web analytics
April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Gemara’

Behind The Name On The Cover: Jerome Schottenstein And His Sponsorship Of The ArtScroll Talmud

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

With memories of the Siyum HaShas still fresh in people’s minds, many Jews around the world have been purchasing a Tractate Berachot in order to take part in the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi, the daily study of one daf of Talmud Bavli.

Over the past few decades many tools have been developed to ease and encourage Talmud study. One of the most popular is the Schottenstein Talmud Bavli, a translated and elucidated edition of the Talmud published by ArtScroll.

The dream of making the entire Talmud accessible to English readers began in the mid-1980s. ArtScroll had already translated many classic Jewish works, including commentaries on the Bible, the Mishnah, and in-depth volumes on the Jewish holidays.

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, co-founder of ArtScroll, described a monumental leap forward for the Jewish publishing house that occurred in 1982: “Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, met with Rabbi Nosson Scherman and me and smilingly asked when we would begin elucidating the Talmud. We were taken aback. The Talmud? Such a mammoth undertaking? Could we even consider such an awesome project? Was the rosh yeshiva serious? He was serious. He said, ‘You should do it and you will do it, and if Hashem grants me years, when the time comes I will give you a letter stating my approval.’ ” Soon afterward, a team of more than sixty scholars was assembled to launch what would be a fifteen-year project. Apart from the core translation work, the authors were challenged to write a detailed commentary, replete with sources, questions and answers, and references for further research. Budget estimates for the project were daunting – upward of $21 million to produce the 73-volume set.

Early after the project launch, the ArtScroll founders were introduced to Columbus, Ohio, businessman and philanthropist Jerome Schottenstein.

“The Schottenstein family has historically been characterized by a remarkable love for Torah,” said Rabbi Nosson Scherman, ArtScroll’s general editor. “They’ve viewed the perpetuation of Orthodox life as a first priority.”

Born in 1926 to Ephraim and Anna Schottenstein, Jerome Schottenstein entered his father’s business, Schottenstein Stores Corp. (SSC), going on to found the Value City chain of furniture stores. (Years later, under the leadership of Jerome’s son Jay, SCC would become a holding company for its stakes in such familiar names as DSW, American Signature Furniture, and American Eagle Outfitters.)

For decades, Schottenstein and his wife, Geraldine, were known for helping found the Columbus Ohio Jewish day-school system and numerous other Jewish organizations. Jerome became a member of Yeshiva University’s board of trustees in 1980.

Upon learning of ArtScroll’s Talmud project, Schottenstein agreed to dedicate the first volume of Tractate Eruvin. ArtScroll had already achieved wide recognition for opening up Torah learning to a new generation of Jews who had, up to then, been locked out by the language barrier. Schottenstein resolved to underwrite the entire 73-volume project as a heritage gift to present and future generations of Jews.

Jerome Schottenstein passed away in 1992 and was able to witness the completion of only the first several volumes of the project. After his death, the project was continued by Schottenstein’s children, Ann, Susie, Lori, and Jay.

Jay Schottenstein joined the family’s Schottenstein Stores Corporation to work alongside his father, taking charge of the business after his father’s passing. Continuing the family tradition of enriching Jewish life around the world, he and his wife, Jeanie, have dedicated numerous ArtScroll projects, such as the Hebrew edition of the ArtScroll Talmud, Perek Shirah, the Schottenstein Interlinear series, and the long-anticipated iPad digital edition of the Schottenstein Talmud Bavli.

Jay and Jeanie also assumed the major sponsorship of the ArtScroll Talmud Yerushalmi.

“Other than being the source of some obscure quotes sprinkled throughout Jewish sources,” Rabbi Scherman noted, “the Talmud Yerushalmi was a forgotten study for over 1,600 years.”

Rabbi Zlotowitz explained that the terse and enigmatic vernacular of the Yerushalmi made it accessible only to the accomplished scholar. “In a generation where there is an accelerating uptick in serious Torah learning, the masses can now plumb this amazing classic,” he said.

“The Schottensteins are preserving and propagating yet another incalculable gift to the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Scherman, recalling conversations with leading roshei yeshivot of the 1980s, said, “The Talmud is the neshamah [soul] of Klal Yisrael, the key to its survival. It couldn’t be woodenly translated. It had to be elucidated – clarified, illuminated, explained, and expounded. Each tractate cover declares that it’s an annotated, interpretive elucidation. Jerome Schottenstein understood the operational implications of doing it this way – and he stood behind each difficult step of the development.”

