Friday, March 31, 2023

a new reason why Shabbos ha'Gadol is called by that name

When we are introduced to Avraham Avinu in Lech Lecha, Hashem promised him  וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל.  That promise would be realized through experiencing the Egyptian bondage.  When Yaakov is on his way down to Egypt (46:3), Hashem appeared and told him אל תירא מרדה מצרימה כי לגוי גדול אשימך שם.  What makes a גוי גדול?  The Torah tells us later in Devarim (4:8)    ומי גוי גדול אשר לו חקים ומשפטים צדיקם ככל התורה הזאת. A ג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל means a nation that stands out in its spiritual, religious, moral commitment.  Therefore, the Shabbos when Bn"Y is given its first mitzvah, to take a korban pesach, is called "Shabbos haGadol." This is our inauguration into becoming a people dedicated to mitzvos.  

The Sefas Emes (5652) develops this theme further in a beautiful piece, but I would like to suggest a different spin.  We find that word גָּד֔וֹל used elsewhere:  פְּנ֣וּ׀ וּסְע֣וּ לָכֶ֗ם וּבֹ֨אוּ הַ֥ר הָֽאֱמֹרִי֮ וְאֶל־כׇּל־שְׁכֵנָיו֒ בָּעֲרָבָ֥ה בָהָ֛ר וּבַשְּׁפֵלָ֥ה וּבַנֶּ֖גֶב וּבְח֣וֹף הַיָּ֑ם אֶ֤רֶץ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַלְּבָנ֔וֹן עַד־הַנָּהָ֥ר הַגָּדֹ֖ל נְהַר־פְּרָֽת (Devarim 1:7)  Why is Pras called הַנָּהָ֥ר הַגָּדֹ֖ל?  Rashi there explains that it is because Pras is mentioned in context and in connection with Eretz Yisrael.   מפני שנזכר עם ארץ ישראל, קורהו גדול.  

The context of the promise of אֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל is Avraham being told in Lech Lecha to leave his homeland and go to Canaan/Eretz Yisrael.  It's developing that that connection to Eretz Yisrael which is what will make him into a ג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל because, as Rashi tells us, gadlus comes through connecting with our homeland.

We find this connection elsewhere.  Simple pshat in the pasuk in Yehoshua (14:15)  וְשֵׁ֨ם חֶבְר֤וֹן לְפָנִים֙ קִרְיַ֣ת אַרְבַּ֔ע הָאָדָ֧ם הַגָּד֛וֹל בָּעֲנָקִ֖ים ה֑וּא וְהָאָ֥רֶץ שָֽׁקְטָ֖ה מִמִּלְחָמָֽה is that there was a man named "Arba" who was a big giant, הָאָדָ֧ם הַגָּד֛וֹל בָּעֲנָקִ֖ים, and lived in Chevron.  However, if you look in the Midrash (e.g. see Yalkut Shimoni) you will find that Chazal associate הָאָדָ֧ם הַגָּד֛וֹל בָּעֲנָקִ֖ים with Avraham Avinu. Aside from the derash reasons given, I would suggest that Avraham deserves this title particularly in connection with Chevron because that is where Avraham made the first purchase of land in Eretz Yisrael.   

Perhaps this is also the meaning of the promise made in bris bein ha'besarm, where Avraham is told (15:14) אַחֲרֵי־כֵ֥ן יֵצְא֖וּ בִּרְכֻ֥שׁ גָּדֽוֹל.  The רְכֻ֥שׁ גָּדֽוֹל that we were supposed to look forward to is the return to Eretz Yisrael.  

After introducing the halachos of korban pesach, the Torah tells us  וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִתֵּ֧ן ה׳ לָכֶ֖ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֵּ֑ר וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הָעֲבֹדָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת.  The parsha is reiterating the promise of return to Eretz Yisrael, the land of the Avos, and telling us that it is there that we will continue our future avodah.  In fact, according to the Targum Yonasan, the "kanfei nesharim" that the Torah later speaks of refers to Bn"Y magically being transported on the seder night in Mitzrayim to Yerushalayim to offer their korban pesach there.

My suggestion is that Shabbos haGadol is given that name because the command to offer korban pesach anticipates our return to Eretz Yisrael, the renewal the avodah of the Avos in out homeland.

Monday, March 27, 2023

‘kibutz galuyot’ -- in Cancun?

“It's a place that is what we call the ‘kibutz galuyot’ [ingathering of the exiles], you gather the masses of Jews from every place around the world and it's something exceptional to be able to be seated around the table,” he tells Israel National News.

What place is the Rabbi being quoted, and I will leave out the name (maybe I shouldn't even link to the article?), speaking about?  

Did you guess Cancun, Mexico?  

Yes, he was probably just borrowing the phrase, but even to borrow the phrase ‘kibutz galuyot’ and use it in the context of speaking about Cancun says something about our attitudes.

I don't pretend to be a prophet, but it seems to me to be simple midah k'neged midah that if we want Israel to be a special place where "einei Hashem Elokecha bah," where there are not strikes a protests and terrorist attacks and problems every other day, then maybe we need to think a little more about what "kibutz galuyot" means and where we want to be on Y"T, surrounded by other Jews from all corners of the world.  

"L'shanah ha'ba'ah" in Cancun?  I think not.   

Instead of a Pesach where "the guard is down, people are on vacation, nobody’s wearing their ties and suits, and therefore people are more receptive to expressing their Jewishness," maybe we should strive for a Pesach where we wear our ties and suits l'kavod Y"T, where we don't have to try to sneak in some Jewishness when people's guard is down because they are relaxing, but aderaba, the Jewishness of the chag is front and center.

