Friday, December 29, 2006

Freedom to Interpret

I just came across this excellent article: Freedom to Interpret written by Rabbi Aryeh Carmell A"H. It discusses, among other things, the correct approach to Aggadot (i.e. Rambam's approach).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

נר איש וביתו

On 12-13, I made some changes to this post.

Rambam writes in the fourth chapter of Hilchot Megilla V'Chanuka:

נר חנוכה, מצוה להניחו על פתח ביתו מבחוץ, בטפח הסמוך לפתח, על שמאל הנכנס לבית--כדי שתהיה מזוזה מימין, ונר חנוכה משמאל; ואם היה דר בעלייה, מניחו בחלון הסמוכה לרשות הרבים.

The Chakhamim instituted that candles be lit outside near the entrance of the house right next to the left side of the door, as one enters the house. Rambam seems to add an unnecessary clarification when he tells us that this is in order (or so) that the m'zuza will be to the right and the Chanuka candle to the left. Why does it matter where the Chanuka candle is placed? Would it not have been enough to just light it outside? Why is it important that the m'zuza is to the right and the candle to the left of the entrance?

As was discussed in the previous post, the purpose of lighting candles on Chanuka is for each Jewish household to commemorate the miracle of the oil and thereby demonstrate its loyalty to the ideals of Mikdash. In order to understand why the Chakhamim decreed that the candles should be lit near the left side of the doorway opposite the m'zuza side we must explore the mitzva of m'zuza in greater depth.

Rambam writes concerning the m'zuza:

וכל עת שייכנס וייצא, יפגע בייחוד שמו של הקדוש ברוך הוא--ויזכור אהבתו, וייעור משינתו ושגייתו בהבלי הזמן; ויידע שאין שם דבר העומד לעולם ולעולמי עולמים, אלא ידיעת צור העולם, ומיד הוא חוזר לדעתו, והולך בדרכי מישרים. אמרו חכמים, כל מי שיש לו תפילין בראשו ובזרועו, וציצית בבגדו, ומזוזה בפתחו--מוחזק לו, שלא יחטא: שהרי יש לו מזכירין רבים; והן הן המלאכים שמצילין אותו מלחטוא, שנאמר "חונה מלאך ה' סביב, ליראיו; ויחלצם" (תהילים לד,ח).

To paraphrase Rambam: the m'zuza is placed on the doorway so that every time a person walks in and out of his house he will be encounter the idea of the unity of G's name and he will be awakened and will be reminded that the only thing that stands forever and ever is the knowledge of the Rock of the Universe and this will lead to a re-framing of one's mindset and will cause one to live a proper life.

Most people relate to their house as an everlasting structure. A house is a source of security both real and imagined (as discussed in this post). Through this structure man imagines that he possesses true sovereignty. As the saying goes, "a man's house is his castle". It is unimaginable to most people that one's house could, literally, fall. Yet, the only thing that stands for ever is the knowledge of G'. The doorway is the threshold between the outside chaotic world and the inside controlled environment of one's home. As one leaves the security of his house he encounter the m'zuza and is reminded of the unity of G's name - that the world is not as chaotic as it seems - it is all guided by G's wisdom. As one enters his house he is reminded that as secure and peaceful as his home may seem any sovereignty he attributes to himself is illusory because only G is the true Sovereign. The door is the perfect place for man to remind himself of the unity of G's name - on the threshold between the two spheres within which he lives - at the intersection of the private and the public, the chaotic and the controlled - man is reminded of his true credo. The m'zuza makes a statement about the character of one's household - that it is a household that does not glorify the sovereignty of man rather it glorifies the true sovereignty of G.

The doorway is the location the Torah selected for us to remember the ideals upon which our households should be founded. For this reason the Chakhamim decreed that one must light in one's doorway. In that place which the Torah instructed us to remember our most important credo - the unity of G's name - we also demonstrate our loyalty to that institution that proclaims that credo - the Beit HaMikdash. However, the ideals of Mikdash are more than just ideals that we proclaim our loyalty to - by lighting in our doorways we demonstrate on Chanuka that they are the ideals which act as the guiding light and foundation of our households.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Three Types of Commemoration

Some changes were added on 12-08-06 (especially the addition of the last two paragraphs).

The Torah presents us with two ways of commemorating an important event. Either we can talk about it (kiddush/havdala, haggada, etc.) or we do the same action our ancestors did (eating matza, dwelling in a sukka, etc.) - these methods of commemoration can be referred to as z'chira and asiya respectively.

There is a third type of commemoration: symbolic. This commemoration would be accomplished by doing an act that is reminiscent of some event. For example, fireworks on the Fourth of July could be viewed as a symbolic commemoration of the War of Independence ("And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.").

The Torah seems to endorse only z'chira and asiya.1 However, the lighting of candles is neither. The miracle of the oil took place in the Beit HaMikdash not our homes. Yet, we light candles in our doorways for eight nights to commemorate the miracle. This is clearly a symbolic commemoration.

Why did the Chakhamim depart from the Torah's normal format and enact a symbolic commemoration? The Greeks had waged a campaign to negate our way of life (as mentioned in the previous post). After the Greeks were defeated the kohanim had a tremendous challenge. The kohanim now had to ensure that the Jews would regain their loyalty to the Beit HaMikdash and the ideals it represented. This is why they instituted the symbolic act of lighting candles outside next to their doorways. They called upon the Jews to demonstrate every year their loyalty to the Beit HaMikdash by lighting candles which bring to mind the menora which stands in the heichal of the Beit HaMikdash.

From a halachik perspective2, the Chachamim could not use either of the methods from the Torah (z'chira or asiya) because of a special challenge that they faced. They could not use asiya because the menora in the Mikdash was lit, not candles in our homes. Likewise, they could not use z'chira because they wanted us to do a public demonstration of loyalty and not recite words privately. Therefore, they had to resort to symbolic commemoration simply because the other two methods could not produce their objective.

Why does the Torah seem to steer clear of symbolic commemoration? To give a very abbreviated answer: it could be that the Torah steers clear of symbolic commemoration because of the important role of symbolism in idolatrous, magical and superstitious practices (ואכמ"ל).


1.Charoset is not a contradiction to what has been said. Charoset is not a zecher l'tit on its own - it functions only in the framework of the mitzva of sippur.

2.The following insight and question were provided, with minor changes, by Danny (in the comments).

Chanuka and Toharot

In the first halacha of the third chapter of Hilchot Megilla V'Chanuka Rambam writes:

בבית שני כשמלכו יוון, גזרו גזירות על ישראל, וביטלו דתם, ולא הניחו אותם לעסוק בתורה ובמצוות; ופשטו ידם בממונם, ובבנותיהם; ונכנסו להיכל, ופרצו בו פרצות, וטימאו הטהרות.

