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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 4: Svara)

From a basic, pshat understanding of Rav, we can answer our question of where the prior existing cup of 4 oz came from, such that the 4 shot glasses are judged to be 4 components of that original cup.

Rav disagrees with Shmuel and holds that if you pour the 4 little cups into one 4 oz cup, it is only considered 1 cup and you have not fulfilled your obligation of the 4 cups.  However, you have fulfilled your obligation of שמחת יום טוב, drinking a רביעית, or 4 ounces of wine. (Note: In general, the מצוה of שמחת יום טוב is only required during the daytime, and the night time is subsumed under the drinking of the day. However, due to the unique nature of the night of the 15th as a ליל התקדש חג, it exists separately from the day of 15th and demands its own שמחה as well as its own הלל). 

The commandment of שמחת יום טוב, of drinking 4 oz of wine, can be fulfilled by drinking done over the course of the meal.  You are not required to drink it all at once, as would be required for a forbidden drinking to be punishable (by lashes, for instance).  The reason for this is that the קיום, the halachik objective, of the מצוה is not in the act of drinking wine itself (in which case it would have had to take place in a short time), rather it is in the effect that wine has on the person by producing a happy heart (which can take place over an extended period of time).

Shmuel in the hava amina held that the rabbinic commandment of 4 cups took the prior existing drinking of  שמחת יום טוב, and demanded that you drink this wine in a way in which it has the property of 4.  Namely, you must divide it into 4 parts and drink those 4 components over the course of the meal.  Since the מצוה of 4 cups stipulates a way of fulfilling the general מצוה of drinking 4 oz of wine,  the 4 little shot glasses are defined as components, relative to the 4 ounces of wine of שמחה.

On the other hand, the maskana of Shmuel maintains that the rabbinic commandment of 4 cups was formulated as a separate, independent מצוה, (not merely a way of fulfilling another more general מצוה).  Therefore, the only way to give wine the property of 4 is through drinking 4 complete cups.  You cannot divide one cup into 4 parts because there is no one cup of 4 ounces to begin with.  In order to have the number 4 included in the cups, it is necessary to drink 4 separate cups of 4 ounces each.

With this understanding of Shmuel, how can we define the machlokes between him and Rav in the case where you pour the 4 smaller cups into one big cup and then drink it? Could we answer our second question on Rashi of how one big cup can possibly count as 4?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 3: Framework)

It seemed to us that there was one thing we could definitely say regarding Shmuel's initial position that the mitzva of 4 cups is fulfilled by drinking 4 cups of 1 ounce each, in light of the fact that the minimum quantity of wine in a cup, everywhere in the Torah, is always 4 ounces.

Essentially, you are not drinking 4 cups of wine.  You are drinking 1 cup.  What is unique about this cup however, is that it is being divided up into 4 parts.  The number 4 exists as a property of a single cup with 4 components.  According to Rashi, what is fundementally required in the mitzva is the 'שם ד (that a proper description of the cups include the characteristic of 4).

There are two ways the quantity 4 can exist in the cups.  Either by drinking a group of cups with 4 individual members (the normal way we think about the 4 cups) or by drinking a cup that has 4 components.

The sense of Rashi only requiring the 'שם ד, or 4 as a property, is that it satisfies the reference to the 4 expressions of redemption (as quoted in the prior post).  It is important to realize that we are not simply saying that the cups of wine must reflect the 4 expressions of redemption.  That might be why the rabanan mandated the mitzva, but the halachic definition is that the rabanan required the 'שם ד in the cups of wine of the night.

We have taken one step to help us understand Shmuel in the hava amina.  However, we are left with a new difficulty.  Even if we grant Shmuel the idea that a 'שם ד is sufficient, by virtue of what does Shmuel define drinking a 1 ounce shot glass of wine as drinking 1 part of a 4 component entity?  Where is the one unified entity of a 4 ounce cup, such that he can say that these separate shot classes are merely components of the larger entity?  It would seems simpler to conceptualize each shot glass as its own cup that is lacking the proper quantity of 4 ounces, rather than saying that together they compose 4 parts of 1 cup.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 2: Methodology and Questions)

In a sugya like this, with so many different points, it is often a challenge choosing where to start. One cannot possibly think about the entire sugya at the same time. A proper approach often helps in making inroads into the sugya. One possible approach involves identifying things to define (machlokes, hava amina/maskana). Although this is sometimes a good idea, we feel that it is often a more productive approach to find problems/questions with the sugya. Problems can reveal fundamentally mistaken assumptions in our approach to the sugya and can help uncover ideas which will prepare us for defining things more accurately. Without first answering questions, our definitions can later be seen to be on shaky grounds and mistaken assumptions.

