Friday, June 28, 2024

rehabilitating the reputation of the meraglim

There is a custom quoted in SA (OC 580) to fast on 17 Elul as this is the anniversary of the day the meraglim died.  The MB (sk 8) quotes the Beis Yosef as asking why we should commemorate their death.  We have fasts for the death of tzadikim, e.g. Aharon's death, Miriam's death.  However, when it comes to reshaim,  וּבַאֲבֹ֖ד רְשָׁעִ֣ים רִנָּֽה.  We should celebrate their death, not mark the day with a taanis.  

The Beis Yosef answers ואפשר דמסתמא שבו ולא זכו שיקובל תשובתם ולכן מתענים.  It's hard to understand what he means.  If their teshuvah was not accepted, then that means they remain reshaim and הדרא קושׁיא לדוכתא.  But even if they had succeeded in doing teshuvah, does that now make them tzadikim deserving of their own fast day?

R' Moshe Tzuriel answers that the fast of 17 Elul is a fast not for the meraglim, but for ourselves, for Klal Yisrael, because it was our acceptance of the meraglim's report and our rejection of Eretz Yisrael that led to the bechiya l'doros of future churban and galus.  You might argue that we already have a fast of 9 Av for that, but there is a need for both days.  9 Av is a day of mourning over the final outcome of churban, which came as a result of sinas chinam.  17 Elul is a day to reflect on וימאסו בּארץ חמדה, the sin that got the ball rolling.

Maybe we can salvage the reputation of the meraglim and explain why we fast in their honor with the help of a Chasam Sofer.  There is a puzzling Yalkut Shimoni that says:

 מֵעִיד אֲנִי עָלַי שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה בְּדַעְתּוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְהָמִית עֲשָׂרָה נְשִׂיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶלָּא שֶׁרָצוּ אַחַר מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן עַד שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ תַּחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה.

Somehow the death of the meraglim is attributed to their following Moshe and Aharon, which is very hard to understand.  How would following Moshe nd Aharon cause someone to die?  On the website they quoted this Yalkut and add a few words in brackets: שֶׁרָצוּ אַחַר מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן [לִרְגֹּם אוֹתָם בַּאֲבָנִים]  I'm not sure where the bracketed words come from, but they obviously come to address this difficulty by saying it wasn't following Moshe and Aharon that led to their death, but rather trying to kill Moshe and Aharon.  Quite a difference!  The Chasam Sofer quotes the Yalkut and the Tana d'Bei Eliyahu without those words, and has a few different suggestions to explain what Chazal mean.  

Before getting to his hesber, let me preface it with acomment from a talmid of CS in a footnote citing a vort from his rebbe the CS.  He writes that R' Akiva's view in Sanhedrin 108a  דּוֹר הַמִּדְבָּר אֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא וְאֵין עוֹמְדִין בַּדִּין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר {במדבר י״ד:ל״ה} בַּמִּדְבָּר הַזֶּה יִתַּמּוּ וְשָׁם יָמוּתוּ דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא should not be taking at face value.  In potential, the dor ha'midbar might have theoretically been at risk of losing olam ha'ba.  In reality, however, the opposite is the case.  Read the entire pasuk:

 אֲנִ֣י ה׳ דִּבַּ֒רְתִּי֒ אִם⁠־לֹ֣א׀ זֹ֣את אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֗ה לְכׇל⁠־הָעֵדָ֤ה הָֽרָעָה֙ הַזֹּ֔את הַנּוֹעָדִ֖ים עָלָ֑י בַּמִּדְבָּ֥ר הַזֶּ֛ה יִתַּ֖מּוּ וְשָׁ֥ם יָמֻֽתוּ׃

What Hashem is saying is  אִם⁠־לֹ֣א׀ זֹ֣את אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֗ה -- if not for the fact that they are going to be punished, then  בַּמִּדְבָּ֥ר הַזֶּ֛ה יִתַּ֖מּוּ וְשָׁ֥ם יָמֻֽתוּ.  They are, however, going to be punished.  That punishment is therefor in effect their salvation.

