There simply are no words that are adequate to capture the pain, tragedy, and loss that was suffered in Meiron. Unfortunately, the fact that there are no words and can be no words will not stop people from trotting out the usual platitudes (already heard this from someone and saw the same quoted online b'shem a gadol) that we need to work on sinas chinam and achdus, etc. Please stop. If every tragedy large and small, wherever and whenever it occurs, is an occasion to trot out the same speech about the same issues and same problems that we have had in Klal Yisrael for 2000 years, then the message becomes trite and meaningless. And for those who somehow blame the attendees for what happened or for even holding such an event, please stop. Save making yourself sound like an idiot for some other day. "Sod Hashem li'reiav." Maybe Rashb"Y, the greatest baal sod, has some understanding of what happened on his Y"T, at his kever, but I cannot even begin to grasp at it.
Thursday, April 29, 2021
After more than a year locked in our bunkers, most parents have had enough with being home all day with their kids. Imagine R’ Shimon bar Yochai, locked in his bunker with just his son for 13 years! If I had to stay locked up with my son for 13 years I probably would have just walked out and surrendered (just joking). Maybe that’s part of the gadlus of Rashb”Y.
Branded a criminal by the government, forced to flee and hide out for years, only to then re-appear and help lead Klal Yisrael – the story of Rashb”y, the story of Moshe Rabeinu. Torah sheb’ksav, Torah she’baal peh (see R' Tzadok's first piece on Lag ba'Omer in Pri Tzadik). The emergence from the cave only to be forced to go back in because the Torah absorbed the first time around was too great for this world, or maybe the world was too small for it, is the sheviras ha’luchos of the Rashb”Y story.
In Brachos 35 the gemara tells us that Rashb”Y held that one must learn 24x7. If a person goes out to plant in the planting season and harvest in the harvest season, Torah mah ye’hei aleha, what will become of Talmud Torah? Yet, the gemara in Menachos 99 tells us that Rashb”Y held that one can be yotzei T”T simply by reciting shema in the morning and at night. How do you reconcile the two gemaros?
Sdei Chemed explains that the gemara in Brachos is Rashb”Y's view before he emerged from the cave; the gemara in Menachos is his view after he emerged the second time. Rashb”Y developed and adjusted his position because he grew from his experience.
Torah she'bksav is kedusha that is keviya v'kayma, unchanging and permanent. Torah shebaal peh grows and develops. We don't celebrate the death of Moshe Rabeinu with a holiday; we celebrate Rash"Y on Lag ba'Omer because there is an aliyas ha'tzadikim, meaning even after death the tzadik grows, we grow from the tzadik, and so we celebrate what we have achieved and what he hope to continue to achieve (see the Kozhiglover here.)
I wrote a little over a year ago that those who want the pandemic to end and “things to return to the way they were before” have it all wrong. If things just return to the way they were before, then we have failed to grow and learn from our experience. Those years in his bunker changed Rashb”Y: they changed his outlook, his Torah, his view of other people. Has the year in the bunker changed us and helped us grow and develop, or has it just been time spent hiding from reality?
Monday, April 26, 2021
Rosh haShana 15b (I copied from Sefaria with the translation below) -- the upshot of the gemara is that even though though the minhag to maaser carobs based on the harvest year contradicts what the din should be, since we are dealing only with an issur derabbanan, the minhag stands.
(In this case the minhag was based on a legitimate minority view. Sometimes what people call a "minhag" is based on nothing and therefore may not carry the same weight.)
אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן נָהֲגוּ הָעָם בֶּחָרוּבִין כְּרַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה
Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The people were accustomed to act with regard to carobs in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Neḥemya, that their tithe year follows the time of the fruit’s picking.
אֵיתִיבֵיהּ רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ לְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בְּנוֹת שׁוּחַ שְׁבִיעִית שֶׁלָּהֶן שְׁנִיָּה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעוֹשׂוֹת לִשְׁלֹשׁ הַשָּׁנִים
Reish Lakish raised an objection to the opinion of Rabbi Yoḥanan from a mishna that teaches: In the case of white fig trees, the Sabbatical Year for them with regard to the halakhot of eating and elimination is in the second year of the Sabbatical cycle, due to the fact that their fruit grows for three years, and so the fruit that ripens in the second year of the Sabbatical cycle had already taken form in the previous Sabbatical Year. This indicates that the tithe follows the time of the formation of the fruit and not the time of picking.
אִישְׁתִּיק אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַבִּי אַבָּא הַכֹּהֵן לְרַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַכֹּהֵן אַמַּאי אִישְׁתִּיק לֵימָא לֵיהּ אָמֵינָא לָךְ אֲנָא רַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה וְאַתְּ אָמְרַתְּ לִי רַבָּנַן
Rabbi Yoḥanan was silent and did not respond, as though he had no answer. Rabbi Abba the priest said to Rabbi Yosei the priest: Why was Rabbi Yoḥanan silent? He should have said to Reish Lakish as follows: I am speaking to you of the opinion of Rabbi Neḥemya, and you say to me the opinion of the Rabbis?
מִשּׁוּם דַּאֲמַר לֵיהּ שָׁבְקַתְּ רַבָּנַן וְעָבְדַתְּ כְּרַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה
Rabbi Yosei the priest answered: He could not have made this argument, because Reish Lakish would then have said to him: Do you abandon the opinion of the Rabbis, who constitute the majority, and act in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Neḥemya, who express a sole dissenting opinion?
וְלֵימָא לֵיהּ קָאָמֵינָא לָךְ נָהֲגוּ וְאַתְּ אָמְרַתְּ לִי אִיסּוּרָא דַּאֲמַר לֵיהּ בִּמְקוֹם אִיסּוּרָא כִּי נָהֲגוּ שָׁבְקִינַן לְהוּ
Rabbi Abba the priest asked further: Rabbi Yoḥanan should have said to him: I am speaking to you only about how the people practice and that their custom follows the opinion of Rabbi Neḥemya, and you say to me that it is a prohibition? Rabbi Yosei the priest answered: He could not have said this, because Reish Lakish would then have said to him: Where there is a prohibition, even if they were accustomed to act in a particular manner, would we leave them to continue?
