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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Gemara’

Q & A: Tisha B’Av And Mourning

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Editor’s note: We interrupt our “Chazzan and Congregation” series for this timely discussion on Tisha B’Av. Part IX of “Chazzan and Congregation” will appear next week.

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Question: I was taught that due to our state of mourning on Tisha B’Av, we are not allowed to learn or discuss Torah – a topic that makes us happy and weakens our mournful state. Why, then, are we allowed to read from the Torah at Shacharit and Mincha on Tisha B’Av? Also, does the halacha of not learning apply to a regular mourner as well?

Menachem
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Yoreh De’ah 384:1 (based on Mo’ed Katan 15a) states, “During the entire seven-day period [of mourning], a mourner is forbidden to read from the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Mishnah, Gemara, halachot and aggadot – except if people need him to teach them. In such a case, it is permissible.”

We also find a similar ruling regarding Tisha B’Av, our national day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, as the Mechaber notes (Orach Chayim 554:1).

The reason behind the prohibition, according to the Shach (Orach Chayim ad loc.), is the verse in Psalms (19:9), “Pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev, mitzvat Hashem barah me’irat eynayim – The commands of Hashem are right; they gladden the heart. The commandment of Hashem is of such clarity that it enlightens the eyes.” Torah has the power of offering unique enjoyment and pleasure. A mourner in his bereavement is not supposed to enjoy this delight.

It is interesting to note that this Shach is at variance with the Mechaber who gives a different source for this halacha. He cites Mo’ed Katan 15a, where we learn that a mourner is prohibited to utter words of Torah since Hashem stated (Ezekiel 24:17), “He’anek dom – Sigh in silence.” Hashem only precluded Ezekiel from any manifestation of outward sorrow. All other people were supposed to publicly mourn, explains Rabbenu Chananel, explicating the position of our sages.

The Gemara (in Ta’anit 30a) states that all customary restrictions on an ordinary mourner during the seven days of mourning apply to the community as a whole on Tisha B’Av. However, there is a difference. On Tisha B’Av, one is prohibited from eating and drinking (Rashi s.v. “asur be’achila uvi’shetiya” explains that these two restrictions apply only to the mourning for the Temples’ destruction).

The Gemara in Ta’anit explains that one is prohibited from (washing and) anointing, donning (leather) shoes, and engaging in marital relations. One is also forbidden to read from the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, as well as halachot and aggadot. However, one is permitted to read material that he usually does not read. (Rashi s.v. “be’makom she’eino ragil likrot” explains that since this material is beyond the mourner’s familiarity and understanding, it actually causes him distress.) One may also read Kinot and Job and the elegies in Jeremiah.

Young schoolchildren – tinokot shel beit rabban – should remain idle (i.e., we do not study with them on Tisha B’Av), in accordance with the verse (Psalms 19:9), “Pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev – The commands of Hashem are right; they gladden the heart.” R. Yehuda disagrees and states that the learning restrictions apply even to material that one is unfamiliar with. The only exceptions to the no-learning rule, he maintains, are Job, Kinot, and the elegies in Jeremiah.

In any event, we see that both verses apply: the verse from Ezekiel as well as the verse from Psalms.

Regarding the reading of the Torah in shul on Tisha B’Av during Shacharit and Mincha, the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 554:4) writes as follows: “One is permitted to read the complete order of the day [i.e., the order of the daily prayer service] as well as the portion of the korbanot, the Mishnah of Ezehu Mekoman (Tractate Zevachim, chapter 5) and the midrash of Rabbi Yishmael (Beraita, in Sifra). (The latter three constitute the portion of tefillah referred to collectively as korbanot.)

The Rema adds that one is allowed to review the parshah on Tisha B’Av. However, both the Ba’er Heiteiv and Mishna Berurah (ad loc.) note that this applies only to the chazzan, who reads the Torah publicly for the congregation. His reading and advance preparation are obviously considered tzorech ha’tzibbur (a public need).

