Thursday, February 25, 2021

a miraculous turn of events

 הוא אחשורוש – ר׳ יהודה ור׳ נחמיה, חד אמר, אחשורוש – שהרג את אשתו מפני אוהבו, הוא אחשורש – שהרג את אוהבו מפני אשתו,

The statement that Achashveirosh killed his wife [Vashti] because of his friend [Haman] and killed his fried [Haman] because of his wife [Esther] may be a pithy way to capture the irony of the situation, but what does it tell us outside the facts of the story which we already know?  What new insight are Chazal trying to convey?

The entire first two chapters of the megillah seem extraneous to the story.  The main idea is that the bad guy Haman was brought down by Mordechai and Queen Esther, the palace insider closest to the king, who revealed herself to be Jewish.  Who cares what happened to Vashti beforehand, or how/why Esther became queen?  

Alshich and others write that if you read the story in the way I just summarized it, you miss the point.  This is not some story of political intrigue and infighting, where Haman thought he had the King's ear but was upstaged by Esther.  This is not a story of behind the scenes work by "askanim" who brought their political power and pressure to bear to push out an enemy of the Jews.  Yes, of course we can dress that up and say it was not politics alone but yad Hashem behind the actions of all the players, but even so, that's still not the real story here.  Were that indeed the story, then it would have a tragic ending, because there is no way that Mordechai and Esther would not have had the upper hand.  How do I know ?  Because we read in the first two chapters of the megillah that Achashveirosh was so close to his advisor Haman that he was even willing to kill his wife Vashti at Haman's behest!  You can just imagine Haman, after being accused of treachery, falling to his feet and crying to Achashveirosh's, "No, my good lord, banish Peto, banish Bardolph, banish Poins, but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant being, as he is old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy Harry’s company, banish not him thy Harry’s company. Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world."  Henry IV Act 2 scene 4 -- just substitute Haman for Jack and Achashveirosh for Harry and the lines are perfect.  Do you think Achashveirosh would take the side of Esther and not only send Haman away, but kill him and thereby "banish all the world?"  Do you think he would do this after already having the sunk cost of having promoted Haman to the highest rank, having killed Vashti because of his advice, having turned over his ring to Haman and given him carte blance to do as he wished?  

The fact that Achashveirosh "killed his wife because of his friend" proves that if Achashveirosh is then willing to turn around and kill that same friend, this time because of his wife, it is a miracle -- not a yad-Hashem-acting-through-the-natural-course-of-events "miracle" in quotation makes,  but a miracle  MIRACLE of the type where something completely unexpected and inexplicable happens.  The first chapters lay the groundwork for just the opposite of what actually happened to happen, if not for Hashem's direct intervention.  This is what Chazal are teaching us by drawing our attention to the first half of the story in contrast to the second half.

What difference does it make in the end?  Who cares if Hashem saved us through the derech ha'teva means of palace politics pushing out Haman or Hashem saved us by causing some supernatural unexpected turn of events? 

The difference is that history does not repeat itself.  The moment in time that saw a king called Achashveirosh on the throne with a queen called Esther and an advisor called Haman will never repeat itself.  There may be similar situations, but what is similar in some respects is different in others.  If Purim was an event that happened through derech ha'teva, then it's meaning is confined to a particular time and place, the parameters that derech ha'teva plays out in.  But if Purim is a supernatural intervention, the who and the when and there where don't really matter.  That same spiritual power that exists l'maalah min ha'teva can be unleashed and does unleash itself time and again.  Teshuasam ha'yisa la'netzah v'tikvasam b'chol dor va'dor.

safeik brachos l'hakeil where there is a rov

Achronim discuss whether the rule of safeik brachos l'hakeil applies even where there is a rov to be machria the safeik.  (Is rov mevarer te safeik or is rov just a hanhaga, but the safeik remains?)   

The Rambam paskens (Meg 1:11):

עיר שהיא ספק ואין ידוע אם היתה מוקפת חומה בימות יהושע בן נון או אחר כן הוקפה קוראין בשני הימים שהן י"ד וט"ו ובליליהם. ומברכין על קריאתה בי"ד בלבד הואיל והיא זמן קריאתה לרוב העולם:

If a city has a safeik whether it is a mukaf or not, the megillah is read on both 14 and 15.  You would have thought that no bracha is recited since each reading is a safeik, but the Rambam paskens that a bracha is said on the reading of the 14th because  הואיל והיא זמן קריאתה לרוב העולם, there is a rov -- most cities are not mukaf and read on the 14th.  

QED that where there is a rov, the rule of safeik brachos l'hakeil does not apply.

Similarly, the gemara (Yevamos 121b) relates:

ההוא דהוה קאמר ואזיל מאן איכא בי חסא טבע חסא אמר רב נחמן האלקים אכלו כוורי לחסא

An aku"m went around asking if anyone knew the family of someone named Chasa, as he had drowned.  When he heard this, R' Nachman swore and said the fish have eaten Chasa.  