Here is the hesber of the CS to the Yalkut (there are different editions of CS, so it's not so easy to find):

In this piece the CS is saying that the dor ha'midbar were punished, but there was a silver lining.  No one died before age 60, giving them each the opportunity to grow to shleimus.  יִתַּ֖מּוּ = achieve temimus, and only then  יָמֻֽתוּ.  (See the chiddush if the Akeidah in this post.)

Does that mean that the meraglim who were killed on the spot were denied that opportunity and were doomed forever?  Quite the contrary, says the CS.  The meraglim were the only members of dor ha'midbar who had the zechus of walking 4 amos in Eretz Yisrael.  The meraglim were the ones who when Moshe and Aharon asked for volunteers to go ahead and spy out the land, they raised their hands and took the mission knowing full well the dangers that would be involved.  These people didn't need 40 more years in the desert to achieve shleimus before they died.  They had achieved shleimus already!  True, upon their return they sinned in bringing a false report, but that sin does not outweigh the merit of their accomplishment. 

What Chazal in the Yalkut are asking is why did the meraglim, unlike anyone else, **merit** immediate death in a state of shleimus?  The answer is אֶלָּא שֶׁרָצוּ אַחַר מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן.  Because they were the pioneers who trusted Moshe and Aharon, who embarked on an uncertain mission, and were thereby the first ones since the Avos to have the zechus of walking in Eretz Yisrael.  Their sin may have been great, but their merit is even greater.

We fast on 17 Elul to celebrate the greatness of Eretz Yisrael, to celebrate the fact that the heroism and faith of being willing to enter the land in the face of risk and uncertainty can overcome and erase other faults and failures.  

Thursday, June 27, 2024

when to hesitate and when not

The gemara (Shaboos 134) says that one is allowed to be mechalel shabbos to wash a baby on the third day after milah.  Some Rishonim hold that this means davka on the third day, as it is on that day that the pain is most intense.  Other Rishonim hold that it means all days up to and inclusive of the third day.  

My SIL in Eretz Yisrael is learning Shabbos and pointed out a very interesting Meiri.  We read in parshas vayishlach (34:25):

 וַיְהִי בַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בִּהְיוֹתָם כֹּאֲבִים וַיִּקְחוּ שְׁנֵי⁠ בְנֵי⁠ יַעֲקֹב שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי אֲחֵי דִינָה אִישׁ חַרְבּוֹ וַיָּבֹאוּ עַל⁠ הָעִיר בֶּטַח וַיַּהַרְגוּ כׇּל⁠ זָכָר.

If the first two days after milah are as painful as the third day, why did Shimon and Levi wait?

The Baalei Tosfos (Daas Zekeinim, Hadar Zekeinim, see also Tur) answer that there were so many people that it took three days to mal the entire city (a bit difficult, as Yehoshua did milah on all those who had been born in the midbar in a single day after Bn"Y crossed the Yarden), or it took three days to convince everyone in the city to do milah.

Meiri (Shabbos 86a, and the Tur also quotes this answer):

 ויהי ביום השלישי בהיותם כואבים כלומר שעדיין היו כואבים וכל שכן שהיו כואבים בראשון ושני אלא שהיו נמלכים בעצמם אם יעשו אם לא יעשו וכשהגיעו לשלישי ודנו בעצמם שאם לא יעשו באותו היום אף הם מתרפאים למחרתו נמנו וגמרו להרגם

Shimon and Levi were uncertain what to do, and debated among themselves for two days.  When the third day came and they realized it was now or never, as the people of Shechem would start to heal the next day, they acted.

My 2 cents: this is the same Shimon and Levi who, with their brothers tacit approval, who immediately wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to kill Yosef once they had him alone, and would have done so if not for the intervention of Reuvain and Yehudah.  No days of deliberation or second thoughts here!

Sadly, this is an all too common story.  When it comes to our aku"m enemies, we klerr back and forth and wring our hands for days deliberating before we finally take action.  However, when it comes to shechting one of our own, the knives are out in an instant and we are at each other's throats without a second thought.  

Baruch Hashem, I think the tide is turning.  We have learned our lesson a bit and we are seeing more achdus in our own camp and more resolve to do what needs to be done to the enemy.  

the suicidal need to vote Democrat (2)

I figured I would post this week's "vote Democrat = suicide" update before the debate, as that will probably be it's own ridiculous parsha.  