The Case for Kosher Lab-Grown Meat

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

According to a recent report, real progress is being made to generate lab grown meat that tastes as good as the real thing without all the cruelty, ghastly side effects, expense and waste of the present worldwide meat industry.

Dr Mark Post, whose lab at the University of Maastricht is experimenting with literally growing meat in Petri dishes, has told the Guardian: “We could be seeing a future where huge quantities of high-quality meat are gown in vats, incorporating not only muscle fibers but layers of real fat and even synthetic bone. In 25 years real meat will come in a packet labeled, ‘An animal has suffered in the production of this product’ and it will carry a big eco tax. I think in 50-60 years it may be forbidden to grow meat from livestock.”

Post is cited in a Grist article as stating something which should be of interest to us Kashrut observers:

“An animal does need to be killed to kick off the in-vitro process, but in theory, a single specimen could provide the seed material for hundreds of tons of meat.”

So, providing that the original specimen was kosher, isn’t this something we Orthodox Jews should welcome?

No one can say it is not acceptable. After all the Gemara tells us that R. Hanina and R. Oshaia spent every Shabbat evening studying the Book of Creation and as a result they were able to create a third-grown calf (comments: or a three year old, or a fat one) and ate it (Sanhedrin 65b).

So, if you could conjure up a living being from a Kabbalistic source book, then why not from a lab? Not only that, but given the halacha, shechita itself would not be necessary, because, purely following the letter of the law, if you kill a cow properly and then out comes a calf, you don’t need any further shechita to make it kosher.

Yet you can bet there will be opposition. Whenever anything threatens the Kosher Meat trade the Rabbis and Dayanim who live by it automatically cry “foul” because they will lose a major source of income. That also explains why those few rabbis who became vegetarians, like the Kamenitzer Maggid, or supported vegetarianism in principle, like Rav Kook, were excoriated and virtually written out of Haredi history.

But the point can be made that, since the Gemara says that the best way to celebrate Shabbatot and Chagim is with meat and wine, it would, it seems, be an offense against tradition to be a teetotal vegetarian – even if no one could point to an actually halacha against either.

Unlike my brother David, I am not a complete vegetarian, but I welcome the possibility of scrapping the meat trade. Indeed, I hope that when Elijah comes to earth he will tell us that in the Third Temple there will only be vegetarian offerings. I find the current situation unacceptable. We spend more money raising one beef animal than would feed an Indian village for a month. Most processes are offensive: the ghastly way most animals bred for slaughter are treated, the awful sights and smells hidden from consumers, the amounts of chemicals fed into animals reared for human consumption, not to mention the dangers of our modern diets. I am not opposed to eating protein but I’d be delighted if there were some way of doing it without subjecting animals to human cruelty.

Mind you, this is not an attack on Shechita. I have seen virtually all officially sanctioned methods of slaughter and I am utterly convinced that of all of them, Shechita, when carried out correctly, is the least painful and disturbing. But as Temple Grandin has shown emphatically, so much of the awfulness of slaughter has to do with the lead up, the corralling, the forcing of animals towards the fate they can smell and hear, not to mention so much cruelty involved in the rearing, the transportation and the preparatory processes of meat production. If only we could have the tasty protein without all that.

Let us assume that all the unemployed Shochatim could be trained to work in other areas of the kosher trade. Why do I still envisage opposition? One reason is simply the reluctance to countenance anything new or to allow science or modern values to challenge ancient traditions. A new concept of religious correctness is that ‘Masorah,’ the way we have always done things, trumps innovation. But there is in fact another issue and it is the tension that exists between the letter of halacha and the spirit.

This is not of course a halachic responsum, but it is conceptual analysis of why in our tradition there is an imperative to consider the careful treatment of animals and why this new development could be very significant and certainly should be welcomed.

The Torah commands us to sacrifice and the cohanim to eat meat. But it is also full of laws concerning animals: not killing a cow and its calf on the same day, not taking a fledgling or egg in front of the mother, not ploughing an ox with an ass together, not muzzling an ox while it threshes.