In interpreting Rashi's approach to this sugya, two major problems arise which arguably caused the Rashbam and Tosafos to learn differently from Rashi.  Firstly, the hava amina that the mitzva of the 4 cups would be 4 cups of 1 ounce each seems like one of the more inexplicable parts to the sugya.  Throughout the entire system of Torah, a cup of wine is always minimally 4 ounces, or 1 רביעית.  How could the gemara possibly have thought that each individual cup was only 1 ounce each?  It seems preposterous! Secondly, as the Rashbam asks on Rashi's way of learning בבת אחת, how can one large cup possibly count as 4 cups? It is only one cup! 

We felt that the first thing we needed to do was to explain the hava amina (as presented in Shmuel) and answer our first question.  Besides being the first thing presented to us in the gemara itself, it is also the basis of the sugya from which the other 3 positions (Rava, Rav, and Shmuel in the maskana) emerge. Our second question seems to be a detail which is based upon the way of learning the hava amina and answering our first question.

With these points in mind, we think in might be helpful to see an earlier Rashi on the mishna on 99b, which explains that the number 4, in the requirement of drinking the 4 cups, corresponds to the 4 languages of redemption found in the Torah:
ארבע כוסות. כנגד ארבעה לשוני גאולה האמורים בגלות מצרים והוצאתי אתכם והצלתי אתכם וגאלתי אתכם ולקחתי אתכם בפרשת וארא
How can we understand the way the gemara conceived of the halachic structure of the mitzva of 4 cups according to the hava amina of Shmuel?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 1: Facts)

The gemara in Pesachim 108b states:
א"ר יהודה אמר שמואל ארבעה כוסות הללו צריך שיהא בהן כדי מזיגת כוס יפה שתאן חי יצא שתאן בבת אחת יצא... שתאן חי יצא אמר רבא ידי יין יצא ידי חירות לא יצא שתאן בבת אחת רב אמר ידי יין יצא ידי ארבעה כוסות לא יצא... מיתיבי ד' כוסות הללו צריך שיהא בהן כדי רביעית אחד חי ואחד מזוג אחד חדש ואחד ישן... קתני מיהת כדי רביעית ואת אמרת כוס יפה אמרי אידי ואידי חד שיעורא הוא מאי כדי מזיגת כוס יפה דקאמר לכל חד וחד דהוי להו כולהו רביעית
We will try to understand the sugya primarily as explained by Rashi (as he is understood by the Rashbam and Tosfos through their questions and comments).  Rashi comments on the gemara:
כדי מזיגת כוס יפה. שיעורו רובע רביעית כדי שימזגנו ויעמוד על רביעית לוג דחמרא דלא דרי על חד תלת מיא לאו חמרא הוא וקא סלקא דעתך דבין כולם קאמר שמואל דליהוי רובע רביעית יין: שתאן חי. שלא מזגו במים: בבת אחת. עירה ארבעתן לתוך כוס אחד: ידי יין יצא.ששתה ד' כוסות: ידי חירות לא יצא. כלומר אין זו מצוה שלימה: כדי רביעית. בין כולן קשיא לשמואל דאמר רובע רביעית דהיינו כוס יפה
The core of the gemara is first the position of Shmuel followed a qualification of Shmuel's position by Rava and a disagreement about Shmuel's position by Rav.

Shmuel:  The 4 cups of wine must have 1/4 of a רביעית of concentrated wine (we will be assuming throughout the sugya for simplification that a רביעית is 4 ounces).  If however, you drank them as wine concentrate (WC) without dilution (שתאן חי), you have still fulfilled your obligation.  (Properly diluted wine is 1 part  WC and 3 parts water).  If you pour the 4 cups into 1 bigger cup and then drink them (שתאן בבת אחת), you have fulfilled your obligation.

Rava:  If you drink it as undiluted wine, your fulfill the basic obligation of drinking 4 cups, but you are lacking in the complete mitzva which demands freedom.

Rav:  If you pour them all into 1 big cup and drink them, you do not fulfill your obligation of 4 cups.  Rather, you only fulfill your requirement of drinking wine as part of the Torah mandated mitzva  of happiness on Yom Tov.

The gemara has 2 different ways of understanding Shmuel's ambiguous statement that "the 4 cups of wine must have 1/4 of a רביעית of concentrated wine (1 ounce)."

Hava Amina:  Shmuel meant 1 ounce of  WC among all 4 cups combined.  Meaning, each cup of the 4 cups of wine is 1 ounce (.25 oz WC and .75 oz of water).  The total amount of wine in all 4 cups combined is 4 oz, or 1 רביעית.

