Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Esther and the Jews

I noticed an interesting comment in the Shelah yesterday. The Shelah writes that Esther purposely misled the Jews into thinking that she was on Haman's side. This way they wouldn't think to rely on her, but rather they would daven to Hashem. The Shelah's m'kor for this is the gemara in Megilah that asks why did Esther invite Haman to a party. One answer given is so that people would think she was on Haman's side.

I then started wondering, did the Jewish people know that Esther was Jewish. I always assumed they did, for after all Esther was part of the community and people knew what she looked like. Presumably, everyone either saw the queen or a picture of the queen and knew what the queen looked like. So it stands to reason that those in the Jewish community knew who the queen really was. Also, even if someone wasn't 100% sure, Mordechai was hanging out by the palace every day. What was his connection to the queen? If you put two and two together it s not a big jump to realize the queen was Jewish.

However, if that is true and every Jew knew thequeen was Jewish, how did she keep it a secret? There must have been someone out there who would spill the beans (even though this was before the days of blogs). I guess you could say that since everyone thought she came from them, noone would have believed a Jew that said the queen was Jewish. The idea was so far fetched and preposterous that it wouldn't really be believable. If this is correct, then this adds to the Shelah's comment. The Jews thought they had an ace in the hole because the queen was Jewish. Therefore, Esther had to pretend she had turned to the "dark side" in order to get the Jews to put their faith in the one who really counts-HKBH.

There is of course the possibility that the Jews didn't know Esther was Jewish. The reason Mordechai hung out at the palace was because he had taken up the well known art of shtadlanus in order to help his people. From an outsiders perspective he had done a pretty good job and managed to create a close friendship with the queen. The Jews might have thought that with Mordechai as the queen's confidant they had a good chance of defeating Haman. Esther was worried they would place to much trust in this so she created the impression taht she was friendly with Haman. Now the Jews had to turn to HKBH to help them.

I am not sure which scenario is correct. It could be I am missing an obvious proof to either side. However, anyway you slice it I find the dynamics that were going on at the time very fascinating. We tend to focus on Purim as a story of a nes nistar and Hashem saving us (as well as we should as that is our job as Ovdei Hashem) but I also find it interesting viewing Purim through the eyes of someone living through the events as they happened, someone who doesn't realize how the story will eventually unfold and what meaning it will have to the Jewish nation.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Parshas Mishpatim: Acharei Rabim L'Hatos

This weeks shiur was on the sugya of Rov, specifically the sugya of bittul b’rov. There are actually several types of Rov that exist. The Chinuch and the Rambam both explain the mitzvah of “acharei rabiml’hatos” as referring to how a beis din determines a psak. In other words, when a case comes before a beis din, the majority opinion wins. However, there other cases of Rov which the rishonim understand is also a din d’oreisa. For example, there is ruba d’leisa kaman which is a type of statistical majority. One example of this is the klal that “rov b’heimos k’sheirin”, most animals are kosher and are not a traifa. Therefore, we generally do not have to check an animal that is shechted to see if it is treif since most animals are kosher. The exception is the lungs where there is a miut hamatzoi of animals that have treif lungs so we check the lungs. The other type of Rov is “ruba d’isa kaman”. Two examples of this is the classic case of finding meat in front of ten stores, 9 kosher and 1 treif. We follow the majority and say the meat came from the kosher store. The second example is bittul b’rov where 1 treif piece of meat is mixed with 2 kosher pieces. We follow the majority and say you can eat each piece, since the majority of pieces are kosher.

The question is, how do we derive these other cases of Rov from the posuk of “acharei rabim l’hatos” which is referring to beis din. The Sha’ar Yosher in Sha’ar 3 explains that there are two types of cases that beis din can judge on. There is one type of case where all you need beis din for is to clarify the facts. For example, in a dinei mamonos case whether Reuvein owes or does not owe money to Shimon exists without beis din’s psak. Beis din is just there to clarify the halacha. However, there are cases like dinei nefashos or kinasos, where you need a psak din to create the chiyuv. In this second case, the psak din cannot be created unless all the dayanim pasken unanimously. When 20 say chayav and 3 say patur, it is considered unanimous because we view the minority opinion as either not being there or having their vote changed to agree with the majority.

