Friday, March 30, 2007

Torah True Judaism is PRO-WAR

As first reported by The Yeshiva World:

Agudath Israel speaks out on Iraq war

agudah1.jpgUpon consultation with its rabbinic leadership, Agudath Israel of America issued the following statement: Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been involved in a war against forces of evil and terror. These forces pose a grave danger not only to the United States and its allies in the Western World, but also to our Jewish brethren in Israel and across the globe.America’s efforts in Iraq have been part of this larger battle. While, in retrospect, the planning and execution of some of these efforts may have been less than perfect, there have also been significant achievements. The bottom line, at this time, is that the stakes in Iraq remain high, and that there still remains much to be done.

Agudath Israel of America believes that President Bush is entitled to great deference in his ongoing efforts to stabilize the situation in Iraq. Such deference is appropriate both because of the constitutional authority that inheres in the President’s position as Commander in Chief, and also because of the moral authority the President has consistently displayed in leading the battle against international terror.

We feel compelled to express our views at this time because the Union for Reform Judaism, purporting to have arrived at its position through an application of “halachic norms” and “Jewish values,” has publicly proclaimed its opposition to the President’s policies in Iraq. This group is entitled to its own organizational position, but that position is neither a legitimate expression of halachic Judaism nor reflective of authentic Jewish values.

Finally, Agudas Yisroel expresses the beliefs of Orthodox Judaism in opposition to the horrible leftist liberal principles of Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism. Although politics is not my forte, in fact, I rarely ever write about politics, I was overjoyed by the fact that Agudas Yisroel, largely an American lobbyist organization representing Orthodox Jewry, released a statement expressing full support for our President and the American soldiers fighting evil in Iraq in the name of Orthodox Jewry. I am so sick of mainstream "Jewish media", which is so liberal and left-wing because the Reform and Conservative Jews are the majority in American Jewry, making all Jews look like crazy liberals who are trying to stop all wars, marry all gays, and kill all babies. I urge everyone to do all they can to please publicize this press release, in an attempt to show the country that not all Jews are flag-burning liberals, in fact, the devout ones are the ones more likely to support their President in his effort to make the world a safer place.

Jochebed and the New King of Egypt

After detailing the seventy souls from the family of Jacob who descended to Egypt, the Torah in the beginning of Exodus says, "A new king was established in Egypt who did not know Joseph.[1]" Rashi[2] quotes the Midrash[3] and Talmud[4], which record a dispute between two Amoraic sages, Rav and Shmuel, concerning how to understand the meaning of this verse. One explains that "new king" truly refers to a new king, while the other explains that "new king" refers to new decrees made by the same old king, for it says "established" instead of "reigned"[5]. One can explain that the source of this dispute regarding how to explicate the verse is dependant on another dispute concerning how to explicate another verse. Two verses before this passage, the Torah says, "Joseph, his brothers, and the entire generation died.[6]" Rabbi Chizkiyah ben Manoach Chizkuni (circa. 13th century) explains[7] that the "entire generation" refers to both the Egyptians and Israelites who died. Accordingly, one must say that the newly appointed Pharaoh was literally a new person, for the entire previous generation had already died out. However, Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir (circa. 12th century) explains[8] that the "entire generation" refers specifically to the seventy souls of the Jacobean family who immigrated to Egypt. In view of this explanation, one can say that that "new king" does not actual refer to a new king but rather to the new decrees of the old king.

In enumerating the seventy members of Jacob's family who descended to Egypt, the Torah lists only sixty-nine people, not seventy[9]. The Talmud says[10] that although the Torah says[11] explicitly that Jochebed was born in Egypt, she was actually conceived outside of the land of Egypt. Rashi understands[12] that Jochebed was actually born between the borders on the way to Egypt, and thus was considered one of the seventy souls who journeyed to Egypt. According to the explanation of the Tosafist Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir that all seventy people of Jacob's family who migrated to Egypt died before the enslavement of the Jews commenced, how then did Jochebed remain alive to play an active role later in causing the salvation of the Jews? Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir argued with the explanation of his grandfather, Rashi. He explained[13] that Jacob was the seventieth person in the list, not Jochebed. Therefore, it makes sense according to his own explanation that all seventy sojourners died, why Jochebed did not die yet. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Schorr asked[14] why Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir argued on Rashi and explained that Jochebed was born completely in Egypt, instead of concurring to Rashi and explaining that she was born between the walls to the country. According this understanding, Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir did not explain she was born before the Israelites entered Egypt because then she would have been one of the seventy souls and according to his own explanation, she should have died before the enslavement. Therefore, he had to explain that she was born in Egypt-proper.

[1] Exodus 1:8
[2] To Exodus 1:8
[3] Exodus Rabbah §1
[4] Sotah 11a
[5] See Maharsha and Ben Yehoyada to Sotah 11a, and Eitz Yosef to Exodus Rabbah §1 who all explain the dispute like this.
[6] Exodus 1:6
[7] Chizkuni to Exodus 1:6
[8] Rashbam to Exodus 1:6
[9] See Genesis 46:8-27
[10] Sotah 12a, Bava Basra 120a
[11] Numbers 26:59
[12] To Genesis 46:15 and to Sotah 12a, see also Numbers Rabbah §13:20
[13] Rashbam to Genesis 46:8, and Rashbam to Bava Basra 120a, 123b
[14] Toras Chaim to Bava Basra 120a

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On the Road to Egypt

The Torah says[1] that Osah, the wife of Levi, gave birth to Jochebed in Egypt. The Talmud understands[2] that this implies that Osah birthed her in Egypt, but she conceived Jochebed on the road to Egypt. This is difficult to understand because Jacob and his family descended to Egypt from the Land of Canaan during the famine years because of the global famine[3], and the Talmud says[4] that it is forbidden for one to engage in marital relations during a famine because it is not fitting that one should have pleasure while others are suffering. The source for this Talmudic ruling is the fact that the Torah specifically mentions that Joseph fathered his sons Ephraim and Manasseh before the famine began[5], which implies that once the famine began he no longer fathered any children because of the prohibition of relations during a famine. Accordingly, the conception of Jochebed whilst on the road to Egypt should not have occurred because Osah and Levi were not allowed to engage in relations during the worldwide food shortage.

Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi (1455-1525) answers[6] that since Levi had yet not fulfilled his commandment of procreation, he was not allowed to separate from his wife. On this answer, Rabbi Yosef Caro (1488-1575) asked[7] that Joseph also did not fulfill his commandment of procreation, so he should not have separated from his wife, yet the Talmud says he did. According Tosafos, one can answer the question of Rabbi Yosef Caro by explaining that Joseph held like Bais Shammai that one fulfills the obligation of procreation through two sons, while Levi held like Beis Hillel who required a son and a daughter. Tosafos answer[8] that technically there is no actual prohibition of engaging in relations during a famine, albeit one who is especially pious should nonetheless refrain from doing so, to sympathize with the suffering of others during the hunger. Had the requirement of abstention had the status of a full-fledged prohibition, then surely both Levi and Joseph would not have engaged in relations during the famine because even before the Sinaitic Revelation the Abrahamic family observed the Torah[9]. Rather, the idea of refraining from relations during a famine is a mere stringency, which pious men would accept upon themselves. Tosafos further explain[10] that Joseph accepted this stringency upon himself because he had already fulfilled his commandment of procreation, so he was halachakly allowed to separate from his wife for the duration of the famine. By this time, Joseph already had two sons, and so, according to Bais Shammai[11], he had fulfilled his obligation of procreation. Levi, on the other hand, had three sons, but he ruled like Bais Hillel who held that one has not fulfilled his obligation of procreation until he fathers at least a son and a daughter. Therefore, Levi did not refrain from relations because he could not accept a mere stringency if it conflicted with an actual obligation of procreation, for he did not have a daughter yet.

Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz (1731-1805) offered[12] a few possible answers. He explains that in addition to the commandment of procreation in which a man is obligated (and which both Joseph and Levi had already fulfilled); there is a commandment of populating the world[13], in which even a woman is obligated[14]. The obligation of populating the world is an obligation for every person in the world to have at least one child. Both Joseph and his wife and Osnath had fulfilled the obligation of populating the world when they birthed their first child, Manasseh. However, Levi had two wives: His first wife, Adina[15], had already mothered three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, while his second wife, Osah, had not mothered any children whatsoever. Therefore, Levi was allowed to live with Osah even during a famine in order that she should be able to fulfill her commandment of populating the world through at least one child and through living with Osah on the road to Egypt, Levi and Osah birthed Jochebed. Rabbi Horowitz also answers that perhaps Levi never actually engaged in relations with Osah during the famine, rather she was impregnated by him through other means[16]. Rabbi Horowitz also entertains the possibility that Joseph separated from his wife not only because of the famine but because immediately before the famine she gave birth to Ephraim and the Talmud says that it is dangerous for a woman to have relations while she is nursing[17]. However, Levi's wife already gave birth awhile before the famine, so he was allowed to live with her during the famine to fulfill the commandment of procreation. Joseph, explains Rabbi Yaakov Reischer (1661-1733)[18], had already fulfilled his commandment of procreation because in addition to his sons, he had a daughter as is implied by Rashi[19]. The Maharal, Rabbi Yehudah Low (1525-1609) also entertained[20] this possibility, but rejected it because had it been true, then there were seventy-one descendants of Jacob who descended to Egypt, not seventy[21]. Rabbi Yaakov Reischer explains that this daughter of Joseph died young, so she was not counted as one of the seventy souls who descended to Egypt.

A student of Rabbi Horowitz, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839)[22], explains that the commandment of procreation of a Noachide differs from the commandment of procreation of a Jew. He says that a Noachide is obligated to father only one child, while a Jew must father a son and a daughter. Therefore, he explains, since Joseph was considered a Noachide, he was only obligated to father one child, which he did, so he had no right to continue living with his wife during the famine. However, Levi was considered a Jew because he lived in the Land of Canaan[23], so he was obligated to have a boy and girl. Since at the time of the famine Levi only had three sons, but no girls, he was allowed to live with his wife in hopes of fathering a girl, which he did, Jochebed. According to this explanation, whether or not Joseph had fathered a daughter is irrelevant because anyways he was a Noachide and had already fulfilled the Noachidic commandment of procreation.

All the above explanations as to how Levi was able to live with his wife on the road to Egypt even though marital relations are forbidden during a famine assume that one is allowed to engage in such relations during a famine in order to fulfill the commandment of procreation or populating the world. Indeed, the Maharal and Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1810-1893)[24] infer this from the fact that the Torah made a point of saying Joseph's children were born before the famine, so that Joseph was totally allowed to have birthed them. This implies that had they been born during the famine, Joseph's only permission to live with his wife would have stemmed from the fact that he had no yet fulfilled the commandment of procreation and thus was obligated to live with his wife. In such a case, there is a prohibition, but the prohibition was superseded by a positive commandment. The Maharal explains that in such an instance there is still a small remnant of the prohibition when one is performing the positive commandment, so the Torah is teaching us that in the birth of Joseph's sons there was not even a small hint of illicitness because the children were born before the famine, under complete halachik permissibility. However, Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1310)[25] explains that even who has not yet fulfilled his obligation of procreation is not allowed to engage in relations during a famine, and Rabbi Dovid Segal (1586-1667)[26] rules in practical Halacha according to this explanation of the Meiri. How then was Levi allowed to live with his wife on the road to Egypt in order to have fathered Jochebed, if such relations are forbidden during a famine?

When the Talmud ruled that relations during a time of hunger are forbidden, the rationale was that it is improper for one to be in pleasure while others are suffering. Rabbi Yom Tov Asevilli (1250-1330)[27] and Rabbi Nissim ben Reuven of Gerona (1320-1380)[28] explain that according to this rationale, it is only forbidden to engage in relations if other Jews are in a state of suffering. Therefore, Joseph was forbidden to engage in relations because he thought that his father's family in the land of Canaan was in a state of suffering because of the famine. However, Levi was allowed to be with his wife because the family was actually not in a state of suffering during the famine[29]. Rabbi Isaiah of Trani (1180-1250) explains[30] that some members of the pre-Sinaitic Abarahamic family kept the Torah and some did not. He says that Joseph did keep the Torah before the Sinaitic Revelation, so he was bound by the prohibition of marital relations during a famine, while Levi did not keep the Torah before receiving it at Mount Sinai, so he was allowed to live with his wife during the global drought.

Rabbi Yosef Engel (1859-1910) writes[31] that one is forbidden to separate from his wife during a famine, if one feels that otherwise he would be tempted to commit grave sins. Accordingly, one can answer that Joseph, who knew that he would be able to pass the test of temptation to sin during the famine as he passed the temptation to sin with the wife of Potiphar[32], was allowed to be strict with himself and separate from his wife during the famine. However, Levi had not been able to withstand such a test (albeit he never failed such a test either) and there was not necessarily able to act stringently, so he was not allowed to separate from his wife. Alternatively, the Maharal explained that Joseph was not allowed to live with his wife because he knew that the famine was temporary and would last only seven years. However, Levi did not know that the famine was destined to last only seven years, so had he separated from his wife for the duration of the famine, for all he knew he could have been separating from her indefinitely, so he was allowed to stay with his wife[33]. As a result, Levi and Osah merited birthing Jochebed, the mother of Moses, the savior of the Jewish Nation from the exile in Egypt. May it be the will of HaShem that the current—a famine lasting almost two millennia—shall not extend indefinitely rather arrive at its end with the arrival of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] Numbers 26:59
[2] Bava Basra 120a, ibid. 123b, Sotah 12a
[3] See Genesis 41:57ff
[4] Taanis 11a
[5] Genesis 41:50
[6] Re'em to Genesis 41:50
[7] Beis Yosef, Orach Chaim §574
[8] To Taanis 11a
[9] As the Maharsha to Taanis 11a points out
[10] Da'as Zekanim to Parshas Miketz as quoted by the Cheshek Shlomo
[11] Yevamos 61b
[12] Panim Yafos to Numbers 26:59
[13] See Yevamos 62a which learns this obligation from Isaiah 45:18
[14] Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer §1
[15] See Seder HaDoros Year 2364
[16] I.e., his semen entered her while she was in the bath; see Chagigah 15a which discusses whether a woman can become impregnated through such means. According to Jewish folklore, the mother of Ben Sira was impregnated by Jeremiah in such a fashion (see Mishnah L'Melech to Laws of Marriage 15:4 and Seder HaDoros Year 3298).
[17] Yevamos 11b
[18] Iyun Yaakov to Taanis 11a
[19] To Genesis 44:19
[20] Gur Aryeh to Genesis 41:50
[21] See Exodus 1:5
[22] Chasam Sofer to Parshas Miketz as quoted by Tehillah L'Yonah to Taanis 11a.
[23] See Nachmanides to Leviticus 18:25 who wrote that the pre-Sinaitic Abrahamic family only kept the Torah inside the land of Canaan/Israel, but not in the Diaspora.
[24] Meromei Sadeh to Taanis 11a
[25] Beis HaBechirah to Taanis 11a
[26] TaZ, Turei Zahav, Orach Chaim §574:2
[27] Chiddushei Ritva to Taanis 11a
[28] Chiddushei HaRan to Taanis 11a
[29] Moreover, Joseph either was presumed dead or was considered a Noachide, so his suffering had no bearing.
[30] Tosafos Rid to Taanis 11a
[31] Gilyonei HaShas to Taanis 11a
[32] See Genesis, Chapter 39
[33] See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim §575:6 who says that one can only separate from his wife for a set amount of time, but not indefinitely.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Converting in Egypt

The Brisker Rov[1] offers seven proofs to the idea that conversion to Judaism was possible even before the Sinaitic Revelation. The Talmud considers Esau an apostate Jew[2], which shows that his family already had the halachik status of Jewish even before receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. He says that the Beis Din of Shem, son of Noah, decreed[3] that a Jewess who engaged in relations with a non-Jew is punished with death. Therefore, the reason why Tamar was liable for execution[4] could only be understood if the concept of conversion existed before Mount Sinai, for otherwise she was not a Jewess and should not have been executed because she was unmarried. Furthermore, while posing as a prostitute, Tamar convinced Judah to lie with her by saying that she was a "convert," [5] which clearly shows that such a model for conversion had already existed by that time.

