Sunday, December 25, 2011

Why Shmuel Was Denied Semicha (Ordination)

I go to a Gemara Chaburah (group) on Shabbos and during one of the many discussions I found out something very interesting. Someone mentioned a very interesting point about Shmuel and why he was not given semicha. I asked for the source and the doctor who mentioned the idea was kind enough to share with me his sefer "Doros Ha'amoraim."

Why was Shmuel not ordained?
This question has brought about different answers.
1) [Shmuel] was an expert in the calendar [for which months were full (30 days) and which months were not (29 days)]. Therefore, if he were ordained it is possible that the people of Bavel would follow after him with regards to when to bless the new month and when the holidays would fall and they would not rely on the institutions in Israel. Perhaps this is why they gave Shmuel the sharp nickname of Yarhinaah (referring to the moon).
2) Shmuel dealt with Mada (secular knowledge), outside knowledge, and foreign languages. He also attached himself to wise men from other nations. These things created a stumbling block in the road for him to get ordained. Even though he had good intentions this was a burden and pain to Rebbi [Yehuda Hanasi].

According to the first opinion I can understand why the Rabbis of Israel did not want to ordain Shmuel. They wanted to keep a center for Torah Judaism. If the Rabbis of Israel came up with one date for the holidays and Shmuel came up with another date, then there would be total chaos. Therefore, they needed to keep Shmuel from getting ordained in order to prevent this potential split within Rabbinical Judaism.

However, the second opinion sounds much more disturbing in my eyes. The reason they refused to give Shmuel ordination was because he was well versed in secular knowledge and associated with non-Jews? That is a reason not to ordain someone, because he knows everything in Torah and secular society? This seems like the Rabbis of Israel were making more of a power play than a just decision. They don't want people associating with non-Jews or learning secular knowledge so they refuse to ordain Shmuel. However, it seems like Shmuel would encourage these things and that is the sole reason they did't want to ordain him.

I prefer to believe the first opinion to be correct for the following inferences that we can draw. According to the first opinion the Rabbis did not ordain Shmuel because they realized Rabbinical Judaism must be united, whether in Israel or Bavel. There must be one law for everyone. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, etc needs to be on the same day for all Jews no matter where they are in the world. If Jews in Israel kept Rosh Hashana on Sept. 1st and the Jews in Babel kept Rosh Hashana on Sept. 10th, that disparity would cause major problems. That is a unity issue that seems, to me, a very legitimate concern.

However, to disregard someone from the leadership because he is well versed in secular subjects and associates with non-Jews seems ridiculous. If anything it would seem, to me, that associating with non-Jews and having secular knowledge as well as Torah knowledge would make a person MORE capable of being a leader. Shmuel felt that way and so did many Rishonim after him (Rambam, Ralbag, etc).

This is why I believe the first opinion to be correct and the second opinion to be wrong. However, even if the second opinion were true, we clearly have a Mesorah that learning secular subjects and associating with non-Jews is definitely acceptable..   

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Had Twin Boys

Well, I haven't been posting in a while because my wife gave birth to twin (fraternal) boys last wednesday. It was all very exciting and it has been a crazy week. The bris was on thursday since they were born after shkia.

It is a lot of hard work feeding two babies every two hours, thank G-D we have help.
Oh, and my wife decided to give birth on the second day of my rotations in the hospoital. So, I have been trying to miss as little as possible, but having twins is a lot of work.

I am currently on my pediatric rotation and it has been pretty fun. Little kids are cute and adorable. However, it can be really sad to see these parents that neglect their children or use them to get attention.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a good shabbos.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Aharon's Legacy

When one thinks about Aharon Hakohen the image of a priest comes to mind. The most important thing about Aharon was his role as Kohen Gadol. However, what WAS the role of the Kohen Gadol? Was his main purpose to be the connecting force between man and G-D? Or was there a different reason for the Kohen Gadol?

If we look at this week's Parsha I think we can understand what Aharon's true role was among the Jewish people. At the end of Chapter 20 of Bamidbar, we see that Aharon dies and leaves over his high priest garments to his son, Eleazar:

כח וַיַּפְשֵׁט מֹשֶׁה אֶת-אַהֲרֹן אֶת-בְּגָדָיו, וַיַּלְבֵּשׁ אֹתָם אֶת-אֶלְעָזָר בְּנוֹ, וַיָּמָת אַהֲרֹן שָׁם, בְּרֹאשׁ הָהָר; וַיֵּרֶד מֹשֶׁה וְאֶלְעָזָר, מִן-הָהָר. 28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount; and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.

כט וַיִּרְאוּ, כָּל-הָעֵדָה, כִּי גָוַע, אַהֲרֹן; וַיִּבְכּוּ אֶת-אַהֲרֹן שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם, כֹּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל. {ס} 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel. {S}

However, at the beginning of Chapter 21 the Torah throws in a quick little story that is three verses long:

א וַיִּשְׁמַע הַכְּנַעֲנִי מֶלֶךְ-עֲרָד, יֹשֵׁב הַנֶּגֶב, כִּי בָּא יִשְׂרָאֵל, דֶּרֶךְ הָאֲתָרִים; וַיִּלָּחֶם, בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיִּשְׁבְּ מִמֶּנּוּ, שֶׁבִי. 1 And the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who dwelt in the South, heard tell that Israel came by the way of Atharim; and he fought against Israel, and took a captive.

ב וַיִּדַּר יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶדֶר לַיהוָה, וַיֹּאמַר: אִם-נָתֹן תִּתֵּן אֶת-הָעָם הַזֶּה, בְּיָדִי--וְהַחֲרַמְתִּי, אֶת-עָרֵיהֶם. 2 And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said: 'If Thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will destroy their cities.'

ג וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהוָה בְּקוֹל יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיִּתֵּן אֶת-הַכְּנַעֲנִי, וַיַּחֲרֵם אֶתְהֶם, וְאֶת-עָרֵיהֶם; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם, חָרְמָה. {פ} 3 And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they destroyed them and their cities; and the name of the place was called Hormah. {P}

What is the point of this story? Did Arad really have a battle with Israel that ended with only a single captive? Also, why did the Jewish people vow that they would destroy Arad's cities if only G-D would let them defeat them? Why was this such an important fight for the Jewish people? According to Rashi this captive was not even a full fledged Jew, but a slavewoman.

Rashi tells us that the reason Arad attacked at this point was because he heard that Aharon had died and that the protective cloud over the Jewish people disappeared. Arad was not foolish enough to have a war with the Jewish people that would end in disaster for him and his people. He figured that the best course of action was to demoralize the Jewish people. How? Kidnap someone and hope the Jewish people lost their desire to protect each other.

Why would Arad have thought the Jewish people would not care about someone being kidnapped or just allow it to happen? Aharon had died and HE was the glue that held the Jewish people together.

"The rabbis are still more emphatic in their praise of Aaron's virtues. Thus Hillel, who in Herod's time saw before him mainly a degenerate class of priests, selfish and quarrelsome, held Aaron of old up as a mirror, saying: "Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace; love your fellow creatures and draw them nigh unto the Law!" (Abot, i. 12). This is further illustrated by the tradition preserved in Abot deR. N. xii. Sanh. 6b, and elsewhere, according to which Aaron was an ideal priest of the people, far more beloved for his kindly ways than was Moses. While Moses was stern and uncompromising, brooking no wrong, Aaron went about as peacemaker, reconciling man and wife when he saw them estranged, or a man with his neighbor when they quarreled, and winning evil-doers back into the right way by his friendly intercourse. The mourning of the people at Aaron's death was greater, therefore, than at that of Moses; for whereas, when Aaron died the whole house of Israel wept, including the women (Num. xx. 29),"
(Read more:

He was the peacemaker, he was the one that kept the nation together with love. Without Aharon, Arad was hoping, that the Jews would fall apart and not care for one another.

This was a huge mistake. The Jewish people not only stayed together because of the lesson's learned from Aharon about loving each other, but they even cared about a slavewoman. They would not be demoralized, rather they would use this aggression against them to completely conquer Arad and his kingdom.

This is the point of the Kohen Gadol, to be the glue that keeps the nation together. This is, probably, why the Kohen Gadol is held "responsible" when someone is killed by accident. The Kohen Gadol should have imparted a greater concern for others in the man that killed by accident. Aharon's lesson to the Jewish people is simple: Care for your fellow and stay united.

This teaching of Aharon has been strong in the Jewish community for centuries. How many times have we heard of Jews saving other Jews from harm. Jews in Spain redeeming Jews that were captured and sold. Jews airlifting other Jews out of Africa to bring them back to Israel. This is the most important trait that has been engraved in the Jewish people, caring for one another. Without Aharon's legacy the Jewish people would have truly fallen apart without the unity between different groups of Jews when it was truly needed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Forced Religion In Israel

I have always been against forcing anyone to follow the Jewish religion. I think it is counterproductive and leads to enmity for the religion. Obviously, I think that Israel should be a Jewish state run by Jews and represent Jewish values, but I am opposed to forcing the religion on anyone in any way. The food should be kosher, the day off should be shabbos, but we should not force people to keep shabbos, or to keep kosher. That is not only pointless, but it is dangerous.