The Greeks made decrees against us in order to prevent us from keeping the Torah. They attempted to demoralize us by taking our money and our women. They went so far as to enter the heichal and commit atrocious acts there and make tamei the tahorot. Entering the sanctuary of the Mikdash was the ultimate slap in the face to the Jews. The Greeks were making an absolutely unequivocal statement that they did not respect the beliefs of the Jews. Toharot signifies the Jews rejection that the perfection of man flows from his body. It is the body and its vital fluids that are the principal causes of tuma (I believe Rabbi Maroof has a nice article on this topic) . In fact Rambam (end of Hilchot Mikvaot) views the system of tuma and tahara as a remez to the essential role of the mind in the purification of the soul:

דבר ברור וגלוי שהטומאות והטהרות גזירת הכתוב הן, ואינן מדברים שדעתו של אדם מכרעת אותן, והרי הן מכלל החוקים; וכן הטבילה מן הטומאות, מכלל החוקים היא: שאין הטומאה טיט או צואה שתעבור במים, אלא גזירת הכתוב היא, והדבר תלוי בכוונת הלב; ולפיכך אמרו חכמים טבל ולא הוחזק, כאילו לא טבל. ואף על פי כן, רמז יש בדבר: כשם שהמכוון ליבו ליטהר--כיון שטבל--טהר, ואף על פי שלא נתחדש בגופו דבר; כך המכוון ליבו לטהר נפשו מטומאת הנפשות, שהן מחשבות האוון ודעות הרעות--כיון שהסכים בליבו לפרוש מאותן העצות, והביא נפשו במי הדעות--טהר. הרי הוא אומר "וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים, וטהרתם: מכול טומאותיכם ומכל גילוליכם, אטהר אתכם" (יחזקאל לו,כה).

It is clear the Jewish conception of tuma and tahara is an absolute negation of cruder forms of Hellenism and their concept of arete.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Gideon and Moshe

And the Messenger of Hashem came and sat beneath the elm tree in Ofra that belonged to Yoash, the Avi-Ezrite – and Gideon his son was threshing wheat at the wine press, to hide it from Midian. And the messenger of Hashem appeared to him, and he said to him, “G' is with you, mighty man of valor!”(Shoftim 6:11-12)

Rabbi David Kimchi quotes the following midrash: “He [the messenger] waited there until he found some merit for him, then he appeared to him. They say: Yoash, his father, was threshing wheat. Gideon said to him, “My father, you are old, go into the house and I will do the threshing – because if the Midianites come, you do not have the strength to escape.” The messenger said [to himself], you have fulfilled the commandment of honoring [one’s father] and you are fit to have my children be redeemed through your hand. Immediately, “the Messenger of H appeared to him…”

This midrash is difficult to understand. Though Gideon’s actions are certainly laudable they are by no means extraordinary and certainly do not make him a worthy instrument of G’s redemption. The midrash seems to be picking up on a nuance of the text. Why is the text so focused on Yoash's elm tree? Why is Gideon presented as the son of the man who owns the elm tree?

Consider another text from Sefer Shemot (3:1-2): “And Moshe was shepherding the sheep of Yitro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he guided the sheep to the end of the wilderness, and he came to the Mountain of Elokim, toward Horev. And the Messenger of Hashem appeared to him in the flame of fire from the midst of the bush…” Why is the text concerned with what Moshe was doing when his prophecy began?

Let us compare the two stories. Both Moshe and Gideon were doing work, not for their own household but for the household of their father (or father-in-law) – both were fulfilling the commandment of honoring one's father (or father-in-law) – when the Messenger of Hashem appeared to them. What does this teach us about these two men? Their disregard of their own household to secure the success of the greater household – that of their father (or father-in-law) – points to a great virtue. They were both demonstrating the core trait of the liberator - each disregarded the good of his own household for the sake of a larger more important household. They both put behind personal ambitions for the sake of the greater good. The liberator of Israel must abandon his personal aspirations for the sake of the entire House of Israel.

Now the meaning of the midrash is clear. Gideon's great merit is "honoring is father" - the great virtue of being able to set aside personal ambition for the sake of the greater good.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The following is a rough draft of some of my thoughts on the the first halacha in the 5th chapter in Hilchot Y'sodei haTorah.

Rambam in the 5th chapter of Hilchot Y'sodei haTorah writes:

כל בית ישראל מצווין על קידוש השם הגדול הזה

Rambam uses the demonstrative pronoun "הזה" in connection to "השם הגדול". What is "this" "great name" Rambam is making reference to? "הזה" implies that the noun in question must be understood based on some previously given context. When did Rambam define "השם הגדול" such that he can now make reference to it? In the beginning of the 2nd chapter Rambam writes:

האל הנכבד והנורא הזה--מצוה לאוהבו וליראה ממנו, שנאמר "ואהבת, את ה' אלוהיך" (דברים ו,ה; דברים יא,א) ונאמר "את ה' אלוהיך תירא" (דברים ו,יג; דברים י,כ). והיאך היא הדרך לאהבתו, ויראתו: בשעה שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים הגדולים, ויראה מהם חכמתו שאין לה ערך ולא קץ--מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר ומתאווה תאווה גדולה לידע השם הגדול, כמו שאמר דויד "צמאה נפשי, לאלוהים--לאל חי" (תהילים מב,ג).

Here Rambam uses the term "השם הגדול" for the first time. Based on this passage we still can not give a satisfying definition of "השם הגדול". However, we are given the following clue. "השם הגדול" is that which we desire to know when we contemplate G's creations and from them see His great wisdom.

An even more difficult question presents itself a couple of halachot later. There Rambam uses the term "השם" once again (I do not know why Rambam leaves off the adjective in this halacha):

ולפי הדברים האלו אני מבאר כללים גדולים ממעשה ריבון העולמים, כדי שיהיו פתח למבין לאהוב את השם, כמו שאמרו חכמים בעניין אהבה, שמתוך כך אתה מכיר את מי שאמר והיה העולם.

