Monday, January 31, 2022
Sunday, January 30, 2022
We are all busy shoveling out from the blizzard here in NY. If you do not have a snow shovel, shame on you.
We have two snow shovels and a booster shovel in the basement. There is plenty of snow in front of my house, but I am sure had I not had those two shovels and my booster shovel, the snow pile in front of my house would have been even higher.
In fact, the only reason it snowed at all on my block is because there are people who have no shovels. If everyone had two shovels and a booster shovel, I am sure the street would have been totally snow free.
There is actually tons of data to corroborate this assertion. Multiple studies to that effect have been carried out by the snow shovel manufacturers, who assure me that their conclusions are correct. Unfortunately, their notes are so voluminous that it will take 75 years for them to release all the data, so for now, you will just have to take their word for it. Would you rather risk snow each season, or would you rather follow the science?
There are of course some people who will remain unconvinced. Some people will claim that everyone on their block has multiple shovels and it still snowed, or claim that their are blocks where no one has a shovel and it did not snow as hard. These people should be de-platformed from all social media. These unconfirmed reports taken out of context are misinformation that poses a danger to us all. Just because you heard of one case where someone had multiple shovels and his home was still buried in snow, is that breakthrough case really a reason to question the data?
I think those streets where people do not have shovels (we can all see your un-shoveled walk!) should not be plowed. Or perhaps they should be charged an extra surcharge or tax. Why should we all have to suffer because of some people's selfishness? They are keeping the snow in the neighborhood, so make them pay.
I've heard that some people from NY have started moving to states like Florida where people have no shovels and they say that it seldom snows. Even if you could afford to move, do you really want to take a chance?
And then you have the people who have snow blowers, or pay a service to clear their walk and driveway, and try to use this as an excuse not to buy a shovel. "The snow is cleared away -- what do I need a shovel for?" that ask. The way I see it, anti-shovel is anti-shovel. Not needing a shovel is no excuse not to buy a shovel.
Or you have the people who go out early in the storm to salt their walk so the snow melts more quickly. Stop it! Salt is for meat, not for walkways.
Look, it's a small thing to do for you neighbors. Get a shovel. Or two, or three, actually. And if you still experience snowfall, it means we may require a fourth shovel -- we will have to wait and see. It's not that we keep changing our mind. This is simply how science is done. As the data comes in, science changes, and we revise our earlier estimates. Just keep buying those shovels, because we know that is the only safe and effective way to stop it from snowing.
Thursday, January 27, 2022
This Shabbos is my father's yahrzeit. Al pi halacha, a yahrzeit is a very serious day and a person should really fast. Everyone these days seems to be sefardi or chassidic and so they mark a yahrzeit with drink and food. This idea never really resonated with me either emotionally or intellectually; I don't understand how having a meal or a drink is an appropriate way to commemorate someone's passing or what my eating food and saying a bracha does for the departed in shamayim, but what do I know -- to each his own. Anyway, poskim quote two reasons to mark a yahrzeit: 1) it is a day of kaparah for the departed, who benefits from our charity and Torah study done l'aliyas ha'neshomo; 2) bad mazal - those who are related to the departed should be a little nervous, as the day has proven inauspicious for them. There is a potential nafka mina l'dina: let's say a person c"v dies at night, but for their relatives on the other side of the world, it is still the previous day. Is the date of the yahrzeit fixed based on the date where the meis is, or where the aveilim are? If the point of the yahrzeit is kaparah for the departed, then it should be fixed relative to the meis. If it is for the sake of the relatives who are alive, to avoid bad mazal, then the date should be relative to their location. (Other poskim argue that it is not taluy in the reason, v'ain kan makomo).
It seems to me that when yahrzeit falls on Shabbos, then it is exclusively about kavod ha'meis, to enhance the kaparah and aliyas ha'neshomo. How can Shabbos, a day where וצווחין אף עקתין בטילין ושביתין, be a day with any danger from bad mazal?
On to the parsha.
