Friday, June 13, 2008

Teaching Torah to Girls

Rabbi Eliezer said (Daf Yomi: Sotah 21b): If someone teaches his daughter Torah, he is teaching her lewdness.

Tosfos cites a Yerushalmi which notes that Ben Azzai does not follow the exposition of Rabbi Elozar ben Azaryah. For it is written regarding the mitzvah of Hakhel that men, women and children should assemble. The men come to learn, the women come to listen and the children come so that those who brought the children can earn reward. According to Ben Azzai, the reason why the women come is to learn, just like the men. However, according to Rabbi Elozar ben Azaryah, who holds that one should not teach his daughter Torah, the women are not coming to learn; but rather, they are listening to the words of Torah in order for them to know how to fulfill the mitzvos that they are commanded to perform.

The Rambam rules that a woman who studies Torah receives reward, but not in the same capacity as a man. However, the Chachamim commanded a father not to teach Torah to his daughter, for women, in general, are not capable of understanding the intricacies and the fine details of the Torah, and it will lead them to incorrect halachic conclusions. This admonition is only applicable to the Oral Law; however with respect of the Written Law, one should not teach it to her, but if he does, it is not regarded as if he taught her lewdness.

The Maharatz Chiyos asks: According to the Rambam, Rabbi Elozar ben Azaryah could also expound the verse by Hakhel to be saying that the women are coming to learn Torah, for there, the king was teaching the Written Law, and there is no prohibition whatsoever to teach that to her!?

He writes that after careful scrutiny of the Rambam’s language, it is clear that there is a prohibition to teach one’s daughter the Written Law; however, it is not with the same degree as the prohibition regarding the Oral law.

The Tur (Y”D 246:6) seemed to have a different version of the Rambam, for he writes that the Rambam holds that the concept of lewdness only applies by the Written Law, but with respect of the Oral Law, there is no lewdness; however, one should not teach it to her, but if he does, it is not regarded as if he taught her lewdness.

The Beis Yosef writes that it must be a printer’s mistake in the Tur, for the Rambam says the exact opposite.

The Rama rules that the laws pertaining to a woman, she is obligated to learn. The Bach writes that it is for this reason that a woman recites a birchas HaTorah in the morning.

The Aruch Hashulchan comments that it was never the custom for women to learn from a sefer. They were taught orally all the halachos that were relevant to them.

The Chafetz Chaim in Likutei Halachos writes that these halachos only applied in earlier times when the children lived in the same place as their parents and the tradition was strong. Then, it was forbidden to teach the women Torah, and the women followed the examples of the previous generations. However, in today’s times, when children live far away from their parents and the tradition has been weakened, and especially because the woman are studying the language and writings of the secular world, it is an important obligation to teach the girls Chumash, Prophets, the Writings, Pirkei Avos and the ethical teachings of our sages in order to strengthen their faith. For if not, they are liable to stray from the correct path of Hashem. The Steipler Gaon writes that in today’s times, it is more dangerous not to teach them Torah than to teach them. He even rules that one is allowed to teach Mishna to girls. However, Reb Moshe Feinstein (Y”D III, 87) rules that Mishna is part of the Oral Law, and the original prohibition is still intact, and therefore, girls should not be taught Mishna in school.

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First Thoughts

The Gemora asks (Daf Yomi: Sotah 21b): What is an example of a cunning evildoer? Rabbi Yochanan answers: This is someone who tells his side of the story to the judge before the other party shows up.

Rashi explains that once the judge hears the first side, it will be difficult for him to remove that from his mind, and he will not be impartial in the case.

The Mirrer Mashgiach, Reb Chaim Shmuelwitz notes that this is true regarding the way a person thinks as well. The first thought that enters one’s mind becomes entrenched in his brain, and he will not pay attention to a different perspective presented to him. He will not even bother thinking that perhaps his opinion is incorrect, and all that will happen in the future will only serve to strengthen his original thought.

