Sunday, March 31, 2024

The President's War Against the Jews (and against morality)

I usually don't post on weekends, but I am stuck in front of the computer taking care of some work related things today. Tablet Magazine has a wonderful article entitled The President's War Against the Jews well worth your attention. The punchline:
Biden owns this war imposed on Israel. The president inherited a Middle East marked by a bankrupt Iran and amicable relations between Israel and Arab countries with more in the works, thanks to President Trump’s historic Abraham Accords. Biden reversed course, enriched Tehran, funded terrorists and destabilized the Middle East—setting the stage for Oct. 7.

Biden shows no sign of reversing even one of his deadly failures. Instead of taking responsibility for his policy mistakes, he blames Israel for not going further and providing Iran with a launching pad on its border by establishing a Palestinian state. Perversely, the attacks of Oct. 7 have only led Biden to kick his effort to establish a Palestinian state into high gear.
Perfectly put.  I would only add that while the buck stops with Biden, he would not be in a position to do the harm he has done if not for those who voted for him, including, sadly, people in our own community.  One can only hope that they will not make the same terrible mistake a second time this November.

Meanwhile, at my workplace today the internal bulletin board reminds me that we are celebrating Transgender Visibility Day, as well as National Indigenous Languages Day.  No mention of any other meaning for the day.  Now, you may think who cares?  What does it have to do with us?  But it does have to do with us.  It does make a difference whether the community around us celebrates religion, even the wrong one, or celebrates the perversion of gender.  One of these two is supported by the President and Democrat party; one is not.  

Friday, March 29, 2024

sheves achim gam yachad

  ת"ר כשמן הטוב היורד על הראש וגו' כמין שתי טיפין מרגליות היו תלויות לאהרן בזקנו אמר רב כהנא תנא כשהוא מספר עולות ויושבות בעיקרי זקנו ועל דבר זה היה משה רבינו דואג שמא חס ושלום מעלתי בשמן המשחה יצתה בת קול ואמרה כטל חרמון שיורד על הררי ציון מה טל אין בו מעילה אף שמן שיורד על זקן אהרן אין בו מעילה ועדיין אהרן היה דואג שמא משה לא מעל ואני מעלתי יצתה בת קול ואמרה לו הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד מה משה לא מעל אף אתה לא מעלת

Why was Moshe worried about the issue me'ila when he had no benefit from the shem ha'mishcha?  Rabeinu Gershom on the daf explains שמא מעלתי לפי שהזקן לא נצטוה למשוח והיה רואה בו ב׳ טיפין מן הראש ירדו לזקן:.  R' Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, however, quotes the comment of the Shita MeKubetzet on the same sugya and uses that to answer the question.  The full text of the chapter of Teh (133) the gemara is quoting is as follows:

שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּֽעֲל֗וֹת לְדָ֫וִ֥ד הִנֵּ֣ה מַה־טּ֖וֹב וּמַה־נָּעִ֑ים שֶׁ֖בֶת אַחִ֣ים גַּם־יָֽחַד:

כַּשֶּׁ֚מֶן הַטּ֨וֹב | עַל־הָרֹ֗אשׁ יֹרֵ֗ד עַל־הַזָּ֫קָ֥ן זְקַ֥ן אַֽהֲרֹ֑ן שֶׁ֜יֹּרֵ֗ד עַל־פִּ֥י מִדּוֹתָֽיו:

כְּטַ֥ל חֶרְמ֗וֹן שֶׁיֹּרֵד֘ עַל־הַרְרֵ֪י צִ֫יּ֥וֹן כִּ֚י שָׁ֨ם | צִוָּ֣ה ה׳ אֶת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה חַ֜יִּ֗ים עַד־הָֽעוֹלָֽם:

Why does the word זְקַֽן appear twice in the second pasuk?  The Shita answers that when the shemen ha'mishcha was placed on Aharon's beard, Moshe felt as if it was on his own beard.  That's מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד.  Moshe felt such pleasure from seeing his brother become kohen gadol, it was as if he gufa was standing in Aharon's shoes.  M'meila, if it was as if Moshe was annointing himself as well as his brother, then b'shmala annointing Aharon, that was the mitzvah, but there was no mitzvah for Moshe himself to be annointed.  Was that hanaah that Moshe himself got an issur me'ila?

Putting aside the issue me'ila issue, the takeaway thought here is that when you are singing אחינו כּל בּית ישׂראל, do you really feel like you are in your brothers' shoes?  That his/her experience is your experience, that you vicariously share in everything?  That was the level of Moshe Rabeinu's  הִנֵּ֣ה מַה־טּ֖וֹב וּמַה־נָּעִ֑ים שֶׁ֖בֶת אַחִ֣ים גַּם־יָֽחַד.  That is what we should aspire to.

R' Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi goes on to discuss why it is that Aharon became concerned for the issue me'ila only after the bas kol responded to Moshe.  M'mah nafshach: if there was something to be concerned about, he should have been concernde from the get-go, and if the bas kol revealed there was nothing for Moshe to be concerned about, then why Aharon troubled?  Take a look.

The punchline of why there is no me'ila is מה טל אין בו מעילה אף שמן שיורד על זקן אהרן אין בו מעילה.  The shemen ha'mishcha is compared to tal, and tal is not subject to any issur me'ila. 

R' Shimon Sofer asks: Why does the gemara compare the shemen davka to tal?  Why not some other liquid?

The gemara (Taanis 4) writes that Bn"Y asked Hashem to be like rain:

אָמַר רַבִּי בֶּרֶכְיָה אַף כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל שָׁאֲלָה שֶׁלֹּא כַּהוֹגֶן וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הֱשִׁיבָהּ כַּהוֹגֶן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר {הושע ו׳:ג׳} וְנֵדְעָה נִרְדְּפָה לָדַעַת אֶת ה׳ כְּשַׁחַר נָכוֹן מוֹצָאוֹ וְיָבוֹא כַגֶּשֶׁם לָנוּ.

To which Hashem responded that their request was wrong.  Rain is not always a blessing.  Rain does not always fall.  They instead should have asked for Him to be like dew, which always is there, and is always a blessing.  Our request was not formulated properly, but Hashem responded anyway and blessed us that he would be like dew:

אָמַר לָהּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בִּתִּי אַתְּ שׁוֹאֶלֶת דָּבָר שֶׁפְּעָמִים מִתְבַּקֵּשׁ וּפְעָמִים אֵינוֹ מִתְבַּקֵּשׁ אֲבָל אֲנִי אֶהְיֶה לָךְ דָּבָר הַמִּתְבַּקֵּשׁ לְעוֹלָם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר {הושע י״ד:ו׳} אֶהְיֶה כַטַּל לְיִשְׂרָאֵל.

Shem m'Shmuel (Pesach 5772) explains the difference between rain and dew as follows:

כי גשם פעמים מתבקש פעמים אינו מתבקש, פי' דגשם הוא השפעה הבאה לעומת המעשים לטוב או למוטב וכשח"ו אין מעשים טובים מה גם להיפוך יכולה ח"ו לבוא השפעה להיפוך, וכעין גשם המבול, אבל בבחי' טל הוא לטובה לבד, ובא אף בלא אתעדל"ת, רק אם הוא כלי מוכשר לקבל,

Rain is something you ask for.  When you make a request, you don't always deserve to get what you ask for.  You don't always realize the right thing to ask for.  Dew is something that is there whether you ask for it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you deserve it or not.

Aharon was concerned lest his acceptance of the kehuna be tainted by the desire for pesonal aggrandizement, for his own enjoyment of the position, for the honor.  Accepting the position on those terms would be an issur me'ila, taking advantage of hekdesh for personal gain.

Hashem responded that He knows this is not somethign Aharon would ever ask for.  It's not like the rain -- פעמים מתבקש.  Rather, the position is like the dew.  Aharon's acceptance was not because he wanted the position and not even because he thought he deserved or earned the position, but simply because it was the ratzon Hashem.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

how will we know what to do? reviving lost mesorah; issurei achila -- issur gavra vs issur cheftza

1) One of the things I like about R' Shteinman's torah is that his questions/answers are not far-flung lomdus, but are, dare I say it, rooted in common sense.  On this week's parsha he quotes the Chofetz Chaim's charge to learn kodshim so that once geulah comes b'karov gedolei yisrael will be able to pasken on issues relating to the mikdash and kodshim.  R' Shteinman asks: how are these gedolim supposed to figure out what to do?  He quotes that the Ponivicher Rav dealt with this very question and responded that he will just follow the Chofetz Chaim's lead.  That just kicks the can down the road.  How is the Chofetz Chaim supposed to figure out how to pasken?  And if you say that we will have a techiyas ha'mesim and can just ask Moshe or Aharon, then why bother learning kodshim to try to figure everything out?  We can just ask Moshe and Aharon?  

