Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Is One Allowed To Learn In Kollel As A Career?

Over on Rationalist Judaism, Rabbi Slifkin seems to point out that it is actually frowned upon by most Rishonim (Medieval Rabbis) to learn in Kollel as a career (See Here). The reason for this discussion is because of all the poverty found in the Charaidi world because they believe they can only sit and learn all day. They believe that the only proper path for an orthodox Jew is to learn in Kollel, or be a teacher in Yeshiva. 

I would like to point out that there actually is something in the Midrash Tanchuma that seems to allow, or encourage, learning in Kollel (Quoted in Rashi on Breishis 49:13). The Midrash says (Parshas Vayechi:11),
זבולן לחוף ימים
קדם זבולן ליששכר.
Zevulun [will dwell] on the sea coast: 
Zevulun [is mentioned] before Yissachar (even though Yissachar is older)
שזבולן עוסק בפרקמטיא ויששכר עוסק בתורה, עשו שותפות ביניהם, שיהא פרקמטיא של זבולן ליששכר, שכן משה ברכן, שמח זבולן בצאתך ויששכר באהליך (דברים לג).
שמח זבולן בצאתך לפרקמטיא, משום דיששכר באהליך עוסק בתורה.
[Because,] Zevulun dealt with commerce and Yissachar dealt with Torah. They made a partnership between themselves, that the commerce of Zevulun [would support] Yissachar. [This can be seen in] the blessing of Moshe (Devarim 33:18), "Rejoice, O Zevulun, in your going forth, and Yissachar, in your tents." [Meaning,] rejoice, O Zevulun in your going out to [deal with] commerce because Yissachar is in your tents dealing with Torah.  


עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה (משלי י), לפיכך הקדים זבולן ליששכר, שאלמלא זבולן, לא עסק יששכר בתורה, ומתוך שנתייחד יששכר בתורה ולא עסק בפרקמטיא, ולא היה לו עמל בדבר אחר, לפיכך כתוב בו: מבני יששכר יודעי בינה לעתים (ד"ה א יב).
Why [should Zevulun be happy that Yissachar is dealing with Torah]?
"It is a tree of life for those who grasp it." (Mishlei 3:18, the hebrew reference is incorrect) Therefore, Zevulun is [mentioned] before Yissachar, because if it was not for Zevulun, Yissachar would not be able to deal with Torah. Since Yissachar was able to focus on Torah and not deal with commerce, and he did not have to bother with anything else, therefore it writes by him (Chronicles 1 12:32), "And of the sons of Yissachar, those who had an understanding of the times[, to know what Israel should do; their chiefs were two hundred, and all their brethren obeyed their word.]" 

This Medrash seems to be very clear that Yissachar was learning all day because Zevulun was supporting him. In fact, Rashi (ibid) is even clearer,
Zebulun will dwell on the coast of the seas: Heb. חוֹף. His land will be on the seacoast. חוֹף is as the Targum renders: סְפַר, marche in Old French, borderland. He will constantly frequent the harbor of the ships, in the place of the port, where the ships bring merchandise, for Zebulun would engage in commerce and provide food for the tribe of Issachar, and they (the tribe of Issachar) would engage in [the study of] Torah. That is [the meaning of] what Moses said,“Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your going forth, and Issachar, in your tents” (Deut. 33:18) Zebulun would go forth [to engage] in commerce, and Issachar would engage in [the study of] Torah in tents. — [From Tanchuma Vayechi 11] לחוף ימים: על חוף ימים תהיה ארצו. חוף כתרגומו ספר, מרק"א בלע"ז [גבול], והוא יהיה מצוי תדיר על חוף אניות, במקום הנמל, שאניות מביאות שם פרקמטיא, שהיה זבולן עוסק בפרקמטיא, וממציא מזון לשבט יששכר והם עוסקים בתורה, הוא שאמר משה (דברים לג יח) שמח זבולן בצאתך ויששכר באהליך, זבולן יוצא בפרקמטיא ויששכר עוסק בתורה באהלים:
Rashi says, explicitly, that Zevulun was providing the sustenance (translated as food by of Yissachar in order that Yissachar could learn Torah. That is the very definition of Kollel.

Also, the Medrash points out that because their entire tribe was devoted to Torah study, they were able to produce 200 wise men that were able to guide the nation. It took an entire tribe studying Torah in order to produce 200 wise men! This shows that this Zevulun-Yissachar bond is the best way to create Torah leaders that can guide the community.

Additionally, there is a Gemara in Sotah (21a) that seems to imply this type of Yissachar-Zevulun relationship is acceptable. The Gemara there states,
What means He would utterly be contemned(Shir HaShirim 8:7)?— ‘Ulla said: Not like Simeon the brother of Azariah nor like R. Johanan of the Prince's house but like Hillel and Shebna. When R. Dimi came he related that Hillel and Shebna were brothers; Hillel engaged in [study of] Torah and Shebna was occupied in business. Eventually [Shebna] said to him, ‘Come, let us become partners and divide [the profits]’. A Bath Kol issued forth and proclaimed (Shir HaShirim 8:7). If a man would give all the substance of his house etc.
This seems like an enigmatic piece of Gemara, but it is clearly talking about partnerships between one person learning Torah and another person supporting the learner. In fact, Rashi comes to give a little insight on why Azariah and R. Johanan are mention. He states (ibid),
He (Referring to Shimon the brother of Azariah) is a Tanna in the first Mishna in Tractate Zevachim. He learned Torah on account of his brother (Azariah) who dealt with commerce in order that they should split the merit of Shimon's learning, therefore he is called the brother of Azariah. So too Rabbi Yochanan learned on account of the Prince (Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi), for [the Prince] supported [Rabbi Yochanan.]  
According to Rashi, this Gemara is pointing out that if two people go into a partnership where the other person is knowingly supporting them, then it is fine. If one person is committed to learning and the other person is committed to supporting them, this is considered appropriate. However, in the case of Hillel this was inappropriate, why?

The Eitz Yosef on the Ein Yaakov on this Gemara (Ein Yaakov Sotah 21a) tells us an important difference between Rav Shimon the brother of Azariah, Rabbi Yochanan and Hillel. By Rav Shimon and Rabbi Yochanan, the scholars were only able to learn full time because of their prior arrangements. Neither one would have learned full time had they not had these prior arrangements that they would be supported (note: not throught charity). However, Hillel was already learning full time, he was just in adverse poverty (note again: did not take charity). (My interjection) This can be seen from the Gemara in Yoma (35b),
Hillel the Elder that every day he used to work and earn one tropaik, half of which he would give to the guard at the House of Learning, the other half being spent for his food and for that of his family. One day he found nothing to earn and the guard at the House of Learning would not permit him to enter. He climbed up and sat upon the window, to hear the words of the living God from the mouth of Shemayah and Abtalion — They say, that day was the eve of Sabbath in the winter solstice and snow fell down upon him from heaven. When the dawn rose, Shemayah said to Abtalion: Brother Abtalion, on every day this house is light and to-day it is dark, is it perhaps a cloudy day. They looked up and saw the figure of a man in the window. They went up and found him covered by three cubits of snow. They removed him, bathed andanointed him and placed him opposite the fire and they said: This man deserves that the Sabbath be profaned on his behalf.
(Back to the Eitz Yosef) Therefore, when a rich person came to Hillel and offered to support him full time in order that they split the profits (money and reward in the next world), this was inappropriate.  
These sources seem like irrefutable evidence that Kollel (or more accurately, learning while someone else is supporting) is something that has been around since before the first Temple and even after the second temple. Also, this is how the leaders of the Jewish people were trained. 

However, there are some very important differences between the Zevulun-Yissachar bond, these cases reported in the Gemara, and the current Kollel system. First off, the Medrash's point is to show us that Zevulun is the greater partner because he supports Yissacher, that is why he is mentioned first in the Torah. Second, Yissachar and these Rabbis are not being supported by charity, he has made a partnership with Zevulun and the Rabbis made partnerships with their supporters. This is important because, as the Rambam says in the Laws of Torah Study (3:10),
Anyone who comes to the conclusion that he should involve himself in Torah study without doing work and derive his livelihood from charity, desecrates [God's] name, dishonors the Torah, extinguishes the light of faith, brings evil upon himself, and forfeits the life of the world to come, for it is forbidden to derive benefit from the words of Torah in this world.
Our Sages declared: "Whoever benefits from the words of Torah forfeits his life in the world." Also, they commanded and declared: "Do not make them a crown to magnify oneself, nor an axe to chop with." Also, they commanded and declared: "Love work and despise Rabbinic positions." All Torah that is not accompanied by work will eventually be negated and lead to sin. Ultimately, such a person will steal from others.
The current Kollel system seems to violate the words of the Rambam. Most of the Kollels seem to accept government welfare, which is charity and many other forms of charity (having someone going around collecting for a Kollel, especially when they say Tzedaka). (We can define government welfare as charity because only those who earn less than what the government considers liveable, or people who lie to the government and say they earn less, get it.)

Nevertheless, because of this Zevulun-Yissachar bond and the cases in the Gemara we can see that some Kollels are, indeed, permissible. First off, community Kollels found in the United States are perfectly acceptable for two reasons; 1) Most of the people learning in the Kollel often act as teachers, 2) If they are not teaching anything they are still not accepting charity because the town pays for the Kollel to be there the same way Zevulun supported Yissacher and the people supported the Rabbis. Secondly, a person who has a family member that is willing to support them while they are learning seems to fit in the Zevulun-Yissachar category as well.

The conclusion that I have reached is simple. Kollels that demand other people pay for them after the fact, take government money, or encourage their participants to take welfare seem foolish. That has no basis in the history of the Jewish people. Some Rishonim have allowed people to learn and be supported by charity, but I, personally, do not find their arguments grounded in anything but the "they will starve if you don't" logic. The proper way for a Kollel is, as stated, either be like one of the community Kollels that provide fantastic resources, or have someone make a Zevulun-Yissachar relationship, as seen in the Medrash and Gemara, and avoid charity all together. In these ways, it seems to me, Kollel would be allowed as a career.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Purpose Of The Cloud Of Glory Directing The Jewish People Where And When To Encamp

Reading through this week's Parsha, Behaaloscha, I could not help but notice something that bothered me. The verses say (Bamidbar 9:17-18),
17. and according to the cloud's departure from over the Tent, and afterwards, the children of Israel would travel, and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would encamp. יז. וּלְפִי הֵעָלוֹת הֶעָנָן מֵעַל הָאֹהֶל וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יִסְעוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבִמְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכָּן שָׁם הֶעָנָן שָׁם יַחֲנוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
18. At the bidding of the Lord, the children of Israel traveled, and at the bidding of the Lord, they encamped. As long as the cloud hovered above the Mishkan, they encamped. יח. עַל פִּי יְהֹוָה יִסְעוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל פִּי יְהֹוָה יַחֲנוּ כָּל יְמֵי אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכֹּן הֶעָנָן עַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יַחֲנוּ:
This seem to be saying that G-D communicated His will directly to the people through the Cloud of Glory. When the cloud left the Mishkan that is when the Jews would break camp and start to travel, following the Cloud until it settled somewhere. That seems innocent enough, what is the difficulty?

Well, the Cloud's departure and settling to inform the people when to travel and settle should be wholly unnecessary. This would be appropriate if there was no Moshe that could speak directly to G-D. However, Moshe spoke directly to G-D, so why could he not just tell the people when to break camp and travel? Was he not the "King" of the Jewish people at this time? Did he no longer speak with G-D "face to face?"

