Friday, September 29, 2023

sukkah in the rain

I covered this back in 2009, but figured a little review (with some new addition) doesn't hurt.  We have torrential rains in NY (to quote my wife: the last time it rained this much Noah was putting his zoo together) that are not expected to stop before nightfall.  How does that impact the mitzvah of sukkah?

The Rishonim ask: the gemara (Brachos 49) writes that there is a chiyuv to eat a seudas Y"T with bread, and therefore if one forgets yaaleh v'yavo one has to repeat bentching.  The gemara (Sukkah 27) has another din learned from a gezeira shava of Sukkos to Pesach that one is obligated to eat a kzayis in the sukkah tonight.  Why do we need this latter din when we already know that we have to eat a seudah of bread tonight because it is Y"T?  

A few answers are offered: 1) Tos (Sukkah 27) answers that really on Y"T there is no obligation to eat bread.  The sugya that says you have to is speaking only about the night of Sukkos or Pesach, when we have that gezeira shavah that obligates us.  According to this view, if you leave our yaaleh v'yavo in Y"TNoa bentching you would not repeat. 2) Other Rishonim says the nafka mina is the shiur.  Normally, a person has to eat a k'beitza to be yotzei seudas Y"T.  The gezeira shava elevates the importance of the eating of a k'zayis so that one is yotzei with that. 3) Rosh answers that had we only had the chiyuv to eat because of seudas Y"T, when it rains, you could eat inside.  The gezeira shava teaches us that on the night of Y"T one must eat a k'zayis in sukkah regardless of the weather.

Since the other Rishonim did not give the Rosh's answer (which is quoted l'halacha by the Rama), one can assume that they did not accept his chiddush, and that even on the first night of sukkos one is not obligated to sit in the sukkah in the rain.  

The nekudas ha'machlokes (see the older post for a different hesber): yesh lachkor whether the chiyuv of sukkah on the first night is a mitzvah of achila, like achilas matzah, or a mitzvah of dirah, to live in the sukkah, which you do by eating there.  

If it is a mitzvah of dirah, then when it rains, one should be patur.  You don't live in your house when there is rain pouring through the ceiling -- that's not called dirah.  If it is a mitzvah of achila, then rain makes no difference.  If it rains on leil ha'seder, you still eat a k'zayis of matzah.

There are other issues that may hinge on this same chakira.  If one stole a k'zayis and ate it in the sukkah tonight, is it a mitzah ha'baah b'aveira (R' Baruch Ber's question)?  Is the mitzvah achilas k'zayis, or is the mitzvah sitting in sukkah, and you never stole the sukkah?  The Yerushalmi has a safeik (discussed by Rama as well) whether one must avoid eating a meal after chatzos on erev Sukkos in order to be able to enjoy eating that k'zayis in the sukkah just like you cannot have a meal on erev Pesach in order to relish that first bite of matzah.  Again, the issue seems to be whether the focus is on eating, or on dirah.

Bottom line: even if it rains, to be yotzei the shitas haRosh quoted by Rama you should eat a k'zayis in the sukkah and then continue the rest of the meal inside.

GR"A throws one more wrinkle into the equation.  He holds (Maaseh Rav, also quoted by Chayei Adam) that when it rains on the first night, even if you've eaten your k'zayis to be yotzei the Rosh, if it then stops raining, even at 3:00AM, you have to go out and eat another k'zayis of bread in the dry sukkah.  The M.B. asks why this should be so.  M'mah nafshach: according to the Rosh, you were yotzei with the k'zayis you ate in the rain.  According to the other Rishonim, just like you were exempt because of 'mitzta'ar pature min ha'sukkah' when it rained, you are exempt because of 'mitzta'ar pature min ha'sukkah' from having to wake up at 3:00AM?  

