Friday, June 25, 2010

Divination

The possuk says in this week’s sedrah:
כִּי לֹא נַחַשׁ בְּיַעֲקֹב וְלֹא קֶסֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל
“For there is no enchantment with Yaakov, neither is there any divination in Yisroel.”

Bilaam was not able to curse the benei yisroel because they did rely on nichush to know the future. Rather they relied on neviim who guided them according to the word of Hashem.

What is nichush?

The passuk says in Kedoshim: ( (ויקרא י"ט

לא תנחשו ולא תעוננו
Rashi explains:

"לא תנחשו" - (סנהדרין סו) כגון אלו המנחשין בחולדה ובעופות פתו נפלה מפיו צבי הפסיקו בדרך
“You should not divine – like these people who divine through a weasel and through birds. [They say there is a portend in that] his bread fell from his hand or a deer passed him on the road.”

The mephorshim ask that there are two cases in Tenach where tzaddikim did what seems to be nichush – Eliezer and Yonasan ben Shaul:

Eliezer stood by the well and said that if he asks a girl to give him water to drink and she gives him and his camels water – that would be a sign that Hashem had chosen her for Yitzchak. Not only that, but he even relied on this sign to engage Rivka to Yitzchak.

Yonasan also chose a sign to determine his actions (Shemuel Alef (perek 14)):
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוֹנָתָן אֶל הַנַּעַר נֹשֵׂא כֵלָיו לְכָה וְנַעְבְּרָה אֶל מַצַּב הָעֲרֵלִים הָאֵלֶּה אוּלַי יַעֲשֶׂה ה' לָנוּ כִּי אֵין לַה' מַעְצוֹר לְהוֹשִׁיעַ בְּרַב אוֹ בִמְעָט... וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוֹנָתָן הִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ עֹבְרִים אֶל הָאֲנָשִׁים וְנִגְלִינוּ אֲלֵיהֶם. אִם כֹּה יֹאמְרוּ אֵלֵינוּ דֹּמּוּ עַד הַגִּיעֵנוּ אֲלֵיכֶם וְעָמַדְנוּ תַחְתֵּינוּ וְלֹא נַעֲלֶה אֲלֵיהֶם. וְאִם כֹּה יֹאמְרוּ עֲלוּ עָלֵינוּ וְעָלִינוּ כִּי נְתָנָם ה' בְּיָדֵנוּ וְזֶה לָּנוּ הָאוֹת

.“And Yonasan said to the lad that bore his armour: 'Come and let us go over unto the garrison of these arelim; it may be that Hashem will help us; for there is no restraint on Hashem to save by many or by few.'

And Yonasan said: 'Behold, we will pass over to the men, and we will disclose ourselves to them. If they say to us: “Wait until we come to you,” then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up to them. But if they say: “Come up to us” then we will go up; for Hashem has delivered them into our hand; and this shall be the sign to us.’”

How could Yonasan and Eliezer have relied on signs? The passuk says that this is assur?

Agreeing to a sign
The Redak (in Shmuel) explains:
וזה שאמר יהונתן, לאות ולסימן אמר, כמו שאמר "וזה לנו האות - כי אם יאמרו עלו עלינו פיהם הכשילם כי אנחנו נעלה והם ירדו."

וזה אינו נחש האסור, אבל הוא וכיוצא בו הוא קול דברים ישמע אדם ויחזק לבו כי הם סימן ואות על המעשה ... כי הנה אלו המנחשים בחולדה ובעופות... וחושבים כי הם המטיבים והמריעים - זה הוא שאסרה התורה. אבל אם ירצה אדם לעשות מעשה, יעשה דבר א' לאות וסימן למעשה ההוא כדי לחזק לבו ולעורר לבו לדבר ההוא - זה הדבר מותר.

“Yonasan said this as a sign and an indication. He meant that if they say ‘Come up to us’ then their mouths have made them fall – it is as if they have said that we will rise and they will fall …It is mutar for a person to use a sign to determine the way things seem to be leaning and thereby strengthen his resolve.

[However] those people who practice divination through weasels and birds…and think that they are the things that do good and bad, this is what the Torah said is assur.”

