Monday, September 29, 2008

Rosh Hashana: The Tekios

In case you were wondering I'm still around. I've just been swamped at work and it looks like it will continue this way through Sukkos.

I spoke this week about the different shittos in how we blow tekios. I'll just mention one thing I said. Rashi holds a teruah is three short blasts and Tosafos/Rosh hold it is nine. (We follow Tosafos). Since a tekiah is the same length as a teruah, according to Rashi, 1 blast of the tekiah can't be longer than the equivilant of three short blasts. Also, l'fi Rashi, we blow three shevarim and a shever is the length of 2 short blasts. If it would be the length of 3 short blasts it would be a tekiah.

Our shevarim are 3 blasts and each blast is l'chatchila the length of 3 short blasts. It comes out that according to Rashi we are really blowing three tekios and not 3 shevarim (and we are not yotzei). That is why some have the chumrah to be yotzei shittas Rashi by blowing after davening a set of shevarim where each shever is the length of 2 short blasts.

In the Nefesh HaRav it brings down that Rav Soloveitchik had the following eitzah which Rav Chaim agreed to. It never says you have to blow 3 shevarim. All the Rishonim say is that the total length of all the shevarim must equal the length of 9 short blasts. Why can't you blow 5 blasts with each blast being the length of 2 short blasts. This way even according to Rashi you have blown shevarim, nottekios and you have also blown the length of 9 short blasts.

Hope this wasn't too confusing.

Have a Kesiva V'Chasima Tova and a Healthy Sweet New Year!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Public Service Announcement

I just discovered that anypne who is a YU alumnus can get free access to the Bar Ilan and Otzar HaChochma database (along with other electronic periodicals). If you follow the link below you can register for this free service.

(I knew my YU education would come in handy one day)

Shoftim:Cutting Down Fruit Trees

As previously mentioned, my shiur this week was on the topic of cutting down fruit trees. The Torah says that one can not cut down any fruit trees. However, the gemara in Bava Kama 91B and Bava Basra 26a qualify this that if the wood is worth more than the fruit one can cut it down. The Rosh adds that if one needs the mokom of the tree then one can also cut the tree down. Finally, the Rambam in Hil Melachim writes that the only issur is if it is cut down in a destructive manner. Therefore, the issur would not apply in the following scenarios a) if the wood is worth more than the fruit b) if one needs the mokom of the tree c) the tree is damaging the adjacent property d) the tree is old and not producing enough fruit (how much fruit is discussed by the Rambam).

The Taz brings this halacha down in Siman 117:6 and he mentions the heterim listed above. He also wonders why the Tur did not bring this halacha down at all.

Various poskim discuss this issue and they all seem to be in agreement that when one of the above situations apply it is muttar to cut down a tree. However, they do raise several interesting points.


The gemara in Bava Basra mentions that Rav Chinina's son died because he cut down a fruit tree. From here we see that besides there being an issur to cut a tree down there is also an aspect of sakana. The question some poskin deal with is whether this sakana issue is separate from the issur or tied to the issur.

Sh'ailas Ya'avetz

The Sh'ailas Ya'avetz was asked about cutting down a tree to expand a shul. He says that it is a davar pashut that it is muttar since it is tzorech mitzvah and you need the mokom. However, he says even if it is muttar, it would still be a question of sakana. The rayah to this is from the gemara in Bava Basra. You can't say that Rav Chinina did an aveirah by cutting down the tree. It must have been a case where it was muttar. Yet we still see his son died. Therefore, even when it is muttar there is still a sakana.

L'ma'aseh, the Ya'avetz paskens that in this case the shul was being rented from a non-Jew and therefore you don't have to worry about the sakana since the tree was owned by the non-Jew. He also reccomends uprooting the entire tree and replanting it. Then there would be no problem of sakana either.

The Chasam Sofer disagrees. He paskens that if there is no issur then there is no sakana. As long as it is muttar one does not have to worry about a sakana. Howeevr, he does say that if you have any doubt whether it is muttar, you should not cut it down (for example you are not sure if the tree is dead) since it is a safeik sakana. He also says that uprooting and replanting the tree somewhere else only works if you have a reason to move the tree. Just to uproot it for no reason is still assur.

The Har Tzvi (O.C. Chelek 2 Siman 103/104) seems to follow the Sh'ailas Ya'avetz. He was asked about cutting down a tree to build a sukka. He says even though it is tzorech mitzvah and muttar, you still have to worry about the sakana. His eitzah is to have a non Jew do it so anu safeik sakana will be on his head. Rav Asher Weiss quotes a number of poskim who argue on the Sh'ailas Ya'avetz and say that if it is muttar there is no sakana. (also see the comments to my previous post)

Branches of a tree

There is a question if this issur applies to cutting branches off a tree. The Har Tzvi writes that it is a machlokes between the Mishneh L'Melech who is mattir and the Be'er Sheva who hold sit is assur. The Har Tzvi seems to lean towards it being muttar since even after cutting the branches, the nourishment extends to the rest of the tree. He still says have a non Jew do it.

One thought I had was that there is a whole industry of olive wood products (shtenders etc). I wonder where their wood comes from.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Welcome Back

I'd like to welcome myself back to my blog. At least I haven't gone 30 days without blogging otherwise I might have had to make a Shehechiyanu.

My parsha chabura picks up again this week and I will be discussing the issur of cutting down fruit trees. You will have to tune in next week (or come to my shiur) to find out what I said . However, I will mention one teshuva I found that I was very excited to find since it dealt with a shaylah I actually had 7 years ago. The Har Tzvi discusses whether one can cut down a fruit tree to make room for a sukkah. Seven years ago when we first got our sukka I decided that the ideal spot was in a certain spot in our backyard. However, we had an apricot tree growing and one of the branches was hanging over into the spot where I wanted to put the sukkah. At the time I wasn't aware of this Har Tzvi and in the end I managed to put the sukkah there despite the branch rubbing against the wall.