The Sha’ar Yosher explains that from the first case where the majority of beis din is just clarifying the halacha we learn the klal of kol d’parish m’ruba parish. There the rov is just clarifying for us how to act. The second case where beis din creates a psak and the minority opinion turns into the majority, teaches us the din of bittul b’rov that he minority is battul to the majority.

Regarding bittul b’rov, there is a machlokes between the Rosh and Rashba how it works. The Rosh learns that the issur is nehepach l’hetter, it turns into hetter. The Rashba holds there is no nehepach but rather we say that each piece I eat is from the rov and is muttar. The main nafka mina is whether one can eat all three pieces at the same time. The Rosh says you would be allowed to since the issur turns into hetter. The Rashba says you can’t because by eating all 3 at one time you are definitely eating issur.

The truth is that most achronim learn the Rashba really agrees with the Rosh that issur nehepach l’hetter and his shitta is only a chumrah m’d’rabanan. The Pri Migadim in the pesicha l’hilchos ta’aroves as well as the Sha’ar Yosher bring a rayah from lach b’lach. The Rashba says that if min b’mino is mixed lach b’lach then you need 60 times the issur as a chumrah d’rabanan, gezeirah min b’sheino mino. If the Rashba really holds that there is no nehepach, so how is lach b’lach any different then eating all the pieces of a ta’aroves yaveish b’yaveish at the same time. If yaveish b’yaveish is assur m’d’oreisa bvas achas, so too lach b’lach should be assur m’d’oreisa. So from here you see that the Rashba really holds of nehepach, but as a chumrah you can’t eat all 3 pieces together.

Rav Soloveitchik in Shiurei HaRav on Ta’aroves brings another rayah. According to the Rashba if you eat the all the pieces at once you should be chayav a chatas. Also, even if one person eats all the pieces one at a time you should be chayav. From the fact you are not chayav a chatas we see it is only a chumrah d’rabanan.

There is a Tosafos Rid who holds if one person eats all the pieces one at a time you are chayav a chatas. This Tosafos rid must hold there is no din of nehepach. Also, the GR”A understands the Rashba as a d’oreisa. When the Mechabeir brings this halacha in Siman 109 and paskens like the Rashba the GR”A writes that the reason is because we go after Rov and we say each piece I eat is from the majority. If the Rashba really held of nehepach the GR”A should have mentioned that sevara as well.
According to the GR”A and Tosafos Rid, how do you answer the question from lach b’lach? Perhaps you can answer based on a Ra Elchanan in Kovetz He’oros. Rav Elchanan writes that according to Tosafos in Yevamos there is a difference in the bittul of yaveish b’yaveish and lach b’lach. By yaveish b’yaveish, the misbateil isn’t transformed into the item doing the bittul. Its just halachically it has a din heter. By lach b’lach it becomes part of the item doing the bittul. Therefore, lach b’lach has a kula that a real nehepach takes place even in metzius and you would then be able to eat them all together. However, by yaveish it’s a nehepach al pi din but not in metzius. According to the Tosafos Rid, the bittul b’rov by yaveish b’yaveish is that we say each one I eat is the hetter, while by lach b’lach it is a real nehepach and you only need shishim m’d’rabanan

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Parshas Yisro:The Mitzva of Emuna

This past week's shiur was on the mitzva of emuna. There are really two questions that I focused on a) is it a mitzvah b) what does this mitzvah entail.

Is Emunah A Mitzvah

Rambam and Ramban

Both the Ramban and Rambam classify emunah as a mitzvah. The Rambam brings a rayah from the gemara in Makkos (23b) that the gematria of Torah is 611 and there are 2 more mitzvos that BB'nei Yisroel heard directly from HKBH-namely the first 2 dibros. We see that emuna which is learnt from the first dibra is a mitzvah. The Ramban in Lo Saseh 5 also counts it as a mitzvah. He is howeevr bothered by the fact that the Rambam learns 4 lavin from the 2nd dibra. According to teh Rambam the gemara should have said that 5 mitzvos came from HKBH. The answer to this question (found in the nosei keilim on Sefer Hamitzvos as well as in Rav Perlow's sefer on the mitzvos of Rav Sa'adia Gaon is to say that only the first part of the 2nd dibra was said by HKBH. The rest of the 2nd dibra was said by Moshe.

