Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two for One

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said (Daf Yomi: Nazir 60b): The shaving of a nazir, whether he is tahor or tamei cannot count for the shaving of a metzora. This, he explains, is because each of the shavings are different than the other (either because one is to remove hair and one is to grow hair, or because one is before the korbanos and one is afterwards, or because one is after immersion in a mikvah and the other is before immersion).

Shulchan Aruch rules that on Purim, one must cease from learning Torah in order to go and hear the Megillah.

The Beis Efraim asked the son of the Noda B’Yehuda as to why this would be considered bitul Torah. Isn’t the reading of the Megillah also considered learning?

The Chachmas Shlomo answers according to our Gemora, which states that one action cannot count for two different things. If he will be intending to fulfill the mitzvah of studying Torah, it cannot count for the mitzvah of reading the Megillah. And if he intends to discharge his obligation for reading the Megillah, it cannot count for learning Torah. This is why it is regarded as bitul Torah. (This, he says, is according to those that rule that one needs intent in order to discharge his obligation; it is impossible to have in mind for two mitzvos when he is only performing one action.)

This answer is perplexing in light of the halacha that one who recites kerias shema is also fulfilling his mitzvah of studying Torah! We see that one action can accomplish two things.

The Beis Efraim maintains that one who reads the Megillah or listens to it will not be fulfilling a mitzva of studying Torah. The Avnei Neizer (O”C 517) disagrees with him vehemently to such an extent that he writes: “I do not believe that those words came out of the mouth from such a righteous person as the Beis Efraim.”

Reb Chaim Voloziner talks at great length that there is a concept of neglecting to study Torah in depth and not only time. According to this, the Gemora can be explained to mean that even though reading the Megillah is considered learning, nonetheless it would be regarded as bitul Torah since he is not delving into the depths of Torah; if not for the special halacha that one is obligated to close the Gemora and hear the Megillah.

The Beis Efraim himself speculates that perhaps one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah through the reading of the Megillah because it is part of Tefillah. This is based on the viewpoint of the Beis Yosef, who rules regarding one who had forgotten to recite birchas hatorah in the morning. The blessing of Ahava Rabbah can be utilized as a birchas hatorah, providing that he learns immediately after Shemoneh Esrei. The recital of kerias shema will not be sufficient because that is part of Tefillah. Perhaps, the same logic can be used for the reading of the Megillah.