We can begin to understand this idea through the last verse of this (ibid 23) chapter. It says,
23. At the Lord's bidding they would encamp, and at the Lord's bidding they would travel; they kept the charge of the Lord by the word of the Lord through Moses. כג. עַל פִּי יְהֹוָה יַחֲנוּ וְעַל פִּי יְהֹוָה יִסָּעוּ אֶת מִשְׁמֶרֶת יְהֹוָה שָׁמָרוּ עַל פִּי יְהֹוָה בְּיַד משֶׁה:
Somehow, the Cloud leaving and settling was an indication to travel or encamp, but these things were only done through Moshe. As Rashi tells us (ibid 18),
At the bidding of the Lord…traveled: We learned in the [Baraitha] Melecheth HaMishkan [ch. 13]: When the Israelites traveled, the cloud would fold and spread itself over the tribe of Judah like a beam. They blew a tekiah (long blast), a teruah (series of short blasts), and another tekiah , but it (the Cloud) did not move on until Moses declared, “Rise up, O Lord” (10:35), and then the banner of the camp of Judah would travel. This [appears] in the Sifrei (84). על פי ה' יסעו: שנינו במלאכת המשכן, כיון שהיו ישראל נוסעים היה עמוד הענן מתקפל ונמשך על גבי בני יהודה כמין קורה, תקעו והריעו ותקעו ולא היה מהלך עד שמשה אומר קומה ה', ונסע דגל מחנה יהודה, זו בספרי:

and at the bidding of the Lord they encamped: As soon as the Israelites encamped, the pillar of cloud would mushroom upward and spread itself over the tribe of Judah like a canopy. It would not depart until Moses declared, “Return O Lord, to the myriads of Israel’s thousands” (10:36). This is what is meant by,“according to the Lord’s word, through Moses” (verse 23). - [Melecheth HaMishkan ch. 13]
ועל פי ה' יחנו: כיון שהיו ישראל חונים, עמוד הענן מתמר ועולה ונמשך על גבי בני יהודה כמין סוכה, ולא היה נפרש עד שמשה אומר שובה ה' רבבות אלפי ישראל, הוי אומר על פי ה' וביד משה:
Therefore, we see that Moshe was still in charge of when to depart and when to encamp, as seen in chapter ten. The Cloud only departed and it only rested according to what Moshe said. However, why was it necessary for the Cloud to depart when G-D wanted the Jews to travel and for it to stay when He wanted them to encamp? Why was this extra sign necessary? Why was just telling Moshe where and when to camp and Moshe conveying that to the people insufficient?

I think the answer to this question can be seen with the stories that follow about the Jewish people's complaints. These numerous complaints in the desert can be seen starting here (Bamidbar 11:1),
1. The people were looking to complain, and it was evil in the ears of the Lord. The Lord heard and His anger flared, and a fire from the Lord burned among them, consuming the extremes of the camp. א. וַיְהִי הָעָם כְּמִתְאֹנְנִים רַע בְּאָזְנֵי יְהֹוָה וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהֹוָה וַיִּחַר אַפּוֹ וַתִּבְעַר בָּם אֵשׁ יְהֹוָה וַתֹּאכַל בִּקְצֵה הַמַּחֲנֶה:
This was just the first of many. For the verses show, in chapter 11, that the Jews had so many complaints to the point that Moshe cried out (ibid 11),
11. Moses said to the Lord, "Why have You treated Your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in Your eyes that You place the burden of this entire people upon me? יא. וַיֹּאמֶר משֶׁה אֶל יְהֹוָה לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתָ לְעַבְדֶּךָ וְלָמָּה לֹא מָצָתִי חסר א' חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ לָשׂוּם אֶת מַשָּׂא כָּל הָעָם הַזֶּה עָלָי:
These complaints were so severe that in next week's Parsha, Shelach, we have the story of the spies. This, of course, leads to the people rejecting the thought of trying to conquer the land of Israel. In turn, the rebellion of Korach ensues. Therefore, we see a bad situation turning worse until it turns into an open rebellion.

However, the nature of Korach's rebellion shows us that the doubts and complaints of the Jewish people did not rest with G-D, but with Moshe. As it says (Bamidbar 16:3),
3. They assembled against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and the Lord is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the Lord's assembly?" ג. וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל משֶׁה וְעַל אַהֲרֹן וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב לָכֶם כִּי כָל הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדשִׁים וּבְתוֹכָם יְהֹוָה וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ עַל קְהַל יְהֹוָה:
The reason for these complaints against Moshe is that Dasan and Aviram (maybe Korach as well) did not believe that Moshe was sent by G-D. This can be seen in the Dvar Torah that I wrote on Parshas Korach (found here). If this is the case, that there were still people that believed Moshe was doing somethings on his own, I believe there is a simple answer as to why the Cloud of Glory departing and resting by the word of Moshe was necessary and it did not suffice for G-D just to tell Moshe when to leave and when to camp.

The verse in Parsha Ki Sisa (Shemos 32:9) states,
9. And the Lord said to Moses: "I have seen this people and behold! they are a stiff necked people. ט. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה רָאִיתִי אֶת הָעָם הַזֶּה וְהִנֵּה עַם קְשֵׁה עֹרֶף הוּא:
and Rashi explains that this means (from,
stiff-necked: Heb. קְשֵׁה-עֹרֶף. [This is a description of stubbornness, meaning] they turned the hardness of the backs of their necks toward those who reproved them, and they refused to listen. קשה ערף: מחזרין קשי ערפם לנגד מוכיחיהם, וממאנים לשמוע:
The Jewish people are cynical and it is very hard for them to be convinced of the truth of something. It takes excessive amounts of proof to sway them to believe in something. However, once they believe in something it is nearly impossible to strip them of this belief. Nowadays, we look back and we see all of the Jews that gave up their lives simply because they would not convert or renounce their faith. They were stubborn in their belief in G-D because once the Jews, as a people, believe in something it is nearly impossible to expunge that belief from them.

(As a side point, I believe that this idea might have been emphasized in order to counteract people who say "people of ancient times were gullible and would believe anything." This idea counteracts that notion and shows that, at least the Jews of old, were cynical and would not just believe anything.)

This idea can be applied to the Jews in the desert as well. However, instead of being stubborn in their belief of G-D, as we see today, they were stubborn and cynical against a belief in G-D, originally. In fact, that is how G-D is referring to their stubbornness in Shemos (32:9). However, even once they were convinced of G-D's existence, they were cynical of Moshe's unwavering obedience to G-D's commands. With this in mind, I think it is fairly obvious as to why G-D felt it was necessary to have the Cloud of Glory signal, through Moshe, when the Jews should break camp and when they should encamp in different places.

The Jewish people continuously saw miracles, starting with the plagues in Egypt and culminating with the events at Mount Sinai. However, it was only on Mount Sinai that G-D spoke directly to the Jewish people and they believed, without a shadow of a doubt, in G-D's existence. Also, the only reason the people believed Moshe was sent by G-D was, simply put, because G-D told them so. Even so, G-D did not say anything about whether everything Moshe did was because G-D commanded it.

So, now that the Jews had already witnessed the events at Mount Sinai, they knew there was an all powerful G-D performing these deeds. Still, they were unsure of which commands came from G-D and which came from Moshe. Did Moshe have autonomy in certain respects or was G-D commanding everything? To solve this problem G-D made it that the Cloud of Glory, seen by everyone, would follow the word of Moshe. This symbolized that everything Moshe did was in accordance with the will of G-D. Moshe did not do anything without being commanded to do so by G-D. Every instance of breaking camp and setting up camp was only because G-D willed it.

This is also why Korach's rebellion was so devastating to Moshe. They claimed that Moshe was going against the will of G-D. This infuriated Moshe to no end because Moshe never did anything for himself, he only did things according to the will of G-D. That is why he exclaimed (Bamidbar 16:28),
28. Moses said, "With this you shall know that the Lord sent me to do all these deeds, for I did not devise them myself.   כח. וַיֹּאמֶר משֶׁה בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן כִּי יְהֹוָה שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים הָאֵלֶּה כִּי לֹא מִלִּבִּי:
This idea can also help us understand a puzzling incident, Moshe hitting the rock, that happens later in Parshas Chukas. When G-D commands Moshe to perform a miracle that will supply the Jewish people with water He says (Bamidbar 20:8),
8. "Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their presence so that it will give forth its water. You shall bring forth water for them from the rock and give the congregation and their livestock to drink." ח. קַח אֶת הַמַּטֶּה וְהַקְהֵל אֶת הָעֵדָה אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל הַסֶּלַע לְעֵינֵיהֶם וְנָתַן מֵימָיו וְהוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם מַיִם מִן הַסֶּלַע וְהִשְׁקִיתָ אֶת הָעֵדָה
However, when Moshe actually performs the Miracle he hits the rock instead of speaking to it (ibid 11),
11. Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, when an abundance of water gushed forth, and the congregation and their livestock drank. יא. וַיָּרֶם משֶׁה אֶת יָדוֹ וַיַּךְ אֶת הַסֶּלַע בְּמַטֵּהוּ פַּעֲמָיִם וַיֵּצְאוּ מַיִם רַבִּים וַתֵּשְׁתְּ הָעֵדָה וּבְעִירָם:
This striking of the rock leads G-D to punish Moshe (ibid 12),
12. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them. יב. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן יַעַן לֹא הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם בִּי לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָכֵן לֹא תָבִיאוּ אֶת הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לָהֶם:
Why such a harsh punishment for such a seemingly minor transgression? We see that G-D invested so much in Moshe. To the point that the people believed that everything Moshe did was according to the will of G-D. However, in this instance Moshe did something that was not according to the will of G-D. Therefore, G-D used this incident as a reason to tell Moshe that he could not enter the land. G-D had done everything He could in order to show the people that everything Moshe did was in accordance with G-D's will and Moshe went ahead and did something against the will of G-D. That was an extremely severe sin and it could have shaken the very foundations of faith for the Jewish people. G-D needed the people to be led into the land by someone who could make mistakes that were not directly associated with G-D.

Moshe gave us a foundation for our faith in G-D. The Jewish people, eventually, associated everything he did with the will of G-D. This required G-D to perform many actions through Moshe. However, once Moshe erred and showed that he was capable of doing something that was not in accordance with the will of G-D, it was realized that a different leader was needed to take the Jewish people to the next level, a new leader was needed to enter the land of Israel.

Returning to the original question, the Cloud of Glory was necessary because it was a continuous reminder to the Jewish people that Moshe was the direct messenger of G-D. Faith is an important thing, in order to instill faith in the "stiffnecked" people G-D needed to continuously reinforce the idea that He was communicating to them through Moshe. The Cloud of Glory was used for this purpose. In this way, Moshe was able to write the Torah and the Jewish people would believe that it was all straight from the mouth of G-D.   

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rav Moshe Feinstein: Can A Jew Have Plastic Surgery

The Responsa of Rav Moshe Feinstein in Choshen Mishpat 2:66 (In Volume 7 of Igros Moshe) can be found in the original Hebrew version Here. The following is my translation with my comments.

66. Is a Young Woman Permitted To Beautify Herself Through The Use Of Surgery Which Causes a Wound To Her Body?

Rav Moshe's Responsa:
It was asked of me if, in order to get married, a young woman can beautify herself through a doctor using surgery which causes an injury to her body. Is it permitted with regards to the prohibition of "Injuring Oneself?"

It is [found] in Tosfos, Babba Kama 91b heading Rather [this Tanna], that there is a prohibition to injure oneself even in a necessary situation. For example, [the case in the Mishna on 90b (found here) of it being forbidden for] a woman to uncover her hair in order to place an isar (some amount) equivalent of oil on her head for a benefit (she was damaging herself, by uncovering her hair, for a benefit, but it was still deemed impermissible). If so, even here (by having plastic surgery in order to get married) which is considered a great need, apparently it would be forbidden because it is a stretch to [try] and separate between a small need (this case quoted from the Mishna) and a great need (our case of a woman wanting to get married) as long as we can not find an explanation [of the difference] (between a great need and a small need).

