Friday, August 01, 2008

Minor Writing a Get

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Gittin 22b) had stated: Everyone is qualified to write a get, even a mute, one who is insane, or a minor.

Tosfos asks: Since a minor in not a “bar kerisus,” he is incapable of divorcing his own wife, he therefore should be disqualified from writing a get for someone else!?

Tosfos answers: Since he will eventually grow into an adult, he is not regarded as someone who is incapable of divorcing his wife, and therefore, he is still eligible to write a get.

The Noda b’Yehudah (O”C §1) asks: Why is the halacha of writing a get different than the halacha of writing tefillin? A minor is excluded from writing tefillin, since he is not a “bar keshirah,” he is not obligated in the mitzvah of tefillin. Why don’t we say that since he will be obligated in the mitzvah when he becomes an adult, he should be eligible to write tefillin?

Reb Elchonon Wasserman answers: That which we say that someone who is not a “bar kerisus” cannot write a get is only if he is excluded inherently from the subject of divorce. A minor, however, cannot issue a divorce, not because he is excluded, but rather, it is because he is incapable of marrying. He, therefore, can still be regarded as a “bar kerisus,” and can therefore be eligible to write a get. However, with respect of tefillin, a minor is excluded from the obligation of tefillin, and therefore, he is not considered a “bar keshirah,” and is therefore not disqualified from writing tefillin.

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Mobile Courtyard

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 21a) states that a moving courtyard cannot effect an acquisition for its owner. The Rishonim disagree as to the reason for this. Rashi and Tosfos maintain that since the halacha that a courtyard can effect an acquisition for its owner is derived from the halacha of acquiring through one’s hand, a moving courtyard, which does not resemble to a hand (which is stationary), cannot effect an acquisition for its owner.

The Ritva and the Ran suggest a different reason for this. They say that since the courtyard can be a great distance away from the owner, it is not considered protected by the owner, and therefore it is disqualified from effecting an acquisition for the owner.

The Divrei Mishpat notes that the following case would be a difference between them: If a lost object would fall on his animal which is in his courtyard. If a mobile courtyard is excluded because it does not resemble a person’s physical hand, he will not acquire this lost object, for the animal is a moveable object. If, however, a mobile courtyard is disqualified from effecting an acquisition because it is not guarded from intrusion by the owner, here, he will acquire the lost object because the object is protected.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Name of Hashem Written without the Proper Intent

A braisa (Daf Yomi: Gittin 20a) was taught: A scribe was supposed to write the Name of Hashem in a Sefer Torah, and instead intended to write the name Yehudah. [The name Yehudah is similar to the letters in the Name of Hashem, except that the word Yehudah has a letter “dalet” between the “vav” and the “hey.”] He forgot to insert the “dalet” and ended up writing the Name of Hashem but without the required intention necessary to write the Holy Name. Rabbi Yehudah posits that the scribe can pass his quill over the Name of Hashem and have the proper intention of writing the Name. The Chachamim disagree, claiming that this is not the best way to write the Name of Hashem (and the Sefer Torah is subsequently invalid).

The Rishonim ask: According to Rav Chisda, who holds that the Chachamim maintain that the Sefer Torah is disqualified, why does he use the term that it is not the best way to write the Name of Hashem? This would indicate that the writing is good, but it is not written in the most preferable method! Why didn’t he say that the new writing does not accomplish anything?

The Rashba answers that they actually hold that the tracing over of the word is not regarded as an act of writing at all and the Sefer Torah is disqualified. They only used that term to discuss Rabbi Yehudah’s opinion.

The Pnei Yehoshua suggests a novel approach to explain the Chachamim’s terminology: Although the Chachamim maintain that the Sefer Torah is disqualified, they nevertheless hold that the Name of Hashem retains its sanctity and is forbidden to be erased. He proves that the Name of Hashem, although it wasn’t written with the correct intention, cannot be erased. This is why the Chachamim say that it is not the best way to write the Name of Hashem.

