Monday, April 29, 2013

What Should Individuals Focus On: Learning, Teaching, Or Performing The Commandments (Mitzvot)

This Dvar Torah is l'iluy nishmas Ezriel Yehuda ben Eitan Eliezer

This week's Parsha, Bechukosai, discusses G-D's ultimatum with the Jewish people. It says (Vayikra 26:3),
ג אִם-בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת-מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם:  (from here)
If you will follow in my statutes and you will guard my commandments and perform them. 
The following verses go on to expound how great it will be for the Jewish people if they follow this statement. However, G-D then says the second half of the ultimatum (ibid 14-15),
יד וְאִם-לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ לִי וְלֹא תַעֲשׂוּ אֵת כָּל-הַמִּצְוֹת הָאֵלֶּה:
טו וְאִם-בְּחֻקֹּתַי תִּמְאָסוּ וְאִם אֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תִּגְעַל נַפְשְׁכֶם לְבִלְתִּי עֲשׂוֹת אֶת-כָּל-מִצְוֹתַי לְהַפְרְכֶם אֶת-בְּרִיתִי:
14. If you do not listen to me and you do not perform all of these commandments.
15. And if you despise my statutes, and if your souls reject my laws and you do not perform all of my commandments to break my covenant.
The verses following this statement go on to expound upon all the the awful things that will occur to the Jewish people if this path is chosen.

However, I think a detailed analysis is warranted of what exactly these statutes and commandments are and what guarding them and performing them entails. These statements seem to be very vague for something that can lead to such great reward or such terrible punishment. Also, what happens if we perform the commandments, but do not follow in the statutes? Is that even possible?

I believe a good starting point for this topic is Rashi (ibid 3, translation from here),
If you follow My statutes: I might think that this refers to the fulfillment of the commandments. However, when Scripture says, “and observe My commandments,” the fulfillment of the commandments is [already] stated. So what is the meaning of “If you follow My statutes”? It means that you must toil in the study of Torah  [Torath Kohanim 26:2] אם בחקתי תלכו: יכול זה קיום המצות, כשהוא אומר ואת מצותי תשמרו, הרי קיום המצות אמור, הא מה אני מקיים אם בחקתי תלכו, שתהיו עמלים בתורה:

And observe My commandments: You shall toil in the study of Torah in order to observe and fulfill [the commandments (Torath Kohanim 26:2). This is similar to, “[Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances…] and learn them, and keep in mind to do them” (Deut. 5:1) ואת מצותי תשמרו: הוו עמלים בתורה על מנת לשמור ולקיים, כמו שנאמר (דברים ה א) ולמדתם אותם ושמרתם לעשותם:
Rashi explains that the verse is telling us three things. First, a Jew is responsible to learn the commandments. Second, a Jew is responsible to "keep the commandments in mind." Lastly, a Jew is required to perform the commandments.
Unfortunately, this is still a little unclear. What exactly is keeping them in mind? For this, we can take a look at the Ibn Ezra (ibid),
אם בחקתי...תשמרו ועשיתם: מצוה ללמוד וללמד ולעשות
If [you will follow] in my will guard them and you will perform them: It is a commandment to learn, teach and perform.
The Ibn Ezra tells us the missing piece, to "keep the commandments in mind" means to teach them. Now we know all three parts to this ultimatum. G-D wants us to learn, teach and perform the commandments and this will allow us to attain great rewards. However, if we ignore the commandments and do not learn, teach or perform them, then we are doomed, as a nation, to a life full of trouble. 

This leads us to a very interesting question, what about the individual? The Torah is clearly only talking about the nation as a whole learning, teaching and performing the commandments, but how does this relate to the individual? Does the individual need to do all three, or do certain people learn and teach while others perform and thereby the nation, as a whole, does all three? Are all three aspects of learning, teaching and performing equal or is one more important than the others? These are all very important questions because the individual needs to know how to focus his or her energy. As I said, the nation as a whole must perform all three, since G-D is discussing this as a national reward and a national punishment for listening or ignoring, but individuals are not addressed. 

There are two Gemaras that discuss what is greater; learning, teaching or performing the commandments. The first Gemara I will bring is from Babba Kama (17a, translation from Soncino),
Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said: I was once following R. Johanan for the purpose of asking him about the [above] matter. He, however, at that moment went into a toilet room. [When he reappeared and] I put the matter before him, he did not answer until he had washed his hands, put on phylacteries and pronounced the benediction. Then he said to us: Even if sometimes we also say. ‘He fulfilled [the law] (performed the commandment-e-man input) . . .’ we never say. ‘He expounded [the law](expounded the commandment because that is so great-e-man input)...’ (Someone asks a question on R. Johanan-e-man input) But did not the Master say: The importance of the study of the law is enhanced by the fact that the study of the law is conducive to [the] practice [of the law] (isn't the study of the commandments important because it leads to performance of the commandments?-e-man)? This, however, offers no difficulty; the latter statement deals with studying [the law] (studying the commandments is not so great and therefore that is why performance is greater), the former with teaching [the law] (teaching the commandments is the greatest thing you can do and that is why it is a real honor-e-man input).
This Gemara has several interpretations. However, this translation of the Gemara is according to Rashi. Just to summarize it; Rav Yochanan says that performing the commandments is not as great as "expounding" on the commandments. A question is asked that the dictum states that study of the commandments is only really important because it leads to the performance of the commandments and Rav Yochanan seems to be saying that the performance of the commandments is not as great as "expounding" upon the commandments (expounding is, originally, assumed to mean just studying). This difficulty is cleared up because Rav Yochanan says that just studying the commandments yourself is not as great as performing the commandments, but teaching the commandments to others is greater than performing them. So, according to Rashi, this Gemara is saying that the most important action is teaching the commandments to others, then comes performing the commandments and the least important action is studying the commandments.     

However, there is a Gemara in Kiddushin (40b) that seems to contradict this. In fact, Rashi himself explains the Gemara in Kiddushin to be contradicting the Gemara in Babba Kama. It says (Kiddushin 40b, translation is Soncino),
R. Tarfon and the Elders were once reclining in the upper storey of Nithza's house, in Lydda, when this question was raised before them: Is study greater, or practice? R. Tarfon answered, saying: Practice is greater. R. Akiba answered, saying: Study is greater, for it leads to practice. Then they all answered and said: Study is greater, for it leads to action.
Rashi says on this Gemara that studying is greater than performing the commandments because if a person studies then he or she will be able to study and perform, both are in his or her hands. Rashi in Babba Kama (17a) says since the point of studying is in order to perform the commandments we see that the performance is more important because the end is more important than the means. So, which argument is correct?

Tosfos comes in Kiddushin (40b) to offer an explanation. He says a novice should learn first before performing the commandments, because if you do not first learn how to properly perform the commandments, then you will not perform them correctly. This is the case in Kiddushin, the Rabbis were talking about a novice and that is why one should learn first. However, if you are an expert and know how to perform the commandments, then performance is better than learning. This is the case in Babba Kama, they are talking about giving someone praise after their death. The greater praise is that he (the dead person) performed the commandments, because if he performed the commandments correctly then he obviously learned how to perform them correctly. This is also what Rabbeinu Tam says on the Gemara in Babba Kama (17a).

Another opinion is quoted in the Tosfos on Babba Kama, that of Rav Achai Gaon. He has a different version of the Gemara that leads him to come to a completely different conclusion. Until this point, everyone has agreed that teaching the commandments to others is the greatest thing a person can do for the simple reason which Rabbeinu Tam states, "That it brings the masses to perform the commandments." However, Rav Achai Gaon's version of the Gemara simply said,   
Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said: I was once following R. Johanan for the purpose of asking him about the [above] matter. He, however, at that moment went into a toilet room. [When he reappeared and] I put the matter before him, he did not answer until he had washed his hands, put on phylacteries and pronounced the benediction. How could R. Johanan put on his phylacteries first, did not the Master say: The importance of the study of the law is enhanced by the fact that the study of the law is conducive to [the] practice [of the law]? This, however, offers no difficulty; the latter statement deals with studying [the law] (studying the commandments is more important than performing the commandments because studying brings about the performance), the former action (putting on the phylacteries first) with teaching [the law] (performing the commandments is more important than teaching the commandments).
According to this version of the Gemara, we learn the exact opposite lesson from that of Rashi. Studying the commandments is more important because it brings one to perform the commandments, but performing the commandments is more important than teaching them to others, because that, apparently, does not bring anyone to actually perform the commandments.

In all honesty, Rav Achai Gaon's version of the Gemaraa in Babba Kama fits much better with the Gemara in Kiddushin. In Rav Achai's version both Gemara's are saying that studying is preferred to performance because studying brings about performance. Meaning, because it brings about performance, if you study you will be able to study and perform, both are "in your hands" (as Rashi says in the Gemara in Kiddushin).

