Monday, March 30, 2009

Parshas VaYikra:Birchas Hachama

This week I decided to talk about Birchas Hachama. Initially, I had decided that I wasn't going to talk about it-after all anyone can pick up anyone of the many seforim out there and read up on it. However, I decided how can I not give a shiur on something that only happens once every 28 years.

I won't bother rewriting the cheshbon-it's available elsewhere online. I discussed an interesting question that relates to the calculation. The whole calculation is predicated on the fact that the sun was created in N Isan. Yet if you ask anyone they will tell you the world was created the last week of Elul, with Adam being created on Rosh Hashana.

The truth is that it is a machlokes in the gemara whether the world was created in Tishrei or Nisan. We pasken for tekufos (which includes birchas hachama) it was created in Nisan but for the years we say it was Tishrei. How can both be true? I saw 2 interesting answers.

1) The Maharam Shik writes that the world was really created in Tishrei. However, birchas hachama represents the spot in the sky where the sun would have been the previous Nisan, had the world existed in NIsan. He compares it to our calculation of the molad. Our molad does not start from the moment Adam was created but it is backdated a year to the moment it would have been had there been a world then (called molad tohu)

2) Rabbi Bleich brings a tertez from the Ohr Hachama that the medrash says originally the worl dwas moving at a fast speed. Afer the cheit of Adam the world slowed down. Therefore, we can say the world was created in Nisan but it moved so fast that by the time Adam was created it was Tishrei. Then once Adam ate from the eitz hada'as the world slowed down and it took 365.25 days to circle the sun.

Chiyuv of Women

The poskim discuss whether women can recite the beracha. The Chasam Sofer writes the minhag is for women not too say it. The Ksav Sofer wants to explain the reason based on the fact that it is a mitzvas aseh she'hazman grama. Furthermore, even though women are allowed to do
a mitzvas aseh she'hazman grama, the Magen Avraham in Siman 296 says that is only when there is a ma'aaseh mitzvah involved. If the entire mitzva is a beracha women are not allowed to say it. The Magen Avraham says this is why women don't make havdala or say kiddush levana. The Kesav Sofer says this is also why women don't say Birchas Hachama.

The arguement against this is that Birchas Hachama is not a mitzvas aseh she'hazman grama. It is based on a phenomenon and is a metzius. Therefore the Maharil Diskin among many other poskim said women should say this beracha. The Minchas Yitzchak writes he would follow the minhag of the Chasam Sofer except that the Maharil Diskin paskened for Yerushalayim and therefore in Yerushalayim women should say it. Interestingly, I found in the pesakim of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnefeld who was also the Rav of Yerushalayim that women don't say Birchas Hachama.

L'ma'aseh it would seem it is based on your minhag. If you follow minhagei Chasam Sofer it seems a woman should not say it.

100 Berachos a day Part 2

I just saw in ad for a new Mishna Berura with the pesakim of the contemporary poskim. The halacha highlighted in the ad was the following question.

If you finish seuda shlishis after tzais does bentching count for Shabbos or Sunday's 100 berachos.

In my shiur I mentioned that the Shevet HaLevi held it counts for Shabbos, since anyway you can argue the night follows the day. However, in the ad beside bringing the opinion of the Shevet Levi they also quote Rav Shlomo Zalman zt"l who held it counts for Sunday's berachos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vayekheil/Pekudei:100 Berachos a day

The Ba'al HaTurim on the posuk about the 100 sockets used in the mishkan, says this is a remez for reciting 100 berachos a day.

