Friday, October 30, 2020

the land of anticipation

1)  Hashem did not tell Avraham where to go; he just told him "lech lecha... el ha'aretz asher areka."  Don't worry -- keep walking around and I'll let you know when you get there.  Why didn't Hashem just say straight away to go to Eretz Yisrael?

Rashi writes that Hashem wanted to increase Avraham's chibuv mitzvah and his schar.  When you don't know where you are going, there is a constant sense of anticipation -- "Is this the place Hashem wants me to be?  Is this where I will fulfill my mission?"  

Sefas Emes explains that in effect Hashem did reveal to Avraham to go to Eretz Yisrael because this is what Eretz Yisrael is all about.  When you think of some neighborhoods you think of the good shopping, you may think of the close by transportation, you may like the restaurants, etc.  That's what those places are all about.  Eretz Yisrael is the place where a person can think about "Is this where Hashem wants me to be?  Is this where I can fulfill my mission?"  Eretz Yisrael is the place where a person can live in constant anticipation of coming closer to Hashem, of greater chibuv mitzvah.  

When a kid of 17 or 18 goes to yeshiva or seminary in Eretz Yisrael, the reason they have such a productive year of growth is not because that's naturally what happens when adolescents spend a year away from home in any foreign country.  It's because the nature of Eretz Yisrael is growth.  There is always an "asher ar'eka," a sense that there is something more to see, something more to learn and discover.  You cannot exhaust the wonders of Eretz Yisrael.

For those of us unfortunately still in chu"l, Shabbos is in time what Eretz Yisrael is in place.  Shem m'Shmuel (5675):

ויש לומר עוד היות ידוע שהתורה היא נצחית ומאמר הש"י לאברהם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך, עודנה כמו חי עומד וקורא בקול לנשמת ישראל בכל ערב שבת לך לך וגו' לעשות שלשה הבדלים מימי החול לשבת לקיים את הארץ וגו' שבשבת זוכין לבחי' ארץ ישראל כמו שהגיד כ"ק אבי אדומו"ר זצללה"ה שארץ ישראל שהיא האוקלים אמצעי השביעי מקביל לשבת שהוא יום השביעי ואמצעי תלת יומי קמי שבתא ותלת יומא בתר שבתא עכ"ד ועם זה מתקיים נמי אשר אראך שבשבת זוכין לבחי' ראי', וזה ענין אמרם ז"ל פסיעה גסה נוטלת מאור עיניו של אדם ומהדר לי' בקדושא דבי שמשא, וזה ענין נר של שבת וזה שיסד האריז"ל בזמירות שלו נזמן לה השתא בפתורא חדתא ובמנרתא טבתא דנהרין על רישין, ועוד שם חדי סגי ייתי ועל חדא תרתי נהורא לה ימטי וברכאן דנפישין:

2) Someone commented that in my discussion of the Rosh by birchas eirusin I never explained how the Rambam, who holds that birchas eirusin is a birchas ha'mitzvah, answers the question of why the nusach ha'bracha is the lenghty "asher asar lanu es ha'arayos..." etc.  When you do shechita (the Rosh's point of comparison), you don't say "asher asar lanu neveila..." etc.  Why is birchas eirusin different?

The Achronim ask why it is that Avraham, who Chazal tell us observed the entire Torah, did not fulfill the mitzvah of milah before it was given.  The Brisker Rav answers that by definition there has to be an orlah in order to fulfill the mitzvah of milah.  Until Hashem gave the command of milah, there was no orlah -- there was a physical piece of skin, but it had no legal status as something that has to be removed.  So too with respect to kiddushin -- the mitzvah of kiddushin not only created a process by which Klal Yisrael would effect ishus, but it also created a whole new set of arayos categories that do not exist for bnei Noach.  Therefore, birchas eirusin does not just talk about the mitzvah of being mekadesh, but also speaks about the "asher asar lanu es ha'arayos..."  

R' Asher Weiss in Minchas Asher points out that you can make this chakira by many mitzvos.  Is it the mitzvah of hafrashas terumah that creates the status of tevel, or is tevel an independent issur?  Is it the mitzvah of shechita that defines what neveila is, or is it an independent issur (we see from the Rosh that the two do not go hand in hand.)  

With respect to the question of why Avraham did not do milah before commanded, R' Asher Weiss suggests (as do others) that the nature of the mitzvah is bris, creating a covenant.  It takes two parties to make a bris, so Avraham had to wait for Hashem's command before doing milah.

no contingencies

The first Rashi on the parsha tells us that Hashem told Avraham lech lecha, to go to Eretz Yisrael, because only there would he be zoche to have children.  

Avraham and Sarah were barren for many years, and yet, as we will see in next week's parsha, Hashem did a miracle and they were able to have Yitzchak in their old age.  So what does Rashi mean that Avraham had to travel to Eretz Yisrael to be zoche to children?  If Hashem could make it possible for Sarah to give birth at 90 and Avraham at 100, he could also make it possible for them to have children in chutz la'aretz?

Sefas Emes (5639) explains that Avraham not being able to have children in chu"l is not a "din" in Avraham Avinu, but rather is a "din" in chutz la'aretz.  Hashem could have made a miracle and Avraham could biologically have had a child in Charan, but raising a Yitzchak Avinu, someone who would continue to build the nation of Klal Yisrael, can only be done on the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael. 

There were as many ovdei avodah zarah in chu"l as in Eretz Yisrael in Avraham's time.  The need for Yitzchak to be born in Eretz Yisrael has nothing to do with the environment being more conducive to Torah -- there were not more yeshivos, more shuls, etc. in Eretz Yisrael.  Avraham was the center of Torah, wherever he was.  It's very clear, despite the confusion that sadly many people have, that being in Eretz Yisrael is a value in its own right, not just a hechsher to allow us to do more mitzvos or create a bigger, better makom Torah (see first section in Orot).

Ramban asks why it is that the Torah does not give us any background information on Avraham Avinu before telling us that G-d commanded him to go to Eretz Yisrael.  In last week's parsha we are told right off the bat, "Noach ish tzadik tamim haya b'dorosav," and so we know why he merited being saved and how the rest of the story follows.  We know nothing about who Avraham his and why G-d told him to pick himself up and travel to Eretz Yisrael -- it's like the narrative begins medias res.  

Maharal (in Derech haChaim) answers that this is a deliberate omission.  G-d's choice of Avraham Avinu = Klal Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael as our homeland is not contingent on mitzvos, on zechuyos, even on kabbalas haTorah.  We say in birchas haTorah, "asher bachar banu m'kol ha'amim v'nasan lanu es Toraso."  We were Hashem's chosen nation -- before we ever received the Torah.  The former made the latter possible, not the other way around (R' Tzvi Yehudah).

Later in the parsha Hashem comes to Avraham and tells him that Sarai's name will be changed to Sarah and she will have a son.  Avraham responds (17:18), "Lu Yishmaeil yichyeh lifanecha!"  Rashi explains: "I am not worthy of this schar."  Avraham's response in baffling.  When Yishmael was born, Sarah complained (16:5), "chamasi alaecha," that Avraham shortchanged her and should have davened on her behalf so that his son would be born through her and not Hagar.  We see that Sarah longed for children.  Even if Avraham was satisfied with having Yishmael, he should have been overjoyed on Sarah's behalf.   He should have welcomed the news that Sarah's wish for a child would be fulfilled.  How could Avraham dismiss Hashem's promose and say that Yishmael is enough?

Shem m'Shmuel answers that the key to understanding Avraham's response is Rashi's comment about matan schar, the child being a reward.  Avraham was saying to Hashem that if we are talking schar and onesh, what is deserved and earned or not earned, then the game stops at Yishmael.  If the continuity of Avraham's legacy is contingent on zechuyos, then it's not a legacy that will lead to a Yitzchak Avinu and is not a legacy that can create a Klal Yisrael.  We don't play the contingency game.  The promise of Klal Yisrael is not dependent upon matan schar, upon earning something through zechuyus.  The promise of a Yitzchak has to be no questions asked, no conditions set, no requirements or contingencies.  (You can look up the Sm"S for his explanation of why Hashem framed the promise in the way he did, but that's a different story.)  That's the promise of Klal Yisrael.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

the dual mitzvos of milah

The Netziv in Harchev Davar at the end of the parsha quotes a machlokes between Rashi and the Rambam as to what being "meifer briso shel Avarahm Avinu" (Avos ch 3) means.  According to Rashi, being "meifer bris" means not doing milah.  According to the Rambam, it means being "mosheich b'orlaso," trying to cover up the milah.  Rambam writes at the end of hil milah: וכל המפר בריתו של אברהם אבינו והניח ערלתו או משכה אע"פ שיש בו תורה ומעשים טובים אין לו חלק לעולם הבא:

Netziv uses the shitas haRambam to explain the language of the pesukim (17:13).  Once you do the act of milah, "hi'mol yimol y'lid beischa...," isn't it obvious that "v'haysa brisi b'bisarchem" will follow?  Why does the Torah add these words?  Netziv answers that these words are a separate mitzvah to maintain the state of being mahul and not be moshech b'orlaso.

