Friday, July 11, 2008


A bill of divorce is referred to as a get. Tosfos (Daf Yomi: Gittin 2a) writes that it is the practice for a get to be written in twelve lines, because the numerical value (gematria) of the word get is twelve (gimmel = 3; tes = 9; 3 + 9 = 12).

The Vilna Gaon adds that the document could have been called differently, for there are many combinations of letters that add up to twelve, such as a “ches” and a “daled.” However, what is unique about the “gimmel” and the “tes” is that you will never find these two letters next to each other in the entire Torah. This is why the document which is used as a separation between the man and his wife is referred to as a get.

The Steipler asked that there are other combinations of letters, such as a “gimmel” and a “kuf,” or a “zayin” and a “tzadi,” or a “samech” and a “tzadi” that are also never found next to each other!? He answers that the “gimmel” and the “tes” are the first of such combinations.

It can also be said that they wanted a name that would accomplish two things; one, that its numerical value is twelve, and secondly, that the two letters are never found next to each other. The “gimmel” and the “tes” are the only two letters that have both components.

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Learning while Standing

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 49a) had stated: When Rabban Gamliel the Elder died, the glory of the Torah terminated and purity and abstinence perished.

Rashi cites the Gemora in Megillah ((21a) which states that from the days of Moshe until Rabban Gamliel, they would study Torah standing. Afterwards, people became weaker and they would study torah while sitting; they didn’t have the strength to stand.

The Gemora in Brochos (28a) says that when Rabban Gamliel was the Rosh Yeshiva, his policy was that any student who was not "tocho c'baro," his inside was not like his outside, would not be allowed to enter the Beis Medrash. Not everyone who applied was automatically accepted into his Yeshiva. Rabban Gamliel only accepted students who were honest and sincere, through and through, without any hints of fakery or hypocrisy.

The Gemora relates that there was a subsequent change in the leadership and Rabbi Elozar ben Azariah was appointed the new Rosh Yeshiva. He implemented a new policy: Everyone was invited into the Beis Medrash even someone who was not "tocho c'baro." As a result, the Gemora records: Many benches were added to the Beis Medrash.

Two questions can be asked. Firstly, how were they able to ascertain who was a “tocho c’baro” and who wasn’t; only Hashem is capable of peering into someone’s heart? Secondly, why does the Gemora state that many benches were added; we are not interested in the amount of chairs there were; it should have said that there were many more students learning on the account of the new policy?

Rav Nosson Gishtetner answers based on our Gemora: In the days of Rabban Gamliel, the sincere students would be learning standing; that was a symbol that he was learning Torah for the sake of the mitzvah and not for any ulterior motive. When the new policy was enacted, more benches were added because the generation was weaker and they did not have the ability to stand while they were learning.

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Prophecy Compared to Torah

Rabbi Il’a bar Yeverechyah said (Daf Yomi: Sotah 49a) : If there are two Torah scholars traveling on the road and they are not discussing Torah, they deserve to be burned, as it states: And as they (Eliyahu and Elisha) walked, walking and speaking, that behold, a chariot of fire appeared etc. The reason why the chariot of fire passed between them and did not burn them was because there was a discussion of Torah between them; if there had not been such a discussion, they would have deserved to be burned.

The Gemora in Taanis (10b) cites a Scriptural verse where Yosef instructed his brothers not to discuss Torah on their way back from Egypt since they might become distracted and lose their way. The Gemora questions this from our Gemora. The Gemora answers that one should review his learning on the road since it will not require much attention; however he should not delve into Torah study since that will distract him.

Tosfos cites a Medrash that the reason the fire appeared and they deserved to be burned was because they were discussing worthless words at the time.

The Brisker Rav asks that the Metzudos explains the conversation that Elisha was having with Eliyahu at that time. Elisha asked Eliyahu that the spirit of prophecy should rest on him with a higher level than that of Eliyahu. Eliyahu answered him that under certain conditions, that will occur. It emerges that at the time that the fire appeared they were discussing matters that should be regarded as holy and not futile words. They were discussing how the Heavenly presence will rest on Elisha. For this, they deserved to be burned?