Since the great desire to know "השם הגדול" is the result of contemplating the wisdom of His creation it is certainly appropriate for Rambam to provide this פתח למבין in order "לאהוב את השם". But why does Rambam speak of loving "השם"? Would it not be more appropriate to love "האל הנכבד והנורא הזה" as opposed to His name? Rambam clearly does not use the word "השם", as people do colloquially, as a way of making reference to G' without pronouncing one of the "שמות הקדושים" - a computer search of the Mishneh Torah will prove this. Additionally, what exactly does "השם" and "השם הגדול" refer to? They do not seem to be making reference to "השם הנכתב יוד הא ואו הא והוא השם המפורש" or another one of His six other names mentioned in the 6th chapter - if they were Rambam obviously would have clarified (in fact Rambam always clarifies when "השם" is referring to one of His seven names). What is this generic "השם"?

There are two ways of knowing something: directly and indirectly. For example, if we encounter a house we can directly know that it exists, that it is made of certain materials and that it has a certain structure - I directly know the house. However, we can also discern based on the presence of the materials that make up the house and their specific design that someone built it - the knowledge of the builder is indirect. Of course, after a little bit of research and legwork we might be able to gain a direct knowledge of the builder and if he is still alive call him on the phone or even meet him - thus gaining a direct knowledge of the builder. I think the parallel I am trying to make is clear. We know G only indirectly. Rambam tells us how we gain this knowledge - by contemplating G's creation and seeing His wisdom therein. Unlike the builder we can never gain a direct knowledge of G. One might point out that direct knowledge of the builder might also be impossible (for example, if he is dead). However, this inability is only the result of circumstance (you happen to live in a time in which the builder is dead). There is no circumstance in which G can be known directly.

Now we can understand the meaning of "השם". A name is a sign - that which point to a things existence. When man tries to relate to G he has the limitation of indirect knowledge - he can only relate to a name, nothing more.[Footnote #1] Now we can give a definition of "השם": it is the sign which indicates to our minds G's existence. This explains why Rambam speaks of desiring to know "השם" after seeing the wisdom in His creations. This also explains why Rambam speaks of loving "השם". We can desire to know no more than His שם and can only achieve love of His שם through contemplating His creation.



1. I believe this idea is expressed in the 1st chapter of Hilchot Y'sodei haTorah:

הרי מפורש בתורה ובנביא, שאין הקדוש ברוך הוא גוף וגווייה... לומר שאין לו דמות וצורה, אלא הכול במראה הנבואה ובמחזה. ואמיתת הדבר, אין דעתו של אדם יכולה להשיגו ולחוקרו; וזה הוא שאמר הכתוב "החקר אלוה, תמצא; אם עד תכלית שדיי, תמצא" (איוב יא,ז)... מה הוא זה שביקש משה רבנו להשיג כשאמר "הראני נא, את כבודך" (שמות לג,יח)--ביקש לידע אמיתת הימצאו של הקדוש ברוך הוא, עד שיהיה ידוע בליבו כמו ידיעת אחד מן האנשים שראה פניו ונחקקה צורתו בקרבו, שנמצא אותו האיש נפרד בדעתו משאר האנשים; כך ביקש משה רבנו להיות מציאת הקדוש ברוך הוא נפרדת בליבו משאר מציאת הנמצאים, עד שיידע אמיתת הימצאו כמה שהיא. והשיבו ברוך הוא שאין כוח בדעת האדם החי שהוא מחובר מגוף ונפש, להשיג אמיתת דבר זה על בורייו והודיעו ברוך הוא מה שלא ידע אדם לפניו ולא יידע לאחריו, עד שהשיג מאמיתת הימצאו דבר שנפרד הקדוש ברוך הוא בדעתו משאר הנמצאים, כמו שייפרד אחד מן האנשים שראה אחוריו, והשיג כל גופו ומלבושו בדעתו משאר האנשים; ועל דבר זה רמז הכתוב, ואמר "וראית, את אחוריי; ופניי, לא ייראו" (שמות לג,כג).

A complete and direct knowledge of G' is not possible. When Rambam speaks of man's relation to G' he must make clear that our minds are limited in their ability to grasp G' (אין דעתו של אדם יכולה להשיגו ולחוקרו). Since we can not relate directly to G' we are limited to relating to Him via His שם.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

To'elet of Sh'chita

This is not a continuation of yesterday's post. In the 12th to'elet in Ralbag's first section of Parashat R'ei (p. 100 in the Mosad HaRav Kook ed.) he offers three to'elot (benefits) of the mitzva of sh'chita. The first to'elet has a bearing on the prohibition of eating blood. Severing the major blood vessels causes the blood to flow out with greater efficiency. In the Ralbag's second to'elet of sh'chita he says that the manner in which we are commanded to do sh'chita kills the animal with greater ease - this, he says, helps prevent us from acquiring a cruel character. The Torah is guarding us from this undesirable outcome.

However, even when done in a more "humane" way slaughtering can still bring about the vice of cruelty. The Ralbag shows us in his third to'elet how the general character of mitzvot can give us even more protection from this vice. I found his approach facinating. I will give my loose translation:
The third [to'elet] is more general, that is, when the mitzva of how to perform this slaughter comes about, it will occur to the Shocheit of the animal that he is not focused [(or) does not have the intention] to kill the animal when he does this action. Rather, his thoughts are upon how to perform this mitzva in the manner in which Hashem commanded. This will be a toelet (beneficial) to being drawn after 'cleaving' to Hashem even while he is doing this -- and to distance himself from the character of cruelty, since he is not focused on slaughtering, only to perform the mitzva in the way that Hashem commanded him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Following Hashem in the Desert

After the general quality (as the Malbim puts it) of Yirmiyahu's nevua is described in the first chapter of the book we read for the first time of Hashem instructing him to call out to the people:
א וַיְהִי דְבַר-יְהוָה, אֵלַי לֵאמֹר. ב הָלֹךְ וְקָרָאתָ בְאָזְנֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֵאמֹר, כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ, אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ--לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר, בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה. ג קֹדֶשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל לַיהוָה, רֵאשִׁית תְּבוּאָתֹה; כָּל-אֹכְלָיו יֶאְשָׁמוּ, רָעָה תָּבֹא אֲלֵיהֶם נְאֻם-יְהוָה.
Yirmiyahu is told:
Go and call out in the ears of Yerushalayim and say, "So says Hashem, 'I remember the chesed of your youth, the love of your nuptials -- your following after me in the desert in an unsown land. Sanctified unto Hashem is Yisrael, the first of his crop -- all those who consume him will be held guilty, evil shall come upon them -- the word of Hashem'"
What is the significance of this message? Why is this an appropriate message for the people in Yerushalayim? Is this an example of a nevua of nechama (consolation)?

