Thursday, March 31, 2022

Nisan vs Tishrei

Shem m'Shmuel (beginning of Tazria) writes that the machlokes R' Eliezer and R' Yehoshua whether the world was created in Nisan or Tishrei is l'shitasam of whether geulah requires teshuvah or not.  Tishrei = the approach of winter, a time that can be used to prepare for the future seasons of planting and harvest.  The world was created in a state where hachanos are required, where every end requires a means to get there, where geulah comes about only with a prior preparation of teshuvah.  R' Yehoshua holds the world was created in Nisan; "ha'kol b'komasan nivre'u," things were created in an already prepared and formed state, the end is there even without the means beforehand.  The geulah of Pesach in Nisan happened without preparation, without the need for Bn"Y to do much on their part.

The rasha asks, "Mah ha'avodah ha'zos lachem?" because the geulah from Mitzrayim was not one that was earned through our effort.  It was chasdei Hashem, pure and simple.  So why do we need to do anything now?  Sit back and relax, it's a celebration of Hashem taking care of everything, no effort on our part required.   

The answer is that a person has to be worthy of receiving chasdei Hashem.  Imagine if someone offered to transfer a million dollars to your bank account but you had no bank account -- you would be out of luck.  You may not need to earn the million dollars, but you need a kli kibul to receive it. 

corrective punishment

A Midrash we've dealt with before (15:4)

דָּבָר אַחֵר: אָדָם כִּי יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ – הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (משלי י״ט:כ״ט): נָכוֹנוּ לַלֵּצִים שְׁפָטִים, מוּכָנִים הָיוּ לַלֵּצִים דִּינִים. בְּנֹהַג שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם אָדָם רוֹכֵב עַל הַחֲמוֹר פְּעָמִים שֶׁסּוֹרֵחַ עָלָיו וּמַכֵּהוּ, פְּעָמִים שֶׁשּׂוֹחֵק עָלָיו וּמַכֵּהוּ, בְּרַם הָכָא נָכוֹנוּ לַלֵּצִים שְׁפָטִים וּמַהֲלֻמּוֹת, מָשָׁל לְמַטְרוֹנָה שֶׁנִּכְנְסָה לְתוֹךְ פָּלָטִין שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ, כֵּיוָן דְּחָמֵית מַגְלָבַיָא תָּלָן, דַּחֲלַת, אָמַר לָהּ הַמֶּלֶךְ אַל תִּתְיָרָאִי אֵלּוּ לָעֲבָדִים וְלַשְּׁפָחוֹת, אֲבָל אַתְּ לֶאֱכֹל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת וְלִשְׂמֹחַ. כֵּיוָן שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל פָּרָשַׁת נְגָעִים נִתְיָרְאוּ, אָמַר לָהֶם משֶׁה אַל תִּתְיָרְאוּ אֵלּוּ לְאֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, אֲבָל אַתֶּם לֶאֱכֹל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת וְלִשְׂמֹחַ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים ל״ב:י׳): רַבִּים מַכְאֹבִים לָרָשָׁע וְהַבּוֹטֵחַ בַּה׳ חֶסֶד יְסוֹבְבֶנּוּ.

 רַבִּי וְרַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּרַבִּי יוֹסֵי הָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִים וְעוֹסְקִים בִּמְגִלַּת קִנּוֹת עֶרֶב תִּשְׁעָה בְּאָב שֶׁחָל לִהְיוֹת בְּשַׁבָּת עִם חֲשֵׁכָה מִן הַמִּנְחָה וּלְמַעְלָה, שִׁיְּרוּ בָהּ אָלֶף בֵּית אֶחָת, אָמְרוּ לְמָחָר אָנוּ גּוֹמְרִין אוֹתָהּ, כְּשֶׁעָלָה רַבִּי נִכְשַׁל בְּאֶצְבָּעוֹ הַקְּטַנָּה, קָרָא עַל עַצְמוֹ: רַבִּים מַכְאֹבִים לָרָשָׁע.

Everyone asks: parshas negaim only applies to Bn"Y, not to an aku"m.  How can then Midrash say to Bn"Y not to be afraid because " אֵלּוּ לְאֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם?"  

Secondly, it seems that the Midrash first applies the pasuk of  רַבִּים מַכְאֹבִים לָרָשָׁע to aku"m, but for us,וְהַבּוֹטֵחַ בַּה׳ חֶסֶד יְסוֹבְבֶנּוּ and therefore no need to worry.  However, the very next line in the Midrash goes on to apply רַבִּים מַכְאֹבִים לָרָשָׁע to Rebbi!  

R' Tzadok haKohen (Pri Tzadik 1) answers by quoting the pasuk (Shmos 15:26)

 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׳  רֹפְ

If Klal Yisrael is fulfilling the Torah, why do we need a promise כׇּֽל־הַמַּחֲלָ֞ה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֤מְתִּי בְמִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לֹא־אָשִׂ֣ים עָלֶ֔יךָ?  That's all we get -- not getting punished with the machalos of Mitzrayim?  

R' Tzadok explains that the pasuk is in fact speaking about failing to properly keep mitzvos.  Nonetheless, אִם־שָׁמ֨וֹעַ תִּשְׁמַ֜ע לְק֣וֹל ה׳ אלקיך, if we listen to the kol Hashem -- even if we are failing to obey properly -- so long as we are engaged in learning Torah and trying to find our way, then Hashem promises whatever punishment our misdeeds warrant will not be like the מַּחֲלָ֞ה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֤מְתִּי בְמִצְרַ֙יִם֙.  

There is onesh which is punitive and onesh which is corrective.  When Hashem smote Mitzrayim, that was punitive.  When someone is listening to kol Hashem but for whatever reason fails to fulfill mitzvos, the punishment Hashem gives is corrective.  רַבִּים מַכְאֹבִים לָרָשָׁע, the rasha of Bn"Y who has fallen suffers, but those pains are yisruim shel ahava designed to bring him back on track.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

can a kohen pasken based on eidim's description of a nega?

R' Zalman Sorotzkin in Oznayim laTorah is medayek from the constant repetition of רָאָ֣ה הַכֹּהֵ֣ן in various forms throughout the parsha, even twice within the same pasuk (13:3)

וְרָאָ֣ה הַכֹּהֵ֣ן אֶת־הַנֶּ֣גַע בְּעֽוֹר־הַ֠בָּשָׂ֠ר וְשֵׂעָ֨ר בַּנֶּ֜גַע הָפַ֣ךְ׀ לָבָ֗ן וּמַרְאֵ֤ה הַנֶּ֙גַע֙ עָמֹק֙ מֵע֣וֹר בְּשָׂר֔וֹ נֶ֥גַע צָרַ֖עַת ה֑וּא וְרָאָ֥הוּ הַכֹּהֵ֖ן וְטִמֵּ֥א אֹתֽוֹ

that a kohen, even if he is relying on someone else to tell him how to pasken, has to actually see a nega with his own eyes.  

