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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Yaakov Klass’

Q & A: Shemini Atzeret

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Question: I seem to see a lack of uniformity regarding the mitzvah of sukkah on Shemini Atzeret. What is the proper procedure to follow?

Menachem
Via e-mail

Answer: The question revolves around the festival status of Shemini Atzeret. This is not to say that there is a question as to whether Shemini Atzeret is a festival. Rather, is Shemini Atzeret, which immediately follows the last day of the festival of Sukkot [Hoshana Rabbah], part and parcel of that festival, or is it a separate festival to itself? We find three references to Shemini Atzeret in the Torah: two explicit ones and one hinted at that we derive by way of exegesis. The first reference is in Parashat Emor (Leviticus 23:36): “…bayom ha’shemini mikra kodesh yi’h’yeh lachem…– …on the eighth day there shall be a holy convocation for you….” The second reference is in Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 29:35): “Bayom haShemini Atzeret tihyeh lachem kol melechet avodah lo ta’asu – The eighth day shall be a restriction for you; you shall not do any laborious work.” The third reference is by way of a hint in Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 16:15): “Shiv’at yamim tachog la’Shem Elokecha …ve’hayita ach sameach – A seven day period shall you celebrate before the L-rd your G-d …and you will be completely joyous.” Rashi cites the gemara (Sukkah 48a) that this is a reference to Shemini Atzeret. This last verse seems to single out Shemini Atzeret as a separate festival in that it clearly states, “seven days shall you celebrate” – meaning that if there is any celebration on the eighth day, it should be deemed a separate festival.

Yet the very following verse (Deuteronomy 16:16) seems to be saying otherwise: “Shalosh pa’amim ba’shanah ye’ra’eh kol zechurecha et penei Hashem Elokecha ba’makom asher yivchar, b’chag hamatzot, u’b’chag ha’shavuot u’bchag ha’sukkot… – Three times a year shall all your males appear before the L-rd, your G-d, in the place that He will choose [Jerusalem]: on the festival of Matzot, the festival of Shavuot and the festival of Sukkot….” Note that there are only three times a year to appear – the three festivals enumerated in this passage. Obviously, then, it would seem that Shemini Atzeret is part and parcel of Sukkot.

Now, regarding the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah, the Torah clearly tells us in Parashat Emor (Leviticus 23:42): “Basukkot teshvu shiv’at yamim kol ha’ezrach b’yisrael yeshvu ba’sukkot – You shall dwell in sukkot for a seven day period, every native in Israel [to include both a Jew from birth and a convert] shall dwell in sukkot.” The Torah then goes on to give us the basic reason for the commandment to sit – or rather, to dwell – in the sukkah. As stated (Ibid. 23:43), it is “Lema’an yed’u doroteichem ki vasukkot hoshavti et Bnei Yisrael be’hotzi’i otam me’eretz Mitzrayim, Ani Hashem Elokeichem – So that your [future] generations will know that I made the Children of Israel dwell in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt, I am the L-rd, your G-d.”

We thus see that the command to dwell in the sukkah excludes this last day. Yet we, in the Diaspora, should view Sukkot and this last day no different from Pesach and its last day, where it is clear that due to safek yom [the doubtful day] we abstain from all melachah [prohibited labor] and abstain from eating chametz as well [even though it is doubtful whether this day is even Yom Tov at all].

The answer lies in the one difference: Pesach and its last day, Shemini safek shevii (the eighth day which may be the seventh day), both have the same name – Chag HaMatzot, the Biblical name for Pesach. But Sukkot and its last day, Shemini Atzeret, each have a different name.

This is basically the discussion of the gemara (Sukkah 46b-47a): though the eighth day is doubtful and may be the seventh day, since it flies in the face of all the verses that relate to this last of the three festivals – Sukkot / Shemini Atzeret – our sages instituted that we indeed dwell in the sukkah, however we do not recite its blessing. The minhag is to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret, but that the last meal in the sukkah is the seudat shacharit [i.e.,the daytime meal] and then to depart the sukkah. Thereafter, any food one wishes to eat for the remainder of the day, one eats in the house. Others have a minhag not to eat in the sukkah at night – the eve of Shemini Atzeret – but make Kiddush in the sukkah in the morning, and then continue their meal inside the house. However, on the following day, Simchat Torah, which shares the same “name” Shemini Atzeret, as the previous day, we surely do not eat in the sukkah since it is teshi’i safek shemini – the ninth [day] which may be the eighth [day].

