Monday, February 28, 2022

4 parshiyos

R' Akiva Eiger (O.C. 685) writes that if the tzibur forgot that it was parshas shekalim and didn't read the parsha, they should take out a sefer once they remember and call up one person and read the parsha.  Others disagree, as we never find a case of a stand alone kri'as haTorah where one person gets called up for an aliya.

Yesh lachkor: Is the takanah of parshas shekalim just a din in kri'as haTorah, defining the subject matter to read that Shabbos, or is it an independent takanah?  

The Emek Bracha raises the same issue with respect to parsha zachor.  He proves that reading the parsha is not a mitzvah in its own right of zechiras Amalek, but rather is just the subject matter Chazal chose for the krias haTorah that day. The Rambam does not mention the kriah in Hil Melachim (5:5) where he discusses the mitzvah of mechi'as and zechiras Amalek, but rather in Hil Tefilah (13:20), where he discusses what parshiyos to we read on the Yamim Tovim.  

Nafka minah: whether one must have kavanah for the mitzvah of zechiras Amalek when reading the parsha, or is it just a regular kriah like any other?

This seems to be the debate between R' Akiva Eiger and the Birkei Yosef, who disagrees.  R' Akiva Eiger understood that reading shekalim is an independent takanah, so if you missed reading it as maftir, just take out a sefer and have someone read it whenever they can.  The other side of the argument held that parshas shekalim is just the subject matter of kri'as haTorah, not a new din, and therefore can only be done in context of the normal rules of kri'ah.  

Thursday, February 24, 2022

limud torah as a kiyum of shabbos

Rashi at the end of last week's parsha (34:32) quotes the gemara in Eiruvin (54) that describes how Moshe taught Torah:

. תנו רבנן: כיצד סדר משנה:

• משה היה למד מפי הגבורה.

• נכנס אהרן – שנה לו משה פירקו. נסתלק אהרן – ישב לו לשמאל משה.

• נכנסו בניו – שנה להן פירקן. נסתלקו הם – אלעזר ישב לימין משה, איתמר ישב לשמאל אהרן.

• נכנסו הזקנים אחריהם – שנה להן משה פירקן. נסתלקו זקנים – ישבו לצדדין.

• נכנסו כל העם – שנה להן משה פירקן.

נמצא: ביד כל העם – אחד, ביד זקנים – שנים, ביד בני אהרן – שלשה, ביד אהרן – ארבעה כו׳, כדאיתה בעירובין

Yet right at the start of our parsha, that whole seder is upended. וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כׇּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל -- Moshe taught the parsha to all of Klal Yisrael together.

R' Chaim Feinstein (grandson of the Brisker Rav) offers two explanations for this phenomenon.  1) This parsha was taught right after Yom Kippur, when Hashem said "salachti ki'devarecha."  Building the mishkan served as a means of kaparah for cheit ha'eigel, and by teaching the parsha b'rabim, Moshe informed Klal Yisrael of G-d's forgiveness.  2) Ramban writes that just as there was a bris created by mattan Torah, post-cheit ha'eigel there was a new bris created through the command to build a mishkan. 

 ואמר לכולם ענין המשכן אשר נצטוה בו מתחלה קודם שבור הלוחות, כי כיון שנתרצה להם הקב״ה ונתן לו לחות שניות וכרת עמו ברית חדשה שילך השם בקרבם, הנה חזרו לקדמתםא ולאהבת כלולותם  

A bris requires both parties present, and so Moshe gathered all of Klal Yisrael.

The Midrash (I am quoting the version from Yalkut Shimoni) writes:

. רַבּוֹתֵינוּ בַּעֲלֵי אַגָּדָה אוֹמְרִים. מִתְּחִלַּת הַתּוֹרָה וְעַד סוֹפָהּ אֵין בָּהּ פָּרָשָׁה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּרֹאשָׁהּ וַיַּקְהֵל אֶלָּא זֹאת בִּלְבַד, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ קְהִלּוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת, וּדְרֹשׁ לִפְנֵיהֶם בָּרַבִּים הִלְכוֹת שַׁבָּת, כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּלְמְדוּ מִמְּךָ דּוֹרוֹת הַבָּאִים לְהַקְהִיל קְהִלּוֹת בְּכָל שַׁבָּת וְשַׁבָּת וְלִכְנֹס בְּבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת לְלַמֵּד וּלְהוֹרוֹת לְיִשְׂרָאֵל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה אִסּוּר וְהֶתֵּר כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא שְׁמִי הַגָּדוֹל מִתְקַלֵּס בֵּין בָּנַי, מִכָּאן אָמְרוּ, מֹשֶׁה תִּקֵּן לָהֶם לְיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיִּהְיוּ דּוֹרְשִׁין בְּעִנְיָנוֹ שֶׁל יוֹם, הִלְכוֹת פֶּסַח בַּפֶּסַח, הִלְכוֹת עֲצֶרֶת בָּעֲצֶרֶת, הִלְכוֹת הֶחָג בֶּחָג.

