Thursday, July 29, 2021

no encore performance

At the middle of chapter 9 in our parsha the Torah recounts the cheit ha'eigel, Hashem's anger, and Moshe's tefilah to avert terrible punishment threatened by G-d (9:18):

 וָֽאֶתְנַפַּל֩ לִפְנֵ֨י ה׳  כָּרִאשֹׁנָ֗ה אַרְבָּעִ֥ים יוֹם֙ וְאַרְבָּעִ֣ים לַ֔יְלָה לֶ֚חֶם לֹ֣א אָכַ֔לְתִּי וּמַ֖יִם לֹ֣א שָׁתִ֑יתִי עַ֤ל כׇּל־חַטַּאתְכֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חֲטָאתֶ֔ם לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת הָרַ֛ע בְּעֵינֵ֥י ה׳ לְהַכְעִיסֽוֹ׃

The perek then continues with the various stops in the desert where Bnei Yisrael were rebellious:

 וּבְתַבְעֵרָה֙ וּבְמַסָּ֔ה וּבְקִבְרֹ֖ת הַֽתַּאֲוָ֑ה מַקְצִפִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם אֶת ה׳

וּבִשְׁלֹ֨חַ ה׳ אֶתְכֶ֗ם מִקָּדֵ֤שׁ בַּרְנֵ֙עַ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר עֲלוּ֙ וּרְשׁ֣וּ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָתַ֖תִּי לָכֶ֑ם וַתַּמְר֗וּ אֶת־פִּ֤י ה׳ אלקיכם  וְלֹ֤א הֶֽאֱמַנְתֶּם֙ ל֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א שְׁמַעְתֶּ֖ם בְּקֹלֽוֹ׃

But then, strangely, the Torah comes back yet again to Moshe's tefilah at Sinai in response to the eigel:

 וָֽאֶתְנַפַּ֞ל לִפְנֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֗ה אֵ֣ת אַרְבָּעִ֥ים הַיּ֛וֹם וְאֶת־אַרְבָּעִ֥ים הַלַּ֖יְלָה אֲשֶׁ֣ר הִתְנַפָּ֑לְתִּי כִּֽי־אָמַ֥ר ה׳ לְהַשְׁמִ֥יד אֶתְכֶֽם

 וָאֶתְפַּלֵּ֣ל אֶל ה׳ וָאֹמַר֒ ה׳ אלקים אַל־תַּשְׁחֵ֤ת עַמְּךָ֙ וְנַחֲלָ֣תְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֥ר פָּדִ֖יתָ בְּגׇדְלֶ֑ךָ אֲשֶׁר־הוֹצֵ֥אתָ מִמִּצְרַ֖יִם בְּיָ֥ד חֲזָקָֽה

 זְכֹר֙ לַעֲבָדֶ֔יךָ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹ֑ב אַל־תֵּ֗פֶן אֶל־קְשִׁי֙ הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְאֶל־רִשְׁע֖וֹ וְאֶל־חַטָּאתֽוֹ

פֶּן־יֹאמְר֗וּ הָאָ֘רֶץ֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הוֹצֵאתָ֣נוּ מִשָּׁם֒ מִבְּלִי֙ יְכֹ֣לֶת ה׳ לַהֲבִיאָ֕ם אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֣ר לָהֶ֑ם וּמִשִּׂנְאָת֣וֹ אוֹתָ֔ם הוֹצִיאָ֖ם לַהֲמִתָ֥ם בַּמִּדְבָּֽר

Rashi comments on the spot that ואתנפל וגומ׳ – אילו הן עצמן האמורים למעלה (דברים ט׳:י״ח). וכפלן כאן לפי שכתוב כאן סדר תפלתו this is the same episode and same prayers referred to earlier, now repeated to fill in the words of Moshe's tefilah.  

Two obvious questions that beg asking: Firstly, why did the Torah separate these two sections?  Why not just tell us the words of Moshe's tefilah earlier when it was first mentioned?   Secondly, why do we need to know the details of what Moshe said?  Why wouldn't it be enough to say he davened and we were saved and leave it at that? 

Don't miss seeing Rashbam who says חכמה גדולה יש כאן.  This is a generation removed from those who actually experienced mattan Torah and did the sin of cheit ha'eigel.  The first part of the perek is the story of what happened, a recounting of past events.  The second half of the perek, after Moshe leapfrogs through telling them about the rebellions in the desert and gets to the point in history where they are about to enter the Land, is the take away message that he wants this generation to absorb.  Sefer Devarim is a mussar talk to those about to enter Eretz Yisrael.  What is the take away mussar here?  

By filling in the words of his tefilah and the argument he used, Moshe was telling this generation that the lesson for them is NOT that when Klal Yisrael is in trouble, Moshe, or in future generations some other Navi/Chacham/Rebbe, will intercede on their behalf and get them out of the jam.  Exactly the opposite.  Moshe is telling then that when they were still in the desert, he could argue to G-d that to punish the people and not bring them into Eretz Yisrael is a chilul Hashem because the goyim will say that G-d just couldn't do it, מִבְּלִי֙ יְכֹ֣לֶת ה׳ לַהֲבִיאָ֕ם אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֣ר לָהֶ֑ם.  Once they in the Land, however, that argument doesn't hold water.  Once in the Land, no one can have the misimpression that מִבְּלִי֙ יְכֹ֣לֶת ה׳ לַהֲבִיאָ֕ם אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ.  So don't expect an encore performance in Eretz Yisrael of those same prayers that got you out of trouble in the past.  Don't expect a Navi/Chacham/Rebbe to pull the fat out of the fire when you get yourselves in hot water.  It's up to you to do good on your own.

mask up?

For those in the ""the Torah is more machmir than the health authorities"" camp, now that the new CDC guidelines are out recommending masks even for those who have been vaccinated, when will your shul be re-imposing the mask requirement? (That is, assuming they lifted it, and assuming your shul reopened.) 