Maskana:  Shmuel meant 1 ounce of WC in each cup.  Meaning, each cup of the 4 cups of wine is 4 ounces (1 oz WC and 3 oz of water).  The total amount of wine in all 4 cups combined is 16 oz, or 4 רביעית.

There is a lot to define in this sugya, even by limiting our attention to Rashi.  In order to simplify matters for ourselves, what issue should we try to understand first?  What are the basic difficulties with this sugya according to Rashi's explanation?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 6: More Philosophy)

In the future, the מלך המשיח and his direct descendants will have an eternal portion in Eretz Yisroel, or 'נחלת ה.  He will effectively become a 13th tribe, in the sense that all the people living on that part of the land will trace their lineage to the  מלך המשיח and will be identified, by themselves and others, as his descendants.  This creates a group of people associated to the  מלך המשיח, in the same way that the other 12 tribes are associated to their respective progenitors.  That is one of the great benefits of land as an אחוזת נחלה.

We can gain some insight into what this might mean by analyzing one of the other changes mentioned in Yechezkel of the structure of the tribes that will occur in that time period.  As explained by the Rashbam on our gemara, the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe will be condensed back into one tribe of Yosef (and the tribe of Levi will get a portion).  What can we derive from this change?

In Bereishis 48:4, Yaakov tells Yosef, that God blessed him (after changing Yaakov's name to Yisroel) by saying that "ונתתיך לקהל עמים." Rashi explains:
ונתתיך לקהל עמים: בשרני שעתידים לצאת ממני עוד קהל ועמים ואף על פי שאמר לי (לעיל לה יא) גוי וקהל גוים, גוי אמר לי על בנימין, קהל גוים הרי שנים לבד בנימין, ושוב לא נולד לי בן, למדני שעתיד אחד משבטי ליחלק, ועתה אותה מתנה אני נותן לך
Yisroel was given a zchus, a right, to gift a double portion to one of his children by splitting that child into two tribes.  That gift Yaakov gave to Yosef by creating the portions of Ephraim and Menashe.

Yisroel was responsible for setting up the structure of a nation that would endure throughout history.  A nation that would survive when all other ancient nations would fade.  A nation that would be organised around the true idea of God.  A nation that would serve as a beacon of light to the other nations about the ways of God and how to properly serve Him.

Yisroel formed the nation of Bnei Yisroel through a combination of his wisdom and רוח הקודש.  In this capacity as the architect for the nation, Yisroel was given the right to choose which tribe would be split.  However, he was only building a nation to endure until the end of days, not through the days of the משיח.  His zchus to gift a double portion expires at the end of days, and the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe become one again.

The final form of Bnei Yisroel living in 'נחלת ה in the days of the משיח will be different than the form we had getting there.  The best way to structure a nation to make it to the end of days, is not the perfect structure for those days themselves.  One thing we can learn from Yechezkel is that the ultimate form of Bnei Yisroel in those days, permanently living in our land of אחוזת נחלה, will include the last and final piece.  The 13th tribe of the מלך המשיח.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 5: Philosophy)

We can raise a question from our sugya.  Why did the conquest of Yehoshua, and in the future the conquest of the מלך המשיח, initiate a distribution of the land under the sytem of נחלה, but the conquest of every other King does not?

David, in שמואל א פרק כו when he is being forced to flee the land, refers to Eretz Yisroel as 'נחלת ה by saying "כִּי גֵרְשׁוּנִי הַיּוֹם מֵהִסְתַּפֵּחַ בְּנַחֲלַת ה' לֵאמֹר לֵךְ עֲבֹד אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים".  Ultimately, the land is eternally tied to the 'שם ה, and was given as a gift to Bnei Yisroel in fulfillment of an oath Hashem swore to our forefathers who walked that land.  The Tribes of Yisroel have the land to use and sell only until יובל, at which point it returns back to its rightful Owner.  At every יובל, the land is redistributed to the tribes according to the way it was established in the time of Yehoshua through רוח הקודש.  Eretz Yisroel is called 'נחלת ה, because we inherit the land of the 'שם ה.  This idea is encapsulated in the full verse for the Rambam quoted earlier: וְהָאָרֶץ לֹא תִמָּכֵר לִצְמִתֻת כִּי לִי הָאָרֶץ כִּי גֵרִים וְתוֹשָׁבִים אַתֶּם עִמָּדִי.

When every other King conquers a land, it has the status of Eretz Yisroel, the land of Bnei Yisroel.  That is enough to give it the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel.  But it does not cause the new land to be identified as 'נחלת ה.  Since it is not 'נחלת ה, it does not intitiate the sytem of  נחלה to Bnei Yisroel.

