Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Parshas VaYigash:Loshon HaKodesh

Thw Winner Is...

I decided to speak about Loshon HaKodesh this past week. Thanks for all the suggestions from everyone and especially to Chaim Brown (aka the Divrei Chaim) for suggesting this topic.

Why is it called Loshon HaKodesh

There are 3 opinions why the language is called loshon hakodesh.


The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (2:8) writes that it is called loshon hakodesh because there are no words in this language that describe the reproductive organs of a person.


The Ramban in Shemos (30:23) argues on the Rambam. HE says according to teh Rambam it should be called loshon nekiah or loshon taharah. Rather it is called loshon hakodesh because this language is used for devarim that are kodosh. HKBH created the world with this language, the Torah was given with this language, nevuah was said in this language and malachim speak this language.


On a deeper level the Shelah writes that all the letters of loshon hakodesh have an effect in shamayim. The letters and the words which these letters make up form the essence of each object and it is an expression of what that object represents in shamayim. For example, a table is called a shulchan. The word shulchan is not just an arbitrary word, but rather the letters "shin", "lamed", "ches" and "nun" (and in that order) represent the spirtual force that makes up a table. This is why the language is called loshon hakodesh.

This idea of the Shelah is found in many sifrei machshava. This is also the explanation given to explain what it means that Adam named all the animals. Adam knew the essence and spiritual makeup of each animal and consequently he gave them the hebrew letters that correspond to them.

Mitzvah to learn loshon hakodesh

Is there a mitzvah to learn loshon hakodesh? There is a Sifri in Eikev on the possuk "v'dibarta bam" that one is obligated to teach his child loshon hakodesh and torah. The Torah Temima writes that from here we see there is a mitzva to learn loshon hakodesh and he expresses astonishment that it is not counted as one of the mitzvos nor is it brought in Shulchan Aruch.He references a sefer he wrote on the topic called "Sefah L'Ne'amanim" which I actually found here The Torah Temima brings a few rayos to his idea. One raya is from the Rambam on Avos 2:1 The mishna says one should be careful to fullfill a mitzva kala like a mitzva chamura. The Rambam says a mitzva kala is learning loshon hakodesh.

Although noone says it is a mitzva to learn loshon hakodesh, Rav Moshe in Even Ezer 3:35 does say that it is a mitzvah to speak loshon hakodesh. However, Rav Moshe also says there is no issur to speak other languages as we see many gedolim spoke other languages.

The Chavas Yair (Siman 120) also writes it is important to learn the laws of dikduk but one should not spend an inordinate amount of time on it.

Kedushas HaLoshon

Although the language is called loshon hakodesh, it is clear from the Shulchan Aruch and poskim that the language itself has no inherent kedusha. The Tashbetz and the Sh'ailas Ya'avetz both poin to out that the Shulchan Aruch (85:2) says you can speak loshon hakodesh in the bathroom. From here we see that unlike a sefer torah, there is nothing inherently kodosh about the language. The MG"A does write that the Sefer Chassidim says one should be makpid not to speak loshon hakodesh in the bathroom. The Chasam Sofer (notes to Shulchan Aruch Siman 85) says that there was an old minhag not to teach small children loshon hakodesh so they won't come to speak it in the bathroom.

Loshon Hakodesh in Halacha

One other are of halach that loshon hakodesh is discussed is in Siman 307:16, The Rema writes that even though certain books are not allowed to be read on Shabbos, if they are written in loshon hakodesh it is muttar since one can learn fromn the language. This is similar to the hetter to read a Get on Shabbos since one can learn Hilchos Gittin from it. The Taz and MG"A disagree with this Rema and the Mishna Berura is machmir.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Experiment

I've never done this before but I thought I would try it as an experiment.

I am trying to come up with a topic for this week's shiur and I can't find anything that I haven't spoken about and grabs my attention.
Therefore, I am asking all my readers (which probably amounts to 1 or 2 people) for suggestions. The only requirement is that it has to somehow tie into the parsha and it should be halacha or lomdus oriented.

I can't promise that I will use any of the suggestions but I will definately consider any suggestion that I get.

