Friday, April 29, 2022
more like this
Thursday, April 28, 2022
safeik tumah, Ibn Ezra on chiyuv mitzvos of a ger toshav, Sefas Emes on the parsha, and a Shaul Lieberman anecdote
1) One more point of catch up from Pesach... The gemara learns the din that safeik tumah b'reshus ha'yachid is tamei from the parsha of sotah. The flip side of that coin should be that in all other cases, i.e. s"t b'reshus ha'rabim, the din is tahor. That's your baseline; the case of rh"y is the exception. The Rambam, however, quotes a makor for the din of s"t b'reshus ha'rabim from hilchos pesach (Hil Avos haTumah 16:1):
מפני מה טהרו חכמים ספק טומאה בר"ה. שהרי הציבור עושין פסח בטומאה בזמן שהטמאים מרובין אם טומאה ודאית נדחית מפניהן קל וחומר לספק טומאה שאיסור כל הספקות מדבריהן כמו שביארנו בהלכות ביאות אסורות. ומפני מה החמירו בספק רה"י. שהרי סוטה שנסתרה אף ע"פ שהדבר ספק הרי היא טמאה לבעלה עד שתשתה:
The source for the Rambam in a Tosefta in Taharos, which gives another reason as well, quoted by Raavad:
א"א ובתוספתא מפרש עוד טעם אחר מפני שאפשר להשאל על היחיד וא"א להשאל על הרבים:
Aside from the question of whether there is a a machlokes here or just two possible reasons, the more fundamental question is why we need a makor at all. The baseline does not need a makor, only the exception needs a makor.
Just wanted to mention the question. Od chazon la'moed...
2) There is a well known Ramban in our parsha that says that outside Eretz Yisrael mitzvos are just done for practice, but the real fulfillment can only take place in E"Y. Less well known (I think) is a chiddush of the Ibn Ezra which also shows the centrality and importance of Eretz Yisrael (good week to discuss the topic given the upcoming chag). Commenting on וְכׇל־נֶ֗פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאכַ֤ל נְבֵלָה֙ וּטְרֵפָ֔ה בָּאֶזְרָ֖ח וּבַגֵּ֑ר (17:15), Ibn Ezra writes:
ואם טען טוען והלא הכתוב אמר: לגר אשר בשעריך תתננה ואכלה (דברים י״ד:כ״א). התשובה: כי זה הגר גר תושב, וכן כתוב: והגרא הגר בתוככםב (ויקרא י״ז:י״ב) לא נעזבנו שיאכל נבלה, רק הנכרי שיבוא בשערינו נתן אותה לו ויאכל אותה לחוץ.
The usual assumption is that a ger toshav has to keep just 7 mitzvos. Ibn Ezra writes that you see from our pasuk (he interprets וּבַגֵּ֑ר as ger toshav) that a ger toshav cannot eat neveila either.
But, you will ask, the Torah itself writes in P' Mishpatim that neveilah and treifa can be disposed of by giving them to a ger? Answers Ibn Ezra, there is a difference between a ger who lives in E"Y and a ger from outside. E"Y demands a higher standard of behavior even from everyone, even the ger.
In case you are not convinced, he says it again in P' Kedoshim. Notice there how the Torah itself there connects the issur of maachalos assurus with the command of yishuv haaretz (20:24-25):
וָאֹמַ֣ר לָכֶ֗ם אַתֶּם֮ תִּֽירְשׁ֣וּ אֶת־אַדְמָתָם֒ וַאֲנִ֞י אֶתְּנֶ֤נָּה לָכֶם֙ לָרֶ֣שֶׁת אֹתָ֔הּ אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ אֲנִי֙ ה׳ אלקיכם אֲשֶׁר־הִבְדַּ֥לְתִּי אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִן־הָֽעַמִּֽים
וְהִבְדַּלְתֶּ֞ם בֵּֽין־הַבְּהֵמָ֤ה הַטְּהֹרָה֙ לַטְּמֵאָ֔ה וּבֵין־הָע֥וֹף הַטָּמֵ֖א לַטָּהֹ֑ר וְלֹֽא־תְשַׁקְּצ֨וּ אֶת־נַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶ֜ם בַּבְּהֵמָ֣ה וּבָע֗וֹף וּבְכֹל֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּרְמֹ֣שׂ הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־הִבְדַּ֥לְתִּי לָכֶ֖ם לְטַמֵּֽא
Ibn Ezra comments: על כן גר תושב לא יאכל טמא בארץ טהורה, כי על זה התנאי ידור בתוכנו.
