Friday, January 29, 2021

kol ha'machala... lo asim alecha

I saw that learning the shtickel torah below from the Noam Elimelech is a segulah for refuah.  Now, I don't know if that's true or not, or whether it helps any more than reciting parshas ha'mon this past Tues helps with parnasa, but I figure at least you have a nice dvar Torah for shabbos and that's not a bad thing in itself.  If it also helps those in need of refuah, mah tov u'mah na'im, but that's just icing on the cake.

Kol ha'machala asher samti b'Mitzrayim lo asim alecha ki ani Hashem rofecha.  Rashi already is bothered by the question: if Hashem promises not to afflict us with any machalos, then what do we need the refuah for?

Next week we will read the aseres ha'dibros, and as we all know, the first commandment is Anochi Hashem Elokecha asher hotzeisicha mei'Eretz Mitzrayim.  Everybody asks: why is it that G-d "introduces" himself, if you will, as the one who redeemed us from Egypt instead of telling us that he is the creator of the universe?  

The N.E. explains that G-d's greatest "desire" is to give over his goodness.  G-d is the most perfect tov, and tov is not truly complete and perfect unless there is an element of being meitiv, of sharing that goodness with others.  Ramchal writes that G-d created the world for that purpose alone, so that He can be meitiv.  So viz a viz G-d, creation is not such a big chiddush.  Had it said, "Anochi Hashem Elokecha the creator of heaven and earth," you would say pshita, mai kah mashma lan, of course G-d created everything because he is the greatest tov and therefore wants to be meitiv.  (Compare with Moreh Nevuchim 2:33 and Derashos haRan derush 9, covered in this post). 

Yetzias Mitzrayim is a different story altogether.  As we read over the past two weeks, the Egyptians suffered one makkah after the next, culminating in makas bechoros and then finally Yam Suf.  "Asher hotzeisicha..." is a chiddush, as what happened seems to contradict the quality of G-d being meitiv.  Where is G-d's goodness in smacking around the Mitzryim?   Kol ha'machala asher samti... lo asim -- Hashem does not bring machalos, mi'pi elyon lo yeitzei ra'ah.  But we know Hashem did smite the Egyptians?  

The answer is that olam ha'zeh, for the most part, is a zero sum world.  It's either Egypt gets the good luck of an economy driven by slave labor, or Bnei Yisrael get their freedom -- either/or.  What is meitiv to one party comes at the expense of the other.  Hashem decided that being meitiv to Bn"Y is the best tov; punishing the Egyptians and forcing them to free Bn"Y is not a ra'ah, but is just a means to the end of the greater good.  

Coming back the the pasuk we started with: Kol ha'machala asher samti... lo asim, Hashem will not bring bad into the world.  If you see bad happening, then remember, "Ani Hashem rofecha," I, Hashem, am just there to make you better, to be meitiv to Klal Yisrael.  Sometimes there has to be suffering for the sake of the greater good, and the greater good is always that which benefits Klal Yisrael in the end.

כל המחלה אשר שמתי במצרים לא אשים עליך כי אני ה' רופאך. רש"י ז"ל הקשה בודאי כאשר לא ישים למה לרפואה? ונראה לפרש דהנה כתיב "אני ה' אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים", ומקשים למה לא אמר אשר בראתי שמים וארץ, שלפי הנראה זה חידוש יותר. אך נראה דבאמת זה חידוש יותר שהוציאנו מארץ מצרים, דהנה בריאת עולם היה מחמת שהשי"ת ב"ה רצה להטיב לברואים, ואין הבריאה חידוש נגד השי"ת כי טבעו להטיב, אבל יציאת מצרים שהכה השי"ת את מצרים במכות מופלאות, וזה נגד טבעית הבורא ב"ה כי "מפי עליון לא תצא הרעה", אך מחמת שזה היה הטבה לישראל מה שהכה את מצרים, ועיקר הטובה היה לישראל, עשה השי"ת נגד הטבעית להכות אותם, וזה חידוש יותר גדול. וזהו "כל המחלה לא אשים", אך איך הכה אותם הלא מפי עליון לא תצא הרע? לזה אמר "כי אני ה' רופאך", ונמצא היתה ההכאה הזאת הטבה לישראל, אבל להשים חלילה שום מחלה על ישראל זה בלתי אפשר, כי מה הטבה יבוא מזה. וק"ל.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

a cure worse than the disease

Scott Atlas writes (emphasis added by me):
Here’s the reality -- almost all states and major cities, with a handful of exceptions, have implemented severe restrictions for many months, including closures of businesses and in-person school, mobility restrictions and curfews, quarantines, limits on group gatherings, and mask mandates dating back to at least the summer. These measures did not significantly change the typical pattern or damage from the SARS2 virus.
He goes on to cite statistics to convey the extent of the damage caused by the restrictions and policies put in place, e.g. increases in domestic abuse, child abuse, thousands of cancer cases that went undetected and untreated, estimates of decreased life expectancy caused by the stress of unemployment, etc.  He concludes:
We know we have not yet seen the full extent of the damage from lockdowns, because it will last for decades. Perhaps that is why lockdowns were not recommended in previous pandemic analyses, even for infections with far higher death rates.

The lockdown fanatics keep screaming about pikuach nefesh.  I agree 100%  that it's pikuach nefesh -- lockdowns literally kill people.  

singing shira before a miracle occurs

What if a person is 100% sure that Hashem will do a miracle and save him from danger -- can/he say thanks to Hashem even before the miracle has occurred?  

The Emek Bracha quotes from R' Chaim that the answer is found directly in the pesukim, "V'ani b'chasdicha batachti yageil libi b'yeshuasecha," I have complete faith that Hashem will bring me salvation, "Ashira la'Hashem ki gamal alay," and I will sing praise to Hashem when he rescues me.  Even though I have complete faith that the miracle will occur, it is only after the fact, "ki gamal alay," that I sing shira, not beforehand.

The Mechilta on our parsha reads the pasuk, "Hashem yilachem lachem v'atem tacharishun?" as a question, not a statement.  You expect Hashem to do a miracle for you while you sit on the sidelines and do nothing?  Bnei Yisrael asked Moshe what they should do, and he answered that they should sing praises to Hashem.  

I can't find a Mechilta online, but here it is in Yalkut Shimoni:

 רַבִּי אוֹמֵר, ה׳ יִלָּחֵם לָכֶם הַמָּקוֹם יַעֲשֶׂה לָכֶם נִסִּים וּגְבוּרוֹת וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ עוֹמְדִין וְשׁוֹתְקִין. אָמְרוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמֹשֶׁה, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, מָה עָלֵינוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת. אָמַר לָהֶם, אַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ מְפָאֲרִין מְרוֹמְמִין וּמְשַׁבְּחִין וְכוּ׳. בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה פָּתְחוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל פִּיהֶם וְאָמְרוּ שִׁירָה, (להלן ט״ו:א׳) ״אָשִׁירָה לַה׳ כִּי גָאֹה גָּאָה״.

The Mechilta's reading that shira occurred before the miracle runs counter to simple pshat in the pesukim, but putting that aside, the Mechilta seems to undermine R' Chaim's argument.  According to the Mechilta, Klal Yisrael sang shira an anticipation of the splitting of Yam Suf; they didn't wait until after the fact, until the "ki gamal alay."

