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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Shabbos’

Daf Yomi

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Where Beis Shammai And Beis Hillel Agree
‘One Must Not Sit Before A Barber Near Minchah’
(Shabbos 9b)

Our mishnah states that one is proscribed from taking a haircut half an hour before the time for minchah lest one forget to pray that tefillah. The mishnah lists other activities, as well, that one may not engage in at this time for the same reason.

Rashi (s.v. “ad she’yispallel”) wonders why the tanna cites this halacha in the midst of a discussion of the laws of Shabbos. This halacha, after all, applies to every day of the week. Rashi suggests that that this halacha appears here specifically because it is similar to another one mentioned in the next mishnah: the halacha that a tailor may not go out in the public domain with his needle near nightfall.

A Shabbos Concern

The Sefas Emes (Novella, ad loc.) offers a different reason. He explains that one might have thought that on erev Shabbos there is no concern that a person may prolong his haircut to the extent that he will miss minchah since, in any event, he knows that he must stop all his activities before the onset of Shabbos. That’s why although this halacha applies every day, it is necessary for the mishnah to state that it applies even on erev Shabbos.

The Shofar Blasts

Additionally, the Gemara (infra 35b) teaches that there was a custom on erev Shabbos to sound several shofar blasts shortly before the onset of Shabbos to remind people to cease working. One might have thought that a person need not worry about taking a haircut half an hour before the time of Minchah on Friday since the shofar blasts will remind him that Shabbos is about to arrive. That’s why the tanna has to state that doing so in nonetheless forbidden.

To Honor The Sabbath

The Rashash (ad loc) offers yet another reason. He explains that taking a haircut and bathing in honor of Shabbos is a mitzvah. Therefore, the mishnah in Meseches Shabbos needs to stress that, nonetheless, one may not perform it starting half an hour before the time of Minchah.

The Maharitz Chayos (Novella, ad Loc.) cites the Rambam in Pirush HaMishnayos (first perek of Meseches Shabbos) who states that this halacha is among the (Sabbath-related) halachos that were jointly enacted by Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel in the aliyas Chananya ben Chizkiya ben Garon (infra. 13b). Therefore, it is stated here.

No Blessing

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 251:1, based upon Pesachim 50b) states that one should not do any melachah from the time of Minchah since one will not see a siman berachah from it. Some say this applies starting from Minchah Gedolah; others say it only applies starting from Minchah Ketanah.

This week’s Daf Yomi Highlights is based upon Al Hadaf, published by Cong. Al Hadaf, 17N Rigaud Rd., Spring Valley, NY 10977-2533. Al Hadaf published semi-monthly, is available by subscription: U.S. – $40 per year; Canada – $54 per year; overseas – $65 per year. For dedication information contact Rabbi Zev Dickstein, editor, at 845-356-9114 or visit Alhadafyomi.org.

Parshas Bereishis

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Vol. LXIII No. 41                             5773

 

New York City
CANDLE LIGHTING TIME
October 12, 2012 – 26 Tishrei 5773
5:59 p.m. NYC E.D.T.

Sabbath Ends: 7:03 p.m. NYC E.D.T.
Weekly Reading: Bereishis
Weekly Haftara: Koh Amar Hashem (Isaiah 42:5- 43:10)
Daf Yomi: Shabbos 9
Mishna Yomit: Nedarim 11:10-11
Halacha Yomit: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 135:6-8
Rambam Yomi: Hilchos Tum’as Ochlin chap. 1-3
Earliest time for tallis and tefillin: 6:10 a.m. NYC E.D.T.
Latest Kerias Shema: 9:53 a.m. NYC E.D.T.

 

This Shabbos is Shabbos Mevarchim, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan is two days, Tuesday and Wednesday.

This Shabbos all tefillos as usual. There is no Hazkaras Neshamos (Av HaRachamim and Kel Malei) and at Mincha we do not say Tzidkas’cha. The molad is Monday afternoon, 41 minutes and 9 chalakim (a chelek is 1/18 of a minute) after 2:00 p.m. in Jerusalem.

Monday Eve: Rosh Chodesh,: at Maariv we add Ya’aleh VeYavo. (However, if one forgot to include Ya’aleh VeYavo (at Maariv only) one does not repeat. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 422:1 on Berachos 30b explains that this is due to the fact that we do not sanctify the month at night.)