What we see from the GR"A (he has other Rishonim to back it up) is a new chiddush: the gezeira shava does obligate a person irrespective of the weather, irrespective of tzaar, like the Rosh holds; however, a sukkah with rain falling through the roof is not a sukkah.  There is a chovas ha'gavra, but you have no cheftza shel mitzvah to fulfill it with.  Therefore, once it stops raining and you have a livable sukkah, you have to go out and take advantage.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Four lessons from Yonah

1) Lesson #1 posted back in 2009 here.

2) The passengers aboard the ship with Yonah being tossed in the storm cannot understand the cause of the calamity that has befallen them.  Sailors are not known to be the most righteous folks, and one can safely assume that the other passengers were ovdei avodah zarah, but it is Yonah alone who raises his hand and takes full responsibility for the unfolding disaster.  

The Brisker Rav explained that society around us may be wicked and debased, but it's not our job to point the finger at their wrongdoings as the cause of evil in the world.  It's our job to look at ourselves, our own failures.  Relative to what the rest of the world does our wrongs may be trivial, but we have a Torah to learn from and therefore the bar for us in higher.

3) Why did Yonah tell the sailors to cast him into the sea?  He could have quelled the storm by tellimg them to turn around and bring him back to Eretz Yisrael so he could deliver the prophecy he was charged with?  

R' Chaim Kanievsky in Taama d'Kra (based on a Chazal) writes that Yonah knew that if he would deliver that prophecy and Ninveh would do teshuvah, it would look bad for Klal Yisrael.  Therefore, he preferred to be tossed into the sea, to be moseir nefesh rather than go back. Great leaders are those who are willing to give up everything for the sake of the people.

4) When the storm hits, the navi  tells us וַיִּֽירְא֣וּ הַמַּלָּחִ֗ים (1:5) that the *sailors* were afraid.  Yonah then tells them that he is a Jew fleeing G-d and it is because of G-d's anger that they are in danger.  The navi then tells us again of their fear, but this time it says וַיִּֽירְא֤וּ הָֽאֲנָשִׁים֙ יִרְאָ֣ה גְדוֹלָ֔ה, the *people* were afraid.

Malbi"m explains:

מ״ש תחלה וייראו המלחים היתה יראת הסכנה. אבל יראה זו היתה יראת ה׳ שהיא גדולה למעלתה לפי גדולת העצם שהתיראו ממנו

At first, the fear felt by the unsophisticated sailors was simply a fear of the storm.  That type of fear is the same fear even an animal has when it detects a threat.  However, after Yonah spoke with them, the sailors then understood this storm has a cause, that G-d is behind what is taking place.  Their fear them became a fear felt by אֲנָשִׁים֙, people, i.e. thinkers, not just the gross reactive fear of an animal facing danger.

Life has many challengers, some of which are frightening to deal with.  That fear can be elevated to yiras shamayim, to appreciate that there is a cause, that there is purpose to everything.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

the immutable core

Last week I wrote about the din as it applies to divrei Torah, with respect to the klal as well as on the prat, תן חלקנו בּתורתך.  

Our parsha compares Torah to drops of rain and dew that fall on the grass:

 יַעֲרֹף כַּמָּטָר לִקְחִי תִּזַּל כַּטַּל אִמְרָתִי כִּשְׂעִירִם עֲלֵי דֶשֶׁא וְכִרְבִיבִים עֲלֵי עֵשֶׂב

Rashi explains the difference between  דֶשֶׁא and עֵשֶׂב is that עטיפת הארץ נקרא דשא, the former is the covering of the ground as a whole, the latter קלח אחד קרוי עשב refers to each blade of grass.  Sefas Emes writes that this reflects the Torah of the klal vs Torah of the prat.  Torah is part of the identity not just of Klal Yisrael the nation as a whole, but each individual also brings something to the table.  This is both a mechayeiv as well as a bracha.  