The Brisker Rav answers that that this discussion pales in comparison to a discussion regarding Torah. When traveling on the road, one must make sure that there is Torah discourse being discussed and not other matters even if those matters are dealing with the Shechina and Prophecy.

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Terifah on the Mizbe'ach

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 48a) asks: Who are the “strikers?” Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: They would cut a calf between its eyes in order that blood should fall into its eyes (and it would become easier to slaughter). He stopped this, because it looked like they were making a blemish on the animal (which would render it invalid to be brought as a sacrifice).

The braisa taught: They would hit it with sticks, just as is done with sacrifices brought before idols. He asked them: Until when are you going to bring animals that are not killed via slaughtering (neveilah) as sacrifices on the altar?

The Gemora asks: How could he say this? They slaughtered the animals! The Gemora answers: Rather, he said that they were bringing animals that are too sick to be kosher, as he suspected that they were causing a puncture in the covering of the brain (rendering the animal unkosher as a “tereifah” even if it would be slaughtered properly). He therefore instituted that they should have rings on the ground (of the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash that would hold the animal in place during slaughtering).

The Maharsham in Daas Torah asks: Since they knew where the animal was hit, why couldn’t they check to see if the animal was a tereifah or not?

The Minchas Keneos answers: It is forbidden to slaughter an animal which is a tereifah in the Beis HaMikdash because the Rabbis placed a tumah on a kodoshim animal which is a tereifah (and therefore it would help finding out afterwards that it was indeed a tereifah).

Furthermore, he states that we are concerned that when they hit the korban with a stick, it is regarded as if they were destroying kodoshim with their hands (if it becomes a tereifah), and therefore they instituted that it shouldn’t be hit at all.

Dayan Weiss, in Minchas Yitzchak answers that since this procedure was constantly done, it was impossible to institute that the animal should always be checked afterwards to see if it became a tereifah. There is a grave concern that sometimes, they will forget.

The Avnei Neizer writes that in the Beis HaMikdash, they never examined the animal to see if it was a tereifah, for anytime an uncertainty arose in the Beis HaMikdash regarding the kashrus of a korban, they would not offer it as a korban. This is based upon the passuk: Hakrivehu na l’phechasecha.

According to this answer, we could explain why the Gemora states that the concern was that a tereifah will be brought on the mizbe’ach. Shouldn’t we be concerned that they will be eating from an animal which is a tereifah? The answer could be that for that, they could have checked, but for what is going to be brought on the mizbe’ach, they were not allowed to check, and that was the primary concern.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Accepting Charity from an Idolater

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 47b) states: When there increased the number of Jews who accepted charity from idolaters, the idolaters were on top and Israel was on bottom.

The Gemora (Nazir 62a) cites a Scriptural source to teach us that an idolater can vow vowed-offerings and freewill-offerings just like Jews.

The Haga’os Ashri (in Bava Basra) brings the following question in the name of the Maharich: Why are we not allowed to accept charity from an idolater, but we are permitted to accept his korbanos?

He answers in the name of his Rebbe: A voluntary korban is not brought to serve as atonement, and therefore, we are not concerned if they offer a sacrifice, for those do not bring about forgiveness and they will not serve as a protection for them. However, one who gives charity receives atonement for his sins, and merits protection for his good deed. It is not in our best interests to assist them in this matter.

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The Murderer's Testimony

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 47b) states that an eglah arufah is only brought in a matter of uncertainty; however, if the murderer was discovered, we do not bring an eglah arufah.

The Minchas Chinuch (§ 530) writes that if a person comes and says, “I killed him,” if he said that he did it inadvertently, he would be believed and we would not bring an eglah arufah. However, if he said that he killed him intentionally, he is not believed, because there is a principle that a person is not believed to render himself into a wicked person. In that case, we would bring an eglah arufah.