Avoiding maachalos assuros is a tnai in living in E"Y, regardless of whether you are a Jew or not.
In the back of the new Oz v'Hadar Mikraos Gedolos they have additional notes, and I found that they put together a whole list of other places the Ibn Ezra says this same chiddush with respect to other issurim. Being in E"Y is a privilege that demands a greater level of observance.
3) The Toras Kohanim has an interesting comment on the pasuk כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֧ה אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְשַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֖הּ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ וּכְמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶֽרֶץ־כְּנַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִי֩ מֵבִ֨יא אֶתְכֶ֥ם שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵֽכוּ׃ It writes:
מְנַיִן לַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּאוּ בוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכִבֵּשׁוּ, שֶׁהִתְעִיבוּ מַעֲשֵׂיהֶן יָתֵר מִכֻּלָּם?
תִּלְמֹד לוֹמַר ״אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מֵבִיא אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ״.
מְנַיִן שֶׁבִּיאָתָן שֶׁלְּיִשְׂרָאֵל גָּרְמָה לְכָל הַמַּעֲשִׂים הַלָּלוּ?
תִּלְמֹד לוֹמַר ״אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מֵבִיא אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ״
Not only are the aku"m in E"Y the most depraved, but, say Chazal, it is our coming into the land which causes it. How and why are we the cause of the aku"m doing wrong?
Ksav Sofer (see Netziv as well) explains that since the aku"m know that ultimately the land will be ours, they have no incentive to behave or take care of the land. When you know there is no future, then you live for the moment, and indulge, enjoy, and abuse.
Sefas Emes has a different approach. Just like we have a principle that "kol ha'gadol mei'chaveiro yitzro gadol mimenu," that the greater a person, the greater their yetzer ha'ra pushing back against whatever they try to achieve, so too with respect to a place -- the greater the kedushas ha'makom, the greater will be the obstacles and challenges, the greater the klipos, standing in the way of realizing that place's potential.
Because E"Y is promised to us, because it is invested with such great spiritual potential for us to realize, davka there the aku"m are the most immoral. Davka there we find the greatest obstacles to ruchniyus. On Har haBayit you now have the aku"m having riots, throwing stones, etc. Even on a regular day, they have picnics there and use it as a playground. The holiest place in the world should have such tumah there?! The answer is yes, because it's the holiest place in the world that's what happens there. You need a lot of pushback, a lot of hester, a lot to hide the irrepressible force of kedusha that is bursting to escape.
4) Lastly, in Hillel Halkin's new book A Complicated Jew: Selected Essays, I found the following wonderful anecdote about his uncle, R' Shaul Lieberman:
A Lithuanian Jew with a no-nonsense attitude toward religion, he once, when I was a college student, startled me by saying that he considered prayer a waste of time, since it interrupted his study of Talmud and he had nothing to say to G-d. I did not contradict him by remarking that, standing diagonally behind him as a boy on Yom Kippur, the only day of the year on which he covered him head with his prayer shawl, I had glimpsed beneath it the tears running down his cheeks." (p 34-35)
Monday, April 25, 2022
catching up on a few things
Catching up on a few things from Pesach:
1) We bought a few different brands of shmurah matzah and one of the boxes had this printed on it:
For those like myself who are unfamiliar with this teshuvah of the C"S, it is a letter to the Jewish community of Trieste in Northern Italy (historical background here) in which the C"S bemoans the fact that their standards have fallen when it comes to matzah production. C"S then mentions some of the hakpadot that he has, among them this point of not leaving the dough alone for more than 2-3 min.
Is this now a thing? IDK. I do know that long before the C"S lived there was a chumrah from the Geonim not to leave the matzah unworked for even a minute (see Rosh Pesachim 3:6). Perhaps that will make it onto a matzah box next year.
2) On the same box I found the following:
I have no idea what the "last date of consummation" means with regards to matzah, but it gives new meaning to
האוכל מצה בּער״פּ כאילו בּועל ארוסתו בבית חמיו
(that's a bad joke, isn't it?)
3) My daughter is an olah chadasah, officially a citizen of Israel, but was by us in chu"l for Pesach. She was thinking of cooking string beans for herself for the 8th day, Shabbos, which for her was no longer Pesach. My wife objected. The gemara (Pes 47) has a machlokes why one is allowed to cook on Y"T for Shabbos: either because צרכי שׁבּת נעשׂים בּיו״ט, or because הואיל ואי מקלעי לי׳ אורחים, if guests were to come on Y"T they could eat the extra food, so the cooking is really a tzorech of Y"T. My wife pointed out that if guests were to come, they could not in fact eat the string beans because it was still Pesach.
This issue is an old argument between heavy hitters. The custom in Pozna, R' Akiva Eiger's hometown, was not to eat dried fruits on Pesach (see Rama in OC 467) except on the last day. R' Akiva Eiger thought it permissible to prepare such fruits in advance for the 8th day if it fell on Shabbos, but sent the question to his son-in-law, the C"S, to get his opinion. C"S disagreed, and argued (Shu"T C"S OC #79, second to last paragraph), as my wife did, that you cannot apply ho'il because the food cannot be eaten on the day it is prepared. The fact that a choleh is allowed to eat it is irrelevant, as even if one argues that there being some choleh in a large city is not "lo shichiach," but who says the choleh wants or needs to eat string beans?
(Take a look at the last paragraph of the teshuvah as well for some nice derush).
4) Another issue that came up regarding a ben E"Y in chu"l: could my daughter, who only needed to hear kiddush for shabbos, be yotzei with my kiddush on Friday night, which included insertions for Y"T? Or would those insertions be a hefsek?
The Bikrei Yosef (OC 213) deals with a similar issue: can someone who has a safeik whether they said a bracha achrona on mezonos (al hamichya alone) be yotzei with the bracha achrona of a friend who ate both mezonos and fruit (al hamichya + al ha'peiros)?
He quotes a teshuvah of Radbaz who writes that a person who missed maariv can be yotzei their tefilas tashlumin by listening to chazaras hashatz of shacharis. Radbaz was not concerned that kirkas kohanim added in shacharis (in EY and Sefard) but not maariv would be a hefsek. Birkei Yosef adds that based on Radbaz, in our case the Y"Y insertions do not count as a hefsek either.
An issue that comes up far more frequently but that involves the same safeik: many women recite she'hechiyanu when they light neiros for Y"T. When their husbands recite kiddush, they add she'hechiyanu in between the kiddush and drinking the wine. Are those added words a hefsek for the women who are being yotzei through shome'a k'oneh? Can you pick and choose which words you want to be yotzei with when you relying on shome'a k'oneh?
There are other examples as well...
5) Chazal say that "az yashir," in future tense, alludes to techiyas ha'meisim. Why did the Torah couch such an allusion davka here?
We started Shmos with the words וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְרָ֑יְמָה. When we read the shirah, אָ֣ז יָשִֽׁיר־מֹשֶׁה֩ וּבְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙, it's the conclusion to the story. It's the same בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל, the same children of Yaakov Avinu, who are now singing shirah! These great souls came down to become one with their children and share in the simcha of finally leaving Egypt. And so too, adds the Sefas Emes, whenever we experience such simcha, the souls of our ancestors come down to be one with us in celebration.
That's the yesod of techiyas ha'meisim. Souls will come down to the world once again in order to experience and rejoice in the hisgalus of Hashem.
A beautiful Sefas Emes to take out of the chag, esp for those saying yizkor on the last day and thinking about those no longer here.