The rabbis are divided in their rationalizations. Some of course refuse to accept the idea of explanations altogether and emphasize only the significance of an act of obedience to a higher power. Some do indeed say it shows Divine mercy to creatures as a sign of greater mercy towards humans, and others do actually argue that the purpose of showing mercy to animals is to imitate Divine qualities of caring. Neither do I need to rehearse the laws of cruelty to animals, Tzaar Baaley Chayim and the Noachide Laws of “Eiver Min HaChay,” not taking a limb from a living animal. And yet too often one hears these ideas dismissed as figments of non-Jewish moral relativism. “The Nazis were kind to animals” or “Englishmen prefer dogs and horses to humans.”

There is indeed a massive challenge to reconcile caring for animals with the meat trade. And this where Meta Halacha plays an important part. Humans do indeed come first. But that does not mean we should not be concerned with animal welfare. Yet somewhere along the march of history we have lost the thread. Just look at how the custom of Shlogging Kapporas causes such cruelty and no one seems to care.

Take these two narratives about Rebbi Yehudah Hanassi in Bava Metzia 85a
Why did he suffer in life? A calf was being taken to the slaughter. It broke away, hid his head under Rabbi’s skirts, and began to howl. “Go,” he said “because you were created for this.”’ Then they said (on High) “Since he has no pity, let us make him suffer.”’

And why did his suffering end? One day Rabbi’s maidservant was sweeping the house; [seeing] some young weasels lying there, she was about to kill them. He said to her “Let them be, for it is written “ He extends his mercy to all of his creation.” Then they said “‘Since he is compassionate, let us be compassionate to him.”

You could not have a more explicit expression of the significance of the issue. And if this new method can in fact (and it still has some ways to go) change the way we get our meat, then all I can say Yishar Co’ach and Tavoh aleyhem beracha.

Rov Or Chazakah: Which Is Better?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The beginning of this week’s parshah discusses the halachos of a parah adumah (red heifer). The red cow is shechted and burnt, and its ashes are sprinkled on one who is tamei meis. The individual thereby becomes pure.

The Gemara in Chullin 11a asks: Where in the Torah is the source for the halacha that one may follow a majority found in nature or tendencies (ruba d’lessa kaman). One answer that the Gemara suggests is that it is derived from the parah adumah. The Gemara explains that the pasuk says, “veshachat vesaraf – and you shall slaughter and burn it,” from which we learn that just as a cow must be whole and intact when it is slaughtered, so too the cow must be whole and intact when it is burnt. The Gemara says that since the Torah refers to the parah adumah as a chatas, it must not be a traifa. The Gemara asks: How can we be certain that the cow is not a traifa, since if it must be intact we cannot check its insides to determine whether it is a traifa. This is proof that the Torah intended for us to rely on the fact that the majority of cows are not traifes.

Tosafos (Chullin 11a, d”h minah) quotes from the ba’alei Tosafos Rabbeinu Chaim that we learn from parah adumah another halacha concerning following a majority (rov). He says that we draw from this that in a situation where there is a rov and a chazakah that states the opposite, we follow the rov. This is known as ruba v’chazakah, ruba adif. We see this because there is a chazakah here that stands against the rov, yet the Gemara says we follow the rov. The chazakah is that the individual was certainly tamei prior to the sprinkling of the ashes, but now a doubt arises as to whether the cow was a traifa and fit to be a parah adumah. The chazakah of the person indicates that he should remain in his current status, namely to remain tamei. However, since there is a rov that says that the animal is not a traifa, we follow the rov – and the person is tahor.

Tosafos uses the opinion of Rabbeinu Chaim to answer the following question (after a quick review) that he has on the Gemara: The Gemara asked for the Torah source on the issue of following a rov. Tosafos asks why the Gemara did not derive this from the pasuk that teaches us that we may follow a chazakah? Since ruba v’chazakah, ruba adif indicates that a rov is better than a chazakah we certainly may follow a rov. Tosafos at first answers that according to one opinion in the Gemara, we do not obtain the halacha that we may follow a chazakah from a pasuk. So in his view the Gemara is asking what the source is for the halacha that we may follow a rov.