I thought this may be pshat in Sanhedrim 102a, which talks about Yeravam and Achya haShiloni: 

מאי ושניהם לבדם בשדה אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שכל תלמידי חכמים דומין לפניהם כעשבי השדה 

Meaning, even if you piled up כל תלמידי חכמים, the rest of the world, it was not like everyone against two, it was not like עֲלֵי דֶשֶׁא, but rather the entire rest of the world was like קלח אחד קרוי עשב, like individuals. and Achya and Yeravam's view was superior.

There is a machlokes Rishonim/meforshim whether the mitzvah referred to in the pasuk

כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא

is the mitzvah of talmud torah or the mitzvah of teshuvah (which may hinge on whether teshuvah is counted as an independent mitzvah or whether the mitzvah is viduy).  The truth is that these two mitzvos are inseparable. Ohr haChaim writes in P' Bechukosai on the pasuk  וְאִם עַד אֵלֶּה לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ לִי וְיָסַפְתִּי לְיַסְּרָה אֶתְכֶם שֶׁבַע עַל חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם (26:18) that תלה הדבר בשמיעה שהיא התורה, כי הנמנע שיחזרו בתשובה זולת על ידי התורה.  Without Torah, teshuvah is impossible.  

Shem m'Shmuel echoes the same (Vayigash, 5680):

 וכענין אמרם ז"ל בבני עלי שאינו מתכפר בזבח ובמנחה אבל מתכפר הוא בתורה, שהוא בשכל, ויש לומר דהיינו הך שכתב האריז"ל דעיקר תשובה הוא עסק התורה, ולשון עסק התורה בודאי הפירוש העיון שהוא שקיל וטרי בתורה כל איש לפי יכולתו, והוא נוגע בשכל, ולא התמדת הקריאה ולימוד בלבד, ואפי' מי שאין ביכולתו לחדש חידושין דאורייתא נמי צריך עכ"פ לייגע את מוחו להבין בשכלו הטיב עד שיחקקו ד"ת ויקבלם בשכלו כל איש לפי הבנתו ודעתו, וטוב מעט בכוונה מהרבות שלא בכוונה:

It's no coincidence that Yom Kippur, the day set aside for teshuvah and kapparah, is also the day on which mattan Torah of the second luchos occurred.

Sefas Emes in a very short piece (end of 5647) explains the omek of this idea

We read in the haftarah on the second day of R"H (Yirmiyahu 31:19)

הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי אֶפְרַיִם אִם יֶלֶד שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים כִּי מִדֵּי דַבְּרִי בּוֹ זָכֹר אֶזְכְּרֶנּוּ עוֹד עַל כֵּן הָמוּ מֵעַי לוֹ רַחֵם אֲרַחֲמֶנּוּ נְאֻם ה׳

Rashi quotes the Midrash:

ומדרש ויקרא רבה די דבורי שנתתי בו שלימדתיו תורתי לרחם עליו.

Learning Torah is not simply something that we do, like other mitzvos.  It's our identity, it's who we are.  דבורי שנתתי בו means it's within us, part of our DNA. We may ignore it, we may sully ourselves to the point that we don't even know ourselves who are what we are all about, but just like a leopard can't change it's spots, we can't undo our makeup.  That's why at the end of the day רַחֵם אֲרַחֲמֶנּוּ נְאֻם ה׳.  When one learns Torah, one returns to that core, which is exactly what the process of teshuvah is all about. 

 קְח֤וּ עִמָּכֶם֙ דְּבָרִ֔ים וְשׁ֖וּבוּ אֶל ה׳ אִמְרוּ אֵלָיו כׇּל תִּשָּׂא עָוֺן וְקַח טוֹב וּנְשַׁלְּמָה פָרִים שְׂפָתֵינוּ

