Friday, September 04, 2009

Torah Scroll of the Temple Courtyard

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The Gemora has a dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah whether the Torah scroll that was written by Moshe was actually in the Ark with the Tablets, or whether it was in the on the side of the Ark.

The Gemora (14b) refers to this Torah scroll as the scroll of the Temple Courtyard. Why would the scroll that is kept inside the Holy of Holies be called the scroll of the Temple Courtyard?

Rashi is apparently bothered by this question and says that the scroll that Moshe Rabbeinu wrote was used by the king during hakhel, and by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. Apparently, Rashi held that it was permitted to go into the Holy of Holies to take out the Torah in order to read it.

Tosfos (14a) asks why the Gemora finds it necessary to leave some space in the Ark so that the Torah can be put in and removed easily; it was never removed anyway, since it is forbidden to enter the Holy of Holies except on Yom Kippur, and we don’t find any mention in the Mishnayos that they would use this Torah scroll on Yom Kippur!?

Tosfos clearly assumes not like Rashi and holds that this scroll wasn’t used, and is therefore troubled by why they had to leave space to get it in and out easily.

Tosfos answers that although it was never used, they would sometimes remove it in order to repair it (and one may enter the Holy of Holies in order to fix it, so too, one may enter to fix the Torah scroll). Also, between the destruction of the Tabernacle in Shiloh and the second Temple, they would use the Torah.

The Reshash suggests that even Rashi agrees with Tosfos that one may not enter the Holy of Holies to remove the Torah, but during the second Temple, when there wasn’t any Ark, it was used (and that is why it is called the scroll of the Temple Courtyard – for perhaps during that time, it was actually kept in the Courtyard).

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Half Slave and Half Free

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The braisa states: If someone is half slave and half free-man (he was jointly owned by two men, and one of them set him free), he serves his master for one day and then is free for one day (and so on). Beis Shammai says: You have fixed the problem for his master, but you have not solved his own problem. He cannot marry a Canaanite slavewoman (as his free side is a freeman, who is forbidden to marry a slavewoman) and he cannot marry a regular Jewish girl (who cannot be with his slave half)! Should he simply not marry? The world was created to be populated, as the verse says: The world was not created by G-d to be empty; it was created to be populated! Rather, we force his master to free his other half as well, and we have the slave write for the master a document stating that he owes the master the rest of his value. Beis Hillel retracted their opinion, and agreed with Beis Shammai.

The Sfas Emes discusses the verdict regarding a half-slave and half free person that he must go free, and the slave writes a document to the remaining partner for half of his value. This is because the slave has no money. Essentially, by the first partner’s freeing his half, the second partner lost his slave as well, as the law is that he must set him free. Can the second partner demand that the first partner should take the bond from the slave, while the first partner should pay him the monetary equivalent?

The Sfas Emes concludes that being that the damage is not direct, as it is only a consequence of the first person’s action, Beis Din will not force the first owner to pay the second owner. [However, it should be noted that usually indirect damage makes a person liable to pay according to “Heavenly law (meaning what is viewed as right and wrong by Hashem),” despite the fact that Beis Din will not make him pay. Accordingly, if the person freed his half of the slave knowing full well that this would indirectly damage the second owner, he should compensate him to ensure Heaven (Hashem) will not hold it against him.] (13a – 13b)

Half Slave and Half Free

By: Reb Avi Lebowitz

Tosfos (d.h. shene’emar) asks: Why does the Gemora choose to cite the verse of “The world was not created by G-d to be empty; it was created to be populated” to justify the importance for the half-slave half-freeman to be able to procreate, rather than the more well known verse in the Torah of P’ru U’rvu (Be fruitful and multiply)?

My understanding of Tosfos answer in the name of the R"I is that the mitzvah of P’ru U’rvu is really a ma’aseh mitzvah like any other, where we have exemptions for o’nes (a case where he has no choice). Therefore, citing the verse of P’ru U’rvu wouldn’t justify forcing the master to free the slave, since at the present time, the half-free side of the slave is exempt as an o’nes because he is incapable of performing the mitzvah. But by citing the verse of “The world was not created by G-d to be empty; it was created to be populated,” the Gemora is pointing to the root and purpose of the mitzvah of P’ru U’rvu. This verse illustrates that the purpose of P’ru U’rvu is to occupy the world and therefore we don’t follow the regular system that we do by other mitzvos, because even if he is exempt due to o’nes, the world will still remain empty. Although the Gemora means to use the verse in the torah as P’ru U’rvu as the source, it chooses to quote an alternate verse that would justify why P’ru U’rvu should apply even in a circumstance where he is an o’nes.