The Chazon Ish (Negaim 4:5), however, argues and holds that the kohen can rely on eidus, e.g. if an eid tells the kohen that there is a black hair in the nega, the kohen can pasken that the nega is tahor even if he never saw it himself (see also R' Ben Tzion Aba Shaul's discussion of this C.I.).

I would say that this issue depends on the chakira we raised last year whether seeing a nega is a means of birur or a din, i.e. simply a gezeiras ha'kasuv.  If it's a means of birur, then eidus should be just as good as actually seeing it, but if there is a din that requires seeing, then obviously not.

Friday, March 25, 2022

when was the parsha of tumas ohel given?

The Torah tells us that Nadav and Avihu died "lifnei Hashem" (10:2).  Toras Kohanim quotes a machlokes where exactly that was.  One opinion is that they were standing in the mishkan offering ketores, but a malach pushed the out.  R' Akiva, however, argues and holds that they died inside the tent. 

פלוגתא איכא בתורת כהני׳ רא״א שמתו בחוץ במקום שהלוים מותרים ליכנס שנא׳ ויקרבו וישאום בכתנות׳ וא״כ מאי לפני ה׳ שנגפן המלאך והוציאן לחוץ רע״א לא מתו אלא בפנים שנא׳ לפני ה׳ ומאי ויקרבו וישאום בכתנות׳ מלמד שנתנו חכה של ברזל לתוך פיהם וגררום והוציאום לחוץ.

If so, asks the Daas Zekeinim, according to R' Akiva, shouldn't the entire mishkan and all the kelim inside it have become tamei tumas ohel?  Yet we don't find that the avodah stopped to allow time to be metaheir everything.

R' Chaim Kanievksi in Taama d'Kra suggests that perhaps the dinim of tumas ohel had not yet been given, and therefore, even though BN"Y may have known there was such a halacha, it was not in effect yet.

I must be missing something, because I cannot figure out what he means.  Rashi quotes from Chazal that the dinim of parah adumah were given in Mara, right after kri'as Yam Suf (Shmos 15:25).  If you don't understand that there is a concept of tumas meis, then you can't really understand what parah adumah is all about.  Did they know some of the halachos of tumas meis but not the din of tumas ohel?  M'heicha teisi to make such a distinction?

Even without the derash quoted by Rashi, we know the Leviim had to be metaheir before serving in the mishkan --  וְכֹֽה־תַעֲשֶׂ֤ה לָהֶם֙ לְטַֽהֲרָ֔ם הַזֵּ֥ה עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם מֵ֣י חַטָּ֑את (Bamidbar 8:7), and Rashi there explains הזה עליהם מי חטאת – של אפר פרה, מפני טמאי מתים שבהן.  Proof again that the halachos of tumas meis were known (see Netziv at the opening of Chukas).

Furthermore, the gemara darshens (M"K 28) למה נסמכה פרשת פרה למיתת מרים, לומר לך מה פרה אדומה מכפרת אף מיתתן של צדיקים מכפרת.  The implication of a "lamah nismicha" question/derash is that had the Torah followed chronological order, the text would appear elsewhere; its location is shifted  to make a point (see Mizrachi and Gur Aryeh to Bamidbar 13:2).  It sounds like these parshiyos of parah and tumah/tahara chronologically were given earlier, but the text is shifted to this location to create the juxtaposition with Miriam's death. 

So what does RCK mean when he writes that the parsha of tumas ohalim had not yet been given?

Thursday, March 24, 2022

korban pesach and parah adumah

The Midrash plays up parallels between parah adumah and korban pesach.  Shmos Rabbah 19 calls attention to both being called a chukah: 

 דָּבָר אַחֵר, יְהִי לִבִּי תָמִים בְּחֻקֶּיךָ, זֶה חֻקַּת הַפֶּסַח וְחֻקַּת פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה, לָמָּה, שֶׁשְּׁנֵיהֶן דּוֹמִין זֶה לָזֶה, בָּזֶה נֶאֱמַר: זֹאת חֻקַּת הַפָּסַח, וּבָזֶה נֶאֱמַר (במדבר יט, ב): זֹאת חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה, וְאִי אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ אֵיזוֹ חֻקָּה גְּדוֹלָה מִזּוֹ. מָשָׁל לִשְׁתֵּי מַטְרוֹנוֹת דּוֹמוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ מְהַלְּכוֹת שְׁתֵּיהֶן כְּאַחַת נִרְאוֹת שָׁווֹת, מִי גְדוֹלָה מִזּוֹ אוֹתָהּ שֶׁחֲבֶרְתָּהּ מְלַוָּה אוֹתָהּ עַד בֵּיתָהּ וְהוֹלֶכֶת אַחֲרֶיהָ. כָּךְ בַּפֶּסַח נֶאֱמַר בּוֹ: חֻקָּה, וּבְפָרָה נֶאֱמַר בָּהּ: חֻקָּה, וּמִי גְדוֹלָה, הַפָּרָה, שֶׁאוֹכְלֵי פֶּסַח צְרִיכִין לָהּ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יט, יז): וְלָקְחוּ לַטָּמֵא מֵעֲפַר שְׂרֵפַת הַחַטָּאת, הֱוֵי: כָּל בֶּן נֵכָר לֹא יֹאכַל בּוֹ.

Shmos Rabbah 17 notes the similarity between the sprinkling done with the azov bundle for korban pesach and the same done for parah adumah:

 בְּפָרָה אֲדֻמָּה צִוָּה לְהַשְׁלִיךְ בִּשְׂרֵפָתָהּ עֵץ אֶרֶז וְאֵזוֹב, וְהַזָּאַת מֵי נִדָּה צִוָּה לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאֵזוֹב, וְטַהֲרַת הַמְצֹרָע צִוָּה לַעֲשׂוֹת בְּעֵץ אֶרֶז וְאֵזוֹב. וְכֵן בְּמִצְרַיִם צִוָּה לְהַגִּיעַ הַדָּם אֶל הַמַּשְׁקוֹף וְאֶל שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזוֹת בָּאֵזוֹב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וּלְקַחְתֶּם אֲגֻדַּת אֵזוֹב

There seems to be a common thread running between these two mitzvos, an idea that Rav Bakshi Doron develops at length in an essay in his teshuvos.  