Tosafos then says that according to Rabbeinu Chaim the question does not apply. This is because according to Rabbeinu Chaim we do not logically know that a rov is better than a chazakah; rather, we only know it after we learn from the pasuk that we can follow a rov. Therefore the Gemara is justified when asking what the source for following a rov is, even if we know the source for the halacha that we may follow a chazakah. This is so because we do not know that a rov is better than a chazakah until we know that we can follow a rov.

It seems clear to me that the two answers in Tosafos disagree as to whether the rule that we follow a rov over a chazakah is based on logic or if it is a divine decree that exists out of logic. The explanation in logic as to why we would follow a rov over a chazakah is because the two halachos work entirely differently. A rov is a tool that can be used to clarify the unknown. For example, in the case of whether the animal is a traifa, the rov can clarify that it is not a traifa. Chazakah, on the other hand, is not a clarifying tool but rather states that things must remain in place until we know for certain that they have changed. The Torah only said that we should rely on a chazakah when we do not know how to determine the unknown. But where a clarifying tool is available, i.e. a rov, we know the unknown and have no need to remain in the status quo. This is what Tosafos held in his question and first answer, when he said that the Gemara is only asking based on the view of the one who said that there is no pasuk from which we derive the halacha that we may follow a chazakah. Tosafos held that this logic dictates that a rov is better; thus if there was a pasuk to teach us that we may follow a chazakah, we would then be able to conclude that we can certainly follow a rov.

Talmudic, Tenacious, Tough-Minded: An Interview With Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is quite the accomplished personality. The author of over 60 books, Rabbi Steinsaltz has also translated the entire Talmud into Hebrew, a project he started in 1965 at the age of 28 and took 45 years to complete. To date, over two million copies of the Steinsaltz Talmud – in Hebrew, English, French, and Russian – have been sold. No wonder Time magazine once dubbed him a “once-in-a-millennium scholar.”

Last month, Rabbi Steinsaltz’s career hit another high as Koren Publishers Jerusalem released the first volume of its English translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud. From 1989-1999, Random House published four masechtot of the Steinsaltz Talmud in English, but then stopped. Koren Publishers has now stepped into the breach.

The new English edition features color illustrations, vowelized and punctuated Gemara pages, and Koren’s signature aesthetic touch. According to Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the project’s editor-in-chief, the entire set of 41 volumes is scheduled to be published within the next four years. A Steinsaltz Talmud iPad app will also be available soon.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Steinsaltz about the new translation, his background, and various controversies that have surrounded him and his work.

The Jewish Press: Why should someone buy the Steinsaltz Talmud over ArtScroll’s immensely popular Shas?

Rabbi Steinsaltz: Look, it’s not the same. I would put it in the following way: When you learn from my Gemara, I hope that you get a kick to learn further, and that you don’t feel that you know everything and that all the problems are answered.

Does the ArtScroll Shas not do that as well?

I think ArtScroll gives too much in a way. Everything is in there. I’m trying to have it in a way that you study and want more.

Basically I want, not just that you will look at the Gemara, but that you will get involved in it. You cannot learn Gemara completely passively. You have to be a participant.

There are two parts to what Hillel HaZaken said about kol haTorah kulah. One part is always quoted – “What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.” But the other part – “And all the rest go and learn” – is no less important.

I hope to have people who will learn and say, “We want to know more, we have more questions.”

You started translating Shas into Hebrew at the age of 28. What led you to embark on this enormous project and what gave you the confidence that you’d be able to do it?

For the first part of the question, I will just tell you it’s what makes people want to climb Mount Everest – the mountain is there, the challenge is there, and the need is there. So you do it.

[In terms of being able to translate Shas], I thought at the time, and other people thought as well, that I was able to do it. Hopefully I didn’t disappoint.

Were you scared of embarking on such a major project at such a young age?

Well, I’m not a scared person – not of bullets and not of ideas.

But why assume such a major undertaking?

