Wednesday, December 9, 2015

.מד Protecting the Sinners

רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר הירא ורך הלבב זהו המתיירא מן העבירות שבידו לפיכך תלתה לו התורה את כל אלו שיחזור בגללן
Well, I wasn't as active as I had hoped to be for סוטה. To end off, I want to quote one of my favourite הערות - because it is from my son, Efrayim. He made this observation a couple of years ago when he was 10 years old:

In a book of meshalim on the parsha, it is told that a group of maskilim once produced a satirical play about a Jewish army that was led to war according to the guidelines spelled out in פרשת שופטים  (20:5-8). The officer first announced that anyone who recently built a new house should return, upon which a thousand men got up and left the battlefield. The same occurred after the following announcements regarding having planted a vineyard or having recently betrothed a future wife. In the end, only the Vilna Gaon and the Sha'agas Aryeh remained.

The Brisker Rav, upon hearing of this production, commented that it was completely accurate, only that they left out the most important part - that they still win the war! 

Efrayim took issue with the way the process was related in the play, based on our משנה. There is a dispute over the term ירא ורך לבב. Rabbi Akiva asserts that it is understood literally as someone who is fearful of combat. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili, however, maintains that it refers to someone who is fearful based on his transgressions that he will not merit to survive the war. He goes on to explain that this is why the Torah created the other exceptions, to save the fearful one from embarrassment as no one will know exactly why he is leaving the battlefield. Efrayim objected that in order for this arrangement to work, it would be futile to dismiss each group after each announcement. Clearly, they must have made all four declarations at once at which point all those subject to exemptions would leave together, thus concealing those who left because of their sins.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

.יד Moshe's Burial Location

It is somewhat ironic that while in my car this day, one of the songs that popped up on my stereo was Tzadikim by Yaakov Shwekey. You can hear it here. From my research, it appears the words come from the עין יעקב on our very דף and go as follows:

(א"ר חמא בר חנינא) מפני מה נסתתר קברו של משה מעיני בשר ודם, מפני שגלוי וידוע לפני הקב"ה שעתיד בית המקדש ליחרב ולהגלות את ישראל מארצם שמא יבואו לקבורתו של משה כאותה שעה ויעמדו בבכיה ויתחננו למשה ויאמרו לו משה רבינו עמוד בתפלה בעדנו ועומד משה ומבטל את הגזרה, מפני שחביבין צדיקים במיתתם יותר מבחייהם.
I happen to think it's a very nice song and the words are most intriguing. There's certainly much to discuss regarding praying to intermediaries but ... not now.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Egyptian Holocaust

The end of the first פרק goes into great detail in expounding upon the פסוקים in the beginning of שמות. It is therefore appropriate to point you to an essay written by my good friend and scholar, David Farkas, entitled The Egyptian Holocaust, detailing the many chilling correlations between the machinations of פרעה thousands of years ago and those of Hitler and the Nazis, ימח שמם וזכרם.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

.ו Enlighten Us

אמר רב עמרם הא מילתא אמר לן רב ששת ואנהר לן עיינין ממתניתין

It would seem that רב עמרם chose these specific words, "he enlightened our eyes," very deliberately. רב ששת was blind. This is not ח"ו to insult רב ששת but rather as a form of extended praise, as if to say "we can physically see and he cannot. Nevertheless, it is he who enlightens our eyes with his exposition of the משנה. In fact, שוב מצאתי, in the Artscroll that they make the very same observation and also point out that this terminology is actually used quite often, specifically with regards to רב ששת.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

.ה In the Right Time

ואם חוזר בו נאסף בזמנו כאברהם אבינו שנאמר והומכו ככל יקפצון כאברהם יצחק ויעקב דכתיב בהו בכל מכל כל

I am somewhat puzzled as to the exact meaning of נאסף בזמנו. Does it mean they will die in their proper time? If so, that is slightly troubling per the well-known רש"י in next week's  פרשה (כ"ה:כ"ט) which states that אברהם passed 5 years before his time so as not to see his grandchild stray from the path. Regarding יעקב as well, we are told that years were taken off his life. What, then, is the meaning?