At the end of our parsha (23:20) Hashem tells Moshe that he is going to send a malach to accompany Bnei Yisrael. Rashi comments that Hashem was telling Moshe that Bnei Yisrael were going to sin and therefore he would have to remove His presence, as we read later in Ki Tisa after the cheit ha'eigel: כִּי֩ לֹ֨א אֶֽעֱלֶ֜ה בְּקִרְבְּךָ֗ כִּ֤י עַם־קְשֵׁה־עֹ֙רֶף֙ אַ֔תָּה
Ramban already asks: although after cheit ha'eigel Hashem threatened to send an angel, Moshe was unwilling to accept that decree and davened for it to be abolished, as we read there וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֵלָ֑יו אִם־אֵ֤ין פָּנֶ֙יךָ֙ הֹלְכִ֔ים אַֽל־תַּעֲלֵ֖נוּ מִזֶּֽה. Hashem responded and accepted his plea, גַּ֣ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְתָּ אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֑ה. Why then would Hashem tell Moshe now about a decree he would threaten in the future but that would never actually come to pass? Ramban therefore explains that this malach did not appear during Moshe's lifetime. The parsha is referring to events after Moshe's death, when Yehoshua was the leader, and at that point a malach guided the nation.
Whether you learn like Rashi or you learn like Ramban, the question that begs asking is what purpose this advanced warning about a malach served. Why not just wait for the people to sin, and m'meila they would suffer the consequences of being led by a malach?
The Rambam in his introduction to mishnayos zera'im has a yesod that we've discussed before (e.g. here), which the Meshech Chochma brings up every few parshiyos. The Rambam writes that when G-d makes a promise, it is contingent on the person receiving the promise being worthy of it. That's why we find that Yaakov Avinu was worried before his encounter with Eisav despite having Hashem's promise of protection. Yaakov was worried "shema yigrom ha'cheit" -- perhaps he was unworthy of the promise made to him. However, writes the Rambam, when the promise is articulated by a navi, not revealed by G-d himself, then it is guaranteed to be fulfilled. If such a promise were to not come to fruition, then people would be liable to question then authenticity of the navi rather than doubt their own worthiness. To avoid casting aspersions on the navi, the nevuah is guaranteed to be fulfilled no matter what, take it to the bank. (See Maharal in Gevuros Hashem ch 7.)
This why, explains Meshech Chochma, Hashem appeared to Moshe to tell him that he is giving his bris of shalom to Pinchas, rather than Hashem appearing in a vision to Pinchas himself. When Moshe said it, it meant fulfillment was guaranteed, irrespective of Pinchas' future merits or chataim.
And this is why, says Meshech Chochma, when Avraham laughed when he was told that he would have a son, he did not suffer a rebuke from Hashem, but Sarah was rebuked for her laughter. Avraham heard the promise in a vision from Hashem, and he laughed because he doubted he would be worthy of it being fulfilled. Sarah, on the other hand, heard the promise from a person -- nevuah -- which meant fulfillment was guaranteed.
The Oznayim laTorah explains our pesukim using the same yesod. Without this parsha, had Bnei Yisrael only had the havtacha of Eretz Yisrael given by Hashem to the Avos, one might have thought that the cheit ha'eigel proved them unworthy of that promise being fulfilled. Therefore, Hashem gave our parsha to be spoken by Moshe, the greatest navi, so that it would be guranateed that at least a malach, if not Hashem himself, would lead the people into Eretz Yisrael. Since it was declared by a navi, irrespective of zechuyos, this promise would be fulfilled.
The parsha is not meant as a besora of sin, a besora of letdown, but to the contrary, it is a guarantee that Klal Yisrael can and will never be abandoned.
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Rashi in parshas Bo quotes a hava amina that a ger should bring a korban pesach right after he converts and not wait until pesach. A few weeks ago my son explained that we see from Rashi that the korban pesach in Mitzrayim was a kiyum not just of the pesach offering, but also a kiyum of a korban geirus, and therefore one could have a hava amina that every ger bring such a korban at the time of conversion. Similarly, the milah done before pesach Mitzrayim was also a kiyum in geirus, as the mitzvah of milah itself had already been given to Avraham Avinu.
I was not so enamored with this idea. The gemara learns the need for a korban for geirus from the korban offered at the time of mattan Torah (end of our parsha). Tevilah and milah are also learned from mattan Torah. Why would Klal Yisrael need another geirus at mattan Torah, I asked him, if they already had a geirus in Mitzrayim?
My attempt to answer my own question:
Usually a ger has milah first and then tevilah. Ramban (Yevamos 47) holds that bdieved it can be done the other way around as well. Both milah and tevilah are steps in the geirus process, and until both are complete, in whatever order, the geirus in incomplete.