This attitude, of forcing religion on irreligious people is why there is such a divide between the religious and the secular people in Israel. The Rabbinate tries to control the marriages and the life styles of the secular people in certain ways (at least this is how the secularists see it). Also, they appear to force the secularists (to some extent) to pay for their Yeshivot and their religious lifestyle. Many refuse to serve in the army and this leads to contempt for the religious by the secularists. I don't think the secularists treat the religious any better, but they don't force their way of life on the religious. ( I could be wrong about the extent of the actual push to force religion on the secularists by the Rabbinate, but from what I read in the newspapers and hear from my secular relatives, this seems to be what is going on. Also, see this article

This is, surprisingly, not just my opinion, but the opinion of a very great man, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. From the book "Thinking Aloud" (Pg. 141-143)
"I am the one who opposes fully- I have said this at conventions- the whole business of legislating religion in Eretz Yisroel. To me it is ridiculous, it will obtain the reverse effect. You cannot make a Jew pious or observant by having a police force. You can ask many questions, I know. Many questions. It is not here the time, in general, to discuss halachic sanctions. Halacha knows of sanctions, and I have a theory about it, but it is not my job to discuss it now. But, to me, Mizrachi is committing the most terrible historical mistake. We should instead devote all our energies to an educational campaign, to display the beauty of yahadus (Judaism), to show people that we have a comprehensive philosophy, and make them come out of their free will to the fold. Legislating through parliament-- I cannot see it. It will never be as effective as an attempt to educate people.

I cannot see a rabbanut (Rabbinate) which is part of government. A few months ago they approached me about Chief Rabbinate, and I said 'No gentlemenn, I cannot become a part of the government.' A rabbi is sometimes opposed to government. If the rabbi's authority is constituted by legislation, the whole rabbinic dignity is gone."

There is not much else to say. The Jewish religion should not be forced upon anyone. Any type of force from the religion detracts from it more than it serves it. It hurts the credibility and the draw of the religion. Hopeful people will realize this and instead of rioting about parking lots being open on shabbos and instead of yelling about anyone who believes evolution to be true is a kofer, maybe we should be focusing on more important things. Maybe the great minds of the generation should lift their heads up from the Gemara and think real hard about why the vast majority of Jews are not religious and how we can influence them to want to become religious.

Observance of the Jewish religion, at least before the Moshiach comes, must be from love and free will. No one can compell anyone else to observe the commandments. In the notes on page 142 of "Thinking Aloud" Rabbi Holzer says, "The only time halacha seems to set up real coercion is in cases of social services and care for the community. For instance, Beis Din (Religious courts) would be kofeh (force) to collect charity (see Rambam Matanos aniyim 7:10)... The few attempts of certain kings and leaders to coercively uphold morality, as in the time of Yoshiyahu, seem to have been completely ineffective. Yoshiyahu was in fact killed because the nation was not reformed as he believed them to be."

Friday, June 24, 2011

How Could Dasan and Aviram Deny that G-D Spoke to Moshe?

Something about this week's Parsha really bothered me. We always learn that the reason the Jewish people's claim to fame (G-D gave us the Torah) is that the entire nation heard G-D speak. This is seen in the Parsha of Yisro. However, this week we have Dasan and Aviram denying the fact that G-D spoke to Moshe. How is this possible? Weren't they witness to Har Sinai? To see this phenomena yourself just check out this week's Parsha (Bamidbar 16:12-15):
יב  וַיִּשְׁלַח מֹשֶׁה, לִקְרֹא לְדָתָן וְלַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב; וַיֹּאמְרוּ, לֹא נַעֲלֶה.12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; and they said: 'We will not come up;
יג  הַמְעַט, כִּי הֶעֱלִיתָנוּ מֵאֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ, לַהֲמִיתֵנוּ, בַּמִּדְבָּר:  כִּי-תִשְׂתָּרֵר עָלֵינוּ, גַּם-הִשְׂתָּרֵר.13 is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, but thou must needs make thyself also a prince over us?
יד  אַף לֹא אֶל-אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ, הֲבִיאֹתָנוּ, וַתִּתֶּן-לָנוּ, נַחֲלַת שָׂדֶה וָכָרֶם; הַעֵינֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָהֵם, תְּנַקֵּר--לֹא נַעֲלֶה.14 Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards; wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up.'
טו  וַיִּחַר לְמֹשֶׁה, מְאֹד, וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-יְהוָה, אַל-תֵּפֶן אֶל-מִנְחָתָם; לֹא חֲמוֹר אֶחָד מֵהֶם, נָשָׂאתִי, וְלֹא הֲרֵעֹתִי, אֶת-אַחַד מֵהֶם.15 And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD: 'Respect not Thou their offering; I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.'
Also, later on we see straight out the Dasan and Aviram did not believe Moshe was sent by G-D (Ibid:28):
כח  וַיֹּאמֶר, מֹשֶׁה, בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן, כִּי-יְהוָה שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת כָּל-הַמַּעֲשִׂים הָאֵלֶּה:  כִּי-לֹא, מִלִּבִּי.28 And Moses said: 'Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works, and that I have not done them of mine own mind.
Dasan and Aviram saw that G-D had chosen Moshe and that G-D was the one that took them out of Egypt. Why, then, do they blame Moshe for taking them out of Egypt and not bringing them to Israel? How can they accuse Moshe of doing anything without G-D? Are they, literally, insane? Did they really require that G-D kill them in order that they and everyone else would know that G-D spoke to Moshe and everything that is happening is from G-D? That seems very silly.

This predicament would have confused me greatly before medical school. However, there were two things that I learned while in medical school. One was from politics and the other was from actual psychology. However, both ideas led to a single point: People believe what they want to believe. It is true, Dasan and Aviram were at Mt. Sinai, they knew that G-D spoke with Moshe and that everything that Moshe did was from G-D (or at least in accordance with G-D's wishes). Still, they had such a warped mentality that they refused to believe that everything Moshe did was from G-D. Dasan and Aviram hated Moshe, they were they ones (the Midrash tells us) that caused Moshe to flee Egypt (they were the two Jews that were fighting in the Beginning of Shemos and said "Are you going to kill us like you killed the Egyptian). Therefore, Dasan and Aviram could never fully allow themselves to believe that Moshe was the ultimate messenger from G-D.

This mentality is seen throughout the world. Every person's bias pushes them towards certain mentalities. There is a reason why 40% of Americans will always vote Republican and 40% will always vote Democrat. They believe the other side is evil and their side is good. Obviously, this is a warped (to some degree) view of reality and some ideas of one side are good and some ideas of the other side are good, but no one will ever admit that except the people in the middle.

There are other examples, especially of the bloggers that are what I call Anti-Slifkinites, that are so bias one way that they refuse to admit to absolute truths. For example, there are obviously Rishonim and achronim that explain the Rambam held the world was not created in six literal days (from All translations are from Rav Eidensohn I believe):

The 9th question concerns that which is mentioned in the Moreh Nevuchim. Rambam notes that time can not exist without the movement of the celestial spheres and the the sun and moon. However this raises the question as how there could be time before the fourth day when the celestial spheres and sun were created? The Rambam answered this question by asserting that in fact the spheres and the sun were created on the first day. Thus time existed for the first 3 days in the same manner as it existed on the subsequent days. He explained that in fact everything — both the Heavens and the Earth — were created on the first day. The Rambam cited Chazal that the word “es” indicated that the creation on the first day included everything associated with the Heavens as well as everything associated with the Earth. He also cited the gemora (Chulin 60a) that everything that was created was created in its final form. He also cited another statement of Chazal that the Heavens and Earth were created simultaneously. Thus the Rambam believed that the work of Creation happened all on one day and was not divided amongst six days. He claimed that in a single moment of creation everything came into existence. He explained that the reason for the Torah stating that there were six days of Creation was to indicate the different levels of created beings according to their natural hierarchy. Thus the Rambam does not understand the word day to be a temporal day and he doesn’t read Bereishis to be describing the chronological sequence of creation…. This is the view of the Rambam which he considered as one of the major secrets of the Creation. In fact he tried hard to conceal this view as can be seen in his words in Moreh Nevuchim (2:30). In spite of his efforts the Ralbag, Navorni and the other commentators to Moreh Nevuchim uncovered his secret and made it known to the whole world…. However, despite the Rambam’s greatness in Torah and the apparent support from Chazal, this view of the Rambam is demonstratably false….