1) In LA protestors blocked the entrance to a synagogue and attacked Jews trying to enter.  Here is the description of the police response in the Free Press by eyewitness Noah Pollak

But as I got closer, the truly meaningful spectacle came into view: behind the phalanx of LAPD, on the sidewalk in front of the synagogue, were the Hamas supporters. When I walked up to the police with my boys and asked if I could enter the synagogue, they told me not to come any closer and said that I should leave. 

I asked calmly but incredulously, “Shouldn’t you be making sure this place stays open?” The reply was: “You should leave.”

Police were unwilling to confront, arrest, and prosecute bad actors. Jews were being policed in the name of “safety.” In Los Angeles and other big cities, and on many elite campuses, the message from authorities is essentially: things would be so much easier if you stayed off campus, avoided the library, didn’t go to your synagogue, and overall just stayed away from the mobs that regularly gather to confront you.

If you live in a Democrat run big city know this: the police are there to protect the criminals, not to protect you.  If you are in danger, the police response will come too late, will be ineffective, and even if the the criminals are taken into custody they will be handed over to the Soros sponsored DAs who will release them with no charges.  

2) Another excellent promotion within the Biden administration.  Tyler Cherry, whose qualifications are his gender confusion, his support for Palestine, and his hatred of the police, was given a slot handling White House communications. Yahoo News writes, "In a statement to Fox News Digital, White House senior deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said, 'We’re very proud to have Tyler on the team.'"  

3) Turing to Israel, The Hill writes:

According to an AP report, [General] Brown also warned Jerusalem that “the U.S. won’t likely be able to help Israel defend itself against a broader Hezbollah war as well as it helped Israel fight off an Iranian barrage of missiles and drones in April.” Brown also indicated “the U.S. continues to talk with Israeli leaders and warn against widening the conflict.”

It does not help that the USS Gerald R. Ford was ordered back to the U.S. in January. Nor does Biden’s intentional slow-walking of constriction of weapons shipments to Israel.

Escalation paralysis continues to dominate Biden’s White House, his State Department and now his Pentagon. 

I couldn't have put it better myself.  

Friday, June 21, 2024

the significance of repetition -- lomdus to answer to a Shaar haMelech posted years ago

A mere sixteen years ago when the daf hayomi was doing Nazir I posted a kashe of the Shaar haMelech that I left unanswered. There are Rishonim who hold that given the choice of shechting meat for a choleh on shabbos or feeding the choleh neveila, it is better to violate shabbos.  Even though shabbos is an issur sekilah and neveila is just an issur lav, you potentially violate the issur neveila with every kzayis eaten, multiple times, but violate shabbos only once if you do the shechita.  It is better therefore to minimize the number of issurim.  R' Yosef Engel has an piece that he devotes to discussing the issue of quantity vs. quality, kamus vs eichus.  Here you have it -- kamus trumps eichus, quantity is more important than quality.

Here's the problem.  The Mishna in Nazir (47) talks about a meis mitzvah found by a kohen gadol and nazir.  Who should bury the body?  Neither one is allowed to become tamei, so which is the lesser evil?  

The Ramban tells us that a nazir who is metamei himself violates four separate issurim (Nazir 5:21):

הא למדת שהנזיר שטמא עצמו לוקה ארבע מלקיות משום לא יטמא ומשום לא יחל דברו ומשום לא תאחר לשלמו ומשום לא יבוא אם היתה ביאה וטומאה כאחת כמו שבארנו:

You would think therefore that the kohen gadol should be metamei himself since he violates only one issur.  Yet that is not how the Chachamim rule, or how the Rambam paskens (Nazir 7:13):

נזיר וכהן שפגעו במת מצוה יטמא נזיר אע"פ שהוא סותר הימים הראשונים ומביא קרבן טומאה. ואל יטמא כהן שזה קדושתו קדושת שעה ואפילו היה נזיר עולם והכהן קדושתו קדושת עולם:

Why in this case, asks Shaar haMelech (Maachalos Assuros 14:17), don't we apply the principle that quantity trumps quality, i.e. that even though the kohen gadol has a more chamur kedusha,  קדושתו קדושת עולם, the fact that the nazir violates multiple lavim make it the greater evil?