Because the Talmud is the central pillar of Judaism, and if the central pillar is not at hand for most people, they miss something very important. The Talmud was, in so many ways, a closed book for many people – so I tried to open it.

In the original editions of the Steinsaltz Talmud, you changed the traditional look – the tzuras hadaf – of the pages, for which you were heavily criticized. For the new edition of the Hebrew and English Steinsaltz Talmud, however, you restored the old look. Why did you originally change it and why did you restore it?

Look, in the beginning, it just couldn’t be done. All the additional material couldn’t be put on the old pages. I tried twenty-odd formats, and found out that if I used the traditional page, it would be at least two and a half times as big, which wouldn’t be usable. So the question is: What do you do – duplicate the page as ArtScroll did or cut it?

What I originally did in my Hebrew Gemaras was cut it. About 150 years ago in Poland, an edition with exactly the same kind of half pages was published. They made notes about why this was needed and [said] there was nothing holy about the other format. The traditional page is after all just a page. Even sifrei Torah can be written in different ways; surely Gemaras can be done differently too.

Gaza’s Greatness And Shimshon’s Struggles

Monday, June 4th, 2012

We often sit through the haftorah without understanding what it is all about. “Why do we read the haftorah anyway?” we sometimes think. Krias HaTorah of the parsha makes sense—we read a portion of the Chumash each week so that over the course of the year we have completed the entire Torah. But what is the goal of reading the haftorah? We know that it is not so we can finish Navi on some kind of schedule. What then is the purpose of the haftorah?

The Levush (284:1) writes that Chazal enacted the obligation to read the haftorah during the time of Antiyochus who forbade reading the Torah in public. As he had not forbidden them from reading the Navi, Chazal instituting reading a portion of the Navi which related to that week’s parsha. They divided it into seven aliyos, like Krias HaTorah, so that Jews would study some aspect of Torah in public and the practice of reading from the Torah should not be totally forgotten. Even after Antiyochus’s decree was annulled, Chazal maintained the practice.

Sefer HaPardes writes that Jews used to learn Chumash and Navi immediately after davening every day, but poverty and people’s work schedules kept them from being able to devote so much time to learning. As a result the study of Navi was neglected. On Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim, when there is more time, Chazal instituted that Navi be studied after the reading of the Chumash. Though Sefer HaPardes does not mention the importance of a link to the parsha, it would seem that in this way people would study it with greater attention and interest.

What then is the goal of the haftorah? According to the Levush and Sefer HaPardes, the purpose is for us to become familiar with the insights and themes contained in Navi. Unfortunately, we don’t always get the opportunity to study and understand the haftorah properly even when we follow the reading closely. Thus, this column is meant to help us understand, learn, and know Navi- and not merely superficially read or listen to the reading.

Lessons The haftorah of Parshas Naso relates the story of the birth of Shimshon the nazir, which obviously relates to the halachos of nazir mentioned in the parsha.

Almost the entire Shimshon story occurs in the area of Eretz Yisrael called Aza, now known as Gaza.

The Tzitz Eliezer (Volume 7, siman 48, perek 12) discusses whether Gaza is including in the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael and is surprised that anyone would have any doubts. He cites a Gemara in Shabbos (145b) where it is taken for granted that Gaza is part of Eretz Yisrael.

“Rav Chiya bar Abba said to Rav Assi, ‘Why are the birds in Bavel fatter [than the ones in Israel]? Rav Assi replied, ‘Come to the desert in Gaza and I’ll show you how fat they are!’”

Rashi explains that the Gemara is clearly affirming Gaza’s status as part of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, says the Tzitz Eliezer, the halachos of teruma, maaser, shemita and all other agricultural mitzvos relate to Gaza. The atonement one gets by being buried in Eretz Yisrael applies to Gaza, as does the mitzvah of yishuv ha’Aretz.

The Arvei Nachal (Parshas Shelach 26b) explains that successfully conquering the land of Israel does not depend on brute strength or military prowess. Rather, when Hashem created the world, he looked to the Torah as His blueprint. As the Zohar says, “Histakel b’Oraysa u’bara alma.” This means that every single part of this earth was created through an aspect of Torah. In order to take complete and permanent possession over any land, one must first study, relate to, and master the Torah which is specifically tied to that portion of land.