The Abarbanel is clear in question 5 that the Rambam certainly held of creation yeish mei’ayin (ex nihilo), that he was not totally declaring creation an allegory — only the notion of a progression of events over the 6 days of time:

Behold you see that the opinion of the Rav [ie the Rambam -mi] was not that all of the story of creation was an allegory, but only a small part of it. All that is mentioned regarding the activity of the six days, from the creation of the heavens and the earth, and all of the phenomena, and the creation of Adam and his wife, up until “vayechulu” [the first Shabbos -mi], have no allegory whatsoever for everything was literal to him [the Rambam]. Therefore you will see that in this very chapter, no. 30 in the second section, in all which the Rav has explicated regarding the activity of the six days, he did not make an allegory or a hint at all. Rather, he did the exact opposite, for he made a concerted effort to support the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and accepted all of the verses literally…

Shem Tov (Moreh ad loc):
Just as G-d is an absolute unity, His actions are also unified and from His organization came out the sequence of Creation. At the start — time was created simultaneously with the rest of Creation. It is incorrect to say that Creation began at the start of time. Consequently creation consisted of entities that were separate and distinct and prioritized — which is not a reflection of G-d Who is an absolute unity. Their prioritization is the result of their nature as to what their purpose and causal relationship is in combining and interacting with other things. Therefore it only in describing their level in reality that we say Day One, Day Two — but not that they were created in this sequence. Thus the Rambam’s explanation rejects the literal meaning of the Torah verses. He asserts that everything was created simultaneously. It is only as a reflection as to their purpose and importance does the Torah say first second and third and the rest of the days.

Aqeidas Yitzchaq (Bereishis sha’ar 3):
The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim gives the reason for Torah saying that there were days in the Beginning by citing the gemora in Chullin(60a). There it states that the products of Creation were all created complete. In other words all of creations was created at the first instant of creation in their final perfect form. Thus he says that the Creation description is not describing the chronological sequence of events but the days are simply serving to indicate distinctions in their levels and to inform of of the hierarchy of Nature. This was a major esoteric doctrine of the Rambam concerning Creation as those who are understanding can discern from Moreh Nevuchim 2:30) which is devoted to this issue. However the Ralbag publicized it in detail and expounded it thoroughly….

Ralbag (Milchemes Hashem book IV, II8):
You already know from the preceding that the generation of the universe by God occurred in no time, since [its generation] was from nothing to something. Thus, our Rabbis maintain that the heavens and’ the earth were created simultaneously. As it is said in the Chapter [called] “One Does Not Interpret”: “Both were created as one. For it is said, ‘Yea, Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right. hand hath spread out the heavens; When I call unto them they stand up together. “‘ It is therefore evident that the description of creation as being completed in six days is not to be construed as [implying] that the first day preceded the second, for example, by one [whole] day [i.e., twenty four hours]. Rather, they said, this is in order to show the priority amongst various created things. For example, the movers of the heavenly bodies are causally and by nature prior to the heavenly bodies, whereas the latter are causally and by nature prior to the elements and to that which is generated from them. Now, the elements are prior to that which is generated from them according material priority, and the compounds of the elements are also [related] to each other by this kind of priority.For example the plant is prior to the animal; and similarly the imperfect animal is prior to the perfect animal. In the same way, an aquatic animal is prior to a flying animal, and the latter is prior to a walking [i.e., terrestrial] animal while the latter is prior to the rational [animal, i.e., man]. For an aquatic animal produces an imperfect egg, whereas the bird produces a perfect egg; the walking animal, however, produces a living animal in its own body. For this reason Aristotle says in The Book, of Animals that the bird is more perfect than the aquatic animal and the walking animal more perfect than the bird. And there is no doubt that man is the most perfect animal amongst the walking animals.

Alschich (Bereishis 1:1):
Bereshit Rabbah 1 comments on the repeated use of the word “es”, i.e. “es hashamayim”. The first “es” is supposed to include the solar system, whereas the second “es” is a reference to all the vegetation on earth. This sounds perplexing, seeing that vegetation is specifically reported as having been created on the third day, and the galaxies are reported as having been created on the fourth day; so how could they have been included by the words “es” at the very beginning? The answer is that the author of the Midrash did not want foolish people to think that what we know as a time-frame was indispensable for the development of the physical universe from its inception to its completion. We must not be allowed to think that G-d required six days to accomplish what He did. This is one reason why G-d did not say in the Ten Commandments that He created the universe in six days The words used are “six days,” as distinct from in six days, etc. 20,11) The idea conveyed in that verse is that G-d created these six day simultaneously with creating heaven and earth. The Midrash goes on to tell us that the word “es” in that verse is to alert us to the fact that heaven already contained all the elements for the galaxies, etc., and that “earth” already contained beneath the surface all the elements of vegetation, etc. These elements became revealed only at a later stage during the creative process.

Rav JB Soloveitchik (unpublished lectures on Bereishis, #7):
Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the religious man encounters is the problem of evolution and creation. However, this is not the real problem. What actually is irreconcilable is the concept of man as the bearer of a divine image and the idea of man as an intelligent animal in science. Evolution and creation can be reconciled merely by saying that six days is not absolutely so, but is indefinite and may be longer. Maimonides spoke of Creation in terms of phases and the Kabbalah in terms of sefiros, the time of which may be indefinite. However, our conflict is man as a unique being and man as a friend of the animal. Science can never explain how being came into being, for it is out of the realm of science, while the Bible is concerned with the problem of ex nihilo. Aristotle could not accept evolution because he believed in the eternity of forms.

However, even with these obvious sources, there are people that deny this obvious truth (I am not going to name names, but it is someone on a certain anti-slifkinite website that is not talked about later in this post). The lesson we have to take away from this idea is that we should never be so closed minded that we use our bias to deny simple and obvious truths. We shouldn't accept anything and everything, but we should realize when someone has a valid point, it is a valid point that we should not ridicule and debase. We can disagree, but we must disagree like civilized people. Creating a blog strictly to oppose anything and everything someone says, even when it has merit, is at best disgusting and at worst a chillul Hashem.

The worst example of this is how some Arabs deny the holocaust. That is absurd and it is obvious that the holocaust occurred and was a terrible event, but these crazy people will deny it strictly because of their bias. Bias is useful sometimes, but it can be very dangerous. We must all be careful with our bias and make sure that it does not blind us from the truth.

The most damaging, in my opinion, case of bias I have seen comes from the comments here

"Obtaining enough training and experience in order to earn enough to just tread water financially can take years." (Someone said this and FKM responded in the following way)

"Baloney. Anybody with a personality can sell insurance and earn a good living very quickly. Anybody with a good gemara kup can be a lawyer and catch-up very quickly. Anybody with good hands and a natural technological curiosity can be a good technician with minimum training taking apart and re-assembling computers. Anybody good in math can become an accountant or go into banking. Anybody with an entrepreneurial spirit can start up his own business and make his own niche in a global marketplace.
I've seen all this happen in the Chareidi sector. It takes a lot of thinking out of the four-year institutional enrollment box, but its done all the time."

Anyone can earn a good living very quickly???? What the heck is this guy talking about? I guess no one is having a hard time making a living. Oh wait, THAT is baloney! There are so many falsities in the statements here that I can't even imagine how he thinks the world works.

Of course there are a few people that can get lucky and make money quickly, but that is faaaaar from the norm. Again, this is bias at its worst. Obviously people should have faith that Hashem will provide in times of need, but to state that anyone can make a GOOD living quickly is just not living in reality.

This is like Dasan and Aviram, they were not living in reality. They saw G-D speak on Mt. Sinai and they saw that Moshe was the one that G-D spoke through. Their bias got in the way of their perception of reality and that was the real problem.

I'm Back (hopefully for a long time)

This past Monday I took the USMLE step 1 and yesterday (thursday) I took the COMLEX (That is, I took the MD boards and the DO boards). I have to say that I am relieved they are over and I hope I did well. Now I have a week off before I start my rotations. I am hoping that, in the future, I will be able to share some of my experiences in the various different hospitals I attend.

There are so many topics that I would like to talk about in the upcoming week that I hope I have enough time to thoroughly engage all of them. This is my aspiration, but we will have to wait and see how much time I really have because I have to get things ready for a baby.

I am starting my 3rd year rotations off at a place called Miami Children's Hospital. It is known as one of the best children's hospitals in Florida. I am excited but also worried. I am worried because I don't know how I am going to feel about seeing very sickly and dying kids, so that worries me. However, I feel privileged to be able to rotate at such a fantastic hospital where my training will be, undoubtedly, top tier.

Ok, have a good shabbos everyone. Maybe later today I will post something on the Parsha if I have a little time after I fulfill all my obligations around the house that I have been neglecting for the past 5 weeks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why I have not been posting

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to apologize to everyone for not posting recently. I am taking my Step 1 test in a little under a month and I need to study day in and out so I can, hopefully, do really well. I hope to continue writing Divrei Torah and other blog posts after I am done.

I am going to be starting my rotations for 3rd year starting in July and I am unsure what my schedule is actually going to be like. I am kind of excited to see how rotations will work. The first two years of med school I shadowed different doctors and had minimal patient interaction. Third year is gong to be much different and no more sitting in class and reading out of books ( obviously, I am still going to be reading out of books, but not for the majority of the day). It is now going to be hands on stuff.

Right now I am just hoping to do well on the boards and then we will see what happens from there. It is kind of scary to think that so much depends on this one test. If I do well I can basically be whatever I want. If I do poorly, then I might be stuck doing something I do not enjoy. Whatever will be will be. Two things that matter, hard work and faith in G-D, those are the only two things that can help me now.