In fact, one could argue that pikuach nefesh demands that we get ahead of the curve and start locking things down before the Delta variant really starts making inroads in the community.  Why expose anyone to even a remote safeik sakana?

As one of the YU Roshei Yeshiva has previously written, "And yet the signs of the unfolding, dangerous wave are - at any rate, should be - unmistakable. The positivity rate continues to increase, the situation in neighboring states is even worse, the behaviors and businesses fueling the increase are not being (adequately) checked, etc. We must be רואה את הנולד, recognize the unfolding process. Both personally and communally we must adopt aggressive preventative measures."

If this is the shita you hold by, I don't know what you are waiting for.

simcha in tzarah?

1) I do not understand this comment in the Agra d'Kallah:

 כי קע"ב שנה קודם האלף החמישי חרב הבית, הוא סוד ואתה תשופנו עק"ב (בראשית ג טו), ובאותן הקע"ב היו ישראל מעונים מאוד וגזירות שמד, וכמה קדושים עמודי עולם נהרגו על קדושת שמו ית'. והנה הגם שאין הש"י שמח כביכול בצרת ישראל, עם כל זה היא לשמחה לפניו כי על ידי זה שמסרו נפשם על קדושת שמו יתברך נתקיים העולם, וגם נחקקו על פורפירא דיליה אלו הקדושים וינקום נקמתן מהרה

Just substitute the word Holocaust for churban ha'bayis in the quote to bring it up to date historically and think about what he is saying: since the suffering of Klal Yisrael will bring a positive to'eles therefore there is simcha???  You can see that he tries to hedge by saying הנה הגם שאין הש"י שמח כביכול בצרת ישראל, but then he continues along to say what sounds like the exact opposite.  Very hard to digest, at least for me.  

 2) כִּ֤י תֹאמַר֙ בִּלְבָ֣בְךָ֔ רַבִּ֛ים הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָאֵ֖לֶּה מִמֶּ֑נִּי אֵיכָ֥ה אוּכַ֖ל לְהוֹרִישָֽׁם  Who cares?  Go out there and fight!  

But that's not the Torah's response.  The Torah does not want a soldier who just does his job like a robot and tunes out his inner voice that has doubts, questions, objections.  Those doubts are not a bug, they're a feature.  

 לֹ֥א תִירָ֖א מֵהֶ֑ם זָכֹ֣ר תִּזְכֹּ֗ר אֵ֤ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה֙ ה׳ אלקיך  לְפַרְעֹ֖ה וּלְכׇל־מִצְרָֽיִם  That inner voice is what causes a person to reflect, and when he does so, he will rememeber the lessons of Jewish history and have the courage to push on despite the difficulties.  כֵּֽן־יַעֲשֶׂ֞ה ה׳ אלקיך לְכׇל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה יָרֵ֖א מִפְּנֵיהֶֽם׃, davka because you had that fear and pushed yourself to overcome it, Hashem will reward you with victory.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

what do we get for our education $?

I'm not sure if this story is amusing or sad or both.  A couple came to a din torah by R' Shternbruch because this supposed outstanding bachur from Chevron has to ask his wife shaylos because he doesn't know hil shabbos and now his shverr wants to back out of paying for the apartment he promised and divorce is on the horizon.  R' Shternbruch uses this as a springboard to warn guys to learn halacha properly, not just lomdus.  Me, being the cynic that I am, am worried that this will lead to different outcome, namely, that girls' schools will stop teaching halacha lest the girls end up knowing more than their supposed talmid chacham husbands and end up in a situation like this.  

I think that in order to graduate any yeshiva high school, whether chareidi/yeshivish or MO, you should have to pass a test on simple pshat in all of chumash and rashi and pass a test on the halachos of orach chaim on the level of what the Chayei Adam covers.  After tens of thousands of education dollars spent and 12+ years worth of classroom instruction, you would think that would be an embarrassingly low expectation, yet all of my kids think that were this an actual requirement, most students would never graduate.

Can you imagine handing a high school diploma to someone who cannot do addition, much less algebra and trig?  Or someone who claims they learned how to analyze history and can rattle off different interpretations of the Constitution based on close readings of the Federalist papers, but who doesn't know when the Civil War took place?  These examples strike us as absurd, but we graduate students who can rattle off some chakira with tzvei dinim to answer a kashe of R' Akiva Eiger but who don't know hilchos brachos.  

Thursday, July 22, 2021

nachamu - when leaders fail to speak up

1) Everybody knows the famous words of the haftarah (Yeshayahu 40), "Nachamu nachamu ami...," but what I think most people don't know is the context.  In the previous chapter the navi tells Chizkiyahu הִנֵּה֮ יָמִ֣ים בָּאִים֒ וְנִשָּׂ֣א׀ כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּבֵיתֶ֗ךָ וַאֲשֶׁ֨ר אָצְר֧וּ אֲבֹתֶ֛יךָ עַד־הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה בָּבֶ֑ל that all of his children and his treasure will be carried off into galus to Bavel.  Chizkiyahu responds to this prophecy by saying ט֥וֹב דְּבַר ה׳ אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבַּ֑רְתָּ וַיֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֥י יִהְיֶ֛ה שָׁל֥וֹם וֶאֱמֶ֖ת בְּיָמָֽי׃,  all good by me so long as it does not happen in my lifetime -- what happens afterwards is their problem.  Malbim tries to put a positive spin on it and say that what Chizkiyahu meant is that things can always change.  A nevuah of bad tidings can always be averted if people do teshuvah, so there is no need to yet worry and panic.  Still, Chizkiyahu has just heard unbelievably bad news and that's the best response he can muster?!  That's all he has to say?!   