We have a din that ain kateigor naasah saneigor, e.g. the kohen gadol does not wear bigdei zahav when he does avodah lifnim on Y"K because gold is associated with cheit ha'eigel and we don't want that negative association hanging around our neck.  So why is it, asks the ShLa"H, that a sheep, the very animal that the Egyptians worshipped, is used for korban pesach?  Why use an animal that has a negative association with idolatry, which we ourselves were guilty of in Mitzrayim?  

Why in our parsha us Aharon told to offer an eigel when that is the very animal of the sin of cheit ha'eigel?  

The ShLaH answers that with respect to avodah on Y"K, the gold garments are incidental to the avodah taking place.  In that case, we don't want to introduce anything that has a cheit association into the mix.  However, with respect to korban pesach, the whole point of offering the korban is to undermine the avodah zarah.  The same with the eigel korban in our parsha, the whole point of the korban is to show that we no longer have a connection with cheit ha'eigel.  We davka want to bring up the association in order to negate it.

Rav Bakshi Doron suggests that this yesod of the ShLaH is behind the link between k"p and parah.  Parah adumah paradoxically is mtamei tehorim but mitaheir tmei'im.  So too, when we offer k"p, paradoxically the same animal that had been worshipped as avodah zarah becomes the vehicle by which we negate idolatry and come to avodas Hashem.  

The gemara likens sprinkling the blood of k"p on the doorposts to zerikas ha'dam of other korbanos, but based on the link to parah adumah, Rav Bakshi Doron suggests that just as parah is a m'taheir, so too the k"p served as a m'taheir for the homes where avodah zarah had previously been worshipped.

the new normal

I am in the middle of reading Free as a Jew: A Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation by Ruth Wisse and came across this remark that so perfectly describes the transformation that has taken place in our sociery (p223):

Not all the changes were equally unwelcome.  I thought decriminalization of homosexuality and abortion long overdue.  What hadn't occurred to me was that, in the rush to nonjudgment, tolerance would turn to advocacy, and advocacy into reverse orthodoxy...Having held standard views about the primacy and nature of family, I was stunned at how quickly those assumptions fell away.

The evidence of how far the "progressives" have led our society toward its moral destruction has been apparent long before we reached the climatic point of a Supreme Court nominee who cannot even define what a woman is.  

Given that this is what passes for cultural norms these days, how is there any room for a Torah-v'... whatever-you-want-to-call-it philosophy that embraces that outside culture?  Standing up and voicing support for Israel is enough to get you shouted down on most college campuses these days.  Add to that the conservative values that are inherent to our religion and I think you will find yourself a pariah in most intellectual circles.  The "reverse orthodoxy," as Wisse put it, has made what once was radical into the norm.  Refusing to kneel and accept that new normal will get you labelled a rascist/homophobe/chauvinist/etc. 

Getting back to Wisse, one other interesting quote (and I could pull many from the book!) is what she writes regarding the decision by JTS to ordain woman (p228):

Even someone as deficient in Talmudic expertise as I could see that the movement's avowedly cautious and "conservative" approach to innovation had been unceremoniously sacrificed to modern feminist pressure.  Had JTS' rabbinic authorities really framed their arguments for this decision in conformity with the movement's own guidelines?  Had a cohort of female Talmudists risen to rival or surpass their teachers in mastery of sources?  Had growing synagogue membership and intensified devotion on the part of conservative women required such a tradition-defying innovation?

Had any of those been the case, the decision might have marked a religious breakthrough.  Instead, Judaism was being asked to align itself with the tenets of the new women's movement without subjecting those tenets themselves to the slightest scrutiny.  The relaxation of norms, I felt certain, would simply hasten the decline in religious observance that had prompted the movement to inaugurate the change, and JTS to bless it in the first place.  Judaism's hard internal logic was necessary in tension with the pressure for progress at any cost, and giving in to change without anticipating the unanticipated consequences was a recipe for even greater assimilation. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

mitzvas achilas korbanos

Rambam and Ramban (Sefer haMitzvos 89, Mitzvos Aseh Rambam omitted #1) disagree as to whether the mitzvah of achilas kodshim applies only to kohanim or whether there is also a mitzvah for the baalim to eat (see also Rashi Pesachim 59).

The Mishna at end of Pesachim talks about the bracha said on eating the chagigah on seder night. Tzlach asks: according to Rambam who holds the mitzvah of achilah is only for kohanim, why is there a bracha recited by the baalim on their achila of the chagigah?  "Asher kidishanu b'mitzvosav v'tzivanu..." -- what's the tzivuy, there's no mitzvah?

The Einayim laMishpat (Nedarim 4) answers that since the korban pesach must be ne'echal al ha'sova, i.e. you have to have fill up on a meal before eating the korban pesach, therefore eating the chagigah becomes necessary and a mitzvah in order to properly fulfill korban pesach. (I'm not sure why the meal has to be chagigah and nothing else.)

The Netziv in last week's parsha adds an additional chiddush based on peshuto shel mikra.  The gemara darshens the pasuk  הַכֹּהֵ֛ן הַֽמְחַטֵּ֥א אֹתָ֖הּ יֹאכְלֶ֑נָּה בְּמָק֤וֹם קָדֹשׁ֙ תֵּֽאָכֵ֔ל בַּחֲצַ֖ר אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃ (6:19) to mean, as Rashi writes, המחטא אותה יאכלנה – הראוי בעבודה, יצא טמא בשעת זריקת דמים שאינו חולק בבשר, that a only a kohen who was capable of eating the korban at the time it was offered (zerikas ha'dam) gets a portion.  If the kohen was tamei at the time of zerikas ha'dam, even if he will be tahor and capable to eating it later, he does not get a piece.

Al pi peshuto, however, the simple meaning of the words are that specifically the kohen who did the avodah  -- הַֽמְחַטֵּ֥א-- is the one who should eat the korban. 

 Netziv writes:

אלא הפי׳ דאע״ג דכל זכר בכהנים יאכל אותה והיא מצוה עליהם כמש״כ הרמב״ם בפי׳ המשניות אהלות פי״ח שכל אכילת קדשים מ״ע היא. מכ״מ על המחטא היא מיוחדת ביותר משום שבאכילת הכהן מתכפרין הבעלים. והכהן המתחיל במצוה אומרים לו גמור אע״ג דאיכא דעדיף מיניה

Ramban has a similar idea, also al pi peshuto shel mikra albeit she'lo k'kalacha, later in the parsha.  