Hope to post again in the end of June.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Rashi Meant About the Status of The Son of The Jewish Woman and Egyptian Man

In this week's parsha, Emor, there is a very curious incident that takes place all the way at the end of the Parsha. Instead of describing it I am just going to quote the verses that discuss the incident (Vayikra 24:10-16):
י  וַיֵּצֵא, בֶּן-אִשָּׁה יִשְׂרְאֵלִית, וְהוּא בֶּן-אִישׁ מִצְרִי, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיִּנָּצוּ, בַּמַּחֲנֶה, בֶּן הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית, וְאִישׁ הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִי.10 And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp.
יא  וַיִּקֹּב בֶּן-הָאִשָּׁה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית אֶת-הַשֵּׁם, וַיְקַלֵּל, וַיָּבִיאוּ אֹתוֹ, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וְשֵׁם אִמּוֹ שְׁלֹמִית בַּת-דִּבְרִי, לְמַטֵּה-דָן.11 And the son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed; and they brought him unto Moses. And his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.
יב  וַיַּנִּיחֻהוּ, בַּמִּשְׁמָר, לִפְרֹשׁ לָהֶם, עַל-פִּי יְהוָה.  {פ}12 And they put him in ward, that it might be declared unto them at the mouth of the LORD. {P}
יג  וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר.13 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
יד  הוֹצֵא אֶת-הַמְקַלֵּל, אֶל-מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה, וְסָמְכוּ כָל-הַשֹּׁמְעִים אֶת-יְדֵיהֶם, עַל-רֹאשׁוֹ; וְרָגְמוּ אֹתוֹ, כָּל-הָעֵדָה.14 'Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
טו  וְאֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, תְּדַבֵּר לֵאמֹר:  אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי-יְקַלֵּל אֱלֹהָיו, וְנָשָׂא חֶטְאוֹ.15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying: Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.
טז  וְנֹקֵב שֵׁם-יְהוָה מוֹת יוּמָת, רָגוֹם יִרְגְּמוּ-בוֹ כָּל-הָעֵדָה:  כַּגֵּר, כָּאֶזְרָח--בְּנָקְבוֹ-שֵׁם, יוּמָת.16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him; as well the stranger, as the home-born, when he blasphemeth the Name, shall be put to death.
There are a few things to discuss here, but I want to focus on something Rashi says while quoting a Medrash in Toras Kohanim (Sifra 24 (Parsha 14:1)). Rashi says (Vayikra 24:10):
בתוך בני ישראל - 
מלמד שנתגייר:
Within the children of Israel: This teaches that he converted [to Judaism].

Now, everyone goes crazy over this saying of Rashi (and by extension Sifra) and they try to figure out what he means.

Ramban Says (Vayikra 24:10):
וטעם בן הישראלית ואיש הישראלי - להורות כי העו"ג הבא על בת ישראל הולד אינו ישראלי. ואע"פ שפסקנו בגמרא (יבמות מה א): דעו"ג הבא על בת ישראל הולד כשר בין בפנויה בין באשת איש, הרי אמרו מזהמין את הולד שהוא פגום לכהונה, וכל שכן שאינו ישראלי בשמו לעניין היחס בדגלים ובנחלת הארץ, כי "לשמות מטות אבותם" כתוב בהן (במדבר כו נה). ומה שאמר בת"כ (פרשה יד א): בתוך בני ישראל, מלמד שנתגייר, אינו שיצטרך בגירות, אלא ככל ישראל שנכנסו לברית במילה וטבילה והרצאת דמים בשעת מתן תורה (כריתות ט א), אבל נתכוונו לומר שהלך אחרי אמו ונדבק בישראל. וזה טעם "בתוך בני ישראל", שהיה עימהם ולא רצה ללכת אחרי אביו להיות מצרי.
The Reason it says the son of a Jewish woman and a Jewish man:
To teach that Idol Worshipers that impregnate a Jewish woman, that child will not be Jewish. Even though we rule in the Gemara (Yevamos 45a) that a Non-Jew that impregnates a Jewish woman, that child is Kosher (a kosher Jew) whether the woman is married or not, the [gemara] still makes that child unfit to marry a Kohein (priest). How much more so that [the child] should not be considered a Jew with regards to heritage for which tribe he or she belongs to and inheriting the land, for the verse says [according] to the names of their father's tribe (Numbers 26:55). (So, when Ramban says the child isn't Jewish, he means the child isn't Jewish with regard to inheritance.)

This that is written in Toras Kohanim (Parsha 14:1) of from within Israel, to teach us that he converted, it does not mean he needed to actually convert, rather he was like the rest of Israel that entered into the covenant through circumcision, dipping in the mikva (waters of purity), and sprinkling of blood at the time of accepting the Torah (Krisus 9a). The intent (of the Sifra) is that he followed after his mother and joined the Jewish people. This is the meaning of from among Israel, that he was with them (Israel) and he did not desire to become an Egyptian like his father.      

This is the Ramban's understanding of the Sifra and is, seemingly, how the Ramban would understand Rashi as well. (At least that is what the Artscroll commentators believe) However, I will show that Rashi could have very easily understood this Sifra in its most basic understanding, that the son of the Jewish woman was an ACTUAL convert.

The Ramban assumes that this Sifra obviously holds that because this son of an Egyptian and Jewish woman was born of a Jewish mother, he must be Jewish. I think that this is faulty thinking and here is why. There is an argument in the Mishna between Rebbe Akiva and Rebbe Yehoshua. (Rav, who wrote the Sifra, is an Amora) What is this argument? I discussed it in this post, but I will sum it up here as well. In the Gemara Yevamos (49a):


Rebbe Akiva says any forbidden relationship makes a child a mamzer. Rebbe Yehoshua says any relationship that would give the death penalty makes the child a mamzer. (Mamzer=bastard for our purposes)

Now, jumping to the Gemara in Kiddushin (68b). There is a discussion there about who is considered a Jew when the father is a Jew and the mother is a non-Jew or if the father is a non-Jew and the mother is a Jew:

How do we know that her issue bears her status? — R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai, Because Scripture saith, For he will turn away thy son from following me: thy son by an Israelite woman is called thy son, but thy son by a heathen is not called thy son. Rabina said: This proves that thy daughter's son by a heathen is called thy son. Shall we say that Rabina holds that if a heathen or a [non-Jewish] slave cohabits with a Jewess the issue is mamzer?

Why does the Gemara immediately jump to the conclusion that Ravina would hold that if a non-Jew cohabits with a Jewish woman her son is a mamzer? What does that debate have anything to do with who the child's status follows? Rashi tells us that if we follow the opinion that the child would be a mamzer (aka Rabbi Akiva) then the child follows after the mother. However, if the child would be considered Kosher (aka Rabbi Joshua), this means the child would follow after the father and kosher means that IF the child converted he or she would NOT be a mamzer.

This is also brought down in Tosfos on 75b of Kiddushin which I discussed in another post which I already linked to. That is another point which the Ramban discusses, but I don't want to go into it right now.

Ramban assumes that no one thinks that once the Torah was given that the status of the child would go after the father. However, as we have seen here by the argument between Rebbe Yehoshua and Rebbe Akiva, that is simply not true, according to Rashi (and Tosfos).    

Therefore, I would like to suggest that it is possible when Rashi says that this son of the Egyptian man and the Jewish woman converted, according to the Sifra, it meant he literally converted. Not that he dunked in the mikva, circumcised himself and sprinkled the blood like every other Jew, but that he was an actual convert. He had the status of a Ger (convert) according to Rashi.

This idea, that Rashi and Tosfos believe that the one who holds the child is kosher means the child is a non-Jew and can convert without being a mamzer is also brought down in Rav Elyashiv's Haaros on Kiddushin on daf 75b. Therefore, it would make sense for Rav Elyashiv to argue on the Ramban as well or at least give an alternate understanding.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rambam Yisodei Hatorah Perek 6 Halacha 5: Names Of G-D That Can Be Erased

שאר הכינויין שמשבחין בהן את הקב"ה כגון חנון ורחום הגדול הגבור והנורא הנאמן קנא וחזק וכיוצא בהן הרי הן כשאר כתבי הקדש ומותר למוחקן:
Other nicknames that [people use] to show praise to G-D with them, for example, Gracious and Merciful (Shemos 34:6)
ו  וַיַּעֲבֹר יְהוָה עַל-פָּנָיו, וַיִּקְרָא, יְהוָה יְהוָה, אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן--אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, וְרַב-חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת.6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed: 'The LORD, the LORD, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth;
The Great, The Mighty, and the Awesome (Devarim 10:17)

יז  כִּי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים, וַאֲדֹנֵי הָאֲדֹנִים:  הָאֵל הַגָּדֹל הַגִּבֹּר, וְהַנּוֹרָא, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִשָּׂא פָנִים, וְלֹא יִקַּח שֹׁחַד.17 For the LORD your God, He is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the awful, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.