וְלֵימָא לֵיהּ כִּי אָמֵינָא לָךְ אֲנָא מַעֲשֵׂר חָרוּבִין דְּרַבָּנַן וְאַתְּ אָמְרַתְּ לִי שְׁבִיעִית דְּאוֹרָיְיתָא
Rabbi Abba the priest asked further: Rabbi Yoḥanan should have said to Reish Lakish as follows: I am speaking to you about the tithe of carobs, which is only by rabbinic decree, as by Torah law all fruits apart from grapes and olives are exempt from tithing, and you speak to me about the Sabbatical Year, which is by Torah law? This being an irrefutable argument, the Gemara once again clarifies this matter.
What are the parameters of kedoshim ti'hiyu? Each individual has to figure out what is appropriate for their situation, their time, their place. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
The last Rambam in Hil Shecheinim:
כל הרוצה למכור קרקע ובאו שנים כל אחד מהן אומר אני אקח בדמים אלו ואין אחד מהן בעל המצר. אם היה האחד מיושבי העיר והאחד משכני השדה שכן העיר קודם. שכן ות"ח ת"ח קודם. קרוב ות"ח ת"ח קודם. שכן וקרוב השכן קודם שגם זה בכלל הטוב והישר הוא. קדם אחד וקנה זכה ואין חבירו שראוי לקדם לו יכול לסלקו הואיל ואין אחד מהן בעל המצר שלא צוו חכמים בדבר הזה אלא דרך חסידות ונפש טובה היא שעושה כך: סליקו להו הלכות שכנים
Magid Mishne comments:
מבואר בהלכות וכ"כ ז"ל ועניין דין בן המצר הוא שתורתנו התמימה נתנה בתקון מדות האדם ובהנהגתו בעולם כללים באמירת קדושים תהיו והכוונה כמו שאמרו ז"ל קדש עצמך במותר לך שלא יהא שטוף אחר התאוות וכן אמרה ועשית הישר והטוב והכוונה שיתנהג בהנהגה טובה וישרה עם בני אדם ולא היה מן הראוי בכל זה לצוות פרטים לפי שמצות התורה הם בכל עת ובכל זמן ובכל ענין ובהכרח חייב לעשות כן ומדות האדם והנהגתו מתחלפת לפי הזמן והאישים והחכמים ז"ל כתבו קצת פרטים מועילים נופלים תחת כללים אלו ומהם שעשו אותם בדין גמור ומהם לכתחלה ודרך חסידות והכל מדבריהם ז"ל ולזה אמרו חביבין דברי דודים יותר מיינה של תורה שנאמר כי טובים דודיך מיין:
What amazes me is that certain organizations had no problem even taking kids out of yeshiva to rally in NY against an imaginary situation of "shmad" (as they called it) and protest in public against the State of Israel, but when there is actual shmad, when there are Jews actually being killed because they are Jewish, like in the case of Sarah Halimi, these same groups are out to lunch.
You know what it looks like to show care and concern when you see injustice done? This is what it looks like:
That is sadly not one of our rallies. Do we care less about our causes than they do theirs? Does anyone really think that a letter to some officials is enough to make a real difference?
Shamd is when the gvt targets our religious practice. That's exactly what the courts found that NY State was doing, writing that Cuomo's “rules can be viewed as targeting the ‘ultra-Orthodox [Jewish] community...” Yet where were the protests? Where was the outcry? A lawsuit that takes months to work its way through court is the best we can muster? Shame on us. Why am I not surprised that another major organization is throwing grant $ at shuls to try to come up with ways to to get people to return to davening now that things are opening up. Who'da thunk it that when your wife can go to the supermarket wearing a paper thin mask and fight through the aisles filled with shoppers before Y"T or Shabbos so you have a nice brisket but the shuls remain locked (as was the case last year on Shavuos in many places), that people would get the message that shul is not so important?
Everyone knows the pasuk that speaks about וַתְּהִ֚י יִרְאָתָם֙ אֹתִ֔י מִצְוַ֥ת אֲנָשִׁ֖ים מְלֻמָּדָֽה (Yeshayahu 29) but most people I think don't know the continuation: לָכֵ֗ן הִנְנִ֥י יוֹסִ֛ף לְהַפְלִ֥יא אֶת־הָעָם־הַזֶּ֖ה הַפְלֵ֣א וָפֶ֑לֶא וְאָֽבְדָה֙ חָכְמַ֣ת חֲכָמָ֔יו וּבִינַ֥ת נְבֹנָ֖יו תִּסְתַּתָּֽר
Friday, April 23, 2021
I had the pleasure this morning of going to the bris of my niece's new baby. It just so happens that in this week's perek in Avos there is a Mishna that speaks about milah. The Mishna tells us (3:11) that וְהַמֵּפֵר בְּרִיתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם has no cheilek in olam ha'ba. As we once discussed, what הַמֵּפֵר בְּרִיתוֹ means is not clear. Rashi learns it means the person did not get a milah; Rambam learns that he is mosheich b'briso and tries to hide the milah. According to Rashi, why doesn't the Mishna just say simply "ha'mevateil milah?" Why the long winded הַמֵּפֵר בְּרִיתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם? Secondly, are more fundamentally, we always start Avos by saying "kol yisrael yesh lahem cheilek l'olam ha'ba." Everybody gets olam ha'ba. There are few exceptions which are discussed in the last perek in Sanhedrin, but the sugyos there never mention being mevateil the mitzvah of milah as being on the list. Where does this din come from?
Maharal explains that meifer bris has no olam ha'ba because it falls into the category of someone who denies Torah min ha'shamayim, which is mentioned there at the end of Sanhedrin. Bris is not just about cutting off a bit of skin; it's about forging a relationship with G-d. That's why the Mishna speaks about "meifer bris" and not just about "mevateil milah." Belief in Torah is the foundation for and the means of forging that relationship.