My Machberes

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

This week’s column written with Rabbi Yaakov Klass.

The Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas

The Torah commands that six events be remembered always. Consequently, some halachic authorities maintain that the biblical verses detailing those commandments be recited daily. They are the remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt (Devarim, Re’eh 16:3); the remembrance of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai (Devarim, Va’eschanan 4:9-10); the remembrance of Amalek’s attack (Devarim, Ki Seitzei 25:17-19); the remembrance of the golden calf (Devarim, Eikev 9:7); the remembrance of Miriam (Devarim, Ki Seitzei 24:9); and the remembrance of Shabbos (Shemos, Yisro 20:8).

Those who took part last week in the 5772-2012 Siyum Daf Yomi at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will forever remember it as corresponding to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

MetLife has a seating capacity of 82,500, making it the 30th largest stadium in the world and the single largest in the greater metropolitan New York City area. More than 10,000 seats were added by filling the playing field with folding chairs, making for a total of almost 93,000 seats, all of which were sold.

Despite inclement weather, tens of thousands of Jews converged on East Rutherford. The New York City and New Jersey public transit systems were crowded with people traveling to MetLife. Roadways, highways, bridges and tunnels were teeming with vehicles of every description carrying observant Jews to the Siyum. Thousands flew in from cities near and far (from Mexico, California, Toronto, Montreal, Florida, etc.) to take part in the special event.

Awe is the only word that can describe one’s feelings in seeing the huge electronic SIYUM HASHAS New Jersey highway directional signs, indicating the enormity of the event. Traffic stops gave motorists and passengers an opportunity to look around and see so many others heading in the same direction with the same feeling of wonderment. Well before the scheduled opening, large crowds, impervious to the rain, had already gathered to wait for the earliest possible access.

Many brought along their Gemaras. Some had two Gemaras – the final tractate of Shas and the first – to finish and to re-begin. Thousands brought binoculars in order to have a close-up view of the great Torah leaders on hand.

When the doors to the Siyum opened Wednesday afternoon, Av 13 (August 1), everyone underwent a thorough security screening. Once inside, people rushed to acquire HaSiyum, the oversized booklet that was distributed, as well as HaSiyum Jr. for younger participants.

Fully armed with the coffee table-sized HaSiyum journal, the assembled proceeded to their designated seats. Every seat, even the most inexpensive, offered full views by means of multiple huge digital overhead screens. Of course, the more expensive seats were situated closer to the dais and to the venerated rabbis, rosh yeshivas, and chassidishe rebbes. The HaSiyum journal included the final and first pages of the Talmud and the entire closing Hadran formula, (all courtesy of the Mesorah Heritage Foundation of ArtScroll Publications). It also contained Minchah, Maariv, and chapters of Tehillim that were recited.

Right before 7 p.m., the official starting time, an announcement was made advising that due to the weather, traffic, and transit conditions, tens of thousands had not yet arrived and that Minchah was being postponed until 7:15. But right before 7:15 the same announcement was made, this time deferring Minchahto 7:30. As people filed into their seats, open umbrellas were closed and towels were used to mop up soggy seats. Miraculously, the rains greatly diminished at 7:30 and the weather for the rest of the evening was quite pleasant.

* * * * *

Once settled in, the huge crowd davened Minchah, led by Rabbi Yaakov Levovitz. The tefillah was awe-inspiring, leaving everyone wondering how many – if any – times in recent history so many people had prayed together in one group.

