Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yehoshua 12

(See introduction in post on Yehoshua 6)

Chapter 12 of Yehoshua is one of those chapters of Tanach which is a lot more exciting if one learns it with an Atlas Da'as Mikra open alongside. It consists of a list of the kings whom Bnei Yisroel defeated when they entered the land. In the first half of the chapter, the conquests of Sichon and Og in Transjordan are rehashed. In the second half, the 31 kings who ruled in Israel proper are listed; some of them are familiar, some less so:

* The kings of Yericho and the Ai, the first two cities conquered by B'nei Yisroel (chapters 6-8)
* Adoni-Tzedek of Yerushalayim, Hoham of Chevron, Pir'am of Yarmus, Yafia of Lachish, and D'vir of Eglon - the five Emorite kings in the south who declared war on Giv'on because of its sealing a peace treaty with Bnei Yisroel, and who were defeated by enormous hailstones and by the heavenly bodies that kept watch together in the Ayalon Valley* until Bnei Yisroel finished destroying the enemy (chapter 10 in general and specifically 10:36-37, 31-32, and 34-35)
* Horam of Gezer, who attempted to defend the city of Lachish. (10:33) According to Atlas Da'as Mikra, the two cities are approximately 10 miles apart; perhaps Gezer was somewhat of a regional power?

* The king of D'vir (10:38-39)
* The kings of Geder and the far southern cities of Chormah and Arad
* The king of Livna, whose city was conquered immediately after Makeida (10:29-30, see below)
* The king of Adullam, located between Yerushalayim, Chevron, Yarmus, and Lachish. Interesting they didn't join the alliance (perhaps they were a smaller city?)
* The king of Makeida, whose city was conquered the same day that the five kings of the south were killed (10:28)
* Beis-El, a neighboring city to the Ai (see Bereishis 13:3). These 16 kings all reigned in the future territories of Shim'on, Yehuda, and Binyamin (to be precise, Beis-El and Gezer were actually in southern Ephraim - and ADM is ambiguous about Makeida - but they were right near the border).

* The kings of Tapu'ach, Cheifer, and Afeik, located in the heartland of the country later inhabited by the tribes of Ephraim, Menashe, and Dan.

* The king of Lasharon and Yovav of Madon, kings who reigned near the Kinneret, the latter of whom was allied with...
* Yavin of Chatzor, the head of the northern alliance that gathered at Mei Marom in the far north of Israel to fight against Bnei Yisroel after their successful exploits in the south (11:1), and
* The kings of Shimron (M'ron) and Achshaf, junior partners in the alliance. These five kings (six cities, as M'ron is a city distinct from Shimron) reigned in the far north, in the lands of Asher, Naftali, Yissachar, and Zevulun.

* The kings of Ta'nach and Megiddo, further to the southwest
* The king of Kedesh, the northernmost of the cities mentioned
* The kings of Yokn'am of Karmel, of Dor of the Dor region, of Goyim of Gilgal, which are in the northwest of the country.
* And the king of Tirtzah, which is in the hills of Ephraim in the heartland.

To summarize, the first 8 kings are kings of the south which have some storyline associated with them, while the next 8 were from other cities in the south. The next three kings were from the central region. Next are listed the 4 kings who organized the northeastern resistance, preceded by Lasharon (who may be one of the cities that are mentioned implicitly in 11:2-3) for reasons unclear (It is additionally curious that Madon is mentioned before Chatzor, a more central member of the alliance that was closer to the battlefield and most likely destroyed first). The last 7 kings are all in the (lower) northwest, with the exceptions of Kedesh which is in the far north and Tirtzah, which is in the hills of Ephraim.

If the list in this chapter is meant to be nearly chronological, it would mean that Bnei Yisroel entered the land in Binyamin (the northern extent of the southern region), proceeded in a cycle around the south, conquered the cities in the central region, moved up along the plain of the Jordan to to battle with the kings arrayed at Mei Marom, and then swept to the southeast to destroy the other cities of the north, interrupting in the middle to return to Kedesh in the far north and concluding with Tirtzah. If one wishes to view this chapter as being chronological where no other priorities exist, though, one must resolve why D'vir, Livna, and Makeida are listed in the reverse order of their conquest.

This chapter completes the conquest section of the book; the rest of the book is devoted to the division of the land.
* To hedge off a potential question, the ancient city of Ayalon - and its neighbor Sha'alvim - were in the territory of Dan, but it's in the far south, right near the borders with Yehuda and Binyamin (and the valley covers more territory than just the city).

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Yehoshua 6

(A friend of mine started up a Nach Yomi program. While I'm not learning along with it, as I'm currently in the midst of a schedule of my own learning Nach on Shabbos* to complete it in a year, I volunteered to write some of the daily divrei torah for the program.)

