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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Daf’

Daf Yomi

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

He’s A Communist!
‘If He Calls Someone A Rasha…’
(Bava Metzia 71a)


Our sugya teaches us that if someone calls his fellow a rasha, the insulted person may “ruin his life.” According to some commentators, the Gemara allows the insulted person to undermine his insulter’s livelihood by, for example, starting a competing business. Rashi (s.v. “yored imo…”) questions this interpretation: “It is hard for me to accept,” he writes, “that our sages allow people to take revenge or ‘get even.’”

Tosafos (s.v. “adam kore l’chavero …”) cites Teshuvas Hageonim in the name of Rav Tzadok Gaon that the insulted person may even go so far as to burn a third of the crops in his insulter’s field. Yet Tosafos too finds this sentiment very odd and questions Rav Tzadok’s reasoning. Rashi, commenting on Kiddushin 28a (s.v. “rasha yored imo…”), adheres to the literal meaning that one may “go down to his livelihood.”


Insinuating Transgression

Some commentators point out that the Gemara (Kiddushin, ibid.) mentions similar halachos: 1) A person who calls another a slave is punished with niduy (a form of excommunication) and 2) a person who calls another a mamzer is flogged. What is the reasoning behind these two halchos? By calling another a slave, a person includes himself in the Torah’s damnation, “Cursed is Canaan” (Bereishis 9:25), and therefore is placed under the curse of excommunication. As for a person who calls another a mamzer: He hints that the targeted person intends to sin (or has already done so) by pretending not to be a mamzer in order to marry a proper Jew. The one who insults him is therefore flogged as though he himself transgressed this prohibition.

In light of the reasoning behind these two halachos, let us return to our case: A person who calls another a rasha causes him considerable harm. The Torah stares, “If your brother becomes poor… support him” (Vayikra 25:35). Our Sages teach us that excluded from this mitzvah is a rasha, who does not deserve support. Therefore, a person who calls another a rasha in public is causing others not to support him. That is why the insulted person may undermine the livelihood of his insulter (Nimukei Rabbi Menachem meReseburk, s.v. “din hakorei”; Shittah Mekubbetzes in the name of Rabbi Yonasan).

However, a person is not allowed to undermine the livelihood of one who calls him a rasha in a casual manner (perhaps in the heat of an argument). He may only do so to a person who spreads rumors in a malicious manner, seemingly in rebellion to the Torah.


Long Ago

About 450 years ago, two people had a vehement argument. One of them called the other a slave, and the insulted person asked a beis din to flog his detractor, as taught in the Gemara. The question was sent to Rabbi David ben Shlomo ibn Zimra (Responsa Radbaz 3:480) who replied that as people ascribe little importance to curses voiced in arguments, they do not harm one’s reputation and are not covered by the Gemara’s discussion.

The Radbaz concludes, though, that “the one who insults should be shamed verbally and warned to desist from calling another such a name…even if the other starts the argument.”

A person who makes it a regular practice of calling others derogatory names should suffer excommunication if the names are those mentioned in the Gemara. The Maharam Galanti (Responsa 33), therefore, rules that a beis din should not flog someone who calls another Salak-el-din (apparently a reference to Saladin, the Muslim warrior who conquered Eretz Yisrael from the Crusaders) even though the one so dubbed is deeply hurt. He is, however, “regarded as one of the derisive scoffers who do not meet the Shechinah.

A Slap On The Cheek

A similar question was referred to HaGaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, in the McCarthy era when hatred for communism engulfed the United States. People suspected of having communist links had their reputations ruined and anyone so accused was very insulted. One such person asked Rabbi Feinstein if he could undermine his insulter’s livelihood. Rabbi Feinstein replied that “communist” is not synonymous with rasha (Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 1:38) and one who forces his ideas on others in a communist fashion is not necessarily a sinner. Rabbi Feinstein also cited Rashi’s comment (on our daf) that there is no explicit permission to undermine the livelihood of one who calls another rasha.