Thank you in advance.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Kedushas Levi on AL HaNisim

I promised a machshava vort on Al HaNisim. Although this is not what I had originally intended to write, I really liked this vort.

The Kedushas Levi asks that we say in Al HaNisim, rabim b'yad ham'atim..reshaim b'yad tzaddikim. We can understand how rabim b'yad ham'atim is a neis but how is reshaim b'yad tzaddikim a neis-isn't that supposd to happen. He answers that there can be 2 reasons why HKBH decides to punish tzaddikim. Either it is because he is mad at them for being reshaim and he wants to punish them or it is because they are fighting the tzaddikim. He compares it to a father who sticks up for his sons when they are being beaten up. In teh case of Chanuka, HKBH destroyed the reshaim precisely for this reason-because they were beating up the tzaddikim. The message is that we see how much ahava Hashem had for us that he caused these nisim to happen precisely for our benefit. The reason HKBH showed this level of ahava is because we went out of our way to be moseir nefesh in keeping the Torah.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Al Hanisim in Hashkafah and Lomdus

Being that it is Chanukah here are 2 vorts on Al HaNisim. One b'toras lomdus and one b'toras hashkafa

first the lomdus.

There is an interesting difference between the addition of Al HaNisim. and the addition of Ya'aleh V'Yova which we add for Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov. When we say Al HaMichya we add in a line for Rosh Chodesh/Yom Tov but we don't add anything in for Chanukah or Purim. Why not?

Rav Shirkin in the Harirei Kedem explains that Al HaNisim is added as an extension of the berachas hoda'ah. It is not a separate tefilla but rather Chazal lengthened the bracha of hoda'ah in tefilla and in bentching by including this prayer. Ya'aleh V'Yova on the other hand is an additional tefilla which was added as a stand alone prayer.
Al HaMichya is a shortened version of bentching. Chazal took the words of bentching and condensed it into a short paragraph. As we said Al HaNisim is just an extended part of berchas hoda'ah and therefore when Chazal shortened this beracha amongthe words that they took out (or left out) was the Al HaNisim part. Ya'aleh V'Yavo or mentioning Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov on the other hand is an additional tefilla. Just like it was added to bentching it also has to be added to Al HaMichyah. That is why we have a line in there about Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov.

Stay tuned for the Hashkafa piece.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Parshas VaYeishev:Ta'anis Chalom

The sugyah of ta'anis chalom is an interesting one. The gemara mentions it in 3 places. Ta'anis 12b and Shabbos 11a both say fasting over a bad dream is a good thing even on Shabbos. Teh gemara in Berachos 31b says if one fasts on Shabbos a gzar din of 70 years is torn up. Most Rishonim (the RAshba and Rivash) learn this gemara is referring to a ta'anis chalom and that otherwise it is assur to fast on Shabbos.

The obvious question is what is gained by fasting for a dream. The Ritva in Ta'anis (12b) provides a clear hesber. He says that we find some gemaras which indicate dreams are meaningless. However, from this gemara it seem that there is truth to dreams. He answers that when a dream personally affects a person then there is room to worry. It should lead a person to teshuva. Therefor, if one has a bad dream one has a right to worry that it is a message telling you to do teshuva. The appropriate response is to fast.

The question remains why one is allowed to fast even on Shabbos. The Ritva (as well as the Rashba in Berachos 31b) explains that not being able to fast over a bad dream will cause a person tzar. He will be so upset that he can't do teshuva that he will have no oneg Shabbos. For him fasting is an oneg Shabbos. However, according to the Rashba he must make up for not eating by fasting another day.

There is a machlokes Rishonim if this ta'anis is a chiyuv. The Rashba (Shut Rashba 132) says itis not but the Lechem Mishna (Ta'anis 1:12) understands the Rambam that it is a chiyuv.

As far as b'zman hazeh, the Aruch HaShulchan (Siman 120) writes how we are not on teh madreigah for our dreams to mean anything. At most it is not a message from HKBH but from "sheidim" created by our aveiros and therefore one does not need to fast. The Piskei Teshuvos brings the Chazon Ish and Steipler who say the same thing.