In The King’s Presence

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

We all know that there are some synagogues that, unfortunately, only reach full capacity several days a year. There is something about these days that arouses even many unaffiliated Jews to attend High Holiday Services. In fact, each one of us also feels the holiness, and it helps us to be on our best behavior. We make sure to come on time to davening and we daven slower than usual. We are extra careful in our observance of halacha and how we treat the members of our family. Indeed, in Shulchan Aruch (OC Siman 603) we find that during the ten days of repentance, even those who usually eat “Pas Palter” (i.e. bread from a non-Jewish bakery that is kosher), should now be stringent and refrain from doing so. However, a thought may sneak into our minds – is this all just a game? Who am I kidding? Hashem knows exactly how I have been acting until now, so why should I put on a show?

But in truth, this approach is our salvation, as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (16b) states. “Rav Yitzchok said, a person is judged according to his actions at that moment. As it says concerning Yishmael, ‘ki-shama Elokim el-kol hana’ar ba’asher hu-sham – because Hashem has heard the boy’s voice, there, where he is’.” Rashi cites the Midrash Rabba that before Hashem caused a well to miraculously appear in order to save Yishmael from dying of thirst and fever, the angels in heaven protested. “How can You perform a miracle to save the one who’s descendants will cause Your children to die of thirst?!” To which Hashem answered, “since at this moment he is a tzaddik; I will not look at anything else.” On Rosh Hashanah, Hashem also judges us based on how we are at that time. Our past is not examined, nor our future. However, all this is quite perplexing. We all know that in a normal judgment the judge takes every fact into consideration. Why on the great Day of Judgment does Hashem ignore everything besides the present moment?

The Costume Or The “Real McCoy?”

Let us explain with the following parable. There was once a successful Jewish businessman named Getzel who had many dealings with non-Jews. On Shabbos he would don his streimel and bekeshe and walk down the street. “Hey Getzel,” one of his business associates called out to him. “What is that rabbit doing on your head? I thought you were from our day and age – not one of those Jews from the shtetel!” Greatly humiliated, Getzel lowered his head and ran home. This continued week after week until he decided to stop wearing his special Shabbos clothing. When he went to his Rebbe, though, he was too embarrassed to show that out of shame he had forsaken the ways of his forefathers. He would take out his streimel, dust it off and once again look like all the other Chasidim. One year he decided that this game had gone on long enough and he will show the Rebbe who he really is. When he came to the Rebbe for a brocha, wearing his weekday clothing, the Rebbe exclaimed, “Getzel, what happened to your Shabbos garb?” “Rebbe,” answered Getzel, “I’ll tell you the truth, this is how I always dress on Shabbos. I decided that it is time to act honestly and show you who the real ‘me’ is.” “Getzel, Getzel,” chided the Rebbe, “do you really think I didn’t know how you dressed every Shabbos? But until now I thought that Getzel in a streimel is the real Getzel and all year long you were dressed up. Now you tell me that the opposite is true!?”

This is what the above Gemara is teaching us. Even though we may have distanced ourselves from Hashem all year long, and not acted as befitting sons of the King, there is hope. If on this day we raise ourselves to where we are supposed to be, we will have shown that until now it was just a costume, and now the real “Me” is showing. Hashem will therefore judge us favorably, as we now deserve special treatment. True, we still need atonement for our past sins, but we will deal with them during the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur.

Not The Correct Charity

Monday, September 10th, 2012

The Gaon, Reb Nachum devoted all his time, day and night, to collecting money for charity and helping the poor. The vast majority of the people thought so highly of Reb Nachum that they would deduct a fixed amount of their income every week and give it to him to distribute it to the poor. But there was always the exception, some people just tried to avoid contributing.

There was one such person who, although not rich, was well to do and had many children. When Reb Nachum came to him for charity he refused, saying, “Rebbe, you know what the Gemara says in explaining the meaning of the sentence in Tehillim (106:3). ‘He gives charity all the time!’ that this refers to a person who supports his little children. You know that I have many little children and therefore it is considered as if I have already given charity.” [Editor’s note: The Gemara in Kissuvot 50a describes how David HaMelech lauded a family man who supported his children, saying that it was truly an act of charity.]