A side point, the Soncino brings up a very good practical reason for this discussion about which is better, learning or performing the commandments. He says,
This was a practical problem during the Hadrianic persecution, when both study and practical observance were forbidden, and the question was for which risks should sooner be taken. — Weiss. Dor., II, 125, Graetz, Geschichte, IV,p. 429
At this point we can say that Rashi and Tosfos would hold a novice should first learn and an expert should first perform the commandments. However, it seems like Rav Achai Gaon would hold that in every situation a person should first and foremost learn. Also, Rashi and Tosfos would say that, before anything, a person should risk his life to teach. However, Rav Achai Gaon would say that is the last thing a person should risk his life for.

To conclude this debate I would like to bring in the Rambam (Talmud Torah 3:3-4),
אין לך מצוה בכל המצות כולן שהיא שקולה כנגד תלמוד תורה אלא תלמוד תורה כנגד כל המצות כולן שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה. לפיכך התלמוד קודם למעשה בכל מקום:  
You do not have a commandment from all the commandments that is equal to learning Torah, rather learning Torah is equal to all the commandments because learning brings about performance [of all the other commandments.] Therefore, learning takes precedence to performance in every place.

היה לפניו עשיית מצוה ותלמוד תורה אם אפשר למצוה להעשות ע"י אחרים לא יפסיק תלמודו. ואם לאו יעשה המצוה ויחזור לתלמודו:
If [there is a situation] in front of [a Jewish person] that he can perform a commandment and learn Torah, then if it is possible for the commandment to be done by someone else he should not stop his learning. [However, if no one else can perform the commandment] he should perform it and then return to his learning. 
The Rambam makes it very clear to us how he read the Gemara.The goal is for all commandments to be fulfilled. However, it is important for everyone to learn about the commandments as best as they can before fulfilling them. Therefore, if a person is learning, he should continue learning unless there is a commandment that will be left undone due to his learning.

This brings us back to our verse, "If you will follow in my statutes and you will guard my commandments and perform them." The Torah is telling us, as the Ibn Ezra points out, G-D wants us to learn, teach and perform His commandments. In my opinion, all three of these things appear to be equally important, but there is a practical difference. G-D tells us that, as a nation, we must do all three of these actions of learning, teaching and performing. However, in the book of Joshua (1:8, translation from here) G-D gives us some advice,

8. This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth; you shall meditate therein day and night, in order that you observe to do all that is written in it, for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper. ח. לֹא יָמוּשׁ סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה מִפִּיךָ וְהָגִיתָ בּוֹ יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה לְמַעַן תִּשְׁמֹר לַעֲשֹוֹת כְּכָל הַכָּתוּב בּוֹ כִּי אָז תַּצְלִיחַ אֶת דְּרָכֶךָ וְאָז תַּשְׂכִּיל:
In order for us to be successful and to follow in the statutes, guard and perform the commandments, we need to learn as much as we can. The only way to make sure that we know how to properly perform and teach the commandments is to learn everything that we must perform. Therefore, the Rambam tells us learning is paramount, because without learning no other commandments can be fulfilled. However, performance of the commandments must be done, that is why if no other Jews can perform a commandment you must stop learning to fulfill that commandment. As long as some Jews are performing the commandments, that leaves others free to learn and teach the commandments so, when the time arises, they can also perform the commandments correctly in the way G-D desires.

A final thought on this subject. The Gemara in Berachos (35b) talks about this verse from the book of Joshua. I think it is very important to bring it into our discussion.
Our Rabbis taught (Divarim 11:14): "And thou shalt gather in thy corn." What is to be learned from these words? Since it says (Joshua 1:8), "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth," I might think that this injunction is to be taken literally. Therefore it says, ‘And thou shalt gather in thy corn’, which implies that you are to combine the study of them (the words of Torah) with a worldly occupation. This is the view of R.Ishmael. R. Simeon b. Yohai says: Is that possible? If a man ploughs in the ploughing season, and sows in the sowing season, and reaps in the reaping season, and threshes in the threshing season, and winnows in the season of wind, what is to become of the Torah? No; but when Israel perform the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others, as it says (Yeshayahu 61:5). "And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks. etc.," and when Israel do not perform the will of the Omnipresent their work is carried out by themselves, as it says (ibid), "And thou shalt gather in thy corn." Nor is this all, but the work of others also is done by them, as it says (Devarim 28:48), "And thou shalt serve thine enemy etc." Said Abaye: Many have followed the advice of Ishmael, and it has worked well; others have followed R. Simeon b.Yohai and it has not been successful. Raba said to the Rabbis: I would ask you not to appear before me during Nisan and Tishri so that you may not be anxious about your food supply during the rest of the year.
Also, in Pirkei Avos (2:2) it says,
Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince said: Good is Torah study together with a worldly occupation, for the exertion in both makes one forget sin. All Torah study without work will cease and it will bring along in its wake sinfulness.
We can see from here that a person needs to focus on learning, teaching and performing the commandments. However, that is not all one can focus on. A person must find a balance that allows them to pursue the path G-D says is best for us. We must realize how to divide our time so we can learn, yet also perform the commandment of supporting our families. This is what Rabbi Yishamel says and it is, apparently, the most successful approach to Judaism.

In conclusion, the verses in this week's Parsha are not necessarily meant for individuals, they are meant to be fulfilled through the entire nation. Some people in the nation are supposed to be the learners and the teachers. Others are supposed to be the ones that perform the commandments. Yet, the majority are supposed to live a life of learning, teaching and performing the commandments as Rabbi Yishmael points out.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Understanding Shemittah (Sabbatical Year For The Land)

This week's Parsha, Behar, discusses Shemittah (Vayikra 25) and it's laws. While introducing this law, the verse makes a reference to Shemittah that is similar to how the verse references Shabbos in the Ten Commandments (Shemos 20:10). It says here (Vayikra 25:2),
ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לַיהוָֹה:
Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, "When you come to the land that I am giving to you, you shall let rest the land, a rest for G-D."
 And it says over there (Shemos 20:10),
וְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת לַיהוָֹה
And the seventh day shall be a rest [day] for G-D.
These similarities can not just be a coincidence, there is some connection here that will help us understand the purpose of Shemittah as it relates to Shabbos.

The Ibn Ezra tells us on our Parsha something very vague (Vayikra 25:2)
וטעם שבת לה' - כיום השבת, וסוד ימי עולם רמוז במקום הזה.
The reason it says Shabbos for G-D is because this is like the Shabbos day. This is a reference, in this place, to the secret of the days of creation. 
The Ibn Ezra helps us out here by telling us that Shemittah is related to the Shabbos day. No surprise there, but when we are looking for reasons for the Mitzvos this is a good starting point. We do not need to come up with some roundabout idea that references obscure ideas about the land and what not. The idea behind Shemittah is simple, it is another way for G-D to drive home a point that we are supposed to learn through observing the day of Shabbos. However, what is this point?

The Ibn Ezra goes on, in his commentary on the Ten Commandments (Shemos 20:8), to say that Shemittah comes to teach the same idea as Shabbos. However, he then goes on to explain the reason behind Shabbos and Shemittah.
 והנה השבת נתנה להבין מעשה השם ולהגות בתורתו. וככה כתוב: כי שמחתני ה' בפעליך.
 Behold, Shabbos was given in order that we should understand the works of G-D and to study His Torah. Like it is written (Tehilim 92:5), For You, G-D, have gladdened me with Your Works.
The point here, as clarified by the Yaheil Ohr (a super-commentary on the Ibn Ezra), is that the point of Shabbos and Shemmitah is so we can take time out of our busy lives and learn Torah. This is brought down in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbos Chapter 15:3) in the name of Rabbi Berechia in the name of Rabbi Chiya bar ba. It says there,
The only reason Shabbos and Holidays were given was so we could deal with the words of Torah.  
Just as a side point, I personally think that this teaches a very valuable lesson. Shabbos and Shemittah show us that during the week and during the six years before Shemittah we are supposed to be dealing with things that pertain to sustaining our lives. It is only during Shabbos and Shemittah that we are not supposed to deal with anything except learning Torah.

I concede that this could also mean something entirely different. It could mean that there are those of us who can not find someone else who will support us and allow us to just learn all the time. If that is the case, we must support ourselves during the six years before Shemittah and during the week. However, even if no one else is supporting us, we must take the Shabbos day and the Shemittah year and spend that year learning the Torah.

I think either of the previous explanations is plausible, but I think the first makes more sense because if you do not work during the six years before Shemittah or during the six days of the week, how are you supposed to appreciate Shabbos or Shemittah? What is the point of Shabbos or Shemittah if you are always learning?

