Monthly Archives: September 2015

Rosh HaShanah All Year Round

Now that Yom Kippur is over, in many ways we return to our normal routines. While Sukkos is just around the corner and so we still have a great many things to do which are not a part of our daily lives, nevertheless, davening has returned to normal, there are no more extra tefillos in the middle of the night, and the constant pressure to do teshuvah has receded. The immediate question which we should be asking is: “what can I take from the last ten days to help me for the rest of the year?” The Alter Rebbe in the Tanya gives an interesting answer:

תניא איגרת הקודש פרק יד
אך הענין יובן ע”פ מ”ש ה’ בחכמה יסד ארץ שיסוד הארץ העליונה היא בחי’ ממלא כ”ע והתחתונה היא ארץ חפץ המכוונת כנגדה ממש ונק’ על שמה ארץ החיים הנה הוא נמשך מהמשכת והארת חכמה עילאה מקור החיים העליונים כדכתיב החכמה תחיה בעליה וכו’ והארה והמשכה זו היא מתחדשת באור חדש ממש בכל שנה ושנה כי הוא יתברך וחכמתו אחד בתכלית היחוד ונק’ בשם אוא”ס ב”ה שאין סוף ואין קץ למעלת וגדולת האור והחיות הנמשך ממנו יתברך ומחכמתו בעילוי אחר עילוי עד אין קץ ותכלית לרום המעלות למעלה מעלה ובכל שנה ושנה יורד ומאיר מחכמה עילאה אור חדש ומחודש שלא היה מאיר עדיין מעולם לארץ העליונה כי אור כל שנה ושנה מסתלק לשרשו בכל ער”ה כשהחדש מתכסה בו ואח”כ ע”י תקיעת שופר והתפלות נמשך אור חדש עליון מבחי’ עליונה יותר שבמדרגת חכמה עילאה להאיר לארץ עליונה ולדרים עליה הם כל העולמות העליונים והתחתונים המקבלים חיותם ממנה דהיינו מן האור א”ס ב”ה וחכמתו המלובש בה כדכתיב כי עמך מקור חיים באורך נראה אור דהיינו אור המאיר מחכמה עילאה מקור החיים (וכנודע לי”ח שבכל ר”ה היא הנסירה ומקבלת מוחין חדשים עליונים יותר כו’) ובפרטי פרטיות כן הוא בכל יום ויום נמשכין מוחין עליונים יותר בכל תפלת השחר ואינן מוחין הראשונים שנסתלקו אחר התפלה רק גבוהין יותר ודרך כלל בכללות העולם בשית אלפי שנין כן הוא בכל ר”ה ור”ה. וז”ש תמיד עיני ה’ אלהיך בה שהעינים הם כינוים להמשכת והארת אור החכמה שלכן נקראו חכמים עיני העדה ואוירא דא”י מחכים והארה והמשכה זו אף שהיא תמידית אעפ”כ אינה בבחי’ ומדרגה אחת לבדה מימי עולם אלא שבכל שנה ושנה הוא אור חדש עליון כי האור שנתחדש והאיר בר”ה זה הוא מסתלק בער”ה הבאה לשרשו. וז”ש מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה לבדה ולכן כתיב מרשית חסר א’ רומז על הסתלקות האור שמסתלק בליל ר”ה עד אחר התקיעות שיורד אור חדש עליון יותר שלא היה מאיר עדיין מימי עולם אור עליון כזה והוא מתלבש ומסתתר בארץ החיים שלמעלה ושלמטה להחיות את כל העולמות כל משך שנה זו אך גילויו מההסתר הזה תלוי במעשה התחתונים וזכותם ותשובתם בעשי”ת וד”ל:

Basically, the Alter Rebbe suggests that the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah brings about a flow of energy and inspiration from G-d (which is stongest by far in Eretz Yisrael) which continues to influence us for the rest of the year. The echoes of the shofar are heard all year round until the last day of the year, something which we symbolize by stopping the blowing of the shofar the day before Rosh HaShanah. That influence is the lasting effect of Asseret Yemei Teshuvah, and it is very much the point of the blowing of the shofar, at least in this piece.