   Tuesday morning: Shacharis with inclusion of Ya’aleh VeYavo in the Shemoneh Esreh, half-Hallel, Kaddish Tiskabbel. We take out one Sefer Torah from the Ark. We read in Parashas Pinchas (Bamidbar 28:1-15), we call four Aliyos (Kohen, Levi, Yisrael, Yisrael), the Baal Keriah recites half-Kaddish. We return the Torah to the Aron, Ashrei, U’va LeTziyyon – we delete La’menatze’ach, the chazzan recites half-Kaddish; all then remove their tefillin.

Musaf of Rosh Chodesh, followed by Reader’s repetition and Kaddish Tiskabbel, Aleinu, Shir shel Yom, Borchi Nafshi and their respective Kaddish recitals (for mourners). Sefarad say shir Shel Yom and Borchi Nafshi after half-Hallel, and before Aleinu they add Ein KeElokeinu with Kaddish DeRabbanan.

Mincha: In the Shemoneh Esreh we say Ya’aleh VeYavo, which we also add to Birkas Hamazon, as well as mention of Rosh Chodesh in Beracha Acharona (Me’ein Shalosh) at all times.

Tuesday evening and Wednesday, 2nd day Rosh Chodesh, the order of the day is the same as yesterday. Kiddush Levana at first opportunity (from the third evening after the molad), Thursday evening, until the (entire) evening of Tuesday, the 15th of Cheshvan.

The following chapters of Tehillim are being recited by many congregations and Yeshivos for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael: Chapter 83, 130, 142 – Y.K.

Daf Yomi

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Lulav, Shofar, Bris
“His Hand Is Not At Rest”
(Shabbos 3a)

Our Gemara discusses cases of transferring items from hand to hand. Our Gemara discusses all objects. On Rosh Hashanah and on Sukkos, we can clearly specify an object that would be given from hand to hand. When Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbos, we do not blow shofar. On Shabbos of Sukkos, we do not shake our lulavim. The concern that we might carry a shofar or lulav on Shabbos was so great, that our Sages deemed it preferable to forbid the performance of these mitzvos altogether.

A Shabbos Bris?

On the other hand, we find in the sugya at Shabbos 131b that a bris milah may be performed on Shabbos, if it is the eighth day after the child’s natural birth. The accepted halacha follows Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that it is a Torah prohibition to carry a knife through the reshus harabim to the site of a bris milah. Why did our Sages not forbid bris milah on Shabbos, to prevent the mohel from accidentally carrying a knife, just as they forbade lulav and shofar?

Skilled Mohel

The Rishonim address this question in various places throughout Shas, and offer a variety of answers. Tosefos (Megillah 4b, s.v. vaya’’avirena) explains that the mitzvah of bris milah has preeminent importance, since Hashem sealed thirteen covenants with Avraham Avinu in its merit, as we learn from the pesukim beginning, ““This is My covenant with you,”” (Bereishis 17). Furthermore, Tosefos explain that every Jew, regardless of the level of his Torah knowledge, must perform the mitzvos of shofar and lulav. Therefore our Sages were concerned that an unlearned Jew might accidentally come to carry. However, bris milah is only performed by a skilled mohel, who is presumably knowledgeable enough to refrain from carrying on Shabbos.

Communal vs. Individual

The Ran (Rosh Hashanah, on the Rif 8a) explains that on Yom Tov, the entire Jewish people are busy performing the mitzvos of the day, therefore they cannot be expected to keep an eye out to prevent one another from carrying. However, when a bris milah occurs, only the mohel is busy in performing the mitzvah. The other Jews assembled will be free to prevent the mohel from carrying his knife.

An Overriding Mitzvah

Other Rishonim (Ritva, Succah 43a; Meiri, Megillah 4b) explain that in contrast to the mitzvos, the bris milah itself involves a Torah prohibition. If not for the pasuk that orders us otherwise, it would be a violation of meleches choveil (wounding) to perform a bris milah. Since the Torah instructs us that bris milah takes precedence over a definite violation of meleches choveil, our Sages did not forbid it.

An Eight Day Count

The Ritva (ibid.) adds another explanation. As we know, outside of Eretz Yisrael, two days of Yom Tov are observed, since the messengers from the Beis Din in Yerushalayim were unable to reach Chutz La’’Aretz in time to inform them when the new month began, and on which day to observe Yom Tov. As a result, they observed both days just in case. Our Sages forbid shofar and lulav in favor of guarding Shabbos, since shofar and lulav might be observed on the wrong day. The certainty of Shabbos observance took precedence over the possibility of shofar and lulav. Even in places where they were familiar with the fixed lunar cycle, and knew which was the correct day for Yom Tov, our Sages made no exception. They wished to preserve one consistent set of rules for all Jewish communities throughout the world. Bris milah, on the other hand, does not depend on a lunar date. The certainty of bris milah performed on the correct day, eight days after birth, takes precedence over Shabbos.

