Thursday, February 27, 2020

:נ”ה Descendants of יוסף

ולימא הכי אנא פלוני בר פלוני מזרעא דיוסף קאתינא דלא שלטא ביה עינא בישא שנאמר בן פורת יוסף בן פורת עלי עין וגו' אל תקרי עלי עין אלא עולי עין ר' יוסי בר' חנינא אמר מהכא וידגו לרוב בקרב הארץ מה דגים שבים מים מכסים עליהם ואין עין רעה שולטת בהם אף זרעו של יוסף אין עין רעה שולטת בהם
This גמרא has already popped up earlier on דף כ. (Make sure to see the related shtikle there.) In that גמרא, it was ר’ יוחנן speaking as to why עין הרע did not apply to him. At the time, I simply understood that he somehow knew he descended from יוסף. But in this גמרא, we are giving general counsel to anyone wishing to be saved from עין הרע. So I’m not understanding how any Jew can lay claim to being from the progeny of יוסף.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

:נ"ד The Four

מַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר רַב: אַרְבָּעָה צְרִיכִין לְהוֹדוֹת: יוֹרְדֵי הַיָּם, הוֹלְכֵי מִדְבָּרוֹת, וּמִי שֶׁהָיָה חוֹלֶה וְנִתְרַפֵּא, וּמִי שֶׁהָיָה חָבוּשׁ בְּבֵית הָאֲסוּרִים וְיָצָא.
Yes, I know we have to get through Purim first but Pesach is also right around the corner. Here is an old shtikle on ליל סדר that involves this גמרא:

:נ"ד משנכנס אדר...

עָבְדִי לְהוֹן נְקִירָתָא וּטְשׁוֹ בְּהוֹן
and prepared caves for themselves and they hid in them
I've got to imagine there's a really good chance that this Aramaic word is derived from the Yiddish word tasch, as in the taschen we eat on Purim. Ok, ok, ונהפוך הוא, it would be the other way around. Even though there is usually an opening, the contents are technically "hidden" inside.

:נ"ד Bible Stories

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: הָרוֹאֶה מַעְבְּרוֹת הַיָּם, וּמַעְבְּרוֹת הַיַּרְדֵּן, מַעְבְּרוֹת נַחֲלֵי אַרְנוֹן, אַבְנֵי אֶלְגָּבִישׁ בְּמוֹרַד בֵּית חוֹרוֹן, וְאֶבֶן שֶׁבִּקֵּשׁ לִזְרוֹק עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאֶבֶן שֶׁיָּשַׁב עָלֶיהָ מֹשֶׁה בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָשָׂה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ מִלְחָמָה בַּעֲמָלֵק, וְאִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁל לוֹט, וְחוֹמַת יְרִיחוֹ שֶׁנִּבְלְעָה בִּמְקוֹמָהּ — עַל כּוּלָּן צָרִיךְ שֶׁיִּתֵּן הוֹדָאָה וָשֶׁבַח לִפְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם.
Growing up we learn about all sorts of fascinating and captivating stories that appear in the מדרשים. As we mature, as disappointing as it might be, we become aware that perhaps not all מדרשים are meant to be taken literally. I do not dare enter into that debate but only want to point out that considering the topic at hand, the events mentioned in the ברייתא above must have actually happened as they were described. Otherwise, it would not seem logical to make blessings on the great miracles told in an allegory.  

Saturday, February 22, 2020

:נ Respect for Bread

והתניא כשם שאין זורקין את הפת כך אין זורקין את האוכלין א"ל והתניא אף על פי שאין זורקין את הפת אבל זורקין את האוכלין אלא לא קשיא הא במידי דממאיס הא במידי דלא ממאיס ...וזורקין לפניהם קליות ואגוזים בימות החמה אבל לא בימות הגשמים אבל לא גלוסקאות לא בימות החמה ולא בימות הגשמים
רש"י ד"ה אבל לא גלוסקאות. שהרי אף בימות החמה הן נמאסין בזריקתן
It seems clear from the גמרא that although throwing food is only problematic if the food will become disgusting as a result, such a stipulation does not exist for bread. It would seem that it is more than a matter of whether anything will actually happen to the bread. Because bread is considered more חשוב we are forbidden from throwing it under all circumstances. 