At first it seems this is a message of consolation. First Hashem praises the Jewish people speaking their praises and then says that all who hurt them will be punished. However Hashem "remembers" the chesed of Yisrael's youth and how they followed after Hashem in the desert -- not so now. It is true that those who harm the Jewish will be punished. However this implies that harm will befall the Jewish people. The purpose of this message is to criticize the Jewish people for not living up to the example of their forefathers. In other words, how could the same people that followed after Hashem into the desert, the first of his crop now be worthy only of destruction.

But why should the people in Yerushalayim compare themselves to the Jews who followed Hashem in the desert? What was their greatness and why is it relevant? The answer to these questions is to be found in the eight chapter of Sefer D'varim. There the people are implored to (D'varim 8:2) "...remember the entire road on which Hashem..." led them for fourty years in the desert. And what are they supposed to remember about that experience? (8:3)"He [Hashem] afflicted you and let you hunger, then he fed you the mann that you did not know and that your forefathers did not know, in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live but by all that comes forth from the mouth of Hashem does man live." I will continue next time with a fuller discussion of this passage from D'varim and how it is relevant to our piece in Yirmiyahu.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Na'ar Anochi

In the first chapter of Yirmiyahu it is written:

ד וַיְהִי דְבַר-יְהוָה, אֵלַי לֵאמֹר. ה בְּטֶרֶם אצורך (אֶצָּרְךָ) בַבֶּטֶן יְדַעְתִּיךָ, וּבְטֶרֶם תֵּצֵא מֵרֶחֶם הִקְדַּשְׁתִּיךָ: נָבִיא לַגּוֹיִם, נְתַתִּיךָ. ו וָאֹמַר, אֲהָהּ אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, הִנֵּה לֹא-יָדַעְתִּי, דַּבֵּר: כִּי-נַעַר, אָנֹכִי. {ס}

ז וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, אַל-תֹּאמַר נַעַר אָנֹכִי: כִּי עַל-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֶשְׁלָחֲךָ, תֵּלֵךְ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוְּךָ, תְּדַבֵּר. ח אַל-תִּירָא, מִפְּנֵיהֶם: כִּי-אִתְּךָ אֲנִי לְהַצִּלֶךָ, נְאֻם-יְהוָה. ט וַיִּשְׁלַח יְהוָה אֶת-יָדוֹ, וַיַּגַּע עַל-פִּי; וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי דְבָרַי בְּפִיךָ. י רְאֵה הִפְקַדְתִּיךָ הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, עַל-הַגּוֹיִם וְעַל-הַמַּמְלָכוֹת, לִנְתוֹשׁ וְלִנְתוֹץ, וּלְהַאֲבִיד וְלַהֲרוֹס--לִבְנוֹת, וְלִנְטוֹעַ.
In response to Hashem designating him a "prophet unto the nations" Yirmiyahu responds that he does not know how to speak and that he is but a lad. I do not think Yirmiyahu is referring to his age but rather to his lack of experience as well as his lack of reputation. As Rashi points out Moshe Rabeinu only chastised the nation at the end of his life when he had already gained a reputation for all that he had done for the people.
Hashem responds to Yirmiyahu:
"Do not say, "I am but a lad", because you will go on every mission that I send you and you will say everything I command you. Do not be afraid of them because I am with you to save you, says Hashem."
Hashem's response does not seem to solve Yirmiyahu's problem - is Yirmiyahu no longer inexperienced because Hashem will save him? Will the people listen to Yirmiyahu who has no reputation?

There are two reasons people will agree with a speaker: 1) The people hear the truth of what is being said and give their assent (agreement as a result of deliberation). 2) The speaker has a great reputation with the people and as long as he does not say anything too ridiculous the people will acquiesce (passive agreement). B'nei Yisrael listened to Moshe Rabeinu largely on account of the second reason. The lack in this kind of agreement is the strength of the people's belief in what is said. The people trusted Moshe Rabeinu and were impressed by him as a person - whatever he would say they would believe because of the implicit trust they had in him (and rightly so). Once Moshe Rabeinu is gone so to is that which maintained their belief. This method can not work when what the people need to do is sincere teshuva. The people must give assent to the truth because they see that it is true not because so-and-so said so. This was the state B'nei Yisrael were in when Yirmiyahu was sent on his mission. If his mission is to succeed the people must listen to him because he is relating the d'var [word/idea of] Hashem not because he is Yirmiyahu. This is the meaning of the next two verses:
"And Hashem stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and Hashem said to me, "Behold, I have placed my word (davar) in your mouth." See, I have appointed you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to uproot and to smash, and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
Yirmiyahu is to be nothing more than a mouthpiece.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Excellent Article on "Names"

Dr. Leon Kass and his wife Mrs. Amy Kass wrote an excellent article on names and naming. They make some beautiful observations about God's naming in the story of creation [in Part I], Adam's naming of himself (Ish) and his wife (Isha then Chava) [also in Part I], and Chava's naming of Kayin, Hevel and Shait (pride of parent vs. individuality of child; product of parents vs. God's gift) [In Part II]. I believe Part III is worth reflecting on in relation to the halachot of kibud av v'aim and kavod haRav. It is also worth reading this article in relation to the use of the word shem in the story of Migdal Bavel.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Chart for Second Makom

I hope the following chart will make the second Makom clearer.

The Second Makom

The second Makom:
When one statement in the Torah is obscure - its explanation is not known - and this statement is elucidated in another place the explanation of this statement is learned from the other place in which it is elucidated.

For example, the Torah demands a chatat (sin offering) from one who accidently does one of the commandments of God that we are forbidden from doing, or an asham (guilt offering) from one who was ignorant of his violation, as is explained in Parashat Vayikra. It is not clear in this place in the Torah which commandments in the Torah are being referred to here.

The explanation of this statement is learned from what is written in the parallel verses in Parashat Sh'lach L'kha. There it is written (B'midbar 15:24), "If, from the eyes of the aida (congregation) it is done accidentally", just as it is written in Parashat Vayikra (Vayikra 4:13), "And the matter is hidden from the eyes of the kahal (congregation) and they do one of the commandments of God (that one may not do)...". There [in B'midbar] it is found that the tzibbur (congregation) must bring a bull [as an olah (elevation-offering)] just as is required here [in the case in Parashat Vayikra], although there [in B'midbar] a he-goat is added [as a chatat (sin offering)]; there [in B'midbar (15:27)] an individual would be required to bring a she-goat, in its first year [as a chatat (sin offering)] just as here [in Vayikra 4:28; 4:32] a she-goat or a sheep must be brought [as a chatat (sin offering)].