The Tashbatz, however, proves from our sugya that it is permitted to erase the Name of Hashem when it is written without the correct intention.

The Gemora in Yoma (38a) states that Ben Kamtzar had a unique talent that he was able to write four letters with one hand at the same time and he did not teach this talent to anyone else. The Gemora says that this was considered a shame and due to this, he was referred to as an evil person. What were the Chachamim concerned about? Rashi comments that this was referring to the Name of Hashem which has four letters.

The Tosfos Yom Tov explains that there is an advantage for the Name of Hashem to be written at one time, so that His Name should not be missing for a moment.

The Minchas Chinuch has a novel approach and says that if one writes the first two letters of the Name of Hashem which is the “yud” and the “hey,” that itself is one of the Name’s of Hashem, and by subsequently writing the third letter, the “vav,” it constitutes erasing Hashem’s Name. Ben Kamtzar was able to avoid with his special skill.

The Emek Brocha asks that if the Name of Hashem is written without proper intent, there is no prohibition to erase it, so why should there be a prohibition here when the scribe did not intend to write the ‘two letter’ Name of Hashem, but rather His ‘four letter’ Name?

According to the Pnei Yehoshua, this is not a question, for this, in fact, a prohibition to erase the Name of Hashem, even when it is written without the proper intent!

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Shailah from the Minchas Chinuch

It was stated (Daf Yomi: Gittin 19a): If a man writes over red paint writing with black ink on Shabbos, Rabbi Yochanan and Rish Lakish both agree that he is liable on two counts, one for writing (the two new black letters) and one for erasing. [One is only liable on Shabbos if he erases with the intention of writing two letters in its place. Here, in order to write the two new black letters, he must erase the red letters first.]

If he writes over black ink with black ink or red pigment with red pigment, he is not punishable. [This is because nothing has been accomplished with the new writing.]

If he goes over black ink with red pigment, some say he is punishable and some say he is not punishable. Some say he is punishable because he is erasing the previous writing. [He is not liable for writing because the original black writing was much clearer than the red one.] Some say he is not punishable because he is only ruining the previous writing.

Rish Lakish inquired of Rabbi Yochanan: If witnesses are unable to sign their names on a get, is it permissible to write their names for them in red pigment and let them go over it with black ink? Is the upper writing regarded as writing or not?

He replied: It is not regarded as writing.

Rish Lakish challenged him: But, didn’t our teacher teach us that in respect of Shabbos, the upper writing is regarded as writing?

He replied: Because we have a certain opinion, shall we practice stringently based upon it? [If the Beis HaMikdosh would be in existence, I wouldn’t tell that person that he is liable to bring a korban chatas for violating the Shabbos, for perhaps it is not a transgression and he will be bringing an unconsecrated animal into the Courtyard!]

Tosfos notes: It is evident from here that tracing over letters with the same color ink is not regarded as writing with respect to Shabbos or with respect to gittin. Accordingly, Tosfos asks from a Gemora below (20a) which states: If a get was initially not written lishmah, it can be rectified if the scribe traces over the letters lishmah! (The Gemora there discusses if this is the halacha according to all opinions or not.) Why should it be valid if he is using the same color ink again?

Tosfos answers that since the scribe is adding an important element to the writing, namely the lishmah of the get, it therefore constitutes an act of writing for the get. However, in our case, the second writing accomplished nothing, and therefore, it is not regarded as an act of writing.

