlomo, by the word "emes" in the 13 midos.  The chessed of Hashem is a chessed of "emes," it is something he gives us the opportunity to earn and deserve, and is not tainted by being nahama d'kisufa.

Hashem wants to give each one of us a kesiva v'chasima tovah.  He wants to give us rachamei shamayim and he gives us so many opportunities, especially during aseres ymei teshuvah, to get there.  Chazal gave us a simple formula: "kol ha'merachem... m'rachamim alav min ha'shamayim."  

But what if a person just doesn't feel inspired and just doesn't have it in him?  

I've quoted this Ishbitzer many times before, so this too is an encore performance.  "Terem nikra'au v'ani e'eneh, od heim midbarim v'ani eshma."  If G-d responded already, "terem nikra'u," then what is the "od heim midabrim" all about?  

The Ishbitzer explains that the pasuk is speaking about a situation where Hashem wants to intervene and help us, but the is'arusa d'li'tata on our part is missing.  So Hashem intervenes and wakes us up.  "Terem nikra'u," he responds not by giving us what we need, but by arousing us and inspiring us to ask for it.  Then, "od heim midabrim," once the dialogue is established, once the conversation is initiated, then "ani eshma," says Hashem.

The Yalkut comments on the pasuk in Iyov (41:3) "Mi hikdimani va'ashalem":

 מי הקדימני ואשלם מי קלס לפני עד שלא נתתי לו נשמה, מי מל לבנו עד שלא נתתי לו בן, מי עשה ציצית עד שלא נתתי, מי הפריש תרומה ומעשר עד שלא נתתי לו גורן, מי הפריש בכורות ומעשרות וקרבנות עד שלא נתתי לו צאן

Hashem asks: Did you do milah before I have you a child?  Did you make tzitzis before I gave you clothes?  Did you take terumah before I made your crop grow?

You of course can't do milah before having a son, or fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis before you have clothes.  What Chazal are telling us is that while we are the ones who collect the reward for doing mitzvos, it is Hashem who creates the opportunities for us and inspires us to do them.  A person may not had a thought in his head of doing milah, but them Hashem gives him a son and he finds himself doing the mitzvah.  And the same with every other opportunity that just "happens" to present itself.  Hashem is not just the one who pats us on the head after the fact if we've done what we are supposed to, but he is also the one orchestrating getting us to the point. 

The Tiferes Shlomo explains that this is the "rav chessed" of the 13 midos: 

לכך הנה אם האדם מרחם על חבירו ומרחמין עליו מן השמים זה הוא בחי' אמת כי כן הוא היושר אבל אם אינו מרחם על חבירו והוא צריך לאותו דבר מה עושה הקב"ה בחסדו הגדול כדי שיהא אתערותא דלתתא הנה שולח בלב האיש הזה לעשות צדקה ורחמנות על חבירו ואח"כ באתערותא דלתתא מעורר רחמים למעלה. וזה הוא בחי' ורב חסד שבחסדיו הרבים מעורר את האדם להמשיך עליו חסד ואמת כי אח"כ מגיע לו עפ"י האמת והיושר כנ"ל

Hashem doesn't wait for us to get the inspiration to go out and earn the chessed He wants to give so that it is emes -- He steers us in the right direction to get there.   "Rav chessed" is the chessed of "terem nikra" to get us to the point of "od heim midabrim," where we do the right thing.  

Kol ha'meracheim... m'rachamim alav min ha'shamayim.  Hashem arranged for your mailbox to be inundated with letters asking for tzedaka this week, for your phone to be inundated with robocalls asking you to support this cause or that cause, for there to be a kol nidrei appeal and for you to pass by the child shaking his pushke outside the supermarket.  All that and more is the rav chessed.  If we respond as we should, then it will be a year of emes-dik chessed, of rachamei shamayim that is earned and deserved and therefore of the highest level.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

viduy - siman or sibah

Rambam, first din in Hil Teshuvah:

כל מצות שבתורה בין עשה בין לא תעשה אם עבר אדם על אחת מהן בין בזדון בין בשגגה כשיעשה תשובה וישוב מחטאו חייב להתודות

The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 364) is medayek that the Rambam defines the mitzvah as saying viduy, not the act of repentance itself.  When one wants to repent -- there is apparently no obligation to do so -- one must recite viduy.  Ramban in P' Nitzavim disagrees and holds that there is a chiyuv to repent and do teshuvah.

Minchas Chinuch asks:

The gemara in Shvuos (12b, see also Zevachim 7b) asks what kaparah for mitzvos aseh is accomplished by the sa'ir ha'mishtaleiach on Y"K:

אי עשה ה"ד אי דלא עבד תשובה זבח רשעים תועבה אי דעבד תשובה כל יומא נמי דתניא עבר על מצות עשה ועשה תשובה לא זז משם עד שמוחלין לו

If the person did not do teshuvah already, then the korban is zevach resha'im and accomplishes nothing.  If the person did do teshuvah, then the person would have already been forgiven and the korban is unnecessary.

According to the Rambam, the gemara should not have a question.  A person might have done teshuvah in his heart, so his korban would not be a zevach resha'im, but he still needs kaparah for the aveira because he has not yet done viduy.  Since the gemara does not offer this as a solution, it proves the Rambam's formulation is incorrect.

Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel (author of Eim haBanim Smeicha) answers that even the Rambam agrees that the mitzvah of teshuvah is what happens in the heart.  Viduy is just a siman that one is truly regretful, that one has sincerely mended one's ways.  (Mashal l'mah ha'davar domeh: RYBS holds that the the aveilus is a kiyum mitzvah b'lev; the nihugei aveilus like not washing, not wearing shoes, etc. are just the means to express the emotion.)