I've had a similar thought since I began wearing techeiles.  When you order techeiles from the Ptil Tekhelet site they give you a whole menu of options to choose from as to which shita to follow in tying the tzitzis.  How do you know what to choose?  Any mesorah as to what to do has been lost for at least 1200 years or so!  We are halachically flying blind.  And that is assuming you even want to wear techeiles, which a large segment of the Jewish world, for one reason or other, has yet to be convinced to start doing.  Imagine we somehow finally fulfill the mitzvah of binyan beis ha'mikdash in our times.  Any mesorah as to what to do has been lost for even longer than the mesorah of techeiles.  Already in Mishnayos (Midot 2:5) we have Tanaim saying about lishkos of the azarah אָמַר רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן יַעֲקֹב: שָׁכַחְתִּי מֶה הָיְתָה מְשַׁמֶּשֶׁת that they forgot what the space was used for.  How are we supposed to know?

2) While on the topic of R' Shteinman's torah, here is another interesting question he raises:

 וּכְלִי־חֶ֛רֶשׂ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּבֻשַּׁל⁠־בּ֖וֹ יִשָּׁבֵ֑ר וְאִם⁠־בִּכְלִ֤י נְחֹ֙שֶׁת֙ בֻּשָּׁ֔לָה וּמֹרַ֥ק וְשֻׁטַּ֖ף בַּמָּֽיִם (6:21) 

Is this a mitzvah or a matir?  Meaning, what if you want to just throw the utensils in the garbage?  Is there an obligation of מֹרַ֥ק וְשֻׁטַּ֖ף בַּמָּֽיִם or is it just a matir if you want to use the kli? 

Another interesting one: Off the cuff I would have assumed that when you have a lav ha'nitak l'aseh, the aseh has to be done by the person who violated the lav in order to give him a ptur from malkos.  You see from our parsha that is not true   The gemara writes that there are no malkos for the issur nosar because it is a lav ha'nitak l'aseh, but it sounds like the mitzvah of burning nosar (6:17) can be done by anyone.  

And if you like a Brisker style chakira, R' Shteinman occasionally throws those out there too: The gemara (Zev 87) raises the question of whether something hung in the airspace above the mizbeiach counts as being on the mizbeiach itself or not.  Yesh lachkor whether the gemara means the airspace is the makom mizbeiach, or whether it's not the makom mizbeich, but it has the din of makom mizbeiach.  

I could go on all day quoting interesting points from the Ayeles haShachar, but I don't have all day so תן לחכם ויחכּם עוד.  That was just to whet the appetite.  Maybe I should do something like that every week.

3) וְהַנּוֹתֶ֣רֶת מִמֶּ֔נָּה יֹאכְל֖וּ אַהֲרֹ֣ן וּבָנָ֑יו מַצּ֤וֹת תֵּֽאָכֵל֙ בְּמָק֣וֹם קָדֹ֔שׁ בַּחֲצַ֥ר אֹֽהֶל־מוֹעֵ֖ד יֹאכְלֽוּהָ

Based on the language of the pasuk the Malbim makes what sounds like a Brisker chiluk .  He writes that when the Torah uses the term אוכל, it is referring to the gavra, but תֵּֽאָכֵל֙, passive voice, nifal, refers to the cheftza, the item being eaten.  Nafka minah: whether or not you need to eat a shiur.  When the object is being referred to, the shiur is any amount; when it is the person eating being referred to, then אין אכילה פּותה מכּזית (see Beis haLevi quoted in this post.)

 יש הבדל בין פעל ׳אכל׳ בקל ובין הנפעל. שפעל ׳אכל׳ בקל מוסב על האדם האוכל ולא יקרא אוכל אלא בכזית; שפחות מזה נקרא ׳טועם׳ – ״כי טעמתי מעט דבש״ (שמואל א י״ד). וכמ״ש בספרא לקמן [(פרשה י מ״י) (אחרי מות פרק יב מ״ב) (אמור פרק ד מט״ז) (אמור פרק ו מ״ג) ובפסחים (דף לב.)] ״סתם אכילה בכזית״. אבל הנפעל מוסב על הדבר, ואף אם נאכל כל שהוא – הגם שלא יקרא ׳אכילה׳ מצד האוכל שלא אכל רק טעם – מכל מקום הדבר ׳נאכל׳ ואיננו. וזהו שאמר בספרא שלכן שינה ואמר ״מצות יֵאכל״ בנפעל ולא תפס הלשון שדבר בו עד עתה – ״יאכלו אהרן״ ״יאכלוהו״; והיה לו לומר ״מצות יֹאכלו״. ללמד שאף שלא נשאר רק מקצתה - בכל זאת תאכל.

With this he explains the Rambam (Cu"m 1:7) who writes that the shiur of the issur achilas chameitz is a kol she'hu:

האוכל מן החמץ עצמו בפסח כל שהוא הרי זה אסור מן התורה שנאמר לא יאכל

The Kesef Mishna asks two questions, the second of which is . ועוד קשה דאי מקרא איפכא ה"ל למילף מיניה דלא יאכל שיעור אכילה משמע וצ"ע. It uses the word achila, so how can the Rambam say you are chayav on less than a k'zayis?  Answers the Malbim: because it is nifal, passive voice, a din in the cheftza, not the gavra, so there is no shiur.

The problem is if this is correct, then the same chiddush should apply to other issurim as well written in lashon nifal:

וְכִֽי־יִגַּ֨ח שׁ֥וֹר אֶת־אִ֛ישׁ א֥וֹ אֶת־אִשָּׁ֖ה וָמֵ֑ת סָק֨וֹל יִסָּקֵ֜ל הַשּׁ֗וֹר וְלֹ֤א יֵאָכֵל֙ אֶת־בְּשָׂר֔וֹ וּבַ֥עַל הַשּׁ֖וֹר נָקִֽי׃ (Shmos 21:28)

 וְכָל-הַשֶּׁרֶץ, הַשֹּׁרֵץ עַל-הָאָרֶץ--שֶׁקֶץ הוּא, לֹא יֵאָכֵל (Vayikra 11:41)

Is there an issur for eating less than a k'zayis of shor ha'niskal, or of a sheretz?!

Ohr Sameiach explains that the Rambam's chiddush may be unique to chametz based on the context of the pasuk:

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־הָעָ֗ם זָכ֞וֹר אֶת־הַיּ֤וֹם הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְצָאתֶ֤ם מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם֙ מִבֵּ֣ית עֲבָדִ֔ים כִּ֚י בְּחֹ֣זֶק יָ֔ד הוֹצִ֧יאה׳ אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִזֶּ֑ה וְלֹ֥א יֵאָכֵ֖ל חָמֵֽץ׃ (Shmos 13:3)

The pasuk is talking about Pesach Mitzryaim, not Pesach as celebrated for future generations.  At the time of that Pesach, we had not undergone the geirus of mattan Torah and in effect, were still bnei Noach.  Rambam says in Hil Melachim that there is no concept of shiurim for a ben Noach (see this post); therefore, the issur chametz would be violated even on a kol she'hu.  Once the issur was established, it carried over the Pesach doros in the same way.    

Sunday, March 24, 2024

the original 180; shlichus on a mitzvah she'bgufo

1) My wife pointed out that the seudah of Achashveirosh was 180 days.  ונהפּוך הוא!  We needed to correct that to earn the holiday of Purim.  This may be the first instance of a 180 turnabout.

2) Likutei Sichos of the L Rebbe vol 21 page 492:

Pretty amazing chiddush -- if you can't fulfill drinking ad d'lo yada yourself, you can have a shliach do it on your behalf and sit back and watch them get drunk.  You don't get a full kiyum, but the Rebbe says it is better than nothing.

