Monthly Archives: November 2015

Avodah and Accepting the Yoke of Heaven – Different Paradigms

The first Mishna of Maseches Berachos (which is the first Mishna of Shas according to our tradition) starts by stating the time at which Keriyas Shema should be said at night (when the first three stars appear in the sky). The Gemara immediately asks two questions:

  1. how do we know that we are obligated to read Keriyas Shema at all?; and
  2. why is it that with regard to Keriyas Shema we are told first about the obligation of Keriyas Shema at night but for the berachos which are said before and after, we are told about the day obligations before those of the night.

The Gemara gives two answers:

  1. the passuk in Keriyas Shema states “beshochbecha uvkumecha” so night time for Keriyas Shema comes first, and then since we have started talking about the day we continue in the berachos of the day before returning to talk about the berachos of the night; and
  2. the psukim speaking of the creation of the world always put night before day when speaking of the day therefore night comes before day in general in Halachah (Tosafos there state that the second part of the first answer, that we then simply continue talking about daytime prayers is obviously necessary here as well because otherwise we should have continued the berachos of night).

It is the second answer that I would like to talk about. It is not totally accurate that the Halachah always assumes that the night comes before the day. In the world of sacrifices we assume that the day comes before the night; we both eat the sacrifices (often) and finish the burning of sacrifices the night after and that is not considered for these purposes a separate day (Tosefta Zevachim 6, 15). Furthermore, in the fifth perek of the Maseches Berachos we hear first about the prayers which come in the morning first, and only afterwards afternoon and night (Mishna Berachos 5, 1). The difference for davening is easy to explain, since the obligation for davening is partially derived from the obligation for sacrifices (Gemara Berachos 26b) so it makes sense that the obligations would be expressed in this sense differently. However, that does not explain the basic difference between these different institutions. Why is it that instead of the simple and seemingly sufficient local answer for why the Mishna was expressed the way it is, the Gemara chose a far more global answer, and what does that teach us about the nature of Keriyas Shema as an obligation?

I heard from Rabbi Dr Avi Walfish once that the relationship between kodesh and chol is a central topic of perek Oso Ve’es Beno in Chullin. There we find the following Mishna:

משנה מסכת חולין פרק ה משנה ה

יום אחד האמור באותו ואת בנו היום הולך אחר הלילה את זו דרש שמעון בן זומא נאמר במעשה בראשית (בראשית א) יום אחד ונאמר באותו ואת בנו (ויקרא כב) יום אחד מה יום אחד האמור במעשה בראשית היום הולך אחר הלילה אף יום אחד האמור באותו ואת בנו היום הולך אחר הלילה:

He explained this Mishna based on that contention. There was a need to explain that Oso Ve’es Beno would apply to the general day of creation and not the specific day of sacrifices since the entire world of shechitah seems to derive in large part from the world of sacrifices. This time is the time of the creation of the world. The time depicted here is cosmic. On the other hand, the time of sacrifices where the night follows the day is human time, it is the time of human experience. We experience a day not as night and then daytime but as the time from when we get up in the morning until when we go to sleep at night once it is already dark. In human experience the night follows the day.

If the time of Keriyas Shema is determined by cosmic, objective time, a statement is made. Keriyas Shema is a reaction to the cosmic order. When one sees the wonderful world that G-d has created, that He rules over, the natural reaction is to proclaim His  kingdom and accept the yoke of His service. That is the very essence of Keriyas Shema (Mishna 2, 2). On the other hand, sacrifices are not necessarily an instinctive reaction to the creation of the world. They are crucial precisely because they have a certain artificial feel. Not only is the initial, instinctive, awestruck reaction important. The follow-up, the continuation, which will of necessity be contrived, must also occur. Without that, the initial reaction will not have staying power. This then, is the task of davening. First we express our awe at G-d’s creation, and then we follow up with the hard work of maintaining that sense of awe for the rest of the day.

The Role of Witnesses and the Court – Making a New Reality

In today’s daf (Sotah 31b) appears a well known rule: every time that the Torah believes a single witness, his words is accepted as though it were the testimony of two witnesses. The line as it appears in the gemara is:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוטה דף לא עמוד ב
אמר עולא: כל מקום שהאמינה תורה עד אחד הרי כאן שנים, ואין דבריו של אחד במקום שנים!