The Brisker Rav tries to defend R' Chaim by distinguishing between having emunah that a miracle will occur and being told by a navi like Moshe Rabeinu that a miracle will occur.  I think you need to explain why that distinction makes a difference, and secondly, where does it say that Moshe told Klal Yisrael that there would be a miracle like the splitting of the sea? 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

the stamford marshmallow experiment and בוצינא טב מקרא

The famous Stamford marshmallow studies "found that children who, as 4-year-olds, could resist a tempting marshmallow placed in front of them, and instead hold out for a larger reward in the future (two marshmallows), became adults who were more likely to finish college and earn higher incomes, and were less likely to become overweight."  

In other words, the ability to delay gratification, to hold out for a larger reward, is the key to success.

Kesubos 83b:

אמר אביי בוצינא טב מקרא

Rashi: וצינא טב מקרא. בוצינא דלעת קטנה קרא דלעת גדולה והאומר לחבירו קח לך דלעת קטנה בגינתי או המתן עד שיגדילו וקח גדולה טוב לו ליקח הקטנה מיד כי לא ידע מה יולד יום

Is Abayei saying that it is better to take the one marshmallow up front? 

Or is Abayei just telling us what more people do, not necessarily the best thing to do?

Or maybe Abayei has nothing to do with the marshmallow experiment?  Maybe you  can be mechaleik and say that there is a lot more risk involved in growing a plant than in waiting for someone to come back in a few minutes with that extra marshmallow.  I don't know whether a four year old would perceive it that way.  Why should he/she trust an unknown person making a promise?  

The marshmallow experiment has been generalized to other, more risky situations, as well.  For example, if you own a stock and the share price has gone up, do you sell, or do you hold out for better returns?  It seems to me that Abayei would council to sell and lock in your earnings now rather than delay and risk losing what you have.  However, do a search on stock price and marshmallow test and you will find lots of folks who invoke the marshmallow experiment to council holding out for the greater gains e.g. here, here, here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

is kiruv always a good thing?

No Rabbi alive today could say what the Maor vaShemesh says below:

והנראה לומר בכתובים הללו נרמז תוכחת מגולה לאנשים המקרבין את כל הבא לידם שמראין עצמן להם שהם חפיצים להיות מעובדי השם הגם שאין תוכם כברם מקרבין אותם ואומרין שבזה מתרבים כבוד שמים ובאמת טועין הם בזה שלא די שאינם עוזרים כלל בעבדות השם אלא שגם מבלבלים את העובדי השם אם הם עמם בצוותא חדא וכמה דברים מקולקלים מתנוצצים על ידם ומי לנו גדול ממשה רבינו ע"ה אב החכמים ואב לנביאים שודאי כוונתו הי' להרבות כבוד שמים במה שקירב את הערב רב ואעפ"כ היו כספחת לישראל וגרמו להם כמה רעות כמובא בספרי קודש ועד עתה הם הגורמים אריכות הגלות וקושי השיעבוד והי' גלוי לפניו ית' שיגרמו לישראל כמה דברים מקולקלים ויבלבלו אותם מעבדות השם ולא רצה לומר בפי' למרע"ה שירחק אותם מפני שהבחירה נתונה ביד האדם ולאשר יחפוץ יטנה ואולי ישובו מדרכם אבל רצון השם לא הי' שיקרב אותם משה רבינו והנה אם בני ישראל לבדם היו יוצאים ממצרים ולא הי' נדבק בהם הע"ר היה הש"ית מוליכם מיד לארץ ישראל דרך ארץ פלשתים כי קרוב הוא ושם תכלית העבודה ולא היו צריכים לניסי הים והמן ומתן תורה במדבר כי בית הבחירה הוא מעולה מכל המעלות כמו שחושב בעל האגדה האחרון אחרון חביב שהוא בנין בית הבחירה. אך שצפה הקב"ה שבאם יבואו תיכף לארץ ישראל והערב רב בתוכם יצמח לישראל כמה מכשולות רעות ח"ו לכן הקיפם דרך המדבר י"ס אולי בראותם שסגר עליהם המדבר ופרעה וחילו רודף אחריהם ברכבו ופרשיו וגם יראו מלחמת עמלק עי"ז יתנו לב לשוב ויתפרדו כל פועלי און

He sees the miracles of Yam Suf, the mon, even mattan Torah as all b'dieved concessions to the spiritual needs of the eirav rav, but ideally unnecessary.  We should ideally have left Egypt and immediately entered Eretz Yisrael and built Beis HaBechira (I assume he means that Torah would have been given there somehow), but the eirav rav made that impossible.  Think about that for a minute -- he is not pointing to the rebellions that took place in the midbar as signs that things were less than perfect, but rather he is pointing to the miracles, the things that we would have thought prove that things were great!  

Friday, January 22, 2021

mi va'mi ha'holchim -- sustaining growth

R' Simcha Bunim Sofer quotes a Midrash (which I haven't found, so pls enlighten me if you can locate it) on Pharoah's question (10:8) to Moshe  מִ֥י וָמִ֖י הַהֹלְכִֽים -- why the double מִ֥י וָמִ֖י (see Kli Yakar as well)?  The Midrash comments that Pharoah challenged Moshe's request as unreasonable given that in the future Bnei Yisrael will one day say מי יעלה לנו בהר ה׳ ומי יקום במקום קדשׁו

What's the connection?

My chavrusa once prepared a whole shiur on this idea of "Mi yaaleh... u'mi yakum."  Ascending the mountain is a great achievement, but even harder than making it to the top is sustaining yourself there.  I remember as a teenager in camp that there was someone who went min ha'katzeh el ha'katzeh, what today people call flipping out.  This guy gave up all his hobbies, all his outside interests, switched his wardrobe to dress pants and white shirts, and went from a background of next to no exposure to learning to doing nothing but learning.  It lasted about a year or two, and then he fell back to his old self just as fast as his meteoric rise.  There are a lot of people like that, people who get the mi yaaleh part, but then fail in the mi yakum.  It's like people who go on these crash diets for a few weeks and lose a ton of weight, but then turn into a balloon again as soon as the diet is over.  There is no mi yakum because they focused on the goal of shedding pounds quickly, but not on developing good eating habits that can make the weight loss sustainable.  A person needs to go step by step, to grow gradually and adjust and accommodate to each level before trying to climb higher or it will not last.

This was Pharoah's argument.  "Lchu na ha'gevarim," let those who are giborim=koveish es yitzro, those who have shown themselves already to be religiously committed, those who have been on top of the mountain for awhile, leave Egypt to serve G-d.  But how can you demand that everyone, even those who, until Moshe started making demands, are no different than their Egyptian counterparts -- halalu ovdei avodah zarah v'halalu ovdei avodah zarah -- pick up suddenly and leave?  רְא֕וּ כִּ֥י רָעָ֖ה נֶ֥גֶד פְּנֵיכֶֽם -- they people are still attracted to רָעָ֖ה, their same old ways, their same old lifestyle.  Even if they go out and have a chag l'Hashem, it's a one time deal and they will quickly revert back to who they are now.  Moshe, you are asking for a מי יעלה without considering מי יקום, and it can't work.