Rashi quotes a number of peshatim to address how to read the pasuk.  On the one hand, we are saying to Hashem  כׇּל תִּשָּׂא עָוֺן, you have to forgive our sins because we have done wrong.  On the other hand, וְקַח טוֹב.  Well, if we've done wrong, then where is the "tov" that Hashem is supposed to take?  So Rashi says וקח טוב – ולמדנו דרך טוב, meaning after you forgive the past, teach us to be better going forward.  Or he suggests דבר אחר: וקח טוב וקבל הודיה מאתנו, take the praise that we offer for forgiveness.  According to Sefas Emes, however, there is no difficulty.  Once you take away the bad, then m'meila,  וְקַח טוֹב because that's what's left, that's the immutable core. As he writes:   וז"ש אמרו אליו כו' תשא עון כו' ועי"ז וקח טוב. הטוב שנמצא בלבות בנ"י  

That's קְח֤וּ עִמָּכֶם֙ דְּבָרִ֔ים.  It doesn't mean to take something external to you, like bringing a gift.  Rather it's עִמָּכֶם֙, something you take out of yourself, the דבורי שנתתי בו שלימדתיו תורתי.  It's already part of you, you just have to clean off the dirt on the surface, and m'meila וְשׁ֖וּבוּ אֶל ה׳.   

Thursday, September 14, 2023

yom ha'din -- on Torah

R' Ben Tzion Kook quotes the Rama mi'Pana on the gemara (Shabbos 31a)

אמר רבא בשעה שמכניסין אדם לדין אומרים לו נשאת ונתת באמונה קבעת עתים לתורה עסקת בפו"ר צפית לישועה פלפלת בחכמה הבנת דבר מתוך דבר 

who explains that Chazal are not just speaking here about the future judgment we will all have to undergo after 120 years when we depart from this world, but are speaking about Rosh haShana as well, the judgment we face each and every year.  

The gemara (Kid 41) writes:

דאמר רב המנונא אין תחילת דינו של אדם אלא על דברי תורה 

The first item on the list of things looked at on yom ha'din is how committed and engaged we were to Torah study this year.

We find the centrality of Torah to yom ha'din reflected in halacha as well.  Rama (OC 585) paskens that the baal tokea should stand next to the bima where the Torah is read.  M"B explains כדי שזכות התורה יגן עלינו לעלות זכרונינו לפניו לטובה, so that the zechus of Torah should enable our tekiyos to rise up to heaven.

The Mishna in R"H writes that on Pesach the world is judged as to how much wheat will be produced; on Shavuos we are judged on how much fruit will grow; on Sukkos we are judged on how much rain there will be.  Seems like everything is covered, so what happens on Rosh haShana?  Ran answers that on R"H Hashem decides what our individual portion will be.

Perhaps the same is true when in comes to Torah.  The world cannot exist without Torah, and inevitably 5784 will bring with it new chiddushim, new sevaros, new ideas, new questions.  What we have to ask for on Rosh haShana is תן חלקנו בּתורתך.  We want our portion, our share!  We want that the תחילת דינו של אדם על דברי תורה should come out in a positive way for us an individuals as well as for our communities, and with it should come בּני, חיי, מזוני to enable us to learn with yishuv hadaas, harvacha, and to share that Torah with our children and others.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

stolen shofar -- Raavad's view

Rambam and Raavad agree that one can be yotzei tekiyas shofar with a stolen shofar, but they disagree as to why.  Rambam paskens (Shofar 1:3)

שופר של עכו"ם אין תוקעין בו לכתחלה ואם תקע יצא. ושל עיר הנדחת אם תקע בו לא יצא. שופר הגזול שתקע בו יצא שאין המצוה אלא בשמיעת הקול אע"פ שלא נגע בו ולא הגביהו השומע יצא ואין בקול דין גזל. וכן שופר של עולה לא יתקע בו ואם תקע יצא שאין בקול דין מעילה. ואם תאמר והלא נהנה בשמיעת הקול מצות לא ליהנות ניתנו. לפיכך המודר הנייה משופר מותר לתקוע בו תקיעה של מצוה:

Raavad comments:

 ואין בקול דין גזל. א"א ואפילו יהיה בו דין גזל יום תרועה יהיה לכם מ"מ הכי איתא בירושלמי עכ"ל

