Thursday, February 22, 2024

purim katan meshulash - R' Chaim Kanievsky's chiddush

The Mishna in Meg (6b) has a rule:  אין בין אדר הראשון לאדר השני אלא קריאת המגילה ומתנות לאביונים.  Therefore, this year, which is a leap year, we will not be reading megillah this month, nor can one fulfill the mitzvah of matanot la'evyonim this month.  

Is there any mitzvah to have a party on 14 Adar this month?  On the one hand, the Mishna only speaks about megillah and matanot l'evyonim, implying that when it comes to partying, there is no difference between the months.  On the other hand, the gemara writes

 ומתני' חסורי מיחסרא והכי קתני אין בין ארבעה עשר שבאדר הראשון לי"ד שבאדר השני אלא מקרא מגילה ומתנות הא לענין הספד ותענית זה וזה שוין

implying that it's only with respect to not having hesped or taanis that the days in both months are equal.  Tos writes:

יש שנוהגין לעשות ימי משתה ושמחה בארבעה עשר ובחמשה עשר של אדר הראשון וריהטא דמתניתין נמי משמע כן מדקאמר אלא מקרא מגילה (ב) בלבד ומתנות עניים מכלל דלענין משתה ושמחה זה וזה שוין ולא נהירא דהא אמרינן בגמרא הא לענין הספד ותענית זה וזה שוין מכלל דשמחה ומשתה ליכא דע"כ לא תליא הא בהא דאי תליא הא בהא לאשמעינן דמשתה ושמחה נהגו בהו וממילא נאסר בהספד דהא הימים האמורים במגילת תענית האסורים בהספד אין בהן משתה ושמחה וכן הלכה שאין צריך להחמיר לעשות משתה ושמחה באדר הראשון

Worth noting that Tos speaks about the 14th and the 15th, but the gemara spoke only about the 14th, אין בין ארבעה עשר שבאדר הראשון לי"ד שבאדר השני.  The Beis Yosef quotes from SM"K that even if you accept the notion that there is a chiyuv of mishteh in Adar I, it is limited to the day of the 14th alone.

והגהות מיימונית כתבו בשם סמ"ק שהעולם לא נהגו לעשות משתה ושמחה כי אם בי"ד שבאדר הראשון אע"פ שבאדר השני נהגו גם בט"ו שמחה ומשתה  וטעמא משום דאמר תלמודא אין בין י"ד שבאדר הראשון וכו' ולא הזכיר ט"ו ושמא נקט אותו שהוא עיקר

(Perhaps the SM"K held that celebrating 14 vs 15 Adar are not two separate takanos, but are two opportunities for the kiyum mitzvah. See last year's post . Purim katan commemorates the source takanah, not the opportunities for kiyum hamitzvah.)

The SA and Rama (697) write that on Purim Katan, both 14 and 15 Adar I, we skip tachanun, we skip the mizmor of yaancha Hashem b'yom tzarah, and Rama paskens to avoid hesped and taanis. Rama then quotes the view that holds one should have a party of 14 and 15 of Adar I, and writes that even though it is not accepted l'halacha, one should try to have a larger seudah to be yotzei this opinion. 

The Ksav Sofer al haTorah goes a step further with an even bigger chiddush (see also here).  Tos only mentions having a seudah, but nothing about mishloach manos.  Ran writes  אבל לענין לשלוח מנות כיון דדמו למתנות לאביונים דליתנהו אלא בשני משמע נמי שאף משלוח מנות אינו אלא בשני.  K.S. disagrees, and writes that since the point of mishloach manos is to enhance the seudah, if there is a chiyuv seudah in Adar I, there should also be a chiyuv mishloach manos as well.  (See as well K.S. in the shut Y.D. 136 for a different approach).

R' Chaim Kanievsky goes yet a step further with an even bigger chiddush.  This year 15 Adar I falls out on Shabbos.  When 15 Adar II falls on Shabbos, you have Purim meshulash, and according to many shitos, the seudah is pushed until Sunday.  RC"K therefore held that on 16 Adar I, Sunday, no tachanun is recited.  Had it been Adar II, we would be celebrating on 16; therefore, we should celebrate on Adar I as well.