Based on this, we learn that the mitzvot this korban [the one in Parashat Vayikra] is brought for are of the same kind as the mitzva cited in Parashat Sh'lach L'cha - there is no difference between them - only, the one cited in Parashat Sh'lach L'cha is equal to all the mitzvot: idolatry. However, the mitzvot cited in Parashat Vayikra would have no equality to "all the mitzvot". This is what is meant when it is written in Parashat Sh'lach L'cha (15:22), "...all of these mitzvot...", and in Parashat Vayikra (4:13), " of the mitzvot of God...". It is impossible to say that what is mean when it is says, "all these mitzvot" that only if one accidentally violates all the mitzvot is he required to bring a bull and a he-goat because one is required, based on what is written in Parashat Vayikra to bring a bull on every single mitzva that is violated accidentally.

Now that this has been established, it will be evident that just as the particular that is cited in Parashat Sh'lach L'cha is only in regard to transgressions that if done intentionally would make the perpetrator liable to karet - as is made evident there when it says (B'midbar 15:30-31), "And the soul that act with an uplifted hand... that soul shall surely be cut off (h'karet t'karet), his iniquity is upon him." - so to that which is cited in Parashat Vayikra is a case in which intentional violation would make the perpetrator liable to karet, as is elucidated in Horiot and K'ritot.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Second Type of the First Makom

The second type:
It is learned from a law that is cited in regard to one particular mitzva, a law that rightly should have more general application to another mitzva - to the same degree as it should be applied to the original mitzva or even more so.

For example, the Torah cites the law (Vayikra 7:15; 22:30) concerning the time the todah offering - which is kodshim kalim - may be eaten - namely, for the period of a day and night and henceforth it is notar and must be burnt. Concerning the time kodshei haKodashim - like the chatat, asham and the rest - may be eaten the Torah is silent. This is because this law should rightly be applied to them the same as it is applied to the todah, or even more so. Therefore, the law concerning the time kodshei haKodashim may be eaten is the same as the law that applies to the todah, as is explained in the fifth chapter of Z'vachim (36A). The philosopher has explained this makom in the rhetorical topics.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The First Makom

The following is the beginning of my translation of the Ralbag's M'komot. Enjoy!

The first Makom [Topos]:
The Torah will cite a particular in place of the general. There are two types:

The first type:
From the particular mentioned in a mitzva the more general category is learned.

For example, we are commanded in the Torah (D'varim 22:10) that we may not plow with an ox and a donkey together. The Torah cites "ox" and "donkey" in place of any two species - one being tamei and the other tahor; "plowing" is cited in place of any craft that would employ a tahor animal with one that is tamei, as is explained in the eight chapter of K'laim and other places throughout the Talmud.

It will be clear when to learn from the particular the general and when not, from the subject matter of the mitzva and the words that are employed - as will become clear to you from our discussion, when we utilize this makom. For example, the subject matter of this mitzva demands this law apply in the case of other animals - meaning to say, that they should not be joined in one craft, one being tamei and the other tahor, as will be explained there, with God's decree.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Prophecy of Future Events

Rabbi Maroof in his blog makes the following point:

Since God can have foreknowledge without precluding or undermining our ability to choose freely, it is quite possible that He could teach Moshe, through prophecy, about future actions of certain individuals without necessarily robbing those individuals of their moral freedom. We see a precedent for this in the Covenant Between the Parts, where God tells Abraham that the Egyptians will enslave the Jews and eventually be punished. Thus, the idea that Moshe could have written of his own death, the mourning of the Israelites and their acceptance of Joshua is not surprising at all, and would in no way have interfered with the free choice of the Jewish people at that time.

Is not there a difference between God's foreknowledge and God informing Moshe about "the future actions of certain individuals"? Once God tells a prophet what a specific individual will do it is de facto the removal of that person's free will. All the future is before God but not all of the future can be revealed to prophets without removing man's free will. Rambam in Shemone P'rakim says that all predictions of future actions concern groups of people where no individual is singled out . Only in rare circumstances where God is actually removing a person's free will does God say what a specific individual will do (like Pharoa).

The answer to Yisrael (the person who asked the question Rabbi Maroof was responding to) then would be that the people following Joshua would be in the category of things that can be revealed to prophets without removing man's free will. Of course, after inspecting the pasuk more carefully:

וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֵלָיו בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּעֲשׂוּ, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה.

The pasuk does not say the people followed Joshua after Moshe's death it says they "paid heed to him and they did as God commanded Moshe." I can say with confidence that this is a very general prophecy and certainly would not violate any particular person's free will. Perhaps on another occasion I will explore what this pasuk means.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The D'varim in Kriat Sh'ma

What are "haD'varim haeleh" in K'riat Sh'ma? From a simple inspection of the first paragraph of K"S it seems that the d'varim referred to are the y'sodot of the first two p'sukim. I will use an outline to demonstrate how I read this parasha:

I) Yesodot
A) ד שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד.
m'tziut Hashem, yichudo, hashgachato
B) ה וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ.
Ahavat Hashem

II) Applications - Becoming the Oheiv via:
A) Zechira
  1. ו וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--עַל-לְבָבֶךָ.
    Constant reflection on those d'varim [of Section I]
  2. ז וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ.
    Teaching those d'varim to one's children and constantly talking about them (Talmud Torah and Kriat Sh'ma)
B) Mazkirin
  1. ח וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת, עַל-יָדֶךָ; וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת, בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ.
    Tying the d'varim to one's arm and having them between the eyes (Tefillin)
  2. ט וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל-מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ, וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ.
    Writing the d'varim on the doorposts (M'zuza)

The K"S states the yesodei haDat and then it gives two methods of integrating those d'varim into one's life such that he can become an oheiv. The first method is zechira - one must actively reflect upon and discuss these d'varim. The second method counters the shikcha caused by one's preoccupation with osher and kavod (which I think are the two fundamental causes of shikcha - however, this point needs to be developed) and delineates mazkirin which are strategically placed to reinforce one's zechira. I believe that my previous post on m'zuza was a step in discovering the strategic placement of the m'zuza.