Reb Nachum smiled and replied, “Apparently you forgot the sentence in Vayikra 16:2: ‘You should not come all the time into the holy place.’ With that type of charity you shouldn’t come unto G-d. It is not sufficient, you must also try to help other poor people.”

Helping The Judge’s Family

In the city of Horodna there was a Jewish judge who, although he was Jewish in name, was far removed from anything Jewish. He never participated in communal affairs nor did he ever help a poor person.

One day, Reb Nachum visited the judge and asked for money for the charity fund. The judge began to berate him and then angrily insulted him.

“Who appointed you to be a collector for charity in this town?” he shouted. “For all I know, you keep all the money for yourself!”

Realizing that he couldn’t convince the judge, Reb Nachum left with an apology. He wasn’t angry, he only pitied him.

A few days later the government charged the judge with bribery. This scandal was the talk of the country and people traveled from all over to be at the trial. The judge hired the best lawyers and he spent his last penny to offset the evidence but the result was inevitable. The judge was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.

While the town was stunned at the verdict and the people gathered everywhere to talk about it, Reb Nachum visited the judge’s wife. He found in a deplorable state and when she saw him she began to cry.

“Rebbe,” she wept bitterly, “what shall I do? My husband spent every cent we had on the trial and now that he will be gone for two years, how will I be able to support myself and the children? We will starve.”

Reb Nachum consoled her and told her that she would yet have better days. “By the way,” he said, “how much money do you need every week to carry on your household expenses?”

Wiping her eyes, she replied “Twenty rubles.”

“Here is twenty rubles,” said Reb Nachum. “Keep it as a loan, when your husband will come home he’ll repay me. Continue living in this beautiful home and continue sending your children to the same school and buy all the clothes you need. Don’t change your mode of living for even one day.”

The poor woman practically grabbed his hands as she accepted the money.

Every week Reb Nachum would visit her home and slip twenty rubles under her door. This he continued to do for two years. When the judge got out of jail he came home and was amazed to see the house as beautiful as when he left it.

“How did you manage to support yourself and live in this house?” he asked in surprise.

“That elderly charity collector, whom you threw out of the house, came around every week and he gave me twenty rubles. If it wasn’t for him, who knows what would have happened to me and the children.”

Without saying a word, the judge rushed out of the house and came to the home of Reb Nachum. With tears in his eyes he fell on his knees and begged Reb Nachum’s forgiveness for having had insulted him. He promised to repay every cent he have to his wide and he would always give to the poor, too.

Divorce And Monetary Documents

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

The pasuk from which most of the halachos of gittin (divorce) are derived is in this week’s parshah. The pasuk says: “Ki yikach ish isha… vechasav lah sefer kerisus v’nasan b’yadah veshilchah mi’beiso – If a man marries a woman … and he wrote her a bill of divorce and placed it in her hand and sent her from his house” (Devarim 24:1).

Generally, the divorce process is when a husband writes a document of divorce and gives it to his wife. One halacha that results from this pasuk is that the husband or his agent must put the get in the hand (or possession) of his wife in order for the get to be valid. But this is problematic, for the rabbanan decreed that everything that a married woman acquires belongs to her husband. How then could the husband put the get into her possession if wherever he places it will acquire for him what he already owns? Even directly placing the get in her hands will be considered as if he gave it to himself, as she essentially has no property that belongs to her. Even property that she owned prior to their marriage is considered as belonging to her husband.

The Gemara in Gittin 77b answers that there is a concept called “gitta veyada ba’im k’echad – her get and her hand come together.” This means that since, if the get would be valid, she would have a hand of her own to receive the get, we thus credit her with already having her hand in this transaction – and the get is as valid as if he put it in her hand. The Gemara says that this rule also applies in a scenario whereby the husband places the get in her property. This is so since if the transaction would materialize, the property would belong to her, and we grant the property to her in order to facilitate the transaction.

The Ketzos Hachoshen (200:5) speculates as to whether we can apply this concept to monetary transactions as well. For example, if Reuven wants to give property to Shimon as a gift, one of the ways that property is acquired is by writing a shtar (document) and giving it to the buyer or to his property – similar to a get. Could Reuven place the gift document in the property and tell Shimon that he has given him the property? Would we say or not say that his property and his gift are combined? Since in order to acquire the property, Shimon needs to own the property that contains the document. And if he would own the property (the document would be in his possession) and therefore have the property acquired for him, perhaps it is a valid transaction – just as it is by a get.