Accordingly, he explains that which the Shach (C”M 37:109) brings from the Ball Ha’itur: If witnesses observed something concerning a relative of theirs, they cannot offer testimony even if at the time of the testimony, they were no longer relatives. This is because it is the nature of man to follow his initial thoughts, and their recollection of the incident will be based on their initial perception, which occurred while they were related.

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Forced to Drink

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 20a) had stated: If she had any merit, it would suspend her punishment. Certain merits suspend it for one year; others can suspend it for two years; and others suspend it for three years.

Ben Yehoyadah explains: There are certain mitzvos that can only be fulfilled during the day. If the woman performed such a mitzvah, the merit can delay her punishment for one year, i.e. twelve months, which corresponds to the twelve hours of the day. There are some mitzvos, such as the reading of the Megillah, which apply by day and by night. Performance of such a mitzvah can postpone her punishment for two years, twenty-four months, corresponding to the twenty-four hours of the day and night. There are mitzvos that are applicable for a day, night and a day, such as the mitzvah of fasting on Yom Kippur. The Gemora tells us that one who eats on the ninth day is regarded as if he fasted on the ninth and the tenth (of Tishrei). According to many poskim, the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur can only be fulfilled during the day; not the night before. The mitzvah of Shabbos is also a mitzvah which comprises thirty-six hours, since there is a mitzvah to prepare for Shabbos on Friday. If the woman performed these mitzvos, the merits can hold back her punishment for thirty-six months, three years.

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Hidden Away

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 20a) had stated: If before the scroll has been erased she said: “I will not drink,” her scroll is hidden away and her minchah offering is scattered on the ashes.

Rashi learns that they are hidden away at the sides of the Sanctuary, for all sacred writings which cannot be used any longer are hidden away in a place that they will not be treated with disrespect.

In the sefer Torah Haohel, he asks, why did the sotah scroll have to be hidden away? Couldn’t they have given it to a child in order for him to learn the portion in the Torah dealing with the sotah?

He answers that since it was written with sanctity, and it contains the Name of Hashem, they were concerned that the children will not treat the scroll with the proper respect, and therefore it was required to be hidden away.

Furthermore, he says that it would be degrading for the woman, for everyone would say that this is the scroll that was prepared for So-and-So the sotah.

Tosfos cites a Yerushalmi (and some understand that this is what Rashi means as well) that the scroll is hidden away in the hinges of the Sanctuary door. The opening and closing of the door will cause that it will be worn away.

The Minchas Kenaos asks: How would it be permitted to erase Hashem’s Name by opening and closing the door? The Gemora Makkos (22a) rules that one who erases Hashem’s Name receives lashes! Since the opening and closing of the door will certainly result in the erasure of His Name, it should be regarded as a “direct erasing,” and should be forbidden!

The Ridvaz answers: Since the Name of Hashem was written on this scroll with the intention that it will be erased (in the bitter waters), there is no prohibition to erase this Name. It is not regarded as a permanent inscription, and therefore it would be permitted to erase it.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Benefiting from the Sotah Waters

Rava inquired (Daf Yom: Sotah 18a): If two scrolls were written for two different sotahs, but they were erased into one cup, what is the halacha?

If you would conclude that each sotah needs her own personal cup, what would the halacha be if the scrolls were erased into two separate cups, but then they were mixed together? Is it valid because the scroll was erased into her cup? Or perhaps, it is disqualified, because she is not drinking her own personal cup!

The Steipler Gaon asks: Even if the halacha would be that a sotah is not obligated to drink from her own personal cup, how would she be permitted to drink from a cup that was mixed together with another sotah’s water? The water for a sotah comes from the kiyor, and that water has sanctity and carries with it a me’ilah transgression. One is prohibited from benefiting from something that possesses an inherent sanctity. If this woman is indeed innocent, she will give birth to male handsome children. It will emerge that she is deriving pleasure from these holy waters! How can this be allowed?