The program included a series of inspirational speakers including Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha Lakewood, who formally closed the 12th cycle of study; RabbiYissocher Frand, Rosh Yeshiva Ner Yisroel Baltimore, who advised Daf Yomi beginners to have a plan to complete the Daf Yomi study cycle (at the last Siyum Rabbi Frand memorably declared that the study of Daf Yomi is “never too little, never too late, and never enough”); and Rabbi Gedalya Weinberger, chairman of the Daf Yomi Commission, who drew sustained enthusiastic applause in beginning his address proclaiming “Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov!

Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part IV)

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shmoneh Esreh out loud so that people who may not know how to daven can fulfill their obligation to daven with the chazzan’s repetition. What, however, should the chazzan do when he reaches Kedushah and Modim? I hear some chazzanim say every word of Kedushah out loud and some only say the last part of the middle two phrases out loud. As far as the congregation is concerned, I hear some congregants say every word of Kedushah and some say only the last part. Finally, some chazzanim and congregants say Modim during chazaras hashatz out loud and some say it quietly. What is the source for these various practices?
A Devoted Reader
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 124:1) explains that a chazzan repeats Shmoneh Esreh out loud to fulfill the prayer obligation of those who can’t pray on their own (see Rosh Hashana 33b-34a).

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 125:1) states that congregants should not recite Nakdishach [Nekadesh] together with the chazzan; rather they should remain silent and concentrate on the chazzan’s recitation until he finishes that portion, at which point they should say, “Kadosh, kadosh…” The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk1) explains that congregants should remain quiet because the chazzan is their messenger, and if they say Nakdishach along with him, he no longer appears as their messenger.

In Sefer Abudarham Hashalem (p. 73-74), Rabbi David Abudarham (1258-1295) states that Nakdishach [Nekadesh] and the like [Keter – Na’aritzach] are devarim she’b’kedushah (matters involving sanctifying Hashem) and require a quorum for recital while the kedushah of Yotzer Ohr and U’va Letziyyon may be said without a quorum. He confirms this as being noted in siddurim of his time. He explains that the latter kedushot refute those who deny G-d’s presence in the world by relating how all creation praises Him. The former kedushot are joint offers of praise with the angels (Rabbi Emden in his Siddur Beit Yaakov).

* * * Rabbi Yaakov Emden notes that kedushah is always a responsive recital as it is not proper to say kedushah together with the chazzan. Rather, one should concentrate in silence on what the chazzan is saying. Rabbi Emden’s discussion refers to Nakdishach/Nekadesh of Shacharit and Minchah, or Keter/Na’aritzcha of Musaf. The congregation answers and says aloud, together with the chazzan, the phrases “Kadosh kadosh…,” “Baruch kevod,” and “Yimloch.” This means that not only do the congregants not say Nakdishach/Nekadesh, but they also omit “Le’umatam meshabchim…” and “U’vedivrei Kodeshecha…” as these are the chazzan’s call to the congregation. Indeed, if one studies the text of this prayer, the above is crystal clear.

We see, however, that many do not follow this procedure. While they may be incorrect, if a great number of people do so, we may have to look away, especially if the practice is widespread (Berachot 45a).

There is a notable exception to the above outlined procedure. The Rema (Orach Chayim 124:2) explains that sometimes people fear that if the congregation first says the silent Amidah followed by chazarat hashatz, the congregation will miss z’man tefillah (the proper time for davening). In such a case, the congregation should immediately recite along with the chazzan, word for word (but not louder than him), until after Kedushah. The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk9) is very emphatic that the congregants should also say “Ledor vador” word for word together with the chazzan in such circumstances (for those congregations that have these words printed in their siddurim).

The Rema notes that even in this scenario, at least one person (who already prayed) should answer “Amen” to the chazzan’s blessings. The reason for this is that the recital of “Amen” substantiates the shelichut of the chazzan as a messenger of the congregation, discharging its requirement of tefillah b’tzibbur.

The congregants reciting along with the chazzan, however, cannot say “Amen” because we have a rule that one may not answer “Amen” to one’s own blessings (Mechaber, Orach Chayim 215:1 based on Berachot 45b; cf. Jerusalem Talmud Yevamot 12:1). (There is one blessing which one may answer oneself and that is “Boneh Yerushalayim” in the Grace after Meals. Rashi [Berachot 45a s.v. “Ha b’boneh Yerushalayim”] explains that “Boneh Yerushalayim” is bentching’s last biblically required blessing. Saying “Amen” distinguishes it “Tov U’maitiv” which is only rabbinically required.)

Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part I)

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shmoneh Esreh out loud so that people who may not know how to daven can fulfill their obligation to daven with the chazzan’s repetition. What, however, should the chazzan do when he reaches kedushah and Modim? I hear some chazzanim say every word of kedushah out loud and some only say the last part of the middle two phrases out loud. As far as the congregation is concerned, I hear some congregants say every word of kedushah and some say only the last part. Finally, some chazzanim and congregants say Modim during chazaras hashatz out loud and some say it quietly. What is the source for these various practices?

A Devoted Reader
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 124:1), based on the Mechaber (ad loc.), states as follows: “After the congregation has finished the silent Shmoneh Esreh, the chazzan repeats it in a loud voice so that people who do not know how to pray can listen to the prayer of the chazzan and thus fulfill their obligation [to pray]. However, one who is thoroughly knowledgeable does not fulfill his obligation by means of the chazzan’s repetition. Even someone who does not know how to pray only discharges his obligation when in the company of a congregation, where there are nine individuals listening to and concentrating on the blessings of the chazzan and responding ‘Amen’ [after each blessing].”

The source of this halacha is Gemara Rosh Hashana (33b-34a) where the sages and Rabban Gamliel dispute whose obligation the chazzan discharges by repeating Shmoneh Esreh. The sages rule that the chazzan only discharges the obligation of people who do not how to pray themselves. Rabban Gamliel rules that the chazzan discharges the obligation of everyone.

The Gemara records: “The sages asked Rabban Gamliel, ‘According to your view, why should individuals pray quietly [if the chazzan will in any event discharge their obligation with chazaras hashatz]?’ He responded, ‘To give the chazzan time to organize his prayer.” Rabban Gamliel asked the sages, “According to your view, why should the chazzan descend before the ark [to say chazaras hashatz if he doesn’t discharge the congregation’s obligation to pray]? They replied, “For people unversed and unable to fulfill their obligation by themselves.” Rabban Gamliel responded, “Just as he discharges the obligation of one who is unversed, so can he discharge the obligation of one who is versed.”

Naturally, for the chazzan to discharge the obligation of people who do not how to daven properly, there needs to be a minyan present. He is fulfilling the obligation of tefillah b’tzibbur, as the Talmud (Megillah 23b) explains. Without a minyan, we do not recite Shema in Birkat Keriat Shema publicly, the chazzan does not say chazaras hashatz, kohanim do not say Birkat Kohanim, the Torah and Haftarah are not read etc.

Tosafot (Rosh Hashanah 34b s.v. “Kach motzi et habaki”) cites the Ba’al Halachot Gedolot, who rules that an individual who forgot to say Ya’aleh Veyavo during Shemoneh Esreh on Rosh Chodesh should concentrate on the chazzan’s repetition, from beginning to end. In this manner, he will discharge his obligation even though he is versed in prayer.

Tosafot dispute this ruling citing Rabin in the Gemara who, in the name of R. Yaakov and R. Shimon Chassida, argues that Rabban Gamliel only ruled that the chazzan discharges the obligation of workers in the fields who are restrained despite their own desire to participate in communal prayer since they are occupied with their labor and have no choice. The chazzan does not, however, discharge the obligation of city dwellers/workers who have some leeway in scheduling breaks during their working hours. They must pray themselves and cannot rely on the chazzan.

Tosafot, in the end, reconcile the ruling of the Ba’al Halachot Gedolot with that of Rabban Gamliel (according to Rabin) and states that the rule that the chazzan does not discharge the obligation of city dwellers/workers only applies if they did not pray at all. If they did pray, even if they do not understand, their obligations of tefillah b’tzibur are discharged by listening to chazaras hashatz. The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 124:2) cites many authorities who rule accordingly – that those who do not understand but are present for tefillah are no worse than those who, due to circumstances beyond their control, work in the fields. Thus, the chazzan can discharge their obligation with chazaras hashatz.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part III)

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Question: I find it very difficult to understand the punishment of death that was meted out to Rabbi Akiba’s students. If he was so great, we can assume that his students were of a superior caliber as well. If so, why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?