B'HAG and Rav Sa'adia Gaon (RSG)

Both the B'HAG and Rav Sa'adia Gaon do not count emuna as a mitzva. The Ramban (aseh 1) explains that the B'HAG holds that emuna is the prerequisite to all mitzvos Before you can accept the g'zeiros of the melech you first have to be accept the person as a melech. Similarly, before we can except the mitzvos we have to first believe in HKBH. The Rashbatz in ohar HaRakia brings a rayah to this shitta from Huryos 12b. The gemara says that the first mitzva accepted by the B'nei Yisroel was not to worship idols. L'chorah, the first mitzva should be emunah. From here we see emuna is not a mitzvah. To answer this rayah the Tashbetz (Siman 129) says the gemara is referring to the first lav accepted. Also, if you look in Rashi there, Rashi quotes both the 1st and 2nd dibra).
The question is what does the B'HAG and RSG do with the gemara in Makkos? Rav Perlow writes an interesting chiddush. He writes that this mitzvah of emuna is really part of the mitzvah of kabbalas ol malchus shamayim in k'riyas shema. The reason emunah is not counted as a separate mitzvah is because the mitzva is done thru saying shema. Having emunah is not a kiyum of the mitzvah, the kiyum is thru expressing emunah in shema. When the gemara refers to "anochi hashem" as a mitzvah it was referring to saying it in shema.

What does this mitzvah entail?

There is a big debate whether the mitzvah of emuna requires dirisha and chakira or emunah peshuta. In the Lev Tov edition of the Chovos HaLevavos, before Sha'ar Yichud there is an extensive hakdama bringing down all the shittos. ayin sham. (Because of this machlokes, the Lev Tov edition does not translate Sha'ar Yichud). The Chinuch seems to hold the basic mitzva is emuna peshuta and the chakiros are a mitzva min hamuvchar. The Rashba and Rivash were against philosophical chakiros. My only question is would they say chakiros that are not philosophical in nature (if such an idea exists, maybe thru nature/biology) are a mitzvah or there is no shuch thing as a mitzvah of chakirah).

I did hear once in a tape from Rav Moshe Wolfson that emuna is a yerusha to all Jews from Avraham. Teh Sho'el U'Meishiv has a similar idea. He writes that the reason the B'HAG did not count emuna as a mitzva is because it required a person to impart his own knowledge (hachra'as hada'as) and a mitzvah by defintion is done as a gezeirah. The Rambam howeevr held the hachra'as hada'as was done by Avraham and once Avraham reached his conclusion that there is a creator, it is not necessary for anyone else to investigate.

Rav Elchanan Wasserman in Kovetz Ma'amarim also writes that emuna is something anyone, even a non Jew can attain by looking at creation. The only reason we fail to do so is because our ta'avos are stopping us. This is why even a Ben Noach will be held responsible for not following the ratzon of Hashem, he should have overcome his ta'avos to realize there is a creator and investigate what that creator wants him to do.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Parshas B'shalach: Leining the Haftorah from a klaf

In this weeks parshas we learn that Moshe instituted the din of leining every 3 days. Since we also lein the Haftorah every Shabbos, I decided to speak about that.

Basically, the question I discussed is whether one can lein the Haftorah from a chumash or must it be done from a klaf.

The source for this halacha is a gemara in Gittin 60a. The gemara is discussing the sugyah of "devarim sh'bichsav ee atta omram al peh", meaning one is not allowed to say words of Torah that is supposed to be written down. Included in this issur would be reading words of Torah that are not written correctly. The gemara then asks that there were amoraim who would lain the haftorah from a "sefer aftarata", which was a scroll that had all the haftorahs written in it. The problem with this is that really each Navi should be written as a whole sefer and you are not allowed to write half a sefer or even one parsha of Navi by itself. If one reads from such a sefer then you are in violation of the issur of "d'varim sh'bichsav..". The gemara answers that we have no choice in the matter (eis la'asos) and as Rashi explains it would be too expensive to have scrolls for each sefer of Navi. Therefore, we are allowed to write one scroll for all the haftoras.