R"Y Kara comments: והיה לו לבקש רחמים על ישראל שנגזר עליהםב גלות בבל בשבילו ולא ביקש. אמר הקב״ה: חזקיה שהיה לו לנחם אתכם ואינו מנחם את ירושלם ואינו מבקש רחמים על ישראל, אלא אמר טוב ולבד שיהיה שלום ואמת בימי, הריני מנחם את ירושלם. הדא הוא דכתיב: נחמו נחמו עמי  Hashem said, "Chizkiyahu should have consoled the nation, should have consoled Yerushalayim, should have begged for mercy on the people, and he didn't.  Therefore, I will console them myself -- nachamu nachamu ami..."   

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, what we see from the navi is that sometimes our leaders miss the boat.  They hear the dvar Hashem all right, maybe even better than you or I can hear it, but their reaction is all wrong.  But what we also see from the navi is that even in those circumstances, Klal Yisrael will still find direction because Hashem himself will step in to guide us if our leaders fail.

2) I noticed a Seforno in our parsha that reads pesukim in Beshalach in way I had not thought about before and in a way which Seforno himself in Beshalach does not clue you in to.  Rashi comments on the dibra of Shabbos,  שָׁמ֛֣וֹר אֶת־י֥וֹם֩ הַשַּׁבָּ֖֨ת לְקַדְּשׁ֑֜וֹ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוְּךָ֖֣ ה׳ אלקיך , that the כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוְּךָ֖֣ refers to the fact that the commandment to keep Shabbos had already been given at Marah.  Rashi is referring to Shmos 15:25 שָׁ֣ם שָׂ֥ם ל֛וֹ חֹ֥ק וּמִשְׁפָּ֖ט וְשָׁ֥ם נִסָּֽהוּ׃, where he explains (based on Sanhedrin 56) that the chok and mishpat are במרה נתן להם מקצת פרשיות של תורה שיתעסקו בהן: שבת, פרה אדומה, וכיבוד אב ואם,א ודינין.  

Seforno helps answer the question that begs asking: What is the purpose of the Torah here alluding to the fact that the command of Shabbos was already given in Marah?  He explains that the dibra is not coming to tell us the historical fact of when the mitzvah of shabbos was given, but rather is coming to tell us how to keep shabbos properly.  The parsha there in Beshalach continues וַיֹּ֩אמֶר֩ אִם־שָׁמ֨וֹעַ תִּשְׁמַ֜ע לְק֣וֹל ה׳ אלקיך  וְהַיָּשָׁ֤ר בְּעֵינָיו֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֔ה וְהַֽאֲזַנְתָּ֙ לְמִצְוֺתָ֔יו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ֖ כׇּל־חֻקָּ֑יו כׇּֽל־הַמַּחֲלָ֞ה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֤מְתִּי בְמִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לֹא־אָשִׂ֣ים עָלֶ֔יךָ כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י ה׳ רֹפְאֶֽךָ.  I had always read this as a separate command, but Seforno explains that it's a continuation of the previous pasuk, a continuation of the שָׁ֣ם שָׂ֥ם ל֛וֹ חֹ֥ק וּמִשְׁפָּ֖ט וְשָׁ֥ם נִסָּֽהוּ׃.  Shabbos is not just a day to relax in your hammock all day, sipping kiddush scotch and eating cholent.  Shabbos has to be a day of,  וְהַֽאֲזַנְתָּ֙ לְמִצְוֺתָ֔יו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ֖ כׇּל־חֻקָּ֑יו , a day spent learning Torah, thinking about avodah. The dibra tells us that your shemiras shabbos has to be  לְקַדְּשׁ֑֜וֹ , to make it a holy day, and we were given the template of how to do that כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוְּךָ֖֣ ה׳ אלקיך in Marah.

My wife's grandfather, R' Dov Yehudah Shochet, explained the Rashi in parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:3) מה עניין שבת אצל מועדות? ללמדך שכל המחלל את המועדות מעלין עליו כאילו חילל את השבתות, וכל המקיים את המועדות מעלין עליו כאילוא קיים את השבתות as making a similar point.  The test of whether a person's shmiras Shabbos is l'shem shamayim or not is how the person keeps the moadim.  No one relaxes preparing for Pesach.  Building a sukkah takes work. If you keeps Shabbos but slack off on the moadim, it's like chilul Shabbos because it shows the shmiras Shabbos was only for the sake of having a day to relax and sleep but not really l'shem mitzvah.

3) Rashi comments on לֹ֣א תֹסִ֗פוּ עַל־הַדָּבָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אָנֹכִי֙ מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְלֹ֥א תִגְרְע֖וּ מִמֶּ֑נּוּ (4:2) as follows: לא תוסיפו – כגון: חמש פרשיות בתפילין, חמשת מינין בלולב, חמש ציציות, וכן: לא תגרעו  I saw a diyuk in Rashi: why does Rashi add the words  וכן: לא תגרעו at the end?  The pasuk itself says וְלֹ֥א תִגְרְע֖וּ!  Something to think about.  

4) What would nachamu be without this?  (Do you prefer the original?)

Friday, July 16, 2021

rodef chessed

יְרוּשָׁלַ֥͏ִם הַבְּנוּיָ֑ה כְּ֝עִ֗יר שֶׁחֻבְּרָה־לָּ֥הּ יַחְדָּֽו׃   (Teh 122:3)   Forget Minneapolis and St Paul, it's Yerushalayim which is the original twin city.  Chazal tell us that there is a Yerushalayim upstairs in heaven that is connected with our Yerushalayim down here - chubrah lah yachdav.   

אֵיכָ֣ה יָשְׁבָ֣ה בָדָ֗ד  the navi cries out.  Yerushalayim is all alone and that link has been severed.  This is the churban that we still are trying to repair.  9 Av is all about restoring the connection between Yerushalayim shel matah and Yerushalayim shel maalah, between us and Hashem, between each other.  As Chazal also darshen on chubrah lah yachdav, Yerushalaim brought us together as chaveirim.  