The Minchas Chinuch (§ 32) poses the following question: If one, on Shabbos, would trace over the letters of a get that had previously not been written lishmah, what is the halacha? If we would say that the tracing lishmah constitutes an act of writing and the get will be valid, it will emerge that he intentionally violated the Shabbos and he will be regarded as a mummar, who is disqualified from writing a get! And if we rule that he, in fact, is a mummar and the get is invalid, it will emerge that his tracing did not accomplish anything and he did not violate the Shabbos, which in turn, will validate the get! The logic goes complete circle and we will never be able to execute him for transgressing the Shabbos, for his writing did not accomplish anything and therefore it did not constitute an act of writing, and we will not be able to validate the get, for if we would do so, it would emerge that he was a mummar at that time and the get is invalid!?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Decree when the reason no longer applies

Tosfos (Daf Yomi: Gittin 18a) asks: One of the reasons mentioned for the decree that the date should be recorded on a get is because perhaps the husband will want to save his niece from capital punishment if she committed adultery. Nowadays, Tosfos asks, when we do not execute anyone, why is there still a necessity to write the date in the get?

The Avnei Neizer (E”H: 188) cites a challenge to Tosfos’ question: Although the reason may not be applicable, the sages’ decree should still apply unless a greater Beis Din comes and nullifies it!

He answers that Tosfos understood that the initial decree was only established in a time and a place where they administered capital punishment. Accordingly, if nowadays, it is universal that we do not execute anyone, we are not nullifying the decree; rather, the enactment was never instituted for such cases. This is why it is not necessary for another Beis Din to annul the initial decree.

This would be comparable to that which Tosfos in Beitzah (6a) states: Tosfos writes that a matter that was only prohibited because of a specific concern will be permitted when the concern no longer exists. This principle justifies why we do not have to be concerned for water that was exposed at night and one is allowed to drink from it because in modern times snakes are not frequent in our homes.

The Gemora (Beitzah 30a) cites a Mishna that states that one is not allowed to clap or dance on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Rashi explains that the reason that one is prohibited from performing any of these actions is because they can lead to one fixing musical instruments. Tosfos states that this prohibition only applied in those days when they were experts in fashioning musical instruments. Presently, however, the decree does not apply, because we do not know how to fashion these instruments.

The Rema (O.C. 339:3) rules in accordance with Tosfos. Teshuvos HaRema (125) writes that there was an incident where a marriage occurred on Friday night and the people were not concerned that the groom would write the kesuvah, marriage contract on Shabbos. The reason for this permit was because it is not common in our times for the groom to write his own kesuvah.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l poses an interesting question. The halacha is that presently we do not have a legally qualified reshus harabim and for this reason one would be permitted to walk in a public thoroughfare on Shabbos while wearing various ornaments. According to this ruling, then, why are we still forbidden to blow shofar, shake a lulav and read the Megillah. Regarding these mitzvos there is a concern that one may come to carry the shofar, lulav or Megillah in the reshus harabim. Yet, the halachah is that our public thoroughfares are not deemed to be a legal reshus harabim, so we should no longer have these concerns.

Reb Shlomo Zalman also questions the opinion of the Raavad who maintains that muktzah is forbidden on account of a rabbinical decree that one should not come to carry into a reshus harabim. Why should this decree still apply when there is no longer a legally qualified reshus harabim?

Rav Shlomo Zalman explains that Tosfos is only referring to musical instruments. In previous times, everyone was capable of playing and repairing musical instruments. For this reason there was a decree prohibiting clapping and dancing. In our times, however, only a minority of people is capable of fixing musical instruments and because it is uncommon for people to fix musical instruments, there is no necessity for the decree against clapping and dancing.

Rabbah (Beitzah 5a) maintained that Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai rescinded the prohibition against accepting witnesses after the offering of the afternoon tamid sacrifice, and subsequently an egg that was laid on the first day of Rosh HaShanah was permitted to be eaten on the second day. Rav Yosef challenged Rabbah’s ruling because if the Chachamim assembled to render a ruling, they would need to reassemble to revoke their ruling. Rav Yosef added that one could not say that Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai convened with his colleagues to permit one to eat the egg, because their decision was only to accept the testimony after the offering of the afternoon tamid sacrifice, but they never took a vote on permitting the egg to be eaten.

Tosfos HaRosh in Avodah Zara (2a) rules that one is permitted to conduct business with gentiles during their holiday season as initially this was prohibited because gentiles in the past worshipped idols and now that gentiles do not worship idols, the decree is irrelevant.