Although this concept is true about the entire world, Eretz Yisrael was given a much more powerful connection to the Torah. Given that the Torah in its highest form can be observed only there, every inch of Eretz Yisrael is securely tied to a specific section of Torah. One needs to master that section of Torah in order to conquer that part of Eretz Yisrael.

In this light, let us discuss what parts of Torah that Gaza profoundly relates to and how Shimshon’s struggles focused on Gaza’s role in Torah.

How To Make Good Memories: Remembering The Critical Parts Of Our Lives

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Have you noticed that we seem to have preferential memory for the unpleasant things that happen to us? Try as we might to provide our children with good experiences and positive memories, it is the memories that evoke fear, pain, sadness, etc. seem to be the ones that stand out. I lived in Atlanta for six years, years of good, happy and fun times, yet the memory that stands out is my experience with chicken pox. A few years ago, my family had an amazing time at a Shabbaton in a luxurious hotel. The food, swimming, activities, and beautiful hotel room with a view of the Jersey shore, were part of a beautiful experience. Yet when we returned to the same room in the same hotel this year, they identified the room with their most striking memory of the previous experience—this was the room that their brother got (slightly) injured in while playing on the porch. Three days of sheer enjoyment, yet their recollection was of the mild injury.

The preference for the unpleasant memory makes it particularly important for parents to use positive words when reprimanding their children. We can have a long, seemingly productive conversation about working harder at school, and then we slip and use a derogatory term. The result? The negative slip of the tongue is all the child will remember from the conversation. Instead of taking the conversation as a lesson in change, the child will think his parents think that he is stupid and can’t succeed. That one word will be the only memory he or she will take from the lengthy conversation. Feedback is often important, but it should be wrapped in a nice box and topped with a bow. If we want to convince others to change and grow, it must be done in a way that will be accepted and hopefully appreciated.

The verse in Devarim (25:3) relates to the punishment of lashes, “Forty stripes he may give him, he shall not exceed; lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then your brother should be dishonored before your eyes.” The verse seems to be repetitive, giving us two forms of warning to refrain from administering too many lashes. Some explain that the first warning is for the judges, a reminder to refrain from giving too many lashes, while the second warning is for parents and teachers; our rebuke of children should be done softly, not in a harsh manner and laced with anger.

The Steipler Gaon z”tl was once asked about disciplining children, and he responded that discipline must be administered according to the nature of the child. Not only should the punishment be appropriate for the “crime,” but our manner of discipline and choice of words must match the personality of the child. For example, one must be more careful with a sensitive child. The Steipler Gaon quoted the Vilna Gaon as saying that discipline which emerges from anger is always prohibited. If our goal is to evoke change in the child, then we must leave him with the impression that we love him and that it is worthwhile to listen and change.

Ironically, as adults we are fully aware of the difficulty of changing ourselves—our eating habits, smoking habits, behavior and relationship patterns—yet we expect children to change instantly just because we ask them to! We must realize that children also need help to change their habits and traits, and they may need support to calm themselves from a tantrum (more than telling them to “stop crying”!).

It is important for children to see that the purpose of rebuke or punishment is for self-improvement and to teach them a lesson, not as revenge or as an outgrowth of the parents’ anger. It is explained in halacha that rebuke must be given out of love; the person hearing the rebuke must hear words of love, and the person receiving the rebuke must feel the love that you have from them.

I recently heard a stirring eulogy delivered by a son for his father. From his father’s method of discipline, he knew that his father loved and cared for him. After misbehaving, children are often sent to a “time-out” location until they were ready to apologize or do teshuva. In this particular home, the pantry in the kitchen was the time-out location where he was sent to contemplate his misdeeds. When he was “exiled” to the pantry, his father would join him! He sat next to him, put his arm around him, and told him that, as his father, it was his responsibility to teach him to behave. The father made the son feel that he loved him and communicated the feeling that if the son misbehaves, the father was also responsible and therefore must join him in his punishment exile, until they both together were able to rectify the situation. They waited together in the pantry until the lesson was learned, whereupon they would join the family activities. Thus, the son clearly saw that his father’s rebuke stemmed from love, and the direct result of the punishment was a stronger feeling of his father’s love for him.