In conclusion, we note the explanation of some commentators that “yored lechayav,” usually understood as “ruining his life,” actually means that the insulted person may slap the cheek of the one who insulted him: “lechayav – his cheeks” (see Tashbetz, Responsa 3:204).

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Daf Yomi

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Hatzalah And Other First Responders
‘Your Life Takes Precedence …’
(Bava Metzia 62a)


Our daf cites a dispute regarding two people stranded in a desert with only enough water for one of them. Ben Paturah asserts that the person holding the flask of water should share it with his friend even though both will die as a result. Rabbi Akiva disagrees, arguing that the person with the flask should not share it. The Torah states: “v’chai achicha imach – your brother shall live with you” (Vayikra 25:36). These words, argues Rabbi Akiva, imply that one’s own life takes precedence over that of another.

‘Ve’chai Bahem’

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 74a) derives from the words “ve’chai bahem – that he shall live as a result” (Vayikra 18:5) that a person is not required to forfeit his life in order to fulfill a mitzvah; the Torah tells us to live – not die – as a result of observing the mitzvos. (There are the three notable exceptions to this rule; even if one’s life is at stake, one should not commit the aveiros of idolatry, murder and adultery.)

In light of the rule of “ve’chai bahem,” the Aruch LaNer (to Yevamos 53b) wonders why Ben Paturah requires the person with the flask to share it with his friend. Furthermore, in disputing Ben Paturah, why does Rabbi Akiva cite “v’chai achicha imach” instead of “ve’chai bahem”?

To answer these questions, the Maharam Shick (Yoreh De’ah 155) suggests that the Gemara is not discussing a case where dividing the water will certainly result in the deathd of both of them. Rather, it is discussing a case where there is a chance that each one will survive by drinking half of the flask’s contents as doing so will enable them to travel on; that extra time may lead to the discovery of water or to their rescue.


Possible Danger

So the Gemara’s case is one of safek sakana (possible danger to life). Ben Paturah believes a person should place his own life in possible danger to save that of his fellow. Rabbi Akiva disagrees. Based on “v’chai achicha imach,” he maintains that a person should not even place himself in possible danger to save his fellow’s life.


Absolutes And No Absolutes

The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayyim 329:19, citing Pischei Teshuva, Yoreh De’ah 426) writes that a person should nevertheless not automatically seek to excuse himself when his fellow is in danger. In emergency situations there is very little time for deliberation. Only if it seems certain that the rescue attempt is hopeless should a person refrain from trying to help his fellow at his own expense.

Hagahot Maimoniyot (cited by Beis Yosef to Tur, Choshen Mishpat 426) disputes the general halachic ruling and opines that one is required to rescue another when there is only a safek sakana.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 2:174) writes that although a person is not halachically required to jeopardize his life to save another, he may do so if he so wishes.


He Gave His Life

These rulings, among others, form the basis of decisions made by great and sainted roshei yeshiva during the Holocaust. For example, Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, zt”l Hy”d, rosh yeshiva of Baranowitz, Poland, had come to America to raise funds for his yeshiva and could have saved his own life by not returning to Europe, as he was advised to do. Yet, he believed himself duty-bound to return to his beloved students and did so. He died a martyr’s death.

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem, also put his life in danger for the sake of others during World War II. His yeshiva escaped war-torn Europe (through the noble efforts of the legendary Rabbi Avraham Kalmanowitz, zt”l, Mirrer rosh yeshiva, Brooklyn) to Shanghai, China. The yeshiva was at the mercy of the occupying powers, the Japanese authorities, and in dealing with them on a daily basis, the rosh yeshiva was known, at times, to place himself in great danger as he cared for the needs of his students.

In our time, as well, we find this same self-sacrifice, above and beyond the letter of the law, among the many rescue organizations, such as our local fire and police departments and, of course, Hatzolah, whose members often place themselves in dangerous, life-threatening situations for our sake.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Daf Yomi

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

It’s All In The Giving
‘Five Laws Require A Minimum Peruta’
(Bava Metzia 55a)


Our mishnah enumerates five halachic matters that requires at least a perutah (or its equivalent value). One is effecting betrothal.

An Omission

The Maharal Diskin (Responsa Vol. 1:24) deduces from the mishnah’s notable omission of tzedakah that one may actually accomplish this mitzvah even with less than a perutah. Indeed, while both the Rambam (Hilchos Matnos Aniyyim 7:7) and Rema (Yoreh De’ah 249:4) are very strict in adjuring us not to ever send away a poor person empty-handed, they opt for the most lenient measure when the commodity for charity is food. In their view, giving a poor person merely a grogeres – a dried fig – is satisfactory, even though a dried fig in Talmudic times was worth less than a perutah.

The Distinction

The Beis Yitzchak (Orach Chayim 21:2) draws a distinction between food and money (and other non-edibles). He reasons that since the Torah uses the term of “giving” (“nesinah”) regarding charity – “Nossan titten lo – you shall give him” (Devarim 15:10); one must give the indigent something which is minimal enough to constitute “giving.”

Less than a perutah’s worth of food can sometimes be considered “giving.” Anything less than a perutah, however is not considered “giving” if we are talking about money or any other non-edible item.

Rashi (Shabbos 25b s.v. “reishis degan’cha titten lo…”) explains that volume is relevant when discussing the minimum amount of food necessary to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah. Therefore, even though the foodstuff being given is worth less than a perutah, it may still be considered as “giving” if the food satisfies the poor person’s immediate hunger (see Ta’anis 23a-b).



What about another common measure of food – a ke’zayis (an olive)? Is giving that measure of food a proper nesinah to the poor?

Although the Beis Yitzchak is inclined to regard a ke’zayis of food as sufficient for the purposes of charity, he nevertheless seems to infer from the Rambam that a dried fig is the minimum (see Shabbos 91a); as such, if a person gives less than that measure, he does not fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Daf Yomi

Friday, November 11th, 2016

The Case Of The Conflicting Commitments!
‘A Breach Of Faith’
(Bava Metzia 49a)


Our sugya reviews a person’s obligation to keep his word. One who promises to give something to another as a present and reneges is declared to be guilty of a breach of faith (mechusar amanah) and is seen with great disfavor by the Sages (ibid., 48a). The Ramban (Kiddushin 17b) scathingly defines our Sages’ disdain for such a person and states that they “regard him as evil.”

However, a person is only so regarded if he fails to keep a promise that another believed, i.e., if he promised something reasonable. If he promised something fantastic – i.e., normally beyond belief – he is not duty bound to keep his word as Chazal assume that no one took him at his word.

A Congregation’s Obligation

Does the same rule apply to a congregation? Can gabbaim make the same claim on behalf of a congregation? The Shulchan Aruch (204:9), based on the Mordechai, says they cannot. The Maharsham (2:191) likewise states that a congregation that promises a large gift is not judged in the same manner as an individual.

Poskim (e.g., Sema and Magen Avraham) mention two reasons for distinguishing between congregations and individuals: 1) People rely on a promise made by public bodies, even if the promise is for a large sum of money, and 2) If a congregation pledges a large sum of money, all its members share the obligation, and if one divides the pledge between all its members, each share will be relatively small. In other words, a person is no longer expected to believe a fantastic promise for an unbelievably big donation but rather numerous promises for small donations. Promise for small gifts are believed.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Poskim (e.g., Chavos Yair 45, Maharashdam, and Choshen Mishpat 128) also remark that a rich man who promises a gift is judged differently than one who is poor. A gift deemed small if offered by a rich man may be considered very generous if offered by a poor man. Still, a beis din will not force someone to keep a promise for a large sum of money. He should keep his promise nonetheless since there is moral imperative to act honestly (Maharik, shoresh 118).

A Public Announcement

Rabbi Alexander Katz (HaAgudah 6:66 and in Maharam Mintz 39) comments that if someone reneges on a promise, synagogue gabbaim should announce that he is mechusar amanah – that he is not a man of his word and is disfavored by the Sages. The announcement should be made before musaf of Shabbos (when more people generally are present in synagogue) to punish the person and deter others from acting like him.

Poskim do not mention such a takanah and Rabbi Chayyim Benvenisti (Kenesses HaGedolah 204, comment 9:17, in the name of the Mordechai) states that it suffices for a beis din to merely inform someone that he is mechusar amanah. Rabbi Yitzchak of Vienna, in his Or Zarua, and other authorities (cited in Responsa Nechpah BaKesef, II, p. 265) indicate that even such notification is not obligatory.

Think Twice

Someone who promises a large gift does not have to keep his word, but the Peri Yitzchak (1:51) and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Mechirah uMatanah 1) stress that he should behave piously and fulfill every promise he makes. The Mordechai writes: While someone who reneges on a promise of a large gift might not be mechusar amanah, he must be careful in his behavior toward the poor since in their eyes such promises resemble vows to give charity, which surely must be kept.


Tough Choice

A venerable person once sought guidance from Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai Breisch, zt”l (Chelkas Yaakov, Orach Chayyim 24). He had promised to attend a certain event, but shortly before the occasion, he received an invitation for a bris scheduled for the same time. Did he have to honor his prior commitment or could he cancel and attend the bris instead. After all, the Rema notes (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 265:12), “One who [is invited and] does not eat at a bris is like someone banished by Heaven.”

Rabbi Breisch replied that he should honor his first commitment. He cited the Rema as proof for his position since the Rema (ibid.) adds that one need not attend a bris if one wishes to avoid certain unworthy people. Hence, if attending a bris involves insulting people to whom one already made a promise – and making him a mechusar amanah – one surely need not attend, and one is not “banished” as a result.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Daf Yomi

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Ensnarement and Atonement
‘The Only Proper Guarding Of Coins Is In The Ground’
(Bava Metzia 42a)


Our sugya mentions the rule that a person entrusted with safekeeping an article (a shomer) must compensate the owner if the object is lost due to an accident (oness) that started off as neglect. The Gemara gives an example of a shomer who was given money for safekeeping which he left in a fowler’s trap in a forest. Although such a site is not frequented by thieves, the money was nevertheless stolen. The shomer appears to have exercised proper care, but he must nevertheless compensate the owner since leaving money in a trap in a forest constitutes neglect as a trap is flammable and unfit for hiding money.

The Lost Defense

The Rambam (Hilchos She’elah U’pikadon 4:6) rules likewise: “Our sages said that though this is an excellent form of safekeeping from thievery, it does not serve to protect from fire. Since the shomer did not hide the money underground or in a wall, he is guilty of neglect and any instance starting with neglect and ending in oness obligates the shomer to compensate the owner.”

Rabbi Akiva Eiger, zt”l (Bava Metzia 36b, no. 29), explains the reason for this rule: Oness requires that a shomer be able to claim that he did everything demanded of him. This shomer, though, cannot offer such a defense since if he had done everything demanded of him, he would not have put the money in a trap that is subject to the elements.

A Wife Who Absconds From Her Husband

The above rule has served many poskim in judging a broad variety of cases beyond those of safekeeping. Somewhat over a century ago, a wife absconded from her husband, refusing to accept a get. The husband sought a heter me’ah rabbanim – the halachically-required permission of 100 rabbis to marry another woman. Some rabbis hesitated as he had lost all contact with his wife and her whereabouts and intentions were unknown. “Possibly she was taken prisoner or exiled,” they said. “Maybe now she would agree to receive a get. We may not allow him to marry another wife if the present wife is agreeable to a divorce.”

However, the Maharsham (Responsa 6:137) was inclined to dismiss this reasoning. The wife’s initial disappearance, he asserted, was a willful act of default on her part. Even if she is now an oness and prevented from expressing herself, the situation should be regarded as a matter that started off as neglect and now is one of (possible) oness. Therefore, he ruled, the husband can seek permission from 100 rabbis to marry another woman.


Mezuzahs Ruined By Rain

The Maharsham in yet another discussion (Responsa 2:264) applies this same rule in the matter of a congregation whose mezuzahs were vandalized. He writes that there is no need for them to atone as the incident is surely one of oness. However, he writes, if prior to this incident mezuzahs in the synagogue had been damaged by rain, the situation is deemed to be one of starting with neglect and ending in oness. The congregation should have put the mezuzahs in rainproof cases, and if they had done so, perhaps they would not have been vandalized.

