Tuesday, December 28, 2021

.ט"ו Magic Number 48

ואמר ר"א אמר רבי חנינא כל האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם שנאמר ותאמר אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי

This idea appears (anonymously, ironically) in פרקי אבות ו:ו as the very last of the 48 ways in which תורה is acquired. 48 - that should sound like a familiar number. Indeed, on .י"ד the גמרא declared that there were 48 נביאים. And according to רש"י's enumeration, #48 was none other than מרדכי!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

.י"ד The Most Effective Rebuke

אמר רבי אבא בר כהנא גדולה הסרת טבעת יותר מארבעים ושמונה נביאים ושבע נביאות שנתנבאו להן לישראל שכולן לא החזירום למוטב ואילו הסרת טבעת החזירתן למוטב

This is one of my favourite shtikles. I usually just link back to the original but in this case I'll reinsert instead:

At first glance, this passage seems to be delivering a very simple message. Actions speak louder than words. בני ישראל were never able to internalize the messages of the prophets and act upon them accordingly. But when they saw their imminent extermination before their very eyes, they knew there was only one answer.

But there is a grave difficulty with this approach. The rebukes of the נביאים were indeed ignored, on the whole. But the destruction of בית המקדש did not happen overnight. There were many events that led to its destruction, many steps along the way where בני ישראל ought to have taken heed more so than they did to the mere words of the prophets. So one can understand why אחשורוש's actions sent a stronger message than the rebukes of the prophets. But what about the siege on ירושלים? What about the breeching of the walls? In what way were they less inspiring than the removal of the ring.

To establish a direction on this, we must consider the מהרש"א's commentary on the above passage. He asks why the removal of the ring is singled out by the גמרא. After all, it could simply have stated that the המן's evil decree was greater than the prophets. What is the true significance of the removal of the ring? He answers that when a purchase is made between two parties, it is common for the buyer to make a deposit to ensure the seller of his commitment to the transaction. In this case, the buyer would have been המן. He was "acquiring" the king's consent and approval for his evil plan. And yet, it was אחשורו who gave his ring to המן. This gesture showed אחשורוש's true feelings towards the Jews and המן's plan. It was more content than consent, as if he was now asking המן to carry it out, not allowing it. With the supreme ruler of the inhabited world against them, the Jews realized they were doomed.

With this important point, we can suggest an approach to answer our question above. The prophets' warnings and calls for repentance leading up to the destruction of the בית המקדש were all during a time when בני ישראל were an autonomous nation in their homeland. They were facing invasion and incursion from forces from the outside. Even when נבוכדנצר was banging down the doors and ירושלים was ready to fall, this position gave them the false hope to believe that somehow they could simply beat back the invading forces. They were therefore unable to appreciate the true urgency and necessity for תשובה.

The circumstances were vastly different during the era of אסתר. They were strangers in a strange land. They didn't have their own leaders, their own army or their own land. They were fully aware that they were at the whim of their rulers. When they saw that the supreme ruler was bent on their destruction, they knew there was simply nothing they could possibly do - except תשובה!

This is, of course, a very important and prevalent lesson today. We certainly need an army as any other country does. We even need to invest in the Iron Dome and pursue the protection of our nation in every normal way. We simply cannot rely on these institutions and believe that everything will be okay because they are in place. We must understand that is השם who grants triumph to these endeavours and it is our תפלה and תשובה that fuels their continued success.

Friday, December 24, 2021

.י"ג Weight a Minute

אם על המלך טוב יכתב לאבדם ועשרת אלפים ככר כסף וגו' אמר ריש לקיש גלוי וידוע לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם שעתיד המן לשקול שקלים על ישראל לפיכך הקדים שקליהן לשקליו והיינו דתנן באחד באדר משמיעין על השקלים ועל הכלאים
תוס' ט"ז. ד"ה דחי עשרה אלפי ככרי כספא. שמעתי שעשרה אלפי ככר כסף עולין חצי שקל לכל אחד מישראל שהיו שש מאות אלף כשיצאו ממצרים ואמר שיתן לאחשורוש כל פדיונם (ה) ודוק ותשכח:

A fascinating piece attempting to unlock the mystery of this תוספות.
(Get out your calculators.)

.י"ג Provincial Beauty II

ותהי אסתר נשאת חן [בעיני כל ראיה] אר"א מלמד שלכל אחד ואחד נדמתה לו כאומתו
What is the גמרא getting at here? From where do we see that the פסוק would insinuate such a miracle? Is it not possible that she simply found favour in everyone's eyes? The גמרא is conveying a very simple idea. אחשורוש ruled over the entire world. The capital was most certainly populated by people from all nationalities and walks of life, each with their own standards of beauty and pleasantness based on the culture of their homeland. It was therefore unfathomable that all of these individuals would each have a similarly favourable opinion of אסתר. Therefore, by means of a miracle, she appeared to each and every person as one of their own.