The Torah mentions the Paschal Offering (Korban Pesach) of a convert, when it says, "When a proselyte lives amongst and offers the Pascal [sacrifice]…[6]." Nachmanides[7] understands that this verse refers to the Paschal Offering brought by the Jews whilst in Egypt, not the Paschal Offering brought by later generations. Therefore, the Brisker Rov explains, Nachmanides understood that even in the time of the Exodus from Egypt, which predated the Sinaitic Revelation, there was already the concept of conversion to Judaism. Similarly, the Tosefta says[8] that even for the Pascal Offering brought in Egypt, one must have immersed his slaves in the Mikvah in order to be allowed to take part in the sacrificial meats. The father of the Brisker Rov, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (1853-1918) understands[9] that the immersion of one's slaves into the Mikvah is an act of quasi-conversion. Accordingly, even in Egypt, the quasi-conversion of one's slaves was required in order for one to be allowed to eat the Paschal meat, which shows that conversion was possible even before the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The same proof is offered from the fact that Abraham was not allowed to marry a full slave[10], a quasi-convert, which is a status that could only be circumvented through full conversion.

The Talmud says[11] that when Bithiah descended to the river to bathe[12], she was cleansing herself from the idolatry of her father's household[13]. Rashi explains[14] that the Talmud means that Bithiah converted to Judaism by immersing herself into the Nile River. From here, the Brisker Rov brings conclusive evidence that conversion to Judaism existed even before the revelation at Mount Sinai. However, Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1817-1893) argues[15] with Rashi and says that Bithiah did not convert when she immersed in the river, rather she was merely cleansing herself from the sin of idolatry of her father's household. He writes that she was merely purifying/cleaning herself as a form of repentance in the fashion of sinners, who clean themselves as part of their penitence[16]. According to Rabbi Berlin that her intention in bathing was merely hygienic with religious symbolism, and not to convert, the Brisker Rov has no proof from Bithiah that conversion existed before the Torah's reception at Mount Sinai. The son of the Brisker Rov, Rabbi Berel Soloveitchik, proved[17] that Bithiah must have converted. First of all, he says that it is illogical to assume that the salvation and redemption of the Jewish nation in Egypt came about through a gentile, so since Bithiah was clearly an essential heroine in the Exodus tale, she must have converted to Judaism. Secondly, the Torah specifically makes a point of mentioning the "mercy" and "pity"[18] which Bithiah had on the baby Moses; such pity and mercy are exclusively Jewish traits[19], so Bithiah must have been Jewish.

[1] Chiddushei HaGriz to Sotah 8b
[2] Kiddushin 18a
[3] Avoda Zara 36b
[4] Genesis 38:24
[5] Sotah 10a
[6] Exodus 12:48
[7] Ramban to Numbers 9:14
[8] Pesachim, Ch. 8
[9] Chiddushei Rabbeinu Chaim HaLevi, Laws of Forbidden Intercourse 13:12
[10] Yevamos 100b
[11] Sotah 12b
[12] Exodus 2:5
[13] Rabbi Chanoch Zundel ben Yosef (d. 1867) explains (Eitz Yosef to Sotah 12b) that the Torah says she bathed "on the river." He explains this means "about the river", the Nile being the primary object of idolatrous worship in Egypt, as Rashi writes to Exodus 7:17. Alternatively, Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1832-1909) explains (Benayahu to Sotah 12b) that the letters after each pronounced letter in the Hebrew used for "river" make up the word "sheep", which was also an Egyptian deity (see Rashi to Genesis 46:34).
[14] To Sotah 12b
[15] Chiddushei Netziv: Meromei Sadeh to Megillah 13a
[16] See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, §268
[17] As quoted in the new print of Chiddushei HaGriz to Sotah 12b
[18] See Exodus 2:6
[19] As stated in Yevamos 79a

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tzarich Iyun: Yeshiva Life in the Non-Yeshivishe World: Ailu vAilu Can Go to Hell

The term אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים means "these and these are the living words of G-d." It is a principle used in disputes to say that both sides are correct.

This post actually started out as a stream of conscious comment to Tzarich Iyun: Yeshiva Life in the Non-Yeshivishe World: Ailu vAilu Can Go to Hell but then it went a little bit to far and became an unedited mess with a lot of ideas and words that weren't so well thought-out. I ask that everyone offer their help (in terms of ideas and concepts and issues) to make this into a better formed essay.
I hope to get some comments on this one (from both of my readers). We'll see how much brainstorming we can come out with.

The concept of Eilu V'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim (henceforth known as the rule of Eilu) is only within a certain realm. This is a fairly broad spectrum of what can be considered kosher in terms of Torah True hashkafah and halacha. For each person, what is kosher for him should theoretically be determined by his own Rav and his family's practices, as long as those ideas and laws themselves fall within the range of a Torah True hashkafah. There are some ideas which are totally unacceptable and one cannot apply to them the rule of Eilu. This is because the rule of Eilu says that once we have two legitimate points of view (in the eyes of the Torah Judaism), then both points are wholly true. A Braisa (Megillah 15b) is quoted which shows that there is a dispute between many Tannaic and Amoraic authorities as to what was Esther's motive for inviting Haman to her party with Ahasuerus. After citing this Braisa, the Talmud records an anecdote in which Rabbah bar Avuha asks Elijah the Prophet, which understanding is correct, and Elijah responds that all of them are correct. This means that Esther had all the logical calculations as explained by each Tanna and Amora. This is an application of the rule of Eilu. In another instance, Elijah also uses the principle of Eilu to say that both understanding of a historical event were true (Gittin 6b). In every application of the rule of Eilu, both the disputants have a legitimacy to their opinion, therefore, the rule of Eilu says both are correct. There are certain rules by which practical Halacha is decided. According to these rules, once an opinion is decided against, that opinion is not necessarily null and void, it is merely superseded by a superior opinion. Therefore, this opinion can sometimes "return" under dire circumstances and in such drastic situations can justifiably be relied upon. This is perhaps an outcome of the law of Eilu which grants legitimacy to an opinion which is not necessarily accepted in practical halacha. However, this granting of legitimacy can only apply to an opinion which was originally something that could be considered an opposing opinion. If the unaccepted opinion was inherently unaccepted and is totally not within the realm of halacha, then obviously the law of Eilu cannot grant it legitimacy. Case in point: Let's say there is an argument between two ordinary laymen as to whether Moses wore a pink shirt or a yellow shirt. The law of Eilu grants neither any legitimacy because Eilu applies only within the domain of halacha and hashkafah; the color of Moses' shirt is irrelevant in both fields. Similarly, if there is a dispute as to whether Samson had long hair or short hair, the law of Eilu does not grant both legitimacy, for it has already been totally decided that he had long hair which was the source of his powers as a Nazirite. Similarly, if there is a dispute as to whether gay marriage should be allowed or not, the law of Eilu cannot justify the opinion that it should be allowed because halacha is clear-cut in its prohibition of such a union. The Law of Eilu can only apply to the grey areas of halacha, ideas which have not solidly been already decided. It is more common for Eilu to apply to customs and traditions that halacha itself because halacha is fairly clear-cut in the way one should act in cases of doubt. However, if one of the disputants is considered "unacceptable" against the other disputant, then the former is null in favor of the latter. For example, the Talmud says that Beis Shammai in the place of Beis Hillel [i.e. situation in which there is also an opposing of] is not taught (Yevamos 9a, Brachos 36b). This does not simply mean that in practical halacha we rule like Beis Hillel over Beis Shammai, it means that against Beis Hillel, Beis Shammai has no legitimacy whatsoever. So you cannot really say that both are correct, Beis Shammai's opinion is null and void because we rule like Beis Hillel. This is a special rule in regard to Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai. Although the law of Eilu seems to sometimes create inherent contradictions as to what is considered correct, that is not a flaw within the law itself. This is because halacha and hashkafah do not conform to the normal rules of logic. For example, under normal circumstance an appeal to authority is considered a logical fallacy, while in halachik and hashkafik discussions, an appeal to authority is the greatest possible proof to one's stance. Similarly, an inconsistency within one's own stance or opinion is usually considered illogical, however in halacha sometimes such a self-contradiction is indeed justified. For example, one can halachikly observe the first set of days of the Omer as a period of mourning on year, and the next year the same person can observe the second set of days of the Omer as the period of mourning. This is not considered a flaw within the person's own actions because the law of Eilu says that both ideas are justified. Nonetheless, in one day, one cannot pray Mincha until Shekiah like the opinion of Sages that "day" lasts until Shekiah and then pray Ma'ariv before Shekiah like the opinion of the Rabbi Yehuda who hold that "day" lasts only until the Plag HaMincha (see Brachos 26a). In such a scenario, halacha says that one may not contradict himself to rule like both Rabbi Yehuda and Sages because the rule of Eilu does not apply.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Positvely Burnt

The Torah says[1] regarding a wholly burnt-offering (Korban Olah) that it serves as an "appeasement in front of HaShem" for its owner. This implies that the Olah offers forgiveness for some sort of sin. Rashi[2], citing the Midrash[3], explains that the methods of repentance for inadvertent sins which, if done purposely would be punished by execution in Beis Din, spiritual excision (Kerisos), Heavenly death, or lashes in Beis Din, are taught elsewhere, so the Olah does not atone for those sins in their inadvertent forms. The general rule in the Talmud[4] is that a Sin Offering (Korban Chatas) is brought if one inadvertently committed those sins for which one is executed in the Earthly court or is punished with divine ex-communication when committed with criminal intention. Nachmanides explains[5] that the inadvertent performance of an act for which one would be punished with lashes or death from the Heavenly court, had it been done on purpose, does not require an atonement at all, and therefore the Torah prescribes no offering. Therefore, the Olah must have been an "appeasement" for some other type of sin.