Doubt and Negligible Doubt

The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Shabbos 131b), discusses bris milah as also involving an element of uncertainty. Unbeknownst to us, the child may have been born with health complications, G-d forbid, which would classify him as a neifel, whose bris does not preempt Shabbos. He states that a question of the correct date is a justified concern, since the Bnei Chutz La’Aretz observed both days, without knowing which was the Yom Tov medeoraisa. However, only a small minority of babies are neifels, therefore it is a negligible doubt, which would not justify preempting the bris.

Mothers, Fathers, And The Curse Of Family Breakdowns

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

In my most recent column I wrote about ways of improving family relationships, and raising children who have derech eretz and respect for their parents. I will continue on that same theme here.

If the Jewish home is to survive as it did throughout the centuries, if it is to remain immune to the degeneracy and immorality of the outside world, it must become a bastion of Torah, where mothers and fathers stand guard day and night and do not allow messengers of evil to enter – messengers who have the capacity to bring down the walls and set the entire house aflame.

But here comes the tricky part. As in all things, we cannot make generalizations. There are always exceptions to the rule, and, sadly, in these types of situations the anomalies are even more striking. We see homes that, outwardly at least, house families committed to Torah and yet are torn by strife and acrimony. Despite the glow of the Shabbos lights, despite family members’ adherence to the laws of kashrut and shmiras Shabbos, if you are close enough you can hear loud, angry voices spewing vile words – words that build walls of hatred and shut the gates of the heart.

How can that be? you ask. Where is the Torah? Where is the protective wall that should have shielded the house from the evils of the street?

My husband, Rabbi Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, would explain it all through a story:

A soap manufacturer came to a rabbi and said, “Rabbi, your Torah teachings are of no avail. I see so many out there who claim to be observant, but they are mean and miserable.”

The rabbi invited him to take a stroll in the park. He took him to the children’s playground and said, “Your soap is useless. It is of no avail. Look at those children – they are all dirty, covered with sand and mud!”

“What are you talking about?” the soap manufacturer retorted indignantly. “My soap is perfect, but these kids have been playing in the dirt and have yet to use it.”

“That’s exactly right.” the rabbi responded. “Our Torah is perfect, but there are many out there playing in the dirt and they have yet to use the powerful, cleansing force of our Torah!”

This story perfectly illustrates the fact that there are people who go through the motions of observance but it is something else again for them to allow the Torah to mold their lives and, yes, cleanse them.

The great sage of Mussar, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, taught that for some people it is easier to learn an entire tractate of Talmud than to change even one character trait. Bad middos that are allowed to fester soon become ingrained and almost impossible to extricate. Too often, despite intense therapy and admonishment, these traits remain unchanged. For example, if someone is a ba’al ka’as – has an uncontrollable temper – he will succumb to that negative character trait despite all his promises to change. His words are empty, without substance. Perhaps for a few days he will appear to be different, but it is only an appearance, and in no time at all he will be back to his old ways. So it is that an angry secular person may become a shomer Shabbos angry person, and this holds true for all other character aberrations.

There is a well-known story of a cat that is trained to walk on its hind legs holding a tray with its front paws. One day, it sees some mice – and in no time at all it is chasing the mice on all fours. The lesson is obvious. Parents who wish to build solid families and enjoy loving relationships with their children must become living role models of the Torah and mitzvot that they preach.

The Shabbos candles are symbols of peace, but if those symbols are to have meaning they must be reflected in the words and actions of those who are living in that house. To make this change in our homes, to turn ourselves over and become real Torah people, is not an option but a life and death priority. The very lives of our families are at stake.

Road to Recovery

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Dear Brocha,

I am married for 5 years and am unsure how to proceed with my husband and his behavior. Our religion incorporates alcohol throughout the year and during life cycle events. Purim, Pesach, bar mitzvahs, weddings and every Shabbos kiddush (not to mention the kiddush club) all seemingly require alcohol as an integral and necessary ingredient. For my husband, it seems like there is always a “good reason” to make a l’chayim.