However, we can ask a question on this [understanding of Tosfos] from the conclusion that this Tanna is Rabbi Elazar Hakafar in the name of Rebbe. This Tanna holds that a Nazarite is a sinner because he causes himself grief [due to] wine and there is a fortiori argument (kal vichomer in the Gemara found here) for the one that causes grief to himself with an injury (that he is also a sinner). [However,] it is clear that logic dictates if he (the Nazarite) had a monetary benefit or another type of benefit when he is causing himself grief by not drinking wine, this would not be forbidden. If this is so, then it also holds true by one who injures himself, which we learn from a fortiori argument [from the Nazarite,] that it should not be forbidden when there is a need (to cause the injury) for monetary gain or some other need. [Therefore,] how can Tosfos write that even if it is necessary (for some benefit) it is forbidden to injure yourself?

[To understand Tosfos] we need to say that [the case of] holding back from drinking wine for any beneficial reason is not considered to be causing grief since the beneficial gain (from not drinking the wine) is greater than the grief it causes. For, [if he were to] drink then he would not gain [anything] and this would cause even more grief [than not drinking in the first place] because he would lose [whatever beneficial] gain he would have attained if he did not drink the wine. [This means] all of the grief that occurs from withholding from drinking wine is only from the aspect of his desire to [drink wine] (meaning, a person only experiences suffering from withholding wine because he desires to drink it). [However,] by us he has a [greater] desire to [attain this beneficial] gain [he gets from not drinking] (Therefore, we see this guy is actually not suffering at the end of the day). However, injuring himself causes actual grief (physical, materialized injury) that is not from the aspect of [one's personal] desires, it is not interchangeable with the grief of not [attaining a beneficial] gain that is only [considered grief] from the aspect of a person's desire to profit. [In a situation] that a person wants to injure himself in order to profit, that he has a great desire to attain monetary gain and therefore is willing to suffer grief, this is [still] forbidden.

Furthermore, according to the [final] law we do not hold like Rabbi Elazar Hakafar in the name of Rebbe and, nevertheless, the Rambam decides in the beginning of Chapter 5 of Injuries (Chovel) that it is forbidden to injure oneself, like it is stated in the GRA Yoreh De'ah Siman 236 Seif Katan 6. If this is so (that the GRA is right about the Rambam holding that injuring oneself is forbidden) he is learning it from somewhere else (and not Rabbi Elazar Hakafar in the name of Rebbe) that it is [forbidden] in every situation, even when there is a need.

However, in any case, if it is necessary according to Rabbi Elazar Hakafar in the name of Rebbe  to say that when it is needed [to injure yourself] it is permitted, that would be a proof that everyone holds [when it is needed then it is permitted] because we don't find anyone who argues [on Rabbi Elzarar Hakafar in the name of Rebbe.] Also, concerning the Mishna that is dealing even with [a case of] there being a need and Rabbi Akiva says it is still forbidden the Gemara brings it from Rabbi Elazar Hakafar in the name of Rebbe saying that even according to Rabbi Elazar Hakafar in the name of Rebbe it is forbidden to injure yourself even when there is a need (This reveals that, according to everyone, injuring yourself is forbidden even if there is a need). Therefore, it is necessary to say like I answered (Basically, that an actual injury to yourself is not allowed even if done for some type of gain, but a denial of a desire that causes you non-physical pain would be allowed).

Still, the Rambam writes in the beginning of chapter 5 of Injuries (Chovel) with regards to the prohibition of hitting an upright Jew, this [prohibition] is for hitting in the way of strife. According to another version it is referring to [hitting] in a derogatory fashion, see there (English, Hebrew). If so (that the injury is prohibited if it is done in the way of strife or degradation), with our situation (plastic surgery) that the injury is to beautify and there is no [injury] in the way of strife or degradation then the prohibition is not relevant. [Furhtermore,] if injuring a friend is only [prohibited] when done in the way of strife or a derogatory fashion then also with self inflicted injuries it is not forbidden when done to beautify because that [also] is not done in the way of strife or in a derogatory fashion.

This idea that my friend Rav Tuvia Goldstein SHLITA [learned] from the language of "And not just the injury itself, but all who injure upright Jews in the way of strife transgresses a negative commandment" that the condition of "the way of strife (that the Rambam says)" is only with regards to the blow and not the injury, does not make sense. For, whether it is [referring] to the injury or the blow, it is all learned from the one verse of (Devarim 25:3), "Do not add." This implies that, according to the Rambam, the adding of lashes is considered the way of strife and degradation and from this [verse] you are not able to learn about the blows that are not given in the way of strife or degradation. If so (that our logic is correct), then the injury is specifically included in the way of strife or degradation and this condition of "the way of strife" also applies to the injury (not just the blow) because it is irrelevant to try and separate a teaching in one verse (meaning, it is not the correct thing to do to separate the injury and the blow which are both learned from one verse).      
A proof to the Rambam's opinion can be brought from that which was said in Babba Kama there (91b, translation in Soncino), "R. Hisda, whenever he had to walk between thorns and thistles used to lift up his garments Saying that whereas for the body [if injured] nature will produce a healing, for garments [if torn] nature could bring up no cure." If every injury is liable (forbidden to be done) how was it permissible for him (Rav Chisda) to go between the thorns and thistles without clothing [protecting his feet]? This would [definitely] cause an injury to himself and would be a transgression of the prohibition of causing an injury to oneself even though it was not his intention, but it is a pesik Reisha (sure thing that it is going to injure him) since it is a stretch to say it was done in a way that it was not a pesik Reisha (not a sure thing to injure him). Therefore, we need to say that the prohibition of injuring only applies if it is done in the way of strife and since [Rav Chisda] needed to walk [through the thorns and thistles] this is not considered the way of strife and there is no prohibition [for what Rav Chisda did.]

We need to say that there are [situations] of need that are prohibited when they are done with the intention to cause grief. For example, someone who tears [their clothes] because of a dead person that it (this tearing) causes extra grief [in addition to] his grief over the deceased and he wants to destroy [something] (this is not allowed). However, according to this, with [regards to the issue of] injuring oneself,  it should also be prohibited for a person to scratch [themselves] because of the deceased. For, the desire and need is to cause [more] grief from this [scratching] and this is done in the way of strife and degradation which is prohibited even if there is a need, because the desire to have [added] grief is considered a need to him (the one mourning over the deceased). [The reason this is prohibited is because] the Torah prohibited injuring yourself in any way [that was done within the boundaries of strife and degradation.]

[However,] we can ask from this [law] of scratching because of the deceased that it required a different verse [to prohibit] it (Vayikra 19:28). [This seems to imply] that scratching because of another distressing factor, like a house that collapsed, or a boat that sank in the sea, there [seems to be] no prohibition, like that which is seen in the Gemara in Makkos 20b. It is difficult to suggest that [the verse that says you can not scratch yourself because of the deceased] is an extra prohibition and the exception to this prohibition is that of when the house collapses [and it is permissible to scratch yourself. However, this] is only an exception to that verse, but it is still prohibited because of the law of injuring yourself. [The reason it is difficult to claim this] is because Tosfos says in Sanhedrin 68a, with regards to the incident where Rabbi Akiva struck himself until blood flowed down upon the earth [after] the death of Rabbi Eliezer (See Gemara in English here) says, "There [is no prohibition of] scratching oneself [here] because he did it because of Torah [learning], like [Rabbi Akiva exclaimed, "I have a many coins] but no money changer to accept them" (Meaning, I have many questions on Torah, but no one to answer them). (Tosfos seems to be saying that one is allowed to scratch themselves if they are scratching themselves for a reason other than grieving specifically for the deceased. In Rabbi Akiva's case, he scratched himself because of all the Torah learning he would miss out on and that seems to be allowed without any prohibitions.)

However, we can still ask because of the [prohibition of] injuring oneself [it should be forbidden (to cause yourself extra grief through scratching). In fact,] Rabbi Akiva in the Mishna (Babba Kama 90b) holds that it is forbidden to injure yourself. And it is difficult to say (to give an answer to our question of it should still be prohibited under the law injuring yourself) that this (that one may scratch himself for any reason other than causing himself grief over the deceased) is like Rabbi Akiva of the Braisa (91a) and not like Rava that holds according to Rabbi Akiva of the Braisa it [really] is forbidden to injure [oneself (just like the Mishna),] because then we could ask from the Braisa in Sanhedrin (68a, where Rabbi Akiva actually injures himself).

[Furthermore,] we can't say that scratching is considered giving honor to the deceased by [showing that one is] especially grief stricken because of him (or her) to the point that a person scratches and causes groups [of scratches] in their flesh and, therefore, this [would not be] considered the way of strife (thereby it would not be forbidden). [The reason is,] even for honoring the deceased [in this way,] this is considered the way of strife and degradation since the honor of the grief and degradation is because of [the deceased.]

We need to say [the reason this scratching is not prohibited under the law of injuring yourself is] that he is silencing his grief with this [scratching and it] is like that which is said in Gemara Shabbos 105b. Rashi explains the phrase in the Mishna (there) about he who tears in anger according to Rav Avin who says it is a reparation, for it calms him down because he forgets his anger (this guy that is angry and tears something is soothed because the ripping makes him forget his anger). So too, when someone injures themselves it [helps] him forget and silences his grief and anger that he has from the deceased. Therefore, this is not considered the way of strife and degradation, [therefore,] the aspect of the prohibition of injuring himself is not present. Only because of another prohibition, that of scratching because of the deceased [is present. However, scratching oneself] because of his collapsed house or boat that sank is not prohibited and, therefore, Rabbi Akiva's [case] was permitted because his grief was over the Torah [learning and the scratching was] to quiet his grief.

I saw in the Orech La'ner in Yevamos at the bottom of 13b this question (about Rabbi Akiva saying it is prohibited to injure yourself, yet we see Rabbi Akiva injured himself) and his answer was [if you scratch yourself] because of honoring the Torah it is permitted, just like there is no [prohibition of] waste when mutilating [an animal] for a royal funeral (This is a transgression of wasting the animal, but since it is for the honor of royalty it is allowed because of the honor given).  [However,] this does not appear to be correct at all because there is no honor for the Torah with this (scratching yourself). [In fact,] the Torah despises this kind of "honor." [Also,] in Tosfos it does not mention the word honor, rather [Tosfos explains that] he was grief stricken over the Torah [that he would miss out on] when it says "I do not have a money changer." Furthermore, this is found in the Shach in Yoreh De'ah Siman 180 Seif katan 10.

Additionally, the answer that [Rabbi Akiva scratched himself] unintentionally and did not expect blood to come out with his blow, just like the [story] of Rava in Gemara Shabbos 88a, "While the finger[s] of his hand were under his feet [and he ground them down, so that his fingers spurted blood,]" this is [also] not right at all. Over there[, by Rava,] his fingers were placed in a way that it was not a blow. Also, the grief (or pain) was minimal because the legs just happened to be [in a position] that crushed [the fingers] and he did not [even] think about it, that is why it is relevant to say that it was unintentional. However, where [Rabbi Akiva] hit himself with the intention to cause himself grief (pain) it should definitely enter his mind that [the blow could cause] blood to come out, so how is it relevant to consider that [Rabbi Akiva hit himself] without intention?

Also, we can not answer like that which the Bais Yosef holds in Yoreh De'ah there (Siman 180) that if it is a different grief (other than a deceased person) it is permitted [to scratch yourself] (The reason this answer can not be accepted, in my opinion, is because it does not answer the question. First of all, why is a scratching other than for a deceased person allowed from the aspect of injuring yourself? Second, why is injuring yourself on account of the deceased not prohibited under the laws of injuring yourself? Why does it need a separate verse?). So too, the Ramah holds this there (Siman 180 Seif Katan 6). Rather, we need to say as I have explained.

See the Shita Mikubetzet in Babba Kama 91b in the name of the Ramah that says that this [case] of Rav Chisda teaches us that a man is allowed to injure himself and we rule like him since he is a later [authority.] However, he asks on the Rambam why he says [injuring himself] is prohibited. But, [the Rambam] is as I have written that he only holds [injuring yourself] is prohibited if it is done in the way of strife.