R' Akiva Eiger in the gilyon ha'shas quotes from the teshuvos of Hagahos Maimonis who questions how R' Nachman could take an oath using shem Hashem in this case.  Where someone falls into mayim she'ein lahem sof, a body of water that we cannot see the banks of, e.g. someone fell off a boat into the Atlantic Ocean, we assume his wife cannot remarry because there is always a chance that he emerged somewhere without our knowing -- i.e. there is a safeik.  So isn't R' Nachman's oath a safeik use of Hashem's name l'vatala?

The Hg"M explains that in most cases in fact the person will have drowned.  We have a rov that says R' Nachman's oath was not l'vatala.  It is just a chumra in dinei ishus that prevents the wife from remarrying despite the rov.  

QED again that using the shem Hashem, whether as an oath, or whether in making a bracha, where one has a rov to decide the safeik, is not a problem.

The common denominator between these cases is that the rov is a metziyus, it is based on facts on the ground.  A case were there is a machlokes ha'poskim and the majority of opinions favor one side, i.e. a rov of theories, may be a different animal entirely.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

a taste of the future

 1) Shem m'Shmeul 5671:

' מה שחר סוף כל הלילה אף אסתר סוף כל הנסים, הנה שחגי מתחיל להאיר בעוד לילה מחמת אור החוזר מהחמה, כך הי' נס פורים אור החוזר מבית השני, והאיר להם אף בעודם בגלות וזה דוגמא על כל ימי גלותנו הנ"ל אשר תאיר לנו הארה מגאולה העתידה אף בעודנו בחשכת הגלות: 

The miracle of Purim was an extension of the kedushas Bayis Sheni that was on the horizon, soon to be built.  לַֽמְנַצֵּחַ עַל־אַיֶּ֥לֶת הַ֜שַּׁ֗חַר, Tehillim 22, the chapter that Esther said when she was about to go before Achashveirosh, speaks about dawn breaking, the first glimmer of the sun that is about to rise while everything is still shrouded in darkness.

So too with respect to Bayis Shlishi, which we hope will speedily be built.  The glimmer of geulah will be felt in advance, even while we are still shrouded in the darkness of galus.  That is where we are at now. 

2) וַתֹּ֣אמֶר לוֹ֩ זֶ֨רֶשׁ אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְכָל־אֹֽהֲבָ֗יו יַֽעֲשׂוּ־עֵץ֘ גָּבֹ֣הַּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים אַמָּה֒ וּבַבֹּ֣קֶר | אֱמֹ֣ר לַמֶּ֗לֶךְ וְיִתְל֤וּ אֶֽת־מָרְדֳּכַי֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבֹ֧א־עִם־הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אֶל־הַמִּשְׁתֶּ֖ה שָׂמֵ֑חַ וַיִּיטַ֧ב הַדָּבָ֛ר לִפְנֵ֥י הָמָ֖ן וַיַּ֥עַשׂ הָעֵֽץ: (5:14)

Zeresh tells Haman to TELL the King to make a tree and hang Mordechai on it.  Not to ASK, not to SUGGEST, but just tell him what to do. 

Next chapter (6:4), same thing: וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִ֣י בֶֽחָצֵ֑ר וְהָמָ֣ן בָּ֗א לַֽחֲצַ֤ר בֵּֽית־הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ֙ הַחִ֣יצוֹנָ֔ה לֵאמֹ֣ר לַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לִתְלוֹת֙ אֶֽת־מָרְדֳּכַ֔י עַל־הָעֵ֖ץ אֲשֶׁר־הֵכִ֥ין לֽוֹ:

Haman enters the king's courtyard to  TELL him to hang Mordechai.


But apparently that's the authority that Haman was given.  When you are riding high, you are riding high.

But v'nahapoch hu, and that's the lesson for us.  

Shem m'Shmuel 5677:

ומכאן כל איש משכיל ישים אל לבו, היות בית המן ניתן לאסתר ונהפוך הוא אשר ישלטו היהודים המה בשונאיהם, ובכל פורים מתעורר רשימו מזה, ואז בכח כל איש ישראל לאמור למלך מה"מ הקב"ה [דרך אמירה וציווי כענין הצדיקים גוזרים על הקב"ה והוא עושה] לתלות את המן ולמחות את שמו מתוך לבו של עצמו עכ"פ, אך האמירה צריכה להיות לא מהשפה ולחוץ אלא בכל אות נפשו, ובאותו חשק ורצון נמרץ שהי' אז להמן לתלות את מרדכי, ואז בודאי אמירתו יעשה פירות, וזהו שאמרו חסידי קדמאי שבפורים יכול כל איש להושע ולהתברר:

Thursday, February 18, 2021

the enemy within

אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ כׇּל־הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִ֣ים אַֽחֲרֶ֔יךָ

Rashi explains that the necheshalim are חסירי כח מחמת חטאם, שהיה הענן פולטם.  Amalek attacked the weakest, meaning those who were sinners and therefore found themselves outside the protection of the ananei ha'kavod.  I don't think we pay enough attention to this detail.  This war of Amalek, an attack that we are never supposed to forget, was an attack on people who get stones thrown at them on shabbos, people who espouse hashkafos we reject, people do not follow mitzvos like we do, people do not keep torah the way we do.  But nonetheless, if an enemy comes to pick on them, they are one of us.