He answers based upon a Gemora below (20a) which states that we place something bitter into the water in order for the scroll to be properly erased. Accordingly, we can state that one who drinks water with a bitter taste will not be violating the me’ilah prohibition, for it would be regarded as drinking in an abnormal manner. This would be Biblically permitted.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Benefit of Techeiles

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 17a) asks: It is understandable that Tefilin straps were a reward (for this world as well), as the verse states, “And all of the nations of the land will see that the name of Hashem is upon you and they will fear you.” The braisa quotes Rabbi Elazar the Great as saying that this refers to the Tefilin that we wear on our heads. However, what (earthly) reward do we have from Techeiles?

The Gemora answers this question from a braisa. Rabbi Meir taught: Why was Techeiles singled out from all colors (to be used in tzitzis)? This is because Techeiles is a similar color to that of the ocean, which is similar to that of the sky, which is similar to that of the Throne of Glory. This is as the verse states, “And they saw the G-d of Israel, and under His feet was like something made out of a brick of sapphire, and like the purity of the sky.” The verse also states, “like the appearance of a sapphire stone is that of the Throne of Glory. [The Gemora’s answer seems to be that this merit benefits us in this world as well.]

Rashi explains that anyone who fulfills the mitzvah of tzitzis is regarded as if he received the Divine Presence. This is obviously beneficial to the person.

Rashi in Chulin (89a) explains differently. He says that when Hashem looks at His Throne of Glory, He is reminded of the mitzvah of Techeiles that is being performed by the Jewish people. And because of this, Hashem has compassion on Klal Yisroel.

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Halacha Trumps a Verse

Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Yishmael (Daf Yomi: Sotah 16a): There are three places that a halacha l’Moshe mi’Sinai trumps the simple meaning of a verse: The Torah states that the blood must be covered with earth, and yet, the halacha is that it may be covered with anything (providing that it is something in which plants can grow). The Torah forbids a nazir from cutting his hair with a razor, and yet, the halacha is that he may not cut it with anything. The Torah says that a get (bill of divorce) must be written on parchment, and yet, the halacha is that it can be written on anything.

The Vilna Gaon in Aderes Eliyahu quotes our Gemora and provides other examples besides those mentioned in our Gemora. It is written with respect to a Jewish slave [Shmos 21:6]: His master shall bring him to the judges, and he shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear with a tool, and he shall serve him forever. Based upon the textual reading of the verse, the doorpost would be a valid place to bore his ear, but halacha overrides the verse. Rashi states: I might think that the doorpost is a valid place on which to bore the slave’s ear. Therefore, the Torah says [Devarim 15:17]: “And you shall thrust it into his ear and into the door.” This means that it should be “into the door,” but not “into the doorpost.” What then does “or to the doorpost” mean? The Torah is comparing “the door” to “the doorpost.” Just as the doorpost is upright (attached to the house), so too, the door must be upright. [If the door is detached, it may not be used for the ritual of ear boring.]

The Gaon continues by citing the Gemora in Makkos (22b): How foolish are those who rise for a Torah scroll (to honor it), but they do not rise for a Torah scholar.

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Sinner should not Gain

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 15a) cites a braisa: Rabbi Shimon said: In truth, the sinner’s minchah should require oil and levonah, for we do not want the sinner to gain. Why then does it not require them? It is because we do not want his minchah to be elegant.

The Gemora (Yoma 86b) states that repentance is so great that willful transgressions can be regarded as merits, providing that one is motivated to repent by love.

The question is asked: How can that be? Isn’t the sinner gaining?

The Maharsha answers: The Gemora does not mean that the sin itself converts into a merit; but rather, through his repentance out of love, he will merit performing other mitzvos and good deeds.

Reb Tzadok Hakohen answers: The sin does convert into a merit. This is because once a person has tasted the pleasure of a sin, it becomes more difficult for him to control himself and not sin again. If, after sinning, one can nevertheless restrain himself from transgressing again, he will merit that his sins are converted into merits.

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