However, what emerges from the Rambams in our sugya, is that in the Messianic era when the מלך המשיח conquers land (presumably the remaining 3 of the 10 nations promised to Avraham in Bereishis 15:19) it will have the status of 'נחלת ה.  That new land will be bound to the 'שם ה in the same way that the original land is now.  However, the original division was to only 12 tribes, while the future division will be to 13 tribes.  Is there any further idea we can say about this difference?

We will try to give what limited insight we can, about the significance of 13 tribes, in the next post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 4: More Svara)

We need to explain the relevant distinction between the מלך המשיח and King Yehoshua, such that the מלך המשיח will be entitled to 1/13 of the inheritance, but Yehoshua was not.

The Rambam gives us a clue when he formulates the z'chus of the מלך המשיח:
המלך המשיח נוטל מכל הארצות שכובשין ישראל חלק אחד משלשה עשר. ודבר זה חק לו ולבניו עד עולם
The nature of  z'chus  אחוזת נחלה is an eternal right to the land, an אחוזת עולם.  The idea of "forever" is the very essence of what distinguishes land as a permanent inheritance, an אחוזת עולם, as opposed to simply owning the land until it is sold.  An אחוזת עולם returns back to you or your offspring forever (at יובל) and will always remain in your family's possession.  This unique phenomenon helps establish and preserve a person's lineage by permanently tying it to a piece of land.  (Think about how valuable this is. There is no comprable asset available in our world.)

The Rambam says in Hilchos Melachim 1:9
מלכי בית דוד הם העומדים לעולם שנאמר כסאך יהיה נכון עד עולם. אבל אם יעמוד מלך משאר ישראל תפסק המלכות מביתו. שהרי נאמר לירבעם אך לא כל הימים
There are 2 types of Kings in the Torah.  1) Kings that are part of an eternal dynasty 2) Kings that are kings for a limited number of generations.  Or, to say it another way: 1)Kings of the House of David and 2) all other Kings.

The type of King that has a 1/13 portion in the eternal inheritance of Eretz Yisroel is the King that is part of an eternal dynasty that will rule the nation forever.  Certainly, משיח בן דוד qualifies as this type of King.  Yehoshua was a King for one generation.  His offspring did not have the status of King.  Therefore, he did not have the same rights to the eternal inheritance of the land that the מלך המשיח will have.

We are going to try to address a philosophical question in the next post.  Why did the conquest of Yehoshua, and the future conquest of the מלך המשיח, initiate a distribution of the land under the sytem of נחלה, but the conquest of every other King does not?

Monday, March 19, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 3: Svara and Second Problem)

In order to clarify these Rambams, we can say that there are 2 frameworks under which to view the uniqueness of Eretz Yisroel:

1a) Eretz Yisroel as a land of אחוזת נחלה, a permanent inheritance, to Bnei Yisroel. In אחוזת נחלה, the landowner is given a permanent tie to the land he receives. Even if he sells it, it returns to him or his descendants at יובל. The conquest of the מלך המשיח will initiate a new establishment of those lands under the system of נחלה.  The land will be divided as a אחוזת נחלה to all Jews.  In the system of  נחלה, the King is treated like another one of the other tribes, and therefore only receives a 1/13 portion of the inheritance.  This is the situation the Rambam is discussing in 4:8.  The only other time there was a comparable instance of נחלה was in the times of Yehoshua.

Note: We are not referring to נחלה simply as the technical halachic mechanism of transferring property upon death, but rather to a land being identified with a person as his permanent inheritance,  אחוזת נחלה as a חלות שם in the land.  We are going to use the 3 terms of נחלה, אחוזת נחלה and אחוזת עולם in a semi-interchangeable manner.  The three terms refer to different aspects of one core idea, that the mechanism of inheritance (נחלה) combined with the idea the return of lands at יובל, gives a person and his descendants a permanent grip on a piece of land (אחוזת עולם).

1b) However, by the conquest of an ordinary King, there is no such division of lands. When the Rambam states (4:10) that an ordinary King acquires rights to all the land he conquers, the Rambam is not refering to land under the system of  נחלה.  The land never becomes a permanent inheritance to its new owners.  Rather, the King gives out parcels to himself and his servants as he sees fit. This distribution creates transient monetary relationships between the land and its new owners. Selling this land severs all ties to it, and it would not be returned at יובל.  This idea is supported by the Rambam in Hilchos Smita V'yovel 11:1 which clearly states that the prohibition of selling land in Eretz Yisroel permanently, only applies to land that was divided to the tribes:
  א"י המתחלקת לשבטים אינה נמכרת לצמיתות שנאמר והארץ לא תמכר לצמיתות

2) Eretz Yisroel as a land of קדושה.  The Rambam in 5:6 is speaking in terms of  קדושת הארץ, or the sanctity of the land (i.e. תרומות ומעשרות are only ordained by the Torah in Eretz Yisroel).  In this respect, all lands conquered by any King are identical in terms of sanctity.