Rabbi Shimshon ben Avraham of Sanz (1150-1230) asked[6] why the Midrash did not entertain the possibility that the Olah sacrifice atones for a sin committed intentionally for which one is usually punished with death, but was exempt from punishment for whatever legal technicalities[7]. My Rebbe answered[8] that an action for which one is obligated for a specific punishment, but is not punished because of a technical reason, is not halachikly considered a new type of action, which would necessitate a new punishment or sacrificial obligation for the transgressor. Rather, this action is totally considered a sin punishable with the first punishment. Halachikly[9], one not only cannot be punished a second time for the same action (whether an act of ritual prohibition or civil) that one was already punished for. The Talmud derives[10] from the Exodus 21:22 that even if one's punishment cannot practically be carried out, the exemption from a second punishment still applies. This is analogous to the contemporary legalistic procedure known as "double jeopardy", which exempts one from a second punishment for the same sin even if he was practically not punished with the first punishment.

Rashi, quoting the Midrash[11], explains that an Olah sacrifice is an atonement for one who violates a positive commandment or for one who violates a negative commandment and fails to perform the positive commandment that is supposed to rectify the negative commandment[12]. Rashi explains[13], in a point furthered explained by Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger (1798-1871)[14], that one is never obligated to bring a Olah as an atonement, rather, if one does, he attains his atonement. Tosafos seemingly argue with Rashi's Midrash because Tosafos say[15] an Olah does not completely atone for positive commandments, it is only semi-atonement. Tosafos must have learned like another Midrash, which said[16] that an Olah is an atonement for one who thinks about sinning and thus has sinned with his intellect, not for one who violates a positive commandment.

[1] Leviticus 1:4
[2] To Leviticus 1:4
[3] Toras Kohanim 4:8
[4] Kerisos 2a, Horayos 8a, Yevamos 8b, etc...
[5] Ramban to Leviticus 1:4
[6] Rash MiShantz to Toras Kohanim 4:8
[7] Such as a lack of witnesses, warning, a unanimous verdict (which disqualifies the verdict), etc…
[8] Shabbos Lunch, Parshas Vayikra 5767
[9] Bava Kamma 35a
[10] Kesuvos 35a
[11] See also Yoma 36a and Zevachim 6a
[12] For example, Leviticus 19:11 outlaws stealing with a negative commandment, while Leviticus 5:23 says that if one sinned by committing the prohibition of stealing, one can rectify his sin by performing the positive commandment of returning a stolen object. Accordingly, Rashi is saying that one who stole and did not return the object can achieve his atonement for his sin by offering an Olah sacrifice. (Although this merely exonerates one in the eyes of HaShem, nonetheless, in this situation, the thief must still offer monetary compensation to his victim.)
[13] Erachin 21a
[14] See Aruch L'Ner to Makkos 17b
[15] Bava Basra 48a
[16] Leviticus Rabbah 7:3 quoted in Ramban to Leviticus 1:4

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Opening up the memory hole

I have written a short piece on my new blog linking recent events in Persia -- Iran -- with the story of Purim, in the context of efforts finally to open the main Holocaust archive in Germany. Now that the hangover has passed, take a look!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Looking at Beauty

The Talmud says[1] that when one is examining a perspective bride to be wed, if her eyes are beautiful, then he need not check the rest of her body. Rabbi Yosef Chaim explains[2] that "eyes" refers not to her physical eyes, but rather to her wisdom. If the bachelorette posses the proper wisdom, she should be able to mask any physical blemishes which she may have, and thus does not require further examination by the groom. Rabbi Ya'akov Reischer explains[3] that the beauty of eyes either refers to physical beauty because a woman's charm is within her eyes or to a "good eye" as opposed to an "evil eye.[4]"
While the eyes are a female's marker of beauty, the eyes of a man are a dangerous tool, which can be used to commit serious sins. In Rabbinic Literature, two men "made a treaty" with their eyes in order not to look at improper sights. These two men were Job[5] and Abraham[6].

In comparing Job to Abraham, the Talmud says[7] that while Job never looked at women to whom he was not married (even unmarried virgins[8]), Abraham did not even look at women to whom he was married, that is, Sarah. Only when Abraham said[9], "Behold now I know that you are a beautiful woman" did Abraham actually look at his wife. However, Rabbi Shmuel Eidels asks[10] that since Abraham kept the entire Torah and the Talmud rules[11] that one is not allowed to betroth a woman before seeing her, then how was Abraham allowed to marry Sarah without ever having looked at her. He answers that Abraham actually Sarah when she was still a young maiden, but did not look at her after their wedding. Therefore, he assumed that she naturally lost her beauty with age; however, in reality, she miraculously retained her physical beauty even in old age[12], and therefore Abraham was astonished to see his still-beautiful wife on the road to Egypt. Rabbi Yehudah Low (1525-1609) explains[13] that Abraham actually did see his wife Sarah. However, all Abraham saw of Sarah was her face, not the rest of her body. He explains that one is not moved by the physical beauty of another's face because the face is a body part, which is visible to the entire world, so the power of its beauty is weakened. On the road to Egypt, Abraham saw Sarah's reflection in the Nile River, and through that incident, he saw her true inner beauty. It was from this beauty, which Abraham was moved and astonished.

Others explain that Abraham truly did not look at his wife at all, but for some reason he was allowed to marry her without looking at her. Rabbi Ya'akov Reischer explains[14] that one is only not allowed to marry a woman whom he has not seen because he might later find a physical deformity in her and later divorce her. However, this reason did not apply to Abraham because he prophetically knew that he and Sarah were destined to be man and wife, he therefore was allowed to marry Sarah without having ever seen her. Rabbi Eidels answers[15] that Abraham only kept the Torah from the time of his circumcision and onwards, so at the time that he first married Sarah, he was not bound by the Torah's laws yet, so there was no prohibition for him to marry a woman whom he has not seen[16].

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Braun writes[17] that it is actually not forbidden to marry a woman before seeing her because Maimonides writes[18] that it is just "improper", which implies that it is permitted to do so, but not correct to do so. He quotes the explanation of Rabbi Yechezkel Landau who explained[19] that one cannot marry a woman whom he has not seen because he lacks the proper mindset to legally make the marital transaction complete. This again implies that there is no prohibition of marrying such a woman, rather there is a technical reason for why such a marriage is frowned upon. With this, Rabbi Braun explains the words of Rabbi Ya'akov Emden[20] who said that a modest man would marry a woman without even seeing her. The modesty of such a man would overpower this ideal of seeing one's wife before marrying her, but had there been a prohibition of marrying such an unseen girl, the fact that the man is modest does not negate the prohibition.

