Thursday, April 02, 2009

Abstaining from Wine

Rabbi Elozar HaKappar asks (Bava Kamma 91) : What does the verse mean when it says, “and he shall atone for him for having sinned on his soul?” What “soul” did he “sin” against? It must be referring to the fact that he pained himself by abstaining from wine. This additionally teaches us that if this person who merely abstained from wine is called a sinner, someone who abstains from many things is certainly a sinner.

Ben Yehoyadah explains why one who deprives himself from wine or any food is regarded as a sinner. Portions of one’s soul are contained within foods and drinks. When one recites a blessing before eating these foods, he can cause a remedy for those parts of the soul, and through his blessing, they will be able to go to their rightful place. It emerges that one who declares himself to be a nazir and therefore refrains from eating grapes or drinking wine, is sinning regarding his soul, for now his soul will remain deficient.

Furthermore, there are many mitzvos where wine is required, such as kiddush on Shabbos and Yom Tov, havdalah, birkas hamazon, bris milah and sheva brochos. Chazal established the mitzvos in this manner in order to rectify the sin of Adam Harishon, which was with wine. One who vows to be a nazir and therefore abstains from drinking wine causes anguish to his soul.

Read more!

Afflictions Purge a Person's Sins

The Gemora (Bava Kamma 91) states that if a master knocks out the tooth of his slave, or if he blinds his eye, he must release the slave.

It is noteworthy that Rabbi Yochanan in the Gemora in Brochos (5a) derives from here that a person is considered fortunate if Hashem inflicts him. It is taught through a kal vachomer as follows: If the loss of a tooth or an eye, which is only one of the limbs in a person’s body, nevertheless, a slave gains his freedom because of it, then afflictions, which cleanse the person’s entire body, should certainly free a person from sin because of them!

Rish Lakish derives this same lesson from a different source. He says: The word covenant is written with respect to salt and the word covenant is written with respect to afflictions. Just as salt sweetens the meat, so too, afflictions will cleanse a person from his sins.

The Bobover Rebbe in Kedushas Tziyon notes that there is a distinction between the two expositions. According to Rabbi Yochanan, the afflictions will only cleans a person if they emanate from Heaven, similar to the halachos of a slave, where he will only be set free if his master knocks out his tooth or eye. He will not gain his freedom if someone else injures him. However, according to Rish Lakish, any type of afflictions will cleanse him, in the same manner as the salt sweetening the meat. It makes no difference as to who applies the salt.

Based upon this, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank explains the following. It is written [Shmos 6:5]: And also, I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant. The Jewish people thought that the Egyptians were their masters and they were those who were afflicting them. They did not realize that their suffering was decreed from Heaven. Because they didn’t know who was causing them their hardships, they did not gain their freedom. It was only because Hashem remembered His covenant, that all afflictions cleanse a person from his sins, that was the reason they were released from the bondage.

Reb Meir Shapiro adds to this: If a slave does not come to court and testify that his master knocked out his tooth or eye, he will not gain his freedom. If he says that it happened by happenstance, he will not go free. So too, it is with afflictions. If a person does not believe with complete faith that the afflictions are affecting him because of Divine Providence, the afflictions will not purge him of his sins. However, if this principle was derived through the gezeirah shavah from salt, it would not make any difference.

The Rashba was asked the following question: If a slave initiates a fight with his master and strikes the first blow, and the master counters with some strikes of his own and knocks out the slave’s tooth, will the slave gain his freedom?

He replied that the slave goes free. The proof is from the aforementioned Gemora, where Rabbi Yochanan derived that afflictions will cleanse a person from his sins through a kal vachomer from the laws of the slave. How can the two be compared? Afflictions come to a person because he has sinned! It was his own fault! Perhaps, then, those afflictions will not purge him from his sins!? Evidently, we see that a slave also gains his freedom, even if he was the one who initiated the fight!

Read more!

Humiliation with Words

The Gemora (Bava Kamma 91) stated: If someone spat at his friend and the spittle hit him, or he removed the hair covering of a woman or his friend’s cloak, he is required to pay him/her four hundred zuz. Rav Papa taught: This is only if the spittle reached his friend, but if it only hit his clothes, he is exempt from paying this fine.

The Gemora asks: Shouldn’t the perpetrator be liable similar to one who humiliates his fellow with words? The Gemora answers: It is evident from here that one who embarrasses his fellow with words is exempt from any liability.

The Rosh cites Rav Shrira Gaon: Although it seems from the Scriptural verses that one is not liable for humiliating his fellow with words, nevertheless, the Sages would excommunicate him until he appeases his fellow properly according to his honor. He notes that it is logical to assume that there is a higher degree of embarrassment for one who is humiliated with words more than one, who was embarrassed through a wound, for there is nothing worse than slandering one’s fellow.

The Rambam (Hilchos Chovel 5:7) rules that one who admits in Beis Din that he wounded his fellow privately, he will be liable to pay for the embarrassment, for even though the victim was not humiliated at the time of the wounding, he was humiliated at the time of the admission in Beis Din.

The Minchas Chinuch (49:7) asks: Isn’t this a classical case of embarrassing one’s fellow with words, and one is not liable for such humiliation?

Read more!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hekdesh and a Lien

Hekdesh vs. Lien

The Gemora cited Rava’s statement, that a lien can be broken by three mechanisms: hekdesh (consecration), chametz on Pesach, and shichrur (freeing a slave). The Rishonim discuss the parameters of hekdesh breaking a lien.