However, it appears that we can ask from Sanhedrin 84b that Rav would not permit his son to extract a thorn [from his flesh, since in drawing it out he would make a slight wound. And the Gemara] asks, if so (that this is prohibited because it makes a wound) then it applies by other [people] as well (even if they are not a son). However, this injury is not done in the way of strife and degradation since his intention is to extract the thorn and there is no prohibition of "do not add" (Devarim 25:3, with regard to lashes). Also, this is not similar to a son [causing an injury to] his father which [the son is then liable] to [die by] strangling even if the wound is not in the way of strife or degradation, where the only exception is for healing (the son is not put to death if he causes an injury to the father while trying to heal, but he is put to death in other situations even if the injury was not caused in the way of strife or degradation).

And we need to say that there is a fear (in the case of Rav and there is a good question from this Gemara) that perhaps [the son] will injure [the father] more than what is considered the way of healing, like is found in the Nimukei Yosef in the name of the Ramban (19a on the pages of the Rif). The intention is that this (act of healing by the son for the father) should be done in a way that [the son] is able to be careful that he does not injure [the father] more than necessary. But, if he can not be appropriately careful because of the bother and this injury is larger [than necessary] it is considered [to be done] in the way of strife and degradation since it (the injury) was not needed for healing. [Also,] this warning, for a man is always considered forewarned, is like he did not think about the prohibition (for a son to injure a father) due to his laziness to [heed] the warning. Therefore, we find that he transgressed the prohibition of injuring through negligence. [Hence,] this is a good question (what we originally asked, that it should apply by other people as well) and it should be prohibited [for everyone] if there is this concern with a son to his father (that the son pulling out the thorn may damage his father more than necessary).        

In fact, from the [idea] that the Gemara explains, that it is permitted to let blood from a friend, and we ask if it is permitted for a son to [let blood] from his father, this is a proof that the prohibition to injure, that we learn from (Devarim 25:3, with regard to lashes) "do not add," is specifically in the way of strife and degradation and not when an injury occurs during healing. However, with regard to injuring your father, that it simply says (Exodus 21:15) "Strike," there is room to say that even in the case of healing [the son] will be liable [for punishment] when there is no danger, for the law of saving a life pushes off [this law (but when there is no danger, healing does not push off any laws).] If so (that you are allowed to let blood from anyone and there is no prohibition of injuring because it is not in the way of strife and degradation), you can learn from this that also in a case that is not for healing, if the injury is in a way that is for his (the person receiving the injury's) good and it is not in the way of strife and degradation it is permitted, like the Rambam holds.

[Therefore,] we are forced to say that this question of it should also be forbidden for another (not just a son to a father) when removing a thorn is because there is a warning from injuring more than what is necessary [and if an injury does occur then it] is considered the way of strife and degradation, like I have answered.         
Additionally, there is a proof from the story in Sanhedrin 89b of where Micah says to his friend, "Please, smite me," that the one who refused to smite [Micah] was punished by being stricken by a lion. The Gemara asks, "From where did he (the one who refused to smite Micah) know he should be punished?" The Gemara answers, "Where  [the prophet is] well established (as a prophet) it is different" (Even though Micah did not give a sign that he was a prophet, since he was an established prophet, this "friend" should have listened to him. See the Gemara there for a better understanding). [The Gemara] needs to prove this [idea] from Avraham at Mount Moriah and Eliyahu at Mount Carmel (that they were listened to even though they had not performed signs because they were established prophets) and [the Gemara] does not prove [its point] from this [case of Micah] itself. If you don't say this (that Micah is an established prophet and, therefore, you believe he is speaking the word of G-D) it would be forbidden to listen to him (Micah) because of the prohibition of (Devarim 25:3, with regard to lashes) "Do not add." We see that from the aspect of the prohibition of "do not add" it was permitted [for the "friend" to hit Micah] since [Micah] said to him that it was the word of G-D that he should be hit and that [makes it] not the way of strife and degradation.

[Furthermore,] even if [Micah] was not yet established as a prophet and it was not permitted to trust him to transgress a prohibition, nevertheless, since he did not say that he should be hit because he wanted to injure himself, but rather because it was the word of G-D, and he believed this was [the word of G-D], in no way is this considered the way of strife and degradation. Also, [this friend of Micah was] permitted to believe [Micah] since he is a great and wise man and it would be appropriate for him to receive prophecy. [This is true since] even if there is no obligation to believe [a prophet] until he performs a sign and wonder, like the Rambam says at the end of Chapter 7 of Yisodei HaTorah. Nevertheless, [the Rambam holds] it is permitted to believe him when he is fit for prophecy since if the truth is like his words, then there is no prohibition at all. (Therefore, since the injury would not be in the way of strife or degradation it is allowed)

[Plus,] you can not push off the prohibition (of injuring) from the aspect that it is a command of a prophet because he is only permitted to be believed [to give a command] if he gives a sign or is an established prophet. However, if the prohibition of injuring applied in every situation (even if the injury would not be in the way of strife and degradation) and it was only because of the commandment of the prophet (that Micah was telling the friend to hit him), he would be obligated to transgress the prohibition of injuring and [the Gemara] would have proved this idea that a prophet who is established is different and does not need a sign from this case [of Micah] itself (and it would not have needed to bring Avraham or Eliyahu to prove this idea). If this is so (this explanation of the Gemara in 89b), then it would be a proof to the Rambam (that the prohibition of injuring only applies when it is done in the way of strife and degradation).

Accordingly, it appears from this [reasoning] that it is permitted for a young girl to beautify herself even if it is through causing an injury [to herself] since [the injury] is not done in the way of strife and degradation, but rather the opposite, [it is done] for her benefit.

See Sanhedrin 84b that Rav Masna says a son is allowed to let blood for his father because of the verse (Vayikra 19:18), " Love your neighbor like yourself," and Rashi explains Jews are warned not to do things to their friends that they do not want done to themselves. It is obvious that the intention is not for a person who does not care to do something to himself that he can then do that [action] to his friend, rather anything that is not for his [neighbors] benefit [is no allowed.] For example, a person who wants to cause himself affliction or injuries, this is definitely forbidden to do to your friend even according to the one that holds injuring yourself is permitted. Not only with regards to injuries [does this idea apply,] but even by a man that does not care about his shame. [This is] not only to uphold the Mishna in Avos Chapter 4 Mishna 4 that says, "Rabbi Levitas, a man of Yavneh, said be extremely humble," see over there the Rambam's commentary on the Mishna with the occurrence with "that" righteous [person.]

Rather, even if it is a person's nature not to care that it is forbidden for him to mock his friend, on the contrary he is obligated to honor his friend, and [he does not care that] it is a great sin to whiten the face of your friend (embarrass your friend) from the prohibition of "you shall not bear a sin on his account" (Rashi says this means "[in the course of your rebuking your fellow,] do not embarrass him in public"). [and] if [the embarrassment] occurs in public the punishment is [the one who embarrasses] loses his share in the World-to-Come, like is explained in the Rambam in Chapter 6 of De'ot halacha 8 (Hebrew here) that the prohibition to embarrass a [fellow] Jew is even in private and [the Rambam] does not mention a difference to say that a humble person (who does not mind being embarrassed) is permitted to embarrass other people. If this [reasoning is correct then] also a man that wants to torture himself with afflictions and injuries, it is forbidden for him to afflict and injure his friend.

However, the intention of Rashi (in Sanhedrin 84b) that an injury like this, that is for benefit, like blood letting, that every man wants and desires to do this to themselves from the aspect of a person's love for themselves, it is not relevant to forbid him from doing this [beneficial] action to his friend and you do not need a verse to allow this [action.] Consequently, even for his father that the explanation does not say the liability for striking him is specifically when it is done in the way of strife and degradation and there is no verse to exempt healing, still it is impossible to forbid [this beneficial action of causing an injury] when it is for the good of the father, like the [case of] blood letting to heal even if there is no fear of danger or loss of life.

It is logical to say that even Rav Dimi bar Chinina (Sanhedrin 84b) that requires a verse to permit blood letting to heal his father and he makes a connection between injuring a man to injuring an animal, he is only referring to injuring his father [that requires a verse] that perhaps there is a loss of fear that comes with the injury and this levity occurs even when blood letting for healing purposes (but no verse is necessary to allow a person to heal a friend). Also, perhaps a verse is necessary if the father does not want an injury, even though it is for healing purposes, that [the son] is also exempt and permitted to do this like the law states in the Minchas Chinuch commandment 48 (the son is exempt from injuring his father against his will if it is for the purpose of healing). [Over there,] he holds that this is not known from "Love your neighbor as yourself" because we find a minority of people that do not want to be caused pain with an injury, even if they know this will heal them, in a case that there is no danger. Therefore, there is room [to claim] that we need to go according to the will of this [type] of person, even though he is from the minority, and we need a verse that connects [injuring a man] to injuring an animal that it is exempt when it is for the sake of healing even if it is against the will of the owners. Since [the healer] did not cause damage in [the animal], on the contrary he increased its worth, and it is not relevant to be liable to give anything for increasing value to a man even if it was against the will [of the owner,] so too it writes by injuring a man, dealing with his father, if it is to heal him [the healer] is exempt even if it is against [the] will [of the father. However,] Rav Masna holds (Sanhedrin 84b) that the verse is not needed because it is logical to follow after the majority of people [and not worry about the minority.] 

[On the other hand] perhaps Rav Masna argues on this and holds that letting blood for the father against his will is forbidden when there is no danger and [Rav Masna] is not like the Minchas Chinuch. So too, it is possible that the Rambam decides [this way], according to what he writes in the 5th chapter of the laws of Mamrim halacha 7 (Hebrew here), that "If, however, there is no one else there capable of doing this but him and they are suffering, he may let blood or amputate according to the license that they grant him." This language implies that without the "license" of the father it would be forbidden for the son to let blood for [his father] for healing purposes because he (Rambam) decides [the law is] in accordance with Rav Masna.

The Minchas Chinuch takes this language of the Rambam and learns that  his language is not specific. However, it is possible that it is specific and [Rambam holds] that it is forbidden to [heal your father] by force because he (the Rambam) is holding there is an argument with this between Rav Masna and Rav Dimi bar Chanina and [the Rambam] decides like Rav Masna. In any situation, the verse that Rav Dimi bar Chanina requires [is only for] one injuring his father [for healing,] but blood letting for a friend [in order] to heal him, that it is permitted even when it is not necessary, does not require a verse according to the Rambam. For, when [the injury is done] not in the way of strife and degradation (like an injury to heal) there is no prohibition. [Therefore,] even if we do not hold like the Rambam in this case since it (the injury inflicted for healing) is for his benefit, it is permitted in its simple understanding without a separate verse, [because it is included in] "Love your neighbor like you love yourself" that Rav Masna says.

But, perhaps what I wrote in the second explanation that Rav Dimi bar Chanina needs a verse for [a situation of] injuring his father against his will, perhaps he also needs a verse for injuring a friend for healing against his will. And, we know this from an "all the more so" [situation] that since injuring his father is permitted through a connection (to another verse), all the more so [injuring] his friend should be permitted. If we say that Rav Masna argues and [holds] that it is forbidden [to injure] his father against his will [in order to heal him,] perhaps he also holds that it is forbidden [to injure] his friend against his will [in order to heal him.] This requires further looking into. According to the law of the Minchas Chinuch it is obvious to him that it is permitted to [injure] his father [against his will for the purpose of healing him] and all the more so with [regards to] his friend.

However, if it is the will of his friend [to be injured in order to be healed] then everyone holds that it is permitted even without a verse. Also, even if we do not hold like the Rambam and we say that it is forbidden to injure in any way (not just specifically in the way of strife or degradation) since [this injuring] is for his benefit and according to his will [it is permitted] from the verse of "Love your neighbor as yourself."

