Saturday, January 08, 2011

Matzos because of Haste

At seudah shlishis today, a friend of mine asked why the reason given for Bnei Yisroel taking matzos with them is the lack of time necessary for the bread to rise brought about by the haste in departing, given the issur chametz. I tried to answer based on the Mishnah in the 9th perek of Pesachim (96), which states that Pesach Mitzrayim did not have the issur chametz kol shiv'a that Pesach l'Doros has, but forgot the conclusion of the gemara that aligns this mishnah with a drash of R' Yosei haGelili, that the issur still extended the entire first day.

After the fact, I wondered if there was any significance to the fact that the ba'al hashmu'ah of that (apparently accepted) shita is R' Yosei haGelili, who also holds by the unaccepted shita that there's no issur hana'ah by chametz at all (28b), so that in his mouth, the din would only be referring to an issur achila that spanned the first day, but it seems more likely that when the rabbanan accepted this drash, they interpreted it k'shitasam that even the issur hana'ah would have existed on the entire first day. At any rate, RYhG is coming to be meikil, so that even if we were to reduce the scope of his drasha, it would not achieve the desired result.

Although the drash of RYhG is based on the passuk "v'Lo yei'acheil chameitz", we hold like Chizkiyah (21b), who reads this passuk as referring to an issur hana'ah, so there doesn't seem to be a way out on that path, either.

To sum, then, it seems clear that there was an issur of owning chametz on the night of 15 Nissan until the end of the day. That being the case, why could we not say that the reason for their not carrying chametz with them was because of the issur, rather than using the practical reason of the haste that the passuk specifies?

R' Yitzchok Dovid Frankel asks a related question in Machat Shel Yad, and develops the idea that chipazon was an intrinsic part of Yetzias Mitzrayim, so that despite their ability to avoid the rush by anticipating the Yetziah earlier that day, there was a necessity that chipazon be associated with Yetzias Mitzrayim, based on HaShem's haste in taking us out at exactly the necessary time. This being the case, perhaps this could also serve as a reason for the Torah's pragmatic rationale for the matzos, rather than the latent halachic rationale.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shtei HaLechem

This afternoon, I spoke before mincha at the shul of my future father-in-law. The following is a brief summary of my remarks.

Shavu'os is the chag which is least obviously associated with any particular mitzvah. Looking at the pesukim, though, two of the three parshiyos on the chag discuss the shtei halechem, the "minchah chadashah" that was the first korban offered from the new wheat crop in the Beis HaMikdash. There are several interesting aspects to this korban. Firstly, it's one of the only instances (the korban todah being the other) in which chametz is incorporated into the avodah of the mikdash. Besides the mussafim of Shavu'os that are offered on the same day as the shtei halachem, the loaves also carry with them their own set of associated animal offerings, including 2 lambs that are offered as public sh'lamim, zivchei shalmei tzibbur, a category that has no other examples. I'd like to explore several different derachim to understand the significance of this mitzvah to Shavu'os.

The Ramban, picking up on the commonality of the usage of chametz, suggests that the shtei halachem is merely a special, communal, form of the korban todah, offered as thanksgiving for a successful agricultural season, the focal point of which is the wheat harvest that occurs around this season. He notes further that, although the avodas ha-mikdash usually eschews the extreme forms of gevurah and chesed represented by chametz and dvash, akin to ma'aseh bereishis that was accomplished through a fusion of gevurah and chesed, the korban todah (and, I suppose the bikkurim) is an exception to this rule, and it is for this reason that Chazal say that all korbanos will be beteilim during yemos ha-mashiach besides the korban todah. V'ha-maskil yavin, which is why I don't.

The Netziv, in Ha'amek Davar starts with a similar idea, but goes in the opposite direction. From Amos 4:5-8, he learns out the existence of an ancient custom to offer korbanos todah on Sukkos as a zechus for sufficient rain. So, too, he suggests that the shtei halechem serve as a communal todah to serve as a zechus against bad winds and bad dews. The Netziv's opinion can be supported by the fact that the shnei kevasim of the shtei halechem were the single korban that was hunaf both when they were alive and when they were shechted, and, in several places in Shas, the idea is expressed that the purpose of tenufah is precisely to prevent bad winds and bad dews.

The Kli Yakar finds in the minchah chadashah of the shtei halechem an allusion to matan torah, which must be viewed as a continually self-renewing event, rather than a delimited episode of our history (indeed, for this reason, the commemoration of matan torah is never openly limited to a single day within the torah). This being the case, the inclusion of chametz in the shtei halechem is representative of the yetzer hara, which bears a close relationship to kabalas hatorah in two senses. Firstly, the Torah serves as an antidote against the yetzer hara, so that by including chametz in this korban, we are indicating our security in the face of this threat. Additionally, the yetzer hara serves as the raison d'etre of matan torah, as per Moshe's argument against the mal'achei ha-shareis when he went up to Har Sinai, as, without a yetzer hara, one has no need for the mitzvos of the Torah.