A woman recently explored this phenomenon in an intriguing 21st century way. She took a simple picture of herself and then commissioned individuals from all walks of life all over the world to digitally beautify her. As expected, the results were staggeringly diverse each reflecting the artists own definition of beauty as influenced by their local society.

.י"ג Provisional Beauty

ר' יהושע בן קרחה אמר אסתר ירקרוקת היתה וחוט של חסד משוך עליה
So, אסתר was not the most beautiful woman in the land? What would compel ר' יהושע בן קרחה to say that? The גר"א brilliantly points out that in the discussion (:בבא בתרא ט"ו) of what era the character איוב lived (if at all) ר' יהושע בן קרחה's opinion is that he lived in the time of אחשורוש. And it says (איוב מ"ב:ט"ו) that איוב's daughters were the most beautiful in the entire land. Therefore, according to ר' יהושע בן קרחה it could not possibly be that אסתר was the most beautiful. Certainly, there was some special Divine Providence at play here.

.י"ב Delayed Response?

שאלו תלמידיו את רשב"י מפני מה נתחייבו שונאיהן של ישראל שבאותו הדור כליה... אמר להם מפני שהשתחוו לצלם
רש"י ד"ה שהשתחוו לצלם. בימי נבוכדנצר:

As I have previously written in a פורים shtikle, there are two difficulties with this, both of which stem fro the simple historical fact that Nevuchadnezzar's reign was many decades before the story of Purim. As we know from the previous דף, Nevuchadnezzar reigned approximately 26 years after the חורבן. If they deserved to be destroyed, why did it take so long for this punishment to (almost) be meted out? Furthermore, this generation was not the one that sinned in the days of Nevuchadnezzar. Why does the גמרא list this as the reason why the Jews of that generation deserved to be destroyed?

I do not have a definite, clear approach to this but perhaps part of the answer may lie in the ensuing exchange:
אמרו לו וכי משוא פנים יש בדבר אמר להם הם לא עשו אלא לפנים אף הקב"ה לא עשה עמהן אלא לפנים
While רש"י explains they were asking why they merited the miracle and being saved from the evil decree, perhaps they were also asking why the punishment was so delayed. Perhaps the Jews in the time of Nevuchadnezzar were excused due to the extreme duress and circumstances of their transgressions. As the story of the מגילה begins, the Jews were certainly enjoying more relaxed treatment and perhaps they were not showing an adequate desire to abandon the practices of the previous generation.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

:י"א The Man Who's Been Through It All

אמר איהו מיטעא טעי אנא חשיבנא ולא טעינא מי כתיב למלכות בבל לבבל כתיב מאי לבבל לגלות בבל כמה בצירן תמני חשיב ועייל חילופייהו חדא דבלשצר וחמש דדריוש וכורש ותרתי דידיה הא שבעין כיון דחזי דמלו שבעין ולא איפרוק אמר השתא ודאי תו לא מיפרקי אפיק מאני דבי מקדשא ואשתמש בהו בא שטן וריקד ביניהן והרג את ושתי והא שפיר חשיב איהו נמי מיטעא טעי דאיבעי ליה למימני מחרבות ירושלים

As I was going through this I had a thought about a פסוק at the beginning of the מגילה.
אֲשֶׁר הָגְלָה מִירוּשָׁלַיִם עִם הַגֹּלָה אֲשֶׁר הָגְלְתָה עִם יְכָנְיָה מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה אֲשֶׁר הֶגְלָה נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל
One might ask why this extensive introduction is necessary? This does give us an insight into מרדכי's approximate age. And perhaps it is noteworthy that he went through the גלות of Nevuchadnezzar. But we are also told that he was with the גלות of יכניה. But after all the above calculations, we understand that the story begins 70 years after the first exile, that of יכניה. (Well, a little less than 70 years as we soon find out.) That's why it is significant that מרדכי was part of the first exile, not the second and this is what positions מרדכי to be the leader that he was. He had already endured almost 70 years of exile. He could sense that the end was near. His yearning for the impending redemption was one that could not be fully experienced or appreciated by a younger Jew from a later generation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

.ג What makes a Navi?

