Thursday, March 26, 2020

.זריזים כ

משלשלין את הפסח: מ"ט משום דבני חבורה זריזין הן
רש"י י"ט: ד"ה משלשלין את הפסח כו'. והוא נצלה והולך משתחשך ואע"ג דבעלמא אין צולין כדאמרן הכא שרי דבני חבורה זריזין הן ומדכרי אהדדי ולא אתו לחתויי בגחלים:
וכהנים זריזין הן
רש"י ד"ה אברים ופדרים הוא דאתא. ... וסמוך לחשיכה היינו טעמא דלא גזור משום דכהנים זריזין הם שכולם היו בני תורה וחרדים ונזכרים ולא אתו לחתויי משתחשך:
In this סוגיא, we are introduced to two groups of זריזים. However, there is an interesting disparity between them and in the way רש"י interprets them. The בני החבורה are not inherently זריזים. After all, all of בני ישראל would have been part of one חבורה or another. That would make everyone זריזים. Rather, they are זריזים of the moment. The task at hand - preparing the קרבן פסח - renders them זריזים. Clearly, the כהנים are different. They are always זריזים by nature.

Interestingly, when רש"י explains the זריזות of the בני החבורה it is one of dependency. That is to say that we are relying on others in the group to correct another who might attempt to stoke the coals. According to ר' יוסי in פסחים ח:ז a קרבן פסח may be shechted for a single person. According to רש"י's understanding here, it would seem that a single person cooking his own קרבן פסח would not be subject to this exemption. But the כהנים, as רש"י explains, are independently זריזים and thus, even a lone כהן would be subject to the exemption. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

.י"א The Tallest Building

ואמר רבא בר מחסיא אמר רב חמא בר גוריא אמר רב כל עיר שגגותיה גבוהין מבית הכנסת לסוף חרבה שנאמר לרומם את בית אלהינו ולהעמיד את חרבותיו וה"מ בבתים אבל בקשקושי ואברורי לית לן בה
As I saw in the Artscroll - according to the רא"ש, the reason why קשקושי ואברורי are not a problem is because they do not serve a functional purpose i.e., they are not inhabited. It would therefore stand to reason that the roofs of present-day houses, which are often sloped and therefore cannot be used for any purpose, need not be lower than the shul.

I believe there is some requirement in Muslim villages that no building be higher than their house of prayer and that is partly the purpose of the minaret. If this is true, it is quite ironic that this גמרא is immediately followed by a passage discussing working for an Ismaelite. 

Friday, March 6, 2020

:ס”ג Egyptian Hospitality

פתח ר' יוסי בכבוד אכסניא ודרש לא תתעב אדומי כי אחיך הוא לא תתעב מצרי כי גר היית בארצו והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה מצריים שלא קרבו את ישראל אלא לצורך עצמן שנאמר ואם ידעת ויש בם אנשי חיל ושמתם שרי מקנה על אשר לי
Perhaps I am alone here. But I always thought that the תורה was teaching us in extraordinary – almost incomprehensible – lesson. We are instructed to show grace towards the Egyptians for having hosted in their land even while subjugating us and treating us poorly as slaves. After seeing this גמרא, I think I have a different understanding. It would be foolish to show gratitude to a nation had they “imported” us for the purpose of enslaving us. We are not showing gratitude for those 210 years of subjugation. Rather, we are showing kindness to the Egyptians for their hosting our fledgling nation in the days of יעקב and יוסף for the years leading up to פרעה’s change of heart, when the Egyptians truly showed a degree of grace towards us (even if for ulterior motives as exposed in our גמרא.)

:ס”ג In Praise of Alexander Graham Bell

הסכת עשו כתות כתות ועסקו בתורה לפי שאין התורה נקנית אלא בחבורה כדר' יוסי ברבי חנינא דאמר ר' יוסי ברבי חנינא מאי דכתיב חרב (על) הבדים ונואלו חרב על שונאיהם של תלמידי חכמים שיושבים בד בבד ועוסקים בתורה
This גמרא speaks pretty harshly of those who learn alone. So certainly one should be going to a shul or בית מדרש to learn with a חברותא. But wait, the .גמרא סנהדרין צ”ב states:
כל בית שאין דברי תורה נשמעים בו בלילה אש אוכלתו שנאמר כל חשך טמון לצפוניו תאכלהו אש לא נופח ירע שריד באהלו
So even if one were to go to his חברותא’s home to learn, his own home would remain devoid of תורה learning. Fortunately, in our time, the telephone has allowed us to accomplish a both of these.

.ס"ג Good Fences

כבר גדרת ואי אתה יכול לפרוץ
Please see this recently written shtikle on Koheles referencing this גמרא.

:ס”ג Honouring the Host

תנו רבנן כשנכנסו רבותינו לכרם ביבנה היו שם רבי יהודה ורבי יוסי ור' נחמיה ור' אליעזר בנו של רבי יוסי הגלילי פתחו כולם בכבוד אכסניא ודרשו פתח רבי יהודה ראש המדברים בכל מקום בכבוד תורה ודרש
It is common custom for a speaker at some sort of gathering to be פותח בכבוד אכסניא as these תנאים were in כרם ביבנה. According to the simple reading of our גמרא, it would seem that רבי יהודה opens with tangential remarks extolling the virtues of those who study תורה, especially making extra efforts to do so. But perhaps this is not at all departure from פותחים בכבוד אכסניא. The אכסניא here are those who have opened their homes to the תלמידי חכמים who have come to study in יבנה. It would not be sufficient to simply say “thanks for having us.” First, רבי יהודה  sets the stage by impressing upon the crowd the importance of what is going on there. With the newly instilled appreciation for the greatness of לימוד התורה, the crowd was then able to fully appreciate the greatness of the הכנסת אורחים on the part of the hosts.

