Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ezra 2

1) The second chapter of Ezra is devoted to a listing of the different family- and city-groups of people who went up from the exile of Bavel to Israel with Zerubavel, Yehoshua, and the rest of the leaders. Verses 3-43 list the groups of the Yisre'eilim, the Kohanim, and the Levi'im who went up. The size of the groups range from 42 (the people of Azmaves, v. 24) up to 3630 (the people of Sena'ah, v. 35), with an average somewhere in the high hundreds (Seder Olam ch. 29 says that the sum is 30,360). From verse 43 until verse 58, it lists the various families of Nesinim and the "servants of Shlomo". Rather than listing each individual family's population, though, the verse just provides a final census count. The total of the 40-someodd families comes to 392. In other words, each individual family listed had an average of 10 members. Why are the Nesinim divided into such small groups? It would ostensibly have been possible to move up by a few generations and combine the Nesinim into larger clans, or to move downwards a few generations within the Yisre'eilim and subdivide them into smaller family groups.
Perhaps when Ezra lists a family group, it means that an entire family group made aliyah as a unit. Although large groupings of Yisre'eilim made aliyah en masse, perhaps no such large groupings of Nesinim made aliyah, but rather just ze'eir sham ze'eir sham. The concept of nesinim making aliyah in itself is a very interesting one, as they were presumably making aliyah with the understanding that they would return to their status as an underclass - whether this is a surprising decision would depend on their status as expatriates in Bavel, but could also be a factor to the fact that the nesin aliyah was made in much smaller groups. It is interesting to note that the number of nesin groups was approximately the same as the number of KL"Y groups - I'm not sure how this impacts the original question.

2) In 2:64, it states the entire population of those who made aliya with Zerubavel to be 42,360. However, when one sums up the all of the families individually, the number is only 30,360, as mentioned above. Seder Olam ch. 29 notes that the families mentioned only represent the tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin (and Levi), while the remaining 12,000 came from other tribes, or 28%. This is a far cry from the impression that I had previously had that virtually the entire identifiable Jewish nation during bayis sheni was from Yehuda, Binyamin, and Levi, with the exception of a small handful (few percent?) from the other tribes that Yirmiyahu had brought back (I don't recall where this is brought down). Ostensibly this proportion might hold until the present day. And wouldn't it be interesting if some of the physical differences between Jews of different regions could be attributed to their originating from different shevatim?

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Shelach 1

1) Many people are familiar with Rashi's comment on 13:23 (based on the Pesikta) that Yehoshua and Kaleiv did not join with the other spies in carrying back from the fruit of the land, since they knew that their intent was to use the fruit as props to slander the land. Less well-known is the opposing comment of the Midrash Rabbah (16:10), which says that the spies had no intent in taking back any of the fruit of the land, were it not for Kaleiv drawing his sword and saying, "If you don't take from the fruit of the land, either you'll have to kill me or I'll kill you". I think that this is a wonderful example of the concept of opposing midrashim (reconciliation is perhaps possible, but seems to be very dachuk). It's interesting that Kaleiv added in the option of them killing him, rather than the more familiar reverse ("Do this or I kill you"). Recall, the spies weren't entirely evil people (after all, they were chosen for a reason), so Kaleiv putting his life down on the line was probably a safe manuever, maybe intended to shock them out of following through on their evil plan. Alternatively, perhaps he mentioned it because he was vastly outnumbered, and, if violence broke out, he would most likely be the victim.

2) In P' Ki Tisa (34:6), following the sin of the Golden Calf, HaShem teaches Moshe the 13 middos that can be used to invoke His mercy. In this week's parsha (14:18), Moshe uses only 6 of them. He uses one of the two sh'mos HaVaYa, Erech Apayim, Rav Chesed, Nosei Avon, (Nosei) Pesha, and Nakeih, but omits the other sheim HaVaYa, Keil, Rachum, and Chanun, (Rav) Emes, Notzeir Chesed LaAlafim, and (Nosei) Chata'ah. (This is based on the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam on R"H 17b, as quoted by Artscroll in their siddur's commentary on Seilchos, but in their commentary in the siddur on Tashlich, they say that Moshe uses 9, which is equal to the number of words mentioned thus far). He also mentions "Lo Y'nakeih", which seems to be a midah of pur'anus (unless one wants to include such non-cleansing as being a part of HaShem's mercy), and "Pokeid Avon Avos al Banim". I'm sure this discrepancy is dealt with in many places.
The Oznayim L'Torah, for one, explains the absence of 4 of the first 6 terms by saying that this time was not fit for a request for mercy for those who did not sin, since everyone had sinned and had not yet repented, but rather focused on a request for a stalling of the execution of HaShem's anger. Similarly, he left out "Chata'ah", since that refers to unintentional sins, while here the sin was intentional (although it would seem that the same could be said by the Calf). I don't see that he explains the other two missing terms, but following in the same vein, since the nation really was deserving of extermination, emes was undesirable in this scenario. As for notzeir chesed la-alafim, which would seem to be a reference to z'chus avos, perhaps by rejecting the land, they had cut themselves off from z'chus avos - not sure how to expand on this.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Kol HaDar B'Chutz La-Aretz...