That makes the above רש"י somewhat puzzling. The גמרא asserts that one doesn't throw גלוסקאות - definitely a bread product - in the winter or the summer. Based on the preceding a גמרא, I would have explained that it is because throwing bread is always forbidden. Why, then does רש"י explain that the reason it is forbidden is because bread will become disgusting if thrown even in the summer? Whether or not it becomes disgusting is not the issue.

[5780 addendum] See the discussion in the comments below. It certainly seems that תוספות understood the גמרא the same way I am proposing:
תוספות ד"ה אין זורקין... ואין זורקין את הפת אפילו לא ממאיס

Thursday, February 20, 2020

:מ"ח Joining the מזומן

הלכתא אכל עלה ירק ושתה כוס של יין מצטרף
I find this to be a common misconception among the masses. When two people have eaten bread and trying to join up with another for a מזומן people seem concerned as to whether or not the other has had a מזונות. It is clear from here and the הלכה that a מזונות is not needed. As long as the third (or for 10 - 3 out of the 10)  has eaten or drunk anything requiring a ברכה אחרונה other than water, they may combine.

(The הלכה that emerges from the previous עמוד, that only 7 out of 10 need to have eaten bread in order to say אלוקינו also seems to be one that is not as well-known as it should be.)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

:מ"ד Covering Your Bases

אָמַר רַב יִצְחָק בַּר אַבְדִּימִי מִשּׁוּם רַבֵּינוּ: עַל הַבֵּיעָא וְעַל מִינֵי קוּפְרָא, בַּתְּחִלָּה מְבָרֵךְ ״שֶׁהַכֹּל״, וּלְבַסּוֹף ״בּוֹרֵא נְפָשׁוֹת רַבּוֹת וְכוּ׳״. אֲבָל יַרְקָא לָא. וְרַבִּי יִצְחָק אָמַר: אֲפִילּוּ יַרְקָא, אֲבָל מַיָּא — לָא. וְרַב פָּפָּא אָמַר: אֲפִילּוּ מַיָּא.... אָמַר רַב אָשֵׁי: אֲנָא, זִמְנָא דְּכִי מִדְּכַרְנָא, עָבֵידְנָא כְּכוּלְּהוּ.
רש"י ד"ה ככולהו. אף כרב פפא:
Artscroll explains Rashi's comment: I even make a בורא נפשות on water. There are two difficulties רב אשי's statement. The first, regardless of how we understand רש"י, is the strange qualifier he uses, "when I remember." This is unusual if we are talking about פסק. Why would he not remember? But Artscroll's understanding adds some more difficulty. How can this be considered to be in accordance with all of the opinions? This is not a simple חומרא. We are dealing with ברכות. According to the first two opinions, a בורא נפשות on water is a ברכה לבטלה.

Perhaps רב אשי's statement and רש"י's comment can be understood differently. There is a way to actually act in accordance with all three opinions - two ways, actually. One can make sure never to enter the realm of uncertainty by not having enough of a vegetable or water to necessitate a ברכה אחרונה, although that would be rather difficult. Alternatively, one can make sure that whenever a vegetable or water is consumed, it is in the presence of eggs, meat, etc. which certainly require a בורא נפשות. This way, the ברכה is certainly warranted. 

This approach also accounts for the phrase זמנא דכי מדכרנא. It is not a matter of פסק דין. Rather, it is indeed a חומרא and would require extra diligence and it would be understandable that there are times when might forget to make sure to have the other items present.

.מ"ד Brothers and Sisters

עִיר אַחַת הָיְתָה בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוּפְנִית שְׁמָהּ, שֶׁהָיוּ בָּהּ שְׁמֹנִים זוּגוֹת אַחִים כֹּהֲנִים נְשׂוּאִים לִשְׁמֹנִים זוּגוֹת אֲחָיוֹת כֹּהֲנוֹת. וּבְדַקוּ רַבָּנַן מִסּוּרָא וְעַד נְהַרְדָּעָא וְלָא אַשְׁכַּחוּ בַּר מִבְּנָתֵיהּ דְּרַב חִסְדָּא, דַּהֲווֹ נְסִיבָן לְרָמִי בַּר חָמָא וּלְמָר עוּקְבָא בַּר חָמָא. וְאַף עַל גַּב דְּאִינְהִי הֲווֹ כָּהֲנָתָא, אִינְהוּ לָא הֲווֹ כָּהֲנֵי.
This is certainly interesting. But the גמרא is in the midst of discussing some pretty impressive areas of ארץ ישראל and the various forms of abundant sustenance they provide. What is this part doing here? How is this a praise of ארץ ישראל?

