Another example relates to a famous statement by R. Meir about the issur of Niddah.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת נדה דף לא עמוד ב
תניא, היה ר”מ אומר: מפני מה אמרה תורה נדה לשבעה – מפני שרגיל בה, וקץ בה, אמרה תורה: תהא טמאה שבעה ימים, כדי שתהא חביבה על בעלה כשעת כניסתה לחופה.
R. Meir asks why a Niddah is assurah to her husband for seven days. He answers that the Torah wanted to separate them for seven days so that when they are together again “she will be as beloved to her husband as he was she got married.” R. Meir can either be understand as explaining why there is a notion of separating for Niddah at all, or why the issur formulated as it was – as seven days with all the laws that go along with, regardless of when she stops bleeding. [Separating during menstruation was relatively common in many ancient cultures. The specific laws of Niddah are more of a chiddush than the basic notion of separation.] Either way, he offers an explanation for the laws of Niddah.
The simplest understanding is that this is homiletic/philosophical, but has no normative value. For example, there is no obligation to be a Niddah for a week every month, and if someone uses hormones to minimize how often she is a Niddah, that is fine. There is no obligation to create this distance that makes the heart grow fonder.
However, there was one Rishon (that I know of) who thought it did have (quasi-)normative value. Continue reading Homiletics or Halacha: An Example from Niddah
I always find it fascinating when seemingly aggadic statements become the basis of Halachic argumentation. An interesting example that I just came across appears concerning the topic of eglah arguah. The Gemara in Sotah asks why the eglah arufah ritual is done with a childless calf in a barren valley. It answers that something that has borne no fruit brought in a place that bears no fruit will come to atone for the person who was killed and can no longer produce fruit. The Gemara then questions what fruit are being referred to. It rejects the possibility that it refers to children, as logically that would dictate that an elderly or impotent person who was killed would not obligate the bringing of an eglah arufah. Thus, the Gemara concludes that the killed person is no longer able to perform mitzvoth. Continue reading Homiletics or Halacha: An Example from Eglah Arufah
I recently gave a shiur to visitng 10th graders. I had given this before for a Torah Tours training session. The shiur and sources are available: here. The summary/guide I wrote then is below:
This shiur deals with the question of what happened at Matan Torah. How did the Jewish people change? How did the nature of the mitzvoth change? Continue reading How Much Did Matan Torah Really Change?
This shiur is a case study in how a psak acts to set communal policy, focusing on the issue of women’s learning. The shiur and sources are available: here.
The Rav wrote two letters when asked whether girls should be taught Gemara. The second, which is much more famous, affirms that we should open the halls of תורה שבעל פה to women. However, in the first letter, which I think is critical to understanding the letter, first requests assurance that his answer will be accepted as binding. Continue reading Policy and Psak – The Rav on Women’s Learning (Halachic Methodology 7)