How exactly that can happen when every Jewish newspaper and periodical has ads selling us on Pesach in Cancun and other exotic places, where even community Rabbis go off to join their flocks in the resorts, where staying home and making Pesach has become the exception rather than the norm, I have no idea.  

Thursday, March 23, 2023

an incomplete calling

1) The command to take the korban pesach was given on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, even though nothing had to be done until the 10th.  Shem m'Shmuel explains that the 10 days from R"Ch until the 10th are like the aseres ymei teshuvah.  You don't jump into Yom Kippur without preparing yourself in advance.  So too when it comes to taking the korban pesach.   מִֽשְׁכ֗וּ וּקְח֨וּ לָכֶ֥ם צֹ֛אן לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתֵיכֶ֖ם וְשַׁחֲט֥וּ הַפָּֽסַח׃ (12:21) Chazal darshen  רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי אוֹמֵר, מִשְׁכוּ יְדֵיכֶם מֵעֲבֹדַת אֶלִילִים וְהִדַּבְּקוּ בַּמִּצְוֹת.  Cleansing oneself from avodah zarah takes time and effort.  Even though we no longer have a korban pesach, we still need to take advantage of the time period. 

2) Mountains of derush have been written on the fact that the aleph in VaYikra is small.  The Zohar (quoted by R' Tzuriel here ) writes that the letter is small because the revelation of Hashem here took place outside Eretz Yisrael and therefore lacked completeness.  

Tzror haMor similarly writes:

למה אלף זעירא לפי שכבוד הש״י וקדושתו הוא בארץ ישראל לפי שהיא ארץ קדושה. וכשהוצרך לצאת מהיכלו ולילך חוצה לארץ כביכול הוא ממעט כבודו. ולכן נכתב ויקרא באלף זעירא.

This approach helps deal with a pshat question Ramban and Seforno are bothered by.  וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר ה׳ אֵלָ֔יו מֵאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד - why the stress on Ohel Moed?   They explain that Hashem called to Moshe here because when Moshe saw the cloud of Hashem's presence enveloping the Mishkan, he was hesitant to enter.  However, according to the Zohar and the Tzror haMor maybe the stress is on Ohel Moed is because the it's the fact that the revelation took place there as opposed to Eretz Yisrael that makes the aleph small.

I would add that al derech derush we can explain based on this why it is that davka here the aleph is small.  Why not earlier, e.g. by the sneh (Shmos 3:4), where we have  וַיִּקְרָא֩ אֵלָ֨יו אֱלֹקים מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֗ה, or by mattan Torah, where we read (19:3) וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֤יו ה׳ מִן־הָהָ֣ר?  

Rambam paskens in Hil Melachim (9:5) אסור לצאת מארץ ישראל לחוצה לארץ לעולם. אלא ללמוד תורה או לישא אשה או להציל מן העכו"ם ויחזור לארץ   Hashem's appearance by the sneh was להציל מן העכו"ם, to save Bn"Y from Pharoah's oppression.  Hashem's appearance by Har Sinai was ללמוד תורה.  These are justifiable reasons for leaving Eretz Yisrael, and therefore there was no miyut of kavod Shamayim in going out.  However, when it comes to the korbanos of the mishkan, korbanos which are offered primarily because we messed up and need a kaparah, then there is a miyut of kavod Shamayim for Hashem to come out to chu"l to deal with it.

We are all "called" upon to work on our avodas Hashem.  How many of us even realize how that calling from Hashem is diminished by virtue of our remaining in chu"l?

3) Rashi writes:

 לכל דברות ולכל אמירות ולכל ציווים קדמה קריאה, זו לשון חיבה, לשון שמלאכי השרת משמשין בו: וקרא זה אל זה (ישעיהו ו׳:ג׳). אבל לנביאי אומות העולם נגלה עליהם בלשון גנאי ועראי, בלשון טומאה: ויקר אלהים אל בלעם

We understand that the revelation to Bilam was temporary,גנאי ועראי, but what proof is there that it is לשון טומאה? Why is the fact that it is temporary necessarily something bad?  Mizrachi and others suggest that Rashi is a play on words: יקר has the same letters as קרי.  

Rav Shteinman in Ayales haShachar explains that when Hashem appears to a person, that individual needs to seize the opportunity and grow from it.  The experience has to inspire meaningful, permanent change.  If the person sees it only as a one off,  גנאי ועראי, something temporary here today and gone tomorrow, that itself by definition is טומאה, a negative.  

See his second explanation here as well.

4) My wife told me about this product, which appears to simply be masking tape that has the word chameitz printed on it, that she saw in a store, and at first I thought she was joking, but she wasn't.  Amazon does not list the price, but my wife thinks it was around $11 locally.  

Let that sink in.  $11 for a role of tape.  

Have we reached peak Pesach madness yet?  

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

k'zayis is not just a shiur achila

The shiur for mitzvos and issurim that entail achila is a k'zayis, as ain achila p'chusa mi'kzayis.  However, in truth the shiur k'zayis is not just a din in achila, but is the baseline shiur for all mitzvos/issurim until proven otherwise.

The first Mishna in Beitzah has a machlokes Beis Hillel and B"Sh whether the shiur bal yeira'eh and bal yimatzei for chamtez is k'zayis, like se'or, or whether the shiur is larger.  The gemara explains B"Sh:

מאי טעמייהו דב"ש א"כ לכתוב רחמנא חמץ ולא בעי שאור ואנא אמינא ומה חמץ שאין חמוצו קשה בכזית שאור שחמוצו קשה לא כל שכן שאור דכתב רחמנא למה לי לומר לך שיעורו של זה לא כשיעורו של זה

Meaning, all things being equal, you would assume the shiur is k'zayis. 

