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.