The Alter Rebbe links this inluence specifically to the davening of Shacharis. I don’t have a good reason why it would be linked to Shacharis (except that the shofar is blown in the morning typically, although that does not seem particularly satisfying since the shofar may be blown all day), however, I think that the influence of the Asseret Yemei Teshuvah can be felt palpably in davening every single day. I heard for Rav Moshe Lichtenstein shlit”a once that the first three berachos of shemoneh esreh are contained in the first berachah. When we say the words “hakel hagadol hagibor vehanora” we can see that gadol roughly corresponds witthe first berachah (this becomes stronger when one takes into account the kabbalistic idea of a parallel between gedulah and chesed, and the first berachah is clearly about Hashem’s kindness to our ancestors and to us). The second berachah is parallel to gevurah (it is actually referred to as gevuros). The third berachah is parallel to nora, because it speaks of the awe we fell in out encounter with the divine, and or our urge to praise and our inability to approach. G-d is transcendent and awe inspiring and He controls the world.

I would add to this a further thought. The first berachah continues “gomel chassadim tovim vekoneh hakol vezocher chasdei avos umeivi go’el livnei vneihem lema’an shemo be’ahavah”. Koneh hakol implies G-d mastery over the world. He created the world and therefore He owns it and He control it. This similar to the berachah of malchuyos on Rosh HaShanah which also speaks of G-d’s mastery over the world. Zocher chasdei avos is parallel to the second berachah of mussaf on Rosh HaShanah, zocher haberis. And meivi go’el livnei vneihem lema’an shemo be’ahavah is parallel to the berachah of shefaros which ends on a request that G-d sound his great shofar of ge’ulah and redeem us. If so, we carry the three berachos of mussaf on Rosh HaShanah with us the entire year. Furthermore, those berachos accompany the blowing of the shofar. As such, if we allude to them, we are really alluding to the blowing of the shofar. It is as though we are sounding the shofar for ourselves every day three times before we pray. If Rosh HaShanah is meant to be the moment of Malchus Shamayim which lasts us for the entire year then we tap into it each time we daven, because when we daven we have to be conscious of our standing before the king, and of our dependence upon him.

The Holy King and the Transcendental God

The Gemara in Berachos 12b records a Halacha that during the Asseres Yemei Teshuva one should replace “ha’el hakadosh” with “hamelech hakadosh” and “melech ohev tzedakah umishpat” with “hamelech hamishpat” during shemoneh esre. Over the years a lengthy addition was made to the berachah of “hamelech hakadosh” during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. However, even before the addition was made, the change in the wording is not easy to understand. The words “ha’el hakadosh” describe G-d as a transcendental force, one who is separated from the rest of the world. The Rav zt”l famously translated “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh” as “transcendental, transcendental, transcendental” (based on the comment of Rashi at the beginning of Parashas Kedoshim that “kadosh” means separate or distinguished). G-d is separate from the world, He is external to the world. His power is so overwhelming that He cannot even be related to. After thanking Him for helping our people through the ages and proclaiming how His goodness is made possibly by His total control over nature, we encounter His awesome, overwhelming, and above all inscrutable, power. That is the G-d of “ha’el hakadosh”. After that, the davening is essentially an attempt to bridge that enormous gap: to strengthen and add texture to our relationship with G-d. So on a weekday we ask Him to give us the knowledge to address Him properly, to repent before Him and be worthy of His presence. On Shabbat, we appeal to Him through the holiness of the day. During chagim we appeal to Him through our own chosenness. If He has chosen us to be His people, He must now provide us with the ability to address Him and, so to speak, to approach His holy throne. Seemingly, this is the subtext on Rosh HaShanah as well (for on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur the middle beracha also starts with those words which speak of chosennes, “ata bechartanu”). However, on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we find one thing which is very different. On those days, instead of saying “ha’el hakadosh”, we say “hamelech hakadosh.” If so, the following text, “Ata bechartanu”, is not a way of connecting with G-d, it is a way of emphasizing an already existing connection. You are our holy king (as opposed to the inscrutable and transcendental force which controls the world), we say to Him, and You chose us to be Your people.