Pharoah indeed had a point, as we see time and again from the rebelliousness of Bnei Yisrael in the midbar.  Yetzi'as Mitzrayim was a tremendous opportunity, as Hashem brought us up the ladder in one shot, על כנפי נשׁרים, but at the same time it was a tremendous challenge, as מי יעלה demands מי יקום or it is for naught.

issur melacha as a din in "mikra kodesh"

 An interesting chiddush din which Maharal derives from Rashi:

וּבַיּ֤וֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן֙ מִקְרָא־קֹ֔דֶשׁ וּבַיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִקְרָא־קֹ֖דֶשׁ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם כׇּל־מְלָאכָה֙ לֹא־יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה בָהֶ֔ם אַ֚ךְ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֵאָכֵ֣ל לְכׇל־נֶ֔פֶשׁ ה֥וּא לְבַדּ֖וֹ יֵעָשֶׂ֥ה לָכֶֽם׃ (12:16)

Rashi comments: לא יעשה בהם – אפילו על ידי אחרים  

Ramban asks: who is the "acheirim" that Rashi is referring to?  If it is a Jew, then there already is an issur for that person to do melacha; if it is a nochri, then there is no issur d'oraysa of a nochri doing work for a Jew on Y"T or Shabbos, so that can't be what the pasuk is talking about.

Mizrachi answers that the "acheirim" here is a nochri and Rashi is just quoting an asmachta as pshat in the pasuk.  (The issue here may be whether asmachta is just a mnenomic device, or whether there is some connection between the din and the words of the pasuk.)  Maharal in Gur Aryeh, however, learns that "acheirim" is referring to a Jew.  Aside from the issur melacha of doing work yourself on Y"T, there is a separate issur of having a Jew do work on your behalf.  

Why should there be such an issur on Y"T and not on Shabbos?   R' Chaim Elazari explains that aside from the aspect of each individual not doing melacha and observing Shabbos and Y"T as a personal day of rest, Y"T has an additional element of being a "mikra kodesh."  Ramban in P' Emor (23:2) explains this term as meaning that Y"T is a day in which the tzibur gathers for tefilah and hallel and simcha -- it is a public holiday.  (It could be according to Ramban that tefilah b'tzibur on Y"T is a kiyum d'oraysa).    

What Rashi is telling us is that by having someone else do work, although you have not violated the personal aspect of resting on Y"T since you are not doing anything, you have violated the "mikra kodesh" aspect of the day by taking away from it being an all inclusive public celebration.

I don't understand R' Elazari's chiddush.  In the very Ramban he refers to, the Ramban writes with respect to Shabbos: שגם הוא יום מועד, נקרא אותו מקרא קדש,  According to Ramban, Shabbos is also called a mikra kodesh.  So hadra kushya l'duchta, why do we only find this din mentioned with respect to Y"T and not Shabbos?

Thursday, January 21, 2021

if time allowed

  וַיֹּאפ֨וּ אֶת־הַבָּצֵ֜ק אֲשֶׁ֨ר הוֹצִ֧יאוּ מִמִּצְרַ֛יִם עֻגֹ֥ת מַצּ֖וֹת כִּ֣י לֹ֣א חָמֵ֑ץ כִּֽי־גֹרְשׁ֣וּ מִמִּצְרַ֗יִם וְלֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לְהִתְמַהְמֵ֔הַּ וְגַם־צֵדָ֖ה לֹא־עָשׂ֥וּ לָהֶֽם

We read in the haggadah "Matzah zu she'anu ochlim al shum mah?" and the haggadah goes on to answer, as seems to be pshat in our pasuk (12:39), that the Egyptians were in such a rush to kick us out that they did not even give us time to bake bread for the road.

The Ran in Pesachim (25b in pages of RIF) infers a big chiddush from this statement.  The implication of the haggadah and of the pasuk is that had we had time, we could have baked bread even though it was Pesach -- no problem of bal yera'ah!   

Ramban explains the pasuk differently to avoid this conclusion:  

וטעם ויאפו את הבצק – שאפו אותו מצות מפני המצוה שנצטוו: שאור לא ימצא בבתיכם כי כל אוכל מחמצת ונכרתה

ואמר כי גורשו ממצרים – לומר שאפו אותו בדרך בעבור כי גורשו ממצרים ולא יכלו להתמהמה לאפות אותו בעיר, ולשאת אותו אפוי מצות, ועל כן נשאו אותו בצק ומשארותם צרורות בשמלותם על שכמם (שמות י״ב:ל״ד), ומהרו ואפו אותו טרם יחמץ בדרך או בסכות, כשבאו שם לשעה קלה כדברי רבותינו.

The pasuk speaks about the dough אֲשֶׁ֨ר הוֹצִ֧יאוּ מִמִּצְרַ֛יִם, which they took out of Egypt and baked into matzah on the road.  According to Ramban, two things the require explanation: 1) why they were eating matzah and not bread; 2) why they had to bake it on the road and not at home.  The answer to the first question, the pasul tells is,  is that כִּ֣י לֹ֣א חָמֵ֑ץ, because Hashem had prohibited chametz and commanded Bnei Yisrael to eat matzah.  The answer to the second question is that the Egyptians rushed them out, כִּֽי־גֹרְשׁ֣וּ מִמִּצְרַ֗יִם וְלֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לְהִתְמַהְמֵ֔הַּ.  

The difficulty with the Ran (as the Tzlach points out) is that the Mishna (Pesachim 95) lists the differences between Pesach Mitzrayim and Pesach as celebrated in future years and absent from that list is the Ran's assumption that there was no prohibition of bal yera'eh on that first Pesach in Egypt.

The difficulty with Ramban is that the pshat may work well for the pasuk, but it does not fit the haggadah so well. "Matzah shum mah" sounds like we are offering an explanation for why we eat matzah, not just for why it was baked it on the road.   

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

what it takes to be a leader

The Yalkut Shimoni (Shmos ch 3) writes:

 וּמֹשֶׁה הָיָה רֹעֶה, כְּתִיב (תהלים י״א:ה׳) ״ה׳ צַדִּיק יִבְחָן״, אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק, בַּמֶּה בּוֹחֵן אֶת הַצַּדִּיקִים, בְּמִרְעֶה. דָּוִד נִבְחָן בְּמִרְעֶה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ״מֵאַחַר עָלוֹת הֵבִיאוֹ לִרְעוֹת בְּיַעֲקֹב עַמּוֹ״. [עָמוֹס] נִבְחָן בְּמִרְעֶה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (עמוס ז׳:ט״ו) ״וַיִּקָּחֵנִי ה׳ מֵאַחֲרֵי הַצֹּאן״. אַף מֹשֶׁה נִבְחָן בְּמִרְעֶה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וּמשֶׁה הָיָה רֹעֶה.

Hashem tests tzadikim to see if they are worthy of leading Klal Yisrael before he turns over the reins to them.  How does he test them?  By seeing how they behave as shepherds.  If they can manage a flock of sheep, then Hashem turns over his flock of Klal Yisrael to them.

Let's look back at how Moshe got that job of being a shepherd.  Moshe was a prince in Egypt, but he threw away his position and intervened when he saw a Jewish slave being abused.  Pharoah wanted to kill him, so he was forced to flee.  When he got to Midyan, he saw the shepherds there treating the daughters of Yisro unfairly, and once again he intervened to set things right and stand up for the underdog when no one else would.  

None of that was sufficient to earn him the job of leader of Klal Yisrael.  Yet if a little sheep ran off on its own away from the flock and Moshe had to chase it down and carry it back, that proved that he was fit to be the leader of Klal Yisrael.  

It's not the one time act of heroism or bravery that proves someone has what it takes to lead.  It's the day in and day out show of caring in doing what seems like a mundane and thankless job that proves it.  (from R' Nissim Yagen)

Thursday, January 14, 2021

don't wait for a crisis

 וְגַ֣ם׀ אֲנִ֣י שָׁמַ֗עְתִּי אֶֽת־נַאֲקַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם מַעֲבִדִ֣ים אֹתָ֑ם 

So which is it -- was Hashem moved by the cries of Bnei Yisrael, in which case  אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם מַעֲבִדִ֣ים אֹתָ֑ם is extraneous, or was Hashem moved by the injustice of the Egyptian persecution, irrespective of whether anyone else cried out or objected to it, in which case אֶֽת־נַאֲקַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל is extraneous?

