Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Makkat Bechorot and Matan Torah

Some dot points...

A) The passuk  says in Parshat Bo (11:4 - 5)
.וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה כֹּה אָמַר ה' כַּחֲצֹת הַלַּיְלָה אֲנִי יוֹצֵא בְּתוֹךְ מִצְרָיִם
...וּמֵת כָּל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם
And Moshe said, "Thus says Hashem, at midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt. And every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die..."

Rashi comments
כחצות הלילה - כהחלק הלילה 
[The plague of the firstborn will occur] when the night is split [into two, at the exact moment of midnight.]

  • Why did Makkas Bechorot occur at the exact moment of midnight?
B) The Mesillat Yesharim (chapter 3) elaborates on the gemara that says that this world is compared to night.

והוא מה שאמרו ז"ל (בבא מציעא פג): תשת חושך ויהי לילה (תהלים קד), זה העולם הזה, שדומה ללילה.
17
והבן כמה נפלא המאמר האמיתי הזה למי שמעמיק להבין בו. כי הנה חושך הלילה שני מיני טעיות אפשר לו שיגרום לעין האדם: או יכסה את העין עד שלא יראה מה שלפניו כלל, או שיטעה אותו עד שיראה עמוד כאילו הוא אדם, ואדם כאילו הוא עמוד

The Mesillat Yesharim explains that in the darkness of night, you may fail to see something altogether. Alternatively you may confuse one thing for another, e.g. a man for a pole or the other way around. Similarly we may fail to see the damage in a course of action altogether, or we may confuse good for bad and vice versa.

C) The Michtav Me'Eliyahu (volume 3, page 51) explains that
  • Avraham perfected the attribute of chesed - kindness. Yitzchak perfected the attribute of gevurah - inner strength and self-control. Yaakov perfected the attribute of emes - truth. Through his attribute of emes (truth) - Yaakov fused the work of Avraham and Yitzchak to became the father of the shevatim (12 tribes).

  • The concepts of chesed (kindness) and gevurah (strength) each dictate that the world should be run in a particular way. Either of these ideologies, on their own, can lead to chaos. Each attribute must be balanced with the other to create wholesome people and a wholesome society.

  • The attribute of emes is also called tipheres - beauty. This is because through emes you can create a harmonious balance of the contradictory yet reinforcing strengths of chessed - kindness - and gevurah - strength and self-control.

In other words - emes (truth) is the core balancing virtue that arranges the ideas of kindness and inner-strength into a harmonious and vigorous way of life in the service of Hashem.

D) Just as it is possible to join the attributes of kindness and inner-strength through the balancing virtue of emes (truth) - so too is it possible to join the attributes of kindness and inner-strength through the combining influence of sheker (falsehood).

How is this possible?

  • Emes is an integrating force that determines how chessed and gevurah must surrender to each other's prerogatives in order to determine a single course of action. The course of action chosen will be simultaneously kind but controlled, strong but loving.

  • Sheker determines that chesed and gevurah must both be fed. Neither need modulate the other. Rather new worlds must be constantly conquered to create an ever-increasing influx of wealth that will satisfy the un-integrated and contradictory demands of human enjoyment and human respect.

In such a system, the forces of kindness and inner-strength join into a destructive force that consumes the world to satisfy the un-integrated and contradictory facets of man's existence.

E) The Rambam (Igeret Ha’Rambam) says that Pharaoh is the yetzer hara. Pharaoh created an empire which excluded Hashem and that had to be fed with ever increasing wealth in order to satisfy the un-integrated and contradictory aspects of the citizens’ lives.

F) The reason that Makkas Bechoros came exactly at midnight, when the night is split in two, is as follows:

  • Pharaoh (the yetzer ha'ra) combined the two aspects of human existence (chessed and gevurah) in such a way that created the night of olam ha'zeh.
  • Hashem unseated Pharaoh as king of the universe, and showed that the contradictory aspects of man’s existence can be combined through the Torah. The Torah modulates the tensions inherent in man’s existence with each other to create a harmonious man who is at peace with himself, with the world, with his fellow man and with God.
G) This process will be repeated when Mashiach comes, as the passuk says in Zecharia (14, 7)
וְהָיָה יוֹם אֶחָד הוּא יִוָּדַע לַה' לֹא יוֹם וְלֹא לָיְלָה וְהָיָה לְעֵת עֶרֶב יִהְיֶה אוֹר

There will be one day known to Hashem, that will not be day or night, and it will be towards evening, that there will be light.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Parshas Chayey Sarah - the tefillos of the Avos

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (24:63-64):

וַיֵּצֵא יִצְחָק לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה לִפְנוֹת עָרֶב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים. וַתִּשָּׂא רִבְקָה אֶת עֵינֶיהָ וַתֵּרֶא אֶת יִצְחָק וַתִּפֹּל מֵעַל הַגָּמָל

“And Yitzchak went to daven in the field towards evening and he lifted up his eyes and he saw and behold camels were coming. And Rivkah lifted up her eyes and she saw Yitzchak and she fell from the camel.”