Achronim ask: the gemara (Yevamos 97) writes that if a mother pregnant with twins converts, even though ger she'nisgayer is k'katan she'nolad and all former familiar relationships are null and void, her sons born as Jews are considered related as brothers and there would be an issue of eishes ach for one to marry the other's wife. Why should this be true according to Ramban? Even though the twins are yotzei tevilah of geirus in utero, they still need milah to complete their geirus. 8 days after they are born, when they have milah and become geirim, their relationship with each other should be void?
Similarly, the gemara (Bechoros 47) writes that if a pregnant woman converts, the baby is a bechor l'kohen. According to Ramban, the baby is not even Jewish at birth! Since milah is necessary for complete geirus, it is only on day 8 that the baby even becomes Jewish, and therefore should not be considered a bechor?
R' Naftali Trop (shiur on ger katan in Kesubos) answers that there are two stages of geirus. Ramban does not mean that before milah the child is an aku"m. The child is a member of the Jewish nation, he is related to his Jewish brother, he is a bechor l'kohen if he is the first baby to come out of his mother's womb. However, the child lacks a kedushas yisrael. That is missing without the added step of milah.
How could there be geirus for children at mattan Torah when geirus requires daas and a katan has no daas? The answer is that the children were already part of Klal Yisrael since they were bnei Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. What the geirus of mattan Torah added is the element of kedushas yisrael. That extension of the geirus, of what it means to be part of Klal Yisrael, does not required additional daas or consent to be accepted.
I suggested to my son that perhaps this is why there was a to stage process of geirus, one in Mitzrayim and one at mattan Torah. The first, in Mitzrayim, forged us into a nation. The second, at mattan Torah, forged a kedushas yisrael, which is only possible through Torah. Without that we might have been a distinct nation, separate from Mitzrayim, but we would have not been a holy nation.
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
The Tur (O.C. 46) writes that one recites the bracha of "asher bachar banu...v'nasan lanu es toraso" one should remember maamad Har Sinai. The Bach explains that the Tur was bothered by the question of why we have multiple brachos in birchas hatorah, first the bracha of "laasok b'divrei Torah," and then this bracha of "asher bachar banu..." The Tur's answer is that the first bracha is a regular birchas hamitzvah on the mitzvah of studying Torah; the second bracha is a birchas ha'shevach to thank G-d for the experience of maamad Har Sinai. ( As we discussed once before, according to some Rishonim there is even a separate mitzvah to remember maamad Har Sinai.)
The Shem m'Shmuel (5671 last piece) has a different approach. Rashi comments in last week's parsha on the pasuk בַּחֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֔י לְצֵ֥את בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם בַּיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה בָּ֖אוּ מִדְבַּ֥ר סִינָֽי׃ that לא היה צריך לכתוב אלא: ביום ההוא, מהו ביום הזה – שיהו דברי תורה חדשים עליך כאילו היום נתנו. Every day the study of Torah is supposed to be fresh in one's eyes, as if it is the first time one set eyes on it. It is the Torah itself which rejuvenates a person and refreshes his outlook. He quotes the Tana d'bei Eliyahu that when a person learns, Hashem is right there learning alongside the individual. That experience is what gives a person new chiyus -- today's learning is not just looking at the same old text that one saw yesterday and the day before.
The first bracha of birchas ha'Torah is on the mitzvah of study. The second bracha is thanks for this rejuvenation, thanks that there is a "nosein haTorah" giving us a new outlook and new insight every day.
The gemara tells us that churban haMikdash and galus happened because Klal Yisrael failed to say birchas haTorah. In light of his chiddush, Sm"S explains the midah k'neged midah: Eretz Yisrael is the one place where one can experience constant growth, constant hischadshus and renewal in avodas Hashem. Just ask any of your children who have spent a year in Israel in seminary or yeshiva. Undoubtedly, that year is a year of growth like no other. It's not just the age that they go which triggers it, or being away from home which triggers it -- it's being in Eretz Yisrael which is the trigger. Failing to say birchas haTorah indicated a failure to appreciate the hischadshus and renewal in each day. People felt that it's the same ongoing chiyuv and the study day in and day out -- לא מפסקי לילות מימים וכחד יומא אריכא הוא (Sukkah 46a) -- so why bother with a new bracha each day? But we do say a new bracha, because Hashem is constantly "nosein haTorah," because שיהו דברי תורה חדשים עליך כאילו היום נתנו, there is a new chiyus that is given to us each day.