וְכׇל־מִנְחָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר תֵּֽאָפֶה֙ בַּתַּנּ֔וּר וְכׇל־נַעֲשָׂ֥ה בַמַּרְחֶ֖שֶׁת וְעַֽל־מַחֲבַ֑ת לַכֹּהֵ֛ן הַמַּקְרִ֥יב אֹתָ֖הּ ל֥וֹ תִֽהְיֶֽה׃

וְכׇל־מִנְחָ֥ה בְלוּלָֽה־בַשֶּׁ֖מֶן וַחֲרֵבָ֑ה לְכׇל־בְּנֵ֧י אַהֲרֹ֛ן תִּהְיֶ֖ה אִ֥ישׁ כְּאָחִֽיו׃ (7:9-10)

The first pasuk talks about the לַכֹּהֵ֛ן הַמַּקְרִ֥יב אֹתָ֖הּ , specifically the kohen who brought the mincha, eating it.  The second pasuk speaks about לְכׇל־בְּנֵ֧י אַהֲרֹ֛ן תִּהְיֶ֖ה אִ֥ישׁ כְּאָחִֽיו׃, all of the kohanim sharing in the korban.  Al pi peshuto, when it comes to a baked korban, or one cooked on the machavas and marcheshes, there is a mitzvah specifically for the kohen who offered it to eat it.  When it comes to a mincha that was not baked, then לְכׇל־בְּנֵ֧י אַהֲרֹ֛ן תִּהְיֶ֖ה, anyone can eat (see Netziv there as well).

In a few weeks the daf yomi will get to Yevamos 40, where the gemara explains a braysa as follows:

הכי קאמר מצות תאכל במקום קדוש מצוה שבתחלה היתה עליו בכלל היתר רצה אוכלה רצה אינו אוכלה (נאסרה חזרה והותרה יכול תחזור להיתירה הראשון) רצה אוכלה רצה אינו אוכלה רצה אינו אוכלה והכתיב ואכלו אותם אשר כופר בהם מלמד שהכהנים אוכלים ובעלים מתכפרין אלא רצה הוא אוכלה רצה כהן אחר אוכלה ת"ל מצות תאכל במקום קדוש מצוה

The implication is exactly like the Netziv and Ramban. You might have thought any kohen can eat the korban, צה הוא אוכלה רצה כהן אחר אוכלה, kah mashma lan  מצות תאכל במקום קדוש מצוה that specifically the kohen who did the avodah should eat it.  Tosfos writes:

  א"נ הכא מרבוי [ילפינן] דכהן המקריב צריך שיאכל ממנה ולא כולה:  

R' Chaim Kanievski in Taama d'Kra brings a proof from a Mishna for this yesod.  The Mishna (Pes 91b) writes:

אונן טובל ואוכל את פסחו לערב אבל לא בקדשים

Rashi explains:

ואף על פי שעדיין לא נקבר דאין אנינות מן התורה אלא ביום שנאמר (ויקרא י) הן היום הקריבו ואני אונן ואכלתי חטאת היום יום אסור לילה מותר... אבל לא יאכל אונן לערב בשאר קדשים דאסור אנינות לילה מדרבנן ולגבי פסח לא העמידו דבריהן במקום כרת

What's the hava amina that a kohen should be able to eat other kodshim when he is in a state of aninus derabbanan (aninus layla)?  Just let some other kohen eat the meat?!

QED that just like a person has a mitzvah of achilas korban pesach, the specific kohen who offers the korban has a mitzvah of achilah on that korban, and that chiyuv potentially might be doche issurim, km"l that it is not.

I am bothered by 2 points: I don't understand why Netziv needs to direct us to the Rambam in Peirush haMishnayot in Ohalot when Rambam says in Hil Maaseh Korbanos ch 10 that אכילת החטאת והאשם מצות עשה שנאמר ואכלו אותם אשר כופר בהם. הכהנים אוכלים ובעלים מתכפרים. והוא הדין לשאר הקדשים שאוכלין אותן הכהנים שאכילתן מצוה:  There must be some point the Netziv saw in the Peirush haMishnayos that is not clear from the Rambam elsewhere, but I am missing it.

Secondly, I don't understand why Netziv doesn't quote this Tos in Yevamos (if the Netziv remembered a Rambam in Peirush haMishnayos in Ohalot, he did not forget a Tos in Yevamos).  True , Tos is not exactly the same as Netziv's point.  Netziv is arguing that achilah is the gmar mitzvah of avodah,  תשלם כפרת המתכפר, as Rambam writes in Sefer haMitzot, and therefore is incumbent upon the person who started avodah.  The gemara in Yevamos is based on the derasha of  מצות תאכל במקום קדוש , which could be an independent chiyuv.  Nonetheless...  

Monday, March 21, 2022

even after death

Thinking of R' CK's death when learning the parsha, I saw the Netziv notes on the pasuk  זֶ֡ה קׇרְבַּן֩ אַהֲרֹ֨ן וּבָנָ֜יו אֲשֶׁר־יַקְרִ֣יבוּ לה׳ בְּיוֹם֙ הִמָּשַׁ֣ח אֹת֔וֹ (6:13)  that even though the parsha is speaking about the minchas chavitim, which was offered by the KG every day, half in the morning and half in the afternoon, it uses the plural יַקְרִ֣יבוּ.  He explains that even though the KG pays for the korban out of his own pocket and is the one who brings it as an offering, it is really on behalf of all the kohanim collectively.  Proof that this is correct: if the KG dies before the afternoon half of the offering is brought, it comes from the funds of the tzibur.

In truth, this is a machlokes Tanaim, and the is a shita which holds that if the KG dies, the afternoon portion comes from his estate, taken from the yorshim.

Shem m'Shmuel writes that this opinion also accepts the thesis that the korban is on behalf of the tzibur.  Just like when the KG was alive, he offered the minchas chavitim for the klal, so too after death, the KG is still there in the olam ha'emes working on behalf of the klal.  Therefore, the korban still comes from his pocketbook.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

im matzasi chein

Chapter 7 of Megillas Esther is the climax of the story, where Esther reveals to Achashveirosh what Haman is plotting.  Chapter 8 starts with Esther sharing her relationship to Mordechai with Achashveirosh, and Achashveirosh turning over Haman's estate and possessions to them.  The Megillah then continues and tells us that Esther made another request of the King (8:5):

וַ֠תֹּ֠אמֶר אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ ט֜וֹב וְאִם־מָצָ֧אתִי חֵ֣ן לְפָנָ֗יו וְכָשֵׁ֤ר הַדָּבָר֙ לִפְנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וְטוֹבָ֥ה אֲנִ֖י בְּעֵינָ֑יו יִכָּתֵ֞ב לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶת־הַסְּפָרִ֗ים מַחֲשֶׁ֜בֶת הָמָ֤ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֙תָא֙ הָאֲגָגִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֣ר כָּתַ֗ב לְאַבֵּד֙ אֶת־הַיְּהוּדִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּכׇל־מְדִינ֥וֹת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ

It's now out in the open (as opposed to earlier, where Achashveirosh could claim plausible deniability) that Haman was plotting genocide against the Jews, his beloved Queen's people.  It's out in the open that Mordechai, the leader of the Jews, had saved Achashveirosh from assassination, proving his fidelity and service to the King.  At this point, you would think that Esther has a right to say to Achashveirosh, "Come on -- you owe us one."  But even were that not the case, even were there no relationship between Achashveirosh and Esther, or no relationship between Esther and Mordechai, how could Achashveirosh possibly let those letters of Haman stand?  We're talking about a call for an unprovoked attack against and innocent people.  Even the cruelest dictator tries to invent some pretext to justify his cruelty, if only to avoid the cognitive dissonance of thinking oneself a civilized person while committing atrocities. 