The gemara darshens that the pasuk "sas anochi al imrasecha k'motzei shalal rav" is speaking about bris. It's like finding a treasure, winning the mega millions. A normal person who wins the mega millions jackpot cannot spend those hundreds of millions in one day, in one month, in one year. That much $ should last a lifetime. So too bris milah forges a relationship with Hashem that sticks with a person through his entire lifetime.
While we are holding in sefirah it's worth touching on another point with regards to milah. There is a minority view in Rishonim that says milah done at night is kosher; there is a minority view that says milah done before the 8th day is kosher. The common denominator between both views is that they allow for milah done at the wrong time. Rama for some reason splits the psak and holds that milah done at night is completely pasul; milah done before the 8th day is kosher b'dieved.
Shach asks: the gemara (Menachos 72) makes a l'shitaso between the view that holds the cutting of the omer must be done only at night and not by day and the opinion that cutting the omer is doche Shabbos. The logic of the gemara is that if even b'dieved the omer can be cut by day, then why break Shabbos to harvest it -- cut the omer on Friday before Shabbos starts. By the very same token, asks the Shach, if b'dieved a milah can be done before day 8, then why do we allow a bris milah on Shabbos? Just do it the day before!
Many Achronim point out that the Rambam seems to contradict this gemara as well. Rambam paskens in Temidim 7:4 וזמנו קבוע ולפיכך דוחה את השבת ואת הטומאה: yet he also paskens in 7:7 וכל הלילה כשר לקצירת העומר. ואם קצרוהו ביום כשר:
Too long a topic to deal with now on a Friday : (
Thursday, April 22, 2021
The Netziv has a pshat in "lo tikom v'lo titor" (19:18) that in Harchev Davar he builds up from a Midrash but R' Teichtel quotes it in his derashos b'shem the Netziv based on a story. I'll do you the favor of putting 2 and 2 together, esp since everyone loves a story. Pshat in the pasuk: the Netziv explains the smichus of לֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ to the previous pasuk of לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֙יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא that we are dealing with someone who has done you wrong, who you have a reason to be angry with. First the Torah says not to harbor hatred in your heart and instead to give the person tochacha and tell them what they did wrong. Then the Torah adds not to bear a grudge or do something to get back at the other guy, even though you would be in your rights to do so.
Netziv uses this as a springboard to turn our attention to the pasuk in Mishlei, "Meishiv ra'ah tachas tovah lo tamush ra'ah mi'beiso." (Mishlei 17:13) Chazal comment that it' not a good idea even to be "meishiv ra'ah tachas ra'ah," to respond in kind to someone who has done you wrong, exactly what lo tikom v'lo titor is warning against. What inspired Chazal's comment is the term "meishiv." Hashava means giving back what you owe, paying your dues. Meishiv ra'ah tachas tovah makes no sense -- the person who did the tovah is not owed ra'ah back. The word meishiv only makes sense when speaking about meishiv ra'ah tachas ra'ah, hence the derash. But how do you understand pshat in the pasuk?
And now the story: R' Yisrael Salanter was once travelling by train, and he did not go with an escort of a gabai, he did not put on airs or wear ostentatious rabbinic garb, so if you did not know who he was, you would not take notice. A young guy bumped into him on the train, got upset, and heaped scorn and insults on R' Yisrael, who took it in stride. When the train pulled into Vilna, the young man saw the throngs gathered outside to greet the gaon. He asked someone to point out to him who R' Yisrael Salanter was, and then almost fainted when they pointed to the individual he took to be the regular passenger who he had insulted.
The next day the young man came to see R' Yisrael, apologized profusely, and begged forgiveness. R' Yisrael Salanter of course forgave him, but then inquired what the young man was doing in Vilna. He related that he had come to meet a gvir whose help he needed to get started in business, but unfortunately, that individual was not available, and so the whole trip was for naught. When R' Yisrael heard the young man's story, he insisted that the young man come with him and he would help introduce him to contacts that would help him. The young man could not take it -- here he had insulted R' Yisrael, and not only was he being forgiven, but R' Yisrael Salanter wanted to go out of his way to do chessed for him!
R' Yisrael Salanter explained that precisely because the young man had done him wrong, he cannot take no for an answer and must do him a favor. It's human nature when someone does us wrong to think badly of them. Lo tikom v'lo titor is almost impossible to avoid. But we have a rule -- ma'aseh motzi midei machshava. Actions speak louder than words and can change a mindset. To avoid lo tikom v'lo titor it's not enough to just forgive, but a person needs to do more -- a person needs to do a tovah for the party that had wronged them. Only then will they be able to avoid the pitfall of bearing a grudge or thinking of paying the person back in kind.
"Meishiv ra'ah tachas tovah" -- if in place of the tovah that a person should have done to the party that wronged him, which would have quelled the dispute immediately, a person instead pays that party back in kind, he is meishiv the ra'ah that he got tit-for-tat, thinking that now we are even and things will end here, "lo tamush ra'ah mi'beiso," he will find that the dispute will continue and never end. The payback that was supposed to even things up will be taken as a new slight that deserves a new response, and back and forth the cycle will continue.
That's not only a great pshat in the pasuk, it's great midos, to be able to respond to an insult not just with forgiveness, but with kindness.
Monday, April 19, 2021
The haftara for Metzora opens in medias res, and you have to turn back a few pesukim to get the full picture of what's going on. Shomron was under seige, and a famine raged throughout the land. King Yehoram was approached by a woman who had literally eaten her own child and she begged the king to have mercy and help her. Faced with such a stark example of the people's suffering, the king swore that he would have Elisha killed because Elisha had failed to pray to G-d to help the people (Rashi, Radak to Melachim II 6:31) The king came to Elisha with one of his officers, and Elisha prophesized that on the very next day a se'ah of flour and 2 se'ah of barley would both sell in the market for a shekel. The king's assistant then jumped into the conversation and declared the navi's promise impossible, to which Elisha responded that the king's man will see it happen with his own eyes, but never get to benefit from the miracle.