The order of the halachot in Sefer Ahava seems to reflect this same devision. First the acts of zechira: K"S and Tefila then the mazkirin: TM'S, Tzitzit, B'rachot, Mila. Only B'rachot seems to be out of place. Perhaps b'rachot are in the category of mazkirin because birkat haMazon is precipitated by achila and s'viut, in a sense the achila and s'via become mazkirin via the b'racha. This last point requires more thought.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Al M'zuzot Beitecha

I have gained a new insight into why the mitzva of k'viat m'zuza is specifically on the m'zuzot. I think it expands upon what Rambam writes at the end of the 6th chapter of Hilchot TS"M:

וכל עת שייכנס וייצא, יפגע בייחוד שמו של הקדוש ברוך הוא--ויזכור אהבתו, וייעור
משינתו ושגייתו בהבלי הזמן; ויידע שאין שם דבר העומד לעולם ולעולמי עולמים, אלא
ידיעת צור העולם, ומיד הוא חוזר לדעתו, והולך בדרכי מישרים. אמרו חכמים, כל
מי שיש לו תפילין בראשו ובזרועו, וציצית בבגדו, ומזוזה בפתחו--מוחזק לו, שלא
יחטא: שהרי יש לו מזכירין רבים; והן הן המלאכים שמצילין אותו מלחטוא, שנאמר
"חונה מלאך ה' סביב, ליראיו; ויחלצם" תהילים לד,ח.

I just moved into my "new" house. To make an understatement, a lot of work still needs to be done. Many of the doors have yet to be put up. Additionally, many of the doorways have no m'zuzot and accompanying mashkof's. Sleeping in such a room gave me a deeper insight into why the mitzva is to affix the m'zuza to the doorway. I had a very clear feeling of insecurity in not having a door to close. I needed no privacy because the only other person living in the house is my wife. The door wasn't needed to give us protection from intruders because our front door was closed (of course the lock wasn't working). Even so, the feeling of insecurity was there. The closed door offers a psychological security - the feeling of privacy, the feeling of keeping out any force that could disturb my restful, serene state. Affixing the m'zuza to the structure that holds the door in place is the ideal location to reflect on yichud Hashem. No physical structure can offer security.

The doorway seems to be a place where primitive fears of malevolent forces become focused. Beyond the door is the outside unfriendly and unfamiliar world which stands in opposition to one's will; behind the door is the safe familiar environment of one's own design. One's primitive element attributes the dangers of the world to conscious forces (demons, shaidim). One must overcome this primitive orientation and be tamim im Hashem. In summary, the m'zuza 1) counters the notion that a physical structure can offer real security; 2) is a salvo against the primitive element of man (conscious or unconscious belief in shaidim).

My students brought to my attention that the young child often prefers to keep his door open when he sleeps (especially after seeing a scary movie). This is because the child is insecure in his aloneness. The child fears independance and looks to the parent for security. The doorway is the "door" to the child's lifeline - the parent.

(The text in this color was added on 5-4-06)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Eved Ivri

The following is b'nei yisrael's immediate response to ma'amad har sinai and the dialogue which transpires between them and Moshe:

כ,יד וְכָל-הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת-הַקּוֹלֹת וְאֶת-הַלַּפִּידִם, וְאֵת קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר, וְאֶת-הָהָר, עָשֵׁן; וַיַּרְא הָעָם וַיָּנֻעוּ, וַיַּעַמְדוּ מֵרָחֹק. כ,טו וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, דַּבֵּר-אַתָּה עִמָּנוּ, וְנִשְׁמָעָה; וְאַל-יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ אֱלֹהִים, פֶּן-נָמוּת. כ,טז וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-הָעָם, אַל-תִּירָאוּ, כִּי לְבַעֲבוּר נַסּוֹת אֶתְכֶם, בָּא הָאֱלֹהִים; וּבַעֲבוּר, תִּהְיֶה יִרְאָתוֹ עַל-פְּנֵיכֶם--לְבִלְתִּי תֶחֱטָאוּ. כ,יז וַיַּעֲמֹד הָעָם, מֵרָחֹק; וּמֹשֶׁה נִגַּשׁ אֶל-הָעֲרָפֶל, אֲשֶׁר-שָׁם הָאֱלֹהִים. {ס}

When Moshe enters the arafel Hashem tells Moshe what he should say (tomar) to b'nei yisrael, seemingly a fulfillment of דַּבֵּר-אַתָּה עִמָּנוּ, וְנִשְׁמָעָה; וְאַל-יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ אֱלֹהִים, פֶּן-נָמוּת. The focus of what Moshe is to tell the people is the proper Avoda that should logically follow from their encounter at Sinai:

כ,יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, כֹּה תֹאמַר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: אַתֶּם רְאִיתֶם--כִּי מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם, דִּבַּרְתִּי עִמָּכֶם. כ,יט לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן, אִתִּי: אֱלֹהֵי כֶסֶף וֵאלֹהֵי זָהָב, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ לָכֶם. כ,כ מִזְבַּח אֲדָמָה, תַּעֲשֶׂה-לִּי, וְזָבַחְתָּ עָלָיו אֶת-עֹלֹתֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלָמֶיךָ, אֶת-צֹאנְךָ וְאֶת-בְּקָרֶךָ; בְּכָל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַזְכִּיר אֶת-שְׁמִי, אָבוֹא אֵלֶיךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ. כ,כא וְאִם-מִזְבַּח אֲבָנִים תַּעֲשֶׂה-לִּי, לֹא-תִבְנֶה אֶתְהֶן גָּזִית: כִּי חַרְבְּךָ הֵנַפְתָּ עָלֶיהָ, וַתְּחַלְלֶהָ. כ,כב וְלֹא-תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלֹת, עַל-מִזְבְּחִי: אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ, עָלָיו. {פ}

After this short discussion of proper (and improper) avoda, Hashem tells Moshe the mishpatim that he must teach the people. This significantly longer section continues until 23:19. I will quote the first sub-section:

כא,א וְאֵלֶּה, הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים, לִפְנֵיהֶם. כא,ב כִּי תִקְנֶה עֶבֶד עִבְרִי, שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים יַעֲבֹד; וּבַשְּׁבִעִת--יֵצֵא לַחָפְשִׁי, חִנָּם. כא,ג אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא, בְּגַפּוֹ יֵצֵא; אִם-בַּעַל אִשָּׁה הוּא, וְיָצְאָה אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ. כא,ד אִם-אֲדֹנָיו יִתֶּן-לוֹ אִשָּׁה, וְיָלְדָה-לוֹ בָנִים אוֹ בָנוֹת--הָאִשָּׁה וִילָדֶיהָ, תִּהְיֶה לַאדֹנֶיהָ, וְהוּא, יֵצֵא בְגַפּוֹ. כא,ה וְאִם-אָמֹר יֹאמַר, הָעֶבֶד, אָהַבְתִּי אֶת-אֲדֹנִי, אֶת-אִשְׁתִּי וְאֶת-בָּנָי; לֹא אֵצֵא, חָפְשִׁי. כא,ו וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֲדֹנָיו, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים, וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֶל-הַדֶּלֶת, אוֹ אֶל-הַמְּזוּזָה; וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ, וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם. {ס}

This mishpat is startling. Still ringing in the ears of b'nei yisrael is the pronouncement:

כ,ב אָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים:

I can only imagin the shock b'nei yisrael must have felt upon hearing this mishpat. It sounds like an outright assault - b'nei yisrael have received their freedom, wandered through the desert, stood before Hashem at Sinai and now the first mishpat Moshe is told to teach them is concerned with the case of buying an eved ivri! We would at least expect to hear the more positive side of the mishpat of an eved ivri as presented in parashat b'har.