Another explanation for the reason for Shemittah can be found in the Yalkut Peirushim Al HaTorah (Conglomeration of commentaries on the Torah). It says as follows (in the name of the Tzarur Hamor Vayikra 25:2):
Just like we are obligated to honor G-D and to honor other people, so too we are obligated to honor the land of Israel.
 This idea can be understood much better and can be connected to Shabbos if we take the explanation of Shadal (also found here in Vayikra 25:2)
The commandment of Shemittah is similar to Shabbos because, just like the commandment of Shabbos is to reinforce in us that we are a holy (chosen) nation, so too the commandment of Shemiitah is supposed to reinforce the idea that the land (of Israel) is a holy (chosen) land... The holiness of the land is a reason for the nation to distance themselves from impurity and desecration with disgusting acts. 
This second idea seems to be telling us that the holiness of the land and the holiness of Shabbos teach us two similar ideas. Shabbos teaches us the Jewish people should rest on the seventh day because they are a holy nation, therefore, they should not act immorally. Shemittah teaches us that the land of Israel is a holy land, therefore, we should not act immorally. Both ideas come to teach us the holiness of the Jewish people, however, they teach this from different angles. Shabbos teaches the Jewish people's holiness with regards to the individual. However, Shemittah teaches the holiness of the collective nation, because you can not act as an independent nation without a land.

These two ideas, that Shabbos and Shemittah were given so that we should learn Torah vs. Shabbos and Shemittah were given to teach us that we are a holy nation appear to complement each other. The first idea, learned from the Ibn Ezra, tells us what we are supposed to do on the day of Shabbos or during the year of Shemittah. The second idea, that of the Shadal and Tzarur Hamor, tells us what the day and year themselves actually teach us about the Jewish nation. The fact that we are supposed to learn the Torah on these days is because we are a nation of individuals that learn and follow the Torah and THAT makes us a holy nation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rambam- Yisodei HaTorah Perek 7 Halacha 7: Who Does A Prophet Prophesize To and Who Should We Accept As A Prophet

הנביא אפשר שתהיה נבואתו לעצמו בלבד להרחיב לבו ולהוסיף דעתו עד שידע מה שלא היה יודע מאותן הדברים הגדולים. ואפשר שישולח לעם מעמי הארץ או לאנשי עיר או ממלכה לכונן אותם ולהודיעם מה יעשו או למונעם ממעשים הרעים שבידיהם. וכשמשלחים אותו נותנין לו אות ומופת כדי שידעו העם שהאל שלחו באמת. ולא כל העושה אות ומופת מאמינים לו שהוא נביא. אלא אדם שהיינו יודעים בו מתחלתו שהוא ראוי לנבואה בחכמתו ובמעשיו שנתעלה בהן על כל בני גילו והיה מהלך בדרכי הנבואה בקדושתה ובפרישותה ואח"כ בא ועשה אות ומופת ואמר שהאל שלחו מצוה לשמוע ממנו שנאמר אליו תשמעון. ואפשר שיעשה אות ומופת ואינו נביא וזה האות יש לו דברים בגו. ואעפ"כ מצוה לשמוע לו הואיל ואדם גדול וחכם וראוי לנבואה [הוא] מעמידים אותו על חזקתו. שבכך נצטוינו כמו שנצטוינו לחתוך את הדין ע"פ שני עדים כשרים ואע"פ שאפשר שהעידו בשקר הואיל וכשרים הם אצלינו מעמידין אותן על כשרותן. ובדברים האלו וכיוצא בהן נאמר הנסתרות לה' אלהינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו. ונאמר כי האדם יראה לעינים וה' יראה ללבב: 

It is possible that a prophet will have a prophecy specified for him in order to broaden his heart and to add to his knowledge to the point that he will know about great things that which he did not already know. It is possible that [the prophet] will be sent to a nation among the nations or to the people of a city or kingdom to point out to them and to make known to them what they should do or to stop them from intentionally doing bad things. 

When [G-D] sends him, [G-D] gives him a sign and a wonder in order that the nation should know that G-D truly sent him. [However,] not everyone who performs signs and wonders should be believed to be a prophet [of G-D. Only] a man that it is known from the outset that he is fit to receive prophecy [because] his wisdom and his actions are greater than all of the people of his age and he goes in the path of prophecy, holiness, and separateness and after this he comes and does signs and wonders and says G-D sent me, then it is a commandment to listen to him, for it says (Devarim 18:15), "To him you shall listen." It is possible that [this person] does signs and wonders, but is still not a prophet, and there are [other] things behind this sign. Even so, it is a commandment to listen to him. [The reason for this] is since he is a great man who is wise and he is fit for prophecy, we establish him on his established status. This is how we have been commanded, just like we were commanded  to reach a a decision in law according to two legitimate witnesses even though it is possible they are testifying falsely. [However,] since they are legitimate by us we establish [their status] as legitimate. We say about these things and similar ideas [the following (Devarim 29:28),] "The hidden things are for Our G-D and the revealed things are for us and our children." And we also say (Samuel 1 16:7), "Because man sees what is [revealed] to the eyes and G-D sees to the heart."         

In this halacha, the Rambam makes known to us what types of prophecies a prophet receives. It can either be personal, for a group, or for an entire nation. Personal news seems to help a prophet expand their mind and knowledge in order for them to attain more prophecy and a closer connection to G-D. However, when the prophecy is for a group it seems to be in order to guide this group or nation in the proper actions and has nothing to do with attaining knowledge.

This next part of the halacha has to do with who we can accept as a prophet. Basically, it is not just anyone who seems to be righteous, but it must be someone who is known to have attained the level of "Sons of the Prophets"  as the Rambam explains previously (See this post Yisodei HaTorah 7:5 Some May Receive Prophecy and Some May Not). This means that the person must be known to have acquired much knowledge and have great control over his mind. Even if someone receives a prophecy, it can not be given over to others unless the person who received the prophecy meets all of these criteria.

Personally, I think that, because of these requirements, every prophet first receives personal prophecies before he or she receives prophecies that are to be given over. It is only through the original personal prophecies that they are able to reach the level that everyone will accept him or her as a prophet. This further strengthens my idea that, although a person can work really hard to reach the level needed to attain prophecy, he or she can only succeed with G-D's assistance as I point out in Yisodei HaTorah 7:1 Prophecy's Place In Judaism.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rambam- Yisdoei HaTorah Perek 7 Halacha 6: Moshe's Uniqueness As a Prophet

כל הדברים שאמרנו הם דרך נבואה לכל הנביאים הראשונים והאחרונים חוץ ממשה רבינו רבן של כל הנביאים. ומה הפרש יש בין נבואת משה לשאר כל הנביאים שכל הנביאים בחלום או במראה ומשה רבינו מתנבא והוא ער ועומד שנאמר ובבוא משה אל אהל מועד לדבר אתו וישמע הקול מדבר אליו. כל הנביאים על ידי מלאך. לפיכך רואים מה שהם רואים במשל וחידה. משה רבינו לא על ידי מלאך שנאמר פה אל פה אדבר בו. ונאמר ודבר ה' אל משה פנים אל פנים. ונאמר ותמונת ה' יביט כלומר שאין שם משל אלא רואה הדבר על בוריו בלא חידה ובלא משל. הוא שהתורה מעידה עליו במראה ולא בחידות שאינו מתנבא בחידה אלא במראה שרואה הדבר על בוריו. כל הנביאים יראים ונבהלים ומתמוגגין ומשה רבינו אינו כן הוא שהכתוב אומר כאשר ידבר איש אל רעהו כלומר כמו שאין אדם נבהל לשמוע דברי חבירו כך היה כח בדעתו של משה רבינו להבין דברי הנבואה והוא עומד על עומדו שלם. כל הנביאים אין מתנבאים בכל עת שירצו משה רבינו אינו כן אלא כל זמן שיחפוץ רוח הקודש לובשתו ונבואה שורה עליו ואינו צריך לכוין דעתו ולהזדמן לה שהרי הוא מכוון ומזומן ועומד כמלאכי השרת. לפיכך מתנבא בכל עת שנאמר עמדו ואשמעה מה יצוה ה' לכם. ובזה הבטיחו האל שנאמר לך אמור להם שובו לכם לאהליכם ואתה פה עמוד עמדי. הא למדת שכל הנביאים כשהנבואה מסתלקת מהם חוזרים לאהלם שהוא צרכי הגוף כלם כשאר העם. לפיכך אין פורשין מנשותיהם. ומשה רבינו לא חזר לאהלו הראשון לפיכך פירש מן האשה לעולם ומן הדומה לו ונקשרה דעתו לצור העולמים ולא נסתלק מעליו ההוד לעולם וקרן עור פניו ונתקדש כמלאכים:

All of these things that we have said is regarding the path of prophecy for all of the early and later prophets except for Moshe (Moses), our teacher, the greatest of all the prophets. What is the difference between Moshe and all the other prophets? All the [other] prophets [prophesized] in a dream or a vision and Moshe, our teacher, prophesized while he was awake and standing, for it says (Bamidbar 7:89), "When Moshe came to the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him and he heard the voice speak to him..." Also, all the other [prophets] prophesized through an angel. Therefore, [since they prophesized through an angel] they saw what they saw as a parable and a riddle. [However,] Moshe, our teacher did not [prophesize] through an angel as it says (Bamidbar 12:8) "Mouth to mouth I speak with him." And it says (Shemos 33:11) "And G-D spoke to Moshe face to face." And it says (Bamidbar 12:8), "He beholds the image of G-D," meaning that there is no parable, rather he saw the subject's [in his prophecies] true meaning. 