This approach is very meduyak in the language of Tosfos where the entire focus is on the verse chosen by the Gemora, rather than using language that indicates that P’ru U’rvu isn’t at all applicable since he is an o’nes. Tosfos language implies that P’ru U’rvu is truly the source that compels us to force the master to free the slave, but we cite the verse that explains why P’ru U’rvu should apply even to a circumstance of o’nes.

Furthermore, this approach would compliment, rather than contradict the Turei Even in Rosh Hashanah (29a), who asks that since one who does a mitzvah when they are exempt doesn’t fulfill their obligation, how can the Gemora in Yevamos say that if one had children as an idolater, and then he converts his whole family, he automatically fulfills the mitzvah? The mitzvah was done when he was exempt, so he should have to do it again!?

Turei Even answers that since the purpose of P’ru U’rvu is to populate the world, we disregard when the act of the mitzvah was done, so long as the world is being populated as a result of his actions.

If we were to understand Tosfos simply that only the mitzvah of “sheves” (populating the world) applies, but not P’ru U’rvu, then Tosfos would be holding that P’ru U’rvu is a standard mitzvah like any other, where o’nes is exempt and the ma’aseh mitzvah should have to be done when he is obligated in the mitzvah. But since we are explaining that according to Tosfos, the entire mitzvah of P’ru U’rvu is for the purpose of populating the world, Tosfos is essentially a support for the Turei Even’s novel understanding that the time of the ma’aseh mitzvah is not relevant.

This also explains how in the very next Tosfos, they are able to ask that the mitzvah of P’ru U’rvu should override the prohibition of marrying a kadeish (harlot). How can Tosfos cite the mitzvah of P’ru U’rvu moments after saying that it doesn’t apply here since he is o’nes? Clearly, Tosfos never meant to say that it doesn’t apply here; rather, the meaning is that we wouldn’t have realized that it does apply here, if not for the fact that we quoted the verse of “sheves.”

As a side note, there is a famous discussion whether an o’nes is exempt, or actually obligated but unable to perform. Tosfos here seems to support the former. Tosfos explains that since the half freeman is an o’nes in his obligation of P’ru U’rvu, we wouldn’t force the master to free him. Tosfos supports this claim from the fact that we don’t force masters to free all regular slaves to enable them to keep mitzvos. Now, if o’nes is actually obligated but unable to perform, how can Tosfos prove their case from a standard slave who isn’t even obligated at all in the mitzvos? Perhaps we don’t free regular slaves because they aren’t obligated, but we would free this half slave since his free side is obligated, just that he is an o’nes. Clearly, Tosfos holds that o’nes and not being obligated is exactly the same and can prove o’nes from the case of a regular slave.

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Continued Misfortune

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Rabbi Yochanan said: Since the Holy Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children.

When was it given to fools? It happened with Mar the son of Rav Ashi. He was one day standing in the marketplace of Mechuza when he heard a certain deranged person exclaim: “The man who is to be appointed head of the Academy in the city of Mechasya signs his name Tavyumi.” He said to himself, “Who among the Rabbis signs his name Tavyumi? I do! This indicates that my fortunate time has come.” So he quickly went to the city of Mechasya. When he arrived, he found that the Rabbis had voted to appoint Rav Acha of Difti as their head. When they heard of his arrival, they sent a couple of Rabbis to him to ask his advice (and his permission to appoint Rav Acha). He detained them with him, and they sent another couple of Rabbis. He detained these also, and it continued until there were ten. When ten were assembled (for that is when one should begin lecturing), he began to discourse and expound to them. [He was then appointed as the head of the Academy.]

Rav Acha applied to himself the saying: If a man is dealt with harshly, he does not readily come into favor, and if a man is in favor, he does not readily fall into misfortune.

The Maharsha writes that this is only if it troubles him greatly. If he thinks that being rejected from a position of prominence was a grave misfortune, then good things will not happen soon happen to him. This is in accordance with what the Sages say: One who pursues honor – the honor will run away from him.

The Meiri writes that although there can be times that due to a person’s fortune, the door of success keeps closing on him and it is not readily opened, nevertheless, it is not completely shut. The gates of tefillah and good deeds are not sealed; they will always be there for a person’s protection.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Adding Years to Someone's Lifetime

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The Gemora cites a braisa: It was related of Binyamin the Righteous who was a supervisor of the charity fund. One day a woman came to him in a year of famine, and said to him, “Master, please assist me.” He replied, “I swear by the service in the Holy Temple that there is nothing in the charity fund.” She said, “Master, if you do not assist me, a woman and her seven children will perish.” He accordingly assisted her out of his own funds. Some time afterwards he became deathly ill. The angels addressed the Holy One, Blessed be He, saying, “Master of the Universe, You have said that he who preserves one soul of Israel is considered as if he had preserved the entire world; shall then Binyamin the Righteous who has preserved a woman and her seven children die at such an early age?” Immediately, his decree was torn up. It has been taught that twenty-two years were added to his life.