In truth, both reasons are brought by the Yerushalami (Sukkah perek 3 halacha 1) in the context of explaining why a shofar of avodah zarah or ir ha'nidachas is acceptable, but a lulav with either of those two psulim is not:

 שׁוֹפָר שֶׁלְעֲבוֹדָה זָרָה וְשֶׁלְעִיר הַנִּידַּחַת, רִבִּי לָעְזְר אָמַר: כָּשֵׁר. תַּנֵּי רִבִּי חִייָה: כָּשֵׁר. תַּנֵּי רִבִּי הוֹשַׁעְיָה: פָּסוּל. הַכֹּל מוֹדִין בַּלּוּלָב שֶּׁהוּא פָסוּל. מַה בֵין שׁוֹפָר וּמַה בֵין לוּלָב? אָמַר רִבִּי יוֹסֵה: בַּלּוּלָב כְּתִיב וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם – מִשֶׁלָּכֶם, לֹא מִשֶּׁלְאִיסּוּרֵי הֲנָייָה. בְּרַם הָכָא יוֹם תְּרוּעָה יִהְיֶה לָכֶם – מִכָּל מָקוֹם. אָמֵר רִבִּי לָעְזְר: תַּמָּן בְגוּפוֹ הוּא יוֹצֵא, בְּרַם הָכָא בְקוֹלוֹ הוּא יוֹצֵא, וְיֵשׁ קוֹל אָסוּר בַּהֲנָייָה?

What then is the Raavad objecting to?  Is there some reason the Rambam should favor the reason quoted by Raavad over the one he quotes?

Secondly, while Raavad is consistent with the Ylmi, his comment seems to contradict the Bavli.  The gemara in the opening of perek lulav ha'gazul (Sukkah 30) debates whether the din of לוּלָב הַגָּזוּל  פָּסוּל applies only to the first day of Y"T or to all days of Y"T.  Even though the din of לָכֶם applies only one the first day (ולקחתם לכם בּיום הראשׁון), the gemara writes that the psul of mitzvah habaah b'aveira would invalidate a stolen lulav on the other days as well.

It should therefore follow that even if there is no requirement of לָכֶם with respect to shofar, there should still be a psul of mitzvah habaah b'aveira.

B'shlama according to the Rambam's reasoning, a psul in the shofar does not invalidate its kol, but according to Raavad who does not accept this argument (whatever his reason might be), the psul of mitzvah habaah b'aveira should invalidate the tekiyos.  

Just to make things worse and add icing on the cake, Rambam (Lulav 8:9) actually paskens that a stolen lulav is acceptable outside the first day of Y"T:

כל אלו שאמרנו שהם פסולין מפני מומין שבארנו או מפני גזל וגניבה ביום טוב ראשון בלבד אבל ביום טוב שני עם שאר הימים הכל כשר

But Raavad disagrees because of mitzvah habaah b'aveira.  

 כל אלו שאמרנו וכו'. א"א אין הכל מודים בגזול ויבש שאין פסולים משום הדור אלא גזול ה"ל מצוה הבאה בעבירה יבש מפני שהוא כמת, בירושלמי:

L'shitaso, what then does Raavad do with the idea of mitzvah habaah b'aveira with respect to shofar?

Leaving this hanging for now... 

Monday, September 11, 2023

watchmen over the walls

The haftarah for this past week contains the famous words (Yeshayahu 62:6):

עַל חוֹמֹתַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלַ͏ִם הִפְקַדְתִּי שֹׁמְרִים כׇּל הַיּוֹם וְכׇל הַלַּיְלָה