.ה An 1/8 of an 1/8

א״ר חייא בר אשי אמר רב ת״ח צריך שיהא בו אחד משמונה בשמינית א״ר הונא בריה דרב יהושע ומעטרא ליה כי םאםא לשבולתא

The גר”א asks why the גמרא chose that specific number. Doubling up the number has a certain poetic effect. But why not a seventh of a seventh, or a ninth of a ninth? (Indeed, the number 7 is more commonly used in Talmudic hyperbole.) He answers that an eighth of an eighth is 1/64, just less than 1/60. In other words, the גאווה should be בטל בשישים. It should be there but not even noticeable. I have used this approach to understand .גמרא ברכות לד.

It is also intriguing that the imagery of a םאםא לשבולתא is used here in a positive context. Just above on this very עמוד, it is used to portray the downfall of the haughty. רש"י there, however, indicates that the metaphor is in reference to how this part of the שבולת falls off on his own. This later reference is not to the behaviour of this "beard" but rather to its stately appearance when it is still intact.

Friday, October 30, 2015

:ד How did he know?

והאיכא בן עזאי דלא נסיב איבעית אימא נסיב ופירש הוה ואיבעית אימא מרביה שמיע ליה ואיבעית אימא סוד ה' ליראיו
תוספות ד. ד"ה בן עזאי אומר. האי דמקדים בן עזאי לרבי עקיבא אע"ג דרבי עקיבא היה רבו כדאמר בפרק הרואה

The first difficulty here is that, as תוספות clearly states, בן עזאי's rebbe was in fact רבי עקיבא. But רבי עקיבא was one of the other תנאים who weighed in on this matter. So how could their opinions differ? One must be forced to say that בן עזאי had yet another רב from whom he received this tradition.
The last answer is also puzzling. It must be that the סוד ה' ליראיו in this case is what the שיעור would have been had בן עזאי married. It could not be a transmission that this is the true measure for if so, what does that mean for all the other opinions?
שוב מצאתי that the Artscroll makes both these points.

I'm back

Unfortunately, with the last bunch of מסכתות being somewhat unfamiliar to me as well as more difficult, I haven't found the time to be able to post any significant thoughts in quite a while. I have been anxiously awaiting סוטה since it is slightly easier and I have learned it a number of times before. Not sure how many out there are still getting this but I hope to have a bunch to say on סוטה.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

.ב Did you see that?

דתניא רבי אומר למה נסמכה פרשת נזיר לפרשת סוטה לומר לך שכל הרואה סוטה בקלקולה יזיר עצמו מן היין
רש"י ד"ה בקלקולה. בניוולה ובבשתה שמנוולין אותה כדקתני מתני' (לקמן דף ז:) קושר חבל למעלה מדדיה:

This is just a minor pet peeve but I have encountered a number of individuals who seem to misunderstand the גמרא to be referring to someone who has seen a סוטה who fails the test and all the frightening consequences that follow. According to רש"י, at least, that is clearly not the case. This suggestion applies even to someone who witnesses an innocent סוטה who successfully drinks the water and survives. The exposure and public humiliation she endures is enough to suggest that the onlooker should withdraw himself from drinking wine.

.ב Bashert

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב ארבעים יום קודם יצירת הולד בת קול יוצאת ואומרת בת פלוני לפלוני
רש"י ד"ה מזווגין אשה לפי מעשיו. צנועה לצדיק ופרוצה לרשע:
תוספות ד"ה קודם יצירת הולד. נראה לרבי קודם יצירת הזכר בין אם לא נולדה הנקיבה עדיין בין אם נולדה:

A number of interesting observations here. First, it is interesting that the בת קול does not say פלונית לפלוני but rather בת פלוני לפלוני. One might suggest that the male is predestined to marry into a specific family but the exact identity of the daughter is not predestined. I find that to be kind of a stretch. I had thought, perhaps this is an indication that the husband should be older than the wife. In other words, the female is not identified directly because she is not yet conceived. תוספות here would seem to indicate otherwise. It is also intriguing, especially considering תוספות's approach that this declaration seems to be tied to the male. In a biblical world where males may marry more than one woman, the idea of destiny would seem more applicable to the female.