My husband is truly a wonderful and caring man. He is a faithful husband and an amazing father to our two children. However, when he drinks all of the positive qualities seem to disappear and the children and I are left with an irritable, moody, and at times, a very angry person. Whenever I broach the subject of his drinking, he tells me that I am being foolish. After all, he is a good provider, helps with the children, and is sensitive to our needs. “So, what’s your issue?” he always asks. He also keeps saying that he needs “an outlet.” He doesn’t tell me how to dress, and I shouldn’t be telling him what or how to drink. He gets defensive at the mere mention of his drinking – at times even becoming enraged.

Usually, after an outburst – meaning after he sleeps it off – he becomes very apologetic, regretful and promises to stop. However, every time he picks up that schnapps bottle he once again loses all self-respect, control and willpower.

It saddens me that my children are seeing this erratic and sometimes abusive behavior. They are young, ages 4 and 6, but as soon as my husband starts yelling they run to their rooms. I myself try to stay out of his way when he drinks hoping to prevent a major confrontation. I feel as if I live my life walking on eggshells. I am at my wits end, but I still love my husband and don’t want to get divorced over this. However, I feel that I might have to give him an ultimatum: the bottle or me?

Am I being too harsh, or do I need to let him have his “outlet?”

Seeking direction

Dear Seeking direction,

I feel for your situation and the traumatic events to which you and your children are subjected. You are not alone. However, I wish to laud you for your desire to salvage your marriage and wish you much hatzlacha in seeing this through!

Unfortunately, abuse of alcohol is one of the diseases that is swept under the rug in many homes. It is the cause of financial distress, emotional issues amongst children, continued cycle of abuse, break up of marriages, and is one of the major contributing factors to the ongoing youth at-risk epidemic.

The following is a list of symptoms of alcoholism, issued by the Mayo clinic:

Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Feeling a strong need or compulsion to drink. Developing tolerance to alcohol so that you need an increasing amounts to feel its effects. Having legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances due to drinking. Drinking alone or in secret. Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don’t drink. Not remembering conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as “blacking out.” Making a ritual of having drinks at certain times and becoming annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned. Losing interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring you pleasure. Irritability when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn’t available. Keeping alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in your car. Gulping drinks, ordering doubles, becoming intoxicated intentionally to feel good or drinking to feel “normal.”

Alcoholism is a disease. One of the difficulties in recognizing alcoholism as such is that it simply doesn’t appear like one. At the onset, it doesn’t have recognizable physical manifestations, can occur unannounced and “under wraps”, and it certainly doesn’t act like a disease. To make matters worse, the abuser generally denies its existence and resists treatment.

Alcoholism has been recognized for many years by professional medical organizations as a primary, chronic, progressive and sometimes fatal disease. While the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence offers a detailed and complete definition of alcoholism, the simplest way to describe it would be as “a mental obsession that triggers a physical compulsion to use.” The rage, and what ensues when one uses, is a result of the compulsion to drink. In order to curb the rage and alleviate the mental anguish you are dealing with, the disease itself must be treated.

Pleasure vs. Happiness In Marriage

Friday, September 21st, 2012

If you would like to know if your marriage is relationship centered or not, the way to find out is to ask yourself about your core values. For example, what is the most important principle of your marriage? Is it your desire for money or pleasure? Do you dream about being comfortable, being honored by your spouse and having a lot of fun?

Experience has shown that couples who place their relationship at the center of their lives have the greatest chance of sharing a successful marriage. Unfortunately, our society has sold us a distorted image of marriage, one which maintains that external factors such as money or comfort are what makes the marriage work. Just think about how popular culture depicts the perfect couple – the one with all the conveniences imaginable. They have all the money, pleasure, and fun they could ever want, but are they happy? That’s the million dollar question.

I believe that there is no real way of knowing how happy a marriage is, except this: ask them how their relationship is doing. Afterwards, you’ll know if their happiness is real or illusive.

Although many people may choose wealth, pleasure and honor as core values, in the long run, experience has shown that these are temporal. True happiness has very little to do with externals, and those who focus on these values often find their relationships unsettled, lacking direction, and without the strength to last a lifetime. In fact, over the years, I have witnessed many families with little financial means who have strong, healthy relationships. Against the conventional wisdom that money alone buys happiness, these families prove that success is dependent on other variables such as spiritual values, healthy attitudes, and high levels of emotional intelligence. Above all, they are dedicated to maintaining and nurturing the most important commodity in their lives – their relationship.