Who are these shomrim that stand watch on the walls of Yerushalayim?  Rashi interprets based on Chazal that these are angels appointed by G-d to watch over the city.  Radak similarly writes  דרך הדרוש בזה ידוע, שהשומרים הם המלאכים, והם מתפללים לק-ל על ירושלים שישיבנה לישובה.  The Ibn Ezra puts a slight twist on the same idea and writes that the shomrim are the  אבלי ציון, who sit in mourning all day and all night.  However, what grabbed my attention is the pshat of the Metzudos: אלה השומרים כינוי על אבני ציון שאין להם עסק אחר כי אם יתמידו בבכי ואבל כשומרי החומות שאינם זזים מן השמירה  The watchmen are none other than the stones of Yerushalayim.  What came to my mind when I read that pshat is the huge stones that you see on the south side near the kotel, which remain fallen to the ground exactly as the landed when the Romans tumbled them down 2000 years ago.  Those stones still mourn the churban that they themselves experienced.

All of these interpretations read  שֹׁמְרִים as an analogy.  Just as watchmen never sleep, so too, the angels/mourners/stones never cease mourning.  Radak:  שומרי חומות ירושלים יהיו ערים ביום ובלילה תמיד, והשומרים הם דרך משל.  I think the word שֹׁמְרִים has perhaps a different connotation here, and is akin to its meaning in the pasuk  וְאָבִיו שָׁמַר אֶת הַדָּבָר (Braishis 37:11), which Rashi explains to mean היה ממתין מצפה מתי יבא.  It is not just hashgacha 24x7 which the pasuk is speaking about, but it is the anticipation of return.  The angels, the mourners, even the walls themselves, eagerly await a future where our return in complete, when our control over Yerushalayim is complete.    

Friday, September 08, 2023

the journey is the lesson

1) This is the final shabbos of the year.  Some people get confused because it's not Zos haBracha, but it's the end of the calendar year even thought the leining cycle is not complete.  ברוך אתה בבאך וברוך אתה בצאתך  We see, says Sefas Emes, that there is bracha at the start of something and bracha at the end.  Shabbos starts with kiddush; Shabbos ends with havdalah.  We say a bracha before we begin kri'as haTorah; we say a bracha when we conclude the reading.  So too with respect to the year as a whole.  We hope to start the new year next week with bracha, but there is special bracha this week as well, as the year comes to conclusion.  Take advanatage!

2) Interesting question: For 40 years in the midbar Bn"Y did not do the mitzvah of milah because it would have posed a mortal danger (Yevamos 71b).  Rashi comments that the wood cutters and water drawers mentioned at the beginning of Nitzavim were people who converted while Bn"Y were in the midbar.  Geirus requires milah, tevilah, kabbalas mitzvos, and a korban.  If it was impossible to do milah in the desert, how did they undergo geirus?  (Panim Yafos)

3) Last week I wrote about the silver lining that can be found in at least one of the pesukim of tochacha.  The Chassidic seforim suggest that all the pesukim really are pesukei bracha, but we don't understand how to read it that way in our state of galus.  

Our parsha talks about people who just blow off the tochacha and do not take it to heart:   וְהָיָה בְּשׇׁמְעוֹ אֶת דִּבְרֵי הָאָלָה הַזֹּאת וְהִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּלְבָבוֹ לֵאמֹר שָׁלוֹם יִהְיֶה לִּי כִּי בִּשְׁרִרוּת לִבִּי אֵלֵךְ (29:18). How do you just blow off pesukim describing such horrific things?  The answer is that they absorbed last week's idea a little too well!  They absorbed the idea that everything that comes from Hashem is bracha, everything comes from a place of love, and so they are not afraid of the threats.

The Torah in response tells us  הַנִּסְתָּרֹת ה׳ אֱלֹקינוּ וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָׄנׄוּׄ וּׄלְׄבָׄנֵׄיׄנׄוּׄ עַׄד עוֹלָם.  There may be a hidden meaning of bracha, but that is הַנִּסְתָּרֹת ה׳ אֱלֹקינוּ, k'lapei shemaya galya alone.  Fore us, הַנִּגְלֹת לָׄנׄוּׄ וּׄלְׄבָׄנֵׄיׄנׄוּׄ , we need to focus on the revealed meaning of the words and take to heart their basic meaning.