Friday, January 21, 2022
1. Just a quick follow up to the post yesterday on כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לְבֵ֣ית יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְתַגֵּ֖יד לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃. Rashi explains the difference between Beis Yaakov and Bnei Yisrael is a matter of gender. The pasuk uses the term amira, which usually implies a soft tone, when it talks about speaking to the women, and the term tageid, which usually implies harsh language, when it talks about speaking to the men (Rashi, see Ibn Ezra). The simple pshat (see R' Bachyei, Alshich) is that the women need to be approached in a more gentle manner and have things explained in more simple terms, but the men can absorb more. Ksav Sofer says exactly the opposite. Women are more righteous and don't need the fire and brimstone speech to motivate them. It's enough to tell them gently what they need to do and they will get the message. Men, on the other hand...
2. The R' Bachyei on this pasuk is a source for women davening for their children when they light Shabbos candles:
ועוד שהאשה הטובה היא סבה לתורה שהיא יכולה להמשיך את בנה לבית המדרש לפי שהיא מצוייה בבית והיא מרחמת עליו בכמה מיני געגועין כדי להמשיך אותו אחר למוד התורה מנעוריו וגם כי יזקין לא יסור ממנה, ולכך ראויה האשה להתפלל לשם יתברך בשעת הדלקת הנר של שבת שהיא מצוה מוטלת עליה שיתן לה ה׳ בנים מאירים בתורה, כי התפלה יותר נשמעת בשעת עשיית המצוה ובזכות נר שבת שהוא אור תזכה לבנים בעלי תורה הנקראת אור שנאמר (משלי ו׳:כ״ג) כי נר מצוה ותורה אור, וכן דרשו רז״ל האי מאן דרגיל בשרגי הויין ליה בנים תלמידי חכמים.
3. Many meforshim explain the distinction between Beis Yaakov and Bnei Yisrael has nothing to do with gender, but rather the distinction is between the hamon am, the simple uneducated masses, and the educated elite.
I have no idea what to make of this comment of the Bnei Yisascher (Sivan 2:18) which seems to indicate the for some people, remaining in a state of ignorance is a good thing:
כה תאמר לבית יעק' ותגיד לבני ישראל הנה כפל הלשון אמירה והגדה. בית יעקב ובני ישראל. הנה יתפרש הדבר. כבר ידוע אמיר"ה הוא כפשוטו. והגד"ה הוא המשך הדיבור להבין בחכמ"ה כמ"ש בזהר. וידוע ג"כ עפ"י פשוטו בי"ת יעקב הוא המון העם. ובנ"י ישראל בעלי מדריגה ת"ח גדולים המחבבים את התורה ומצותי באהבתה ישגו תמיד. וז"ש הש"י כה תאמר לבית יעקב. להמון עם. לא תפרש להם בהמשך פירוש שאפילו ח"ו לא יקיימו התורה כבר יש קיום לשמים וארץ ע"י הקבלה בלבד. דילמא עי"ז ח"ו יתעצלו ויתעצלו מלקיימה ומלעשותה. משא"כ להת"ח דהתור"ה חביבה עליהם ביותר אמר ותג"ד לבני ישראל. המשך הפירוש כי באלו אין חשש שהן המה רודפים אחרי התור"ה והמצות כל הימים ובאלה הדברים מובן מ"ש מש"ה:
Thursday, January 20, 2022
One of my favorite Midrashim is the comment in this week's parsha on כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לְבֵ֣ית יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְתַגֵּ֖יד לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃. The Midrash writes:
אָמַר רַבִּי תַּחְלִיפָא דְּקֵיסָרִין, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כְּשֶׁבָּרָאתִי אֶת הָעוֹלָם, לֹא צִוִּיתִי אֶלָּא לְאָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, וְאַחַר כָּךְ נִצְטַוֵּית חַוָּה וְעָבְרָה וְקִלְקְלָה אֶת הָעוֹלָם, עַכְשָׁיו אִם אֵינִי קוֹרֵא לַנָּשִׁים תְּחִלָּה, הֵן מְבַטְּלוֹת אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, לְכָךְ נֶאֱמַר: כֹּה תֹאמַר לְבֵית יַעֲקֹב
The pasuk places "Beis Yaakov," the women, before "Bnei Yisrael," the men, because in Gan Eden when G-d gave the commandment not to eat the eitz ha'daas to Adam and he relayed it to Chavah, things did not work out so well. This time around, G-d decided to loop in Chavah first.