אִינְהוּ עֲדִיפִי מִינֵּיהּ — דְּאִינְהוּ נְבִיאֵי וְאִיהוּ לָאו נָבִיא
רש"י ד"ה דאינהו נביאי: שנתנבאו לישראל בשליחותו של מקום והוא לא נשתלח לישראל בשום נבואה.

Not sure if this was obvious but it occurred to me - is it possible that the etymology of the word נביא, based on this explanation of רש"י, is from the word להביא. In other words, the definition of a נביא is one who has been instructred to bring the word of השם to the people. If this is on target, sounds like the kind of thing Rav Hirsch might say.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

.ב No More, No Less

מתני' מגילה נקראת בי"א בי"ב בי"ג בי"ד בט"ו לא פחות ולא יותר

How about a nice piece of דרוש to start off the מסכתא. From the גר"א in שדה אליהו:

If you add up the גמטריא of the days on which the מגילה can be read, it equals 65. (Sorry if you were already in the middle of using the Gauss method.) This is the same as the גמטריא of השם’s name, א-ד-נ-י. This name is associated with השם’s more hidden Providence which, as we know, was behind the story of פורים.
But here’s where it gets cute. The name י-ה-ו-ה is associated with השם’s more blatant and obvious השגחה, which we did not merit to see in the story of פורים. The גמטריא of that name is 26. The משנה states that the מגילה cannot be read before the 11th or after the 15th. Therefore, the days on which it cannot be read are 10 and 16. Add them up and what do you get? 26!!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

:כ"ז Similar Raffles

וחלקום והעמידום על עשרים וארבעה בללום ונתנום בקלפי בא ידעיה ונטל חלקו וחלק חבריו שש בא [חרים] ונטל חלקו וחלק חבריו שש וכן פשחור וכן אימר

How fitting that this גמרא falls out in פרשת פינחס. In an installment of על פי חשבון, I attempted to calculate the probability of the Divinely "rigged" גורל falling out exactly like it did. So, then, what would be the odds of this one coming out like it did without the obvious Divine intervention?

I have to admit, I'm not sure I fully understand the exact process and exactly who picked what. I also have not investigated the מפרשים sufficiently. So I will keep it as simple as possible. Therefore, we will assume that the one picked for each משמר did not have to pick the name of the משמר first. In other words, ידעיה picked first. He came up with 6 names, all of which belonged to the ידעיה family but one was actually named ידעיה. Let us assume that he picked all 6 at the same time*. Using simple nCr notation, there would be 24C6 different possible combinations for ידעיה. For the uninitiated, that is simply a fancy way of expressing the following: 24! / (24-6)! x 6! Simply put, the different possible combinations ar
24 x 23 x 22 x 21 x 20 x 19
6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1
The reason we have to divide by 6 x 5 x 4...  is because order doesn't matter, so there are that many different combination which are essentially one in the same.

I probably have not sufficiently explained the above concept for those who are not familiar but if we move on, I believe the probability can be expressed thusly:
24C6 x 18C6 x 12C6
The probability of the final group is essentially 1 since there are only those 6 tickets left so we really only need examine the probability of the first three groups. That computes to
134596 x 18564 x 924
Which is 1 in 2,308,743,493,056. Although both this and the גורל of פינחס both involved 24 tickets, since this one was drawn in groups of 6, the probability is in fact nearly 100,000 greater than that of פינחס. Nevertheless, as was discussed in my parallel calculation of פינחס, the odds would still be close those of getting fatally hit by lightning twice in one year! Again, this is a veritable testimony to the extent of the miracle that occurred and the Divinity of the raffle.

*Well I just looked a little deeper into this.:רש"י ערכין י"ב explains that the raffle happened exactly the way I just assumed that it didn't. So first the head of the משמר picked his own name and then the other 5. This complicated things slightly. The probability would therefore be:
24 x 23C5 x 18 x 17C5 x 12 x 11C5

Which - let's just skip to the end - is 1 in 498,688,594,500,096, or over 200 times less probable than originally thought.

You want to simplify all this? According to רש"ש, there was nothing particularly miraculous going on here at all. There were in fact 4 separate raffles of 6 whereby each of the 4 משמרות would draw to determine the order of their respective subdivisions.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

.כ"ב Righteous Clowns

אתו הנך תרי אתי א"ל הנך נמי בני עלמא דאתי נינהו אזל לגבייהו אמר להו מאי עובדייכו אמרו ליה אינשי בדוחי אנן מבדחינן עציבי
For those who are not aware, there is actually a troupe of medical clowns in Israel. They are not simply trained as clowns, they are trained as clowning therapists and operate in most of the hospitals to help cheer people up. This גמרא leaves little doubt as to their portion in the World to Come.