I would suggest that the gemara in Eiruvin quoted by Rashi in last week's parsha is a din in hil talmud Torah.  However, gathering the people to study Torah together on shabbos, as the Midrash explains our parsha, is a din in hil shabbos.  Part of the "seder ha'yom" of how to spend shabbos is to learn Torah b'rabim.  If you were writing a shulchan aruch, you wouldn't put this in Yoreh Deah in hil talmud Torah, but rather in Orach Chaim, in hil shabbos.  

2) In the same parsha we have the din of לֹא־תְבַעֲר֣וּ אֵ֔שׁ בְּכֹ֖ל מֹשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶ֑ם בְּי֖וֹם הַשַּׁבָּֽת.  Based on this pasuk Rambam (lav 322 -  הזהיר מענוש הגדרים על החוטא ולהעביר הדינין עליהם ביום השבת. והוא אמרו ״לא תבערו אש״ וגו׳ (שמות ל״ה:ג׳) ״ביום השבת״ (שמות ל״ה:ג׳), רצה בזה שלא ישרף מי שנתחייב שריפה, והוא הדין לשאר מיתות) and Chinuch count as a separate mitzvah that beis din cannot administer punishment on shabbos.  

Yesh lachkor with respect to this din as well whether it is a din in shabbos or a din in beis din?  Would you put it in Orach Chaim in hil shabbos, or would you put in in Choshen Mishpat in the rules of beis din?  Maybe that's the safeik of MG"A (339:3) as to whether only specifically punishments that entail chilul shabbos are assur (i.e. it'd a din in shabbos) or whether all punishments given by beis din (e.g. niduy?) are assur (i.e. its a din in beis din).  See Avnei Nezer #228 (and since we are getting closer to Pesach, worth noting his hesber there of Ramban's shita that chameitz is isura bala.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

new "lomdus" series from R' Ben Tzion Algazi

R' Ben Tzion Algazi from Yeshivat Ramat Gan just started a new series where he sends out שאלות למדניות, one video with the question, and then a follow up with a suggested answer. Here is the first question, on the topic of hidur mitzvah:

I should also mention that his halacha shiurim done in conjunction with the Tzurba m'Rabbanan program/booklets are fantastic (not that he needs my haskama).


Eliyahu at Har haCarmel - bracha on a nes

There is a difference between the Sefardic and Ashkenazic versions of the haftarah of Ki Tisa.  Sefardim read only the section that deals with the confrontation between Eliyahu and the Baal worshipers at Har haCarmel(18:20 onward).  Ashkenazim start earlier (from 18:1) and include the encounter between Eliyahu and Achav.  

I think the difference is noteworthy l'halacha.

The SA (OC 218) quotes the din that a person has to recite a bracha when he sees a place where a nes was done for Klal Yisrael.  The SA gives some examples: the place Yam Suf was crossed, the rock Moshe sat on during the battle against Amalek, and others.  

Biur Halacha there goes back and forth as to whether one is obligated to say that same bracha when seeing Har haCarmel.  The mashmaus of a line he quotes from the Kaftor vaFerach is that one only says a bracha when there was an imminent life or death danger.  Even assuming that is what the Kaftor vaFerach means, one can debate whether what happened at Har haCarmel meets that criteria.  On the one hand, one can argue that what occurred was just a kiddush Hashem demonstration that the Baal worshippers were wrong.  On the other hand, when taken in context of Eliyahu being one Achav's most wanted list, his coming out of hiding to perform such a demonstration was indeed a risk to his own life.  

I think this issue is what is behind the difference between the two versions of the haftara.  The Sefardic version takes Eliyahu's demonstration that Baal worship was wrong as an independent, stand alone event.  The Ashkenaz version places what occurred in context of Eliyahu's conflict with Achav, with all the risks and dangers that entailed. 

My wife also had some thoughts on the haftara on her blog here.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

breaking the luchos "tachas ha'har"

I want to share with you a thought from R' Shlomo Amar, the former Rishon l'Tzion and current Sefardic Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim.  

When Moshe came down with the luchos, the parsha tells us (32:19):

וַֽיְהִ֗י כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר קָרַב֙ אֶל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה וַיַּ֥רְא אֶת־הָעֵ֖גֶל וּמְחֹלֹ֑ת וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֣ף מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיַּשְׁלֵ֤ךְ מִיָּדָו֙ אֶת־הַלֻּחֹ֔ת וַיְשַׁבֵּ֥ר אֹתָ֖ם תַּ֥חַת הָהָֽר

Why does the pasuk need to tell us where he broke the luchos -- תַּ֥חַת הָהָֽר?  Does it make a difference to us whether Moshe broke the luchos while he was still near the top of the mountain or at the foot of the mountain?  All that matters is that he broke the luchos, period, or exclamation point, and enough said.  