The gemara says in Berachos 26b:

אברהם תקן תפלת שחרית שנא' (בראשית י"ט, כ"ז) וישכם אברהם בבקר אל המקום אשר עמד שם ואין עמידה אלא תפלה שנאמר (תהלים ק"ו, ל') ויעמד פינחס ויפלל יצחק תקן תפלת מנחה שנאמר (בראשית כ"ד, ס"ג) ויצא יצחק לשוח בשדה לפנות ערב ואין שיחה אלא תפלה שנאמר (תהלים ק"ב, א') תפלה לעני כי יעטף ולפני ה' ישפוך שיחו יעקב תקן תפלת ערבית שנאמר (בראשית כ"ח, י"א) ויפגע במקום וילן שם ואין פגיעה אלא תפלה שנאמר (ירמיהו ז', ט"ז) ואתה אל תתפלל בעד העם הזה ואל תשא בעדם רנה ותפלה ואל תפגע בי

“Avraham enacted shacharis as the passuk says ‘and Avraham got up early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood’ and standing refers to davening as the passuk says ‘and Pinchas stood and he davened’.

Yitzchak enacted minchah as the passuk says ‘And Yitzchak went to talk in the field towards evening’ and talking refers to davening as the passuk says ‘A prayer of the poor man when he wraps himself and pours out his speech before Hashem.’

Yaakov enacted Maariv as the passuk says ‘and he met the place and he rested there’ and meeting refers to davening as the passuk says ‘and you do not daven for this people and do not raise for them supplication and prayer and do not entreat me’.”


  •      Why are different terms used to describe the tefillos instituted by the Avos so that amidah refers to Shacharis, sichah refers to Mincha and pegiah refers to Maariv?
The passuk (24:42) recounts how Eliezer told the events leading up to his finding Rivkah to Lavan and Besuel:

וָאָבֹא הַיּוֹם אֶל הָעָיִן וָאֹמַר ה' אֱלֹקֵי אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם אִם יֶשְׁךָ נָּא מַצְלִיחַ דַּרְכִּי אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הֹלֵךְ עָלֶיהָ

“And I came today to the well and I said, ‘Hashem the G-d of my master Avraham if you will make the way that I go on successful.’”

Rashi comments:

אמר רבי אחא יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות לפני המקום מתורתן של בנים שהרי פרשה של אליעזר כפולה בתורה והרבה גופי תורה לא נתנו אלא ברמיזה

“Rebbi Acha said, ‘The speech of the slaves of the Avos is dearer than the Torah of their children, as you see that the parshah of Eliezer is repeated in its entirety whereas many main principles of the Torah were only hinted to.’”


  •       Why is the principle that יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות לפני המקום מתורתן של בנים hinted at specifically in the recounting of Eliezer finding Rivka as a wife for Yitzchak?
The Pachad Yitzchak explains as follows:


  •      Avraham Avinu acted as a light to show that Hashem created the world and does chesed to us and that people should also live with chesed. Avraham resolutely stood his ground in face of the world’s opposition to his idea so his tefillah is called amidah.


  •      Yitzchak Avinu showed the importance of examining and perfecting every part of one’s life and actions, therefore his avodah is represented by the word sichah, meaning speech, because through speech every individual facet of a person may be described and uplifted.


  •      Yaakov Avinu showed how the most mundane aspects of olam hazeh can be used for the service of Hashem, therefore his avodah is represented by the word pegiah, meaning to meet or strike.

When Yitzchak married Rivka, his avodah became a foundation of klal yisrael so it is as this time that we learn the principle that יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות לפני המקום מתורתן של בנים as now the avodah of the avos moved from the avodah of Avraham of amidah to the avodah of Yitzchak of sichah.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Parshas Vayera - bringing the shechinah into olam hazeh

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah:

וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה' בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם

“And Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamreh while he was sitting at the entrance to the tent in the heat of the day.”

Rashi explains:

"ישב" - ישב כתיב בקש לעמוד אמר לו הקב"ה שב ואני אעמוד ואתה סימן לבניך שעתיד אני להתיצב בעדת הדיינין והן יושבין שנאמר (תהלים פ"ב) אלקים נצב בעדת אל

“[The word yoshev is missing a vov so can be read as vehu yashav, he sat. Avraham tried to stand but Hashem said to him, ‘You sit and I will stand and you will be a sign for your children that I will stand in the meeting of dayanim and they will sit.’”