Yehoshua perek 6 describes the conquest and destruction of the city of Yericho and its inhabitants, save the family of Rachav the businesswoman**. The entire city is declared to be cheirem to HaShem. All of the metal objects in the city are brought to the storehouse of HaShem, and the city is burned to the ground. Following the destruction of the city, Yehoshua adjures the nation, "Accursed be the man who arises and builds this city, Yericho; with his firstborn shall he lay its foundations and with his youngest shall he erect its doors." (And indeed, during the days of the wicked Ach'av, Chi'el of Beis-El built Yericho, and the curse befell his children - see Melachim I 16:34).

The gemara in Sanhedrin 113a states that the curse applies both to one who builds a city on the site of the original Yericho, even under a different name, and to one who builds a brand-new city and calls it Yericho (and the mefarshim say that the latter was the sin of Chi'el).

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3:50) explains that the reason for this curse is so that the ruins of Yericho will be an eternal reminder of their miraculous method of destruction.

The Malbim explains that the punishment of the builder fits his crime, in that one who violated Yehoshua's decree in order to build for himself an eternal monument will be punished by losing all of his children, who comprised his truest form of a monument. Abravanel provides a similar mida-k'neged-mida equation, explaining that because the builder rebuilt that which HaShem destroyed, HaShem will destroy that which the builder built, that is, his children.***

* There's no local halacha shiur that I'm giving up in order to keep up with the schedule, so there won't be a halachic issue with learning kesuvim on Shabbos even once I get to kesuvim in a few months - see Shabbos 116a and Rambam Hil. Shabbos 23:19.

** A nice way of incorporating both shitos as to her profession, innkeeper and prostitute.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Vayikra 1: Pesach

For some reason, this question gives people a lot of trouble; someone asked me it over Shabbos:

How did they deal with the menachos in the Beis HaMikdash over Pesach?

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Eliyahu in Shas

Some time back, I heard an interesting diyyuk made between two of Eliyahu's primary roles in the gemara with regard to the resolution of doubts.

In some sugyos in dinei mamonos (e.g., Bava Metzi'a 3a), a resolution is reached by saying, "ha-kol y'hei munach ad she-yavo Eliyahu" - in a case where a pool of money is owed to two parties but they argue over who is owed the larger share, R' Yosei holds that neither party gets anything (even that which is undisputed), to provide a disincentive for the party owed less to lie. Rather, the entire pot is put in storage until Eliyahu comes and reveals whose is the larger share.

In other sugyos, doubts are left unresolved by the expression "Teiku". According to several rishonim, the word has a meaning of its own, but the folk etymology of the word is that it's an acronym for "Tishbi y'tareitz kushiyos u'ba'ayos" - The Tishbite will answer all of our questions and problems in halacha that we are unable to resolve.

According to this vort, the two roles are expressed using two different names for Eliyahu. For cases of halachic doubt, we wait for the coming of the Tishbite, the talmid chacham par excellence who is able to resolve our unanswered questions. For cases of doubt in the physical reality, we wait for the second coming of the hidden prophet, Eliyahu. I don't recall why the two names specifically have these two meanings.

I now question the veracity of this vort of unknown origin, though. On Brachos 35b, Rava says that the halachic issue of whether one has to bentch if he is kovei'a seudah on wine will be resolved "when Eliyahu comes", implying that the name Eliyahu is also used to refer to the talmid chacham who will be able to answer our questions.

(I suppose that this may be what some may call a straw-man post, in that I cannot verify the existence of the person who told me this vort, but in the event that someone else has heard this said before, perhaps they can fill in my gap. One could perhaps also mention Eliyahu with reference to the sugya of "choltzin b'min'al" in Yevamos, but I don't think this adds anything beyond the sugya in Brachos that I already referenced.)


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vayak'heil-Pekudei 2 - Terumah

When HaShem issued the original command to Moshe to collect supplies with which to build the mishkan (25:2), he stated "ויקחו לי תּרומה", they shall take for me Terumah, focusing on the fact that the donations will (35:5) be going for a holy purpose, while when Moshe reported the command to Bnei Yisroel , he phrased it as
"קחו מאתכם תרומה", take from yourselves Terumah, focusing on the fact that the donations will be coming from the Jews. This is a somewhat counterintuitive dichotomy. When one asks people for donations, one tries to emphasize the importance of the cause for which one is collecting and/or tries to emphasize how the donations being requested are easily affordable; additionally, one would expect HaShem to focus on the idea that the donations are important to Him because it is the Jews who are giving it from themselves, rather than due to any specific need of His.

Perhaps this latter point is what Moshe wanted to emphasize to Bnei Yisroel, namely, that the donations are not significant because HaShem needs the materials for his abode, but rather because of the fact that the Jews are giving from themselves. I would have said that the same applies by korbanos, in that HaShem does not need to "eat" our offerings, except that the formulation for korbanos is a third formulation (Vayikra 1:2): "'אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה" - When one offers a korban from you to HaShem, emphasizing both the origin and the destination.