The Faithful (Devarim 7:9)

ט  וְיָדַעְתָּ, כִּי-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים:  הָאֵל, הַנֶּאֱמָן--שֹׁמֵר הַבְּרִית וְהַחֶסֶד לְאֹהֲבָיו וּלְשֹׁמְרֵי מִצְו‍ֹתָו, לְאֶלֶף דּוֹר.9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, He is God; the faithful God, who keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations;

Jealous (Shemos 20:4)

ד  לֹא-תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לָהֶם, וְלֹא תָעָבְדֵם:  כִּי אָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֵל קַנָּא--פֹּקֵד עֲו‍ֹן אָבֹת עַל-בָּנִים עַל-שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל-רִבֵּעִים, לְשֹׂנְאָי.4 thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me;

Strong (Yirmiyahu 50:34)

לד  גֹּאֲלָם חָזָק, יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת שְׁמוֹ--רִיב יָרִיב, אֶת-רִיבָם:  לְמַעַן הִרְגִּיעַ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְהִרְגִּיז לְיֹשְׁבֵי בָבֶל.34 Their Redeemer is strong, the LORD of hosts is His name; He will thoroughly plead their cause, that He may give rest to the earth, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.

and similar names are like other words in the holy [language] and they are permitted to be erased.

The question to ask here is why are these names of G-D allowed to be erased, but the names stated in the second halacha are not allowed to be erased? In short, the names in the second halacha refer to G-D himself. They are descriptions (except yud hey vav hey) of G-D, but they are not admirations or praises.

However, the names referred to in this halacha are purely names associated with praise. No one who speaks with G-D uses these names solely to refer to G-D, but they use these names to praise and show admiration towards G-D. As we see in the Gemara in Berachos (33b):

A certain [reader] went down in the presence of R. Hanina and said, O God, the great, mighty,
terrible, majestic, powerful, awful, strong, fearless, sure and honoured. He waited till he had
finished, and when he had finished he said to him, Have you concluded all the praise of your
Master? Why do we want all this? Even with these three that we do say, had not Moses our Master
mentioned them in the Law and had not the Men of the Great Synagogue come and inserted them
in the Tefillah, we should not have been able to mention them, and you say all these and still go on!
It is as if an earthly king had a million denarii of gold, and someone praised him as possessing silver
ones. Would it not be an insult to him? (Translation from Soncino Gemara)

It seems to me that the names in the second halacha are names we use to refer to G-D either because that is His name (Yud hey vav hey) or they are descriptors of G-D. However, the names in this halacha are how we relate to G-D. We see G-D as Awesome, Merciful, Faithful, Great, Powerful, etc because this is how we perceive Him.

If we were not here G-D would still be Shaddai, Tzivaos, EL, Yud Hey Vav Hey, Elokim, Alef Dalet Nun Yud, Eloka. However, if human's were not around He could not be described as Merciful, Gracious, Mighty, Awesome, Faithful, etc because these are human praises. Therefore, these names are not as inherently descriptive of G-D.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meaning Behind Pesach (Passover)

Throughout Tanach (all the books of the Bible) we see that when the Jews have some type of cleansing processes, the first thing they do is bring the Korban Pesach (the passover offering). Not just that, but they celebrate the holiday of Passover. What is it about Passover that it is the first thing to be done when the nation, as a whole is cleansed?

I think the most appropriate way to begin this discussion is to start off by discussing the genesis of this holiday. In Shemos (12:12-13):
יב  וְעָבַרְתִּי בְאֶרֶץ-מִצְרַיִם, בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה, וְהִכֵּיתִי כָל-בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, מֵאָדָם וְעַד-בְּהֵמָה; וּבְכָל-אֱלֹהֵי מִצְרַיִם אֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים, אֲנִי יְהוָה.12 For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.
יג  וְהָיָה הַדָּם לָכֶם לְאֹת, עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם שָׁם, וְרָאִיתִי אֶת-הַדָּם, וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה בָכֶם נֶגֶף לְמַשְׁחִית, בְּהַכֹּתִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
G-D is telling us that it is only because we sacrificed the Passover offering that He is "passing over" our houses. This seems very strange, why should this passover offering grant such great protection and, essentially, be the deciding factor of who is a Jew and who is an Egyptian? Apparently, if a Jew refused to sacrifice the passover offering and smear it's blood on his or her door post they would be considered just like Egyptians and the "plague" would enter their house indiscriminately.

There are many other places in the Torah where the Jews seem to have a mass repentance and then, only once they return to religious observance, do they celebrate the holiday of Passover. The first occurrence of the Jewish people keeping Passover outside of the first five books is found in Joshua (5:2,6-8,10):
ב  בָּעֵת הַהִיא, אָמַר יְהוָה אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ, חַרְבוֹת צֻרִים; וְשׁוּב מֹל אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֵׁנִית.2 At that time the LORD said unto Joshua: 'Make thee knives of flint, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.'
ו  כִּי אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, הָלְכוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּמִּדְבָּר, עַד-תֹּם כָּל-הַגּוֹי אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּלְחָמָה הַיֹּצְאִים מִמִּצְרַיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-שָׁמְעוּ בְּקוֹל יְהוָה:  אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה, לָהֶם, לְבִלְתִּי הַרְאוֹתָם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה לַאֲבוֹתָם לָתֶת לָנוּ, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ.6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation, even the men of war that came forth out of Egypt, were consumed, because they hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD; unto whom the LORD swore that He would not let them see the land which the LORD swore unto their fathers that He would give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.
ז  וְאֶת-בְּנֵיהֶם הֵקִים תַּחְתָּם, אֹתָם מָל יְהוֹשֻׁעַ:  כִּי-עֲרֵלִים הָיוּ, כִּי לֹא-מָלוּ אוֹתָם בַּדָּרֶךְ.7 And He raised up their children in their stead; them did Joshua circumcise; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised by the way.
ח  וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר-תַּמּוּ כָל-הַגּוֹי, לְהִמּוֹל; וַיֵּשְׁבוּ תַחְתָּם בַּמַּחֲנֶה, עַד חֲיוֹתָם.  {פ}8 And it came to pass, when all the nation were circumcised, every one of them, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. {P}

י  וַיַּחֲנוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בַּגִּלְגָּל; וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת-הַפֶּסַח בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ, בָּעֶרֶב--בְּעַרְבוֹת יְרִיחוֹ.10 And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal; and they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho.

It was only once the Jewish people had a mass circumcision and the generation that had the Sin of the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies, that caused the Jews to wander in the desert for 40 years, passed away did the Jewish people once again keep the Passover.

The Kind Hezekiah is found to be a completely righteous king, but he followed a completely wicked king. Therefore, when Hezekiah inherited the kingdom, his subjects were idol worshipers. This can be seen in Chronicles 2 (29:6,7):

ו  כִּי-מָעֲלוּ אֲבֹתֵינוּ, וְעָשׂוּ הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה-אֱלֹהֵינוּ--וַיַּעַזְבֻהוּ; וַיַּסֵּבּוּ פְנֵיהֶם מִמִּשְׁכַּן יְהוָה, וַיִּתְּנוּ-עֹרֶף.6 For our fathers have acted treacherously, and done that which was evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs.
ז  גַּם סָגְרוּ דַּלְתוֹת הָאוּלָם, וַיְכַבּוּ אֶת-הַנֵּרוֹת, וּקְטֹרֶת, לֹא הִקְטִירוּ; וְעֹלָה לֹא-הֶעֱלוּ בַקֹּדֶשׁ, לֵאלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.7 Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt-offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel.

After King Hezekiah had the Levites cleanse the temple and he destroyed all of the idol worship, he moved on to congregated everyone in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover holiday (Chronicles 2 30:1):

א  וַיִּשְׁלַח יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ עַל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל וִיהוּדָה, וְגַם-אִגְּרוֹת כָּתַב עַל-אֶפְרַיִם וּמְנַשֶּׁה, לָבוֹא לְבֵית-יְהוָה, בִּירוּשָׁלִָם--לַעֲשׂוֹת פֶּסַח, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD, the God of Israel.

Also, later in Chronicles 2 we see that King Josiah (Yoshiayahu) inherited the kingdom from the wicked king Menashe. Menashe had completely devastated the religious practices of the Jewish country, but when Josiah came to power he went on a rampage destroying all the idols that his father had erected or allowed to be erected. Once he was finished cleansing the land we are told that he then (Chronicles 2 35:1):
א  וַיַּעַשׂ יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ בִירוּשָׁלִַם פֶּסַח, לַיהוָה; וַיִּשְׁחֲטוּ הַפֶּסַח, בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן.1 And Josiah kept a passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem; and they killed the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month.
 There are more instances, but I think these cases are sufficient to point out that there is something about Passover that connects to the Jewish people only when they are following the Torah. Not only following the Torah, but there is a special emphasis that once the Jewish people are cleansed of some imperfection THEN they celebrate the holiday of Passover. Hezekiah celebrated the Passover only once he had destroyed all of the idols his father, Ahaz (Achaz), and had built and cleansed the Temple. Also, we are only told that Josiah (Yoshiyahu) kept the Passover once he abolished all of the idols in the land and had cleansed the Temple. Joshua and the Jewish people of his time only kept the Passover once they were cleansed from the previous generation that had sinned by the golden calf and the spies and only once everyone was circumcised, another form of cleansing the Jewish people, did they celebrate the Passover. Therefore, we must consider why the Passover offering is so connected to the Jewish people cleansing themselves of sin and returning to the proper service of G-D.