The Ketzos Hachoshen then rules that this concept does not apply to monetary transactions. He explains that it can only be applicable to the scenario of a get. This is because there is a fundamental difference between the situations when a husband must “give” his wife a get and when a monetary document must change hands in order to activate a transaction. Regarding a real estate transaction, it is not sufficient to merely give the document to the buyer; rather, the buyer must acquire the document. Regarding a get, the woman need not acquire the get document; rather, the husband must merely place it in her hand or on her property. Since she does not need to acquire the get, the Gemara says that we can apply the concept of gitta veyada ba’im k’echad. The idea is that since she does not have to acquire the document and it only has to be considered on her property, we say that it is already considered to be her property – since we grant the fact that it will become her property. However, in a scenario whereby one must acquire the document in order for the transaction to take place, we cannot advance the property together with the transaction.

From the halacha that one may write a get on something from which it is forbidden to gain benefit, the Ketzos Hachoshen proves that a woman does not have to acquire her get in order for the divorce to be valid. The Rashba’s view is that anything that is forbidden to derive benefit from is not acquirable. If a woman is indeed required to acquire her get, how can it be valid when it is written on something that is not acquirable? Additionally, a man may force his wife to receive a get min haTorah. There is no acquisition that can take place against one’s will. The Ketzos draws from here that in fact a woman does not need to acquire her get; therefore the concept of gitta veyada ba’im k’echad only applies to a get and not to monetary transactions.

Eidim Zomimim: Conspiring Witnesses

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of eidim zomimim. The Gemara in Makkos 2a explains that eidim zomimim is when one set of two or more witnesses testifies against someone, and another set of witnesses testifies that the first set of witnesses was with them and therefore could not have known their testimony. The Torah says that the later set of witnesses is believed and the testimony of the first set of witnesses is disqualified. If beis din had not yet carried out the verdict that the first set of witnesses intended to impose, the verdict is placed on the first set of witnesses. This is known as kasher zamam v’lo kasher asah. Once the verdict of the first witnesses is carried out the witnesses are not punished.

Generally, one only receives lashes for an aveirah that was performed with an action. The Gemara in Temurah 3a lists three different aveiros that are exceptions to that rule: one who does temurah (attempting to switch kedushah onto another animal); swearing falsely; and cursing one’s fellow with Hashem’s name. Tosafos asks: why did the Gemara not also mention eidim zomimim and motzi shem ra, for which one receives lashes and are also aveiros performed with speech alone and without the performance of any other action? Tosafos’s answer: regarding eidim zomimim and motzi shem ra, the Torah says explicitly that one receives lashes; therefore the Gemara did not need to write this.

The Brisker Rav offers another solution to Tosafos’s question. He suggests that the lashes that eidim zomimim and practitioners of motzi shem ra receive are different than the lashes one receives for transgressing another lav in the Torah. Generally, lashes are administered simply as a punishment for transgressing the lav. Regarding eidim zomimim and motzi shem ra, one does not receive lashes for transgressing the lav since the lav did not have an action associated with it. The lashes are administered as a result of one being an eid zomaim or a motzi shem ra. When one transgresses the lav of eidim zomimim or motzi shem ra he attains a status of an eid zomaim or motzi shem ra, and it is that status that causes him to receive lashes.

This can also be the explanation as to why the Gemara in Kesubos 33a and the Rambam (Hilchos Eidus 18:4) say that eidim zomimim do not require a warning in order to receive their punishment. The reason for this is because their punishment does not directly result from a lav. Since their punishment comes from the status that they attained, they do not need to be warned.

We originally find this concept by the parshah of ben sorer u’moreh. The Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 7:7) says that a boy’s father and mother must bring him to a beis din of three, then bring witnesses who testify that the boy stole from his father and acquired meat and wine with the money he stole, and ate the items after being warned not to. Beis din then administers lashes to the boy. If he repeats the action (stealing, eating the meat, and drinking the wine), his parents must bring him to a beis din of 23. After hearing testimony from witnesses, beis din must check to see if he has two hairs and that the hairs of his lower beard have not completely grown in. If they have grown in, he is exempt from the laws of ben sorer u’moreh. However, if he has two or more hairs and does not have a complete lower beard, and he is between the age of 13 and 13 and three months, beis din stones him.