If this is so, then by a young woman that wants to beautify herself, that it is for her benefit and according to her will, we can simply permit it even if we do not hold like the Rambam in his innovation that [injuring someone is only forbidden if done] in the way of strife and degradation.

There is a further slight proof that can be brought from Bechoros 45a that we learned if [the kohain] had something extra [on his body] and he cut it off, if it was forbidden to cut it off then the Mishna should have added in [the phrase] even though it is not permitted, like we learn in the first Mishna of the first (found here) and second chapter (found here) over there (in Bechoros) by someone who sells the [embryo of ] his donkey and [the embryo of] his cow to a non-Jew that we learn [the phrase] even though it is not permitted. [However,] here we do not say this, which implies that it is permitted [for the kohain to cut off extra parts of the body.] It is a stretch to say that these Mishnas argue on Rabbi Akiva of the Mishna in Babba Kama (90b) and hold that [really] a man can injure himself, for the Mishna does not bring this [case from Bechoros] according to the Tanna that argues [on Rabbi Akiva.] Rather, we need to say that since it (this cutting off an extra appendage) is for beautification [of the kohain] and is, therefore, for his benefit and he wants this, there is no prohibition of injuring involved.

From this there is a real proof for our case, that even more so by a young girl that good looks are very necessary and good for her, much more so than a man, for it is seen in Kesubos 59b, Rav Chiyya taught, "A wife [should be taken] mainly for the sake of her beauty." That it is certainly considered for her benefit [to have surgery to improve her looks] and it is permitted to be injured in order to beautify herself.  
End of Rav Moshe's Responsa

I would just like to add that, for a man, this Responsa seems to say that he is allowed to have plastic surgery as well. The main reason I believe this is because of his last point with the Kohanim cutting off extra appendages. For a further look into this idea, see Rav Moshe's Responsa on a man caring about his appearance (found here).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Swapping The Holiness Of The Firstborns Of Israel To All The Levites

The swapping of holiness from the eldest children in Israel to all of the Levites is a very peculiar occurrence. In this week's Parsha, Bamidbar, we see G-D request this transference. The text tells us (Bamidbar 3:45)
45. Take the Levites instead of all the firstborns among the children of Israel and the Levites' animals instead of their animals, and the Levites shall be Mine I am the Lord. מה. קַח אֶת הַלְוִיִּם תַּחַת כָּל בְּכוֹר בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת בֶּהֱמַת הַלְוִיִּם תַּחַת בְּהֶמְתָּם וְהָיוּ לִי הַלְוִיִּם אֲנִי יְהוָֹה:
What is the purpose of this "transference" of holiness and how was it effective?

In order to give a possible answer we have to understand what this "transference" of holiness accomplished. The, apparent, reason for this holiness is the ability to perform the sacrificial service. This is seen from the Gemara in Zevachim (112b) where it describes the job of the firstborns before the transference of holiness.
The Ramban explains this idea very well, he says (ibid (3:45)
הנה הבכורים נתקדשו להיות לשם מעת שציוה (שמות יג ב): קדש לי כל בכור בבני ישראל באדם וגו'. והיו בכורים רבים בישראל, ולא נפדו עד הנה, שעדין לא נאמר למי יהיה הפדיון, כי עתה הוא שנתקדשו הכוהנים ועדין לא נצטוו במתנות הכהונה. והנה הם עומדים בקדושתן סתם, ויתכן שהייתה בהן עבודת הקורבנות כדברי רבותינו (זבחים קיב ב).ב).
Behold, the firstborns were made holy to G-D from the point when it was commanded (Shemos 13:2) "Make holy for me all of the male [human] firstborns of Israel etc." There were many firstborns in Israel and they were not redeemed (replaced) until now because it still was not said who it would be redeeming them. Even now that the Kohanim (priests) were sanctified there was still no commandment about the gifts that are given to the Kohanim. Behold, they (the firstborns) were standing with their simple holiness. It is possible that they (the firstborns) were performing the sacrificial service, like our Rabbis said (Zevachim 112b).  
The Ramban continues:
ועתה החליפם בלווים והם פדיונם, וציוה שיפדו הנותרים, ונתן הפדיון לאהרן ולבניו כאשר היא מצווה לדורות.
Now (in this Parsha) [the firstborns] were swapped with the Levites and they were redeemed and it was commanded that the remainders (the extra 273 that had no Levite counterpart) be redeemed [through money.] The money redemption was given to Aharon and his sons just like the [redeeming of the first born] commandment that was for the generations (in the future). 
The reason the firstborns had to have their holiness transferred to the Levites was because the sacrificial service had to be handed over to the Levites and the Kohanim. This transference was good enough to imbue holiness in the Levites for the present and the future. However, why does it seem like it did not work to remove the holiness from future firstborns? Levites can not be used to redeem firstborns nowadays, redemption of the firstborn is only possible through money given to a Kohain. Why is this so if redemption with a Levite worked during the time of the desert?

The answer can be found in the Chizkuni (ibid 3:45)
קח את הלוים תחת כל בכור בבני ישראל: מה שאין הלוים של עכשיו פודין את הבכורות הנולדים לישראל מכאן ולהבא היינו טעמא שהרי הלוים של עכשיו נולדו מאבותיהם הלוים שכבר פדו בכורי ישראל ואין הדין נותן שיהיה להם כח לפדות אותו יותר מפעם אחת וכל הבכורות של עכשיו אינם מבכורות שנפדו כבר בלוים במדבר אלא נולדים הם מפשוטי ישראל שלא נפדו מעולם והבכורות שנפדו בלוים במדבר אינן ידועין לפטור את הבאים מהן
Take the Levites instead of all the firstborns among the children of Israel: [The reason] the current Levites (In the time of Chizkuni) can not redeem (replace) the firstborns that are born to [regular] Israelites now and in the future is because the current Levites were born from their fathers, the Levites that already redeemed (replaced) the firstborns of Israel and the law does not give them the power to redeem more than one time. Also, all of the firstborns now are not from the firstborns that were already redeemed (replaced)  by the Levites in the desert, rather they are from regular Israelites that were never redeemed (replaced) and the firstborns that were redeemed (replaced) with the Levites in the desert did not know to permit (basically, redeem or replace the future firstborns with Levites) the [children] that came from them (the people that were not redeemed).     
This allows us to understand this transfer of holiness. The firstborns had a holiness (being designated by G-D) that set them aside to perform the sacrificial service. For some reason, it was decided that the Levites were to become the ones that would perform the sacrificial service in place of the firstborns. Hence, the holiness of the firstborns during the time of the "Generation of the Desert" was transferred to the Levites. The Levites acquired this holiness in such a way that it still carries on to their children today. However, the holiness in any firstborn that was born after this transference is still present  because, unlike being a Levi, being a firstborn is not inherited. Therefore, the original firstborns were not able to "give away" the holiness of future generations. This is why the firstborns continue to be redeemed even today. The Rambam even lists this as one of the 613 commandments (Positive commandment 80). He also lists it in his Mishna Torah (Bikkurim 11:1, Translation found here),
מצות עשה לפדות כל איש מישראל בנו שהוא בכור לאמו הישראלית שנאמר כל פטר רחם לי. ונאמר אך פדה תפדה את בכור האדם:
It is a positive commandment1 for every Jewish man2 to redeem his son who is the firstborn of his Jewish mother, as [Exodus 34:19] states: "All first issues of the womb are mine" and [Numbers 18:15] states: "And you shall surely redeem a firstborn man."
Now that it is clear there was a transference of holiness from the firstborns to the Levites, specifically so the Levites could replace the firstborns in the sacrificial service, we need to understand why the Levites replaced the firstborns. For this we have a Midrash Rabba on our verse (found here) that tells us:
תחת כל בכור פטר רחם בבני ישראל בתחלה היתה העבודה בבכורות ולפי שקלקלו בעגל, זכו לוים על שלא טעו בעגל ליכנס תחתיהם. כי לי כל בכור וגו' כמה דתימא: קדש לי כל בכור וגו', לי יהיו אני ה'. לפי שהוא אומר: ואני הנה לקחתי את הלוים מתוך בני ישראל תחת כל בכור שומע אני מיום ההוא ואילך לא יהיו הבכורות קדושים?! ת"ל: יהיו מלמד שהם צריכין פדיון
"[The Levites were chosen] in the place of every firstborn, opening of the womb, of Israel (Bamidbar 3:12)." In the beginning, the sacrificial service was done by the firstborns and because they became spoiled through the [sin of the Golden] Calf the Levites merited to take their place because they did not err with the [Golden] Calf. "Because every firstborn is mine etc (ibid 3:13)." It is like that which is said: "Make holy for me every firstborn...for me they will be, I am G-D(ibid)." Because He said: I, behold, I am taking the Levites from the midst of Israel in the place of every firstborn. Should I think that from that day and onward the firstborns are no longer holy? [The Torah] comes to teach us with the words "they will be" that they (the firstborns) need to be redeemed (because they are still holy).
We see that it was the sin of the "Golden Calf" that caused G-D to reject the firstborns from performing the sacrificial service and choose the Levites in their stead.

The final idea I want to delve into that will complete this discussion is why did the sin of the "Golden Calf" cause the firstborns to lose their right to serve in the sacrificial service? Why was it that the sin of the "Golden Calf," a sin that only a small minority of Jewish people participated in, was so detrimental to the firstborns that they needed to hand over their holiness to the Levites? For this, we have to understand the nature of the holiness of the firstborn. For this idea I will use a Sefer called Eretz Chemda (Bamidbar 3:12)
Just like the firstborn is the first for impurity so too he is the first for holiness. Meaning, if impurity occurs, it is an extreme occurrence of impurity (they are the leaders). [On the other hand,] if holiness occurs, it is an extreme occurrence of holiness (They are the leaders). This that is written (Shemos 13:3), "Moses said to the people, 'Remember this day, when you went out of Egypt,'" was stated because the firstborns of Egypt sinned because of the impurity that occurred in them. So too, the firstborns of Israel are sanctified because of the holiness that occurs in them (This is why the previous verse of Shemos 13:2 talks about the holiness of the first born of Israel)...Behold, before the sin of the "Golden Calf" the sacrificial service was done [by the firstborns] without [their] choice and their holiness came from above (the firstborns were imbued with holiness from G-D) and because of this the firstborns are holy. However, after the sin of the "Golden Calf" the holiness (for performing the sacrificial service) came from below (the people had to imbue themselves with holiness)...And this that it says (Bamidbar 3:12), "As for Me I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel in place of all firstborns among the children of Israel, who have opened the womb,"  The reason for "the Levites shall be Mine" is because they chose to be (the Levites imbued themselves with holiness). [However, when the verse says (Bamidbar 3:13)] "For all the firstborns are Mine," that is because of the inherent holiness [they were created with.] For when all of the firstborns of Egypt were struck down, right then [G-D] sanctified the [Jewish] firstborns. However, once the sin [of the "Golden Calf" occurred] the sacrificial service was taken from the firstborns and given to the Levites.  
The Eretz Chemda teaches us an important aspect of firstborns. The reason the firstborns are holy is because G-D gives them a special characteristic of being zealous. This trait can either be used for purification or desecration. This is why the firstborns were so severely punished for the sin of the "Golden Calf," they were the ones held responsible because of their zeal. This is also why the firstborns of Egypt were the ones that were most severely punished, because this zeal leads to the firstborns being the leaders in either wickedness or righteousness. 