Rav Shach in Avi Ezri disagrees because the reason why a person is not believed when his testimony will render him an evil person is because based upon his testimony, he is a rasha, and a rasha cannot offer testimony. However, with respect to eglah arufah, one who is disqualified from testifying is allowed to testify that he can identify the murderer. Even a thief is allowed to offer such testimony. Accordingly, a person should be able to say and be believed that he himself killed him!

Rav Shach explains that the reason a rasha is believed regarding an eglah arufah is because his testimony is not affecting the murderer whatsoever. He is merely stating that he can identify the murderer. Every other place where one witness or a woman is believed, and nevertheless, we do not believe a thief, that is only because he is accomplishing something. Through his testimony (that a woman’s husband died), we will be permitting a woman to get married, and if he is a rasha, he is not believed, for we suspect that he is lying. By eglah arufah, where there is nothing being accomplished (with respect to the murderer), there is no reason for the rasha to lie and he can therefore be believed.

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Yaakov and Yosef; Eglah and Agalos

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav (Daf Yomi: Sotah 46b): Whoever escorts his fellow four amos in the city, insures that no harm will come to him during his journey.

The Maharal uses our Gemora to explain the famous Medrash. It is written [Breishis 45:27]: And he (Yaakov) saw the wagons that Yosef had sent to carry him. Chazal say: The Hebrew word “agalah,” wagon, is similar to the word “eglah,” calf. Yosef was hinting to his father that he was alive by making a reference to the eglah arufah, which was the last topic of Torah that Yaakov and Yosef had studied together before Yosef was sold as a slave.

The Maharal notes: It cannot be merely coincidence that they were studying that passage, for if so, how would Yosef know that Yaakov would remember that it was this precise topic that they were studying together before he left.

Rather, this is what transpired: Yaakov was escorting Yosef to Chevron. Yosef said to him: Go back to the house and do not trouble yourself. Yaakov responded that it is a great mitzvah for one to escort another in the beginning of a journey. If one does not escort his friend, it is regarded as if he spilled his blood. One who does escort his fellow insures that no harm will befall him on his journey. It was through this that Yosef realized that Yaakov will definitely remember the topic of Torah that they were studying, for he will remember escorting him out of the city. It was for this reason that Yosef sent the wagons. He was indicating to his father that he was not damaged in any manner, physically or spiritually, and that it was due to the fact that Yaakov escorted him out of the city.

Rabbi Yissochar Frand explains the Medrash differently: He states that a profound lesson is learned from Yosef and Yaakov. When Yosef wanted to give irrefutable proof to his father Yaakov that he was indeed Yosef, the incontrovertible piece of evidence he presented was the Torah portion that they were studying together. Serious Jews identify themselves by the Torah discussion that they were having at a certain time; not by any mundane activities that they were enjoying together. Yosef identified himself to Yaakov by the essence of Jewish identity - the Torah topic that they last discussed.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Eglah Arufah from Yerushalayim

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 45b) had stated: The city of Yerushalayim does not bring an eglah arufah (the law is that upon finding a corpse, and being unable to solve the murder, the leaders of the city closest to the corpse are required to bring a calf to an untilled valley, decapitate it, wash their hands over it, and then they must recite a verse, declaring publicly that they did not kill the person).

The Gemora explains the reason for this: It is written: If a corpse will be found on the land that Hashem your God gives you to inherit it. The Tanna of our Mishna holds that Yerushalayim was not apportioned among the tribes. It was given to all of Klal Yisroel, and therefore, it is not included in the verse of being “land that was given to inherit it.”

The halacha would be that the city, which is next closest to the spot where the body was found, would bring the eglah arufah.

The Gemora in Bava Basra (23b) states that the halacha of eglah arufah is only applicable when the city is located between two mountains, and therefore, people do not frequent that area. For if it would be a city where many people from the world pass through, we would say that the murderer did not come from the nearest city; but rather, he came from the majority of the world.

Tosfos there asks: If so, why is it necessary to exclude Yerushalayim from bringing an eglah arufah based upon the verse “to inherit it”? Yerushalayim should be excluded because it is a city where all people from the world pass through. They come for the pilgrimage and they come during the year to offer their sacrifices and to eat their ma’aser! It emerges that we would never attribute the murderer to the residents of Yerushalayim, for most of the people there are from the rest of the world!?