It could be that this is the mishpat that is most important for b'nei yisrael to focus on. They can not simply react against Egyptian slavery and absolutely eradicate slavery from their society. It is not by eradication of this law that the Torah revolution is brought about - it is by bringing this institution under the ol of malchut shamayim. The Egyptian rejection of ol malchut shamayim led to an absolute abuse of b'nei yisrael. The system of eved ivri is clearly not an abusive system - it most importantly recognizes the temporality of the avdut - it can not be a permanent status because 1) it would imply that he is essentially an eved to this ba'al 2) it would be a rejection of b'nei yisrael's inherent avdut to Hashem. Freedom after the 6th year strongly suggests the idea of malchuto and man's true subordination to a higher "natural" order of chochmato. I apologize for how undeveloped these thoughts are - I impatiently want to get this thought out to (hopefuly) promote some discussion.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Haloscan Commenting Added

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. It will look like all your comments are gone, but they are not. To see old comments click on the link to that post under "PREVIOUS POSTS".

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Heryshef the Ram of Pesach

I always wanted to know what place the ram took in Egyptian mythology. Thanks to wikipedia I was able to find out.
Heryshaf was an Egyptian ram-god. The article in wikipedia is very interesting. Particularly interesting is that "one of his titles was “Ruler of the Riverbanks.” Heryshaf was a creator and fertility god who was born from the primeval waters. He was pictured as a man with the head of a ram, or as a ram."
Here is another good article.
It is interesting that Ramses II (who some identify as the Pharao of Yitziat Mitzrayim) is known to have expanded the temple of Heryshef.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Seeking Clarification of Ta'am

I am moving the discussion about ta'am to this post. In response to Ta'am in Rambam and Ta'am in Rashi Rabbi Maroof wrote:
I understand Rashi as making reference to formal causes, while Rambam is discussing final causes. In other words, if I ask why I must act a certain way, I might mean one of two things. I could be asking which halachic principle compells me to act that way, i.e., I could be requesting clarification of a formal principle. On the other hand,I could be asking why the halacha is formulated in the way that it is, i.e., I am asking about the purpose that the formal principle is designed to serve.

Most Jews lack two dimensions of Torah knowledge. The first is that they fail to perceive the laws of the Torah as an orderly system that has a consistent abstract logical form. Oftentimes, the dinim of the Torah are perceived as innumerable concrete particulars, without any underlying set of conceptual roots from which they emerge and that integrates and accounts for them.

The second deficiency in knowledge is that even people who are aware of the formal constructs of halacha fail to appreciate that the form halacha possesses is there for a reason, to accomplish specific ends.
Rabbi Sacks amplified his statement:
I would like to amlify Josh's excellent point. The formal cause can itself be thought of in two ways- a mathmatical sense whose value lies more in consistency than in reality and a physical sense. The pfysical sense requires that the nefsh distil its principles from rich sensory experience as Ralbag points out in intro to Shir hashirim. It is the failure to acquire this rich experience that I refer to as the cause of the sterile lifeless formulae in the intro to lashon limudim. Our project is to reconstruct the story approach to distilling principles that will solve both the lack of regard or formal and final causes.
I propose two questions to Rabbi Sacks:

What is the rich sensory experience from which one would be able to distill the principle that would be able to illuminate why one who rents from a Jew may not remove the m'zuzot he affixed upon moving out?

Additionaly, in the "Intro to Lashon Limudim" you write:
...modern education, in Torah and general studies alike, fails by rushing the immature nefesh to formal thought before it ready to do so. In rushing our students to formal thought, we do violence to the prime directive of our chanoch la-naar al pi darcho. Implicit in this dictum is an acknowledgement that the immature nefesh's distillation of principles, cannot be rushed. All we accomplish by attempting to rush this natural process is a sterile memorizing of lifeless formulae. The best and most effective way to facilitate this natural process is through presenting carefully organized descriptions of the real world. Stories are actually the ideal instrument for this task. The next section will explore why this is so.
He continues:
...As rational animal the hashkafa skills of our Nefesh sichli must develop in an immature psyche or Nefesh behami that is essentially animal in character...Such a nefesh sichli, as yet unilluminated by ohr, must be carefully guided to finding the hierarchy of ohr principles within the tov of social life as this immature nefesh percieves it.
Rabbi Sacks seems to be saying that the principles distilled from the Torah Sh'bichtav are the Rambam's ta'am (final cause) not Rashi's (formal cause). Can the m'zuza problem (for instance) only be solved by showing how it achieves some tov - in other words establishing how it achieves its final cause? What would Rabbi Sacks consider to be a formal cause (lets stick to the m'zuza example to keep us rooted) that would immerge from the story approach? (I am trying to be concrete in this discussion so as not to commit the "mathematical fallacy")

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Clarification of Kushya

Concerning the kushya mentioned in April 4th's post:

During a discussion with Nachum I realized that I had not read the halacha carefully. It is significant that the Rambam's case is a renter. When one is renting from a Jew he may not remove the m'zuzot upon leaving; when he is renting from a non-Jew he must. It would seem to follow that if one sold one's house to a fellow Jew it would be permitted to take the m'zuzot.

I have not done extensive research to see if everyone agrees that this halacha only applies in the case of a rental but a quick scan of the Aruch HaShulchan (Siman 291) seems to bear out my contention.

The solution to the kushya mentioned in the previous post must explain this.