Now for the other side of the coin.   אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ -- we know the famous mashal of cooling off the bath water.  Rav Shteinman in Ayeles haShachar points out that the Torah seems to focus even more on this detail of asher korcha more than the war itself.  We are told to remember Amalek and the first thing the Torah mentions is not that they attacked us, but this detail of cooling things off!  The Netziv explains that Amalek comes to cool off the intensity and hislahavus of a Jew, to the point that he/she c"v becomes a min and  partners with Amalek to bring down his own people.  וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ -- it's not the enemy without that we have the most to fear from, who can do the most damage, but rather it's the enemy  בְּךָ֙ within.  Netziv writes:

 מה שלא היה אפשר לעמלק לעשות בעצמו, אבל ״בך״ — היינו ע״י רשעי ישראל שפקרו היו לעזר לעמלק ״לזנב וגו׳ כל הנחשלים״, היינו, ההולכים ביהדות במצות אנשים מלומדה ולא בחקירה ובשכל, כדכתיב (להלן לג,ג) ״והם תוכו לרגליך 

Asher korcha, says R' Shteinman, means chotei u'machti, which fits perfectly with the Netziv.  The danger and tragedy of Amalek is not only in what they do to us, but in that they turn so many of the best and brightest of our own people against ourselves. 

safeik sakana b'makom mitzvah

Eiruvin 21b:

 מעשה בר"ע שהיה חבוש בבית האסורין והיה ר' יהושע הגרסי משרתו בכל יום ויום היו מכניסין לו מים במדה יום אחד מצאו שומר בית האסורין אמר לו היום מימך מרובין שמא לחתור בית האסורין אתה צריך שפך חציין ונתן לו חציין כשבא אצל ר"ע אמר לו יהושע אין אתה יודע שזקן אני וחיי תלויין בחייך סח לו כל אותו המאורע אמר לו תן לי מים שאטול ידי אמר לו לשתות אין מגיעין ליטול ידיך מגיעין אמר לו מה אעשה שחייבים עליהן מיתה מוטב אמות מיתת עצמי ולא אעבור על דעת חבירי אמרו לא טעם כלום עד שהביא לו מים ונטל ידיו כששמעו חכמים בדבר אמרו מה בזקנותו כך בילדותו על אחת כמה וכמה ומה בבית האסורין כך שלא בבית האסורין על אחת כמה וכמה

The gemara relates that when R' Akiva was in prison, one day the guard took away half of his ration of water.  R' Akiva refused to eat without washing netilas yadayim, even though doing so placed him at risk of death.  "Better that I should die my own death [by hunger], rather than violate the takanas Chachamim and be chayav misa because of that."   

How could R' Akiva do this?  Except in the case of the three cardinal aveiros of murder, arayos, and avodah zarah, according to the Rambam not only are you not required to give up your life to avoid an issur, you are not allowed to give up your life.  How then could R' Akiva put his life in danger just to avoid eating without netilas yadayim?

When we speak of danger, there is a difference between someone putting a gun to your head and saying, "Eat without washing your hands or I shoot," and being forced to skip food and drink due to a lack of water (see Maharatz Chiyus).  Even though in the story R' Akiva put himself in danger, there was not an absolute certainty that he would die.  Conditions can change -- as we see from the story, they did, as R' Akiva did not die that day in prison -- and there are avenues of possible escape.   

What we see from R' Akiva's example is that where there is merely a safeik sakana and the odds are in your favor, even according to the shitas haRambam one is permitted to put oneself in the path of danger l'tzorech mitzvah.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

choosing freedom over security

1) My wife writes on her blog that the eved ivri in choosing to stay enslaved was opting for the security of his master's home, where he, his wife, and children were guaranteed a roof over their heads and support, over the risk of going out and making his way in the world.  I would add that an eved ivri is someone who has either opted to sell himself into slavery because he is in desperate straits or someone who is a thief and has no assets to pay back what he has stolen -- in other words, someone who has not seen much success in making his way in the world in the past.  Nonetheless, the parsha teaches us that freedom trumps security.  The slave is wrong to remain in his master's house even if it appears to be the safer option.