In short, the answer to the Minchas Chinuch's question is that the rights of the מלך המשיח are not inferior to those of a regular King.  They are vastly superior, as 1/13 of an eternal possession is infinitely greater than all of a transient one.

This answer raises a further question that will help elucidate the above differentiation in a King's rights, as well as the concept of  אחוזת נחלה.  Since Yehoshua was also a King (Rambam 1:3) during the only other time there was a division of the land, why wasn't he zocha to 1/13 of Eretz Yisroel just like the מלך המשיח?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 2: Methodology and Questions)

It is generally helpful when we have two contradicting Rambam's to see if there are any other differences between how he formulates or phrases the halachos.

When describing the rights of all Kings vis-à-vis the entirety of the land conquered, the Rambam says:
.ונותן לעבדיו ולאנשי המלחמה כפי מה שירצה. ומניח לעצמו כפי מה שירצה
The land is the King's to keep for himself and give to his servants. However by the מלך המשיח, he says:
.ודבר זה חק לו ולבניו עד עולם
That 1/13 of the land is for the  מלך המשיח and his descendants in perpetuity.

Is the Rambam making any significant distinctions that can help us answer the Minchas Chinuch's question?  What, exactly, does the Rambam mean by his two formulations?  Often, it is beneficial to read the Rambam's source, the top half amud in Bava Basra 122a, which helps clarify the Rambam's meaning when it isn't clear.  (Also, sometimes there is a Rashi that indirectly helps explain the Rambam via the gemara.)

Finally, any distinction between the two Rambams regarding different ways the newly conquered lands are treated, would have to reconcile with the simplest reading of the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim 5:6 mentioned in the first post:
כל הארצות שכובשין ישראל במלך על פי בית דין. הרי זה כבוש רבים והרי היא כארץ ישראל שכבש יהושע לכל דבר

This would imply that lands conquered by any King are all identical to the land conquered by Yehoshua, and it would seem to follow that they should all be treated the same.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 1: Facts)

The following sugya is fairly difficult and might require a greater amount of thought than usual.  We think that the ideas that emerge from this sugya justify the effort.

The Rambam says in Hilchos Melachim 4:8:
המלך המשיח נוטל מכל הארצות שכובשין ישראל חלק אחד משלשה עשר. ודבר זה חק לו ולבניו עד עולם
In the future, the מלך המשיח will take 1/13 of all the lands conquered by Bnei Yisroel.  This is based on a pasuk in Yechezkal (48:19-21) as explained in Bava Basra 122a:
תניא עתידה ארץ ישראל שתתחלק לשלשה עשר שבטים שבתחלה לא נתחלקה אלא לשנים עשר שבטים...אידך למאן אמר רב חסדא לנשיא דכתיב והעובד העיר יעבדוהו מכל שבטי ישראל
Even though the original division of the land in the days of Yehoshua was to 12 tribes, in the Messianic era, it will be to 13 tribes. (See Rashbam who explains that the נשיא is the מלך המשיח).

The Minchas Chinuch asks a question based on a Rambam two halachos later in 4:10, when speaking about all Kings in general:
כל הארץ שכובש הרי היא שלו ונותן לעבדיו ולאנשי המלחמה כפי מה שירצה. ומניח לעצמו כפי מה שירצה
A regular King is zocha, has rights, to all the land he conquers. (That land also has the status of Eretz Yisroel, just like the land conquered by Yehoshua. See Rambam 5:6.)  Why should the מלך המשיח have inferior rights to a regular King?

How do we approach a problem like this?  What steps do we need to take in explaining the Rambam?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Half Shabbos and the Blogoshiur

The following link is for a 47 minute recording of a shiur by RAZ (click here to listen), about part of our motivation for starting the Blogoshiur.  It also deals with the phenomenon of half-shabbos as part of a greater social issue, as well as a gemara in megila 21a.  While still attempting to provoke thought, the content is of a different nature than the usual material on the blogoshiur.

Click here for a link to a blog post by our friend Agur bin-Yakeh, which summarizes and expands upon the main ideas of the shiur.

We're interested in any thoughts or comments you have regarding any points of this particular shiur, and regarding the Blogoshiur in general.

A Wheat Tree? (Part 4: Philosophy)

An interesting observation is that the Torah does not tell us what kind of fruit it was.  One would think that this would be part of the story.  Perhaps Rabbi Nechemia's approach is in line with this omission.  Human psychology, as well as idolatrous religions, tend to identify certain physical objects as evil, or taboo, and others as good, or lucky. The Torah rejects such thinking.  Rather, sin is evil and observance is good. There was nothing evil or magical about the fruit which caused Adam's downfall, but it was his decision to eat from the forbidden fruit which was the mistake.