As a young yeshiva student, I learned a lesson about true happiness when I spent one of the most rewarding Shabboses in my life volunteering in an old age home in Sanhedria Murchevet, a small ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem. My predicament that weekend was that I wanted to spend Shabbos visiting the old age home, but didn’t have a place to stay. Thinking out of the box, and knowing I was in an ultra-orthodox community that was famous for its chesed and hachnasos orchim, I decided to take a chance by asking some elderly chassidim, who frequented a small shopping mall in the neighborhood, if they would be kind enough to take me in as their guest for Shabbos. After waiting for about five minutes in front of the store, an elderly chassid from the Viznitz community walked by with his younger daughter. In my broken and heavily American-accented Hebrew, I tried to explain to him where I volunteered and what I needed. Without blinking, the man said that he would be delighted to have me as his guest.

The elderly chassid met me just before sunset at the local shul and brought me home to meet his wife and family. At first, when I walked into his home, I felt that I was entering one of Roman Vizniak’s scenes from pre-war Poland. Despite my initial discomfort at feeling out of place, my fears were quickly relieved when I was warmly welcomed and asked to bring my suitcase into the room where I would be sleeping. After arranging my clothes, I was served a pre-Shabbos treat: a hot cup of coffee and some chocolate rugelach. Just as I finished my last bite, the Shabbos siren blew and I ran off to daven Kabbolos Shabbos at the old age home.

After davening, I returned to my host’s apartment to sleep in a very comfortable bedroom. The next morning I awoke and realized that, despite the fact that they had seven children, there were only two bedrooms, and I was sleeping in one of them! It turned out that they had set up their children’s beds in the living room and the parents had slept in the one remaining bedroom! Embarrassed and overwhelmed by their generosity, I walked out of the living room to wish a good Shabbos and, once again, my hosts insisted I sit down for another cup of coffee. That Shabbos, we spent hours eating, drinking tea and talking about our lives. They were devoted members of the Viznitz community. The father worked as an accountant for the local Chevra Kadisha and his wife was an assistant in the community kindergarten. They were married during the War of Independence and for many years lived in Meah Shearim. About ten years ago they had bought this apartment, and one of their dreams was to have special guests over for Shabbos. I happened to be one of the lucky individuals who would benefit from their kindness and hospitality.

Daf Yomi

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The Lady Of The House
‘One Blesses First On The Wine…’
(Berachos 51)

The evening Shabbos kiddush consists of two berachos: “Hagafen,” the blessing on wine, and birkas hayom, the blessing on the sanctification of the day. Our mishnah cites a dispute between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel. Beis Shammai assert that the sanctification blessing precedes the wine blessing. Beis Hillel, on the other hand, opine that the wine blessing goes first. The halacha follows Beis Hillel.

The Primacy Of The Wine

Beis Hillel offer two reasons for their view. First, it is the wine that causes the recital of kiddush (if not for the wine, we wouldn’t say kiddush). Second, the rule is “tadir v’she’eino tadir, tadir kodem” – whenever we have two mitzvos, the one that is performed more frequently takes precedence.

Biblical Vs. Rabbinical

The Pnei Yehoshua (ad loc.) points out a difficulty with Beis Hillel’s ruling. The obligation to recite the sanctification blessing is biblical whereas the mitzvah to recite the wine blessing is only rabbinic. Therefore, the sanctification blessing ought to go first. And yet, Beis Hille states the very opposite.

Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (the Tzlach ad loc.) asks another question: Why do Beis Hillel say that if someone lacks wine, he is not required to recite kiddush? Since the sanctification blessing is a biblical mitzvah, he should be required to say kiddush with or without wine.

Kiddush In Ma’ariv

The Pnei Yehoshua answers these questions by explaining that a person has already fulfilled the biblical mitzvah of sanctifying the day of Shabbos in the Ma’ariv Amidah. If there is no wine at home, therefore, there is no reason for him to recite kiddush.

Kiddush At Home

The Tzlach further notes that, according this reasoning, a woman who did not daven Ma’ariv and recites kiddush for herself should reverse the order of the berachos, with the sanctification blessing preceding the wine blessing.

The She’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (ad loc.) notes that this might be precisely why often the lady of the house, upon receiving kiddush wine from her husband, does not rely on her husband’s berachah of “borei pri hagafen” but recites her own. Since she did not daven Ma’ariv, her kiddush obligation at the Shabbos table is biblical. Thus, she must first hear the sanctification blessing and only then make the wine blessing.