The Oheiv Yisrael (also R' Liebele Eiger) explains the pasuk as follows: many people go through life ho-hum without thinking too much about G-d, until one day when the going gets tough, and then suddenly its time to break open the Tehillim and rediscover what avodas Hashem means.  Klal Yisrael in Egypt was pushed until their backs were against the wall, and so they cried out to Hashem for help.  But what they cried about is more than the pain of slavery.  What they cried about is the fact that it took a crisis to bring them to that point.  They cried because  אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם מַעֲבִדִ֣ים אֹתָ֑ם -- the Egyptians were the ones that drove them to avodas Hashem.  It shouldn't take a crisis to bring the children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov to speak to their Father upstairs.

a hashkafa of "lo nachon" vs a hashkafa of "assur" -- should we have an innate sense of right and wrong?

When Pharoah finally gave in a little bit and told Moshe that he can offer korbanos provided he do so in Mitzrayim, Moshe turned him down.  "Lo nachon la'asos kein ki toavas Mitzrayim nizbach..." (8:22).  Chasam Sofer notes Moshe's choice of words -- "lo nachon," it's not the right thing to do.  The Egyptian people don't want to see us sacrificing their gods.  It's not menchlishkeit.  Pharoah, you think we are a bunch of barbarians, but that's not who we are.

This diyuk of Chasam Sofer I think speaks to the difference between my father's generation and my children's generation.  The vast majority of Jews of my father's generation were not yeshiva educated and did not think in terms of assur or mutar, what it says in a seif katan somewhere in the mishna berura.  But those old timers knew the words, or the concept, of "lo nachon."  Certain things were just not done because it was not right.  Today, baruch Hashem our kids all know how to dig up all kinds of obscure chumros brought down in all the latest seforim, but the concept of "lo nachon" seems to have vanished.  Too many people seem to have no inner moral compass, no innate sense of right and wrong, no thought as to what is proper before they even get to what it says in Shulchan Aruch.

The Yerushalmi in B"M (8a) relates (I'm quoting the Sefaria translation):

Shimon ben Shetah was dealing with flax [as his profession]. His students said to him: ‘Master, leave it behind and we will buy you a donkey and you won’t need to work so much,’ and they bought him a donkey from an Arab, and it had a jewel hanging from it[s neck]. They came to him and said him: ‘from now on you won’t have to work again.’ He said to them: ‘why?’ They said to him: ‘ We bought you a donkey from an Arab and it had a jewel hanging from it[s neck]!’ He said to them: ‘Did the owner know?’ They said to him: ‘no.’ He said to them: ‘go return it.’ [Later students objected to this story:] But didn’t Rav Huna Bibi bar Gozlon say in the name of Rav, said they responded before Rabbi, even according to the one who says an item stolen from a gentile is prohibited, all agree that an item lost by a gentile is permitted!?’ ‘What, do you think Shimon ben Shetah is a barbarian? Shimon wished to hear ‘blessed be the God of the Jews’ more than all the wages of this world.

The difference between Shimon ben Shetach and his students is the difference between a world view of assur/mutar and a world view of lo nachon.

So which is better -- to know something is wrong and refrain from doing it out of instinct, or to always have to look up the din in Shulchan Aruch to know good from bad?

Sounds like this is exactly the question the Rambam addresses in Shmoneh Perakim (ch 6).  Rambam asks: the Torah is supposed to shape a person to be moral, to not want to steal or harm people, etc., yet Chazal tell us that a person should not say that he doesn't want to eat pig because it is not healthy or tastes bad, but rather because Hashem said not to eat it.  In other words, don't refrain because you think it is wrong, just obey because of what it says in Shulchan Aruch!

The Rambam distinguishes between mitzvos sichliyos and other mitzvos.  It makes rational sense to not steal, so a person should not want to do so.  It makes no sense not to eat pig, so we obey simply because G-d said so.

The distinction is not as clear cut as it seems.  R' Amital in this piece, based on R' Kook, greatly expands the category of rational mitzvos to include things like observing Shabbos.  The Shem m'Shmuel (Parshas Tzav) goes a step further (I recall seeing my wife's grandfather also took this same approach, but can't track down where at the moment):

האומנם כי לכאורה יקשה על הנחה זו מהא דאל יאמר אדם אי אפשי בבשר חזיר אלא אפשי ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי, וידוע דעת הרמב"ם שיצא לחלוק בין עבירות השכליות והשמיעיות, ולדידי הפי' עפ"י דברי הא"ע בלאו דלא תחמוד שרבים תמהו איך אפשר שאדם לא יחמוד לדבר יפה ונחמד לעיניו ונתן משל לזה שהוא כמו שלא יתאוה האיש להיות לו כנפים לעוף למעלה כי דבר הנמנע לא יתאוה לו הטבע, ככה צריך איש הישראלי לידע שכל דבר שלא ניתן לו מן השמים לא שייך אליו כלל כמו כנפים לאיש ולא יכול לקחתו בתחבולותיו והוא נמנע ממנו ע"כ לא יתאוה לו כלל ודפח"ח, ואף אנו נאמר שכ"ש דבר שאסרה תורה היא עוד יותר נמנע מפחמין לאכילה, ומה שאמרו ז"ל אבל אפשי ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי, היינו שבאם לא הי' גזר הי' באמת דבר טוב כי הביט בתורה וברא את העולם, ואם עפ"י התורה הי' זה מותר ומאכל לאיש הישראלי אז הי' לו צורה אחרת והי' באמת טוב, אבל עכשו שהתורה אסרה אין זה רק רע וכפחמין לאכילה ואי אפשר להתאוה לו כלל, וע"ד זה תקיש לכל העבירות שבאם לא אסרה תורה בהכרח שהי' לו צורה אחרת והי' טוב וראוי, אבל עתה שאסרה תורה שוב נמאס ואין ראוי להשתוקק אליו, וע"כ המשתוקק אליו הוא חוטא וצריך כפרה:

The only difference, says Sm"S, between a mitzvah sichlis and a mitzvah like not eating pig, is whether the mitzvah a priori makes sense.  However, once G-d commands us not to eat pig, we have to view eating pig as repugnant, as something we would never want to do.  

He draws an analogy to the Ibn Ezra's interpretation of lo tachmod.  Ibn Ezra asks how the Torah can command a person not to desire something -- can a person control his heart?  You see you neighbor has a nice car and nature takes over and you want it.  Ibn Ezra answers that a pauper would never dream of marrying a princess -- his mind places it so far outside the realm of possibility that it's unimaginable.  It would be like having a desire to flap your arms and fly.  So too, once G-d commands us not to eat pig, to us that act has to become like some unimaginable fantasy, a thought we would never entertain, much less struggle to overcome.

Ibn Ezra is speaking on a psychological level as to what drives a person's attractions and desires.  Sm"S is going a step further: It's not just that psychologically we must view eating pig as unimaginable (irrespective of whether there is really any harm in doing so), but that once G-d commanded it, it actually becomes morally so.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

k'zayis matzah -- shiur in the chiyuv or shiur in the kiyum mitzvah?