.ס”ג You’re the Man!

דרש בר קפרא זלת קבוץ קנה מינה באתר דלית גבר תמן הוי גבר אמר אביי ש"מ באתר דאית גבר תמן לא תהוי גבר
The מפרשים have already drawn comparisons between this passage from בר קפרא and the well-known משנה in אבות ב:ו:
במקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש
The מהרש”א addresses how בר קפרא lesson is no superfluous in light of the משנה. Without actually answering any questions, I wish to simply draw attention to an interesting discrepancy between the two. The משנה is in fact often misquoted with the short form במקום שאין איש. The משנה actually uses the plural – אנשים. In a place where there are no men, you should strive to be a man. Here, however, בר קפרא only instructs הוי גבר where there is not a single man. I’m not quite sure what to make of this distinction.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

:ס Man of Compromise

א"ר פפא הלכך נמרינהו לתרוייהו
This phrase should be somewhat familiar. We had it back on .נ"ט and yet again on :נ"ט. What is most intriguing, however, is that each time the suggestion to resolve a dispute on the wording of a ברכה by including both opinions, it is made by רב פפא. This seems to be a unique trait of רב פפא. See the מסורת הש"ס on .נ"ט for more references including the text of הרב את רבינו which we will be saying very soon (:מגילה כ"א).

.ס The Switcheroo

ואחר ילדה בת ותקרא את שמה דינה מאי ואחר אמר רב לאחר שדנה לאה דין בעצמה ואמרה י"ב שבטים עתידין לצאת מיעקב ששה יצאו ממני וארבעה מן השפחות הרי עשרה אם זה זכר לא תהא אחותי רחל כאחת השפחות מיד נהפכה לבת שנא' ותקרא את שמה דינה
There is some discussion in the ספרי אגדה as to what exact נס transpired here. רש"י in ויצא, whose source is פרקי דר' אליעזר, seems to imply that the fetus was simply switched from a male to a female, as our גמרא would seem to indicate. However, תרגום (המיוחס ל)יונתן בן עוזיאל, explains that דינה and יוסף switched wombs.

Here is an old וישב shtikle on the topic and the possible conflation of these two accounts:

The parsha begins with a description of the life that Yosef lead and the relationship he had with his brothers. Rashi (37:2) comments on the words "vehu na'ar," that Yosef had some tendencies like those of na'aros, young girls. He would comb is hair and beautify himself.

Rashi (30:21) in explaining the reasoning behind Dena's name, writes that the fetus was initially a male in Leah's womb and she prayed to give birth to a female so that Rachel would not have less males than the maidservants. The fetus subsequently turned into a female. Targum Yonasan writes that at the same time, Rachel was pregnant with Dena and Yosef was in Leah's womb. The fetuses switched wombs. Dena was born to Leah and Yosef to Rachel instead of the reverse. The source for Rashi is in Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer. Radal comments there that this is why we see some male tendencies in Dena, that she "went out" and explored in Shechem

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky, in Emes l'Yaakov takes this one step one further. He writes that this is also why we find female-like tendencies in Yosef. This suggestion troubled me greatly. First, Rashi does not seem to hold like Targum Yonasan*. According to Rashi, Yosef really had nothing to do with the whole Dena episode. And even according to Targum Yonasan, there is no switching of gender at all but rather the fetuses switched wombs. Even Radal's suggestion does not fit with Targum Yonasan, let alone R' Yaakov's.

*Incidentally, רש"י's approach is problematic with his commentary to פרשת וישב מ"ו:ט"ו where he explains the attribution of the boys to their mothers and daughter to her father with our later גמרא of 'איש מזריע תחילה וכו. The מהרש"א answers the difficulty in רש"י with the תרגום יונתן.

Monday, March 2, 2020

:נ"ט Niagara Falls

הָרוֹאֶה פְּרָת אַגִּשְׁרָא דְבָבֶל, אוֹמֵר: ״בָּרוּךְ … עוֹשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית״. וְהָאִידָּנָא דְּשַׁנְיוּהּ פָּרְסָאֵי — מִבֵּי שַׁבּוּר וּלְעֵיל.
An interesting שאלה that arises for me quite often is whether or not one should make a ברכה when they see Niagara Falls. A significant component of that discussion relates to the above passage. A good friend of mine, Rabbi Mordechai Hochheimer, who used to be a Rav in nearby Rochester, NY wrote an essay on the subject. Unfortunately, the blog no longer exists but Google Cache was able to help restoring the source:

Now, there is an opinion (mentioned in this exchange in the name of R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach) that a natural wonder that "formed later" is not subject to this ברכה since it is not literally part of מעשה בראשית. I have always had difficulty with this approach. When we make the very same ברכה on lightning, this is not a bolt of lightning that HaShem created in the first 6 days. Rather, HaShem infused the בריאה with the energy and power to create these wonders over time. Can the same not be said about natural wonders that were formed naturally over the course of history, without human intervention? Niagara Falls might not have existed when HaShem created the world. But the forces that would eventually make the Falls a reality certainly were.