2) There are seforim that talk about the lessons that we can learn in our avodas Hashem from the dinim in the parsha, but if you are like me, your knee jerk reaction is to read these as derush, as mystical concepts, as domains totally divorced from halacha.   So let's learn a Ketzos.  In Choshen Mishpat siman 4 the S.A. talks about the concept of "avid inish dina l'nafshei," cases where a plaintiff can take the law into his own hands rather than go through the laborious process of having a din torah and waiting for the court to act.  The S.A. has the following case: Reuvain gave Shimon a pikadon to watch.  Reuvain also happens to owe Shimon some money and has not been forthcoming in paying his debt.  Can Shimon take the law into his own hands and seize Reuvain's pikadon in order to reclaim his debt?

The Ketzos says nothing doing.  His proof comes from a Zohar.  Every night we entrust our soul to Hashem and every morning (hopefully) he returns it.  Modeh ani... she'hechezarta bi nishmasi, Hashem returns our pikadon.  Who among us does not have a pile of debts that they owe Hashem?  Who among us does not have aveiros of all kinds that we need to make restitution for?  Yet Hashem does not hold our neshoma upstairs in order to collect.  He treats the debts as a separate cheshbon, and returns the pikadon, our neshoma, to us.  

This is not some chassidishe sefer -- this is the Ketzos!  Yes, at the end he tacks on a Ritva as well, but that was not his first go-to point.  

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Rosh Devarcha Emes = Adar

Chazal tell us that Moshe had difficulty understanding וְנָ֨תְנ֜וּ אִ֣ישׁ כֹּ֧פֶר נַפְשׁ֛וֹ by giving a half shekel.  That's all it takes to redeem a person's nefesh -- a half shekel?!  Hashem answered by showing him a half shekel of fire that he took from under the kisei ha'kavod (whatever that answer means).  

Chasam Sofer (Derashos, Shekalim 5669) asks: the pasuk in our parsha of Mishpatim by the din of a shor muad that kills someone tells us (21:30) אִם־כֹּ֖פֶר יוּשַׁ֣ת עָלָ֑יו וְנָתַן֙ פִּדְיֹ֣ן נַפְשׁ֔וֹ כְּכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־יוּשַׁ֖ת עָלָֽיו׃  Here you have the same idea -- a payment of kofer that is "pidyon nafsho," to redeem the value of a nefesh -- but here Moshe did not have any problem understanding the pasuk.  What's the difference between the two cases?

The idea of machtzis ha'shekel is that you don't know it all and don't have it all; you are incomplete without the input of others, without someone else providing the other half of the coin.  

B'shlama in our parsha, Moshe had no problem understanding how one person could pay a debt of  וְנָתַן֙ פִּדְיֹ֣ן נַפְשׁ֔וֹ . But Moshe Rabeinu was no fool and he understood Klal Yisrael.  וְנָ֨תְנ֜וּ אִ֣ישׁ כֹּ֧פֶר נַפְשׁ֛וֹ not by each person paying for himself, but only b'shutfus, only by coming together, only by each individual realizing that he has just half of the equation.  That Moshe had trouble understanding how to pull off.  How do you get Jews to be united?  How do you get people who are "mefurad," as Haman said, to work together?

The Chasam Sofer explains the symbolism of Hashem showing Moshe the machtzis ha'shekel of fire was an answer to that question, but I don't think we really have an answer yet or understand the answer yet, as we see from what goes on in our communities.  

אדר = ראשׁ דברך אמת.  Adar is the month of truth.  Maharal explains in Nesiv ha'Emes that "chosamo shel HKB"H emes" (Shabbos 55) because Hashem is one and truth is one.  If I put something in a box and ask you to guess what it is, there are an infinite number of wrong guesses you can make, but there is only one possible true answer.  

 מִדְּבַר־שֶׁ֖קֶר תִּרְחָ֑ק (23:7) we have in our parsha.   R' Zusha of Anipoli explained that if you have in you even a smidgin of falsehood, tirchak, it will push you away from Hashem.  "Chosamo shel HKB"H emes," so only someone who is true to themselves, true to Hashem, true to their fellow man, can be close to Hashem.

To acquire the midah of emes you need to start with the midah of anivus.  In order to acquire truth, you have to first have the humility to admit that you don't already have it.  Titein emes l'Yaakov -- the pasuk uses the name Yaakov, not Yisrael, because it signifies the heel, the lowest point.  Emes mei'eretz titzmach because when you plant a seed and it disintegrates into nothing before it can grow.    אדר = ראש דברך אמת is the birthday of Moshe Rabeinu, the anav m'kol ha'adam, and therefore Moshe emes v'toraso emes because Moshe had nothing of his own, he was just a kli kibul for Hashem's truth. 

