Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Craftsmen Standing for Torah Scholars

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Rabbi Yochanan states (Kiddushin 33a) : They stood before those bringing the bikkurim, but not before Torah scholars.

Rabbi Yosi bar Avin explains: Come and see how precious a mitzvah is in its proper time, for the craftsmen would rise before those bringing the bikkurim, but not before Torah scholars.

The Gemora asks: Perhaps they would only rise before those bringing bikkurim (but not for an ordinary mitzvah) because if not, they will not bring the bikkurim in the future (for they will think that the people living in Yerushalayim have no respect for them).

The Pnei Yehoshua writes that although it is obvious that the studying of Torah is greater than the performance of mitzvos, and even a mitzvah which has a set time, nevertheless, here, those that are performing a mitzvah are greater than Torah scholars. This is because it is quite possible that the Torah scholar is not engrossed in learning as he is walking.

The Chasam Sofer asks: And is a Torah scholar not occupied in performing mitzvos as he is walking? The Gemora Brochos states that a Torah scholar does not walk even four amos without thinking in Torah!? Why shouldn’t they stand before him?

He answers that according to halachah, thinking in learning is not equivalent to studying out loud, and therefore it is not in the same category as one who is performing a mitzvah while he is walking.

The Noda BeYehudah answers that a mitzvah which does not apply every day is more significant than the mitzvah of studying Torah, which applies every day.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Honoring Parents; Bein Adam l’Makom, or Bein Adam l’Chaveiro?

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The Gemora (Kiddushin 32a)inquires: From whose money are the needs of the parents provided for? [Do the children pay with their own money, or are they just responsible to ensure that their parents are taken care of?]

Rav Yehudah says: The son must pay for it. Rav Nosson bar Oshaya says: The father must pay for it.

Reb Zeidel Epstein in the sefer Afikei Ayil writes that their argument is based upon the following question: Is the mitzvah of honoring one’s father and mother a mitzvah which is between man and Hashem, and therefore the son would be obligated to use his own money just like any other mitzvah? Or perhaps the mitzvah is one that is between man and his fellow, and therefore one would not be required to use his own money.

The Dvar Yaakov asks: If it is a mitzvah that is between man and his fellow, the son would not be required to disrupt his work in order to honor his father!?

Rather, he explains: Everyone agrees that it is in the category of a mitzvah which is between one man and another, but Reb Boruch Ber explains that even in those mitzvos one would be required to spend money, provided that the money being spent is a part of the mitzvah, such as the mitzvah of giving charity. The dispute in the Gemora is regarding this point. Is the money being spent to honor one’s father a part of this mitzvah, or not?

The Minchas Chinuch writes that if honoring one’s parents is included in the category of mitzvos that are between people, Yom Kippur would not atone for these transgressions unless one would appease his father and mother beforehand.

The Ramban writes that the Ten Commandments were written on two tablets. This illustrates to us that the first five are different than the second five. The purpose of the first five is to honor Hashem. Honoring your parents is included in this category because when one honors his parents he is in fact honoring Hashem, for the parents were Hashem’s partners in the child’s creation.

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Miracle of Prayer

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The Mishna in Rosh Hashanah states that whenever Moshe held up his hand, Israel prevailed (against Amalek). The Mishna asks, do Moshe's hands make or break the battle? Rather, this teaches you that so long as Israel were looking upwards and subjugating their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were victorious; if not, they would fall.

The Netziv in Merumei Sadeh asks on the Mishna's question. What was so strange about Moshe's hands making the battle? Didn’t Moshe’s hands split the sea and perform other miracles as well through his hand?

He answers that the fight against Amalek had to be won in a natural way and not through a miracle. Perhaps we can add that fighting Amalek is in essence the fight that we have daily with our evil inclination. This fight could not be left to miracles. This is what is bothering the Mishna. Could the battle have been won through Moshe's hands like the other miracles? The Mishna’s answer is no, it could not have been since this battle required a victory through natural means.

Let us examine the answer of the Mishna. Rather, this teaches you that so long as Israel were looking upwards and subjugating their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were victorious; if not, they would fall. Isn't the Mishna stating that they relied on a miracle from Above. They looked upwards and they were victorious. How can this be explained?