Why?  If the only reason the shiur achila is a k'zayis is because ain achila p'chusa mi'kzayis, what does that have to do with bal yeira'eh and bal yimatzei?  

QED that k'zayis is a baseline shiur, not just a shiur of achila.

See Minchas Chinuch 89 who points out the same with respect to the issur of lo tischat al chameitz dam zivchi being k'zayis.

Friday, March 17, 2023

an unsurprising headline

Only someone who has been out to lunch for the past 15 years would be surprised by the JTA headline telling us that "For the first time, Democrats sympathize more with Palestinians than with Israel."  This is a natural outcome of the anti-Israel attitudes that were on full display during the years of the Obama administration.  Of course, there have always been anti-Israel voices in the US government, esp in the State Dept., but the degree of animus displayed by Obama toward Israel as sitting President in sharp contrast to his coddling of dictatorial regimes in the Arab world was unparalleled in previous administrations.  

You need only to read Michael Oren's book describing his time as Ambassador to the US while Obama was President to discover the facts.  Read Bibi's new book.  He writes (p 497), "In hindsight, it was clear that the real 'no daylight' policy under Obama was not between the US and Israel but between the US and the Palestinians."  Remember this moment from the 2012 Democrat convention?  It's just a short jump from there to the the non-condemnation by Democrats of Ilhan Omar for her anti-semitism.  

A sadder fact than this headline is that Pew Research shows that, "Jews are among the most consistently liberal and Democratic groups in the U.S. population. Seven-in-ten Jewish adults identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, and half describe their political views as liberal."   We are heavily invested in our own destruction.  JINOs and those whose real religion is progressivism are among the most vocal supporters of Palestinians, even at the cost of harm to their own people. 

mitzvos as a national mandate

 וַתֵּ֕כֶל כׇּל־עֲבֹדַ֕ת מִשְׁכַּ֖ן אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וַֽיַּעֲשׂוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל כְּ֠כֹ֠ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּ֧ה ה׳ אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֖ה כֵּ֥ן עָשֽׂוּ׃  At first glance it seems that the pasuk here (39:32) is backwards.  First it should tell us that the people did the work, וַֽיַּעֲשׂוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל ..., and then tell us that they completed the job, וַתֵּ֕כֶל כׇּל־עֲבֹדַ֕ת מִשְׁכַּ֖ן .  Instead, it first tells us that they finished the job and only then tells us that the people did the work!  

Some of the meforshei Rashi write that this is the difficulty Rashi is trying to address in his short cryptic comment ויעשו בני ישראל – את המלאכה.

The Oznayim laTorah offers a different answer, but before getting to it, I want to point out the Ohr haChaim's comment to the pasuk and then come back and combine the two.  Ohr haChaim writes that in fact it was not everyone who participated in the work on the mishkan.  It was Betzalel and the artisans who did the work.  However, the pasuk credits everyone -- וַֽיַּעֲשׂוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל.  He explains:

 והוא מה שאמר הכתוב כאן ויעשו בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה ה׳ כינה לכולם יחד מעשה כולם הגם שמהם הביאו הנדבה מהם עשו מלאכה יאמר על כללותם שעשו הכל

This is not just a din in shlucho shel adam k'moso (which he suggests at the start of his explanation), but is a different principle entirely.  

עוד נראה כי כאן עשה הכתוב מחברת הכללות בקיום התורה והראה כי בני ישראל יזכו זה לזה והתורה נתנה להתקיים בכללות ישראל כל אחד יעשה היכולת שבידו ויזכו זה לזה. ואולי כי לזה רמז באומרו (ויקרא י״ט י״ח) ואהבת לרעך כמוך, פירוש לצד שהוא כמותך כי בשלומו ייטיב לך ובאמצעותו אתה משלים שלימותך ואם כן אינו אחר אלא אתה עצמך וכאחד מחלקיך.

ובזה מצאנו נחת רוח כי ה׳ צוה תרי״ג מצות ומן הנמנע שימצא אדם אחד שישנו בקיום כולם וזה לך האות כהן ולוי וישראל ונשים, יש מצות עשה בכהנים שאין מציאות לישראל לעשותם, ויש מצות לישראל שאינם בכהנים, וכן בלוים, וכן בנשים, ומה מציאות יש ליחיד לקיימם להשלים תיקון לרמ״ח איבריו ושס״ה גידיו אשר יכוונו להם, אלא ודאי שתתקיים התורה במחברת הכללות ויזכו זה מזה

What he is saying is that even though particular individuals may have done the work, the nation as a whole gets credit.  You could argue that this is a unique din in making the mishkan because it's a chovas ha'tzibur, but Ohr haChaim generalizes to all mitzvos. No single individual can do all 613 mitzvos, nor is he expected to.  The 613 mitzvos are a mandate to the nation.  The individual gets credit and can accomplish all the mitzvos by virtue of being part of the whole.

Now for the Oznayaim laTorah.  He writes that the second half of the pasuk is not speaking about the mishkan, but is speaking more generally about the observance of any and all mitzvos.  We have a principle that mitzvah goreres mitzvah.  When you do one good thing, you are inclined to do another.  Positive energy begets more positive energy.  The reverse is of course also true.  Once you are on a downward slope, the negative energy reinforces itself.  The cheit ha'eigel was a steep downward drop that sapped the energy and upward momentum out of Bn"Y.  It was the collective effort to build the mishkan, with all the positive energy that went into the many steps to get the job done, that reversed the trend.  Now that that job was complete, וַתֵּ֕כֶל כׇּל־עֲבֹדַ֕ת מִשְׁכַּ֖ן, the momentum was changed and וַֽיַּעֲשׂוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל כְּ֠כֹ֠ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּ֧ה ה׳ אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֖ה it became easier for Bn"Y to once again do what G-d asked of them.  

