Sunday, June 03, 2012

Sapachas, Guf and Deshaf VeYashiv Synagogue


Converts are like Sapachas

Rabbi Chelbo said: Converts are as harmful to the Jewish people as sapachas (a type of tzara’as).

Rashi explains that this is because converts are not so meticulous in the performance of mitzvos, and those Jews who observe this behavior will become influenced by them.

Tosfos writes that each and every Jew is a guarantor for his fellow, and if converts do not perform mitzvos meticulously, they will be punished on account of them.

Tosfos rejects this explanation, for he proves that when the Jewish people accepted to be guarantors for each other, they did not accept to be guarantors for the converts as well.

Tosfos brings another explanation: They are harmful to the Jews, for it is impossible that someone will not bother them, and the punishment for this will be severe, for the Torah in twenty-four places warn the Jewish people not to bother the converts.

Tosfos brings another explanation: It is because of the converts that we are still in exile, for the Gemora says that Klal Yisroel are scattered all over the world much more so than other nations in order for there to be additional converts.

Rabbeinu Avraham the convert explains differently: It is because the converts are meticulous in their performance of the mitzvos. This shows the shortcomings of ordinary Jews.


Souls from the Guf

Rav Assi said: “The son of David will not come until all the souls are vacated from guf.” (There exists a chamber in heaven that contains the souls created during the six days of creation. The mitzvah of procreation is to bring the souls out of guf and advance the coming of Mashiach. One who has children fulfills this obligation even if they subsequently die.)

The Maharal writes that the souls which descend into this world before the Redemption are contained in a chamber called guf, body. This is because the souls residing in this world prior to the arrival of Mashiach have a connection to the body, the physical world. After the arrival of Mashiach, the souls will not be embedded inside the body; rather, they will be separate from the body.

The uniqueness and sacred status of the Deshaf Veyashiv Synagogue

By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi

Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote his Shulchan ‘Aruch as a decisive halachic work for everyone. Therefore, there are few places where he writes “we have a doubt”. One of the few halachos where he has a doubt as to how one should behave concerns the halachos of a synagogue (O.C. 151:12), where he writes that we are in doubt if the roof of a synagogue may be used for mundane purposes. This doubt already arose with the Rishonim, the Mordechai (Shabbos, Ch. 1) and the Maharik (Responsa, in shoresh 161), who discussed if the sanctity of a synagogue, regarded as a small Temple, extends to its roof just as the sanctity of the heichal in the Temple included its roof, or perhaps the halachah of a synagogue is like that of the ‘azarah (forecourt) in the Temple, which was sacred but not its roofs or upper floors.

Our sugya recounts that Shmuel and his pupil, Rav Yehudah, went up on the roof of the Deshaf Veyasiv Synagogue in Nehardea. They conversed, and Shmuel’s words indicated that where they were standing they shouldn’t worry about thoughts of sin as being in that place makes one feel scared and fearful and that keeps away such thoughts – one reason being the fear of the Shechinah present there. Can we decide Shulchan Aruch’s doubt from this case and contend that the roofs of synagogues are sacred? Once we realize the uniqueness of this synagogue, we’ll realize that it’s almost impossible.

A synagogue from Yerushalayim: The synagogue we are discussing was called Deshaf Veyasiv. Rashi comments (s.v. Deshaf veyasiv): “The name of a place included in the kingdom of Nehardea”. However, from other places in the Talmud where the synagogue is mentioned we learn that it was no ordinary synagogue at all. The Gemara in Megilah 29a says that the presence of the Shechinah in Babylonia was unique to this synagogue. The Shechinah’s voice was heard there and administering angels surrounded it. Rashi comments (ibid; Rosh HaShanah 24b; ‘Avodah Zarah 43b) that when Yechonyah, the king of Judea, was exiled to Babylonia, he brought along stones and earth from Yerushalayim and built this synagogue with them. Its name – Deshaf Veyasiv – derives from the fact that it “jumped” (shaf) from Yerushalayim and “settled” (yasiv) in Babylonia. Yechonyah’s act followed his moving parting from the Temple before his exile, of which we have learnt recently in tractate Midos (35b).

It is amazing to discover that while Rashi mentions that the synagogue was built of stones from Yerushalayim, in the ‘Aruch (in the entry for shaf) and the Geonim’s Responsa (71) it is mentioned that the synagogue was built with stones from the Temple! (See Responsa Chasam Sofer, Y.D. 264, where he wrote that we must say that their sanctity was desecrated by the conquest and destruction for if not so, there’s a prohibition of me’ilah).

Once we realize the special sanctity of the Deshaf Veyasiv Synagogue, it is easy to understand why the Rishonim and Shulchan ‘Aruch didn’t derive a decision from our Gemara, for this synagogue was especially sacred. Indeed, the Maharsha writes (in Chidushei Agados) that thoughts of sin were prevented in this synagogue due to its uniqueness and he defines its sanctity as “like in the Temple”!

Read more!