The Metzudas David asks that this seems to contradict Rabbi Akiva’s opinion in Yevamos (49b), where the Gemora states: I (HaShem) shall fill the number of your days; these are the years that a person is granted to live at the beginning of his life. If he merits, those years will be completed. If he does not merit, they will decrease years from his lifetime; these are the words of Rabbi Akiva. Evidently, he holds that Hashem completes his years, but He does not add to them!?

He answers according to that which Tosfos writes there: Rabbi Akiva holds that when a person lives for a very long time, those years are not an addition to his allotted life, but rather a blessing from Hashem to live out his allotted time. Hashem does not add years to a person’s lifetime. That is only with respect to his own years. However, if years are deducted from another person’s life, those years can be added to someone else, provided that he deserves it.

Accordingly, it can be said that the twenty-two years which were added to Binyamin the Righteous’ lifetime, were in fact years that were deducted from others. And because Binyamin was so deserving, those years were added to his life.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Accepting Charity from an Idolater

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The Gemora states: An act of kindness or charity performed by an idolater is regarded as a sin. This is because they are only performing these good deeds to live longer, or that their reign should continue, or in order to glorify themselves, or to rebuke the Jews.

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

Our Gemora says that when idolaters give tzedakah it serves as an atonement for them. Because it serves as an atonement, Rav Ami refused to accept tzedakah from Ifra Hurmiz. Even Rava only accepted it for the sake of peaceful relationship with the government, but otherwise, he would not have accepted it. This is based upon a verse which teaches us that the idolaters will become weak and broken once their charitable deeds have dried up, and therefore, we don’t give them opportunities for more merits. However, the Gemora says that if we were to use the funds to support non-Jewish causes (which Rashi explains that we support anyway for the sake of peaceful relationship with the government), it would not give them any special merit. It is only if we use the funds to support Jews that it is considered a merit for them.

Tosfos (8a d.h. yasiv) points out that the Gemora in Eruchin (6b) implies that we would accept donations to synagogues that come from idolaters. Why? Tosfos explains that donations to synagogues are considered like korbanos and we do accept korbanos from idolaters.

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 (here) 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.

What does the Haga’os Ashri mean that vowed-offerings and freewill-offerings are not meant for the purpose of atonement? What is accomplished for the idolaters aside from atonement? Furthermore, the Gemora says in Sukkah (55b) that the idolaters destroyed the Holy Temple, not realizing what they will be losing. When we had the Temple, the Altar served as an atonement for them, but now they have nothing to atone for them. The Gemora in Sukkah clearly implies that the purpose for their korbanos were to be an atonement, which contradicts the Haga’os Ashri?

The distinction of the Haga’os Ashri is found in the Shach and Taz (Y.D. 254:4) to explain the Rama who says that we do accept donations to synagogues from idolaters, but don’t accept tzedakah from them (unless the money was air-marked for tzedakah and must be accepted for the sake of peaceful relationship with the government).

Reb Avi Lebowitz suggests the following: Perhaps the Gemora in Sukkah is not referring to the vowed-offerings and freewill-offerings that the idolaters bring, rather the Holy Temple, in general, served as an atonement for the entire world, including the idolaters. But the vowed-offerings and freewill-offerings, and donations to synagogues that we accept from idolaters is because it allows them to have a share in our prayers, but it will not serve as an atonement to prevent them from being destroyed for sins that they have committed. Tzedakah to the poor which would serve as an atonement for sins that they have committed, we refuse to accept from them unless we have no choice (such as for the sake of peaceful relationship with the government).

The Chochmas Adam (146:3) explains this idea a bit further: Tzedakah to the poor is tantamount to a korban chatas which we do not accept from idolaters because we don’t give them opportunity for atonement, but freewill-offerings, we do accept from them, so we can also accept gifts to synagogues.

It would seem that this prohibition, which forbids accepting tzedakah from them, only applies to tzedakah to the poor, but donations to Yeshivos and donations for kindness activities which do not go to the poor, would be like vowed-offerings and freewill-offerings that we can accept from them. But perhaps when it comes to the studying of Torah, where the donation buys them a share in the Torah, we should not provide them with that opportunity either.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Reckoning with the Charity Collectors

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The Gemora cites a braisa: The charity collectors are not required to give an account of the monies entrusted to them for charity. And the treasurers of the Temple are not required to reckon the funds given to them for the Temple purposes. And although there is no actual proof of this in the Scriptures, but there is a hint of it in the following verse: And they would not reckon with the men into whose hand they delivered the money, to give to those that did the work, for they dealt faithfully.

Rabbi Elozar said: Even if a man has in his house a treasurer on whom he can rely, he should tie up and count out all money that he hands to him, as it is written: They bound it in in bags and counted the money.

Rashi writes that although he has no intention of demanding an accounting afterwards, he still should tie up and count out all money that he hands to him.

What is the purpose of such a counting?

The Meiri explains that if he will not count it in the beginning, he will certainly suspect the treasurer that he accepted more money then he actually spent. Now that it is counted, at least they are both aware as to the amount of money which was given over to him. One should always make an effort not to suspect a person of committing a wrongdoing.

The Maharsha writes that the money is counted in order that the mazikin (spiritual damagers) should not have any control over the money, for money that is tied, sealed, or counted they cannot have any effect over.

The Ein Eliyahu answers that it is counted in order that the treasurers themselves can make a calculation at the end, if they so desire.

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Tax Exemption for Torah Scholars

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By: Reb Yechezkel Khayyat

The Gemora presents the tax exemptions accorded to Torah scholars. The Rishonim discuss the parameters of these tax exemptions.
Who is Exempt?
The Rosh says that only one who for whom toraso umnaso – his Torah learning is his profession, is exempt. The Rosh explains that even if one learns much Torah and is proficient in Torah, if he spends most of his time working, and less of his time learning, he is not exempt. However, even if one works, if he works only as much as is necessary to support himself and his family, and constantly returns to his Torah study when he is not working, he is exempt.

The Rosh further clarifies (Responsa 15:8) that this exemption applies equally to a Torah scholar who is wealthy, since the exemption is a function of the Torah study, not poverty.

Finally, the Rosh states that if one who studies Torah is not diligent in his performance of mitzvos, he is not considered a Torah scholar who is exempt from tax.

The Rama (YD 243:2) quotes the Terumas Hadeshen (342), who further requires that the Torah scholar be well versed in all the standard Torah sources.

The Shach (HM 163:14) quotes Sefer Chasidim that limits the exemption to one who studies at all times, to the exclusion of any work, but says we do not rule like this.
From what are they Exempt?
The Ramban and Ran state that Torah scholars are only exempt from communal taxes, since they can claim that only the other members of the community are responsible for the existence of these taxes and their payment (as Rebbe stated regarding the tax levied on Teveria). However, if the tax is imposed on each person individually, even Torah scholars must pay.

The Rosh and Rambam (Talmud Torah 6:10), however, disputes this position, and state that Torah scholars are exempt from all types of tax, whether imposed communally or individually. The Rosh points out that Rav Nachman makes a categorical statement that obligating a Torah scholar in a tax is a violation of all sections of Torah, and the Gemora applies this to karga, which was a poll tax assessed on each individual. These indicate that even individual taxes levied on Torah scholars are the responsibility of the community, and not the Torah scholars.

The Shulchan Aruch (YD 243:2) rules like the Rosh and Rambam. See Tzitz Eliezer 2:25 and Yabia Omer HM 7:10 for a detailed discussion of these parameters, and their applicability in contemporary society.

A Raven and Dog

When Rabbi Yonasan, Rebbe’s student, asked for food from Rebbe, he told him that he should feed him, just as Hashem feeds the raven and the dog. Rashi explains that Hashem specifically tailored the physiology of these animals to account for their lack of food. A dog typically does not have much food, so Hashem ensured that it spends three days digesting its food (Shabbos 155b), while a raven does not have feed its children, so Hashem provides them with insects in their waste, which they can eat to be nourished. Tosfos (8a kekelev) explains that the verse in Tehilim refers to both these animals. The verse says that Hashem is nosain liv’haima lachma (gives to an animal its food), livnai oraiv asher yikra’u (to the children of the raven that call out). The Gematria of behaima (animal) is 52, the same as kelev (dog).
Like the Stars
The Gemora explained that the verse that states that matzdikei harabim – those that bring merit to the community are like the stars, is referring to those who educate children in Torah.

The Ben Yehoyada points out that the appropriateness of the metaphor. Although stars appear to us much smaller than the sun, they are actually much larger and more powerful. Similarly, although those who teach seemingly trivial subjects, such as the basics of reading and writing, appear to not be as lofty as those who study and teach Torah at a much more advanced level, they are actually more exalted than others, since they teach Torah to children who are pure and untainted by sin.

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