Short of time again this week, but one thought on the parsha:

Moshe sent messengers to Sichon asking permission to pass through his land, adding that there will an economic benefit for Sichon, as Bnei Yisrael will purchase food and drink along the way (2:27-29):

 אֶעְבְּרָ֣ה בְאַרְצֶ֔ךָ בַּדֶּ֥רֶךְ בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ אֵלֵ֑ךְ לֹ֥א אָס֖וּר יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאול׃

אֹ֣כֶל בַּכֶּ֤סֶף תַּשְׁבִּרֵ֙נִי֙ וְאָכַ֔לְתִּי וּמַ֛יִם בַּכֶּ֥סֶף תִּתֶּן־לִ֖י וְשָׁתִ֑יתִי רַ֖ק אֶעְבְּרָ֥ה בְרַגְלָֽי

 כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר עָֽשׂוּ־לִ֜י בְּנֵ֣י עֵשָׂ֗ו הַיֹּֽשְׁבִים֙ בְּשֵׂעִ֔יר וְהַמּ֣וֹאָבִ֔ים הַיֹּשְׁבִ֖ים בְּעָ֑ר

Rashi comments: כאשר עשו לי בניא עשו – לא לעניין לעבור בארצם, אלא לעניין מכר אוכל ומים  Meaning, when the pasuk says, " the Bnei Eisav and Moav did," it's not talking about allowing BN"Y to cross their land, as we know from Bamidbar 20:21 that Edom did not grant permission for Bnei Yisrael to cross their territory, וַיְמָאֵ֣ן׀ אֱד֗וֹם נְתֹן֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עֲבֹ֖ר בִּגְבֻל֑וֹ  Rather, the phrase is referring to the purchase of supplies, which Eisav did offer to sell to the Jewish people.  Moshe was pointing out to Sichon that he can avail himself of that same opportunity to make $.

Maharal asks: our pasuk is speaking about Moav as well as Eisav.  How then can Rashi explain that it is referring to selling Bnei Yisrael food and drink when we read later in 23:5 that  לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א עַמּוֹנִ֛י וּמוֹאָבִ֖י בִּקְהַ֣ל ה׳, that a convert from Amon and Moav may not intermarry into Bnei Yisrael because עַל־דְּבַ֞ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמַּ֔יִם בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֣ם מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וַאֲשֶׁר֩ שָׂכַ֨ר עָלֶ֜יךָ אֶת־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּע֗וֹר מִפְּת֛וֹר אֲרַ֥ם נַהֲרַ֖יִם לְקַֽלְלֶֽךָּ׃ they did not offer us food when we can to their land?!

Maharal answers ain hachi nami, Moav did sell food to BN"Y just like the Bnei Eisav did.  However, לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמַּ֔יִם.  They did not come out and **offer** the food and drink.  If you happened to wander into a Moabite store and found what you want on the shelves -- there for sure was no Walmart greeter at the door waiting to welcome Jews -- they would sell you what you needed.  If not, your loss.  They would not go out of their way to solicit business or offer to help.  (See Ramban on that pasuk who rejects this pshat, Chasam Sofer on our parsha, and the post here).

We see an amazing thing.  Amon and Moav are rejected for all eternity not because they had signs saying "No Jews or dogs allowed" in the windows of their stores, or because they refused to serve Jews in their restaurants or sell them supplies.  Amon and Moav are rejected for all eternity because even though they sold us supplies, fed us in their restaurants, etc., they did it begrudgingly.  

When you have an opportunity to do something for someone else -- and certainly in this case, when Amon and Moav stood to benefit financially -- and you drag your feet and show that you are not really interested, that's a crime.  

This reminds me of the gemara (Taanis 21) that tells us that Nachum Ish Gam Zu was blind, had his arms amputated, and his legs cut off because of the following incident: 

אָמְרוּ לוֹ תַּלְמִידָיו רַבִּי וְכִי מֵאַחַר שֶׁצַּדִּיק גָּמוּר אַתָּה לָמָה עָלְתָה לְךָ כָּךְ אָמַר לָהֶם בָּנַיי אֲנִי גָּרַמְתִּי לְעַצְמִי שֶׁפַּעַם אַחַת הָיִיתִי מְהַלֵּךְ בַּדֶּרֶךְ לְבֵית חָמִי וְהָיָה עִמִּי מַשּׂוֹי שְׁלֹשָׁה חֲמוֹרִים אֶחָד שֶׁל מַאֲכָל וְאֶחָד שֶׁל מִשְׁתֶּה וְאֶחָד שֶׁל מִינֵי מְגָדִים בָּא עָנִי אֶחָד וְעָמַד לִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְאָמַר לִי רַבִּי פַּרְנְסֵנִי אָמַרְתִּי לוֹ הַמְתֵּן עַד שֶׁאֶפְרוֹק מִן הַחֲמוֹר לֹא הִסְפַּקְתִּי לִפְרוֹק מִן הַחֲמוֹר עַד שֶׁיָּצְתָה נִשְׁמָתוֹ הָלַכְתִּי וְנָפַלְתִּי עַל פָּנָיו וְאָמַרְתִּי עֵינַי שֶׁלֹּא חָסוּ עַל עֵינֶיךָ יִסּוֹמוּ יָדַיי שֶׁלֹּא חָסוּ עַל יָדֶיךָ יִתְגַּדְּמוּ רַגְלַי שֶׁלֹּא חָסוּ עַל רַגְלֶיךָ יִתְקַטְּעוּ וְלֹא נִתְקָרְרָה דַּעְתִּי עַד שֶׁאָמַרְתִּי כׇּל גּוּפִי יְהֵא מָלֵא שְׁחִין אָמְרוּ לוֹ אוֹי לָנוּ שֶׁרְאִינוּךָ בְּכָךְ אָמַר לָהֶם אוֹי לִי אִם לֹא רְאִיתוּנִי בְּכָךְ

Of course there is no comparison between Amon and Moav's sin and Nachum Ish Gam Zu, but on the level Nachum was on, unloading the donkey first was on some infinitesimally small level a chisaron of אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ , of foot dragging and not seizing the opportunity to do good the first moment it presented itself.