It is difficult to understand the connection between Hashem standing when He came to visit Avraham to do bikkur cholim and between Hashem standing while the Sanhedrin decide the halachah.
  •  When Hashem visited Avraham Hashem told Avraham to remain seated as he was ill, why then is this a reason for the Sanhedrin to remain seated while they decide the halachah?
The Pri Tzaddik explains as follows:

The Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer (perek 29) says:

אמר הקב"ה למלאכי השרת באו וראו כחה של מילה עד שלא מל אברהם היה נופל על פניו ואח"כ הייתי מדבר עמו שנאמר ויפול אברהם על פניו ועכשו שנמול הוא יושב ואני עומד ומניין שהיה אברהם יושב שנאמר וישא אברהם את עיניו וירא והנה שלשה אנשים נצבים עליו

“Hashem said to the malachim, come and see the strength of milah, before Avraham had a bris he would fall on his face and only afterwards I would talk with him as the passuk says (Bereishis 17:17) ‘and Avraham fell on his face’, and now that he has had a bris he sits and I stand. How do you know that Avraham was sitting as it says, ‘And Avraham lifted his eyes and he saw three men standing over him.”

The reason that Avraham Avinu fell on his face before he had bris milah was because not every part of his experience of olam hazeh was subjugated to avodas Hashem. It was therefore not possible for Avraham to reconcile olam hazeh with his understanding of the giluy hashechinah and he was not able to experience olam hazeh and also the giluy hashechinah simultaneously.

However after Avraham Avinu had the bris he subjugated his entire experience of olam hazeh to his avodas  Hashem and therefore there was no longer any contradiction between his perception of olam hazeh and his understanding of the giluy hashechinah, therefore he was now able to remain sitting when the shechinah was revealed to him.

Similarly, when the Sanhedrin decide the halacha, they show that anything in olam hazeh can be considered and decided on in the light of the Torah and that the will of Hashem can be applied to everything that we experience.

Therefore, just as Hashem stood and Avraham sat when Hashem visited Avraham after he had a bris, so too Hashem kaveyachol stands when the Sanhedrin decide the halacha to show that by the Sanhedrin deciding the halachah, they are bringing the shechinah into this world.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Parshas Lech Lechah - bitachon in Hashem

The passuk in this week’s sedrah (14:22 - 23) relates Avraham reply to the king of Sedom when he offered to reward Avraham for saving him from the four kings:

וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֶל מֶלֶךְ סְדֹם הֲרִימֹתִי יָדִי אֶל ה' קֵל עֶלְיוֹן קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ. אִם מִחוּט וְעַד שְׂרוֹךְ נַעַל וְאִם אֶקַּח מִכָּל אֲשֶׁר לָךְ וְלֹא תֹאמַר אֲנִי הֶעֱשַׁרְתִּי אֶת אַבְרָם

“And Avram said to the king of Sedom, ‘I have lifted up my hand to Hashem G-d most high owner of heaven and earth. If I will take from you from a thread to the clasp of a shoe or if I will take anything from you so that you should not say that I made Avraham wealthy.”

The passuk says in Shir haShirim (7:2):

מַה יָּפוּ פְעָמַיִךְ בַּנְּעָלִים בַּת נָדִיב

“How beautiful are your footsteps in shoes, the daughter of the generous one.”

The gemara in Chagigah (3a) explains that this passuk is referring to the benei yisrael meriting to be oleh le’regel because of the generosity of Avraham Avinu:
דרש רבא מאי דכתיב מה יפו פעמיך בנעלים בת נדיב כמה נאין רגליהן של ישראל בשעה שעולין לרגל בת נדיב בתו של אברהם אבינו שנקרא נדיב שנאמר (תהלים מ"ז, י') נדיבי עמים נאספו עם אלקי אברהם אלקי אברהם ולא אלקי יצחק ויעקב אלא אלקי אברהם שהיה תחילה לגרים
“Rava explained, what does the passuk mean when it says ‘how beautiful are your footsteps in shoes the daughter of the generous one’? How pleasant are the legs of the benei yisrael at the time when they are oleh le’regel. ‘The daughter of the generous one’ – ‘the daughter of Avraham Avinu who is called the generous one as the passuk says ‘the generous ones of the peoples have gathered, the people of the G-d of Avraham [who was the first ger].”

Similarly the medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 43:9) comments on this passuk:

ועד שרוך נעל, אלו פעמי רגלים, היך מה דאת אמר (שיר השירים ז' ב') מה יפו פעמיך בנעלים

“In the merit that Avraham Avinu refused to accept even the clasp of a shoe from the king of Sedom he merited that his descendants should be oleh le’regel in shoes as the passuk says in Shir ha’Shirim ‘how beautiful are your footsteps in shoes’.”

·         Why is the mitzvah of being oleh le’regel represented specifically by the feet of the benei yisrael being shod in shoes? The fact that they were wearing shoes when they were oleh le’regel would seem to be totally incidental to the mitzvah to be oleh le’regel?