R' Amar first gives us a beautiful pshat in a gemara we all know.  Chazal tell us (Shabbos 104) that the letters mem and samech were miraculously suspended in the luchos, i.e. if you carve out both of these letters, you will be left with a donut hole in the middle attached to nothing.  That donut hole middle somehow floated in the air.  

If we look earlier in the parsha, we see that not only the mem and samech, but the writing of all the letters had a miraculous quality to it.  Rashi comments on (32:15)  מִשְּׁנֵ֣י עֶבְרֵיהֶ֔ם מִזֶּ֥ה וּמִזֶּ֖ה הֵ֥ם כְּתֻבִֽים׃ that משני עבריהם – היו האותיות נקראות, ומעשה ניסים הוא.  The letters could be read the right way no matter which side you looked at the luchos from.

So if the writing of all the letters was miraculous, why the focus on mem and samech?  OK, so there was a bit more or a miracle regarding these letters, but miraculous is miraculous, what's a little more or a little less of a miracle?  

Rav Amar explains that when Chazal were speaking about the mem and samech, it was not about those letters themselves that they were speaking.  They were speaking about what those letters represented.  Samech-mem is often used as an abbreviation for Samael, the angel that is the yetzer ha'ra.  

At the time of mattan Torah, Klal Yisrael became like Adam before the sin.  "Paska zuhamasam," Chazal say -- the pollution of sin that infects all mankind no longer infected Klal Yisrael.  The yetzer ha'ra held no sway and power over them.  So how then could the evil inclination still exist?  Answers the gemara: the mem and samech stood miraculously.  Instead of miraculously protecting us from sin, G-d had to miraculously ensure that the samech-mem, that Samael, that the yetzer ha'ra, could continue its existence.

Moshe, however, was not happy with this arrangement.  Moshe wanted to break the yetzer ha'ra completely and bring about the final tikun.  

The gemara Sukkah 52 tells us

כדדרש רבי יהודה לעתיד לבא מביאו הקב"ה ליצר הרע ושוחטו בפני הצדיקים ובפני הרשעים צדיקים נדמה להם כהר גבוה ורשעים נדמה להם כחוט השערה הללו בוכין והללו בוכין צדיקים בוכין ואומרים היאך יכולנו לכבוש הר גבוה כזה ורשעים בוכין ואומרים היאך לא יכולנו לכבוש את חוט השערה הזה

At the time of the ultimate tikun, the yetzer ha'ra will appear to the tzadikim like a great mountain, a nearly unsurmountable obstacle that they had to withstand.

Moshe said, time to topple and crush that mountain!

But then Moshe heard that there was a cheit ha'eigel, Moshe saw people celebrating with avodah zarah, and he realized that the finish line was still somewhere in the future and not for now.

 וַיַּשְׁלֵ֤ךְ מִיָּדָו֙ אֶת־הַלֻּחֹ֔ת וַיְשַׁבֵּ֥ר אֹתָ֖ם תַּ֥חַת הָהָֽר׃

Tachas here does not mean "under," but rather means "in place of," like 'ayin tachas ayin.'  Instead of breaking down that mountain of the yetzer ha'ra, as he wanted to, Moshe was forced to break the luchos instead.  

The pasuk is not about where Moshe broke the luchos, but rather is hinting to us what the original plan was that we failed to bring to fruition.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

la'asos es ha'shabbos - oneg, pikuach nefesh

1. Targum Yonasan explains the pasuk  וְשָׁמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת לַעֲשׂ֧וֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם as follows:

וינטרון בני ישראל ית שבתא למעבד תפנוקי שבתא לדריהון קיים עלם

According to TY, our pasuk is a din d'oraysa to make תפנוקי שבתא, enjoyable food for shabbos, i.e. oneg shabbos.

Similarly, we find later in Vaykra 23 that shabbos is included among the days called "mikraei kodesh," which Ramban interprets to mean making the day one of celebration and enjoyment:

 מקראי קדש – שיהיו ביום הזה כולםד קרואים ונאספים לקדש אותו, כי מצוה היא על ישראל להקבץ בבית אלהים ביום מועד לקדש היום בפרהסיא בתפלה והלל לאל, ובכסות נקיה, ולעשות אותו יום משתה ושמחה כמו שנאמר בקבלה: לכו אכלו משמנים ושתו ממתקים ושלחו מנות לאין נכון לו כי קדוש היום לאדנינו ואל תעצבו כי חדות י״י היא מעזכם

(Ramban mentions simcha as well, which we do not really associate with Shabbos.  M'inyana d'chodesh Adar, the Yerushalmi writes that Purim seudah cannot be done on Shabbos because ain m'arvin simcha b'simcha, which suggests that there is a din of simcha on Shabbos.  Pri Chadash paskens against this Yerushalmi.)

2. Ohr haChaim offers a number of interpretations of לַעֲשׂ֧וֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת, among them:

או ירצה על זה הדרך אימתי אמרתי לך לשמור איש ישראל אפילו בערך כבוד שבת דוקא לעשות פירוש באדם שישנו בגדר עמוד לעשות אבל מי שודאי לא יקום ולא יגיע לשבת לשומרו הגם שרפואות אלו יועילו לשעות או לימים לא יחלל עליו שבת.