We are supposed to be "rodef tzedaka va'chessed." We have to run to do chassadim, not wait for them to come to us, and then only willy-nilly attend to them.  

Rashi says that Leah named her daugher Dinah because (Braishis 30:21) דנה בעצמה, אם זה זכר, לא תהא רחל אחותי כאחת השפחות, ונתפללה ונהפך לנקבה.  Dina is from the word din, which alludes to what was going through Leah's head when she thought about her pregnancy and what would happen if the child was a boy and her sister Rachel would be short changed in the number of shevatim that she would produce.  But who cares what was going through Leah's head?  At the end of the day, what matters is what Leah did.  It's like if a shul has an appeal, and a guy goes home and figures out that if he moves funds from this account to that account and can write off some stock loss and do some other accounting trick, he can donate 2x as much as he had planned.  The shul doesn't give him a big y'yasher koach for his accounting skill, they give him a big y'yasher koach for the check!  Dinah is the cheshbon, it's the accounting.  Why does that matter to be recorded for posterity?

R' Betzalel Rudinsky quoted b'shem R' Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld that there are many women who if they were in Leah's shoes and already had a bunch of boys, would gladly agree if you asked them if they would take a girl instead for the sake of their sister's kavod.  This is not what makes Leah Imeinu special.  What makes Leah Imeinu special is that no one had to ask her.  What makes Leah Imeinu special is that she already thought of doing the right thing for her sister before Rachel or anyone approached her to ask for it.

That's the opposite of אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ, of waiting to be approached.  That's what it means to be rodef chessed.

Monday, July 12, 2021

reciting a bracha in advance of a chiyuv

I was thinking about the custom of making havdalah on beer during the 9 days to avoid drinking wine and was wondering if there might be another solution to avoid that problem (assuming you think it is a problem and don't just drink wine, which is permitted l'tzorech mitzvah).  I don't have a copy of the Michtivei Torah of the Gerrer at home, but I saw in Yabi'a Omer (vol 6 33:6) that R' Ovadya quotes that the Imrei Emes writes that when his uncle, the Sifsei Tzadik, the Rebbe of Peltz, was an onein on Shabbos, he davened the motzei Shabbos maariv early and recited havdalah on a kos while it was still day outside.  Since an onein is patur from mitzvos except on Shabbos, had the Rebbe waited until motzei shabbos, he would have not been allowed to daven or drink wine.  By pushing up his maariv, he gained being able to daven and say havdalah. 

This is a chiddush gadol because I would have thought (and there are Achronim who indeed argue this point) you can't have your cake and eat it too -- you can't simultaneously ignore aninus because it's shabbos, but at the time daven a weekday maariv and say havdalah as if it's not shabbos.  

The Imrei Emes has another argument against this chiddush, and this is the point that R' Ovadya devotes his discussion to.  The Imrei Emes draws the following analogy: According to R"T (see Tos in Brachos 11), once you say bichas haTorah in the morning, you no longer have to recite a new bracha for 24 hours until the next morning of the next day.  If you said birchas haTorah Monday morning, for example, you don't need to recite a new bracha until daybreak on Tues.  What happens if you woke up before daybreak on Tues?  Even though according to R"T your learning at that point is still covered by yesterday's bichas haTorah, R"T will still allow you (so argues the I.E.) to recite a new birchas haTorah that will cover Tues going forward.  Says the Imrei Emes, when you recite that bracha, it's not because you have a new chiyuv at that moment, but rather it's because you can fulfill the new chiyuv of Tues in advance and in anticipation of at arriving.  So too, when Chazal allow a person to daven maariv early on Shabbos day and recite havdalah, it's not because those chiyuvim apply before nightfall, but rather it's because a person can fulfill those chiyvim in advance and anticipation of their being chal.  That's well and good if a person will indeed have those chiyuvim later on, but in the case of an onein who will be exempt, the trick doesn't work.

Ad kan that issue b'kitzur.

Nafka minah between these views should be whether you can say havdalah on wine before shabbos ends during the 9 days.  On the one hand, you could say that since it is shabbos you are still permitted to have wine, but on the other hand, you are using wine in anticipation of chol when it would not be allowed and so maybe it should not work.  

What about saying havdalah next shabbos before nightfall in advance of Tisha b'Av?  Would that work?  The Rishonim in fact debate this very point; BaHaG argues that this cannot be done (my son told me he plans to do a post on this BH"G, so see his blog later this week).  Is that machlokes parallel to the issue raised by the Sifsei Tzadik?  Or perhaps there is no comparison between a case where a person has a chiyuv havdalah, just cannot drink the wine, and an onein who has no chiyuv?  

Friday, July 09, 2021

what about our nachala?

After the Bnei Menashe complain that if the Bnos Tzelafchad inherit, the nachala of their sheivet will pass to other tribes, the Torah acknowledges their claim and gives over the halachos of yerusha to prevent such an occurrence:

וְלֹֽא־תִסֹּ֤ב נַחֲלָה֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מִמַּטֶּ֖ה אֶל־מַטֶּ֑ה כִּ֣י אִ֗ישׁ בְּנַחֲלַת֙ מַטֵּ֣ה אֲבֹתָ֔יו יִדְבְּק֖וּ בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Immediately one pasuk later, we have what seems like a repeat:

וְלֹֽא־תִסֹּ֧ב נַחֲלָ֛ה מִמַּטֶּ֖ה לְמַטֶּ֣ה אַחֵ֑ר כִּי־אִישׁ֙ בְּנַ֣חֲלָת֔וֹ יִדְבְּק֕וּ מַטּ֖וֹת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל

The Tiferes Shlomo explains in a vort that you have to learn especially now during the three weeks, that each sheivet has a nachala that is a perfect fit for who they, for their spiritual identity.  The Bnei Menashe therefore wanted to hold on to and treasured that portion of Eretz Yisrael that was davka meant to be theirs.  As a result of that great desire, they were zocheh to have revealed through them this cheilek in Torah.  