What is the mekor for this din. The gemara in Menachos (43b) learns it out of a posuk in Eikev "mah hashem shoeil" and "mah" can be read as meah (100). The Tur quotes Rav Neturai Gaon who says Dovid Hamelech instituted this takana as a way to stop a mageifa. However, the Chida in hi sefer Yosef Ometz writes something very interesting b'shem the sefer HaManhig. He says that really Moshe made this takana. However, it wes subsequently forgotten and Dovid came and reinstituted it. Then, this takana was again forgotten until chazal came along and again reinstituted it. Furthermore, I saw brought down (I forget where) that one could argue that both Moshe and Dovid were not mesakein 100 berachos-especially since they didn't have a nusach hatefilla at that time. Rather, they were mesakein to praise Hashem 100 times, in any format. Chazal were the ones who formulated that these 100 praises should be 100 berachos based on our nusach hatefiila.

One question raised in the poskim is does the chiyuv start at night or by day. I saw in a sefer that it could depend on the source of this din. The Kol Bo brings the m'kor from a posuk by the ketores. We know that by korbonos the night follows the day-you shecht during the day and can eat it that night. So if the m'kor is from the k'tores then we could argue the 100 berachos start by day and end at night. (The first beracha would be al nitalas yadayim/asher yatzar and the last hamapil). However, if we follow the m'kor in the gemara then this halacha should be like all other halachos where day follows night. The 100 berachos would start by night with ma'ariv and end at shekiah.

The Btzeil Hachachma says it is clear from the Beis Yosef and the Magen Avraham that we start at night. They both point out that on Shabbos we lose berachos due to our shortened shemoneh esrei ( we have 7 berachos and not 19). They both count the Friday night ma'ariv as being part of this deficiency. Now if the night follows day it would come out that the Friday night ma'ariv belongs to Friday and the Motzei Shabbos ma'ariv to Shabbos. The fact they include the Friday night ma'ariv as part of Shabbos shows you start counting by night.

The Btzeil Hachachma does ask a very interesting question on the Beis Yosef. The Beis Yosef in listing the 100 berachos, counts hamapil as the first beracha. Why doesn't the Beis Yosef count ma'ariv first? He answers that the Beis Yosef is using the loshon of the Yerushalmi. The tana in the Yerushalmi is R' Meir. R' Meir happens to hold you can daven ma'ariv and say shema before nightfall. Therefore, according to R' Meir ma'ariv belongs to the previous day and the first beracha is hamapil. The Btzeil Hachachma writes that l'ma'aseh if you daven ma'ariv early (during the week or on Shabbos), the berachos apply to the previous day and not the coming day. There are those that argue that Shabbos might be different because of tosefes Shabbos but that itself is not so pashut.

There are those that say you can listen to someone else's beracha and say amein and that this helps for days like Shabbos and Yom Kippur where you are missing berachos. However, it seems the better approach on Shabbos is to eat more foods.

One cute vort a saw b'shem R' Shmelke M'Nikilosberg is the following. The posuk in Shir HaShirim (8:12-13) says "alef lecha shlomo u'masayim l'notrimes piryo. hayoseheves baganim chaveirim makshivim lkoleich hashmieini"

The gemara tells us that a beracha is worth 10 gold coins, so 100 berachos is worth 1000 coins. Furthermore, on Shabbos we lose 20 berachos (ayin Beis Yosef) which is 200 coins

1) alef lecha shlomo: alef=1000 refers to making 100 berachos a day
2) u'masayim l'notrim es piryo: masayim=200. on Shabbos we need 200 coins (20 berachos) so we eat fruit
3) hayoseheves baganim chaveirim makshivim lkoleich hashmieini: Howeevr, those who can't eat enough food can it in shul (yosheves baganim) and answer amein to their freinds beracha (chaveirim makshivim lkoleich hashmieini).

Friday, March 06, 2009

Purim:Our Role As An Am HaNivchar

As I was looking to see what I wrote about Purim last year, I realized I never posted it. So here is parts of my Purim dvar torah from last year Purim 5768/2008.

The Cheit of B’nei Yisroel
The gemara in Megilah 12B quotes in interesting conversation between Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his talmidim.