How does that work?  Drinking is a מצוה שׁבּגופו, and you can't fulfill a מצוה שׁבּגופו through shlichus?  (The classic example is putting on tefillin -- you can't appoint a shliach to put on tefillin for you; they have to be placed on your own arm.)

My wife's cousin, R' Akiva Wagner a"h, has a hesber that hinges on two points:

a) You can have a partial kiyum ha'mitzvah.  For example, as we've discussed before, even though the shiur for mitzvos achila is a k'zayis, if you don't have the full shiur available there you may still get some credit for doing achila on a chatzi shiur.

b) Yesh lachkor: when we say you cannot fulfill a מצוה שׁבּגופו through shlichus, does that mean the shlichus is invalid, or does it mean the shliach is your shliach, i.e. the shlichus works, but the shlichus cannot result in a kiyum ha'mitzvah.

If you accept the second side of the chakira (which you need to prove), you at least have an opening to say that the shlichus may not be enough for a full kiyum mitzvah, but may be enough to get you a partial kiyum, akin to a chatzi shiur of a mitzvas aseh.  

Friday, March 22, 2024

Esther - Sarah link; the itzumo shel yom of Purim

1) See my wife's blog for a nice take on the relationship between Esther and Sarah.

2) There is a machlokes Rebbi and Chachamim whether עיצומו שׁל יום is mechapeir on Yom Kippurim or whether teshuvah is required as well.  R' Yaakov Moshe Charlap held that the machlokes is only viz a viz Yom Ki-Purim, but on Purim itself, everyone agrees that עיצומו שׁל יום is mechapeir.  

R' Yisrael Salanter is reported to have said that a wise person can accomplish as much in ruchniyus in his seudas Purim as an unintelligent person accomplishes with his tefilas ne'ila. 

Take advantage of the day!

Rabbah and R' Zeira's Purim seudah - an incredible take on an incredible story

The gemara (Meg 7b) follows up on Rava's statement

 אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

with a story:

רבה ורבי זירא עבדו סעודת פורים בהדי הדדי איבסום קם רבה שחטיה לרבי זירא למחר בעי רחמי ואחייה לשנה אמר ליה ניתי מר ונעביד סעודת פורים בהדי הדדי אמר ליה לא בכל שעתא ושעתא מתרחיש ניסא

The Maharasha writes, דבר תמוה הוא לפרשו כפשטיה, taken at face value, the story is incredible.  Even granting the inebriation of Rava, or Rabbah according to some girsa'ot, could he really have committed murder?  Would an even keeled person (much less a tzadik like an amora!), out of the blue, without any prior animosity towards a person, jump up and kill them, no matter how drunk they might be?  Were that the case bars should be the scenes of a lot more murders.      

Some explain (see Baal HaMaor quoting Rabeinu Ephraim) the whole point of the story is in its shock value, as an illustration of the dangers of drinking עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי.  It could be that the Rambam and others who write that one should drink until one dozes off read the story as a rejection of Rava's extreme formulation. 

Others (e.g. see the Ben Ish Chai, or the Sichos of the L Rebbe) take the story less literally, and explain that Rabbah taught R' Zeira great esoteric secrets of Torah, which R' Zeira's soul could not receive while contained in his physical body, so his soul departed.  The Rebbe notes that the name Rabbah indicates rav=greatness, while Zeira is like the Aramaic word=smallness, indicating the gap between their knowledge.

Chasam Sofer in his teshuvos (OC end of 185) points out that the gemara (Shabbos 156a) tells us that someone born under the planetary influence of mars will have a proclivity to spill blood, הַאי מַאן דִּבְמַאְדִּים — יְהֵי גְּבַר אָשֵׁיד דְּמָא.  Guess who was born when mars was visible?  אָמַר רַבָּה: אֲנָא בְּמַאְדִּים הֲוַאי.  None other than Rabbah!  Therefore, says Chasam Sofer, it is davka Rabbah who ended up committing murder.  This is why the majority of poskim do not reject Rava's statement in the face of the story, as most people do not share that proclivity to blood lust.  

R' Menashe Klein (O.C. Tinyana 556) writes that Rabbah intended to channel his blood lust towards the fulfillment of a mitzvah and wanted to carry out mech'ias Amalek k'peshuto.  How did R' Zeira get involved in that?  He suggests that R' Zeira, as is our custom, came to Rabbah's feast dressed in costume.  Rather than dress up like Mordechai, like all other little boys, R' Zeira decided he would dress up like Haman, or an Amaleiki.  Overcome with drunkenness, in his zeal to fulfill mechi'as Amalek, Rabbah did not recognized his friend, thought it was really Amalek at his party, and took advantage of the opportunity.  

Just when you thought we've reached the limits of creative interpretation here, I found in the last piece of the "yoman" kept by R' Yisrael Be'eri (note for those who learned in Kerem b'Yavneh: this is R' Binyamin Be'eri's father), R' Yaakov Moshe Charlap's son in law, (well worth your reading in its entirety!) a pshat that I am not sure is not Purim torah, but you can decide.  R' Charlap writes that there must have been some friction between Rabbah and R' Zeira before this incident.  The murder was the culmination of the story, not the start of the story.  Who was R' Zeira?  Chazal tell us (Kesubos 110b) that R' Zeira avoided R" Yehuda because R' Yehudah held there was an issur of going from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael.  The gemara (BM 85) tells us that R' Zeira made aliya and then fasted so that he would forget the Babvli and could immerse himself completely in Talmud Yerushalmi, the torah of Eretz Yisrael.  (My son pointed out R' Zeira is highlighted in the last sugya in Horiyos as the exemplar of exceptional ability to be maksheh u'mefareik, so his transformation from a Bavli-Amora to a Yerushalmi thinker must have been a dramatic change.)  Not only was R' Zeira a confirmed Zionist, a lover of Eretz Yisrael, but he was also a great lover of the Jewish people.  The gemara (San 37) writes that he was mekareiv a bunch of outlaws in his neighborhood, against the wishes of the other Rabbis who wanted nothing to do with them.  Who was Rabbah?  The gemara (Shabbos 153) writes that Rabbah was so despised by the inhabitants of Pumbadita because of his criticisms that Abayei wondered if anyone would even come to his funeral אֲמַר לֵיהּ אַבָּיֵי לְרַבָּה: כְּגוֹן מָר דְּסָנוּ לֵיהּ כּוּלְּהוּ פּוּמְבְּדִיתָאֵי, מַאן מַחֵים הֶסְפֵּידָא.  Rabbah and R' Zeira represent a clash of ideologies, two different approaches to avodas Hashem.  They met at the Purim seudah, things came to a head, and Rabbah, in the heat of the moment, struck R' Zeira.

Fast foward to modern times.  R Charlap quotes his rebbe, Rav Kook, as saying who is R' Zeira other than himself, a great lover of Eretz Yisrael, a great lover of even the most wayward of Am Yisrael.  Zeira is roshei teivos, the same letters as זירא = זה רב אברהם יצחק.  And Rabbah is of course those who stood against Rav Kook and did not follow in his footsteps.  

May we be zocheh this year to fulfill mechi'as Amalek k'peshuto mamesh, in the literal sense, and I make no apologies for choosing sides here, I hope we become a little more like R' Zeira, to come to greater love of Eretz Yisrael and drawing close those who need to be drawn close.  Just as Purim was the prelude to the return and aliya of Ezra and binyan ha'bayis, so too should our Purim be the prelude to our full return to Eretz Yisrael, culminating in binyan ha'bayis as well.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

eradicating Amalek -- chovas ha'yachid vs chovas ha'tzibur

This is more meaningful than anything I have to say about parshas zachor:

I originally had the idea for this post early in the week, but the more I thought about the topic the more questions I had.  Now I've reached the point where I think I've managed to at least partially put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but you can be the judge of that.  