6) This is an amazing piece by a NYU Law School student (see here for some background if you are not familiar with the controversy). Read the whole thing. Her concluding paragraph:
All of you have done more than I ever could to convince my fellow Jews that the left doesn’t just have a Corbyn problem or a Tlaib problem or a Farrakhan problem. It has a big, fat Jew-hatred problem right in its ideological core. This time it happened to rear its head at one of the best law schools in the country. One where the name Steinhardt adorns the buildings and about a quarter of the students are Jews. Yes, even here. Especially here.
Yes, thank you to NYU's students for letting the cat out of the bag. But is it enough to convince our fellow Jews? Are any members of our community listening?
Thursday, April 21, 2022
al sefas ha'Yam - the death of the illusion
וַיַּ֤רְא יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵ֖ת עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם The Mitzrim died in the Sea, so what does it mean עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם?
There was a contingent of Jews who had a hava amina of turning back to Egypt when they saw Pharoah's army pursuing after them. They probably rationalized to themselves, "We got through 210 years of this -- what's a few more years or decades?"
The thing is, once you taste freedom, the spell of oppression is broken and there's no going back. It's like, l'mashal, Adam after the cheit. Once there was a recognition of tov v'ra, whatever that means, you can't put the genie back in the bottle so easily.
So maybe from a distance, the rationalizations held. Maybe from a distance, some could think that, "Hey, maybe things in Egypt were not so bad..." When you face a lifetime of oppression day in and day out, you become used to it, inured to the injustices and violence, and it begins to seem almost normal.
But now, when the Egyptian army drew close, when they stood עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם right next to Bn"Y, and the people could look into the eyes of their former oppressors, do you know what they saw? וַיַּ֤רְא יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵ֖ת עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם They saw walking dead. They saw והמתים אינם יודעים מאומה, אלו רשעים שבחייהם קרויים מתים (Brachos 18). Thanks to their small taste of freedom, the people now recognized their former captors for the brutal monsters that they were.
The physical death of the Mitzrim was perhaps anticlimactic, as it was at this moment that the illusion of Egypt as a mighty empire, as an advanced culture, as someplace Jews had called home for better or worse for centuries, crumbled and died. The stark reality that revealed itself to Bn"Y was that this was no sophisticated empire -- it was a bunch of thugs bent on never surrendering their power. There could be no return to such a place.
This recognition was the precursor and perhaps the precondition to the yam splitting.
(The classical meforshim all discuss the question of what עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם means here. The Sanz Klausenberger (Shefa Chaim) has a number of pieces where he explains it similarly to this.)
What an appropriate way to end chag ha'geulah. Hashem is waiting to do miracles for us, but it has to start with וַיַּ֤רְא יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵ֖ת עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם , recognizing where we are as a dead end. You can't move forward until the illusion that there is something to turn back to, the illusion of security and prosperity in galus, the illusion that this is a safe culture to raise our children in and have a life in, is broken.
beyond the superficial
1) According to Midrash (see Ramban as well), Bn"Y splintered into different camps as they stood at Yam Suf watching the Egyptian army fast approaching. Some were sure G-d would save them, but others were prepared to throw in the towel and started to question why they ever left Egypt to begin with. It is to that group that Moshe directed his words, "Hashem yilachem lachem v'atem tacharishun." Hashem will take care of the Egyptians and fight the fight for you, but "atem tacharishun," while everyone else is singing shirah, you will remain silent. Only those who stood firm and passed the test of belief beforehand have a right to celebrate afterwards.
2) The haggadah darshens the pasuk, " וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹקים את־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֵּ֖דַע אֱלֹקים," as referring to "perishus derech eretz," privacy in intimate matters, something only G-d could know and be aware of. The Midrash, however, darshens the pasuk quite differently:
דָּבָר אַחֵר: וַיַּרְא אֱלֹקים – אָמַר רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ, שֶׁרָאָה שֶׁהֵן עֲתִידִין לְהַמְרוֹת עַל יַם סוּף, דִּכְתִיב: וַיַּמְּרוּ עַל יָם בְּיַם סוּף (תהלים ק״ו:ז׳). וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקים – יָדַע שֶׁהֵן עֲתִידִין לוֹמַר (שמות ט״ו:ב׳): זֶה קלי
The Shem m'Shmuel, in his commentary on the haggadah, asks how can be that on the one hand the baal ha'haggadah sees in this pasuk a tremendous shevach of Bn"Y, and other meforshim comment that this וַיַּ֥רְא is one of the keys to unlocking the geulah, and yet the Midrash reads these same words as an allusion to the rebellion at Yam Suf? How can you reconcile such widely opposing approaches to the same text?