Esther shouldn't even have had to ask, but look at the language she uses:

 וְאִם־מָצָ֧אתִי חֵ֣ן לְפָנָ֗יו ... וְטוֹבָ֥ה אֲנִ֖י בְּעֵינָ֑יו 

The words ־מָצָ֧אתִי חֵ֣ן imply that this is a special favor, something Achashveirosh maybe will do out of love for Esther, out of special consideration for her. 

Not only does she have to ask, she has to beg.

Esther understood something that seems to still not have sunk into the heads of many people.

I saw an interview quoting someone in the Ukraine who said, "People did not believe in their wildest dreams that such a thing would happen.  That in 2022, we are going to talk about a full invasion and an all-out bombardment of citizens.  This is literally coming out of 1941..."

You know what they said in 1941?  They said, "People did not believe in their wildest dreams that such a thing would happen. This is literally out of 1916."

The shock and surprise come because we delude ourselves into thinking that now, this year, this time around, things have changed, that we live in a liberal, humane society with morals and norms that protect the innocent from harm, that promote fairness and justice, that ensure good triumphs and evil is defeated.  

Esther was under no such delusions.   וְאִם־מָצָ֧אתִי חֵ֣ן.  That's the only currency that really matters in the end.  Appealing to Achashveirosh's spirit of tolerance, his ethics, his humanity, are not enough.  It sadly just boils down to whim and caprice, to finding favor today, and who knows what tomorrow may bring.  

I was recently reading Dara Horn's book People Love Dead Jews and one fact she throws out caught my eye: there are thousands of chasidei umot ha'olam recognized by Yad vaShem, which seems like a large number, but it actually is not even a drop in the bucket compared with the millions who sat on the sidelines and did nothing, or even worse, assisted.  Liberal values, tolerance, shared humanity -- kumbaya -- it was all meaningless in the end. וְאִם־מָצָ֧אתִי חֵ֣ן, and if not, there is sadly nothing to talk about.

This is a sobering, sad, pessimistic view of human nature (I think I saw this pshat in Ohr Yahel from R' Leib Chasman, but I couldn't find it there when I looked again) that is not the sort of thing you want to think about on Purim.  No one ever really wants to think about it, and so we blind ourselves to the precariousness of our situation.

Let me give you something a little more optimistic to munch on.  Why did Esther call that first party for Haman and Achashveirosh?  Nothing really happened other than her inviting them back for a second party?

R' Tzadok haKohen writes in Pri Tzadik (2):

 ונראה שלא ידעה אסתר באיזו אופן יהיה הנס ואולי תפעול על ידי הסעודה שהמן ישלים אתה וידבר טוב על ישראל והיינו שסברה שישוב המן בתשובה. ועל פי זה נבין מ"ש במדרש (משלי ט׳:ב׳) טבחה טבחה מסכה יינה זו אסתר המלכה כו' התקינה סעודה לאחשורוש ולהמן הרשע כו' וראש הפרשה חכמות בנתה ביתה וגו' ומשמע דמדבר מחכמת התורה וכן נדרש במדרש (שם) זו התורה שבנתה כל העולמות ע"ש. רק המכוון שרצתה לעורר בו בהמן השורש קדושה שהיה בו בהעלם ניצוצות קדושות דנשמת ר"ש בר שילת וזהו מסכה יינה יינא דאורייתא דבעל פה עד"ש (זח"ג רעא ב) וסברה שאולי על ידי זה ישוב בתשובה וידבר טוב על ישראל. וזה שנאמר ויצא המן ביום ההוא שמח וטוב לב ובכ"מ מורה טוב לב שנתיישר הלב לטוב להיות לב א' לאביו שבשמים והיאך יתכן לכתוב כן על המן הרשע. ובמ"ר ע"ף כטוב לב המלך בין איתא או"ה אין להם טובה כו' בטוב לב אין כ' כאן אלא כטוב לב המלך טובה ואינה טובה ואיך אה"כ על המן שמח וטוב לב. אך לפי האמור יש לומר דאז לפי שעה יצא ממשתה אסתר שמח וטוב לב כרגע שעוררה בו אסתר הניצוצות קדושות מנשמת ר"ש בר שילת שהוא מקדושת תורה שבעל פה.

The descendants of Haman learned Torah in Bnei Brak.  There was some spark of goodness, of Torah, buried deep within even Haman.  Esther thought she could bring it out and be mekareiv him.  That's why she asked him to dine with her.

Most of us can't even imagine ourselves standing on a street corner like a chabad chassid and asking someone, a Jew, to put on tefillin.  Can you imagine what it must be to even have a hava amina that you could be mekareiv Haman?

And Esther succeeded!  For a moment at least, Haman was 'sameich v'tov lev,' he turned a corner.  The only problem is that he bumped into Mordechai and immediately reverted back to old form.

The Ben Ish Chai points out (see Alshich, Malbim, others) that in the pasuk we started with there are four distinct phrases packed into Esther's request:

1. אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ ט֜וֹב

2. אִם־מָצָ֧אתִי חֵ֣ן לְפָנָ֗יו

3. כָשֵׁ֤ר הַדָּבָר֙ לִפְנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ

4. וְטוֹבָ֥ה אֲנִ֖י בְּעֵינָ֑יו

Why four?  These, he says, correspond to the four levels of limud haTorah, of pshat, remez, derush, v'sod.

It's the koach haTorah that can turn around a Haman.  It's the koach haTorah that somehow -- and I cannot explain how -- can turn the heart of Achashveirosh into one that finds the  חֵ֣ן in Esther and does the right thing.  Purim is not about how the citizens of Shushan suddenly discovered the liberal values they shared with us and therefore spared our lives and got rid of Haman.  It's about kiymu k'kiblu, about kabbalas haTorah 2.0, because those are the only values that ensure our survival.