Tosfos in Brachos (53b) writes that people are not scrupulous regarding mayim acharonim, washing the hands at the end of a meal, because we no longer have melach sedomis, salt from Sodom. Tosfos notes that although the practice of washing mayim achronmim was instituted by an assembly of a Bais Din, this institution was not unanimously accepted and thus this institution is not categorized as a ruling that is irrevocable unless a Bais Din reassembles and rescinds the ruling.

Reb Shlomo Kluger in Elef Lecho Shlomo (116) rules that one is permitted to learn by candlelight on Shabbos and we are not concerned that he may come to move the wick which will cause the fire to burn brighter, thus violating a biblical prohibition, because one does not need to move the wick of our present-day candles.

Teshuvos HaRosh (klal 2:8) rules that one is permitted to tie strings of linen on a four-cornered garment that is made from linen to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis and we are not concerned that one might tie strings of wool to the garment. The reason for this ruling is because all know that techeiles, a blue-dyed wool used for tzitzis, is not prevalent, thus there is no permit to tie strings of wool to a linen garment.

Teshuvos HaRosh writes that if is common knowledge why a decree was instituted and the rationale no longer applies, then the decree is considered irrelevant. Teshuvos HaRosh draws a contrast of this supposition to the case in our Gemora regarding the egg that was laid on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, because some people are not aware whey the egg was initially prohibited, nor do they understand why the reason to prohibit no longer applies.

Shearim Mitzuyanim B’Halachah rules that if necessary, one is permitted to take medicine on Shabbos. Taking medicine on Shabbos was initially forbidden as there was a concern that one would violate the prohibition of grinding. Now that medicine is prepared by the manufacturer and most people are not even aware of the process involved in manufacturing the medicine, there is no longer a concern that one who wishes to take medicine will violate the Shabbos prohibition of grinding herbs or spices.


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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Romans; More Preferable than the Persians

Rabbah bar bar Chanah (Daf Yomi: Gittin 16b - 17a) was once ill, and Rav Yehudah and Rabbah went to inquire on his health. While they were there, they asked him the following question: If two agents bring a get from abroad, are they required to declare that it was written and signed in their presence, or not? He replied: They are not required, for would they not be believed to testify that this woman was divorced in their presence (and it would not be necessary for the woman to produce the get)? In the meantime, a Persian man came in and took away their lamp (for that day was one of their holidays, and it was forbidden to light a candle except in their temples). Rabbah bar bar Chanah exclaimed: All Merciful One! Either hide us in Your shadow or in the shadow of the son of Esav (for they respect us)!

The Maharam Schiff explains: The Romans (descendants of Esav) oppress the Jewish people only when Klal Yisroel shirk the yoke of Torah from themselves.

The Medrash states that this is actually what Yitzchak told Esav: If Yaakov’s descendants cast off the yoke of Torah, then your descendants could decree destruction upon them and subjugate them. However, if Yaakov’s children remain devoted to Torah, Esav would have no control over them.

It emerges that it is preferable for the Jewish people to be amidst the children of Esav, for then, Klal Yisroel is in control of their own destiny.

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Showering after Mikvah

Rashi (Daf Yomi: Gittin 16a) explains that the Chachamim enacted a decree of mayim sheuvim (drawn water) because people would err and say that immersing in a Mikvah and in mayim sheuvim would render one pure. Rava (Shabbos 14a) asked Abaye, why does it make a difference if people said this? The end result was that the people had immersed themselves in a Mikvah?

Reb Moshe Feinstein writes in Iggros Moshe that perhaps Abaye’s reasoning was that by pouring on themselves mayim sheuvim, they transgressed the prohibition of baal tosif (adding on to a mitzvah) by thinking that pouring mayim sheuvim was obligatory. Rava, however, maintained that for this suspicion there was no reason to render the person tamei. Some wrote that Abaye held that if one would immerse in a Mikvah or in mayim sheuvim, others would consider him tamei, and they would end up burning Terumah and Kodshim in an errant manner.