Zelig Aronson
Queens, NY

Answer: We began our discussion by citing the prohibition of marrying or cutting our hair for a minimum period of 34 days between Pesach and Shavuot. We observe these signs of mourning to commemorate the thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s students who died during this period.

We sought to explain the reason these students deserved such a harsh punishment. We cited a similar story concerning the Nadav and Avihu, whose hasty actions led to their fatal transgression of issuing a ruling before their master Moses, for which they were killed. Hashem is very exacting with those closest to Him. Thus, Rabbi Akiba’s students were punished even though their sin may have been minor.

* * * * *

My mashgiach ruchani, HaRav Hersh Feldman, zt”l (the Mirrer Mashgiach), delivered a “schmooze” many years ago (see “Yemei Hasefira” in his Tiferet Tzvi p. 197) on the death of Rabbi Akiba’s students.

Rabbi Feldman begins: “Other than the ctual prohibition as well as the gravity of the punishment and the tum’ah, the ritual impurity that is visited upon a person due to his haughtiness, we see that the traits of modesty and humility assist one in the acquisition of Torah knowledge.

“Our Sages (Ta’anit 7a) expound the verse (Isaiah 55:1), ‘Hoy kol tzamei lechu lamayyim… – Ho! Everyone who is thirsty, go to the water…’ The ‘water’ here is the Torah, for which we thirst. Our sages ask, ‘Why is the Torah compared to water?’ Just as water flows from an elevated place and settles in a lower place, so do the words of Torah exist only in an individual whose understanding [and very being] is humble.”

Rabbi Feldman continues by citing the Gemara in Eruvin (13b): “For three years there was a dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. These said, ‘The halacha is in agreement with our views,’ and those asserted, ‘The halacha is in agreement with our views.’ A Heavenly voice went forth and proclaimed, ‘Both are the words of the living G-d, but the halacha is in agreement with Beit Hillel.’

“The Gemara asks, ‘Now, since both are the words of the living G-d, what entitled Beit Hillel to have the halacha in agreement with their rulings?’ [This is the general rule; there are exceptions. In 18 circumstances the halacha is actually in accord with Beit Shammai – see Shabbos 13b and 17b; see also Rambam, Perush HaMishnayot on Yevamot Ch. 3, stating that when Beit Hillel rule stringently and Beit Shammai are lenient, the halacha generally follows the latter.] The Gemara answers: Because Beit Hillel were easygoing and very humble, and they would study their views and the views of Beit Shammai, and more so, they would always mention the views of Beit Shammai before theirs….”

Rabbi Feldman asks: “Since Beit Hillel were more easygoing and modest than Beit Shammai, is that [sufficient] reason to set forth the halacha in accord with them?

“We must explain: For one to hear and understand his fellow’s view and follow the logic of his reasoning to its natural conclusion, one must be graced with refined traits. One must not bear enmity to one’s fellow, nor be jealous of him, nor be contemptuous of him, which would be the result of boastfulness or haughtiness. A person who is conceited and haughty will not expend any effort to come to an understanding of his fellow’s view. Why? Obviously he considers his fellow’s view to be insignificant. It is surely not worth his while to exert any effort at understanding it. With such an approach he will never be able to comprehend his fellow’s view with any clarity.”

Rabbi Feldman continues: “Beit Hillel, however, who were easygoing and modest, traits that emanate from humility, expended great effort and toiled at understanding the views of their fellows [Beit Shammai] and to give them credit. This they did without any trace of negative personal motives. They would treat the views of their fellows deferentially, with the greatest respect, so that they would understand their decisions.

“More so, they would repeatedly study their views… They would even cite those [Beit Shammai’s] views before their own. If, after all that, they reached the conclusion that Beit Shammai’s view was incorrect and the halacha should not be as Beit Shammai established, then it was clear that the halacha should indeed follow Beit Hillel.