[1] Taanis 24a
[2] Ben Yehoyada to Taanis 24a
[3] Iyun Ya'akov to Taanis 24a
[4] The concept of "evil eye" is explained by Rabbeinu Yonah to Avos 2:11 as referring to one's power of temptation and inclination toward evil as well as jealousy.
[5] Avos D'Rabbi Nosson 2:5
[6] Chiddushei Geonim to Bava Basra 16a
[7] Bava Basra 16a
[8] Avos D'Rabbi Nosson 2:5
[9] Genesis 12:11
[10] Maharsha to Bava Basra 16a
[11] Kiddushin 41a
[12] See Rashi to Genesis 23:1
[13] Gur Aryeh to Genesis 12:11
[14] Iyun Ya'akov to Bava Basra 16a, see also Einei Shmuel to Bava Basra 16a
[15] Maharsha to Bava Basra 16a (second answer)
[16] This echoes the words of the Maharsha to Yevamos 100a, see also Ahavas Eisan to Bava Basra 16a who says the same answer and then attempts to differentiate between "seeing" and "gazing". He says that Abraham actually "saw" his wife, so he was allowed to marry her, but never "gazed" at her, so he was still later surprised by her beauty.
[17] She'arim Mitzuyanim b'Halacha to Bava Basra 16a
[18] Laws of Marriage 3:19
[19] Noda B'Yehuda, Version One, Even HaEzer §77
[20] Hagahos Ya'avetz to Shabbos 53b

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Purim Story

מסכת בבא בתרא-דף עג,ב
ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה קא אזלינן בספינתא וחזינן ההוא כוורא דיתבא ליה אכלה טינא באוסיי (ומית ־הגהות הב"ח) ואדחוהו מיא ושדיוהו לגודא וחרוב מיניה שתין מחוזי ואכול מיניה שתין מחוזי ומלחו מיניה שתין מחוזי ומלאו מחד גלגלא דעיניה תלת מאה גרבי משחא וכי הדרן לבתר תריסר ירחי שתא חזינן דהוה קא מנסרי מגרמי מטללתא ויתבי למבנינהו הנך מחוזי
The Maharsha says this entire story is talking about Purim. He says that "going on a boat" means going into a place of danger. The fish which they saw refers to Haman who drew a lottery and decided to destroy the Jews in the month of Adar whose zodiac sign is fish; he wanted to "swallow up the Jews" like a fish which "swallows up" its food. The small insect inside the nose of the fish refers to Mordechai who acted with great humility and looked at himeself as a small insect. The pushing of the water refers to Mordechai's prayers through which he turned the tables on Haman and ended up killing Haman. The sixty cities which were destroyed refer to the soldiers who were planning to attack the Jews had it not been for the Jews' prayers. The sixty cities of people who ate from the meat of the fish refer to the Jews, who after their victory, took the spoils of war. The eye of the fish refers to Haman who "set his eye" upon the month of Adar to make it into a month of bad luck. The exorbitant amount of oil extracted from the fish's eye (three-hundred barrels of oil) refer to the commandment to be excessively happy on Purim. The building made from the dead fish's bones after twelve months refer to the establishment of the holiday of Purim which occurs yearly and was the opposite of the intention of Haman, yet Haman himself caused it to occur.

ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה קא אזלינן בספינתא וחזינן ההוא כוורא דיתבא ליה חלתא אגביה וקדח אגמא עילויה סברינן יבשתא היא וסלקינן ואפינן ובשלינן אגביה וכד חם גביה אתהפיך ואי לאו דהוה מקרבא ספינתא הוה טבעינן
The Maharsha explains: The sea is a reference to the exile. The "dry land" which they thought they saw was a temporary ease in the sufferings in the exile, which lulled them into a false sense of security that they began feasting on the back of the fish, meaning they stopped praying for the redemption and instead took part in the elaborate banquets thrown by Ahasuerus because they were satisfied with their position in the exile. Then, the true nature of the exile revealed itself, and it showed itself to be extremely dangerous. Had it not been for the fact that select individuals continued praying for the redemption, like Mordechai, then the Jews would have drowned completely into the depths of the exile.

ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה אזלינן בספינתא וסגאי ספינתא בין שיצא לשיצא דכוארא תלתא יומי ותלתא לילוותא איהו בזקיפא ואנן בשיפולא וכי תימא לא מסגיא ספינתא טובא כי אתא רב דימי אמר כמיחם קומקומא דמיא מסגיא שתין פרסי ושאדי פרשא גירא וקדמה ליה ואמר רב אשי ההוא גילדנא דימא הואי דאית ליה תרי שייצי
The Maharsha explains: Navigating between the two fins of the fish refers to the two possible outcomes in the story of the Purim, either the Amalekites would triumph and destory the Jews or the Jews would triumph and destory the Amalekites. The fact that that this maneuver lasted three days alludes to the fact that the Jews fasted three days in the Book of Esther in order to repent so that they may merit redemption from the plot of Haman. The fish swimming erect/upstream refers to the gallows which Haman had built upon which he planned to hang Mordechai. While the boat sailing downstream refers to Mordechai who "lowered" his stature with his acts of humility.

The Torah's Beauty (Purim--Part 2)

The first part of this essay can be found here
The Talmud says[1] that there were four overly beautiful women in the history of the world and lists Sarah, Abigail, Rehab, and either Esther or Vashti. Rabbi Ya'akov Reischer (1670-1733) explains[2] that usually one can apply the Proverbial dictum, "Charm is false, beauty is vain, [rather] a woman who fear HaShem, she should be praised[3]" to render beauty an irrelevant trait. However, he says, if a woman does indeed fear HaShem, then even her beauty may be praised. Therefore, he understands that the Talmud was praising each of these women for their fear of Heaven by describing them as beautiful. If so, then why is Vashti enumerated, according to one opinion, within the list of the four beautiful women? Rabbi Reischer explains that Vashti was listed for a different reason that the other women. He says that Vashti was listed to show how great the miracle of Purim that even though Vashti was one of these beautiful people and Ahasuerus latter regretted executing her because he missed her beauty[4], Ahasuerus still miraculously chose Esther as the queen, despite the fact that her beauty did not reach his former queen's. Alternatively, he says Vashti was listed merely to relate of the beautiful creations, which HaShem has created in order to tell of His praises.

Similarly, Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1832-1909) writes[5] that the Talmud listed these four women in order to teach that even though they were so overly beautiful, they were still righteous women.[6]. He explains that the expression Yefifyos used by the Talmud in this instance, as opposed to Yaffe the normal word for "beauty", means they had a "double beauty." He writes that either one beauty refers to simple appearance, while the other beauty refers to form/complexion/countenance; or, one beauty refers to beauty in young age, while the other beauty refers to a beauty even in old age. According to this second understanding, he says, one can understand why Yael and Michal (the wife of King David, daughter of King Saul) were not listed. Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (1713-1793) similarly explained[7] that the listing of each woman serves to teach a specific lesson. He writes that Sarah was listed to teach that even though she possessed physical beauty, she still acted with tznius (loosely translated as "modesty"), as Rabbi Yosef Chaim explains[8] that since Sarah had matured, not one person had physically seen her with the exception of the tax-agents of the Pharaoh, who later caused her to be abducted[9] (see footnote[10]). Rehab and Abigail were listed to teach that men should distance themselves from sin[11]. Esther and Vashti were listed in order to greaten the praise due to HaShem for the miracle of Purim to show how HaShem oversees every detail of the world that He even prepared an overly-beautiful woman to help save the Jews from Haman (if Esther is to be listed). Furthermore, he writes that even though Esther's predecessor was so beautiful, Esther was still chosen as the queen (if Vashti is to be listed).

Tosafos[12] ask why Eve, the wife of Adam, was not listed as one of the most beautiful women if the Talmud says[13] that in terms of beauty, Sarah is like a monkey compared to Eve, and if Sarah is listed, then for sure Eve should be listed. Furthermore, the Midrash teaches[14] that the most beautiful of women was beautiful "until [the point of] very [beautiful][15]", which means until the point of Eve's beauty, so Eve should have been listed for her beauty. Tosafos answer that the Talmud only listed women who were born of other women, but not women who were created directly by HaShem. Rabbi Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai (1724-1807)[16] also answers the question of Tosafos by saying that Eve was not listed because the beauty of her husband, Adam surpassed her own beauty. However, Rabbi Yosef Chaim asks that a Midrash says that Eve so beautiful that Adam could not look directly at her because of her great beauty. Rabbi Yosef Chaim answers that this was specifically before the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but after the sin, Eve was less beautiful than Adam was. Similarly, Rabbi Azulai explains[17] that Rachel was not counted as one of those four beautiful women because the beauty her husband Jacob surpassed her own beauty, for the Talmud says[18] that Jacob resembled Adam who was created in the spitting image of HaShem[19]. Nevertheless, the Talmud says,[20] "Everyone in front of Sarah is like a monkey and Sarah in front of Eve is like a monkey"; "everyone" seems to include even Jacob? Rabbi Shmuel Eidels explains[21] that Jacob only resembled Adam in terms of the form of his image, but not in terms of his countenance/facial glowing. According to this, one cannot answer like Rabbi Azulai as to why Jacob's wife Rachel was not listed in with the four beautiful women.