The Minchas Chinuch (376:6) has an answer, but I want to share with you my wife's grandfather's (R' Dov Yehudah Shochet) answer since it relates to our parsha and is beautiful amkus in understanding the sugya.

Rashi explains the smichus ha'parshiyos between the gifts of the nesiim and hadlakas hamenorah:

למה נסמכה פרשת המנורה לחנוכת הנשיאים, כשראה אהרן חנוכת הנשיאים, חלשה דעתו כשלא היה עמהם בחנוכה, לא הוא ולא שבטו. אמר לו הקב״ה: חייך, שלך גדולה משלהם, שאתה מדליק ומטיב את הנרות בקר וערב.

Many of the mefoshim are bothered by Rashi's contention that שלך גדולה משלהם.  What makes lighting the menorah greater than the gifts of the korbanos?  How do we weigh one mitzvah against another?

My wife's grandfather (see my wife's post) suggested that what makes lighting the menorah greater is the fact that it was done every day, as opposed to the gifts of the nesiim were a one time deal.  Something done repeatedly outweighs something that is a once time event.  

He proves that sevara from the din we just saw above: the lav of neveila outweighs the lav of shabbos even though shabbos has a stricter punishment because the lav of neveila would be violated repeatedly in eating.  Repetition gives something significance and weight.

[Editorial note: We can learn a yesod in shalom bayis from here as well. What you do repeatedly day in and day out carries more weight in a relationship than a grand gesture of a big present for an anniversary or birthday.]

In that proof lies a subtle difference from the way others, like R' Yosef Engel, understood the sugya.  It's not the number of lavim involved in the issur neveila that makes it more chamur (kamus vs eichus), but rather it's the repetition of the lavim, the fact that the person earing takes bite after bite, repeating the issur again and again.  

M'meila, we can answer the Shaar haMelech's question.  The case of the nazir and kohen gadol who chance upon a meis mitzvah is a one time occurrence.  There (hopefully) will never be a repetition of that same scenario.  Therefore, even though the nazir violates more issurim, that does not outweigh the kedushas kohen gadol.  

Hope this was worth the 16 year wait : )

the suicidal need to vote Democrat

For some reason there are people still clinging to the belief that voting for Biden and Democrats is the right thing to do, even though it is the equivalent of pointing a gun at your own head.  Here's a sample of some of the damage our Democrat "friends" have inflicted on us this week:

1) 30 Columbia students were arrested for occupying a campus building during their anti-Jew protest, but that means nothing because Alvin Bragg, who embraced the most ridiculous legal theories in his witch hunt against Trump, had a prosecutor tell the judge to dismiss the charges:
Inside the courtroom—where audio and video recording is not allowed—a prosecutor in Bragg's office argued that the defendants should not face criminal penalties, citing their lack of criminal histories and arguing that the protesters will face internal discipline at Columbia.

The prosecutor also argued that Bragg's office lacked evidence to land convictions in the cases, given those who occupied Hamilton Hall wore masks and covered up surveillance cameras. New York City police arrested the occupiers while they were inside Hamilton Hall.

Still under the illusion that the police and DA are going to stop the criminals? 

2) Senator Tom Cotton reveals the truth behind the White House lie that they have no idea what Bibi is talking about when he accuses them of withholding arms from Israel:
As you are aware, the Arms Export Control Act requires the administration to notify Congress before sending weapons to a foreign country. Your administration has manipulated this requirement by withholding this formal notification to Congress of approved weapons sales, including F-15s, tactical vehicles, 120-mm mortars, 120-mm tank rounds, joint direct attack munitions, and small diameter bombs. Your administration can then claim that the weapons are “in process” while never delivering them.

But the law also includes an exception for “when emergencies exist,” which allows you to waive the requirement for congressional review and expedite weapons sales. Your administration is obviously aware of this exception since you invoked it just last year. Yet, it appears that you stopped acknowledging the emergency in Israel after receiving a letter from nearly twenty congressional Democrats in January, urging you to end expedited weapons sales to Israel.
3) As missiles rain down on the North in Israel in violation of the UN agreed to cease fire between Hezbollah and Israel, you will be happy to know that the Biden administration has spoken out forcefully on the matter:
“The message to Israel is, don’t do anything in the North,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, as US President Joe Biden’s special envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel on Monday, with plans to head to Lebanon on Tuesday.