The Kesef Mishneh asks why the Rambam did not require that beis din check the boy’s hairs before administering lashes. Why did the Rambam only require him to be checked before killing him?

Additionally, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 78b suggests that the laws of ben sorer u’moreh should apply to a minor. But how can the Gemara entertain the possibility that we punish a minor?

Reb Chaim Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav’s father, in his sefer on the Rambam, writes that the punishment of the ben sorer u’moreh does not directly result from a punishment for transgressing the lav associated with the ben sorer u’moreh. Rather, when one transgresses that lav he attains the status of a ben sorer u’moreh – and a ben sorer u’moreh receives the punishment of death. This explains how the Gemara could entertain the possibility that a minor could be liable for being a ben sorer u’moreh, since minors are only exempt from punishments of lavim. However, even a minor could be punished for being a ben sorer u’moreh. The lashes that a ben sorer u’moreh receives are also for attaining the status of a ben sorer u’moreh – and not for the lav. Yet all the requirements that must be met (i.e. his age and hairs) are only requirements for the part of his sentence whereby he receives death. The lashes are administered even if those requirements are not met. Therefore, the Rambam did not write that beis din must check him before administering lashes.

Women Celebrate Completing Daf Yomi Cycle, Asking ‘Why Not?’

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

On August 1, the biggest Jewish American event  ever took place – the completion of the daily learning of the entire Gemara, which happens once every 7 and a half years, known as Siyum HaShas – filling 90,000 seats at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. However, a significantly smaller, but just as intriguing group celebrated the event in skirts, scarves and a spirit of sisterhood in Jerusalem.

At Matan, an institute for women’s Torah study in Jerusalem, a festive meal, a class, and speeches by rabbis, teachers, families and students marked the occasion of the completion of another round of Shas -the first for the women’s group.  While the Jewish people celebrated the 12th cycle finished since the practice of studying a page of gemara a day until its completion was instituted by Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin at the First World Congress of World Agudath Israel – an umbrella organization of ultra-Orthodox Jewry – in Vienna in 1923, this was the first commemoration of its kind for women.

“Baruch Hashem, we were able to finish the Shas”, mother, grandmother and Matan founder Malke Bina told The Jewish Press. “There were 15 completers for Siyum HaShas from Matan, about 30 women from all over Israel.”

“One woman finished it for the fourth time, and she said it was the first time she had a siyum she could participate in.  I was very proud we had such a siyum where women were the main characters of the siyum and really did it with a full heart and were emotional – some of the women were crying,” Bina said.  “It was beautiful.  We finished the last shiur during our customary class time, from 8:10-9am, and families and friends came to join in the celebration”.

The years of classes have been conducted 5 days a week, not including Friday and Shabbat, when the women were obligated to study independently.

The study of the Babylonian Talmud has long been a focus of study for Jews.  But while study halls are often filled with men bent over their books at all times of the day and night, the study of Talmud by women is a new phenomenon, one which is being received with mixed reactions.

“Why not?”  Bina said in response to being asked why women should study Talmud.  “It’s an integral part of what Torah is – the written law and the oral law.  You write and you speak, why shouldn’t we be active participants in the oral law?  It’s not logical.”

“Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach told me personally  – I had women who were bright and educated – that, yes, he sees my point, and he agreed that I could learn Talmud and I could teach Talmud as long as the women doing it would gain knowledge and strengthen their commitment to Judaism, which is what I wanted to offer,” Bina said.  “Other rabbis – Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav David Auerbach – also approved.”  The late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, also wrote that women’s Talmud study should be supported and encouraged.  Yeshiva University features a graduate program in Advanced Talmudic Studies at Stern College for Women, a two-year program for women to study Talmud.

“In earlier times, when women were less educated, and socioeconomy didn’t permit, it wouldn’t fit in with what was happening in the big picture of the world.  But the world is changing,” Bina said.  “Torah also wasn’t permitted, until Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch and the Chofetz Chaim opened it up for women.  That led to the opening of the Beis Yaakov movement…  Now oral law has become available.”

“It all began with the Mishna in Sotah – a discussion between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Ben Azai as to whether you should teach women Torah,” Rabbi Mike Feuer, Educational Director of Yeshivat Sulam Yaakov in Nachlaot, told the Jewish Press.  Ben Azai said fathers were obligated to educate their daughters, while Rabbi Eliezer said it was teaching “tiflut” – empty, meaningless things.  Jewish law codifiers, Maimonides (the Rambam), Rabbi Yosef Karo (in his work the Shulchan Aruch), and later Rabbi Moshe Isserles (the Rama) agreed that daughters should not be taught the oral law, while the written Torah was permitted.

