Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Idolater is Stricter than a Jew

The Rishonim ask: It is evident from our Gemora that according to the one that holds that an informed minor, who has not quite reached manhood, can only Rabbinically pronounce a vow, but Biblically, it will not be effective; nevertheless, with respect to an idolater, an informed minor, who has not quite reached manhood, may pronounce a vow and it will be Biblically binding. Why would this be? How can an idolater be more stringent that a Jew?

The Mefaresh explains that there are other examples where we find that the law is stricter with an idolater than it is with respect of a Jew. The Mishna in Bava Kamma teaches us that if the ox of idolater gores an animal belonging to a Jew, the idolater is liable to pay full damages, even if the ox gored for the first time. A Jew, however, whose ox gores for the first time, will only be liable to pay half-damages.

Tosfos suggests the following: A Jewish adult is subject to the prohibition against desecrating his word. Accordingly, we expound that any Jew who is not included in this prohibition cannot pronounce a vow. A minor, who is not subject to this commandment, cannot therefore utter a vow, which would be Biblically valid. An idolater, however, who is not included in this prohibition, cannot be excluded from pronouncing a vow based on this, and therefore, even a minor’s vow would be Biblically binding.

It is evident from Tosfos that the prohibition against desecrating his word is not applicable to an idolater. The Mishna L’melech cites proofs that an idolater is obligated to keep his word based upon the prohibition against desecrating his word.

The Ohr Sameach answers this question by citing the Chasam Sofer, who says that any idolater, even a minor is obligated to observe their commandments. This explains why with respect to idolaters, an informed minor, who has not quite reached manhood, can pronounce a vow and it will be Biblically valid, whereas a Jewish minor cannot. By an idolater, there is no distinction whatsoever between a minor and an adult. Proof to this is from the Rosh, who states that the guidelines for a minor to reach adulthood are learned from an oral tradition that was transmitted to Moshe at Sinai with respect to all measurements. These laws were given to the Jewish people; not for the idolaters.

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Accepting Charity from an Idolater

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 62a) cites a Scriptural source to teach us that an idolater can vow vowed-offerings and freewill-offerings just like Jews.

The Haga’os Ashri (in Bava Basra) brings the following question in the name of the Maharich: Why are we not allowed to accept charity from an idolater, but we are permitted to accept his korbanos?

He answers in the name of his Rebbe: A voluntary korban is not brought to serve as atonement, and therefore, we are not concerned if they offer a sacrifice, for those do not bring about forgiveness and they will not serve as a protection for them. However, one who gives charity receives atonement for his sins, and merits protection for his good deed. It is not in our best interests to assist them in this matter.

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Monday, May 19, 2008


Rami bar Chama’s Inquiry

Rami bar Chama inquired (Daf Yomi: Nazir 61a): Is the reason that these four shavings are done because of the mitzvah of shaving, or is the purpose merely to remove the hair? The difference between these two reasons is whether or not they can be done with a depilatory. If they have the same laws as shaving when it is a mitzvah, it must be done with a razor. If it is just a matter of removing the hair, it can be done with a cream. What is the law?

Rami bar Chama’s question cannot be with respect to all the shavings, for a metzora and a nazir tahor are definitely required to shave with a razor. His inquiry can only be relevant to a nazir tamei.

Furthermore, Tosfos explains, he cannot be discussing the precise case of the braisa, for there, all four shavings must be done with a razor, since we are uncertain which of the four shavings is for the nazir tamei. He must be referring to a case where it was definitely known that the nazir was tamei. In truth, Rami bar Chama could have inquired simply: Does the shaving of a nazir tamei require a razor or not!

The Gemora brings a proof from the braisa which explicitly states that four shavings are required. Tosfos explains: Since in the braisa’s case, he would not be permitted to drink wine until after the fourth shaving; if a razor would not be necessary for the shaving of a nazir tamei, we would not have required a razor for the third shaving out of the concern that he might be concluding his nezirus with this shaving.


The Rambam rules that a nazir who shaves will receive lashes, whether he used a razor, and even if a different type of implement was used. However, if he used a depilatory, he will not incur lashes; rather, he will have negated the nazir’s positive commandment of growing his hair.

The Brisker Rav notes that it is evident from the Rambam that using a depilatory does not constitute a shaving at all! Accordingly, Rami bar Chama’s inquiry regarding a nazir tamei is not merely if a razor is required for his shaving; rather, his inquiry is if a nazir tamei has an obligation to shave! Perhaps, it is not necessary for him to shave at all; as long as his hair is removed, that is sufficient.

Based on this understanding, we can understand Rava’s proof from the braisa which states that a nazir, who might be tamei, is obligated to “shave” four times. The Gemora had stated earlier that he must shave four times, and not less, because one shaving cannot count for the other. This would only be understandable if a nazir tamei has an obligation to shave. However, if the halacha merely is that the hair of a nazir tamei must be removed, and this can even be done by means of a depilatory, which does not constitute a shaving at all, it would not be necessary to require a special shaving for the nazir tamei. When he shaves his hair for the tzaraas, it should automatically be valid for his “removal of hair,” needed for a nazir tamei. By the fact that the braisa rules that four shavings are required and not one of them can count for the other, this proves that a nazir tamei also has a mitzvah of shaving, and therefore, a depilatory may not be used.

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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.

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Wearing the Clothing of a Woman

Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said (Daf Yomi: Nazir 59a): How do we know that a woman shall not go out wearing weapons of war? It is because it’s written: A man’s attire shall not be on a woman. And the verse, nor may a man wear a woman’s garment teaches us that a man is prohibited from beautifying himself with the adornments of a woman (included in this prohibition would be the removal of his hair).

The Beis Yosef rules that even according to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, the Torah only forbade something that is in the open and recognizable to all; however, something that is hidden from the eye, it will only be Rabbinically forbidden. Therefore, he explains, that although the Rambam rules according to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, it is not Biblically forbidden to shave the hair by the underarms and the pubic area, for that is something that is not seen.

The Bach wonders where the Beis Yosef saw such a distinction in the Gemora.

The Bach himself explains the Rambam as follows: Only things which are done for the sake of beauty is forbidden. This is why it would be Biblically forbidden for a man to wear make-up, eye shadow or wear colorful garments of a woman; however, shaving his body hairs is only removing things that are repulsive to him. That is why the Rambam rules that it is only Rabbinically forbidden.

The Bach rules that it is permitted for a man to wear the clothing of a woman if his purpose is not to appear like a woman. It is therefore permitted for a man to wear a woman’s clothing in order to protect himself from the rain or to shield him from the sun.

The Shach qualifies this ruling to be referring only to the embellishments of a woman; however, if he wears a woman’s garment in a manner that it would not be recognizable that he is a man, even the Bach would prohibit this.

The Darkei Moshe rules that this prohibition is not applicable on Purim. A man may wear the garment of a woman and a woman may wear the garment of a man. He explains: Whenever there is a custom for a man and a woman to wear the same clothing, there is no prohibition. (This is why the Rashba rules that in a place where it was the custom for the men to remove the hair by their underarms, there is no prohibition.) Since on Purim, it became the custom to switch clothing, there is no prohibition. Additionally, since it is being done for the joy of Purim, it is permitted.

The Yereim writes that a man may not wear a woman’s clothing, even if it just temporary and even if it is being done just for fun. The Mishna Berura rules like this.

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