“This was so because weighing, deciding and understanding the matters in question was arrived at after clear analysis, without any preconceived personal notions.”

Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part II)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Question: I find it very difficult to understand the punishment of death that was meted out to Rabbi Akiba’s students. If he was so great, we can assume that his students were of a superior caliber as well. If so, why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?

Zelig Aronson
Queens, NY

Answer: Last week we discussed the prohibition of not marrying or cutting our hair for a minimum period of 34 days between Pesach and Shavuot. We observe these signs of mourning to commemorate the thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s students who died during this period.

We also sought to explain the reason these students deserved such a harsh punishment. We cited a similar story concerning the Nadav and Avihu, whose hasty actions led to their fatal transgression of issuing a ruling before their master Moses, for which they were killed.

* * * * *

The Rambam (Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:2), based upon the Gemara in Eruvin 63a, rules that a person who issues a halachic decision before his master is punished with death (by Heaven’s hand). The Hagahot Maimoniyot (ad loc.) cites exceptions to this rule. For instance, a person may issue a ruling before his master if he sees the ruling clearly recorded in books written by great halachic authorities.

Moses, in his humility, obviously saw no slight to his person when his students, Aaron’s sons, issued their halachic ruling, but he was aware of their infraction. He sought to console his brother on his tragic loss, stating that the untimely death of those who are nearest and dearest to Hashem serves as a means of His sanctification.

Nadav and Avihu and the students of Rabbi Akiba were so great that, like other tzaddikim, they were judged in a very exacting and demanding manner – “kechut hasa’ara – like a fine strand of hair.”

We find the following incident in the Talmud (Yevamot 121b): It once happened that the daughter of Nehonia the well digger (he would dig water wells for the benefit of those traveling on the roads and byways) fell into a large cistern, and people reported this to R. Hanina b. Dosa. During the first hour R. Hanina told them, “All is well.” In the second hour he again said, “All is well.” At the third hour he told them, “She is saved.”

R. Hanina then asked her, “My daughter, who saved you?” She replied, “A ram came to my aid with an aged man leading it.” (Rashi notes that this was our Patriarch Abraham.) The people observing this incident asked R. Hanina b. Dosa, “Are you a prophet?” He replied, “I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but this I do know: Should the work in which a righteous man is engaged (for the benefit of others) be the cause of disaster for his offspring?”

The Gemara continues: R. Abba stated, “Even so, his [Nehonia’s] son died of thirst. The verse (Psalms 50:3) states, ‘u’sevivav nis’ara me’od – His surroundings are exceedingly turbulent.’ ” This teaches us that Hashem deals with those near Him even to “a hair’s breadth,” i.e., very strictly. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that the word “nis’ara – turbulent” in this verse can also be read as “sa’ara – hair.”

The Maharsha (ad loc.) notes: If this is the manner in which Hashem treats those nearest and dearest to Him, how much stricter will He deal with the wicked.

The students of Rabbi Akiba were so great and close to Hashem that they were punished for even the slightest infraction.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part I)

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Question: I find it very difficult to understand the punishment of death that was meted out to Rabbi Akiba’s students. If he was so great, we can assume that his students were of a superior caliber as well. If so, why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?

Zelig Aronson
Queens, NY

Answer: The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 493:1-5) writes, “The days between Pesach and Shavuot have been treated by all of Jewry for hundreds of years as days of judgment and mourning because 12,000 pairs of Torah scholars, the students of Rabbi Akiba, died in this short time period, as the Talmud (Yevamot 62b) relates.” (The Aruch HaShulchan also notes that in the last millennium a great number of Jewish communal tragedies occurred in Europe.)

He continues: “Therefore it has been accepted by all of Jewry from the times of the Geonim not to marry between Pesach and Shavuot.… We also find that they have accepted not to cut their hair during these days, as a sign of mourning….”

The Aruch HaShulchan cites various customs in this regard. Most are of the opinion that the period of mourning is only 34 days. Some start the mourning period immediately after Pesach (Pesach itself is included in the count of 34 days, but excluded from any manifestations of mourning due to its festival status) lasting until the 34th day of the Omer. Others begin from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until three days before Shavuot (the three days of hagbalah). (See ad loc. for more detail.)