He answers as follows:
וַיַּרְא אֱלֹקים and וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקים, the rebellion at Yam Suf and the singing of shirah, are not put side by side in the Midrash because one follows the other in chronological order. Look at the very next line of the Midrash, which reads:
רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי אָמַר, רָאָה שֶׁעֲתִידִין לוֹמַר (שמות ל״ב:ד׳): אֵלֶּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקים – שֶׁעֲתִידִים לְהַקְדִּים נַעֲשֶׂה לְנִשְׁמָע.
Naaseh v'nishma preceded cheit ha'eigel, yet the Midrash has the order reversed.
וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקים does not follow וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹקים in time, but rather וַיֵּדַע is a deeper, more profound understanding and appreciation of what was once only seen, וַיַּ֥רְא , superficially.
On the surface, cheit ha'eigel is no less than a monumental rebellion against G-d. However, if you dig below the surface, the exact opposite is true. Bn"Y came to the eigel because they feared that they had lost Moshe, the only conduit they knew of to connect to G-d. It was the search for a substitute, something to fill the void left by the loss of Moshe, something to help them reconnect with the spirituality and idealism they had known through him, which led them astray (an all too common story in our history -- how many people latch on to all kinds of ideals and causes to fill the void in their neshoma left by having no connection to anything?) וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקים that this is not as rebellion, but a product of the same holy fervor that led to naaseh v'nishma in the first place.
The same is true of the rebellion at Yam Suf. You can find Jews in the leadership of every movement -- civil rights, social justice, etc. -- that speaks out against unfairness and injustice. The spark for that comes from Yam Suf. We don't like to sit back passively and watch events unfold; we like to share our opinion on everything, to make their voices heard. Our neshoma gets stirred up easily. Sometimes, unfortunately, it leads us to וַיַּמְּרוּ עַל יָם בְּיַם סוּף, in the wrong direction. Yet that same stirring up is what also leads to shirah.
וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקים that that passion, that hislahavus, that energy, that sometimes seems to carry us away, comes from a holy source and therefore can and will find expression in a great way as well.
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Dayeinu - banah lanu es Beis haBechira
1. My wife raised a question on the haggadah I have not yet found an answer to (just when you think you've exhausted all the questions to ask and all the answers to give!) At the end of Dayeinu we thank Hashem for "BANAH lanu es Beis haBechira," building the Beit haMikdash. What does this line mean? The Mikdash is something we built. It's a mitzvah incumbent upon us to do. True, we had siyata d'Shemaya, but that's true of everything that we do. How does this fit with the list of overt miracles and other gifts from Hashem that took no effort on our part listed in Dayeinu?
Parenthetically, see Shibolei haLeket or Yaavetz and you will see (as R' Kasher points out in his Haggadah Shleima) that there is an additional stanza at the end of Dayeinu that we don't have -- one line thanking Hashem for the Mishkan, and then another line to thank Hashem for the Mikdash itself.
2. The decision by Naftali Bennett to bar Jews from the Har haBayit for the duration of Ramadan strikes me as wrongheaded. A basic functions of any liberal government is to ensure freedom of worship for its citizens. If Israel cannot do that, it has de facto ceded sovereignty over of Har HaBayit to the Waqf and set a terrible precedent. Even if one takes the position that al pi halacha no one should ascend Har haBayit, that does not mean we should allow it to become and enemy fortress right in the heart of our capital city. Of course I am not there and it's not me who has to face the rioters, so maybe I should not have a say in the matter, but my my feeling is that when it comes to places like Har HaBayit, the State is in effect acting as custodian on behalf of world Jewry, not just its local citizens, and so we all have a say, for whatever our 2 cents are worth.