The Rambam (Chametz u'Matzah 6:1) formulates the mitzvah of achilas matzah as follows:

מצות עשה מן התורה לאכול מצה בליל חמשה עשר שנאמר בערב תאכלו מצות. בכל מקום ובכל זמן. ולא תלה אכילה זו בקרבן הפסח אלא זו מצוה בפני עצמה ומצותה כל הלילה. אבל בשאר הרגל אכילת מצה רשות רצה אוכל מצה רצה אוכל אורז או דוחן או קליות או פירות. אבל בליל חמשה עשר בלבד חובה ומשאכל כזית יצא ידי חובתו:

The Rambam could just as easily have said מצות עשה מן התורה לאכול **כזית** מצה בליל חמשה עשר Why the circuitous מצות עשה מן התורה לאכול מצה...משאכל כזית יצא ?

B'pashtus one would have thought that once you eat your kzayis of matzah, the mitzvah is over and if you continue stuffing your face, that's for your own pleasure alone.  But it seems from the Rambam (and this is also the opinion of Maharal in Gevuros Hashem ch 48) that that's not how it works.   There is a mitzvah to eat, period -- the more, the better.  Every additional bite is a kiyum.  If you want to do the minimum, then the Rambam at the end of the halacha tells us that you are yotzei with a k'zayis. 

The gemara (Pesachim 107) relates that Rava used to drink a lot of wine on erev pesach so that he would have an appetite to eat a lot of matzah during the night.  Rav Wahrman (She'eiris Yosef I:1) brings proof from this gemara to the Rambam's point.  Had the mitzvah been to eat a k'zayis, there would be no point to eating more.  

(Tos in Kiddushin 38 writes that you can't say aseh doche lo ta'aseh when eating a second k'zayis, but that's because dechiya depends on their being a chiyuv, not just a kiyum.)

The gemara (Sukkah 41) similarly writes that there were people who held their lulav and esrog all day, even while davening.  The gemara asks how that can be when there is an issur of holding things in your hand during tefilah, and the gemara answers that taking the lulav is different because it's a mitzvah.  Even though m'ikar ha'din a person is yotzei netilas lulav just by picking it up, we see from the gemara that that's just a minimum, like eating just a k'zayis of matzah, but if you do more, it also counts as a mitzvah.

The gemara (R"H 16) writes that we blow shofar during shmoneh esrei on R"H even though we already did the mitzvah before starting musaf in order to confuse the satan.  Rashi comments that by blowing extra times we demonstrate our love of the mitzvah.  In his sefer on chumash (shmos p50) Rav Noson Gestetner suggests that you see the same chidush from this Rashi.  Had there been a defined shiur beyond which there is no kiyum, by blowing extra kolos we would just be entertaining ourselves.  Rashi is telling us that the additional kolos are a mitzvah, as there is no maximum limit to "yom teru'ah."

Monday, January 11, 2021

persecution is a symptom, not the problem

 וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒ אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ טוֹבָה֙ וּרְחָבָ֔ה אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ אֶל־מְק֤וֹם הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַ֣חִתִּ֔י וְהָֽאֱמֹרִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י וְהַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִֽי׃

A number of meforshim ask the following question (I took this quote from Maor vaShemesh) in one form or another:

 גם מה לבשר להם תיכף שביאתם תהי לארץ טובה זבת חלב הלא לעת כזאת רב להם אם ינצלו מהעבודה הקשה אשר עובד בם

Klal Yisrael was suffering bitterly under Egyptian slavery.  They were not looking to be brought to a land of milk and honey -- they were just looking for a day that they did not have to wake up and face an Egyptian taskmaster holding a whip over their heads.  Why did Hashem introduce the plan for them to enter Eretz Yisrael  now?  Why not leave that discussion until after the exodus?

One can interpret the question in two ways: 1) Psychologically -- if the goal is to give Klal Yisrael hope to sustain them, then it would be enough to tell them that their slavery would end.  There was no need to add the cherry on the cake of coming to Eretz Yisrael.   2) Existentially -- the response to the threat against Jewish well being should be to save them from danger.  Why introduce coming to the land into the mix?

The answer, I think, can be gleaned from modern Jewish history.  In 1903, when the sixth World Zionist Congress met, Herzl introduced a proposal that neatly caused a rift in the entire Zionist movement.  Russian Jews were in immanent danger; anti-semitism was rampant.  The dream of a homeland in Israel seemed exactly that -- a dream.  So Herzl proposed that they look elsewhere in the interim, to establish a colony in Uganda or some other territory that could be more easily attained, and in this way provide a means of escape for those Jews whose lives were on the line.

רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י

וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם

Let's talk about saving Jews and put this Israel thing on the back burner.

Herzl's proposal was ultimately rejected.  There were pragmatic flaws that would render the whole plan moot, but what is more significant is the ideological opposition to it.  

Writing a few decades later, Ben Tzion Dinur, who would become one of Israel's education ministers, wrote, "Zionism is a revolution against Exile, a declaration of war on it  The first requirement for victory is to know the enemy, {which is} Jewish life in Exile" (quoted in We Stand Divided - The Rift Between American Jews and Israel, by Daniel Gordis, p61, as translated by Gordis). 

Yetzi'as Mitzrayim is the template for geulah.  Therefore, it is critical, as Dinur wrote, "to know the enemy," to define what geulah hopes to achieve and overcome.  The enemy is not slavery or persecution; redemption is not about getting a respite from work or a respite from being beaten up.  That is but a partial solution, a stop along the way.  Those afflictions are but symptoms of the underlying disease.  The only way to truly fix the cycle that repeats itself over and over during our history in exile, i.e. we find safe heaven in a country for a few decades, maybe even a few centuries, persecution starts, eventually we get kicked out and are forced to take up home elsewhere, and then the process repeats itself all over again, is for us to come back to our own homeland.  

Yes, Hashem could have told Moshe to tell the Jews in Egypt that their suffering would be alleviated and left it at that and the people would have been happy.  But the Torah wants to give us more than that -- it wants to give us the recipe to fix the underlying problem, not just a bandaid.  That can only be done by our return to Eretz Yisrael.  

dissent will not be tolerated

Dennis Prager is often on the mark, but never more so than in his column entitled "Now I Better Understand the 'Good German.'"  Prager writes:

The ease with which tens of millions of Americans have accepted irrational, unconstitutional and unprecedented police state-type restrictions on their freedoms, including even the freedom to make a living, has been, to understate the case, sobering.

The same holds true for the acceptance by most Americans of the rampant censorship on Twitter and all other major social media platforms. Even physicians and other scientists are deprived of freedom of speech if, for example, they offer scientific support for hydroxychloroquine along with zinc to treat COVID-19 in the early stages. Board-certified physician Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, who has saved hundreds of COVID-19 patients from suffering and/or death, has been banned from Twitter for publicizing his lifesaving hydroxychloroquine and zinc protocol.

Half of America, the non-left half, is afraid to speak their minds at virtually every university, movie studio and large corporation — indeed, at virtually every place of work. Professors who say anything that offends the left fear being ostracized if they have tenure and being fired if they do not. People are socially ostracized, publicly shamed and/or fired for differing with Black Lives Matter, as America-hating and white-hating a group as has ever existed. And few Americans speak up. On the contrary, when BLM protestors demand that diners outside of restaurants raise their fists to show their support of BLM, nearly every diner does.

I would add that even if you wanted to speak out, your voice will be quashed.  Witness what happened to Parler this weekend.  If you believe in free speech, you should be appalled.  But if you've been paying attention to the way conservatives, friends of Israel, religious leaders, and others who do not march in lockstep to the groupthink of the democrat-progressive machine have been treated on college campuses for years, you would have expected no less.  Those brainwashed by our education system to cry foul at every "microaggression" and demand that opinions contrary to their own be silenced and who find administrators all too happy to comply eventually enter the workforce, enter civil society, and bring those same attitudes with them.