The Meshech Chachmah explains as follows:

Rabbeinu Yonah says in Avos (5:4) that the war against the four kings was a test of bitachon for Avraham Avinu:

החמישי מלחמת ארבעה מלכים שבשלש מאות ושמנה עשר איש החזיק ובטח בהקב"ה ונעשה לו נס שניצל והציל אחיו וכל רכוש סדום ועמורה והיה סובל המקרים לטובתו ולזכותו

“The fifth test of Avraham Avinu was the war against the four kings where with 318 men Avraham Avinu trusted in Hashem and a nes happened for him that he was saved and he saved Lot and all of the wealth of Sedom and Amorah.”

Avraham Avinu did not want to take a reward from the king of Sedom because that would have mitigated the level of bitachon he reached by going to war. When Avraham Avinu said to the king of Sedom that he would not from a thread to a shoe clasp from him, he meant that even if he would be left without clothes and without shoes altogether he still would not take anything from the king of Sedom.

If so, where would Avraham Avinu get clothes and shoes from? Only from trusting in Hashem, so that what Avraham Avinu meant to say to the king of Sedom was that just as I trusted in Hashem to fight the four kings, so too I will continue to trust in Hashem in my everyday life to provide me with shoes and clothing.

On Pesach we bring the korban omer from the barley harvest, on Shavuos we bring the shtei halechem from the wheat harvest and we start bringing bikkurim which may be brought till Succos which is the chag ha’asif when all of the harvests of the year are completed.

When the benei yisrael are oleh le’regel, they show that even though the crops seem to grow naturally in the fields, this only occurs because Hashem makes them grow in order that we should have food.

Therefore in the merit of Avraham explaining to the king of Sedom that even his basic necessities such as shoes would come only from bitachon in Hashem, he merited that his children would be walk up to Yerushalayim in shoes to be oleh le’regel and show that all of their material wealth also comes only through trusting in Hashem.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Parshas Vayelech - seeing the world through the eyes of the Torah

 The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (31:16):
וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל מֹשֶׁה הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם אֲבֹתֶיךָ וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ וַעֲזָבַנִי וְהֵפֵר אֶת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אִתּוֹ. וְחָרָה אַפִּי בוֹ בַיּוֹם הַהוּא וַעֲזַבְתִּים וְהִסְתַּרְתִּי פָנַי מֵהֶם וְהָיָה לֶאֱכֹל וּמְצָאֻהוּ רָעוֹת רַבּוֹת וְצָרוֹת וְאָמַר בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא הֲלֹא עַל כִּי אֵין אֱלֹקַי בְּקִרְבִּי מְצָאוּנִי הָרָעוֹת הָאֵלֶּה. וְאָנֹכִי הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר פָּנַי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא עַל כָּל הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה כִּי פָנָה אֶל אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים
“And Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Behold you will lie with your fathers and this people will arise and they will stray after the gods of the people of the land which it comes to and they will desert me and they will annul my covenant. And my anger will flare against them on that day and I will abandon them and I will hide my face from them and they will be eaten and great and oppressive evil will find them.

Then they will say, “Is it not because Hashem is not in my midst that this evil has found me.” And I will surely hide my face from them on that day for all the evil that they have done in turning to other gods.’”
  • Why would Hashem hide His face once the benei yisrael recognise that evil had befallen them because they had turned to avodah zarah? Surely this shows that they did teshuvah so that now Hashem would reveal His face to them?

The gemara says in Menachos (29b):
ומפני מה נברא העולם הזה בה"י? מפני שדומה לאכסדרה שכל הרוצה לצאת יצא. ומאי טעמא תליא כרעיה? דאי הדר בתשובה מעיילי ליה. וליעייל בהך? לא מסתייעא מילתא...
“Why was olam hazeh created with the letter heh? Because it is similar to a porch in front of a house (which is easy to go out of since it is open in all directions) so that anyone who wants to go out (whoever does not want to keep the Torah) can go out.

And why does the leg on the left hand side of the heh not reach the top of the heh? This is to teach you that if a person does teshuvah then they let him back in (through the gap between the leg of the heh and the roof of the heh.)

But why can he not come back through the bottom entrance of the heh? It will not work...”
  • Why can a person who abandoned the Torah not do teshuvah and return the same way that he left?

The gemara says in Bava Basra (3b):
הורדוס עבדא דבית חשמונאי הוה... קם קטלינהו לכולהו מרותיה... אמר מאן דריש (דברים י"ז, ט"ו) מקרב אחיך תשים עליך מלך? רבנן. קם קטלינהו לכולהו רבנן שבקיה לבבא בן בוטא למשקל עצה מניה... השתא מאי תקנתיה דההוא גברא? אמר ליה הוא כבה אורו של עולם דכתיב (משלי ו', כ"ג) כי נר מצוה ותורה אור ילך ויעסוק באורו של עולם דכתיב (ישעיהו ב', ב') ונהרו אליו כל הגוים. איכא דאמרי הכי אמר ליה, הוא סימא עינו של עולם דכתיב (במדבר ט"ו, כ"ד) והיה אם מעיני העדה, ילך ויתעסק בעינו של עולם דכתיב (יחזקאל כ"ד, כ"א) הנני מחלל את מקדשי גאון עוזכם מחמד עיניכם
“Herod was a slave of the house of the Chashmonaim, he rebelled against his masters and killed all of the family of the Chashmonaim (so he could be the king). He said, ‘Who explains that the passuk says that a slave cannot be a king, it is the chachamim. So he arose and he killed the chachamim and only left Bava ben Buta alive in order that he could ask him for advice.