4) The gemara (Chagiga 3) asks why it is that Hashem commanded us to bring even little children to hakhel, to which the gemara answers so that we can accrue reward for the effort.  Maharasha on the gemara and Kli Yakar on our parsha ask: since we are speaking about children too young to learn anything (otherwise the answer to why bring them is obvious -- to learn Torah!  See Gur Aryeh) and therefore there is no purpose to what we are doing, Hashem might as well have commanded us to carry rocks in our pockets and give us reward for that.  Does Hashem just give us reward for doing senseless things with no purpose?

Tzror haMor has a beautiful diyuk in the pesukim describing hakhel.  

 הַקְהֵל אֶת הָעָם הָאֲנָשִׁים וְהַנָּשִׁים וְהַטַּף וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ לְמַעַן יִשְׁמְעוּ וּלְמַעַן יִלְמְדוּ (31:12) 

Notice that the verbs at the end are written in future tense.  However, in the next pasuk describes the chiyuv to bring children:

 וּבְנֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּ יִשְׁמְעוּ וְלָמְדוּ לְיִרְאָה

Notice that here the verbs are written in past tense - לָמְדוּ and not יִלְמְדוּ.  Why the switch?

Tzror haMor answers that there are tzvei dinim in what can be learned by coming to hakhel.   For most people, the limud that takes places occurs after they get to Yerushalayim, when the king reads the parshiyos of Torah.  Little kids, however, don't understand the pesukim.  They are not coming to hakhel to hear a shiur.  What they do understand, however, and what does make an impression on them, is the fact that their parents packed up the whole family and brought them along, the fact that this is such a "chavaya" that even they get to be there.   For them the main lesson takes place before a single pasuk is read.  The lesson is in being able to be there.  לָמְדוּ is past tense because   שכבר למדו מה שהיה להם ללמד מההבאה שהוא החנוך לפי שלא היו מבינים יותר  

If you shlep your little kid to shul with you (assuming he/she can behave), they may not know every tefilah, they may not understand exactly what is going at every moment, but what they do understand is that if you made a point of bringing them, if you made a point of showing that you want to share this experience with them, then shul is something important.  

If you take your kid to a father/son learning programs on motzei Shabbos in the winter months, that kid may not remember a particular Rashi or sugya you learned together during those sessions, but what they will remember is the fact that you brought them, that you gave up your time, that you bundled up to go out in the cold, and therefore that Torah is important.  

The answer, I think, to the Kli Yakar/Maharasha, is that intellectually, a little kid may be no smarter than a rock.  Some kids remain this way through their teenage years : )  But emotionally, it's a different ball game.  Hakhel is about EQ, not IQ.  The child who is brought along and shares in the experience of hakhel with his parent learns that Torah is something they, and he, should value.  That lesson, hopefully, will last a lifetime.

(See Sefas Emes 5634 for a different answer to this Maharasha.  Bli neder, for another time).  

Friday, September 01, 2023

always another rung to climb

  וְהָיָה כִּי תָבוֹא אֶל הָאָרֶץ  Was just speaking this morning with my daughter in Yerushalayim and told her to look at the first Ohr haChaim on the parsha: והיה כי תבא אל הארץ – אמר והיה לשון שמחה, להעיר שאין לשמוח אלא בישיבת הארץ על דרך אומרו (תהלים קכ״ו) אז ימלא שחוק פינו ו