All of the prophets were in awe, scared, and fearful [during prophecy], but Moshe, our teacher, was not. For, the verse says (Shemos 33:11), "It was like when a man speaks to his friend." Like a man is not frightened to hear the words of his friend, so it was the strength of the mind of Moshe, our teacher, to understand the words of prophecy and he stood on his feet, whole. 

None of the prophets could prophesize at any time they wanted, but this was not true of Moshe, our teacher. Any time that he desired to have [prophecy] the holy spirit (Ruach Hakodesh) would clothe him and prophecy would rest on him. 

[Moshe] did not have to concentrate his mind and prepare for [prophecy] because he was [always] concentrated and prepared like the ministering angels. Therefore, he could prophesize at anytime, for it says (Bamidbar 9:8), "Wait and I will listen for what G-D commands for you." And this (that Moshe could speak with G-D whenever he wanted) was promised [to Moshe] by G-D, as it says (Devarim 5:27-28), "Go, say to them, you return to your tents and you (Moshe) stand here with me." This teaches you that all the prophets, when prophecy would leave them, they would "return to their tents" in order to fulfill their [sexual] needs like the rest of the nation, therefore, they did not need to separate from their wives. [However,] Moshe, our teacher, did not return to his first tent, therefore, he separated from his wife forever and everything similar to her (anything that had to do with sexuality, but he still had bodily functions). His mind became connected to the Rock of the World and the glory [of G-D] was never removed from being upon him and "his face became radiant" (Shemos 34:35) and he became holy like the angels.     

The Rambam uses this halacha to point out that the previous five laws that he has talked about in this chapter do not apply, in any way, to Moshe. The Rambam goes through every possible aspect of prophecy and expresses why Moshe, as a prophet, was different than all other prophets.

Based on all the sources Rambam brings down, we can paint a picture of Moshe that allows us to understand why he was such a unique prophet. Was it that G-D made him into this type of prophet or was he the type of man that was, inherently, this type of prophet? Did G-D just say, arbitrarily, since I want to give the Torah now I need to make Moshe into a unique prophet, or did G-D see that Moshe was a unique prophet and decide to give the Torah because of him?

I would like to suggest, based on the Rambam, that Moshe was inherently a unique prophet and that is why G-D chose to give the Torah to him. The Rambam points out that Moshe was not afraid of G-D's prophecies, unlike all the other prophets, because of the strength of his mind. Moshe did not need to "return to his tent" to fulfill his sexual desires, because he had such perfect control over his mind that he could inhibit his mind from even thinking about sexuality. This is why the Rambam, in my opinion, believes Moshe is so unique, because his mind and his ability to acquire knowledge was the greatest to ever exist. The Rambam explains in this very chapter, that a person can acquire prophecy based on how well he perfects his mind and Moshe had the highest level of perfection, even reaching the level of the angels. This is why Moshe was so unique, it is not because he received the Torah, but rather he received the Torah because he was unique. 

This can help us understand all of the aspects of Moshe's prophecies. Moshe did not need the medium of a dream or a vision because he did not need to communicate to G-D through an angel, for he was already on the level of an angel with regards to the strength of his mind. This is also why he did not have his prophecies in the form of a riddle, because all of these aspects are only present when you have to communicate to G-D through an angel. Moshe was not frightened by prophecy because he was not confused by the parables and riddles like all other prophets, he immediately understood what was being said to him. An example of this is if a foreigner comes up to you and says something in an unfamiliar language carrying a knife, you are worried. However, once his words are translated and all he said was, "Hello, my name is James," you are no longer frightened. Also, not only could Moshe prophesize while awake, but he could do it whenever he wanted. The reason for this is because, as is stated in this law of the Rambam, his mind was always ready for prophecy because of his ability to block out any thought that could inhibit prophecy. Moshe's mind was unique because it was practically on the level of the angels and not because G-D elevated him, as a person, to the level of the angels, according to the Rambam.   

Rav Moshe Feinstein: Can A Jewish Physician Work On Shabbos And Can He/She Violate Shabbos For A Non-Jew

I will be translating and discussing Rav Moshe Feinstein's Responsa found in Igros Moshe volume 6 (Orech Chaim, Chelek 4:79)

Question from my friend Menachem Dovid Zomba (?):
When a [medical student] finishes his training to become a Physician and G-D has made him successful to become His messenger. [The physician is given the opportunity] to heal the sick [people] that come to him, [at that point what would you (Rav Moshe) say to him] if he wants to know how to deal with all the things that are pertinent to the [Torah's] laws (halacha)? I am writing this in short, but [I also want to know] more than what I have asked because this is an integral subject.

Answer of Rav Moshe:
The Rambam writes in the beginning of the second chapter of Shabbos:
Shabbos is suspended in the face of a [situation] that causes a danger to life, just like all other commandments [are pushed off in the face of a life and death situation.]
The Kesef Mishna writes (there):
The [Rambam's] intention is that [Shabbos] is suspended but it is not made permitted.
This [opinion] seems puzzling because on Shabbos, with regards to [dealing with] a sick person, even if it is possible to do [forbidden actions] through a non-Jew in a permissible way, it is permitted [to violate Shabbos.] On the contrary [to the Kesef Mishna's opinion], the Rambam writes (Shabbos 2:3) that Even when there is a non-Jew in front of us [ready to deal with the sick person], we do not do these things (acts of healing that violate Shabbos) through a non-Jew or small children, [but rather through an adult Jewish male.] The Kesef Mishna explains [the reason the Rambam says this is] perhaps the onlookers will say that [violating Shabbos for saving a life]is only permitted with difficulty and it will be they won't want to desecrate Shabbos through a Jewish Adult male. Also, because they will not be so zealous [to save someone's life on Shabbos] as the Kesef Mishna brings over in the name of the Ramach [and this will be bad for the one whose life is in danger.]

If this is [what the Kesef Mishna believes] then in what way does it matter that Shabbos is suspended and not made permitted [with regards to saving a life?] This is not similar to the laws of impurity that are permitted for the congregation according to Rav Sheshes. [For he] only suspends [the laws of impurity by the entire congregation] therefore it is better to bring pure [Kohanim (priests)] from another family, like it says in Yoma 6b.

We need to say that even though this is practically irrelevant, [still we need to discuss this because of the principle of] putting in effort to go after the permitted track. We need to know if doing a [forbidden] act on Shabbos for saving a life is really [considered] a forbidden act, but nevertheless [Shabbos] is suspended and one is obligated to transgress the forbidden act of Shabbos, and the same goes for other forbidden acts, with regard to saving a life. On the other hand, [it could be] that this is not considered a forbidden act at all when it is for saving a life. Even though this is practically irrelevant once the sick person has already come to [the physician,] there is a relevant issue. This issue pertains to a physician that is in a place that has many physician, then he should not place himself in a situation where he is easily found [on Shabbos,] rather [the physician] needs to close his office [on Shabbos] and the number that is listed in the phone book to find him should be his office number and not his house number. This is in order that he should only be found by those who recognize him even if this physician deals with Jewish sick people. Also, this physician should not carry a telephone (beeper?) with him in order to hear anyone who calls him. For, after [we established] that there are more physicians [in the area,] he has no obligation except to those [sick people] who actually come to him. The reason for this is that not every man has the merit to be a healer (therefore, if people come specifically to this Jewish physician because of his unique skill it is permitted). [Still,] a physician has an obligation to make an effort that [sick people] should not come to him [on Shabbos] once he is in a place that has other physicians, especially if there are non-Jewish physicians, that sick people, even Jews, can go to.          
Even if [the physician] is in a place that a majority [of the city] are non-Jews and the minority are Jews and he is recognized by [the people of the city] and they know to come to him when they need to be healed in a dangerous situation, then for his dealings with the non-Jews, he should follow the laws of the country. For, it is certain that a physician gets a day off and since the physician is a Sabbath observer, he should designate his day off as Shabbos so that he can leave his house on [Shabbos.] This is what the physician must do, or he should find another way that he should not be found.