But the Jewish women have always been more educated than their non-Jewish counterparts, Feuer said, and throughout Jewish history, “where there was money left to be spent, many people did educate their daughters”. On top of Torah learning, Ashkenazi women were obligated by the Rama to learn Jewish laws pertaining to them, including laws of kashrut, Shabbat, and the laws of physical relations between men and women.  “Historically, women have also always learned midrashim”, said Feuer, referring to the body of Jewish lore surrounding the stories of the Bible.

When the Enlightenment arrived in the 18th century, women of all backgrounds became more educated and literacy rose.  “The liberalism of women’s role freed them to learn more things, and made it more threatening to traditional society that they were doing so,” said Feuer.  “Women were getting higher secular educations, so there was a real danger if their only outlet for education was coming from the secular world, so they started to serve women who wanted to learn.”

In 1917, Beis Yaakov was founded to meet the needs of the intellectual and traditionally-observant Jewish woman, excluding material not traditionally covered by Jewish women, but delving deeper into those aspects which were considered permitted.  “[Teaching women Torah] is definitely not the definition of the issur (prohibition] any longer”, Feuer said.

Moreover, the nature of the world today is such that many women no longer accept the idea of having fields of information closed off to them.  “The world has shifted”, said Feuer.  “This just needs to happen – it’s not forbidden even if it may not be recommended traditionally.”

“I see a place like Matan as trying to carve out a space of respect for women’s Torah,” Feuer said.  “The playing field on which men win each other’s respect is the Gemara, and this is the expression of old school feminism, which is that a woman ought to be able to do what a man does.“

But the study of it takes commitment, regardless of the gender of the student.  Matan’s 50 minute-a-day course, which begins at 8:10am, comes during the “crunch time” of the morning hours, when many women are busy getting their children off to school and preparing for the day, meaning women with children attending the class would have to be either extremely organized, or submit the responsibilities of that hour to someone else.

“So a woman has to figure it out in her life and see what she has available, what times she has available,” Matan’s founder Malke Bina said.  “It might not be the right solution for everybody – now we have washing machines, we can get help cleaning, she won’t be doing other reading or literature, instead of doing other things, she’ll learn Talmud.  Or maybe she’ll go at a slower pace.  But there are times available to women if they really set their minds to it.”

And though the rabbis disagree as to how much merit a woman gets from spending time in learning for learning’s sake – as she is not obligated by Torah law to do it – she stands to merit “being more energized in Torah”, according to Bina.  “It will enhance her way of viewing the world, her sense of debate and discussion, and makes her home much more of a Torah-based entity.”

Bina’s own background in gemara began after she made aliyah from Baltimore and began studies at Michlala and worked at the women’s seminary of Rabbi Chaim Brovender. “He would make himself available and gave the classes, and I was in charge of the beit midrash were women were doing the preparation, and that was a vehicle that pushed me ahead in my own studies because I had to help the women in their own studies,” Bina said.  “Afterwards, the students would come back and we would cover the points he had covered in his shiur.  Has definitely one of the first rabbis who would teach women Talmud in Israel.”

Years later, Bina began teaching a small group of women gemara in the living room of someone’s home.

“As a woman, I just wanted to make it more available… I gathered women of all ages and we formed a study group at the home of one of the women, and from that grew Matan,” Bina said.  “We had 5 women around a dining room table the first year, I taught Ketubot.  The second year Sanhedrin, by then there were 7 or 8 women.  The table got a little small, so we decided to open an institute.”  The women’s Daf Yomi began in 2005 with the same tractate as the men – Berakhot (Blessings) – and ended with Nidda, focusing on the menstrual laws.  Lessons went on every day for an hour, come rain, sleet, snow, hail, labor pains, illness, birthday parties,work, or travel.

Today, Matan has taught over 3,000 women Talmud and other subjects at 7 locations throughout Israel.

“I think there is a woman’s Torah that needs to come out to the world, which is something we need desperately, and I don’t think it’s going to come out from the gemara,” Rabbi Mike Feuer said.  “But I also know that there isn’t any other training ground, so I would say it is a useful thing for women to study the Talmud, because there’s no other playing field, but on the other hand, it’s limiting because a person with a hammer sees every problem as a nail.”