The fact that there are to commandments here, not one, also helps us understand why there are two brachos at the time of a bris, one on the milah, and one l'hachniso b'briso shel Avraham.  One bracha is on the act of milah itself, and one bracha is on the mitzvah of "v'haysa brisi b'bisarchem," maintaining the state of being mahul.

I would add as well that this chiddush helps explain the gemara (Menachos 43) that tells us that when David haMelech entered the bathhouse he became sad since he was bereft of mitzvos until he remembered that he was mahul and had that mitzvah.  The mitzvah of milah was done to David I assume when he was eight days old -- it is not a mitzvah that he is doing right then in the bathhouse?  (See Mahara"Ch Ohr Zarua quoted here.)  Perhaps according to Netziv it was not the mitzvah of "himol" that David was thinking of, but rather the mitzvah of "v'haysa brisi." (see this post of R' Eliezer Eisenberg's as well.)

Netziv adds another layer to his argument (this part is very tersely put, so please see inside in case I got it wrong) that there is a second mitzvah that requires its own bracha by referring you to the Rosh on birchas eirusin that we discussed earlier this week.  Rosh holds that since it is possible to fulfill pirya v'rivya without getting getting married, e.g. you can take a pilegesh, therefore, eirusin does not warrant a birchas hamitzvah.  Rosh asks on himself: so why do we say any bracha on shechita -- you can become a vegetarian and eat without killing animals?  The Rosh gives three answers: 1) you can have children without getting married, but you can't have kosher meat without doing shechita; 2) the Torah expresses shechita as a command, "v'zavachta ka'asher tzivisicha," as opposed to kiddushin which us expressed conditionally, "ki yikach ish isha;" 3) the mitzvah of offering korbanos requires shechita, so once there was a takana for a bracha on shechting korbanos Chazal expanded it to include any act of shechita.  

The second answer of the Rosh is a tremendous chiddush: even though in lomdus eirusin and shechita are the same, since the expression the Torah uses to formulate the mitzvah in one case is a command and in the other case a condition, it makes a difference with respect to the nature of the bracha.  So too here, since "v'haysa brisi" is expressed as a mitzvas aseh, not a lav, even though it is essentially avoiding doing something, it therefore warrants a bracha.  (The Netziv then goes on to prove that you can recite a bracha on an issur aseh.)

Earlier in the week I wrote that Rambam who holds birchas eirusin is a birchas ha'mitzvah is l'shitaso that kiddushin is a mitzvah in its own right, while Rosh disagrees and holds that it is not.  R' Nissan Kaplan makes a beautiful diyuk in the Rosh that this is not the case.  If the Rosh held that eirusin is not a mitzvah, then he would have no question on why there is a bracha on shechita but not eirusin -- one is a mitzvah, one is not!  Al korchacha the Rosh also holds that eirusin is a maaseh mitzvah, but since it can be avoided, it does not warrant a bracha.  The comparison to shechita is now much sharper -- there too, there is a mitzvah, but it is a mitzvah that can be avoided if one goes vegetarian, so why does it get its own bracha?  

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

birchas eirusin

The Rambam and Rosh (first perek in Kesubos #12) disagree whether birchas eirusin is a birchas hamitzvah or not.  Rosh writes that there is no mitzvah of kiddushin; the mitzvah is to have children, pirya v'rivya.  One can fulfill that mitzvah with a pilegesh, without any need to get married; therefore, birchas ha'eirusin must be a birchas ha'shevach.  This is why, says the Rosh, the nusach ha'bracha is not the standard formula of "asher kidishanu b'mitzvosav..." etc. and this is why the bracha is recited only after the eirusin is done, not over l'asiyasan, beforehand.

The Rambam, l'shitaso, holds 1) kiddushin is an independent mitzvah; 2) in Hil Melachim 4:4 he writes that only a king can have a pilegesh; 3) in Ishus 3:23 he writes that birchas eirusin is said over l'asiyasan, before kiddushin; 4) Rambam holds that the chassan, the one performing the mitzvah, is obligated to recite the bracha.  If the mesader kiddushin recites the bracha, he has to have in mind to be motzi the chassan (Noda b'Yehuda mh"t eh"e  #1 -- question whether he has to have in mind he kallah as well); 5) Rambam never mentions the need to have 10 people present for birchas eirusin, only birchas nisuim.  Rosh debates the point because in his view birchas eirusin is a birchas ha'shevach just like birchas nisuin.

The Shi'iltos (#165) bridges the two positions and writes that there is a mitzvah to get married, have children, and fulfill pirya v'rivya.  

The Hagahos Ashri on the Rosh gives a different reason for the birchas eirusin not being said over l'asiyasan.  He quotes the gemara in Menachos that a bracha is only said on the gmar mitzvah, not on a stage in the process, e.g. you say a bracha on wearing a talis, not making one; you say a bracha on sitting in sukkah, not on building one.  Since there is no guarantee the couple will have children, kiddushin is not the gmar hamitzvah.  

Hg"A sounds like he agrees in principle with the Rosh, that the mitzvah is pirya v'rivya, not kiddushin, but nonetheless would still entertain the possibility of birchas eirusin being a birchas ha'mitzvah if not for the fact that it is not the gmar ha'mitzvah (see Ritva).

The Birchas Avraham asks: we say a birchas hamitzvah of "al biyur chametz" on bedikas chametz even though there exists the possibility of finding nothing during the search.  Why then according to Hg"A does the possibility of not having children negate birchas eirusin from being a birchas ha'mitzvah?

Monday, October 26, 2020

quality of life or quantity of life?

וְאַתָּ֛ה תָּב֥וֹא אֶל־אֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ בְּשָׁל֑וֹם תִּקָּבֵ֖ר בְּשֵׂיבָ֥ה טוֹבָֽה 15:15

Rashi comments:

בישר שעשה ישמעאל תשובה בימיו, ולא יצא עשו לתרבות רעה בימיו, ולפיכך מת ה׳ שנים קודם זמנו, ובו ביום מרד עשו.

According to Rashi, Avraham lived 5 fewer years than he was supposed to -- a shortened quantity of life -- so that he should not witness Eisav's wrongdoings and have a poor quality of life. 


(R' Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi)

who is the assumed reader?

Parshas Noach concludes with the death of Terach even though in fact he lived on for many years.  Rashi explains that the Torah records Terach's death at this early point to try to disguise the fact that Avraham abandoned his father and the mitzvah of kibud av:

וימת תרח בחרן – לאחר שיצא אברם מחרן ובא לארץ כנען, חיה תרח יותר מששים שנה, שהרי כתוב: ואברם בן ע״ה שנה בצאתו מחרן (בראשית י״ב:ד׳), ותרח היה בן ע׳ שנה כשנולד אברם (בראשית י״א:כ״ו), הרי קמ״ה לתרח כשיצא אברם ממנו, נשארו משנותיו הרבה. ולמה הקדים הכתוב מיתתו של תרח ליציאתו של אברם, שלא יהא הדבר מפורסם לכל, ויאמרו: לא קיים אברהם כיבוד אביו שהניחו זקן והלך לו. לפיכך קראו הכתוב: מת, שהרשעים אף בחייהם קרוים מתים, והצדיקים במיתתן קרוים חיים.

Mizrachi asks: who is this "ruse" being address to?

 לא הבינותי בעד איזה זמן הוא חושש אם בזמן אברם מהו זה שאמר לפיכך קראו הכתוב מת והלא בזמן אברם עדיין לא נכתבה התורה ואם בזמן שאחר כתיבת התורה מאי ויאמרו לא קיים אברם את כבוד אביו דקאמר והלא כתוב בצדו ויאמר ה׳ אל אברם לך לך ולא היה יכול לעמוד עם אביו לבטל גזרת השם:

M'mah nafshach: people who were contemporaneous to the event of Avraham leaving his father would know the facts on the ground and not be reading them in the Torah, so the pasuk would not be fooling them; people reading the account in the Torah would know Avraham was commanded by G-d "lech lecha" and was not voluntarily abandoning Terach.  

The Midrash Rabbah in this week's parsha of Lech Lecha is the source for Rashi's comment, but the Midrash has a slightly different spin:

לפי שהיה אברהם אבינו מפחד ואומר: אצא ויהיו מחללין בי שם שמים ואומרים: הניח אביו והלך לו לעת זקנתו.

אמר ליה הקב"ה: לך! אני פוטרך מכיבוד אב ואם, ואין אני פוטר לאחר מכיבוד אב ואם.

According to the Midrash, the focus is not protecting Avraham's reputation, ויאמרו: לא קיים אברהם כיבוד אביו שהניחו זקן והלך לו, but rather protecting kavyachol G-d's reputation, so that there not be a chilul Hashem, אצא ויהיו מחללין בי שם שמים.

R' Chaim Elazari, in his Mesilos Chaim, points out that the concern here must be for an assumed reader who approaches the text on a superficial level, someone bothered by the apparent injustice of Avraham leaving his father as revealed in the text, but someone who will not probe more deeply to try to understand why that separation might have been necessary given that Terach was an oveid avodah zarah.  The Torah therefore writes the pasuk in a way so that even on the superficial level, things appear kosher.

A few pesukim earlier the parsha tells us:

וַיִּקַּ֨ח אַבְרָ֧ם וְנָח֛וֹר לָהֶ֖ם נָשִׁ֑ים שֵׁ֤ם אֵֽשֶׁת־אַבְרָם֙ שָׂרָ֔י וְשֵׁ֤ם אֵֽשֶׁת־נָחוֹר֙ מִלְכָּ֔ה בַּת־הָרָ֥ן אֲבִֽי־מִלְכָּ֖ה וַֽאֲבִ֥י יִסְכָּֽה׃

Chazal, quoted by Rashi, identify Yiskah as Sarah.  However, the simple reading of the text certainly does not give that impression -- why would the same person be referred to by two different names in the same sentence?  Gur Aryeh further asks why davka here would the Torah highlight Sarah's ruach ha'kodesh when it has nothing to do with the context.  Why not call her Yiskah later, when Avraham is told to listen to Sarah and sent away Hagar because of her superior prophetic insight?  He writes:

 וקשיא דלמה קרא כאן על שם הנביאות, יותר היה לכתוב זה בפרשת וירא, דשם לא מצי למטעי לומר דהיא אשה אחרת, ולכתוב ׳כל אשר תאמר יסכה שמע בקולה׳, ומיהא אין זה קשיא, שהתורה נכתבת כך למי שאינו יודע להבין - יודע קצת כפי שכלו, ומי שיבין יותר - יהיה יודע יותר, דלכל אחד ואחד כפי כחו התורה מדברת עמו, ומפני כך אם אינו כחו להבין כי ״יסכה״ על שם שסכה ברוח הקדש - יבין הוא שהיא אשה אחרת, אבל למי שכחו להשיג יפה, והוקשה לו דאחר שלא נזכר יסכה בקרא מאי בא לומר דהוא ״אבי יסכה״, יכול לפרש שהיא שרה, ונקראת ״יסכה״ על שם רוח הקודש שהיתה סוכה בו, אבל לקמן (כא, יב) אין לומר שהיא אחרת:

The text, according to Gur Aryeh, is written in such a way so that it makes sense to superficial reader who will take Yiskah to be the name of a new person.  Chazal/ Rashi come to help the reader who probes more deeply, the person who will wonder who this Yiskah is and why she is mentioned.  To make sense of Yiskah being mentioned, Rashi identifies her as Sarah.

Later, when Avraham is told to listen to Sarah, both the superficial reader and the reader who probes more deeply will understand the pasuk as speaking about Sarah, and so no commentary is needed.

I highlighted these examples because the question is interesting: al pi peshuto shel mikra who is the assumed reader and how much knowledge does he/she have?  

Friday, October 23, 2020

don't you care about the fundamentals of Judaism?

Here is an article by Rabbi Menachem Genack which you can read in its entirety, or take my short version of the first few paragraphs: pikuach nefesh is very important in Judaism.  Now that we got that out of the way, let's cut to the chase and get to the clincher paragraph, but I'm going to change just two words to make a point:   

"For some reason that I cannot fathom, parts of the Orthodox community today act as if the principle of pikuach nefesh no longer applies and disregard the government regulations enacted to protect their own lives and those of their neighbors. This segment of the population appears to have decided that a cause that has already killed more than one million people throughout the world, and over 38,000 in the United States, should not be regarded as a danger and should not require them to change their way of life."

Sounds convincing.  Ready to change your way of life?  After all, this is pikuach nefesh!

Glad I've convinced you to stop driving.

Yes, motor accidents killed 38000 people last year in the US, 1.35 million worldwide, and we haven't even spoken about the 4.4 million in the US alone who were seriously injured.

We shouldn't even need the government to require safety inspections of cars or to license drivers.  Chamira sakanta m'issura, we should go above and beyond and just give up driving completely until a safer method of transportation can be achieved.

Don't people know pikuach nefesh is fundamental, that R' Chaim called someone who was not strict in this area an am ha'aretz?  Etc etc etc. fill in all the platitudes you want to round this out.

You get the point, I hope.  Saying that if you disagree with us, you disagree with the concept of pikuach nefesh is like saying that if you disagree with us about climate change, you disagree with science; disagree with us about abortion and you are a misogynist; disagree with us about BLM and you must be a racist.  

I guess this is the level of discourse we are now at in our community.  

where's the passion?

I am hesitant to quote this Chasam Sofer because I only saw it quoted second hand and have not been able to find it inside, so buyer beware.  It's a nice pshat anyway : )  The Midrash comments on the doubling of the name Noach in the first pasuk in the parsha, "Eileh toldos Noach, Noach ish tzadik, tamim haya b'dorosav," that Noach was "neicha l'elyonim v'neicha l'tachtonim," he was viewed pleasantly both by Heaven and by his fellow man (see Baal haTurim).  B'pashtus, you can't ask for a bigger compliment than that.  Chasam Sofer, however, says exactly the opposite.  Avraham did not care about pleasanties when he demanded of G-d, "Chalila l'cha, ha'shofet kol ha'aretz lo yaaseh mishpat?!"  Moshe Rabeinu did not care about pleasantries when he went to bat on behalf of Klal Yisrael and argued with Hashem to not punish them.  David haMelech did not care about pleasantries when he said, "Anochi chatasi... v'eileh ha'tzon meh asu?" (Shmuel II 24:17).  Being a tzadik sometimes means arguing with G-d, not going along passively with the program.  And the same, kal v'chomer, holds true when dealing with other people.  Avraham smashed idols, Moshe Rabeinu called out the people when they did wrong, Eliyahu haNavi gave mussar.  Being a tzadik will not necessarily win you a popularity contest, and that's as it should be.  Noach was "ish tzadik b'dorosav," he wanted to get along with everybody, and "es ha'Elokim hishalech Noach," he didn't want to challenge G-d either.  The result is that those around him took no heed of his example and continued to do wrong, and G-d was not assuaged and brought a flood to destroy the world.  Noach, Noach -- both are strikes against him.

These days the message everybody preaches is that the job of our Rabbis and leaders is to make sure everybody feels welcome, happy, warm and fuzzy.  We have so much noach going around it's incredible.  G-d forbid anyone should actually try to tell someone that what they are doing is wrong and needs to change -- oh no, that could only be done in past generations, not today.  If you are a rebbe or a Rav and see a group of teenagers dressed in sweatpants and T shirts on Shabbos on the way to play ball, the response is not to speak to them about Shabbos (then or at some other time), but aderaba, you are supposed to join the game, to show them that you are one of the boys, because only then will you be able to influence them.  And then you wonder why after 4 years of high school and over 100k in tuition these same boys probably wont keep Shabbos much better or know how to read a piece of gemara.  Am I wrong?

R' Yehudah Deri puts together the Midrash which blames Noach for the flood because he did not give tochacha and the Rashi (7:) that says אף נח מקטני אמנה היה, מאמין ואינו מאמין שיבא מבול, ולא נכנס לתיבה עד שדחקוהו המים.  If you truly believe something, then you are passionate about it and can't help but speak out and share your views.  Noach was "mi'ktanei emunah," and when you need convincing yourself, you don't stand much chance of convincing others.  

(Parenthetically, everybody asks and I've posted about it before: how can Rashi describe someone who the Torah calls a "tzadik tamim" as "mi'ktanei emunah"?  R' Yitzhok of Vorke reads the Rashi like this: אף נח מקטני אמנה היה מאמין Noach believed in those of small faith, meaning the people of his generation, ואינו מאמין שיבא מבול and therefore he did not accept that G-d would destroy the world.)

A certain person was all over the Jewish news last week, some people in favor of his actions, some opposed to his actions.  I was at a wedding this week and this guy was there and he was like a rock star, the way some people gathered around him for pictures, to talk to him to shake his hand.  

What is this guy's secret?  Why do people respond to him?

I think the answer is one word: passion.  You may disagree with what he did, with how he expressed it, but you can't take away the fact that he showed passion.  Everyone else was busy being Noach, neicha to this politician, neicha to that entity, etc. sending the usual mealy mouthed letters that say nothing and mean nothing.  Is that all you can do when your yeshivos and shuls are having locks put on the doors???  In case it's not clear, that does not mean rioting in the street is necessarily the best idea, but if that's not the answer, then find some other way to at least show some passion for what you believe in!  Mordechai did not send a mealy mouthed letter to Achashveirosh -- it was "sak v'eifer yutzah la'rabim."  When you read those words in the nigun of Eicheh you get the message: this is a tragedy that's unfolding.  Do we even think anymore that putting a lock on a beish medrash is a tragedy, or have we lost our feelings completely?  If closing down our shuls and yeshivos is not enough to spur the community to grave action -- whether it is civic action or religious action in considering why Hashem is allowing this to happen -- what will???

"Va'ya'as Noach k'chol asher tzivahu Hashem."  Ksav Sofer explains that Noach did whatever he was commanded: he did the 7 mitzvos given to Adam, and he built the ark just as he was commanded.  But that gufa is the problem with Noach!  A command like "Build an ark because the world is going to be destroyed" is not a command like any other command.  Those words should have sent a jolt through Noach's system. 

There are tents in people's backyards not too far from where I live that are even bigger I think than the shul I daven in.  A person can say who cares if they close the shul -- I've got where to go.  I'm still doing what I have to do.  The problem is not that we are not doing what we are supposed to do -- "Vayaas Noach k'chol asher tzivahu Hashem."  The problem is where's the jolt, where are the tears, where's the feeling that our chiyus is being taken from us?  

Where's the passion?

Monday, October 19, 2020

ben noach's obligation to keep dinim derabbanan

Rambam in Hil Melachim (10:9) quotes the din that an aku"m is not allowed to learn Torah and the din that an aku"m is not allowed to keep a day of shabbos, both of which the gemara learns from pesukim:

עכו"ם שעסק בתורה חייב מיתה. לא יעסוק אלא בשבע מצות שלהן בלבד. וכן עכו"ם ששבת אפילו ביום מימות החול. אם עשאהו לעצמו כמו שבת חייב מיתה. ואין צריך לומר אם עשה מועד לעצמו. כללו של דבר אין מניחין אותן לחדש דת ולעשות מצות לעצמן מדעתן. אלא או יהיה גר צדק ויקבל כל המצות. או יעמוד בתורתו ולא יוסיף ולא יגרע. ואם עסק בתורה. או שבת. או חדש דבר. מכין אותו ועונשין אותו. ומודיעין אותו שהוא חייב מיתה על זה אבל אינו נהרג:

The Rambam, however, writes that there is no chiyuv misa on either one of these issurim.  

The penalty for violating one of the mitzvos ben noach is misa -- why are these cases different?

Kesef Mishneh answers that a chiyuv misa only applies to the 7 specific mitzvos that we know as the mitzvos ben noach.  There are other things the Torah prohibits a ben noach to do, but the punishment is not the same.

Lechem Mishneh says a bigger chiddush and writes that these halachos are only derabbanan:

מפרש רבינו דהאי חיוב מיתה מדרבנן הוא וקרא אסמכתא בעלמא דלא הוי אזהרה גמורה דאזהרה מן התורה ליכא בדבר שלישראל שרי וכמו שאמרו ליכא מידי דלישראל שרי ולעכו"ם אסור כלומר אזהרה מן התורה ו

We've discussed in the past what makes dinim derabbanan binding on us to follow.  Rambam sees the obligation as rooted in lo tasur; Rambam says the source is elsewhere (see here).  Rav Yehudah Kook in his Kuntres Gevuros Shmonim asks a fantastic question: what obligates a ben noach to keep a din derabbanan?  According to Ramban, we can probably come up with an answer, but what do you do according to Rambam who sees everything as rooted in lo tasur?  A ben noach certainly has no mitzvah of lo tasur! Furthermore, the Rambam himself writes (Hil Nachalos 6:10):

והגר אינו יורש את אביו העכו"ם אלא מדבריהם תקנו לו שיירש כשהיה שמא יחזור למרדו. ויראה לי שתנאי מועיל בירושה זו הואיל ואין העכו"ם מחוייב לעמוד בתקנת חכמים. ואין העכו"ם יורש את אביו הגר ולא גר יורש את גר לא מדברי תורה ולא מדברי סופרים:

the yetzer ha'ra also pushes a person to do mitzvos

The difference between the yetzer ha'tov and the yetzer ha'ra is NOT that the yetzer ha'tov pushes you to do mitzvos and the yetzer ha'ra pushes you to do aveiros.  

The yetzer ha'ra also pushes you to do mitzvos!  The problem is the mitzvos the yetzer ha'ra pushes you to do are really aveiros dressed up as noble causes.

Tiferes Shlomo:

כי כן דרך היצה"ר מסמא את עיני אדם לאמור כי בכל אשר הוא עושה עדיין לא חטא כלל ועודנו לא נתרחק כלל מהש"י ואדרבא הוא מתאמר בנפשו עוד לאמור כי מצוה הוא עושה כל הימים כמו שהשיא לחוה לאמר והייתם כאלהים לכן ההתחלת העבדות שיהיה האדם מכיר בעצמו כי חטא לה'. וצריך להיות תמיד פלס ומאזני משפט לפלס דרכיו אם יכונו באמת לה' ולא יעשה בנפשו שקר כמ"ש דוד המלך ע"ה ה' לי בעוזרי ואני אראה בשונאי. ר"ל ה' לי בעוזרי עי"כ אוכל לראות ולהכיר בשונאי לידע מי הוא האוהב אותי ומי הוא השונא המפתה אותי לדרך רעה כי היצה"ט ויצה"ר שניהם מפת' לדרך מצוה אך זה חלקו בחיים וזה אחריתו דרכי מות. לכן הודיעני דרך זו אלך. הורני ה' דרכיך. תעיתי כשה אובד בקש עבדך. ואל יהיה דבר זה קטן בעיני האדם לשום עינא פקיחא על נפשו בכל עניניו כי מצינו כן בצדיקים הגדולים שלא הכירו במעשיהם וחשבו למצוה והיה בהיפך כמו ענין מכירת יוסף כי עברו כ"ב שנים ולא ידעו כי עשו עולה עד שראו תפיסת אחיהם ואת בנימין. אז אמרו אבל אשמים אנחנו וכתיב מיד אחריו כי המליץ בינותם ע"י שהכירו שחטאו נעשה מליץ טוב עליהם. וכן היה רדיפת שאול לדוד כי סבור היה כי הוא מצוה להורגו. מעתה ק"ו ב"ב של ק"ו לאנשים פחותי ערך כמונו עורי לב שכלו ימיהם בהבל צריך להבין ולהשכיל בפתוי היצה"ר להנצל ממצודתו ודבריו הטובי' 

I saw quoted b'shem the Divrei Chaim of Sanz that our kavanos during Yom Kippur davening don't measure up to the kavanos l'shem shamayim that were going through Adam haRishon's head when he ate from the eitz hada'as.

So how do you tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys when the bad guys are also wearing white hats? 

I wish I had an easier answer other than tefilah, siyata d'Shemaya, and cheshbon ha'nefesh.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Two articles that are MUST reads:

1) Tablet Magazine:

2) The lawsuit being brought against Cuomo:

The law and the facts are not on Cuomo's side.  

Neither should anyone in our community be.

hearing but not seeing

The famous pasuk by by mattan Torah (Shmos 20:14) tells us that Klal Yisrael was "ro'im es ha'kolos," they not only heard the dvar Hashem but they were able to see the sound.  Rashi comments: רואים את הקולות – רואין את הנשמע, שאי איפשר לראות במקום אחר.

Similarly, when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he tells them (45:12) "v'hiney eineichem ro' pi ha'midabeir aleichem."  Rashi splits the phrase in two: "eineichem ro'os" that I am mahul, and "ki pi ha'midbeir," that I am speaking lashon kodesh.  That pshat involves reading a lot of words between the lines.  The Tiferes Shlomo writes that the words of a tzadik like Yosef are like the words of mattan Torah.  "Eineichem ro'os" is like "ro'im es ha'kolos" -- you can not only hear, but you can see the dvar Hashem when it is spoken properly.  

In our parsha, Adam sins and then hides.  Hashem calls out to him, "Ayeka?" to which Adam responds, "Es kolcha shamati ba'gan va'ira ki eirom anochi." (3:10)  "I heard your voice," Adam tells Hashem -- because of his sin, he no longer is "ro'im es ha'kolos, he is no longer seeing, not just hearing, the dvar Hashem.

Chassidishe torah, right?  But then I saw the GR"A in Aderes Aliyahu:   וז״ש את קולך שמעתי בגן – ולא פנים אל פנים כבראשונה

"Es kolcha shamati ba'gan."  Where else other than "ba'gan" would he have heard Hashem's voice?  That's where Adam was, that was the whole geography of his existence.

Tiferes Shlomo writes that the gan here alludes to the 53 parshioyos of Torah.  After the sin, when the direct connection to the dvar Hashem was lost, Hashem's voice can still be heard in Torah.  From that, "va'ira ki eirom anochi," a person can come back to yiras shamayim.  


Today is the second yahrzeit of my MIL, Shulamis bas R' Dov Yehudah, so these words are l'iluy nishmasa.

After telling us in Zos HaBracha that Klal Yisrael finished mourning Moshe Rabeinu, the Torah continues וִיהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֗וּן מָלֵא֙ ר֣וּחַ חׇכְמָ֔ה כִּֽי־סָמַ֥ךְ מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־יָדָ֖יו עָלָ֑יו  This whole pasuk seems out of place.  Yehoshua's appointment and Moshe's laying his hands on his head was discussed back in parshas Pinchas.  Why stick it in again here?  

Ksav Sofer answers that the pasuk is a continuation of the previous idea of וַֽיִּתְּמ֔וּ יְמֵ֥י בְכִ֖י אֵ֥בֶל מֹשֶֽׁה׃.  How do you ever stop mourning the loss of a Moshe Rabeinu?  The truth is that if everything Moshe lived for and represented as gone, we would still be crying.  But everything was not lost.  "Ki samach Moshe es yadav alav" -- the legacy of Moshe lived on through Yehoshua.  When Klal Yisrael saw that, it was the consolation that they needed.

Last night I was zoche to make a siyum b'shutfus with my son and I quoted the Midrash (B"R parsha 63, at the beginning of Toldos) that says

 רַבִּי לֵוִי אָמַר מִנַיִן אַתָּה אוֹמֵר שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ בֵּן יָגֵעַ בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁהוּא מִתְמַלֵּא עָלָיו רַחֲמִים, תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (משלי כ״ג:ט״ו): בְּנִי אִם חָכַם לִבֶּךָ יִשְׂמַח לִבִּי גַּם אָנִי. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן מְנַסְיָא אוֹמֵר, אֵין לִי אֶלָּא לֵב אָבִיו שֶׁל בָּשָׂר וָדָם, מִנַּיִן שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִתְמַלֵּא רַחֲמִים עָלָיו בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהוּא יָגֵעַ בַּתּוֹרָה, תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר יִשְׂמַח לִבִּי גַּם אָנִי

When a person has children and grandchildren who are  יָגֵעַ בַּתּוֹרָה, that is the real tribute to their legacy and shows that their spirit carries on.   

The Midrash on our parsha, Braishis, comments on the pasuk in Mishlei וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ אָמוֹן וָאֶהְיֶה שַׁעֲשׁוּעִים יוֹם יוֹם וגו׳

דָּבָר אַחֵר אָמוֹן, אֻמָּן. הַתּוֹרָה אוֹמֶרֶת אֲנִי הָיִיתִי כְּלִי אֻמְנוּתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, בְּנֹהַג שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם מֶלֶךְ בָּשָׂר וָדָם בּוֹנֶה פָּלָטִין, אֵינוֹ בּוֹנֶה אוֹתָהּ מִדַּעַת עַצְמוֹ אֶלָּא מִדַּעַת אֻמָּן, וְהָאֻמָּן אֵינוֹ בּוֹנֶה אוֹתָהּ מִדַּעַת עַצְמוֹ אֶלָּא דִּפְתְּרָאוֹת וּפִנְקְסָאוֹת יֵשׁ לוֹ, לָדַעַת הֵיאַךְ הוּא עוֹשֶׂה חֲדָרִים, הֵיאַךְ הוּא עוֹשֶׂה פִּשְׁפְּשִׁין. כָּךְ הָיָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַבִּיט בַּתּוֹרָה וּבוֹרֵא אֶת הָעוֹלָם

Sefas Emes points out that the pasuk is written in the future tense - וָאֶהְיֶה - not the past tense, even though the world was created thousands of years ago.  

What Chazal are telling us is that process of creation was actually never completed -- it continues on through us.  "Kol mah she'talmid vasik asid l'hischadesh" is part of Torah, and becomes part of creation.  

If Hashem's behavior as creator is meant to serve as a model for us, then perhaps the lesson for our own lives is that the process of creation that we start does not end with us, but hopefully continues on into the future, expanded on and developed by children and grandchildren and future generations following in our footsteps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Hashem never tunes out tefilos

The snake was given the punishment of "afar tochal kol y'mei chayecha," that he would always eat dirt.  Seems like a strange punishment.  Dirt is everywhere, so no matter where the snake goes, he never goes hungry.  There are plenty of people who would love such a punishment!

R' Yitzchok Vorke explained that when a person has a need, he turns to Hashem.  By ensuring the snake would never want for food, Hashem ensured the snake would never have the opportunity to turn to Him.  There is no greater punishment than this, than being completed disconnected from speaking to Hashem (see also Shem m'Shmuel on Zos haBracha 5667).

R' Yehuda Deri asks a simple question: why did Hashem need to give the nachash a perpetual lifetime supply of food just to not have to listen to his requests?  If Hashem didn't want to hear from the nachash and not have a relationship with him, all Hashem had to do is tune him out?

We see from here (as we've discussed in the past), that had the nachash turned to Hashem with a heartfelt prayer, then Hashem would be "unable" to tune it out.  There is nothing that stands in the way of tefilah, even the tefilah of the biggest rasha.

Chazal tell us that when Nevuchadnetzar witnessed Chanaya, Mishael, and Azaryah being saved from the furnace, he started to sing praises to Hashem that would have outshone and eclipsed even David HaMelech's praises in Tehillim had a malach not slapped him on the face to stop him.  Even though Nevuchadnetzar was a rasha, even though he was the one who threw Ch"M'vA into the furnace, nonetheless his "tehillim" were accepted by Hashem.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Chizuk Shmuel: Mussar and Hashkafic Insights Tied to the Daf Yomi Cycle

R' Yeshaya Fruchter, a reader of my blog, was nice enough to send me copies of his seforim on Shabbos and Brachos, Chizuk Shmuel: Mussar and Hashkafic Insights Tied to the Daf Yomi Cycle, but I've been remiss in mentioning the seforim and writing anything about them and I want to correct that.

R' Fruchter does not go through every single piece of aggadita in the masechtos, but he goes through every daf (nice for daf yomi learners) and relates a mussar/hashkafa point to each.  Sometimes the point relates to a story or an aggadah section, but sometimes it relates to a halacha mentioned in the daf.  If you think this is easy to do, just open Mes Shabbos to one of those technical sugyos about hotzaah, for example, and see if you can think of some mussar point you can draw out of it.  R' Fruchter manages to pull it off.  That in itself is a lesson to be learned from the sefer -- halacha is not a just dry lists of do's and don't's, but has a moral message in its details.

Even if you are not learning daf yomi or working on the sugyos covered, you can still enjoy the books because each piece/essay stands on its own and leaves you with a concept or a take away message that you can get with only a few minutes of reading.  That's both the plus and the minus of the seforim.  They are not meant as an exhaustive analysis of every single aggadita or a collection of meforshim to resolve every kashe -- for that, there are other books.  What they do is give you a clear message that imparts some lesson or moral derived from the sugya.

R' Fruchter draws on a panoply of different sources for that message: ideas from Rishonim, ideas from mussar seforim like Michtav m'Eliyahu, ideas from contemporary Rabbonim, ideas from philosophical works.  What you won't find in classical seforim but you will find here are topics like Brachos 33 -- "Understanding Free Will Using Chess, Quantum Physics, and Psychology."  Or, for example, the link he draws in Shabbos 108 between a piece from R' Chaim Shmuelevitz on self-restraint and the famous marshmallow experiment done by psychologists.  When you learned about the importance of yad as being equivalent to 4x4 tefachim on Shabbos 5, I bet you didn't realize that "although the human hand only comprises 10% of the body's muscles, a quarter of the brain's motor cortex is devoted just to the hands."   While writing this I grabbed one of the volumes and randomly thumbed through the pages -- in one spot I found a footnote to a R' Tzadok, in another, a quote from Eugene Koonin, a molecular biologist.  R' Fruchter knows his way around secular disciplines as well as the world of the beis medrash and does not hesitate to draw on that knowledge to enhance his message, or, I should say, the message of Chazal, which he presents as consistent with scientific evidence.  And it's not just hard science, but it's secular sociology/psychology as well that gets attention here, e.g. Brachos 20 -- "Understanding the Exemption of Women from Positive Time-Bound Commandments" is a whole essay on the topic of gender differences.  Is it apologetics, is it cherry picking data, or is it a strong defense of halacha?  Well, read the books and you can decide : )  

Friday, October 09, 2020

simchas torah and chanukas ha'bayis

Mah inyan Simchas Torah to Sukkos, to Shmini Atzeres?  Shouldn't we celebrate Simchas Torah in conjunction maybe with Shavuos?  Why here, why now?

Aside from the general inyan of celebrating the completion of a mitzvah (as Rashbam writes in the sugya of T"U b'Av) there are two sources that point to a particular chiyuv to celebrate a siyum: 

1) The gemara (Shabbos 119) writes that Abayei would make a yom tov when one of the bnei yeshiva would finish a masechta.

2) The Midrash (Shir haShirim Rabbah 1:9) writes that when Hashem gave Shlomo haMelech the chochma he had asked for, Shlomo gave thanks, and from here we learn (says the Midrash) that one should make a seudah to celebrate the completion of the Torah.

(Shu"T Binyan Av points out a potential nafka minah between these sources: is a siyum a celebration of the maaseh of learning, the ameilus and yegiya in Torah, or is it a celebration of the knowledge acquired?  What if one learned a masechta but did not really understand it fully -- can one make a siyum?  Shlomo haMelech's wisdom was a gift from Hashem; he did not have to work to get it.  According to Midrash, it's the acquisition of knowledge that is being celebrated.)

The Hagahos Ashri"I at the end of Sukkah quotes this second source as the basis for the minhag of our celebration of Simchas Torah.

I would like to suggest that there is another source as well.

Ramban writes at the end of Parshas Naso that there is a mitzvah doraysa l'doros to make a chanukas ha'bayis just like the celebration done for chanukas ha'mishkan.  This is why Shlomo haMelech celebrated chanukas bayis rishon for a week and this is also what we will do when we have bayis shlishi, bi'mheira b'yameinu.

The Netziv in a number of place (Haamek Davar in P' Beh'aloscha, also the last piece in the Sheiltos) writes that the celebration of chanukas ha'bayis is not a celebration of the completion of the building itself, but rather is a celebration of the hasra'as haShechina that is the result of having a completed Mikdash to serve as a bayis l'Hashem.

"Ain lanu shi'uur rak haTorah ha'zos" we say in Slichos.  "Ain lo l'hKBH elah 4 amos shel halacha."  When there is no beis hamikdash, says the Netziv, that hashra'as ha'shechina is still with us, manifest in Torah.

Therefore, just like there is a mitzvah of chanukas ha'bayis when the mikdash is completed, so too, there is a mitzvah of celebration siyuma shel Torah.

In fact, the Netziv says a chiddush l'halacha (see Sheilta 45 for his proofs): the hallel recited on Simchas Torah is not a hallel that stems from the kedushas ha'yom, but rather is a hallel that stems from the chiyuv to celebrate siyuma shel Torah.

As we saw earlier in the chag from the Radomsker, Sukkos is intertwined with beis ha'mikdash.  The gemara in Moed Katan proves there is a din of ain m'arvin simcha b'simcha from the fact that Shlomo haMelech made the chanukas ha'bays just before Sukkos instead of waiting a week and celebrating the two together so everyone doesn't have to take two weeks of vacation : )  Shem m'Shmuel asks: why should Shlomo have delayed?  Every single day without a Mikdash is an unfathomable loss!  Surely he should have made the chanukas ha'bayis as soon as possible to gain every day possible of avodah.

It must be, he concludes, that the chanukas ha'bayis and the chag of sukkos are inherently related -- chanukas ha'mikdash naturally goes hand-in-hand with Sukkos.  He quotes that if not for cheit ha'eigel that caused chanukas hamishkan to be delayed until the month of Nissan, the month of rachamim, it would have taken place in Tisrei, the month of din, on Sukkos.  And according to some Rishonim, it is on Sukkos that we will celebrate the chanukah of the bayis shlishi.

Since Sukkos is the zman which is mesugal to celebrate chanukas ha'bayis, which means, according to Netziv, celebrating the hashraas haShechina that takes place through that chanukah, m'meila if we have no bayis to celebrate in we can do the next best thing -- we can celebrate that same hashraas haShechina as it is manifest in the 4 amos shel halacha, in the Torah itself.  M'kan she'osim seudah l'gomra shel Torah, and this is why Simchas Torah belongs on the calendar now.

"V'hayisa ach sameiach - l'rabos leil acharon shel chag."  As opposed to the chiyuv simcha of the other days which comes from isarusa dl'eila, an explicit pasuk in Torah sheb'ksav, the simcha of leil acharon comes from Torah shebaal peh, from isarusa d'litata of the nefesh yisraeli, from the Torah that is innate to the Jewish soul.  No matter what mishugas has been going on this year, lulei Torascha sha'ashuay..., there is 4 amos of Torah, 4 amos in the Jewish heart, where you can always find hashraas haShechina.  On the "leil acharon," the end of this bitter galus, we just need to find it within, to be marbeh simcha, and hopefully soon we will be able to celebrate the chanukas hamikdash b'poel.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

hoshana lmaancha Elokeinu

 The gemara (San 97a) writes that Mashiach ben David will not come עד שתכלה פרוטה מן הכיס

In Divrei Yechezkel the Shiniver quotes his FIL the Yismach Moshe who explained pshat in the gemara as revealed by Eliyahu haNavi: Mashich will not come until our pratiyus, our obsession with out own individual needs, our own wants and desires (see this post on mitzvas peret), is removed from covering (kis = kisuy, covering) over our hearts.  

This is what Hoshana Rabbah is all about.  "Hoshana l'maancha Elokeinu" -- the Shiniver explains we are not asking Hashem on this day of the chasima to give us a yeshuah because we need it, we are not asking for parnasa, refulah, bracha etc, because we need it, we are not talking at all about our needs and our wants, even though each one of us has much to ask for.  Instead, we put aside all that pratiyus and we ask for a yeshuvah "lmaancha Elokeinu," for your sake alone, Hashem, not ours.  It's not about us -- it's just about you, about kvod shamayim.  

How can Hashem say no to a tefilah like that? 

bal tosif for sukkah on shmini atzeres

The gemara (Eiruvin 96a) proves that bal tosif does not apply when doing a mitzvah outside its normal time unless one has kavanah l'shem mitzvah.  Were that not true, says the gemara, one who sits in sukkah on Shmini Atzeres should get malkos for bal tosif.  Rashi comments:

 ועוד הישן בשמיני בסוכה ילקה. דמוסיף שמיני על השביעי ואנן מיתב יתבינן בשמיני בספק שביעי לכתחלה אלא שלא בזמנו בלא כוונה לאו תוספת הוא ולהכי שרינן דאי שמיני הוא לא מכוינן למצות סוכה

The gemara in speaking about malkos for sitting in sukkah on Shmini Atzeres in Eretz Yisrael, but Rashi adds in a justification for our doing so in chutz la'aretz not being a violation of bal tosif: Rashi writes that we have in mind that we do not kavanah for mitzvas sukkah if the sfeika d'yoma day is not Sukkos.  

In one of the earliest posts on this blog we discussed (see here, here, and here) Tos question of why there is no bal tosif in blowing additional tekiyos beyond what the Torah requires, i.e. blowing both before and during musaf on R"H.  Tos (R"H 16 answers) that there is no issur of bal tosif in doing a mitzvah a multiple times.  For example, the gemara says that a kohen can duchen multiple times a day  because each tzibur that he duchens in is a new kiyum mitzvah.  

Rashba gives what seems to be a far simpler answer to Tos question: there is never bal tosif in fulfilling a din derabbanan because the Torah gives Chazal license to legislate and add to/change mitzvos.  We blow tekiyos d'meyushav and dme'umad because we are following the takanas Chazal to do the mitzvh that way.  (The Rashba's answer seems so obviously correct that the Achronim struggle to explain why Tos avoided it.)

According to the Rashba, Rashi's question of why there is no bal tosif when we sit in sukkah on Shmini Atzeres does not get off the ground (see GR"A to O.C. 666).  Since the Chachamim made a takanah for us to keep Y"T sheni and sit in sukkah because of sfeika d'yoma, by definition there cannot be bal tosif in listening to the Chachamim and doing so.

See Netziv (on the Sheiltos 45:6) who has a novel approach to sfeika d'yoma by Shmimi Atzeres (note that the gemara always talks about why there is no malkos for bal tosif if you sleep in the sukkah on Shmini Atzeres, but never talks about bal tosif for any other Y"T sheni practice -- why is Shmini Atzeres singled out?) and works out a way to harmonize Rashi and the Rashba, but b'pashtus Rashi belongs to the camp of Tos in R"H that for some reason that does not accept the Rashba's chiddush.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Perfectly put

Interview with R' Pinchas Friedman here (I added the bolding to the text):

"אין כאן רק מלחמה על הגוף", חורץ הגר"פ פרידמן ברורות. "יש כאן מלחמה בשתי מערכות. מערכה ראשונה היא על הגוף הגשמי, על הבריאות, על איכות החיים ועל החיים עצמם. אולם זו המערכה הקטנה. המערכה הגדולה יותר ניטשת בין כוחות הקדושה לסטרא אחרא. יש פה מלחמה בין אור לחושך, בין קודש לחול.

"אנשים מנפנפים בפסוק 'ונשמרתם מאוד לנפשותיכם'. וזה נכון. אבל חייבים לזכור שיש כאן שתי 'נפשות', רוחנית וגשמית. לכן, יותר ממה שחייבים לשמור על הנפש הגשמית כדי שתוכל לקיים את מצוות התורה, באותה מידה יש לשמור שלא תאבד הנפש הרוחנית כדי להציל את הנפש הגשמית ויצא שכרו בהפסדו.

"אם ננקוט בדימוי המפורסם של ה'חובות הלבבות': יש לפנינו מערכה קטנה ומערכה גדולה. המערכה הקטנה היא על ענייני הגוף ובריאות הנפש, המערכה הגדולה והחשובה הרבה יותר היא על הנשמה היהודית וענייני הרוחניות. האם יהיה בשביל מי לשמר את הגוף?!".

Perfectly put.

rambam's formulation of mitzvah sukkah and lulav

Rambam hil chameitz u'matzah 6:1

מצות עשה מן התורה לאכול מצה בליל חמשה עשר שנאמר בערב תאכלו מצות. בכל מקום ובכל זמן.

Rambam hil shofar 1:1

מצות עשה של תורה לשמוע תרועת השופר בראש השנה שנאמר יום תרועה יהיה לכם

Now look at how Rambam formulates the mitzvah of lulav in hil lulav 7:13

מצות לולב להנטל ביום ראשון של חג בלבד בכל מקום ובכל זמן

Why doesn't he say something like "mitzvas aseh shel torah..." to take the lulav on 15 Tishrei as it says "ulkachtem lachem..."  like he says by matzah and by shofar?

And look at the Rambam's formulation of the chiyuv of sukkah in 6:7

אכילה בלילי יום טוב הראשון בסוכה חובה. אפילו אכל כזית פת יצא ידי חובתו. מכאן ואילך רשות. רצה לאכול סעודה סועד בסוכה. רצה אינו אוכל כל שבעה אלא פירות או קליות חוץ לסוכה אוכל כדין אכילת מצה בפסח:

Again, no statement like "mitzvah aseh..." to eat in the sukkah on the night of 15 Tishrei, etc.  And the ending of this halacha is even more difficult.  What purpose does the comparison between sukkah and matzah serve -- just tell me the din without the comparison?  Secondly, the pasuk tells us there is a mitzvah of "ba'sukkos teishvu shivas yamim."  There is no parallel mitzvah by matzah, so how are they parallel?


Friday, October 02, 2020

where home really is

Sukkos is a remembrance of the ananei ha'kavod that we merited in the zechus of Aharon haKohen, the great oheiv es ha'briyos u'mekarvan la'Torah.  Aharon is all about kiruv rechokim, which is why on this chag even the mayim tachtonim get brought up to the mizbeiach (see Rashi on VaYika 2:13 and this post).  Sukkah is the only mitzvah that envelopes the entire person, from the brain right down to the muddy shoes on your feet.  (You can't wear shoes on har ha'bayis, so aliya la'regel doesn't count.)  Meaning, it is a mitzvah that can envelop any and every Jew, whether you are the brains of our people or just somewhere on the bottom of the pile.   Mekarvan la'Torah, everyone included.

There is one other mitzvah that envelops the entire person, head to toe, and that is the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.  Coincidence?  Maybe not.  The Tiferes Shlomo asks what happened to the promise in the leshonos shel geulah -- v'hotzeisi, v'hitzali, etc. -- to the promise of v'heiveisi?  True, Klal Yisrael made it to Eretz Yisrael after 40 years, but justice delayed is justice denied, and that was a completely different generation?  He answers with the pasuk describing sukkos: "U'smachtem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem shivas yamim." (Devarim 16:15).  Sukkah is a chovas ha'guf -- what does the pasuk mean that we celebrate "lifnei Hashem?"  The answer is that when you are in the sukkah you are lifnei Hashem, in Eretz Yisrael, by the makom Mikdash.  The sukkah is like a little embassy; it is part of Eretz Yisrael wherever it may be located.  When Klal Yisrael left Egypt "va'yisu mei'Ramses Sukkosa," they headed for Sukkos.  Through being in the sukkah they experienced right then a taste of v'heiveisi, the kedushas Eretz Yisrael.  

ויסעו בני ישראל מרעמסס סכותה. הנ"ל דהנה כבר הקשו הראשונים על ההבטחה שהבטיחם הש"י להכניסם לא"י מיד הלא לא נתקיים ההבטחה ההיא. גם דרך שלשה ימים שאמרו נלכה ונזבחה כו' קשה מאד היכן הי'. אך הנה אמרו חכז"ל מה חג לד' כשם שחל שם שמים על החגיגה כן חל ש"ש על הסוכה נמצא הסוכה היא בחי' הקדושה של הקרבנות ובחי' א"י בכל מקום אשר אזכיר את שמי אבא אליך וברכתיך. לכן כאשר באו בנ"י לסוכות זכו בזה לקדושת א"י והקרבנות כנ"ל:

Things are so topsy turvey in Eretz Yisrael, with so many factions and parties and chugim, but that's how it's supposed to be because yishuv ha'aretz, like sukkah, envelops us as a people head to toe, top to bottom.   