To address your question, let us look at the following pesukim (Leviticus 10:1-3): “Va’yikchu bnei Aharon Nadav v’Avihu ish machtato vayitnu bahen esh va’yasimu aleha ketoret va’yakrivu lifnei Hashem esh zara asher lo tziva otam. Va’tetze esh milifnei Hashem va’tochal otam va’yamutu lifnei Hashem. Va’yomer Moshe el Aharon, hu asher dibber Hashem lemor, bikrovai ekadesh ve’al pnei kol ha’am ekaved, va’yidom Aharon – The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, each took his firepan, and put fire in it and frankincense upon it, and they brought before Hashem a strange fire which He had not commanded them. And a fire went out from Hashem and devoured them, and they died before Hashem. Then Moses said to Aaron: This is what Hashem spoke, saying, ‘With those that are near [dear] to Me I will be sanctified and before the entire people I will be glorified’; and Aaron was silent.”

The Talmud (Eruvin 63) states that Nadav and Avihu, in spite of their unique greatness, erred in that they thought that even though a heavenly fire descended upon the altar, they were to light a fire of their own as well. They did this based on the verse in Parshat Vayikra (1:7): “V’natnu bnei Aharon ha’kohen esh al hamizbe’ach – The sons of Aaron, the High Priest, shall place a fire on the altar.” Though the command in this verse indeed reflects the halacha, Nadav and Avihu were guilty of acting in this manner in front of their teacher, Moses, who had not issued this instruction. The Torah Temimah (Leviticus 10:2) cites the Maharsha (to Eruvin 63) who asks the obvious question: But Moses did issue this instruction in the verse we just quoted! How then could the Gemara state that Nadav and Avihu were punished for doing something without their teacher’s permission?

The Torah Temimah first tries answering this question by examining another example of a biblical figure issuing his own halachic ruling. In the book of Samuel, it states, “Va’yishchatu et hapar va’yaviu et hanaar el Eli – And they slaughtered the bull and brought the youth [Samuel] to Eli” (I Samuel 1:25). The Gemara (Berachot 31b) notes the seeming disconnect between the beginning and end of the verse. Because Samuel’s parents slaughtered a bull they brought the youth to Eli?

The Gemara resolves this problem by explaining that they went out in search of a kohen to slaughter the bull and at that point Samuel asked them why they were searching for a kohen when an Israelite may also slaughter it, as the verse (Leviticus 1:5) states “V’shachat et ben habakar lifnei Hashem v’hikrivu bnei Aharon ha’kohanim et hadam – And he shall slaughter the bull before Hashem and the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall bring forth the blood….” Only the service starting from bringing the blood requires a kohen. The slaughter itself, though, may be done by an Israelite. When the attendants perceived what Samuel had done, they brought him before Eli, who remarked, “You have spoken well, but you are guilty of rendering a halachic decision in the presence of your teacher [Eli referring to himself].” The Gemara relates that Chana then begged Eli to forgive Samuel for his transgression.

This incident, however, is not comparable to the one concerning Nadav and Avihu since Samuel decided the halacha on his own while Nadav and Avihu simply followed Moses’ command (as we mentioned above). The Torah Temimah admits to the dissimilarity between the two cases and therefore explains that Nadav and Avihu erred because they misunderstood Moses’ instruction.

Q & A: ‘Ba’arbeh – With Locusts’

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Question: In the Torah’s description of the ten plagues Hashem inflicted upon Egypt, we find the Hebrew preposition “beit” [meaning “in” or “with”] only in connection with the plague of locust: “Neteh yadcha al eretz Mitzrayim ba’arbeh.” Why is this so? And why do most of the commentators on Chumash ignore this question.

Menachem
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Your question refers to the pasuk in Parshat Bo (Exodus 10:12): “Va’yomer Hashem el Moshe: Neteh yadcha al eretz Mitzrayim ba’arbeh v’ya’al al eretz Mitzrayim v’yochal et kol esev ha’aretz et kol asher hish’ir habarad – Hashem said to Moses: Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for [lit. with] the locust, and it will ascend upon the land of Egypt and eat all the grass of the land, everything that the [plague of] hail has left.”