Monday, March 14, 2022

kesiva k'dibbur

R' Akiva Eiger (Shut 30) raises the question whether writing counts l'halacha as dibur or not, e.g. if one wrote "ha'yom yom echad ba'omer" instead of saying the words, is one yotzei?   (The question may go back to a machlokes Tanaim in Mechilta -- see this post).  

R' Akiva Eiger brings proof from the following sugya: 

The Mishna in Megillah (17) has a din:  הָיָה כּוֹתְבָהּ, דּוֹרְשָׁהּ וּמַגִּיהָהּ, אִם כִּוֵּון לִבּוֹ — יָצָא, וְאִם לָאו — לֹא יָצָא

The gemara (18b) asks what the case in the Mishna is.  If the baal koreh says pasuk by pasuk aloud and then writes it, even if he has kavanah he should not be yotzei, as when he says the pasuk he is not reading from a text.  And even if he writes the pasuk first and then reads it, he still should not be yotzei, as the halacha requires reading megillah from a *completed* text.  Answers the gemara:

אֶלָּא: דְּמַנְּחָה מְגִילָּה קַמֵּיהּ וְקָרֵי (לַהּ) מִינַּהּ פְּסוּקָא פְּסוּקָא וְכָתַב לָהּ. 

The case is that the baal koreh had a complete megillah in front of him, and he read the pasuk from that megillah, and then wrote it into the text he was working on.

Why does the gemara needs to add that the baal koreh read the pasuk and then wrote it to be yotzei?  The first case in the Mishna is simply הָיָה כּוֹתְבָהּ -- someone was writing a text.  Maybe the case is that the sofer was copying from a completed megillah and is yotzei by writing?

QED, says R' Akiva Eiger, that in order to be yotzei kri'as ha'megillah you need to READ the text, not just WRITE the text.  Kesiva is not the same as dibur.

Or maybe you can argue.  R' Simcha Elberg points out that there are 2 dinim in kri'as ha'megillah: 1) a din kri'ah; 2) a kiyum of pirsumei nisa.  (See this post where I used this same idea to explain shitas haTos that you say she'hechiyanu on the kri'ah by day and by night).  The gemara (18a) writes that we don't know what some of the words mean, but we are yotzei anyway because the reading of megillah accomplishes pirsumei nisa.  

If so, it could be that kesiva is the same as dibur, but the chiyuv of megilah requires not only dibur, but specifically a dibur that accomplishes pirsum -- that is noticable, that people are aware of.  The scratching of the pen as the sofer writes fails to accomplish that.

What do the Hebrew letters on this Titian refer to?

There has been a lot of news the past few years about a painting depicting Yoshke that may or may not be a Leonardo.  Earlier this month Artnews reported that the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna claims that a version they have of the same image is a Titian.  What caught my attention in the article is the following paragraph:

Titian put his own spin on the traditional... subject, which typically shows [Yoshke] raising one hand in a gesture of blessing, by including a Hebrew inscription on Jesus’s tunic referencing the Kabbalah, suggesting the work was commissioned for a Christian patron with Jewish leanings.

What they are referring to are the faint Hebrew letters on the gold trim on the upper left side of the tunic (click on the article to see the image) which spell (as far as I can tell - it's hard to see) aleph - shin - vav.  

(I am no expert, I think this gold band does not appear on other artists' versions of this iconic image, so it seems Titian deliberately added it as a way to highlight the letters.)

I am curious as to what in the world these letters mean and what kabbalistic reference they see here.  I was thinking that aleph-shin-vav may simply be a corrupted spelling of yud-shin-vav for the name, but I am just guessing and have no clue.  Could it just be random letters? 

My wife sent an email to the Kunsthistorisches Museum to try to get more info.  We'll see if they reply.

Friday, March 11, 2022

shabbos zachor - planting the seeds of subversion

1) Why read parshas zachor on shabbos?  Why not some other day, e.g. Purim morning?  

The gemara (Shabbos 118) tells us אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר רַב: אִלְמָלֵי שָׁמְרוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל שַׁבָּת רִאשׁוֹנָה לֹא שָׁלְטָה בָּהֶן אוּמָּה וְלָשׁוֹן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יָצְאוּ מִן הָעָם לִלְקוֹט״, וּכְתִיב בָּתְרֵיהּ: ״וַיָּבֹא עֲמָלֵק״  Had Klal Yisrael properly observed even one shabbos, we would have been immune from attacks by the nations of the world.  However, since even that first Shabbos in the midbar was broken by people going out to collect mon, Amalek was able to attack.

The Midrash links "zachor" of Shabbos with "zachor" of Amalek.  It is specifically on Shabbos that we speak about waging war with Amalek because if we get Shabbos right, then Amalek has no power. Amalek attacked those who were outside the protection of the ananei ha'kavod.  On Shabbos we ask, "u'fros aleinu sukas shelomecha," that Hashem should envelop all of us in a canopy of shalom, that no one should be left out.

2) I have an idea that is only half baked so far, but I'll mention it anyway even though I just have the scaffolding and not the completed building. Immediately preceding the battle with Amalek, the Torah describes Bnei Yisrael's rebellion in Refidim.  Chazal darshen that "rafu y'deihem min haTorah."  Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim and are praised for going out to a desert with nothing, "lechtech acharai ba'midbar b'eretz lo zeru'a..."  (Yirmiyahu 2:2) Sefas Emes explains (unless you justify it as being a poetic keifel ha'inyan b'milim shonot, a midbar is an eretz lo zeru'a, so the pasuk is repetitive) that an eretz lo zeru'a means that Bnei Yisrael left Egypt and stepped into a life still barren of Torah and mitzvos; there was nothing that could spiritually grow and develop yet because mattan Torah had not yet happened.  Sometimes you can have a rebellion or a movement that is inspired by and fueled by ideas.  There are all kinds of -isms that drive people even if achieving their dream or goal involves tremendous hardship and difficulty.  That's not what happened in yetzi'as Mitzrayim.  We embarked into eretz lo zeru'a, the spiritual goal was unknown, the ideology we were signing up for was not clear yet.  There was nothing that could push us forward except for our belief that we were following Hashem somewhere -- even without knowing ideologically where that somewhere was.  That's what Amalek capitalized on.  "Asher karcha BA'DERECH...  Zachor es asher asah lecha Amalek BA'DERECH."  We were on the road to somewhere, but to where exactly?  It's a hard state to be in, a vulnerable state -- just as any teenager (or these days, even those in their 20's). 

