Monday, March 08, 2010


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By: Reb Avi Lebowitz

The Mishna lists gamblers among those who are unfit to judge, and as Rashi points out, unfit to testify, since they are regarded as re’shaim. There is a discussion in the Gemora as to why a gambler is unfit to testify or judge. Rami Bar Chamah holds that it is an issue of “asmachta,” which means that the money he wins is regarded as stolen. Rav Sheishes disagrees and attributes the disqualification to not being involved in furthering the general welfare of the public. The Gemora points out that the difference between the two opinions would be a situation where he has another job aside from gambling. The issue of “asmachta” would apply regardless of whether he has another means of support, whereas the issue of furthering the general welfare of the public would only apply if he has no other means of support.

Tosfos points out that both opinions in the Gemora agree that the disqualification is only Rabbinic, because even the opinion who considers it theft due to “asmachta,” since he doesn’t realize the severity of the prohibition; he is not invalidated as a witness on a Biblical level. Regardless, we rule according to Rav Sheishes that the disqualification is attributed to him not being involved in furthering the general welfare of the public which would surely be Rabbinic.

There is a dispute between the Rambam and Rashi as to the nature of the disqualification of not being involved in furthering the general welfare of the public. The Rambam associates this with theft. Since the looser isn’t willingly forfeiting his money to the winner, it is considered “avak gezel.” The S”ma (C.M. 34:40) explains the position of the Rambam - since it is not technically theft, the Rabbis only considered it to be a problem if his main livelihood was coming from his gambling earnings. When the Gemora stipulates that he is only disqualified if he doesn’t have another means of earning a living, the Gemora really means to say that he doesn’t have another source of income. If he has another source of income, or is wealthy so that he doesn’t need the gambling earnings for support, he would be eligible to serve as a witness. However, if he had another income, but required the earnings from gambling to support himself, he would be disqualified. The Gr”a (C.M. 203:44) disagrees with the approach of the S”ma and explains that the Rambam actually rules like Rami bar Chamah that an “asmachta” is not binding, and therefore, he considers it to be theft. But, the Gr”a holds that even though it is stealing, the Sages only invalidated him when he has no other livelihood.

Rashi considers the issue of not being involved in furthering the general welfare of the public to have nothing to do with theft. Rashi considers the issue to be an indication of a very low level of fear of Heaven. The S”ma explains that this only applies to someone who doesn’t work and doesn’t realize the difficulties involved in earning money and would be prone to testify falsely (because he associates money as “easy-come, easy-go,” and doesn’t take it seriously). But someone who works, even if he can’t support himself without the added income from gambling, wouldn’t be disqualified for testimony since he realizes the challenges of earning a living.

The Shulchan Aruch, who follows the Rambam, and considers the problem of gambling to be associated with theft, follows his own opinion (c.m. 370:3) where he writes that one who gambles with gentiles would not be in violation of theft (since only actual and direct theft is forbidden from a gentile, but not when he loses in gambling and agrees to give the money). Rashi would certainly not make this distinction and would hold that even one who gambles with gentiles would be disqualified to testify. Even according to the Rambam, the Shulchan Aruch frowns upon gambling and writes: However, it is forbidden to occupy oneself with matters of vain, for a person should only occupy his time with wisdom and matters that benefit the general welfare of the public.

Rules of the Game and the
Rules of Life

By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi

Rabbi Nachum of Stepinesht, the son of Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin, once entered his beis midrash during Chanukah and saw some chasidim playing checkers. Seeing their Rebbe, they were taken aback, but Rabbi Nachum approached and asked them, “Do you know the rules of the game? Now listen carefully:
1) You give one piece to get back two.
2) You mustn’t avoid your move.
3) You mustn’t make two moves with one turn.
4) Go forward, but never backward.
5) When you get to the top, you can go anywhere (Rav S.Y. Zevin, Sipurei Chasidim al HaMo’adim, p. 267).



The Gemora rules that one may be matmin (insulate) a cold food or drink on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 257:6) clarifies that one may only do so when the insulation does not add heat (eino mosif hevel), and his whole purpose of doing so is to ensure that the item will not become too cold. If however it does add heat (mosif hevel), then it is forbidden to insulate it even prior to Shabbos.

In generations past, in order to keep the cooked food warm once it was taken off the fire, it was insulated. Although there isn’t any issur melachah with hatmanah per se, the Chachamim nevertheless forbade it so as not to violate the issur of bishul in the event that before the insulation he would find that the item cooled off and then he would return it to the fire. Therefore one may not do hatmanah on Shabbos even when the insulation is not mosif hevel (ibid 257:1).

The Chachamim additionally forbade insulating an item in a place where it’s mosif hevel even before Shabbos. The reason being since in the times of the Gemora the ideal place for mosif hevel was in the ash next to the fire, and he might come to stir the ash on Shabbos to heat up the insulated food, thereby violating a form of mavir (ibid).

Reb Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 4:74 - Hatmanah) explains that it is forbidden to insulate an item in a manner of mosif hevel even early Friday morning. [One cannot infer that Reb Moshe held that there isn’t any problem of hatmanah if it was insulated before Friday, since the question he was addressing was regarding Friday morning. On the contrary, it is pretty clear from his wording that it would be forbidden to do so no matter when it was insulated.]


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