Whatever the deeper lesson of the Midrash here is, we should not lose sight of the plain meaning of what Chazal are saying. Just because a husband or a father, the "Adam" of the family, goes to daf yomi every day, does not by osmosis cause Torah to pass on to his wife and family. Gone are the days when just being raised in a frum home was enough to ensure that one was knowledgeable in hil shabbos, in kashrus, etc. Chavah -- our wives, mothers, daughters -- need to hear the dvar Hashem directly, to know and study halacha and mussar and other areas, or we risk spiritual churban. Those who misquote the Iggeres haGR"A and say tzinuyus for a women is what Torah study is for a man are mistaken -- it is not. Tzniyus does not give one insight into what Hashem asks of us and wants to teach us. Only Torah study does that.
Going beyond the plain meaning, what Chazal I think are trying to tell us is that Torah cannot be studied via a kli sheni, so to speak. G-d teaches Adam, Adam then teaches Chavah, and along the way in the game of telephone the message is lost. You need to study text first hand. There is no substitute for direct engagement with original sources. The Maharasha was critical of the Shulchan Aruch being published because he thought it would become a substitute for study of the sugyos and Rishonim. One can only tremble at what he would say in our time when ha'levay people would even open the Shulchan Aruch and not rely on other secondary and tertiary sources.
Later in the parsha we read:
אַתֶּ֣ם רְאִיתֶ֔ם כִּ֚י מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם דִּבַּ֖רְתִּי עִמָּכֶֽם׃
לֹ֥א תַעֲשׂ֖וּן אִתִּ֑י אֱלֹ֤הֵי כֶ֙סֶף֙ וֵאלֹהֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב לֹ֥א תַעֲשׂ֖וּ לָכֶֽם
Unlike Ramban who learns that the latter pasuk prohibits avodah zarah b'shutfus (meaning there is some power in addition to G-d that controls things) , Netziv (based on Seforno) learns that it prohibits the worship of Hashem via an intermediary (meaning G-d is the only power, but He can be approached through some intervening medium). Hashem tells Bnei Yisrael that He spoke with them directly at Sinai -- He did not communicate through an intermediary. So too, when we speak to Hashem, when we study the dvar Hashem, it should be done directly, not through intermediaries. Everyone has a direct connection.
Friday, January 14, 2022
There is a Netziv in parshas Zos HaBracha (Harchev Davar 33:12) that is relevant to our parsha that is worth taking a look at if you did not see it then or don't remember it. Everyone seems to think that Nachshon was the first one to take the brave leap and jump into the Yam Suf, after which the waters split, but in actuality, Chazal (in Mechilta and Tosefta in Sota) have a machlokes whether sheivet Yehudah went in first or whether sheivet Binyamin jumped in first (see this post where I quoted the hesber of the Degel Reuvain to the mahlokes). According to the view that Binyamin jumped in first, the gemara writes that the members of Yehudah began to toss stones at them -- how dare the youngest usurp the place of Yehudah! Chazal give a mashal: a king asked his elder son to wake him at 9:00 in the morning, and also asked his younger son to wake him, but at sunrise. When the youngest son went in to wake his father, the elder one tried to stop him. "Father asked me to wake him only later!" he protested. To which the younger son answered that he was also doing what the father told him to do, and to get out of his way. Hearing the commotion and noise of the argument, the father woke up. "Since you both wanted to do my bidding, you both get reward," he declared. So too, Yehudah is given the reward of malchus; Binyamin is given the reward of Beis HaMikdash being built in his portion.
Why is it that Binyamin was so anxious to take the lead and did not defer to Yehudah, his elder brother? And what does the mashal add to our understanding here?