The firstborns, because of their zeal which caused them to become leaders of the sin, had to take responsibility for the "Golden Calf." This distanced them from G-D and forced G-D to choose someone else to perform the sacrificial service. The Levites were a perfect choice because they chose to imbue themselves with the same holiness as the firstborns by rising up. As the verse says (Shemos 32:26),
26. So Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said: "Whoever is for the Lord, [let him come] to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. כו. וַיַּעֲמֹד משֶׁה בְּשַׁעַר הַמַּחֲנֶה וַיֹּאמֶר מִי לַיהֹוָה אֵלָי וַיֵּאָסְפוּ אֵלָיו כָּל בְּנֵי לֵוִי:
It is this zeal that the tribe of Levi displayed that allowed them to take the place of the firstborns. They showed their ability to lead in a holy way, unlike the firstborns that showed their ability to lead in a disgraceful way.

Thus, we see the original purpose of the firstborns was to perform the sacrificial services. The reason for this is because of their inherent holiness, as described by the Eretz Chemda. This holiness is a double edged sword because it can also lead to their downfall, which it did because it led to the sin of the "Golden Calf." This caused their holiness to be transferred to the Levites because the Levites showed self imbued zeal for G-D, which created their own holiness. This is why the Levites took over for the firstborns. Now, the Levites, because of inheritance, pass on their holiness, which allows them to perform the sacrificial services, to their children. However, the firstborns are still born with their holiness and that is why they must be redeemed.      

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rambam's (Maimonides') View of Medical Care (Rationalistic Approach)

The rationalistic approach to medical care, in Jewish thought, is best represented by Rambam (Maimonides). The reason for this, I believe, has to do with his view on G-D's role in the world. Where Ramban (Nachmanides) believes that G-D intervenes in every aspect of life, the Rambam believes "nature" is the dominant force in a person's life. G-D only intervenes for the extremely righteous and only on occasion. Rambam says (The Guide For The Perplexed 3:51):
But those who, perfect in their knowledge of God, turn their mind sometimes away from God, enjoy the presence of Divine Providence only when they meditate on God; when their thoughts are engaged in other matters, divine Providence departs from them...Hence it appears to me that it is only in times of such neglect that some of the ordinary evils befall a prophet or a perfect and pious man: and the intensity of the evil is proportional to the duration of those moments, or to the character of the things that thus occupy their mind... Hence it may occur that the perfect man is at times not happy, whilst no evil befalls those who are imperfect; in these cases what happens to them is due to chance (nature). This principle I find also expressed in the Law. Comp. "And I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them: so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?" (Deut. xxxi. 17).
The Rambam believes that a normal person does not experience divine providence for the majority of their lives. It is only an extremely righteous and knowledgeable individual that experiences divine providence. Therefore, most occurrences are not due to G-D's direct intervention, but through chance (nature). This approach leads the Rambam to take a much more proactive approach to medical care. Medical care is necessary, in fact obligatory, because G-D did not cause this illness. Chance (nature) is what causes most illness and that is why a Jew needs to take care of himself by staying healthy and going to the doctor. Also, this is why a doctor has an obligation to heal and not just permission.

The Rambam's obligation for a person to seek out a doctor can be inferred from his introduction to Mishna Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers, Chapter 3)
Likewise, just as when people, unacquainted with the science of medicine, realize that they are sick, and consult a physician, who tells them what they must do, forbidding them to partake of that which they imagine beneficial, and prescribing for them things which are unpleasant and bitter, in order that their bodies may become healthy, and that they may again choose the good and spurn the bad
Rabbi H. Norman Strickman explains this excerpt to mean that the Rambam believes a person should consult a physician in times of illness. This idea is also seen in the Rambam's Mishna Torah (De'os 2:1, translation found here)
To those who are physically sick, the bitter tastes sweet and the sweet bitter. Some of the sick even desire and crave that which is not fit to eat, such as earth and charcoal, and hate healthful foods, such as bread and meat - all depending on how serious the sickness is. Similarly, those who are morally ill desire and love bad traits, hate the good path, and are lazy to follow it. Depending on how sick they are, they find it exceedingly burdensome...What is the remedy for the morally ill? They should go to the wise, for they are the healers of souls. They will heal them by teaching them how to acquire proper traits, until they return them to the good path.
It seems like the Rambam believes that the remedy for someone who has bad character traits is the same as for someone who is sick, consult a wise healer. By the morally ill, the healer is someone who can help them with their lack in morality. For a physically ill person, the healer is a physician. This can best be illustrated later on in this section of the Mishna Torah (De'os 4:1 translation found here)
Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God - for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator, if he is ill - therefore, he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger.
The Rambam clearly states that one must maintain a healthy body in order to properly serve G-D. He then goes on to list advice, as a physician, as to how people should maintain their health. So, it appears to be that the Rambam believes that there is an obligation, if not a necessity, for an ill person to consult a physician. (This allows us to contrast the Rambam with Ramban. The Ramban believes a person SHOULD NOT consult a physician as seen here.)

The Rambam's obligation for a Jewish Physician to heal is, actually, somewhat innovative. As pointed out by Benjamin Gesundheit (In Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal),
Maimonides did not accept this well known apologetic attitude of the Talmud towards medicine based on his philosophy of life (Weltanschauung), and he was the first Rabbinic author to understand medicine as a fundamental and a-priori religious duty anchored in a well known Biblical source and further supported by its Talmudic interpretation.
The reason for the Rambam's innovation is, as Gesundheit says, because of his philosophy of life. This also led him to a very interesting source for a physician's obligation to heal. Most commentators bring the verse from Shemos (21:19), "And he shall surely be healed." This is talked about in the Gemara (Babba Kama 85a)
The School of R. Ishmael taught: [The words] "And to heal he shall heal’’[is the source] whence it can be derived that authorization was granted [by God] to the medical man to heal.
However, this verse only creates permission for a physician to heal. Therefore, many commentators conclude that a physician has no obligation, only permission. That is why the Rambam learned a physician's obligation to heal from a completely different verse. This is seen in the Rambam's commentary on the Mishna (Nedarim 4:4),
There is a Biblical obligation for the physician to heal a sick Jew. This is included in what is explained about the verse (Devarim 22:2) "And you shall return it to him." [This includes] healing his body, for this is like when you see him in danger and you are able to save him with your body, your money, or your knowledge.
Ingeniously, the Rambam takes the obligation to return a lost object to mean anything that is "lost" must be returned. In this case, if a person has "lost" his health and a physician has the ability to "return" it to him, then the physician is obligated to do so. (See also Mishna Torah Hilchos Nedarim 6:8)

Rambam's unique source that leads to the physician's obligation to heal also leads to another innovation. A Jewish physician is obligated to heal even a sick non-Jew in a case where it will create a sanctification of G-D's name, a desecration of G-D's name if he does not, or simply because it is "the way of peace" (Laws of Theft and Lost Objects 11:3). We also see that the Rambam "practiced what he preached" from his letter to Rabbi Samuel Ibn Tibbon (found in Freidlander introduction to The Guide),
I reside in Egypt (or Fostat); the king resides in Cairo, which lies about two Sabbath-day journeys from the first-named place. My duties to the king are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning; and when he or any of his children or the inmates of his harem are indisposed, I dare not quit Cairo, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one or two of the royal officers fall sick, and then I have to attend them. As a rule, I go to Cairo very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens I do not return before the afternoon, when I am almost dying with hunger; but I find the antechambers filled with Jews and Gentiles, with nobles and common people, awaiting my return.
It appears that the Rambam believed treating non-Jews was just as important, in most situations, as treating Jews.

In conclusion, we see the approach of the most rationalistic Rabbi, Rambam (Maimonides). My personal belief (in congruence with the belief of other, more knowledgeable people) is that his approach to the medical profession stems from his philosophical outlook on life. He believes that G-D does not cause most illnesses directly, therefore, he believes that if man has the capabilities to cure those illnesses, he should. This is why, I think, he finds the acts of preventing one's own illness, seeking out a physician, and a physician healing not to just be permissible acts, but obligations. Many Rabbis before and after the Rambam would not even say it is permissible to seek out a physician and they barely even allow a physician to heal. In response to these Rabbis the Rambam would say, "But the Gemara is CLEAR!!! Return it to him, return his lost health. It's a Mitzva (commandment)!" 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reward In This World, The Afterlife, And Divine Providence

One of the Corner stone's of Orthodox Judaism is the belief in an afterlife. Even though this belief is of the utmost importance, it is curious to see that the Rambam leaves it out of his thirteen principles of faith, or does he? The eleventh principle states (Translation taken from here):
The Eleventh Principle is that He, may He be exalted, rewards him who obeys the commands of the Torah and punishes him who violates its prohibitions; and, that the greatest of His rewards is the World-to-Come while the severest of His punishments is "being cut off."
This seems to indicate that the belief in the afterlife or the "World-to-Come" is part of the belief that there is reward and punishment. Therefore, it is essential for us to understand the varying opinions about reward and punishment if we are to understand the afterlife and vice versa. 

In order to have this discussion I think we must first look in the Gemara in Kiddushin (39b) where the views of the afterlife are hinted at and reward and punishment are discussed (Translations from Gemara are Soncino):
This Mishna seems to be telling us that reward and punishment are things that are given over in this world, as well as the afterlife. Rashi explains that "He is well rewarded" implies in this world and when it says "And he inherits the land" this refers to the World-to-Come. The Gemara will now discuss this idea. Continuing in the Gemara (ibid):
GEMARA. But a contradiction is shewn: These are the things the fruit of which man eats in this world, while the principal remains for him for the future world. Viz., honoring one's parents, the practice of loving deeds, hospitality to wayfarers, and making peace between man and his neighbour; and the study of the Torah surpasses them all.
This Braisah, let's call it Braisah A, (Tannaic literature, for a similar version of this found in the Mishna see Mishna Pe'ah) implies that it is only for these few commandments that a person is rewarded in this world and in the afterlife. Therefore, the Gemara tries to explain the apparent contradiction by saying (ibid),
Said Rab Judah: This is its meaning: HE WHO PERFORMS ONE PRECEPT in addition to his [equally balanced] merits IS WELL REWARDED, and he is as though he had fulfilled the whole Torah.
Thus, Rav Yehuda is explaining that our Mishna is dealing with a person that has equal amounts of sins and righteous deeds and then does a good deed. That good deed will cause him to be rewarded. Therefore, our Mishna is teaching something different than Braisah A. Our Mishna teaches us that a righteous act, meaning fulfilling a commandment, helps a person earn reward in this world and the afterlife if he has an equal amount of sins and righteous deeds (He now has 101 merits and 100 sins, before it was 100 merits and 100 sins). However, this leads to an untenable understanding of Braisah A: 
Hence it follows that for these others (quoted in Braisah A) [one is rewarded] even for a single one! (And that makes no sense. How can a person have an infinite amount of sins and one good deed yet still be rewarded in this world and the next?) Said R. Shemaiah: That teaches that if there is an equal balance, it tips the scale.
According to Rav Yehuda's explanation, we would conclude that Braisah A means to tell us that even if a person only does one righteous deed (one of the deeds in Braisah A), but has a list of sins he is still rewarded. This is remarkable and can not be true. Therefore, Rav Shemiah comes along and tells us Braisah A is only saying if a person has an equal amount of righteous deeds and sins, if one of the righteous deeds is on the list stated in Braisah A, they are still rewarded (even though this person has an equal amount of sins and merits). 

Now that we understand the difference between Braisah A and the Mishna, because for some reason (which I am not going to explain now) they can't contradict each other (or be teaching the same thing), the Gemara quotes another Braisah, let's call it Braisah B, that seems to contradict this perfectly reasonable explanation that was proposed by Rav Yehuda and Rav Shemiah.
Yet is it a fact that he who performs one precept in addition to his [equally balanced] merits is rewarded? But the following contradicts it: He whose good deeds outnumber his iniquities is punished, and is as though he had burnt the whole Torah, not leaving even a single letter; while he whose iniquities outnumber his good deeds is rewarded, and is as though he had fulfilled the whole Torah, not omitting even a single letter!
According to Braisah B it seems to be that a person with more righteous deeds than sins is punished while a person who has more sins than righteous deeds is rewarded. This seems to contradict the interpretation offered by Rav Yehuda and Rav Shemiah of the Mishna and Braisah A. The Gemara now puts forth two possible explanations as to why Braisah B is not a problem.  The first explanation is Abaye,
Said Abaye: Our Mishnah means that a festive day and an evil day are prepared for him,
 I am going to explain Abaye according to Tosfos and talk about Rashi later because I think Rashi believes in something I am going to discuss later (see Tosfos' question on Rashi). Tosfos, in the name of Rabbeinu Tam, explains (My translation),
The Mishna prepares for a man a good day and an evil day in this world. [Also,] Braisah B's "IS WELL REWARDED" is explained just like it is in the Mishna [with regards to someone who has more sins than merits] there are times that [G-D] makes a good day for him (even though he is really wicked) in order that he accept his reward for a righteous deed in this world and on that day (that he is being rewarded) he is similar to someone who fulfills the whole Torah. However, the majority of the life of a wicked person is filled with bad because his sins are greater than his merits. [The explanation of] And it is bad for him [is with regards to someone who has more merits than sins and] there are times [G-D] makes for him a bad day in order to cleanse him of his sins in this world. On this [bad day] he is like one who burned the whole Torah. However, the majority of the days of a righteous person are filled with good because his merits are more numerous than his sins.
According to Tosfos, Abaye seems to explain Braisah B as discussing a different idea about reward in this world. Braisah B agrees, according to Abaye, with Rav Yehuda and Rav Shemiah's explanation of the Mishna and Braisah A . According to Braisah B, if you are a wicked person (more sins than merits) and you perform a righteous deed then you will be rewarded in this world. However, the majority of your days will be filled with punishment. If you are a righteous person (more merits than sins) and you sin then you will be punished in this world. However, the majority of your days will be filled with good. The originality of Braisah B is that it tells us a wicked person is still rewarded for his good deeds in this world and a righteous person is still punished for his wicked deeds in this world. 

However, Rava comes to offer an alternate explanation. He says,
Raba said: This latter agrees with R. Jacob, who said: There is no reward for precepts in this world. For it was taught: R. Jacob said: There is not a single precept in the Torah whose reward is [stated] at its side which is not dependent on the resurrection of the dead.
Rava says, that Braisah B does not contradict anything, rather it is a dissenting opinion. He would explain Braisah B in the following way, according to Tosfos: A person who has a majority of merits and a minority of sins is punished in this world for his sins in order that he should receive the maximum amount of reward in the next world and a person who has a majority of sins and a minority of merits is rewarded in this world for his merits in order that he should not be rewarded at all in the World-to-Come. Braisah B disagrees with the Mishna and Braisah A since they hold the opposite, the righteous are rewarded in this world and the wicked are punished in this world.

We assume, according to Rava, that the Mishna and Braisah A are according to the mainstream views, that is why they must be reconciled. However, since Braisah B is according to a "Singular" opinion (known as Daas Yachid) it is not a contradiction to the Mishna and Braisah A even though it argues on them.

This is where we see the two views on reward and punishment. Rav Yaakov clearly holds that there is no reward given in this world and Rava explains that this is the view of Braisah B, a dissenting Tannaic opinion. However, Rava is implying that the Mishna and Braisah A are of the opinion that reward and punishment are meted out in this world according to who actually deserves it. Essentially, the Mishna and Braisah A believe, as we stated earlier, a righteous person should be rewarded in this world and a wicked person should be punished.  

Rabbi Akiva seems to have a similar understanding to Rav Yaakov, according to Tosfos, that is seen in Ruth Rabbah (6:4, translation from artscroll)
One time [Elisha] was sitting and studying in the valley of Ginosar and he saw a man who ascended to the top of a date palm on the Sabbath, took the mother bird with the young, and descended safely. On Motzei Shabbos, [Elisha] saw another man ascend to the top of the date palm tree, he took the young after he had sent away the mother bird, he descended, and a snake bit him and he died. Thereupon, [Elisha] said, "It is written, 'You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days' (Devarim 22:7); where is this second man's good and where is his prolonging of days?" And [Elisha] did not know that Rabbi Akiva had publicly expounded that verse as follows: "So that it will be good for you" in the world that is entirely good, "and you will prolong your days" in the world that is entirely long (i.e. the World-to-Come).
Here we also see that Rabbi Akiva understood that reward is not given to a person in this world, but in the World-to-Come. (In fact, Rabbi Akiva explains this verse in the exact same way Rav Yaakov does.)

However, if you have not noticed, Rav Yaakov, according to Tosfos, seems to imply that reward and punishment are given in this world even though he states, straight out, that they are not. According to Rava's explanation of Braisah B, Rav Yaakov says, in Tosfos' opinion,  that reward is given in this world, at least, to a wicked person so that he should not get it in the next world and that punishment is given in this world, at least, to a righteous person so that he will not receive it in the World-to-Come.

This idea, that a righteous person can receive punishment in this world in order to receive his full capacity of reward in the world to come is also brought down in the name of Rabbi Akiva in Sanhedrin 101a:
Rabbah b. Bar Hana said: When R. Eliezer fell sick, his disciples entered [his house] to visit him.He said to them, ‘There is a fierce wrath in the world.They broke into tears, but R. Akiba laughed. ‘Why dost thou laugh?’ they enquired of him ‘Why do ye weep?’ he retorted. They answered, ‘Shall the Scroll of the Torah lie in pain, and we not weep?’ — He replied, ‘For that very reason I rejoice. As long as I saw that my master's wine did not turn sour, nor was his flax smitten, nor his oil putrefied, nor his honey become rancid, I thought, God forbid, that he may have received all his reward in this world [leaving nothing for the next]; but now that I see him lying in pain, I rejoice [knowing that his reward has been treasured up for him in the next].’ He [R. Eliezer] said to him, ‘Akiba, have I neglected anything of the whole Torah? He replied, ‘Thou, O Master, hast taught us, For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not. 
This Gemara also teaches us a new idea. This new idea is that any person, not just a wicked person, can receive his reward in this world and thereby lose his reward in the World-to-Come. It has even been explicitly stated in Tractate Arachin (16b):
The School of R. Ishmael taught: Anyone upon whom forty days have passed without [divine] visitation (some version of suffering), had received his world (his reward for the good things he has done in this world).
The final proof we can bring that Shows Rabbi Akiva believed there is reward for righteous deeds in this world is found in Gemara Shabbos (156b):
From R. Akiba too [we learn that] Israel is free from planetary influence. For R. Akiba had a daughter. Now, astrologers told him, On the day she enters the bridal chamber a snake will bite her and she will die. He was very worried about this. On that day [of her marriage] she took a brooch [and] stuck it into the wall and by chance it penetrated [sank] into the eye of a serpent. The following morning, when she took it out, the snake came trailing after it. ‘What did you do?’ her father asked her. ‘A poor man came to our door in the evening.’ she replied, ‘and everybody was busy at the banquet, and there was none to attend to him. So I took the portion which was given to me and gave it to him. ‘You have done a good deed,’ said he to her. Thereupon R. Akiba went out and lectured: But charity delivereth from death’: and not [merely] from an unnatural death, but from death itself.
Clearly, Rabbi Akiva holds that the reward for a good deed can be actualized in this world. Therefore, we see Rabbi Akiva holds that reward and punishment are meted out in this world. However, he also seems to be holding that reward can be "saved up" for the World-to-Come. Either way we look at it, Rav Yaakov, according to Tosfos, and Rabbi Akiva are holding that reward and punishment ARE given in this world, so I am unsure how they can be understood to be saying that reward for fulfilling the commandments in this world does not exist according to Tosfos.

The truth is, maybe this is not the correct way to understand Rav Yaakov. Maybe Tosfos' question on Rashi is not a good question. Also, If we remove Tosfos' understanding of Rav Yaakov then Rabbi Akiva and Rav Yaakov might not be saying the same thing. That would remove some very challenging difficulties. Perhaps this is the route to follow? However, to understand a possible answer, we must understand the possible views of how G-D interacts with this world, we have to understand divine providence.

According to Rambam, as stated in the "Guide For The Perplexed" (3:51),  divine providence only rests on those who have intellects that qualify them for divine providence. All other beings are left to "chance."
Divine Providence is constantly watching over those who have obtained that blessing which is prepared for those who endeavor to obtain it. If man frees his thoughts from worldly matters, obtains a knowledge of God in the right way, and rejoices in that knowledge, it is impossible that any kind of evil should befall him while he is with God, and God with him. When he does not meditate on God, when he is separated from God, then God is also separated from him; then he is exposed to any evil that might befall him; for it is only that intellectual link with God that secures the presence of Providence and protection from evil accidents. Hence it may occur that the perfect man is at times not happy, whilst no evil befalls those who are imperfect; in these cases what happens to them is due to chance...It is now clearly established that the cause of our being exposed to chance, and abandoned to destruction like cattle, is to be found in our separation from God.
The idea of "chance" is something that I have referenced before (Individual Divine Intervention) and can be found in the Gemara (Mo'ed Katan 28a and Shabbos 156a-b). (According to the Rambam these Gemaras are talking about chance and not planetary influence because he does not believe in astrology.) In Mo'ed Katan it seems to be that "chance" is the dominant force ruling the world.
Raba said: [Length of] life, children and sustenance depend not on merit but [rather on] mazzal (chance). For [take] Rabbah and R. Hisda. Both were saintly Rabbis; one master prayed for rain and it came, the other master prayed for rain and it came. R. Hisda lived to the age of ninety-two, Rabbah [only] lived to the age of forty. In R. Hisda's house there were held sixty marriage feasts, at Rabbah's house there were sixty bereavements. At R. Hisda's house there was the purest wheaten bread for dogs, and it went to waste; at Rabbah's house there was barley bread for human beings and that not to be had.
We see that most things in life are not dependent on good deeds or sins, but on "chance." Great people are able to pray for things like rain, but that is a rare exception.

However, this seems to be an argument in Tractate Shabbos:
It was stated. R. Hanina said: Chance (The planetary influence) gives wisdom, chance (the planetary influence) gives wealth, and Israel stands under chance (planetary influence) (This view is in accordance with Rava from the Gemara in Mo'ed Katan). R. Johanan maintained: Israel is immune from chance (planetary influence)...Rab too holds that Israel is immune from chance (planetary influence). For Rab Judah said in Rab's name:...
Here we see that there is an argument whether chance is the dominant influence among the Jewish people or if G-D intervenes in the lives of Jews for righteous deeds. According to Rava and Rav Chanina G-D does not really intervene in the lives of righteous Jews. Only if they pray for a specific type of intervention are they able to receive direct divine intervention. Otherwise, even the completely righteous are left to "chance." On the other hand, Rav Yochanan, Rav and Rav Yehuda seem to be of the opinion that G-D will intervene for those that are extremely righteous even if they do not pray. This is best seen in the cases that follow in the Gemara in Shabbos (ibid):
From Samuel too [we learn that] Israel is immune from "chance" (planetary influence). For Samuel and Ablat were sitting, while certain people were going to a lake. Said Ablat to Samuel: ‘That man is going but will not return, [for] a snake will bite him and he will die.’ ‘If he is an Israelite,’ replied Samuel.'he will go and return.’ While they were sitting he went and returned. [Thereupon] Ablat arose and threw off his [the man's] knapsack, [and] found a snake therein cut up and lying in two pieces —Said Samuel to him, ‘What did you do?’ ‘Every day we pooled our bread and ate it; but to-day one of us had no bread, and he was ashamed. Said I
to them, "I will go and collect [the bread]". When I came to him, I pretended to take [bread] from him, so that he should not be ashamed.’ ‘You have done a good deed,’ said he to him. Then Samuel went out and lectured: But charity delivereth from death, and [this does not mean] from an unnatural death, but from death itself....
This is the first of three cases, but I think the point is clear. Therefore, I believe we can explain the apparent contradiction between Rav Yaakov's stated stance according to Tosfos and what we see in reality based on his view of divine providence. But first, let's explain the argument between Braisah B (which goes according to Rav Yaakov) and the Mishna and Braisah A (which goes according to Rav Yehuda and Rav Shemiah). If you noticed, the argument for whether Israel is governed by "chance" (excluding most possibilities of divine intervention) and whether Israel is not governed by "chance" (allowing for much more divine intervention) is between Rava (among others) on one side (Rava, the one who states Rav Yaakov's opinion) and Rav Yehuda (the same Rav Yehuda that explains the Mishna as referring to reward in this world). Essentially, Rav Yaakov can be said to be holding that divine providence is extremely limited (in accordance with Rava) and "chance" is what governs most occurrences in this world, therefore, righteous deeds are not rewarded in this world. Whereas, Rav Yehuda and his compatriots (Rav Shemiah and Abaye to name a couple) hold Israel is not ruled by "chance" (however, chance can effect them if there is no divine intervention) and divine intervention occurs all the time for righteous deeds.  This is the foundation of the argument between Rav Yehuda and Rav Yaakov.  