Let's maybe put 2 and 2 together. The eigel was not just a tragedy and a failure for the 3000 people who actually committed the sin of idolatry.  It was a tragedy and a failure for the nation as a whole.  The people were now splintered and divided between those like the bnei Levi who were willing to carry out the punishment of misa against their own relatives, and those like the 3000 who had gone and worshipped an eigel.  In a situation like that, even the people who remain loyal to doing Torah and mitzvos do so as individuals, without the centripetal force of a national identity to bind them together.

It was this cohesion that the mishkan restored.  It was not a project of individuals, but it was a collective project of the nation.  It's completion therefore made it easier for us to do mitzvos not just as individuals, but mitzvah goreres mitzvah, to do mitzvos together as a united people.  

This same idea is reflected in the placement of the mitzvah of shabbos.  Terumah/Titzaveh gave us the details of the mishkan, and then in Ki Tisa we have the mitzvah of shabbos, but in VaYakhel, the order is reversed, first comes the mitzvah of shabbos and then the details of the mishkan.  Sefas Emes quotes in the name of the Ch' haRI"M, whose yahrzeit is today, that before cheit ha'eigel we were able to build a mishkan and afterwards have shabbos.  When we get to Vayakhel it's after the cheit, and after the cheit we need shabbos to pull us together first.  We need shabbos to pull us together, to renew our upward momentum as a people, and only then will we have the unity and the ability to make a mishkan.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

lomdus: maror and bracha on a partial mitzvah

1) Rosh writes that we eat a k'zayis maror because we say a bracha of "al achilas maror" and the shiur achila is a k'zayis.  Shaagas Aryeh asks why the Rosh needs to use the nusach of the bracha to prove his case.  Why doesn't he just say that since the mitzvah is to eat and achila=k'zayis, that must be the shiur?  

R' Hershel Shachter in his Eretz Tzvi suggests that the mitzvah of maror is not a mitzvah of achila, but is a mitzvah of making a zecher l'mikdash to the maror that was eaten with the korban pesach; therefore, absent the nusach ha'bracha, maybe a k'zayis would not be required.

(See Aruch haShulchan 477:3 -- 

מיהו בשני בני אדם שאין להם רק כזית אחד מצה, נראה דמוטב שיאכל אחד מהם כזית ויקיים המצוה כתיקונו, משיאכל כל אחד חצי זית. וכיצד יעשו יטילו גורל.

וזה פשוט שאם יש להם שני זיתים – יאכל כל אחד כזית ל"המוציא" שהיא עיקר המצוה, ולא יאכלו אפיקומן שהוא לזכר בעלמא. ואם יש להם שלושה זיתים – יאכל כל אחד כזית ל"המוציא", והכזית השלישי יחלקו ביניהם לאפיקומן, דלזכר די בחצי זית בשעת הדחק.)

I am not so sure this chiddush fits the shitas haRambam (Ch"M 7:8):

בזמן הזה שאין שם קרבן אחר שמברך המוציא לחם חוזר ומברך על אכילת מצה. ומטבל מצה בחרוסת ואוכל. וחוזר ומברך על אכילת מרור ומטבל מרור בחרוסת ואוכל. ולא ישהה אותו בחרוסת שמא יבטל טעמו. וזו מצוה מדברי סופרים. וחוזר וכורך מצה ומרור ומטבל בחרוסת ואוכלן בלא ברכה זכר למקדש.

Notice that the Rambam calls maror מצוה מדברי סופרים but calls koreich  זכר למקדש.  Seems to be two different gedarim.

2) The Brisker Rav is quoted as explaining that the Rosh holds that there is in fact no independent chiyuv of eating a k'zayis of maror even when there is a beis ha'mikdash.  The mitzvah is "al matzos u'merorim yochluhu," to eat the korban pesach with side dishes of matzah and maror.  

Rambam paskens (7:6):

 ואחר כך כורך מצה ומרור כאחת ומטבל בחרוסת ומברך ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על אכילת מצות ומרורים ואוכלן. ואם אכל מצה בפני עצמה ומרור בפני עצמו מברך על זה בפני עצמו ועל זה בפני עצמו

According to the Brisker Rav, it comes out that even though there is no mitzvah of achilas maror in its own right -- it is just part of the larger mitzvah of "al matzos u'merorim yochluhu" -- one can still recite a bracha on achilas maror.  We see from here that you can recite a bracha on what is only a partial mitzvah.

Birchas Avraham brings two additional proofs to this idea:

a) Tos and BH"G have a machlokes whether you can continue counting sefira if you miss counting one day.  Minchas Chinuch explains that the issue hinges on whether the 49 days of sefira are one mitzvah, in which case if you miss a day you are done, or whether they are 49 independent mitzvos, each day a mitzvah in its own right.

Even though BH"G holds all 49 days are one big mitzvah, we still recite a bracha on counting each individual day, on each part of the mitzvah.

b) If you say the bracha "al netilas lulav" and then pick up the 4 minim each one at a time, you are yotzei.  Rama in Hil Sukka (651:12) writes that if you interrupt in the middle, you would recite a new bracha on whatever min you have left to pick up, e.g. if you picked up 3 of the minim and then interrupted what you were doing before picking up the aravos, you would say a bracha of "al netilas aravah."  Even though the 4 minim are one mitzvah, you can say a bracha on doing part of the mitzvah independently.