It can be suggested that when a couple marry, it is perfectly natural for them to be some degree of strife - hopefully minimal - between the two families. That two families come together and maintain such a positive relationship with each other that they are inclined to do it all over again is something special indeed. While this might not speak to a quality of the land of ארץ ישראל, it certainly speaks to the quality of its inhabitants and their ability to get along.

Now for the ironic twist: while I was learning this גמרא this morning, just two rows ahead of me was someone - a כהן no less - who he and his brother are married to sisters (cousins of mine, in fact.)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

:מ"ג Punt?

וְלָא אֲמַרַן אֶלָּא בְּפַנְתָּא
And we only said this with regard to patches on the upper part of the shoe
Could this possibly be related to the etymology of the word "punt?"

:מ"ג Jasmine, and other fragrances

אמר רב גידל אמר רב האי סמלק מברכין עלויה בורא עצי בשמים
רש"י ד"ה סמלק. יסמי"ן קורין לו בלשון ישמעאל והוא מין עשב
אמר רב ששת הני סיגלי מברכין עלייהו בורא עשבי בשמים
 It is difficult to reconcile the רש"י here with what רש"י writes על התורה in פרשת ויצא on the word דודאים:
ל:י"ד ד"ה דודאים: סיגלי, עשב הוא ובלשון ישמעאל יסמי"ן
So if in the חומש we find that סיגלי is Jasmine, how come in the גמרא we find that סמלק is Jasmine and סיגלי is something else?

שערי אהרן on פרשת ויצא mentions this question as well without an answer. רמב"ן apparently has a separate issue with רש"י in that the :גמרא שבת נ discusses יסמין. So we see that it is something in the גמרא's lexicon. So why would a different word in the גמרא be a reference to יסמין?

.רב יהודה מ"ג

א"ל הכי אמר רב יהודה בורא שמן ארצנו א"ל בר מיניה דר' יהודה דחביבא ליה ארץ ישראל לכולי עלמא מאי
It seems altogether probable that this is the same רב יהודה mentioned on :כ"ד who held that it was forbidden to go up from בבל to ארץ ישראל. We see clearly that his strong stance against עליה is not necessarily in contrast to a genuine love of ארץ ישראל. On the contrary, not only did רב יהודה genuinely love ארץ ישראל his love was greater than any other's and actually influenced his position on the נוסח of ברכות.

Friday, February 14, 2020

.מ"ב No more eating.

תכף לנטילת ידים ברכה
From here we derive that once one washes מים אחרונים, he should not eat anything further before ברכת המזון. [The language would definitely seem to imply, on the surface, like it is referring to נטילת ידים before eating and the גליון הש"ס points out that we find in other places that is the actual intent but it clearly is not here.] The משנה ברורה קע"ט:א is quite strict on this matter and adds that even talking or any other form of הפסק should be avoided, based on the specific language of the גמרא as תכף obviously implies immediacy. Indeed, you do find individuals who are careful in this matter. However, ערוך השלחן in קפ"א:א very strongly disagrees and asserts that speaking is not a הפסק of any concern in this situation. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

:מ"א Closest to ארץ

זה שני לארץ וזה חמישי לארץ
This basic guideline establishes the rules that govern much of the topic of קדימה. But the question must be asked - why was the פסוק written this way? Why does the word ארץ appear twice?

I have previously covered this question on an עקב shtikle.

Interestingly, the משך חכמה's answer works very well with the הלכה we find in our גמרא. The olives and dates have extra special prominence and that would explain why they would get prominence with regards to the ברכה by being closer to ארץ.