If you have such a tremendous cheishek for your portion in Eretz Yisrael, so much so that you are not even willing to give it to another sheivet, to another family in Klal Yisrael, וְלֹֽא־תִסֹּ֤ב נַחֲלָה֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל, then kal v'chomer that לֹֽא־תִסֹּ֧ב נַחֲלָ֛ה מִמַּטֶּ֖ה לְמַטֶּ֣ה אַחֵ֑ר,  your nachala will never pass outside Klal Yisrael and be taken over by some other nation.  

Cries out the Tiferes Shlomo, how can we leave Yishmaelim living in our holy city of Yerushalayim and not make it completely ours?!  Where is our cheishek for our nachala?

 ומעתה נכון מאמר הכתוב שנית ולא תסוב נחלה ממטה למטה אחר הוא כמ"ש כי מענין הסבת נחלה משבט אל שבט אחר נוכל להבין להקפיד על הסבת נחלה זהו ירושלים הקדושה ביד האחרים הישמעאלי' היושבי' עליה בעוה"ר וצריך להתעורר בתשוקה להמשיך הדין הזה להתקיי' לא תסוב נחלה למטה אחר הם הישמעאלי' כנ"ל. 

With this yesod he explains the pesukim in Nitzavim (29:21-23):

 וְאָמַ֞ר הַדּ֣וֹר הָאַחֲר֗וֹן בְּנֵיכֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר יָק֙וּמוּ֙ מֵאַ֣חֲרֵיכֶ֔ם וְהַ֨נׇּכְרִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָבֹ֖א מֵאֶ֣רֶץ רְחוֹקָ֑ה וְ֠רָא֠וּ אֶת־מַכּ֞וֹת הָאָ֤רֶץ הַהִוא֙ וְאֶת־תַּ֣חֲלֻאֶ֔יהָ אֲשֶׁר־חִלָּ֥ה ה׳ בּה

גׇּפְרִ֣ית וָמֶ֘לַח֮ שְׂרֵפָ֣ה כׇל־אַרְצָהּ֒ לֹ֤א תִזָּרַע֙ וְלֹ֣א תַצְמִ֔חַ וְלֹא־יַעֲלֶ֥ה בָ֖הּ כׇּל־עֵ֑שֶׂב כְּֽמַהְפֵּכַ֞ת סְדֹ֤ם וַעֲמֹרָה֙ אַדְמָ֣ה וּצְבֹיִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר֙ הָפַ֣ךְ ה׳ בְּאַפּ֖וֹ וּבַחֲמָתֽוֹ

 וְאָֽמְרוּ֙ כׇּל־הַגּוֹיִ֔ם עַל־מֶ֨ה עָשָׂ֧ה ה׳ כָּ֖כָה לָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֑את מֶ֥ה חֳרִ֛י הָאַ֥ף הַגָּד֖וֹל הַזֶּֽה

Why is it only הַדּ֣וֹר הָאַחֲר֗וֹן , that last generation, who will ask about the churban ha'aretz?  

Because, answers the Tiferes Shlomo, it's the fact that they are moved and disturbed by Eretz Yisrael being in such a state that makes them the 'dor acharon,' the last generation to have to see it that way.  

When we cannot tolerate Eretz Yisrael being forlorn, that is the needed isarusa that will bring geulah and repair and redemption.

כי הדור ההוא אשר יתנו עיניהם ולבבם לשאול ע"ז והם ידאבו על חורבן הארץ וירושלים כנ"ל ועל ידי תשוקתם ודאבון נפשם על הארץ הנה יתעוררו הגאולה והם יהיו הדור האחרון קודם הגאולה

Let that generation of 'dor ha'acharon' be ours.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

where even treif is kosher

1) I've been swamped with work, but wanted to get in something on the parsha and share a beautiful thought of Rav Kook.  Ramban on our parsha explains why the Torah speaks about kashering and toiveling the klei Midyan but did not speak about doing the same for the kelim taken during the war with Sichon and Og:

והזהיר אותם עתה בהגעלת כלי מדין מאיסורי הגוים, ולא אמר להם זה מתחלה בכלי סיחון ועוג שלקחו גם הם שללם, כמו שאמר: רק הבהמה בזזנו לנו ושלל הערים אשר לכדנו (דברים ב׳:ל״ה). והטעם: כי סיחון ועוג מלכי האמורי הם וארצם מנחלת ישראל היא, והותר להם כל שללם אפילו האיסורין, דכתיב: ובתים מלאים כל טוב אשר לא מלאת (דברים ו׳:י״א), ואמרו רבותינו (בבלי חולין י״ז.): קתליג דחזירי אישתרי להו. אבל מדין לא היה משלהם, ולא לקחו את ארצם, רק לנקום נקמתם הרגו אותם ולקחו שללם, ולכך נהג האיסור בכליהם. וכן בדין הטומאה שהזהירם עתה: ואתם חנו מחוץ למחנה שבעת ימים וגו׳ (במדבר ל״א:י״ט), כי במלחמת סיחון ועוג היו כל ישראל, וטומאה הותרה בצבור. ועל דרך הפשט הזהירם: ואתם חנו מחוץ למחנה שבעת ימים ותתחטאו (במדבר ל״א:י״ט) – כדי שלא יטמאו את העם, אבל שם כולם היו שוים בדבר.