The incessant left-wing drumbeat of The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and almost every other major newspaper, plus The Atlantic, The New Yorker, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, all of Hollywood and almost every school from kindergarten through graduate school, has brainwashed at least half of America every bit as effectively as the German, Soviet and Chinese communist press did (and in the latter case, still does).

The CEO of the company I work for sent out an email this morning using words like "insurrectionists" and "sedition" and calling on us to be agents for "social change."  This is the workplace of modern times, where the left wing point of view is inescapable.  I just want to do my job and collect my paycheck, not transform society, certainly not in the way you want it transformed.  Gone are the days when a CEO can just run a business, when a company can just sell a product or provide a service.  Now everything is about politics, and you will be made to take a stand -- the right stand -- or be trampled by the mob.

What is tragic is how many of our own brethren see nothing wrong with what is transpiring, and actually root for the thugs that have gained control over our society.  Need I remind people of those from our community who marched in support of BLM this past summer, ignorant of, or perhaps even aware, but not taking seriously, the vicious anti-Israel platform of that movement.  

Sad times indeed that we live in.  

Someone sent me a message over the weekend that it's time for a group of us to move out of NY and establish a community someplace like Florida, a "red" state that allows for more freedom.  

If that's what you think the solution is, than you are not getting the message.  What NY or Portland or Seattle is today, Florida will become tomorrow.  

There is no place Hashem wants us to go other than home.  It's just a question of whether we want to make those plans on our own or wait until events force us to do so.  Does Israel have its problems?   Sure it does.  But better to have to deal with the growing pains of aschalta d'geulah than the death spiral of the diaspora world.  

Friday, January 08, 2021

you can't ignore the little things

You would think after all the pleading Hashem does back and forth with Moshe to get him to accept the role of being the shliach to bring geulah to Klal Yisrael, Hashem would at least let the trip to Egypt go smoothly.  Yet the Torah tells us that's not how it worked out right from the get-go .  Moshe and wife stopped at a hotel along the way, and because he did the check-in, or maybe unloaded the luggage before giving a milah to Eliezer, a malach came and tried to kill him.  It would be like a baseball team that wines and dines a prospect in order to sign him, and then after finally reaching an agreement after some very tense negotiations, on the first day the player shows up at the clubhouse the team gives him a fine for some petty offense.  You worked so hard to get this player in order to boost your club -- why risk upsetting the apple cart over some minor infraction?

The lesson, says R' Shlomo Amar, is that we don't cut corners on the road to geulah.  The end, no matter how important, does not justify not taking the time to make sure to dot the i's and cross the t's and do all the little things right.

We have the same idea in the story of Yehudah and Tamar.  Tamar's children are the progenitors of moshiach.  Yet, when Tamar is being taken to be burned, she does not blurt out that Yehudah is the father of her children.  She simply says that whoever claims the signet ring and other property left with her is the father.  What if Yehudah had not stepped forward to accept responsibility?  

Tamar recognized that you can't take the shortcut of being malbin pnei chaveiro b'rabim and get to mashiach.  The end, no matter how great, does not justify ignoring "niceties" and treating others poorly.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

the power of a name

 At the burning bush Hashem told Moshe that he saw the suffering of Bnei Yisrael (3:7):

 רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְאֶת־צַעֲקָתָ֤ם שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י נֹֽגְשָׂ֔יו כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו׃

What does it mean כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו, I know their pain?  If the people are crying out in suffering, is it such a big kuntz to know that they are in pain?  

I assume this is what was bothering Rashi and elicited his comment  כי שמתי לב להתבונן ולדעת את מכאוביו ולא העלמתי עיניי לאטום אזני מצעק׳.  Meaning, the pasuk is not telling us just that G-d knew about the suffering, but it's telling us that G-d gave it his attention and could not ignore it.  That's no small thing.  We all hear about a lot of suffering these days.  Do we pay attention?  

Ibn Ezra explains: ואת צעקתם – ששומעים הכל, אני שמעתי.

ומה שיש בלבו – המכאוב אני ידעתי.

There is the pain people complain about that everybody knows about, but then there is the pain that is in people's hearts that they don't share with others.  Do any of us have an idea of how many people we may have bumped into in shul this morning who are suffering in business because of the pandemic but they go on with life as usual and don't show it?  How many people didn't sleep last night because they have a child looking for a shidduch, a kid who is heading off the derech, or a problem them can't resolve with their spouse?  The pasuk is telling us that Hashem was sensitive even to that pain that only he who can see into people's hearts can know.

We can maybe sharpen the Ibn Ezra's point a little bit with a diyuk of the Netziv.  The pasuk says that the people were crying out מִפְּנֵ֣י נֹֽגְשָׂ֔יו, because of the taskmasters forcing them to do work.  One of my kids cries out every day about how hard her life is -- when you are at a certain age having to get up and go to or zoom to classes and do a few chores appears to be Sisyphean labor.  Lot of people complain about their work and think their boss is a taskmaster; some of those complaints are more valid than others.  So the pasuk here ends כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו׃, Hashem says, "I know in this case the people are **really** suffering."  It's not just the usual complaints you hear everyday, but it's something that hits at the core of who they are.

What's amazing is just two pesukim later the Torah seems to repeat the same thing:

 וְעַתָּ֕ה הִנֵּ֛ה צַעֲקַ֥ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בָּ֣אָה אֵלָ֑י וְגַם־רָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־הַלַּ֔חַץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם לֹחֲצִ֥ים אֹתָֽם׃

The meforshim all go bananas trying to explain the repetition - Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, etc.  I wanted to share an idea from the Maor vaShemesh.  

Our sefer opens  וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְרָ֑יְמָה.  There seems to be a special emphasis not just on our knowing who came down to Egypt, but specifically on their names.  The Midrash comments:

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – עַל שֵׁם גְּאֻלַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל נִזְכְּרוּ כָּאן, רְאוּבֵן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: רָאֹה רָאִיתִי אֶת עָנִי עַמִּי (שמות ג׳:ז׳). שִׁמְעוֹן, עַל שֵׁם: וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶת נַאֲקָתָם (שמות ב׳:כ״ד). לֵוִי, עַל שֵׁם שֶׁנִּתְחַבֵּר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְצָרָתָם (שמות ג׳:ב׳): מִתּוֹךְ הַסְּנֶה, לְקַיֵּם מַה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר: עִמּוֹ אָנֹכִי בְצָרָה (תהלים צ״א:ט״ו). יְהוּדָה, עַל שֵׁם שֶׁהוֹדוּ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא. יִשָּׂשׂכָר, שֶׁנָּתַן לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שְׂכַר שִׁעְבּוּדָם, בִּזַּת מִצְרַיִם וּבִזַּת הַיָּם, לְקַיֵּם מַה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית ט״ו:י״ד): וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל, זְבוּלֻן, עַל שֵׁם שֶׁהִשְׁכִּין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שְׁכִינָתוֹ בְּקִרְבָּם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם (שמות כ״ה:ח׳), וְאֵין זְבוּלֻן אֶלָא בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: בָּנֹה בָנִיתִי בֵּית זְבֻל לָךְ מָכוֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ עוֹלָמִים (מלכים א ח׳:י״ג). וּבִנְיָמִן, עַל שֵׁם (שמות ט״ו:ו׳): יְמִינְךָ ה׳ נֶאְדָּרִי בַּכֹּחַ. דָּן, עַל שֵׁם: וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל (בראשית ט״ו:י״ד). נַפְתָּלִי, עַל שֵׁם תּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת שֶׁנָּתַן לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁכָּתוּב בָּהֶם: וּמְתוּקִים מִדְּבַשׁ וְנֹפֶת צוּפִים (תהלים י״ט:י״א). גָּד, עַל שֵׁם הַמָּן שֶׁהֶאֱכִילָם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁהוּא (שמות ט״ז:ל״א): כְּזֶרַע גַּד. אָשֵׁר, עַל שֵׁם שֶׁהָיוּ מְאַשְׁרִין אוֹתָן כָּל שׁוֹמְעֵי גְּאֻלָּתָן וּגְדֻלָּתָן, דִּכְתִיב: וְאִשְּׁרוּ אֶתְכֶם כָּל הַגּוֹיִם כִּי תִהְיוּ אַתֶּם אֶרֶץ חֵפֶץ אָמַר (מלאכי ג׳:י״ב) ה׳ צְבָאוֹת. יוֹסֵף, עַל שֵׁם שֶׁעָתִיד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְהוֹסִיף וְלִגְאֹל אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמַּלְכוּת הָרְשָׁעָה כְּשֵׁם שֶׁגָּאַל אוֹתָם מִמִּצְרַיִם, דִּכְתִיב (ישעיהו י״א:ט״ז): וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יוֹסִיף ה׳ שֵׁנִית יָדוֹ וגו׳ וְכָל הָעִנְיָן.