However, it is more difficult to reconcile the גר"א's explanation with this הלכה. Olives and dates are broken off into a separate category since the essence of what we derive from them is not the fruit itself but its extracts. What would be the reason then for the elevated prominence with regards to the ברכה?

.מ"א Dip the Apple ...

דאמר רב יוסף ואיתימא רבי יצחק כל המוקדם בפסוק זה מוקדם לברכה שנאמר ארץ חטה ושעורה וגפן ותאנה ורמון ארץ זית שמן ודבש
[5772]It is most fitting that we encounter this גמרא leading up to ראש השנה. One of the very first songs any Jewish child learns is "Dip the apple in the honey, say a bracha loud and clear." Unfortunately, there is a halachic issue with this song. Although there is some disagreement between אשכנזים and ספרדים when it comes to קדימה, we are in agreement (או"ח רי"א:א) that if we have in front of us two fruit of identical ברכה, i.e. העץ, and one is from the שבעה מינים e.g. dates or pomegranates, the ברכה is to be recited on the fruit from the שבעה מינים, not on the one that is more favoured (חביב). Therefore, if one has dates or pomegranates on the table, which we usually do on ראש השנה night, the העץ is to be recited on one of those (the date preferably, based on the מסקנא of the גמרא) rather than the apple.

Perhaps the ברכה in the song is referring to the יהי רצון.

Monday, February 10, 2020

:המוציא ל”ח

מה הוא אומר המוציא לחם מן הארץ רבי נחמיה אומר מוציא לחם מן הארץ אמר רבא במוציא כולי עלמא לא פליגי דאפיק משמע דכתיב אל מוציאם ממצרים כי פליגי בהמוציא...והלכתא המוציא לחם מן הארץ
תוספות here ask a very simple question: If everyone agrees that מוציא fits the bill, why don’t we just go with that? They answer that it is preferable to say המוציא in order to make a separation between the מ”ם at the end of העולם and at the beginning of מוציא. They go on to explain that while a similar concern exists with לחם – מן, since that phrase comes from a פסוק we aren’t going to change it. We have already seen that it is important to be careful with pronunciation of קריאת שמע and of course קריאת התורה as well. But this תוספות shows us the importance of דקדוק with ברכות as well.

That said, there is a discussion as to the proper pronunciation of the word המוציא. The rule of נסוג אחור would determine that since the accent on לחם is on the first syllable, the accent on המוציא is moved back and it would be ha-MO-tzi. The discussion revolves around whether or not this rule is applicable to ברכות. Indeed, we do employ that rule for ברכת התורה as we say אשר בחר בנו – BA-char, instead of ba-CHAR. Nevertheless, the סידור עליות אליהו maintains that the rule is not applied to המוציא and it should be pronounced ha-mo-TZI.

.ל”ח Beer

תוס' ד"ה האי דובשא דתמרי מברכין עלויה שהכל. וכן משקין מכל מיני פירות בר מתירוש ויצהר כדאמרינן גבי ערלה ולאפוקי מה"ג שפירש דמיירי שנתן לתוכן מים ושכר דידן אע"ג דשמא יש בהן כזית בכדי אכילת פרס לא מברכין עליו בורא מיני מזונות אלא שהכל ואפי' לרב ושמואל דאמרי כל שיש בו מחמשת המינין מברכין עליו בורא מיני מזונות הכא לא הוי בהו ממש שעורים ואין שכר אלא טעמא בעלמא ועוד משום שיש בו עלויה אחרינא בפת ועוד בשתיה אומר שהכל:
Has anyone ever wondered why we don’t make בורא מיני מזונות on beer? If so, the above, quoted תוספות has the answer. It includes some important limitations to the rule of כל שיש בו.

Friday, February 7, 2020

:ל”ה Avoiding מעשר

ואמר רבה בר בר חנה אר"י (ר’ יוחנן) משום ר"י בר' אלעאי בא וראה שלא כדורות הראשונים דורות האחרונים דורות הראשונים היו מכניסין פירותיהן דרך טרקסמון כדי לחייבן במעשר דורות האחרונים מכניסין פירותיהן דרך גגות דרך חצרות דרך קרפיפות כדי לפטרן מן המעשר דא"ר ינאי אין הטבל מתחייב במעשר עד שיראה פני הבית שנא' בערתי הקדש מן הבית ור' יוחנן אמר אפי' חצר קובעת שנא' ואכלו בשעריך ושבעו
Something doesn’t quite add up here. ר’ יוחנן holds that the חצר is already קובע for מעשר. So according to him, this “trick” of the דורות האחרונים wouldn’t even work. That’s all fine. But isn’t this the same ר’ יוחנן quoting רבי יהודה בר’ אלעאי contrasting the two in the first place? Why would he quote this position if it does not concur with his own halachic position?