The lesson of sukkos is that what we call home is not really home.  If you had a chance to review Yoma before Yom Kippur you may recall R' Yehudah's opinion (10b) that the lishkas palhedrin did not need a mezuza (m'doraysa) because "dirah baal korcha lo shmah dirah."  Living in galus is, or should be, a dirah baal korcha, a place we are forced to be in against our wishes.  Lav shema dirah -- it's not really a home.  Home is Eretz Yisrael.  For one week a year we remind ourselves of that fact.  We experience through sukkah a taste of kedushas ha'aretz to remind ourselves of where home is.  And if you are in Eretz Yisrael already, then remind yourself k'shem she'chal shem shamayim al ha'chagiga chal shem shamayim al ha'sukkah, that there is yet more holiness that we need in Eretz Yisrael itself so that it becomes the homeland that we need.

a second bite of the apple

Sukkah 46b:

איתמר הפריש שבעה אתרוגין לשבעה ימים אמר רב כל אחת ואחת יוצא בה ואוכלה לאלתר ורב אסי אמר כל אחת ואחת יוצא בה ואוכלה למחר

I'm not interested in the technical details of this machlokes in hil muktzah, whether an esrog set aside for use on a specific day can be eaten on that day after the mitzvah is done or only the next day.  A more minor point: why do Chazal specifically talk about eating the esrog?  Were they so hungry that they needed to take a bite out of it?  Their wives didn't prepare a nice brisket for Y"T?   OK, so you can say it's just an expression and the gemara really means hishtamshus or hana'ah of any kind, but still...

U'likachtem lachem ba'yom ha'rishon pri eitz hadar... u'smachtem lifnei Hashem Elokiechem shivas yamim (Vayikra 23:40)

It was just two weeks ago on Rosh HaShana that we said "zeh ha'yom t'chilas ma'asecha zikaron l'YOM RISHON."  Not that the world was created on R"H, but man was, and our existence gives purpose to everything else.  Had Adam haRishon just made it to Shabbos without sin then the seven days of creation would have been complete in the sense of fulfilling their purpose, and he would have had a great seudas Shabbos, starting with kiddush on the fruit of the eitz hadaas.

But we know that he didn't make it.  He ate from the eitz ha'daas = the esrog (according to some shitos) too soon and the world did not achieve the tikun it needed.

On sukkos we come back to that same "yom rishon" that we spoke about of R"H, we get a second bite of the apple (I know - bad choice of idiom given what we are talking about : )  "U'likachtem lachem ba'YOM ha'RISHON," take it for yourself and seize the opportunity of the "yom ha'rishon" all over again.  This time get it right with the pri eitz ha'dar = the pri of the eitz ha'daas and don't fall for the snake's speech.  

Tiferes Shlomo explains that the gemara speaks about eating the esrog because it is hinting that we get a second bite of the apple, a second taste of the eitz hadaas, the esrog, with the possibility of doing in right this time around.  That is what chag hasukkos is all about.

If we get it right, then we complete the seven days of creation as originally intended, u'smachtem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem shivas yamim.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

makes sense?

So let me see if I understand this correctly: to keep us safe, the city or state or whoever closed down a number of yeshivos in the area due to Covid concerns, so instead of those students sitting together in classrooms with their peers, they are now being shlepped along to all the stores and groceries with their parents who are trying to run pre-Yom Tov errands and now we can all come in contact with them.

Yup, that makes sense.  But don't worry -- so long as they wear masks we will be safe.  

second night of sukkos: which bracha comes first, sukkah or zman?

Last week I mentioned the question posed to R' Ovadya regarding saying slichos before mincha: why should mincha not come first given that it is tadir?

R' Ovadya answered by citing the Shaagas Aryeh's (#22) view that the rule of tadir only applies when comparing apples to apples, e.g. a d'oraysa against another d'oraysa, or a derabbanan against a derabbanan.  It does not apply when comparing a minhag like slichos to a derabbanan.  

First let's explain this counterintuitive idea a little more, and then we will see how it applies to sukkos:

It's only once a person decides to engage in doing a mitzvah or mitzvos that we look at what is tadir or mekudash to determine which mitzvah takes priority. However, if you are not yet engaged in doing those mitzvos -- you instead choose to be involved in some reshus/mundane activity -- tadir or mekudash does not force you to stop.  The rules of precedence do not come into play.

Viz a viz a mitzvah doraysa, a derabbanan is considered a reshus.  Viz a viz a derabbanan, a minhag is a reshus.  Saying slichos before mincha would not be worse than playing a game of baseball before mincha -- since you are not yet engaged in a mitzvah activity, the rules of precedence do not apply.

Shaagas Aryeh brings the following proof: the gemara (Brachos 51) quotes a machlokes Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel as to which bracha to say first in kiddush, the borei pri ha'gefen or the bracha on the kedushas ha'yom.  We pasken like B"H that the bracha on the wine comes first.  

Kiddush ha'yom is a mitzvah d'oraysa, it's mekudash.  How can you say the bracha on wine before doing the mitzvah d'oraysa?  

QED, that putting a reshus before a d'oraysa is not an issue.

The Tzlach takes exception to this proof and writes that the case in the Mishna is where one already davened maariv and was yotzei the mitzvah d'oraysa of kiddush in tefilah -- the case of the Mishna is where both brachos are derabbanan.  Had there been a bracha obligation that stemmed from a mitzvah d'oraysa, it would indeed have to come first.

(This Tzlach gives rise to the famous question he asks l'shitaso: if a man davened maariv and already fulfilled the d'oraysa of kiddush, how can he be motzi his wife who has not?  A discussion among Achronim for another time.)

Coming now to sukkos, on the first night we first say the bracha of sukkah first and then the bracha of zman because we want the she'hechiyanu to apply to both the mitzvah of sukkah and the kedushas ha'yom of sukkos.  However, the S.A. writes (O.C. 661) that on the second night we reverse the order and the bracha on zman comes first and then the bracha on sukka.  Rama tacks on that he concurs.  (Interesting -- the Rama usually tells us when he disagrees with the mechaber; here he goes out of his way to tell us that agrees, as if we would suspect that he doesn't.) On the second night the bracha of zman applies only to the kedushas ha'yom but not to the mitzvah of sukkah, as the she'hechiynu on sukkah can be said even before the chag.  

The Raavyah disagrees.  Raavyah writes that that zman always comes at the end.  He compares it to yakniha"z -- when a Y"T falls on motzei shabbos, we say kiddush and havdalah together and then tack on zman at the end even though the she'hechiyanu has nothing to do with havdalah and really belongs with kiddush.  So too on sukkos, even though zman has nothing to do with sukkah, it still comes at the end.

(One could argue that kiddush and havdalah are inseparable because both are brachos on kedushas ha'yom.  The Rambam, for example, holds that havdalah is a mitzvah d'oraysa that is learned from the same pasuk as kiddush.  Sukkah and kedushas ha'yom do not have that same relationship.)

Noda b'Yehudah (#39) / Tzlach paskens like the Raavyah and l'shitaso offers l'shitaso another reason for zman to come at the end: the bracha on sukkah is a bracha on a d'oraysa and therefore is considered mekudash and takes precedence over the bracha derabbanan of zman.  No different than would be the case if in theory the bracha on kedushas ha'yom in kiddush was d'oraysa, in which case it would take precedence over the bracha on wine.

Just for the record, here's the Rambam's psak (hil lulav 6:12):

ובלילי יום טוב הראשון מברך על הסוכה ואחר כך על הזמן. 

On the one hand, he says ום טוב הראשון implying the second night is different.  On the other hand, when he says ובלילי in the plural, does he mean to include the second night, which is really night #1 if we take sfeika d'yoma into account?  

The Aderet has a brilliant proof that the Raavyah is right.  He dug up a Yerushalmi in Brachos (57b, ch 8 halacha 1):

 יום טוב שחל להיות במוצאי שבת ר' יוחנן אמר יקנ"ה יין קידוש נר הבדלה חנין בר בא אמר בשם רב יין קידוש נר הבדלה סוכה וזמן.

The Ylmi can't be talking about the first day of sukkos on a motzei shabbos because 1) we have a rule "lo AD"U Rosh" that says Rosh haShana cannot start on a Sunday, so neither can sukkos which falls out exactly two weeks later; 2) we have another rule that hoshana rabbah never falls on Shabbos, so sukkos cannot possiblt start on Sunday.  Therefore, the Ylmi is must be speaking about the second day of Y"T and Ylmi holds that zman comes at the end, after the bracha of sukkah.

Amazing bekiyus.