Rashi comments on this:

רש”י מסכת סוטה דף לא עמוד ב 

כאן בבת אחת – מתני’ כשהעידו שניהם בתוך כדי דיבור דבטלו דבריו מיד דלא נתקיימה עדותן בב”ד והיכא האמינהו תורה כשנים כגון אם העיד עדותו ויצא דתו לא מצי חד לאכחושיה.

The simple implication (as Tosafos point out here) is that the testimony is viewed as true immediately. The problem is that in Yevamos there is a Gemara which implies that when it comes to a witness giving testimony that a woman’s husband died we only believe the witness absolutely after an official decision has been taken on the part of the beis din to allow her to remarry. Based on this, Tosafos give a different opinion:

 תוספות מסכת סוטה דף לא עמוד ב

נראה לפרש הכא בזה אחר זה שקיבלו עדות הראשון והורו ע”פ עדותו מיהו תימה עולא גופיה דאמר הכי אליביה תני לא היתה שותה מה דוחקיה למימר הכי והא מתניתין לא משמע ששהה השני אחר הראשון עד שהורו ואסרוה עליו ואמרו אינה שותה וי”ל דמתניתין בסתם קתני אי נמי רבי יצחק ועולא הוה מתרצי לההיא דהאשה זוטא כדמתרצי אליבא דר’ יוחנן בפ’ שני דכתובות

Essentially, they state that the halachah dictates that we would only believe a single witness absolutely after a decision has been taken based on his testimony.

Tosafos and Rashi here argued about a very fundamental issue; do we view the witnesses as clarifying the events which took place to us, and we believe them to any extent the Torah tells us to (Rav Asher Weiss has an essay on this topic on Parashas Mishpatim)? Alternatively, do we see the court as creating a new reality based on their testimony? This debate is current both in batei din and in modern secular courts. Do the courts create legal realities, such as a marriage, or ownership, or do they merely respond to events and clarify the things which have anyway happened?

Me’Inyana de’Yomah in the Daf Today

Today in the daf (in the Mishna) there is a disagreement between two Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yossi HaGlili. The Mishna relates their different opinions about the cities given over to the Leviim:

משנה מסכת סוטה פרק ה משנה ג
בו ביום דרש רבי עקיבא (במדבר ל”ה) ומדותם מחוץ לעיר את פאת קדמה אלפים באמה וגו’ ומקרא אחר אומר (שם) מקיר העיר וחוצה אלף אמה סביב אי אפשר לומר אלף אמה שכבר נאמר אלפים אמה ואי אפשר לומר אלפים אמה שכבר נאמר אלף אמה הא כיצד אלף אמה מגרש ואלפים אמה תחום שבת רבי אליעזר בנו של רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר אלף אמה מגרש ואלפים אמה שדות וכרמים:

If we look in Rashi on this Mishna:

רש”י מסכת סוטה דף כז עמוד ב 

מגרש – רחבה פנויה מזריעה ומבתים ומאילנות לנוי העיר להיות לה לאויר ואלפים לא הוזכרו לתתן ללוים ולא נאמרו אלא ליציאת תחום שבת.

Rashi is saying that according to Rabbi Akiva the Leviim would not have been required to perform any agriculture themselves. Instead, they would rely on what others would give them (presumably maasros). Presumably he understood this from the famous passuk in Parashas Korach:

במדבר פרק יח 

(כא) וְלִבְנֵ֣י לֵוִ֔י הִנֵּ֥ה נָתַ֛תִּי כָּל־מַֽעֲשֵׂ֥ר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לְנַחֲלָ֑ה חֵ֤לֶף עֲבֹֽדָתָם֩ אֲשֶׁר־הֵ֣ם עֹֽבְדִ֔ים אֶת־ עֲבֹדַ֖ת אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד:

It would seem that the point for him is that the Jews will supply Leviim with their food and therefore there will be no need for agriculture. After all, if most of the Jews are farmers and they each give one tenth to the Leviim (and there are presumably less Leviim than any other tribe), then they should have more than enough food. There was no planning for a time when this might not happen (alhough I think it’s interesting to wonder how this would have worked in the Northern Kingdom).