This week’s Daf Yomi Highlights is based upon Al Hadaf, published by Cong. Al Hadaf, 17N Rigaud Rd., Spring Valley, NY 10977-2533. Al Hadaf, published semi-monthly, is available by subscription: U.S. – $40 per year; Canada – $54 per year; overseas – $65 per year. For dedication information, contact Rabbi Zev Dickstein, editor, at 845-356-9114 or visit Alhadafyomi.org.

Q & A: Selichot Restrictions (Part II)

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Question: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch states that an individual praying selichot without a minyan is not allowed to recite the Thirteen Midot or the Aramaic prayers. What is the rationale behind this halacha?

Moshe Jakobowitz
Brooklyn, NY

Answer: The Beit Yosef on the Tur (Orach Chayim 565) explains that the Shelosh Esreh Midot represent a communal prayer and thus a davar she’b’kedushah. A mishnah in Tractate Megillah (23b) enumerates the situations that incorporate a davar she’b’kedusha and require a minyan.

* * * * *

Now we turn to the matter of the prayers in Aramaic.

The halacha that the Aramaic selichot prayers may only be recited with a minyan is based on a discussion in Shabbos 12b. Rabba b. Bar Hana said, “When we would follow Rabbi Eleazar to inquire after [the health of] a sick person, sometimes he would say [in Hebrew], ‘Hamakom yifkodcha l’shalom – May the Omnipresent remember you with peace,’ whereas at other times he would say [the same prayer in Aramaic], ‘Rachmana yidkerinach lishlam.’ ” The Gemara asks: How could he pray in Aramaic? Didn’t Rabbi Yehuda say that one should never make a request in Aramaic? And didn’t Rabbi Yohanan say that when a person makes a request in Aramaic, the ministering angels do not come to his aid since they do not understand Aramaic?

The Gemara answers that a prayer for a sick person is different since the Divine Presence is with him. Rabbi Anan said in Rab’s name: How do we know that the Divine Presence supports a sick person? Because it is written (Psalms 41:4), “Hashem yis’adenu al eres devai – G-d supports him on the sickbed.” Rava quotes an alternate explanation of that pasuk in the name of Rabbin. He says “Hashem yis’adenu…” also implies that G-d provides sustenance to a sick person. Yis’adenu can mean both help and provision of food.

The Shiltei HaGibborim (ad loc.), quoting the Tur (Yoreh De’ah 335), states that when one is in the presence of a sick person, one should plead on his behalf in any language. However, if not in his presence, one should only make the request in Hebrew. The question is why? Isn’t the Divine Presence with a sick person even if one isn’t praying for him in his presence? Tosafot (Shabbos ad loc. s.v. “She’ein mal’achei hasharet”) ask another question (for which they do not provide an answer): If we posit that the ministering angels are privy to the innermost thoughts of man, how is it possible that they do not understand Aramaic?

Furthermore, as Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Edels (the Maharsha) points out in the late edition (“mahadura batra”) of his Chiddushei Halachot on Tractate Shabbos (found at the back of the Vilna Shas), we cannot assume that every person whose life is endangered will be helped by G-d, as evidenced by the verse in Parshat Korach (Numbers 16:29), “Im ke’mot kol ha’adam yemutun eileh ufkudat kol ha’adam yippakeid aleihem… – [Said Moses:] If these die like other men, and the destiny of all men is visited upon them, then it is not G-d who has sent me.”

Korach and his followers were about to be punished for their rebelliousness against Moses. The manner of their death would serve as proof that their rebelliousness was not just directed against Moses, as Korach contended, but against G-d as well. They would not die after an illness, like other mortals whom the Divine Presence visits on their sickbed, but would be swallowed alive by the earth, without any recourse against the decree. This is because by rebelling against Moses they were, in fact, rebelling against G-d, on whose mission Moses had been sent. It is also from this verse that Resh Lakish derives the mitzvah of visiting the sick, as detailed in Tractate Nedarim (39b).

With this in mind, we might also wonder how we are to know when to beseech G-d on behalf of a sick person. When is an ailing person in grave danger, i.e., how do we define “choleh”? Since we do not know the extent of the danger and have to utilize every means at our disposal – including the help of ministering angels who understand only Hebrew – we resort to prayer in Hebrew when we are not in the presence of the sick person.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-selichot-restrictions-part-ii/2012/09/20/

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