 I think the answer can be found in the establishment of the holiday. Passover is all about us becoming the Jewish people solely because we follow G-D's commandments. This is seen by the original Korban Pesach. The Jews were differentiated from their Egyptian neighbors solely because they showed the sign, blood on the door post, that meant they followed G-D's command. There were no other significant factors that separated the Jewish household from the Egyptians household. Even if you were a Jew, if you did not have the sign on the door post, you were treated as a regular Egyptian.

This is why by Joshua, Hezekiah, and Josiah the Jewish people decided to celebrate Passover once they had returned to the service of G-D, because they understood the meaning of Passover.What is the point of the Tanach telling us that, specifically, at these times did the Jewish people keep Passover? There must have been many Passovers that the Jewish people kept that the Tanach does not mention. The point of the Tanach telling us that at this specific time, once the Jews had returned to the service of G-D, the Jews kept Passover  is because of what Passover signifies. It is only when we are acting as the people of G-D that we are truly able to understand the meaning of Passover. Passover is all about realizing that you follow G-D because He is G-D. Did the idea that the blood on the door post would separate a Jew from an Egyptian make any reasonable sense? No, it was simply used as a divider of those who listen to G-D versus those who do not.

There might very well be reasons for the Mitzvos, they might all be logically explainable. This idea is a debate among many. (Rambam, Ramban and Maharal being a few) However, the most compelling reason to keep the Mitzvos is because G-D told us to.

This is the essence of Pesach. Pesach is a recognition that G-D is the one who freed us from Egypt. We celebrate the holiday because we recognize that G-D is our leader. Therefore, the Tanach emphasizes the celebration of Pesach only when the Jewish people recognize the reason and significance of this holiday. The Tanach is, in essence, telling us that this is how one should celebrate the holiday, because the commitment and zeal that these people are showing is the essence of the holiday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why Does a Metzora (Someone Afflicted With Tzaraas) Bring a Guilt Offering

(Corrected and clarified)
This week's Parsha discusses a person who is afflicted with tzaraas (tzaraat for you Israeli's/Sephardim/or random people who say t instead of s for a tav without a dot). We are told that the Metzora needs to bring three sacrifices, one an Guilt-offering (Asham), a sin offering and an Olah (Vayikra 14:12-13):

י  וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי, יִקַּח שְׁנֵי-כְבָשִׂים תְּמִימִם, וְכַבְשָׂה אַחַת בַּת-שְׁנָתָהּ, תְּמִימָה; וּשְׁלֹשָׁה עֶשְׂרֹנִים, סֹלֶת מִנְחָה בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן, וְלֹג אֶחָד, שָׁמֶן. 10 And on the eighth day he shall take two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.

יב  וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן אֶת-הַכֶּבֶשׂ הָאֶחָד, וְהִקְרִיב אֹתוֹ לְאָשָׁם--וְאֶת-לֹג הַשָּׁמֶן; וְהֵנִיף אֹתָם תְּנוּפָה, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה. 12 And the priest shall take one of the he-lambs, and offer him for a guilt-offering, and the log of oil, and wave them for a wave-offering before the LORD.

יט  וְעָשָׂה הַכֹּהֵן, אֶת-הַחַטָּאת, וְכִפֶּר, עַל-הַמִּטַּהֵר מִטֻּמְאָתוֹ; וְאַחַר, יִשְׁחַט אֶת-הָעֹלָה. 19 And the priest shall offer the sin-offering, and make atonement for him that is to be cleansed because of his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt-offering.

The reason for bringing a Guilt-offering with a sin-offering and an Olah seems to be similar to the reason why a woman who just gave birth has to bring a Sin-offering with an Olah. There are a few differences based on the specifics of the case, for example, the woman has to bring the Olah first and the Metzora has to bring a Guilt offering on top of the other two, but I think the reason a Sin/Guilt offering has to be brought AT ALL is similar. As seen in this previous post (, a woman needs to bring a Sin-offering because of some sin she committed. The same is true for the guilt and sin offering of the Metzorah, he or she committed some sin, therefore a Guilt-offering must be brought. So, as usual, we must ask the question of "What was his/her sin?"

Most people only relate the affliction of Tzaraas with Lashon hora (slander). This is a popular misconception made so popular because of all the commentaries on the incident in Bamidbar (12) where Miriam slanders Moshe and is afflicted with Taraas. Yes, slander seems to be one way that a person can acquire Tzaraas, but Tzaraas is so much more than just a punishment for slander. The Midrash Tanchuma brings down different reasons for why a person is afflicted by Tzaraas (Metzorah 4):

זאת תהיה תורת המצורע. ילמדנו רבינו, על כמה דברים נגעים באים על האדם. כך שנו רבותינו, על אחת עשרה דברים הנגעים באים על האדם. על עבודה זרה, ועל חלול השם, ועל גלוי עריות, ועל הגנבות, ועל לשון הרע, ועל המעיד עדות שקר, ועל הדיין המקלקל את הדין, ועל שבועת שוא, ועל הנכנס בתחום שאינו שלו, ועל החושב מחשבות של שקר, ועל המשלח מדנים בין אחים. ויש אומרים, אף על עין רעה
This is the Law of the Metzora: Our Rabbis teach us , How many things bring about the affliction of Tzaraas on a man? Our Rabbis have taught that there are 11 things a person can do that brings about Tzaraas on them. Idol worship, Desecration of G-D, Illicit relations, Stealing (hidden), Slander, False testimony, A judge that distorts judgement, A false oath, Entering into an area that is not yours, thinking thoughts of falsehood, causing a rift between brothers and, there are those that say, having an evil eye. 

All of these perverse actions have one thing in common, they all constitute a betrayal of someone else by either tricking them into believing something or actually betraying them. The person who worships idols is betraying G-D by turning his or her back on G-D. The person who steals or testifies falsely is betraying the one he or she is causing harm to. The best way to understand why a person gets Tzaraas is to look at examples of it in the Torah, Neviim and Kesuvim.

The first case of Tzaraas in the Torah was when Moshe was speaking to G-D by the burning bush (Shemos (4:6):
ו  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לוֹ עוֹד, הָבֵא-נָא יָדְךָ בְּחֵיקֶךָ, וַיָּבֵא יָדוֹ, בְּחֵיקוֹ; וַיּוֹצִאָהּ, וְהִנֵּה יָדוֹ מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג.6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him: 'Put now thy hand into thy bosom.' And he put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white as snow.
This was a form of punishment, apparently, because just a few verses earlier Moshe had said: (ibid:1):
א  וַיַּעַן מֹשֶׁה, וַיֹּאמֶר, וְהֵן לֹא-יַאֲמִינוּ לִי, וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי:  כִּי יֹאמְרוּ, לֹא-נִרְאָה אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָה.1 And Moses answered and said: 'But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice; for they will say: The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.'
This was inappropriate for Moshe to say. He slandered the Jewish people. How could he claim that they will not listen to him when G-D was sending Moshe? Therefore, he was punished with Tzaraas.

The next case is when Miriam slanders Moshe (Bamidbar 12:10):
י  וְהֶעָנָן, סָר מֵעַל הָאֹהֶל, וְהִנֵּה מִרְיָם, מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג; וַיִּפֶן אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מִרְיָם, וְהִנֵּה מְצֹרָעַת.10 And when the cloud was removed from over the Tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam; and, behold, she was leprous.
She was punished with Tzaraas because she had spoken slanderously against her brother. Therefore, she was punished, just like Moshe was, with Tzaraas.

The next case is found in Melachim 2 (5:1) by Naaman the Aramean:
א  וְנַעֲמָן שַׂר-צְבָא מֶלֶךְ-אֲרָם הָיָה אִישׁ גָּדוֹל לִפְנֵי אֲדֹנָיו, וּנְשֻׂא פָנִים--כִּי-בוֹ נָתַן-יְהוָה תְּשׁוּעָה, לַאֲרָם; וְהָאִישׁ, הָיָה גִּבּוֹר חַיִל--מְצֹרָע.1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and held in esteem, because by him the LORD had given victory unto Aram; he was also a mighty man of valour, but he was a leper.
The question here is why does this man deserve to be a Metzora? Weren't only Jews punished with Tzaraas because of its close connection to G-D? (meaning G-D places this disease on the Metzora) The truth is that this Naaman was a righteous gentile, as is seen in this chapter. He believed in G-D and his power (ibid:11):
יא  וַיִּקְצֹף נַעֲמָן, וַיֵּלַךְ; וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה אָמַרְתִּי אֵלַי יֵצֵא יָצוֹא, וְעָמַד וְקָרָא בְּשֵׁם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו, וְהֵנִיף יָדוֹ אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם, וְאָסַף הַמְּצֹרָע.11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said: 'Behold, I thought: He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper. 
He clearly believed in G-D, but it was this incident that made him realize that the only G-D is the G-D of Israel (ibid:15):
טו  וַיָּשָׁב אֶל-אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים הוּא וְכָל-מַחֲנֵהוּ, וַיָּבֹא וַיַּעֲמֹד לְפָנָיו, וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה-נָא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אֵין אֱלֹהִים בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ, כִּי אִם-בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל; וְעַתָּה קַח-נָא בְרָכָה, מֵאֵת עַבְדֶּךָ.15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him; and he said: 'Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; now therefore, I pray thee, take a present of thy servant.'
So, what was Naaman being punished for originally? It seems like he was punished for entering into an area where he didn't belong (ibid:2):
ב  וַאֲרָם יָצְאוּ גְדוּדִים, וַיִּשְׁבּוּ מֵאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל נַעֲרָה קְטַנָּה; וַתְּהִי, לִפְנֵי אֵשֶׁת נַעֲמָן.2 And the Arameans had gone out in bands, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.
G-D had granted Naaman power over Israel, but he had no right to abduct a young girl from Israel. This is, apparently, why he was a Metzora.