Even with regards to this law, and the majority of the laws, it is not practical whether the [laws] are suspended or permitted. Nevertheless, the physician should be zealous to know that [these acts of healing on Shabbos] are forbidden things, but they are permitted because of a danger to life so he should be careful to differentiate between what is permitted (that which is necessary to perform for the patient on Shabbos) and what is forbidden (that which is not necessary to perform for the patient on Shabbos).

Now, I have introduced what a physician needs to know and one need not worry that he will come to desecrate Shabbos. This is  from the aspect that sometimes [a physician] needs to do a forbidden act on Shabbos for a sick person. [Therefore,] I will return to the question of [a Jewish physician] dealing with a [sick] non-Jew [on Shabbos.] It is clear and simple that the answer that Abaye gives in [Tractate] Avoda Zara 26a that [a Jewish midwife] can tell [a non-Jew giving birth] that [the reason the Jewish midwife can not deliver the non-Jewish pregnant woman] is because "for us that guard the Shabbos we can desecrate the Shabbos [and deliver a Jewish woman's baby (the reason being that there is a danger to life),] but for you that do not keep the Shabbos we can not desecrate the Shabbos [and, therefore, can not deliver a non-Jewish baby (even though there is a danger to life).]" We do not accept this answer in our countries, not [to be given to] the sick person and their family, nor to the heads of the country. For, it is certain that if [a Jewish physician] were in a hospital and he said this answer [of Abaye], not only would it not help him (for the non-Jew would not accept this answer) when there are no other physicians there and he does not want to heal, we definitely do not pay attention to his words. Also, if there are no other physicians there we judge him like a negligent person and a murderer if, heaven forbid, there would be any reason (like the non-Jew dying or contracting some type of illness).

Therefore, with regards to working in a hospital, for there are definitely many physicians in a hospital and there are even more physicians looking for work, and the majority of these physicians do not want to be there on Sunday, it is possible for a physician that follows the Torah to switch his work duty hours that he should always work on Sundays instead of Saturdays and the non-Jewish physicians will work on Saturdays. I know many Torah observant physicians that do this.

Essentially, [one could switch Saturdays for Sundays] with a Jewish physician that is not Torah observant that also wants to be [in the hospital] on a Saturday rather than a Sunday. There is a real permissible way [to do this.] The Torah observant physician should request from the administration of the hospital that his duty hours should always include Sundays [instead of Shabbos.] This is ok even though because of this it will force other Jews to come in [on Shabbos] because there are not enough non-Jews to fill the duty hours for Shabbos. This is true even if the other Jews are Torah observant, but in private they are not careful about [all the Torah's laws.] And this is even [a better option] when there are enough non-Jewish physicians that [will allow] all the Torah observant Jews to not have to have duty hours on Shabbos, even if on account of this non- Torah observant Jews will have to work on Shabbos.

However, even if [one is] not able to [arrange this] and the Torah observant Jew is scheduled for duty hours on Shabbos, he should still try to switch his [Saturdays] for a non-Jewish physician's [Sundays.]  Also, there is a big reason to allow [a Torah observant Jew] to switch with a non-Torah observant Jew, because even when [non-Torah observant Jews] stay in their houses they desecrate Shabbos on purpose with any forbidden acts that they want to do, and this is no less than the forbidden acts that they would do in the hospital. This is not considered "Placing a stumbling block" because you are just switching forbidden acts with forbidden acts. In fact, [the non-Torah observant Jew] may be doing even less [forbidden acts in the hospital] because there are many sick people that [performing forbidden acts for them] is permitted. Also, many [of the forbidden acts in the hospital] are only Rabbinically forbidden and the majority of [the forbidden acts] that he does in his house are Biblically [prohibited.]

However, once it is set that [the physician] must be in the hospital on Shabbos or that he is already the established physician that even if his office is closed on Shabbos sick non-Jews will specifically come to him with their dangerous matters, he is forced to deal [with the sick non-Jew] even if he has to desecrate Shabbos through something that is Biblically prohibited. Even more so, if a disaster happens close to [the physician's] house that they call all the nearby physicians more so than the distant physicians, since in our countries they do not accept the excuse of Abaye, it is a real and present danger for [the physician] to his physical body from the family members of the sick person. Also, if [the physician] is not worried that there is any personal danger to him, he should still be worried that this will create a great hatred [for Jews] from the people of the country and their leaders. For, he should be worried of the danger that can result from this.

Even according to Tosfos there (Avoda Zara 26a) heading Savar, where he is in bewilderment of how is it possible to permit Biblically prohibited acts because of "hatred," [it should be allowed in our case. The reason for this is because] according to the situation in our countries in our day and age there is a great danger from "hatred." Even in the countries that permit every Jew to follow in the laws of the Torah, nevertheless it should not be on account of this (that they let us follow our laws) that [the physician] should not want to save lives [of non-Jews on Shabbos.]

I am in wonderment over what the Chafetz Chaim (Mishna Berurah 330 Seif Katan 5) [says.] He writes:
Physicians, even the righteous ones, travel great distances to heal non-Jews, squeeze out (Sochtim) medicines themselves, and pick fruits (Masik) that [these actions are all] completely desecration of Shabbos with intention. (Saying that one is not allowed to do this)
[The Chafetz Chaim is talking about a situation] even if [not performing these actions] will cause hatred. However, in Russia with regards to small cities that only have one physician for [the city] and all surrounding areas, then it is certain and clear that if he did not go to heal the non-Jew they (the non-Jews) would clearly kill him with their claims that he caused the death of their sons, their daughters, etc. Also, the judges of the country would not punish (the non-Jews who killed the Jewish physician) so severely or they would completely let the non-Jews off for killing him, not even [to punish the non-Jews] in the way that the judges punish small felonies by making them worry, in private, if they will be killed. Also, we see that really we are worried about "Lest he create hatred," for later on in the [Mishna Berurah it is revealed] that his intention (that physicians can not violate Shabbos for a non-Jew) is only with regards to the country of India (?) and if there is no worry about [hatred] then he would not have to [specify] this (therefore we see that there really is a worry for hatred). So, since there is a doubt (of danger) in every situation, even if it is a small doubt, we are lenient by a life in danger (and allow a Jewish physician to treat a non-Jew on Shabbos).

Looking at the Chasam Sofer found in Yoreh De'ah 131 where he writes in his commentary:
If there is "hatred," this is a worry of danger to life, then we can permit even a Biblically forbidden act.
[According to] the language of the Divrei Chaim (Volume 2 Orech Chaim Siman 25) after he writes that because of "hatred" we can not desecrate Shabbos with a Biblically forbidden act of picking fruit (Masik), [he continues and says:]
But the custom of physicians is to be lenient by this and I heard that there was a decree of the land that permitted them [to do so.]
It appears to be [that he says this because] he does not understand which decree deals with this. We need to say that his intention is that even though he himself holds that we should not worry about the danger because of "hatred." Nevertheless, he does not say to protest the physicians that are lenient because he is not sure that there is no worry of danger for the reason of his assessment that there is no danger. [It is possible] that [his assessment] only pertains to where he lives, that perhaps in his place and the surrounding areas there are many physicians and they (the non-Jews) do not care so much. For, even if it was certain that it would add hatred because of [not treating non-Jews on Shabbos,] this is just generalized hatred that a non-Jew has toward a Jew (in the days and area of the Divrei Chaim), for there is a great deal of hatred, and there is no [added] danger. However, know that there are definitely places where a physician can not be found and there is a worry of danger [if the Jewish physician refuses to heal a non-Jew and it would then be allowed. Therefore,] the Divrei Chaim writes that this is the custom of the physicians (that they treat non-Jews on Shabbos even by desecrating Biblically forbidden acts) even where he lives and they do not protest because he heard there was a decree to permit them [to do so] in every place. The reason for this is so that [the physician] should not err and be stringent even in a place where the "hatred" will cause a danger [to life.]

This [opinion of the Divrei Chaim] is like that which we see in the Taz (Orech Chaim) 328 Seif Katan 5:
Even if a non-Jew is prepared [to do the act that is forbidden on Shabbos and heal] we have an adult male Jew do it. [The reason for this is because if we always relied on a non-Jew] we see from the Gemara that it will be a stumbling block for the future (because when a non-Jew is not available an adult male Jew will not want to do it). 
This [idea] is even more so by our case (that a Jew will not want to violate Shabbos for a non-Jew) for there will always be a stumbling block because every place has dangerously sick non-Jews. This is the reason for the decree of the land (that physicians can be lenient even by Biblically forbidden acts on Shabbos even for non-Jews). This ["decree"] is not actually a decree, rather it is the actual law (halacha) and the reason we have the language of decree is just so it will be publicized (See Tractate Munachos 68b where it uses decree in this way).