However, even where a congregation must atone, the Maharsham does not obligate them to fast as our generations are weaker than previous ones. Rather, he instructs that each congregant give money to charity to atone for himself. Afterwards, all of them should gather together to recite the book of Tehillim.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Rav Meir Shapira’s Daf Yomi Talmud for Sale in Jerusalem

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

This Rosh Hashanah saw the 93rd anniversary of the Daf Yomi cycle. Now, a tangible reminder of those early years is available for enthusiasts to enjoy.

Few imagined what a global phenomenon would result when Rabbi Meir Shapira of Lublin introduced the idea at the First World Congress of the World Agudas Yisrael in Vienna in 1923. R’ Shapira understood the potential magnitude of his idea. He explained at the Congress:

“A Jew travels by boat and takes Gemara Berachot under his arm. He travels for 15 days from Eretz Yisrael to America, and each day he learns the daf. When he arrives in America, he enters a beis medrash in New York and finds Jews learning the very same daf that he studied on that day. …. Could there be greater unity of hearts than this?”

Today tens of thousands of Jews learn Daf Yomi. Since 1923, the whole cycle has been completed twelve times in communities around the world. There are even apps to make learning easier. Long before the Daf Yomi could be studied online, there were efforts to make studying as user-friendly as possible.

To make it easy for those that wanted to participate, a special edition Gemara was printed for the first cycle of Daf Yomi in 1925. Tractate Rosh Hashana was the first tractate that was published in a special format for the Daf Yomi. It was a small paperback booklet to facilitate carrying while commuting or traveling. Each daf is printed on four pages, with the Maharsha’s commentary. As the publisher explained the format, “For the benefit of the traders who cannot find the time to study a complete daf in one sitting, but want to divide the daf into portions throughout the day.”

In this first edition, as the Daf Yomi was still gaining acceptance, every effort was made by the publishers to explain the process. The opening pages included a chart to track the daily daf. An introduction from the publishers describes that this will enable anyone who missed a day to catch up with ease.

To the delight of Judaica buffs and Daf Yomi advocates, Rabbi Meir Shapira’s personal copy of this tractate is now on sale at Kedem Auction House, based in Jerusalem and specializing in Judaica and Israeli culture and history. Signed with R’Meir Shapira’s signature and stamp, this volume even includes his hand written notes on one page.

It provides a unique window into Jewish history and a reminder that there was a time when even the great Daf Yomi institution had to win over sceptics.

For more information about this unique volume and other items included in the auction at Kedem (or to sell your own antiques) see www.kedem-auctions.com

Raizel Druxman

Daf Yomi

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

The Difficult Choice
‘His Father’s Lost Object And His Rebbe’s Lost Object…’
(Bava Metzia 33a)


Our mishnah rules that when a person is confronted with the choice of returning a lost article belonging to his father and one belonging to his rebbe, he must return his rebbe’s first. The mishnah explains: Though his father brought him into this world, his rebbe brought him into the World to Come.


A Father’s Tuition Payment

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 242:34) cites Sefer Chassidim (585) which asserts that this halacha only applies if the rebbe teaches without remuneration. The Aruch Hashulchan (Choshen Mishpat 264:2) states that the rebbe’s object is returned second even if his remuneration does not come from the father. The Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh De’ah 242:5) also notes that a rebbe who receives remuneration must still be feared and honored.


A Sponsor

The Aruch Hashulchan (Choshen Mishpat, ad loc.) cites the Shach (on Choshen Mishpat and Yoreh De’ah) who rules that when the rebbe’s remuneration comes from another source, a sponsor, that individual’s lost object should be returned before that of the rebbe himself.

This opinion is relevant if someone is directly sponsoring a rebbe’s salary. Generally speaking, though, it is not applicable nowadays since charitable money for our institutions come from communal scholarship funds.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/daf-yomi-257/2016/10/27/

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