RC"K seems to be taking sides in a fundamental question.  When we have a Purim meshulash and end up celebrating on the 16th, does that mean the 16th is the day on which we celebrate Purim, or is Purim really on the 15th, but since we can't have the seudah then (Yerushalmi says ain m'arvin simcha b'simcha), there is tashlumin on the 16th?  If Purim is really the 15th and the 16th is just a day of tashlumin, it is harder to make the case that we should skip tachanun on that day even in Adar I.  (In fact, it is hard to even make the case to skip tachanun or avoid hesped/taanis on that day in Adar II if you are not in a walled city.  See here  5b)

The Rama ends off "tov lev mishteh tamid."  Purim is our most joyous time of year.  Shabbos is technically a day of oneg, not simcha.  On Y"T there is simcha, but beis din used to send out policemen to make sure things don't get out of hand.  The L. Rebbe notes that even on Purim itself, one has mitzvos ha'yom like mikra megillah that have to be taken seriously.  The only day when one can be immersed almost completely in joy, he says, is Purim katan.  This day is the pinnacle of simcha.  Take advantage!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

each piece in its proper place -- Netziv and Meshech Chochma on the Yerushalmi's issur to move beams from the north to the south side of the mishkan

The Yerushalmi (Shabbos 12:3) has a din that a board placed on the north side of the mishkan could not at some other point be used on the south side, because that would be a lowering of its kedusha.  Kodshei kodashim can be shechted only on the north side but not the south.

Netziv comments on the pasuk  וְיִֽהְי֣וּ תֹֽאֲמִם֮ מִלְּמַ֒טָּה֒ וְיַחְדָּ֗ו יִהְי֤וּ תַמִּים֙ עַל⁠־רֹאשׁ֔וֹ אֶל⁠־הַטַּבַּ֖עַת הָאֶחָ֑ת כֵּ֚ן יִהְיֶ֣ה לִשְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם לִשְׁנֵ֥י הַמִּקְצֹעֹ֖ת יִהְיֽוּ (26:24):

״יהיו״ מיותר, וכן במעשה (להלן לו,כט) כתיב ״כן עשה לשניהם לשני המקצועות״. אלא בא ללמדנו דשתי הטבעות כשרים יהיו לשני המקצועות, בלי דקדוק איזה כאן ואיזה כאן, ולא כמשפט הקרשים דאיתא בירושלמי הוריות פ״ג (סוף הלכה ה׳) מדכתיב ״והקמת את המשכן כמשפטו״ (פסוק ל׳) דקרש שזכה לצפון לא יעמוד בדרום, אבל לא כן משפט הטבעות. והטעם כמו שכתבתי, שלא באו הטבעות לכוון איזה ענין בעולם אלא לשמש הקרשים, על כן אין להם משפט [ומזה למדנו דכל תשמישי קדושה בבית הכנסת וכדומה, אין להם משפט הקרשים, ולא כמגן אברהם בסימן ח׳ (ס״ק ו׳) שכתב לענין טלית של מצוה. ואי אפשר ללמוד מקרשים אלא במעלות אנשים, כדאיתא בירושלמי שם, משום שכל איש יש לו משפט וזכות שהגיע למעלה זו]

According to Netziv, the Yerushalmi is speaking only about the beams, but not about the taba'ot.  He explains that the mishkan was a microcosm of the world at large, but that doesn't mean every thumbtack and nail had omni significant meaning.  It means in the larger sense, the main kelim had significance, and therefore their location and makeup was precise.  The same did not apply to the taba'ot.

A few pesukim earlier, commenting on the description of the adanim  וְאַרְבָּעִ֥ים אַדְנֵיהֶ֖ם כָּ֑סֶף שְׁנֵ֣י אֲדָנִ֗ים תַּ֚חַת הַקֶּ֣רֶשׁ הָֽאֶחָ֔ד וּשְׁנֵ֣י אֲדָנִ֔ים תַּ֖חַת הַקֶּ֥רֶשׁ הָאֶחָֽד (26:21) the Meshech Chochma quotes that same Yerushalmi:

וארבעים אדניהם כסף – יתכן דאמר בירושלמי שבת פי״ב דקרש שזכה להנתן בצפון כו׳, רואים אנו דצפון קדוש יותר מדרום ואדנים שהיו לצפון מוכרחים להיות בצפון, ואינם רשאים לשנותם לדרום משום דאין מורידין בקדש כדיליף מויקם המשכן ואת אדניו, אבל בדרום כתיב אדני כסף משום דרשאי לשנותן לצפון דמעלין בקדש ודו״ק.