The Divrei Chaim, himself, perhaps he was holding that we do not want to teach things in one place and have them carry it to another and therefore even in his area where there is no danger they do not protest (the custom of the physicians to be lenient).

However, in our times we should be worried about the danger that we have illustrated in every place. Also, from the aspect that the news is made known through the newspapers what is done in the entire world, therefore, there is the stumbling block of people will learn from one place to another (if they do not treat a non-Jew on Shabbos in one place, some other place might not treat a non-Jew on Shabbos even if they should). Furthermore, it will instigate an increase in hatred to the extent that there will be many killings on account of this. Therefore, it is obvious that in our times we should judge this like an actual danger and that is why it is permitted. 

End of Igros Moshe
That is where I will end my translation. Rav Moshe goes on to talk about accepting money for treating on Shabbos, but this is enough for now. I would like to sum up the opinion of Rav Moshe. Simply put, an Orthodox Jewish physician should try his hardest to not work on Shabbos. However, if he must then he can even treat non-Jews on Shabbos. He can even violate Biblically forbidden acts in order to take care of his patients. 

In my opinion, I can't see why a resident physician would be different than a physician that has finished his or her residency. Both can write orders that take care of critically ill patients. The only caveat is that an attending physician will, EVENTUALLY, have to sign off on your orders. In some situations, the resident is the ONLY physician in the hospital that is able to take care of certain patients. That is why, based on this Rav Moshe, I think that a Shomer Torah and Mitzvos Jew needs to pursue a Shomer Shabbos residency. However, if you are unable to get one, then you can go to a non-Shomer Shabbos residency. However, you also need to try your hardest at the non-Shomer Shabbos residency to get out of working on Shabbos and Jewish holidays. In the end, if you are unable to not work on Shabbos then you would have the same laws apply to you, as a resident, as an attending Orthodox Jewish physician has.

I am very confused by Rav Schechter's (Rosh Yeshiva at YU) psak (ruling) that a resident is not allowed to attend a non-Shomer Shabbos residency even if he or she has pursued the Shomer Shabbos route. I can understand that a medical student is not allowed to do any forbidden acts on Shabbos, even Rabbinicaly decreed, but not a resident. The reality of the situation is that a resident is just as involved as a regular practicing physician. As a resident, you offer just as much care as an attending, but the attending signs off on your work, sometimes, hours later. This being the case, I have no idea why you would not be able to attend non-Shomer Shabbos residency if that is your only option. Rav Moshe seems to say that if your only option, as a physician, is to work on Shabbos then it is allowed.   

On another note, I am really confused by the Chafetz Chaim's statement, just like Rav Moshe. How can he be so disparaging about Torah Observant Jews when there are CLEARLY opinions that contradict him? I like how Rav Moshe explains him, but his statement allows for so many uninformed people to say that a physician is not allowed to work on Shabbos even to perform forbidden acts that are Rabbinical in nature. I have heard and seen this in so many places and reading Rav Moshe leads me to believe these people are fools. Especially if Rav Moshe is right and the Chafetz Chaim is only talking about a place where no danger exists, which that situation does not exist anymore as Rav Moshe points out due to newspapers and television.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rambam- Yisdoei HaTorah Perek 7 Halacha 5: Some May Receive Prophecy and Some May Not

אלו שהם מבקשין להתנבא הם הנקראים בני הנביאים. ואע"פ שמכוונים דעתם אפשר שתשרה שכינה עליהן ואפשר שלא תשרה:

These people that request to have prophecy are called the sons of the prophets. Even though they concentrate their minds, it is possible that G-D's essence will rest on them and it is possible that it will not.  

This idea was touched upon by me while discussing halacha 1. I said over there (Yisodei Hatorah 7:1),
Also, the Rambam indirectly tells us that G-D must choose to give a person prophecy even if they do everything that is stated here. It is not a given that a person who even reaches this high level of wisdom and knowledge will also attain prophecy, it is up to G-D to choose who will receive prophecy. However, only someone on this level is even an option for G-D to choose from.
Here we can see a similar idea that is more direct than what is stated in the first halacha. The Rambam is telling us that even if someone has reached the level of being a "Son of the Prophets" he or she still might never be granted prophecy.

This idea is discussed at length in "The Guide for The Perplexed" 2:32 (translation from,
For we believe that, even if one has the capacity for prophecy, and has duly prepared himself, it may yet happen that he does not actually prophesy. It is in that case the will of God [that withholds from him the use of the faculty]...That those who have prepared themselves may still be prevented from being prophets, may be inferred from the history of Baruch, the son of Nerijah; for he followed Jeremiah, who prepared and instructed him; and yet he hoped in vain for prophecy; comp., "I am weary with my sighing, and rest have I not found." He was then told through Jeremiah, "Thus saith the Lord, Thus shalt thou say to him, Thou seekest for thee great things, do not seek" (Jer. xlv. 5).

Personally, I think that the Rambam mentions this idea here for one main reason, it is a practical way to explain why people no longer have prophecy. Even if someone were to reach a state where he or she could be considered "Son of the Prophets" they don't necessarily receive prophecy according to the Rambam. Had the Rambam said that a person receives prophecy once they reach a certain level of knowledge and concentration then he could be called a liar or even doubt himself. This short sentence takes the ability to attain prophecy out of the hands of man and puts it solely in the hands of G-D in the Rambam's philosophy. This is not to say that Rambam made this up to deflect criticism, only that it was philosophically necessary. Really, the Rambam would have liked to leave it out, but he saw that practically some people attain the level of "Son of the Prophets," but never become prophets.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rambam- Yisdoei HaTorah Perek 7 Halacha 4: The Mood a Prophet Must Be In To Attain Prophecy

כל הנביאים אין מתנבאין בכל עת שירצו אלא מכוונים דעתם ויושבים שמחים וטובי לב ומתבודדים. שאין הנבואה שורה לא מתוך עצבות ולא מתוך עצלות אלא מתוך שמחה. לפיכך בני הנביאים לפניהם נבל ותוף וחליל וכנור והם מבקשים הנבואה וזהו שנאמר והמה מתנבאים כלומר מהלכין בדרך הנבואה עד שינבאו כמו שאתה אומר פלוני מתגדל: 

No prophet is able to have prophecy at any time they want, rather they must concentrate their minds, be sitting happy, with a good heart and be isolated. For prophecy does not rest upon a person in a state of melancholy or in a state of laziness but rather [one must be] in a state of happiness. Therefore, the disciples of the prophets would have before them a harp, drum, flute, and a violin and then they would request prophecy. This is why it says (Samuel 1 10:5), "And they were attaining prophecy," meaning that they were going in the path of prophecy until they actually prophesied, like one would say so and so has risen [in stature.]     

 The Rambam is describing the state of mind that a person must be in to reach the level of prophecy. Most of these ideas come from the book of Samuel and Kings. For instance, it says in Samuel 1 10:5,
וּפָגַעְתָּ חֶבֶל נְבִאִים יֹרְדִים מֵהַבָּמָה וְלִפְנֵיהֶם נֵבֶל וְתֹף וְחָלִיל וְכִנּוֹר וְהֵמָּה מִתְנַבְּאִים:You will meet a band of prophets descending from the high place, and before them will be a psaltery and a drum, and a flute and a harp, and they will prophesies. (translation from
The Rambam concludes from this verse that these instruments are the ones used to help ease a person's state of mind. This, in turn, will allow a person who has reached a certain level of knowledge and closeness to G-D to attain prophecy.

Another verse, found in Kings 2 3:15, which teaches us this principle says,
וְעַתָּה קְחוּ לִי מְנַגֵּן וְהָיָה כְּנַגֵּן הַמְנַגֵּן וַתְּהִי עָלָיו יַד יְהֹוָה: "And now fetch me a musician." And it was that when the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon him."(translation from
This verse is referring to Elisha the prophet being calmed by music after being agitated by the King of Israel. This verse clearly shows that a prophet must be in a clear state of mind, which is attained through music. Therefore, we can clearly see from Tanach (The Prophets) that the way a prophet can attain prophecy is by calming himself with music and clearing his mind so that he can focus on a connection with G-D.   

Ramban's (Nahmanides') View of Medical Care (Mystical View)

I think we should start with the Ramban's opinion about medical care since it is probably the most widely held stance in Orthodox Jewish circles (Either consciously or subconsciously). The first source that we can delve into is what he says in Parshas Bechukosai (Vayikra 26:11). In the middle of his commentary on this verse, the Ramban goes on to explain his Views of medical care. I will translate his words and then discuss them.