Let us now consider the additions to the third beracha on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The beracha starts as it does on any other day: “You are holy (transcendental) and Your name is holy (transcendental) and the holy ones (Israel and the angels, those who are different) will every day praise You.” However, the beracha then goes on an excursis: “and for this reason all the nations will fear You and they will all bow down to You.” While the progression within most of the addition is easily understood (first the entire world will fear G-d and acknowledge His mastery over it, then they will give honor to G-=d’s chosen people, then the righteous will rejoice and G-d will return to the seat of His kingship on earth and restore the divine presence to Jerusalem) but the place of this addition in a beracha about the transcendental nature of G-d is not obvious. In fact, it seems to contradict that idea.

Towards the end of this addition to the third beracha of davening we find a proof text for the predictions our prayers make and the hope that they express: “May Hashem rule forever, your god oh Zion, for all generations Hallelujah!” This passuk seems to be the best possible proof text to site when talking about G-d’s kingship and so we would have thought that we would then naturally progress to the end of the beracha: “Blessed are you the holy (transcendental) king.” However, that isn’t what happens. The beracha has one more thing to add: “You are holy and Your name is fearful and there is no other god than You.” The dichotomy stairs us in the face, an a solution is provided: “You are holy (transcendental)” and so can’t relate to You, not really. And yet, “Your name is fearful”, we might not be able to relate to You or comprehend You, we might not be able to approach Your holy throne, and yet we can interact with your name. Your name carries an image and connotations. Your name provides the way that we can build our relationship with You. And what characterizes that relationship? “And Hashem the Lord of Hosts will be elevated in judgement and the holy (transcendental) G-d will be sanctified by justice.” G-d’s name provides us with our relationship with Him and that relationship is characterized most obviously by the fact that He judges us for our actions. Through that judgement He can be our “holy king.”

Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot on Yom Kippur?

In Rabbi Yosef Albo’s Sefer HaIkarim, Albo writes that the Mussaf for Rosh HaShana is a kind of philosophical guide by Chazal, teaching us the central tenets of our faith.  In general, Albo is unique in treating the siddur as a source of Chazal’s philosophy.  It makes a lot of sense that if Chazal used the siddur to convey a belief system, on Rosh HaShana, as we start the new year, we would focus on the basics.  Thus, Albo sees in the three middle berachot the basis of the three Ikarim, foundations of faith, for all religions, and Judaism is particular.  Malchuyot, which deals with God’s king, teaches us the centrality of the belief in God.  Zichronot, which discusses God’s remembering all and rewarding/punishing based on our actions teaches the importance of the notion that there is reward and punishment, consequences for our actions.  Shofarot, the beracha that records the revelation at Sinai, teaches us that we must also believe that God has a specific message and task for mankind, and the Jewish people in particular.  Continue reading Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot on Yom Kippur?

Hataras Nedarim Lomdus and Rosh HaShanah

In today’s daf (21) of Nazir the Gemara discusses the statement in the Mishna that if a wife makes a neder to be a nazir and afterwards her husband says “ve’ani” to mean that he too would like to be a nazir, he can no longer release her from that vow. The Tosafos on 21b s.v. “ela” discuss why. They record two opinions:
1) He cannot release her from her vow because the manner in which he took his vow made his own nazirate vow dependent upon hers, therefore, by releasing her from the vow he would release himself also. This violates the rule that one may not release oneself from any vow (only someone else can release a person from a vow he took) in Chagigah 10a; or,

2) The Tosafos quotes the opinion of Rabeinu Elyakim that it is permitted to release oneself from a vow in this fashion but in this particular case by agreeing to take a vow contingent upon his wife’s vow, the husband effectively agreed that her vow should be binding. After doing so, he can no longer release her from its authority.

The opinion of Rabbeinu Elyakim makes a lot of sense. He’s not really releasing himself from his own vow. By releasing his wife, he indirectly causes the effect that his own vow would no longer maintain its force because it was contingent upon her vow, but that is something which is not relevant to the question of whether he can release her from her vow. It would be including in common parlance under the “law of unintended (or, in this case, intended) consequences”. However, how are we to understand the first opinion? We can understand it by assuming that the rule preventing a person from releasing himself from his own vow is not merely a detail in the complex laws of nedarim. It lies at the very heart of that system. If you could release yourself from a neder you took., then there would be no reason for the rules of nedarim to exist at all. The Torah dictated that if you make a vow, you must keep it. By making that vow you incurred a moral obligation to see it through. If you don’t, then you literally “profaned your speech” (see Rashi on Bamidbar 30, 3). Furthermore, I heard once from Rav Lichtenstein hk”m that the reason for laws which protect the sanctity of speech, ranging from this prohibition to that on lying, is Onkelos defines humans as possessing “רוח ממללא” or “the spirit of speech.” In other words, it is our very ability to communicate in words which defines us. As such, it simply cannot be that a person would so violate his responsibility to respect the sanctity of his own speech by releasing himself from a vow, even indirectly. If an action of his would automatically have that consequence, it must be that the Torah would not allow that action to take effect.