M.C. applies the chiddush of the Yerushalmi not just to the boards, but to the adanim.  

Is there a machlokes here between the Netziv and M.C. as to the scope of the Yerushalmi, or would you distinguish between the adamin and taba'ot?

Friday, February 16, 2024

groundwork for geulah

Daas Zekeinim comments on the dimension of the mizbeiach:

ארכו כנגד הלוחות חמש דברות על לוח זה וחמש על לוח זה ושלש אמות קומתו כנגד שלשה גואלים שעמדו להן לישראל משה ואהרן ומרים.

In the weekly parsha sheet "Chashukei Chemed" based on the shiurim of R' Yitzchak Zilberstein, they ask where it is that we find that Miriam is a "go'el"[es].  Moshe took us out of Mitzrayim; Aharon spoke to Pharoah and had a hand in the makkos.  What did Miriam do?

R' Chaim Elazari beat R' Zilberstein to asking this kashe.  In his sefer Darkei Chaim he reminds us that when Amram separated from his wife in response to Pharoah's decree to drown the babies, it was Miriam who encouraged her father to change course and not give up hope.  Rashi in parshas Beshalach (15:20) tells us that Miriam had a prophecy before Moshe was born that her mother would give birth to the go'el.  Without Miriam, Moshe's message might have fallen on dead ears (as it was, Bn"Y were not very receptive to Moshe's message when in response, Pharoah tightened the reins.)  She laid the groundwork of belief in redemption that enabled her brothers to be successful.  She therefore gets equal credit for bringing geulah.

We ask Hashem in every tefilah ומביא גואל לבני בּניהם.  Yes, we want mashiach, we want full geulah.  But that is the final step in the process.  Before we are zocheh to the go'el who is a poor guy riding a donkey who will get lions and lambs to live in peace, we need the go'el who will get us to believe it can and will happen, who will lay the groundwork of hope, expectations, and belief.  

That go'el, I think, perhaps can be any one of us, or all of us together.  

Thursday, February 15, 2024

when is a kli not a kli

I saw a beautiful diyuk quoted in the name of R' Yechezel Abramsky:

וְנָתַתָּ֖ אֶל־הָאָרֹ֑ן אֵ֚ת הָעֵדֻ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶתֵּ֖ן אֵלֶֽיךָ (25:10) 

וְ וְנָתַתָּ֧ עַֽל־הַשֻּׁלְחָ֛ן לֶ֥חֶם פָּנִ֖ים לְפָנַ֥י תָּמִֽיד (25:30)

וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ אֶת־נֵרֹתֶ֖יהָ שִׁבְעָ֑ה וְהֶֽעֱלָה֙ אֶת⁠־נֵ֣רֹתֶ֔יהָ וְהֵאִ֖יר עַל־עֵ֥בֶר פָּנֶֽיהָ (25:37) 

The common denominator among these pesukim is that the mitzvah of making the particular kli contains a statement about what that particular kli is used for.  Yet if you look at the command to make a mizbeiach, there is no similar statement of purpose:

וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ אֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ עֲצֵ֣י שִׁטִּ֑ים חָמֵשׁ֩ אַמּ֨וֹת אֹ֜רֶךְ וְחָמֵ֧שׁ אַמּ֣וֹת רֹ֗חַב רָב֤וּעַ יִֽהְיֶה֙ הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ וְשָׁל֥שׁ אַמּ֖וֹת קֹֽמָתֽוֹ:

בוְעָשִׂ֣יתָ קַרְנֹתָ֗יו עַ֚ל אַרְבַּ֣ע פִּנֹּתָ֔יו מִמֶּ֖נּוּ תִּֽהְיֶ֣יןָ קַרְנֹתָ֑יו וְצִפִּיתָ֥ אֹת֖וֹ נְחֽשֶׁת:

גוְעָשִׂ֤יתָ סִּֽירֹתָיו֙ לְדַשְּׁנ֔וֹ וְיָעָיו֙ וּמִזְרְקֹתָ֔יו וּמִזְלְגֹתָ֖יו וּמַחְתֹּתָ֑יו לְכָל־כֵּלָ֖יו תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה נְחֽשֶׁת:

דוְעָשִׂ֤יתָ לּוֹ֙ מִכְבָּ֔ר מַֽעֲשֵׂ֖ה רֶ֣שֶׁת נְח֑שֶׁת וְעָשִׂ֣יתָ עַל־הָרֶ֗שֶׁת אַרְבַּע֙ טַבְּעֹ֣ת נְח֔שֶׁת עַ֖ל אַרְבַּ֥ע קְצוֹתָֽיו:

הוְנָֽתַתָּ֣ה אֹתָ֗הּ תַּ֛חַת כַּרְכֹּ֥ב הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ מִלְּמָ֑טָּה וְהָֽיְתָ֣ה הָרֶ֔שֶׁת עַ֖ד חֲצִ֥י הַמִּזְבֵּֽחַ:

ווְעָשִׂ֤יתָ בַדִּים֙ לַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ בַּדֵּ֖י עֲצֵ֣י שִׁטִּ֑ים וְצִפִּיתָ֥ אֹתָ֖ם נְחֽשֶׁת:

זוְהוּבָ֥א אֶת־בַּדָּ֖יו בַּטַּבָּעֹ֑ת וְהָי֣וּ הַבַּדִּ֗ים עַל־שְׁתֵּ֛י צַלְעֹ֥ת הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ בִּשְׂאֵ֥ת אֹתֽוֹ:

חנְב֥וּב לֻחֹ֖ת תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה אֹת֑וֹ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר הֶרְאָ֥ה אֹֽתְךָ֛ בָּהָ֖ר כֵּ֥ן יַֽעֲשֽׂוּ:

We are told how to make a mizbeiach, but not what to do with it.  Why the difference?

Brisker affiliated achronim develop the idea that there are two dinim in construction of the kelim: 1) klei ha'mikdash as utensils; 2) klei ha'mikdash as part of the tzuras ha'bayis, as part of the architecture of the mikdash building.  

That could be the difference between the mizbeiach and the other items on the list. When it comes to the menorah, the shulchan, etc., the Torah defines the kli based on its function.  It's a utensil, and a utensil is defined by what it's used for.  However, the mizbeiach is not a utensil.  It's not defined by function because it's part of the building.  

Rashi comments on  כְּכֹ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֤ר אֲנִי֙ מַרְאֶ֣ה אוֹתְךָ֔ (25:9) that

 אם יאבד אחד מן הכלים, או כשתעשו כלי בית עולמים, כגון: שולחנות ומנורות וכיורות ומכונות שעשה שלמה, בתבנית אילו תעשו אותם.  

If a kli needs to be replaced, or in the future, when a beis ha'mikdash will be built and will need kelim, the instructions remain the same as given in our parsha.  There cannot be any deviation from the template.

Ramban on the spot jumps on this assertion and wonders how it can be true.  We know the size of the mizbeiach in the beis ha'mikdash did not match the size of the mizbeiach in the mishkan, and so there was a deviation from the template!

 ולא ידעתי שיהיה זה אמת שיתחייב שלמה לעשות כלי בית עולמים בתבנית אלו, ומזבח הנחשת עשאו שלמה עשרים אמה ארך ועשרים רחב 

Ohr haChaim defends Rashi and suggests לפי דעתי אין דברי הרב נראים כי מה שכתב כי וכן תעשו לדורות לא באה אלא על תכונת הבנין ולא על שיעורו that the details of the measurements of the kelim are not part of the template that has to be preserved.  Mizrachi suggests that what is important in making kelim is to preserve the relative measurements, i.e. the mizbeiach made by Moshe was 5x5 amos, so Shlomo could make a 20x20 mizbeiach, preserving the ratio between the sides.  See Gur Aryeh who addresses this question as well.

In their robust defense of Rashi, none of these meforshim note that if you look at the list of kelim Rashi mentions -- כגון: שולחנות ומנורות וכיורות ומכונות -- the mizbeiach is not on the list.  Rashi deliberately left it out because the mizbeiach is not a kli like all other kelim, but is part of the tzurah of the building.  