UPDATE: The note in the Artscroll mentions this point and points out that when this piece appears in other locations, the words "דרך חצרות" are not included, which would solve the problem. However, the צל"ח apparently keeps the גרסא as is and has an explanation but I have not seen that yet.

.ל”ה Before and After

ר' לוי רמי כתיב לה' הארץ ומלואה וכתיב השמים שמים לה' והארץ נתן לבני אדם לא קשיא כאן קודם ברכה כאן לאחר ברכה
The פשט understanding of this passage is simple: השם owns the land and all the food within it. Recognizing this and reciting a ברכה allows us to take ownership and partake of that food.
However, R’ Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, זצ”ל, would often say a beautiful דרוש in the name of the אפיקי יהודה. You may learn this passage vice versa. Before we make a ברכה, food is a mundane object with nothing but this-worldly attributes. It is on a human level. When we make a ברכה on our food, we elevate to a higher level – a Godly level. So indeed after the ברכה it is לה’ הארץ ומלואה!

.ל”ה When you’re hungry

לא קשיא דאתיא בקל וחומר כשהוא שבע מברך כשהוא רעב לא כל שכן
This קל וחומר bothered me for quite some time. How does the logic actually work? Wouldn’t you be more thankful after being given something than you would before receiving it? I found an answer to this quandary in the most unlikely of sources – a Jerry Seinfeld comedy routine. He was going on about how difficult it is to pay the bill at a restaurant at the end of your meal, when you are full and satiated since you no longer appreciate how much you wanted the food. And I realized that this was indeed quite a profound observation. If you go to a fast food restaurant and pay for your food up front, somehow, it’s not as difficult. You’re really hungry. You really want that burger. You’re staring straight at it. So you can easily part with the money to obtain it. But when you’re finished eating and fully satisfied, the food is out of sight and you no longer appreciate how much you needed and wanted that food and thus, paying for it becomes more difficult. Likewise, with ברכות, it is not as easy to appreciate how indebted we are to השם for providing us with sustenance when we are satiated. But still we are commanded to do so. How much more so, when we are hungry and in need, we should certainly more easily come to the recognition that HaShem provides us with all and express that by means of a ברכה.

.ל”ה What happened to מזונות?

ועל פירות הארץ הוא אומר בורא פרי האדמה חוץ מן הפת שעל הפת הוא אומר המוציא לחם מן הארץ
רש"י: כיצד מברכין וכו' חוץ מן היין. שמתוך חשיבותו קבעו לו ברכה לעצמו וכן הפת
As רש”י explains, the משנה lists the exception where the ברכה is changed due to a certain level of importance. Indeed wheat is elevated to המוציא when in the form of bread. But it can also be elevated to a בורא מיני מזונות when in a processed form. Why is there no mention of that in the משנה as here would seem to be the proper place for it. Upon further inspection, it doesn’t seem בורא מיני מזונות is mentioned anywhere in the משנה at all! Why would that be? Was it only instituted by the אמוראים? Did know practical food applications exist for it prior to that?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

.ל”ד Three Things in Moderation

ת"ר שלשה רובן קשה ומיעוטן יפה ואלו הן שאור ומלח וסרבנות
The גמרא states that there are three things which are damaging in large quantities but are pleasant in small quantities: leavening, salt and refusal. Just three things? It would seem that perhaps we could include another. The .גמרא סוטה ה states with regards to גסות הרוח:
א"ר חייא בר אשי אמר רב ת"ח צריך שיהא בו אחד משמונה בשמינית
So an eighth of an eighth of haughtiness is good, at least for a תלמיד חכם. So why isn’t this included in the list of things that are nice in moderation? I think the answer lies in the גר”א’s insightful approach to the גמרא in סוטה. He 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? The גר”א answers that an eighth of an eighth is 1/64, just less than 1/60. In other words, the גאווה should be בטל בשישים. So then you can’t even consider it a מעוט. Since it is בטל, it is as if it is not even there. So it does not qualify for this list.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