[In the end, Herod asked Bava ben Buta how he could do teshuvah for having killed all the chachamim.]

Bava ben Buta said, ‘He (Herod) extinguished the light of the world as the passuk says ‘כי נר מצוה ותורה אור’ – “Because a mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is the light that comes from the lamp”, so he should go and toil in the light of the world (and rebuild the beis hamikdash) as the passuk says ‘ונהרו אליו כל הגוים’ – “and all the nations will come to its light".’

Others say that Bava ben Buta said to Herod, ‘He (Herod) blinded the eye of the world as the passuk says “והיה אם מעיני העדה” – “and it will be if a matter is hidden from the eyes of the congregation (meaning, if beis din make a mistake)”, so he should go and toil for the eye of the world (and rebuild the beis hamikdash), as the passuk says “הנני מחלל את מקדשי גאון עוזכם מחמד עיניכם” – “Behold I will profane my beis hamikdash, the greatness of your might, the desire of your eyes.”’”
  • Why are the beis hamikdash and the chachamim are called the eyes of and the light of the world?

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner z”l explains as follows:

The chachamim and the beis hamikdash are the eyes of the world and the light of the world since everything in the world can be looked at and understood in different ways. However, through the eyes of the understanding of the chachamim and of the kedushah of the avodah in the beis hamikdash, the benei yisrael see everything in the world in the light of the Torah.

Someone who abandons the Torah cannot do teshuvah and return the same way as he left Torah observance because once he abandons the Torah he is no longer capable of seeing anything in the light of the Torah as he did previously. He now has to forge a new way back to the Torah in order to renew his ability to see the world through the eyes of the Torah.

Therefore, when the benei yisrael recognise that evil had befallen them because they abandoned their bris with Hashem, it is not enough for them to do teshuvah by going back to their original madregah.

Instead, once they start on the path to doing teshuvah, Hashem will totally hide His face from them so that they will be forced to find a new way to come close to Hashem and keep the Torah.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Parshas Ki Savo - the mitzvah to read the pessukim of bikkurim

The pesukim at the beginning of this week’s sedrah explain that there is a mitzvah to read pesukim to thank Hashem when we bring bikkurim:
וְעָנִיתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹךֶיךָ אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה... וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ ה' מִמִּצְרַיִם... וַיְבִאֵנוּ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה ...וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לִּי ה'
“And you shall answer and you should say before Hashem, ‘Lavan tried to destroy Yaakov and he went down to Mitzrayim... and Hashem brought us out of Mitzrayim... and He brought us to this place... and now behold I have brought the first  of the fruits of the land that you have given to me, Hashem.’”

The Turei Even in Megillah (20b) says that according to the Rif, these pesukim can only be read by day. However, the Turei Even asks on the Rif from a mishnah in the first perek of Bikkurim (1:5) that says:
האפוטרופוס והשליח והעבד והאשה וטומטום ואנדרוגינוס, מביאין ולא קורין, שאינן יכולין לומר אשר נתתה לי ה'
“Women bring bikkurim but they do not read the pesukim because they cannot say ‘אשר נתתה לי ה'’ – ‘these fruits are from the land that you Hashem have given me.’”

The Turei Even asks that if you can only read the pesukim of bikkurim by day, then this is a mitzvas asek shehazman geramah (a mitzvah that can only be performed at a specific time) and anyway we would know that women do not need to keep this mitzvah, so why does the mishna need a special passuk to tell us that women are patur?

Rabbi Pesach Stein z”l answers as follows:

The mishna says in Kiddushin 36a:
הסמיכות... נוהגים באנשים ולא בנשים..
The mitzvah of semichah (resting your hands on the head of the korban and saying viduy)... applies only to men and not to women.

The gemara explains the source of the halachah:
סמיכות דכתיב (ויקרא א, ב) "דבר אל בני ישראל וסמך" -- בני ישראל סומכים ואין בנות ישראל סומכות
“We know that women do not have a mitzvah to do semichah as the passuk says ‘דבר אל בני ישראל וסמך’ – ‘speak to the benei yisrael and they should rest their hands’. From this we understand that the mitzvah applies to the benei yisrael (the men) and not to the benos yisrael (the women).”