This why we start Adar by being "mashmi'im al ha'shekalim," announcing the collection of machtzis ha'shekel.  You can't absorb the "chosamo shel HKB"H" of emes which is oneness if you are a splintered people divided into factions.  Machtzis ha'hekel = we need each other (and we need the humility to know that we need each other) in order to complete the picture, to provide the other half of the coin, so that we can function as one people.

the doorpost

 וְהִגִּישׁ֤וֹ אֲדֹנָיו֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְהִגִּישׁוֹ֙ אֶל־הַדֶּ֔לֶת א֖וֹ אֶל־הַמְּזוּזָ֑ה וְרָצַ֨ע אֲדֹנָ֤יו אֶת־אׇזְנוֹ֙ בַּמַּרְצֵ֔עַ וַעֲבָד֖וֹ לְעֹלָֽם

The Neos Desheh (Ishbitz) explains that the slave who chooses to remain with his master, who cannot separate himself from a live of avdus to olam ha'zeh, from thinking about his work and his wife and his kids and everything else that he is caught up in, should not think that he has no hope for ruchniyus.  His ear is punctured by the doorpost, by the mezuzah, the very place where in Mitzrayim we sprinkled the blood of the korban pesach.  Just like Hashem redeemed us then despite our lack of merits, so too, this Jewish slave who may have no merits, can be pulled out of situation by Hashem.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

planting the seeds of geulah

 Mes Kesubos, which I finished today l'iluy nishmas my father on his yahrzeit, ends:

 אמר רב עתידין כל אילני סרק שבארץ ישראל שיטענו פירות שנאמר כי עץ נשא פריו תאנה וגפן נתנו חילם

One day even the barren trees that produce no fruit will bear fruit in Eretz Yisrael.

Chodesh Adar and Purim will soon be upon us, so I wanted to connect this gemara with inyana d'yoma.  The gemara (Meg 5) tells us:

אמר רבי חנינא רבי נטע נטיעה בפורים ורחץ בקרונה של צפורי בשבעה עשר בתמוז ובקש לעקור תשעה באב ולא הודו לו 

Rebbi planted a tree on Purim, he went to the bathhouse on 17 Tamuz, and he wanted to do away with the fast of 9 Av.

1) Didn't Rebbi have better things to do on Purim other than garden work?  Did he get the holiday confused with Tu b'Shevat?

2) Why does the gemara put together the statement about Rebbi planting trees with his attempt to abolish or push off the fast days that commemorate the churban?  What does one thing have to do with the other?

The gemara elsewhere (San 98) records another statement about trees:

אמר רבי אבא אין לך קץ מגולה מזה שנאמר ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל וגו'

Rashi comments:  כשתתן ארץ ישראל פריה בעין יפה אז יקרב הקץ ואין לך קץ מגולה יותר

The truest sign of impending redemption is when the trees of Eretz Yisrael begin to produce beautiful fruit.

Various gedolim in the past century have said that we are living in aschalta d'geulah.  How do we know that this this is true?  Rav Kook in a letter quotes this gemara.  He writes that the restoration of Jewish agriculture in Eretz Yisrael is the truest sign that we are closing in on redemption.  How do we know that we are close to Mashiach coming?  Look in the supermarket for Jaffa oranges!  Look at all the produce and products of Eretz Yisrael now available. 

The gemata (Meg 17) writes that the reason why the bracha of "t'ka b'shofar gadol," which speaks about kibutz galiyos, comes in shmoneh esrei right after the bracha of "bareich aleinu," is because enjoying the bounty of Eretz Yisrael (as we discussed once before, according to the GR"A, the nusach habracha of bareich aleinu is "nisba m'tuva," that we should enjoy the bounty of Eretz Yisrael, which radiates out from there to the rest of the world) is a precursor to kibutz galiyus. 

Purim is a holiday of geulah.  The gemara (Meg 6) writes that when there are two Adars, we celebrate Purim in the second one, in the Adar closest to Nisan, because  מסמך גאולה לגאולה עדיף, we want the geulah of Purim to adjoin the geulah of Pesach.  Achashveirosh thought the 70 years of galus were up and redemption had not arrived, so it was all over for us, but he miscalculated, and we did end up returning to Eretz Yisrael with Ezra and Nechmia and building Bayis Sheni.

Therefore, davka on Purim, Rebbi went out to plant.  Rebbi was thinking of geulah, and geulah means trees and agriculture.  

It is Rebbi l'shitaso who wanted to do away with Tisha b'Av, because Rebbi wanted to overcome the mourning of churban.

Ki ha'adam eitz ha'sadeh.  Geulah means each one of us will produce peiros of Torah umaasim tovim to the best of our ability, and hopefully soon, not only will the fruit trees flourish, but even barren trees, those who have nothing going for them, will produce amazing fruits.