“We don’t want to see escalation at all in the North. We’ve made that clear to the government of Israel directly,” Miller said.
What are allies for if not to tell you to be a human punching bag for your enemies?

4) Six months after the fact, on the verge of being tossed out of office, Democrat Congressman Jamaal Bowman has finally apologized for denying that Hamas committed rapes in their 10/7 attack.  Amazing how the threat of losing an election brings such clarity of mind.   Who knows, maybe even dimwitted Biden will finally see the truth sometime before November, but I would not hold my breath.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

inner strength

 Chazal tell us that Doeg was a gadol ha'dor, a brilliant talmid chacham, but his Torah was מן השׂפה לחוץ (Sanhedrin 106b).  It was all external trappings, but did not penetrate his soul.  Moshe Rabeinu, on the other hand, was the same on the inside as on the outside.  The Torah writes regarding the aron (Shmos 25:11) וצפית אתו זהב טהור מבית ומחוץ תצפנו, to plate it with gold on the inside, מבית, as well as on the outside.   בְּכׇל בֵּיתִי נֶאֱמָן הוּא Moshe was faithful not just on the outside, for show, but even מבית, even on the inside, throughout the depths of his being. 

The gemara in Taanis tells the story of חוני המעגל who people turned to to pray for rain.  Said Choni, בניך שמו פניהם עלי שאני כבן בית לפניך.  The reason Choni's tefilos were answered is because he had this midah of being faithful through and through, both on the inside, מבית -- he was  כבן בית -- and not just on the outside (Yismach Moshe).

I wanted to add my two cents that with this approach we can understand what the Torah tells (Shmos 1:21) us about the midwives of Bn"Y in Mitzrayim who refused to obey Pharoah's order to drown the babies:  וַיְהִי כִּי⁠ יָרְאוּ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶת⁠ הָאֱלֹקים וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם בָּתִּים  Through their yiras Shamayim the midwives built up their inner strength -- מבית -- and fortitude.

Friday, June 14, 2024

lack of self-awareness

1) It's hard to write something on the parsha when we are barely out of Yom Tov, but I don't want to skip a week, so I am going to come back to topic did before before and hopefully add something new.  A nazir is chayav if he comes in contact with tumas meis even by accident.   וְכִֽי⁠־יָמ֨וּת מֵ֤ת עָלָיו֙ בְּפֶ֣תַע פִּתְאֹ֔ם explains Rashi: פתע – זה אונס. 

Normally the din is אונס רחמנא פּטרי׳.  A person can't be held responsible for an accident that is out of his control.  Why then is the nazir chayav to bring a korban in this case? 

Had you asked me I would have said this is a unique din by nezirus.  The nazir accepts upon himself issurim for the sake of reaching a higher ideal of holiness; therefore, he is held responsible for mishaps that a normal person would be excused for.  Meshech Chochma writes (6:4):

פירוש אל תדמה, שרק בפעולותיו יתקדש, אבל בעצמותו אינו קדוש, לכן אמר כל ימי נזרו קדוש הוא לה׳ כי הוא נעשה קדוש בעצמותו ונשגב במעלתו, כיון שהוא נפרד מן התאוות ונבדל מן המותרות ונזהר מכל אלה, הוא נעשה זך בחומריותו ונעלה בעצמותו, לכן אמר וכי ימות מת עליו בפתע, שלא היה צריך להזהר מזה, כי הוא אנוס והביא כו׳ ועשה כו׳ וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש, פירוש, כיון שהוא איש קדוש ורום המעלה צריך להביא כפרה על שאירע שמת איש באהלו, וכמו דאמרו במכות בהא שיושב הרוצח עד מות כה״ג דהוי להו למבעי רחמים על דורן ולא בקשו, והנזיר מעלתו כמעלת הכה״ג, שלשניהן נזר אלהיו על ראשו, וזה אשר חטא על הנפש שמת, וכמו ההוא דאכליה ארי ברחוק תלתא פרסי מיניה דריב״ל ולא אישתעי אליהו בהדיה, ולכן אף אם אירע לו מת מצוה מביא קרבן, כמפורש ריש נזיר

(I am a bit confused by his proof from kohen gadol, as the gemara in that case, as M"C himself quotes, writes that the kh"g is held responsible because he should have davened for killing b'shogeg to not happen.  There is a reason for blame in that case.)