Friday, December 3, 2021

:כ"א Death Frequency

דרוקרת עיר המוציאה חמש מאות רגלי הוה ויצאו ממנה שלשה מתים ביום אחד גזר רב נחמן בר רב חסדא תעניתא אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק כמאן כר'מ דאמר ריחק נגיחותיו חייב קירב נגיחותיו לא כ"ש

See this Shtikle from שמיני עצרת on the well-known tactic of reciting משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם enough times such that one is considered accustomed to saying it. The conclusion there is that despite the fact that the הלכה follows ר' יהודה in בבא קמא that the three gores must occur in three days, that is only based on the specific wording of the פסוק from which ר' יהודה derives his position. However, he certainly subscribes to ר' מאיר's reasoning in general. This passage from our גמרא, however, would seem to challenge that. For if it were so, not only ר' מאיר but even ר' יהודה would agree that three deaths in one day constitute דבר.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

:ט"ז Forgot Again

ההוא סמיא דהוה מסדר מתניתא קמיה דמר שמואל, חזייה דהוה עציב, אמר ליה: אמאי עציבת? אמר ליה: דלא אותיבי ערובי תבשילין. אמר ליה: סמוך אדידי. לשנה חזייה דהוה עציב, אמר ליה: אמאי עציבת? אמר ליה: דלא אותיבי ערובי תבשילין. אמר ליה: פושע את. לכולי עלמא שרי, לדידך אסיר.
רש"י ד"ה לשנה - לשנה אחרת וראש השנה היה שאין יכול להניח ולהתנות:

A question and an observation:
  • Why must רש"י state it was ראש השנה? Couldn't it have been any יום טוב and already Friday? The תנאי trick only works on Thursday.
  • Perhaps what can be gleaned from this comment of רש"י is that if it were a case where he could make the תנאי, that would actually be preferable, in general, to relying on the רב. This would have halachic implications.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

.י"ד Word Play

מלח בפך ובעץ הפרור לצלי...כי דייכת אצלי אצלויי

To me, it's always entertaining to see two words used in such close proximity that look very similar but actually have completely different meanings - the first means to fry, the second means to tilt.

As an extra treat, we have another example two pages later on .ט"ז:
עדשים שבשולי קדרה...דגים קטנים מלוחים אין בהם משום בשולי גוים

First one means in the bottom. Second means cooking. Certainly throws you off at first.

Friday, September 10, 2021

.י Birdie Care

אמר רב חנן בר אמי: מחלוקת בבריכה ראשונה, דבית שמאי סברי: גזרינן דלמא אתי לאמלוכי.
רש"י ד"ה בריכה ראשונה - דרך מגדלי יונים להניח בריכה ראשונה של כל שנה להיות צוות לאמה: 
גזרינן - כי שקיל להו למחר אתי לאמלוכי וחייס עלייהו והוי ליה טלטול שלא לצורך ומשנענע ומשמש בהן מבעוד יום לשחיטה ולא חס עלייהו תו לא חיישינן דחייס:

If we accept רש"י's initial explanation as to why the general approach to בריכה ראשונה would be different, perhaps we can offer an alternative explanation as to why בית שמאי would require you to pick up the birds before יום טוב. The whole purpose of leaving the first group of birds is to accompany the mother. However, there seems to be a general idea that a mother bird will not return to its nest if it senses that it has been tampered with by human hands. For this reason, those performing שלוח הקן are careful to use gloves so that they can put the eggs back and other individuals can then perform the מצוה as well. רש"י is saying that the mere act of handling the birds is indicating that he is not going to have pity and leave the birds later to be with their mother. But perhaps the reason handling the birds before יום טוב is significant is because the mother will then no longer return to the birds and you have already defeated the purpose of leaving the בריכה ראשונה.

It should be noted, however, that the Star-K consulted with bird experts for their article on שלוח הקן. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it is a common misconception and most birds are not actually capable of accurately detecting human tampering and will still return to their nest. Still... something to think about.

Friday, September 3, 2021

What is your name?