The dimensions of the mikdash building that Shlomo made were far greater than the dimensions of the mishkan made by Moshe.  TAs part and parcel of the building, the mizbeiach could therefore also change in dimensions from the size made by Moshe.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

a common sense truth that educators ignore

Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality by Charles Murray is a very short book that is built around 4 premises that should be common sense, but alas, we live in a society run by progressive lunatics, so there is no such thing.  The book is 15 years old, and in hindsight, Murray was far too optimistic back then in thinking that things might change.  Anyway, I wanted to highlight one of the four ideas he discusses because it is relevant to yeshiva education.  The idea is simple: half the school population will be, by definition, below average.  Common sense, right?  If there is an average student in the middle, then by definition, half of the population falls below that average, and half above.  

Murray writes (pp 44-45):

...Children in the lower half of the distribution are just not smart enough to read or calculate at a level of fluency that most of the rest of us take for granted.  Children still lower in the distribution of linguistic and logical-mathematical ability -- the bottom third of the distribution is a rough demarcation of the group I am talking about -- are just not smart enough to become literate or numerate in more than a rudimentary sense.

Just not smart enough [italics in the original].  It is a phrase that we all use in conversation, we all know what it means, and it has to be made available once again to discussions about educational policy.  Some children are just not smart enough to success on a conventional academic track.  Recognition of this truth does not mean callousness or indifference.  It does not mean spending less effort on the education of some children than of others.  But it does mean that we must jettison glib rhetoric that makes us feel good..."

Think about a regular classroom of 5th of 6th graders being introduced of gemara.  Is it any wonder that not all of them are up to the task?  Think about high school kids expected to learn b'chavrusa for multiple hours a day and then listen to a Rebbe say over a complex hesber based on abstract ideas.  Is it any wonder that at least half the shiur is lost?  Yet the majority will continue through the system, onto beis medrash, kollel, etc.  We have turned what should be a path for the elite into a path for the masses who walk the walk, talk the talk, but I fear cannot really "think the thoughts." 

Just something to think about.

Friday, February 09, 2024

undermining Israel, as usual

From Scott Johnson over at the

President Biden has made a show of support, Biden style. His express support has turned to ambivalence at best and hostility at worst in leaks and statements that falsely defame Israel...

Yesterday in Israel Blinken hit a new low. The Times of Israel refers to Blinken’s statement as caustic, which doesn’t quite capture its base quality: “Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on October 7,” he said. “The hostages have been dehumanized every day since. But that cannot be a license to dehumanize others.” Again, the implication is to the contrary.

Blinken reeks of weakness, of cowardice, of betrayal...

In NY you have many people, including misguided Jews, unfortunately supporting Tom Suozzi over Mimi Pilip thinking that he is a "moderate" Democrat who supports Israel and will compromise and work in a bipartisan fashion.  I have no doubt that Suozzi, if G-d forbid elected, will follow the same marching orders as all the other D's, and the fools who put him in office will act shocked and surprised when the inevitable happens.  

Thursday, February 08, 2024

when was naaseh v'nishna said?

According to Rashi, the events described in ch 24 of our parsha took place before mattan Torah: פרשה זו קודם עשרת הדברות.  The inevitable conclusion one must draw is, as Gur Aryeh writes, ויהיו לפי זה הפרשיות שלא כסדר.  The Torah here hits the rewind button and brings us chronologically back to the middle of parshas Yisro.  As Rashi reads the events of the perek, on 4 Sivan Moshe gave Bn"Y the mitzvos of perisha and hagbala and told them to prepare for mattan Torah, and Bn"Y responded (24:3) כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ה׳ נַעֲשֶֽׂה׃.  Next day Moshe wrote out the parshiyos of Torah.  On 6 Sivan he read what he had written to Bn"Y, and this time around Bn"Y responded with the famous line that we all know  וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥רה׳ נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע׃ (24:7)   

Ramban on the spot disagrees and writes that these events took place only after mattan Torah.  There are two things to be gained by taking this approach.  1) The order of the text does not deviate from the chronological order of events -- we don't have to rewind to anywhere.  2) The answer to Tos question of why Hashem had to hold Mt Sinai over the people and threaten to crush them if they did not accept the Torah when the people had already declared נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע is simple -- נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע was said only after kabbalas haTorah, not beforehand.  

That being said, the glaring issue with Ramban, which he raises himself at the very end of his comment, is that Chazal present נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע as a great statement of faith on the part of Bn"Y in that the people accepted Torah sight unseen, details unknown.  This has so seeped into our consciousness as part of our mesorah that to disregard it seems almost impossible.  How then do you square the pshat reading advanced by Ramban that  נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע was said only after mattan Torah with this mesorah?  I don't have a good answer and I don't understand how Ramban squares the issue away.   