The students of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai asked him, "why were the B’nei Yisroel sentenced for destruction". Rav Shimon Bar Yochai replied, "You tell me". His students answered "Because they derived pleasure from the feast of Achashveirosh. Rav Shimon Bar Yochai answered them back, ‘if that is truue then only the Jewso f Shushan should have been destroyed. Rather the decree was made because they bowed down to the idol during the time of Nevuchadnetzer’. His students then asked, "so why were the B’nei Yisroel saved?". He answered them, since they only served the idol out of fear and didn’t mean it, so too Hashem didn’t mean that the gezeirah should be permanent".

The Menos Levi in his peirush on the megilah asks what exactly was bothering the talmidim. He answers that the talmidim were aware that the Jews had sinned by bowing down to the idol of Nevuchadnetzar, however, they also noticed that they were not punished for it.
Therefore, they couldn’t understand why when it came to the seudah of Achashveirosh, they were punished.
Rav Shimon Bar Yochai’s answer to them is that really the gezeirah of Haman was due to the aveirah of bowing down to the
idol of Nevuchadnetzar, however Hashem had rachmanus and didn’t punish them right away. It was only after the aveirah of eating from the seudah, did Hashem decide to punish the Jews.

The question still remains, what exactly was the connection between these two aveiros?. Why was it specifically the sin of the seudah that caused Hashem to revisit and punish the Jews for bowing down to the idol.

The Connection Between Avodah Zara and the Seudah
The Rambam writes that even though originally people viewed the sun and stars as messengers of Hashem, eventually they removed Hashem from the picture and they served the sun and stars directly. We see from the Rambam that avoda zara comes about when people break their connection with Hashem. When the world no longer sees Hashem as running the
world and being involved in their day to day life then the next step is to serve idols. Avoda zara is all about taking Hashem out of the equation and eventually denying His very existance.

The gemara says that the main reason that Achashveirosh made a party was to celebrate the fact that 70 years of golus had passed and the Beis HaMikdash had still not been rebuilt and that the geulah would not becoming. It is interesting to note that the gemara doesn’t say that the gezeirah came about because they ate at the party, rather it says they were punished for deriving benefit from the meal. Hahsem was upset that nop only did they attend the meal, but they also enjoyed their meal. They joined with Achashveirosh in celebrating the fact that they were no longer Hashem’s chosen people. If Achashveirosh was correect in assuming that the geulah wasn’t coming, then that meant Hashem had turned his back on the Jews and had cut off his connection with them. By attending the party, the Jews were admitting that they were equal to all the other nations and more importantly that they no longer had a unique
relationship with Hahsem.

We can now understand the connection between eating at the seudah and bowing down to the idol of Nevuchadnetzar. Both aveiros come from the same idea-breaking the connection with Hashem and removing him from the picture. For the nations of the
world, avoda zara breaks that connection on a global level. They refuse to recognize that the whole world is controlled by HKBH.However, for the Bnei Yisroel, this mindset is more devasting and personal. The Bnei Yisroel were not just denying that Hashem is the creator of the world, but they were also denying their status as the Am Hanivchar, the chosen people. If Hashem could just leave us in golus and totally abandon us, then that must mean he has severed His connection with us and we are no longer His children.
Because the root of these two aveiros were the same , that is why we were retroactively punished for bowing down to the idol only after we ate from the seudah.

Tikun HaCheit Thru Mordechai

It stands to reason that if the cheit was breaking the connection with HKBH, then the way to do teshuva was through reestablishing that connection. The person who led the Jews in doing teshuva was Mordechai. The Sefas Emes explains that in every generation there is one tzaddik who protects klal Yisroel and helps them do teshuva. Furtehrmore, even if
the generation does not do teshuva, there will always be one tzaddik who will be able to misakein the sins of everyone else. During this time period , this tzaddik was Mordechai. The Medrash compares Mordechai to Avraham. Just like Avraham re-introduced HKBH back into the world, so too Mordechai reconnected the B'nei Yisroel with Hashem.

(More later).