There is certainly no shortage of מסכתות whose properly pronounced name is a matter of discussion. Is it Yuma or Yoma? Erchin or Arachin? I've even heard a suggestion that Yavmus is the proper pronunciation of what most of us know as Yevamos. But while those are more of a simple matter of word structure, the story behind how to pronounce our current מסכתא's name is quite a bit more rich. I searched around for some detailed write-up of the issue and found the following.
(Source: http://www.dafyomi.co.il/sanhedrin/insites/sn-dt-005.htm)

3) "BEITZAH" OR "BEI'A" OPINIONS: The Gemara relates that Rebbi visited a town and saw everyone kneading dough in impure vessels. When he inquired about their actions, the people of the town told him that "a certain Talmid told us that Mei Betza'im (water of swamps) does not have the ability to make a food susceptible to Tum'ah." They assumed, therefore, that since their dough was made with such water it could not become Tamei from their vessels. 
This was an outright mistake, as the Talmid actually had said "Mei Beitzim" (the liquid of eggs), and not "Mei Betza'im," swamp water. The people did not realize their mistake, and they even cited support for it from the Mishnah in Parah (8:10). The Mishnah there states that certain types of waters cannot be used for the Mei Chatas, the sprinkling of the ashes of the Parah Adumah, because they are swamp waters. They erroneously reasoned that the Mishnah there was the source for the Talmid's ruling: since such water is not usable for the Parah Adamah, it also must not be suitable to make something capable of becoming Tamei. As a result of that incident, the Chachamim decreed that a Talmid may not issue a ruling unless he has received permission from his Rebbi to do so. 
The Acharonim cite this Gemara when they discuss whether it is preferable to pronounce the word "Beitzah" (egg) as "Bei'a" (the Aramaic word for "egg"). 
(a) The MAGEN AVRAHAM (end of OC 156) in the name of the MAHARSHAL (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kama 4:11) writes that "it is proper to say ['Bei'a' or] 'Bei'im' instead of ['Beitzah' or] Beitzim,' in order to maintain a high standard of purity of speech." (The word "Beitzah" is used by the Chachamim to connote part of the male reproductive system, and thus it is improper to utter it unnecessarily, as the Gemara in Pesachim (3a) teaches that one should accustom himself not to speak in an improper manner.) Based on this, many people have the custom to refer to Maseches Beitzah as "Bei'a," which is the Aramaic term for "egg." 
(b) The IYEI HA'YAM (cited by the Likutim on the Mishnayos), however, refutes this practice. He points out that there is no source anywhere in Shas that indicates that the Chachamim refrained from pronouncing the word as "Beitzah" or that they classified the word as improper speech. In fact, the Chachamim even used the word to describe many oblong objects (such as "Beitzas ha'Gir," Beitzah 15a). 
Furthermore, he argues, what does one gain by merely translating the Hebrew word to Aramaic if it has the same meaning in both languages? (See, however, BEIS EFRAIM, Teshuvos OC 15.) As clear proof that the word was pronounced "Beitzim" in the times of the Chachamim, he cites the Gemara here in Sanhedrin. Had the Talmid, when he referred to the liquid of eggs, not used the term "Betza'im" but rather "Bei'im," no mistake would have resulted. The townspeople would not have confused "Bei'im" with "Betza'im." (TOSFOS even has difficulty with how the townspeople confused the word "Beitzim" with "Betza'im." He explains that they thought that they heard the Talmid say "Bitzim" which they assumed was "Betza'im." Nonetheless, they would never have made this mistake had the Talmid said, "Bei'im.") 
(c) These arguments prompt the TIFERES YISRAEL (introduction to Beitzah) to suggest that the practice of not pronouncing the word as "Beitzah" is unrelated to concern for improper speech. Rather, he explains that since an error in Halachah was made because of the similarity between the words "Beitzim" and "Betza'im," the practice arose to pronounce the word "Bei'a" when used in a Halachic context in order to prevent such mistakes from happening again.
Nowadays, the generally-accepted practice is to pronounce the word "Beitzah," except in reference to the name of the Maseches, which some refer to as "Bei'a." Although the Iyei ha'Yam quotes the son of the Vilna Ga'on who testifies that the Vilna Ga'on called the Maseches "Beitzah" in contrast to the practice of the Magen Avraham, many continue to pronounce it "Bei'a" today. In defense of this practice, it may be suggested that the source for this pronunciation is the Gemara in Bava Kama (3b) which explains that the word "Mav'eh" (from the root "Ba'a") has two meanings: it connotes either praying or eating. The Gemara in Beitzah (15b) quotes Rebbi Yehoshua who maintains that one must divide the day of Yom Tov into two parts and dedicate half of the day "Lachem" ("for you," for culinary pleasure) and half of the day "la'Hashem" ("for Hash-m," for spiritual pursuits such as prayer and Torah study). Since both of these practices are alluded to in the word "Bei'a" as described by the Gemara in Bava Kama, it is an appropriate name for the Maseches which discusses the laws of Yom Tov. (M. Kornfeld)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

.ח Easy as Pi

אמר ליה רב אסי לרב אשי לעולם גברא באמתא יתיב ורבי יוחנן מקום גברי לא קחשיב כמה הוו להו תמני סרי בשיבסר נכי חומשא סגיא היינו דלא דק ולחומרא לא דק

A "mathy" guy like myself can't help but be curious to examine the precise math behind this גמרא. The results are quite fascinating.

Let's start with what the precise הלכה would be:
If we do, in fact, require a circle that encompasses a 4x4 square, the radius of that circle would be √(32) by the Pythagorean Theorem. That would make the circumference of that circle √(32)π which is approximately 17.7715 אמות circumference. 

Now, let's examine ר' יוחנן's statement according to רב אסי. The גמרא assumes based on its loose interpretation of π that if we made a circle of 24 men, the circle inside of that ring would be 18 אמות circumference. We could end right here and declare that the margin of לא דק is even more narrow than the גמרא suggested. But let's try to get a little more precise. A circle of 24 אמות circumference would have a diameter of 24/π. The men take up exactly one אמה so the inner circle would then have a radius of 24/π - 2. The circumference of that inner circle would then be (24/π -2) x π which comes out to 17.7168 !!! So ר' יוחנן's statement is off by only 0.0547 אמות !!! The only issue, of course is that it is לא דק לקולא but at that minuscule amount, that should be allowable. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

:ז Pi in the ... תורה

רש"י ד"ה באמתא יתיב. כל אחד מקומו אמה נמצא הקיפה כ"ד אמות וקיימא לן (עירובין דף יג:) כל עגול שיש בהקיפו ג' טפחים יש ברחבו טפח דכתיב (דה"ב ד) בים שעשה שלמה עשר באמה משפתו אל שפתו עגול סביב וקו שלשים באמה יסוב אותו סביב לעשר אמות רוחב שלשים אמה היקף אלמא הכא נמי בתריסר אמות היקף סגי דנהוי פותיא ארבעה:

Since רש"י references the ים של שלמה, it would seem appropriate to reference the גר"א's famous פשט on that.
Read more here.

Friday, July 9, 2021

:ב Cutting off the Angles

First off, מזל טוב to all who recently completed מסכת יומא.

At the very beginning of סוכה we have the familiar discussion surrounding the 20 אמה walls. A number of years ago there was an interesting discussion on two of my other blogs regarding the interpretation of ר' זירא's position that 20 אמה  walls are not a problem with a סוכה larger than 4x4 אמות.
Please see R' Ari Storch's post on AstroTorah and my follow up on AlPiCheshbon.

Friday, June 11, 2021

:ס"ב The ט"ו בשבט Connection

[Originally published in the vicinity of ט"ו בשבט תשע"ד]

Ok, this is a little bit of a stretch...

מיעוט צפרים שנים *שתים

I was initially intrigued by the הגהה. Really? ציפור is feminine? Certainly there are other words that don't give off any apparent evidence of being feminine but are, nevertheless. But I wanted to double-check it. As I was approaching the חומשים where I would confirm that it most definitely is feminine - החיה, השחוטה, אותה, etc. - it hit me that the ubiquitous ט"ו בשבט ditty as well indicates that it is so. Here are the words:

השקדיה פורחת
ושמש פז זורחת,
צפורים מראש כל גג
מבשרות את בוא החג.

ט"ו בשבט הגיע חג לאילנות.
ט"ו בשבט הגיע חג לאילנות.

Friday, April 23, 2021

.יב The Big City Synagogue

הא דכרכים והא דכפרים ודכרכים אין מטמא בנגעים והתניא אחוזתכם אחוזתכם מטמאה בנגעים ואין ירושלים מטמאה בנגעים אמר ר' יהודה אני לא שמעתי אלא מקום מקדש בלבד הא בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות מטמאין בנגעים ואע"ג דכרכים נינהו אימא אמר רבי יהודה אני לא שמעתי אלא מקום מקודש בלבד

I'm having difficulty understanding how the גמרא actually answers the question here. The subject here is the גמרא's suggestion that the rural shuls may be subject to נגעים whereas urban shuls may not. So we directly question the assertion regarding urban shuls. The implication of the ברייתא is that any edifice at least outside of ירושלים may be subject to נגעים. So in the end, we understand רבי יהודה to mean that any מקום מקודש would be exempt. But then doesn't that exempt all shuls? How does this solve our problem. Yes, we have found an exemption for the urban shuls but we have not found a source to differentiate between urban and rural shuls whatsoever. Now, in truth, the גמרא eventually discards this approach for a similar reason later on. But couldn't they have done so already at this point?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

ירידת הדורות ט

The גמרא discusses the various reasons for the destruction of the משכן and בתי מקדש as well as the level of severity of each. It is interesting to note a nuance in this discussion which is not discussed explicitly. There is a definite progression in the "literal" nature of the critical offenses. 

Let me explain by starting with the בית שני. There we are told that שנאת חינם was the culprit. As we all know, it was pure, unadulterated שנאת חינם.

The בית ראשון was because of the ג' חמורות. But what exactly was the גילוי עריות? The גמרא explains that it refers to immodest conduct on the part of בנות ישראל. They conducted themselves in such a way as to incite the יצר הרע. It stops well short of stating that actual ג"ע was rampant.

The conduct of בני עלי in the time of the משכן is yet an even more far-fetched classification of גילוי עריות. What I believe this nuance is indicating is the degree to which הקב"ה is מדקדק throughout the generations. The generation of משכן שילה was on a much higher level and therefore judged with much greater scrutiny, ultimately being punished for something which only remotely resembled גילוי עריות. As the generations progressed, more explicit transgressions were needed to mete out justice. 

:ט Let the Building bear witness

שאלו את רבי אלעזר: ראשונים גדולים, או אחרונים גדולים? אמר להם: תנו עיניכם בבירה. איכא דאמרי, אמר להם: עידיכם בירה
I found this exchange most intriguing. The גמרא is comparing the merits of the generations that saw the destruction of each בית המקדש. The consensus seems to be that the fact the בית המקדש has not been rebuilt, in contrast to the relatively short initial exile of 70 years, is proof of the greater merit of the earlier generations.

We are taught (actually ירושלמי in this פרק)
כל דור שאינו נבנה בימיו מעלין עליו כאילו הוא החריבו
It would seem that the responsibility for bringing the בית המקדש back would lie in the hands of the subsequent generations in exile. Yet, the גמרא seems to tie it back to the generation in which it was destroyed. I suppose one support for this could be that the prophecy of the 70-year exile was already given to ירמיהו כ"ט:י. The גמרא must understand that it was due to the merit of the generation of the destruction that an expiry was put on the ensuing exile from the very beginning, whereas as no such favour was granted the second time.

Monday, April 19, 2021

:ח A Sprinkling Every Day... Almost

כהן גדול ביום הכפורים דלא בדידן תליא מילתא אלא בקביעא דירחא תליא מילתא בתלתא בתשרי בעי לאפרושי וכל אימת דמתרמי תלתא בתשרי מפרשינן ליה
רש"י ד"ה וכל אימת דמתרמי מפרשינן ליה. ואע"ג דלא הוי רביעי שלו בשבת ונמצאת הזאתו בטלה שני ימים:

Indeed, as רש"י asserts, it is possible that we might miss two days of sprinkling. But is that really the maximum? Suppose יום כפור falls out on a Thursday. Therefore, Day 1 of separation is Thursday. Day 3 will be skipped because it is שבת (as will Day 4.) But now, when we reach Day 7, what is the purpose of sprinkling? Since we did not sprinkle on Day 3, sprinkling on Day 7 accomplishes nothing. Accordingly, if Days 1 or 2 were to fall out on שבת there would be no use in sprinkling on Day 5 or 6, respectively. So there would be three days on which we don't sprinkle. That being said, if Day 1 was Thursday and he somehow did manage to become טמא for real before being separated, we would have a serious issue since we would not be able to do both sprinklings before יום כפור.

:ח Sprinkling on Day 3

שלישי שמא שלישי
רש"י ד"ה בשלמא. ... וכן שלישי שמא שעה אחת קודם פרישתו נטמא:
We are entertaining the possibility that he became טמא on Day 1. This contradicts what we saw on .ו
רב שימי מנהרדעא אמר אפי' תימא בועל נדה כנדה דמפרשינן ליה שעה אחת סמוך לשקיעת החמה
If he is separated before sunset on Day 0, how is it possible for him to become טמא on Day 1?
Now, in the end we reject רב שימי's suggestion so certainly it comes out that practically we need not separate the כהן גדול before the onset of Day 1. So this isn't a serious difficulty. However, that being the case, could the גמרא not have brought this as a proof against רב שימי?