Hashem didn't want Adam, and all future men, to respond to sin by externalizing it.  By projecting evil onto an object, man seeks to rid himself of the sin.  Man must recognize that the place of sin is his internal world.  The taboo is comforting to a person, in so far as it enables him to view the evil in the external world and not part of himself.  This prevents a person from truly correcting the sin through changing his internal world and returning to Hashem.

Therefore, Hashem set it up that the same object which caused his downfall was the very same object which assisted him in his recovery from his downfall.  The net result is that Adam, and all future generations could not stigmatize the fig tree, but would be forced to look inwards.  For this reason, perhaps the Torah did not reveal to us the identity of the fruit - it would distract us from the essence of the story, the harm of sin and following one's evil inclination.

The Torah's deemphasis  on objects and redirection of man's energies towards perfection and sin, is a theme found many places in the Torah.  Chazal say that one should not say that he cannot possibly eat pig meat...but should instead say that he would like to, but his Father in heaven prohibits him from it.  There is nothing taboo against pig.  Our focus must be on the sin of eating pig and on our study of the halachos associated with it.  We thereby subordinate our appetitive instinct to our minds and embody the ideal of kedusha.

The Torah's utilization of the same object for both positive and negative purposes in order to redirect us away from the object and towards the human decision is found in other places besides for the fig tree. In the story of Korach, the ketores (incense) was used as a vehicle of both destruction and salvation (see Bamidbar 17:13, Rashi).  In the story of the copper serpent (Bamidbar 21), the snake was used both to attack the people and to heal the people.

This psychological defense we employ, of projecting an evil that is part of our internal world onto the external world, is used on people as well as objects.  Chazal say "one who disqualifies others...is doing so from own flaws"  The intended effects of projecting our defects onto others is to rid ourselves of them.  The unintended effects, are often strife and resentment.

How one changes their natural inclination to look outward instead of inward, is a different topic of teshuva.  The first step of teshuva is recognition of the sin.  While the awareness of this psychological mechanism alone will not really change a person, it might assist in allowing one to recognize a flaw and begin the process of change.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Wheat Tree? (Part 3: Svara and Facts)

The machlokes rishonim is based upon two ways to interpret the maskana of our gemara:

Ri/Rabbeinu YonahThe definition of a tree in hilchos brachos is that which regrows each year - definition (b). Thus, the term pri ha'etz is applicable to strawberries, despite there being no technical tree.

GeonimA tree always demands definition (a) to apply the term pri ha'etz to it.  However, regarding brachos, the mere botanical definiton as a tree does not suffice. To receive the special shevach of a tree it must also have the unique qualities of a tree relative to man - definition (b).  Thus, even though strawberries do regrow each year, since there is no technical tree you cannot say borei pri ha'etz on them.

The machlokes rishonim revolves around whether the language employed in a bracha must make use of the universal definitions of terms (Geonim), or whether brachos have their own lexicon as is suitable for a language of praise (Ri/Rabbeinu Yonah).

In passing, this sugya referenced a philosophical issue.  The gemara cited a 3-way machlokes as to the tree that Adam Ha'rishon ate from.

Rabbi Meir: a grape vine, for nothing brings curse to man as much as wine, as we find that Noach got drunk upon exiting the ark...
Rabbi Nechemia: a fig tree, for that which he stumbled upon was that which helped him afterwards (he covered himself with leaves of the fig tree).
Rabbi Yehuda: wheat, for the Torah calls it the "tree of knowledge..." and a child eats wheat before he even knows how to say "Daddy" and "Mommy".

This seems to be an interesting machlokes. We only have an idea for the position of  Rabbi Nechemia, but we wanted to see if anyone else had any ideas for the various positions.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Wheat Tree? (Part 2: Svara)

In order approach this sugya, we should consider in which ways it is sensible to define wheat as a tree and in which ways it is not.

There are two different frameworks to define a tree:
(a) based upon its technical, botanical identity.  Modern plant taxonomy is one example of this framework of biological classification, whose first schema was proposed by Aristotle.  Different systems give different classifications, but the underlying unity of all the systems is that they try to define the object based on its intrinsic properties.
(b) in terms of its identity relative to man, its agricultural definition.  (It grows fruit each year without any new replanting).

Wheat can qualify for definition (a), but not for (b). In describing the story of Adam Ha'rishon, the Torah defines wheat as a tree (according to Rabbi Yehuda).  Apparently, according to the Torah's technical definition, wheat is a tree (as unintuitive as that may sound, biological classification often times does that too.  For example, a strawberry is not technically a berry).  Regarding Tumaah, kli etz is a wooden utensil made from an entity defined as etz - again definition (a).