R' Zalman Sorotzkin in Oznayim LaTorah, also sees an allusion to Matan Torah in the shift from the barley korban of the minchas omer to the wheat korban of the shtei halachem, in addition to the inclusion of shalmei tzibbur in the korban. The consumption of wheat is a distinction between humans and animals, while the consumption of meat is representative of an additional spiritual level, as per the proscription against an am ha-aretz eating meat. For this reason, the shtei halechem represents the humanizing process that we underwent through matan torah.

To summarize:

Ramban: Korban todah for past, safe extremism
Netziv: Korban todah for future, prevention of bad winds and dews
Kli Yakar: Matan Torah and the yetzer hara
R' Sorotzkin: Matan Torah and humanization

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mazel Tov!


Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Parameters of the Mitzvah of Sefiras Ha-Omer

There are two major machlekos rishonim that come up in discussions of the parameters of the mitzvah of sefiras ha-omer. The first machlokes is whether sefiras ha-omer is one mitzvah or 49 mitzvos. In this machlokes, Tosefos, the Rosh and the Shibbelei HaLeket hold that each night is its own mitzvah, while the Behag holds that the entire 49-day period constitutes one long mitzvah. The second machlokes is whether one can fulfill the mitzvah of sefirah during the daytime. In this machlokes, the Rambam and the Behag allow a person to count by day, while Tosefos and the Shibbelei HaLeket hold that if he does so, he is not yotzei (the Rosh advises him to count without a bracha). The popular practice is to be machmir in both machlekos individually by counting without a bracha, if necessary. The kula at the conjunction of the two (i.e., relying on a daytime counting to continue a 49-day count) is, at first glance, sefeik sefeika, but is also the result of either of the opposing combinations of shittos of Tosefos/Shibbelei HaLeket and the Behag.

Mori v'rabbi HaRav Shlomo Wahrman, in Oros HaPesach (78), suggests that the two machlekos are connected, based on a Meiri in Rosh HaShanah (6a). The Meiri explains the apparent contradiction between bal te'acheir (delaying the offering of a neder), in which he's oveir every day on which he is delinquent, and bal talin (delaying the consumption of said korban), in which he's oveir only once, by noting that for the latter issur, the time of the consumption of a korban is a single uninterrupted period, while for the former issur, the time for the offering of a korban is interrupted by the end of each day. Hence, while he's oveir on each new day on bal te'acheir when the issur becomes relevant again, the issur of bal talin never loses its relevancy, so that once he's oveir immediately following the deadline of the korban's consumption, he never incurs any additional violations.

So, too, the Behag holds that the permitted time for counting the omer is not interrupted by nightfall. Hence, it can be viewed as being one long mitzvah, whose interruption by a missed day breaks it up. Tosefos and the Shibbelei HaLeket, on the other hand, hold that there are 49 distinct periods for the performance of the mitzvah of sefiras ha-omer, and each is independent of the others.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Tribal Encampments

The beginning of this week's parsha discusses the arrangement of the shevatim as they encamped in the midbar, following the census that was taken in the second year of their sojourning. Why is it that this arrangement of the tribes was first set up in the second year of their travels, rather than immediately following Yetzias Mitzrayim?

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky notes in Emes L'Yaakov that the division of the nation into tribal camps highlighted the different skills and special characteristics that made each tribe unique and that were essential to the functioning of the nation as a whole. However, such a division carried with it the danger of encouraging a tribalism that could ultimately divide the people. Hence, the tribal camps were not set in place until the Mishkan was built, which, by standing in the middle of the camp, served as a reminder that the tribes, despite their differences, all have the same focus to their activities, and should find unity in this, as opposed to separation.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

One Small Flask

A poster on a discussion list asked why the flask of oil of the neis of chanukah is referred to as a kad katan, being that the volume of 3.5 log that was necessary to fill the 7 lamps of the menorah each night is approximately equal to 1.5 L, hardly a small k'li. One respondent suggested that on an entire mountaintop, a soda bottle would, indeed, be considered small and easy to miss.

I don't understand the basis for this question, as Shabbos 21b (as well as Meg. Ta'anis) merely refers to it as a "pach", with no adjective attached to it.

Is there an alternative source on the matter (besides our collective memories of kindergarten)?


Thursday, December 18, 2008

From the Inbox...


A 17 yr old bucher from Israel was kidnapped by arabs. pls B mispalel 4 "YOSEF ben ROCHEL". please fwd to 10 people don't break the[...]

[I received the text last night, but didn't "get" it until a little while ago. Funny, I suppose, but still remarkably bad taste in the current environment.]

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