This is the point at which our haftara begins, telling us about the miraculous downfall of Hazael's army and the end of the seige and the famine, exactly as Elisha predicted, culminating with the king's officer being trampled to death at the gates of the marketplace as the people scrambled for the food that was now readily available and priced exactly as Elisha had foretold.
Why did the king's officer not believe Elisha? It's not like he thought Elisha was incapable of doing a miracle or incapable of helping the situation. The king was angry precisely because he though Elisha could have done something to help, could have pulled off a miracle, but had failed to do so!
Chasam Sofer has many answers to this question, and one in particular struck me as relevant to Yom ha'Atzmaut and our situation of aschalta d'geula. He writes (Derush for Shabbos haGadol, 5662) that the king's officer certainly believed that Elisha could do miracles. He also knew that without a miracle, the only way to get bread was to plant, harvest, mill, and bake, and that was impossible given the seige and the famine. So the expectation was that Elisha will do a MIRACLE, something extraordinary and supernatural, like the gemara says, l'asid lavo bread will grow on trees. But that's not what Elisha promised. Elisha promised barley, meaning raw stalks that would have to have the kernel separated and milled into flour. He promised flour that would have to be baked to get bread, not bread growing on trees. That's what the king's officer found impossible to believe. If G-d is going to do a miracle, then it would be MIRACLE, not some half-way solution.
But that's not always how it works. Hashem sometimes does miracles, but couched in derech ha'teva. Hashem will provide the barley and the flour, but it's up to us to put in the rest of the work and make the bread.
Thinking that geulah means Moshiach riding in on a white donkey and waving a magic wand to solve all our problems -- a MIRACLE -- and not celebrating or believing anything less is yad Hashem is exactly the mistake the haftara speaks to. Easy solutions will not grow on trees; Hashem has given us raw materials and siyata d'shemaya, but we have work of our own to do.
Friday, April 16, 2021
Is seeing something through a telescope the same as seeing it in person? Is seeing though a microscope or through eyeglasses the same as seeing with one's own eyes? Nafka mina for many halachos, e.g. seeing ervah, seeing ner chanukah in a window, electric light for havdalah, seeing moon through a window for kiddush levana, etc.
The gemara (Chulim 10b) discusses what the source for the din of chazakah is. The gemara brings proof from our parsha:
מנא הא מלתא דאמור רבנן אוקי מילתא אחזקיה אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר ר' יונתן אמר קרא ויצא הכהן מן הבית אל פתח הבית והסגיר את הבית שבעת ימים דלמא אדנפיק ואתא בצר ליה שיעורא אלא לאו משום דאמרינן אוקי אחזקיה
When the kohen walks out of the house afflicted with a nega to declare it tamei, how does he know that the nega that he saw is still there? Maybe in the few seconds or minutes it took for him to walk out the nega vanished? It must be that we rely on chazakah.
Asks the Rogatchover (Shu"T #13): maybe the kohen took out a telescope or put on a better pair of glasses and can see that the nega is still there?
Q.E.D. that seeing means seeing with your own two unaided eyes, not seeing through some instrument.
Yesh lachkor: is there a din that the kohen must see the nega in order to declare it tamei, or is seeing the nega just a means of birur to determine that the nega is actually there?
The Mishna in Negaim (3:1 and see Mishna Achrona there) tells us that only a kohen has the power to declare a nega tamei or tahor, but if the kohen is am ha'aretz and doesn't know the difference, he can be coached by a talmid chacham and told "Say tahor," or "Say tamei."
Compare the Rambam's formulation with Rashi:
Rambam Hil Tzaraas 9:2
כיצד כהן שאינו יודע לראות החכם רואהו ואומר לו אמור טמא והכהן אומר טמא. אמור טהור והכהן אומר טהור
Rashi Archin 3a:
שאינו בקי. י] והולך תלמיד חכם ישראל ורואה עמו ואומר לו אמור טמא והוא אומר טהור והוא אומר שהטומאה והטהרה תלויה במאמר הכהן והכי תניא בת"כ:
The Rambam writes that החכם רואהו ואומר לו , the talmid chacham who is a yisrael sees the nega and just tells the kohen what to say. Rashi, however, writes הולך תלמיד חכם ישראל ורואה עמו , that the kohen has to actually see the nega along with the talmid chacham.
According to the Rambam, seeing the nega is just a means of birur -- it is just a means to an end. So long as somehow the kohen knows the nega is there, that's sufficient. According to Rashi, there is a chiyuv for the kohen to actually see the nega, eyes on. It's not about what he knows -- it's what he sees that matters.
The Rogatchover's proof should hinge on this machlokes. If one assumes that all that is needed is birur, than a yisrael standing by the door and telling the kohen that the nega is still there, or the kohen himself seeing it though a telescope, should also work. However, if actual seeing is required, then a telescope may not be sufficient.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לָכֶ֖ם לַאֲחֻזָּ֑ה וְנָתַתִּי֙ נֶ֣גַע צָרַ֔עַת בְּבֵ֖ית אֶ֥רֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶֽם׃
The parsha tells us that when we come into Eretz Canaan, Hashem will bring negaim on our houses.
Why does the parsha phrase this like a promise, "I will bring niga'im...," and not "If you find a nega on your house...," similar to the way the Torah puts it by nigei bigadim, "וְהַבֶּ֕גֶד כִּֽי־יִהְיֶ֥ה ב֖וֹ נֶ֣גַע צָרָ֑עַת?"
בשורה היא להם שהנגעים באים עליהם, לפי שהטמינו אמוריים מטמוניות של זהב בקירות בתיהם כל ארבעים שנה שהיו ישראל במדבר, ועל ידי הנגע נותץ הבית ומוצאן.
