Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Parshas Naso/Shavuous: The Status of B'nei Yisroel at Mattan Torah

The Rambam in Perek 13 of Issurei Biah writes that there were three things necessary for B'nei Yisroel to enter into teh bris with HJBH. 1) bris mila which took place by Mitzrayim 2) tevillah before Mattan Torah 3) bringing a korbon before Mattan Torah. The Rambam then writes that from this we learn that anyone who wants to be come a ger must have these three things. The mashmaus is that the B'nei Yisroel became geirim at Mattan Torah. If this is true then there are a couple of questions that can be asked regarding this geirus.

a) In Parshas Behaloscha the Torah tells us that the B'nei Yisroel complained about the mann and their families. The gemara in Shabbos 130 says that this refers to the fact that the B'nei Yisroel were upset that some of their wives were now assur to them and that they had to divorce them. (In fact the Da'as Zekainim writes that Amram divorced Yocheved since she was his aunt and she was now assur to be married to him).

The question is that we have a klal "ger sh'nisgayeir k'katan shenolad dami". A ger is considered like a newborn child with respect to the fact that he is no longer halachically related to any of his previous relatives. If this is true then after the geirus of Mattan Torah, each and every Jew should not be related to any other Jew and they should be able to marry whomever they want. So why did they cry over the wives they would have to divorce?

b) The second question is regarding the k'tanim. We have a concept in Kesuvos 11a that "ger katan matbilin oso al da'as beis din"-a katan becomes a ger through beis din. There is a machlokes rishonim if this is a dinm'd'oreisa or only m'd'rabanan. The Ramban asks that if one holds it is only m'd'rabanan how were the k'tanim able to become geirim m'd'oreisa at Mattan Torah?

There are four different m'halchim to answer this question. (found in Sefer Mo'adim U'Zmanim)

Meshech Chochma

The Meshech Chochma in Parshas V'Eschanan writes that ain hachi nami, the B'nei Yisroel were geirim and the concept of "ger sh'nisgayeir k'katan shenolad dami" does apply. The reason the B'nei Yisorel were crying was because in the future they couldn't marry certain women.

Maharal/Shev Shmaytsa

The Shev Shmaytsa in his hakdama (os 9) quotes the Maharal in Gur Aryeh parshas VaYigash that asks this question. The Maharal answers that the only time we say "ger sh'nisgayeir k'katan shenolad dami" is when the geirus was done willingly. Since the geirus of Mattan Torah was against the will of the B'nei Yisroel, we don't say "ger sh'nisgayeir k'katan shenolad dami".

The Shev Shmaytsa explains that what the Maharal means is that they realized the world could not surevive without the Torah and therefore in a sense they had no choice in tha matter. He adds that with this we can understand why the complaint happened at the same time they complained about the mon. The mon was a spiritual food which gave them the ability to see things clearly and realize they had no choice but to accept the Torah. Since the mon was the cause of why "ger sh'nisgayeir k'katan shenolad dami" didn't apply, the complained about both things together.

3) Rav Soloveitchik

In Harirei Kedem, Rav Shirkin brings a pshat from the Rav. The Rav wanted to say that the geirus of Mattan Torah was a geirus on teh entire tzibur together and not a geirus of individuals. Therefore, since the whole tzibbur was m'gayeir together the concept of "ger sh'nisgayeir k'katan shenolad dami" doesn't apply. His rayah for this is teh fact that the possuk the Rambam brings to show that the korbon they brought was part of the geirus is written in the plural form. The reason is because the geirus was on the tzibbur so the korbon was a korbon hatzibbur.

With this you can also answer how k'tanim became geirim. Since it was a geirus on the tzibbur, the whole tzibbur was involved including the k'tanim.

4) Moadim U'Zmanin

Rav Shternbach has another mehalach. His mehalach is different in that he says that in truth there never was a ma'aseh geirus at Mattan Torah. The Ramban at the end of Parshas Emor writes that once Avraham had a bris mila his children were m'yuchas as Yisroel. They didn't have the mitzvos but they still had a yichus of being "zera Avraham". Rav Shternbach explains further that there are two things that are accomplished by geirus. One is that you remove the tumas akkum and the second is that you become part of Yisroel. The Jews before Mattan Torah already had the yichus of being part of Yisroel. The only thing they needed was to remove the tumas akkum. Therefore, the whole concept of "ger sh'nisgayeir k'katan shenolad dami" did not apply since there was no geirus that needed to take place. Also, there is no question on k'tanim because since there was a yichus of zera Avraham they were Jews at birth.

He does point out that it could be the Erev Rav needed a formal ma'aseh geirus and their children might not have been able to be geirim until they grew up.

He also explains why this complaint took place by the complain about the mon. He says that even though the B'nei Yisroel separated from their assur wives, they didn't kick them out and these wives lived with them in teh vicinity. However, when the mon came down the mon did not fall for these wives since they were not really part of the family. It was only then that they were forced to send them away.

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