Netziv explains that the nature of Binyamin's avodah was to live on the highest level of trust and bitachon in Hashem. Life need not be constrained by the normal rules and expectations of derech ha'teva. "Y'did Hashem, yishkon la'vetach alav..." The Shechina is always close to Binyamin, as the Shechina is always close to a baal bitachon. This is why Binyamin's bracha given by Moshe appears right after Levi's bracha, and this is why Binyamin was zocheh to have the Beis HaMikdash built in his portion.
Yehudah, on the other hand, accepted G-d's presence as manifest through derech ha'teva, finding G-d in the day to day normal activities of life. "Yadav rav lo v'eizer mi'tzarav ti'hiyeh..." You need to fight wars to defeat enemies; you need to take action to avert tzaros. Don't just sit back and trust G-d to perform miracles. It is not a lack of kvod Shamayim, but aderaba, it is the greatest kvod Shamayim to see G-d's presence within teva and not just above it.
There is no right and wrong in the choice between Binyamin vs Yehudah, and throughout the ages this same machlokes reverberates though Jewish thought. If a person, or Klal Yisrael chooses, we can forget about the rules of teva, live as if Hashem's hashgacha will take care of everything, and if we truly believe it, then it will. Or we can choose to live within the rules of teva and trust that that is the medium through which yad Hashem acts.
When Shaul falls in battle, David cries a kinah, a lamentation (Shmuel 2 1:17-18):
וַיְקֹנֵ֣ן דָּוִ֔ד אֶת־הַקִּינָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את עַל־שָׁא֖וּל וְעַל־יְהוֹנָתָ֥ן בְּנֽוֹ
וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁת הִנֵּ֥ה כְתוּבָ֖ה עַל־סֵ֥פֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר
Netziv asks: is this the time to talk about the need for Yehudah to learn archery? What does that have to do with the death of Shaul?
He answers that David understood that when Shaul, who was from sheivet Binyamin, lead the nation, it was on that high level of expecting the miraculous, of trusting G-d to take care of everything. With Shaul's death, that level of bitachon would be lost. The passing of the mantle to Yehudah meant living within derech ha'teva, of needing archers and armies to fight wars, with G-d helping behind the scenes. לְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁת is symbolic of that shift in level of belief and shift in level of hashgacha.
This is the machlokes that took place at Yam Suf. There was a בְּר֨וּחַ קָדִ֤ים עַזָּה֙ כׇּל־הַלַּ֔יְלָה (14:21), a wind building all night, gaining in intensity, that could have pushed the waters of Yam Suf aside -- a meteorological occurrence, just the way a scientist would explain the event away. The only difference is that this occurrence was not freak chance, but had yad Hashem behind it. Sheivet Yehudah was waiting for the wind to pick up enough to split the water and then they would march through. G-d does not need to reboot teva, to override teva, to make his presence known. Aderaba, it is a higher level to find G-d within nature and not just beyond it.
Binyamin, on the other hand, did not want to wait. Forget nature -- just jump in and the water will split. If you believe, you don't need to worry about anything else. That is the ideal.
The machlokes betweeh shevatim was not just a matter of who gets the kavod of going first, but it reflected different philosophies in avodas Hashem.
Chazal used the mashal of waking the king to convey this idea. Kings don't normally wake up at sunrise. They sleep in until later in the morning. Yehudah followed the derech ha'teva in their avodas Hashem; he is the eldest son who wanted to wake his father the king only at the normal time. Binyamim wanted to jump the gun, to go outside the norm, as that was their derech in avodah.
Hashem's response is that both approaches have merit. All that matters in the end is that both intend to be marbeh k'vod Shamayim.
Thursday, January 06, 2022
מִשְׁכוּ וּקְחוּ לָכֶם צֹאן לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתֵיכֶם וְשַׁחֲטוּ הַפֶּסַח
Rashi comments משכו ידיכם מעבודה זרה וקחו לכם צאן של מצוה
R' Moshe Tzvi Neriah writes that you can learn two lessons from this Rashi. We learn from Rashi 1) how difficult it is to break old habits and resist temptation, as a person can be on the cusp of geulah and still require warnings and admonishments not to engage in idolatry; 2) and we also learn that even though a person might still be steeped in and tempted by avodah zarah, he can still be worthy of redemption.