Saturday, April 17, 2021

:וA Slight Correction

רש"י ד"ה לטמא אוכלין ומשקין. ולא לטמא אדם וכלים... ואנא ידענא דמשכבה טמא כמשכב נדה דהא כתיב ותהי נדתה עליו (שם) :

The above highlighted text is found in most versions up until the modern printings. Even my Telman version has it that way. But it should certainly be דמשכבו in masculine. Sure enough, the modern עוז והדר versions incorporated that correction without even making a note of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

:ד Need to Know Basis

דאיתמר מלואים ר' יוחנן ורבי חנינא חד אמר כל הכתוב בהן מעכב בהן וחד אמר דבר המעכב לדורות מעכב בהן שאין מעכב לדורות אין מעכב בהן

It took me a while to get to the bottom of this but it does appear that this מחלוקת has no practical ramifications after the מילואים in the מדבר. Furthermore, not only is this discussion historical, it is also hypothetical. It relates only to what would have happened if someone would have left out one of these components. It is ironic that on the very next page, the גמרא asks כיצד הלבישן, how did they dress the כהנים? This question is immediately attacked - whatever was, was. And as far as what we might need to know in the end of days - משה and אהרן will tell us then! Quite a contrast.

There is one simple answer: Although the direct halachic ramifications are indeed constrained to the מילואים we do see from the exchange between ר' יוחנן and ריש לקיש that the understanding of those laws does impact how we would understand the laws governing the yearly separation of the כהן גדול. So it is important on that account.

Perhaps there might be a deeper answer to the general approach given to these issues. There are many times in ש"ס that the גמרא will seem to go a circuitous route to reach a final conclusion. Various approaches and understandings are suggested and debunked, some even seeming illogical from the start. Why arrange the גמרא this way? Why not just get to the end point directly? Clearly, רבינא and רב אשי intended the גמרא to be more than a collection of הלכות. We have ראשונים like the רי"ף and רמב"ם to zero in on what we need to know. But the גמרא is meant to mold are minds and train our brains for the analytical thinking that is required to fully grasp any one subject matter.

In addition to the irony mentioned above, תוספות ה: ד"ה מאי דהוה הוה also asks that the גמרא in סנהדרין discusses how an ox that made contact with הר סיני would have been judged and no objection is brought there either. So how are we to understand this? I believe that really, there is no problem with discussing a legal issue which has no practical import. If it was worthy of discussion then it is just as worthy of discussion now. So why then did the גמרא object to כיצד הלבישן? I think the answer might just be that the גמרא asked the question because there was an answer. The question was posed solely for the purpose of exposing the give-and-take that would ultimately teach us that there are two contradictory פסוקים which we need to understand. If there's no real answer to the question "why do I need to know this?" then the גמרא simply won't ask it. I hope this approach is not too controversial.

Monday, April 12, 2021

.ב Deliberate טומאה

מטמאין היו הכהן השורף את הפרה ומטבילין אותו להוציא מלבן של צדוקין שהיו אומרים במעורבי השמש היתה נעשית
תוס' ד"ה להוציא מלבן של צדוקין. לאו בטומאה דאורייתא מטמו ליה דלא הוי מזלזלי בה כולי האי

One question that arises from this explanation of תוספות is that in the end, how are we any better than the צדוקים if we too are careful not to make him טמא מדאורייתא?

However, what bothered me was that our practice doesn’t really make the intended point to the צדקים. We want to show them “Ha. You say the one who burns the cow can’t be a טבול יום but we’ll show you that he can be.” But if they have a complete disregard for any תורה שבעל פה, this טומאה דרבנן is absolutely meaningless to them and as far as they are concerned, he is completely טהור.

I went searching in the מתיבתא edition where I found a lot of attention devoted to the first question and finally, my question is addressed by מעיל שמואל. He writes the להוציא מלבן של צדוקין does not mean that we are addressing them directly. Rather, what is really meant is that we need to make the point to ourselves, to the masses, that they are incorrect. Therefore, the masses who recognize the reality of טומאה דרבנן will see that in fact a טבול יום may burn the cow and will know the צדוקים are wrong. We don’t concern ourselves with what the צדוקים will think.

The timing of this דף in תשפ"א is nearly perfect. The משנה יומית cycle is just about to finish נגעים and begin פרה next week.

:ט”ז Three boxes

ר"ח (בן גמליאל) אמר שלש תיבות עשאו שתים של זהב ואחת של עץ נתן של זהב בשל עץ ושל עץ בשל זהב

See this old shtikle of mine on פרשת תרומה regarding רש”י’s version of this גמרא.

.ב Plural of מקוה

Well, what is it? The 6th מסכתא in טהרות is commonly known as מקואות. I would have to say that that is certainly the most common pronunciation. However, the text in our opening משנה seems to imply that perhaps it is מקוות. Is it possible that it depends on סמיכות? That is, the regular plural is מקואות but next to מים, it becomes מקוות מים.