R' Bachyei (last pasuk in Beshalach) that the property of Amalek is assur b'hanaah:

וע״ד הפשט כי יד על כס יה יאמר כי הש״י משביע לכל מלך ישראל שישב על כסא מלכות שיעשה מלחמה לה׳ בעמלק, באר כי המלחמה והשלל הכל יהיה אסור בהנאה ויהיה הכל לה׳ לא לבני אדם ומפני זה בא העונש לשאול ומדורו של שאול עד דורו של מרדכי וידע מרדכי כי שאול זקנו נענש בעונש גדול והיה עונשו מדה כנגד מדה כי תלה הכתוב שלמות הכסא בנקמת עמלק והוא לא נזהר בנקמתו ועל כן נענש שאבד השם והכסא כי לא נשאר לו שם אחריו אלא נהרג הוא ויהונתן בנו עמו ונפל כסא מלכותו, ומפני זה נזהר מרדכי בדבר שלא ליהנות משלל המן שהיה מזרע עמלק כענין שכתוב בפורענות המן (אסתר ט׳:י׳) ובבזה לא שלחו את ידם, לפי שהתורה הזהירה בכך (דברים כ״ה:י״ט) תמחה את זכר עמלק, וכן מצינו לעתיד המלחמה והשלל הכל לה׳ שנאמר (מיכה ד׳:י״ג) והחרמתי לה׳ בצעם וחילם לאדון כל הארץ.

The problem is that we read in the Megillah (8:1)  בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא נָתַ֞ן הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ֙ לְאֶסְתֵּ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֔ה אֶת־בֵּ֥ית הָמָ֖ן, that Achashveirosh turned over Haman's estate to Esther.  How could Esther have accepted a gift of issuei hanaah?

R' Chaim Kanievsky in Taama d'Kra suggests that the din of issurei hanaah applies only in a situation of war against Amalek, where preserving the property of Amalek preserves the zecher of Amalek.  Haman, however, was killed by Achashveirosh, not in battle.  The property of someone killed by royal edict belongs to the king (I'm not sure why R' Chaim quotes this din which lichorah applies to a melech yisrael).  It was not Haman's property that became Esther's gift, but rather Achashveirosh's.   

He adds that this is why the pasuk says בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא.  It was davka property taken on that day, when Achashveirosh was meting out justice, that Esther took possession of.  Once the full blown war against the hundreds and thousands of other Amalkites in the kingdom started on the next day, nothing else could be taken.  

This answer follows the same basic outline of the Oneg Y"T's explanation of why Shaul thought it was OK to keep the livestock of Amalek.  Shaul thought that so long as the animals were made hefker before the battle the issur hanaah no longer applied to them -- they are not the property of Amalek at the time of war.  The common theme of both answers is that technically, the property in question no longer belonged to Amalek at the time possession was taken by a Jew.

There is a more fundamental chiluk that emerges from a chiddush of the Meshech Chochma, and this is where the picture began to get muddled for me.

The Sefer haChinuch in mitzvah 604 writes that the mitzvah of destroying Amalek does not only apply to the tzibur fighting a battle, but applies to any yachid who chances upon an Amaleiki:

וְזֹאת מִן הַמִּצְוֹת הַמּוּטָלוֹת עַל הַצִּבּוּר כֻּלָּן, וּכְעִנְיָן שֶׁאָמְרוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה (סנהדרין כ, ב), שָׁלֹשׁ מִצְוֹת נִצְטַוּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּשְׁעַת כְּנִיסָתָן לָאָרֶץ, לְמַנּוֹת לָהֶם מֶלֶךְ, וְלִבְנוֹת לָהֶם בֵּית הַבְּחִירָה, וּלְהַכְרִית זֶרַע עֲמָלֵק. וּבֶאֱמֶת כִּי גַּם עַל כָּל יָחִיד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל הַזְּכָרִים מוּטָל הַחִיּוּב לְהָרְגָם וּלְאַבְּדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם, אִם יֵשׁ כֹּחַ בְּיָדָם בְּכָל מָקוֹם וּבְכָל זְמַן, אִם יִמָּצֵא אֶחָד מִכָּל זַרְעָם. וְהָעוֹבֵר עַל זֶה וּבָא לְיָדוֹ אֶחָד מִזֶּרַע עֲמָלֵק וְיֵשׁ סִפֵּק בְּיָדוֹ לְהָרְגוֹ וְלֹא הֲרָגוֹ, בִּטֵּל עֲשֵׂה זֶה.

Rav Yaakov Ilan in his sefer Masa Yad (vol 1) suggests that the dual nature of the chiyuv is reflected in the two different parshiyos  that speak about destroying Amalek.  The parsha at the end of Beshalach speaks about  מִלְחָמָ֥ה לַה׳ בַּֽעֲמָלֵ֑ק; the parshas in Ki Teitzei speaks about תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק, but no mention of war.  The chiyuv to wage war is incumbent on the tzibur; the chiyuv to destroy any zeicher of Amalek is incumbent upon every individual. (I'm not sure based on this why Rashi quotes the din at the end of Ki Teitzei and not in Beshalach.)

Based on this distinction, the Meshech Chochma suggests that the mitzvah of obliterating the property of Amalek, inclusive of the livestock, applies only to the tzibur, but not to the chovas ha'yachid of eliminating Amalek:

 בספר החנוך כתב דעל כל יחיד שיקרה לפניו מזרע עמלק מצוה זו. ולרש״י שפירש זכר מאיש כו׳ משור ועד שה שלא יאמרו גמל זה של עמלק, והוא מהמכילתא דפרשה בשלח, ועיין הגהת הגר״א כאן בספרי מוכח דעל יחיד אין המצוה דהרי מפורש בשמואל א׳ כ״ז ויעל דוד ואנשיו כו׳ והעמלקי כו׳ ולקח צאן ובקר כו׳ הרי דביחיד אין מצוה לאבד הצאן ובקר. והא דאמרו במכילתא שהרג גר עמלקי שאין מקבלין גרים מעמלק, היינו לכן הרגו בהודאת עצמו כמו בן נח שנהרג עפ״י עצמו. וברור.

M'meila, since Haman was killed outside the context of war, his property was not assur b'hanaah.   

Sounds like a nice chiluk, but I was bothered by how the Chinuch makes sense l'shitaso. The Chinuch famously exempts women from the mitzvah of zechiras Amalek because he connects it to the mitzvah of mechi'as Amalek, and he holds that women are exempt from mechi'as Amalek because they do not have to participate in battle.  Putting aside the fact that when it comes to a milchemes mitzvah Chazal tell us that even "kallah mi'chupasa" has to go out to war (see Marcheshesh 1:22 who tries to explain the Chinuch), there is an additional chiyuv here that applies to the individual, not to a communal battle.  As the Chinuch writes,  גַּם עַל כָּל יָחִיד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל הַזְּכָרִים מוּטָל הַחִיּוּב לְהָרְגָם וּלְאַבְּדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם. If you see an Amaleiki walking down the street, you take care of him.  Why are women exempt from this mitzvah? And why should the mitzvah of remembering Amalek be connected only to the communal obligation to wage war and not to the obligation on the individual to rid the world of Amalek?  

In order to put Humpty Dumpty back together I think we need to backtrack a bit, and here I found help in R' Gershuni's Mishpat haMelucha.  There are not 2 chiyuvim, a chovas ha'tzibur and a chovas ha'yachid, when it comes to eradicating Amalek.  There is one chiyuv of milchama, and that chiyuv is ongoing -- milchama ba'Amalek m'dor dor.  Sometimes that chiyuv is fulfilled on the battlefield.  Sometimes that chiyuv is fulfilled when you see an Amaleiki soldier walking down the street.  It's the same chiyuv that stems from fighting the war, just in this case you are attacking isolated soldiers.  

The chiluk of the Meshech Chochma as to when Amalek's property is off limits vs when it is not does not depend on the chiyuv being fulfilled, yachid v tzibur, as the same chiyuv milchama is being fulfilled by the individual killing an Amaleiki or by the tzibur fighting a battle.  What it depends on is the nature of the kiyum b'poel of the mitzvah.  For whatever reason, when Amalek is dealt with in the context of battle by the tzibur, his property is off-limits.  When Amalek is dealt with on an individual level, the property can be seized.  What the reasoning for this distinction might be still eludes me.

Either way, maybe with this background we can explains Shaul's mistake and Shmuel's criticism of him.  Shaul did not want the mantle of kingship; he therefore treated the command to fight Amalek not as a national battle incumbent onthe tzibur, but merely as a fight of individuals.  When individuals strike at Amalek, their property is permitted to be seized. 