“The family unit is the basis on which society rests, and men and women need to be able to work together to make that unit function,” Feuer said.  He said he thinks women could make a major contribution to Jewish knowledge by exploring topics such as new avenues of education and perspectives on how to communicate with and teach children.  “And women’s prayer is sorely needed,” Feuer said.

“I respect the accomplishment, and I understand why women would want to learn gemara, but I think for the woman to put in the time and energy a man would, that’s either a social choice or a familial choice,” Feuer said.

Whether in daily classes or on the sidelines, women are getting closer and more familiar with the study of gemera.  At this year’s Siyum HaShas in New York, even those who accepted their more traditional role took part in the celebrations, with an estimated 20,000 women joining the MetLife festivities, looking out on the male celebrants from the stadium’s top tier.  According to a report in the New York Times, a $250,000 translucent curtain was fashioned of green woven plastic, extending for almost 2.5 miles, serving as a separation between the men and women along with traditional lines of modesty adhered to by the Hareidi public.  The curtain was opened after prayers at 8pm, allowing women to fully view and hear speakers give speeches about Torah and sing songs in English and Yiddish.

The next Siyum HaShas will be celebrated in 2020, God willing.

Parshas VaEschanan: ‘Wholeheartedly’

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Harav Matisyahu Salomon, the Lakewood Mashgiach, once  related the following personal story:

“When I was a young man I was a student in the Gateshead Yeshiva. The yeshiva had a 125 students – not large quantitatively, but qualitatively tremendous. The building was fairly small and the tables were so narrow that the volumes of Gemara overlapped each other. If a student wanted to turn the page he had to ask everyone around him to lift their Gemaras first. Yet despite it all we studied with tremendous diligence.

“One day a Dayan from London came to visit the yeshiva. Adressing the student body he read to us a page from an American journal.

“The article was written by an obviously irreligious Jew, albeit who possessed an appreciation for Jewish history. The author explained that, along with a group of journalists, he was invited on a European tour. When they arrived in England one of the places they visited was a village in Northeast England called Wallsend.

“Wallsend is an ancient village that dates back almost two millennia. When the Romans invaded and conquered England they constructed a wall to serve as a barrier to keep the mighty Scottish Picks out of England. They named it Hadrian’s Wall after the Roman Emperor. The village where the wall ended was aptly called Wallsend. Today there is nothing left of the wall except for a few moss-covered stones in the village of Wallsend. It is nothing more than a tourist attraction.

“The day the journalist arrived at Wallsend he recalled that he had yahrtzeit for his mother and he wanted to recite kaddish in her memory. When he asked the tour guide if there were any Jewish Services in the area, the guide replied that there was a school in the village of Gateshead ten miles away.

“The journalist arrived at the yeshiva in the middle of the afternoon. He had never been in a yeshiva before and the sight that greeted him was extraordinary. There were tens of young men huddled together on small benches studying, debating, and arguing with passion and vibrancy. The journalist did not comprehend anything they were saying, but he stood and watched spellbound. But then he overheard something which caught his attention. One student called out to his friend, ‘But Rabi Akiva says…!’ Those words reverberated in his ears.

“Even after they destroyed the Bais Hamikdash, the Romans understood that their job was incomplete. In order to destroy the Jewish People, they had to stop the public study and teaching of Torah. Hadrian sentenced Rabi Akiva’s to death because he taught Torah publicly. Hadrian ordered him killed in a most barbaric and heinous fashion to serve as an example of the severe consequences for teaching Torah. Yet today, centuries later, Hadrian and the Roman Empire are long gone, relegated to the history books and symbolized by a few moss-covered stones. Rabi Akiva, on the other hand, is alive and well. His teachings and legacy are still being promulgated and studied today![1]

Rabbi Salomon concluded that the story gave him so much encouragement because it serves as a powerful representation of G-d’s Promise, “But despite all this, when they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them – for I am Hashem, their G-d[2].” Rashi explains that a Jew must never think that the atrocities of exile prove that G-d no longer loves us. His love for us is boundless, and even in exile the covenant remains in full force.

All of the empires and countries that have sought to vanquish and obliterate us are gone. Yet we remain. That is the greatest sign of His love for us.