In the other direction, although Moshe had to express to Bnei Yisroel the idea that the primary benefit of the Mishkan was for them, as a means of interacting with God, perhaps HaShem wanted to make known on a deeper level, to Moshe at least, that the Mishkan satisfies a need of God, k'v'yachol. The same word is used with respect to the Beis HaMikdash (Yeshaya 66:1): "אי זה בית אשר תבנו לי".

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Purim - Shu"T Eretz Tov on Hamantashen

To my correspondent:

As for your question regarding what to do with hamantashen that have become damaged in the process of baking, you have asked a very good question. The mitzvah of eating hamantashen is Torah-mandated, as is clear from Shmos 16:35,
"ובני ישראל אכלו את המן", which says explicitly that Bnei Yisroel ate Haman. However, the laws of hamantashen are very numerous and complex, and it is very easy for them to become invalidated due to the baker's lack of knowledge. Hamantashen that have become burnt while baking are invalid, as it says in Shir HaShirim (1:6)
"אל תראוני שאני שחרחרת ששזפתני השמש" - Do not look upon me, I who have become blackened, yet am filled with prunes and apricots
"שמני נטרה את הכרמים כרמי שלי לא נטרתי" - My brethren have set me as a guardian of the wine of Purim, but I have failed in this duty, being that a darkened hamantash is invalid for the mitzvah.

As for a hamantash which is partially stuck to the baking tray, the answer can be derived from the general rule that we have that the parshiyos of the Jewish manservant are the primary source texts for the obligation of hamantashen. This can be derived from the verse in one of the parshiyos of the former (Devarim 15:18):
"כי משנה שכר שכיר עבדך שש שנים" - For as double the hire of a hireling hath he served you for six years. The word "משנה", double, combined with the double lashon of "שכר שכיר" provide us with a cumulative multiplier of four, which, when applied to the maximal six years of the Eved Ivri, produces a value of 24, corresponding to the number of days (starting from the day after Purim) upon which one can derive labor from hamantashen by regifting them to other people before they have to be burned with the chametz on Erev Pesach (the four Shabbosos, of course, are not included in this calculation, due to the halachic issues with gift-giving on Shabbos).

One passuk in the parsha of the eved ivri that sheds much light on the mitzvah of hamantashen is the previous passuk, Devarim 15:17,
"ולקחת את המרצע ונתתה באזנו ובדלת והיה לך עבד עולם ואף לאמתך תעשה כן", which specifically refers to the insertion of an item into an ear, namely that of Haman, and which alludes to an eternal commemoration of the prophecy of Ovadiah about the destruction of Edom, of whom Amalek, and thus Haman, was a scion. The filling of hamantashen is here referred to as "מרצע" as an acronym representing the halachos that the filling must be matok, sweet; rav, abundant; tzavua, colored; and aveh, thick, for various reasons involving pirsumei nisa and/or simcha. The word ובדלת is a verb form of the word "בדל", referring the soft piece of cartilage surrounding the ear (see Amos 3:12), teaching us that the filling must be surrounded by a protective border of some sort, and that one whose border is deficient is therefore invalid. Based on this, if a hamantashen breaks on the baking sheet, or, for that matter, at any time before its consumption, it is invalid, and one is not m'kayeim the mitzvah of eating hamantashen by eating such.

Hence, now that we have established that a broken hamantash is invalid, what can be done with it? Clearly one cannot feed it to other people, for fear that they may err in thinking that the hamantash is valid, and thus not take pains to make sure they are m'kayeim the mitzvah. (Even prior warning is insufficient, lest they forget.) One could suggest feeding broken hamantashen to children, were it not for the interesting din derived from the sugya of R' Yitzchak and Rav Nachman on Ta'anis 5b (aka the sugya of "Ilan, Ilan") which equates children to a stream of water (amas ha-mayim). Hence, the end of 15:17 states that even one's children are obligated in the eating of hamantashen, and thus, the same issue of lifnei iveir applies by them.

The best solution, it would therefore seem, would be to eat them oneself, and to not share them with anyone else for fear of being machshil them. If one is concerned that they will gain weight from these hamantashen fragments, this is clearly an impossibility, as we see from Nechemya 8:10:
"ויאמר להם לכו אכלו משמנים ושתו ממתקים ... ואל תעצבו כי חדות ה' היא מעזכם." - Eat fatty foods and drink sweet drinks, and do not be saddened, for the joy of HaShem is that which fortifies you. The joy of HaShem is what fuels us when performing a mitzvah, not the calories from the food that we eat in doing so.

May we soon be zochim to the period when all days are like Purim.

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