Ta'am in Rambam and Ta'am in Rashi

Rashi on Chumash Shemot Chapter 21 Verse 1 writes:
אשר תשים לפניהם - אמר לו הקב"ה למשה לא תעלה על דעתך לומר אשנה להם הפרק וההלכה ב' או ג' פעמים עד שתהא סדורה בפיהם כמשנתה, ואיני מטריח עצמי להבינם טעמי הדבר ופירושו, לכך נאמר אשר תשים לפניהם, כשלחן הערוך ומוכן לאכול לפני האדם
Here Rashi speaks of the absolute necessity to present the ta'amai haDavar and peirusho. This is necessary if Torah is indeed a system of chachma and not dogmatic laws. I am interested in clarifying what is meant by ta'amai haDavar - is it the same as what Rambam writes of at the end of Hilchot M'eila?
ראוי לאדם להתבונן במשפטי התורה הקדושה, ולידע סוף עניינם כפי כוחו. ודבר שלא ימצא לו טעם, ולא ידע לו עילה--אל יהי קל בעיניו; ואל יהרוס לעלות אל ה', פן יפרוץ בו. ולא תהא מחשבתו בו, כמחשבתו בשאר דברי החול. בוא וראה, כמה החמירה תורה במעילה: ומה אם עצים ואבנים ועפר ואפר--כיון שנקרא שם אדון העולם עליהם בדברים בלבד, נתקדשו; וכל הנוהג בהן מנהג חול, מעל בה'--ואפילו היה שוגג, צריך כפרה. קל וחומר למצוות שחקק לנו הקדוש ברוך הוא--שלא יבעוט אדם בהן, מפני שלא ידע טעמן; ולא יחפה דברים אשר לא כן על ה', ולא יחשב בהן מחשבתו בדברי החול. הרי נאמר בתורה "ושמרתם את כל חוקותיי ואת כל משפטיי, ועשיתם אותם" (ויקרא יט,לז; ויקרא כ,כב)--ואמרו חכמים ליתן שמירה ועשייה, לחוקים כמשפטים: והעשייה ידועה, והיא שיעשה החוקים; והשמירה, שייזהר בהן ולא ידמה שהן פחותין מן המשפטים. והמשפטים, הן המצוות שטעמן גלוי, וטובת עשייתן בעולם הזה ידועה, כגון איסור גזל ושפיכות דמים וכיבוד אב ואם; והחוקים, הן המצוות שאין טעמן ידוע. אמרו חכמים, חוקים שחקקתי לך, ואין לך רשות להרהר בהן. ויצרו של אדם נוקפו בהן, ואומות העולם משיבין עליהן--כגון איסור בשר חזיר, ובשר בחלב, ועגלה ערופה, ופרה אדומה, ושעיר המשתלח.
What precisely is the difference between these two "ta'am"s?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Kushya on Hilchot TMS and Na'aseh V'Nishma

The Rambam writes at the end of the 5th Chapter of Hilchot TMS:
המשכיר בית לחברו--על השוכר להביא מזוזה ולקבוע אותה, אפילו היה נותן שכר על קביעתה: מפני שהמזוזה חובת הדר היא, ואינה חובת הבית. וכשהוא יוצא, לא ייטלנה בידו וייצא; ואם היה הבית לגוי, הרי זה נוטלה כשייצא
The fact that M'zuza is chovat haDar and not chovat haBayit explains why a renter and not the owner of a house has the responsibility to affix the m'zuza. If so, why is he not allowed to take the m'zuzot he purchased and affixed when he moves out? If it is chovat hadar his chiyuv ends once he leaves his residence so he should have no responsibility to keep the m'zuzot affixed.

In both this post and the previous one I seem to have entered the murkier waters of the Rambam. It is difficult to find the principle which would clarify such difficulties. I wonder, when b'nei yisrael received the Torah would the very way in which it was presented have made such anafim clear? It would seem that even though the fundamental principles would certainly have been clear to all of b'nei yisrael not every individual would have been able to discern how every anaf emerges (I mean immediately - of course this difficulty would cause them to pursue a dialogue with their Rav to clarify the issue)

Is this what is meant by na'aseh v'nishma? In other words all of b'nei yisrael possess the ikrei dat Moshe Rabeinu but not all of the anafim will be clear. It would seem that at least the generality of each mitzva would have clearly emerged from fundamentals for them (and it should for us). For example, m'zuza is a mazkir which is instrumental remembering and loving Hashem constantly and we need mazkirim rabim because we are prone to the cheit of viewing aretz as keri which we think we can lord over and mold to our own design, etc.

S'tira in Hilchot TMS (STaM)

The Rambam in the 5th Chapter of Hilchot T'fillin, M'zuza V'Sefer Torah states the following:
ג [ב] ומצוה לעשות הריוח שבין פרשת "שמע" (דברים ו,ד) ל"והיה, אם שמוע" (דברים יא,יג), פרשה סתומה; ואם עשה אותה פתוחה, כשרה, לפי שאינה סמוכה לה, מן התורה.
The reason why it would be kasher is that in the Torah it is not "סמוכה לה". If this is the reason then why in Chapter 2 is T'fillin not kasher if the p'tuchot and s'tumot are not represented properly? The question is even stronger for the T'fillin Shel Rosh where each parasha is written seperately. Why is it necessary to maintain the form (unlike M'zuza)?

It is interesting to note that in Chapter 5 where the Rambam discusses the Halachot of the tzurot haparshiyot in his enumeration of every and p'tucha and s'tuma in the Torah he does not say what the form of the first parasha (B'reishit, V'Ayleh Sh'mot, etc.) of every Sefer is. I think this is because the first "parasha" is not a parasha at all. A parasha must come after some previous text (this is based on the first two halachot in Chapter 8). At the beginning of a sefer there is no previous text and so it is neither p'tucha nor s'tuma.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Outline of Sh'mot 12

The following is an outline of the 12th chapter of Sh'mot and the difficulty that emerges based on the outline. This is in response to RS's post on Lashon Limudim.

Title: Tzivui Hashem to Moshe as Preparation for Makkat B'chorot

A)1-2 - Mitzvat Kidush HaChodesh

B)3-14 - Mitzvot Chag HaPesach

3-5 L'kicha
6 - Sh'chita
7 - L'kicha and N'tinat HaDam
8-11 Achila
12-13 Tachlit of Korban
14 Zikaron L'dorot

C)15-20 - Mitzvot Chametz U'Matza

15 7 day Matza no Chametz
16 Yom Tov
17A Sh'mira of Matzot
17B-20 Sh'mira L'dorot of Chametz U'Matza

Difficulty - It would seem that the Mitzvot of Chametz U'Matza were for future generations not those who were leaving Mitzrayim. Why is this section placed here? Additionally why is the Mitzva of Rosh Chodesh placed here? It seems the only necessary preparation of B'nei Yisrael was the Korban Pesach. In fact, in 21-28 when Moshe speaks to the Ziknei Yisrael he only instructs them concerning the Korban Pesach. It would seem that the presentation of mitzvot to Moshe must be different from the presentation to the z'kainim. These three mitzvot: Rosh Chodesh, Pesach and Matza/Chametz form one complete system. I need time to contemplate this further.