Ramban holds that during battle for the territory of Sichon v'Og, which was part of Eretz Yisrael, the rules of kashrus were suspended. This is a special din learned out from Devarim 6:11 that promises וּבָ֨תִּ֜ים מְלֵאִ֣ים כׇּל־טוּב֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־מִלֵּ֒אתָ֒ וּבֹרֹ֤ת חֲצוּבִים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־חָצַ֔בְתָּ כְּרָמִ֥ים וְזֵיתִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־נָטָ֑עְתָּ וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ that one is allowed to enjoy the spoils of a war of conquest in Eretz Yisrael, whether kosher or trief.  The battle against Midyan was not a battle of conquest for territory in Eretz Yisrael, and therefore the Torah needs to speak about how to treat the treif kelim. 

I saw Rav Kook quoted as saying the following hesber: We translate "assur" as meaning "prohibited," but that's not exactly right.  Assur means tied up, locked up.  A beis ha'assurim is a prison.  The Baal haTanya explains that when we eat and have strength to learn and daven, there is a release of spiritual as well as physical energy from the food we consume.  In food which is assur, that energy is locked up; it cannot be liberated and released for good, and so the food is off limits.  However, says Rav Kook, when a Jewish soldier puts his life on the line fighting for Eretz Yisrael, then even though under usual circumstances he cannot elevate that bacon or that cheeseburger for avodas Hashem, when he is engaged in kibush ha'aretz he is on such a high level that he is able to do so.  The drive to take Eretz Yisrael gives us strength to accomplish things in ruchniyus that otherwise we would be unable to achieve.

(The Rambam, parenthetically, has a completely different understanding of this din.  He puts it in the same chapter (Melachim 8:1) as his discussion of the laws of yefat toar (see Avi Ezri) and learns that the heter to eat treif is a special dispensation 1) only for soldiers, and it  2) applies both to milchemes reshus and milchemes mitzvah, whether fighting to conquer the 7 nations in Eretz Yisrael or fighting some other war.  

Why then does the Torah mention kashering kelim here?  About 10 years ago we discussed the Rogatchover's chiddush that the fight against Midyan did not have a din milchama, but was an act of nekama.  "Nikom mikmas Bnei Yisrael..."  )

2) The Netziv takes note of an interesting repitition in Moshe's recounting to the tribes of Reuvain,Gad, and Menashe the sin of the mergalim and the previous generation:

Pesukim 10-11:

 וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֥ף ה׳ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא וַיִּשָּׁבַ֖ע לֵאמֹֽר

 אִם־יִרְא֨וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֜ים הָעֹלִ֣ים מִמִּצְרַ֗יִם מִבֶּ֨ן עֶשְׂרִ֤ים שָׁנָה֙ וָמַ֔עְלָה אֵ֚ת הָאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֛עְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹ֑ב כִּ֥י לֹא־מִלְא֖וּ אַחֲרָֽי

Pasuk 13:

וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֤ף ה׳ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיְנִעֵם֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר אַרְבָּעִ֖ים שָׁנָ֑ה עַד־תֹּם֙ כׇּל־הַדּ֔וֹר הָעֹשֶׂ֥ה הָרַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֥י ה׳

Why "va'yichar af Hashem..." two times in speaking about the same event?  

The sin of the meraglim was in fact a double-sin.  Eretz Yisrael is not just some random piece of real estate that Hashem designated to be our homeland.  Eretz Yisrael is the makom hashra'as ha'Shechina.  To live in Eretz Yisrael is to live under direct hashgacha, which is a tremendous privilege, but also a tremendous responsibility.  כִּ֥י לֹא־מִלְא֖וּ אַחֲרָֽי means the sin of the meraglim was not just in rejecting Eretz Yisrael -- it was rejecting the Shechina.  "The meraglim didn't want to be there because I am there," said Hashem.  "It's me they can't live with, not just the country that they don't like."

Nachamu nachamu ami...  A double-nechama.  We don't just want to return to the land; we want to be there and live in Hashem's presence, with a hashra'as haShechina. 

Friday, July 02, 2021

Midyan =dimyon; don't lose sight of reality

Three observations/questions and then a thought from the Ne'os Desheh of Ishbitz to try to tie things together:

1) Ramban, who usually take a very conservative approach to using the principle of ain mukdam u'm'uchar baTorah (e.g. see the machlokes Ramban and Ibn Ezra at the beginning of P' Korach) and usually assumes events in the Torah are presented in chronological order, here argues that the count of Bnei Yisrael and the command of tzror es haMidyanim are NOT presented in order.  First came the count, and later came the command of tzror es haMidyanim, the opposite of the order of the text.  In fact, we know that Bnei Yisrael did not wage war with Midyan until later, as recorded in next week's parsha.  Ramban writes (25:12): 

 ואחרי שנתן שכרו הטוב לצדיק, צוהו להפרע מן הרשעים, ואמר לו: צרור את המדינים (במדבר כ״ה:י״ז).

וצוהו שימנה העם תחלה, וזה טעם: ויהי אחרי המגפה (במדבר כ״ו:א׳), כי המנין יהיה תחלה.

He explains why: the Torah wanted to put together the onesh of Midyan with the schar of Pinchas and present it as one unit, even at the cost of inverting chronological order.  (Torah is not a history book of what happened in the midbar.  In a history book, the timeline of events is critical.  What happened and when did it happen.  In Torah, it is the moral message which is critical and everything else takes a back seat. )

The textual proof for Ramban's position is the words יהי אחרי המגפה that precede the count.  Why do we need a statement telling us when this happened if events are in chronological order?  It must be that things are not in fact in order, and so we need to be clued in to the timeline.  (See Ibn Ezra, Netziv, who explain the phrase differently.)

2) כִּ֣י צֹרְרִ֥ים הֵם֙ לָכֶ֔ם בְּנִכְלֵיהֶ֛ם אֲשֶׁר־נִכְּל֥וּ לָכֶ֖ם עַל־דְּבַר־פְּע֑וֹר.  Ibn Ezra translated בנכליהם – במחשבותם הרעה.  Sounds strange -- Midyan committed a terrible crime, but that's not what the pasuk focusses on.  Instead, the focus is on machshava, thinking.  