והכלל כי בהיות ישראל שלמים והם רבים, לא יתנהג עניינם בטבע כלל, לא בגופם, ולא בארצם, לא בכללם, ולא ביחיד מהם, כי יברך השם לחמם ומימם, ויסיר מחלה מקרבם, עד שלא יצטרכו לרופא ולהשתמר בדרך מדרכי הרפואות כלל, כמו שאמר (שמות טו כו): כי אני ה' רופאך. וכן היו הצדיקים עושים בזמן הנבואה, גם כי יקרם עוון שיחלו לא ידרשו ברופאים רק בנביאים, כעניין חזקיהו בחלותו (מ"ב כ ב ג). ואמר הכתוב (דהי"ב טז יב): גם בחליו לא דרש את ה' כי ברופאים, ואילו היה דבר הרופאים נהוג בהם, מה טעם שיזכיר הרופאים, אין האשם רק בעבור שלא דרש השם. אבל הוא כאשר יאמר אדם, לא אכל פלוני מצה בחג המצוות כי אם חמץ.

The General rule is that when the children of Israel are complete and numerous then nature does not effect them at all. Not their bodies, not their land, not as a nation and not as individuals because G-D blesses their bread and their water. He removes sickness from their midst to the point that they don't need a doctor and they are guarded in their path (of life) from (even needing to follow) the ways of medicine. For example, it says (Shemos 15:26) "Because I am G-D your healer." So too, that is what the righteous people did in the days of prophecy. When the important people would sin and become ill they would not seek out doctors, but only prophets like the story of Hezekiah (Chizkiyahu) when he became sick (Kings 2 20:2,3) Also, the verse says (Chronicles 2 16:12) "Also in his sickness he did not seek out G-D, only doctors" and if going to doctors was the path to follow what was the reason [the verse] mentions physicians (the verse should just say he did not seek out G-D)? The only sin here should be that he (King Asa) did not seek out G-D (to heal him and there should be no mention of doctors). However, (this was a case where) a man (the doctor) says so and so should not eat Matza (unleavened bread) on Pesach (passover) only Chametz (leavened bread) (and that apparently was the sin or increased the sin).      

אבל הדורש השם בנביא לא ידרוש ברופאים. ומה חלק לרופאים בבית עושי רצון השם, אחר שהבטיח וברך את לחמך ואת מימיך והסירותי מחלה מקרבך, והרופאים אין מעשיהם רק על המאכל והמשקה להזהיר ממנו ולצוות עליו.

However, the one who seeks out G-D through a prophet does not inquire of doctors. What is the purpose (lit. portion) of a doctor in a house that does the will of G-D? After we are assured (by G-D) that He will bless our bread, our water, and remove sickness from our midst (what is the point of a doctor?!?!). By doctors, their actions only involve warning us which food and drink we should stay away from and they make demands of us. 

וכך אמרו (ברכות סד א :

כל עשרין ותרתין שנין דמלך רבה רב יוסף אפילו אומנא לביתיה לא קרא, והמשל להם (במדב"ר ט ג): תרעא דלא פתיח למצותא פתיח לאסיא.
והוא מאמרם (ברכות ס א): שאין דרכם של בני אדם ברפואות אלא שנהגו, אילו לא היה דרכם ברפואות יחלה האדם כפי אשר יהיה עליו עונש חטאו ויתרפא ברצון ה', אבל הם נהגו ברפואות והשם הניחם למקרי הטבעים.

So it says [in the Gemara] (Tractate Brachos 64a):
During the entire 22 years that Rabbah reigned (as Rosh Yeshiva), Rav Yosef did not even call upon a cupper (some form of doctor) to come to his house (Showing that righteous people do not need doctors). Also, there is a parable for this [idea that a righteous person does not need doctors and a sinner does] (Bamidbar Rabba 9:3): A door that doesn't open for mitzvos (Jastrow translates as charity) opens for the physician (meaning you will be punished with sickness for not performing the mitzvos).   
This is a saying [in the Gemara] (Brachos 60a): It is not the [intended] path of man to deal with medicine, rather it is what they are accustom to doing. If it was not man's custom to deal with medicine then a man would become sick when he did a misdeed. (Meaning), he would sin and be healed by the will of G-D. However, they (man) are accustomed to deal with medicine so G-D leaves them to the occurrences of nature.

וזו היא כוונתם באמרם(שם:

ורפא ירפא מכאן שנתנה רשות לרופא לרפאות.
לא אמרו שנתנה רשות לחולה להתרפאות, אלא כיון שחלה החולה ובא להתרפאות כי נהג ברפואות והוא לא היה מעדת השם שחלקם בחיים, אין לרופא לאסור עצמו מרפואתו, לא מפני חשש שמא ימות בידו, אחרי שהוא בקי במלאכה ההיא, ולא בעבור שיאמר כי השם לבדו הוא רופא כל בשר, שכבר נהגו. ועל כן האנשים הנצים שהכו זה את זה באבן או באגרוף (שמות כא יח): יש על המכה תשלומי הרפואה, כי התורה לא תסמוך דיניה על הנסים, כאשר אמרה (דברים טו יא): כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ, מדעתו שכן יהיה. אבל ברצות השם דרכי איש אין לו עסק ברופאים.

This is the intention of the saying [in the Gemara] (Berachos 60a):
(It says in Shemos 21:19) "He shall cause him to be healed," from here [we see] that [G-D] gave permission to physicians to heal.
It does not say that [G-D] gave permission to the sick person to seek out healing. However, since the sick person became ill and [instead of seeking out G-D] came to be healed, for [the sick person] is accustomed to use medicine. Furthermore, [this man] is not from the congregation of G-D that their portion is while living (and G-D will cure this man Himself). Therefore, the physician should not inhibit himself from his healing. Not because he is worried that perhaps [the patient] may die by his hands, because he is an expert in his work. Also, [the physician should not be worried] because [of the idea that] is said that G-D alone is the healer of all flesh, because it is already the custom [of people to seek out a physician.] Therefore,  by the men who are fighting and hit each other with a stone or fist (Shemos 21:18) there is a payment needed for the healing of the wound, because the Torah (Bible) does not rely its laws on miracles. When the [Torah] says (Devarim 15:11) "For the poor shall not cease from in the midst of the land (this is in reference to the commandment of charity),"  this was because He knew [and wanted] it to be this way. However, [this is opposite to healing] because G-D wanted the path of man to be that he [or she] should not deal with medicine or physicians.  

I want to sum up the Ramban's view and then I will discuss it in more detail. The Ramban goes through great length to explain that, simply put, a sick person seeking out a doctor or medicine is a Bidieved (not optimal) situation. The way the world is supposed to work is man sins, he is afflicted with sickness, he prays to G-D and is healed. However, because man has perverted the original path of the world and has accustom himself with seeking medicine and doctors, now those avenues are the natural way to be healed.

This opinion really fits well with the Ramban's whole philosophy of life. This philosophy can be found most clearly and succinctly in the Ramban's commentary on Shemos 13:16 in the last paragraph.
 From the great open miracles man will admit to the hidden miracles that are the foundation of the entire Torah. For a man does not have a portion in the Torah of Moshe, our teacher, until he believes that all our dealings and occurrences are miracles that are not nature or the custom of the world whether it be on a general or on an individual scale. [One must believe] if he does the mitzvos (commandments) our success is his reward. However, if he transgresses [the mitzvos] our destruction is his punishment. Everything is according to heavenly decree, as I have mentioned already. (Breishis 17:1, Shemos 6:2)
The Ramban believes that there is no such thing as nature, at least by the Jewish people. Everything that happens to us, rain or shine, is directly from G-D. This philosophy obviates the need for the Ramban to explain why medicine appears to be the healer and not prayer to G-D. According to the Ramban, G-D really does directly heal. In fact, back in the good old days, that was the only way to be healed, pray and be healed. However, somehow man became reliant on medicine, because that became the custom. This led to G-D changing the healing process from an open miracle (pray and thou shalt be healed) to a hidden miracle (you must go to doctors). Still, it is not the medicine that heals the person, but G-D (through a hidden miracle that APPEARS to be nature).

My explanation of the Ramban comes down to a few details. The Ramban believes that nature (at least with regards to Jews) is an illusion. Everything is directly from G-D either in the form of an open miracle (10 plagues of Egypt) or a hidden miracle ("natural" occurrences). This leads the Ramban to explain that a patient should NOT seek out a doctor, because prayer to G-D SHOULD help in and of itself. In fact, the Ramban points out that this used to be the only way to be cured from illness. However, once man became accustom to seeking medicine and medical care that was ALLOWED to be given by a doctor. There was no obligation created to give medical care, because people should NOT be seeking medical care.