:ל”ג Gold and Silver

ההוא דנחית קמיה דר' חנינא אמר האל הגדול הגבור והנורא והאדיר והעזוז והיראוי החזק והאמיץ והודאי והנכבד המתין לו עד דסיים כי סיים א"ל סיימתינהו לכולהו שבחי דמרך למה לי כולי האי אנן הני תלת דאמרינן אי לאו דאמרינהו משה רבינו באורייתא ואתו אנשי כנסת הגדולה ותקנינהו בתפלה לא הוינן יכולין למימר להו ואת אמרת כולי האי ואזלת משל למלך בשר ודם שהיו לו אלף אלפים דינרי זהב והיו מקלסין אותו בשל כסף והלא גנאי הוא
I think the conventional way to understand this גמרא is that by listing additional praises of השם, we are actually doing a disservice since we could not possibly complete the list of praises. However, I have a slightly different approach, based on a nuance in the parable that is given at the end. The king has thousands upon thousands of gold coins and yet he is praised for his silver. Now, it was never mentioned that he had any silver at all. (Yes, I know, most kings would probably have a significant collection of silver as well.) So the problem is not that the praise simply falls short. Rather, the praise is completely off the mark and doesn’t even touch on the king’s actual possessions. The נמשל, then, is as follows. While לשון הקודש is a rich and vast language, we mortals simply do not possess the vocabulary to properly praise השם. Only those words which we find משה רבינו using are at least sufficient to be used in this context.

[I understand that the phrase סיימתינהו לכולהו שבחי דמרך is problematic with this approach. Also, we do find other supplications, such as אדיר הוא, where we use these words to praise השם.]

.ל"ג The Three Inserts

מזכירין גבורות גשמים בתחיית המתים ושאלה בברכת השנים והבדלה בחונן הדעת
It is interesting that the three are not listed in the order in which they appear in שמנה עשרה. In the משנה, since there is a מחלוקת, perhaps it was preferable to leave the מחלוקת to the end. However, when this is repeated in the ensuing גמרא, it follows the same order even though they are dealt with separately. (I suppose you could say it was just following the order of the משנה.) But it would seem to me that the listing in the משנה is specifically ordered by תדיר. That is to say that גבורת גשמים is clearly said most often - from סוכות to פסח. And of course we say ותן טל ומטר less often as it only starts at the earliest, shortly after סוכות in ארץ ישראל. Lastly, we say אתה חוננתנו least often - around 60 times per year or so. (Even if גבורות and שאלה refer to whichever is inserted, including מוריד הטל for נוסח ספרד, etc. it is still said more often since שאלה is not said on שבת and יום טוב.)

Monday, February 3, 2020

:ל"א Misreading the חושן

אמר עולא ואיתימא רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא אמרה ליה לא אדון אתה בדבר זה ולא רוח הקודש שורה עליך שאתה חושדני בדבר זה
There is a famous פירוש of the גר"א on the episode of חנה. To summarize, he writes that עלי looked at the חושן for the letters to light up and give him guidance. He observed what he thought was the word שכרה, meaning that she was drunk. However, it really was meant to read כשרה. Now, I always had thought the proper word was כְּשֵׁרָה. However, in פנינים משלחן הגר"א it is explained that the intended word is definitely כְּשָׂרָה - like שרה אמינו. That being the case, there is an interesting דקדוק revelation that comes out of this episode – that שׁי"ן and שׂי"ן are fully interchangeable. After all, there are both on the חושן. But yet, whichever letter did light up, it could be interpreted as either. We never think of the two as being the same letter just like בּ and ב but perhaps we should? I’ve always wondered how far this theory goes with respect to correcting a בעל קריאה who interchanges the two.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

.ל Which Direction to Face?

