Thursday, February 14, 2008

Those that Study and those that Support Torah

Rav Yosef said to him (Nedarim 55a), “Do not sit down until have explained the following verse [Bamidbar 21: 18 – 19]: And from the wilderness to Mattanah; and from Mattanah to Nachaliel; and from Nachaliel to Bamos?” Rava replied, “When one makes himself as the wilderness, which is open to everyone (willing to teach them Torah), the Torah is given to him as a gift, as it says: And from the wilderness to Mattanah (a gift). And once it is given to him as a gift, Hashem makes it his inheritance, as it says: and from Mattanah to Nachaliel (inheritance from Hashem). And after Hashem gives it to him as an inheritance, he ascends to greatness, as it says: and from Nachaliel to Bamos (to heights). And if he becomes haughty, Hashem will lower him down, as it says: And from Bamos to the valley. And furthermore, Hashem sinks him into the ground, as it says: overlooking the surface of the wilderness. However, if he repents, Hashem will raise him up once again, as it says: every valley shall be raised.

The verse prior to these verses states: A well dug by princes, carved out by nobles of the people, through the lawgiver with their staffs, and from the desert to Mattanah. The Vilna Gaon says that this verse must be explained according to our Gemora as well.

He explains: The well is referring to the wellsprings of Torah. The princes are those that delving into the depths of Torah. The nobles are those people who are engaged in business activities and support those who are studying Torah. The verse concludes that both those that study Torah and those that support others who are studying have a portion in Torah.

The Chozeh mi’Lublin adds: Since the verse concludes with the words: and from the Desert to Mattanah, and we derived from there one is obligated to make himself similar to the wilderness; opened to teach Torah to all, this must be true for the supporters as well. One who is supporting Torah must view his support as if the Torah scholar is receiving it from the wilderness, and not directly from him. He should not expect a return on his investment in this world; the reward for supporting Torah is given out in the World to Come; the same time that those who study Torah receive their reward.

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Meat and Fowl

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said (Nedarim 54b): If one makes a neder prohibiting himself from meat, he is permitted in fowl. It is evident that he maintains that fowl is not included in meat.

The Chasam Sofer asks: How can he hold that fowl is not included in “meat,” when it is seemingly clear from the Torah that it is? The Jews in the Desert complained that they desired meat and the Ribbono shel Olom sent fowl to them. Evidently, fowl is a type of meat!

He answers that the Gemora explains that fowl is not included in “meat” because it is not healthy to eat fowl on a day of blood letting. Since in the Desert, the northern wind did not blow, and that is the reason why there was no circumcision then (the wind is needed to heal the child). Accordingly, there was no blood letting in the desert, as well. It emerges that there would be no distinction between fowl and meat in the Desert and fowl would be included in “meat.”

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Following the Majority

The Beraisa states (Nedarim 52a): If someone makes a vow not to have oil in Eretz Yisroel, he is permitted to have sesame oil and not olive oil. In Babylon, he may not have sesame oil but he can have olive oil. In a place where both are used, he is forbidden to have both.

The Gemora asks: This is obvious! The Gemora answers: The case is where most people use one kind of oil. One might think that the vow is considered like the usage of most people. This is why the Beraisa tells us that he is forbidden to both oils, because a doubt regarding a prohibition is judged stringently.

The Ra”n explains what we would have thought: Even though there is a minority that makes use of the other kind, there is a possibility that his intention might have been even from those.

The Lechem Mishna asks: Why don’t we follow the majority? Why, in all matters of prohibition, we issue a ruling based upon the majority?

He explains: If it would be a certainty that the vower was referring to the oil used by most people, we would definitely rule that that the vow takes effect only upon that type of oil. However, here he used a language which may include both types of oil, therefore, there is an assumption that he is excluding himself from the majority. We therefore rule stringently and forbid him on both types of oil, since his language can include both.

The Netziv answers that we only follow the majority in cases where the minority is in conflict with the majority. However, here, the minority is not in contradiction with the majority, since he may have intended for both. We therefore rule stringently and forbid him on both types of oil.

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Winter Vinegar; Date Honey; Milk and Whey

The Mishna states (52a): If a person makes a vow that he will not partake of dates, he can still eat date honey. If he makes a vow not to partake of winter grapes, he may partake of the vinegar made from those grapes. Rabbi Yehudah ben Beseirah says: Whenever a product is called a name that reflects upon its source and a person vows not to partake from that source, he is forbidden to have the product as well. The Chachamim permit this.

The Ra”n asks: Who is this first Tanna? It is neither Rabbi Yosi nor the Chachamim! For we learned above, in the dispute regarding milk and whey, that whenever they called it “whey of milk,” it was forbidden according to everyone! If so, the date honey and the vinegar should be forbidden!

The Rashba answers: The cases are not similar. For in the case of the whey of milk, its form has not been changed. Even initially, when it was mixed with the milk, it was in that very same form. But here it has changed physically.