Rabbi Ya'akov Emden (1697-1776) asks[22] why the Talmud did not mention other women about whom the Torah says they were beautiful. He cites the examples of Rebecca[23], Rachel[24], Bathsheba[25], Tamar the daughter of King David[26], Tamar the daughter of Absalom[27], Abishag the Shunamite[28], and the daughters of Job[29]. He answers that those women listed were the most beautiful people of their own generation without exception, while those not listed may have been beautiful, but were not necessarily the most beautiful persons of their respective generations.[30] Rabbi Shmuel Eidels (1555–1631) explains[31] that when the Talmud listed specifically four women, the Talmud was not basing its enumeration on scriptural sources, for there is no verse which says explicitly that Rehab was beautiful, rather the Talmud listed these four women based on a Masoretic tradition. Accordingly, those listed were included in this tradition, while those not listed were not. Rabbi Yosef Chaim explains that only women were also prophetesses were listed, but not those who were not. Accordingly, Esther, Sarah, Abigail, who the Talmud says were of the seven prophetesses[32], were listed along with Rehab who obviously was a prophetess[33] even though she is not listed as such[34].

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karcha said[35] that Job lived in the time of Ahasuerus because the Torah says[36], "There were not found in the all of the land women as beautiful as the daughters of Job." Only in the time of Ahasuerus were all women searched out and judged based on their beauty[37]. Rabbi Yoshiyah Pinto (1565-1648) explains[38] that their beauty doubled as a reward for Job's righteousness. This is learned from the fact that the Torah makes a special point to name all three daughters of Job: Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-happuch[39]. Indeed, the Targum explains that each of these three daughters was so named because of her attractiveness[40]. However, the question arises, if the daughters of Job were so beautiful and lived while Ahasuerus sought a wife, then why were they not chosen before Esther. Rabbi Shmuel Eidels explains[41] that most men hid their daughters when Ahasuerus was seeking a new queen[42], so the daughters of Job were never found. However, according to this, how was it known that the daughters of Job were the most beautiful girls in the world, if they were actually hidden? Furthermore, if people hid their daughters, then it could assumed that Mordechai hid Esther, so why was Esther found and taken, but the daughters of Job were not found and taken to the king's palace? Others explain[43] that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karcha, who was of the opinion that the daughters of Job lived concurrently with the story of Purim, is consistent with his opinion elsewhere that Esther had a greenish complexion. Therefore, even though Esther was not the most beautiful women in her contemperous times because the daughter of Job lived then, and anyways she was green, she was still picked as a queen, not based on her beauty, but based on a special heavenly-granted charm, which she had.
[1] Megillah 15a
[2] Iyun Ya'akov Megillah 15a
[3] Proverbs 31:30
[4] See Rashi and Ibn Ezra to Esther 2:1
[5] Ben Yehoyada to Megillah 15a
[6] Seemingly he understands why Vashti was listed like the Iyun Ya'akov
[7] Responsa Noda B'Yehuda, First Edition, Orach Chaim §24
[8] Benayahu to Megillah 15a
[9] See Genesis Rabbah 40:5
[10] Rabbi Yosef Chaim explains that the source of the physical beauty of Sarah is the fact that Genesis 11:29 refers to her as "Iscah" which the Talmud (Megillah 14a) says means that all gazed at her beauty. Accordingly, since once she matured and understood the true meaning of tznius, she acted modestly, and no one saw her except for one incident with the tax agents of the Pharaoh, she is only referred to as "Iscah" once in all of Scripture.
[11] As is evident from the proceeding passage in the Talmud which explains the effects that saying Rebah's name or hearing Abigail's voice had on men
[12] To Megillah 15a
[13] Bava Basra 58a
[14] Genesis Rabbah 40:5
[15] Kings 1 1:4
[16] Simchas HaRegel to Psalms 118:22
[17] Rosh Dovid to Parshas Miketz
[18] Bava Basra 58a
[19] Genesis 2:27
[20] Bava Basra 58a
[21] Maharsha to Bava Basra 58a
[22] Hagahos Ya'avetz to Megillah 15a
[23] Genesis 24:16
[24] Genesis 29:17
[25] Samuel 2 11:2
[26] Samuel 2 13:1
[27] Samuel 2 14:27
[28] Kings 1 1:4
[29] Job 42:15
[30] He proves this from the fact that by the daughters of Job, they were three women who were all equal in their beauty.
[31] Maharsha to Megillah 15a
[32] Megillah 14a. However, this is only good according to the understand of the Talmud, however, Seder HaDoros (Year 3442) quotes an alternate explanation to the Braisa of the Seven Prophetesses and according to that explanation, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah are all considered prophetesses, even though they are considered as one in regard to the general listing of the seven prophetesses.
[33] See Rashi to Joshua 2:16
[34] Although he does not explain why Vashti was listed according to this explanation
[35] Bava Basra 15b
[36] Job 42:15
[37] Esther 2:1-4
[38] Rif to Ein Yaakov to Bava Basra 16b
[39] Job 42:14
[40] E.g., Jemimah referred to the fact that her beauty shined like daylight, Keziah was a pleasant as the spice Cassia, and Keren-happuch resembled a "sparkle of an emerald."
[41] Maharsha to Bava Basra 15b
[42] Megillah 12b
[43] Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (1804-1886) in Pnei Shlomo to Bava Basra 15b, Eitz Yosef to Bava Basra 15b, and the Vilna Gaon (Kol Eliyahu to Esther, §140)


The official JBlogosphere Purim Podcast has been posted. If you can bother listen to the entire thing, at least listen to Reb Chaim's קשיא in track 42, which you can also get as a single by clicking here. Click the left icon to hear the radio broadcast from Jameel, and click the right icon to hear it at SerandEz. Then when you are done, you can keep listen to Jewish audio at Jewish Broadcast from Mostly Music.

Friday, March 02, 2007

On the Forehead

Regarding the Tzitz, one of the eight holy vestments worn by the High Priest in the Holy Temple, the Torah says[1], "and it shall be on the Mitznefes". However, Rashi notes[2] an apparent contradiction because the Torah also says[3], "And it shall be on the forehead of Aaron." The first verse implies that the Tzitz is supposed to be worn on top of the Mitznefes—the hat of the Kohen Gadol, while the second verse implies that the Tzitz is supposed to be worn on the forehead of the Kohen Gadol, which is below the hat area. Rashi explains that while the actual gold plate of the Tzitz with the inscription "Kodesh LaShem" rested on the forehead of the Kohen Gadol, the strings went up from that position and formed a hat-like structure attached to the Mitznefes. So Rashi understands that the Tzitz was actually on the forehead of the Kohen Gadol.

Others however argue. Onkelos translates[4] the word "maytzach", which Rashi understands means forehead, as "Beis einoyhee", meaning "the eye area", an expression used to describe the frontal hair area, whereupon one's phylacteries are supposed to rest[5]. Similarly, the Talmud uses[6] a special Scriptural derivation to teach that the Tzitz's position did not interfere with the wearing of the Tefilin because despite the fact they are both supposed to be worn in the same area, that area on the head has room for both. Rabbeinu Peretz[7] learns from here that the Tzitz is not necessarily placed on the forehead, but rather, it is placed above the hairline, like Tefilin. Tosafos[8] also understand that the Tzitz was not really worn on the forehead, but above the forehead, and this is why the Mitznefes hat of the Kohen Gadol had to be smaller than the Migba'os hat of the plain Kohen. Tosafos explains that this justifies the difference in the actual verses between the name of the Kohen's hat and the Kohen Gadol's hat.

See this picture. But I guess my fellow bloggers know better because they all say it was on the forehead.

[1] Exodus 28:37

[2] To Exodus 28:37

[3] Exodus 28:38

[4] Targum Onkelos to Exodus 28:38

[5] See Exodus 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18

[6] Zevachim 19b

[7] Cited by Shittah Mekubetzes §6 to Zevachim 19b

[8] To Gittin 7a

The Knowers of Time

The יערות דבש explains in ח"ב דרוש ב that the :גמרא מגילה יב refers to חז"ל as יודעי העיתים in מגילת אסתר because they knew how to intercalate the months of the year and set the months-- שיודעין לעבר השנה ולקבוע חדשים-- because אחשורוש was מסופק whether ושתי was 20 years old or not, but he proves that she was surely 19 years and twelve months old, the שאילה was whether or not that year was מעוברת-- pregnant, meaning had thirteen months or twelve months. He writes, based on the words of מדרש שוחר טוב על תהלים that people are not obligated for punishments until they reach age of twenty, so אחשורוש had to ask the רבנן whether or not he should execute ושתי for refusing to attend his משתה. However, I had a קשיא on this, because all ages in the הלכה are really הלל"מ like any type of שיעורים במצוות, so if they are only הלל"מ then they don't apply to non-Jews like the רמב"ם himself says. So then what was אחשורוש's problem? The same question applies to the בן יהוידע there in מגילה. Therefore, I wrote on the side of my גמ', the following, "צ"ע".