Now, we know that Leah named Reuvain because she was thinking about Hashem seeing her problems, and the same with Shimon -- she was thinking about Hashem hearing her problems, etc.  She wasn't thinking about yetzias Mitzrayim.  Why would the Midrash connect the names of the shevatim from their birth to the events in Egypt?  

Here's the Maor vaShemesh:

 נ"ל כי ידוע שתורתינו הקדושה היא נצחיית וישנה בכל עת וזמן מחמת כי רוח הקודש הוא דבר שאין לה הפסק והגם כי בעת שנאמר רו"הק הוא על ענין שהוא באותו זמן אעפי"כ נתלבש באותו רו"הק ענין נצחיי וא"ס ולכן כמו כן בקריאת שם השבטים הגם שנקראו בשמות ע"ש המאורע כמבואר בהפסוקים מ"מ כיון שנקראו בשמות עפ"י רו"הק בוודאי שנתלבש בקריאת שמותם ענין נצחיי וזהו כוונת מאמרם ז"ל שהשבטים הוזכרו כאן ע"ש הגאולה ראובן ע"ש ראה ראיתי את עני עמי כו' וכן כולם והענין הוא כי כל אחד משבטים בבואם למצרים המשיך משרשו גאולת מצרים לעתיד לבוא ראובן המשיך ענין ראיתי את עני עמי וכן כולם שיראה ה' בעניות של ישראל וישמע צעקתם בהתחננם אליו ית"ש ויתחבר להם בכל צרתם לו צר כביכול וכמו שאמרו חז"ל שבזכות השבטים נגאלו ישראל וזהו פי' ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה כו' ר"ל שבעת בואם למצרים אלה שמותם ע"ש ביאתם למצרים שנרמז בשמותם ענין המשכתם גאולות העתידות וזהו הבאים לשון הוה כי בכל הגליות זכות השבטים עומד לנו לגאלינו וזהו ואלה מוסיף על הראשונים היינו שנתוסף ענין קריאת שמותם ע"ש ביאתם למצרים להמשיך הגאולה על אשר מקודם

When Leah called her son b'ruach ha'kodesh (and every parent is given ruach hakodesh when it comes to naming their children) the name Reuvain because Hashem saw her suffering, she may have had a particular event in her life in mind, but ruach ha'kodesh is nitzchiyus, is about eternity.  By calling her child Reuvain, Leah implanted in his identity, in his name, the power of Hashem to see human suffering, no matter what the suffering, no matter what the time or place.  

וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל is not about the person Reuvain or the person Shimon, but rather it's that call to Hashem to see human suffering = Reuvain, to hear our cries = Shimon, to feel our pain = Levi, which the Torah wants to tell us came to Egypt with us, and is always in fact with us.  

Our pasuk, עַתָּ֕ה הִנֵּ֛ה צַעֲקַ֥ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בָּ֣אָה אֵלָ֑י, is not speaking about the cries of the people being hit by the taskmasters or the pain of being forced to struggle in slavery -- that was 2 pesukim ago.  What the Torah here is telling us here is that Hashem finally now -- וְעַתָּ֕ה-- long after the those tefilos were offered, long after the names of the shevatim were given, heard the prayers implicit in those names.  The call to Hashem to see suffering, as embodied in the name Reuvain, the call to Hashem to hear the cries of pain embodied in the name Shimon, etc. was now finally realized.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

more on who gets the credit for the good deed

Yesterday we talked about the gemara that says the braying of Yaakov's donkey that alerted Leah to Yaakov's arrival home is the "cause" of Yisachar being born.  There is a Midrash in our parsha that has a similar idea, i.e. credit is given to something/someone that seems far removed from the person taking action.

When Moshe first arrived in Midyan, he stopped at the local well where he saw the daughters of Midyan being prevented from watering their sheep by the local shepherds.  Moshe intervened to help them.  Yisro was surprised when his daughters returend home earlier than expected, and they explained (2:19) that  וַתֹּאמַ֕רְןָ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י הִצִּילָ֖נוּ מִיַּ֣ד הָרֹעִ֑ים וְגַם־דָּלֹ֤ה דָלָה֙ לָ֔נוּ וַיַּ֖שְׁקְ אֶת־הַצֹּֽאן׃  The simple pshat in the pasuk is that when they said "ish Mitzri" they meant Moshe, who they thought was an Egyptian.  However, the Midrash explains:

אִישׁ מִצְרִי – מָשָׁל לְאֶחָד שֶׁנְּשָׁכוֹ הֶעָרוֹד וְהָיָה רָץ לִתֵּן רַגְלָיו בְּמַיִם, נְתָנָן לַנָּהָר וְרָאָה תִּינוֹק אֶחָד שֶׁהוּא שׁוֹקֵעַ בַּמַּיִם, וְשָׁלַח יָדוֹ וְהִצִּילוֹ. אָמַר לוֹ הַתִּינוֹק אִילּוּלֵי אַתָּה כְּבָר הָיִיתִי מֵת. אָמַר לוֹ לֹא אֲנִי הִצַּלְתִּיךָ אֶלָּא הֶעָרוֹד שֶׁנְּשָׁכַנִּי וּבָרַחְתִּי הֵימֶנּוּ, הוּא הִצִּילֶךָ. כָּךְ אָמְרוּ בְּנוֹת יִתְרוֹ לְמשֶׁה, יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ שֶׁהִצַּלְתָּנוּ מִיַּד הָרוֹעִים, אָמַר לָהֶם משֶׁה אוֹתוֹ מִצְרִי שֶׁהָרַגְתִּי הוּא הִצִּיל אֶתְכֶם, וּלְכָךְ אָמְרוּ לַאֲבִיהֶן אִישׁ מִצְרִי, כְּלוֹמַר מִי גָרַם לָזֶה שֶׁיָּבוֹא אֶצְלֵנוּ, אִישׁ מִצְרִי שֶׁהָרַג.

The Midrash compares Moshe's situation to someone bit by a wild donkey who runs to the river to put the wound in water and save himself.  At the river, the person sees a child drowning and saves the child as well.  The child thanks the man, but the man responds that it is the donkey that deserves the credit, because had he not been bitten, he would never have run to the river.  