It's like when you have buried treasure and X marks the spot on the treasure map. Hashem wanted Bnei Yisrael to find the treasure that the Amoriim hid in the walls of their homes, so he brings negaim to mark the treasure spot to tell us where to dig.
Sefas Emes explains:
והנה בנ"י כן עשו שהוציאו ארץ כנען מיד הטומאה והכניסוהו בקדושה שכשנקרא ארץ ישראל השרה הבורא ית' שכינתו בבהמ"ק. וזה בכלל ובכל מאודך שצריכין להביא לכל הנכסים הארת הקדושה. ומצד זה יכול להיות טומאת נגע צרעת גם בבתים. וזאת הבשורה טובה שיוכלו לתקן כל המקומות ג"כ. והוא באמת מטמוניות. שבכל דבר הגשמיי ביותר. מוטמן בו ניצוצי קדושה ביותר. וגם לפי פשוטו הי' נסיון גדול לסתור כל הבנין ע"י שחפץ איש הישראלי להיות שורה קדושה וטהרה במקומו. ובאמת איתא כי המטמוניות מצאו כדי שלא יהיו נפסדין בסתירת הבנין:
You might think that Hashem is giving us a strange gift, the land of Eretz Canaan, a place that was been filled with tumah by its inhabitants, a land where the very walls of the houses are saturated with sin.
How can you celebrate Yom ha'Atzmaut when all you see are spiritual negai'im surrounding you? What is there to celebrate?
But the lesson of the parsha is that you can knock those walls down and rebuild them, you can rip out the stones that have been defiled and replace them, you can make a makon kadosh on what once was a makon tumah. You can transform Eretz Canaan into Eretz Yisrael.
וְנָתַתִּי֙ נֶ֣גַע צָרַ֔עַת בְּבֵ֖ית אֶ֥רֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶֽם In no other place are those nigei batim visible because in no other place can we effect that transformation. In no other place can the kedushas yisrael have such an impact that the most chol and gashmi things can become rebuilt in holiness.
That's the buried treasure that Hashem promises us. Don't get dismayed by what you see on the surface. Dig a little deeper.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
The gemara (Kid 57b) writes that the bird used for taharas ha'metzora which is sent away is permitted to be eaten:
ת״ר, צפור המשתלחת מותרת באכילה, מאי טעמא ושלח אמר רחמנא, ולא אמרה תורה שלח לתקלה
Why do you need a special pasuk to tell you that the bird is permitted? Even if it was assur, it would be bateil b'rov?
The Torah Temimah (14:7) writes that the concern here is not for the person eating the bird, but rather for the person sending it away. This is a doraysa source for the din of ain mevatlin issur l'chatchila.
The problem is that with the exception of the Raavad, most Rishonim hold that ain mevatlin issur l'chatchila is a din derabbanan. How do they deal with this sugya?
1) One can accept the proof as valid, and qualify the views of the other Rishonim:
It's a little strange that the Torah Teminah would be unaware of a chiddush of the Noda b'Yehudah (Mh"T Y.D. 45) quoted by his father in the Aruch haShulchan Y.D. 99:27 , who writes "divrei taam heim." The Noda B'Yehuda writes that the principle of bitul comes into play only when we cannot distinguish between issur and heter. If I have two items that I can clearly tell apart, ain mevatlin issur l'chatchila because there is no question of which is heter and which is issur. When dealing with yaveish b'yaveish, dry items that are distinct units, everyone holds ain mevatlin issue l'chatchila is a din d'orsaysa. The machlokes Rishonim is only in a case where liquids are being mixed and the end result is an entity where the composite parts can never be separated.
According to this approach, in the case of birds where are are dealing with distinct units, everyone will hold that ain mevatlin issur is a din d'oraysa and so there is no contradiction to any of the shitos.
2) Or, one can argue that the proof itself is flawed.
It seems that Rashi did not agree with the T"T's reading of the gemara:
דלא אמרה התורה שלח לתקלה שתהא למכשול עון וילכדנה אדם ויאכלנה
The concern is for the person who might eat the bird sent away, not the act of sending it away, the act of bitul.
What possible " מכשול " could there be once the bird is bateil b'rov?
R' Shimon Shkop in Shaarei Yosher (3:6) explains that there are two dinim in rov:
1) Rov in the case of a mixture where all the items are jumbled together in the same location, in which case the miyut gets transformed into the rov and it's like it no longer exists;
2) Rov in a case where multiple items all fall under the same safeik, but they are not mixed together in one spot. Here, the Torah says you can follow rov, but the miyut remains lurking out there.
All the birds in the world fall into the safeik of whether they are/are not the bird sent away by the metzora, but those birds are scattered everywhere. The miyut still exists b'metziyus, just the Torah allows a person to follow the rov -- the Torah allows a person to play the odds.
Playing the odds is never a guarantee. Had the metzora bird been assur, the Torah would have not allowed it to be sent away given the chance, however, small, that someone might come to eat it.
Friday, April 09, 2021
The Midrash opens our parsha by speaking about the creation of the world:
וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי – רַב אַהֲבָה בַּר כַּהֲנָא פָּתַח (משלי ט׳:א׳-ד׳): חָכְמוֹת בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ, טָבְחָה טִבְחָהּ וגו׳ שָׁלְחָה נַעֲרֹתֶיהָ וגו׳ מִי פֶתִי וגו׳, רַבִּי יִרְמְיָה בַּר אִלְעָאי פָּתַר קְרָא בִּבְרִיָּתוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, חָכְמוֹת בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ, זֶה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא דִּכְתִיב בֵּיהּ (משלי ג׳:י״ט): ה׳ בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד אָרֶץ. (משלי ט׳:א׳): חָצְבָה עַמּוּדֶיהָ שִׁבְעָה, אֵלּוּ שִׁבְעָה יְמֵי בְרֵאשִׁית, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ׳:י׳): כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים וגו׳ (בראשית ב׳:ג׳): וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי. טָבְחָה טִבְחָה, (בראשית א׳:כ״ד): וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ. מָסְכָה יֵינָהּ, (בראשית ב׳:ט׳): וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יִקָּווּ הַמַּיִם. אַף עָרְכָה שֻׁלְחָנָהּ, (בראשית ב׳:י״א): וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תַּדְּשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע. שָׁלְחָה נַעֲרֹתֶיהָ תִקְרָא, זֶה אָדָם וְחַוָּה. (משלי ט׳:ג׳): עַל גַּפֵּי מְרֹמֵי קָרֶת, שֶׁהֱסִיטָן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְקָרָא אוֹתָן אֱלָהוּת, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (בראשית ג׳:ה׳): וִהְיִיתֶם כֵּאלֹהִים, אַחַר כָּל הַשֶּׁבַח הַזֶּה מִי פֶּתִי יָסֻר הֵנָּה, הֵן הִנִּיחוּ דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְהָלְכוּ אַחַר דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל נָחָשׁ, בִּשְׁבִיל כָּךְ (משלי ט׳:ד׳): חֲסַר לֵב אָמְרָה לוֹ (בראשית ג׳:י״ט): כִּי עָפָר אַתָּה וְאֶל עָפָר תָּשׁוּב.
The implicit message is that there is a parallel between the seven days of creation and the seven days of miluim that culminated in "va'yehi bayom ha'shmini." The first seven days of creation ended in the sin of Adam; our seven days are the tikun of the cheit ha'eigel, the undoing of sin. Parshas Braishis is the story of creation that ends in tragedy, in failure; our parsha teaches that creation can be remade anew despite the failings of the past.
Chazal tell us that the yom ha'shmini was as joyous a day as the moment of creation. Yet, at the same time, the word "va'yehi" that opens the parsha usually portends sorrow. Ohr haChaim comments:
צריך לדעת מה טעם אמר ויהי ובמסכת מגילה (דף י) אמר רבי לוי דבר זה מסורת בידינו מאנשי כנסת הגדולה כל מקום שנאמר ויהי אינו אלא לשון צער, ומקשה והכתיב ויהי ביום השמיני ותניא אותו היום היתה שמחה לפני הקב״ה כיום בריאת שמים וארץ כתיב הכא ויהי וגו׳ וכתיב התם (בראשית א ה) ויהי ערב ויהי בקר
Even before the deaths of Nadav and Avihu occurred, the day was tinged with sadness for Moshe Rabeinu:
אָמַר רַב שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן, כָּל שִׁבְעַת יְמֵי הַסְּנֶה הָיָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְפַתֶּה אֶת משֶׁה שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ בִּשְׁלִיחוּתוֹ לְמִצְרַיִם, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (שמות ד׳:י׳): גַּם מִתְּמוֹל גַּם מִשִּׁלְשֹׁם גַּם מֵאָז דַּבֶּרְךָ אֶל עַבְדֶּךָ, הֲרֵי שִׁשָּׁה, וּבַשְּׁבִיעִי אָמַר לוֹ (שמות ד׳:י״ג): שְׁלַח נָא בְּיַד תִּשְׁלָח, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, משֶׁה, אַתְּ אוֹמֵר שְׁלַח נָא בְּיַד תִּשְׁלָח, חַיֶּיךָ שֶׁאֲנִי צוֹרְרָה לְךָ בִּכְנָפֶיךָ, אֵימָתַי פָּרַע לוֹ, .... רַבִּי חֶלְבּוֹ אָמַר כָּל שִׁבְעַת יְמֵי הַמִּלּוּאִים הָיָה מְשַׁמֵּשׁ בִּכְהֻנָּה גְדוֹלָה וְכַסָּבוּר שֶׁלּוֹ הִיא, בַּשְּׁבִיעִי אָמַר לוֹ, לֹא שֶׁלְךָ הִיא אֶלָּא שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ הִיא, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב: וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי.
Sefas Emes explains that this was not some kind of vindictive punishment, but rather was a natural outcome of Moshe's refusal. Had Moshe taken the mantle of leadership and run with it, the geulah would have occurred with a level of perfection that would have made sin impossible. His reluctance led to the possibility of a cheit ha'eigel.
Yet in that failing there was a silver lining: we learned that perfection is not a necessasry condition to coming close to Hashem. One can suffer setbacks and overcome them. B'makom she'baalei teshivah omdin afilu tzadikim gemurim ainam yecholim laamod -- that is even greater than remaining on the plateau of perfection.
Re-creation is an even greater miracle than creation itself.
Moshe tells Aharon, "Krav el ha'mizbeiach." (9:8) Rashi comments קרב אל המזבח – שהיה אהרן בוש וירא לגשת, אמר לו משה: מה אתה בוש? לכך נבחרת. Aharon was chosen precisely because he had sinned in the cheit ha'eigel and overcome that failing. לכך נבחרת -- that quality is what the mishkan is all about.