The Ritva asks, why do we need a passuk to tell us that women are patur from doing semichah, we know that semicha can only be done by day as the mishnah says in megillah 20b:
כל היום כשר לסמיכה
“The whole day (and not the night) is kosher for doing semichah.”

If so, semicha is a mitzvas aseh shehazman geramah, and we would know anyway that women are patur from this mitzvah without a special passuk?

The Ritva answers
ואיכא למימר דכי אמרינן מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא נשים פטורות במצות שבחובה לגמרי, דכי מטי זמן חיוביה לא סגיא דלא לקיומינהו, אבל הנהו אינן בחובה לגמרי, אלא שבאין להכשיר קרבנו אם ירצה שיעלה לו לרצון, והוה אמינא דאחד אנשים ואחד נשים שוין, קמ"ל.
“It is possible to explain that women are only patur from a mitzvas aseh shehazman geramah where the mitzvah is an absolute imperative, so that when the time comes, the person absolutely has to perform the mitzvah.

However, mitzvos such as semichah are not an absolute imperative, rather they come to make his korban kosher if he wants that his korban should be pleasing to Hashem, and I might have thought that with such mitzvos, men and women are equally obliged to perform the mitzvah (even although the mitzvah can only be performed at a specific time).”

Rabbi Pesach  Stein z”l explains that similarly we could say that reading the pesukim of bikkurim is not an absolute imperative, rather if the person wants that his bikurim should be oleh le’ratzon then he has to read the pesukim, however the bikkurim are kosher even if he does not say them.


Therefore we may have thought that women are obliged to read the pesukim of bikkurim and that is why we need a passuk to tell us that women are patur.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Parshas Ki Setze - dishonesty in weights and measures

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (Devarim 25:17):
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Mitzraim.”

Rashi on this passuk explains:
"זכור את אשר עשה לך" - אם שקרת במדות ובמשקלות, הוי דואג מגרוי האויב
“[The parsha of Amalek follows the parsha that prohibits using false weights to tell you that] if you were dishonest with measurements then you will fear the attack of the enemy.”         
  • Why is being attacked by Amalek an appropriate onesh for being dishonest with weights and measures?

When we thank Hashem in the Haggadah for giving us the Torah, we thank Hashem using the name ‘הַמָּקוֹם’:
בָּרוּךְ הַמָּקוֹם, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. בָּרוּךְ שֶׁנָּתַן תּוֹרָה לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא
“Blessed in the Holy One, blessed is He. Blessed is he who gave the Torah to his people Yisrael, blessed is He.”

The Bereishis Rabbah (68:9) explains the meaning of the name “הַמָּקוֹם”:
רב הונא בשם רבי אמי אמר, מפני מה מכנין שמו של הקב"ה וקוראין אותו מקום? שהוא מקומו של עולם ואין עולמו מקומו
“Rav Huna said in the name of Rebbi Ami, ‘Why do we call Hashem “מקום”? Because He is the place of the world and the world is not his place.”
  • Why do we refer to Hashem’s being the place of the world when we thank Him for giving us the Torah?

When Yaakov asked Esav’s malach what his name was, the malach answered (Bereishis 32:30):
וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה נָּא שְׁמֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ שָׁם
“And Yaakov asked and he said, ‘Please tell your name.’ And he said, ‘Why then do you ask my name.’ And he blessed him there.’”

The name in lashon hakodesh defines the essence of the thing that is being named. When Yaakov asked the malach of Esav what his name was, he was really asking what the true essence of the malach is. To this the malach of Esav responded that his name is, ‘why then do you ask my name’.

The nature of the malach of Esav is such that it is not possible to determine his true essence, therefore his response to being asked for his name or essence is ‘why then do you ask my name’.
  • Why is it not possible to determine the nature of the malach of Esav?

The Pachad Yitzchak explains as follows:

The gemara says in Kiddushin (18a):
רב חייא בר אבין א"ר יוחנן עובד כוכבים יורש את אביו דבר תורה דכתיב (דברים ב, ה) כי ירושה לעשו נתתי את הר שעיר ודלמא ישראל מומר שאני
“Rav Chiya bar Avin said in the name of Rebbi Yochanan, an idol worshipper inherits his father according to the Torah, as the passuk says, ‘For an inheritance to Esav have I given Har Seir.’

[The gemara says this is no proof because] perhaps a Yisrael who is an apostate is different. [So that even if an idol worshipper does not inherit his father, Esav would still be able to pass his inheritance to his children because he is not a idol worshipper but is instead a Yisrael who does not observe the Torah.]”

The name of Esav’s malach is indeterminate because the nature of Esav is indeterminate. Esav is not one of the shivim umos but he is also not part of the benei yisrael. The malach of Esav is the yetzer hara and the yetzer hara seeks to make itself unidentifiable in order that a person should not be able to identify and stop the yetzer hara’s activities.

If it is so difficult to identify the activity of the yetzer hara, how then can we be protected from him?