היה עומד בח"ל יכוין את לבו כנגד ארץ ישראל שנא' והתפללו אליך דרך ארצם היה עומד בארץ ישראל יכוין את לבו כנגד ירושלים שנאמר והתפללו אל ה' דרך העיר אשר בחרת היה עומד בירושלים יכוין את לבו כנגד בית המקדש שנאמר והתפללו אל הבית הזה היה עומד בבית המקדש יכוין את לבו כנגד בית קדשי הקדשים שנאמר והתפללו אל המקום הזה היה עומד בבית קדשי הקדשים יכוין את לבו כנגד בית הכפורת היה עומד אחורי בית הכפורת יראה עצמו כאילו לפני הכפורת נמצא עומד במזרח מחזיר פניו למערב במערב מחזיר פניו למזרח בדרום מחזיר פניו לצפון בצפון מחזיר פניו לדרום נמצאו כל ישראל מכוונין את לבם למקום אחד
There are many interesting discussions related to the topic of which way to face when davening. If we assume that we should at least attempt to face ירושלים directly from wherever we are (more on that later) there are two ways to accomplish that. The לבוש and others seem to suggest that we should draw a straight line to ירושלים as if on a flat map in order to establish the proper direction. This is known as the Rhumb Line.The ספר אמונת חכמים (somewhere in פרק כ"ד) takes umbrage with that approach and maintains that we should follow what is known as the Great Circle Route. That is the shortest actual distance between two points on the globe, taking into account the curvature of the Earth. For example, when a plane travels from New York to Israel, it will actually head out North-East as it will get there faster. To get an idea of how this works, take a string and place it on the two points on a globe and make the string as tight as possible. You will see that the path does not start out South-East as you might have suspected.

So this is all fascinating but what do we do with all this information? That's where KosherJava.com comes in. This is a brilliant site dedicated to software development for the purpose of calculating זמנים and זמנים-related issues. One of the more fascinating creations found there is the Zmanim / Bearing to Yeushalayim Map which allows you to click on any point on a Google Map (or search) and get not only the זמנים for that point but the exact bearing to ירושלים according to the above שיטות.

I will bring in some concrete examples of this map in a moment. But first, I want to discuss the position of the ערוך השלחן. He discusses (או"ח צ"ד:ז-ח) this issue at great length. He has a fascinating observation on the גמרא to support his conclusion. The פסוקים brought in reference to one davening outside of ירושלים or ארץ ישראל read "והתפללו אליך דרך ארצם," and "והתפללו אל ה' דרך העיר." But for someone in ירושלים, the פסוק states "והתפללו אל הבית הזה," and so on. The word דרך does not appear. He suggests that outside of ירושלים, although one's mindset should be focused on the בית קדש הקדשים, there is no way face exactly in that direction. Rather, one should simply face in the approximate direction. If I am understanding correctly, according to this, in North America, it would be sufficient to simply face East. But it would seem that wherever you are, you should at least make sure to face towards the principal direction. In other words, since ארץ ישראל from North America is certainly more East than South (or North according to אמונת חכמים) it is East that is important. 

This leads further to a statement made by רמ"א צ"ד:ב that since where he is situated is West of ארץ ישראל, they face East (sounds a lot like the ערוך השלחן.) Let us return to the handy bearing map from KosherJava.com. Below is bearing map from the רמ"א's home city of Krakow (you can drag the map around to move it) showing that the angle to ירושלים is at least 142° which is more South than East. So shouldn't they have been facing South?
[Update תש"ף: It should be noted that רמ"א is quoting the טור who lived in Toledo, Spain, which is much more to the west than Krakow is.]
(For some reason, I can't get the iframe to work. Please see the map here.)