Shmuel make clear that this was a tragic error. וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל הֲל֗וֹא אִם־קָטֹ֚ן אַתָּה֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ רֹ֛אשׁ שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אָ֑תָּה  One cannot shirk leadership when called upon to serve the Jewish people.  One must act in a way that reflects the greatness of the Jewish people, and help fulfill our national mandate.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

kaparah without korbanos

R' Chaim Elazari in his sefer Darkei Chaim (p 172) quotes the Mabi"T who asks how it is that we achieve kaparah when the Torah says that an aveira b'shogeg requires a korban for kaparah.  The pashtus is that we have a concept of u'nishalma parim sifaseinu.  Hashem allows studying the parsha of the korban to serve as a substitute for actually offering the korban. R' Yonah in Shaarei Teshuvah (4:8) writes

   כִּי מִקְרָא פָּרָשַׁת הַקָּרְבָּן יִהְיֶה לָנוּ בִּמְקוֹם הַקְרָבַת הַקָּרְבָּן בֵּין שֶׁנִּקְרָא בִּכְתָב בֵּין שֶׁנִּקְרָא בְּעַל פֶּה. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה כָּל הָעוֹסֵק בְּפָרָשַׁת עוֹלָה כְּאִלּוּ הִקְרִיב עוֹלָה. בְּפָרָשַׁת חַטָּאת כְּאִלּוּ הִקְרִיב חַטָּאת. בְּפָרָשַׁת אָשָׁם כְּאִלּוּ הִקְרִיב אָשָׁם.)

Mabi"T gives a different answer.  When does sin need a korban for kaparah?  Only when there is a Beit haMikdash standing when you do the aveira.  Ignoring the hashra'as haShechina compounds the wrongdoing and therefore makes kaparah impossible without a korban.  However, when there is no Mikdash, when the hashra'as haShechina is not manifest for all to see, one's sin is less weighty, and hence the bar to achieve kaparah is lower.

Friday, March 15, 2024

could AI build a better mishkan?

Rashi in our parsha alludes to the gemara in Brachos (55a):

א"ר שמואל בר נחמני א"ר יונתן בצלאל על שם חכמתו נקרא בשעה שאמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה לך אמור לו לבצלאל עשה לי משכן ארון וכלים הלך משה והפך ואמר לו עשה ארון וכלים ומשכן אמר לו משה רבינו מנהגו של עולם אדם בונה בית ואחר כך מכניס לתוכו כלים ואתה אומר עשה לי ארון וכלים ומשכן כלים שאני עושה להיכן אכניסם שמא כך אמר לך הקב"ה עשה משכן ארון וכלים אמר לו שמא בצל אל היית וידעת

Even though, says the gemara, that Moshe told Betzalel to first make kelim and them the mihskan, Betzalel intuited that Hashem had actually instructed to first make the mishkan and then kelim.  This has to be the case because where would you put kelim if you don't already have a mishkan.

There are two problems with the sugya (see Tos on the spot):

1) How can it be that Moshe misunderstood or did not properly communicate the dvar Hashem?  Chazal tell us that in a small handful of places "nisalma mi'menu halacha," that Moshe did not know something, but this instance is not on that list, not to mention that to admit the possibility of this type of error calls into question the whole mesorah.  

2) In point of fact, Hashem first gave the command to make kelim and then the command to make the mishkan, as we read in parshas Terumah.  Moshe got it right; Betzalel's surmise that שמא כך אמר לך הקב"ה עשה משכן ארון וכלים was in fact wrong.  So why did Moshe respond אמר לו שמא בצל אל היית וידעת?  Why did he accept Betzalel's interpretation of Hashem's command as being more accurate than his own?

Maharal in Gur Aryeh (and similarly, GR"A) answer that Hashem told Moshe about the kelim first because the kelim, starting with the aron, were the most important things in the mishkan.  The building existed for the kelim, not the other way around. However, when it came to the actual construction of the mishkan, which was Betzalel's domain, the process was reversed.  First the building had to be assembled, and only then the kelim put inside.  The difference order in the parshiyos reflects these different perspectives, that of theory vs that of practice.

The Alter of Kelm says a beautiful yesod here to answer the questions: 

When Bn"Y committed the sin of cheit ha'eigel, Hashem told Moshe (32:10)  וְעַתָּה֙ הַנִּ֣יחָה לִּ֔י וְיִֽחַר־אַפִּ֥י בָהֶ֖ם וַאֲכַלֵּ֑ם וְאֶֽעֱשֶׂ֥ה אוֹתְךָ֖ לְג֥וֹי גָּדֽוֹל.  In a nutshell, Hashem's message was, "Leave me alone -- we are ending this show now."  So why didn't Moshe do that?  The very next pasuk says that Moshe began to daven וַיְחַ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶת־פְּנֵ֖י ה׳ אֱלֹהָ֑יו -- the exactly opposite of the plain meaning of Hashem's request!

Says the Alter, Hashem does not want us to be robots or computers.  Hashem wants us to be human beings and use our brains.  When a computer gets the instruction הַנִּ֣יחָה לִּ֔י, it obeys to the letter.  When Moshe got that same instruction, he realized something was up.  As Rashi writes  עדיין לא שמענו שהתפלל משה עליהם, והוא אומר: הניחה לי? אלא כאן פתח לו פתח, והודיעו שהדבר תלוי בו, שאם יתפלל עליהם לא יכלם. 

Hashem wants us to read between the lines, to interpret, to go beyond the surface meaning, and in that way arrive at His true intent.  Sometimes what appears to be disobedience in fact demonstrates true fidelity to Hashem's wishes.

Hashem did give Moshe the command to make the kelim first.  Moshe heard Hashem's command correctly and relayed it to Betzlalel correctly.  However, that doesn't mean that's what Hashem wanted.  Betzalel had the insight to understand that the mishkan building had to be put together first rather than making the kelim.

Could AI build a mishkan better than a human?  Maybe, if all it took to build it was blindly following a blueprint.  But Hashem wanted more than that.  Hashem wanted human intuition and intelligence invested in the product, not just gold, silver, and precious metals.  AI cannot substitute for that.  

Hashem b'davka gave the instructions in the way he did, seemingly backwards, says the Alter, so that Betzalel would have the opportunity to use his brains to work out what Hashem wanted.  In this way, the mishkan would contain the most precious commodity of all: the חכמת לב of a human being.  

Monday, March 11, 2024

with friends like these...

Jonathan Tobin, editor in chief of JNS writes:

Regardless of whether you support the Democrats or the Republicans, with respect to Jewish interests, Biden’s State of the Union address was a disaster. While he deplored the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and even invited relatives of the hostage families to be in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives for the speech, the fact that he went on to have more harsh words for the democratically elected government of Israel than the terrorists of Hamas was shocking.

So, too, was his unrealistic demand that Israel could wage a justified war against the Islamists without harming the Palestinians Hamas hides behind. And his demand that Israel accede to a Palestinian state at the end of the war is not only immoral, it will grant a reward to the terrorists and undermine U.S. interests in the region.

His plans to deploy U.S. troops and resources to create a floating harbor to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza was an ill-thought-out idea that will likely do far more to help Hamas, which is certain to steal most of the supplies that the Americans will deliver unless Biden foolishly breaks his promise and U.S. troops do land in the Strip.

Worst of all, the president had not a single word to say about the unprecedented surge of antisemitism sweeping through America, driven by his erstwhile intersectional allies on the left-wing of his party.

The headline of Philip Klein's article in NRO says sums it up: "Biden Delivers the Most Anti-Israel Presidential Speech in History."  (I personally am not sure about that given Obama's anti-semitic hatred of Israel).  He writes, "The overarching message was clear: The October 7 attacks were bad, but Israel’s response has been worse. Palestinians deserve our support, but Israel does not."

The Wall Street Journal editorial page writes today: "President Biden likes to say that no President has been a better friend to Israel, but of late he doesn’t sound like it. He beat up Israel’s leaders in his State of the Union speech, criticized its war strategy in Gaza with regularity, and on the weekend called Israel’s plans to clear Hamas from its last stronghold in the city of Rafah a “red line” that Israel shouldn’t cross."

Biden is even making Lindsey Graham look like a right-winger in an interview with NBC News:

Graham also responded to questions about the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, saying, “I literally about fell out of my seat” during the president’s State of the Union address to Congress on Thursday when Biden said Hamas could end the conflict by releasing all of the hostages they took on Oct. 7.

“Is the president saying that if the hostages are released by Hamas, they can stay in power?” Graham asked on Sunday.