That is how I will end my opening explanation and thoughts on the mystical view of medical care as seen through the Ramban's eyes. Really, medical care is part of the illusion of "nature" according to this view.   

Friday, April 12, 2013

DIfferent Approaches To Medical Care In Judaism

Judaism, as many of you are aware, has many different approaches to a wide variety of topics. Being that I am shortly going to be officially joining the medical profession, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the two main philosophies in Judaism behind a doctors role as caretaker. The two main figures I will be discussing are the Rambam (Maimonides) and the Ramban (Nachmanides). They seem like the best two approaches because they are polar opposites, yet they were both physicians. 

Rambam, based on his rationalistic approach to Judaism, believes that a doctor has a biblical obligation to use his or her knowledge to heal anyone with an illness. He also conveys that a patient has the obligation to seek out the best possible treatment that can be attained. In contrast, Ramban, based on his mystical approach to Judaism, argues that G-D is the healer of illness, not man. According to him, even when a physician is involved with treating a disease, it is really G-D that cures the patient. To the Ramban a physician’s role within medicine is very minimalistic and he argues that a physician is permitted, rather than biblically obligated, to heal. Ramban goes so far as to say that a devout person should not seek out a physician but rather rely on prayer. 

These two views represent, I believe, the paradigms of rationalist vs mystical Judaism. Both were physicians, but Ramban clearly believed that G-D's involvement is absolute, controlling every little detail of human existence. However, the Rambam was much more of a minimalist. G-D's involvement only went so far, but man has to be the master of his own physical world. 

I plan on going through the sources in the Rambam and the Ramban and show how they tease out their different understandings. However, I also want to delve into their personal backgrounds. How could it be that two physicians, born and raised as Jews under Muslim rule, in approximately the same era come to such radically different conclusions about their own profession?

It's going to be a fun journey.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Can A Multiverse Exist In Jewish Thought

This seems like a silly idea, but ever since I read this article in Scientific American a couple of years ago this was something on my mind. Previously, I thought the "Multiverse" was something made up in order for the DC Universe to have a solution to having so many conflicting stories with the same personalities (corrected with the comic book "Crisis on Infinite Earths"). However, it seems like this idea has taken hold in more mainstream sources.

Personally, I thought this idea was made up by people that were trying to figure out a way to exclude G-D from being a necessary part of the world. I thought that an infinite amount of universes existing just meant that scientists could claim that there was no creator, since there are an endless amount of "realities" where every possible permutation existed then the world could exist "by accident" without an intelligent being creating life. Imagine, every possible universe existing somewhere. One universe still has not experienced the "Big Bang." Another universe never had the proper conditions to form life on Earth. Yet, another universe ended up forming life on Mars instead of Earth and so on and so forth. The possibilities are endless.

On a more theological level I think there is an even greater problem. If one believes a Multiverse exists and that G-D exists as a single entity (meaning, there is only one G-D and an infinite amount of universes. Not one G-D per universe) how does G-D know what I am doing in each universe separately? Let me give an example for clarity. In a Multiverse setting, as explained in Scientific American, a new universe would exist every time I come to a point where I have to make a decision. Something as simple as should I go left or should I go right. That creates two separate universes, one in which I went left and another in which I went right. So, does G-D relate to me as a sinner or a righteous person? I ended up pursuing both, so does He punish me or does He reward me?

This problem is compounded when we think about other factors as well. Does each and every me, which ends up being in the millions if not billions, if not trillions because of all the choices I will make in my life, have a different Neshama (soul)? Do we each have a separate personality? 

It should come as no surprise to those who know me that I found the answer of whether a Multiverse can exist in Jewish though while reading the Ralbag's "Milchamos Hashem" (Wars of The Lord). In book 4 the Ralbag discusses divine providence. and how it works. He believes there are three options: 1) The theory of Aristotle that asserts divine providence does not reach individual members of the human species, but only the species in general. 2) The theory of most of the followers of the Torah that maintain divine providence reaches each and every individual human as an individual. 3) The theory of the outstanding scholars of our Torah who assert that divine providence reaches only some individuals on an individual level, but not all men (Referring to Rambam in The Guide 3:17,51 and Abraham Ibn Ezra in Exodus 23:25, 33:21). This is the basis for how we can understand if Jewish theology allows for a Multiverse.

According to the second approach it is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be a Multiverse. If G-D is "guiding" every aspect of your life, that means no matter which universe you are in, G-D is guiding you on the path He believes is best. The best way to describe this approach is that G-D knows what you are going to do before you do it. G-D knows whether you are going to go left or right. This appears to mean you have no free choice except how much you will fear G-D. I believe this is the Maharal's view throughout his writings, that you really have no free choice. (Obviously, this view existed well before the Maharal because the Ralbag, who lived 400 years before the Maharal, quotes this view.) G-D has already set up your path. You will make so much money your entire life, you will have so many children, you will have such and such a profession and so on. However, you do have the choice as to how much fear of heaven you will have. Will you be an earnest Jew or will you be a faker? This is what, I believe, the Maharal takes away from the Gemara in Brachos 33b "All is in the hands of heaven except fear of heaven." Anyway, back to the topic at hand, this approach leaves no room for a Multiverse since there can only be one path that G-D guides each and every single person down with his individual providence.

This, seemingly, allows us to claim that the third approach, by those outstanding scholars, allows for a Multiverse. However, this is a false claim. Divine providence excludes the second approach of most of the Jewish people from believing in a Multiverse, but that is not the only criteria. According to the Rambam (The Guide 3:20,16-21 are all relevent) G-D's providence only rests on the few that have reached a very high level, but that does not mean He doesn't know what everyone has, is and will be doing. G-D has foreknowledge of everything. This would also seem to exclude the possibility of a Multiverse, because if G-D knows what choice you will make, that means you will not choose anything else, hence no Multiverse.

It seems to me that the Ralbag has the only approach in Jewish theology that allows for a Multiverse (he also believes Abraham ibn Ezra agrees with him). In book four of The Wars of the Lord he discusses that the third approach of divine providence is the correct approach. However, he also states in book three a unique approach to divine knowledge that fits perfectly with the idea of a Multiverse. Ralbag is of the opinion that G-D does not know particular events as particulars, but only in a general sense. I know that sounds complicated and might not have much meaning, so I will explain. I don't want to go into why medieval thinkers needed to find a way that G-D's knowledge of the future never changed, but they believed G-D could acquire no new knowledge since He contains all knowledge that eixsts. Hence, Rambam concluded that G-D knows everything that has, is and will happen. The Ralbag came up with a much more original approach to prevent G-D from ever having to attain new knowledge. Ralbag explains that G-D knows every person's nature and what that nature, if uncontested by man's rationale, would lead him or her to do. Therefore, G-D knows I am going to eat the cheeseburger in the sense that He knows my nature inclines me to eat the cheeseburger. However, in actuality I may have not eaten the cheeseburger. G-D allows nature to run its course without interference, unless the person is extremely righteous and only in certain cases. That is all I want to say about that, it is a complicated subject and requires a separate post to discuss it.

This approach of the Ralbag allows for a Multiverse, because it does not require that G-D know the actual future. G-D knows a person's nature and what he or she may do, but He allows free choice. A person's rationale may override their nature and thereby a Multiverse can be formed from an orthodox Jewish perspective. How? Because, this approach leaves open the possibility that option a or b may happen and G-D does not prevent either from happening. This is only possible in the Ralbag's approach because according to the approach of most of the followers of the Torah, G-D would guide a person on one path and according to the Rambam G-D knows which path you chose.

Therefore, if a Multiverse does exist it seems like only the Ralbag's approach is correct. This would mean all the questions running through your brain about this approach need to be answered. Hopefully, I will get a chance to explain how G-D can give rewards and punishment, how He relates to prophets and so on. I'll let you in on one secret though, prophecy for the Ralbag is basically the same as for the Rambam.

For anyone who tries to call the Ralbag an Apikores or the like, I just want to state that the Ralbag makes sure to explain every one of his views that can be misconstrued as to why it agrees with other great scholars. He almost always shows why the Rambam would agree that his approach is acceptable. With regards to this approach of divine knowledge, the Ralbag quotes the Rambam in The Guide (3:20), "Some thinkers have been inclined to say that G-D's knowledge refers to the species and uniformly encompasses all members of the species. This is the view of any believer in a revealed religion who is guided by the necessity of reason." The Ralbag says that this clearly shows that the Rambam thought this approach was congruent with the view of the Torah. He also quotes the Ibn Ezra (Breishis 18:21) as agreeing with his approach, "The truth is that He knows every particular generally, not as a particular."

I hope you found this post enjoyable and intriguing.