The next case is found in the same chapter where Elisha's servant, Gehazi, is afflicted with Tzaraas (ibid:27)
כז  וְצָרַעַת נַעֲמָן תִּדְבַּק-בְּךָ, וּבְזַרְעֲךָ לְעוֹלָם; וַיֵּצֵא מִלְּפָנָיו, מְצֹרָע כַּשָּׁלֶג.27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever.' And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
The reason for this affliction was because Elisha did not want to accept any gifts from Naaman, but Gehazi wanted money. Gehazi chased after Naaman after he had departed from Elisha. He told Naaman that Elisha changed his mind and wanted to accept some gifts after all, a pure lie! Therefore, Elisha informed Gehazi that he would be a Metzora. All because of his greed that caused him to lie.

The next case we have is Azariah (also known as Uzziah) the son of Amaziah, King of Yehuda becoming a Metzorah (Kings 2 15:5):
ה  וַיְנַגַּע יְהוָה אֶת-הַמֶּלֶךְ, וַיְהִי מְצֹרָע עַד-יוֹם מֹתוֹ, וַיֵּשֶׁב, בְּבֵית הַחָפְשִׁית; וְיוֹתָם בֶּן-הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל-הַבַּיִת, שֹׁפֵט אֶת-עַם הָאָרֶץ.5 And the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a house set apart. And Jotham the king's son was over the household, judging the people of the land.
(He is referred to Azariah in Kings because that was his actual name. However, he is referred to Uzziah in Chronicles because the Kohein (Priest) that kicks him out of the temple when he becomes a metzora is named  Azariah.)
What did he do to deserve the affliction of Tzaraas? This is told to us in Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles 2 26:16,18,19):
טז  וּכְחֶזְקָתוֹ, גָּבַהּ לִבּוֹ עַד-לְהַשְׁחִית, וַיִּמְעַל, בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהָיו; וַיָּבֹא אֶל-הֵיכַל יְהוָה, לְהַקְטִיר עַל-מִזְבַּח הַקְּטֹרֶת.16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up so that he did corruptly, and he trespassed against the LORD his God; for he went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
יח  וַיַּעַמְדוּ עַל-עֻזִּיָּהוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ, וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא-לְךָ עֻזִּיָּהוּ לְהַקְטִיר לַיהוָה--כִּי לַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי-אַהֲרֹן הַמְקֻדָּשִׁים, לְהַקְטִיר:  צֵא מִן-הַמִּקְדָּשׁ כִּי מָעַלְתָּ, וְלֹא-לְךָ לְכָבוֹד מֵיְהוָה אֱלֹהִים.18 and they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him: 'It pertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron that are consecrated it pertaineth to burn incense; go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thy honour from the LORD God.'
יט  וַיִּזְעַף, עֻזִּיָּהוּ, וּבְיָדוֹ מִקְטֶרֶת, לְהַקְטִיר; וּבְזַעְפּוֹ עִם-הַכֹּהֲנִים, וְהַצָּרַעַת זָרְחָה בְמִצְחוֹ לִפְנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּבֵית יְהוָה, מֵעַל, לְמִזְבַּח הַקְּטֹרֶת.19 Then Uzziah was wroth; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense; and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy broke forth in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense.
Uzziah (Azariah) was trying to enter into a place he did not belong, which was considered to be a betrayal of G-D and the Kohanim (Priests). It was thier right to offer up incense to G-D and G-D designated it for them.  Also, the Tzaraas did not actually come upon Uzziah until he was considering evil thoughts against the priests. Thus, when G-D saw Uzziah would not back down until he was made a Metzora, that is exactly what happened.

All of these cases from Tanach teach us that it is obvious that it is more than just Loshon Hara (slander) that causes a person to be afflicted with Tzaraas. Any betrayal that a person commits is deserving of this punishment. However, the only people to ever be afflicted with this "disease" were righteous individuals or people that were close to G-D. This can teach us something very valuable about betrayal. Betrayal is bad, but it is even worse when you are considered to be someone who should know better. Yes, we get upset when someone steals from us, but it is even worse if the person who stole from us turns out to be our best friend! That is possibly the worst feeling ever. Not only that, but it effects our psyche and we are forever unable to trust people.

Why was Moshe's slander so bad? Because he was supposed to become the leader and stick up for the Jewish people even when G-D wanted to destroy them. Why was Miriam's slander so bad? Because she was the one who protected her little brother in the reeds and was supposed to defend him from others. Why was Namaans abduction so bad? Because he was supposed to restrain his own men from kidnapping Jews and he kidnapped one himself. (Notice how the verse tells us the Arameans only kidnapped one young woman and it happened to be that she served in Naaman's house.) Why was Gehazi's lie so bad? Because he was the close confidante of Elisha and he ended up using Elisha's righteous name to get money out of Naaman. Finally, why was Uzziah's attempt to take over the Kohanim's job so bad? Because he was the one who was supposed to defend G-D's Torah through being the king not a priest. The verse tells us that Uzziah was completely righteous, but his success led him to be haughty and that was his betrayal.

This is why a Metzora must bring a guilt offering and an Olah. The guilt offering is to invoke forgiveness for a betrayal and the Olah is an attempt to try and reestablish the relationship with the person who was betrayed. At least, that is how I see it based on these cases in Tanach and the Medrashim.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rambam Yisodei Hatorah Perek 6 Halacha 4: When Part Of G-D's Name Is Already Written

כתב אל"ף למ"ד מאלהים יו"ד ה"א מיהוה אינו נמחק. ואצ"ל יה שהוא שם בפני עצמו. מפני שזה השם מקצת שם המפורש הוא. אבל הכותב שי"ן דל"ת משדי צד"י בי"ת מצבאות הרי זה נמחק:
If the Alef and Lamed from the word Elokim is written or the letters Yud and Hey from the word Hashem (spelled yud kay vav kay) you can not erase them. You don't even need to mention Yud and Hey because it is a name (of G-D) by itself, because it is the shortened version of the explicit name. However, if the Shin and Dalet from Shakai or Tzadi and Beis from Tzivakos (is written) these can be erased (before the name is completed). 

This is, seemingly a simple Rambam. The Alef Lamed and Yud Hey can be names of G-D by themselves. However, the SHin Dalet and the Tzadi beis are not names in and of themselves. Therefore, it makes sense that one group, the group that the shortened version is a name of G-D in and of itself, can not be erased. However, the letters that do not refer to G-D by themselves are allowed to be erased.

There is still a question to be asked, why are these two letters Yud Hey or Alef Lamed not allowed to be erased based on the idea that they can refer to G-D in and of themselves? If they are not allowed to be erased they should have been stated in the Rambam's earlier halacha that talks about names that are not allowed to be erased. If they are allowed to be erased then it should not matter that the intention was to complete them to the full name of Hashem (Yud kay vav kay) or Elokim.

I think the answer teaches us something about kedusha (holiness). The whole reason these names are holy is because we have the intention of writing them out in their full name. Yes, the shorthand version should be allowed to be erased because it is not the main name of G-D. However, it is our intentions that give this name holiness. Holiness only comes through the thoughts and actions of people connected with something that has inherent holiness. It is the combination of the two that bring about holiness. If you are lacking any inherent meaning then no matter how much a person wants it to be holy, it is impossible for that object to be holy (like the tzadi beis that has no holy meaning). This is why the Tzadi Beis is allowed to be erased, but the Yud hey is not.

