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Posts Tagged ‘Beis Hillel’

Pru U’revu

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

In this week’s parshah the Torah commands us in the first mitzvah: pru u’revu – be fruitful and multiply. We rule in accordance with Beis Hillel that one fulfills this mitzvah when he has fathered one boy and one girl.

The Rambam (Hilchos Ishus 15:2) writes that women are exempt from this mitzvah while a man first becomes obligated in this mitzvah when he is 17 years old. Once he turns 20 and has not yet fulfilled the mitzvah, he has transgressed and is mevatel an assei. The Rambam adds, however, that if he is busy toiling in Torah and fears that if he marries the yoke of responsibilities will disturb his learning, he may prolong getting married. The reason he may prolong getting married is because the general rule is osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah – when one is performing one mitzvah he is exempt from performing another. The Rambam concludes that we can certainly apply this rule in this case since the mitzvah that we are discussing is learning Torah – the greatest mitzvah of all.

The Acharonim were bothered by the Rambam’s explanation of this halacha. The Gemara in Moed Kattan 9a says that for a mitzvah that cannot be performed by anyone else, one must stop learning and we may not apply the concept of osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah to the mitzvah of learning Torah. How then can the Rambam say that one may prolong getting married and be mevatel the mitzvah of pru u’revu because of osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah, when that does not apply to the mitzvah of learning Torah? To make the question even stronger the Rambam added that we could certainly apply this concept here since we are dealing with the greatest mitzvah, learning Torah. And yet the exact opposite is true: specifically by the mitzvah of learning Torah we cannot apply this concept.

The sefer, Ma’aseh Rokeach, says that when the Rambam said that one could prolong getting married, he meant that this is so until he is 20 years old. That way one is not mevatel the mitzvah. So in essence there is no bitul mitzvah occurring, and therefore one may apply osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah since one will not be mevatel the mitzvah in this case.

Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, Hy”d, in Kovetz Ha’arus Hosafos 1, suggests that since the Rambam is referring to delaying the time until one gets married and not that one will never marry, we may liken this to a scenario whereby there is a mitzvah that can be done by others (since he can perform the mitzvah later) and we may thus apply the rule of osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah even to the mitzvah of learning Torah. Reb Elchanan continues by explaining that the Rambam said that we could certainly apply this concept here since we are dealing with the mitzvah of learning Torah.

The reason why, in this scenario, this concept is more applicable to the mitzvah of learning Torah, even though we generally do not apply it to the mitzvah of learning Torah at all, is as follows: the reason why one must stop learning in order to perform a mitzvah that cannot be performed by anyone else is not because the mitzvah of learning Torah is inferior to all the other mitzvos, for it is indeed the greatest mitzvah of all. Rather, it is because when one must take care of his necessities (e.g., work for a living) there is no mitzvah of learning Torah. One is only obligated to learn Torah when he is free of his other obligations. When one is obligated to perform a mitzvah that cannot be performed by anyone else, the situation is no different and the obligation to learn is voided. However, if it is a mitzvah that can be performed by another person, or if he can perform this mitzvah at a later time, the obligation to learn Torah remains. Since he is obligated to learn we apply the concept of osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah, and since the mitzvah of learning Torah is the greatest mitzvah of all we certainly apply the concept in this scenario.

In the following halacha the Rambam writes that one who never marries due to his sole desire to learn Torah, and always toils in it (like Ben Azai), has not transgressed. Reb Elchanan explains that even though in this scenario one is entirely mevatel the mitzvah, he has not transgressed because this is considered an oneis.

May A Woman Build A Sukkah?

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The Gemara in Sukkah says that the sechach that one must use for his sukkah must be detached from the tree in order for it to be fit for use. The Gemara (Sukkah 11a) discusses what a person must do if one put branches on his sukkah before they were cut off from the tree. The Gemara concludes that branches must be detached from the tree and he then must shake them.

The Rif, when bringing this halacha (6a dafei haRif), says that the reason why one must shake the branches after they are cut is so that they should be made lishmah – for the sake of the mitzvah of sukkah. The Ran asks on the Rif that if we do not require that a sukkah or its sechach be made lishmah, why then must one shake the branches in order for the sukkah and sechach to have been made lishmah? The Ran concludes that the Rif is not to be taken literally and that one does not have to shake the branches with lishmah in mind; rather one only needs to shake them – and the sukkah is valid.

The Rambam, however, seems to believe that the Rif is to be taken literally, for when he writes this halacha in Hilchos Sukkah (5:12) the Rambam adds the same words as the Rif, namely that the reason that one must shake the branches after they are cut from the tree is so that they should be made lishmah for the sukkah. The Rambam would not have repeated the reason if he believed that it was not to be taken literally. But the Ran’s question then stands on the Rambam and his view of the Rif: Since we do not pasken that a sukkah must be made lishmah, why do the branches that were originally on the sukkah while they were attached to a tree need to be shaken lishmah after they are detached? We pasken in accordance with Beis Hillel that a sukkah needs only to be made for the sake of shade, not for the sake of the mitzvah. Why then does the Rambam require that these branches be shaken for the sake of the mitzvah?

Acharonim answer that indeed when one makes a sukkah and initially puts on kosher sechach he does not need to have in mind that it is lishmah, only that it will provide shade. However, when one has sechach that is unfit for use – for it is still attached to a tree – then in order to render that sechach fit for use (without removing them completely) one must shake them lishmah in order to use them for his sukkah. It would not suffice to merely shake them for the purpose of providing shade.

The reason for this is that by shaking the sechach one has not completely destroyed the sukkah; therefore it is still the same sukkah as it was prior to his cutting the branches off the tree. Since the original shade is still there it should be unfit for use. Shaking the sechach is not a new act of putting on new sechach; rather it is an act of making the sukkah. Only when one shakes them for the sake of the mitzvah can he render the sechach fit for use.