Thursday, April 08, 2021
The Netziv reads לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַטָּמֵ֖א וּבֵ֣ין הַטָּהֹ֑ר וּבֵ֤ין הַֽחַיָּה֙ הַֽנֶּאֱכֶ֔לֶת וּבֵין֙ הַֽחַיָּ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר לֹ֥א תֵאָכֵֽל (11:47) as a mitzvah to examine any case of safeik to determine whether the animal is kosher or not. Even though sfeika d'oraysa according to the Rambam is l'kula on a d'oraysa level, that is only when it is impossible to resolve the safeik. Here it is not only possible, but it is a mitzvah to resolve the safeik. Meaning, the Torah does not want a person to simply label any safeik as tfeif with the goal of erring on the side of caution. The Torah wants and commands a person to find out the truth. Netziv writes: וכשם שאסור להקל בספק הקרוב להחמיר. או שלא לברר איזה ספק ולנהוג בו היתר כך אסור להחמיר במקום שאפשר לברר היתרו
The Netziv then makes an interesting comment on the language of the pasuk. He notes that sometimes the Torah distinguishes 2 things by saying "bein X and Y" and sometimes it distinguishes, like in our pasuk, by saying something like "bein X u'bein Y," repeating the word "bein" twice. When the word is repeated, it indicates that we are speaking about two things or two groups being compared that have points where they are unlike at all, but also have points where they are very similar and come close to overlapping, where the difference is very subtle. Had the Torah said "bein ha'tamei la'tahor," it would mean that if you examine a case of safeik, you will be able to tell clearly whether it is tamei or tahor. By saying "bein ha'tamei u'bein ha'tahor" the Torah is speaking about two different cases of safeik: the case of safeik which is similar to tahor animals, but there is still some doubt, and the case of safeik which seems similar to tamei animals, but there is still some doubt. The Torah is telling us that there is a spectrum of safeik: one end is close to tahor, the other end is closer to tamei, and the middle is a blur. The nafka mina is for onshim. There is a more severe punishment for erring in a case of safeik close to the tamei end of the spectrum and less severe punishment for erring in a case on the end of the spectrum closer to tahor -- take a look at the Netziv for examples.
We have another example of the "bein...bein" distinction right in the first chapter of chumash: "Vayavdeil Elokim bein ha'or u'bein ha'choshech." Bein ha'shemashos, twilight, is a safeik period between day and night. The beginning of b"hs is closer to day, the end is closer to night, and the middle is blurry state where the two come come close to converging.
The Netziv applies this chiddush to reading the Mishna we say every Friday night at the end of perek 2 of Shabbos: safeik chasheicha safeik aina chasheicha... where the Mishna tells us the laws of bein hashemashos. Why does the Mishna need to say "safeik...safeik?" Why not just say "safeik chasheicha or aina chasheicha?" And why does the Mishna put "safeik chasheicha" first when the day chronologically moves from aina chasheicha towards chasheicha and not the other way around? Netziv answers that the Mishna phrases itself this way because bein hashemashos as a spectrum of safeik, one end very close to day where there is only a slight "safeik chasheicha," the other end closer to night where there is only a slight "safeik aina chasheicha."
The Netziv's proof from that Mishna is noteworthy because of the pshat the Netziv does not learn. The MG"A (342) raises the following question: does the principle in the Mishna that there was no gezeira on shvusin derabbanan apply only to bein hashemashos Friday night, or does it also apply to bein hashemashos of Shabbos, Sat night, as well? Perhaps on Friday the assumption is that the day is chol until proven otherwise, and therefore the Mishna has certain leniencies for bein hashemashos, but maybe once Shabbos starts the day has a chazakah of kedusha until proven otherwise, and therefore one must be strict during bein hashemashos of Sat night until certain nightfall? Many Achronim kick this safeik around. Is it possible for there to be a chazakah on a unit of time when time is always changing? See Ohr Sameiach here. R' Akiva Eiger on that Mishna in Shabbos quotes a "davar nechmad" from the Tos Chadashim. The reason the Mishna uses the word "safeik" twice (the Netziv's question) and the reason it puts the safeik chasheicha first is because it is speaking about two different bein ha'shemashos periods -- 1) the bein hashemashos of Friday night, which has a chezkas chol and our safeik is whether it is chasheicha and therefore Shabbos, and 2) the bein ha'shemashos of Sat night, which has a chezkas kodesh, and our safeik is whether aina chasheicha, whether that status has changed and we may be lenient because it is chol. The upshot of the Mishna is that the same leniencies apply to both of these cases, both the bein hashemashos of Fri night and the bein has"s of Sat night.
Take your pick of the Netziv or RAK"E, either way, next time you read this Mishna, it will be that much more meaningful.
Tuesday, April 06, 2021
There is a lot of discussion in Achronim regarding a katan who becomes bar mitzvah in the middle of sefira. Can he count as a gadol with a bracha, or did the count he did as a katan not count (pardon the pun) for anything and it is as if he missed days?
The Kozhiglover has a wild chidush. He draws an analogy to the din of ben sorer u'moreh: The gemara (San 68b) brings proof from a pasuk that a katan not close to the age of maturity is exempt from the din of ben su"m. Asks the gemara: why do we need a pasuk here? A katan is patur from all mitzvos? Answers the gemara: ben s"um is a special case since he is "ne'herag al shem sofo," he is being penalized because he will grow up into a rasha, so one might have thought there is no bottom age limit, kah mashma lan there is.
קטן מנלן דפטור מנלן כדקתני טעמא שלא בא לכלל מצות ותו היכא אשכחן דענש הכתוב דהכא ליבעי קרא למיפטריה אנן הכי קאמרינן אטו בן סורר ומורה על חטאו נהרג על שם סופו נהרג וכיון דעל שם סופו נהרג אפילו קטן נמי
The gemara is not saying that viz a viz hilchos ben sorer u'moreh the age of maturity is 12 3/4 or so, like we find by the din of mufla ha'samuch l'ish that tells us that viz a viz hil nedarim the age of maturity is 12, not 13. Were that the case, the hava amina would make no sense -- why would every katan be included? The gemara is saying that since neherag al shem sofo, there are consequences that will come out when the child becomes a gadol, the child is subject to onshim even as a katan, even below the age of maturity.
By the same logic, argues the Kozhiglover, since whether or not the katan counts has consequences viz a viz his ability to continue counting sefira as a gadol, he becomes mechuyav as a katan.
Not even three months into the Biden/Harris mess and:
TDS so warped the thinking of some members of our community that they voted for Biden even given his support of these policies that endanger Israel and its security.
As for major Jewish organization that have buried their heads further in the sand and decided to "pivot away from politics," this is not politics. Politics is whether or not you support a tax increase, or whether you prefer to subsidize green energy or build a pipeline, etc. This is about Jewish lives being put in danger.