The Pachad Yitzchak explains that if we keep the Torah, then we place ourselves in Hashem’s reshus where we are safe from the yetzer hara. This is why the Haggadah uses “המקום” as the name of Hashem when we thank Hashem for giving us the Torah.


However, if the benei yisrael are dishonest with weights and measures, and we misidentify  what we are selling, then since we are no longer in the reshus of Hashem we have to be afraid of the yetzer hara and of Amalek who comes from Esav who also causes himself to be misidentified.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Parshas Shoftim - The death penalty for rebelling against the king

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (Devarim 17:15):
שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ בּוֹ מִקֶּרֶב אַחֶיךָ
“You shall surely place over yourself a king whom Hashem will choose from amongst your brothers.”

The gemara in Kesuvos (17a) explains:
שום תשים עליך מלך שתהא אימתו עליך
“’You shall surely place a king over you,’ [this means] that his fear will be over you.”

If someone rebels against the king he is put to death, the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (3:8) explains that he is killed by the sword:
כל המורד במלך ישראל יש למלך רשות להרגו .. וכן כל המבזה את המלך או המחרפו יש למלך רשות להרגו כשמעי בן גרא ואין למלך רשות להרוג אלא בסייף בלבד
“If someone rebels against a Jewish King then the king is allowed to kill him ... and also if someone insults the king or curses him the king may kill him as with Shimi ben Geira, however the king may only execute by the sword.”

Tosafos in Sanhedrin (36a, d”h Rabbah bar bar Channa) says that that although if beis din decide that someone is chayav misoh then they have to wait till the next day to execute them, however the king may kill someone who rebelled against him on the same day.

Tosafos asks from a gemara later on in Sanhedrin (48b) which implies that there is no difference between beis din’s chiyuv misah and the king’s chiyuv misah in this regard.

The gemara discusses if the estate of someone who is killed for rebelling against the king goes to the king or to his heirs. The gemara brings a proof from the story of kerem Navos that the estate of the person who rebelled against the king goes to the king.

The passuk (Melachim 1, 21:10) says that Izevel advised Achav that he should hire false witnesses to testify against Navos so that Navos would be killed and then Achav would be able to take his vineyard:
וְהוֹשִׁיבוּ שְׁנַיִם אֲנָשִׁים בְּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל נֶגְדּוֹ וִיעִדֻהוּ לֵאמֹר בֵּרַכְתָּ אֱלֹקִים וָמֶלֶךְ וְהוֹצִיאֻהוּ וְסִקְלֻהוּ וְיָמֹת
“Let them place two godless men opposite him (Navos) and they should testify against him saying, ‘You cursed Hashem and the king’, and they should take him out and they should stone him and he should die.”

The gemara says:
בשלמא למאן דאמר נכסיהן למלך היינו דכתיב (מלכים א כא, יג) ברך נבות אלקים ומלך אלא למאן דאמר נכסיהן ליורשין למה לי ומלך
“I can understand that according to the opinion that the estate of the person who rebelled against the king goes to the king, that is why Izevel advised Achav that the false witnesses should say that Navos cursed the king as well as Hashem (since Navos would be killed for rebelling against the king his vineyard would go to the king).

However according to the opinion that the estate of someone who is killed for rebelling against the king goes to his heirs, then even if Navos was killed for cursing the king as well as for cursing Hashem, then anyway his estate would go to his heirs and not to the king.

In that case, why did Izevel ask the witnesses to testify that Naval had cursed both the king as well as Hashem, since anyway the king would not receive the vineyard as a direct consequence of Navos being killed?”

Tosafos asks; if someone who rebels against the king is killed on the same day, then maybe the reason that Izevel hired witnesses to say that Navos had cursed the king as well as Hashem was in order that Navos would be killed straight away before it was found out that the witnesses were lying?

The Ohr Someach (Hilchos Melachim perek 8) answers as follows:
The mishna (Sanhedrin 81a) says:
מי שנתחייב בשתי מיתות בית דין נידון בחמורה
“Someone who is condemned to two death penalties receives the more severe one.”

Therefore, if Navos would be chayav hereg for cursing the king and also be chayav sekilah for cursing Hashem’s name, then he would be executed by stoning. In this case, beis din would have to delay till the next day to execute him because sekilah for cursing Hashem’s name requires beis din to delay the execution till the next day.

Izevel would not have gained an execution through hereg on the same day by saying that Navos cursed the king, because since Navos would be killed by sekilah, this would only be carried out on the next day.

The Ohr Sameach explains that even although the sentence of sekilah for being mored be’malchus for cursing the king would allow Navos to be killed on the same day, nevertheless beis din would not have been allowed to execute Navos on the same day by sekilah since Tosafos says (daf 81, d”h haniskalin) that the difference between delivering a lenient death penalty and a more severe death penalty has the halachah of dinei nephashos.