A scenario of teshuvah done in the heart that renders a korban no longer zevach resha'im but does not yet fulfill the mitzvah of teshuvah is impossible.  If the teshuvah was not sincerely meant, then the korban is still zevach resha'im.  If the teshuvah was sincerely meant, then the mitzvah is completely fulfilled.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

to live as a baal teshuvah or die as a baal teshuvah?

1) Rambam, first halacha in perek 7 of Hil Teshuvah:

הואיל ורשות כל אדם נתונה לו כמו שבארנו ישתדל אדם לעשות תשובה ולהתודות בפיו מחטאיו ולנעור כפיו מחטאיו כדי שימות והוא בעל תשובה ויזכה לחיי העולם הבא

Had you asked me I would have said that a person should do teshuvah to rid himself of aveiros so that he can live a righteous, fulfilled life.  But that's not what the Rambam says.  He puts the focus on death -- כדי שימות והוא בעל תשובה.  Rambam could have eliminated that phrase entirely and simply said to do teshuvah  ויזכה לחיי העולם הבא.  Why the particular stress on dying as a baal teshuvah?

2) R' Ovadya Yosef holds that if a person or tzibur cannot say slichos in the morning, they can be said before mincha.  He was asked why in that case the slichos should be said first -- tadir v'she'aino tadir tadir kodem, so mincha should be recited first.

Whatever the answer is, the question should not apply only to mincha.  Unless you are saying slichos b'ashmores ha'boker (as the Rambam says to), then when you come to shul for shacharis at 6:30 or 7:00 or whenever, you have a tadir chiyuv of shacharis that should take precedence over slichos.

(The Shaagas Aryeh already is mechadesh that you only apply the rule of tadir when comparing apples to apples, i.e. two mitzvos d'oraysa or two mitzvos derabbanan, but when you are comparing something like a minhag with a real chiyuv, then the rule does not apply and, counterintuitively, the minhag can come first.  Whether this Shg"A is correct is a debate and a discussion for a different post.)

Monday, September 21, 2020

..bincha, yechidcha, asher ahavta

Kach na es bincha es yichidcha asher ahavta...

Rashi comments that when Hashem said "bincha," Avraham said, "What do you mean? -- I have two sons."

"Es yichidcha" -- "What do you mean? -- each one is a yachid in his own right?"

"Asher ahavta" -- "What do you mean? -- I love them both equally."

Yet when Avraham travels to Har haMoriah, he tells Yishmael and Eliezer, "shvu lachem poh im ha'chamor," stay with the donkey while I go up the mountain with Yitzchak.  Chazal comment that Avraham was telling Yishmael that he was spiritually like a donkey and had no place coming up to Har haMoriah with him.

How is it that Avraham recognized Yishmael as spiritually bankrupt, but at the same time when Hashem appears to talk about Avraham's unique, special, beloved son, Avraham does not even realize that he means Yitzchak until Hashem spells it out?

The Tiferes Shlomo answers that although Avraham did not at first distinguish between his sons, once Hashem told him that he has to pass the test of akeidas Yitzchak, Avraham deliberately accentuated the greatness of Yitchak and the shortcomings of Yishmael so as to make the test that much greater a challenge and that much greater a sacrifice for G-d's sake.

My wife suggested that there is no contradiction.  Avraham recognized Yishmael's spiritual failures, but nonetheless, Yishmael was still in his eyes "...bincha, yechidcha, asher ahavta."  One can recognize a child's failures and shortcomings and love them fully anyway.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Ub'chein avo el haMelech

 There is a constant refrain of ub'chein... ובכן in the tefilos of Yamin Noraim:  Ub'chein tein kavod..., ub'chein tein pachdecha..., ub'chein tzadikim..., etc.  In the back of the Sifsei Chaim on Sefer Devarim (p293-294) there is a letter from R" Yonah Martzbach (R"Y of Kol Torah) to his then future son-in-law R' Chaim Friedlander where he writes that this refrain is meant to remind us of the pasuk in Megillas Esther (4:16) וּבְכֵ֞ן אָב֤וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ Ub'chein avo el haMelech...  At that moment Esther knew that her fate, that the fate of perhaps the entire Jewish people, hung in the balance -- would the King greet her favorably, would she find the right words to say on her own behalf, nafshei b'she'eilsai, and  on behalf of the klal, v'ami b'bakashasi?  On Rosh Hashana everything hangs in the balance.  We approach Hashem like Esther approached Achashveirosh, beseeching him on our own behalf, the prat, and for Klal Yisrael as a whole, the klal.

"V'GAM es Noach b'ahavah zacharta."  He goes on in that letter to explain that the word "v'gam" is a ribuy -- even though dorshin l'gnai, that Noach did not do enough, that he was a flawed tzadik, Hashem still remembered him l'zechus since he stood above the corruption around him.  We all fall far short of perfection, but we can be zocheh hopefully through v'gam.

The navi tells (Melachim ch 4) us "va'yehi HA'yom," on that day, and Chazal tell us that HA'yom, THE day, is Rosh haShana, Elisha the prophet came to the Shunamis woman and offered to give her a blessing for whatever she needed.  A bracha from a tzadik on Rosh HaShana certainly can't hurt!  But the Isha Shunamis replied to Elisha,  בְּת֥וֹךְ עַמִּ֖י אָנֹכִ֥י יֹשָֽׁבֶת׃, I am among the people, I prefer to not be singled out for your special attention.  

What did the Isha Shunamis mean?  How do you turn down the bracha from a tzadik?

The usual pshat is that if you are singled out, then Hashem looks at your merits or lack thereof as you stand as an individual.  That's not such an easy test to pass.  But there is another aspect to din that looks at how you fit into the klal, at your standing as a member of the community, "b'toch ami."  Even if you don't past muster on the individual level, sometimes you will be judged positively anyway because you are part of a community that is worthy of being judged positively.  The Isha Shunamis thought she stood a better chance in din being looked at as just another member of her community than she would had the navi would have singled her out.

The Tiferes Shlomo (page 40a d"h l'havin) says a slightly different answer.  Rosh HaShana is called Yom Ha'Zikaron not (only) because Hashem "remembers" kavyachol each one of us, but rather it's called Yom haZikaron because we remember and think about each other.  That's the key to being judged favorably.  "Ki dorshecha l'olam lo yikasheilu" -- if you approach tefilah as "ki dorshecha l'olam," your requests are for the world, for the klal, not focused on your own selfish needs, then "lo yikasheilu," you will not be rejected.  "VaYizkor Elokim es Noach v'es ha'chaya v'es ha'beheima asher ito ba'teivah" -- Hashem remembered Noach because the lions and tigers and bears were "ito ba'teivah," their needs were on his lips, in his words of prayer -- he davened on their behalf, not just for himself.  This is what the Isha haShunamis was telling Elisha.  The bracha of a tzadik and navi is great, but the brachos of all Klal Yisrael together is even more powerful.  "B'toch ami anochi yosheves" -- on Rosh haShana my needs are surely already being mentioned in the tefilos of all Klal Yisrael which we are saying behalf of one another.

Kesiva v'chasima tovah

Thursday, September 17, 2020

5781 mei'ashpos yarim evyon

By now everyone has seen the Chasam Sofer at the end of Bechukosai that this year, תשׁפּ״א, is the year of מאשׁפּ״ת ירים אביון.  Kein y'hei ratzon.  I'm going to take that as my springboard.

Rashi on the first pasuk in chumash tells us:

שבתחלה עלה במחשבה לבראותו במדת הדין, ראה שאין יכול להתקיים, הקדים מדת רחמים ושתפה למדת הדין.

Hashem wanted the world to run based on midas ha'din -- R"H is the day of creation and the yom ha'din -- but that wouldn't work, so he put the midas ha'rachamim in there so we can survive.

That's the essence of R"H in a nutshell: infusing the din with rachamim.

The key is to earn that rachamim, because there are people who one is not permitted to show rachamim to:

Brachos 33a: וְכׇל מִי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ דֵּעָה — אָסוּר לְרַחֵם עָלָיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״כִּי לֹא עַם בִּינוֹת הוּא עַל כֵּן לֹא יְרַחֲמֶנּוּ עוֹשֵׂהוּ״.  

Mesilas Yesharim writes (section on zehirus):

אבל אם אינו מפקח הוא על עצמו, ודאי שהקדוש ברוך הוא לא יפקח עליו. כי אם הוא אינו חס, מי יחוס עליו. והוא כענין מה שאמרו רבותינו זכרונם לברכה (ברכות לג): כל מי שאין בו דעה אסור לרחם עליו. והוא מה שאמרו (אבות ג): אם אין אני לי מי לי. 

If you can't show enough rachmanus on yourself to put your own house in order, to correct your daas, what right do you have to ask Hashem for his rachmanus?

Whatever you give to someone lacking in daas is a waste.  You want Hashem to give you great parnasa -- for what, for a big vacation?  You want Hashem to give you brains -- for what, to beat the stock market or come up with some business scheme?  If you don't know how to use the gifts correctly, why should Hashem have rachmanus and give anything?

Someone who lacks daas, who you are not permitted to show mercy to, is called a poor person.  The gemara writes (Nedarim 41) אמר אביי נקטינן אין עני אלא בדעה.  Chazal say   במערבא אמרי דדא ביה כולא ביה דלא דא ביה מה ביה דא קני מה חסר דא לא קני מה קני  If you have intelligence, daas, then you have everything; if you lack it, no matter what else you have, it amounts to nothing. 

There is something even worse than being an ani, and that's being an evyon.  Rashi comments on לֹא־תַעֲשֹׁ֥ק שָׂכִ֖יר עָנִ֣י וְאֶבְי֑וֹן (Devarim 24:14) that evyon comes from the word avah=desire; he is תאב לכל דבר, he wants something, anything.  An ani is the guy who throws your dollar back in your face because it's not enough of a donation; an avyon will not throw anything back because he wants and needs every penny.

The evyon in daas is ta'eiv for anything that seems to offer the promise of fulfillment, success, meaning.  There are so many things in life you can latch onto that promise all that and more.

The navi (Amos 11:8) tells us that things will one day be so bad that people will be hungry and thirsty not for food and water but rather they will long for the dvar Hashem.  What's so bad about that?  The Ponivitcher Rov explained that when you are so thirsty and hungry, you will drink and eat anything -- you don't discriminate.  People so desperate for spirituality, for meaning in their life, will take anything -- good torah or bad, truth or falsehood.  In other words, they are evyonim -- ta'eiv l'kol davar.  

Coming back to the Chasam Sofer, maybe he is telling us that this is our mission for the upcoming year.  מאשׁפּ״ת ירים אביון  Jews are the leaders of every -ism, of every do-gooder movement, of every march to make the world better.  We are ta'eiv l'kol intellectual and "moral" davar.  Our minds and our talent are thrown into everything.  Time to lift up our daas and devote it to that which is true and real.   Stop being an evyon, looking for anything and everything, and redirect that desire to better things.

Sefas Emes writes in the ma'amarim on Pesach (5646):

שמעתי מפי מו"ז ז"ל בפ' מאשפות ירים אביון להושיבי עם נדיבים. כי הקב"ה מקים ומרים הרצונות של בני ישראל המונחין באשפתות ומהפכן להתנדב רצונם אליו ית' כו'. ולבאר יותר כי חז"ל אמרו מעם אביון התאב לכל דבר. כי השפל בדעת תאב לכל דבר. אבל כשהקב"ה מאיר עיני האדם לדעת האמת. מואס ממילא בהבלי עולם.

Ashrei ha'am yode'ei teru'ah...  Shofar is to wake up our daas.  21 days after R"H will will get to Simchas Torah and close out the holiday season with Atah hareisa la'daas.  It's all about daas because using daas properly is the difference between being an evyon and having a rich, fulfilled year.

The gemara (R"H 16) asks: רבי יצחק למה תוקעין בר"ה  Why do we blow shofar?  

Answers the gemara: what kind of question is that?  !למה תוקעין? רחמנא אמר תקעו

Rachmana = the Torah said to blow, so we blow.  Torah always referred to by Chazal as Rachmana  because it's Torah that gives us daas, that lifts us out of the improvised life of the mental ani v'evyon, מאשׁפּ״ת ירים אביון, so that we can earn rachamei shamayim.

Sefas Emes R"H 5664:

עיקר השופר לעורר רחמים בזכות התורה דאיתא עלה במחשבה לברוא במדה"ד וראה שאין העולם מתקיים ושיתף עמה מדה"ר. זה התורה דאיתא מי שאין בו דעת אסור לרחם עליו. והקב"ה בחסדו נתן לנו התורה שנזכה לדעת ועי"ז מרחם עלינו. לכן נק' התורה רחמנא בגמ' שכל הרחמים בא בכח התורה. וע"ז נאמר אתה הראת לדעת שחונן לנו הקב"ה דעת התורה. וזהו יודעי תרועה בדעת. וכן כתיב מדי דברי בו כו' רחם ארחמנו. ולכן על ידי השופר עומד מכסא דין ויושב על כסא רחמים:

I could write Chasam Sofers and Sefas Emes all day and night and somehow, for me at least, an ani b'daas, it does not pull me into the Y"T mindset as much as the great Hillel Palei does:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

no preparation

Every year before Y"T I always feel that I am not really prepared for the upcoming chagim, and this year is no exception -- the feeling is only intensified due to the disruption of the normal davening procedures and normal everything procedures.  We are in uncharted territory more than ever.

R' Amiel in his derashos points out that there are preparations that we have to make for every Y"T.  Pesach requires cleaning the house of chametz and ideally, getting a korban pesach.  We have 50 days of sefirah that is a count up to Shavuos.  Sukkos is the culmination of the Rosh haShana/Y"k season and requires building a sukkah, obtaining 4 minin.  Mes Yoma starts with the din that the kohen gadol would separate from his home 7 days before Y"K to prepare.  For Rosh haShana -- nothing.  Before every Rosh Chodesh we have a Shabbos Mevorchim, and for Tishrei, Rosh haShana, we don't even have that.

This is not by accident.  Every Yom Tov connects with the days prior, leading up to Y"T.  Rosh haShana, on the other hand, is by definition a clean break from the past.  It is by definition a new beginning.  We don't want to bring old baggage from last year into this new point in time.

Monday, September 14, 2020

the 50k question

My wife noticed an ad in a local (secular) newspaper for a private academy type school in the area that was still taking in students for this year and she wondered if this was due to parents not being willing to spend top dollar for virtual classes.  No way to know if that theory is correct, but I was curious as to what exactly an exclusive academy school charges in tuition and how it compared to local yeshivos.  I found the amount clearly posted on their website.  It is high, but not completely out of the ballpark range of what some NY yeshivos charge.

A scary prediction: I think odds are good that within the next decade we will see yeshiva tuition cross the 50k mark.

Not everywhere, of course.  But some place will do it.  I was easily able to do a search and find a yeshiva in NY already charging above 40k for high school tuition, so what's a few thousand more?  And once one school raises the bar to that level, the bar will go up everywhere else as well, to some greater or less degree.

Maybe it's the scale of my own earnings that's the problem, but to me at least it seems that you have to be pulling in quite a lot of $$$ to be able to afford tuition rates like that for even two kids.  And needless to say, kids who attend a school like that are going to go to a summer camp program that costs another 8k+ per kid, if not more.  How many people have 100k+ in disposable after tax income to spend on educating just two kids? 

How is this a sustainable system?  How does someone look at those numbers and not throw up their hands and say no way can I afford to send my kid to yeshiva?   

Just another massive problem making life in galus increasingly untenable.

selichos and tachanun

Someone recently got married and the question came up as to whether the presence of the chosson in the minyan removes the chiyuv to say tachanun at the conclusion of selichos, or only tachanun during tefilah.  My son brought a proof from the din on erev Rosh haShana where we don't say tachanun during davening, but we still say tachanun during selichos.  He also suggested that this issue may depend on a  whether saying selichos is a kiyum in tefilah or a kiyum in teshuvah.  If it is a cheilek of tefilah, then the same dinim as apply to tefilah should apply to selichos (Rav Yehudah Deri raises this chakira in his teshuvos.)

Note that the Rambam quotes the minhag of selichos in hil teshuvah 3:4, not in hil tefilah:

ונהגו כולם לקום בלילה בעשרה ימים אלו ולהתפלל בבתי כנסיות בדברי תחנונים ובכיבושין עד שיאור היום

Another potential nafka minah of this chakira is whether women obligated to recite selichos.  If it is a din in tefilah, then likely not, but if it is a din in teshuvah, then the answer should be yes.

I would argue that the Rambam has to distinguish between the two forms of tachanun.  The Rambam (hil tefilah 5:1) writes that there are 8 essential components of tefilah, one of which is bowing.  Later in that perek he explains:

השתחויה כיצד אחר שמגביה ראשו מכריעה חמישית ישב לארץ ונופל על פניו ארצה ומתחנן בכל התחנונים שירצה.

According to Rambam, bowing = saying tachanun.  Tachanun/nefilat apayim is part and parcel of shmoneh esrei (this is one of RYBS proofs to that conclusion).

If this is correct, the tachanun at the conclusion of selichos is a different animal entirely.

All this leads me to wonder whether one has to/should do nefilat apayim when reciting tachanun at the end of selichos.  If the reason for nefilat apayin is to fulfill the bowing component of tefilah, then this has no place after selichos.  I don't know about other sefardim, but I notice in our local Moroccon shul that they in fact do not do nefilat apayim when they say tachanun after selichos.  I believe the usual minhag among Ashkenazim is to do nefilat apayim when saying tachanun.

Friday, September 11, 2020

done in with one's own words

 VaYomer Hashem el Moshe: Hein karvu yamecha la'mus... (31:14)

The  Midrash comments:

דָּבָר אַחֵר: הֵן קָרְבוּ יָמֶיךָ – לָמָּה נִגְזַר עָלָיו מִיתָה בָּזֶה הַלָּשׁוֹן הֵן, רַבָּנָן אָמְרֵי לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה, לְאֶחָד שֶׁכִּבֵּד אֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהֵבִיא לוֹ דּוֹרוֹן, חֶרֶב חַדָּה. אָמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ הַתִּיזוּ אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ בָּהּ. אָמַר לוֹ אוֹתוֹ הָאִישׁ, אֲדוֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּמֶּה שֶׁכִּבַּדְתִּיךָ בָּהּ אַתְּ מַתִּיז אֶת רֹאשִׁי. כָּךְ אָמַר משֶׁה, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם בְּהֵן קִלַסְתִּיךָ, שֶׁכֵּן כְּתִיב (דברים י׳:י״ד): הֵן לַה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ הַשָּׁמַיִם וּשְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם וגו׳, וּבְהֵן אַתָּה גּוֹזֵר עָלַי מִיתָה. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שָׁכֵן רָע רוֹאֶה אֶת הַנִּכְנָסוֹת וְאֵינוֹ רוֹאֶה אֶת הַיּוֹצְאוֹת, אָמַר לוֹ אִי אַתָּה זָכוּר בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁשְּׁלַחְתִּיךָ לִגְאֹל אוֹתָן מִמִּצְרַיִם וְאָמַרְתָּ לִי (שמות ד׳:א׳): הֵן לֹא יַאֲמִינוּ לִי, הֱוֵי הֵן קָרְבוּ יָמֶיךָ.

Moshe said to Hashem, "How can you use that word 'hein' to tell me I am going to die when I used that same word to sing your praises?"  Hashem responds, "But you also used that word when you said 'hein Bnei Yisrael lo ya'aminu li' when I told you to go to Mitzrayim to redeem them."

Hashem is zocher kol ha'nishkachos.  One word -- hein -- that Moshe said 40 years previously, many many moons ago, that obviously Moshe himself did not even have on his radar at this point, Hashem took him to task for.  I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.  Hard to imagine having to give a din v'cheshbon on every word said years ago.

The Midrash gives a mashal: an officer brought a new sword to the king, a symbol of the king's power, and the king responded by ordering the officer's head chopped off with that very sword.  The very word Moshe used to praise Hashem became the dagger that did him in.

R' Leib Chasman writes something deep here.  We see from the mashal that din is not just about aveiros.  The officer who brought the king a new sword did nothing wrong -- aderaba, he was trying to honor the king!   It's not so simple on Rosh haShana that your aveiros get put on one side of the scale and your mitzvos -- your shmiras shabbos, your tefilos, your tzedaka, etc. -- get put on the other side.  On the mitzvos themselves there is a din.  You davened -- that's great.  But where was your kavanah?  Where was coming to shul on time?  etc.  Hashem doesn't ask those questions to the person who doesn't daven at all.  That person missed the boat completely.  But Hashem says to me, you did daven -- so you know what davening is all about.  If you know what it's all about, then how can you do the type of davening that you do???  Hoisted by your own petard.  It's the present the officer brings to the king which does him in!

Moshe Rabeinu said 'hein la'Hashem ha'shamayim' etc.  He was honoring the king! But there's honor and there's honor.  Hashem said to Moshe, when it comes to other people, you certainly know what a lack of emunah is -- hein Bnei Yisrael lo ya'aminu li.  If your sensitivity to emunah and kvod shamayim is so well developed, then let's turn the same spotlight on your own actions.  Yes, you praised the king, but someone for someone in your shoes, someone who is so medakdek on emunah, on kavod for the King, is that really enough?  

Frightening, isn't it?

I hate to end the week with something so frightening, so something else to chew on:  

 Ki karov eilecha ha'vara me'od, b'picha ub'levavcha la'asoso.

The Midrash writes that Shlomo haMelech said 7 things about the lazy person, but the one thing that Moshe said about laziness topped all of them.

ומה שאמר משה היה גדול מכולן.


כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו, הוצא דבר מתוך פיך.

Don't be lazy -- just pull the words of Torah out of your mouth.

Pull the words out?  What if you don't know the words?  Or, to ask the question a different way, why does the pasuk put "picha" before "levavcha?"  Don't you need to have the right ideas in your heart/mind before they can come out of your mouth?  

(Shem m'Shmuel 5671 quotes the words we say in neilah: tilamdeinu l'hisvados lifanecha lma'an nechdal mei'oshek yadeinu.  Sometimes the viduy is not a response to teshuvah but is the catalyst for teshuvah.  Sometimes you have to articulate where you want to go and express and desire to get there and only then do the heart and actions follow.)

Says the Sefas Emes (5634): 

קרוב אליך כו' בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו. פי' שיכול האדם לעשותו קרוב. ובמדרש הוציא דבר מתוך פיך כי הש"י נטע בכל איש ישראל נקודה גנוזה בלב והאדם צריך רק להוציאו מכח אל הפועל.

Pshat is not "b'picha ub'levavcha la'asoso" to make yourself know Torah, or love of mitzvos, etc.  Pshat in the pasuk is "ki karov... b'picha ub'levavcha la'asoso" to make it karov to you. The Torah is already inside,  the words are already there.  The Torah just requires us to work at bringing out our own potential.  

Last week it was very late in the day when I posted Hilel Paley's beautiful nigun based on the words of the Ohr haChaim in Ki Tavo.  This week I made a mental note to not make the same mistake and so here's Eitan Katz's rendition of ki karov early enough for you to enjoy:

Thursday, September 10, 2020

when shofar can't be blown - ones, shabbos

1) The source of the below quote doesn't matter -- I am just trying to understand it:

"Again, the poskim have clearly said that if you still remain personally alarmed, you are patur – exempt – from tefillah betzibbur and you should continue to daven at home."

Mi'mah nafshach: if al pi din there is a danger, then we should all daven at home.  If al pi din there is no danger, then what is the basis for allowing someone who subjectively feels they are in danger from avoiding doing a mitzvah?   

2) Just wondering: if you daven in a shul that is allowing only 50% (or whatever % less than 100) capacity, what are the other 50% of the people supposed to do?  

3) The gemara (R"H 16) writes that if you miss doing tekiyos at the start of the year, it will bring bad things before the end of that year.  Meshech Chochma (Parshas Emor 23:24) quotes the BH"G that this gemara applies even if you miss blowing because of ones, but not if you can't blow because R"H falls on Shabbos.   

Why is ones not an exemption here, and if indeed there are no excuses, why does the same not apply for failing to blow on Shabbos?

Meshech Chochma explains that shofar is like medicine (see here, see also Ha'amek Davar at the beginning of P' Bechukosai)  -- you may have a good excuse for why you missed taking it, but bottom line is you won't be cured.  The same does not hold true for Shabbos.  The reason why shofar brings forgiveness is because shofar is a reminder of akeidas Yitzchak, of the willingness of a Jew to sacrifice l'shem shamayim.  Our willingness to give up shofar for the sake of preserving Shabbos is itself an act of sacrifice, so in effect, we achieve the end result of the mitzvah by not blowing.

The Meshech Chochma's question presupposed that there is a chiyuv to blow on Shabbos, just we can't fulfill it, like ones.   One could argue that the din derabbanan is oker the mitzvah and it is as if there is no chiyuv at all.  See  here for two other approaches that fit this line of reasoning.

Giving up a mitzvah for the sake of heath, to fulfill shmiras ha'guf and allow for future observance, seems akin to giving up shofar for the sake of shabbos, not like any other ones.  

One important point is that when things have to given up, it has to be with the right attitude. "Tachas asher lo avadita es Hashem Elokecha b'simcha u'b'tuv leivav."  It's not the "lo avadita" that is the problem so much as the fact that you were "b'simcha u'b'tuv leivav" over it.   

Friday, September 04, 2020

mesikus haTorah

 How could I not post this when it's the Ohr haChaim in this week's parsha (26:11)!

בכל הטוב אל התורה כאומרם ז״ל (ברכות ה׳.) ואין טוב אלא תורה, שאם היו בני אדם מרגישין במתיקות ועריבות טוב התורה היו משתגעים ומתלהטים אחריה ולא יחשב בעיניהם מלא עולם כסף וזהב למאומה כי התורה כוללת כל הטובות שבעולם.

it's who gives the gift that's important

 V'anisa v'amarta....  

The Tiferes Shlomo writes derech remez that a person has to be an ani b'daas and approach Hashem with humility.  This is the essence of what bringing bikurim is all about -- recognizing that if it wasn't for chasdei Hashem, none of the crops would be there.

(As a general rule, it's probably a good idea to have a little "v'anisa" of humilty before opening your mouth "v'amarta" to voice your opinion.)

The Mishna tells us that the rich would bring bikurim in expensive gold and silver baskets which the kohanim would return, while the poor would bring bikurim in simple baskets which the kohanim would then keep.  There is a similar account brought by the gemara (M"K 27a) with respect to food brought to a mourner's house: the rich would bring the food on gold and silver trays, the poor would bring simple platters. There the gemara says that the Chachamim made a takanah that everyone should bring the same simple platters so as to not embarrass the poor.  Why was there such a takanah made with respect to the beis ha'avel but not with respect to bikurim?

R' Mordechai Eliyahu answers based on the Sefer haChinuch that the whole essence of the mitzvah of bikurim is to recognize that everything -- whether you have a lot of money or a little money -- is yad Hashem.  If you have that perspective, then you can't feel bad about being poor and you can't let being rich go to your head.  Had Chazal made a takanah to level the playing field of gifts, they would be undermining the whole essence of what the mitzvah is all about (he gives other answers in his sefer as well).

"V'samachta b'kol ha'tuv asher nasan lecha Hashem Elokecha..."  The secret to happiness is recognizing the "...asher nasan lecha Hashem Elokecha" in everything.  It's not what you have which is important -- it's who is giving it to you.

The Midrash Tanchuma writes that Moshe saw that there would be a churban ha'bayis and there would be no more bikurim so he made a takana to daven three times a day.  (See Rambam hil tefilah 1:5 who says davening 3x a day was a takanah of Ezra's beis din; see R' Nisim Gaon in Shabbos 30a who does not list tefilah as one of the takanos of Moshe.)  Like bikurim, tefilah is all about the recognition of Hashem as the source of everything we have.

(I think you also see from this Chazal that tefilah is not about asking for things, but rather it's about giving.  When you bring bikurim you have to bring something to the mikdash, not ask for something to take home with you.  Similarly, tefilah is a replacement for korbanos.  A korban is something you bring, not something you ask for or get.  What do we bring when we offer a tefilah?  Foremost, we bring ourselves and our committment.)

Thursday, September 03, 2020

back to Mitzrayim in ani-yos

 V'heishivcha Hashem Mitzrayim b'aniyos... (28:68)

The Maor vaShemesh in P' Bo explains the pasuk by mattan Torah (P' VaEschanan)  "anochi omeid bein Hashem u'beineichem" that the human ego, the "anochi" inside each and every one of us, is the biggest obstacle standing between man and G-d.

Similarly, I can't recall who says it, but there is a chassidishe vort on the pasuk in Yirmiyahyu (23:24)

אִם־יִסָּתֵ֨ר אִ֧ישׁ בַּמִּסְתָּרִ֛ים וַאֲנִ֥י לֹֽא־אֶרְאֶ֖נּוּ

as saying that  אִם־יִסָּתֵ֨ר אִ֧ישׁ בַּמִּסְתָּרִ֛ים וַאֲנִ֥י even if a person is b'hisbodedus, locked away in an ivory tower separated from all sin, but he has his "ani," his ego, that is still in place, then Hashem says   לֹֽא־אֶרְאֶ֖נּוּ I don't want to see such a person.    

Maybe that's what our pasuk in the tochacha is telling us.  In galus when we cannot see G-d openly there's more of an opportunity to think we are in control.  Hashem says be careful, or that "Ani"-yos, that ego trip, will put you back in Mitzrayim, alongside Pharoah who though he was the master of the Nile.  (See the Igra d'Kallah for a similar idea.)

recognizing chasdei Hashem

 After recounting the miracles that Bnei Yisrael witnessed in Mitzrayim and then in the midbar, the parsha tells us (29:3) that Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael that Hashem did not give them a  לֵב֙ לָדַ֔עַת וְעֵינַ֥יִם לִרְא֖וֹת וְאׇזְנַ֣יִם לִשְׁמֹ֑עַ until that day.  They did not have the capacity to take it all in an appreciate it earlier.

Rashi comments: לב לדעת – להכיר את חסדי הקב״ה ולדבק בו.

A "lev ladaas" means being able to recognize the chasdei Hashem and respond with dveikus.

But what exactly happened on "that day" that shows that Bnei Yisrael finally reached that level?  Rashi writes:

עד היום הזה – שמעתיא שאותו היום שנתן משה ספר התורה לבני לוי, כמו שכתוב: ויתנה אל הכהנים בני לוי (דברים ל״א:ט׳), באו כל ישראל לפני משה, אמרו לו: משה רבנו, אף אנו עמדנו בסיני וניתנה לנו, מה אתה משליט את בני שבטך עליה, ויאמרו לנו מחר: לא לכם ניתנה. ושמח משה בדבר, ועל זאת אמר להם: היום הזה נהייתב לעם וגו׳ (דברים כ״ז:ט׳) – היום הזה הבנתי בכם שאתם דביקים וחפיצים במקום.

Moshe gave a Torah to sheivet Levi, and the rest of Bnei Yisrael came to him and protested that it was not fair -- they too wanted to receive Torah from Moshe.  Sheiveit Levi does not get a monoploy.

What does demanding Torah have to do with recognizing the chasdei Hashem in all the miracles he performed?  The seifa seems to have nothing to do with the reisha?

The pasuk, I think, is teaching us (see Meshech Chochma) what true recognition and appreciation is.  The "l'davek bo" at the end of Rashi is not an additional detail of what "lev ladaas" means, but rather is a tnai in "l'hakir."  If you truly recognize chasdei Hashem, then that recognition translates into a desire for dveikus and more closeness.  If it doesn't, then it means you don't really get it.  If your wife/mother/whoever prepares dinner for you and you leave over half the meal on your plate, no matter how much you say you appreciated the cooking, no one will believe you.  When you ask for seconds, that shows that you recognize that this is a good meal.   

If the second half of the pasuk is a continuation of the first, then we also see that "l'davek bo" is davka through learning Torah.   