R' Simcha Zisel of Kelm learns a more general lesson from this case.  Accidents don't just "happen."  Just like the expression "you make your own luck," the same is true when it comes to accidents.  True, the person cannot be taken to task by beis din for a mishap, but that does not mean the person is true 100% blameless. 

We can glean a different answer from the comment of Netziv on the korban chatas offered by the nazir tamei:

מאשר חטא על הנפש – אחר שכתיב במת שבא ״בפתע פתאום״ שאין שום אשמה על הנזיר, מבואר דהחטא הוא שפירש עצמו מן היין. ואם לא אירע לו זו הסיבה לא היה נקרא ׳חוטא על הנפש׳, שהרי כדאי הוא להזיר עצמו מן התענוג הגשמי כדי להשיג תענוג רוחני של דביקות בה׳. אבל אחר שאירע לו באונס זו הסיבה אות הוא שאינו ראוי לכך, וא״כ בחנם ציער עצמו מן היין וביקש דבר שגבוה מערכו.

Netziv doesn't spell it out the question, but what motivated his comment is R' Elazar haKapar's statement that the cheit for which the nazir has to being a korban is, as Rashi quotes, שציער עצמו מן היין.  If this is true, isn't every nazir guilty of the same crime?  Why is it only the nazir *tamei* who is held accountable for depriving himself?  

Netziv answers that there is a trade off between the excessive perishus of not drinking wine and the spiritual gains of nezirus.  If the nazir successfully completes his nezirus, it means the tradeoff was worth it, as he realized his goal of spiritual growth.  If the nazir fails to complete his nezirus, even through no fault of his own, it means he was not really up to the task and should never have taken the nezirus upon himself to begin with.

R' Chaim Elazari notesnotes that we see an amazing chiddush from this Netziv.  It takes siyata d'Shemaya to go through the period of nezirus with no accidents.  How does a person know if he or she will be zocheh to do so? The answer is that a person has to know himself.  Unlike the Meshech Chochma and R' Simcha Zisel, the Netziv is telling us that the nazir is not held accountable for the accidental contact with the meis.  What he is held accountable for is not knowing the limits of his own ability, for lacking self-awareness.

2) The Seforno makes a beautiful obervation on the pasuk (6:13)  וְזֹ֥את תּוֹרַ֖ת הַנָּזִ֑יר בְּי֗וֹם מְלֹאת֙ יְמֵ֣י נִזְר֔וֹ יָבִ֣יא אֹת֔וֹ אֶל⁠־פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד.  He writes:

כבר בארו ז״ל ׳הוא יביא את עצמו׳ (ספרי לפסוקנו). וזה כי אמנם כל הקרב אל מי שיחדש דבר בעצמו נאמר שהוא מובא אל המחדש בו על ידי נכבד ממנו, כזה ׳שאין חבוש מתיר עצמו׳ (ברכות ה׳:), ולזה נכתב במצורע בטומאתו (ויקרא י״ג:ב׳) ובטהרתו, ״והובא אל הכהן״ (שם י״ד:ב׳), ובסוטה ״והביא האיש את אשתו אל הכהן״ (במדבר ה׳:ט״ו), וכן בעבד ״והגישו אדוניו אל האלהים״ (שמות כ״א:ו׳). אמנם בנזיר אשר יחודש בו גילוח, ובו יהפך לאיש אחר, אין נכבד ממנו שיביאהו, אבל הוא יביא את עצמו.

Both the metzora and the nazir but their hair and bring korbanos, but only the nazir is considered a different, changed person.  What sets the nazir apart is that he chooses this path; it is not something thrust upon him.  