I would add one additional case to this discussion.

c) R' Akiva Eiger (Tinyana 13) has a safeik whether one can still recite the brachos on ner chanukah if one remembered to do so only in the middle of lighting.  Many explain the nekudas ha'safeik revolves around whether the additional candles lit for the sake of hidur are part of the mitzvah of hadlaka or whether hidur is its own kiyum.  

Even if hidur is not an independent kiyum but is part of the mitzvah of hadlaka, I would think that it is at best a partial kiyum hamitzvah.  RAK"E must assume, like these other sources indicate, that one may recite a bracha on a partial kiyum.

Friday, March 10, 2023

chinuch in emunah

After cheit ha'eigel Hashem the Torah reiterates its warning against avodah zarah (34:11-17) and then continues with the mitzvah to observe Pesach

אֶת־חַ֣ג הַמַּצּוֹת֮ תִּשְׁמֹר֒ שִׁבְעַ֨ת יָמִ֜ים תֹּאכַ֤ל מַצּוֹת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוִּיתִ֔ךָ לְמוֹעֵ֖ד חֹ֣דֶשׁ הָאָבִ֑יב כִּ֚י בְּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽאָבִ֔יב יָצָ֖אתָ מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃

and later in the same parsha, the other moadim:

 וְחַ֤ג שָׁבֻעֹת֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה לְךָ֔ בִּכּוּרֵ֖י קְצִ֣יר חִטִּ֑ים וְחַג֙ הָֽאָסִ֔יף תְּקוּפַ֖ת הַשָּׁנָֽה׃

The mitzvah of observing the moadim appeared already in parshas Mishpatim.  Why repeat it again in this context and juxtapose it to the warnings against avodah zarah?

I wonder if it is because of Aharon's call of "chag la'Hashem machar" when he asked for donations for the eigel.  If making an eigel is what you think a "chag la'Hashem" is, then you need a reminder on what the real chagim are all about.

Netziv answers that in addition to the moadim being an opportunity for celebration, they are an opportunity to inculcate emuna.  They therefore stand as a bulwark against the practice of idolatry, which is the theme of the parsha.

 לא בא הכתוב לבאר שלש רגלים, שכבר כתיב לפני מעשה העגל (לעיל פרק כ״ג), אלא בא בהוספת ענין להזהיר בדרך מוסר ולעשות מסילות בלב ישראל בזמנים הללו להשריש בהם יראת ה׳ ואמונה

He quotes that Chazal darshen that command to observe Shavuos and Sukkos in our parsha teach us that even during shemita year these holidays must be observed.  Even though the normal cycle of planting and harvesting and the celebrations that go along with those agricultural milestones are interrupted during shemita, the  moadim are still observed because they serve as a time of reflection to work on emunah.

Aruch haShulchan writes at the end of 472

ולכן צריך ליתן כוס לכל אחד מבני ביתו, הן זכרים הן נקיבות. ואפילו תינוקות שהגיעו לחינוך – מצוה ליתן לכל אחד כוסו לפניו...

ולפני תינוקות – אין קפידא. ויראה לי דאף על גב דבכל מקום אין הבנות בכלל חינוך, מכל מקום בליל פסח צריך לחנכן גם כן, מפני שעיקר האמונה תלוי ביציאת מצרים.

Even though there is no chiyuv chinuch m'din 4 kosos for tinokos, there is a din chinuch for the mitzvah of emunah.  When you sit at the seder it's just the particular mitzvos of matzah, 4 kosos, etc. that you are teaching your children about, but it's about belief in Hashem and his power to intervene in history.

(Earlier in the week I mentioned the chiddush if the Raavyah that even children below the age of chinuch for megillah should hear it read because af hein hayu b'oso ha'nes of the threatened destruction.  I am wondering if the same would hold true for the mitzvos of leil ha'seder.  In any case, I think many ketanim would be unable to drink 4 cups of wine, in which case maybe there is no chiyuv chinuch given that the mitzvah cannot be fulfilled is its proper tzurah (same issue as giving a katan a pasul lulav for the sake of chinuch.)

It's not just the chag itself.  Netziv is medayek that in Mishpatim the pasuk writes לְמוֹעֵד֙ חֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽאָבִ֔יב כִּי־ב֖וֹ יָצָ֣אתָ מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם -- it is the day, ב֖ו, which is the focus.  In our parsha, where the celebration of moadim is a kiyum in working on our emunah, the pasuk ends  כִּ֚י בְּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽאָבִ֔יב יָצָ֖אתָ מִמִּצְרָֽיִם It's not just a specific day, but it's the entire month of Nisan which is an auspicious time to work on one's emunah.

Aruch haShulchan 429:13 - 

ואין לשאול: איזה יחוס יש להימים שאחר הפסח? דיש לומר: הואיל שיצא רוב החודש בקדושה (מגן אברהם סעיף קטן ג). ובאמת אין צורך לזה, דכל חודש ניסן קדוש, מפני הטעמים שבארנו.

learning how to daven

R"H 17b:

יעבור ה' על פניו ויקרא א"ר יוחנן אלמלא מקרא כתוב אי אפשר לאומרו מלמד שנתעטף הקב"ה כשליח צבור והראה לו למשה סדר תפלה אמר לו כל זמן שישראל חוטאין יעשו לפני כסדר הזה ואני מוחל להם 

R' Berel Pavorsky in his Bad Kodesh writes that obviously Moshe knew how to put on a talis -- that did not require a special lesson from Hashem.  What Moshe had to learn from Hashem is the act of tefilah itself.  How to daven properly is not something you learn from a book.  You have to see/hear a master shat"z in action; it is something you have to experience.  