The Gemora in Kiddushin (29b) relates an incident with Abaye and Rav Acha bar Yaakov. There was a certain demon that haunted Abaye’s Beis Medrash, so that when two people entered, even by day, they were injured. Abaye instructed the community not to provide Rav Acha shelter when he would arrive in the city, thus forcing the father to spend the night at the Beis Medrash; perhaps a miracle will happen [in his merit]. Rav Acha entered the city and spent the night in that Beis Medrash, during which the demon appeared to him in the guise of a seven-headed dragon. Every time Rav Acha fell on his knees in prayer one head fell off. The next day he reproached them, “Had not a miracle occurred, you would have endangered my life.”

The Maharsha in his commentary to Kiddushin asks that how did Abaye have permission to place Rav Acha in such a precarious position. One is forbidden to rely on a miracle? He answers that Abaye understood the potency of Rav Acha’s prayer. Abaye was certain that Rav Acha’s prayers to the Almighty would be answered and that this is not a miracle. Hashem has instilled in this world the power of prayer and incorporated it into the natural order of the world.

This is what our Mishna is answering. Amalek has to be defeated through natural means and that is what Klal Yisroel did at that time. They cried out to Hashem and subjugated their hearts towards Him and were answered.

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Women Plowing during Shemitah

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The Gemora in Moed Katan presents a dispute between Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elozar whether one would incur the thirty-nine lashes if he would plow during Shemitah.

Rashi (2b) states that there is a positive commandment which forbids plowing on Shemitah. It is written [Shmos 34:21]: From plowing and harvesting you shall desist. The point of contention between the two Amoraim is if there is a negative commandment as well.

The Rambam in Hilchos Shemitah rules that one who plows during Shemitah does not incur the thirty-nine lashes. Kesef Mishna explains: Since in our Gemora, it was left ambiguously regarding which Amora held what, we cannot administer the lashes when there is uncertainty.

Sha’ar Hamelech in the beginning of Hilchos Shemitah writes that the Yerushalmi in Shabbos (7:2) states that Rabbi Yochanan is the one who maintains that he does not receive the lashes and the rule is that when Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elozar argue, the halacha is in accordance with Rabbi Yochanan.

Minchas Chinuch (112) comments that women are obligated in this mitzvah even though it is a positive commandment that has a time element to it and the principle is that women are exempt from any positive mitzvah which is governed by time. He explains that this is applicable only regarding a positive mitzvah that is incumbent on the body of the person and not a mitzvah like Shemitah, which is a mitzvah that is dependent on the land (mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz).

Proof to this is cited from the Ritva in Kiddushin (29a). The Gemora rules based on a Scriptural verse that women are not obligated to perform a circumcision on their sons. Tosfos asks: Why is a verse necessary; circumcision is a positive mitzvah which is governed by time since the mitzvah can only be performed by day, and women are exempt? The Ritva answers: Any mitzvah which is not related to the person themselves; this principle does not apply. The mitzvah of milah is to perform the circumcision on the son and therefore women would be obligated if not for the special verse teaching us otherwise.

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Don't Call him Evil

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The Gemora Kiddushin Daf 28 states: One who calls someone else a slave should be excommunicated! If he calls him a mamzer, he receives lashes! If he calls him an evil person, he (the insulted person) may descend against his life (he is permitted to hate him to such an extent that he may attempt to reduce his income).

Rashi in Bava Metzia (71a) explains this to mean that the insulted person may fight with him as if the libeler hit him, and it is as if he was coming to kill him. Furthermore, Rashi heard that he can compete against him in his line of business in an attempt to decrease his income.

Rashi asks that it is hard to understand how the Chachamim would allow this person to take revenge.

Some answer that here it is permitted because he suffered personally and he was subject to a public humiliation. The Chafetz Chaim, however, writes that it is unclear if this is the accepted halachah, and therefore, one should be stringent in the matter and not take revenge.

Others answer that it is permitted because if people think that he is indeed an evil person, his income will suffer tremendously, for people will not have compassion on him.

Tosfos in Bava Metzia writes in the name of the Gaonim that it is permitted to burn one-third of his grain. Tosfos concludes that this is bewildering, for where is the source for this?

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Akiva ben Yosef (Kiddushin 27)

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It happened once that Rabban Gamliel and some elders were traveling on a ship. Rabban Gamliel said to them: The tithe (ma’aser rishon) which I shall measure off when I come home is given to Yehoshua (ben Chananyah, who was a Levi) and the place where it lies is leased to him. [Rabbi Yehoshua gave him a perutah for the rental and acquired the ma’aser together with the land with kinyan agav.] And the other tithe (ma’aser ani) which I shall measure off is given to Akiva ben Yosef that he may acquire possession of it for the poor, and the place where it lies is leased to him.

The commentators ask: Why by Rabbi Akiva, does the Gemora mention his father’s name, Yosef, and By Rabbi Yehoshua, it does not?