The Rabbis taught: One should always live in Eretz Yisroel, even in a city that is predominantly idolators, and should not live in Chu"l, even in a city that is mostly Jews, for whoever lives in Eretz Yisroel, it is like he has a God, and whoever lives in Chu"l, it is like he has no God, as it says (Vayikra 25), "to give to you the land of K'na'an, to be to you as a God".
But is it true that one who does not live in the land has no God? Rather, it tells you that whoever lives (dar) in Chu"l, it is as if he is worshipping idolatry, and similarly by David it says (Shmuel I 26:20), "for they have chased me away today from being attached to the inheritance of HaShem, saying, 'Go worship idolatry'". But who said to David, "Go worship idolatry"? Rather, it tells you that whoever lives in Chu"l, it is as if he worshipped idolatry. (Kesubos 110b)

A very strongly worded sugya (like many of the sugyos in Shas dealing with living in Eretz Yisroel are). Rashi on the relevant passuk in Shmuel mentions a similar point, with a couple of interesting differences: "Whoever goes out from Eretz Yisroel to Chu"l during the z'man habayis, it is as if he is worshipping idolatry. Firstly, Rashi does not merely condemn one who lives outside of Eretz Yisroel, but even one who merely goes outside of it - perhaps Rashi was driven to this by the fact that the compulsion of Sha'ul's pursuit would not necessarily have forced David to dwell outside of Eretz Yisroel, in the sense of being settled down, as he could have lived the life of a wanderer (this would depend on the mashma'us of the word dar, whether it implies a permanent dwelling, or whether it can even refer to a sojourner, like the word gar). Secondly, Rashi adds in a caveat not alluded to in the gemara, that this restriction only applies during the z'man ha-bayis. This caveat would seem to not be literal, as during this time period, not only was there no Beis HaMikdash, but the Mishkan was not even in its temporary resting place of Shiloh; rather, it was in the short-term stopover city of Giv'on. The two differences might enable us to reconcile Rashi's opinion with that of the b'raissa, in that they mention two different halachos for two different time periods. Nonetheless, what is Rashi's basis for adding in this caveat?

This previous question was the main point of this post, but as a side point, the first half of the b'raissa is also curious. The first part of the b'raissa said that one who lives in Chu"l is like one who has no God, which is a harsh statement, yet one implied by a passuk. Nonetheless, the gemara rejects this statement, witout providing a reason, and emends the latter part of it to refer to an idol-worshipper, rather than one who has no God. What is the difference between the two categories?

Apparently, it is possible for one who worships idols to have a God. It seems that this can be through one of two interpretations: 1) He has a personal God who watched over him - in this sense, the gemara emends a terrifying situation of one living a quasi-Godless existence, invoked by his residence in Chu"l, to refer instead to the gravity of his sin - although one who lives in Chu"l is a sinner, he's "only" as bad as an idol-worshipper, but still merits "having" a God. 2) He believes in God. An example of the difference between the two cases would be the generation of Eliyahu, in which the people "sat on the fence" between HaShem and Ba'al. The gemara rejects the implication of the passuk that one who lives outside of Eretz Yisroel has no connection to God whatsoever, instead positing that he's merely like an idol-worshipper, who's a terrible sinner, yet still believes in God.

A further point of note is that the gemara, in its question, does not attack the statement that he is "like" one who has no God, but rather challenges the idea that he actually has no God, without the use of the comparative preposition, which is not what the b'raissa itself said. Perhaps the gemara does not attribute any significance to the word "similar", feeling that it was only inserted into the statement to avoid saying straight-out that one who lives in Chu"l has no God, either because living in Chu"l excises oneself from hashgacha p'ratis or because it demonstrates a clear disbelief in God.


Birchos HaShachar out of order

There are two major machlokos of Acharonim brought down in O.Ch. siman 46 regarding one who inverts the order of the birchos ha-shachar.

The first, brought down by the Mishnah Brurah (p.16), is regarding the brachos of she-lo asani aku"m, she-lo asani aved, and she-lo asani ishah. The Magen Avraham, N'siv Chayim, and Chayei Adam say that because the three brachos follow an upward procession, that an ishah is superior to an eved, who in turn is superior to an aku"m/goi (the M.B. uses both terms), if a person says she-lo asani eved or ishah prior to saying she-lo asani goi, he has already by implication given hoda'ah for not being made a goi, and therefore can no longer say this bracha. However, the Maharshal, Bach, P'ri M'gadim, Taz, and R' Akiva Eiger all argue, and say that one may still say the omitted bracha.

The second machlokes is found in se'if 5, in which the Mechaber, quoting the Siddur of R' Amram Gaon, says that if he said zokeif k'fufim prior to saying mattir asurim, he may not go back and say the latter bracha, and many acharonim, including the Taz and the P'ri M'gadim pasken this way (The Mishnah Brurah notes that some argue, but the Sha'ar HaTziyyun doesn't say who they are).

At first glance, the Taz and the P'ri M'gadim seem to contradict himself, as the two cases seem to be analogous, yet they paskens one way by the former and the other way by the latter. However, the Taz says that the difference between the two brachos is that, while zokeif k'fufim entirely includes matir asurim and eliminates any need for it, the same cannot be said for shelo asani ishah and the two brachos that precede it, as a woman has a gri'usa with respect to the other two categories in that she has no possibility whatsoever of ever being able to become a Jewish man, while a nochri has the option to and an eved, at the very least, has the possibility to, if his master frees him (it is because of this latter difference, by the way, that everyone agrees that a geir can say the bracha of eved (in addition to ishah), because despite his overall gri'usa, he still has the ma'alyusa of his choice to become a full Jew not being in the hands of someone else).