 

The verses of Shema, recited thrice daily, form the cornerstone of our faith, responsibility, and devotion to G-d. A Jew is obligated to state with conviction, “You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your “Me’od”

The Gemara[3] offers two explanations of the word me’od. The first explanation is “with all of your resources”; one must prioritize G-d over his money and physical resources. The second is that one must love G-d despite whatever “middah” (Character Trait/Divine Attribute) G-d utilizes towards him. At times G-d may act toward a person with the attribute of justice, at other times with compassion. But no matter which attribute it is one must realize that G-d does all for the good and He must love G-d for that.

Comfort And Consolation

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

We’ve all seen the ads in the papers.

Shabbos Nachamu is one of the biggest getaway weekends of the entire “frum” summer. There has long been a long-standing American tradition for people to go up to the mountains for Shabbos Nachamu.

This phenomenon makes the haftorah of parshas VaEschanan, probably the most famous haftorah of the entire year (though Shabbos Shuva comes in at a close second) with its well-known opening verse from Yeshayah (chapter 40), where Hashem instructs the Navi to “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami,” go and console, console, my nation.

So, Nachamu is one haftorah with which we are all familiar. We know that when Tisha B’Av and the entire Three Weeks mourning period is over we are to take a breather, relax a little, and get comfort.

But are we familiar with the details of the messages which the Navi wishes to convey about what true comfort, true nechama, is?

Yeshaya describes the ultimate power of Hashem and how future events will be happier for the Jewish people. This is our comfort.

Here’s a small sampling of the theme of the perek:

“Behold, the Lord, Hashem will come as a Mighty One, and His arm will rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His reparation before Him.” (40:10)

“Lift up your eyes on high, and see, who has created these? He that brings out their hosts by number, He calls them all by name; by the greatness of His might, and for that He is strong in power, not one fails [to be called by Him – Rashi] (40:26)

But true consolation for tragedy can never come in this world.

Rav Tzadok HaKohen (Tzidkas HaTzadik, os 170) explains that true consolation only occurs when the problem and suffering one experiences is shown to have never really been a tragedy. Rav Tzadok writes that this is what Dovid HaMelech means when he says in Tehillim, “Min hameitzar karasi Kah, anoni b’merchav kah.” I call out to Hashem from pain, but he answers me by widening my experiences and my view. I see that my problem was not a problem after all.

A friend of mine who lost his father at a young age to a debilitating disease once told me something unbelievable, a testament to my friend’s bitachon in Hashem. He said, “What kept me going during shiva and what keeps me going now? I keep telling myself that now my father, in Shamayim, knows why the illness happened, and what’s more, he’s happy it happened.”

When will we, in this world, experience a true nechama for all the tragedies that have taken place during Klal Yisrael’s history? When we will see, as Rav Tzadok explained, that all of our problems were never really problems at all? The Tzelach tells us when, based on Pesachim 50a.

The Gemara there says that in this world upon hearing good news, besuros tovos, we say the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv, whereas upon hearing bad news, we say the bracha of Dayan ha’emes. L’asid lavoh, in future times, says the Gemara, whether hearing good news or tragic news, we will only say one bracha: that of hatov v’hameitiv. Asks the Tzelach, in future times, when Moshiach comes, there won’t be any tragedies. What then does the Gemara mean that we will make hatov v’hameitiv on the tragic events?

The Tzelach (a commentary on Shas written by the Noda B’Yehuda) explains that the tragic events the Gemara is referring to are not ones which will take place during the days of Moshiach. Rather, we are discussing the tragedies that have occurred throughout world history. When Moshiach comes, we are going to be shown that all of the events that we saw as tragic were really all for the good. It will become clear to us that all of the besuros ra’os were actually besuros tovos. This will be the true nechama.

Presently, we make a bracha of Dayan ha’emes upon tragedies. At least, we have faith and we know there is a bracha, some blessing, some ultimate goodness involved. But in the future, it will become apparent. We will see the unity between Hashem’s din and rachamim, justice and mercy.

This is why we conclude the HaMakom tefila/bracha to mourners with b’soch she’ar aveilei Tziyon V’Yerushalayim. When will Hashem offer all mourners the true consolation and show them that all was for the best? When Moshiach comes, when all of Klal Yisrael is comforted with the return of the Beis HaMikdash—this is when all things and events will be understood, b’soch she’ar aveilei Tziyon V’Yerushalayim.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/comfort-and-consolation/2012/08/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: