Sunday, May 30, 2021

korban pesach sheni on rye - Minchas Chinuch vs R' Shach on how to read Rashi

Rashi on chumash quotes the din that there is no issue of having chametz in your house on pesach sheni.  In fact, b'pashtus there is no issur of eating chametz with the pesach sheni.  The mitzvah of eating the korban pesach sheni is fulfilled by eating a k'zayis of meat.  Once you eat that one k'zayis, the rest of the korban has to be consumed to avoid nosar, but the mitzvah of achilah is over.  In terms of everything eaten after the one k'zayis, there should be no problem of eating it on rye or club, whatever you like, as you are just eating to avoid having leftovers.  The one k'zayis eaten to fulfill the mitzvah of achilas ha'korban is a different story.  You can't eat it on bread not based on an issur chametz qua chametz, but based on a different din -- the achilas reshus of the bread would be mevateil the achilah mitzvah of the korban.  This would be true no matter what you eat that k'zayis with, whether it be bread, a potato, quinoa, or something else.  

Based on all this, the Minchas Chinuch does not understand Rashi on our parsha (9:10)

פסח שני, מצה וחמץ עמו בבית, ואין שם יום טוב, ואין אסור חמץ אלא עמו באכילתו.

What does Rashi mean  ואין אסור חמץ אלא עמו באכילתו?  What's the issur of having chametz with the korban pesach?  If Rashi is talking about what's eaten after the first k'zayis, there should be no issur; if he is talking about that k'zayis eaten to fulfill the mitzvas achila, then any food, not just chametz, cannot be eaten with the korban.  See Meshech Chochma who tries to offer a hesber.

Rav Shach answers this question with a pshat in Rashi that is so simple you have to wonder how no one else thought of it.  The way the M.C. reads the word אלא in Rashi אין אסור חמץ אלא עמו באכילתו is that there is no issur of chametz EXCEPT for chametz eaten with the korban pesach.  Rav Shach says that's not pshat.  The way to read Rashi is אין אסור חמץ , there is no issur of chamtez with the korban pesach,  אלא= RATHER,  עמו באכילתו, it may be eaten with the chametz!  Rashi means exactly the opposite of how Minchas Chinuch read it.   

is the battle lost?

Back in 2014, as Obama was dolling out an additional 50 million in funds to the Palestinians even as Hamas was launching rockets at Israel (history repeats itself, doesn't it?), I wrote about an exhibit at the NY Historical Society about the Joint Distribution Committee:
Anyway, a telegram displayed in the exhibit caught my wife’s eye. This message was sent from someone in Germany in 1933 to the JDC in NY, and it said (I’m sorry we did not copy it word for word) that the situation was not salvageable – instead of relief for those inside Germany, all efforts should be focused on getting as many people out as possible. My wife could not believe that already in 1933 there was such certainty of impending doom. Her own father’s family did not leave Germany until a few years after that. I told her it’s no surprise. 20 or 30 years from now G-d forbid people will look back at the articles in the news that we read almost daily about the situation of Jewry in France and other European countries, the articles we dismiss as alarmist, as right-wing extremism, the calls to get out that people have begun to act on in small measure while others delay, thinking there will always be time to run when things get really bad, and we will wonder why more was not done sooner, why so many failed to act when the anti-Semitisim was so clear, when the barely repressed violence was already evident.
And so we turn to today's news, where headlines declare that "prominent European Jews worry war against antisemitism is lost."  The article notes:
In light of dozens of incidents in Belgium alone in recent weeks, Joel Rubinfeld, the president of the Belgian League Against Antisemitism, wrote that he doubts whether he will be able to continue living in the country with his wife and two children.

“I believed I could. Now I doubt I can,” Rubinfeld, a former leader of the CCOJB, the umbrella group of French-speaking Belgian Jews, wrote in an op-ed published Saturday in the Le Vif weekly.

Brigitte Wielheesen, a well-known journalist and counterterrorism expert from the Netherlands, wrote Thursday in an op-ed for the news site Jonet that after years of battling antisemitism, she has concluded that the activity has become useless. [emph mine]
At least in Europe they are slowly starting to see the truth.  Here in the US, we are even slower learners, unfortunately.

Friday, May 28, 2021

a humble leader

Our parsha tells us that a group of people who were tamei came to Moshe to ask that they too be given a chance to offer korban pesach (9:6).  Moshe responded: Imdu v'eshmi'ah mah yitzveh Hashem lachem -- Hashem will give you an answer.

Rashi comments: כתלמיד המובטח לשמוע דבר מפי רבו. אשרי ילוד אשה שכך מובטח, שכל זמן שהיה רוצה היה מדבר עמו שכינה.  The is tremendous praise of Moshe, who had no doubts that Hashem would not leave him hanging and would give him direction.  How fantastic it is for a person to be able to communicate with G-d whenever needed!  

Rashi then continues: ראויה היתה פרשה זו ליאמר על ידי משה כשאר כל התורה כולה, אלא שזכו אילו שתיאמר על ידם, שמגלגלין זכות על ידי זכאי.  By rights, Moshe should have just been told the halachos of pesach sheni and taught them to the people, like any other parsha.  However, the zechus of those who demanded the opportunity to bring the kroban caused the parsha to be taught through them.

Gur Aryeh explains how this second half of the Rashi follows from the first half: פירוש, אחר שהכתוב מדבר בכבודו של משה, אם כן יקשה למה לא נאמרה הפרשה על ידי משה. בשלמא אם אמרינן שאין הכתוב מדבר בכבודו, יש לנו לומר משום דאמר ״כל הדבר הקשה יביאו אלי״ (ר׳ דברים א, יז), והיה מתפאר בדבר הקשה, לכך נעלמה ממנו ההלכה הזאת, אבל השתא דבכבודו של משה מדבר, והכתוב בא לספר בכבודו בזאת המצוה, אם כן לא נענש בזאת המצוה, אם כן למה לא נאמר על ידו, ותירץ ׳וראויה וכו׳⁠

We find in the first perek of Devarim that because Moshe said וְהַדָּבָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִקְשֶׁ֣ה מִכֶּ֔ם תַּקְרִב֥וּן אֵלַ֖י וּשְׁמַעְתִּֽיו that he would be able to answer any problem thrown his way, he was punished and forgot the halachos of yerusha (Rashi there explains:  על דבר זה נסתלק ממנו משפט בנות צלפחד).  Our parsha, explains Maharal, is not like that.  Moshe did not forget the laws of pesach sheni, his not having the answer in this case is not a punishment.  On the contrary, as the first part of Rashi explains, Moshe is being shown in a positive light, as being able to consult G-d at any opportunity.  The only reason the laws of pesach sheni had not yet been revealed to him is because Hashem wanted that zechus to go to those who had made the request, as the second half of Rashi explains.

Gur Aryeh begs the question: why is it that the pasuk in Devarim of אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִקְשֶׁ֣ה מִכֶּ֔ם תַּקְרִב֥וּן אֵלַ֖י וּשְׁמַעְתִּֽיו is interpreted so negatively, but the similar statement here עִמְד֣וּ וְאֶשְׁמְעָ֔ה what Hashem will command is viewed as a positive?  Maybe here too, Moshe's not knowing is a punishment?