Monday, February 08, 2021

not being makpid

 לֹֽא־תַעֲלֶ֥ה בְמַעֲלֹ֖ת עַֽל־מִזְבְּחִ֑י אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹֽא־תִגָּלֶ֥ה עֶרְוָתְךָ֖ עָלָֽיו (20:22)

Rashi:  והרי דברים קל וחומר: ומה אבנים הללו שאין בהן דעת להקפיד על בזיונו, אמרה תורה: הואיל ויש בהן צורך לא תנהג בהן מנהג בזיון, חבירך שהוא בדמות יוצרך ומקפיד על בזיונו, על אחת כמה וכמה.

Question: The seifa of Rashi does not match the reisha.  It should have said מה אבנים הללו שאין בהן דעת להקפיד...חבירך שיש בּו דעת ומקפּיד.  Why does Rashi switch and write חבירך שהוא בדמות יוצרך ומקפיד ?  

Rav Druk answered that there is no such thing as חבירך שיש בּו דעת ומקפּיד.  

A person who has daas is not a person who is makpid on slights. 

Thursday, February 04, 2021

live and in person

I am going to lump two very different ideas into one post, an  important "pshat" Ibn Ezra and a mussar/derush idea:

1) Ibn Ezra back in parshas Bo notes the discrepancy between Moshe's prediction of the way makas bechoros would happen (11:5)  מִבְּכ֤וֹר פַּרְעֹה֙ הַיֹּשֵׁ֣ב עַל־כִּסְא֔וֹ עַ֚ד בְּכ֣וֹר הַשִּׁפְחָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר אַחַ֣ר הָרֵחָ֑יִםand the way the Torah describes the actual event  מִבְּכֹ֤ר פַּרְעֹה֙ הַיֹּשֵׁ֣ב עַל־כִּסְא֔וֹ עַ֚ד בְּכ֣וֹר הַשְּׁבִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּבֵ֣ית הַבּ֑וֹר and he sets out an important yesod:

וכבר אמרתי לך כי הנביאים אינם שומרים המלות רק הטעמים, כי מלת הגמאיני (בראשית כ״ד:י״ז) – השקיני (בראשית כ״ד:מ״ה), וזכור (שמות כ׳:ז׳) – ושמור (דברים ה׳:י״א), ושוא (שמות כ׳:י״ב) – ושקר (דברים ה׳:ט״ז), לא תחמוד (שמות כ׳:י״ג) – ולא תתאוה (דברים ה׳:י״ז) שוים בטעם. ועוד אדבר על זה בתפלת משה (ראב״ע שמות פירוש שני ל״ב:ט׳). והנה בכור השפחה הוא כמו: בכור השבי (שמות י״ב:כ״ט), כי השבויה שפחה היא, ואשר בבית הבור – בלילה כמנהג האסורים, כאשר הזכיר יוסף, כי שמו אותי בבור (בראשית מ׳:ט״ו), ובמקומו אפרשנו (ראב״ע שמות פירוש שני י״ב:כ״ט).

Nevi'im -- even Moshe Rabeinu -- don't quote, they paraphrase.  They privilege content over form, they can change a word here and there so long as the message remains the same.

All the differences between the dibros in our parsha and the dibros as Moshe repeated them in VaEschanan can be explained away with this one simple rule.  Don't quibble over zachor vs shamor, shav vs sheker, etc because it doesn't matter in the end, the dibros are the same dibros.  

Ibn Ezra repeats the same idea in our parsha and expands upon it (20:1):

והכלל,יז כל דבר שנוי, כמו: חלום פרעה (בראשית מ״א), ונבוכדנצר (דניאל ב׳), ואחרים רבים, תמצא מלות שונות, רק הטעם שוה.

וכאשר אמרתי לך שפעם אחזו דרך קצרה, ופעם ארוכה, כך יעשו פעמים להוסיף אות משרת, או לגרוע אותו, והדבר שוה. אמר השם: ותכלת וארגמן (שמות כ״ה:ד׳), ומשה אמר: תכלת וארגמן (שמות כ״ח:ו׳). אמר השם: אבני שהם (שמות כ״ה:ז׳), ומשה אמר: ואבני שהם (שמות ל״ה:ט׳). וכאלה רבים, ושניהם נכונים, כי הכתוב בלא ו״ויח אחז דרך קצרה, ולא יזיק, גם הכותב בוי״ו לא יזיק, בעבור שהוסיף לבאר. והנה הו״ו שהוא נראה במבטא הפה,יט אין אדם מבקש לו טעם למה נגרע, ולמה נכתב, או למה נוסף, ולמה נכתב, כי זה וזה נכון. והנה על הנראה שיבוטא בו לא יבקש לו טעם, אם כן למה נבקש טעם בנח הנעלם שלא יבוטא בו, כמו מלת: לעולם, למה נכתב מלא או למה נכתב חסר. והנה בני הדור יבקשו טעם גם למלא גם לחסר. ואילו היו מבקשים טעם לאחד מהם, שהמנהג היה לכתב הכל על דרך אחד, הייתי מחריש. הנה אתן לך משל: אמר לי אדם: כתוב לי כתב לרעי, וזה כתב: אני פלני אהבך לעלם.כ והנה כתבתי: פלני בלא ו״ו, ואהבך, גם כן לעלם. ובא ראובן ושאלני: למה כתבת חסר. ואני אין לי צורך לכתוב רק מה שאמר לי, ואין לי חפץ להיותם מלאים או חסרים. אולי יבא לוי ויודיעני איך אכתוב. ולא ארצה להאריך, רק המשכיל יבין