My wife likes the quote from JFK when he first declared the goal of a moon landing and said, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills..."  The key word in that quote is "choose."  Just doing hard things doesn't always help a person grow.  Many times that person is resentful of their lot.  What makes a peron grow is *choosing* to do hard things and working at them.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Rus and Shavuos -- kabbalas haTorah and redemption of Eretz Yisrael

1)  וכל העם ראים את הקולת ואת הלפידם ואת קול השפר ואת ההר עשן וירא העם וינעו ויעמדו מרחק (Shmos 20:14). Once the reisha of the pasuk tells us that the people saw the thunder and lightning, why does the seifa add וירא העם?  I think I've mentioned in the past the diyuk of Sefas Emes that  ראים is present tense.  It was not just the generation who was physically present at Sinai who saw קולת ואת הלפידם ואת קול השפר ואת ההר עשן, but every generation sees the same as well.  The experience of mattan Torah is one that takes present in the here and now, not sometime in the past.  

The Sefas Emes (5640) writes that וירא העם is not talking about seeing the smoke and thunder of Sinai, but it's talking about seeing this fact that mattan Torah is  experienced by each and every generation, right down to ours.  The reaction was therefore וינעו ויעמדו מרחק.  Not because the dor de'ah could not handle having front row seats, but because our generation is ראים as well, and we can't handle it.  We don't have the kelim to absorb such an experience, and at best can absorb what we take in at a glimpse from the distance.

Our job, says Sefas Emes, is to rectify that -- to earn the right to be able to have have front row seats.

2) Sefas Emes (5658) writes: ענין מגילת רות בשבועות. לבקש הגאולה.  The Torah tells us two different end goals for yetzi'as Mitzrayim: תעבדון את האלקים על ההר הזה and  וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתִי אֶת יָדִי לָתֵת אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב.  The truth is that these are one and the same, as Torah can only be fully realized in Eretz Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael requires us to obey the Torah or we will have no kiyum in the land.  Chazal therefore instituted reading Rus on Shavuos so as to pair the story of Boaz's redemption of the land, the redemption of Naomi's fields, with the story of kabbalas haTorah.  Boaz = Bo oz, the oz of Torah was part of the essence of who Boaz was, which is why he succeeded as the גואל .  My SIL sent me a program planned for leil Shavuos in Netzarim, in Gaza.  The land is being redeemed once again.  We had a tremendous nefila on Simchas Torah, a chag of Torah, but we can have a tremendous aliya on Shavuos, the zman of kabbalas haTorah.  Says the Sefas Emes:  לכן בעצרת צריכין לבקש על הגאולה בכח התורה to pray for redemption through the descendent of Boaz, of David, with the coming of Mashiach.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

the special tefilah of erev rosh chodesh sivan

The Shl"H has a special tefilah to recite on erev rosh chodesh Sivan for the sake of one's children and grandchildren.  In addition to davening for one's children and one's grandchildren, perhaps one can also daven on this day for one's cheilek of Torah as well.  The gemara (Yevamos 63) writes that Ben Azai did not marry (or remain married) because he refused to have any distraction from his learning. Asks the gemara, what about the mitzvah of peru u'revu?

 אמרו לו לבן עזאי יש נאה דורש ונאה מקיים נאה מקיים ואין נאה דורש ואתה נאה דורש ואין נאה מקיים אמר להן בן עזאי ומה אעשה שנפשי חשקה בתורה אפשר לעולם שיתקיים על ידי אחרים

It's not clear what the answer of the gemara is. So what if מה אעשה שנפשי חשקה בתורה?  You wouldn't use that as an excuse for not putting on tefillin, or eating matzah on pesach, so why is it an excuse for not fulfilling peru u'revu?    

R' Yosef Engel in the Gilyonei ha'Shas says (null) a remarkable chiddush.  What Ben Azai meant is that he was in fact mekayeim peru u'revu, as the chiddushei Torah that one produces are like one's offspring!   

I am not the first to point out that in our times we probably need to daven a little more frequently than once a year for our children, our grandchildren, or even our chiddushei Torah, but at least do so today. I don't know why the SHl"H chose R"CH Sivan as the day for this tefilah, but I can tell you that the Chasam Sofer thought it was a significant day, a day of teshuvah, a day on which he would fast.  In parshas Yisro the Torah tells us (19:1-2):

 בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁלִישִׁי לְצֵאת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם בַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה בָּאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינָי.

וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרְפִידִים וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי וַיַּחֲנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיִּחַן⁠ שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶגֶד הָהָר.

Rashi comments: מה ת״ל?⁠ לחזור ולפרש מהיכן נסעו, והלא כבר כתוב שברפידים היו חונים (שמות י״ז:א׳), בידוע שמשם נסעו. אלא להקיש נסיעתן מרפידים לביאתן למדבר סיני, מה ביאתן למדבר סיני בתשובה, אף נסיעתן מרפידים בתשובה.

Rashi tells us that both the day Bn"Y left Refidim as well as the day they arrived at Sinai were special days of teshuvah (why they needed teshuvah on the day they arrived when they already had done teshuvah the day before is a topic for another time).  Since they arrived on rosh chodesh, as we read in the first pasuk, the day they left was obviously erev rosh chodesh.  Take advantage of these special days.

The Chofetz Chaim has a beautiful lesson in our parsha regarding davening for one's children.  The two largest shevatim counted in our parsha are Yehudah and Dan.  The Chofetz Chaim pointed out that Dan had only one son, Chushim, who was hard of hearing.  Anyone who compared Dan's situation with that of his brothers would think, "Nebach, what a terrible lot in life."  Fast forward just a few generation and look at what became of that "nebach!"  

Why did Dan increase in number more than the other shevatim?  The Chofetz Chaim explained that davka because Dan had only that one son, Chushim, who was disabled, he poured his heart out in tefilah.  The other shevatim had large, healthy families, and so m'meila, they figured they would naturally grow and increase in number.  They of course davened, but it was not the same as Dan's tefilah.  When you feel that there is no way you can succeed b'derech ha'teva, when your back is up against the wall and there is only one address you can turn to for help, your tefilah is a different tefilah.  When you daven for your children that way, it brings hatzlacha.

I wanted to add a point to this C"C.  Neicha the explanation for sheivet Dan, but what about Yehudah?  I usually don't like these type questions.  There is no hechrech or proof one way or the other why one sheivet more than another should be the largest, so it's just speculation.  With that caveat in mind, here's my bit of speculation : )  In Braishis 38 we read that Yehudah had two children: עֵר and  אוֹנָן.  Both of those children, whatever the reason, died.  Afterwards, you have the whole story of how Yehudah came to marry Tamar and give birth to Peretz and Zarach.  I think that just like the tefilos of Dan carried greater intensity because he had but one child, and that one child was disabled, so too, I think Yehudah's tefilos were of greater intensity because of his past history of having lost other children.  When you've suffered loss, you appreciate what you have all the more.

I think that lesson is all the more poignant this year.  Klal Yisrael has suffered such tremendous losses.  We need to daven not just for our own children, but for children like Kfir Bibas, still held in captivity by Amalek/Hamas, and for so many others who have suffered and are still suffering.  And if we have not experienced suffering directly, we should be that much more appreciative of what we have.

There simply are no words to convey the greatness of people like the parent in the video below, a parent who is grieving for the loss of his son who fell in battle, but at the same time rejoicing in the birth of a baby to that son's wife.  Listen for yourself:

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

only the beginning

 שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת לְדָוִד שָׂמַחְתִּי בְּאֹמְרִים לִי בֵּית ה׳ נֵלֵךְ.

 עֹמְדוֹת הָיוּ רַגְלֵינוּ בִּשְׁעָרַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלָ͏ִם

Radak  learns that the second pasuk here is written in anticipation of the future, like the first pasuk.  Even though it uses present tense, it is  עבר במקום עתיד.  R' Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz, in his She'eiris Menachem, however, explains that the mizmor is grammatically accurate -- there is a mix of present and future tenses together.  It is speaking about the time when Yerushalayim is in our hands, present tense.  It's a time when we could celebrate Yom Yerushalayim and appreciate our capital city.  But what David haMelech celebrated is that we did not stop there and say, "Mission accomplished."  Yom Yerushalayim was not the end of the story or chapter, but was only the beginning. The celebration of the present was paired with a yearning for the next step, for say בֵּית ה׳ נֵלֵךְ, future tense, but let it come speedily in our days.