The Shinever in Divrei Yechezkel answers that the crucial difference between what Moshe said in P' Devarim and what he said here is one word.  In Devarim, Moshe is speaking about himself: תַּקְרִב֥וּן אֵלַ֖י וּשְׁמַעְתִּֽיו. I will get an answer from Hashem.  Here, Moshe is speaking about others:  מַה־יְצַוֶּ֥ה ה׳ לָכֶֽם - what Hashem will say in response to you.  

When a leader makes it all about himself, then he loses credibility and his voice.  When it's all about serving the people, then his own greatness is actually enhanced.  Moshe, as we see later in the parsha, is the greatest anav.  He did not claim credit for being able to approach Hashem for answers, but rather told the people that it in the merit of their request, their desire to bring a korban, Hashem would surely respond "lachem," to them.  A leader who thinks like that is a leader who can always approach Hashem for answers.

george jefferson vs george floyd

One of the many TV programs I remember from my childhood, which was filled with endless hours of TV programs, is The Jeffersons.  George Jefferson runs a successful dry cleaning business and is "moving on up" (the show's opening theme song).  He has left behind his old neighborhood and now lives in a Manhattan apartment, has a wise cracking maid named Florence, and is neighbors with an inter-racial couple.  The show poked fun at racial issues -- George refers to the children of his neighbor's as "zebras," he refers to his white neighbor as "honky."  Just watch this clip, which would never appear on TV these days:

I think George Jefferson was loved by both white America and black America.  The actor who plays George was honored by the NAACP.  The show ran for years and years.  George was a hero to us all.

George Floyd, on the other hand, was a petty criminal and thief who has been elevated to near sainthood status because he was killed in an altercation with police.  Even the Pope gave a statement l'kavod his yahrzeit this past week.  George Floyd was not a man "moving on up."  He is a man who once pointed a loaded gun at a pregnant women to demand money for drugs.  He is a man who probably would still be alive today had he simply cooperated with the police instead of resisting arrest, but that was not in the cards given the fact that he was on drugs and had a past arrest history.  Floyd's death inspired waves of rioting, looting, attacks on police, and vandalism.  That legacy lives on in cities like Portland and Minneapolis.  I am sure you have all seen the video of the reporter standing on what has become knows as George Floyd Square on the day of the yahrzeit as gun shots ring out in the background.  I do not admire George Floyd. 

The Jeffersons is not a program about a black man -- it is a program about every man.  It is the Shtisel of African American life.  What learn from The Jeffersons is that the life of a black family is just like the life of any other family.  George faces the same problems, has the same aspirations, shares the same struggles we all face.  The lesson of the show is that through hard work anyone can move up the ladder; through humor and understanding, we can get along.

The lesson the progressive youth of today and the BLM movement take from George Floyd's death is that America will never let you climb the ladder; that whites and the police are inherently racist; that there is more that divides us than unites us.  

It's a shame that it is the George Floyds who are the heroes of the current generation and not the real life George Jeffersons of the world.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Jane Austen meets the World of Shidduchim

My wife has become involved in making shidduchim (another couple she set up just got engaged this week), and she is planning on giving a series of webinars entitled Dating Dynamics from Jane Austen, talking about what you can learn about dating/marriage/shidduchim from the works of Jane Austen.  In case the title is not a give away as to how my wife thinks, do not expect this to be about the best pose for your shidduch resume picture.  No advanced prep is required, though she does recommend brushing up on Pride and Prejudice and Emma if you have time to read/watch them.   If you want some realistic advice on how to navigate the shidduch "market" and/or you are a fan of Jane Austen (my wife has a PhD in English Lit, so you may want to come just for the book discussion), check out her blog post and feel free to email her for more info (or email me and I will be happy to pass on the message). 

the election of the Leviim

Rashi comments on 8:19  וָאֶתְּנָ֨ה אֶת־הַלְוִיִּ֜ם נְתֻנִ֣ים׀ לְאַהֲרֹ֣ן וּלְבָנָ֗יו מִתּוֹךְ֮ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ לַעֲבֹ֞ד אֶת־עֲבֹדַ֤ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד וּלְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹ֨א יִהְיֶ֜ה בִּבְנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ נֶ֔גֶף בְּגֶ֥שֶׁת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־הַקֹּֽדֶשׁ that the 5 times Bnei Yisrael are mentioned in this pasuk correspond to the 5 books of chumash and indicate how praiseworthy Bnei Yisrael are.  

Meforshei Rashi all ask: this parsha is speaking about the election of the Leviim.  Why stick praises of Bnei Yisrael davka here, in this context?    

Sifsei Chachamim points out that Rashi interestingly learns that the words "lakachti osam li" a few pesukim earlier כִּי֩ נְתֻנִ֨ים נְתֻנִ֥ים הֵ֙מָּה֙ לִ֔י מִתּ֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל תַּ֩חַת֩ פִּטְרַ֨ת כׇּל־רֶ֜חֶם בְּכ֥וֹר כֹּל֙ מִבְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לָקַ֥חְתִּי אֹתָ֖ם לִֽי׃ is referring to the bechorim, not the Leviim.  Rashi writes כי לי כל בכור – שלי היו הבכורות בקיוא הדין, שהגנתי עליהם בין בכורי מצרים, ולקחתי אותם לי עד שטעו בעגל, ועכשיו: ואקח את הלוים וגו׳.  One might think mai d'hava hava and who cares about what the role of the bechorim had once been, but apparently rather than focus on the fact that the bechoim had lost their position, the Torah wants to stress the positive, the fact that they too had once been chosen and were special. 

There are two types of selection. Sometimes when we select something it's like borer ochel mtoch psoles, we take the good out and reject everything else as not valuable.  But there is also selection when we pick a yotzei min ha'klal that is melamed al ha'klal.  The choice of one prat, one item, one individual, is meant to be representative of the whole, not a rejection of the whole.   

The Sefas Emes and Gur Aryeh write that the selection of the Leviim is like the yotzei min ha'klal that is melamed al ha'klal.  Their role is  לַעֲבֹ֞ד אֶת־עֲבֹדַ֤ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד וּלְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל -- they are in effect the representatives of Klal Yisrael.  The representative of a bunch of losers is a loser; the representative of a bunch of nobodys is a nobody.  Therefore, the Torah davka here builds up the bechorim, builds up the rest of Klal Yisrael.  The message to the Leviim is that they better take their job seriously and appreciate who they represent, because it takes a winner to represent winners (see Gur Aryeh).  

The Sefas Emes looks at the other side of the coin and writes that the Torah praises Klal Yisrael to give them the message that they should not feel rejected, that they too are valuable and special even though it is the Leviim who are doing the work.  Chazal are critical of Yaakov Avinu for singling out Yosef and giving him special attention, causing the other brothers to feel rejected and hurt.  It is this type of division that ultimately let to churban ha'bayis.  Here, the Mishkan is being setup, it is a time of chanukas ha'bayis and chanukas ha'avodah, so it has to be done right, so that if one group is given a privilige, it does not come at the pain and expense of another.   קַ֚ח אֶת־הַלְוִיִּ֔ם מִתּ֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל means that whatever special quality the Leviim have, it is just an expression of what is found מִתּ֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל, within the nation as a whole.   