So too, Moshe said that he doesn't deserve credit for intervening to help the daughters of Yisro, but rather it is the "ish Mitzri" that he killed in Egypt which led to his being forced to flee who deserves the credit. 

Again, credit seems to go to the "alarm clock," if you will.  Moshe could have walked away and not gotten himself involved in Yisro's daughter's situation.  Why should the Mitzri that caused him to flee and find himself on the spot get any credit for Moshe's choice to act?

I suppose the idea Chazal are trying to teach us here is that events that look bad on the face of things can ultimately lead to positive results.  If you think about it, the whole story of how Moshe came to meet Yisro's daughters seems unnecessary -- we don't learn much about Yisro from the episode or about his daughters, and we already know that Moshe is the type person who intervenes when he sees injustice being done.  Why include it?  Perhaps the whole point is to show on a micro level the good that can come out of a bad situation, which in turn may be telling us something about on the macro level about the galus in general.  As Sefas Emes writes in connection with the burning bush:

 אך זה באמת רצה הקב"ה להראות לו כי אדרבה לפי גודל החושך והגלות נסתר בו אור גדול גנוז והוא בחי' הגאולה. כי הגלות הוא סימן על הגאולה. וכפי רוב קישוי הגלות מורה על תוקף הגאולה. וז"פ הכתוב וכאשר יענו אותו כו' וכן יפרוץ. פי' הכתוב מתרץ עצמו אשר לא יהרהרו אחר הבורא ית' איך הניח לענות את עמו כ"כ כי כפי רוב העינוי כן יהי' אח"כ תוקף הגאולה:

The greater the darkness and difficulty, the greater the light that will emerge in the end.

Monday, January 04, 2021

why give the alarm clock credit?

The pshat in  יִשָּׂשכָ֖ר חֲמֹ֣ר גָּ֑רֶם is that Yisachar is being compared to a donkey with strong bones.  GR"M = bone

Rashi: יששכר חמור גרם – חמור בעל עצמות, סובל עול התורה, כחמור חזק שמטעינין אותו למשאוי כבד.

Ibn Ezra: חמר גרם – דמהו לחמור שיש לו עצם כבד

However, the Midrash (also Nida 31a) interprets GR"M = cause.

דָּבָר אַחֵר: יִשָּׂשכָר חֲמֹר גָּרֶם – חֲמוֹר גָּרַם אוֹתוֹ, וְכִי מִנַּיִן הָיְתָה לֵאָה יוֹדַעַת שֶׁבָּא יַעֲקֹב, אֶלָּא נָהַק הַחֲמוֹר וְשָׁמְעָה קוֹלוֹ וְיָצָאת לִקְרָאתוֹ.

Leah traded dudaim for an extra night with Yaakov.  She awaited Yaakov's return home, and when she heard his donkey braying signaling his arrival, she went out to greet him and take him to her tent.  On that night Yisachar was conceived.

It seems strange to say that Yisachar was "caused" by the braying of the donkey.  That is like saying my alarm clock going off caused me to get to shul this morning.  True, I probably would still be asleep if not for the alarm clock, but the cause of my going to davening was my own decision and actions.  Leah had to choose to make the effort to try to be with Yaakov for an extra night in order to conceive and produce an extra sheivet.  Why give the donkey credit?

My wife thought that Chazal are trying to tell us that Leah was able to elevate even the chamor=chumriyus and use it to produce Yisachar, the sheivet that dedicated themselves to learning Torah.  Could be, but i am still bothered by how that is called a gorem.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

can / should a chassan come to shul during sheva brachos week

 A little bit more on the topic of tachanun in the presence of a chassan:

There are two issues here.  First, there is the question of whether a chassan should/can go to shul during sheva brachos week.  Rambam writes (Ishus 12:10):

וכן תקנו חכמים שכל הנושא בתולה יהיה שמח עמה שבעת ימים. אינו עוסק במלאכתו ולא נושא ונותן בשוק אלא אוכל ושותה ושמח

According to Rambam a chassan is prohibited from going to work or doing business in the marketplace because he has to be misameiach his wife, not that he can't leave his house.  However, other Rishonim (see Ran 2a on top in the RIF pages in Kesubos) go further and quote the Pirkei d"R Eliezar which writes that a chassan is like a king -- just like a king does not go out alone, so too a chassan should not go out alone.  Shita MeKubetzet quotes the same aggadita as saying that just like a king does not leave his palace, so too a chassan should not leave his home.   According to this view, the chassan may not leave his home even if the activity would not necessarily distract from his simcha.

Aside from the Pirkei d"R Eliezer, the gemara (Brachos 54b) writes that three things need shemira: a sick person, a chassan, and a kallah.  A chassan or kallah should not be walking around or travelling alone because of the threat of mazikim.

Nafka minah: can a chassan go to shul if accompanied by someone else?  My son wanted to be toleh this question on the reasons above.  If the issue is mazikin, then shomer mitzvah lo yeida davar ra and there should be no problem going to shul.  However, according to the Pirkei d"R Eliezer (which is quoted in Rama Eh"Z 62) that explains the din based on the chassan's status of a melech, he cannot go without an escort.  

Be'er Heitev (Eh"Z 62) quotes Prisha that the minhag developed for chassanim not to go to shul because it was hard to find an escort.  If a chassan were to find someone to accompany him, it sounds like there would be no problem.    

The second issue is saying tachanun if a chassan does come to shul.  Rama (OC 131) writes that only b'yom chupaso should tachanun be skipped.  Taz read Rama to mean that even during sheva brachos week tachanun should be said in the chassan's presence, but most Achronim say that that was not the Rama's intent -- Rama simply meant to exclude skipping tachanun before the chuppah.  (You can look around in the poskim how far to extend this, e.g. if there is a late afternoon wedding, according to Rama, should you say tachanun at shacharis that morning, or even at mincha?) 

Taz paskens that tachanun is omitted in the chasan's presence the entire sheva brachos week and then adds that the chassan should avoid coming to shul so as to not cause the tzibur to have to do that.

Someone commented on last post why not just have the chassan go out of the shul when it is time to say tachanun.  Some poskim do indeed say this, but it begs the question of why the Taz didn't think of this idea.  

Earlier this year I quoted RYBS' chiddush that tachanun is an extension of shmoneh esrei.  The Rambam in hil tefilah (ch 5) writes that one of the essential components of shmoneh esrei is השתחויה.  Rambam then goes on to define the term: השתחויה כיצד אחר שמגביה ראשו מכריעה חמישית ישב לארץ ונופל על פניו ארצה ומתחנן בכל התחנונים שירצ.  In other words, it is what we call tachanun, or nefilat apayim.  Based on this logic, davening shmoneh esrei with the tzibur but then walking out for tachanun doesn't work.  If the shmoneh esrei is not a shmoneh esrei which is chayav is nefilat apayim / השתחויה, you can't change that circumstance after the fact.

There is another point to this Taz that some take issue with which also came up in the comments.  The reason we skip tachanun is because the tzibur has a mitzvah of gemilus chessed to be mesameiach chassan v'kallah.  The chassan's simcha becomes our simcha.  The Taz obviously held that saying tachanun is more important than affording others the opportunity to be mishtatef in the chassan's simcha.  The Kaf haChaim (s"k 87), however, argues that the chassan **should** come to shul so that others may share in his joy, even if it means skipping tachanun as a result.

There are a lot of other details discussed in poskim -- this is just a quick overview.