Tomorrow morning we will all release ourselves from any vows we might have taken over the last year. This ceremony seems incidental to the observances of the yamim noraim, and yet it lies at their very heart. By going before a panel to release ourselves from any vows we may have taken over the past year (even if we haven’t kept them through lack of knowledge), we are affirming the sanctity of our speech and our responsibility to respect that sanctity. May that awareness travel with us through the coming year and help us maintain the requisite level of holiness in all our words, not just when we make a vow.

An Interesting Definition of a Day in Today’s Daf

Anyone who has been learning for a while will have realized that for different halachos there are different definitions of the word “day”. In general in the Torah the word “day” means either the daylight hours, or a period from one nightfall to the next. In kodshim, the word day means a night following a day as opposed to preceding a day. Furthermore, the Rav zt”l pointed out (what was really an explicit Riva at the beginning of the fifth perk of Yoma) that the time between sunset and the appearance of three stars might not be a sofek in the sense of us being unable to clarify whether it is day or night. It might really be both and the sofek is which Halacha, that of day or that of night, should we apply. However, the perception of a day in the Tosafos on the daf today is a little different (although perhaps more commonsense).

The Gemara at the end of the second perek of Nazir discusses the opinion of Rabbi Yossi that if a zav or zavah is about to become tahor on the night of Peach (as in they are on the final day of the count and they are within the cases that do not require the bringing of a korban and they have already gone to mikveh) then a Korban Pesach can be slaughtered for them and it’s blood sprayed on the Mizbeach. If they then see either more blood or another seminal emission causing them to become impure again and preventing them from eating the Korban Pesach they need not bring the Korban Pesach again during Pesach Sheini even though they did not eat the korban (which we assume is the primary obligation). Accordingly, the Gemara assumes that Rabbi Yossi must hold that the fact that they saw more blood or another emission does not render them retroactively impure for the previous portion of the day succeeding when they went to the mikveh. The Gemara then asks that if they are capable of becoming definitively pure between the times that they see either blood or a seminal emission, how is it that they can have three successive emissions such that they would become impure for a full seven days or be required to bring a korban. The Gemara answers that it must be that Rabbi Yossi will only apply this law if a woman either saw blood continuously for three days or either a man had seminal emissions or a woman saw blood immediately before sunset for three days successively preventing the beginning of a day with the possibility of going to the mikveh. Even if they were to go to the mikveh that day it would not be a “clean” day because they had already seen something so even post mikveh the count could not continue. Rashi in Pesachim 81a ruled based on this that if the night started without seeing either blood or a seminal emission, it would be permitted to count the following day as one of the clean days (as long as nothing was seen for the rest of the day). Tosafos here disagree. They state that the beginning of the night cannot allow us to count the following day, although they seem to imply that it counts (where it is relevant) to allow us to count the previous day as a clean day if we do not need the entire day to be clean. Accordingly, it seems that Tosafos are defining a day as the period we think of as a day – from when we wake up until a bit into nighttime for the purposes of this halacha. For this halacha what matters more is not the formal definition of a day but the experience of a day.

If so, the problem the Gemara had with Rabbi Yossi’s opinion was not that you could count the start of a day as pure and thus prevent the later sighting from being added to the previous sighting . The problem the Gemara had was that the successive part of the day after a sighting and after a person went to mikveh could allow that day to be counted as a clean day (except in cases where you need a full clean day such as zavah gedolah) and accordingly, the answer the Gemara gave was that the sighting must have happened at the end of the day so there would be no time before nightfall in which to consider the day clean, not that the sighting happened the previous day right before nightfall so that the beginning of the night was not clean.