Type of Hekdesh

Rashi states that this is only true for hekdesh haguf – consecration of an item itself, and not just its value. If someone consecrates an animal as a sacrifice, the animal itself is to be used for the sacrifice, and is therefore considered hekdesh haguf. If someone consecrates other items, they will be sold, with their value being used by hekdesh. This is called hekdesh damim (monetary consecration).

Tosfos explains that since hekdesh haguf is not redeemed (unless the animal becomes unfit), once it applies to an animal, a lien does not remove it. However, just as hekdesh damim can be removed via redemption, it is removed by the lien.

The Rambam (Malve v’lo’ve 18:7) holds that both types of hekdesh remove a lien.

Rabbeinu Tam (Tosfos Gittin 40b hekdesh) says that on movable items, both types of hekdesh remove a lien, but on real estate, only hekdesh haguf removes a lien, since real estate is considered to currently be property of the lien holder.

The Meiri states that the type of hekdesh is immaterial, and the only issue is whether the borrower has any more assets for the lien holder to collect from. If there are more assets, the hekdesh removes the lien, but if there are no more assets, the hekdesh does not affect the lien.


Tosfos (Gittin 40b hekdesh) state that Rava is consistent with his opinion (Pesachim 30b) that a creditor is considered an owner of property he collects only from the time of collection. Therefore, until that time, the assets are still the property of the borrower, and he has the power to consecrate it.


The Rishonim discuss whether forbidding an item through a konam (vow) can also break a lien, inasmuch as a konam is akin to a personal consecration. Most Rishonim say that only a konam that forbids everyone from benefiting from the item can break the lien, since such a konam is similar to consecration in it universal application. Some Rishonim (Meiri, Ran, Nimukei Yosef) hold that even a konam only prohibiting the creditor from benefit breaks a lien, but we pressure the borrower to undo his konam, since he unfairly has harmed the creditor alone by his action.

Read more!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Paying for Humiliation

Rav Abba bar Mammal inquired (Bava Kamma 86) : What would be the halachah if someone insulted someone while he (the victim) was sleeping, and then he died (without ever realizing that he was insulted)?

Rav Zevid explains the inquiry as follows: Does the assailant pay for embarrassment because the victim is insulted, and since in this case, he died before waking and was never insulted, no payment should is required, or is the payment perhaps on account of the public degradation, and since here there was degradation, he should be liable?

The Gemora cites a braisa: Rebbe says that a deaf-mute is subject to be paid for embarrassment. A deranged person is not subject to be paid for embarrassment. Regarding a minor, it depends.

Rav Pappa explains: If the minor is old enough that if he is reminded of some insult, he feels embarrassed, he will be paid for embarrassment. However, if when reminded, he still is not embarrassed, he is not subject to be paid for embarrassment.

It is noteworthy that the Gemora in Rosh Hashanah discusses a case where someone at times is normal and at times, he is deranged. It is some sort of bipolar disorder where he cycles on and off from “normal” to “abnormal.” Reb Avi Lebovitz wonders what the halachah would be If one embarrassed this person when he was deranged, but later he becomes normal and is embarrassed about what happened, would the assailant be responsible? Do we say that since at the time that the act was done he was deranged, the assailant is exempt, or do we say that since the obligation for paying embarrassment is for the feeling of humiliation, the assailant should be liable?

Read more!

Permission to Heal

The Gemora (Bava Kamma 85) states that from the verse, “v’rapo yerapei” teaches us that a doctor is given permission to heal a sick person.

Rashi explains that if not for that verse, I might have thought that the doctor would be forbidden from healing him, for Heaven has decreed that he should be ill; it would be contrary to his destiny. The Torah teaches us that he may be cured.

The Rishonim ask from the Gemora above (81b) which cites a braisa: How do we know that one must return another lost person? The verse says, “And you will return it to him.” Is it not obvious then that a doctor is Biblically obligated to save a person from dying?

The Moishav Zekeinim answers that the Torah is teaching us that the doctor is allowed to charge for his services, for otherwise, I would have thought that since it is a mitzvah, he must do it for free.

Tosfos HaRosh answers that without the extra verse, I would have thought that a doctor may only heal a person when the sickness was man-induced. However, an illness that emanated from Heaven, it would be forbidden for the doctor to heal him, for it might be as if he is nullifying the word of God. The Torah teaches us that all sicknesses may be cured.

Tosfos Rabbi Yehudahh Hachasid explains why the Torah wrote v’rapo yerapei” twice: The Torah is teaching us that a second doctor may heal an ill person even after a first doctor was unsuccessful, for we might have thought that by the fact that the first doctor was unable to cure him, this is a proof that Hashem does not want him healed and it is forbidden for the second doctor to attempt to heal him. The Torah teaches us that even the second doctor is permitted to cure him.

The Hadar Zkeinim answers that if not for the extra verse, we would think that only a person who is drowning, where he is dying at that moment, is it permitted to save him. However, if one is sick and is dying slowly, perhaps it is forbidden to heal him. The Torah teaches us that even this is allowed.

The Ramban adds that this verse is necessary to teach the doctor that he should not say, “Why should I get involved? Perhaps I will err and cause the person to die.” The Torah is telling him that he need not be concerned for this.

Read more!