After Haman is forced to lead Mordechai around Shushan and tell everyone how great Mordechai is for saving the King, Haman returns home upset and tells his family what happened.  The Megillah then tells us (end ch 6) how his family reacted:  וַיְסַפֵּ֨ר הָמָ֜ן לְזֶ֤רֶשׁ אִשְׁתּוֹ֙ וּלְכׇל־אֹ֣הֲבָ֔יו אֵ֖ת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר קָרָ֑הוּ וַיֹּ֩אמְרוּ֩ ל֨וֹ חֲכָמָ֜יו וְזֶ֣רֶשׁ אִשְׁתּ֗וֹ אִ֣ם מִזֶּ֣רַע הַיְּהוּדִ֡ים מׇרְדֳּכַ֞י אֲשֶׁר֩ הַחִלּ֨וֹתָ לִנְפֹּ֤ל לְפָנָיו֙ לֹא־תוּכַ֣ל ל֔וֹ כִּֽי־נָפ֥וֹל תִּפּ֖וֹל לְפָנָֽיו׃.  Very strange!  Tiferes Shlomo asks: the whole story we've been reading in the Megillah is about how Haman wanted to destroy the Jews because Mordechai, a Jew, would not bow down to him.  What do you mean, אִ֣ם מִזֶּ֣רַע הַיְּהוּדִ֡ים מׇרְדֳּכַ֞י , If Mordechai is "mi'zera ha'yehudim?"  What's the safeik?!

It's not the Tiferes Shlomo's answer, but based on Sefas Emes I think what Haman's family was telling him was that if Mordechai is just an ordinary Jew, then don't worry about it.  He will go back to his Shabbos cholent and you go back to your plans.  But if Mordechai is "mi'ZERA ha'yehudim," if he is a planter, if he lives to put down seeds that inspire others, if he is the antithesis of "eretz LO ZERU'A," then you have trouble and forget about winning.  When we grow and are inspired, when we live to inspire others, Amalek has no power over us.

L'havdil, it reminds me of the trial of Socrates, tried and executed for the subversive act of teaching others and prodding them to think.  You know, the type person who someone with a blue check mark next to their name reports to the proper authorities because they dare to publicly question and thereby cause others to question whatever the current orthodoxy is. The authorities of Athens saw this as rebellion.  The gemara describes Haman approaching Mordechai to tell him that by order of the king he must lead him around and proclaim how great Mordechai is, and what is Mordechai doing?  He is teaching students the halachos of the korban ha'omer (Meg 15). There was a book written a long time ago by two Queens college professors called "Teaching as a Subversive Activity."  By teaching Torah, Mordechai too was "mi'ZERA haYehudim," planting the seeds of rebellion, or subversion -- not political rebellion, but ideological rebellion, a rejection of the hedonistic norms of Shushan society.

R' Akiva was surely one of the greatest teachers of Torah sheba'al peh, a highly subversive activity in the time of Bayis Sheni when the Romans outlawed our religion.  "Ohr ZARU'A la'tzadik u'lyishrei lev simcha," the last letters of the words spell out the name Akiva. 

Perhaps this is being alluded to in the Megillah, when it tells us that Mordechai and Esther establish the holiday of Purim קִיְּמ֣וּ [וְקִבְּל֣וּ] הַיְּהוּדִים֩ ׀ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ם ׀ וְעַל־זַרְעָ֜ם.  "Aleihem v'al ZARAM."  It's all about continuing to plant those seeds that keep Am Yisrael flourishing.  

And Maybe this is also the reason Rama O.C. 695 writes  יש אומרים שיש לאכול מאכל זרעונים , as "zironim" shares the same root as "ZERA."

So to come back to  לֶכְתֵּ֤ךְ אַֽחֲרַי֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר בְּאֶ֖רֶץ לֹ֥א זְרוּעָֽה, the words everyone knows because it's a beautiful song, the next pasuk continues קֹ֤דֶשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לה׳  רֵאשִׁ֖ית תְּבוּאָתֹ֑ה, that we are the true 'reishit," the first fruits of those seeds that got planted, not the pretender 'reishit goyim Amalek," and therefore, כׇּל־אֹכְלָ֣יו יֶאְשָׁ֔מוּ רָעָ֛ה תָּבֹ֥א אֲלֵיהֶ֖ם נְאֻם ה׳, we ultimately will overcome and defeat them.

someone to talk to

Midrash Rabbah 1:6

 רַבִּי תַּנְחוּמָא פָּתַח (משלי כ׳:ט״ו): יֵשׁ זָהָב וְרָב פְּנִינִים וּכְלִי יְקָר שִׂפְתֵי דָעַת, בְּנֹהַג שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם אָדָם יֵשׁ לוֹ זָהָב וָכֶסֶף אֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת וּמַרְגָּלִיּוֹת וְכָל כְּלֵי חֶמְדָה שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם, וְטוֹבָה וְדַעַת אֵין בּוֹ, מַה קְּנִיָּה יֵשׁ לוֹ, מַתְלָא אָמַר דֵּעָה קָנִיתָ מֶה חָסַרְתָּ, דֵּעָה חָסַרְתָּ מַה קָּנִיתָ. יֵשׁ זָהָב, הַכֹּל הֵבִיאוּ נִדְבָתָן לַמִּשְׁכָּן זָהָב, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (שמות כ״ה:ג׳): וְזֹאת הַתְּרוּמָה וגו׳. וְרָב פְּנִינִים, זוֹ נִדְבָתָן שֶׁל נְשִׂיאִים, דִּכְתִיב (שמות ל״ה:כ״ז): וְהַנְּשִׂאִם הֵבִיאוּ וגו׳, וּכְלִי יְקָר שִׂפְתֵי דָעַת, לְפִי שֶׁהָיְתָה נַפְשׁוֹ שֶׁל משֶׁה עֲגוּמָה עָלָיו, וְאָמַר הַכֹּל הֵבִיאוּ נִדְבָתָן לַמִּשְׁכָּן וַאֲנִי לֹא הֵבֵאתִי, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חַיֶּיךָ שֶׁדִּבּוּרְךָ חָבִיב עָלַי יוֹתֵר מִן הַכֹּל, שֶׁמִּכֻּלָּן לֹא קָרָא הַדִּבּוּר אֶלָּא לְמשֶׁה, וַיִּקְרָא אֶל משֶׁה.

Moshe was upset that everyone had brought gifts for the mishkan and he had brought nothing.  Hashem told him not to worry -- talking with him was better than any gift.

The Midrash is building a bridge between the parshiyos of the mishkan and our parsha.  We've read over the past two weeks about what people gave, about the work of the artisans, about the construction details.  Now comes Moshe's contribution -- "VaYikra el Moshe..."  Moshe gives the gift of being someone Hashem can speak to.

