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.