We can explain Rav Yaakov very easily now (not like Tosfos). According to Rav Yaakov G-D does not intervene and allows "chance" to rule the world. Therefore, we can explain Braisah B as follows:
He whose good deeds outnumber his iniquities is punished, and is as though he had burnt the whole Torah, not leaving even a single letter; 
This means that a person who performs good deeds is left to "chance" and "chance" will be harsher to him than G-D would be. He will be treated just like someone who completely rejects the Torah. And the second part of Braisah B is as follows:
while he whose iniquities outnumber his good deeds is rewarded, and is as though he had fulfilled the whole Torah, not omitting even a single letter!
It is beneficial for a wicked person to be governed by "chance" because "chance" will be much kinder than G-D. In fact, "chance" will treat this wicked person just the same as if he were completely righteous. 

If we interpret the Gemara like this then Rabbi Akiva is not similar to Rav Yaakov at all. Rabbi Akiva actually believes in reward and punishment in this world. The distribution of reward and punishment may be different than how it is explained in the Mishna and Braisah A, but he still believes in reward and punishment in this world.

Also, I believe this interpretation is how Rashi understands the Gemara. I will now quote Rashi as he explains Abaye (the interpretation that Tosfos argues on).
Said Abaye: Our Mishnah means that a festive day and an evil day are prepared for him: For we learned it is good for him (he is rewarded) and it is bad for him (he is punished) that it is made for him a festive day and a bad day.  Someone who does an extra righteous deed that makes him have a majority of merits it is established for him in this world a festive day because he is repaid (punished) for his sins and it is fixed for him to have a festive day in the World-to-Come. [However, someone who does a righteous deed but] he has a majority of sins and we learn it is bad for him, because it is made for him an evil day for he is paid the reward for his righteous deeds here [in this world] to fix for him a bad day [in the World-to-Come.] 
So, according to Rashi, Abaye is explaining Braisah B in accordance with Rabbi Akiva. However, it is not in accordance with Rav Yaakov. In fact, according to Rashi, Braisah B is just another idea that fits with how reward is distributed in this world. Rashi is saying that Braisah B, according to Abaye, tells us G-D can choose to reward someone in this world or in the next. Just like the story in Sanhedrin (101a) by Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva was worried that Rabbi Eliezer had already received all of his reward in this world because he had only experienced good in this world. However, once Rabbi Akiva saw that he was suffering he immediately knew that a "Festive Day" was set aside for him in the World-to-Come. Also, this fits well with the story of Rabbi Akiva's daughter in Shabbos (156b). She was clearly rewarded in this world for her act of kindness and that is why Rabbi Akiva started teaching that "Giving charity can save you from death."

To clarify Rashi's opinion on how to understand Abaye, the Mishna is saying that if a person performs one good deed and he had equal amounts of sins and merits, he is rewarded in this world and the World-to-Come. Braisah A is saying that if a person has an equal amount of sins and merits, but one of those merits is from the list of righteous deeds in Braisah A, he is still rewarded in this world and the World-to-Come. Finally, Braisah B, according to Abaye, is teaching us something very important. Even though the Mishna and Braisah A teach us reward is distributed in this world as well as the next, Braisah B tells us that it is possible G-D will choose to cause punishment in this world to a righteous person in order for him to receive more reward in the World-to-Come and that G-D will reward the wicked in this world in order to detract from their reward in the World-to-Come. Therefore, the Mishna and Braisah A tell us that it is possible G-D will reward someone in this world, but Braisah B tells us about the possibility that a person will also have his reward saved for the World-to-Come. 

With this explanation there is no question on Rav Yaakov. According to Tosfos, it seems like Rav Yaakov does believe that, at least, wicked people are rewarded in this world and righteous people are punished in this world . However, Rava clearly states in the name of Rav Yaakov, "There is no reward for precepts in this world." This statement is not qualified, it is a blanket statement that would not work with Tosfos' explanation, in my opinion. No reward in this world means no reward in this world.

According to Rav Yaakov, there is no reward in this world because G-D does not intervene in this world for individuals. Rav Yaakov is of the opinion that "chance" governs the Jewish people (like we discussed earlier) and all reward is saved for the afterlife. On the other hand, Rav Yehuda and his group hold that G-D does intervene in this world and that is why reward can be received in this world as well as the World-to-Come.

Now, I would like to understand how it is that Rav Yaakov came to the conclusion that G-D does not intervene in this world. For this, we need only read a bit further in the Gemara (Kiddushin 39b):
[Thus:] in connection with honoring parents it is written (Devarim 5:16), that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee. In reference to the dismissal of the nest it is written (ibid 22:7), that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. Now, if one's father said to him, ‘Ascend to the loft and bring me young birds,’and he ascends to the loft, dismisses the dam and takes the young, and on his return falls and is killed — where is this man's happiness and where is this man's prolonging of days? But ‘in order that it may be well with thee’, means on the day that is wholly good (the World-to-Come); and ‘in order that thy days may be long’, on the day that is wholly long (The World-to-Come)...R. Jacob saw an actual occurrence.
Rav Yaakov actually saw an incident that proved to him that there must be no reward for the righteous in this world. How could someone perform a righteous deed that the Torah explicitly states they will have a prolonged life if they perform it and then immediately be killed? The only way, in Rav Yaakov's mind, is to say the reward that is promised is only referring to the World-to-Come. If this is the case, then it must be that G-D does not intervene in this world. For, if all reward is saved for the World-to-Come, then why would G-D ever intervene? Whether you perform good deeds or wicked deeds, all reward and punishment is saved for the afterlife. There is no need for G-D to intervene on an individual level.

I would like to bring down some final thoughts on reward and punishment from the Meiri and the Rambam and how they, seemingly, understood this Gemara. The Meiri says (Kiddushin 39b, from here):
It is a principle of faith that there is reward and punishment both in this world and in the next world. One should not be confused by the apparent success of the wicked or the tribulations of the righteous. All is just. A righteous person may have committed certain transgressions. It is better to atone now for these sins, to prepare him for a "good day" in the world to come. The reverse is true of the wicked person. He receives his reward now to prepare him for a "bad day," that is, not to receive a share of the world to come.
So, we see that the Meiri holds of Rabbi Akiva's idea, that reward may be given to the wicked in this world in order to take away their share in the afterlife and punishment may come upon a righteous person in order to increase his share in the World-to-Come. However, he maintains the idea of the Mishna and Braisah A that reward and punishment can be given out normally (meaning, good fortune to righteous people and bad fortune to wicked people). As a side point, it seems like the Meiri holds like Abaye.

The Rambam, on the other hand, does not seem to agree with the Meiri and excludes Rabbi Akiva's idea from the final "halacha"(Teshuva 9:1, from here)
Thus, these blessings and curses can be interpreted as follows: If you serve God with happiness and observe His way, He will grant you these blessings and remove these curses from you in order that you may be free to gain wisdom from the Torah and involve yourselves in it so that you will merit the life of the world to come. "Good will be granted you" - in the world that is entirely good; "and you will live long" - in the world which is endlessly long, [the world to come].
Thus, you will merit two worlds, a good life in this world, which, in turn, will bring you to the life of the world to come. For if a person will not acquire wisdom in this world and he does not possess good deeds, with what will he merit [a portion in the world to come]? [Thus, Ecclesiastes 9:10] states: "There is no work, no accounting, no knowledge, and no wisdom in the grave."
[Conversely,] if you have abandoned God and become obsessed with food, drink, lewdness, and the like, He will bring all these curses upon you and remove all blessing until you will conclude all your days in confusion and fear. You will not have a free heart or a complete body to fulfill the mitzvot in order that you forfeit the life of the world to come.
Thus, you will forfeit two worlds for when a person is occupied in this world with sickness, war, and hunger, he cannot involve himself with either wisdom or mitzvot which allow him to merit the life of the world to come.
The Rambam is of the opinion that if you do good, only good will come of that. If a person follows the Torah and Mitzvot then he will be granted a life free from pain and suffering that will allow him to acquire as much knowledge as possible. This acquisition of knowledge will then propel this righteous individual into the World-to-Come. The Rambam (Guide For The Perplexed 3:51) holds, as we quoted earlier in this essay, any evils that befall a man who is righteous are due to "chance."
Hence it may occur that the perfect man is at times not happy, whilst no evil befalls those who are imperfect; in these cases what happens to them is due to chance...It is now clearly established that the cause of our being exposed to chance, and abandoned to destruction like cattle, is to be found in our separation from God.
Rambam's view seems very simple. You are rewarded in this world and the next for the good that you do and you are punished in this world and the next for the evil that you do. All the bad that happens to righteous people is by "chance" when the righteous person is not connected to G-D because G-D only gives divine intervention while someone is "connected" to G-D, like the Rambam explains. As a side note, Rambam appears to be holding like Rava's understanding of the Gemara. He holds that the Mishna and Braisah A are arguing on Braisah B and, therefore, he entirely ignores Braisah B. That is why the Rambam does not hold of this idea of Rabbi Akiva that righteous people receive punishment in this world and wicked people receive reward in this world. The Rambam only holds of the Mishna and Braisah A, that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished.  

The idea of Rabbi Akiva, that the Meiri endorses, seems difficult to understand. According to this idea, G-D sometimes decides to reward people, even righteous people, in this world. Why would G-D choose to reward some righteous people in this world and others only in the world to come?  The Meiri's own explanation lacks clarity (Kiddushin 39b)
This is not to say that there cannot be a reward for good deeds in this world as well as in the next. It is the force of circumstances which may delay rewards until the next world. For example, assume that a person heeds his parent's order to fetch young birds, and to send the mother bird away before taking the chicks. How is it that such a person can die while performing two precepts, for each of which Scripture promises long life? The force of circumstances delays reward until the next world!
What is this force of circumstance that the Meiri talks about? Just because this righteous person dies that creates a "force of circumstance?" If G-D is going to reward this righteous individual, reward him, why does he die? Why would G-D choose to reward a righteous individual in this world if it detracts from the world to come? There are many ideas that are left unclear according to Rabbi Akiva's idea.

I feel much more comfortable with the Rambam. It makes a lot more sense to me. Therefore, if I have a Rishon that explains things that I can wrap my head around, I would prefer to follow him than a Rishon that is left unclear to me. It is interesting that Rabbi Akiva does not hold like the Rambam's viewpoint specifically because, as we saw in the Gemara in Shabbos 156b, he listened to stargazers who told him his daughter would die on her wedding day (he held that "chance," in some form, has power over people). Why he explains bad things happening to good people as punishments from G-D instead of "chance" or planetary influence is unclear to me as well.

I hope my explanation of the Gemara and the different viewpoints was as clear as possible. Hopefully, I will discuss the different opinions about what the afterlife entails. I have tried to express the different viewpoints about reward and punishment to the best of my ability. Any questions or comments are welcome.