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

the hypocrisy boggles the mind

Many on the left want to silence Netanyahu and cancel Smotrich, e.g. the Jewish "leaders" who last week decided that he "should not be given a platform in our community."  No dialogue no cooperation.

Yet these same people believe the Israeli government should engage in dialogue and cooperation with Palestinian "peace" partners like Abbas, a Holocaust denier who channels $ to those who have murdered Jews.

The hypocrisy boggles the mind.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

the principle of the matter

1) Someone just sent me a nice derush about הָעִ֥יר שׁוּשָׁ֖ן נָבֽוֹכָה explaining the confusion of the Jews, but I don't think the pshat in the pasuk is about confusion.  Targum explains that  נָבֽוֹכָה here is דְשׁוּשַׁן מִתְעַרְבְּלָא בְּחֶדְוַת עַמְמִין נוּכְרָאִין וּבְקַל בְּכִיתָא דְעַמָא בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל.   The Jews of the city were in anguish; the non-Jews were rejoicing, hence, the city was in a confused, mixed up state.  It does not mean the Jews themselves were confused about what the decree against them meant.   

There is a very striking Ibn Ezra on that pasuk:

ודרש ויעבור (אסתר ד׳:י״ז) לא אכל מצה דברי יחיד הן. ואם אמרנו שהתענה בט״ו בניסן לא עבר על התורה כי כל ישראל חייבין לאכול מצה ומרורים ליל פסח אם הן בארץ ישראל עם הפסח, וחוצה לארץ אכילתם לזכר. ואכילת המצות ימים שבעה רשות לא חובה רק התורה אסרה החמץ והתירה המצות כדרך ששת ימים תעבוד

When he refers to דרש ויעבור he means the gemara רב אמר, שהעביר יום ראשון של פסח בתענית, that they fasted on Pesach.  Ibn Ezra is not happy with that, so he gets around it by saying that view is a daas yachid, or (this is the striking part) by arguing that we hold that achilas matzah without korban pesach is just a zecher and therefore derabbanan.  The truth is that it is a machlokes (Pes 120), but we pasken that matzah b'zman ha'zeh is d'oraysa.  Apparently Ibn Ezra did not concur.

One other interesting Ibn Ezra: he writes that the reason why Haman's lottery fell out in Adar is because Adar is the furthest month away from Nisan, giving the Jews a full year to wake up and come to their senses.

2) At the beginning of ch 3 of the megillah we read

וְכׇל־עַבְדֵ֨י הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ אֲשֶׁר־בְּשַׁ֣עַר הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ כֹּרְעִ֤ים וּמִֽשְׁתַּחֲוִים֙ לְהָמָ֔ן כִּי־כֵ֖ן צִוָּה־ל֣וֹ הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וּמׇ֨רְדֳּכַ֔י לֹ֥א יִכְרַ֖ע וְלֹ֥א יִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶֽה

Why the future tense of וּמׇ֨רְדֳּכַ֔י לֹ֥א יִכְרַ֖ע וְלֹ֥א יִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶֽה?  

The megillah continues and relates that the other officers, seeing Mordechai's refusal to bow, stirred the pot:

וַיְהִ֗י [כְּאׇמְרָ֤ם] (באמרם) אֵלָיו֙ י֣וֹם וָי֔וֹם וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵיהֶ֑ם וַיַּגִּ֣ידוּ לְהָמָ֗ן לִרְאוֹת֙ הֲיַֽעַמְדוּ֙ דִּבְרֵ֣י מׇרְדֳּכַ֔י כִּֽי־הִגִּ֥יד לָהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁר־ה֥וּא יְהוּדִֽי׃

What does it mean that י כִּֽי־הִגִּ֥יד לָהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁר־ה֥וּא יְהוּדִֽי?  Mordechai and Haman knew each other from the court.  According to Chazal, they both served drink at Achashveirosh's lavish party.  Surely Haman knew that Mordechai was a Jew and this did not come as a surprise?

In order to understand what's going on we need to look at these pesukim in context of what occurred immediately beforehand.  At the end of the previous chapter, the megillah tells us that Mordechai foiled the assassination plot of Bigsan va'Seresh.  Mordechai was not some unknown character.  וּמׇרְדֳּכַ֖י יוֹשֵׁ֣ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ, he was part of the inner circle, one of those privileged  to have a position close to the king.  The fact that he saved the king's life only served to further cement his high position in the court.

Therefore, when Haman made a decree for people to bow before him, Mordechai was not included.   כׇל־עַבְדֵ֨י הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ אֲשֶׁר־בְּשַׁ֣עַר הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ have to bow, but Mordechai was not just an "eved" of Achashveirosh, he was a member of the inner circle.  There are rules and there are rules.  The laws that applied to the regular עַבְדֵ֨י הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ did not apply to him (see Malbi"m).  He had a trump card, an out.

 לֹ֥א יִכְרַ֖ע וְלֹ֥א יִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶֽה is in future tense because Mordechai was not satisfied with just being exempt from the law in the present, due to his position and situation.  Mordechai wanted everyone to know the law itself was unjust, and therefore declared that were he in the future lose his special privilege and be forced to obey, he still would never do so.  It was the principle of the matter.