The hava amina of our gemara is that bracha of ha'etz also goes by definition (a) and therefore wheat should have the bracha of pri ha'etz. (Perhaps, the idea being that we are praising Hashem for the amazing variety of types of foods in nature that provide for our needs).

The mishna therefore teaches (maskana) that regarding brachos, an institution of shevach, the relevant definition is (b). The reason fruits get their own bracha is based on the wonderful phenomenon of a tree in so far as it allows man to annually collect produce without any new planting. Without this special function, a wheat tree, despite technically being a tree according to definition (a), does not get the bracha of pri ha'etz.

Given this framework, how can we define the machlokes rishonim regarding strawberries?

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Wheat Tree? (Part 1: Facts)

The mishna and gemara in Brachos 40a-40b discuss various halachos regarding the efficacy of incorrect brachos. The  mishna has three halachos which are all relatively easy to understand. (1) If you say ha'adama on fruits, it is valid because trees also grow from the ground. (2) If you say ha'etz on vegetables, it is invalid because vegetables have nothing to do with trees and therefore the shevach (praise) is inapplicable. (3) If you say shehakol on anything (the gemara discusses the extent of this), it is valid because the shevach of shehakol is generic and applicable to anything.

The gemara asks that halacha (2) is obvious - of course ha'etz cannot work on pri ha'adama (produce of the ground). The answer is that this halacha is needed according to Rabbi Yehuda. There's a three way machlokes as to the tree which Adam Ha'Rishon ate from. RY maintains it was wheat. Yet, the Torah calls it a tree. Thus, you may think that one can say ha'etz on it. Therefore, the mishna teaches that you only say ha'etz on a "tree" which remains after its fruit is removed and which then produces another fruit. This is not the case with wheat and therefore ha'etz is invalid.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (side of the page) cites a tosafos  in Shabbos 66a which has the position that wheat is considered a tree regarding the laws of tumaah and kli etz (utensils made from trees, or wood). Presumably his question is why the laws of brachos are different from those of tumaah regarding wheat's status as a tree.

More directly related to our sugya, how can we define the hava amina (initial position) and maskana (conclusion), according to RY, regarding the efficacy of ha'etz on wheat?

A secondary issue emerges in the Rishonim (see Tur Orach Chayim Siman 203) regarding how this discussion applies to a "fruit" such as a strawberry which regrows each year from its underground roots without leaving any tree above ground.  Some Rishonim (i.e., Ri/Rabbeinu Yonah) maintain that since it regrows each year, it meets the criteria for fruit and therefore requires ha'etz.  Others (i.e., Geonim) argue that since it has no remaining tree over the winter, it fails to meet the gemara's description and therefore requires ha'adama and not ha'etz.  How can we define this machlokes?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 5: Philosophy)

According to Rava and the conclusion of the gemara, Purim was set up as a festival for the tzibbur which emerges through each individual defining his personal day as a festive day.  Had RA been correct, it would've been a festival created by the collective action of the group and would allow for different individuals to celebrate Purim differently - some (talmidai chachamim) having their meal at night and some (most other people) by day.

We argue that Rava's formulation, as opposed to RA's is in line with a major theme in the day of Purim, that of rayus (friendship). The existential threat to the entire nation, followed by a salvation which emerged from a combination of Divine Providence and carefully planned actions of the Jewish leaders had a major impact on the Jewish people. It led to a reaffirmation to the Torah values and to the sense of  rayus  which existed between fellow Jews involved in a common, true ideology and mission. The miracle of Purim led to an immediate outpouring of simcha and mishte, together with an expression of  rayus  through sending gifts (mishloach manos). A partial comparison can be made to the sense of  friendship which New Yorkers (and all Americans) felt after the tragic events of 9/11.

In setting up the holiday of Purim, Mordechai and Esther sought to commemorate and preserve this attitude for future generations. They incorporated mishloach manos into the day and added the institution of matanos le'evyonim (gifts to the poor), an institution which furthers the rayus in the nation by minimizing the significance of class distinctions on Purim, in addition to providing happiness for both the rich and the poor.  The gemara tells us that Rabbi Yehuda Nesiah sent mishloach manos to his student Rav Oshaya.  Although this is seemingly a gift in the opposite direction from what we'd expect, perhaps it was done to minimize the emotional distance between rebbe and talmid, and thereby enhance the feeling of rayus. We also find in the gemara (according to Rashi's interpretation) that Abayai bar Avin and R' Chanina bar Avin (brothers) would switch off years hosting their joint Purim Seudah, the model of simchas merayus (see Moed Kattan 22b).