It's worth noting (see hesber of Shem m'Shmuel 5675) that when Hashem gave Moshe the command to offer korban Pesach, He said only וְיִקְח֣וּ לָהֶ֗ם אִ֛ישׁ שֶׂ֥ה לְבֵית־אָבֹ֖ת שֶׂ֥ה לַבָּֽיִת׃. It is Moshe who added מִשְׁכוּ, meaning משכו ידיכם מעבודה זרה, when he transmitted it to Bnei Yisrael.
וּפָסַ֤ח ה׳ עַל־הַפֶּ֔תַח. We know that Hashem says "pischu li pesach shel machat," just give me an opening the size of the eye of a needle, let me into your heart just a little bit, and I will open gates for you that you can drive an 18 wheel truck through. Sometimes, though, even an opening the size of the eye of a needle is too much to ask for. וּפָסַ֤ח ה׳ עַל־הַפֶּ֔תַח, Hashem overlooked the need even for that smallest opening. Hashem himself did not ask for the משכו ידיכם מעבודה זרה. This was the amazing thing about the geulah from Egypt. It is moments before geulah and Moshe has to still tell people to give up their idolatry -- they still were not 100% committed to Hashem or bust -- and still, Hashem redeemed us.
After this command to take the korban and shecht it, the Torah goes on to speak about sprinkling the blood on the doorposts to protect against the malach ha'mashchis, and then ends the section וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה לְחׇק־לְךָ֥ וּלְבָנֶ֖יךָ עַד־עוֹלָֽם. Ramban and Ibn Ezra are bothered by the fact that this sprinking of the blood on the doorpost is not a mitzvah l'doros. Where is the חׇק־לְךָ֥ וּלְבָנֶ֖יךָ עַד־עוֹלָֽם?
(R' Berel Povarsky in his Bad Kodesh writes that there are 2 dinim in the zerikas ha'dam on the doorposts: 1) a unique din by pesach Mitzrayim that there had to be blood there to protect the house; 2) a din zerikas ha'dam like any other korban, as the doorpost was a substitute for the mizbeiach. Nafka minah: if a person had multiple dwellings, then m'din zerikas ha'dam of the korban, he fulfilled the mitzvah as soon as he put the blood one one house and the korban is became permissible to eat, but m'din having blood on each doorpost of a home that needed protection, he needed to paint the doorposts of the other homes as well. If so, maybe שְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה לְחׇק־לְךָ֥ וּלְבָנֶ֖יךָ עַד־עוֹלָֽם is talking about the regular din zerikas ha'dam that applies l'doros by other korbanos. Still a bit of a dochak.)
Ramban answers that you have to explain that this concluding pasuk is speaking only about taking and shechting the korban that had appeared earlier. R' Shimon Sofer, however, explains that it is talking about the sprinkling of the blood. "Halalu ovzei avodah zarah v'halalu ovdei avodah zarah," Bnei Yisrael had no merits to speak of to earn geulah. How does a little blood on the doorpost warrant protection from the malach ha'mashchis when you have nothing else going for you? The answer is that that's the חׇק־לְךָ֥ וּלְבָנֶ֖יךָ עַד־עוֹלָֽם. Geulah is a chok without reason. There is no logic to explain how a person can still need a warning not to be an oveid avodah zarah and merit geulah, but that's how Hashem decided to make things happen.
There is perhaps another element as to why Moshe added the word מִשְׁכוּ here, which also connects to the idea of this parsha being לְחׇק־לְךָ֥ וּלְבָנֶ֖יךָ עַד־עוֹלָֽם something that should be transmitted for eternity. Netziv comments as follows:
אבל לפי הפשט, באשר המצוה בפרשה הקודמת נאמרה לכל ישראל ליקח שה לבית אב, והיתה הדעת נותנת שיטפלו בזה האנשים הפשוטים בבית אב מי שרגיל למשוך טלה לשחיטה ולהפשיט, ולא מי שהוא גדול בבית אב ואין עסקו בכך, על כן קרא משה לזקני הדור והזהירם ביחוד ״משכו״ — אתם ״וקחו לכם צאן למשפחותיכם״ — בשביל כל המשפחה תהיו אתם המתעסקים בזה.