At age 50 the time the Leviim serve carrying things draws to a close.

וּמִבֶּן֙ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה יָשׁ֖וּב מִצְּבָ֣א הָעֲבֹדָ֑ה וְלֹ֥א יַעֲבֹ֖ד עֽוֹד׃ (8:25)

Rashi comments  לא יעבד עוד – עבודת משא בכתף, אבל חוזר הוא לנעילת שערים ולשיר ולטעון עגלות

Why does Rashi say that the levi returns to the job of נעילת שערים, locking the gates?  The gates had to be opened in the morning too, so why not say that the levi returned to the job of opening the gates?  

I think once before I posted that the idea of neilas ha'chag means to lock up (like in parshas Zos haBracha,  בַּרְזֶ֥ל וּנְחֹ֖שֶׁת מִנְעָלֶ֑ךָ, miNAALecha = a lock) the gains made over the chag and not let them go to waste as we return to normal day to day life.  So too, explains the Sefas Emes, when the levi has reached the ripe old age where he retires from having to shlep things, he needs to take more time to reflect on what he accomplished over his lifetime and lock in some of the spiritual gains he has made over the years.

We read in Shir haShirim (7:2) מַה־יָּפ֧וּ פְעָמַ֛יִךְ בַּנְּעָלִ֖ים בַּת־נָדִ֑יב.  Simple pshat in the pasuk is that it is speaking about the beauty of the feet of the beloved, with their perfectly fitted shoes, but you remember how the Torah describes (Braishis 33:8) Pharoah's state of excitement when he woke up from his dreams -- תִּפָּ֣עֶם רוּח֔וֹ.  Here too, the Ch haRI"M explained מַה־יָּפ֧וּ פְעָמַ֛יִךְ, how wonderful it is when a Jew gets excited by his avodas Hashem, by his learning, when there is a תִּפָּ֣עֶם רוּח֔וֹ for ruchniyus!  But as great as that is, a Jew also has to have בַּנְּעָלִ֖ים, there has to be a lock on the door.  You have to know how to channel and contain that enthusiasm and emotion into the right things and not let it escape and lead you elsewhere.

On a totally different note, turning to the end of the parsha, the Torah tells us that Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe.  Rashi comments: ותדבר מרים ואהרן – היא פתחה בדבר תחילה, לפיכך הקדימה הכתוב.  It sounds like Rashi is coming to explain why Miriam is mentioned before Aharon in the pasuk.  I don't understand what's bothering Rashi here.  Shouldn't Miriam be mentioned first because she is the eldest of the three siblings?  (see Tosfos Bechoros 4a)  

I don't have an answer yet.

Friday, May 21, 2021

aveirah lishma

 Noam Elimelech, end of this week's parsha:

וענין עבירה לשמה הוא כך, כמו אצל שאול דכתיב וירב בנחל, ודרשו שרב על עסקי נחל, אם על נפש אחת כו׳ בהמה מה חטאה, והיה נראה לו זה שיהרוג הבהמות של עמלק עבירה גדולה, אבל אם היה יכול לעשות עבירה לשמה היה עושה, והורג את הבהמות ג"כ כיון שצוה המקום ב"ה, מה לך שנראה לך עבירה, יהיה עבירה לשמה

"Aveirah lishma" means that when your own sense of morality contradicts what the Torah commands, do what is an aveira in your mind lshem shamayim, to fulfill what Hashem wants.

Shaul thought it was wrong to wipe out Amalek, and davka because he was so righteous, he could not bring himself to violate his own sense of morality and so he failed to carry out the mitzvah.

blissful slumber

Now that there is a ceasefire in place, I think we need to reflect on what we accomplished this past week:

Those massive rallies in the streets of NY, co-sponsored by every major Jewish organization, where thousands came to stand with Israel...  oh wait, I'm sorry, that was just a dream.

The civil disobedience where the FDR was closed to traffic as we marched in protest, just like the BLM rallies....  oh, sorry, that didn't happen either.

The night that we shut down the Capitol phone banks as thousands of us called at once to demand that our Representatives support Israel (I mean, even if you don't have time to attend a protest, how long does it take to make a call)...  wait a second, sorry, that too did not occur.

But we all had a great Shavuos with cheesecake and blintzes, didn't we? 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

high maintenance

I found this same idea echoed by both R' Baruch Sorotzkin and R' Dov Povarski: at mattan Torah the Jewish nation in its entirety experienced prophecy; we heard the dvar Hashem directly.  What could be greater than that!  But Chazal (Mid Tanchuma) tell us that mattan Torah was only eirusin; hakamas hamishkan was even greater -- it was the nesuin, a time when we came closest to Hashem.  "Byom kalos Moshe l'hakim es ha'mishkan" -- Rashi darshens "kalos" as related to the word kallah.  When the mishkan was completed, Klal Yisrael was like a kallah under the chuppah. 

How can the experience of completing the mishkan top mattan Torah?   

Rav Sorotzkin writes that he is always amazed that despite people staying up all night on Shavuos and devoting themselves to learning with such intensity, the feeling doesn't last.  The chassidishe seforim writes that right after Shavuos we have parshas Naso, the longest parsha, the parsha with the most midrashim, the most Zohar, because we exit Shavuos with a bang, with an intensity of focus on Torah that expresses itself in this massive outpouring.  But things don't remain that way.  The parshiyos will come down in length, things revert to the mean.  So too in life, things revert all too soon to the old routine, and oftentimes there is even a slacking off after the chag.  Why does the high of mattan Torah prove so short lived?  

The answer to both questions is that the feelings you have when dating, or during engagement, when you see your kallah once a week or once every few days, may seem so intense that you think nothing can top them, but those feelings ultimately will wane.  It takes the permanence of marriage, the day in and day out of living with someone over time, to really cement a relationship.  The high of mattan Torah is transitory; it takes incorporating it into a home, a mishkan, to make something that endures.  The building of the mishkan, a permanent home trumps the high of the moment of mattan Torah.

Ramban asks why is it that the nazir has to bring a korban chatas after he finishes his nezirus.  What's the cheit -- the nazir successfully completed his term!?

 וטעם החטאת שיקריב הנזיר ביום מלאת ימי נזרו לא נתפרש. ועל דרך הפשט: כי האיש הזה חוטא נפשו במלאת הנזירות, כי הוא עתה נזור מקדושתו ועבודת השם, וראוי היה לו שיזיר לעולם ויעמוד כל ימיו נזיר וקדוש לאלהיו, כענין שכתוב: ואקים מבניכם לנביאים ומבחוריכם לנזירים (עמוס ב׳:י״א) – השוה אותו הכתוב לנביא. וכדכתיב: כל ימי נזרו קדוש הוא לי״י (במדבר ו׳:ח׳), והנה הוא צריך כפרה בשובו להטמא בתאוות העולם.