Why A Mother Who Just Gave Birth Has To Bring a Burnt Offering(Olah) and a Sin Offering(Chatas)

In this week's Parsha, Tazriah, we see that the Torah commands a woman to bring two Korbanos (sacrifices) by the verse saying (Vayikra 12:6):
ו  וּבִמְלֹאת יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ, לְבֵן אוֹ לְבַת, תָּבִיא כֶּבֶשׂ בֶּן-שְׁנָתוֹ לְעֹלָה, וּבֶן-יוֹנָה אוֹ-תֹר לְחַטָּאת--אֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל-מוֹעֵד, אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן.6 And when the days of her purification are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtle-dove, for a sin-offering, unto the door of the tent of meeting, unto the priest.
There are two important questions here, both which are asked by the famous Abarbanel. He says, in his commentary on the Torah:
השאלה הד׳ למה חייבה תורה ליולדת להביא
חטאת ועולה כי הנה ענין העולה לא
היה לה צורך במקום הזה והחטאת גם כן
לא היתה ראויה כיון שלא ימצאו לה עון אשר
חטא . ולמה בכל המקומות זכר שיקריבו החטאת
קודם העולה כמו שהתבאר במה שקדם וכאן
זכר ראשונה החטאת :
The fourth question is why does the Torah obligate the woman who gives birth to bring a sin offering and a burnt offering? There is no need for her to bring a burnt offering in this place and also the sin offering is not proper for her since we do not find that she sinned. Also, why is the sin offering mentioned before the burnt offering (Olah) whenever the Torah mentions the bringing of these sacrifices (korbanos), but here the Torah mentions the Burnt offering (Olah) first? 

The Abarbanel really hits the nail on the head here. Why on earth should the woman that gives birth have to bring any Korbanos (sacrifices)? It is especially peculiar because she is said to have to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering. Why on earth would she have to bring these two types of sacrifices? What sin did she commit? Also, the reason for bringing an Olah is brought down at the end of the Midrash Tanchuma in Parshat (Parshas) Tzav (13):

 זאת תורת העולה וגו'. כך שנו רבותינו, היתה עולה כולה קדושה, מפני שלא היתה באה על עונות. אשם היתה באה על הגזילות. אבל העולה, לא היתה באה לא על חטאת ולא על גזל, אלא על הרהור הלב היא באה. וכן מי שהיה מהרהר בלבו דבר, היה מביא קרבן העולה לשום דברים העולים על הלב
These are the laws of the Olah: The Rabbis taught that the Olah is entirely holy because it was not brought for sins. The guilt offering was brought for theft; but the Olah was not brought for sin or theft, rather it is brought  due to thoughts of the heart [to sin] (but no actual sin). Therefore,  someone who would think in his/her heart about something would sacrafice an Olah for these thoughts (lit. things) that rose up in his/her heart.

The Abarbanel offers his answers for this question, but I would like to offer my own thoughts. The woman needs to first bring the Olah, even though in every other circumstance the sin offering is brought first. What is unique about this Olah?

The classic answer for what sin this woman committed is that she swore that she would never be with her husband again. Essentially, she was screaming in pain, "You did this to me, YOU (exploitive deleted), I hate you!"

With this in mind I think it is fairly simple to understand why a woman in this situation would have to bring both an Olah and a sin offering. Normally, a person brings the sin offering first because that is the more severe situation. The Gemara in Zevachim goes into the reasons why a sin offering is brought first, but I think it is readily understandable. You bring a sin offering first because actions speak louder than words or thoughts. A normal sin is something that effects a persons relationship with G-D or another person. In order to fix that, a person must first show signs of regret, manifested by the sin offering. Essentially, the sin offering shows, "What I did to you was wrong and I apalogize." Then you can bring an Olah which says I am sorry that I even thought about doing this terrible deed. However, the reason the Olah is brought second is because the action is much worse than the thought.

However, by a husband and wife, the relationship is what creates the bond between them. In essence, the action against the other person in this situation is less severe than the thought. The husband and wife might do things which upset each other, but the connection between them is strong enough that they will still love each other and continue to live together. However, when the woman yells, "I am never going near you again!" She is cutting that relationship status that is so strong. In this situation, it is the Olah that must come first because the thought of destroying that relationship is much more severe. The unspoken bond and the tight intangible connection that husband and wife have is broken once the thoughts of severance pop into her head. Therefore, the sin offering takes the back seat to the Olah in this situation. The Olah is brought to show that the wife really wants the relationship. Once that is settled then the sin offering can be brought and the husband and wife's relationship can be restored.

This allows us to understand why the woman must bring an Olah offering, a sin offering and why they must be brought in this order. The most important part about these korbanos is the reestablishment of the husband and wife's relationship. With this idea, the requirements on the woman can be understood in a meaningful way.

(As a side note, Rashi brings down the Gemara which says the Torah might have written the Olah before the sin offering, but really the sin offering comes first in practice. This answer makes very little sense to me. There is no explanation as to why the Torah would write it this way. If anyone knows the answer please let me know.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Maharal On The Four Kingdoms Part 3 (Why There Are Specifically 4 Kingdoms and not 3 or 5)

This is a continuation of the post found here where I discussed the Maharal's take on why any amount of Kingdoms that take away from the Glory of G-D belong in the fabric of the world. Now we will discuss why there are specifically four kingdoms that take on this role.

Therefore, it is appropriate that there are [specifically] four kingdoms, because they take away from the honor of G-D and He is ONE (Devarim 6:4).

The Maharal is going to explain why the number four is appropriate to be in opposition to the number one. He is trying to explain why the four kingdoms, the entities that take away or diminish the glory of G-D in this world, are specifically enumerated as four. Also, the Maharal is pointing out why the number four is the antithesis to the number one.

The middle (or center) is connected to the number one because there is only one exact center.

Rav Hartman brings down another statement from the Maharal in Netzach Yisroel in the first chapter that helps clarify this idea. "All unity is in the middle (center) because the edges are separate (many), but there is only one center."

Therefore, there is only one Temple and only one Jerusalem and they are in the center of the world because the center was given as a keepsake for them.  So too, the Jewish people, that they are a singular (unique) nation, the land was given to them as a keepsake since it is singular (unique) because it is at the center of the world.

The Maharal is saying that all these things are unique: The land of Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple and the Jewish people. They are all unique based on different ideas. The land of Israel is considered the center of the world (there are a million ways to explain this), Jerusalem is considered the center of Israel, and the Temple is considered the center of Jerusalem. The Jewish people are unique in a lot of ways, but suffice it to say that they are the only nation to have spoken with G-D.

The general idea is that anything that is singular (unique) is given, as a keepsake, the (character traits of the) center. Something that is removed from singularity (like complexity) is connected to four, this represents the four directions that travel away from the center. Therefore, there are four kingdoms (that rule in this world and diminish the glory of G-D in this world) that represent the four directions that travel away from the center.

The Maharal is trying to explain that something that is unique in the world is connected to the number one. The number one relates to anything in the center. There is only one center of anything and that is the character trait of the number one. However, anything that is diverse (or complex), is connected to the number four, because it represents the four directions that lead away from the center. Therefore, anything that is many or diverse is connected to the number four. I know, it is confusing.

Therefore, we learn out from the words of תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (unformed and void) about the four kingdoms because this language comes to teach us about the imperfection that exists in the creation [of the world]. It is from the deficit of the creation that these four kingdoms arose. [These four kingdoms] were designated for this, that their rule would take away from [the glory of] G-D to the extent that they would nullify His singularity (uniqueness) in the world.

Rav Hartman explains this idea so that it is more readily understandable. The imperfection in the world is that the presence of G-D is not felt and it appears to be that the world was established and exists without G-D. Meaning, the four kingdoms serve to mask the presence of G-D. They allow for man to think there is no G-D and that the world runs on its own. Or, at the very least, the four kingdoms cause people to think that G-D is not the only powerful being.

With the destruction of the four kingdoms the verse says (Zechariah 14:9):

ט  וְהָיָה יְהוָה לְמֶלֶךְ, עַל-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ; בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, יִהְיֶה יְהוָה אֶחָד--וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד.9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall the LORD be One, and His name one.

But, as long as these four kingdoms rule the world the glory of G-D will not be revealed in His world.

The point here is that the four kingdoms take away from the oneness of G-D. This means that G-D can not be revealed or understood while the four kingdoms are in control of the world. They mask G-D's presence because the glory of G-D is only realized when people see that G-D is the only all powerful one. However, with the existence of the four kingdoms, it appears that either G-D does not exist, or that He is not the only all powerful one.

Therefore, these four kingdoms come from the imperfection that exists in creation, for it is impossible that the world should be created complete (without imperfection), rather there must be a deficit. However, this imperfection does not stem from G-D, the creator of everything, rather it comes from the fact that the world is a creation. This is alluded to in the verse (Genesis 1:1-2):

א  בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
ב  וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם.2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.
The land is in the lower realm (the realm of physicality and therefore it is far from G-D), therefore it is הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם.  All of this refers to the imperfection that is connected to one thing (the creation). All of these names תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ [tell us] that the creation is not complete and they teach us about the imperfection that is inherent in the creation.

Here the Maharal is just summing up. The point is that there is an imperfection in the world and it is hinted to in Breishis (Genesis). This imperfection does not stem from G-D, rather it comes from the mere fact that the creation is something that is created. The idea of being created means that there is an inherent imperfection in this creation. The Maharal also hints at a much deeper idea here. The idea that since something is physical it is therefore distant from G-D. The world is a physical place and therefore it is far away from G-D. This adds to the barrier between the world and G-D which leads to the ability of the four kingdoms to mask G-D's presence.