Let us use this fabulous tool for even further investigation. It is important to note the language of the אמונת חכמים in taking the לבוש to task:
במ״ש הרב בעל הלבושים סימן צ״ד סעיף ג׳ ז״ל, ודע שכל הארצות האלו אשר אנו מפוזרים בהם כולם הם כנגד מערבית צפונית של א״י ואינם מכוונים במערב של א״י ממש וכו׳ לפיכך נ״ל וכו׳ שיזהר שיעשו הכותל מזרחי כו׳ שיהא נוטה קצת לצד מזרחית דרומית וכו׳ עכ״ל, ואמת הוא שבארץ אשכנז ופולוניא וכו׳ האמת הוא כדבריו וכו׳ אבל כל מ״ש בטעם זה אחרי המחילה הראוי טעות הוא בידו ואינו ענין לדבר זה כלל, וכבר נמצאו כמה מקומות ומדינות שאעפ״י שנמצאו בהם אותם תנאים שכתב הרב בעל הלבושים עכ״ז הרוצה לפנות כלפי א״י ממש צריך לנטות קצת כלפי צפון עכ״ל.
Now, let us observe the lines from the לבוש's home city of Prague, below. Due to the proximity to ארץ ישראל the actual difference between the two is minute, at best. If you click around, you'll find that you have to go as far South as Morocco to find a discrepancy which would lead to a dispute as to whether to turn slightly North or South. And there also the difference is minimal. (The אמונת חכמים lived in Mantua, Italy where the difference would also have been minimal.) The actual significance of this discrepancy is really only truly felt in the Western Hemisphere. (It does seem the אמונת חכמים acknowledges that the לבוש's פסק would be sufficient for his own land.)
(For some reason, I can't get the iframe to work. Please see the map here.)

As long as this post is, it only really scratches the surface of this vast topic. For more reading, please see the following extended essays (links also thanks to KosherJava.com):
ישורון article
Which way shall we turn?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

:כ"ט Something New

מַאי ״קֶבַע״?... רַבָּה וְרַב יוֹסֵף דְאָמְרִי תַּרְוַיְיהוּ: כֹּל שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְחַדֵּשׁ בָּהּ דָּבָר
רש"י ד"ה לחדש בה דבר. בבקשתו והיינו לשון קבע כיום כן אתמול כן מחר:
So what exactly constitutes חידוש דבר? I have seen a modern translation explain this as any addition to the standard text. According to that definition, however, if someone inserts his own personal prayer - the same one each time - it will still constitute חידוש. This does not seem to jive with רש"י's approach. If your תפילה today is the same as it was yesterday and the day before, that would appear to fit רש"י's definition of קבע.

I have an interesting distinction to offer on this topic. Let us contrast two different types of personal prayers. Suppose someone has a test coming up next week and he inserts a prayer asking for success on that test. If he once again prays for success on that test in a subsequent תפילה, it can certainly be suggested that nothing has changed and there is nothing new from the previous prayer to this one.

However, suppose you are inserting a prayer for a present need such as someone who is sick and needs a רפואה שלמה. You want that prayer to be answered immediately. If you prayed for it in the morning, and now it is the afternoon and the subject of the prayer is still in need, that is essentially a new need. Even if the words of the extra prayer are exactly the same, I suggest that the mere fact that this need is ongoing should be enough of a "newness" to satisfy the definition of חידוש דבר.

.כ”ט The Divine Hand

והתועים על דעתך ישפטו ועל הרשעים תניף ידיך
There is something that struck me as slightly odd about this pharse. ידיך is clearly in the plural form. I am not by any means an expert with the full of knowledge of all Jewish texts at my fingertips but to my limited recollection, it seems that whenever we refer to the Divine Hand it is in the singular form, as in היד החזקה and וירא ישראל את היד הגדולה. I can’t recall any instance where we refer to HaShem’s having hands. And it would stand to reason. Any limb which we would attribute to the Divine through anthropomorphosis should be perfect and not need a companion.

Perhaps I’m on to something. Speaking of היד החזקה, I was intrigued to explore how the text of this תפילה is presented in the later works. It is not uncommon to see the text of the גמרא undergo a certain degree of metamorphosis in the פוסקים (e.g. the תפילה for the בעל הבית in ברכת המזון.) While the ערוך השלחן preserves the spelling of ידיך I found that רמב”ם הל’ תפלה ב:ג (ironically, the author of the יד החזקה) has ידך without the יו”ד!

I would be most interested to hear any arguments for or against my assertion above.

Update: When I mentioned this to my brother he almost instantaneously pointed me to the .גמרא כבובות ה which references מקדש ה' כוננו ידיך and discusses why, in fact, it is in the plural form. Nevertheless, I still maintain that it is an exception and the norm is to refer to יד in the singular. The גירסא in the רמב"ם still supports that assertion.