However, now I see another פשט from הרב יהונתן איבשייץ זצלל"ה:

He explains why it seems Achashveirosh made 2 parties. One in the 3rd year of his reign and another one 180 days later. He writes that Achashveirosh was counting 70 years until the golus was over and when the geulah didn't come he made a party. However, Achashveirosh wasn't sure if the years followed the Malchei Yehuda which is from Nisan or the non Jewish kings which is from Tishrei. When Tishrei of the 70th year came he started his party., however he was still wary that teh geulah would come in Nisan. 180 days later when Nisan came and there was no geulah, he figured it would never come. He got bolder and made a second party andthis time told Vashti to drop everything (pun intended) and come to the party.

One final point, Achashveirosh was still mesupak if Adar would be m'ubar. Therefore he asked the "yodei ha'ittim" who were the Sanhedrin who decided when to make an extra month.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Drunken Knife

After Rava ruled[1] that one is obligated to drink until the point of mind-dulling drunkenness on the holiday of Purim, the Talmud related a story illustrating this point. In this story, Rabbah, fulfills this rabbinic commandment, and then arises and "slaughters" Rav Zeira. The following morning, Rabbah begs G-d's mercy and Rav Zeira is miraculously revived. The next year, Rav Zeira declines Rabbah's invitation to join him for the Purim feast reasoning that perhaps he will be slaughtered again, and HaShem would be unwilling to perform a miracle on his behalf. Many of the Talmudic commentaries scramble to find an explanation to this story, as well as an explanation to the purpose that the Talmud quoted such a story.

Rabbi Nissim ben Reuven (1320-1380) quotes[2] in the name of Rabbeinu Efrayim, that the Talmud quoted this story in order to show that there is really no obligation to drink so much on Purim, for such an obligation would be frightfully dangerous, as in the story of Rabbah and Rav Zeira. However, Rabbi Chizkiyah ben David DiSilo (1659-1698) asks[3] that if this was the Talmud's intent in quoting the story, then why did Rav Zeira refuse to join Rabbah for the latter's Purim party if the obligation to drink excessively had been lifted as a result of the first part of the story, so there was no danger in attending Rabbah's festive meal. Rather, the story serves as a model as to how one should act on Purim, despite the commandment of drinking wine. Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839) writes[4] that such drinking on Purim only caused a hazard to society because it was done by Rabbah. Rabbah, as the Talmud says[5], was born under the spherical influence of the Red (blood) Planet—Mars—so he was destined to become either a murder or ritual circumciser. However, Rabbi Sofer writes, that all others, who are not born of that constellational influence, are still obligated to drink wine excessively on Purim.

There is a law that under ritual slaughter, the slicing of the knife must be the cause of death for the slaughtered animal, nothing else. Rav Zeira ruled[6] that a white-hot metal knife is still kosher to be used in ritual slaughter because the cutting of the knife kills the animal, not the heat from the knife. How did Rav Zeira know that the incision of the knife itself kills before the heat of the white-hot knife? Rabbi Moshe Sofer explains[7] in the name of his Rebbe, Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz (1730-1805), the author of the Hafla'ah and Panim Yafos, since Rav Zeira was slaughtered by Rabbah, he knew the feeling of being slashed with a knife to death. Rabbi Moshe Sofer says that even though his Rebbe said this explanation somewhat in jest, the explanation is still true and is as essential component of the Torah as anything else that his Rebbe said. According to this, it seems that Rabbi Sofer understood the story of Rabbah and Rav Zeira as it is literally recorded in the Talmud.

Elsewhere, Rabbi Moshe Sofer explains[8] that Rabbah did not actually slaughter Rav Zeira; rather, he merely caused Rav Zeira to laugh. The Talmud says[9] that Rav Zeira rarely ever laughed because he knew that laughter and other forms of light-headedness lead to promiscuity[10]. Therefore, when Rabbah caused Rav Zeira to laugh at their join Purim celebration, Rav Zeira felt as if he had somehow sinned, so he repented for this "sin" of laughing. Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (1866-1948) added[11] that Rav Zeira's name, Zeira, is actually an acronym for his attributes, "sweat, trembling, awe, and fear". Similarly, Rabbi Shmuel Eidels (1555–1631) explains[12] that Rabbah did not literally slaughter Rav Zeira; rather Rabbah forced him to drink an irrational dosage of wine until Rav Zeira fell fatally ill. Then, Rabbah prayed for Rav Zeira's recovery, and was granted a miracle in that Rav Zeira did not die because of the alcohol poisoning. This explanation is also implicit in the words of Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1310)[13]. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1910-1995) also explains[14] that Rabbah did not physically kill Rav Zeira, but rather Rabbah somehow embarrassed Rav Zeira, and in Halacha, one who embarrasses another is considered as having killed another[15]; because of this, Rabbah prayed for forgiveness.

However, these explanations are difficult because the Talmud specifically uses the word "slaughter" which implies that Rabbah performed some act of violence toward Rav Zeira. Rather, Rabbi Ya'akov Emden (1697-1776) explains[16] that Rabbah realized that the happiness of their Purim celebration was getting out of hand, so he wanted to induce some sadness as Rabbah himself mandates regarding pure happiness[17]. Therefore, Rabbah created the illusion that he slaughtered Rav Zeira in order to "sober up" the partygoers. This illusion seemed so real to Rav Zeira that he fainted out of fright, after which Rabbah prayed for Rav Zeira's full recovery. Similarly, Rabbi Rachmiel Zelcer points out[18] that Tosafos Rabbeinu Peretz explain[19] that Elijah the prophet—who was a Kohen—was allowed to come into physical contact with the dead corpse of the son of the Zarephathian widow[20] because the child did not really die, but rather fainted and was in a coma until Elijah revived him. Rabbi Zelcer says that the words of Rabbeinu Peretz are a proof to the explanation of Rabbi Ya'akov Emden concerning Rabbah and Rav Zeira.

Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam (1813–1899) explained[21] the story of Rabbah and Rav Zeira on a different level, in the name of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (1759-1841). He says that when the Talmud said that "Rabbah arose", it means Rabbah rose to high spiritual levels through service to HaShem on Purim. He then proved that when the Talmud continued that "[he] slaughtered Rav Zeira", the word "slaughter" actually means, "pulled." This refers to the fact that Rabbah "pulled" Rav Zeira to his own high spiritual level, which was too high for Rav Zeira, causing the latter to lose his physical existence, and thereby die. The next, Rabbah then prayed for Rav Zeira's well-being and Rav Zeira was restored to his proper spiritual level. The Ben Ish Chai, Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1832-1909), records[22] a similar understanding in the name of anonymous Kabbalists and he adds that according to this explanation, it makes sense why Rav Zeira refused to eat with Rabbah the next year. Had Rav Zeira been scared of a mere physical danger posed to him by Rabbah, he could have merely hired bodyguards, the fact that he was still scared shows that the danger posed to him by Rabbah was not physical, but was a spiritual threat.

Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad cites a question[23] which Rabbi Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai (1724-1807) asked. Rabbi Azulai asked what was the status of Rav Zeira's wife after her husband died and before he was resurrected, and what was her status following Rav Zeira's resurrection, basically, did Rav Zeira have to re-marry his wife after he was resurrected or is he the same person and can merely continue his previous marriage. He understood the story as recorded in the Talmud as it is simply written, and thus wondered about the halachik status of one who dies and is miraculously resurrected. Rabbi Yosef Chaim answers that Rav Zeira was the same person as before and did not require a re-marriage to his wife. He proves this from the fact that the Talmud says[24] that at Mount Sinai, all the Jews present died and were resurrect, yet it is never found that they all had to re-marry their spouses. However, this is not a proof to the question of Rabbi Azulai because Rabbi Azulai was of the opinion that the Jews before Mount Sinai were not commanded in the commandment of marriage, so their pre-Sinaitic marriages were not legally effective anyways. Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef Chaim proves from the fact that the Talmud says[25] that the son of the Shunamite woman[26] who died and was resurrected by Elisha[27] is not ritually impure; from here, he saw that one who dies and is resurrected is considered as having never died. However, this is not a proof according to the explanation of Rabbi Ya'akov Emden. He explained[28] there that the reason why the ritually impurity was never effective on the child was because even though he died, since he was eventually going to be resurrected, it is as if he was still alive in regard to his ritual impurity, so the evil spirits which cause ritual impurity never rested on him.