He gives a mashal: If Ploni asks you to write a letter expressing his enduring love for someone, the important thing is the content, not form, not whether you spell Ploni with or without a vav, malei or chaseir.  

I have a problem with this explanation of malei and chaseir.  Except for sefer Devarim, which has its own particularities, the rest of the Torah was dictated word for word by G-d to Moshe.  We are not reading Moshe's words, his paraphrase of G-d's message; we are reading G-d's words, right down to each letter.  Why should G-d be inconsistent, spelling the same word one way here and another way there?  Is spelling (malei/chaseir) just a matter of random choice with no rules?

2) VaYishma Yisro....  מה שמועה שמע ובא the gemara asks.  What did Yisro hear that caused him to come to join Klal Yisrael.  Rashi lumps together two of the gemara's answers: קריעת ים סוף ומלחמת עמלק.  

Why is the gemara/Rashi not satisfied with what the pasuk itself tells us that Yisro heard, namely, "Es kol asher asa Elokim l'Moshe ul'Yisrael amo ki hotzi Hashem es Yisrael miMitzrayim?"  And why does Rashi put together two different answers of the gemara, kri'as Yam Suf and milchemes Amalek, as if only both, not one or the other, motivated Yisro to come?

What was bothering Rashi was why Yisro needed to make the journey from Midyan to the camp of the Jewish people.  Couldn't he just have tuned into yeshivaworld, or if he was really low tech, maybe just open the Midyan Jewish Times to catch up on the latest?  Couldn't he have caught Moshe Rabeinu's shiur over Zoom, or listened to it on Torahanytime?  מה  שמועה שמע ובא -- why did he need to come, to be there in person?

We read in the shira last week, "Shamu amim yirgazun..."  The nations of the world heard about kri'as Yam Suf and they were afraid.  Amalek heard about kri'as Yam Suf too.  But the effect did not last; it did not take long until Amalek went on the attack.

Yisro put two and two together and realized that hearing about it is not enough; reading about it in the newspaper or on a website is not enough.  "Shamu amim yirgazun" has a very short lifespan, as we see from Amalek's behavior.  You have to be part of a community, a beis medrash, a shul, and personally experience Judaism as it is lived and breathed.  You have to speak with a Rav or a Rebbe in person, face to face, not just read his torah in a sefer or on a website or listen to a Zoom shiur with 100 other people.  (based on the Shinova's reading of Rashi)

The tragedy of Covid is not just that we were deprived of so many of these interactions over the past year.  Ones Rachmana patrei, sometimes you have to make due with the less than ideal.  The bigger tragedy is that what should be a bdieved has become the new normal. Rabbi Schoenfeld wrote in an article a few months ago that even when people were allowed to return to shul, they didn't, because they have internalized that shul is no longer necessary.  Can't I talk to G-d in my living room?  The bigger tragedy is that what started as concessions to the situation have now become institutionalized.  People are now writing articles and discussing how we can now reimagine davening forever after, how we can permanently shorten our tefilos on Yamim Noraim to make davening more tolerable, how Zoom has expanded the capacity to deliver shiurim like never before.   

מה שמועה שמע ובא  Showing up is more than half the battle.  You can't just host Judaism on a website; you can't communicate torah exclusively with a podcast.   We need to experience Torah live and in person.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

va'yachalosh Yehoshua es Amalek -- Daat Zekeinim, Raavad, and Aristotle's sea battle problem

The Daat Zekeinim has an interesting answer as to why Yehoshua did not decimate Amalek completely, he only weakened them -- "va'yachalosh Yehoshua es Amalek (17:13) -- when he battled them (see also Ibn Ezra on the word vayachalosh!)

לכך כתיב ויחלש ולא כתב ויכה לפי שעמלק חוזה בכוכבים היה ובחר לו אנשים שאינן עתידין למות באותה מלחמה. וכן יהושע עשה כן דכתיב בחר לנו אנשים דמשמע קיימים ובריאים לכך לא היה יהושע יכול להרגם אלא חתך ידיהם ורגליהם וזהו ויחלש

Amalek had stargazers who knew the future and they sent into battle people who were not fated to die.  Yehoshua countered by choosing for his own army people who were also not fated to die.  So they fought to a standoff and Amalek was weakened in battle, but not wiped out.