Later in the parsha we read: וְלֹא נָתַן ה׳ לָכֶם לֵב לָדַעַת וְעֵינַיִם לִרְאוֹת וְאׇזְנַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה (29:3)  Sefas Emes (5634) asks: you mean the dor de'ah that stood by Har Sinai and got the Torah did not have daas, did not see things clearly, did not hear the voice of Hashem?! Of course they did!  They experienced Hashem's revelation in the fullest possible way.  However, what they lacked was the , the עֵינַיִם, the אׇזְנַיִם.  Revelation to them was like an out of body experience. There was a disconnect between the material world, the secular world, of day to day life, and their religious experience.  The generation that was going to enter Eretz Yisrael experienced things differently.  When they learned parshas shoftim about beis din, about malchus and Jewish government, when they heard halachos about fighting wars to defend their borders, laws about agriculture and business, this spoke to their day to day life.  Torah for them was not some abstract construct, but was l'maaseh in all its forms. That's the Torah that we are slowly rediscovering today after so many years in galus.

I was not planning on writing that, but got sidetracked by the call.  What I was planning on writing was about an interesting thing later in the parsha in the section of the tochacha.  When it speaks about the brachos, we read that וּנְתָנְךָ יְהֹוָה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב וְהָיִיתָ רַק לְמַעְלָה וְלֹא תִהְיֶה לְמָטָּה (28:13).  But then later, in the tochacha section, we read that הַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבְּךָ יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ מַעְלָה מָּעְלָה וְאַתָּה תֵרֵד מַטָּה מָּטָּה (28:43).  It does not sound very fair.  When we are on top, it says only once לְמַעְלָה, but when the aku"m have the upper hand, for them it's מַעְלָה מָּעְלָה two times.  And on the flipside, when we are in charge, וְלֹא תִהְיֶה לְמָטָּה, but when they are in charge, וְאַתָּה תֵרֵד מַטָּה מָּטָּה two times.  

I saw R' Ovadya Yosef quoted a mashal from the Ben Ish Chai, whose yahrzeit was this past week, to explain what's going on here.  A man had a dream in which he saw a huge ladder with 1000 rungs pointing up to the sky, and the king of the land began to climb the ladder.  After much time and effort the king made it halfway to the top, 500 steps up, and then vayikatz... v'hinei chalom, the dream ended.  The man told his wife about this fantastic dream, and she encouraged him to go to the king and tell him, and so he did.  Upon hearing the story, the king bestowed upon the man a gift of $1000.  One of the less than honest chambermaids was witness to this event, and figured that if the king paid $1000 for this dream in which he got only halfway up the ladder, imagine how much he would pay someone who told him that he made it to the top.  She made an appontment for her husband to appear before the king, and he related his concocted dream that the king reached the top of the ladder.  When the king heard what the man had to say he screamed for the guards to throw him into the dungeon.  No reward, not even a thank you.  The question on everyone's mind was why the first guy got a reward and the second guy was thrown in jail.  So the king explained: b'shlama according to the first dream, I achieved great things, but there is so much more ahead of me that I can and will yet accomplish.  The rest of my life can be as great as the first part.  But if I've already reached the top, this is the pinnacle of everything I can and will accomplish, that means it's all downhill from here (typical middle age depression : )  That dream does not deserve reward; it's a curse, not a blessing.

R' Ovdaya explained that when we are on top, it's only  לְמַעְלָה, one time, because there is always more in store for us from Hashem.  There are no limits to what we can accomplish and what the reward might me.  And on the flipside, when we are pushed down, it is וְאַתָּה תֵרֵד מַטָּה מָּטָּה, two times, to the very bottom, because that curse is a blessing in disguise.  When you've hit rock bottom, there is no place to go but up.  When it comes to the aku"m, the opposite is true.  הַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבְּךָ יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ מַעְלָה מָּעְלָה, to the very top, and from there, there is no place to go but down.  וְלֹא תִהְיֶה לְמָטָּה like them, meaning only one לְמָטָּה for them, because for them there is always yet another lower level to which they can fall. 

I haven't seen anyone else explain the difference between the pesukim, so wanted to pass on this fantastic vort.

From a comment by Shloma: אלול = אנו למעלה ועוד למעלה

On a different note, just found this list of 1500+ chakiros.  Enjoy!