In other words – if someone chooses a sign to understand the way Hashem is planning things, that is mutar. But if someone takes a sign and thinks that the sign (the weasel or the bird) itself will save or harm him, this is ossur.”

According to the redak, it is mutar for a person to try and understand the way in which Hashem is directing things through a sign. However the redak adds a condition, the person must choose the sign before it happens:
כל נחש וסימן שהוא אינו עושה אותו סימן לעצמו מתחילה כמו שעשה אליעזר ויהונתן אינו נחש וסימן ואין לסמוך עליו או לחוש ממנו אם יבא מאליו
“Any divination and sign which he does not make for himself a sign initially as Eliezer and Yonasan did is not a valid divination and you can’t rely on it or be concerned about it if it occurs.”

According to the redak the sign is like an agreement with Hashem that Hashem will show the person what is going to happen through that sign. Therefore a person can only rely on a sign if he chose it beforehand, because then it is an agreement with Hashem. If the person did not make the sign initially, there is no significance in whether it occurs or not.

Using a sign without agreeing to it
The Ran however (deroshos haran 12) says that a sign is significant even if the person did not chose it initially.

The gemara in Sanhedrin (95) says:
רב הוה קאזיל לבי רב חנן חתניה חזי מברא דקאתי לאפיה אמר מברא קאתי לאפי יומא טבא לגו אזל קם אבבא אודיק בבזעא דדשא חזי חיותא דתליא ...לא אכל רב מההוא בישרא מ"ט אי משום איעלומי הא לא איעלים אלא דנחיש והאמר רב כל נחש שאינו כאליעזר עבד אברהם וכיונתן בן שאול אינו נחש אלא סעודת הרשות הואי ורב לא מתהני מסעודת הרשות
“Rav was going to the house of Rav Channan his son-in-law. When he arrived at the river he saw that the ferry was coming to meet them. He said, “The ferry is coming to meet me, this is a sign that a yom tov (meal) must be prepared for us.”

When he arrived he looked through the crack between the door and the doorpost and saw there was fresh meat hanging.

Rav did not eat from that meat, what is the reason?
  • You cannot say this was because it was basar shenisalem min ha’ayin – because it was never unsupervised. 
  • You also cannot say it was because Rav divined that there would be a seudah – because Rav said that any nachash that is not like that of Eliezer and Yonasan is not nachash.  
  • Rather this was becuase it was a seudas ha’reshus and Rav did not eat from a seudas ha’reshus.”

The Ran explains (deroshos haran 12):
רב אע״פ שהיה בודק במברא לא היה סומך עליו שיעשה מעשה על פי הוראת הבדיקה, אך היה רוצה לקחת קצת הוראה אם יצליח דרכו , ואף אם ימצא שלא יצליח לא היה נמנע מלכת לדעתו שהש״ית משנה הכל כרצונו

 “Even although Rav used the ferry as a sign, he did not rely on this to go or not go according to the the indication from the test. Rather he used it as a small indiciation to see if he would be successful. Even if he determined according to the test that he would not be successful he did not refrain from going because Hashem changes everything as is His will.”

According to the Ran, Hashem can show the way things are going to happen through a sign. Nevethelss, it is ossur to change your direction according to the signs because Hashem can still change the outcome.

What is the halacha?

It comes out that:

According to the redak: A person can choose a sign initially for Hashem to ‘talk’ to him through. The reason it was mutar for Eliezer and Shaul to use signs is because they chose the signs before they happened. (This is like doing the gorol ha”gra.)

According to the Ran; the person does not need to choose a sign, but they cannot change their actions according to the indication. The ran (in deroshos) adds that a case where a person can change his actions according to the sign is if the sign is as logical indicator of the outcome..The reason it was mutar for Eliezer and Shaul to use sings is because these were logical signs.
  • If Rivka would draw water for Eliezer and the camels this would show that she had good midos and that Hashem had provided a girl with good midos for Yitzchok.  
  • In the case of Yonasan, if the Pelishtim said that Yonasan should come to them, that showed that they were scared to draw forward and attack.

 The ran says that this is not worse than saying, “It’s raining so I am not going to start a journey.”

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