Thursday, August 31, 2023

shome'a k'oneh by mikra bikurim

A few weeks ago I asked why it is that we go out of our way to wear a 4 cornered garment to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis but no one makes a point of washing every meal in order to have the opportunity to fulfill the aseh of bentching.

My bad for not remembering that my wife's grandfather, R' Dov Yehudah Shochet, dealt with a similar issue.  He suggested that even though technically one is not required to wear a 4 cornered garment, the way the Torah phrases the mitzvah alludes to the fact that one should do so.  Tzitzis is phrases as a command, gdilim taaseh lecha.  The mitzvah of maakah, by way of contrast, is conditional, ki tivneh bayis.  Same with shiluach ha'kan, ki yikarei...  

I did not pose an answer back then, but was thinking that birchas ha'mazon is different because the mitzvah is to give thanks.  You can't force someone to give thanks or order then to give thanks.  It's an emotional response that a person has to feel.  Therefore, we cannot require someone to fulfill the mitzvah of bentching in the same way we require wearing tzitzis.

Minchas Chinuch and others discuss whether one can fulfill the mitzvah of mikra bikurim through shome'a k'oneh.  One aspect of the debate relates to the disagreement between Beis haLevi and Chazon Ish whether birchas kohanim can be fulfilled through shome'a k'oneh.  Beis haLevi held that since birchas kohanim must be said b'kol ram, it must be heard, therefore shome'a k'oneh does not suffice.  We do not ascribe to the listener the properties of the "voice" of the speaker.  C.I. disagreed.  Here too with respect to mikra bikurim, Rashi comments on v'anisa v'amarta that one has to say the declaration out loud.  However, I think there is an additional issue here.  Avudraham writes that we say modim derabbanan during chazaras hashat"z and do not simply listen to the recitation of modim by the shliach tzibur because modim is an expression of thanks, and thanks has to come from your heart.  It's not about saying the words; it's about feeling the emotion behind them.  Similarly, mikra bikurim is thanks to Hashem for the harvest.  Here too, someone cannot stand in your place to experience that emotion.  The words are just an expression of what one has to feel in one's  heart.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

starting off on the right foot

Last week I wrote about the smichus ha'parshiyos of yefat to'ar and ben sorer u'moreh.  There is, however, a parsha that separates the two, namely, the parsha of giving the bechor double.  Shem m'Shmuel explains that the reason this parsha is stuck in the middle is to teach us the importance of firsts.  A bechor has extra rights because he is the first child born; how the parents raise him sets the tone for the way other future children will be raised.  A person might be tempted to downplay or excuse the aveiros of a ben sorer u'moreh, as they are done right after he becomes a gadol.  We don't do that. Davka because these aveiros are done right after the child becomes a gadol they carry extra weight, as these first months of entering adulthood set the tone for the life to come.  Amalek is singled out because they were the first to attack us after we left Egypt. reishis goyim Amalek.  This upcoming week's parsha speaks about bikkurim, the first fruit that we have to bring to the mikdash so that our harvest gets off on the right foot.  

The Midrash Tanchuma on our parsha comments:

אָמַר רַבִּי אֲבָהוּ בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי יוֹסִי בַּר חֲנִינָא, בּוֹא וּרְאֵה כַּמָּה מִתְחַטְּאִין, וְכַמָּה יֵשׁ לָהֶן פִּתְחוֹן פֶּה לְעוֹשֵׁי מִצְוֹת. אָדָם יֵשׁ לוֹ עֵסֶק אֵצֶל מַלְכוּת, פְּעָמִים שֶׁהוּא נוֹתֵן כַּמָּה מָמוֹן עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעִין אוֹתוֹ אֵצֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ. כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִגִּיעַ אֵצֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ, סָפֵק עוֹשֶׂה שְׁאֵלָתוֹ, סָפֵק לֹא עוֹשֶׂה. אֲבָל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ כֵּן, אֶלָּא יוֹרֵד אָדָם לְתוֹךְ שָׂדֵהוּ, רָאָה אֶשְׁכּוֹל שֶׁבִּכֵּר, תְּאֵנָה שֶׁבִּכְּרָה, רִמּוֹן שֶׁבִּכֵּר, מַנִּיחוֹ בַּסַּל וְהוֹלֵךְ לִירוּשָׁלַיִם וּבָא וְעוֹמֵד בְּאֶמְצַע הָעֲזָרָה וּמְבַקֵּשׁ רַחֲמִים עַל עַצְמוֹ וְעַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: הַשְׁקִיפָה מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשֶׁךָ וְגוֹ'. וְלֹא עוֹד, אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיָה אוֹמֵר, אֵינִי זָז מִכָּאן עַד שֶׁתַּעֲשֶׂה צָרְכִּי הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, שֶׁכָּתוּב אַחֲרָיו, הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ מְצַוְּךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת

The Midrash connects the tefilah of הַשְׁקִיפָה מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשֶׁךָ with the bringing of bikkurim.  However, that pasuk is not part of mikra bikkurim.  That pasuk appears later in the parsha in the context of viduy maasros, the declaration made at the end of three years saying that terumos and maasros were properly tithed and distributed.  

The Tanchuma did not misread the parsha.  What the Tanchuma is teaching us is that the viduy maasros that happens years later is the culmination of the reishis, the first steps taken in the right direction, that started with the bringing of bikurim.  

The Ishbitzer writes in Mei haShiloach:

בזה שהאדם מחזיר להקב"ה ראשית פרי האדמה, בזה מברר א"ע כי יוכל לעבוד את ה' בכל מאודו.

Halacha tells us that כל העושה על דעת ראשונה הוא עושה (Shabbos 91).  If a person starts by giving his first fruits, we can be assured he will continue down that path in avodas Hashem of giving of his $ and himself (see here.)

The mussar haskel with respect to Rosh haShana goes without saying.

Monday, August 28, 2023

who is going to be the first to jump in?

John Tierney writes in City-Journal that the maskaholics are back, once again dishing out ineffective Covid restrictions and unwarranted fear mongering:

Never mind that at least 97 percent of Americans have Covid antibodies in their blood as a result of infection, vaccination, or both. Never mind that actual experts—the ones who studied the scientific literature before 2020 and drew up plans for a pandemic—advised against masking the public. Never mind that their advice has been further bolstered during the pandemic by randomized clinical trials and rigorous observational studies failing to find an effect of masks and mask mandates. Scientific evidence cannot overcome the maskaholics’ faith.