“President Trump believes it’s non-negotiable when it comes to Hamas. They have to be destroyed militarily. They can’t be in charge. So I’m challenging the Biden administration today to clear this up. You cannot allow Hamas to stay in power,” Graham added.

With friends like these...

Friday, March 08, 2024

Do hasbara and havana go hand in hand? Ibn Ezra, R' Chaim Brisker, and Gardner's multiple intelligences

It is attributed I think to R' Chaim Brisker that if you can't explain an idea, it means you don't really understand it. Or, as they say in yeshivish אז ס'פעהלט אינעם הסברה פעהלט אינעם הבנה  Or as they put it in other parts of the world: חסרון בּהסבּרה זה חסרון בּהבנה 

R' Shteinman points out that in our parsha aside from being praised for his brilliance, וַיְמַלֵּ֥א אֹת֖וֹ ר֣וּחַ אֱלֹקים בְּחׇכְמָ֛ה בִּתְבוּנָ֥ה וּבְדַ֖עַת וּבְכׇל־מְלָאכָֽה, the Torah says Betzalel had the gift of  וּלְהוֹרֹ֖ת נָתַ֣ן בְּלִבּ֑וֹ (35:34).  Ibn Ezra explains:

כי יש חכם גם חרש לא יוכל להורות היטב

Ohr haChaim similarly writes:

 שיש חכמים רבים שתהיה חכמתם בלבם לבד שלא ידעו ללמדה, לזה אמר ולהורות נתן בלבו השכיל חכמת הלימוד

Not everyone who is an expert can pass on that expertise and teach it to others.

R' Shteinman asks: What happened to the rule of חסרון בּהסבּרה זה חסרון בּהבנה? 

Lulei d'mistafina I would say there is a difference between understanding a sevara and mastering a skill.  The former is theoretical knowledge and the only thing required is sufficient brainpower.  It falls under the logical-mathematical heading in Gardner's breakdown of seven intelligences.  Not so the latter.  I can perfectly understand the mechanics and theory of hitting a baseball, but that doesn't mean I can play for the Yankees.  Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, as Gardner calls it, is a different ballgame.  

The greatness of Betzalel is that he was a master of both, and a master teacher of both, something that is rare indeed.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Chizkuni on when parshas shekalim was given; machtzis ha'shekel as a tikun for mechiras Yosef

1) First up, a pshat issue.  According to Rashi and Ramban and most meforshim, the count of Ki Tisa is a different count than the count at the beginning of sefer Bamidbar.  The count in Ki Tisa took place in Tishrei, after Moshe came down with the second luchos, and three different donations were collected: 1) a fixed half shekel per person which was used to make the adanim of the mishkan; 2) another fixed half shekel per person which was used to buy korbanos; 3) a give-what-you-like donation used to buy material to construct the mishkan.  The count in BaMidbar took place in the second month of the second year (i.e. Iyar) and was a census to determine how many soldiers were on hand.

The main difficulty with Rashi's approach is that the number of people in the Ki Tisa count exactly matches the number of people in the census of BaMidbar.  How could there be absolutely no population change in the intervening months?  To compound the problem, the count of Ki Tisa seems inclusive of the entire nation.  The count in BaMidbar is exclusive of sheivet Levi.  Shouldn't that lead to an inevitable discrepancy?  Rashi attempts to address the problem, but Ramban already attacks the answer, followed by all the various meforshei Rashi jump into the fray to try to come up with a solution. 

Chizkuni goes against the tide and writes that the count of Ki Tisa is in fact one and the same as the count in BaMidbar:

בשנה השנית, כדכתיב בפרשת במדבר: בשנה השנית וגו׳ שאו את ראש כל עדת בני ישראל (במדבר א׳:ב׳), שכן כי תשא – להבא משמע, ושאו (במדבר א׳:ב׳) – מיד משמע. ופרשה זו נאמרה מבאחד באדר כדי להשמיע על השקלים לתרומת הלשכה לקנות הקרבנות להקריב מבאחד בניסן ואילך שבו הוקם המשכן. והלשון מוכיח: ונתת על עבודת אהל מועד (שמות ל׳:ט״ז), שמע מינה שכבר נעשה אהל מועד כלו

Ki Tisa is not a command to count, but means WHEN you count, this is how to do it, by collection shekalim.  The command to count comes later, in BaMidbar.  Chizkuni adds that this parsha was given in the beginning of Adar.  Our practice of reading the parsha parallels when the parsha was actually given.

Interestingly, Gur Aryeh, who normally defends Rashi, in this case learns pshat like Chizkuni, albeit with minor differences:

ויותר היה נראה לומר כי היה זה מספר אחד עם מספר אשר הוא אחר שהוקם המשכן, ואמר הכתוב (פסוק יב) ״כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל לפקודיהם״ אחר שהוקם המשכן, שאז יהיו נמנים ישראל, ״ונתנו איש כופר נפשם בפקוד אותם״ (שם), ורוצה לומר שיתנו כופר נפשם בפקוד אותם, לכך יקדימו שקליהם לתת אותם קודם המנין, ויתנו אותם לתרומת המשכן לאדנים שיהיו כפרה עליהם בפקוד אותם אחר כך. ולפי זה היה שפיר שאמר הכתוב ״כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל״, ולא היה מצוה ׳שאו את ראש בני ישראל׳ כמו שאמר בחומש הפקודים (במדבר א, ב) ״שאו את ראש״, ולא היה כאן מנין בפני עצמו, רק ״כי תשא״ בסוף, אחר שהוקם המשכן, והמנין היה אחר שהוקם המשכן

He marshals proof for his position from the Midrash Tanchuma, which refers to only one count in the desert, not two.  Our parsha is about the mitzvah to give shekalim **in advance** of the count that will take place later in BaMidbar:

וכן משמע בתנחומא (כאן סימן ט), דקאמר התם; עשרה פעמים נמנו ישראל, וחשיב התם אחד בירידתן למצרים, ואחד בעלייתם משם, דכתיב (ראו לעיל יב, לז) ״ויסעו בני ישראל מרעמסס כשש מאות אלף״, אחד בחומש הפקודים כו׳, הרי שלא מנה כלל אותו של ״כי תשא״, וכמשמעות הכתוב שלא נאמר בו מנין כלל, רק ״ויהי כסף פקודי העדה״ (ראו להלן לח, כה), דפירושו הכסף של הפקודים, אבל לא נמצא שם למנות ישראל. והפירוש על דעת מדרש זה, שהיה מצוה לתת את השקלים קודם למנין שלהם שיהיה בחומש הפקודים.

2) Last week I posted the Berdichiver's interpretation of  בְי֣וֹם פׇּקְדִ֔י וּפָקַדְתִּ֥י עֲלֵהֶ֖ם חַטָּאתָֽם׃.  The Techeiles Mordechai (#5 here )  on this week's parsha quotes a different interpretation. ובְי֣וֹם פׇּקְדִ֔י, means when Bnei Yisrael are counted -- meaning, we are a mass of individuals that can be enumerated instead of a being united, singular entity -- then פָקַדְתִּ֥י עֲלֵהֶ֖ם חַטָּאתָֽם, then we have to pay the debt for our sins.  When we are united as one unit, however, Hashem puts that aside.  