In other words, you can be mechalel shabbos for pikuach nefesh only laasos es ha'shabbos, if the person being saved will go on to observe shabbos as a result, so that there is a net gain to shemiras shabbos.  If the person will die before reaching the next shabbos and will not have a chance to observe it, then there is no heter pikuach nefesh.

This is a pli'ah.  The halacha is that one can violate issurim, even shabbos, for the sake of chayei sha'ah, even to extend life by just a few hours or even moments.

One can b'dochak say the O.C. only meant to suggest this as peshuto shel mikra but not l'halacha, but the line is very difficult. 

Rav Tzvi Yehudah

There are many articles and talks that have been posted regarding the 40th yahrzeit of R' Tzvi Yehudah Kook, and I won't even try to pick and choose and recommend what to listen to and read, but one item that stood out for me was the following, quoted by R' Eliezer Melamed:

“There are some Jews who ‘seize’ the verse from Tehilin (Psalms): ‘Hashem, You know I hate those who hate You,’ and there are educational approaches that emphasize this above all, as being a foundation in education. They place the value of sinat ha’briot (hatred of humanity) as a foundation, arguing this is how they protect themselves. Interesting, we have never heard of a tzaddik (righteous person) and a gadol be’Yisrael (eminent rabbi) designated as the “sonei Yisrael” (Hater of Israel). On the other hand, we have heard of special individuals who have been nicknamed: “The Tzaddik, Gaon, and Kadosh, Ohev Yisrael (Lover of Israel)” (From ‘HaTorah HaGoelet’, Vol.4, pg. 160).

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Adar paradox

The gemara (Archin 31b) has the following din:

וא"ר אבא בר ממל נולדו לו שני טלאים אחד בחמשה עשר של אדר הראשון ואחד באחד באדר השני זה שנולד ה] באדר השני כיון שהגיע יום אחד באדר (השני) של שנה הבאה עלתה לו שנה זה שנולד לו בחמשה עשר באדר הראשון לא עלתה לו שנה עד חמשה עשר באדר של שנה הבאה

A farmer has 2 lambs that are bechorim, one born 15 Adar I, one born on 1 Adar II.  The halacha is each must be offered as a korban within their first year.  If the next year is a non-leap year, the second lamb that was born on 1 Adar II will reach its one year deadline on 1 Adar.  The lamb born first on 15 Adar 1 will reach its deadline second, on 15 Adar.

Applying the same logic to bar mitzvah boys, in a non-leap year a boy born on 15 Adar I will become bar mitzvah two weeks after a baby born on 1 Adar II, even though he was born first.  

The Shvus Yaakov (#9) raises the following paradoxical question: there are halachos that apply to the elder or eldest child in a family, e.g. there is a din that the eldest child takes precedence to do the mitzvah of yibum, there is a din of kavod that applies to older brothers.  

When it comes to these two brothers, who is the eldest?   (You can have brothers born 2 weeks apart from different mothers, assuming you like in a place where cheirem d'Rabeinu Gershom never took hold.)  Is it the brother than was born first, or is it the brother that becomes bar mitzvah first?  Is it possible to have a bar mitzvah, blow out all 13 candles in one's birthday cake, and still be considered the halachic younger brother of someone whose bar mitzvah is only 2 weeks later?

Monday, February 14, 2022

purim katan - tov lev mishteh tamid

Ksav Sofer in his commentary on the Torah has a chiddush that if someone is machmir to have a seudah and celebrate on Purim katan, it should not just be a selfish celebration.  You should also send food to others and be mekayein mishloach manos.  This is what the Rama means when, as a smach to the minhag, he quotes in the last din in SA the pasuk, "Tov lev mishteh tamid."  if you want "mishteh tamid," to have your party both in Adar II and in Adar I, then it should be preceded by your being tov lev, good hearted and generous and sharing with others.

Dr. Henry Bendell

I recently finished reading To Rescue the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876, which is far easier to get through then Chernow's bio of Grant, but l'fum tzaara agra.  Anyway, was not aware that Grant had appointed a Jew to serve as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Arizona.  You can read more about Dr Henry Bendell here and here.  

a dose of common sense

Yesterday someone forwarded to me the following tweet put out by Rabbi Steven Burg, CEO of Aish haTorah: 

"Just had a disappointing visit to the YU Seforim Sale.  They were carding everyone for vaccinations & walking around telling people to put on masks.  A reminder why the MO community has had such a hard time getting past Covid.  YU needs to do a better job or become irrelevant."

Kudos to Rabbi Burg!  It's about time someone spoke up to state the obvious.

Maybe his words will at least get noticed.  I don't really think they will change many minds, as I am pessimistic in general that reason and evidence can have an effect on the vast majority of people's opinions on these matters.  

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the FDA, recently said, "I think we should start lifting these restrictions as aggressively as we put them in...We need to preserve the credibility of public health officials to perhaps reimplement some of these provisions as we get into next winter, if we do start seeing outbreaks again.”

In other words, if you want us to believe you when you cry pikuach nefesh, then you have to be willing to cry, "Ad kan!" when the danger has passed and tell people to resume their normal lives.

The YU Roshei Yeshiva in particular were very outspoken at the height of the pandemic in saying minyanim should be stopped, shuls closed, etc.  

Where are they now when it is time, as Dr. Gottlieb as said, to say, "Ad kan!"  Where are they now to tell someone sitting in 30 degree weather davening outside in a tent with no walls, as I recently saw at one of the local MO shuls in my neighborhood, that this beyond the pale of what being choshesh for pikuach nefesh calls for?  

personal purim

There is a din that if one experiences a personal miracle of some sort, one should make a day of celebration, a personal Purim, and commemorate it every year.  If the miracle occurred in a regular year in Adar, which Adar should it be celebrated in during a leap year?  There seems to be a blatant stira in Mishne Beurah.

The MB 686:8 writes:

ומי שנעשה לו נס באדר ונדר לעשות פורים כשיבוא שנת העיבור צריך לעשות הפורים באדר שני:

Yet the MB writes in 697:2 writes:

מי שאירע לו נס באדר וקבל ע"ע לעשות תמיד יום משתה ושמחה אם אירע בשנה פשוטה עושה בראשון 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

menorah as a response to m'cheini na...

Baal haTurim famously writes that Moshe's name is not mentioned in our parsha because after cheit ha'eigel, Moshe pleaded with Hashem to forgive Bn"Y or "micheini na mi'sifricha," erase my name from your book.  How does that translate into his name being removed from our parsha?  And why was Moshe so concerned that there would be no mechila for cheit ha'eigel?  Teshuvah has the power to wipe away any aveira, doesn't it?

"Mah Hashem sho'oel m'imach ki im l'yirah."  "All Hashem wants from us is yiras shamayim," Moshe says later in sefer Devarim.  The gemara asks: when the pasuk says that's all Hashem wants, it implies that this isn't much to ask for.  How can that be -- yiras shamayim is far from a trivial request!  The gemara answers: yes, for Moshe, "l'gabei Moshe," it is but a little thing.  

Maybe for Moshe maybe yiras shamayim is not such a big thing, but how does that help the the rest of us? 

Some of the meforshim explain that when the gemara says "l'gabei Moshe" it is a little thing, it doesn't mean "for Moshe," but rather "near Moshe."  When you live in the presence of a tzadik, then yiras shamayim is easy to attain.

Teshuvah can wipe the slate clean from even the biggest sins, but it has to be heartfelt repentance that reflects a true and sincere change of direction.  "L'gabei Moshe," when you are in the presence of greatness, sometimes it's a little too easy to give the right answer, to give the expected answer, to do the right thing. When the principal is standing in the classroom, the students are all perfectly behaved, but that doesn't mean the same will hold true once he walks out of the room.  Hashem of course accepts teshuvah even for a sin like cheit ha'eigel, but the midas ha'din might question whether the teshuvah of Bn"Y was due only to Moshe standing in the room, only due to the influence of his presence, and therefore was lacking.    

Moshe therefore said to Hashem, "Micheini na..."  Take me out of the picture, out of the book.  If my presence is causing the teshuvah of Bn"Y to be called into question, to be suspect, then let's see what happens without my influence.  That will prove that Bn"Y are not just doing it for me.

The parsha of hadlakas ha'menorah by Aharon appears at the beginning of Beha'aloscha right after the Nesiim brought their gifts for the chanukas ha'mishkan.  The Midrash relates that Aharon was upset that his sheiveit was not included in those gifts and offerings.  Hashem consoled him and told Aharon that his task was even greater, as he had the privilegeof lighting the menorah.

Ramban asks: why did Hashem console Aharon with the task of lighting the menorah?  Aharon was the one who offered korbanos, who could offer ketores, who did avodah on Yom Kippur.  Surely these tasks were more indicative of Aharon's unique role than hadlakas ha'menorah, which can be done even by someone who is not a kohen. 

Shem m'Shmuel (Bhaaloscha 5677) quotes the gemara in Megillah:

 בקשו מלאכי השרת לומר שירה אמר הקב"ה מעשה ידי טובעין בים ואתם אומרים שירה אמר רבי אלעזר הוא אינו שש אבל אחרים משיש ודיקא נמי דכתיב כן ישיש ולא כתיב ישוש ש"מ 

Similar to the gemara's distinction between "yasis," making others happy, and "yisos," rejoicing oneself, Sm"S notes that the leader of each sheivet is called a "Nasi," not a "Naso" -- it's a transitive verb.  The Nasi inspired and elevated their sheivet; the position was not just about personal honor. 

This is what Aharon was jealous of.  Of course Aharon was the one who offered korbanos, who offered ketores, but what about inspiring his sheivet, what about inspiring Klal Yisrael?

Hashem's response is the command to light menorah.  B'haaloscha es ha'neiros -- the neiros are elevated, it is a bottom-up process.  In R' Tzadok's lexicon the menorah represents Torah shebaa'l peh, that which emanates from a person's mind and heart, as opposed to Torah sheb'ksav which is dictated and received as-is.  

R' Tzadok haKohen (Pri Tzadik, Titzaveh 2):

אמנם הדלקת הנרות במקדש ירמז על הופעת אור תורה מאור הגנוז בנפשות ישראל בתורה שבעל פה וזה הכח ניתן לאהרן להופיע ולהאיר בלב ישראל אור תורה שבעל פה על ידי הדלקת הנרות וז"ש (פ"א דאבות) הוי מתלמידיו של אהרן כו' אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה

Netziv comments on our parsha:

  ולזה הכח הנפלא שנקרא ׳תלמוד׳ ניתן כח המנורה אשר נכללו בה שבע חכמות וכל כוחות הנדרשים לפלפולה של תורה. וכל זה נכלל בכפתורים ופרחים, עד דאיתא בב״ר (צא,ט) ׳ר׳ טרפון, בשעה שהיה שומע דבר מתוקן היה אומר כפתור ופרח׳, ושיח רבן של ישראל ללמדנו בא, שמה שתלמיד ותיק מחדש דבר טוב הוא ע״י כח שנרמז בכפתור ופרח של המנורה. ועל כן, בבית שני שרבו ישיבות והעמידו תלמידים הרבה להויות דאביי ורבא שהוא התלמוד, משום הכי נתחזק כח המנורה ע״י נס דחנוכה.

Moshe is the one who dictated Torah sheb'ksav to us, but Aharon is the one brought out the Torah shebaa'l peh within each Jew, who inspired and uplifted, who was capable of b'haaloscha, of  אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה

Therefore, it is our parsha which opens with the mitzvah of menorah which is the response to micheini na.  Even outside the sphere of influence of Moshe, even beyond what we receive as Torah sheb'skav, the light of menorah shows that there can be a flourishing of Torah.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

mitzvah of bigdei kehuna

1) Rambam lists wearing bigdei kehuna as a mitzvas aseh in Sefer ha'Mitzvos aseh #33, while BH"G counts it as a lav, not to do avodah without wearing the proper bigdei kehuna.  

Ramban, in his hasagos to the Sefer haMitzvos, questions why the Rambam counts this as a separate mitzvah.  The rule, which the Rambam himself agrees to and sets down, is that you don't count parts of existing mitzvos as new independent mitzvos.  Wearing bigdei kehuna, argues Ramban, is part and parcel of the mitzvah of doing avodah; it's just a hechsher mitzvah.  One of the steps of properly performing a rite in the mikdash is wearing the appropriate bigdei kehuna for the job. (See R' Chaim in the stencils.)

We read in our parsha:

 וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ בִגְדֵי־קֹ֖דֶשׁ לְאַהֲרֹ֣ן אָחִ֑יךָ לְכָב֖וֹד וּלְתִפְאָֽרֶת

 וְאַתָּ֗ה תְּדַבֵּר֙ אֶל־כׇּל־חַכְמֵי־לֵ֔ב אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִלֵּאתִ֖יו ר֣וּחַ חׇכְמָ֑ה וְעָשׂ֞וּ אֶת־בִּגְדֵ֧י אַהֲרֹ֛ן לְקַדְּשׁ֖וֹ לְכַהֲנוֹ־לִֽי

Rashi comments: 

לקדשו לכהנו לי – לקדשו, להכניסו בכהונה על ידי הבגדים שיהא כהן לי. ולשון כהונה שֵירוּת היא

We see from Rashi that there are two functions to the bigdei kehuna: 1) it sanctifies the kohen להכניסו בכהונה, to take on the role of kohen ; 2) it allows the kohen to do avodah and serve in the mikdash.  As Maharal writes in Gur Aryeh, ולפי זה ״לקדשו״ על הכנסתו לכהונה, ו״לכהנו״ רוצה לומר לכהן לי אחר כך:

The Lev Sameich on the Sefer haMitzvos is medayek the same from the Rambam in Klei haMikdash 10:4

מצות עשה לעשות בגדים אלו ולהיות הכהן עובד בהן שנאמר ועשית בגדי קדש. ואת בניו תקריב והלבשתם כתנות

The mitzvah, says Rambam, is to make the bigdei kehuna AND for the kohen to do avodah wearing them -- two separate ideas.  As Ramban al haTorah himself writes, the bigdei kehuna were like royal garments.  Even when the kohen was not doing avodah, the bigdei kehuna served לְכָב֖וֹד וּלְתִפְאָֽרֶת to distinguish them from ordinary people.  

Therefore, the Rambam counts bigdei kehuna as its own mitzvah, separate and apart from the need to wear them as a hechsher miztvah to do avodah.

2) The Ohr Sameich (Isurei Biah 4:8) asks: m'doraysa only a chatzitza that covers most of the body invalidates tevilah.  Even though the Torah says "v'rachatz es KOL bisaro ba'mayim," as long as most of the body comes in contact with the mikveh, rubo k'kulo.  Why then is it that even just one thread that comes between bigdei kehuna and the kohen's body is an invalidating chatzitza (Zevachim 19)?  The mitzvah of wearing bigdei kehuna is not complete until all the bigdei kehuna are donned.  Why not say rubo k'kulo on the mitzvah of levisha, and so long as most of the kohen's body is covered by the bigdei kehuna, a small chatzitza should not matter?

Take a look at his answer!   

Friday, February 04, 2022

standing upright

 Rashi comments (25:16):  יעקב אבינו נטע ארזים במצרים, וכשמת ציוה את בניו להעלותן עמהן כשיצאו ממצרים, שעתיד הקב״ה לצוות אתכם לעשות משכן במדבר מעצי שטים, ראו שיהו מזומנין בידכם.

Where did the wood to build the mishkan come from?  Yaakov planted cedar trees in Egypt and instructed his children that when they leave, they should take the wood with them, as it would be needed to build a mishkan.  

R' Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi asks: Just like Hashem made a miracle and the winds blew the precious stones needed for avnei shoham and avnei miluim into the camp of Bnei Yisrael, so too, Hashem could make a miracle and somehow Bnei Yisrael would find the wood needed for the mishkan.  Why did Yaakov go out of his way to plant trees?

There is a big difference between precious stones and wood for beams.  You can't make a diamond or a ruby or an emerald.  You can just discover them.  A tree, however, can be planted, nourished, tended to, cared for.  Yaakov was not concerned that some raw material would be lacking for the creation of the mishkan.  His concern was that the human effort to procure those materials would be lacking.  It is the toil and effort, the preparation that goes into making something from the earliest stages, which is what sanctifies the outcome. The gemara (B"M 85) tells us that R' Chiya trapped animals, made parchment, and wrote the scrolls that he then used for teaching Torah. He could have bought the parchment in a stationary store, but R' Chiya knew that preparation done b'kedusha ensures an outcome of kedusha.  Therefore, he made the parchment himself.  Yaakov planted trees to allow his children to invest their efforts in their growth, to take a hand in the earliest preparations and toil to make the mishkan.  

The Torah describes the wood for the beams of the mishkan as "atzei shitim omdim."  Chazal learn from the word "omdim" that the beams had to be stood upright in the same way as they grew, "derech g'deilasan."  Achronim debate what the scope of this din is.  Some apply it very broadly to any cheftza shel mitzvah.  Some go far as to say that if you hold a branch of a hadas upside down, for example, you can't say the bracha of "borei atzei besamim" on it because an eitz that is not held derech g'deilasan is not an eitz.  Meshech Chochma narrows the scope.  He is medayek that this requirement of "omdim" is mentioned only in connection with the beams, but not in connection with the aron or mizbeyach, which also were made of wood, and therefore writes that it does not even apply to all the kelim in the mishkan.  Why the difference?  He explains that the mishkan was dismantled when the camp moved; the beams had to be taken down and then put back up.  The aron and mizbeyach were never broken apart and put back together.  Once assembled, they remained as-is.  The din of derech g'deilasan only applies to things that are constantly being re-constructed or moved, not to things in a static state.

With this he explains the view of the Tur that there is no din of derech g'deilsasan for walls of a sukkah -- you don't have to ensure each year that the sukkah wall is always stood with the same side up.  Shibolei haLeket writes that it is better to do so.  The Tur disagrees because derech g'deilsasan does not apply to sukkah which is set up once and you are done for the week.  (The other view is interesting because the wall of a sukkah is not even a cheftza shel mitzvah.  The mitzvah is yeshivas sukkah, not building a sukkah.)

R' Noson Gestetner ties together the machshava idea behind Yaakov's planting of the trees that we started with with this din of derech g'deilasan.  Yaakov planted trees because trees grow and change and need our care.  It is that precisely items that are not static -- beams that are taken apart, a lulav and esrog that we pick up and put down --  where the din of derech g'deilasan applies.  

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

who knew that the op-ed writers at the WSJ had such a sense of humor?

Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial reacting to Amnesty International's report calling Israel an apartheid state.  After calling out the bias and distortions of the report, the editorial ends with the following sentence:

"We assume the Biden Administration will denounce this calumny and oppose all efforts to use it as a cudgel against America’s best friend in the Middle East."

Who knew that the editorial page writers of the WSJ had such a sense of humor?  Clearly this last sentence must be a joke or meant tongue in cheek.

tov acharis davar m'reishiso - Adar and Yosef

On Shabbos I made a siyum on Bechoros in to commemorate my father's yahrzeit, and I tried to tie together the siyum, the parsha, and the fact that it was shabbos mevorchim.  Don't know if I succeeded, but this was my idea:

At the end of the parsha we read (24:5)  וַיִּשְׁלַ֗ח אֶֽת־נַעֲרֵי֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיַּֽעֲל֖וּ עֹלֹ֑ת.  Rashi explains את נערי – הבכורות.  Ramban challenges this interpretation: ולא ידעתי למה יכנה הבכורות בלשון נערי, אולי בעבור שהזכיר הזקנים שהם אצילי בני ישראל, קרא הבכורות נערים, כי הם נערים כנגדם.  Why would the Torah refer to the bechorim as ־נַעֲרֵי֙ when the bechor is the eldest of the famly and ־נַעֲרֵי֙ implies someone young?  We could ask a more fundamental question along the same lines: if the Torah meant that the bechorim offered korbanos, then why not use the term bechor?  Why introduce ambiguity by using the term ־נַעֲרֵי֙?

What is it that makes a bechor special?  The Sefas Emes explains (I believe Maharal has this same idea) that a bechor represents hischadshus.  Let me explain with a story.  The first Rosh haShana after my son was born we stayed by my MIL a"h and davened in Yeshiva Far Rockaway.  At some point before tekiyos by wife brought my son to shul in his stroller, where he sat happily sucking his pacifier.  At some point my my son either dropped or tossed his pacifier out of the stroller onto the floor, where it was retrieved by a toddler who was standing there with his mother and some other children.  The little toddler was just about to stick the pacifier back into my son's mouth when his mother, perhaps seeing the aghast look of shock on my wife's face, stopped him and said, "This is a first baby -- first baby's don't take pacifier's from the floor."

When you are still on baby #1, the bechor, the pacifier that falls on the floor gets sterilized.  You have a collection of backups that you can give the kid until you can properly clean the one that dropped.  By the time you are a few babies into building your family, when the pacifier falls on the floor it's enough to rub it on your sleeve, or maybe the 5 second rule applies if you pick it up fast enough (of course I am talking pre-Covid).  When you are dealing with a bechor, everything is new, everything is special, everything is still exciting.

The harm of Amalek is "asher karcha ba'derech."  Amalek cools us off -- our avodah loses its newness, its freshness.  Right after the war against Amalek described at the end of Ki Teitzei, the next parsha is the mitzvah of bikkurim = bechor.  Bring back that excitement to your avodas Hashem  and treat every mitzvah as if it was the first time you were doing it.

That freshness and excitement, "his'naari mei'adar kumi," is what makes the bechor special.  Therefore, the Torah uses the term naar when it calls the bechorim to offer korbanos, since this is the reason they were called to serve Hashem.

The 12 months of the year correspond to the 12 shevatim (Tur Hil Rosh Chodesh).  Chodesh Adar is the month of Yosef.  In a year like ours we have two Adars, and Yosef is the one sheivet that splits into two, Ephraim and Menashe. 

Yosef is the antidote to Eisav/Amalek.  Rashi right at the beginning of VaYeishev tells us היה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש, ניצוץ יוצא מיוסף שמכלה ושורף את כולם.  The name Eisav, explains Shem m'Shmuel, comes from the same root as a-s-u, made.  Eisav was born with covered with hair -- he looked like a middle aged man right from the womb.  His life was complete from the get-go, with nothing to strive for and nothing left to achieve.  הִנֵּ֛ה אָֽנֹכִ֥י הוֹלֵ֖ךְ לָמ֑וּת וְלָֽמָּה־זֶּ֥ה לִ֖י בְּכֹרָֽה.  Why do I need bechorah -- hischadshus, renewal, rejuvenation -- when I am complete, when I've achieved it all already, and am just going through the motions day after day, waiting to die?  Yosef is the opposite.  He is a "ben zekunim," which the Targum explains to mean "wise," and we know that wisdom usually comes with maturity and age, but at the same time, "v'hu naar," he was and remained a naar, he retained the freshness and excitement of youth.  When Yosef was born, Rachel said, "Yosef Hashem li ben acheir..."  (30:25)  Yosef is never complete -- yosef, Hashem should add more, we should add more and strive for more.  It's no wonder that when Reuvain is displaced as bechor, it is Yosef who takes his place, as Yosef more than any other sheivet has the midah of naarus = hischadshus which defines the essence of what makes bechorah special.  It's no wonder that it is only once Yosef is born that Yaakov takes his leave of Lavan to take on the challenge of meeting Eisav.

When we get to the last month of the year, we might feel that we are out of energy, that we've been through so much these past months that we just want to put it all behind us.  Comes Adar and links us to Yosef, to naarus, to bechorah, to the possibility of renewal at all times, even at the very last moments of the waning year.  "Tov acharis davar m'reishiso" -- the goodness of this last month comes from the reishis, the element of bechorah, naarus, hischadshus, that is latent within it, even though it comes at the end.  Adar and Yosef challenge us to never stop growing.