Mordechai's identity as a Jew was nown to Haman, but it was not relevant, at least in Haman's eyes, to his order.  Mordechai was not subject to the law, so there was nothing to talk about.  It was Mordechai who chose to make it relevant.  It was Mordechai who declared that his not bowing was not a matter of immunity based on his status, but rather was because he was a Jew and a Jew cannot do such a thing. כִּֽי־הִגִּ֥יד לָהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁר־ה֥וּא יְהוּדִֽי׃ and that is the reason for Mordechai's behavior.  

This approach explains the strange give and take between Esther and Mordechai later in chapter 4.  When Esther is told that Mordechai is sitting outside the palace in sackcloth and ashes, she sends a message to him, וַתֹּ֤אמֶר אֶסְתֵּר֙ לַהֲתָ֔ךְ וַתְּצַוֵּ֖הוּ אֶֽל־מׇרְדֳּכָֽי (4:10).  The Targum fills in what the text is missing and tells us that she commanded Mordechai וַאֲמַרַת אֶסְתֵּר לַהֲתָךְ לְמֵיזַל וּלְמַלָלָא לְמָרְדְכַי וּפַקֵידַת לֵיהּ עַל עֵיסַק מָרְדְכַי דְלָא יְגָרֵי עִם הָמָן מַצוּתָא אֲרוּם דְבָבוּ דְבֵינֵי יַעֲקֹב וְעֵשָׂו הֲוָה נְטַר לֵיהּ, not to pick a fight with Haman.  Did Esther really expect Mordechai to just roll over and start bowing to Haman, which may have involved issues of avodah zarah?  

The Kedushas Levi explains that bowing or not bowing before Haman was never the issue here.  Mordechai was free to do as he pleased; the law calling on the king's servants to bow before Haman did not apply to him.  So Esther begged him: Why make an issue of it then?  Why pick a fight?  Why arouse the animosity of Eisav and paint a target on the backs of the Jewish people?

That approach did not satisfy Mordechai.  Sometimes you have to make an issue of things, not just because the loophole you have today may be closed tomorrow, but simply because the principle of the matter demands it.

Monday, March 06, 2023

inyanei halacha/lomdus for Purim

 1) Women are not obligated in the mitzvah of giving machtzis ha'shekel (see post here).  Therefore, b'pashtus it would seem that MG"A is correct in arguing that women have no obligation to give a zecher to the machatzis ha'shekel.  However, it seems that most contemporary poskim (see Chazon Ovadya on Hil Purim, R' Elyashiv and R' Shlomo Zalman and others quoted in the Dirshu M"B) hold otherwise.  I don't know when or why things shifted away from the MG"A's view (maybe because women are included in the protection of machatzis ha'shekel, as my wife explained, or maybe because as GR"A notes, giving on a taanis is a kiyum of tzedaka, not just a zecher to the shekalim), but kach hava.  

2) The Ran writes that if there is a safeik whether a city is mukaf or not, they should read megillah on the 14th based on rov.  The Shaar haMelech raises the question of why we don't say kol kavu'a k'mechtza al mechtza given that a city is stationary.  

The classic case of kol kavu'a (see end of first perek in Kesubos) is where you have 9 butcher shops selling kosher meat and one selling treif meat and you can't remember which store you bought your meat in.  Even though the odds are greatly in favor of the meat being kosher, there is a gezeiras ha'kasuv not to follow rov in this case since the stores are stationary.  If you found the piece of meat in the street, since the meat must have changed location from inside the store to outside, we say kol d'parish m'ruba parish.  

Some Achronim argue that the case of a city is different.  In the case of the meat, there are multiple butcher shops in the city you could have bought the eat from (kavu'a) or which the meat could have come from (parish).  There is a taaroves of items before us.  In the case of an isolated city, it is just one item standing on its own.  True, it is a stationary item, but that alone does not make it kavu'a.

There is an issur of planting in a nachal eisan where an eglah arufa was offered.  Since we don't know exactly where an eglah arufah might have been offered, why not prohibit planting every nachal eisan because kol kavu'a k'mechtza al mechtza?  Same type of question.  See Ohr Sameiach (ch 6 og Hil Avodah Zarah) 

3) The Megillah tells us (9:27) וְלֹ֣א יַעֲב֔וֹר לִהְי֣וֹת עֹשִׂ֗ים אֵ֣ת שְׁנֵ֤י הַיָּמִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה כִּכְתָבָ֖ם וְכִזְמַנָּ֑ם.  The Rambam in Hil Mamrim (2:2) writes that if Beis Din makes a takanah, a later B"D which has more authority (greater in chochma and minyan) can overturn that gezeira.  Malbi"m explains our pasuk to mean that built into the takanah of Purim was the condition that it be an eternal celebration, not subject to review by any future B"D.

Lulei d'mistafina I would ask how the Malbi"m learned pshat in the first daf in Megillah where the gemara wants to know the source for reading on the additional days of 11, 12, 13 and not just 14 and 15.  Asks the gemara, דאי ס"ד אנשי כנה"ג י"ד וט"ו תקון אתו רבנן ועקרי תקנתא דתקינו אנשי כנה"ג והתנן אין ב"ד יכול לבטל דברי ב"ד חבירו אא"כ גדול ממנו בחכמה ובמנין ?  The implication is that lulei there was a future B"D that was indeed  גדול ממנו בחכמה ובמנין there would be no problem in changing the original takanah -- the takanah of Purim is no different than any other takanot Chazal.

Perhaps the condition was only not to eliminate the celebration on 14 and 15, but in other respects the takanah could be modified by a later, great B"D. 

4) Yesh lachkor whether there is one takanah to celebrate Purim, and whether you have to do so on the 14th or the 15th is just a detail in the kiyum mitzvah, or whether there were two separate takanaot -- a takanah to celebrate 14 Adar for those in unwalled cities; a second, separate takanah to celebrate 15 Adar in walled cities and Shushan.  

The Yerushalmi (2:3), on the one hand, writes that someone who is chayav to read on the 15th is yotzei b'dieved if he read on the 14th. Mashma that there is only one takanah, to celebrate Purim, and the rest is details.  Were reading on the 15th a separate takanah, it obviously can only be fulfilled on that day.   

On the other hand, the Yerushalmi also writes that if someone heard megillah on the 14th in a regular city but then travels to a walled city on the 15th, they have to hear megillah again.  If there is just one takanah to celebrate Purim and read megillah, why should the person have to celebrate 2x?  They already fulfilled the chiyuv on the 14th?  This Yerushalmi seems to suggest that celebrating on the 15th is an independent takanah, and therefore has nothing to do with what was done the day before.

How to get these two Yerushalmis to fit and whether or not the Bavli agrees with these dinim is a discussion in Achronim that you need a clearer head than I have on a fast day to digest : )

This chakira may explains the machlokes Rashi and Rosh with respect to someone who travels between cities.  According to Rashi, if you intend to be in an unwalled city on the morning of the 14th, you must read megillah on the 14th; if you intend to be in a walled city on the morning of the 15th, you must read with them on the 15th.  In theory, according to Rashi if one travels from an unwalled city on the 14th and spends the 15th in a walled city, one would have to read on both days.  Rosh disagrees and writes that the determining factor of when you have to read is what your location is on the morning of the 14th.  If you are in an unwalled city, you read then; if you are in a walled city, you read the next day on the 15th.  

According to Rashi, it would seem there are two separate takanot in play, and therefore one theoretically might have to read on the 14th and the 15th to fulfill each din.  According to the Rosh, there is one takanah to celebrate Purim, and it's just a matter of figuring out which day to do it on, either 14 or 15, but not both.

5) Baruch she'kivanti, I found the Raavyah here supports my suggestion that the Yerushalmi that speaks about bringing children to hear megillah is not a din in chinuch, but applies even to younger children because af hein ha'yu b'oso na'nes of being saved from destruction by Haman.  The GRA disagrees.  

It's not clear to me what the cutoff point or difference is between the age of "yode'i l'havin" (to quote Raavyah) where listening to megillah is meaningful as pirseumei nisa because of af hein as opposed to the age of understanding when the regular din of chinuch kicks in.

Friday, March 03, 2023

R"Sh m'Shantz - learning hil megillah fulfills zechiras Amalek

Don't believe me -- here is a link to his commentary of the sifra at the beginning of Bechukosai (in #3). 

Avnei Nezer references it in passing here (Eh"E 121:16)

Sefas Emes (5653) writes that we defeat Amalek with Torah:

אמרו חז"ל זכור בפה כי בכח הפה שניתן לבנ"י יכולין למחות זכר עמלק והוא בכח התורה. לכן תקנו לקרוא פרשת זכור בשבת שיש בו קריאת התורה שמתגלה כח התורה בשבת

perfection is not an enemy of the good

Why is the mitzvah of preparing oil and lighting the menorah is sandwiched between the command to construct the mishkan and the instructions on how to make bigdei kehunah?  

I think that the type of oil spoken about in the parsha is key to answering that question.  The Torah tells us that  שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת זָ֛ךְ כָּתִ֖ית לַמָּא֑וֹר is required.  With respect to the menorah, only the best, first pressed oil can be used.  However, with respect to menachos, Rashi comments  כתית למאור – ולא כתית למנחות.  Here the second pressed, less than perfect quality oil is acceptable.  

Why should we accept second best when it comes to how we do things in the mishkan?  Why should a lesser standard apply to the menachos offerings than the menorah?

Chazal see oil and the light of menorah as representing the ideal of wisdom. 

הרואה שמן זית בחלום יצפה למאור תורה שנאמר ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך (Brachos 57a)

רוצה שיחכים ידרים ושיעשיר יצפין וסימניך שלחן בצפון ומנורה בדרום (Baba Basra 25a)

וישלח יואב תקועה ויקח משם אשה חכמה מאי שנא תקועה אמר רבי יוחנן מתוך שרגילין בשמן זית חכמה מצויה בהן (Menachos 85b)

דאמר רבי יוחנן כשם שהזית משכח לימוד של שבעים שנה כך שמן זית משיב לימוד של שבעים שנה: (Horiyos 13b)

Explains the Shem m'Shmuel, this ideal, abstract, form of wisdom is just that -- an ideal.  In the day to day world, most of us end of cutting corners in some places, fudging here and there, and living by less that the perfect standards we might aspire to.  

The light of the menorah illuminates where we want to be, but it's the oil of the menachos which is nonetheless acceptable which speaks to the l'maaseh.

I think this distinction is what the Torah wants to draw our attention to as we shift gears from the building of the mishkan to the personnel who work in it.  Rashi in parshas Ki Tavo (26:3) comments on וּבָאתָ֙ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם that  אין לך אלא כהן בימיך, כמות שהוא.  Not every kohen will be like Aharon haKohen (see Ramban there).  Not every person will measure up to our ideals of what an oveid Hashem in a makom kodesh should be.  That's reality.  But perfection should not be an enemy of the good, to paraphrase Voltaire.  כתית למאור – ולא כתית למנחות  The kohen must light the menorah 2x a day to remind himself of the ideals to which he should aspire (see Abarbanel), but even if he falls short, that does not preclude his donning the bigdei kehunah and serving to the best of his ability.