The Yerushalmi explains that machtzis ha'shekel is a kaparah for mechiras Yosef:

אתם מכרתם בכורה של רחל בעשרים כסף שהגיע לכל אחד טבעא [היינו מטבע של מחצית השקל] לפיכך יהי' שוקל כל אחד מכם מחצית השקל

Shem m'Shmuel (Mishpatim 5675) writes:

ויש להסבביר הדברים כי השקלים הם קיבוץ כל כחות ישראל לעבודה בכלל ובפרט, היינו שהוא עשר גרה רומז לעשרה חלקי הנפש שבאדם, והוא של כסף שהוא רומז לאהבה, והיינו שכל אחד מקבץ כל כחות נפשו ומסרם לעבודת הש"י באהבה, ולא בפ"ע לבד אלא כל ישראל יחד כענין ויעשו כולם אגודה אחת לעשות רצונך בלבב שלם, זהו נשמת המצוה, והפועל דמיוני הוא גוף המצוה, כמו גוף שנושא את הנשמה כן גוף המצוה נושא את נשמת המצוה, והוא תיקון לחטא מכירת יוסף צדיק יסוד עולם המאחד את כל קהל ישראל שפגמו בזה, וע"כ אחר המכירה כתיב וירד יהודה מאת אחיו, והתיקון הוא התאספות כל ישראל ע"י השקלים לקרבנות ציבור שאין דינם כקרבנות השותפין אלא כמו איש אחד, ובפרט נמי הוא תיקון לפגם ברית היינו התאספות כל החושים וכל האברים, כמ"ש כל עצמותי תאמרנה ה' מי כמוך והוא תיקון לחטא שכל אבריו מרגישין בו, שהחטא נמשך ג"כ מהחטא של מכירת יוסף כנ"ל, והיינו הא דפסיקתא וירושלמי הנ"ל, וכל זה הכנה לניסן להשגת חיים חדשים, וע"כ הזמן לשקלים הוא כל חודש אדר וכולי האי ואולי יספיק לזה כל החודש:

The cheit of mechiras Yosef was a blow to the unity of Yaakov's family.  The machtzis ha'shekel is the tikun.  All the darshanim explain that we take 1/2 a shekel rather than a whole one to reinforce the idea that each individual is just a piece of the whole in need of a neighbor to become complete.  It's only when we bond together than we become whole.  We use shekalim for korbanos tzibur.  A tzibur is not the same as a partnership of individuals.  It is a new entity, like a corporation, that is greater than the sum of its parts.  

As we once explained, this was Haman's mistake.  Haman paid millions of shekalim to Achashveirosh thinking that we were "mefuzar u'meforad," disjointed and disunited, and therefore vulnerable.  However, Chazal tell us that our shekalim preempted Haman's attack.  The mitzvah of machtzis ha'shekel underscored the core unity of Am Yisrael.

If each individual thinks he/she counts more than anyone else, then we run the risk of ובְי֣וֹם פׇּקְדִ֔י וּפָקַדְתִּ֥י עֲלֵהֶ֖ם חַטָּאתָֽם.  If we count using shekalim, if the individual sees him/herself as part of a greater whole, then we are spared having to deal with the Haman's of the world.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

living Elsewhere, in a land of make-believe

One Man's Meat, by E.B. White, better known as the author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, is a delightful collection of essays written in the late '30's/early '40's. The following is an excerpt from a July 1938 essay in which White comments on the TV era, which was in its infancy (I added the bolding):

...Radio has already given sound a wide currency, and sound "effects" are taking the place once enjoyed by sound itself.  Television will enormously enlarge the eye's range, and, like radio, will advertise Elsewhere.  Together with the tabs, the mags, and the movies, it will insist that we forget the primary and the near in favor of the secondary and the remote.  More hours in every twenty-four will be spent digesting ideas, sounds, images -- distant and concoctedIn sufficient accumulation, radio sounds and television sights may become more familiar to us than their originals.  A door closing, heard over the air; a face contorted, seen in a panel of light -- these will emerge as the real and the true; and, when we bang the door of our own cell or look into another's face the impression will be of mere artifice.  I like to dwell on this quaint time, and when the solid world becomes make believe, McCarthy corporeal and Bergen stuffed, when all is reversed and we shall be like the insane, to whom the antics of the sane seem the crazy twistings of a grig.

When I was a child people simply looked about them and were moderately happy; today, they peer beyond the seven seas, bury themselves waist deep in tidings, and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.

If this is what he had to say about TV, imagine what he would have made of our internet era.

Last Sunday was a beautiful, sunny 60 degree day in NY. My wife and I were walking in a park and she commented on the fact that there were so few children out on such a nice day.  I reminded her that children no longer go outside to play; they are happy to sit glued to a screen, and if they want to see the outdoors, they simply bring up a video of it to watch while they down their Prozac pills by the handful.

Monday, March 04, 2024

more on shluchei mitzvah ainon nizokin -- chakira of the Sdei Chemed

I) I saw the following chakira quoted from the Sdei Chemed: when we speak about shluchei mitzvah ainan nizokin does it mean that Hashem removes the threat of danger, or does it mean that the threat is there, the danger is there, but Hashem does not allow the person doing the mitzvah to come to harm?

In YD 339:5 the SA quotes a minhag to spill out any drawn water in the neighborhood in which a death occurs.  Some explain that this was simply a way of communicating to all what had occurred without having to actually announce the bad news.  Others, however, explain that there is a supernatural reason for the practice.  When the malach ha'maves marches into town, some kind of poison can drop from his sword into the water and render it dangerous for anyone to drink.

In accord with the rule of shluchei mitzvah ainan nizokin Rama in Hil Pesach (455) writes that mayim she'lanu that is used for matzah baking does not have to be spilled out.  The same (see Pischei Teshuvah in YD) applies to water drawn for shabbos food.

Can one eat matzah baked with that water after pesach is over?  Can one eat the leftover cholent after shabbos?  This should be taluy in the Sdei Chemed's chakira.  If the principle of shluchei miztvah ainin nizokin means there is no threat present, i.e. no drop from the malach ha'maves' sword ever falls into mitzvah water, then the answer would seem to be yes, one can eat the leftovers.  But if the principle of shluchei miztvah ainin nizokin means the drop of poison is there but the mitzvah protects one from harm, then after pesach (or even the seder) is over, after the seudas shabbos is over, once the mitzvah is complete, the leftovers cannot be eaten.  

II) The context of shluchei mitzvah ainin nizokin in Pesachim is a discussion of the braysa תנא אין מחייבין אותו להכניס ידו לחורין ולסדקין לבדוק מפני הסכנה.  The gemara gives two explanations why a person would not have to search these literal holes in the wall:

1) Lest one be bitten by a scorpion.  Asks the gemara: והא אמר ר' אלעזר שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזוקין? To which the gemara answers that maybe a person will accidentally drop something of theirs in the hole and search for it after he is done with the bedika, at which point they would be exposed to danger.

2) The house adjoining the wall belongs to an aku"m who is might not understand the bedika and think it is some kind of witchcraft, which would be dangerous.  Again, asks the gemara: האמר רבי אלעזר שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזוקין  To which the gemara answers that this is a case of clear and present danger, שכיח היזיקא, and all bets are off.

Why does the gemara not gives this answer of שכיח היזיקא when it talks about why there is no protection from the scorpions?  

It could be that these are not just two possible scenarios to explain the braysa, but rather there is a difference between the views.  The Ohr haChaim writes that Reuvain thought it preferable to throw Yosef into a pit of scorpions rather than have his brothers deal with him because scorpions have no bechira and could harm Yosef only if Hashem decreed such; the brothers had bechira, and Hashem allows bechira to play out even if it goes against the ideal Divine plan.  It could be that shchiach he'zeika only comes into play when one is dealing with a human agent, a baal bechira.  When it comes to animals, since they are like robots that cannot deviate from Hashem's plan, even if shchiach he'zeika one is still protected.

Friday, March 01, 2024

R' Levi Yitzchak miBerdichiv on וּפָקַדְתִּ֥י עֲלֵהֶ֖ם חַטָּאתָֽם

In response to Moshe's plea to forgive Bn"Y for cheit ha'eigel, Hashem told him to go back for now and comfort the people, וּבְי֣וֹם פׇּקְדִ֔י וּפָקַדְתִּ֥י עֲלֵהֶ֖ם חַטָּאתָֽם׃ (32:34), and going forward, whenever the time comes for other punishments, Hashem will dole out a bit of punishment for cheit ha'eigel as well (see Rashi).

R' Levi Yitzchak mi'Berdichiv ask two questions (see the Koznitzer Maggid in Avodas Yisrael end of P' Balak):

1) We say every Yom Kippur that Hashem is מעביר אשׁמותינו בּכל דור.  The slate is wiped clean, the past forgotten.  How then is cheit ha'eigel counted against us for eternity?  How can we forever after get a bit of punishment for this sin that is past history?

2) The gemara (Brachos 32b) tells us that Hashem in fact does not keep in mind any recollection of cheit ha'eigel:

אמרה לפניו רבש"ע הואיל ואין שכחה לפני כסא כבודך שמא לא תשכח לי מעשה העגל אמר לה גם אלה תשכחנה אמרה לפניו רבש"ע הואיל ויש שכחה לפני כסא כבודך שמא תשכח לי מעשה סיני אמר לה ואנכי לא אשכחך 

If Hashem forgets about our wrongdoing, then again, how do we understand בְי֣וֹם פׇּקְדִ֔י וּפָקַדְתִּ֥י עֲלֵהֶ֖ם חַטָּאתָֽם׃?