You note that, for the most part, this verse’s use of the preposition “beit” is not dealt with by the commentators. However, as we will see, the opposite is true. If we carefully dissect their words, it becomes clear that they very much did address your question.

Both Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonatan translate “ba’arbeh” into Aramaic as “bedil gova,” which assumes that the preposition “beit” in this instance means “bishvil,” as in “bishvil makkat ha’arbeh – stretch out your hand so as to bring about the plague of locust. Indeed, Rashi, based on both Targumim, offers the same exact translation: “Bishvil makkat ha’arbeh.”

Ibn Ezra quotes R. Moshe Hakohen who says that “ba’arbeh” denotes that Moses put a locust on the staff he was holding. R. Moshe Hakohen, therefore, understood the “beit” to mean “with.” Hashem was instructing Moshe to stretch out his stick with a locust on it. Ibn Ezra, however, argues that this explanation is incorrect. Instead, he suggests that “ba’arbeh” to mean “so that the locust will come.” His interpretation is thus similar to that of the Targumim and Rashi.

Or HaChayyim states (agreeing with an alternative explanation of Ibn Ezra’s) that “ba’arbeh” may indicate that Hashem wished for Moses to say the word “arbeh” when he raised his hand, and that extending his hand was for the purpose of bringing the locust. This explanation also assumes “beit” means “with,” and Hashem is instructing Moshe to stretch out his hand along with saying the word “arbeh.”

Sforno argues that “beit” is a directional preposition referring to the side from which the locusts were to come (which is generally the south). Thus Moses was to summon the locust from their natural habitat. Sforno obviously derives this from the Aramaic translation of “ve’yeitei gova – and let the locust come.” Come from where? Thus, Sforno explains: from their natural habitat.

The Noam Elimelech (R. Elimelech of Lyzhansk) is also perplexed by the word “ba’arbeh.” In order to explain it, he first discusses the plague of barad (hailstones) and refers to two verses in Parshat Va’era (Exodus 9:15-16): “Ki ata shalachti et yadi va’ach ot’cha ve’et amcha ba’daver vatikacheid min ha’aretz. Ve’ulam ba’avur zot he’emad’ticha, ba’avur har’ot’cha et kochi u’lema’an saper shemi bechol ha’aretz – For now I could have stretched out My hand and smitten you and your people with pestilence, so that you would be obliterated from the earth. However, for this I have let you endure, in order to show you My might and so that My name be proclaimed throughout the land.”

The Noam Elimelech asks why Hashem gives this explanation specifically on the occasion of the plague of barad. He answers that all the plagues meted on Egypt were due to merits that the Children of Israel possessed, or would possess, in the future. Each plague corresponded to a specific merit. And barad was due to the merit of the words that the Children of Israel constantly spoke in praise of Hashem (barad and “dibbur – speech” have the same three letters – beit, daled, resh). Doesn’t the plague of dever, however, also contain the same letters as dibbur (even containing them in the same exact sequence)? The Noam Elimelech therefore explains that since it already says “Va’ach ot’cha ve’et amcha ba’daver” in the first pasuk, the plague in merit of the Jewish people’s constant praise of Hashem was barad instead.

The Noam Elimelech now returns to the problematic word “ba’arbeh” and asks: In what merit of the Jewish people did Hashem inflict the plague of arbeh upon the Egyptians? He suggests that it was in the merit of Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his only son. We see the connection between Abraham and arbeh in the pasuk (Genesis 22:17), “V’harbah arbeh et zar’acha – I will greatly increase your offspring.” The Noam Elimelech thus understands the word “ba’arbeh” in Parshat Bo as “because I said to Abraham ‘v’harbah arbeh.’ ” In other words, Hashem is not instructing Moshe to do anything by saying “ba’arbeh.” Rather, He is explaining to him in what merit He is bringing this plague.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-baarbeh-with-locusts/2012/04/05/

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