3. Interesting article in WSJ written by a psychologist reports (sorry, subscription required to get to the link):
The answer to whether religion improves morality doesn’t come down to a simple yes or no. That’s because when it comes to morality, the power of religion is more in the doing than in the believing. Studies of religion and health show that identifying with a religion—saying you believe in God or going to worship once a year on Easter or Yom Kippur—means very little. Epidemiological research shows that it is people who live their faith, regularly going to services and engaging in their religion’s rituals, who tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives.
Thursday, April 14, 2022
food and freedom
There is a din d'oraysa of lo tasgir eved el adonav that prevents anyone from sending an eved who flees to Er"Y back to chu"l, but some Rishonim go a step further and say that the eved is automatically free. Why should this be so? The difference between Eretz Yisrael and chu"l is that Er"Y is sustained by Hashem directly, while parnasa in chu"l comes through the intermediary of angels. Avnei Nezer (Y.D. 454) explains that since the responsibility for the support of an eved lies with his master, so long as the master is in chu"l, the eved is still chained to the chu"l status of mezonos through the intermediary of angels. This is effectively 'lo tasgir.' It's only once the eved is free and can enjoy mezonos of Er"Y, support directly from Hashem, that he is truly a ben Eretz Yisrael.
The Av"N's teshuvah is important l'halacha with respect to the question of whether someone who relies on charity or support from chu"l is really fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv Er"Y, but what's important for us is that he ties this whole discussion back to inyanei Pesach. The idea of achilas matzah and korban pesach is that responsibility for our parnasa switched from Pharoah to Hashem. The Torah calls achilas k.p an "avodah" because it transforms us from avdei Phraoah into 'avdei Hashem.'
Even though achilas pesach itself is not m'akeiv, a person has to be ra'uy to do achilah at the time of zerikas ha'dam because it is this capacity to receive our sustenance from Hashem which marks our freedom from bondage.
(We have similar concepts that come up elsewhere, e.g. the idea of children who are "someich al shulchan avi'hem" being connected to his home; the idea of "makom pita" as opposed to "makom linah" defining a person's residence; the idea of chiyuv mezonos connecting a wife to her husband's home.)
Shem m'Shmuel extends this same idea to milah. The chosam bris, beyond just being a mitzvah, is a siman of our avdus to Hashem. Tosfos (Pes 28) asks why we need a chiddush din to tell us that an areil must eat matzah. Peshita -- he is patur from korban pesach, but the Torah never says he is patur from matzah?! Sm"S answers that one might have had a hava amina that the lack of milah is not just a ptur from the mitzvah of k.p., but is a siman of a chisaron in the status of eved Hashem. Kah mashma lan that the areil is still chayav.
"Ha lachma anya di achlu avhasana b'ara d'Mitzrayim." Abarbanel learns that matzah is slave food; the Egyptians fed it to Bn"Y because it is simple, low budget food. Maharal disagrees and explains that the hagadah is referring to the matzah Hashem commanded us to eat on Pesach night. Sm"S wants to have his cake (or maztah) and eat it too. Matzah is indeed a food of slaves, but on seder night it becomes a symbol of our freedom because our freedom is avdus -- avdus to Hashem instead of to Pharoah.
Perhaps this explains (see previous post for the Chasam Sofer's hesber of the same point) the connection between the beginning of "ha lachma anya" and the end, "l'shana haba'ah b'ar'ah d'Yisrael." Since we are now eating mi'shulchan gavoha, proving that we are avdei Hashem, m'meila our sustenance should come directly from Him, which can happen only in Eretz Yisrael.
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
at psach lo
The haggadah used the feminine, "at pesach lo," instead of "atah," when telling us how to address the tam.
Zachrus is usually associated with giving; nakvus with receiving. Teaching is usually a "zachrus" activity in that the rebbe gives over information, direction, to the talmid, who is the recipient.
The haggadah is telling us that sometimes you have to back off. Sometimes teaching is not about giving over to the talmid, but rather about listening, encouraging the talmid to develop his own thoughts and ideas. The midah of nakvus is necessary to allow the talmid to grow.
עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה לומר לך מה עץ קטן מדליק את הגדול אף תלמידי חכמים קטנים מחדדים את הגדולים והיינו דאמר ר' חנינא הרבה למדתי מרבותי ומחבירי יותר מרבותי ומתלמידי יותר מכולן
The rebbe can become a student; the student can become a teacher.
Monday, April 11, 2022
"דברי נזיקין לבדם ודברי יבמות לבדם ודברי קדשים לבדם" - ?why single out Yevamos
ועד ימיו לא היו מסכתות סדורות אלא כל תלמיד ששמע דבר מפי גדול הימנו גרסה ונתן סימנים הלכה פלונית ופלונית שמעתי משם פלוני וכשנתקבצו אמר כל אחד מה ששמע ונתנו לב לברר טעמי המחלוקת דברי מי ראוין לקיים וסידרו המסכתות דברי נזיקין לבדם ודברי יבמות לבדם ודברי קדשים לבדם
Kodshim and Nezikin are sedarim (granted, Rashi refers to them as masechtot), but Yevamos is a single masechta. Why would Rashi single out Yevamos instead of writing "divrei nashim," or something like that?
Friday, April 08, 2022
sharing is caring
הָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִתֵּ֧ן ה׳ לָכֶ֖ם כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֵּ֑ר וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הָֽעֲבֹדָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת: (12:25)
Pesach is not a mitzvah ha'teluya ba'aretz, so why is it, asks the Tiferes Shlomo in his torah for Shabbos haGadol, that the Torah presents it as such?
Chasam Sofer in his derashos develops a yesod that Dr. Who put best in describing the TARDIS: "It's bigger on the inside than on the outside." When you are invested in a life of pnimiyus, then no matter how little of the chitzoniyus of this world you have -- your house is small, you barely scrape by, you don't have the latest gadget or other "stuff" -- it doesn't really matter, because your inner space is huge. However, if you are invested in the outside and that's all that really matters and exists for you, you will find the opposite to be true: you will always feel you don't have enough space, time, possessions, "stuff."
Eretz Yisrael is such a small country, yet who does Ukraine call on to admit more and more refugees? Us, of course. Eretz Yisrael is called "Eretz Tzvi," the gemara explains, because if you skin a deer and take out the meat, you will find that it's impossible to stuff the flesh back inside the skin. Somehow, there is more inside than the outside can hold. So too Eretz Yisrael, even though based on geography and physical space it seems there is not room there for all of us, but somehow it works. Similarly, Chazal tell us that no matter how many people came to Yerushalayim, no one ever said, "tzar li ha'makom," that there was not enough space. In the Mikdash itself, "omdim tzefufim u'mishtachavim revachim."
Compare that with my neighborhood in NY where big houses are torn down so that people can build even bigger houses. I think each family member who lives in such homes must have their own wing or something! No matter how big a mansion they have, some people need an even bigger mansion.
Eretz Yisrael, Yerushalayim, the makom Mikdash -- these are holy, pnimiyusdik places. They are bigger on the inside than on the outside, so there is room for everyone. But no matter how big your home is, if you are empty on the inside, it's never going to be big enough.
We start the haggadah by inviting whoever is in need to come join us in eating the food we once ate while enslaved, "Ha lachma anya..., and we end that opening passage by saying that next year we will be in Eretz Yisrael. What's the connection between the reisha and the seifa?
Chasam Sofer explains that even though we are eating the same lechem oni that we ate as slaves, even though we prepared just enough for our family sitting around the table, we still say "kol dichfin..., " there is enough for anyone who wants to come and eat, there is room for everyone at the table, and the same "lechem oni" we ate as slaves it still will satisfy us now.
וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ... When we invite everyone in, says the Chasam Sofer, "Harei hu m'ein Eretz ha'kedosha," it's in some small way like Eretz Yisrael, where the inside is bigger than the outside, where the table and the food expand and provide enough even though if you measure the physical dimensions b'derech ha'teva it does not seem possible.
That's perhaps the answer to the Radomsker's kashe. That's how to celebrate Pesach in Eretz Yisrael even if physically you may be far away.
Our parsha warns, if you come to Eretz Canaan, you may find a nega on your walls:
וּבָא֙ אֲשֶׁר־ל֣וֹ הַבַּ֔יִת וְהִגִּ֥יד לַכֹּהֵ֖ן לֵאמֹ֑ר כְּנֶ֕גַע נִרְאָ֥ה לִ֖י בַּבָּֽיִת
Why the punishment? The Midrash finds the answer in one word -- אֲשֶׁר־**ל֣וֹ **הַבַּ֔יִת , it's HIS house, to the exclusion of anyone else who may want to come in. וּבָא אֲשֶׁר לוֹ הַבַּיִת, מִי שֶׁיִּחֵד בֵּיתוֹ לוֹ וְאֵינוֹ רוֹצֶה לֵהָנוֹת לַאֲחֵרִים That's the klipa of כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן -- Eretz Canaan, which has not yet been transformed into Eretz Yisrael, Eretz Tzvi, where there is room enough to share.
We end ha lachma anya by saying next year in Eretz Yisrael because midah k'neged midah, if you manage to transform your home into the "m'ein Eretz ha'kedosha," as the Chasam Sofer puts it, by opening your door to all, then that is the siman that you don't belong in galus, that you are deserving of the real thing, Eretz Tzvi, not just the mei'ein.
Tuesday, April 05, 2022
don't feed the chicken
Someone I consider very wise said the following: If someone thinks they are a chicken, you are not doing them a chessed if you keep throwing corn at them to eat.
I think this is an invaluable insight. We are asked all the time to do chassadim, great and small, but many times the biggest chessed we can do is to stop and say no, we will not feed the chicken. Sustaining people's delusions even if the cost is small -- a handful of corn feed -- does not really do them a service in the long run.
Monday, April 04, 2022
tumas yoledes in the future
כִּי הָא דְּיָתֵיב רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל וְקָא דָרֵישׁ: עֲתִידָה אִשָּׁה שֶׁתֵּלֵד בְּכָל יוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ״הָרָה וְיוֹלֶדֶת יַחְדָּיו״. לִיגְלֵג עָלָיו אוֹתוֹ תַּלְמִיד, אָמַר: ״אֵין כׇּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ״! אֲמַר לֵיהּ: בֹּא וְאַרְאֶךָּ דּוּגְמָתָן בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. נְפַק אַחְוִי לֵיהּ תַּרְנְגוֹלֶת.
I saw the following question raised: how is it possible for a woman to give birth every day -- what about the halachos of tumas yoledes?
My gut reaction is that the answer is what the the Rambam writes in Peirush haMishnayos in Cheilek:
הראשונה והוא רוב מה שראיתי ואשר ראיתי חבוריו ומה ששמעתי עליו הם מאמינים אותם על פשטם ואין סוברין בהם פירוש נסתר בשום פנים והנמנעות כלם הם אצלם מחויבות המציאות ואמנם עושין כן לפי שלא הבינו החכמה והם רחוקים מן התבונות ואין בהם מן השלמות כדי שיתעוררו מאליהם ולא מצאו מעורר שיעורר אותם סוברין שלא כוונו החכמים ז"ל בכל דבריהם הישרים והמתוקנים אלא מה שהבינו לפי דעתם מהם ושהם על פשוטם ואע"פ שהנראה מקצת דבריהם יש בהם מן הדבה והריחוק מן השכל עד שאילו סופר על פשוטו לעמי הארץ כל שכן לחכמים היו תמהים בהתבוננם בהם והם אומרים היאך יתכן שיהיה בעולם אדם שיחשוב בזה או שיאמין שהיא אמונה נכונה ק"ו שייטיב בעיניו וזו הכת עניי הדעת יש להצטער עליהם לסכלותם לפי שהם מכבדין ומנשאין החכמים כפי דעתם והם משפילים אותם בתכלית השפלות והם אינם מבינין זה וחי השם יתברך כי הכת הזה מאבדים הדרת התורה ומאפילים זהרה ומשימים תורת ה' בהפך המכוון בה
The problem is that if it's not meant to be taken literally, why bring proof from the fact that chickens do literally lay eggs every day?