Reb Tzadok HaKohen (Peri Tzadik; Ki Seitzei) answers that this is to hint to us that the root of Rabbi Akiva was from Yosef HaTzadik. Just as Yosef was the provider of the food in Egypt, so too, Rabbi Akiva was the treasurer and the one responsible to sustain the poor people.

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Kinyan Agav

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The Gemora (Kiddushin 26) inquires: Must the movable property be piled on the real property in order for the kinyan agav (by making a kinyan on the land, he automatically acquires the movable property) to be effective?

The Rishonim ask: If the halachah would be that kinyan agav is only effective if the movable property is piled on the land, why would it be necessary to use agav? The movable property should be acquired because it is resting in his courtyard!?

The Ritv”a answers: The Gemora is referring to a case where the courtyard is not protected and therefore it cannot be used to make a kinyan. That is why agav is necessary.

The Shitah Mekubetzes answers that a courtyard can acquire for a person only movable property that entered it after it became his. However, a courtyard cannot acquire property that was in it before the courtyard became his.

The Steipler Gaon writes that the Shach states this halachah only with respect to the acquisition of a courtyard without the knowledge of the owner. However, if he intends to use the courtyard to acquire the movable property which is found in it, it will be effective even if the property entered the courtyard before it became his.

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L'chatchilah and B'dieved

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The Gemora (Kiddushin 25) explains that while it is true that Rebbe holds that the water is not required to enter the person’s mouth, it must, however, be a place which is fit for the water to enter (and since a bone was lodged between her teeth, the water could not touch her entire mouth; this invalidated her immersion).

This logic follows the opinion of Rabbi Zeira, who says in regards to a korban minchah: A flour-offering that is fit for mixing (of the flour and the oil of the offering; with one log of oil for sixty esronim of flour, and a maximum of sixty esronim in one pan, perfect mixing is possible), the mixing is not critical to it (and the offering will be valid even without mixing); whereas, a flour-offering that is not fit for mixing (where, the proportions of the mixture were less than a log for sixty esronim or where more than sixty esronim were placed in one pan), the mixing is critical (and the offering will not be valid).

Tosfos asks: If the Torah repeated the halachah of “mixing,” it should be critical to the minchah, and if it did not, why is it necessary for it to be “fit for mixing”?

Tosfos answers: Although it is written many times in the Torah, it is not mandatory for it to be mixed, since it is not written in the language of a commandment. We may only derive that the flour and oil should be fit for mixing.

Tosfos in Niddah writes that none of those verses are extra, for they are all necessary to teach various halachos. If so, they ask: Why is it necessary for it to be “fit for mixing”?

Tosfos answers: Since the Torah was particular that a mixing should be done, it is only logical that it should be fit for mixing, for otherwise, the mitzvah would be negated completely.

The Rishonim similarly ask with regards to immersion: Why is it required that his mouth (or other areas) should be a place where water is fit to enter?

Tosfos answers: It is because it is written: And he shall immerse all his flesh in the water. This would seemingly include even all the hidden areas. However, since we expound the verse “his flesh” to be referring only to the exposed parts of the body, the term “all his flesh” teaches us that all parts must be fit for the water to enter.

Evidently, Tosfos holds that this halachah is a Biblical requirement. Other Rishonim hold that it is only a Rabbinical obligation.

Tosfos in Niddah asks: Why isn’t there a requirement at least l’chatchilah that the water should enter even the hidden areas (the same way there is a halachah that the minchah should l’chatchilah be mixed)?

Tosfos answers: With respect to immersion, there is no logic to mandate that the water should enter even the hidden areas of his body, for the Torah is only interested in the person becoming tahor; since b’dieved he will be tahor anyway (even if the water does not come into contact with these areas), what sense is there to require it in the first place? However, with respect to mixing the minchah, which is a mitzvah, it is understandable that the Torah desires that the minchah should be mixed, even though it will be valid even if it isn’t.

My Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Levin Shlit”a explains this Tosfos in the following manner: When the discussion pertains to a chalos (something taking effect), it is either valid, or it is not. It is not logical to state that in order for something to be effective, the Torah wants it done in this specific manner. However, even if that is done, it is effective anyway. [L’chatchilah and b’dieved cannot be said regarding a Torahdike chalos.] However, when we are discussing a mitzvah, it is possible to say that there are different levels with respect to the fulfillment of the mitzvah. One will fulfill the mitzvah regardless, but it is still preferable to do it in a certain specific manner.

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