Ramban answers that the cheit is in not maintaining that level.  A one time spiritual high, no matter how great, that is transient and does not get incorporated into one's regular routine, is like the kallah that has a wonderful engagement but never makes it to the chuppah to build the bayis neeman around those feelings.

Meshech Chochma has a wonderful observation: this korbanos of chatas, olah, and shelamim that the nazir offers is exactly the  korbanos (albeit different amounts and animals) that the nesiim brought during chanukas ha'mishkan.  

 ולכן קרבנותיו המה קרבנות הנשיאים בחנוך המזבח, שלב נשבר הוא טוב מכל הקרבנות, כדאמר סנהדרין מ״ג, והנזירות הוא חנוך לשבירת הרוח והלב המתאוה, לכן מביא קרבנות חנוך

Nezirus is the training period; it has to be followed by a life lived that incorporates the ideals that were learned.   The nazir needs a "chanukas ha'mishkan" to give that new level of kedusha a permanent home so it remains more than just a fleeting experience.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

outside the pale

I recently heard an interview with the great Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi and she spoke about the outpouring of sympathy and help from across all segments of society in response to the tragedy in Meron.  Two chiloni Jews came to be menachem aveil by a chareidi family and they asked her what the right words to say -- they didn't know the words "haMakom yenachem...," and they wanted to say the right thing.  This is nosei b'ol im chaveiro.  When a Jew is in pain, it doesn't matter what his/her hashkafa is, what his/her level of shmiras hamitzvos is -- we all suffer as one and we can all, no matter what our hashkafa or level of shmiras hmitzvos, offer comfort to those in need.

Whether or not you think people shouldn't have gone to Meron in the first place, whether or not whoever was managing things there should shoulder blame or whether the police did a bad job and are responsible for letting things get out of hand -- that is not the discussion for beis ha'aveil or for the time when people are in pain.  The fault finding and investigation can take place later.  Now, we just need to be there and offer our support.

The same is true during the current crisis in Eretz Yisrael.  No matter what your hashkafa is, no matter what shul or group you affiliate with, no matter what you think of the current or government of Israel, now is the time to step up and offer whatever chizuk you can to those in Eretz Yisrael.

What makes the "progressive" movements in Judaism no more than JINO's (Jews in Name Only) is not the fact that they discard basic mitzvos like shabbos and kashrus, not the fact that they condone intermarriage, not even the fact that their concept of G-d is kind of fuzzy and their notion of Torah min ha'shamayim is not at all in sync with ours.  What makes them chutz la'machaneh more than any of the above is that they lack this trait of being nosei b'ol and empathizing with the plight of the rest of Klal Yisrael.  

As the Rambam writes in Hil Teshuvah ch 3:

הפורש מדרכי צבור אף על פי שלא עבר עבירות אלא נבדל מעדת ישראל... ולא נכנס בצרתן ולא מתענה בתעניתן אלא הולך בדרכו כאחד מגויי הארץ וכאילו אינו מהן אין לו חלק לעולם הבא

If you go at the OU website, you are immediately hit with a big banner that says "Support Our Communities in Israel."  If you go to, you will see a "Response to Events in Eretz Yisrael."  There are hosts of other organizations also mounting campaigns to help.  On the other hand, if you go to, you will be greeted by "The Reform Movement's Racial Justice Campaign."  Nothing about Israel, nothing about our communities being attacked. Recently the news reported that over ninety "rabbinical" students from these progressive movements "issued a public letter accusing Israel of apartheid and calling on American Jewish communities to hold Israel accountable for the “violent suppression of human rights.”"  Instead of offering comfort and support to innocent Jews who have rockets raining on their heads day and night, they chose now to voice their criticisms of Israel's policies.  Even if every criticism they say were to be true (which is undoubtedly not the case), is now the time for such a letter?  Where is the nosei b'ol?  Where is the humanity and decency?

standing tall

Last daf of Moed Katan (translation from Sefaria):

וַהֲלֹא דְּבָרִים קַל וָחוֹמֶר וּמָה אַחְאָב מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂה אֶלָּא דָּבָר אֶחָד טוֹב דִּכְתִיב וְהַמֶּלֶךְ הָיָה מׇעֳמָד בַּמֶּרְכָּבָה נֹכַח אֲרָם כָּךְ בָּנָיו שֶׁל רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה

If, with regard to Ahab, king of Israel, who did only one good thing that is explicitly mentioned in the Bible, as it is written: “And the king was propped up in his chariot facing Aram” (I Kings 22:35), as he did not want the Jewish people to see that he was mortally wounded and flee, and this, that he was greatly mourned, was nevertheless stated about him, then all the more so will the sons of Rabbi Yishmael be greatly mourned.

Achav was a big time oveid avodah zarah, one of the three kings the Mishna in Sanhedrin singles out as not deserving of olam ha'ba.  The navi tells us that Acahv did more bad than anyone that had ever lived before him (Melachim I 16:30).  When that's your legacy as recorded in Tanach, it's pretty bad.

Despite all this, Achav was rewarded by Hashem with a tremendous hesped when he died because when the nation went to battle against Aram, he stood tall in his chariot even though mortally wounded so that the people would not see the king fall and lose their courage.  

Netanyahu is certainly no Achav nor is any other member of of the Israeli government.  So if Hashem gives even Achav credit for standing tall in battle and showing what Jewish courage is, kal v'chomer our current leaders deserve our support for standing tall against Hamas, for not cowering when they face hostile reporters, for showing pride when they speak before the UN or to other governments, for not backing down even when they are attacked with the most vile and vicious lies and accusations.  Because they hold their heads held high, uncowed and unapologetic for doing what's right, we can all hold our heads a little bit higher.  Because the citizens of Israel stand strong and show courage, every one of us feels a little prouder. We've been missing that for close to 2000 years.  

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Rav Yosef - Sinai

Rav Yosef said, "If not for this day [of Shavuos] I would be like any other Yosef in the marketplace."

Last year we discussed the Ramban, who learns from the pasuk of "pen tishkach es ha'devarim asher ra'u einecha" that there is a lav of forgetting maamad Har Sinaui.  The Mishna in Avos uses that same pasuk to derive that there is a lav of forgetting Torah.  How does Ramban learn the Mishna?

Achronim answer that if a person learns Torah with the understanding that this is the dvar Hashem given at Sinai, then that learning will stick with him.  Forgetting Torah comes from learning without that appreciation and awareness.  The lav of forgetting Torah stems from forgetting about maamad Har Sinai.

The gemara at the end of Horiyos contrasts Rabbah, who was a tremendous mechadesh, with Rav Yosef, who the gemara calls Sinai, because he remembered all the braysos and Torah shebaal peh that he studied.

The Tiferes Shlomo explains that this is what Rav Yosef meant: If not for his constant awareness of this day of maamad Har Sinai, he would not appreciate and retain Torah the way he did, and he would be like any other Yosef in the marketplace.

to infinity and beyond

Yoma 32b:

מר רבי שמואל בר נחמני ר' יונתן רמי כתיב והיה מספר בני ישראל כחול הים וכתיב אשר לא ימד ולא יספר לא קשיא כאן בזמן שישראל עושין רצונו של מקום כאן בזמן שאין עושין רצונו של מקום 

There is no stira between the pasuk that Klal Yisrael is too numerous to count and the statement that we have a finite number, like sand on the beach.  When we follow "retzono shel Makom" we are so great there is no way to count us; when we are not doing "retzono shel Makom" we are merely like sand on the beach.

Shem m'Shmuel (end of Mishpatim) asks: when Bnei Yisrael do not follow when Hashem wants, the Torah says וְנִשְׁאַרְתֶּם֙ מְתֵ֣י מִסְפָּ֔ר בַּגּוֹיִ֕ם (Devarim 4:27), we will be very small in number, which implies we will certainly not be as numerous as the sand on the beach!   What does the gemara mean?

A person can follow the dvar Hashem because it makes sense to him and it fits with his worldview; he can follow the dvar Hashem because that is how he was raised; he can follow the dvar Hashem because that is the socially acceptable thing to do in his community.  In all of these cases, the person is doing the right thing, but it's not retzono shel Makom -- it's his ratzon, it's his parent's ratzon, it's his community's ratzon.  If this is where Klal Yisrael is holding, then we don't get the punishment of being מְתֵ֣י מִסְפָּ֔ר בַּגּוֹיִ֕ם, which is talking about evildoers, but our growth is limited to a finite number, just like our behavior is limited by the finite constraints of what our mind, our upbringing, our community imposes upon us.

When a person surrenders to doing what Hashem's ratzon is simply because that is what Hashem wants and for not other reason, then he is in touch with infinity.  That is the bracha of אשר לא ימד ולא יספר

Friday, May 14, 2021

Anochi Hashem Elokecha -- Anochi Anochi hu menachemchem

 Sefas Emes (5650) quotes the Pesikta that links "Anochi Hashem Elokecha" to "Anochi anochi hu minachemchem" (the haftarah for parshas Shoftim):

בפסיקתא ארשב"י אין אנכי אלא לשון ניחומים אנכי אנכי כו' מנחמכם. לולי תורתך שעשועי כו'. ע"ש. כי הנה בתחילת ירידה למצרים כתיב אנכי ארד עמך כו' ואנכי אעלך. וגם משה רבינו ע"ה שאל מי אנכי והשיב לו הקב"ה זה לך האות כי אנכי שלחתיך כו' תעבדון את האלקים על ההר הזה. וע"ז נאמר אנכי ה' אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך. פי' זה האלקות שנתן השי"ת בבנ"י זה הי' לנו למושיע ויהי' לנו למושיע בכל הצרות. כי מצרים שם כולל על כל מיצר. וכ"כ עמו אנכי בצרה. ועתה אין לנו שיור רק התורה הזאת.

The answer to Moshe's question of "Mi anochi?...," how can a geulah come, is "taavdun es ha'Elokim al ha'har ha'zeh," it comes through accepting "Anochi Hashem Elokecha..." of mattan Torah.  

Sefas Emes elsewhere (5660) explains that mattan Torah had the potential to be the moment of complete geulah, but things did not work out that way.  The kabbalas haTorah of "Anochi Hashem Elokecha..." that was supposed to be awaits being realized through the ultimate redemption promised through the "Anochi... menachemchem."

The piece from 5650 ends as follows:

ובאמת הפי' שאין לך בן חורין כו' הוא מיוחד לבנ"י שכן ניתן להם בקבלת התורה שלא יהי' לנו עזר ומושיע וגאולה בשום כח אחר רק בכח התורה. וכפי מה שבנ"י מאמינים מזה ואין סומכין על שום הצלה רק בכח התורה אז החירות בא בכח התורה. וז"ש אנכי כו' אשר הוצאתיך שאין לנו גואל אלא ה' אחד. וכ"כ ואנכי ה"א מארץ מצרים ואלהי' זולתי לא תדע. 

The yeshua of Klal Yisrael can come only through Torah.  The greater our belief in that fact, the greater the redemption we will merit.

No, learning a blatt gemara without Iron Dome is not going to stop the rockets pouring out of Gaza.  

But the Iron Dome without belief that the blatt gemara beings yeshua is not going to stop the rockets either.  

Rashi comments on Anochi Hashem Elokecha:

דבר אחר לפי שנגלה בים כגבור מלחמה, ונגלה כאן כזקן מלא רחמים, שנאמר (שמות כד י) ויראו את אלוהי ישראל ותחת רגליו כמעשה לבנת הספיר, זו היתה לפניו בשעת השעבוד, (שם) וכעצם השמים, משנגאלו, הואיל ואני משתנה במראות אל תאמרו שתי רשויות הן, אנכי הוא אשר הוצאתיך ממצרים ועל הים.

Hashem can appear to be a warrior, Hashem can appear as a loving grandpa.  The chiddush of mattan Torah (again, see Sefas Emes 5663) is that Hashem is Elokecha, our G-d -- the way his presence is manifest in the world is a direct response to our behavior and belief.  It's up to us to believe that Torah can bring us yeshua and geulah for it to actually happen, for the "Anochi Hashem..." to be the "anochi anochi menachemchem..."

We read the story of Rus on Shavuos that talks about Elimelech leaving Eretz Yisrael in a time of crisis, a time of famine, and thanks to his journey Rus came to be megayeir and her lineage leads to David and Moshiach.  Wow, Elimelech deserves a medal!  Even if that was not his intent, look at what came out of his actions.  But that's not how Chazal view it.  Elimelech is considered a sinner, not a hero, because whatever he accomplished by going out to the land of Moav could have been accomplished in Eretz Yisrael through the koach of kabbalas haTorah:

. ונראה שלכן נחשב אל אלימלך לחטא מה שהלך לחוץ לארץ הגם שנבנה מזה מלכות בית דוד ומלך המשיח. אך שהי' צריך לתקן כל זה ע"י התורה ולא ע"י הליכה בגלות ואז הי' התיקון בשלימות יותר

The Ohr haChaim writes that had we been zoche and not have gone into galus, all those geirim that we have picked up along the way in our wanderings in exile over the centuries would have come to us, to Eretz Yisrael, attracted by the gadlus of Torah.  Rus has a happy ending in spite of Elimelech's shortcoming, not because if it.

I could pound the message in more, but enough.  Enjoy the cheesecake.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

the shalom zachor before the bris of mattan Torah

Sefas Emes writes that the shabbos before mattan Torah is a preparation for chag haShavuos.  In Dayeinu, before we get to "ilu keirvanu lifnei Har Sinai" we talk about "ilu nasan lanu es ha'Shabbos."  One is a prelude to the other.  Just like when a baby is born you have a shalom zachor and the baby needs to go through a shabbos before the bris, so too, this shabbos is our shalom zachor before we enter the bris of mattan Torah.

וַיִּסְע֣וּ מֵרְפִידִ֗ים וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ מִדְבַּ֣ר סִינַ֔י וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ (Shmos 19:2) Rashi comments:  אלא להקיש נסיעתן מרפידים לביאתן למדבר סיני, מה ביאתן למדבר סיני בתשובה, אף נסיעתן מרפידים בתשובה.

Why does Klal Yisrael need teshuvah when they come to Sinai if they already did teshuvah when they left Refidim?

The Shem m'Shmuel explains there is teshuvah that comes when you realize how bad things are and you need to escape, and then there is teshuvah that comes when things are so good that you ask youself with regret what took you so long to get there.  

Chasidim haRishonim, the gemara says, would prepare for davening for an hour, then daven for an hour, then take another hour before moving on.  After you've davened for an hour, whatever preparations you made beforehand, whatever thoughts you had going into davening, suddenly seem so insufficient and paltry then you need another hour to reassess and reflect.  

The teshuvah that happened when leaving Refidim to get to Sinai is not the same teshuvah as what took place after getting to Sinai.  The escape from what once was, leaving Refidim, is not the same as the re-assessment that takes place once you come close to Sinai, to mattan Torah, and realize just what that means.  

Ramban points out that the word used for counting in our parsha,שְׂא֗וּ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֙ , can mean two very different things.  It can mean to lift up a person's head and give them confidence, or it can mean a person's head is literally on the chopping block: 

והלשון שכתב רבינו שלמה: כמו שאומרים לקוסטינר ארים רישיה דפלן, לא נתברר לי למה דרשו אותו לגנאי, אם מפני שמתו במדבר, ובמטה לוי נאמר: פקוד (במדבר ג׳:ט״ו), לפי שלא היו בכלל גזרה, והלא במנין שני של באי הארץ נאמר כן: שאו את ראש כל עדת בני ישראל (במדבר כ״ו:ב׳). אבל בהגדה של ויקרא רבה דורש לשבח: אין שאו אלא לשון גדולה, כמה דכתיב: ישא פרעה את ראשך והשיבך על כנך (בראשית מ׳:י״ג). אמר הקב״ה לישראל: נתתי לכם תלוי ראש, ודמיתי אתכם לי, כשם שיש לי תלוי ראש על כל באי עולם, שנאמר: לך י״י הממלכה והמתנשא לכל לראש (דברי הימים א כ״ט:י״א), אף לכם עשיתי תלוי ראש, שנאמר: שאו את ראש כל עדת בני ישראל, לקיים מה שנאמר: וירם קרן לעמו (תהלים קמ״ח:י״ד). וכן הוא אומר: ונתנך י״י אלהיך עליון על כל גויי הארץ (דברים כ״ח:א׳).

R' Shimon Sofer writes that there is no contradiction.  When a person is raised up to new heights, it is a mechayeiv -- a person has to grow and carry more responsibility.  Hashem holds those close to him to even greater account than those who are far away.  

The teshuvah of Refidim sufficed before you got to Sinai, but now that you got there, now that you are lifted up by the place and the moment, that much more is required and expected.

double standards

From Brendan O'Neill's excellent column:

Two weeks ago Turkish forces launched a military assault in the Duhok region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Villagers were forced to ‘flee in terror’ from raining bombs. It was only the latest bombardment of the beleaguered Kurds by Turkey, NATO member and Western ally. It did not trend online. There were no noisy protests in London or New York. The Turks weren’t talked about in woke circles as crazed, bloodthirsty killers. Tweeters didn’t dream out loud about Turks burning in hell. The Onion didn’t do any close-to-the-bone satire about how Turkish soldiers just love killing children. No, the Duhok attack passed pretty much without comment.

But when Israel engages in military action, that’s a different story. Always. Every time. Anti-Israel fury in the West has intensified to an extraordinary degree following an escalation of violence in the Middle East in recent days. Protests were instant and inflammatory. Israeli flags were burned on the streets of London. Social media was awash with condemnation. ‘IDF Soldier Recounts Harrowing, Heroic War Story Of Killing 8-Month-Old Child’, tweeted The Onion, to tens of thousands of likes. Israel must be boycotted, isolated, cast out of the international community, leftists cried. Western politicians, including Keir Starmer, rushed to pass judgement. ‘What’s the difference?’, said a placard at a march in Washington, DC showing the Israeli flag next to the Nazi flag. The Jews are the Nazis now, you see. Ironic, isn’t it?

This is the question anti-Israel campaigners have never been able to answer: why do they treat Israel so differently to every other nation on Earth? Why is it child-killing bloodlust when Israel takes military action but not when Turkey or India do? Why must we rush to the streets to set light to the Israel flag but never the Saudi flag, despite Saudi Arabia’s unconscionable war on Yemen? Why is it only ‘wrong’ or at worst ‘horrific’ when Britain or America drop bombs in the Middle East but Nazism when Israel fires missiles into Gaza? Why do you merely oppose the military action of some states but you hate Israel, viscerally, publicly, loudly?

Answer is simple: they hate Jews.  Rationalizing it is a waste of time. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

כְּ֜צִפּ֗וֹר בּוֹדֵ֥ד עַל גָּֽג

שָׁקַ֥דְתִּי וָאֶהְיֶ֑ה כְּ֝צִפּ֗וֹר בּוֹדֵ֥ד עַל־גָּֽג (Teh 102:8)

The Yalkut writes:

א״ר אלכסנדראי אמר הקב״ה שקדתי להכניס בני לארץ ישראל מיד ואהיה כצפור בודד, מה צפור זה מתבודד מגג לגג מגדר לגדר מאילן לאילן משובך לשובך, כך כשיצאו ישראל ממצרים היו נוסעים במחלוקת וחונים במחלוקת שנאמר ויסעו ויחנו, וכיון שבאו לסיני נעשו הומניא אחת, ויחנו אין כתיב כאן אלא ויחן שם ישראל, באותה שעה אמר הקב״ה הרי שעה שאתן תורה לבני.

Hashem wanted to bring Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael right away, but when we left Egypt we could not get along and each encampment was marred with machlokes.  Finally, when we reached Sinai we came together as one.

It's an amazing Yalkut -- mattan Torah is presented not as the end goal, but as a necessary stop on the road to Eretz Yisrael.  Without mattan Torah there cannot be Jewish unity and without Jewish unity we cannot build a country.  

I cannot think of a more appropriate or timely idea to walk into Shavuos with.

a different world

What a different world live in from when we had a President who in no uncertain terms acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, who did not use loaded terms like "occupied territory," who withheld funds from the Palestinians because they acted in bad faith and sponsored terrorism.  

The Palestinians have wasted no time in putting the millions Biden has given them to "good" use, as will Iran once he unfreezes a billion dollars of their assets as a gesture of "good will" (i.e. giving away something for nothing).  

At least the leftists are consistent.   This "peaceful protest" on Har haBayis 

is just like this "peaceful protest" that took place in Portland:

We survived Carter and Obama, ymach shemam, and we will get through this.  

Friday, May 07, 2021

kedushas peiros sheviis

There is a din by sheviis that if a person sells peiros sheviis, the kedusha transfers to the money and the money has to be used to buy food and eat that food with kedushas sheviis. Pnei Yehoshua has an interesting chakira that I have to preface with a story.  A long time ago when my kids were little we went to the Brooklyn Children's Museum (a wonderful place) either on chol hamoed Sukkos or around that time.  The BCM is located right near Crown Heights, home of Chabad, and that afternoon the museum had a little talk given by a chossid who came to tell the kids about esrogim.  So this Lubavitcher chossid stands up in front of an auditorium filled with kids of all colors and races, takes out an esrog, and asks who can guess how much it costs.  One young non-Jewish boy started off the guessing at something like 79 cents.  Was he in for a surprise!  But the truth is that if it wasn't sukkos, you wouldn't spend more than 79 cents for an esrog, if that much.  The Pnei Yehoshua asks: if you spend $100 on an esrog which is peiros sheviis, does $100 have kedushas sheviis, or does only $.79 have kedushas sheviis, because that is the value of the fruit if not for the mitzvah-value inflating the price?

The gemara (Sukkah 39) writes that during shemita year one cannot buy an esrog because the $ given to the am ha'artz farmer would have kedushas sheviis and one cannot give more than the value of 3 meals of kedushas sheviis $ to an am ha'aretz (see Rashi and Tos as to why).  Tos on the spot quotes other gemaras that indicate that an esrog is not worth so much $, certainly not more than the value of 3 meals, so what is the gemara talking about?  Answers Tos that those other gemaras are the $.79 esrogim you buy all year, but on sukkos, everybody knows you pay a premium for the mitzvah:

התם באתרוג פסול דלא בעי ליה אלא לאכילה אבל הכא כשר והדר לברכה דמיו יקרים:

You see from Tos that the entire value of the esrog on sukkos gets the status of kedushas sheviis, not just the $.79

It could be what's driving the PnY's chakira is not simply whether you measure value based on a one time a year price or the normal price, but more fundamentally whether kedushas sheviis is transfer of the value of the fruit, or whether it is the inverse, if you will, of the mitzvas achilas peiros sheviis.  In other words, since you failed to eat the peiros sheviis, you "owe" that makeup value.  If the latter is true, then the value of an esrog is simply its value as an edible commodity, not its true market value.

saying thanks for what we have so far

 בֹּ֤אוּ שְׁעָרָ֨יו׀ בְּתוֹדָ֗ה חֲצֵרֹתָ֥יו בִּתְהִלָּ֑ה הוֹדוּ־ל֝֗וֹ בָּרְכ֥וּ שְׁמֽוֹ׃

Yom Yerushalayim will soon be upon us, but you wouldn't know it from the Jewish calendar I have at home sent out by a certain organization because the date is not marked at all.  I guess having access to the kosel, having Yerushalayim reunified under Jewish sovereignty derech nes, which is what our victory in the Six Day War was by any and all historical accounts, is not as important as some rebbe's birthday or yahrzeit, which does make it to the calendar.  Go figure.   

"Cherev lo yaavor b'artzechem," says the Chasam Sofer, means that Eretz Yisrael is holier even that Gan Eden, which needs the "lahat ha'cherev ha'mishapeches" to keep out those who don't belong there.  Kal v'chomer the kedusha of Yerushalayim is even greater.  True, we are not at that level yet, but af al pi kein...   

The Malbi"m explains that normally when a person comes before the king, his boss, whoever is in charge, he presents his requests, his demands, his wish list, and only afterwards on the way out he says thank you for what might have been granted.  When we come to Hashem, it's בֹּ֤אוּ שְׁעָרָ֨יו׀ בְּתוֹדָ֗ה , right when we come to the shaar, the gate, right as soon as we step into the doorway, we have to say thank you because he already has granted more than we can ask for or deserve.  Mi hikdimani va'ashalem -- the rewards come even before we earn it.

בֹּ֤אוּ שְׁעָרָ֨יו׀ בְּתוֹדָ֗ה -- we are only on the threshold of something even greater, of complete redemption.  We have only stepped into the doorway.  And yet, does it not behoove us to thank Hashem for what he has given us so far?  

Is perhaps that appreciation the means by which we will ultimately merit חֲצֵרֹתָ֥יו בִּתְהִלָּ֑ה?

Thursday, May 06, 2021

mah inyan naaseh v'nishma to the farmer observing shemita?

Barchu Hashem malachav giborei koach osei devaro lishoma kol d'varo (Teh 103:20).  The angels are described as serving G-d through their actions simply for the privilige of hearing what Hashem says, for no other reward (Metzudas David, Ibn Ezra).   

Chazal focus on the fact that the angels put action before hearing/understanding, and apply the pasuk to Klal Yisrael's acceptance of the Torah by saying naaseh v'nishma:

 א״ר ישמעאל בשעה שהקדימו ישראל נעשה לנשמע יצאה בת קול ואמרה להם בני מי גלה לכם רז זה שמלאכי השרת משתמשים בו דכתיב ברכו ה׳ מלאכיו גבורי כח עושי דברו וגו׳, ברישא עושי והדר לשמוע.

Yet Chazal also darshen then same pasuk as referring to the farmers who are giborei koach and manage to keep shemita for a whole year:

רבי יצחק נפחא אמר אלו שומרי שביעית, בנוכהג שבעולם אדם עושה מצוה ליום אחד לשבת אחד לחדש אחד שמא (לשאר) [לכל] ימות השנה ודין חמי חקליה ביירא כרמיה ביירא ושתיק יש לך גבור חיל גדול מזה. נאמר כאן עושי דברו ונאמר להלן וזה דבר השמטה מה להלן שביעית אף כאן שביעית, ושנו רבותינו אי זהו גבור הכובש את יצרו, 

Mah inyan shemita eitzel har Sinai?  So which is it -- are talking about naaseh v'nishma or about farmers?  

Sefas Emes (5646) explains that the machlokes we discussed last week (Brachos 35) between R"Y and Rashb"Y --  R"Y holds a person has to plant when its time to plant, plow when its time to plow, harvest when its time to harvest, but Rashb"Y said if you do that, what becomes of talmud Torah? -- is only a question after the cheit of Adam haRishon.  Everyone agrees that the ideal situation, the kodem ha'cheit, the kodem "b'ze'as apech tocham lechem," is only Torah.  

When Klal Yisrael stood at Sinai, they were like malachim, like Adam before the cheit.  No misa, no need for food -- lo nitna Torah elah l'ochlei ha'mon, the food of malachim -- totally focused on the one goal of fulfilling ratzon Hashem.

That situation did not last, but there is a m'ein that survived.  Once a week we put down the shovel and the plow, we put away our iphone and computer, and we come back to that level of Torah only, like we were when we stood at Sinai like angels.  We become like the ochlei ha'mon, but in this case it's ochlei cholent.  

The farmer goes a step further.  He puts everything aside not just for a day, or a month, but for an entire year he lives without "b'ze'as apecha,like Adam before the cheit  "V'tzivisi es birchasi..." we all know the vort from R' Zusha, that it's only those who ask "mah nochal" who need the "tzivisi," but otherwise during shemita the farmers is sustained derech nes, ochel min ha'shamayim, just like the ochlei ha'mon.

Eilu v'eilu, the pasuk "osei devaro..." is talking about maamad Har Sinai and also about observing shemita because they are one and the same idea.  Shemita is a return (the "v'shavtem... el achuzaso" of yoveil is the same return to one's shoresh), albeit temporarily, to that ideal achieved at Sinai, of life as it was in Eden.

healthy risk?

Last weekend there was an event run by Renewal in our neighborhood.  This is an organization devoted to encouraging people to donate kidneys to those who are in need of them.  Sounds like a good cause, and it is supported by many Rabbis in the neighborhood.  But here is what I don't understand.  Kidney donation is a RELATIVELY low risk operation -- but low risk does not mean no risk.  The odds of death are about .07%, the odds of other complications from the surgery greater.  Your seichel should tell you that walking into a hospital for an operation is not the same as a walk in the park.  So how is it that this risk is an acceptable one for a person to even voluntarily enter into, but we had to close down every yeshiva and every shul last year, not even allowing young healthy people to come together to daven, and even ad ha'yom ha'zeh I can tell you there are shuls in our neighborhood still holding minyanim outside in tents with young people wearing masks and still sitting 6 feet apart?  If you want to argue that in the former case there are dire, serious consequences if someone does not get that kidney that they need, are there not also serious consequences to closing down shuls and yeshivos?   Do we need the NY Times to tell us about the devastating effects lockdowns have had on school children (which was pashut l'kol bar bei Rav m'ikara and useless to bemoan after the fact)?  Is the fact that we have to have campaigns to come up with ways to entice people to return to shul not enough proof of the damage done to the communal religious structure in many communities?  Is the chiluk the % of risk?  If so, as I've asked before, where exactly do you draw the line and what is the makor?   What makes taking a .07% chance of death halachically OK, but some higher point-something-or-other not?  The only standard I've seen is "follow the doctors," which means follow the doctors we (whoever "we" is) think are authoritative as opposed to the ones you do.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

still a ways to go

Towards the end of the tochacha (26:41) the Torah says that Bnei Yisrael will say viduy on what they did wrong:

וְהִתְוַדּ֤וּ אֶת־עֲוֺנָם֙ וְאֶת־עֲוֺ֣ן אֲבֹתָ֔ם בְּמַעֲלָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר מָֽעֲלוּ־בִ֑י וְאַ֕ף אֲשֶׁר־הָֽלְכ֥וּ עִמִּ֖י בְּקֶֽרִי

And 2 pesukim later the Torah promises that as a result Hashem will remember zechus avos and the zechus of Eretz Yisrael:

וְזָכַרְתִּ֖י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י יַעֲק֑וֹב וְאַף֩ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֨י יִצְחָ֜ק וְאַ֨ף אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶזְכֹּ֖ר וְהָאָ֥רֶץ אֶזְכֹּֽר׃

But sandwiched in between, we have a pasuk that doesn't seem to fit:

 אַף־אֲנִ֗י אֵלֵ֤ךְ עִמָּם֙ בְּקֶ֔רִי וְהֵבֵאתִ֣י אֹתָ֔ם בְּאֶ֖רֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶ֑ם אוֹ־אָ֣ז יִכָּנַ֗ע לְבָבָם֙ הֶֽעָרֵ֔ל וְאָ֖ז יִרְצ֥וּ אֶת־עֲוֺנָֽם׃

Once Bnei Yisrael said viduy, then why would Hashem make things even worse in galus?  As Ramban puts it:

והנה אחר: והתודו את עונם (ויקרא כ״ו:מ׳) היה ראוי שיאמר: וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב (ויקרא כ״ו:מ״ב), כי מה טעם: והבאתי אותם בארץ אויביהם עכשיו במקום הזה, ואין עתה הזמן שיגלה אותם ויביאם בארץ אויביהם.

Ohr haChaim explains (HaKsav v'haKabbalah as a similar interpretation) that this pasuk is a continuation of the viduy, an acceptance that Hashem had to send us into galus to achieve the tikun that we needed and it was not just happenstance.  

לזה כשאמר ה׳ והתודו זכר שיאמרו גם כן בוידוים כי צדיק ה׳ במה שהלך עמהם קרי, ולאותו הטעם ולאותו המבחן הביאם בארץ אוביהם כדרך מעשה המקרה בלא כיון אל הצריך.

But Ramban and Seforno explain that ain hachi nami, once there is viduy Hashem will return Klal Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael, but that doesn't mean we are out of the woods yet.  Ramban refers you to what happened in Ezra and Nechamia's time, how the nations who were in the land tried every which way to thwart Klal Yisrael from gaining a foothold in the land, from rebuilding Beis haMikdash.  There will be a הֵבֵאתִ֣י אֹתָ֔ם, but the Eretz Yisrael we come back to will be אֶ֖רֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶ֑ם, a land filled with our enemies.  

Sound familiar?

R' Chaim Elazari points out that in the piyutim in the avodah on Y"K we talk about the tefilah the kohen gadol said when he entered kodesh kodashim.  He davened, "Y'hi raton... shanah she'tolicheinu komimiyus l'artzeinu, shnas taaleinu smeichim l'artzeinu."  If there was a kohen gadol doing avodah in a beis ha'mikdash, then we must already be in Eretz Yisrael, in Yerushalayim, so why was the kohen davening that we should be able to return to our Land?!

He suggests based on this Ramban and Seforno that we might be in the land and even have a beis ha'mikdash, but so long as we are under the thumb of some other ruler, so long as we have to struggle against enemies within our borders, there is no "komimiyus b'artzeinu," there is no "smeichim" yet.  We still have a ways to go.

Monday, May 03, 2021

the issur of korcha al meis

On the pasuk of לֹֽא־יִקְרְח֤וּ קׇרְחָה֙ בְּרֹאשָׁ֔ם the gemara, quoted by Rashi, comments:

קרחה בראשם – מה ת״ל בראשם, לפי שנאמר (פ׳ ראה) ולא תשימו קרחה בין עיניכם, יכול לא יהא חייב אלא על בין העינים בלבד, ת״ל בראשם – לרבות כל הראש

The Taz in his commentary on Rashi is bothered by the gemara's diyuk.  What do you mean מה ת״ל בראשם -- you need בראשם to tell you that you are chayav for a korcha on the head as opposed to anywhere else on the body?  

Taz writes a chidush l'halacha that even though all the poskim refer only korcha on the head, it must be that a person would in fact be chayav for a korcha anywhere on the body, and that is why the word is extraneous.  In the notes in the Mosad haRav Kook edition the editor writes that the Taz seems to be a daas yachid, as he looked all over and could not find anyone else who refers to the issur as applying to anywhere else other than the head.

Torah Temima raises the same question as the Taz and answers:  וצ״ל כיון דהאי קריחה איירי בקורח מפני הצער על מת, כפי שנתבאר לעיל, ודרך הקריחה של צער הוא לגוז שער הראש, וא״כ מיותר המלה בראשם דממילא משתמע  The pasuk is speaking about the behavior of someone in mourning, where the custom was to make a korcha on the head; therefore, the word בראשם should go without saying.