I think what Chazal are telling us is that some people can write a big check to charity, some people can run a project, can build an organization, etc.  But sometimes what is most valuable to the person in need is having someone to talk to.  דִּבּוּרְךָ חָבִיב עָלַי יוֹתֵר מִן הַכֹּל

Friday, March 04, 2022

moshe makes a mishkan

The She'eiris Menachem writes that the cheit ha'eigel stemmed from Bnei Yisrael failing to appreciate the uniqueness of Moshe.   כִּי־זֶ֣ה׀ מֹשֶׁ֣ה הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר הֶֽעֱלָ֙נוּ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם לֹ֥א יָדַ֖עְנוּ מֶה־הָ֥יָה לֽוֹ׃ Note the language of the pasuk: not Moshe Rabeinu, but Moshe **ha'ish**, a man like any other man.  Moshe is flesh and blood, not necessarily reliable and certainly not irreplaceable.

After the cheit ha'eigel, Moshe covered his face with a veil, except for when he was teaching Torah.  Among the other sources R' Eliezer Eisenberg quoted on this topic last week is the Netziv, who writes that Moshe uncovered his face when teaching because a talmid needs to see his rebbe in order to learn.  There has to be a hiskashrus.  I would suggest that the point of the veil was not the act of covering in order to show displeasure with Bn"Y, but davka the uncovering, the demonstration of that need for hiskashrus, because this was the point that Bn"Y missed when they made the eigel.  Moshe is Moshe *Rabeinu*, and an eigel cannot replace that.

The mishkan is the tikun for cheit ha'eigel because, as we read again and again in our parsha, the construction was done "...kaasher tzivah Hashem **es Moshe**."  Bnei Yisrael appreciated that without Moshe serving as the conduit to transmit the dvar Hashem, there would be no mishkan, there would be nothing.  

The Midrash writes: “Rabos banos asu chayil v’at alis al kulana”-- there were many chachamim (banos = binah, wisdom) who tried to put together the mishkan, but they were unable to get it to stand, so they brought the boards and beams to Moshe, and he was finally able to assemble it.  

The gemara has a rule that bracha only comes to that which is hidden from sight, unknown.  L'havdil, poker players consider it unlucky to count their money at the poker table.  Meforshim ask: so why is our parsha devoted to counting exactly how everything was spent to make the mishkan, and at the end, Moshe gives everything a bracha?  You don't have bracha if you count?  

The Zohar asks this question, and says a beautiful pshat in the pasuk to answer it.  I am going to put two pieces of Zohar together (based on Sefas Emes):  אֵ֣לֶּה פְקוּדֵ֤י הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ מִשְׁכַּ֣ן הָעֵדֻ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר פֻּקַּ֖ד עַל־פִּ֣י מֹשֶׁ֑ה.  Why the double word mishkan in the pasuk?  Rashi of course already tackles the question.  The Zohar answers that the pasuk is alluding to the fact that there are 2 mishkans: תְּרֵי זִמְנֵי כְּתִיב הָכָא מִשְׁכָּן, חַד לְעֵילָּא, וְחַד לְתַתָּא.  There is the mishkan upstairs and the mishkan downstairs.  (Similar to Chazal's teaching that there is a Yerushalayim shel maalah that corresponds to the Yerushalayim shel matah.)  

A little further on the Zohar continues as follows:תָּא חֲזֵי, מַשְׁכְּנָא דָּא קַיְּימָא בְּחוּשְׁבָּנָא, וּבְגִין כַּךְ אִצְטְרִיךְ לִצְלוֹתָא דְּמֹשֶׁה, דְּיִשְׁרֵי עָלֵיהּ בִּרְכָאן, דִּכְתִּיב וַיְבָרֶךְ אוֹתָם מֹשֶׁה, וּמַה בְּרָכָה בָּרִיךְ לוֹן, יְהֵא רַעֲוָא דְּתִשְׁרֵי בְּרָכָה עַל עוֹבָדֵי יְדֵיכוֹן. וּבִרְכָּאן לָא שָׁרָאן עַל הַאי חוּשְׁבָּנָא עַד דְּאִקְשָׁר לֵיהּ מֹשֶׁה בְּמַשְׁכְּנָא דִּלְעֵילָּא, דִּכְתִּיב אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדוּת אֲשֶׁר פֻּקַּד עַל פִּי מֹשֶׁה. דְּאִי לָאו דְּאִתְעֲבָד חוּשְׁבָּנָא עַל יְדָא דְּמֹשֶׁה, לָא יַכְלִין אִינּוּן לְמֶעְבַּד חוּשְׁבָּנָא, דִּכְתִּיב אֲשֶׁר פֻּקַּד עַל פִּי מֹשֶׁה

In other words, אֵ֣לֶּה פְקוּדֵ֤י הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙, all the artisans, all the people, all the "rabos banos asu chayil" that the Midrash refers to, came to make there accounting and take stock of what they had created.  But there was no bracha in what they did.  There is no bracha when you count up the "mishkan tata" that you see in this world alone.

מִשְׁכַּ֣ן הָעֵדֻ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר פֻּקַּ֖ד עַל־פִּ֣י מֹשֶׁ֑ה  But then Moshe came and took stock and offered his tefilah, and then there was bracha. Moshe connected to the second mishkan, the "mishkan l'eilah," and when you connect upstairs, there is always bracha.

You can have אֵ֣לֶּה פְקוּדֵ֤י הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ , all the necessary ingredients to make a physical mishkan, you can account for every detail, but your mishkan will be an empty shell of a building.  מִשְׁכַּ֣ן הָעֵדֻ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר פֻּקַּ֖ד עַל־פִּ֣י מֹשֶׁ֑ה, a mishkan that can testify that the Shechina is present is a mishkan counted davka by Moshe.  

You have a wonderful parallel: Moshe creates the hiskashrus between the mishkan l'eilah and the mishkan tata; the mishkan creates a hiskashrus between Klal Yisrael and Moshe our rebbe, a connection that we lost sight of during cheit ha'eigel.

adding l'kaparas pesha during a leap year

 Mishneh Brura writes (423:5) 

וכן יש אומרים ולכפרת פשע ויש שאינם אומרים רק בשנת העיבור ואפילו בשנת העיבור יש שאינם אומרים אותו אלא עד כלות חודש העיבור דהיינו עד אחר חודש אדר ובכל אלה נהרא נהרא ופשטיה וכל אחד יעשה כמנהג המקום.

There are different minhagim with respect to adding the words ולכפרת פשע to musaf of Rosh Chodesh.  Some add it only during leap years, some add it only until Adar of the leap year, some add it every month of the leap year.  M.B. says follow whatever your minhag is.

I thought Artscroll follows M.B. l'halacha, so I am not sure why in the instructions in the siddur they write stama that ולכפרת פשע is added until Adar of the leap year with no mention of other minhagim.  I wonder if those minhagim have simply vanished, or has Artscroll's standardization has made them vanish.