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

striking article by R' Shmuel Eliyahu

I don't think R' Shmuel Eliyahu's words are any less applicable to our community than they are to the dati-leumi community in Israel.  The statistics quoted are frightening.  Full article here

חייבים לעשות שינוי גם ברמת הבית. אני רוצה לפנות לכל הזוגות הצעירים שמתחתנים או שיתחתנו או שכבר התחתנו: כשאתם שואלים את עצמכם אם להכניס לבית שלכם טלוויזיה, סמארטפונים לא מסוננים ועיתונים חילוניים אתם שואלים את עצמכם כמה ילדים דתיים אתם רוצים שיהיו לכם וכמה דתל"שים. ההחלטה היא היום, ולא כשהבן שלכם מודיע להם שהחליט להוריד 
    את הכיפה

כשאת שואלת את עצמך כמה להדר בצניעות וכמה לוותר לעצמך את שואלת את עצמך את אותה שאלה. כשאתה שואל את עצמך כמה להקדיש זמן ללימוד על הילדים הקטנים שלך ב'אבות ובנים' אתה קובע את העתיד של הילדים שלך. כשאתם שואלים את עצמכם אם לעודד את הילדים להתחתן בגיל מוקדם או להתחתן בגיל מאוחר אתם קובעים את רמת הדתיות שלהם בעתיד. אפילו כשאתם מתלבטים אם להיות באחווה ביניכם או לריב ליד הילדים או חלילה להתגרש אתם קובעים אם ילדיכם יהיו דתל"שים או ישמרו תורה ומצוות.

bikurim during shemita year

Rashi writes in parshas Mishpatim (23:19) that even during a shemita year there is a chiyuv to bring bikurim:

ראשית בכורי אדמתך – אף השביעית חייבת בביכורים, לכך נאמרה אף כאן.

Gur Ayreh on the spot (see also Mizrachi, Sifsei Chachamim) comments that this has to be a scribal error in Rashi and cannot possibly be correct.

בודאי טעות סופר הוא, דאיך שייך דיהיה השביעית חייב בביכורים, שאיך קורא אני כאן ״ועתה הבאתי ראשית פרי האדמה אשר נתת לי״ (דברים כו, י), דהא לא לו נתן, ואיך שייך שחייב בביכורים:

How can there be a chiyuv to bring bikurim when the chiyuv bikurim applies only where you can bring fruits from "ha'adamah asher nasata li," your land.  During shemita, the land is hefker, not yours!

The Ohr hachaim similarly comments in our parsha (26:2):

אשר ה׳ אלהיך נותן לך – פירוש לפי ששייר ה׳ לו חלק בארץ והוא שנת השמיטה (ויקרא כ״ה ד׳) דכתיב ובשנה השביעית וגו׳ שבת לה׳, לזה בא דברו הטוב שאינו מצוה אלא על זמן הנתינה לך שהם ו׳ שנים אבל שנת השמיטה אין בה הבאת ביכורים לפי שאינם שלו אלא מופקרת לכל.

Others are not so sure that we should be so quick to dismiss Rashi's comment as a scribal error.  They are medayek that the Rambam may hold the same way.  He writes in hil Matnos Aniyim (6:5):

שנת השמטה כולה הפקר ואין בה לא תרומה ולא מעשרות כלל לא ראשון ולא שני ולא מעשר עני

Rambam paskens that there is no chiyuv terumos, maaser rishon, maaser sheni, maaser ani during shemita, but noticably absent from his list is bikurim.  Does he mean to say that there is a chiyuv of bikurim during shemita, or is this chapter devoted to the halachos of teru"m and therefore that's all that he mentions?

What do you do with the Gur Aryeh/Ohr haChaim argument if you read Rashi/Rambam k'peshuto? 

Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 84) raises the question of whether there is a chovas ha'gavra to declare one's fields hefker during shemita, or whether the mitzvas haTorah means the cheftza of the land is automatically considered hefker:

ואני מסופק אי המצוה אקרקפתא דגברא הוא דרחמנא ציוהו להפקיר פירותיו בשביעית ומחויב לקיים להפקיר ואם מפקיר ה"ז הפקר אבל אם אינו מפקיר אינו מופקר ונהי דעובר על עשה מ"מ אינו הפקר רק עובר על גזירת השי"ת א"כ אין אחר רשאי ליטלו והרי הוא גזל ביד אחרים כ"ז שלא הפקיר.

See M.C. for many nafka minos.

If one takes the first tzad of the M.C.'s chakira maybe you could learn that Rashi is talking about a case where the farmer violated the issur shemita and was not mafkir his land, and therefore, since he owns the land, he has to bring bikurim.

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu in his sefer on chumash explains that the nekudas hamachlokes here is more fundamental -- how hefker during shemita works: is a person is still considered the owner of his property, just others have a right to enter and take whatever fruits they desire, or does shemita cause the land to become ownerless?

According to Rashi, anyone can take from the field, but the land retains its baalus.  According to Ohr haChaim, the land itself is hefker.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

3 for 2 and Tamar vs Karen

From my post 3/26/2020:
What confronts us is not a choice of whether to lock down our cities in order to save some unknown % of people, but rather a choice of whether to lock down our cities to save some unknown % of people AT THE EXPENSE of the cost IN LIVES (literally) of some other unknown % of people. 
From recent headlines:

Coronavirus: For every three COVID-19 deaths, lockdown may have caused another two

OK, it is a UK study.  But do you really think the effect of the lockdown in the US was all that different?  

On a different Covid note (this observation from my wife): Chazal tell us that it is better to sacrifice one's life rather than embarrass someone else in public.  Tamar refused to name Yehudah as the one who had impregnated her, and instead was willing to risk being put to death and sacrifice her future and the future of her children, the lineage of malchus Yehudah, if Yehudah would not speak up.

Compare that with the behavior of Karens, who would rather yell at people in the street and shame them for not wearing a mask (even when not technically required by law) than risk some infinitesimally small chance of their getting sick from a passerby.