Tosfos answers that there were streets in Yerushalayim that were only frequented by the residents of Yerushalayim, and it is on account of those areas that the verse is necessary to exclude Yerushalayim from bringing an eglah arufah.

HaRav Elyashiv derives from this Tosfos the following halacha: If there would be a city that a portion of it would not be fit to bring an eglah arufah, but a different part of the same city would be suitable to bring it, that city would be required to bring an eglah arufah.

Accordingly, if they would add on to the city of Yerushalayim (like the Gemora in Shavuos 14b states that this can be done with a Beis Din of seventy-one and the Kohen Gadol), and the added area would be apportioned to all the tribes, Yerushalayim would be required to bring an eglah arufah on account of the extra area.

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Women in Battle

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 44b) had stated: When do these words (the exemptions mentioned in the Mishna) apply? It is only with respect to a voluntary war; however, with respect to wars of mitzvah, everyone is required to go out, even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her chupah.

Rabbi Yehudah says: These words were only said with respect to wars of mitzvah; however, with respect to an obligatory war, everyone is required to go out, even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her chupah.

The commentators ask: What does the Mishna mean whit it says, “even a bride from her chupah”? Women are not obligated to go to war! The Chinuch (§ 403) writes with respect of the mitzvah of erasing Amalek’s name that it is only applicable to men, but not to women, for it is the practice of men to wage war against their enemies, not women. The Radvaz on the Rambam also rules like that, and he bases it upon the verse: The complete glory of the princess is within. Accordingly, he asks from our Mishna, which would seem to indicate that they do go out for war! They also ask from the Gemora in Nazir (59a) which states: Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: How do we know that a woman shall not go out wearing weapons of war? It is because it’s written: A man’s attire shall not be on a woman.

The Radvaz answers: The Mishna simply means that when the bridegroom goes to fight, the bride will leave the chupah, but not to go to war.

Alternatively, he answers that she does go to war, but not to fight. They provide water and food for their husbands. The Reshash adds that they go to the battlefield to cook and to bake for the soldiers. (The Tzitz Eliezer understands that the Radvaz and the Reshash are arguing if the women supply food only to their husbands or to all men.)

The Ben Yehoyadah writes that she goes out to war to guard the weapons.

In the sefer Hon Ashir, he writes that even if a woman is confident that she can stand up to the enemy and she will not back down; we do not allow her to fight.

The Minchas Chinuch writes that according to our Gemora, a woman would be obligated to fight in all wars of mitzvah and to wage war against Amalek. Evidently, this mitzvah overrides the prohibition of wearing weapons of war.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Reasons for the Exemption

The Mishna states: One, who builds a house, betroths a woman or plants a vineyard is exempt from going to battle.

There are various reasons to explain these exemptions: The Rashbam states: These people are similar to the ones who are faint of heart. They are concerned that they will not merit inaugurating their house, marrying their wife or redeeming their vineyard. They are scared that they will die during battle and are therefore exempt from going to war.

The Ibn Ezra explains: These people are preoccupied with their desire to inaugurate their house, marrying their wife or redeeming their vineyard, and will therefore not pay attention completely to the war. This will cause them to retreat during the heat of the battle and will constitute a danger to the remainder of the army.

The Mishna enumerates all the various people that may return from the battle. The Minchas Chinuch (§ 526) writes that it is not clear from the Gemora or the Rambam if these people have the option of remaining at the battlefield or not. He states that it is logical to assume that the faint of heart are required to go home, for otherwise, he will cause the hearts of the others to melt. He adds that according to Rashi, who writes that these people will definitely die during the war if they do not heed the words of the Kohen, they would not have the option of staying.

Seemingly, according to the reasons mentioned above, they would not be allowed to remain at the battlefield, for according to the Rashbam, they are similar to the faint of heart, and they are required to go home. And according to the Ibn Ezra, they would also be required to return home, for otherwise, they would constitute a danger to the other soldiers.

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