Does this idea make sense?  Let's say, for example, that a soldier had his fortune told and it was revealed that he would not die in an upcoming battle.  If that solider chose to run directly into the enemy lines, right into their gunfire, fearing nothing, would the bullets just bounce off him?  Would he really remain unharmed?

Is this the same as Aristotle's "tomorrow's sea battle" problem?  If the statement "tomorrow there will be no sea battle" is true, then no matter what I do, there will be no battle.  So forget diplomacy, forget the need to stand down the navy -- just sit back and watch, because the outcome is already determined.  What then of free choice?  

Raavad in Hil Teshuvah 5:5 is not bothered by the contradiction.  His response to the Rambam's question of how Divine foreknowledge still allows for free will is that Divine knowledge is אבל היא כידיעת האצטגנינים שיודעים מכח אחר מה יהיו דרכיו של זה.  Just because the star gazer knows what you will eat for breakfast tomorrow morning does not mean that when you look in the cabinet tomorrow at the different boxes there you are not freely choosing the one you would like to have that day.  

Again, does it makes sense?  If the star gazer said today that you would eat Cheerios tomorrow, are you really free to choose whatever cereal you like?  

These topics are good for when you have a lot of free time on your hands.

Monday, February 01, 2021

don't wait to start singing

 תשורי מראש אמנה

עתידין ישראל לומר שירה לעתיד לבוא, שנאמר: (תהלים צח, א)שירו לה' שיר חדש כי נפלאות עשה.

ובאיזה זכות אומרים ישראל שירה?

בזכות אברהם שהאמין בהקדוש ברוך הוא, שנאמר: (בראשית טו, ו) והאמין בה', היא האמונה שישראל נוחלין בה, ועליו הכתוב אומר: (חבקוק ב, ד) וצדיק באמונתו יחיה.

הוי, תשורי מראש אמנה.

Last week I posted R' Chaim's chiddush that even if a person is sure Hashem is going to do a miracle and save him, he can only sing shirah after the fact.  "V'ani b'chasdicha batachti yageil libi b'yeshuasecha," but nonetheless, "Ashira la'Hashem ki gamal alay," not beforehand. 

The SHL"H has a different POV based on the Midrash above.  עתידין ישראל לומר שירה לעתיד לבוא -- why the double language?  If shirah is something that Bnei Yisrael are עתידין in the future going to sing, then obviously it will take place עתיד לבוא?  

The SHL"H explains that tzadikim don't wait for the miracle to happen -- their trust in Hashem is so great that they start singing shirah in anticipation of what's going to come.  

In the future, when we have that level of emunah, עתידין we will sing shirah לעתיד לבוא, on what will happen, without waiting for it to actually occur.  תשורי מראש אמנה - the shirah will be מראש, before the event occurs, because of our  אמנה, our faith in Hashem.

Bnei Yisrael at Yam Suf were not at that level, which is why (al pi peshuto shel mikra, not like the Mechilta we learned last week) they sang shira only after the fact.  "Ya'yaaminu ba'Hashem ub'Moshe avdo" afterwards, but their emunah was not complete enough beforehand.

The complaint (Meg 10b) of מעשה ידי טובעין בים ואתם אומרים שירה is not because G-d was per se opposed to the malachim singing shira.  G-d was asking why the delay until now; why the wait until the Egyptians were drowning to start singing instead of starting beforehand.

Based on this approach, the SHL"H says a fantastic pshat in this gemara regarding Chizkiyahu:

 ביקש הקב"ה לעשות חזקיהו משיח וסנחריב גוג ומגוג אמרה מדת הדין לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע ומה דוד מלך ישראל שאמר כמה שירות ותשבחות לפניך לא עשיתו משיח חזקיה שעשית לו כל הנסים הללו ולא אמר שירה לפניך תעשהו משיח לכך נסתתם (Sanhedrin 94) 

The reason Hashem did not appoint Chizkiyahu to be Mashiach is because Chizkiyahu לא אמר שירה לפניך -- he didn't sing shirah לפניך, before the fact, but waited only until afterwards.  In the times of Mashiach we will be singing in anticipation of the miracles, not only after they happen.  

This also explains, writes the SHL"H, why when discussing the shirah Bnei Yisrael sang the pasuk uses the feminine voice, "ha'shira ha'zos," but when talking about the song of Miriam and the women, it uses the masculine voice, "va'taan lahem Miriam."  Bnei Yisrael's faith was incomplete, "tashash kocham k'neikeivah" in their midah of emunah, but the women went of of Mitzrayim carrying their "tupim u'mecholos," musical instruments, ready to sing even before the Yam split.  They had the gevurah the men were lacking, the emunah of "zechus nashim tzidkaniyos" which was the catalyst for the geulah.