Had we just been given Hashem's command, we would have assumed that it should be the shleppers who do menial work who should go out and get the sheep and slaughter and butcher them. Shlucho shel adam k'moso, so let them do the dirty work for us. Moshe therefore added in his instructions מִשְׁכוּ וּקְחוּ לָכֶם, this is something you have to do for yourselves, not leave to the shleppers. The mitzvah needs your hands-on from the first steps.
Why this should be the case is what the Torah is telling us in that last pasuk of שְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה לְחׇק־לְךָ֥ וּלְבָנֶ֖יךָ עַד־עוֹלָֽם. No one in the household pays much attention to what the shlepper does, what the maid does, what the nanny does. They are there to free up our time so we can carry on with the important things of life. The Torah is telling us that if you want a mitzvah to be something your children take note of, something they will pass on to their children, then you can't delegate it -- you have to treat it like one of those important things in life, things that you make sure to take care of yourself.
Tuesday, January 04, 2022
There is a lot written to try to explain Rashi's comment on וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב that וארא אל האבות. We know Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov are the avos. Why is that relevant to pshat in this pasuk?
My son dealt with this question last week on his blog and quoted, among other ideas, the L Rebbe who explained that Rashi is highlighting the fact that Hashem appeared to Avraham not only because he embodied the midah of chessed, and to Yitzchak not only because he personified gevurah, and to Yaakov not just because he was an exemplar of tiferes. Hashem appeared to them because they were avos, they were the forefathers of our nation, they passed those midos down to future generations. אבות מכלל דאיכא תולדות (Bava Kama 2) R' Meir Goldvicht in his shiurim always likes to say that maaseh avos siman la'banim means the maaseh avos are part of our genes, our spiritual DNA. Hashem was telling Moshe that it was not time to deal with abstract questions about why the galus was so difficult. He had to try to connect with the people in a more direct way, in a more emotional way, so that they would be receptive to his message.
It's interesting that the Sefas Emes (last piece in 5637) goes in nearly the opposite direction. Rashi later in the parsha (pasuk 9) quotes from Chazal that these opening pesukim are a response to Moshe's question of why Bnei Yisrael had to suffer:
ורבותינו דרשוה לעניין של מעלה, שאמר: למה הרעתה וגו׳ (שמות ה׳:כ״ב). אמר לו הקב״ה: חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין. יש לי להתאונן על מיתת האבות, הרבה פעמים נגליתי עליהם בקל שדי, ולא אמרו לי: מה שמך, ואתה אמרת: מה שמו מה אומר אליהם
Simple pshat is that Moshe is being told that he is not on par with the avos. Sefas Emes, however, interprets the point as speaking about Bnei Yisrael, that theywere not connected to the avos. חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין -- the avos are gone and cannot be found because Bnei Yisrael failed to carry on their legacy and live up to it. The spiritual DNA may be there, but it is not expressing itself. Therefore, the galus is a harsh one.
Monday, January 03, 2022
Chaim Brisker differentiated between yaaleh v'yavo and teil tal u'matar. R' Chaim assumed that yaaleh v'yavo is *not* part of the definition of the bracha of avodah, but rather is recited because there is a separate chiyuv of mentioning me'ein ha'meora, what makes the day special, be it rosh chodesh or yom tov. Nafka minah: according to this approach, if you forget yaaleh v'yavo at mincha today, you would not daven a tefilas tashlumin at night. You already fulfilled your chiyuv of tefilah at mincha time, and once rosh chodesh is over you can no longer mention me'ein ha'meora, so you gain nothing by davening maariv twice. Were yaaleh v'yavo part of the definition of the bracha of avodah, leaving it out would be like leaving out a bracha of shmoneh esrei and you would have to daven tashlumin at maariv.
In contrast to yaaleh v'yavo, R' Chaim assumed that tein tal u'mater is an intrinsic part of the bracha of bareich aleinu. Leaving it out is like missing part of a bracha in shmoneh esrei.
R' Tzvi Pesach Frank asked: The halacha is that if you miss saying tein tal u'matar, you can add it in the middle of the bracha of shema koleinu. If mentioning tal u'matar is a separate chiyuv hazkara, like mei'ein ha'meora, this makes perfect sense. You missed the hazkara in one spot, so you can add it in another spot. But if tein tal u'matar is part of the bracha of bareich aleinu, then if you are missing part of one bracha, how can you make it up by sticking the words in another?
See R' Eliyahu Bakshi Doron's discussion here.