3)  כִּ֣י צֹרְרִ֥ים הֵם֙ לָכֶ֔ם - why tzoririm in the present tense when the episode already ended?  See Netziv.

The Neos Desheh of Ishbitz has a fascinating explanation as to why sheivet Shimon in particular fell prey to the Bnos Midyan.  When eishes Potifar tried to tempt Yosef, Yosef did not fall victim to sin because, as Chazal tell us, he saw dmus dyukno shel Aviv, a vision of his father.  He felt that connection to his past, to his lineage, to his family, and they stopped him at the precipice to wrongdoing.  In contrast, in Yaakov's blessing to Shimon, he said b'sodam al tavo nafshi; he distanced himself from Shimon. Shimon did not have that same emergency break of dmus d'yukno shel Aviv, that strong bond to his father, his lineage, that would prevent his fall.

The place in which the sin of znus occurred - Shittim - alludes to the fact that sin is rooted in shtus.  It's nonsense.  Midyon = dimyon, it's all appearances, smoke and mirrors that lead the imagination to run wild, but in reality there is nothing true and meaningful and lasting there.  Yaakov was kulo emes, rooted in truth, the antithesis of Midyan.

Noam Elimelech writes: וגם בנידון דידן כל זמן שהיו אותם הרשעים המדינים בעולם, אז היו עדיין הרהורי עבירה דפעור שולטים בישראל לבלבל להם המחשבה, ולכך נצטוה משה רבינו ע"ה לנקום בהם נקמת ה'. וזהו "כי צוררים.. לכם" בהוה, פירוש עדיין הם צוררים לכם, ומפרש הכתוב במה "בנכליהם אשר נכלו לכם על דבר פעור", פירוש באותן המחשבות הרעות המתהוים לכם בדברכם במעשה דפעור "ועל דבר כזבי כו'", ולכך תבערו אותם מן הארץ

In light of the Ne'os Desheh, I would suggest along similar lines as the N.E. that it was not the sin itself, but it was the thought that if we can fall prey to such sin and such temptation, then we must not be connected to our forefathers, which lingered long after the sin and which the Torah here is addressing.  It is the self-doubt and self-recrimination after the fact, the feeling of loss of hope and unworthiness, which was tzoririm, present tense --  it continued to eat away at the people and do more harm even than the sin itself. 

The way to antagonize Midyan, tzror es haMidyanim, is to repair the gap of b'sodam al tavo nafshi.  The physical war would come later, but first, one must undo the psychological damage to morale.  The count of Bnei Yisrael reinforced the yichus of families and shevatim, reinforced the connection to our lineage, our connection to Yaakov.  It showed that everyone counts, everyone is worthy, everyone has a connection.  That's the reality; everything else is a dimyon.  The hey and yud at the beginning/end of each family name, Hashem's stamp of approval, showed it to be true.    

If this is correct, then the order of the pesukim fits perfectly.  The count of Bnei Yisrael comes after tzror es haMidyanim because the count is the way in which we fulfill that command.  

Right after the words וַיְהִ֖י אַחֲרֵ֣י הַמַּגֵּפָ֑ה, which appear after tzror es haMidyanim and at the start of the count, the Torah does a very unusual thing and puts in a parsha break right in the middle of the pasuk.  Ohr haChaim comments:

עוד נראה לתת טעם שהתחיל הפרשה מאמצע הכתוב על פי דבריהם ז״ל (ילקוט) שאמרו וזה לשונם ויהי אחרי המגפה שאו את ראש וגו׳ זה הוא שאמר הכתוב אם אמרתי מטה רגלי וגו׳ בשעה שקבלו ישראל התורה נתקנאו אומות העולם וכו׳ אמר להם הקדוש ברוך הוא הביאו לי ספר יוחסין שלכם וכו׳ כשבאו לשטים קלקלו וכו׳ אמרו האומות העטרה שהיתה בידם בטלה שוים הם לנו זקפן ה׳ שנגף כל מי שנתקלקל והעמידן על טהרתם עד כאן, לפי זה יש טעם בהפסקה באמצע הפסוק להעיר שהמאמר קשור גם עם מה שלמעלה בענין רעות אשר גרמו מדין על דבר פעור ועל דבר כזבי וגו׳ וגם ויהי אחרי המגפה פירוש לשון צער, והוא מה שרמז בפסוק מטה רגלי שהיו אומות העולם מזלזלים בהם שניטלה העטרה שהיתה בידם, וזלזול זה לא נחלט מישראל כשנסתלקה המגפה מהם עד שמנאם ונמצאו כל אחד מכיר אבותיו עד השבט אז נשאו ראש, והוא אומרו ויהי לשון צער גם אחרי המגפה, ולזה ויאמר ה׳ וגו׳ שאו, ולא החליט להפסיק לעשותו פסוק בפני עצמו וערבו עם מה שלמטה ממנו לומר כי בשביל מה שרמוז בתיבת ויהי שהוא זלזול האומות הוא שאמר ה׳ שאו וגו׳.

The umos want to plant the thought in our brain that  אמרו האומות העטרה שהיתה בידם בטלה שוים הם לנו, we are just like them and have no connection to a special history or a special destiny.  The count proves them wrong.

Perhaps undoing this thought is necessary as well, as Ibn Ezra and Neziv understand וַיְהִ֖י אַחֲרֵ֣י הַמַּגֵּפָ֑ה , as a lead up to אחרי המגפה – בעבור שאמר השם: לאלה תחלק הארץ, yerushas ha'aretz.  Our claim to Eretz Yisrael is based on the promise Hashem made to the Avos.  If, as the umos claim, שוים הם לנו, then all bets are off.  But we are different; our connection to the past proves them wrong.