On the flip side, Rabbi Eliezer here is saying the opposite – of course there was a plan for a rainy day. Even if the Jews were meant to support the Leviim, the Leviim were not left helpless.

I think the relevance of this issue to the modern concern with Haredim is obvious. Should we support the bnei Torah among us and let them just sit and learn and serve Hashem for all of us and thus raise the spiritual lives of us all to greater spiritual heights, or should we assume that it is important (either morally, see the Rambam, or practically) that everyone take responsibility both for their spiritual life and their physical survival. We learnt (again in daf yomi) not long ago about a Yisachar Zevulun relationship. At what level is it a desirable institution? I don’t know how to apply all this (especially as it seems to be a disagreement), and I acknowledge the difference between Talmud Torah and Avodah in the Mikdash (though it can go either way), but I think it should be a part of the discussion.

Rhetoric and Mussar in Daf Yomi

One of the more interesting things that tends to happen when doing a serious bekiyus limmud (and yes I know that is a dirty word) is that you get to see the variety and range of expressions that Chazal made use of. Today’s daf is an excellent example of this. At the end of the first perek of Sotah we find the following comment:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוטה דף יד עמוד א
דרש רבי שמלאי: מפני מה נתאוה משה רבינו ליכנס לא”י? וכי לאכול מפריה הוא צריך? או לשבוע מטובה הוא צריך? אלא כך אמר משה: הרבה מצות נצטוו ישראל ואין מתקיימין אלא בא”י, אכנס אני לארץ כדי שיתקיימו כולן על ידי; אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא: כלום אתה מבקש אלא לקבל שכר, מעלה אני עליך כאילו עשיתם, שנאמר: לכן אחלק לו ברבים ואת עצומים יחלק שלל תחת אשר הערה לַמָוֶת נפשו ואת פושעים נמנה והוא חטא רבים נשא ולפושעים יפגיע, לכן אחלק לו ברבים – יכול כאחרונים ולא כראשונים? ת”ל: ואת עצומים יחלק שלל, כאברהם יצחק ויעקב שהן עצומים בתורה ובמצות; תחת אשר הערה למות נפשו – שמסר עצמו למיתה, שנאמר: ואם אין מחני נא וגו’; ואת פושעים נמנה – שנמנה עם מתי מדבר; והוא חטא רבים נשא – שכיפר על מעשה העגל; ולפושעים יפגיע – שביקש רחמים על פושעי ישראל שיחזרו בתשובה, ואין פגיעה אלא תפלה, שנאמר: ואתה אל תתפלל בעד העם הזה ואל תשא בעדם רנה ותפלה ואל תפגע בי. הדרן עלך המקנא לאשתו.

 What is going on in this midrash? The Geamra states that Moshe Rabbeinu did not need to either eat of the fruits of the land or be satisfied by tis goodness. These formulations: “לאכול מפריה” and “לשבוע מטובה” are really borrowed from the beracha of al hamichya which we say after eating anyfood which is not actually bread but is still made of one of the fie grains. That is to say, Moshe Rabbeinu does not want to come to the land to eat from its goodness but rather to serve Hashem there. The beracha gives us the same message: Hashem gave us the land, but not merely to benefit from its goodness but rather to harness its beauty and bounty for the service of G-d. Anything less is a betrayal of His purpose in giving us such a beautiful gift. After this, the Gemara proceeds to explain to us how we know that all Moshe Rabbeinu wanted from the land is to be able to fulfill the mitzvos that were given only there, because when he was in the leadership, he utilized his position entirely selflessly, so we can assume that his motivations in this also are perfect and pure.