Tosafos, in Gittin 45b, quotes Rabbienu Tam’s view that women may not tie the lulav’s hadassim and aravos together; nor can they tie tzitzis. This is because since they are not obligated in the mitzvah, they cannot make the mitzvah. And since women are exempt from the mitzvos of lulav and tzitzis they may not make these mitzvos. Tosafos, in Gittin 45b, asks the following question on this opinion from the Gemara (Sukkah 8b) that says that women may build a sukkah: Since they are exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah they should not be allowed to make a sukkah – so why the discrepancy?

Acharonim answer that building a sukkah differs from the tying of tzitzis and a lulav. By tzitzis and lulav the tying is an integral part of the mitzvah and must be done lishmah. Therefore women cannot perform that part of the mitzvah since they are exempt from it. However, the building of the sukkah does not require that it should be built lishmah but rather it must only be built for the purpose of giving shade. The only restriction is that one may not use a sukkah that was made inadvertently. Such a process is not an action that requires lishmah – and women may partake in its performance.

Disputing, For God’s Sake

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The twelve-member bipartisan congressional “super committee” on spending cuts formally conceded defeat late last month, after failing to reach common ground on the issues of tax increases and spending cuts.

 

Republicans vehemently opposed tax increases, particularly on the wealthiest Americans. Democrats refused to cut into federal retirement and health care benefits without such tax increases. Republicans want to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts that lowered individual rates and are due to run out at the end of 2012. Democrats want the tax cuts for the rich to expire.

 

Naturally, while each committee member had sworn solemnly to work together for the nation’s long-term economic wellbeing, it once again became clear that finger pointing and partisan territorialism would rule the day.

 

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), told CBS: “It’s been enormously frustrating for me and for many of my colleagues. As I said, we’ve got 12 good people that worked hard on this. But on the other side, there was an insistence that we have a trillion-dollar tax increase. There was an unwillingness to cut any kind of spending at all unless there was a huge tax increase.”

 

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) told NBC that Republicans were not telling the truth about the talks. “I say to my Republican colleagues: we are here all day. We are ready to do $1.2 trillion, not less than it. That’s what we were told to do. That’s the law.”

 

Of course, this self-serving political jockeying raised the ire of the American people. “The failure of the super committee is not just a failure of 12 members of Congress, who I believe genuinely tried to cut a deal but were rebuffed by their party leaders. It is a failure of political leadership on both sides of the partisan aisle,” said Brown University political scientist Wendy Schiller.

“Both parties chose their own electoral livelihoods over the good of the country, and it is outright shameful…. This might be the most self-serving, mediocre and uncaring set of legislators in Congress in the last 50 years.”

 

According to Frank Newport, Gallup Poll editor-in-chief, the American people largely agree with Schiller’s view. “We gave Americans a choice: ‘Do you blame the Republicans more, Democrats more – or both equally?’ And 55 percent of Americans said: ‘We blame both equally.’ ”

 

He added: “[Most Americans] think the [super] committee should have compromised more…. Americans, by almost a two-to-one margin, said they should’ve compromised more to reach an agreement – even if they had to move in on their principles.”

 

The country, he said, is “very down on anything relating to Congress. Its overall approval in our Gallup update in November is 13 percent, which is tied for the lowest in our history here at Gallup. And almost any measure we put in front of people asking them about competence or trust in Congress and the legislative branch is at historic lows.”

 

What bothers so many Americans about the present congressional entanglement is not simply the fact that each side fundamentally opposes the other with regards to addressing our ailing economy and reducing the national deficit. Rather, it is the way they demonstrate their position, with a mocking contempt for the other side of the political aisle and an absolute unwillingness to engage in an open minded dialogue that might result in some form of breakthrough. It is as if their political agendas are more important than the nation they have been elected to serve.

 

Certainly the Jewish people are no strangers to this form of machlokes. We are familiar with the self-serving variety, and have observed how disagreements between sides result in chasms that far exceed the scope of the original feud. We have experienced machlokes on every level: ritualistic, ideological, philosophical, etc. and like the debates that have embroiled members of the super committee, many of these disagreements have remained unresolved, in some instances for decades, centuries and even longer.

 

However, there is another form of machlokes, one that is couched with the utmost respect and reverence, in which the common goal of the disagreeing parties is to clarify God’s word so that we can serve Him the way that He wants to be served. Such a machlokes is the kind we learn about in our Torah texts, and which fuels our own passion toward understanding and fulfilling our roles as Jews.

 

It should be noted that this latter form of machlokes, the kind that has become permanently entrenched in our holy texts as halachic or philosophical areas of dispute, was not always existent in Klal Yisrael. For many centuries following the giving of the Torah at Sinai, any potential machlokes was brought before a body of judicial scholars for a timely and final decision.

 

Previously, dissention was rare in Israel…. When a man needed to inquire about a particular matter he made his inquiry of the local court (of twenty-three judges)…. If its members knew the proper practice, they told him. If not, he, together with the most proficient judge of that court went to the court situated at the entrance to the Temple Mount. If its members had a relevant tradition, they stated it. If not, they together with the most expert judge of that higher court went to the court situated at the entrance to the Temple Court…. If the members of that highest court had a tradition on the matter, they stated it. If not, the three men proceeded to the Great Sanhedrin (of seventy-one judges) in the Chamber of Hewn Stone…. The inquiry was then put before them. If they knew the ruling, they stated it. If not, they decided the matter by vote…. From there the ruling spread throughout Israel. [Talmud, Sanhedrin 88b]

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/disputing-for-god%e2%80%99s-sake/2011/12/07/

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