The question is how does one understand the above gemara and what was the original takana.

Shittas Levush and Aruch Hashulchan

One could say that the original takana was to read the haftorah from a klaf that is written with the same rules that apply to a sefer torah (i.e you need klaf, d'yo, gidin etc). On top of that there is an additional issue of "d'varim sh'bichsav..". Based on the takana alone, one could use a sefer aftarata. However, due to the prohibition of "d'varim sh'bichsav.." we need to use a whole sefer of Nach. It is only because of eis la'asos that we can use a aftarata. This seems to be the opinion of the Levush (Y.D. Siman 284) and Aruch Hashulchan. They both hold that b'zman hazeh even with the advent of the printing press, one should still use a klaf for the haftorah. Since this was part of the original takana, the eis la'asos never took off that requirement.

Shittas Shulchan Aruch HaRav

The other way to understand the sugyah is that there never was a takana to read the haftorah from a klaf. One could even read it ba'al peh. The only reason one needs a klaf that is written with the same rules that apply to a sefer torah is for the same reason that you need a whole sefer, because of the issue of "d'varim sh'bichsav..". However, once we say eis la'asos and "d'varim sh'bichsav.." don't apply, then not only don't we need a whole sefer but we don't even need a klaf and a printed chumash works also. This is the shitta of the Ba'al Hatanya and he basically spells out this tzad in Siman 284. I believe the Chazon Ish also holds like this as well.

Shittas Magen Avraham

There is a middle shitta and that is the opinion of the Magen Avraham. It appears that the MG"A holds like teh Ba'al HaTanya because he says in 284:6 that b'shas hadchak you can lein the haftorah ba'al peh. So you see he holds there was no takana to use a sefer. However, there is one major chiluk between the MG"A and Ba'al HaTanya. The MG"A writes that printed seforim have a din of a proper kesiva and therefore there is no chisaron of "d'varim sh'bichsav" when using a printed Nach. However, it has to be a sefer shaleim. To use a haftorah book or a chumash with the haftorah printed at the end would be a chisaron of d'varim sh'bichsav. According to the Ba'al HaTanya, it seems a haftorah book is no different then a sefer shaleim of Nach. (The Chazon Ish seems to agree with the Ba'al HaTanya)

L'maskana, if one wanted to be choshesh for all shitttos, this should be the order of preference.

1) a klaf of a sefer shaleim (if leining Yirmiyahu, you should lein from the entire sefer)
2) printed sefer shaleim. (which means taking the volume of Yirmiyahu from your Mikraos Gedoos set is better than the Artscroll Chumash with the haftorah at the end)
3) A printed book of haftoras or a chumash with haftorah in it.

An interesting question is which is better, a book of haftora written on klaf or a printed sefer shaleim.

K'riyas Yam Suf: Neis or Nature

Rabbi Belsky in his new sefer on Sh'mos in explaining the idea behind "kasha zivugin k'kriyas yam suf" touches upon the nature of the miracle of kiriyas yam suf. (emphasis added)

"Rav Ya'akov Kamenetzky would quote Chazal in Chagiga 12B that the rules of nature were composed with immense wisdom. The whole creation is filled with chachma, bina and da'as of the Ribono Shel Olam.
By definition the performance of a neis abrogates the chukei hateva opposing the chachma of the Ribono Shel Olam on some level. Thus when Chazal say that k'riyas yam suf was hard for HKBH they are not referring to the difficulty of the act but rather to the need to act contrary to the wisdom with which He endowed the world. This is the difficulty for Hashem inherent in every neis-for it is difficult for the very source of wisdom to act in a way that opposes wisdom"

Rav Ya'akov Hillel in his sefer Ascending Jacob's Ladder also writes the following (page 100)
(emphasis mine)

"Rabbeinu Asher, known as the Rosh, wrote in Orchos Tzaddikim that believing only in the first part of the verse-that Hashem created the world-is not enough. A Jew must believe in the continuation of the verse, that Hashem took us out of Eygpt. ... However as the Rosh tells us all the wonderous events of the Exodus-the fact that Hashem changed the course of nature, that he made miracles, that he brought ten plagues on the Eygptians and more - are proof of his direct involvement in the world"