Turning back to Rashi's reading, there were two responses by Bn"Y before mattan Torah.  On 4 Sivan the response was only נַעֲשֶֽׂה; two days later the response was נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע.  Why the change?  Why didn't Bn"Y respond with נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע the first time around?  What changed?

Shem m'Shmuel answers that there has to first be a kabbalah of plain vanilla נַעֲשֶֽׂה, even without understanding, no questions asked.  Once a person is prepared to accept things on that level, then they are capable of נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע, of aspiring to understand.  

(Chasam Sofer has a chiddush gadol on the gemara's statement (Shabbos 88):

 רבי אלעזר בשעה שהקדימו ישראל נעשה לנשמע יצתה בת קול ואמרה להן מי גילה לבני רז זה שמלאכי השרת משתמשין בו דכתיב ברכו ה' מלאכיו גבורי כח עושי דברו לשמוע בקול דברו ברישא עושי והדר לשמוע

He writes that davka malachim need נַעֲשֶֽׂה to be able to come to נִשְׁמָֽע.  Bn"Y, however, are banim laMakom.  For us, we don't need any preparation or precondition, not like the Sm"S.  The gemara means the opposite of how we usually read it.  It is not complimenting us that we achieved what only angels could achieve.  Aderaba, מי גילה לבני, why are those who are  בני behaving in a way that is appropriate for angels, who are on a lower level!)

Perhaps one can say that on 4 Sivan there was not yet a text of Torah, and therefore, there could be no aspiration for נִשְׁמָֽע.  The thought that a human being can understand G-d or connect with G-d is on its face almost sacrilegious.  How can you dream that your mind can comprehend even one iota of dvar Hashem?  It's only by virture of Torah that we have a means to do so, as the Baal HaTanya explains in ch 4:

וְאַף דְּהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא נִקְרָא "אֵין סוֹף", וְלִגְדוּלָּתוֹ אֵין חֵקֶר, וְלֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה תְּפִיסָא בֵיהּ כְּלָל,

וְכֵן בִּרְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ,

כְּדִכְתִיב: "אֵין חֵקֶר לִתְבוּנָתוֹ",

וּכְתִיב: "הַחֵקֶר אֱלוֹהַּ תִּמְצָא", וּכְתִיב: "כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם".

הִנֵּה עַל זֶה אָמְרוּ: "בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאַתָּה מוֹצֵא גְּדוּלָּתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שָׁם אַתָּה מוֹצֵא עַנְוְתָנוּתוֹ",

וְצִמְצֵם הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא רְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ בְּתַרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה וּבְהִלְכוֹתֵיהֶן,

וּבְצֵרוּפֵי אוֹתִיּוֹת תּוֹרָה־נְבִיאִים־כְּתוּבִים,

וּדְרָשׁוֹתֵיהֶן שֶׁבְּאַגָּדוֹת וּמִדְרְשֵׁי חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה.

בִּכְדֵי שֶׁכָּל הַנְּשָׁמָה אוֹ רוּחַ וָנֶפֶשׁ שֶׁבְּגוּף הָאָדָם, תּוּכַל לְהַשִּׂיגָן בְּדַעְתָּהּ,

וּלְקַיְּימָן – כָּל מַה שֶּׁאֶפְשָׁר לְקַיֵּים מֵהֶן בְּמַעֲשֶׂה דִּבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה,

After Moshe had written down a text and there existed a cheftza shel Torah which Hashem's chochma was miraculously connected to, we then had the means to think about נִשְׁמָֽע.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

dor holech v'dor ba

The past few days I have felt a bit torn between different emotions. Today is my father's yahrzeit, and l'havdil being ha'meisim v'hachaim, last Friday my daughter had a baby boy, our first grandson (and just to be clear: had it been another granddaughter, I would be just as happy).  You feel a sort of whiplash going from mi'shebeirach for bito ha'yoledes to K-l malei for a parent.  

 וַיִּסְע֣וּ מֵרְפִידִ֗ים וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ מִדְבַּ֣ר סִינַ֔י וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר (19:2)

There seems to be a redundancy in the pasuk. We are told  וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר, that Bn"Y camped in the desert, but then the pasuk repeats, וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר, that Bn"Y camped near the mountain.  Both statements could have compacted into one phrase וַיִּֽחַן or וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ and then say בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר נגד ההר (see Netziv).  Why split the sentence in two?

Sefas Emes (in the Likutim) answers that the pasuk is referring to two different things.  וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר refers to the physical encampment of Bn"Y. וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל refers to "ישׂראל סבּא." Yaakov Avinu, the Avos, our forefathers, also joined us at Sinai.

Chazal tell us that the souls of all future generations were present at Sinai.  The Sefas Emes is telling us that the souls of those who came before us were there as well.  We cannot have a future unless we also connect to our past.

R' Meir Lichtenstein (R' Aharon's son) quotes the Rav as pointing out the gemara in Kid (30a) 

אמר ריב"ל כל המלמד את בן בנו תורה מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו קבלה מהר סיני שנאמר והודעתם לבניך ולבני בניך וסמיך ליה יום אשר עמדת לפני ה' אלהיך בחורב

tells us that teaching a grandchild Torah carries with it a special bracha of being like the experience of Sinai.  This applies davka to a grandson -- המלמד את בן בנו -- but apparently not to teaching one's son.

However, the Rambam in Hil Talmud Torah (1:2) writes that if one is forced to choose between educating one's child or one's grandchild, one's own child takes precedence:

אם כן למה נצטוה על בנו ועל בן בנו. להקדים בנו לבן בנו ובן בנו לבן חבירו:

So which is more important: teaching one's son or teaching one's grandson?

The Rav answered that there are two dinim in talmud Torah.  In terms of imparting information, teaching one's own child takes precedence over teaching anyone else, even a grandson.  The gemara in Kiddushin is speaking about something else.  The experience of Sinai was not just about learning laws, digesting information.  The experience was about creating a masorah so that Torah connects generation to generation.  It's when you go beyond the natural parent-child connection and add another generation into the mix, a grandparent to grandchild bond, that that idea expresses itself. 

Thursday, February 01, 2024

mesirus nefesh for mitzvos aseh; no place to run to; kabbalas haTorah possible only if one is a baal chessed

Ramban quotes a Mechilta on the pasuk  וְעֹ֥֤שֶׂה חֶ֖֙סֶד֙ לַאֲלָפִ֑֔ים לְאֹהֲבַ֖י וּלְשֹׁמְרֵ֥י מִצְוֺתָֽי (20:4) saying:

רבי נתן אומר: לאוהבי ולשומרי מצותי – אלו שהן יושבין בארץ ישראל ונותנין נפשם על המצות. מה לך יוצא ליהרג, על שמלתי את בני. מה לך יוצא לישרף, על שקראתי בתורה. מה לך יוצא ליצלב, על שאכלתי את המצה. מה לך לוקה מאפרגל, על שנטלתי את הלולב. ואומר: אשר הוכיתי בית מאהבי (זכריה י״ג:ו׳) – המכות האלו גרמו לי לאהב לאבי שבשמים

A) A point l'halacha: the Mechilta seems to contradict the view of Rama (YD 157) who holds that the chiyuv of mesirus nefesh only applies when a person is being forced to violate a lav, not when a person is being prevented from being mekayeim an aseh.  The examples of the Mechilta -- milah, lulav, matzah, talmud Torah -- are all examples of mitzvos aseh (see Netziv in Haamek She'ilah 42:2).

B) A point l'machshava: why does the Mechilta focus only on those in Eretz Yisrael?  Were there no coercive decrees in chutz l'aretz?  (See Netziv in Haamek Davar)

R' Tzuriel in Derishat Tzion quotes the MG"A in Zayis Raanan who answers that the proper response to a decree is to run away.  If they don't let you run yeshivos the way you want in NY, or if you can't wear your kipa on a college campus in NY, then move to Florida! Why remain in harms way if you don't have to?  The residents of Eretz Yisrael, however, refuse to listen to that message.  How can you run away and abandon the daily kiyum mitzvah of yeshivat ha'aretz, something you can get no where else in the world? They residents of E"Y would rather stay and face the persecution than abandon the Land.  That's why davka they are called אֹהֲבַ֖י.  

Chazal tell us that there are 4 people who had letters added to their name.  Yeser had a vav added, and so we have our parsha of Yisro.  Avraham had a hey added, Sarah had a hey added, and Yehoshua had a yud added to the beginning of his name.  R' Noson Gestetner points out that the 4 added letters spell out the shem Havaya.  That's not by coincidence.  Avraham and Sarah brought monotheism to the world and caused a great kavod shamayim, revealing Havaya to the world.  Yisro sought out Hashem, abandoning all other avodah zarah.  This too increased the revelation of Havaya to the world at large.  Just as introducing monotheism and abandoning avodah zarah caused a greater revelation of the shem Havaya, so too did the conquest of Eretz Yisrael by Klal Yisrael and Yehoshua.  There is a connection between love for the Land, and אֹהֲבַ֖י, love of Hashem.    

2) The Midrash (Mechilta) tell us that Moshe tried to convince Yisro to stay on, but Yisro insisted on leaving.  Yisro said:

 אָמַר לוֹ כְּלוּם הַנֵּר מְהַנֶּה אֶלָּא בִּמְקוֹם הַחֹשֶׁךְ, וְכִי מַה הַנֵּר מְהַנֶּה בֵּין חַמָּה לִלְבָנָה, אַתְּ חַמָּה וְאַהֲרֹן לְבָנָה, מַה יַּעֲשֶׂה הַנֵּר בֵּין חַמָּה לִלְבָנָה, אֶלָּא הַרֵינִי הוֹלֵךְ לְאַרְצִי וּמְגַיֵּר כָּל בְּנֵי מְדִינָתִי וַאֲבִיאֵם לְתַלְמוּד וַאֲקָרְבֵם תַּחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה.

Yisro had the opportunity to be close to and learn from the gedolei ha'dor, from Moshe and Aharon.  Imagine a bachur accepted to the most elite yeshiva in the world and offered an opportunity to learn b'chavrusa with the Rosh Yeshiva.  Who would turn down such a chance?  

What we see from this Chazal (see R' Shteinman's comment in Ayeles haShachar) is that being a mekabeil is not enough to satisfy a person.  A person has a built in need to be a mashpia and give to others as well.  Had Yisro stayed where he was, he could absorb an enormous amount from Moshe and Aharon, from his environment, but he felt he would have nothing to contribute.  To have a chavrusa with the Rosh Yeshiva sounds like a great thing, but if a person just sits passively and listens to the R"Y's chiddushim all day with nothing of his own to add, he will not grow or be satisfied.  He would be better served by learning with a peer with whom he can exchange ideas.  Yisro needed to return home where he would have the opportunity to use his talents to influence others or he would never achieve fulfillment and purpose.

The Midrash (28:1) writes that when Moshe went upstairs to get the Torah, the malachim gave him a hard time:

בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה בִּקְּשׁוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת לִפְגֹעַ בְּמשֶׁה, עָשָׂה בּוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא קְלַסְטֵירִין שֶׁל פָּנָיו שֶׁל משֶׁה דּוֹמֶה לְאַבְרָהָם, אָמַר לָהֶם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אִי אַתֶּם מִתְבַּיְשִׁין הֵימֶנּוּ לֹא זֶהוּ שֶׁיְּרַדְתֶּם אֶצְלוֹ וַאֲכַלְתֶּם בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה לֹא נִתְּנָה לְךָ תּוֹרָה אֶלָּא בִּזְכוּת אַבְרָהָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: לָקַחְתָּ מַתָּנוֹת בָּאָדָם, וְאֵין אָדָם הָאָמוּר כָּאן אֶלָּא אַבְרָהָם

Hashem's response was to make Moshe look like Avraham, who had served food to the angels when they came to visit.  It would not be right to repay Avraham's hospitality by complaining about his descendants.

R' Shteinman explains that the way to be zocheh to Torah is through chessed.  Avraham's personified chessed, and Moshe reflected the same values.  That's the proof that humans are worthy of receiving the Torah.

I think this connects to the previous point.  To be mashpia on others is to do chessed.  If a person is only a mekabeil, only on the receiving end, and does nothing to better others, there is a lack of chessed.  Yisro realized that if he cannot contribute where he is, then even under the direct tutelage of Moshe and Aharon, he would not be zocheh to Torah because he would lack the necessary ingredient of being a baal chessed and contributing to others learning and development.