It’s tempting to compare them with the villagers in Cambodia who erected scarecrows in front of their huts to ward off the coronavirus—but that’s not fair to the villagers. Their Ting Mong, as the magic scarecrows are called, at least didn’t hurt any of their neighbors. 

So which shul is going to jump in the pool first and require masks, or maybe a Vax ID card to enter the building?  Who will be the first to put up a tent again and daven outside, or maybe put a little shmata on the shofar again lest the breath of the baal tokea travel out of the shofar and c"v infect someone sitting in the same room?  After all, no one ever bothered to quantify what level of risk constitutes a sakana, so whose to say we are not at that point already with the new variant?  

Friday, August 25, 2023

headed down the wrong track

What does the ben sorer u'moreh do that is so wrong?  Because he steals a little food and drink he is chayav skilah?  Ramban explains:

והנה יש עליו שני עונשין, האחד שהוא מקלה אביו ואמו וממרה בהם, והשני שהוא זולל וסובא, עובר על מה שנצטוינו: קדושים תהיו (ויקרא י״ט:ב׳), ונאמר עוד: ואותו תעבודו ובו תדבקון (דברים י״ג:ה׳), כאשר פרשתי (רמב״ן דברים ו׳:י״ג), ושנצטוינו לדעת השם בכל דרכינו, וזולל וסובא לא ידעו דרך י״י.

It's not the stealing of the food and the gluttony per se which does the ben sorer u'moreh in.  It's what that behavior is indicative of.  Someone who lives the ben sorer u'more lifestyle is guilty of violating "kedoshim ti'hiyu," of violating "bo tidbakun," of failing to try "la'daat es Hashem." 

R' Chaim Friedlander in the Sifsei Chaim is bothered by this statement of Ramban.  How many of us in our day to day lives behave in ways that are completely consistent with the ideals of kedusha, dveikus, emulating Hashem's midos?  And I deliberately use the term ideals, because to some extent that's what these are.  We try our best, but for those of us who are not tzadikim, putting these mitzvos into day to day practice is a challenge.  So why are we knocking a 13 year old for not living up to them?  

The Sifsei Chaim answers that it's not the failure to live up to the ideals which is what we take the ben sorer u'moreh to task for.  It's for failing to *aspire* to live up to them, for lacking the desire to live up to them.  He quotes from the mashgiach R' Chatzkel Levenstein that sometimes you miss the train, so you have to take a different train, or a train on a different track, or a train at a different time.  Sometimes you have to transfer once or even multiple times.  Those who take the LIRR from the 5 Towns to NYC know that some trains goes to Penn, some to Grand Central, and so sometimes you have to switch lines at Jamaica or elsewhere to get to your destination.  And if there is a problem that day, sometimes you need to hop on a subway, or make some other change.  No matter what steps you take, there is one ironclad rule -- you will never get to NYC if the train you get on is headed towards Far Rockaway or Long Island.  A train headed eastbound will never get you to a westbound destination.  We all face challenges in living up to the ideals of kedusha, dveikus, etc.  Some of us are on an express and get there quickly, some of us are on a local, some of us need to re-route ourselves a few times along the way.  But we are at least headed in the right direction.  We at least want to get there.  The ben sorer u'moreh is headed the opposite way, and he doesn't want to turn around.  The longer he sits on the train, the further he will get from where he should be.  Mutav she'yamus zakai and not wait until the end of the line.

With this yesod we can better understand the smichus ha'parshiyos between the eishes yefat to'ar and the ben sorer u'moreh.  Rashi at the beginning of the parsha tells us:

אבל אם נשאה, סופו להיות שונאה, שנאמר אחריו: כי תהיינהא לאיש וגומ׳, וסופו להוליד ממנה בן סורר ומורה. לכך נסמכו פרשיות הללו.

This is not magic, but is an inevitable consequence of a less than ideal home structure.  Ibn Ezra points to the fact that elsewhere, e.g. the parsha of the mekalel at the end of Emor, the Torah makes a point of mentioning the mother of someone who does wrong, because a poor motherly upbringing can have a tremendous negative impact.  ונסמכה זאת בעבור אשת יפת תאר (דברים כ״א:י״א). והעד: ושם אמו  The Torah mentions that Aharon married Elisheva bas Aminadav because in that case having a great mother led to Aharon having great children.  

What is it that a good wife brings to a family that a yefat to'ar or a bad wife does not?  Tanna d'Bei Eliyahu (ch 9) tells us אין לך כשרה בנשים אלא אשה שעושה רצון בעלה.  Sometimes a husband comes home from work exhausted from a long, hard day and wants nothing more than to eat some dinner and collapse on the couch.  The last thing on his mind is going to the beis medrash to learn.  He has no רצון!  What he aspires to is relaxation, not a blatt gemara.  The L. Rebbe (Likutei Sichos vol 4 p 1069, end of Balak) explains that this is what Chazal are telling us. אשה שעושה רצון בעלה.  A good wife awakens in her husband the ratzon that he is lacking.  A good wife will kick her husband off the couch and out of the house to go learn.  She will point him in the right direction and give him the push that he needs.

Like the Sifsei Chaim teaches, the ben sorer u'moreh is a person who lacks ratzon, who lacks the desire to do better and grow.  He heads away from, not toward, kedusha and dveikus.  That comes from growing up in a home where there is a lack of אשה שעושה רצון בעלה, a wife, a mother, who can create that desire, that ratzon, in her husband and in her children.   A yefat to'ar, a woman that is taken when a person is overcome with a desire of taavah, the wrong kind of desire, is not such a wife and mother.

We say multiple times a day in ashrei רצון יראיו יעשׂה.  When a person has yiras shamayim, Hashem steps in to help out and give him/her the ratzon to grow and do more.  The Shem m'Shmuel (Pinchas) writes: בגמ' שבת (קי"ח:) כל המענג את השבת נותנין לו משאלות לבו הפי' אצלי שנותנין דעת ללב לידע מה ישאל:  To know what to ask for, what to aspire to, to at least be on the right track headed in the right direction, is one of the greatest gifts Hashem can give us.  We say again and again this time of year אחת שׁאלתי...אותה אבקשׁ.  Even if we are not at this moment holding on the level of שׁבתי בּבּית ה׳, if that is our bakasha and shei'la from Hashem, if that is our ratzon and aspiration, then we are at least headed in the right direction.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

"the convergence of the nanny state and the secular state"

"Let me be clear: I don’t believe that New York’s mayors and governors are antisemites. But the New York we inhabit at the moment reflects the convergence of the nanny state and the secular state. There is little deference to individual or parental autonomy, and even less respect for religious activity. The result is government limitations on circumcision, prayer, and religious education."

--Avi Schick, in an article in Sapir

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

shiluach ha'kan

In the past few years I have seen advertisements offering people the opportunity to fulfill shiluach ha'kan.  I suspect the motivation here is the great weight the kabbalah assigns to this mitzvah.  Whenever you start talking segulos and kabbalah, people pay attention.  

The problem is that it's not a very easy mitzvah to fulfill.  First off, many if not most poskim hold there is no reason to do the mitzvah unless you want to collect the eggs or chicks.  The Chavos Ya'ir disagrees, and presumably if you want to do the mitzvah to be choshesh for that view, or because of the segulah, that purpose overrides the potential tzaar baalei chaim involved.  Still, it seems cruel to take the eggs or chicks for no purpose.  To avoid this problem R' Melamed in his Pninei Halacha suggests in this circumstance one can rely on the view of Chacham Tzvi who holds that there is a kiyum  in chasing away the mother even if one does not take the chicks or eggs.    

The mitzvah only applies to kosher birds, and only applies when the chicks are still too young to fly, and only applies when the mother bird, not the father, is on the nest.  There are birds where the mother and father alternate sitting on the nest at different times.  Good luck to you in being able to tell the difference.

Finally, and most critically, the nest has to be in the wild, ownerless.  A lot of times people discover a nest somewhere on their property, either tucked under a section of roof on a porch, or under an air conditioning unit, or something like that.  A soon as the mother bird flies off that nest for a moment, there is a potential kinyan chatzeir that should kick in and make the nest one's own, no longer in the wild.  Some hold that if you catch the birds in the process of building the nest before it is complete, you can make a tnai in advance that prevents the kinyan chatzeir from being chal.  Others go further and argue that since one does not really want to own a bird's nest, even without a tnai the kinyan is not chal.  Perhaps you can be mafkir the nest after the fact.  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is not too happy with these solutions.  

Monday, August 21, 2023

minhag to visit cemetery

Rama at the end of OC 581 quotes the minhag of visiting the cemetery before R"H:

ויש מקומות נוהגין לילך על הקברות ולהרבות שם בתחינות

My mother treats this minhag like a yei'hareg v'al yaavor.  Once the calendar hits Elul, she already starts planning when to go to each cemetery that relatives are buried in.

Aliba d'hilchisa, there does not really seem to be any source for this.  The place where we DO find a source for visiting the cemetery is in hil taanis (based on Taanis 16), which is the source for Rama in OC 569 by hil tisha b'av (see here ):

והולכין על הקברות מיד שהולכים מבית הכנסת

What I think may be going on in hil Rosh Hashana is if you look back earlier in that siman you have the din of fasting on erev R"H in seif 2:

נוהגין להתענו' ערב ראש השנה

The SA then follows that by telling us that there is no tachnun on erev R"H (seif 3), and that a person should get a haircut and wash his clothes on erev R"H (seif 4) -- everything is about erev R"H.  The Rama'a quotation of the minhag to visit the cemetery is in that context -- halachos of erev R"H.  Perhaps once the SA lays the groundwork of there being a minhag to fast on erev, the Rama extends the din of visiting the cemetery from hil taanis to this day of fasting as well.  

That doesn't help explain the idea of going during Elul, but I think it fits the words. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

don't go it alone

Our parsha tells us that someone who is יָּרֵא֙ וְרַ֣ךְ הַלֵּבָ֔ב is not allowed to go out to battle.  Rashi quotes from Chazal that this refers to ר׳ יוסי הגלילי אומר: הירא מעבירות שביד, someone who has done an aveira, even something as "small" as talking between putting on tefillin shed yad and she rosh.  Yet a few pesukim earlier in that very same section (20:3) the Torah quotes the mashuch milchama's words as he addressed the nation before battle: ... שְׁמַ֣ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אַתֶּ֨ם קְרֵבִ֥ים הַיּ֛וֹם לַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה עַל־אֹיְבֵיכֶ֑ם.   Rashi comments שמע ישראל – אפילו אין בכם זכות אלא של קריית שמע בלבד, כדיי אתם שיושיע אתכם, that the merit of kri'as shema alone is enough to ensure victory.  So which is it -- does even one aveira put a person in mortal danger and excuse them from battle, or does even just the merit of one mitzvah like krias shema ensure victory, irrespective of whatever other faults a person may have?

Taz in Divrei David answers that there is a difference between the yachid and the tzibur.  The individual solidier who is an avaryan faces a greater risk should he go out to battle.  However, the tzibur as a whole, even if they are not on the highest level, even if they just have the zechus of shema, can rest assured of victory.

The gemara (R"H 18) writes that Hashem will always listen to our cries for help, and even if a gzar din has been issued and signed, it can still be torn up.  וְהָכְתִיב: ״דִּרְשׁוּ ה׳ בְּהִמָּצְאוֹ״?  asks the gemara.  It's only בְּהִמָּצְאוֹ, when He is found, at certain times when Hashem is close, that our cries are heard, but not always?  Answers the gemara, הָתָם בְּיָחִיד, הָכָא בְּצִבּוּר.  When it comes to the tzibur, then  בְּכׇל קׇרְאֵנוּ אֵלָיו, Hashem always responds to our call.  It's the yachid who is limited to times of בְּהִמָּצְאוֹ.

The gemara identifies the period of בְּהִמָּצְאוֹ for the individual as the aseres ymei teshuvah, בְּיָחִיד, אֵימַת? אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר אֲבוּהּ: אֵלּוּ עֲשָׂרָה יָמִים שֶׁבֵּין רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה לְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים.  So what are we doing all chodesh Elul?  Is that just a warm up, a way to get ready for the 10 days during which Hashem listens to the yachid?  I don't think so.  I think Elul is all about the tzibur.  The message of Elul is not to wait for those 10 days and go it alone.  Instead, immerse yourself in the efforts of the community to come close to Hashem, and then you don't have to wait -- בְּכׇל קׇרְאֵנוּ אֵלָיו He hears our prayers.

The Rambam writes in Hil Teshuvah (1:2)

שעיר המשתלח לפי שהוא כפרה על כל ישראל כהן גדול מתודה עליו על לשון כל ישראל שנאמר והתודה עליו את כל עונות בני ישראל. שעיר המשתלח מכפר על כל עבירות שבתורה הקלות והחמורות. בין שעבר בזדון בין שעבר בשגגה. בין שהודע לו בין שלא הודע לו הכל מתכפר בשעיר המשתלח. והוא שעשה תשובה. אבל אם לא עשה תשובה אין השעיר מכפר לו אלא על הקלות. ומה הן הקלות ומה הן החמורות. החמורות הן שחייבין עליהם מיתת בית דין או כרת. ושבועת שוא ושקר אע"פ שאין בהן כרת הרי הן מן החמורות. ושאר מצות לא תעשה ומצות עשה שאין בהן כרת הם הקלות:

Kesef Mishneh on the spot asks:

 ואמרינן דאליבא דרבי אפילו לא עשה תשובה שעיר המשתלח מכפר אבל אליבא דרבנן דוקא בשעשה תשובה שעיר המשתלח מכפר אבל אם לא עשה תשובה אין מכפר, וידוע דאין הלכה כרבי מחביריו ולכך כתב רבינו והוא שעשה תשובה: ומ"ש אבל אם לא עשה תשובה אין השעיר מכפר לו אלא על הקלות. ק"ל דהתם משמע דלרבנן אפילו עבר אעשה אם לא עשה תשובה אין שעיר מכפר ולרבי אפילו על החמורות מכפר בלא תשובה חוץ מפורק עול ומגלה פנים בתורה ומפר בריתו בבשר וצ"ע

There is a machlokes Rebbi and Rabbanan whether Y"K can be mechapeir even without teshuvah.  It seems that the Rambam here paskens with respect to mitzvos kalos like Rebbi, the minority view.  Why did he reject the opinion of Rabbanan, the majority, in this case?

Furthermore, the machlokes Rebbi and Rabbanan pertains equally to all mitzvos and aveiros.  Why does the Rambam distinguish between kalos and chamuros here and what is his source?

R Soloveitchik answered in one of the teshuvah derashos (this is one small point in the larger shiur) that there is a difference between teshuvah of the yachid and teshuvah of the tzibur.  On an individual level, kaparah is not possible without teshuvah.  The Rambam himself in the previous halacha writes that כל מצות שבתורה בין עשה בין לא תעשה אם עבר אדם על אחת מהן בין בזדון בין בשגגה כשיעשה תשובה וישוב מחטאו חייב להתודות .... וכן בעלי חטאות ואשמות בעת שמביאין קרבנותיהן על שגגתן או על זדונן אין מתכפר להן בקרבנם עד שיעשו תשובה. ויתודו וידוי דברים שנאמר והתודה אשר חטא עליה. וכן כל מחוייבי מיתות בית דין ומחוייבי מלקות אין מתכפר להן במיתתן או בלקייתן עד שיעשו תשובה ויתודו. וכן החובל בחבירו והמזיק ממונו אף על פי ששילם לו מה שהוא חייב לו אינו מתכפר עד שיתודה וישוב מלעשות כזה לעולם שנאמר מכל חטאות האדם:  Every sin requires viduy and teshuvah.  Here, in our halacha, the Rambam is not talking to the individual -- he is talking about the community of Klal Yisrael, the tzibur.  When the Rambam says שעיר המשתלח לפי שהוא כפרה על כל ישראל כהן גדול מתודה עליו על לשון כל ישראל he is not telling us a din in kodashim that שעיר המשתלח is a korban tzibur.  We know that from the fact that the momey for it comes from terumas ha'lishka.  What the Rambam is telling us is that the viduy and the korban come to atone for the community, the tzibur.  When we speak about the tzibur, even the Chachamim hold that "iztumu shel yom" is mechapeir; teshuva and viduy are not mandatory.  It is only those sinners who have done crimes like kareis, divorcing themselves from the community at large, who have no part in this kapara.

According to many Rishonim, the tekiyos al seder ha'brachos blown during musaf on Rosh haShana can only be done during tefilah b'tzibur.  If an individual davens on his own, he cannot stop to blow during his amidah and would blow only tekiyos d'meyushav, before musaf.  Here too, the Rav explained that we are dealing with a dual obligation.  The tekiyos d'meyushav come to arouse the individual to do teshuvah.  Tekiyos al seder ha'brachos, however, are a communal obligation, part of the teshuvah of the tzibur.

The baalei musar read these parshiyos that speak about going to war as alluding to our fight against our own evil inclination and baser instincts.  If you fight that battle alone, it's a very risky undertaking.  The tzibur, however, is assured of victory.  

כִּ֣י יִפָּלֵא֩ מִמְּךָ֨ דָבָ֜ר לַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט בֵּֽין־דָּ֨ם ׀ לְדָ֜ם בֵּֽין־דִּ֣ין לְדִ֗ין וּבֵ֥ין נֶ֙גַע֙ לָנֶ֔גַע דִּבְרֵ֥י רִיבֹ֖ת בִּשְׁעָרֶ֑יךָ וְקַמְתָּ֣ וְעָלִ֔יתָ אֶ֨ל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ בּֽוֹ  The Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe darshened as follows: כִּ֣י יִפָּלֵא֩ מִמְּךָ֨ דָבָ֜ר לַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט בֵּֽין־דָּ֨ם ׀ לְדָ֜ם בֵּֽין־דִּ֣ין לְדִ֗ין וּבֵ֥ין נֶ֙גַע֙ לָנֶ֔גַע if you suffer from a lack of understanding of Torah, a lack of ability to perceive what Hashem wants, the reason is because דִּבְרֵ֥י רִיבֹ֖ת בִּשְׁעָרֶ֑יךָ, there is fighting and disunity.  The solution? וְקַמְתָּ֣ וְעָלִ֔יתָ אֶ֨ל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ בּֽוֹ  The halacha says that  ירושׁלים לא נתחלקה לשׁבטים.  We are all joined together there as one.  There are different rules that apply to the tzibur than to a yachid.  

כִּ֣י יִפָּלֵא֩ מִמְּךָ֨ דָבָ֜ר לַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט The Yamim Noraim are approaching.  If you can't fathom how the din, how your mishpat, is going to turn out, then  וְקַמְתָּ֣ וְעָלִ֔יתָ אֶ֨ל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ בּֽוֹ, and forget about you the individual.  Instead focus on you the member of the tzibur and what you can do to strengthen those ties.

Monday, August 14, 2023

the downward spiral continues

Victor Davis Hanson point by point breaks down the disaster we are living through:

The Biden administration has utterly destroyed the southern border — and immigration law with it.

Biden green lighted 7 million illegal aliens swarming into the U.S. without legal sanction or rudimentary audit.

China spies inside and over the U.S. with impunity. Beijing has never admitted to its responsibility for the gain-of-function COVID virus that killed a million Americans.

President Joe Biden printed $4 trillion at exactly the wrong time of soaring post-COVID consumer demand and supply shortages. No wonder he birthed the worst inflation in 40 years.

In response, interest rates tripled, gas prices doubled.

Our military is thousands of recruits short. It lacks sufficient munitions.

Following Biden's humiliating pullout from Afghanistan, vast troves of arms were abandoned in Kabul. Billions more in scarce weapons were sent to Ukraine.

The Pentagon's woke agenda trumps meritocracy in promotions and advancement.

Our enemies — Russia, China, Iran, North Korea — are on the move, while the U.S. seems listless.

The Biden renegade Department of Justice, CIA and FBI have become weaponized. Ideology, politics, and race — not the law — more often guide their investigations, intelligence operations and enforcement.

The downtowns of our once majestic major cities are becoming unlivable.

They are mired in refuse and trash, violent crime and homelessness. Stores and businesses leave. Millions each year flee the blue urban coasts to the red west and south.

To even say there are still two biological genders, that global warming may not be entirely manmade or necessarily destroying the planet, or that class, not race, is the proper barometer of inequality is to face ostracism and career cancellation.

The public assumes that Biden is severely cognitively challenged, likely corrupt, and a serial fabricator.

Winning an election in this climate should not be that challenging, even given the D voter fraud advantage and the all out rooting of the MSM in their favor.  The average American is now poorer, less safe, less sure of the future, than they were before this buffoon took office.

Sadly, the GOP is once again proving themselves to be incompetent, and I have little hope that they will correct course in time.  

ir ha'nidachas -- a sum greater than its parts

The Ramban in this upcoming week's parsha quotes a machlokes between himself and R' Sadya Gaon whether a beis din of 23 is required for the kabbalas eidus in capital cases, or whether the b"d of 23 is required just for the psak and punishment, but the kabbalas eidus can even be done in the b"d of 3.  Do you need the same # of judges for kabbalas eidus as you need to try the case?  

The Minchas Chinuch raises a question on Ramban from the parsha of ir ha'nidachas that we read this past week.  When there are number of cases of idolatry in the city, b"d first sits in judgment of each case as if it was a din on an individual.  After they figure out that it's not just isolated individuals, but it's the majority of the city that is guilty of idolatry, the case is moved to b"d ha'gadol of 71 (Sanhedrin 112) to judge as an ir ha'nidachas.  If kabbalas eidus always has to be done in a court that has the same # of judges as those that will try the case, why is the kabbalas ha'eidus that was originally done in courts of 23 sufficient for ir ha'nidachas?  Shouldn't it require 71 dayanim from the get-go? 

Yesh lachkor whether a city is just a collection of individuals, or whether a city is a new collective unit?  Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts (same chakira with respect to definition of a tzibur)?  

The M.C. treats ir ha'nidachas as a city where, if there were 100 individuals living there, for example, we have 51 dinei torah going on against the population, and those case have to be transferred to a higher court of b"d ha'gadol.  But it could be that what is transferred to b"d ha'gadol is not 51 cases, but rather 1 case, a case against the entity of the city.  (I'm not sure, but it sounds like this is what R' Shmuel Rozovski quoted here means.)  

In the parsha sheet based on the chiddushim of R' Avrohom Genochovski z"l this past week there was a discussion of a question raised by the Chasam Sofer (I wrote about it 10+ years ago as well): since the children as well as the adults of of an ir ha'nidachat are killed, why isn't the testimony against them considered עדות שׁאי אתה יכול להזימה?  After all, we cannot inflict parallel punishment on an eid zomem and kill his children, because, as we learn in first sugya in Makos, לו - ולו לזרעו?  

Here too, the answer could be that the eidim who come to testify are testifying against individual idolaters.  The reason the children of an ir ha'nidachas are killed is because beis din ha'gadol has its din torah against the city as whole -- a whole greater than the sum of dinei torah against its individuals -- and the punishment that applies to the city extends to the children living there as well.

We once discussed the shitas haRambam that seems to say that an ir ha'nidachas can do teshuvah.  Since when can a person simply do teshuvah to get out of misas b"d?  It could be that what the Rambam means is that the city as a whole loses its status of ir ha'nidachas if enough people do teshuvah, but the individual idolaters who comprise most of the city will still be chayav misas b"d for their actions.

Friday, August 11, 2023

enlarging one's boundaries

The simple reading of the pasuk that allows for eating meat for pleasure and not only meat offered as korbanos, כִּֽי־יִרְחַ֨ק מִמְּךָ֜ הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִבְחַ֜ר ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ לָשׂ֣וּם שְׁמ֣וֹ שָׁם֒ וְזָבַחְתָּ֞ מִבְּקָרְךָ֣ וּמִצֹּֽאנְךָ֗ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָתַ֤ן ה׳ לְךָ֔ כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר צִוִּיתִ֑ךָ וְאָֽכַלְתָּ֙ בִּשְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ בְּכֹ֖ל אַוַּ֥ת נַפְשֶֽׁךָ, is that it's a concession of sorts, a bdieved.  Ideally, meat should be consumed only in the context of offering a korban in the mishkan or mikdash.  However, unlike in the midbar when the entire nation camped around the Mishkan and could easily bring korbanos at any time, in Eretz Yisrael people will live further away from the Mikdash, from the spiritual merkaz, and could not do so.  Unless the majority of the nation were to become vegetarians, there had to be a mechanism to allow for meat without being able to offer the animal as a korban.

That this is not the ideal is clearly the position of Netziv. Rashi already takes note of the seeming repitition of  כִּֽי־יַרְחִיב֩ ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ אֶֽת־גְּבֻלְךָ֮ and the following pasuk of כִּֽי־יִרְחַ֨ק מִמְּךָ֜ הַמָּק֗וֹם and suggests that the second pasuk refers to the expansion of physical boundaries of the land while the first refers to the expansion of the wealth of the population, allowing more people to want meat and to enjoy meat.   Netziv, however, writes that כִּֽי־יִרְחַ֨ק מִמְּךָ֜ הַמָּק֗וֹם alludes to spiritual, not physical distance.   ריחוק המעלה, שאינך יכול לעמוד בהר ה׳ ולאכול משולחן גבוה.  The ideal is to be close to the makom mikdash, eating korbanos.  Since not everyone can live on the spiritual level demanded by close proximity to the mikdash, we have hilchos shechita to allow meat to be eaten anywhere.

You get a very different perspective in the Midrash, which has a long series of stories, the first of which is as follows:

כִּי יַרְחִיב ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ  אֶת גְּבֻלְךָ – זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (משלי י״ח:ט״ז): מַתָּן אָדָם יַרְחִיב לוֹ וְלִפְנֵי גְדֹלִים יַנְחֶנּוּ. מַהוּ מַתָּן אָדָם יַרְחִיב לוֹ, מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ שֶׁיָּצְאוּ לִגְבוֹת לְעֵסֶק מִצְווֹת רַבּוֹתֵינוּ, הָלְכוּ לְחֵילָתָהּ שֶׁל אַנְטוֹכִיָּא, וְהָיָה שָׁם אָדָם אֶחָד וְהָיָה נִקְרָא אַבָּא יוּדָן, וְהָיָה לָמוּד לִתֵּן לְרַבּוֹתֵינוּ בְּיַד רְחָבָה, נַעֲשָׂה אוֹתוֹ אַבָּא יוּדָן עָנִי, רָאָה רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ שֶׁהָלְכוּ לִגְבוֹת שָׁם, וְהִטְמִין עַצְמוֹ מִפְּנֵיהֶם וְעָלָה לְבֵיתוֹ, וְעָשָׂה יוֹם וּשְׁנַיִם וְלֹא יָרַד לַשּׁוּק, אָמְרָה לוֹ אִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי מָה לֹא יָרַדְתָּ לַשּׁוּק, הֲרֵי שְׁנֵי יָמִים, אָמַר לָהּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ בָּאוּ לִגְבוֹת לְעֵסֶק מִצְווֹת עֲמֵלֵי תּוֹרָה, וְאֵין סִפֵּק בְּיָדִי לִתֵּן לָהֶם, וַאֲנִי מִתְבַּיֵּשׁ לֵירֵד לַשּׁוּק. אִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה אוֹהֶבֶת אֶת הַמִּצְווֹת אָמְרָה לוֹ, לֹא נִשְׁתַּיֵּר לָנוּ שָׂדֶה אֶחָת, מְכֹר חֶצְיָהּ וְתֵן אוֹתָהּ לָהֶן. הָלַךְ וְעָשָׂה כֵן, מָכַר אוֹתָהּ חֲצִי שָׂדֶה בַּחֲמִשָּׁה זְהוּבִים וְנָתַן אוֹתָן לְרַבּוֹתֵינוּ, וְאָמַר לָהֶן הִתְפַּלְּלוּ עָלָי, הִתְפַּלְּלוּ עָלָיו וְאָמְרוּ לוֹ הַמָּקוֹם יְמַלֵּא חֶסְרוֹנֶךָ. הָלְכוּ לָהֶן רַבּוֹתֵינוּ לִגְבוֹת בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר, אוֹתוֹ אַבָּא יוּדָן חָרַשׁ בַּחֲצִי שָׂדֶה, וּמָצָא שָׁם סִימָא גְדוֹלָה וְנַעֲשָׂה עָשִׁיר יוֹתֵר מִמַּה שֶּׁהָיָה קֹדֶם, עַד שֶׁרַבּוֹתֵינוּ חוֹזְרִין עָבְרוּ בְּאוֹתוֹ מָקוֹם, אָמְרוּ לְאֶחָד חַיֶּיךָ הַעֲמִידֵנוּ עִם אַבָּא יוּדָן, אָמַר לָהֶם אוֹתוֹ הָאִישׁ, וּמִי יָכוֹל לַעֲמֹד, עִם הַמֶּלֶךְ וְלֹא עִמּוֹ. אָמְרוּ לוֹ אֵין אָנוּ מְבַקְּשִׁין אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹא יֵדַע שֶׁעָבַרְנוּ כָּאן וְלֹא שָׁאַלְנוּ אֶת שְׁלוֹמוֹ. יָדַע אַבָּא יוּדָן וּבָא אֶצְלָם וְנָתַן לָהֶם אֶלֶף זְהוּבִים, אָמַר לָהֶם עָשְׂתָה תְּפִלַּתְכֶם פֵּרוֹת, אָמְרוּ לוֹ אַף אָנוּ הָיִינוּ יוֹדְעִים בְּמַעֲשֶׂיךָ הַטּוֹבִים וְעָשִׂינוּ אוֹתְךָ רֹאשׁ פֶּרֶק, קָרְאוּ עָלָיו רַבּוֹתֵינוּ: מַתָּן אָדָם יַרְחִיב לוֹ וְלִפְנֵי גְדוֹלִים יַנְחֶנּוּ.

Upon which the Midrash comments that you don't need the story to learn the lesson that the mitzvah generates reward, as it can be learned from our parsha, from the smichut of the heter for meat with the previous mitzvah to support the Levi, i.e. to give charity:

אָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּהוּ מַה לִּי לְמָקוֹם אַחֵר לְמֹד מִמְקוֹמוֹ, מַה כְּתִיב לְמַעְלָה (דברים י״ב:י״ט): הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תַּעֲזֹב אֶת הַלֵּוִי, וְאַחַר כָּךְ: כִּי יַרְחִיב ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ אֶת גְּבֻלְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָךְ.

The Midrash goes on to explain ה׳ מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים as referring to this allowance to eat meat, אַף לְהַלָּן אָסַר בְּשַׂר תַּאֲוָה וְכָאן הִתִּירוֹ לָהֶן, מִנַּיִן (דברים י״ב:ט״ו): רַק בְּכָל אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ תִּזְבַּח וְאָכַלְתָּ בָשָׂר.  

According to Chazal, we are not talking about a b'dieved situation, but rather a positive reward for doing the right thing.

What is the midash k'neged midah?  What is the relationship between giving charity and the reward of a steak dinner?

What is the nekudash ha'machlokes here between the pshat and the derash?  How can moving away from the Mikdash, moving away from korbanos-centered eating, be something to applaud?

Lastly, what exactly is the reward?  Is it the כִּֽי־יַרְחִיב֩ ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ אֶֽת־גְּבֻלְךָ֮, the expansion of the borders, as implied by the first Midrash's link to the pasuk מַתָּן אָדָם יַרְחִיב לוֹ, or is it the allowance for meat, as implied by the second Midrash's reference to ה׳ מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים?  Or to put it another way, is the expansion of borders the reward, and the desire for meat an outgrowth of prosperity, or is the reward the steak dinner, and the expansion of the borders and the prosperity just a heichi timtzeh to set the stage, since, as Rashi writes, לימדה תורה דרך ארץ שלא יתאווה אדם לאכול בשר אלא מתוך רחבת ידים ועושר?

What the Midrash is doing is flipping the Netziv's approach on its head.  If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.  If you can't come to the Mikdash to offer korbanos, then the solution is not necessarily a b'dieved of meat without Mikdash.  The ideal solution is to bring the Mikdash to the meat, if not in the physical sense, then at least in the spiritual sense.

Both the Midrash and the pshat/Netziv use the redundancy of כִּֽי־יַרְחִיב֩ and כִּֽי־יִרְחַ֨ק as a way to address the conflict between the desire to have meat and the difficulty of being so far from the Mikdash, but they do it in opposite ways.  Netziv places the focus on כִּֽי־יִרְחַ֨ק, on the spiritual distance from Mikdash, and sees having meat as a b'dieved.  The Midrash places the focus on כִּֽי־יַרְחִיב֩ and reads it as spiritual expansion -- enlarging the borders of what we can make holy -- thereby allowing one can have one's spirituality and eat that steak too.  The Sefas Emes writes on  בְּכׇל־אַוַּ֥ת נַפְשְׁךָ֖ תֹּאכַ֥ל בָּשָֽׂר that we read in krias shema every day that we have to love Hashem בּכל לבבך ובכל נפשׁך.  Bring that to the table.  Your eating should be and can be done בְּכׇל־אַוַּ֥ת נַפְשְׁךָ֖, infused and animated by your love for Hashem -- and not be a contradiction to it. 

In the story quoted, the poor man who lost his wealth thought he could no longer give charity.  What did his wife tell him -- and parenthetically, is this not the role of an eishel chayil?  Expand your thinking; reconsider what you think your limits are and go beyond them.  You can give something.  And so the man did, and was rewarded.  That's כִּֽי־יַרְחִיב֩ ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ אֶֽת־גְּבֻלְךָ֮.  Not in a physical sense, but rather in a spiritual sense.  ה׳ מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים because you are מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים, releasing yourself from the mental bonds that held you in check and prevented your growth.  That's the midah k'neged midah here.  It's not the piece of steak which is the reward, but it's the ability to enlarge one's spiritual boundaries that the piece of steak, when eaten with this perspective, represents.  

Monday, August 07, 2023

a kashe that personifies R' Shteinman

  כִּ֣י הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתָּ֤ה בָא־שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ לֹ֣א כְאֶ֤רֶץ מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ הִ֔וא אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְצָאתֶ֖ם מִשָּׁ֑ם אֲשֶׁ֤ר תִּזְרַע֙ אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֔ וְהִשְׁקִ֥יתָ בְרַגְלְךָ֖ כְּגַ֥ן הַיָּרָֽק (11:10) 

Rashi comments: והשקית ברגלך – ארץ מצרים היתה צריכהו להביא מים מנילוס ברגלך ולהשקותה, וצריך אתה לנדד שנתיךז ולעמול, והנמוך שותה ולא הגבוה, ואתה מעלה מים מן הנמוך לגבוה. אבל זו למטר השמים וגומ׳ (דברים י״א:י״א) – אתה ישן על מטתך, והקב״ה משקה נמוך וגבוה, גלוי ושאינו גלוי, כאחת

When you were in Egypt, you had to get up early and make an irrigation canal so that the water could flow from the Nile to your field.  In Eretz Yisrael, you can stay in bed and Hashem will deliver the water to you, bringing rain everywhere and anywhere that it is needed.

R' Shteinman in his Ayeles haShachar asks: what do you mean stay in bed?  Why would you not get up and take advantage of the extra time to devote to ruchniyus?

No question that this kashe is ראוי הוא למי שׁאמרו and personifies who R' Shteinman was.  The rest of us read this Rashi and did not even bat an eye when we got to those words about staying in bed.  Amazing.

2) That parsha continues

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתֶּ֜ם עֹבְרִ֥ים שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ אֶ֥רֶץ הָרִ֖ים וּבְקָעֹ֑ת לִמְטַ֥ר הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם תִּשְׁתֶּה־מָּֽיִם 

The difference between Eretz Yisrael and Egypt is whether you need irrigation, or whether there is rain.  So why does the earlier pasuk refer to אֲשֶׁ֤ר תִּזְרַע֙ אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֔, the planting that was done in Egypt?  You have to plant in Eretz Yisrael too?

Sefas Emes answers that when you plant in Egypt, its זַרְעֲךָ֔, *your* produce, *your* seeds that are going in the ground.  It's all about the prat.  Eretz Yisrael is about the klal.  Whatever happens there is reflective of Hashem's relationship with Klal Yisrael.  As we discussed before, the GR"A writes that the nusach ha'bracha in bareich aleinu should be sabeinu mi'tuvah, not sabeinu mi'tuvecha, because the tov that we get, the shefa that comes into the world, all comes through Eretz Yisrael.  It is the source of goodness that then spreads out to the rest of the world.  When you plant there, it's not זַרְעֲךָ֔, limited to you, but it creates a ripple effect throughout the world.   

Friday, August 04, 2023

spiritual complacency

R' Bachyei comments on (8:8)  אֶ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹ֤א בְמִסְכֵּנֻת֙ תֹּֽאכַל־בָּ֣הּ לֶ֔חֶם לֹֽא־תֶחְסַ֥ר כֹּ֖ל בָּ֑הּ that the "lechem" of Eretz Yisrael refers to the spiritual sustenance of Torah:

ואפשר שיכלול עוד ארץ אשר לא במסכנות תאכל בה לחם שלענין התורה והחכמה דבר הכתוב, שכן היא נמשלת ללחם, שנאמר (משלי ט׳:ה׳) לכו לחמו בלחמי, ולפי שהתורה והחכמה אי אפשר לאדם להשיגם על השלמות אלא עם ההכנות הראויות הצריכות לו ומלבד ההכנות יצטרך שיהיה אויר הארץ זך וטוב כי יועיל הרבה בלמוד, וטוב ההכנות האויר הטוב אשר בארץ על כן יאמר, החכמים שבה לא יאכלו במסכנות לחמה של תורה כי יהיה לבם כפתחו של אולם לטוב ההכנות ורחבה מיני ים לטוב האויר, וכמו שדרשו רז״ל (בראשית ב׳:י״א-י״ב) וזהב הארץ ההיא טוב, אין תורה כתורת ארץ ישראל ואין חכמה כחכמת ארץ ישראל, ואמרו אוירא דארץ ישראל מחכים, מה שאין כן בחכמים שבחוצה לארץ

There is no comparison between the Torah that can be learned in Eretz Yisrael, the chochma of Eretz Yisrael, and that which is learned elsewhere.  You can try to create a mei'ein of that experience elsewhere, but it will always only be a mei'ein -- not as good as the real thing.  Just ask any bachur or young lady that came back from yeshiva or seminary in Eretz Yisrael recently.

Later in the parsha we have the words that we say every day,  וְנָתַתִּ֛י עֵ֥שֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ֖ לִבְהֶמְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ, followed by the warning הִשָּֽׁמְר֣וּ לָכֶ֔ם פֶּ֥ן יִפְתֶּ֖ה לְבַבְכֶ֑ם.  Rashi comments: ואכלת ושבעת. השמרו לכם – כיון שתהו אוכלים ושבעים, השמרו שלא תבעטו, שאין אדם מורד בהקב״ה אלא מתוך שביעה.  There is a causal connection between the pesukim.  The bounty of riches that we will be blessed with is liable to cause a person to drift in his/her observance.

Sefas Emes (5642) adds an amazing insight:

ואמרו ושבעת השמרו לכם אין אדם מורד רק מתוך שביעה. אין זה דווקא באכילה ושתי' גשמיות. רק גם במילא כריסו בתורה ועבודה צריך להיות תמיד אצל הפתח ולחפש לשמוע דבר ה' ואז יורד השפעה חדשה תמיד. וח"ו להיפך ועצר את השמים כו'. כי כפי מה שחסר לאדם ומשתוקק אל השלימות כך משפיעין לו משמים

We are not talking about a glutton, someone who runs after too much olam ha'zeh.  We are talking about someone engaged in doing mitzvos, in learning Torah. But just like we saw in the R' Bachyei that "lechem" refers to spiritual nourishment, so too, the terms וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ refer to spiritual nourishment as well.  One can grow too satiated and too satisfied in matters of ruchniyus!  A person has to always strive for more and not grow complacent.  

 וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־שָׁמֹ֤עַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֺתַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם  Rashi comments that מצוה אתכם היום – שיהו עליכם חדשים כאילו שמעתם בו ביום.  The parsha is not promising reward for doing mitzvos and learning Torah.  The parsha is promising reward specifically for doing mitzvos and learning Torah with freshness, without complacency, looking at things anew. 

Thursday, August 03, 2023

should we try to eat bread every day to fulfill birchas hamazon just like we wear a 4 cornered garmet to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis?

1) The mitzvah of tzitzis applies only if a person chooses to wear a 4 cornered garment.  If someone does not want to wear that type of garment, there is no mitzvah to do so.  However, the gemara says that at times of anger in shamayim a person can get punished even for failing to fulfill this type of aseh, so we therefore deliberately wear a 4 cornered garment so that we can fulfill the mitzvah.

Based on that reasoning, why not say the same about birchas ha'mazon?  The mitzvah applies only if I eat bread, which I have a right not to do.  But maybe here too we should be concerned about those periods of anger in shamayim where punishment is meted out more harshly, and therefore we should deliberately make a point of eating bread every meal in order to fulfill the mitzvah of birchas ha'mazon.

What's the difference between these cases?

2)  וְהָיָ֣ה׀ עֵ֣קֶב תִּשְׁמְע֗וּן.  We know that אין והיה אלא שמחה.  What is the simcha here?  The Ohr haChaim explains that's it's the mitzvah of limud haTorah:  

עוד רמז על דרך אומרו (תהלים י״ט) פקודי ה׳ ישרים משמחי לב, והוא אומרו והיה השמחה תהיה עקב תשמעון, ופירוש עקב שכר עסק התורה תשמחהו, והוא מה שרמז התנא באומרו (אבות פ״ד) מצוה גוררת מצוה וכו׳ ששכר מצוה מצוה שהיא השמחה.

עוד רמז למה שאמרו בספר הזוהר (ח״ג רי״ג) וז״ל דלית חדוותא קמי קב״ה כשעתא דישראל משתדלי באורייתא,

Sefas Emes explains that the simcha is the fact that all the good things Hashem promises to give come עֵ֣קֶב תִּשְׁמְע֗וּן, because we listened.  We earned it.  Once upon a time we discussed the Midrash that tells us that for 26 generations, from creation until mattan Torah, Hashem sustained the world solely because of his chessed. After mattan Torah, we get only what we earn.  Sounds like as a result of mattan Torah the midah of chessed is diminished.  How can that be?  

Rav Hutner explains that accepting a hand out without having earned it carries the taint of 'nahama d'kisufa,' a sense of embarrassment. Giving the poor man a job so he can earn his wages with dignity is the highest form of charity, much greater than just handing him a check.  Giving us the opportunity to feel that we are earning our keep by doing mitzvos and Torah learning is a far greater chessed from Hashem than just giving us a handout.

Last year on the Yamim Noraim, the Rav where I was davening made an appeal, and if I recall correctly, the way he put it is that the shul will get what it needs no matter what -- Hashem will take care of it.  The appeal is just an opportunity for us to have a part in that.  וְהָיָ֣ה׀ עֵ֣קֶב תִּשְׁמְע֗וּן  Same idea.  Hashem will make sure you don't go hungry or homeless, but he wants us to have the simcha of having earned it.

See this post  where we discussed this idea in greater detail.