‘The Luckiest Man’

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Throughout their forty years in the desert, the Jewish nation had to be prepared to travel at a moment’s notice. At any time the Divine clouds could suddenly rise and proceed further into the desert. As soon as that occurred the entire nation had to immediately dismantle their camps, gather their children and belongings, and begin to travel in perfect formation along with their tribe.

The Leviim had the added responsibility of dismantling the Mishkan and preparing it for travel. The tribal leaders donated wagons and oxen to the Mishkan which Moshe apportioned to two of the Levite families – Gershon and Merori – to use for the transportation of the Mishkan and its vessels. The third Levite family however – the prestigious family of Kehas – were not given any wagons. The Torah explains, “And to the sons of Kehas he did not give; since the sacred service was upon them, they carried it upon the shoulder.” Since they were responsible for the Aron Hakodesh and the other holiest vessels it was not proper for those vessels to be placed in wagons. Rather, they were carried directly, upon their shoulders.

After Bnei Yisrael had been settled in Eretz Yisroel for a few hundred years, during the time of Eli Kohen Gadol, the Aron Hakodesh was captured by the Plishtim. They held it for a short time, and then sent it back to Israel. For many years after its return the Aron remained in Kiryas Yearim, in the home of a man named Avinadav.

When David HaMelech conquered Yerushalayim he was determined to bring the Aron home. He arranged for it to be transported in a wagon pulled by oxen. Uzzah, the son of Avinadav walked alongside the wagon. At one point, when the Aron appeared to be falling, Uzzah jumped in to straighten it. It was deemed an affront for him to even entertain the notion that the Aron could fall because “the Aron carried those who (appeared to) carry it”. Because of that act Uzzah was immediately killed.

The Gemara asks what wrong David HaMelech had committed that he was indirectly responsible for Uzzah’s death. The Gemara explains that it was retribution for his saying , “Your statutes were music to me in the house of pilgrimage.” It was unbefitting for David HaMelech to refer to the words of Torah as a song. As punishment he was made to forget a law blatantly recorded in the Torah. The verse says that the Children of Kehas were not given wagons because they carried the Aron on their shoulders. Yet David HaMelech placed the Aron Hakodesh on a wagon instead of having it carried upon Uzzah’s shoulders.

HaRav Yonasan Eibeshitz, zt’l explains that the prohibition to place the Aron Hakodesh in a wagon symbolizes that Torah must be studied with diligence and toil. One must exert himself physically and emotionally to attain a true level of Torah acumen. He cannot “set it down comfortably before him as he walks leisurely.” Rather, he must “carry it upon his shoulders,” bearing its full weight with devotion and love.

When David compared Torah to music, he unwittingly implied that adherence to Torah is effortless and can be mastered with nonchalance, much as one sings an enjoyable song. To demonstrate David’s fallacy G-d caused him to forget the law which symbolizes the opposite of his words. Torah indeed requires effort because one can easily forget it and be the cause of serious transgression, as David forgot a simple law.

Rav Elazar Shach zt’l asked that if, in fact, David erred when he referred to Torah as music, why is that verse included in the book of Tehillim?

Rav Shach explained that comparing Torah to music/song reflects two different ideas: First, it suggests that observing G-d’s mitzvos are as simple and natural as melodious music. That is simply not true as it is often challenging to perform mitzvos, and there are often many impediments that one must contend with.

Second, the spiritual pleasure and ultimate reward one experiences through Torah study is so great that no earthly pleasure can measure against it. One who engages in deep sincere Torah study enjoys a feeling of fulfillment and joy that cannot be expressed in words.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-luckiest-man/2012/05/24/

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