Friday, June 25, 2021

b'derech she'adam rotzeh leilech

 Makos 10b:

אמר רבה בר רב הונא אמר רב הונא ואמרי לה אמר רב הונא א"ר אלעזר מן התורה ומן הנביאים ומן הכתובים בדרך שאדם רוצה לילך בה מוליכין אותו מן התורה דכתיב לא תלך עמהם וכתיב קום לך אתם

The gemara learns b'derech she'adam rotzeh leilech molichin oso from the fact that Hashem first told Bilam not to go with Balak's messengers, but then in the end he did allow him to go.

Yet that's not where Rashi on our parsha quotes the limud from.  It's only later in the parsha, after Bilam's donkey is stopped by the malach and Bilam offers to turn back and is told that he doesn't have to that Rashi comments  (22:35) לך עם האנשים – בדרך שאדם רוצה לילך מוליכין אותו

Why does Rashi change the context of the limud from that of the gemara?

R' Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi in his mussar shiurim writes that the gemara and Rashi are addressing two different points.  The gemara is speaking k'lapei shemaya and telling us that a person's ratzon can somehow change things upstairs.

Rashi is speaking about what's in a person's heart.  You might have thought that once Bilam had been told by Hashem that he would not be able to say what he wanted, that he might have reconsidered what he was doing.  Kah mashma lan Rashi, or I should say kah mashma lan the malach, that Bilam was still a rotzeh as much as before!  So long as there is still a "rotzeh,"  there is still "...molichin oso" and therefore no need to turn back.

Bilam's response to the malacha, "חָטָ֔אתִי כִּ֚י לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי כִּ֥י אַתָּ֛ה נִצָּ֥ב לִקְרָאתִ֖י בַּדָּ֑רֶךְ," is strange -- if indeed he was unaware of the malach, לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי, then why is it חָטָ֔אתִי, that he is guilty of any wrongdoing?  

Sometimes being unaware is itself a crime.  Ha'levai that Hashem should send us a malach to stop us when we are going to do something wrong.   Here Bilam is zoche to something special, yet he is so caught up in what he wants to do that he is oblivious misses all the signs and marches onward. (See Meshech Chochma on why there was this miracle of the donkey speaking.) 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

a kahal, not an am

Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkinosecha Yisrael.  Bilam's words contain a lesson that too many of us have forgotten.  Ohel is tent, a temporary dwelling; mishkan/mishkinoshecha is a permanent home.  Things were great in the midbar, in the tents we lived in during our stay there.  But that existence is only on the level of Yaakov.  It is when we are in mishkinosecha, when we are in our permanent home in Eretz Yisrael, and only in Eretz Yisrael, that we reach the higher level of Yisrael (see Malbim).  

Preventing Klal Yisrael from achieving that goal was the real aim of Balak.  וְעַתָּה֩ לְכָה־נָּ֨א אָֽרָה־לִּ֜י אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֗ה כִּֽי־עָצ֥וּם הוּא֙ מִמֶּ֔נִּי אוּלַ֤י אוּכַל֙ נַכֶּה־בּ֔וֹ וַאֲגָרְשֶׁ֖נּוּ מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ.  Simple pshat in the pasuk is that Balak wanted to drive Bnei Yisrael out of his territory, but the Midrash reads the it differently: וַאֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ – לֹא הָיָה מְבַקֵּשׁ אֶלָּא לְגָרְשָׁם שֶׁלֹא יִכָּנְסוּ לָאָרֶץ.  (see post here)

I know that when Trump said, "Jewish people who live in the United States don’t love Israel enough," he qualified it and said except for Orthodox Jews.  But we should look good and hard at ourselves and make sure that noted exception is deserved.  

Rashi comments on "Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov" that Bilam saw  על שראה פתחיהם שאין מכוונין זה מול זה, the pesach, the doorway of each tent, did not face the doorway of another tent in the camp.  Everyone minded their own business; no one was looking into another person's home, into their neighbor's goings-on.  Midah k'neged midah of our keeping our eye's to ourselves, Hashem prevented Bilam from casting an ayin ha'ra.  

Derech remez, there is more to it than that.  “Pischu li pesach kchudo shel machat v’ani eftach lachem pesach k’pischo shel ulam.”  Hashem asks us to make an opening, a pesach, for him, even if only the size of the eye of a needle, and he will help with the rest. 

על שראה פתחיהם שאין מכוונין זה מול זה means that every individual's "pesach" is different, explains the Maor va'Shemesh.  What turns one person on may be a brilliant R' Chaim; what turns another person on may be the singing at a Carlebach minyan.  When everyone marches in lockstep and does the same thing, the yetzer hara has an easy job because he has a single, easy target to strike.  But when there are so many different "pesachim" going in so many different directions, Bilam has no chance at success.  

I would add another point.  שאין מכוונין זה מול זה means that each pesach is not opposite another pesach.  Some people operate with a win-lose mentality.  It's not enough that I have my pesach -- I have to also be opposite and opposed to your pesach.  Bilam saw that it didn't work that way in the midbar.  There were no opposites -- there were only complementary pesachim.  

At the beginning of the parsha we have the word "am" again and again: וַיָּ֨גׇר מוֹאָ֜ב מִפְּנֵ֥י הָעָ֛ם , לְכָה־נָּ֨א אָֽרָה־לִּ֜י אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֗ה,  הִ֠נֵּ֠ה עַ֣ם יָצָ֤א מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם֙  But when the messengers of Balak spell out the danger they think they face, that's not the term they use.  What they say is עַתָּ֞ה יְלַחֲכ֤וּ הַקָּהָל֙ אֶת־כׇּל־סְבִ֣יבֹתֵ֔ינוּ.  An am is when people hang out together for convenience; a kahal is when something deeper than utilitarian need unites them.  An am is where opposites join forces for a purpose -- just like Midyan and Moav did to fight their shared enemy, Klal Yisrael.  A kahal is where opposites don't exist.  

Friday, June 18, 2021

"we are machmir on pikuach nefesh" does not mean there are no rules

The slogan that "we are machmir on pikuach nefesh" that I've heard again and again to justify any and all covid related measure is, like all slogans, a simplistic reduction.  It's catchy rhetoric with little substance.  I would submit that someone who has a slight sore throat on shabbos but says, "99.999999% likely it's just a cold, but hey, we're machmir on pikuach nefesh, so let me drive to the hospital and get checked out," is a mechalel shabbos.  There are gedarim to what a choleh is, what sakana is, what we allow and don't allow.  

The argument that we should adopt the harshest restrictions in order to make everyone comfortable, just like if we make a dinner (to take an analogy that one Rabbi used) we should cater to the strictest kashrus standards so everyone may eat, is also a simplistic reduction that does not reflect reality.  One of my daughters is a vegetarian.  She is free to cook what she likes and eat what she likes, but it does not mean that the entire rest of the family has to give up meat to accommodate her.  If meeting the standards of a minority imposes an undue burden on the majority, or if those standards are unreasonable, then, to put it bluntly, tough on them.  The question is what constitutes an "undue" burden, what makes for a "reasonable" request,  and at what point does accommodation become an imposition.  There is certainly room for reasonable people to disagree about these issues, which is why simple rules do not work.

looking at the nachash ha'nechoshes and seeing yad Hashem

 וַיַּ֤עַשׂ מֹשֶׁה֙ נְחַ֣שׁ נְחֹ֔שֶׁת וַיְשִׂמֵ֖הוּ עַל־הַנֵּ֑ס וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־נָשַׁ֤ךְ הַנָּחָשׁ֙ אֶת־אִ֔ישׁ וְהִבִּ֛יט אֶל־נְחַ֥שׁ הַנְּחֹ֖שֶׁת וָחָֽי׃

"Ain v'haya elah lashon simcha."  The Torah uses the word "v'haya" when speaking about the person bitten by the snakes sent as punishment because sometimes getting bitten, going through suffering, is a simcha.  Sometimes, as the Ohr haChaim explains, without that bite a person would never realize they are on the wrong track and never come to do teshuvah. 

Moshe was instructed to make a nachash ha'nechoshes and anyone bitten would look at it and be cured.  Rashi quotes the Mishna in R"H:

 ואמרו רבותינו: וכי נחש ממית או נחש מחיה? אלא בזמן שהיו ישראל מסתכלין כלפי מעלה ומשעבדין את לבם לאביהם שבשמים היו מתרפאין, ואם לאו היו נימוקין.

It was not looking at the nachash that brought about the cure, but rather it was looking up to shamayim.

Maharal asks: if so, what was the point of making the nachash?  Just tell people to daven, to look to shamayim, and then they will be cured!  ואם תאמר, אם כן למה לי נחש, ולמה לי לשום אותו על הנס, אחר שהיה תולה בזמן שהיו מכוונים לבם לשמים   In fact, we know that later in history Chizkiyahu destroyed the nachash ha'nechoshes because people began attributing the power to cure to it, and not directing their attention to Hashem.  So m'ikara mai ka'savar, why introduce it to begin with given the chance that, as in fact happened, people might be led astray?

There are two "ingredients" I think we need to address this.

First, a distinction made by Malbim.  Moshe does not use the word "ra'ah" when he talks about looking at the snake (which is the word Hashem used in speaking to Moshe - see Rashi, see Netziv quoting the Yerushalmi), but rather he uses the word "v'hibit."  There is a difference.  Mablim comments on the pasuk in Yeshaya (5:12) "... v'es po'al Hashem lo yabitu umaaseh yadav lo ra'u"   "  that

 ודע שיש הבדל בין ראיה והבטה, ראיה, הוא ראות העין החושיי ויפול גם על ראיה הפתאומית בלי כונה. והבטה, פורט המשים לב על העצם לדעת ענינו ומהותו.  

Re'iya is the physical act seeing.  Habata is taking notice of something; it is a psychological experience more than a physical one.  Malbim quotes pesukim from all over Tanach to illustrate his point.  The two terms often come together precisely because they have different connotations and are not synonymous.  We say in Eicha, "Re'ey Hashem v'habita..." (1:9).  We want Hashem to not just see what is happening, but to take note turn his attention to it.  Sometimes it works the other way, e.g. "Habeit mi'shamayim u're'ey," we ask Hashem to give us his attention, and then once we have it, we ask him to look down and see what is going on (see this post for a different approach to the distinction between these terms, and also see Netziv).  

Malbim does not use this example, but I think his distinction explains why Lot's wife was punished.  It does not say that she turned and "va'tireh" what happened to Sdom, but rather "va'tabeit ishto mei'acharav."  It's not seeing the destruction of Sdom which was her undoing, but rather  it was the fact that that's where her attention was, that was psychologically the place that she was still rooted in and attached to.  She may have followed Lot out of the city, but in her heart, she was still in Sdom, thinking about the life she once had, rather than running toward a future far away from it.

Second "ingredient": Why a nachash?  Ramban explains that according to nature, if a person is bit by a rabid dog or some other poisonos animal, then looking at the animal or even hearing about the animal will cause the person's condition to deteriorate.  

 וידוע בדרכי הרפואות שכל נשוכי בעלי הארס יסתכנו בראותם אותם או בראות דמותם, עד כי נשוכי הכלב השוטה וכן שאר הבהמות השוטות אם יביטו במים יראה להם שם בבואת הכלב או המזיק וימותו, כמו שכתוב בסיפרי הרפואות ומוזכר בגמרא במסכת יומא (בבלי יומא פ״ד). וכן ישמרו אותם הרופאים מהזכיר בפניהם שם הנושך שלא יזכרו אותם כלל, כי נפשם תדבק במחשבה ההיא ולא תפרד ממנה כלל עד שתמית אותם. וכבר הזכירו דבר מנוסה מפלאות התולדת כי נשוך הכלב השוטה אחרי שנשתטה בחוליו אם יקובל השתן שלו בכלי זכוכית יראה בשתן דמות גורי כלבים קטנים, ואם תעביר המים במטלית ותסננם לא תמצא מהם שום רושם כלל, וכשתחזירם לכלי הזכוכית וישתהו שם כשעה תחזור ותראה שם גורי הכלבים מבוארים, וזה אמת הוא בפלאי כוחות הנפש.  

(Don't ask me how to explain the last part of that Ramban.  This is not the only place he refers to science that is pseudo-science). Hashem did a "nes b'toch nes" here in that looking at the very thing that should have made things worse, actually brought about the cure and made them better.

I think pshat in Ramban is like a gemara in Pesachim 118.  Sefaria translation: Rabbi Shimon HaShiloni taught: When the evil Nebuchadnezzar threw Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into the fiery furnace, Yurkamo, the ministering angel of hail, stood before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and said before Him: Master of the Universe, I will go down and cool the fiery furnace, and I will save these righteous ones from the fiery furnace. Gabriel said to him: The strength of the Holy One, Blessed be He, will not be evident in this manner, as you are the minister of hail, and everyone knows that water extinguishes fire. Your action would not be regarded as a great miracle. Rather, I, the ministering angel of fire, will descend, and I will cool the furnace from within.

What difference does it make which angel comes to put out the fire?  

If I get in a boxing ring with Rocky Balboa, no one would be surprised if the fight ends in less than one round with me on the floor.  That's how nature works -- the more powerful side wins.  In a clash between fire and water, water wins and puts out the fire.  When Nevuchatnezer threw Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into the fire, it was Nevuchadnezer vs G-d, and you could look at that just like me vs. Rocky, or fire vs water.  The teva ha'devarim says G-d is going to come out on top because  He is just more powerful.

But that's not the lesson here.

Hashem did not send the angel of hail to put out the fire.  He sent the angel of fire.  G-d's dominion over nature, over Nevuchdnezer, is not because in a clash of two forces G-d is always the most powerful force, but because minei u'bei there are no other forces besides G-d.  It's not fire vs. G-d's power to put that fire out.  Fire only exists because G-d allows it to.  Any clash between ratzon Hashem and ratzon of the fire is a illusion.  

So too here, had G-d given everyone some antidote to snake venom, then it would be a victory of G-d's power vs biting snakes.  But the lesson here is deeper than that.  The lesson is minei u'bei, a snake has no power other than ratzon Hashem, and therefore what was once poison can itself be the antidote.  

Not let's try to put 2 and 2 together.  For 40 years Bnei Yisrael had been wandering in the desert, surrounded by miracles.  There is the world of teva, but they lived apart from that world, in their own bubble.  In that world, when you have a problem, davening is the cure.  But that's not the world of Eretz Yisrael they were headed to.  In the world of Eretz Yisrael, you have to contend with teva on its own terms.  Food will not fall from the sky and water will come from a river or rain, not from a well or a rock.  Therefore, to teach Klal Yisrael how to contend with the problems they will face in the future, the cure for the poisonous snakes could not come just from simply from looking up to Heaven with trust and kavanah.  It had to come through the intermediary of the physical world, through teva.  

However, even that's not enough, because just like tefilah alone is not an answer to our pains, teva is the full answer either.  Klal Yisrael has to see that there is the dvar Hashem that acts within teva, kodesh that is found within the chol.  When you look (re'iya) at that snake, you have to see (hibit) the dvar Hashem.  Teva is not an independent force; it is just a manifestation of ratzon Hashem.  That's the way to look at everything in the natural, physical world.  

True, in Chizkiyahu's time this message would be a dangerous distraction, but this was the message the generation who entered Eretz Yisrael, making the transition from pure kodesh to kodesh-within-chol, needed to hear.

Monday, June 14, 2021

jewish identity

In Deborah Tannen's book Finding My Father: His Century-Long Journey From World War I Warsaw and My Quest to Follow she writes that she asked her father, a man born into a hassidic family in Polish Warsaw before WWI, but who gave up religion after coming to the US as a teenager (Tannen writes that she recalls only one time being brought to a synagogue by her father and they did not stay long), whether he feels more American or more Polish.  Her father responded, "I feel like a Jew."  (p.97) 

From the latest Pew survey: "At the same time, 41% of young Jewish adults do not identify with any particular branch of American Judaism. Most of the people in this category are “Jews of no religion” – they describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, though they all have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish and still identify as Jewish culturally, ethnically or because of their family background."  

In other words, most young Jews do not feel Jewish at all.

Deborah Tannen knows she is Jewish and does not hide that fact.  Yet she struggles to define what being Jewish actually means to her.  "If I don't think Jewish is a race... what is it?  A religion?  Yes, but I'm not religious.  A culture?  I hear people talk about 'cultural Jews," but that term feels inadequate to me; "culture" does not go deep enough.  I'm more comfortable with the term "secular Jew"; that feels like a reasonable way to describe Jews who aren't "observant," but it still doesn't say what Judaism is.  Is it a nationality...?  Though this is a worthy goal, I feel that my nationality is American.  Is Judaism an ethnic heritage?  For me, that comes closest.  I'm Jewish because my parents and grandmothers -- I never knew my grandfathers -- and my parents' sisters and brothers, were formed by the Yiddish speaking orthodox Jewish communities of Europe they were all raised in, and they formed the community that raised me.  Especially my parents.  Especially my father."  (p. 98 Italics/emphasis mine)

If this is the definition of what makes one Jewish, it is no wonder that we are in the situation that we are in.  Neither the young people of today nor their parents were formed by "Yiddish speaking orthodox Jewish communities"; they were formed by secular, liberal American communities, where humanism, egalitarianism, and apple pie are what's important.  The Jewish culture of Eastern Europe is long gone and American Jewry, outside of Orthodoxy, has nothing to replace it with, no set of values or shared cultural experience that can be called uniquely Jewish in character.  How and why can/should one identify as a Jew when that identity has no meaning whatsoever?

Friday, June 11, 2021

oy la'rasha oy l'shecheino

1) I saw a vort in the Ohev Yisrael this week that I was about to post and then I found I had posted it already back in 2012.  I hate recycling, but it's worth repeating.  The Ohev Yisrael comments on the pasuk: וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִקְרֹ֛א לְדָתָ֥ן וְלַאֲבִירָ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י אֱלִיאָ֑ב וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ לֹ֥א נַעֲלֶֽה׃  Everybody knew Dasan and Aviram were troublemakers.  They had a history.  There are certain kids that the teacher has heard about even before he/she walks into the classroom and the second trouble starts, he/she knows where to look for the root cause.  Moshe tried to undo that.  Moshe said, "From now on Dasan and Aviram should be called by everyone 'Bnei Eliav.'"  How we refer to people shapes their identity.  Call a kid troublemaker, a no-good-nik, and k'shmo kein hu, that's exactly what he will be.  Call them 'Dasan and Aviram the troublemakers' and that's who they will be and remain.  Call them Bnei Ploni the Tzadik and you've given them a different identity to live up to. 

This may also explain  רַב־לָכֶ֖ם בְּנֵ֥י לֵוִֽי.  Moshe was saying, "You are bnei Levi - you are the descendants of great people; this rebellion is not who you are." 

Unfortunately, Dasan and Aviram chose to respond, "lo naaleh," and reject Moshe's advances.  

In light of the Ohev Yisrael's vort, perhaps the way to read their response is, "Lo," we don't want to just be 'Bnei Eliav' and follow in our father footsteps. Rather, "Naaleh," we will be even greater than our father.  We know better and can do better.  Lots of children think that if they just do the opposite of their parents they will accomplish so much more than their parents did, they will be more successful, they will not fall into the same pitfalls.  Eventually they figure out that the path they choose has its own pitfalls.

Even though we know Dasan and Aviram were troublemakers, it seems that they might have sat this one out.  Rashi comments  ודתן ואבירםג – בשביל שהיה שבט ראובן שרוי בחנייתן תימנה, שכן לקהת ובניו החנים תימנה, נשתתפו עם קרח במחלוקתו, אוי לרשע אוי לשכנו.  If not for oy la'rasha v'oy l'shecheinu, if not for Dasan and Aviram living in close proximity to Korach and thereby falling under his influence, they might not have participated in this rebellion  As bad as Dasan and Aviram were, Korach was a step too far even for them.

The Sifsei Chachamim quotes that the Maharashal had a kabbalah from his father that this statement of Rashi is a continuation of Rashi's previous comment: בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי – ביעקב בקש רחמים על עצמו שלא יזכיר שמו על מחלוקתן, שנאמר: בקהלם אל תחד כבודי Rashi explains that Korach's yichus goes back to Levi but not to Yaakov because Yaakov, in his final message to Levi, davened that his name should not be mentioned in the context of Korach's machlokes (we've discussed this in the past we well, see Maharal).  This is well and good in so far as why the pasuk gives Korach's yichus only back to Levi and not back to Yaakov, but why does the pasuk give the yichus of Dasan and Aviram only back to Reuvain and omit Yaakov's name there?  בקהלם אל תחד כבודי was not said about Reuvain?  Answers Rashi (according to the Maharashal's reading), אוי לרשע אוי  לשכנו .  

R' Chaim Elazari points out the chiddush implicit in this Maharashal.   אוי לרשע אוי  לשכנו is not just a warning to avoid negative influences as they MIGHT have a detrimental effect.  Were that the case, then Yaakov's tefilah would have applied to Levi alone and Dasan and Aviram and the bnei Reuvain getting involved was their own bad choice.  Yaakov's tefilos applied to sheivet Reuvain as well as Levi because negtive influences INEVITABLY lead to harm.  It's like a psik reisha, not a davar she'aino miskavein.  When Yaakov davened not to have his name mentioned in connection with Levi/Korach's machlokes, Reuvain was implicitely included because there was no chance of Reuvain not being involved given his proximity to what was going on. 

2) The Kozhiglover quotes from Mishnas Chassidim that ketores is a segulah for teshuvah.  He explains that this is why the greatest offering of ketores done during the year was the offering of ketores in the kodesh kodashim on Yom Kippur, as Yom Kippur is the day designated for teshuvah.  All the offerings the entire rest of the year are just a preparation to be able to offer ketores properly on that day.  This is why, says the Kozhiglover, Moshe suggested to Korach to bring ketores as a test.  Moshe was hoping that the segulah of ketores would influence Korach and he would do teshuvah and regret the whole machlokes.

I would add that when Moshe said to Korach that tomorrow they will offer ketores, meaning tomorrow will be like Yom Kippur, it implies that right now, the day before the big test, is like erev Yom Kippur.  There is a din before Yom Kippur of piyus, of asking people for mechila, of mending wrongs.  Maybe Moshe was alluding to this as well, offering Korach a final chance at reconciliation.  

Today erev Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Tamuz, roshei teivos זמני תשׂובה ממשׁמשׁין ובּאין. Yom Kippur is right around the corner! 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

arei leviim and nachala in Eretz Yisrael

The gemara in Brachos (20) raises the question of whether women are obligated in birchas hamazon or not.  It's not a mitzvas aseh she'hazman gerama, so why should they not be obligated?  Rashi explains that when you say birchas ha'mazon you thank Hashem for Eretz Yisrael, and since women did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael, they are therefore exempt.  Tos. does not like that sevara because kohanim also do not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael, and yet we don't find that they are exempt from reciting birchas hamazon.  Tos suggests that women are not obligated for a different reason.  Since in birchas hamazon we thank Hashem for bris milah and for Torah and women are not obligated in either of these mitzvos, they therefore are exempt.  (The meforshim talk about what about the other brachos of birchas hamazon besides "nodeh lecha..." that do not mention bris or Torah).

In defense of Rashi, achronim point out that the kohanim and leviim had the arei ha'leviim, so they did have a portion in the land.  Obviously Tos was not moved by that consideration, and the question is why not.  

It could be the shoresh of the machlokes here is what we mean by getting a portion of land.  Rashi acknowledges that there were women who did in fact receive a cheilek in Eretz Yisrael, e.g. Bnos Tzelafchad, but he explains that they did not receive that cheilek as a nachala the way men did, but rather as a yerusha from a parent.  When it comes to the arei haleviim, do we look at these cities as the nachala of sheivet levi, or perhaps they are really the nachala of the other shevatim, just those shevatim have a mitzvah to surrender some of their portion to the leviim to live in in exchange for the leviim and kohanim's service in the mikdash? 

The Minchas Chinuch has a different safeik that I think may hinge on this same point.  Kohanim and leviim do not receive a portion of land in Eretz Yisrael because they are supposed to devote themselves to working in the mikdash instead of farming.  They receive terumos and maasros, as we read in our parsha, for the same reason.  Rambam (Hil Shemita ch 13) has a chiddush din that kohanim and leviim can receive a portion in future lands conquered by a king that expand the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, but Rambam holds (see Raavad) that the mitzvah of teru"m still applies in that territory.  Minchas Chinuch (408:1) wonders whether the same applies to arei leviim: will the leviim receive additional cities designated as arei leviim in these future territories, or not?  I would say that if arei leviim are the nachala of leviim, just like Reuvain and Shimon and every other sheivet gets a nachala, then in those future territories where the leviim are getting a regular portion of land like everyone else anyway, there is no need for the special nachala of arei leviim.  But if arei leviim are really the nachala of the other shevatim, just there is a mitzvah upon the shevatim to surrender part of their portion to the leviim in exchange for their work in the mikdash, then perhaps that mitzvah applies irrespective of whether the leviim get their own portion of land or not.  

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

issur terumah and kedushas terumah

Rashi in Yevamos (86a) writes that the issur of tevel occurs because terumah is mixed into the food and terumah is not allowed to be eaten מה תרומה טובלת. שכל זמן שלא הופרשה חייבין מיתה על אכילתו של טבל דהא מיתה כתיב ביה: 

Tos asks: if Rashi is correct, then a kohen should be allowed to eat tevel, since a kohen can eat terumah.  Since that is not the case, we see that tevel is an independent issur, not just a result of not having terumah yet removed.   ופי' ריב"ן משו' דדרשי' בפ' הנשרפין (סנהדרין פג. ושם) ולא יחללו את קדשי בני ישראל אשר ירימו בעתידים לתרום הכתוב מדבר ויליף חילול (א) מתרומה:

R' Wahrman z"l suggests (inyanaim ketzarim siman 4 in the back of She'eiris Yosef vol 3, see also vol 2 siman 47) that there are two dinim in terumah: there is 1) the issur termunah, i.e. terumah cannot be eaten by just anybody; 2) and there is kedushas terumah -- terumah requires shemira, it has specific dinim with regards to tumah and taharah, someone who eats it b'shogeg pays an additional 1/5 penalty, etc.  

Perhaps tevel is prohibited because the the issur terumah is inherent in the mixture, as Rashi writes, but the kedushas terumah does not kick in until after hafrashas terumah, and therefore, since there is not yet kedushas terumah, tevel cannot be eaten by a kohen.

mishna berura and kitzur

Had you asked me to name the most popular work of Jewish law, right on top of my list would be the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.  True, these days the Mishne Berura has been popularized in the yeshiva world to the point that it eclipses everything else, but the Kitzur still has a place, and the Kitzur covers far more than just the O.C. topics of the M.B. or Chayei Adam.  What Jewish home does not have a Kitzur?

When I came across the M.B. in 117:15 quoting the Kitzur, I scratched my head and wondered why this seemed like an anomaly; I could not remember offhand more times that the M.B. quotes the Kitzur.  I don't pretend to know MB backwards and forwards, so I asked my son, who has an Otzar haChochma, to run a search using their database to try to find how many other references to the Kitzur there are in M.B.  He came back to me with a disclaimer that the search is not so good, and I'm not sure which roshei teivos or combination of roshei teivos he used (e.g. קיצור שׁ״ע, קצשׁ״ע, etc), but even so, he only came up with 2 other references: a Shaar haTziyun in 27:49 and a Biur Halacha in 401:11.  Pretty sparse pickings.  

Isn't it amazing that here you have one of the most popular works of halacha (the Kitzur was reprinted multiple times in the author's lifetime, so its popularity was established), yet the M.B. hardly refers to it? 

Thursday, June 03, 2021

we have a yerusha

 וַיִּסְעוּ֙ מֵהַ֣ר ה׳ דֶּ֖רֶךְ שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֑ים  Rashi comments in last week's parsha (10:33) מהלך שלשת ימים הילכו ביום אחד, שהיה הקב״ה חפץ להכניסן לארץ מיד that Bnei Yisrael were on the express train and covered three days distance in one because Hashem was trying to get them into Eretz Yisrael as quickly as possible.  Next chapter the wheels fall off the bus and everything starts to go wrong.    וַיְהִ֤י הָעָם֙ כְּמִתְאֹ֣נְנִ֔ים  Seforno comments: על טורח הדרך  And then we go from one complaint to the next, until we get to our parsha of the meraglim and then it's 40 years in the desert.  

Sefas Emes asks (last piece in 5648): Ha'yad Hashem tiktzar?  Here Hashem was rushing them along, He was kavyachol so anxious to have Bnei Yisrael finally achieve the dream of coming to Eretz Yisrael, so couldn't He make the trip a little more pleasant so there would be no complaints?  My wife and I once flew Aeroflot to go to Eretz Yisrael because the tickets were relatively inexpensive and it made the budget easier, but trust me, when you fly Aeroflot, וַיְהִ֤י הָעָם֙ כְּמִתְאֹ֣נְנִ֔ים you will have what to complain about.  Hashem doesn't have a budget! -- he can bring us first class all the way and even allow an extra bag too with no surcharge.  Ramban comments on וַיְהִ֤י הָעָם֙ כְּמִתְאֹ֣נְנִ֔ים that והנכון בעיני: כי כאשר נתרחקו מהר סיני שהיה קרוב ליישוב, ובאו בתוך המדבר הגדול והנורא במסע הראשון, היו מצטערים בעצמם לאמר: מה נעשה, ואיך נחיה במדבר הזה, ומה נאכל, ומה נשתה, ואיך נסבול העמל והענוי, ומתי נצא ממנו.  When you are flying first class there is no question of ומה נאכל, ומה נשתה, ואיך נסבול העמל והענוי.  True, Bnei Yisrael's complaining was unjustified, but Hashem could have pampered them so that there would not even have been a hava amina of an unjustified complaint.  Why didn't He do that?

This episode reinforces a basic yesod: "Ain Eretz Yisrael nikneis elah b'yissurim."  Chazal tell us that Eretz Yisrael is one of three things that can only be aquired with tribulations, the other things being Torah and olam ha'ba.  Hashem could speed up Bnei Yisrael's journey, but Hashem could not take away the yissurim completely, as without them, it is impossible to be koneh the Land.  

Some people like to hold a mortgage for 30 years and pay off a lot of interest slowly, and other people bite the bullet and take a 10 year payment plan, putting in a little more each month, but getting to the finish line quicker.  Hashem offered us a quick payment plan, all the yissurim wrapped up in one package for just a few days, and then Eretz Yisrael.  We turned it down, and as a result, we ended up on the 40 year payment plan.  

So we get to our parsha and the spies bring back their terrible report.  Kaleiv gets up and responds:   וַיֹּ֗אמֶר עָלֹ֤ה נַעֲלֶה֙ וְיָרַ֣שְׁנוּ אֹתָ֔הּ!  How does that address the concerns of the people or the details of the report?  He says that they can conquer the land, but 11 of his colleagues say that they can't, as they immediately respond וְהָ֨אֲנָשִׁ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־עָל֤וּ עִמּוֹ֙ אָֽמְר֔וּ לֹ֥א נוּכַ֖ל לַעֲל֣וֹת אֶל־הָעָ֑ם כִּֽי־חָזָ֥ק ה֖וּא מִמֶּֽנּוּ.  if it's a screaming match of one against eleven, then the eleven are going to win, so how was Kaleiv hoping to persuade anyone?

Two people finish business school and want to run a giant department store.  One is nervous, wondering how he is going to get the business off the ground, how he is going to compete with established competitors.  The other is cool and calm, his attitude is "We can do it!"  What's the difference between the two?  The difference is that the last name of the latter happens to be Macy, the great-great grandchild of R.H. Macy.  He doesn't need to start building from scratch -- his alter-alter zeyde already got things going.  He is just the latest in the line to take over.  Yes, there will be challenges, but those are the challenges of maintaining a legacy, not the challenges of a startup.

עָלֹ֤ה נַעֲלֶה֙ וְיָרַ֣שְׁנוּ אֹתָ֔הּ -- Eretz Yisrael is a YERUSHA, said Kaleiv.  We may be the start up nation when it comes to business, but as for the country itself, that is an inheritance.  It belongs to us because it belonged to our forefathers.  We are just the ones coming to collect what is due.    

I could not agree with this statement more:

I don’t know if I believe that another Holocaust is possible in America in 2021. But after what I’ve seen in the past few weeks, I do believe that at some point the Jews of the United States will no longer be welcome here. Even if our (very) fragile democracy manages to uphold its basic tenets of freedom for all citizens, it’s almost irrelevant; Americans no longer look to their government for what is true and right. They look to Facebook, to Instagram, to Bella Hadid and Jimmy Fallon. We are governed by public opinion, and the American opinion of Israel – and by turn, Jews – is darkening by the day.  

Fortunately, we have a yerusha.