The Aderes, Rabbi Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz-Teomim (1843-1905), wrote in a letter to Rabbi Chaim Berlin (1832-1912) the reason why in a certain Talmudic tale[29] Rav Zeira did not lead the Grace after Meals, but rather Rabbi Abahu was honored with that right, even though Rav Zeira was a Kohen[30]. He explained that the reason was that after Rav Zeira was slaughtered by Rabbah and resurrected, he was considered a new person, so he was no longer a Kohen and was thus not due the honor of leading the Grace After Meals. However, Rabbi Chaim Berlin assumed that the Aderes was joking with him because the Talmud derives[31] the concept of Resurrection of the Dead from the fact that the Torah says[32] that the tithes will be given in the future to Aaron the Priest, even though he is presently. According to the Aderes, Aaron would have lost his status as a Kohen with his natural death and thus after his resurrection would not deserve the tithes due to he Priests. Therefore, Rabbi Chaim Berlin learned that when one dies and is miraculously resurrected, he is the same person as before his death. Rabbi Yaakov Chaim Sofer (Rosh Yeshiva of Kaf HaChaim) defended[33] the position of the Aderes based on the words of Nachmanides. Nachmanides writes[34] that when the Talmud inquired[35] as to the proper order of the donning of the holy vestments during the inauguration of the Tabernacle—whether Aaron and his sons donned the clothes at the same time or one after each other—that original the Kohanic anointment and inauguration ceremony performed by Aharon and his sons became invalid at the time of their natural deaths. Therefore, they will become new people upon their resurrection from the dead, and, thus will require a new anointment in order to regain their status as Kohanim[36] and once again serve in the Holy Temple. According to this, a Kohen who dies and is resurrected is indeed no longer the same Kohen that he originally was, as the Aderes said.

The Talmud relates that Elijah the Prophet[37] was once found walking through a gentile cemetery. When he was asked why he was exposing himself to ritual, impurity even though he was a Kohen, he responded with the ruling of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that the corpses of non-Jews do not conduce ritual impurity. Rabbi Avrohom Dovid Horowitz (1912-2004) infers[38] from here that Elijah the Prophet was still under the laws of purity required of a Kohen even though he physically died[39] and later returned to earth. From here one sees that after a Kohen dies and is resurrected, he still maintains his Kohanic status because he is the same person. Halachakly[40], the wife of Elijah the Prophet is allowed to remarry because her husband is considered legally dead. However, others have questioned this ruling because it is implied in some facets of rabbinic literature that Elijah is considered still alive[41]. Others explain that if one dies and then is resurrected, then retroactively, he has not died and was considered alive the entire time[42]. Therefore, when one is resurrected, his original marriages continue from before.

Despite the fact that Rabbi Shmuel Eidels writes[43] that when one is resurrected after death, one's new body is a completely new body reintegrated with his old soul, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky offers[44] four proofs that one who dies and is resurrected through a miracle is halachakly considered the exact same person as before. Jeremiah is commanded[45] to perform the ceremony of redeeming a relative's sold field[46] on the field sold by his cousin Hanamel, son of Shallum. The Midrash tells[47] that after Shallum, son of Tikvah, died, he was thrown into the grave of Elisha and was resurrected. After his resurrection, he fathered Hanamel. Accordingly, if Shallum had been considered a new person upon his resurrection, then Jeremiah would not have been related to Hanamel, because Jeremiah's father, Hilkiah, would not have been considered Shallum's brother anymore. Rather, it must be that he was the same person. Furthermore, the Midrash says that Jonah was the boy whom Elijah the prophet resurrected. Yet, even though he died and came back to life, the Torah still considers him the son of his father, as it says, "And the word of HaShem came to Jonah son of Amittai saying…[48]." The Talmud even goes[49] as far as to say that Jonah was a descendant of the tribe of Asher and Zebulon, so it is evident that he is considered the same person, as he was when he was born. Additionally, Rav Kahane received[50] a blessing for long-life to counter his curse as part of the house of Eli[51], yet he died, and was resurrected by Rabbi Yochanan[52], while still young[53]. If he was a new person after his death, then either the blessing for long-life was unneeded (because he was not considered a descendant of Eli) or the blessing was never fulfilled. However, if he was the same person, then one can say that both the blessing was needed and was fulfilled. Furthermore, if a person is considered a new person if he dies and returns, then he should require a conversion to Judaism because he was not born of Jewish parents, yet we never find that Rav Zeira converted. Rather, one must say that when a person dies and returns from the grave, he is considered the same person as before, as the Talmud implies by Aaron and his sons[54].

Rabbi Yehuda Low (1525-1609) explains[55] that one is obligated to drink extensively on Purim in order to show that his physical being is completely dependent on HaShem and he submits all of his senses to nothingness in an attempt to be closer to G-d. Based on this, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Grossman explains that Rabbah wanted to exhibit that even his spiritual being is completely dependent on HaShem and he wanted to bring his soul closer to HaShem so he killed Rav Zeira. He did not kill himself because he could not guarantee that a miracle would be performed for him to return to this world, but he was able to kill Rav Zeira because he could guarantee that he would be able to resurrect Rav Zeira through the most powerful tool granted to mankind: prayer. We pray that HaShem listens to all our prayers and grants us the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] Megillah 7b
[2] Ran, Megillah 3b in the Alfasi print
[3] Pri Chadash
[4] Responsa Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim §185
[5] Shabbos 156a
[6] Chullin 8a
[7] Chasam Sofer to Chullin 8a
[8] Chasam Sofer to Niddah 23a
[9] Niddah 23a
[10] Avos 3:13
[11] Imrei Emes, Likutim
[12] Maharsha to Megillah 7b
[13] Beis HaBechirah to Megillah 7b
[14] Halichos Shlomo, Volume 2, Party and Happiness §25
[15] Bava Metzia 58b
[16] Hagahos Ya'avetz to Megillah 7b
[17] See Brachos 30b-31a where Rabbah says that one should rejoice with trembling, and see there for a story in which Rav Zeira was seemingly acting too light-headedly.
[18] Ner L'Meah §34
[19] To Bava Metzia 114b
[20] Kings 1 17:21
[21] Divrei Yechezkel on Purim
[22] Ben Yehoyada to Megillah 7b
[23] Ben Yehoyada to Megillah 7b
[24] Shabbos 88b
[25] Niddah 70b
[26] The commentaries to Niddah 70b point out that the Talmud did not ask about the Zarephathian boy which Elijah revived because Maimonides (Guide for the Perplexed Part 1, Chapter 42) writes that that boy only fainted, but did not die, like Tosafos Rabbeinu Peretz cited above.
[27] Kings 2 4:17-37
[28] Hagahos Ya'avetz to Niddah 70b
[29] Brachos 46a
[30] See Jerusalemic Brachos 3:1 with the commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Sirilio (1485-1558)
[31] Sanhedrin 90b
[32] Numbers 18:28
[33] Kovetz Har HaMor, Gilyon Zayin, Nissan 5785, as quoted in Shallal Rav on Purim, page 252
[34] Sefer HaMitzvos, Root 3, §7
[35] Yoma 5b
[36] Although, Rabbi Ya'akov Yisroel Kanievsky (1899–1985) asks that the Midrash (Toras Kohanim, Tzav, Chapter 18) says explicitly that in the future, Aaron will not require another anointing of the oil to become the Kohen.
[37] Bava Metzia 114b
[38] Quoted in Shallal Rav to Purim
[39] Kings 2 2:11-18
[40] See Bais Shmuel to Even HaEzer §17:11
[41] See Kovetz Shiurim, Volume 2, §28 by Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman who asked that Bava Basra 121b implies that Elijah is still alive, see also Chochmas Shlomo, Even HaEzer §17:1
[42] See Pischei Teshuvah to Even HaEzer §17:1
[43] Maharsha to Niddah 70b
[44] Siach HaSadeh, Part 2, Kuntres HaLikutim §4
[45] Jeremiah 32:7
[46] Leviticus 25:25
[47] Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 33
[48] Jonah 1:1
[49] Jerusalemic Sukkah 5:1
[50] Jerusalemic Rosh HaShannah 2:5
[51] Samuel 1 3:11-14
[52] Bava Kamma 117a-b
[53] Jerusalemic Brachos 2:8
[54] Sanhedrin 90b
[55] Chiddushei Maharal to Megillah 7b

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