Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hashem’s Kal Vachomer

Why did Hashem respond to Moshe through a kal vachomer (and not any other way)?

The Baal Shem Tov answers that Moshe Rabbeinu davened to Hashem to heal Miriam by saying: “Keil na, refa na lah” – Please Hashem, heal her now. It is known that the thirteen principles of biblical hermeneutics correspond to the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. The first of the biblical hermeneutics is a kal vachomer. It corresponds to “Keil” of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Since Moshe opened his tefillah with “Keil,” Hashem responded with a kal vachomer.

When Rabeinu Gershom Sat a Double Shiv’ah for his Son

By: Meoros Hadaf Hayomi

The Rishonim relate the sad story that the son of Rabeinu Gershom Meor Hagolah together with his mother, Rabeinu Gershom’s second wife, left the Jewish faith. Subsequent halachic authorities record that Rabeinu Gershom sat shiv’ah for his son for a period of 14 days.

Maharam of Rottenberg remarks in his Responsa (§544) that there is no obligation to sit shiv’ah for those who convert to another religion (Shulchan Aruch, Y.D. 340:5) but that Rabeinu Gershom did so out of his extraordinary sorrow.

Radvaz confirms the fact that Rabeinu Gershom sat shiv’ah for his son, not mourning his death but rather that his son had not repented while alive (Responsa Radvaz, III, 558).

Other sources, though, report that he mourned for his son while he was still alive and as for the 14-day period, the Or Zarua (II, 428) offers an explanation in the name of his mentor, Rabbi Shimshon zt”l: Rabeinu Gershom learnt his behavior from our sugya concerning Miriam. Hashem’s honor is double that of even a parent and if a person mourns seven days for a human who has left this world, one should surely mourn 14 days for the loss of a soul to Hashem by apostasy.

The Gerer Rebbe zt”l, author of Imrei Emes, wondered about this reasoning: According to our sugya, Hashem Himself ruled that even though by ordinary logic, His honor is double that of a parent and Miriam should have been punished for 14 days – still, “da’yo…” - that which is learnt from another instance should not be more severe” and she was therefore punished for only seven days. Why, then, did Rabeinu Gershom mourn for 14 days? The Imrei Emes explains in the name of his brother-in-law, the Rabbi of Bendin zt”l, that only Hashem could apply “da’yo” to forgo His honor whereas we cannot ignore Hashem’s honor and the logic of extending the mourning to 14 days still holds for us [Michtevei Torah, 55-56].

The firstborn Takes a Double Portion

2, 20, 200

According to the Maharal of Prague, the root letters of bechor (“firstborn”) – i.e., beis, kaf and reish – hint at his right to a double portion of his father’s estate as all their numerical values are multiples of 2: beis = 2, kaf = 20 and reish = 200! Others point out that beis, kaf and reish can be rearranged to spell berech, “a knee”: Just as our knees support our whole body, a firstborn supports his father.

And if her Father Spat in her Face

HaGaon Rav M.M. Krengel zt”l expressed a wonderful idea about the story of Miriam described in our sugya: The Midrash (quoted by Rashi on Shemos 2:1) relates that when Pharaoh decreed for every newborn son to be thrown into the Nile, Miriam’s father Amram left his wife Yocheved and all the Israelites followed suit. Miriam, though, protested to Amram that his decree was worse than Pharaoh’s: “Pharaoh issued a decree against the sons but you issued a decree against both sons and daughters!” Miriam thought she was justified in admonishing her father as, in her opinion, he had transgressed the Torah: after all, according to Beis Shamai, a person has fulfilled the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply only if he begets two sons and, at that time, Moshe had not yet been born. Still, when many years later Miriam complained about Moshe because he isolated himself from his wife, she was also punished for upbraiding her father as Moshe already had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.