Monday, April 05, 2021
Last week we discussed the Sefas Emes (5635) that it was not seeing the splitting of the sea that triggered Klal Yisrael to sing shirah, but rather it was their emunah, "ya'yaaminu b'Hashem," that triggered "az yashir." It's very strange to speak of Klal Yisrael becoming maaminim at this point after they already witnessed 10 makkos, they witnessed the destruction of Egypt, they witnessed kri'as Yam Suf. Way back in chapter 4 of Shmos, as soon as Moshe returned from Midyan and delivered the message that Hashem was going to redeem Klal Yisrael, the Torah tells us "va'yaamein ha'am," the people had emunah and believed Moshe's message. Kal v'chomer at this point in time they should have had emunah!
Emunah is not a one size fits all garment. There are levels and levels of emunah, and one's faith can, and should, grow over a lifetime. So true, way back at the start of the process of yetzi'as Mitzrayim the people had emunah, but precisely because they experienced seeing 10 makkos, they experiences geulah, they saw kri'as Yam Suf, the emunah they had earlier is no longer sufficient. Their experience is mechayeiv them to have even greater faith in Hashem and rise to even greater heights. Va'yaaminu ba'Hashem means reaching a more exalted level as demanded by their new circumstance.
On the last days of Y"T my daughter reminded me of the end-of-Pesach question I like to ask: "What did you gain over the Y"T?" For some people, the answer is 5 lbs, for others 10 lbs. For some the answer is a new chiddush in the haggadah, a better understanding of a sugya in Pesachim. The point is that the experience of Y"T is a mechayeiv. "Chayav adam li'ros es atzmo..." We just went through a yetzi'as Mitrayim and witnessed geulah. Is out emunah coming out of the chag different than it was going in? Is our va'yaaminu now the same as the va'yaamein going in, or have we grown?
The haggadah contrasts the makkos in Mitzrayim, which were "etzba Elokim" with makkos that took place at the Yam, which were "yad Hashem." The haggadah goes through a whole calculation of how many makkos the Egyptians were hit with on the Yam compared to what they were hit with in Egypt, but the difference between yad and etzba is more than quantitative, it is qualitative. Let me give you an analogy: you go to work and every day there is a different issue to deal with. Monday the boss wants a project done yesterday, Tues is an irate customer, Wed you are late to the office and hope you don't get a tongue lashing, and so it goes day after day, week after week. You know the merry go round -- once you solve one problem, there is another one right behind it that needs fixing. If you change jobs, different place, different hours, but pretty much the same struggles, the same stress. But what if you had the good fortune to one day marry the CEO's daughter? Suddenly, in one fell swoop, all the problems become much more manageable if not gone completely. You think the son-in-law of the CEO gets a tongue lashing if he is a few minutes late? You think his boss sits on his back to finish a project? It's a different world! When we left Egypt, we switched from being avdei Pharoah to avdei Hashem. A different boss -- certainly a better one -- a different workplace, but at the end of the day, an eved is an eved. The day by day struggle does not go away. Instead of fighting to get up to go make bricks, not we are fighting to wake up to go to minyan. Sheishes yamim tochal matzos is just like sheishes yamim taaseh melacha. The daily grind is still there. But comes the seventh day, the shabbos of Pesach, the "atzeres l'Hashem Elokecha," it's a different story. "Hamaavir banav bein gizrei Yam Suf... v'ra'u banav gevuraso shibchu v'hosu li'shmo." Comes shevii shel pesach you are no longer an eved -- now you are a ben, you are like a son, you are related to the CEO in the closest possible way. In one fell swoop the day by day struggles are gone because a son has a completely different relationship than an eved. Sefas Emes tells us that etzba Elokim is geulah b'prat, just like each finger is a separate digit. It's making it through the struggles of that particular day, that particular moment. Yam Suf is geulah b'chlal, it's the whole hand as one unit. It's changing the relationship between you and G-d so in one fell swoop all those struggles go away because when you feel close like a ben to an av obeying is not a struggle anymore.
I think that's why Chazal speak about marriage as "kashe l'zavgam k'krias Yam Suf." If you think marriage is about taking out the garbage to make your wife happy instead of taking out the garbage to make your mother happy, then you are missing the boat. You are stuck in the vision of pratiyus. The entire experience of marriage is a different experience, the entire relationship is a different relationship. It's a klaliyus-dik change.
I'm going to fast forward a few short weeks to say something about Yom haAtzmaut. For 2000 years we have gone from place to place in galus, the same ups followed by the same downs, till we get kicked out and the merry go round starts up somewhere else. One prat's ups and downs lead right to the next prat and the same process. 1948 was klaliyus-dik. Coming back to Eretz Yisrael completely changed the dynamic. 1967 completely changed the dynamic again. If you think learning Torah in Yerushalayim in a free State of Israel, no matter how secular, is the same as learning Torah in any country where a Jew might have freedom and liberty to do as he pleases, then you are missing the boat of Jewish history and destiny.
All this is mechayeiv us. Hashata hacha, l'shana ha'ba'ah b'ara d'Yisrael. In ha lachma anya we look forward to geulah, to coming back to Eretz Yisrael. So why do we also add hashata avdei...l'shanah habaah bnei chorin? Isn't that the same thing, not having to work as a slave in galus, being free in our own country? The Tiferes Shlomo explains that this second phrase is speaking about our avodas Hashem. Hashata avdei, we've replaced the struggle of making bricks in Egypt with the "avdus" struggle of waking up for minyan, but we are still working as slaves. We've traded one burden for another. The details, the pratiyus, has changed, but the big picture of how we think hasn't, The goal is to change that dynamic, to go from being an eved to being a ben, a klaliyus-dik change in the entire relationship we have to Torah, to Hashem, to have a relationship of love, which is true freedom.
Friday, April 02, 2021
We say in the haggadah, "Ilu kara lanu es ha'Yam v'lo he'evireinu b'socho b'cherava - dayeinu." Everyone asks: what would have been the point of splitting the sea if not for us to cross it on dry land (see Netziv)?