Furthermore, in the case of whey, the reason it is called “whey of milk,” is because it still has the law of milk. It is not to distinguish it from some other kind of whey, for there is no other kind. But here, when it is called “date honey” or “winter-grape vinegar,” it is not that they still have those laws; rather, it is to distinguish them between other types of honey and vinegar.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Something that can become Permitted - Davar she'yeish lo Matirin

(Nedarim 52a) If one makes a neder prohibiting himself from wine, he is permitted in cooked food which has in it the taste of wine. However, if he said, “Konam this wine that I will not taste,” and it fell into a cooked dish, if it contains enough to impart flavor to the entire mixture, it is forbidden.

This would imply that if there is not enough to give flavor, it would be permitted. The Ra”n quotes his teachers who ask the following: Something which is forbidden on account of a neder is “something that can become permitted” (davar she’yeish lo matirin), and we have established that anything that can become permitted is not nullified even in a thousand!?

They answer that when we say that it is not nullified even in a thousand, that refers to something that has been mixed with its own kind. But here, when it says, “and it became mixed,” it is referring to something else that is not the same kind, like the case of eggs that were cooked with it. Anything that is mixed with something else that is not its kind is permitted, provided that it does not give flavor, even if it is “something that can become permitted.” The Ra”n cites proof to this from a Mishna in Chalah and a Yerushalmi in our perek.

They, therefore, objected to the statement of the Ri”f in Meseches Chulin concerning bread that was baked in an oven with roasted meat. The Gemora states that it is forbidden to eat it with a dairy sauce even though it has been established that we are not halachically concerned with vapors. The reason it is forbidden is because the bread is “something that can be permitted,” since one may eat it together with meat. For that reason, it is not nullified, even in a thousand. It is evident from the Ri”f that he maintains that “something that can be permitted” is not nullified even in something that is not its kind.

The Ra”n, however, agrees to the Ri”f. When the Mishna here says that “something can become permitted” becomes nullified in something that is not its own kind, that is referring to something that is forbidden now, but will become permitted in the future, like nedarim. For the Ra”n has the following question: Since according to the Chachamim, all forbidden things become nullified in their own kind just as in a different kind, why did the Chachamim make a distinction in the case of “something that can become permitted,” between its own kind and a different kind?

The reason is as follows: The Chachamim and Rabbi Yehudah disagree whether or not something can be nullified in its own kind. Rabbi Yehudah maintains that a forbidden item is not nullified in its own kind, because anything that is similar to another thing does not weaken and nullify it; rather, it preserves it and strengthens it.

The Chachamim disagree and hold that a forbidden item and something which is permitted are not similar to each other, even if they are the same kind. This is because one is forbidden and one is permitted. For it is not fitting to follow the similarity of their substance, but rather the difference in their being forbidden and permitted.

It is for this reason that the Chachamim learned concerning “something that can be permitted” for the sake of being strict towards the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah. For since the forbidden item is not completely different from the permitted one, because the forbidden one will eventually become permitted, we say that it is not nullified in its own kind. It will only become nullified when mixed with a different kind, for the difference that exists between one kind and another will make up for the equality that is added here because it is “something that can be permitted.” It is the difference between kinds that is the cause of nullification, and equality interferes with nullification.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Small Fish, Large Fish

Rav Papa said to Abaye (Nedarim 51b): How do we know that when he says, “Fish (dag) that I will not taste,” dag implies large ones only? It is because it is written [Yonah 2:1]: Now Hashem had prepared a large fish (dag) to swallow up Yonah? But isn’t it also written: Then Yonah prayed to Hashem, his God from the inside of the fish (dagah)?

The Gemora answers: This is no difficulty: Perhaps the large fish spit him out and he was swallowed again by a smaller one.

But, the Gemora asks: What of the verse regarding the plague of blood, where it is written [Shmos 7:21]: And the fish (dagah) that was in the river died? Did only the small fish die, not the large?

The Gemora concludes: Dagah written in the Torah implies both large and small, but regarding vows, the language used by the public is followed.

It would seem that according to Abaye, the word dagah in the Torah refers only to small fish. Accordingly, we would be compelled to say that only the small fish dies in the plague of blood. Why would this be?

The Rogatchover Gaon explains: The river was dug by the hands of the Egyptians. The Yerushalmi rules regarding fish that swim into one’s private water; he acquires only the small ones and not the large ones. Accordingly, it can be explained that only the fish belonging to the Egyptians died, but the large fish, which they did not own, there was no reason for them to die.

The Rama in Shulchan Aruch (C”M 331:1) rules that a worker may return to his home on Friday afternoon, early enough that he will have the time to fill a jug of water and roast a small fish.

The Shach asks as to what is the source for the Rama’s ruling that it is sufficient if he has ample time to cook a small fish? Perhaps, he should leave his work with enough time to cook a large fish?

The Nitzotzei Ohr answers that the language of the Yerushalmi, which is the source for this halacha, is dagah, and the Rama understands that to be referring to a small fish.

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