רש"י's comment, in its subtlety, is also quite telling. He does not say צנועה לצנוע or צדקת לצדיק. This would seem to be prime fodder for a schmooze on the relative roles of men and women. I don't think any elaboration is necessary at this point.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

:נא Ancient Psychology

ודאי שבקינהו ואזלן מנפשייהו אסירן
ודאי אי שבקינהו. גנבים ללכת אל בעליהן ואינון אזלן מנפשייהו אל הגנבים אסירן:

It seems the gemara does not believe in the Stockholm Syndrome, or at the very least does not believe it is strong enough to consider such actions to be coerced.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

.נ Maaser x 2

א"ר אילעא באושא התקינו המבזבז אל יבזבז יותר מחומש תניא נמי הכי המבזבז אל יבזבז יותר מחומש שמא יצטרך לבריות ומעשה באחד שבקש לבזבז [יותר מחומש] ולא הניח לו חבירו ומנו רבי ישבב ואמרי לה רבי ישבב ולא הניחו חבירו ומנו רבי עקיבא אמר רב נחמן ואיתימא רב אחא בר יעקב מאי קרא וכל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך והא לא דמי עישורא בתרא לעישורא קמא אמר רב אשי אעשרנו לבתרא כי קמא

I once heard a cute gematria from an uncle of mine to shed some light on this gemara. The gemara learns (acc to Rashi) that since the pasuk said אעשרנו instead of אעשר, we learn that the second מעשר is like the first. My uncle explains that the gematria of עשר is 570. The word אעשרנו is made up of the word aser and three more letters: א, נ, ו. The gematria of those three letters is 57, exactly 10% of 570. Perhaps this is what shows that the second מעשר is 10% of the original, not 10% of the remainder.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

:מח One Night

או שהיתה לה חצר בדרך ונכנסה עמו ללין
ונכנסה עמו. עם בעלה ללון כשאר לינה בדרך בעלמא ולא לשם נשואין:

Throughout the daf, the gemara always uses the term ללין and רש"י consistently uses ללון instead. This is somewhat puzzling considering רש"י's own comment to בראשית כ"ד:כ"ג in which he states that ללין connotes one night's stay whereas ללון implies many nights. In the cases with which our gemara is dealing, it seems to be pretty clear we are talking about just one night. Why would רש"י change the text?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

:ח Opening one's mouth to Satan?

א"ל קום אימא מלתא כנגד אבלים פתח ואמר אחינו המיוגעים המדוכאין באבל הזה תנו לבבכם לחקור את זאת זאת היא עומדת לעד נתיב הוא מששת ימי בראשית רבים שתו רבים ישתו כמשתה ראשונים כך משתה אחרונים אחינו בעל נחמות ינחם אתכם ברוך מנחם אבלים אמר אביי רבים שתו לימא רבים ישתו לא לימא משתה ראשונים לימא משתה אחרונים לא לימא דאר"ש בן לקיש וכן תנא משמיה דר' יוסי לעולם אל יפתח אדם פיו לשטן

As evidenced in a number of other instances (:ברכות י"ט., ס) , it was not uncommon for אביי to object to תפילות which, by his assessment, improperly foreshadowed a coming calamity. However, this example is decidedly different.
First, in our case, אביי is objecting to the mentioning of "drinking" from the cup of death both as fact of the past and an inevitability of the future. As the way of the world goes, death is indeed an undeniable reality (as opposed to, for example, a demonic force in a bathhouse.) It is difficult to understand what one might be bringing upon himself with these statements that is not already part of the reality of human existence.
What is more puzzling, however, is that אביי's objections are based upon the teaching which comes from one of two sources, one of which is ריש לקיש who was standing right there when his מתורגמן delivered these words! If he himself did not appear to object to these phrases based on his own teaching, why would אביי see the need to be more vigilant?

Monday, February 9, 2015

:ז New face(s)?

Good to be back.

ת"ר מברכין ברכת חתנים בעשרה כל שבעה אמר רב יהודה והוא שבאו פנים חדשות

There is an anonymous opinion mentioned in the שיטה מקובצת that since פנים חדשות is in plural, we require two new individuals in order to make all of the ברכות. Shockingly, this opinion is invalidated based on the explanation that the pluralization of פנים חדשות is applied to all of the days of שבע ברכות and doesn't imply a plural number of faces on one given night.

So what's so shocking about that? What's shocking is that the word פנים is always plural. There is no singular. I recall this question being posed of one of the rebbeim in נר ישראל some 15 odd years ago. Quite an intriguing answer was given. The reason (source unknown) why פנים is plural is because a face is capable of expressing many various different feelings and emotions. While most of your body parts look exactly the same no matter the situation, the face is multi-faceted. During the week of שבע ברכות, however, it is demanded of us to restrict our expressions to only one emotion - that of sheer joy and happiness with the new union. Since the face is not expected to be multi-faceted during this week, it is conceivable to suggest that the pluralization of פנים might imply more than one individual.