Some Rishonim write that similar to matters of purity, the Chachamim also enacted a decree that a woman who was a niddah is not allowed to shower after immersing in a Mikvah. If she showered after immersing in a Mikvah, her immersion would be invalid and she would be forbidden to her husband. Most Rishonim, however, maintain that this is not the law, because this decree was only enacted regarding matters of purity.

The Shach writes that the reason that is offered in the Gemora that people will err in thinking that pouring mayim sheuvim is what purifies the person, also applies to a woman immersing in a Mikvah, irrespective of the woman erring in her thinking. Others write that from the words of the Rambam, it appears that the decree was enacted because people erred and thought that merely immersing in a Mikvah did not render them pure, and they also were required to pour on themselves mayim sheuvim. This reasoning only applies with regard to mayim sheuvim of Taharos, because only when one immersed for Taharos was one required to have the correct intentions. A niddah who immersed in a Mikvah, however, does not require the correct intention, and there was no reason to enact a decree for a niddah.

Rav Shmuel Vozner in Shevet HaLevi writes that even though the Rama rules that after immersing in a Mikvah a woman should not shower, once she arrives at her home she is permitted to shower.

Rav Ovadyah Yosef in Sheilos U’Teshuvos Yabia Omer, however, rules that a woman can shower immediately after immersing in a Mikvah.

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Katafreis Connection

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 16a) cites a Mishna in Taharos: A jet of liquid from a jug (nitzok), or liquid flowing down a slope (katafreis), or liquid enough to moisten (mashkeh tofe’ach) does not form a connection for tumah or for taharah. [The explanation that they are not a connection for tumah: Nitzok – if one pours liquid from a tahor vessel into a tamei one and the flow of the liquid is uninterrupted between them, it is not regarded as a connection to make the upper vessel tamei. Katafreis – if a liquid from a pool flows down a board on a slope into a pool of liquid which is tamei, the upper pool remains tahor. Mashkeh tofei’ach – a moist trough has two pools of liquid on opposite sides; one of them tamei and one of them tahor. Although the trough is damp enough that it can moisten anything that touches it, the tamei pool does not contaminate the tahor one. The explanation that they are not a connection for taharah: A mikvah must contain forty se’ah of water in order to be valid. If there are two mikvaos and neither of them contain forty se’ah and they are connected through any one of the three ways mentioned above, they are not considered halachically connected to form one large valid mikvah.]

The Vilna Gaon asks: Even without the connection through katafreis, why don’t we say that each droplet of tamei water should contaminate another drop, and ultimately, the water in the upper pool should be rendered tamei?

He answers that the halacha of katafreis would be necessary in a case where a tevul yom (one who was tamei, but has immersed himself in a mikvah; he is considered a tevul yom until nightfall) touched the liquid, for he cannot contaminate a food item with the capability of contaminating something else (and therefore, one droplet will not cause the other to become tamei). Through the principle of katafreis, it could be regarded that the entire flow is regarded as one body of liquid, and the upper pool could become tamei (if it would be considered connected).

Reb Shimon Shkop asks on his answer from the Rambam, who rules that these halachos would apply by tumas sheretz as well, and a sheretz can contaminate one drop to render the others tamei!?

He answers that one drop cannot render the other drops tamei because of the principle of beis hasetarim (for the drops touching each other are not recognizable).

Rav Elyashiv answers simply that if the liquid would be rendered tamei because of its contact with the first droplet, it would only be Rabbinically tamei, for that which a liquid is ruled to be a rishon l’tumah is only a Rabbinic decree. Hence, kodoshim that contracted tumah in such a manner could not be burned. However, through the principle of katafreis, the entire liquid would be rendered tamei on a Biblical level, and if kodoshim would be involved, it would be required to be burned.

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