Just  as the delivery of any chiyuv misah requires beis din to wait till the next day in case they think of a reason why the person should not be killed at all, so too extra severity of a chiyuv sekilah over a chiyuv of hereg would require beis din to wait till the next day in case they would think of a reason that the person should only be killed by hereg.


Therefore it would have anyway been necessary to wait overnight for Naval to be killed and Izevel would not have gained him being killed on the same day by saying that he cursed both the king as well as Hashem.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Parshas Re'eh - Exodus from Egypt and the future redemption

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (perek 16, passuk 3):
לֹא תֹאכַל עָלָיו חָמֵץ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ

“You shall not eat chametz together with the korban pesach, for 7 days you should eat with it matzah, the bread of affliction because you came out of Mitzraim in haste.

[Do this] in order that you should remember the day that you came out of Mitzraim all the days of your life.”
The Gevilei Eish says that we find that there are three differences between the geulah from Mitzrayim and the geulah from our current galus:

1       1) Regarding the geulah from Mitzrayim, the passuk says “וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם”, on which Rashi explains, “אחד מחמשה יצאו וד' חלקים מתו בשלשת ימי אפילה”, “Only 1/5th of the benei yisrael came out of Mitzrayim and 4/5th died in the three days of darkness.”

However regarding the geulah ha’asidah the passuk says (Shmuel 2, 14:14); “לְבִלְתִּי יִדַּח מִמֶּנּוּ נִדָּח” – “No-one will be pushed away (when moshiach comes).”

2.       2) Regarding the geulah from Mitzrayim, the passuk says (Shemos 10:13)
לֹא רָאוּ אִישׁ אֶת אָחִיו וְלֹא קָמוּ אִישׁ מִתַּחְתָּיו שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים וּלְכָל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָיָה אוֹר בְּמוֹשְׁבֹתָם
“A man did not see his brother, and no man was able to move for three days, however for all of the benei yisrael, there was light in their dwellings.”
However regarding the geulah ha’asidah, the passuk says (Yeshaya 60:3):
וְהָלְכוּ גוֹיִם לְאוֹרֵךְ וּמְלָכִים לְנֹגַהּ זַרְחֵךְ
“And nations will go by your light, and kings will go by the glow of your brightness.”

3.       3) Another difference is that regarding the geulah from Mitzrayim, the passuk says “כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם” – “Because you came out of Mitzrayim in haste.”

However regarding the geulah ha’asidah, the passuk says (Yeshaya 52, 12):
כִּי לֹא בְחִפָּזוֹן תֵּצֵאוּ וּבִמְנוּסָה לֹא תֵלֵכוּן כִּי הֹלֵךְ לִפְנֵיכֶם ה' וּמְאַסִּפְכֶם אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
“Because you will not go out in haste, and you will not travel while fleeing, because Hashem will go before you, and behind you will be the protection of the G-d of Yisrael.”

Why do we find these differences between the geulah from Mitzrayim and the geulah ha’asidah?

The Gevilei Eish explains as follows:
The Medrash says (מדרש תהילים מזמור קז):
"או הנסה אלקים לבא, לקחת לו, גוי מקרב גוי" (דברים ד' ל"ד) - כעובר שהוא נתון בתוך מעי בהמה, והרועה נותן ידו ושומטו, כך עשה הקב"ה שנאמר, "לבא לקחת לו גוי מקרב גוי"
“The passuk says, ‘Has Hashem ever come to take for himself a nation from the midst of another nation’, before the benei yisrael were redeemed from Mitzrayim they were like a foetus that is placed within the innards of an animal and the shepherd comes and delivers the foetus with his hands. So too did Hashem do, as the passuk says, ‘to come and take a nation from the midst of another nation.’"

When the benei yisrael were in Mitzrayim, they became mixed up with the Mitzrim, therefore:

1       1) Four fifths of the benei yisrael died during makkas choshech because they did not want to come out of Mitzrayim and be a separate chosen people.

       2) The light that shone for the benei yisrael during makkas chosech only benefited the benei yisrael, this was in order to differentiate between the benei yisrael and the Mitzrim.

3       3) The geulah was done unnaturally quickly in order that the connection between the benei yisrael and the Mitzrim should be broken and should not have a chance to drag the benei yisrael back.

However after the benei yisrael received the Torah, they are no longer considered part of the umos ha’olam at all, as the passuk says (Bamidbar 23:9):
הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב
“Behold a people that dwells alone and is not considered to be one of the nations.”
Therefore, when the geulah ha’asidah comes;
       1) All of the benei yisrael will be redeemed because they will not want to remain as part of the nations that they are being redeemed from.

       2) The light that shines for the benei yisrael will be able to benefit the umos ha’olam because there will be no need to differentiate between the benei yisrael and the umos ha’olam.


       3) The geulah will take place at a natural pace because there will be no connection to break between the benei yisrael and the umos ha’olam.
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