R' Levi Yitzchak explains that there are two types of wrongdoers.  There is the wrongdoer who comes from a broken home, who had horrible friends in his youth, who went to the worst schools, and m'meila, became a gangster.  What do you expect?  And then there is the wrongdoer who came from the best family, who went to the best schools, grew up in the "right" neighborhood, had wonderful friends, but nebech, took a wrong turn and became a criminal.  He surely should have known better and deserves harsher punishment.

On the flipside, if one of these two becomes an outstanding member of society, a real do-gooder, if we are speaking about the person who came from the right family, neighborhood, and school, we would say m'meila, what else would you have anticipated?  But if we are speaking about someone who grew up without all those benefits, then all the more credit to them, because they rose above expectations.

Bnei Yisrael said naaseh v'nishma and accepted the Torah, something no other nation was willing to do.  One could say what else would you expect?  These are the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, people with such a distinguished and noble background.  But on the other hand, the fact that 40 days later Bnei Yisrael made an eigel proves that there was something not quite right inside, that there was a rottenness in the core of the people that was waiting to get out and express itself, and that had to be dealt with.  When we said naaseh v'nishma, we rose above that flaw, and achieved more than could have been expected.  

This is the shakla v'terya of the gemara in Brachos.  Hashem says to Bnei Yisrael that he will forget the cheit ha'eigel.  מעביר אשׁמותינו בּכל דור  If so, Bnei Yisrael answer, what about our credit for saying naaseh v'nishma?  If you now view us as noble people, the finest stock, then we did no more than live up to expectations and don't deserve such a big pat on the back!  To which Hashem answers, speaking still about cheit ha'eigel, that He will not forget Sinai.  In the context of Sinai, the context of naaseh v'nishma, he will not forget the eigel.  He will view naaseh v'nishma as the response of a people burdened by something not quite right inside, something evil that would come out later in the eigel, but something that they rose above to achieve greatness.  

The root פּקד comes up when the Torah speaks about positive things. ה׳  פּקד את שׂרה.  when it was time for geulah, Moshe said פּקד פּקדתי אתכם.  Hashem tells Bn"Y וּבְי֣וֹם פׇּקְדִ֔י וּפָקַדְתִּ֥י עֲלֵהֶ֖ם חַטָּאתָֽם.  I am not going to remember or think about cheit ha'eigel now.  The slate is wiped clean.  However, when it comes time to remember all the good that Bn"Y does, וּבְי֣וֹם פׇּקְדִ֔י, if someone then tries to take away credit, if someone says that what else should you expect from bnei Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, then I will remember and remind them of cheit ha'eigel, proving that we too had burdens to overcome, and we managed to do so. 

shluchei mitzvah ainan nizokin

The gemara Pesachin 8b is the source for the concept of shluchei mitzvah ainan nizokin based on a pasuk at the end of our parsha (34:28):

א"ר אלעזר שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזוקין לא בהליכתן ולא בחזירתן כמאן כי האי תנא דתניא איסי בן יהודה אומר כלפי שאמרה תורה ולא יחמוד איש את ארצך מלמד שתהא פרתך רועה באפר ואין חיה מזיקתה תרנגולתך מנקרת באשפה ואין חולדה מזיקתה והלא דברים ק"ו ומה אלו שדרכן לזוק אינן ניזוקין בני אדם שאין דרכן לזוק על אחת כמה וכמה אין לי אלא בהליכה בחזרה מנין תלמוד לומר ופנית בבקר והלכת לאהליך מלמד שתלך ותמצא אהלך בשלום וכי מאחר דאפילו בחזירה בהליכה למה לי לכדר' אמי דא"ר אמי כל אדם שיש לו קרקע עולה לרגל ושאין לו קרקע אין עולה לרגל 

The Noda b'Yehudah (mh"t OC 94) asks why it is that the Rambam does not quote R' Ami's din that someone who does not own land is exempt from aliya la'regel. (Parenthetically, Tos Pesachim 3b d"h alya seems to compare the chiyuv to bring korban pesach with aliya la'regel and exempt someone who does not have land.) This is the sugya's conclusion and there is no dissenting opinion?  He answers by quoting the gemara a few lines earlier on the page:

בעו מיניה מרב הני בני בי רב דדיירי בבאגא מהו למיתי קדמא וחשוכא לבי רב אמר להו ניתו עלי ועל צוארי ניזיל מאי אמר להו לא ידענא

Rav told his students that they could rely on not coming to harm travelling in the dark to get to yeshiva, but he was not sure whether the same rule applied for the trip home.  

Why was Rav unsure of what would happen on the way home?  Rav apparently held that the rule of shluichei mitzvah ainin nizokin applied on the way to a mitzvah, but not on the way from.  Meaning, he must have learned the pasuk in our parsha לא יחמוד איש את ארצך as speaking only about travel to a mitzvah, not from, in which case there is no kal v'chomer, and the din of R' Ami has no foundation.

The Oznayim laTorah rejects this approach.  Rav had a safeik, he writes, not because he rejected the kal v'chomer, but rather because the mitzvah of talmud torah is not the same as the mitzvah of aliya la'regel. When it comes to aliya la'regel, after 7 days the mitvah is done.  In that case, the Torah guarantees that you will return home safely.  When a person goes to the beis medrash to learn Torah, at what point can we really say the mitzvah is done?  (The Sefer haChinuch #430  discusses why mi'doraysa we recite a bracha *after* eating food, but birchas haTorah *before* learning.  Perhaps the answer is that there is no end to learning, so at what could Chazal be kove'a the bracha?  See the Chinuch's answer.)  Who can say with clear conscience that they are not going home to relax and do something else, or because they are bored, or because they are tired of their chavrusa, etc.?  The guarantee of  אינן ניזוקין לא בהליכתן ולא בחזירתן applies when the mitzvah is over, not if you abandon the mitzvah in the middle.  Therefore,  Rav was not prepared to say that the protection extended on the way home from the beis medrash.

I am not sure this next part makes sense, but I will throw it out there and make of it what you will.  I want to sharpen the chiluk of the Oznayin laTorah.  The sugya in Pesachim adds one important qualifier to the rule of shluchei mitzvah ainan nizokin: ן הֵיכָא דִּשְׁכִיחַ הֶיזֵּיקָא שָׁאנֵי  When there is a real and present danger, all bets are off.

Kesubos 77b:

מכריז רבי יוחנן הזהרו מזבובי של בעלי ראתן רבי זירא לא הוה יתיב בזיקיה רבי אלעזר לא עייל באהליה רבי אמי ורבי אסי לא הוו אכלי מביעי דההיא מבואה ריב"ל מיכרך בהו ועסיק בתורה אמר אילת אהבים ויעלת חן אם חן מעלה על לומדיה אגוני לא מגנא 

Even though being near people afflicted with the sickness called raasan was dangerous, R' Yehoshua ben Levi would sit and learn with them.  The gemara explains that he derived a kal v'chomer from the pasuk אילת אהבים ויעלת חן that Torah provides protection, and so he was not worried.

R' Elchanan in Koveitz Shiurim asks: but isn't שְׁכִיחַ הֶיזֵּיקָא an exception to the rule of shluchei mitzvah ainan nizokin?!  

You have to say, writes R' Elchanan, that talmud Torah is categorically different and provides a more encompassing degree of protection. 

Based on this, I would say there are 2 distinct dinim: the normal din of shluchei mitzvah, learned from the pasuk in our parsha, and the more comprehensive protection which Torah affords, which is learned from the pasuk  אילת אהבים ויעלת חן.

Rav in Pesachim was speaking specifically about talmud Torah, which is categorically different from other mitzvos.  The gemara in Kesubos shows us the upside to T"T, namely, when one is engaged in learning the protection encompasses even situations where שְׁכִיחַ הֶיזֵּיקָא.  Rav shows us the downside, namely, that there is no real חזירתן, as ideally one should constantly be engaged in talmud Torah, v'hagisa bo yomam va'layla, and one is always on the clock. 

(Among other problems with my thesis: why does the gemara in Pesachim introduce Rav's statement if T"T is different than other mitzvos?)