When the mitzvah of Birkat HaMazon is given in the Torah, the same sort of retoric is used. There we find the following pesukim:

פרשת עקב
(ז) כִּ֚י יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ מְבִֽיאֲךָ֖ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ טוֹבָ֑ה אֶ֚רֶץ נַ֣חֲלֵי מָ֔יִם עֲיָנֹת֙ וּתְהֹמֹ֔ת יֹצְאִ֥ים בַּבִּקְעָ֖ה וּבָהָֽר:
(ח) אֶ֤רֶץ חִטָּה֙ וּשְׂעֹרָ֔ה וְגֶ֥פֶן וּתְאֵנָ֖ה וְרִמּ֑וֹן אֶֽרֶץ־זֵ֥ית שֶׁ֖מֶן וּדְבָֽשׁ:
(ט) אֶ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹ֤א בְמִסְכֵּנֻת֙ תֹּֽאכַל־בָּ֣הּ לֶ֔חֶם לֹֽא־תֶחְסַ֥ר כֹּ֖ל בָּ֑הּ אֶ֚רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲבָנֶ֣יהָ בַרְזֶ֔ל וּמֵהֲרָרֶ֖יהָ תַּחְצֹ֥ב נְחֹֽשֶׁת:
(י) וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ:
(יא) הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֔ פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּ֖ח אֶת־יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ לְבִלְתִּ֨י שְׁמֹ֤ר מִצְוֹתָיו֙ וּמִשְׁפָּטָ֣יו וְחֻקֹּתָ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּֽוֹם:
(יב) פֶּן־תֹּאכַ֖ל וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבָתִּ֥ים טֹבִ֛ים תִּבְנֶ֖ה וְיָשָֽׁבְתָּ:
(יג) וּבְקָֽרְךָ֤ וְצֹֽאנְךָ֙ יִרְבְּיֻ֔ן וְכֶ֥סֶף וְזָהָ֖ב יִרְבֶּה־לָּ֑ךְ וְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־לְךָ֖ יִרְבֶּֽה:
(יד) וְרָ֖ם לְבָבֶ֑ךָ וְשָֽׁכַחְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ הַמּוֹצִיאֲךָ֛ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם מִבֵּ֥ית עֲבָדִֽים:
(טו) הַמּוֹלִ֨יכֲךָ֜ בַּמִּדְבָּ֣ר׀ הַגָּדֹ֣ל וְהַנּוֹרָ֗א נָחָ֤שׁ׀ שָׂרָף֙ וְעַקְרָ֔ב וְצִמָּא֖וֹן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֵֽין־מָ֑יִם הַמּוֹצִ֤יא לְךָ֙ מַ֔יִם מִצּ֖וּר הַֽחַלָּמִֽישׁ:
(טז) הַמַּֽאֲכִ֨לְךָ֥ מָן֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יָדְע֖וּן אֲבֹתֶ֑יךָ לְמַ֣עַן עַנֹּֽתְךָ֗ וּלְמַ֙עַן֙ נַסֹּתֶ֔ךָ לְהֵיטִֽבְךָ֖ בְּאַחֲרִיתֶֽךָ:
(יז) וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ כֹּחִי֙ וְעֹ֣צֶם יָדִ֔י עָ֥שָׂה לִ֖י אֶת־הַחַ֥יִל הַזֶּֽה:
(יח) וְזָֽכַרְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כִּ֣י ה֗וּא הַנֹּתֵ֥ן לְךָ֛ כֹּ֖חַ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת חָ֑יִל לְמַ֨עַן הָקִ֧ים אֶת־בְּרִית֛וֹ אֲשֶׁר־ נִשְׁבַּ֥ע לַאֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ כַּיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה: פ

The Torah is telling us that if we eat the fruits of the land so that we can then bless G-d afterwards, well and good, but if we do so that we might then advance our own settlement in the land, if we take advantage of the land to accrue even more benefit, we will become arrogant and forget Hashem. We will start to attribute our success in the land to our own achievements and prowess, not to Hashem’s goodness. In their own slightly different, but very similar ways, the Torah and the Gemara make the same point here: eating in general should obviously be to serve G-d, but here we are concerned specifically for eating of the fruits of the land. The are holy, and our settlement here is holy. When we eat here, we must be doubly conscious of the service that we enable by doing so, and doubly diligent in pursuing it afterwards.