Perhaps Rava's formualtion is in line with this theme of rayus as well.  If the halacha were like RA, then Purim could've been celebrated differently by two different groups of Jews (as is the case by Tisha B'av - see Rambam), a feature which would minimize the rayus in Purim.  According to Rava, however, all Jews must equally and in an identical manner, define their day as a festive day through a daytime feast.  Perhaps this was a factor in Mordechai and Esther's decision to formulate the mitzvah of seudas Purim as Rava maintains.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 4: Svara)

In order to explain RA, we suggest that the mitzvah of defining the day of Purim is performed by the tzibbur, not by the individual. An individual alone cannot create a national festive day.  Since the tzibbur is made up of individuals, it falls upon each individual to participate in the group's definition of the day. Since the halachik day has two components, night and day, as long as an individual has his meal in either of these components, he is participating in the group's characterization of the day. Although a meal at night cannot characterize the whole day, since when you have a large number of people in a group, some will naturally do it by night and some will prefer to do it by daytime, ultimately the entire day will be characterized.  In fact, RA maintained that a good division of responsibility would involve the talmidai chachamim doing it at night (while maintaining the Beis Midrash in the day), while leaving the rest of the people to do it during the day. What was Rava's problem with this idea?

In order to pursue this machlokes further, we notice that there are two types of group activities:
(a) a group activity which gains its character and meaning through the totality of all of the members of the group. Consider the example of the Olympic Torch Relay from Greece to the site of the current Olympic Games. No individual's action in isolation is defined as passing the Olympic torch - he is just running with fire. It is only through the aggregation of the actions of all of the members that the activity gains its character.
(b) a group activity where each individual's action has the desired character, but the significance of these activities comes through the entirety of the group. Consider the example of a moment of silence. Each individual does the "action" of a moment of silence. However, if only one person did it, it would have no significance. While the act would be intelligible as a moment of silence, the significance and objective (kiyum) of the individual action is realized through the group.

Was the group activity of defining the day as a festival day formulated as in type (a) or (b)?

RA held (a). Defining Purim as a festival takes place through the totality of the nation. No individual's action needs to define the day in isolation - it can simply be a meal on Purim.  Therefore, it can be by night or day. Many individuals doing this action on the same day generates the group action of defining the day as a festival day through a nation wide feast.

Rava held (b). Each individual's action must be defined in isolation as defining his day as a festival day. This can only be accomplished by a feast in the daytime. However, the kiyum of these actions comes through the group. Rava supports his position from the megilla saying "days of mishte and simcha" - Purim is a day which emerges from the days of many individuals together.

This idea of Rava is not merely a particular halacha regarding the timing of the feast, but is a novel idea regarding the definition of Purim as a festival day through many individuals' days. In order for RA to fully internalize this idea and to explore its various applications, he reviewed it forty times. He then "carried it in his pocket", ready to apply it and approach different areas with this idea in mind.

In the next post we will discuss a philosophical benefit which emerges from Rava's formulation and ties into the nature of the day of Purim.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 3: Clarification and Framework)

The verses for the obligation of eating the Purim meal are (Esther 9:21,22):
כא לְקַיֵּם, עֲלֵיהֶם--לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת יוֹם אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר, וְאֵת יוֹם-חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ:  בְּכָל-שָׁנָה, וְשָׁנָה.  כב כַּיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר-נָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב; לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם, יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה, וּמִשְׁלֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ, וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים
The verse does not actually state an obligation to eat a meal.  Rather, it says that the 14th of Adar and the 15th, are to be made happy, festive days.

We deduce from here that the Purim feast, as well as sending portions to friends and gifts to the poor, are not isolated actions which are obligatory on the 14th of Adar, but are related to the identity of the day of Purim itself.  Through these actions, the day of Purim gains its character as a happy, festive day for all members of society. (See the first comment below which presents an alternate way of formulating the precise nature of the relationship between the meal and the day itself).

The objective, or kiyum, of eating the purim feast is to characterize the day as a festive day.  It would not be a very festive day if no one had a feast.  Likewise, it would not be a day of friendship if no one sent portions to their friends.  This formulation is borne out by a careful reading of the Rambam cited in the first post. This explains why the Rama holds that it is a kiyum to eat at night as well. If the seudah were a maaseh hamitzvah, then there would be no value in doing an additional meal at night. However, since the day is a festive day, even if you define the day during the daytime, there is value in acting in line with the character of the festive day at night as well. In further support of this argument, the gemara tells a story of Abayai having two Purim feasts during the daytime in one year.

Within this framework, we can now reformulate our question on Rav Ashi.  Since the mitzva of eating the Purim feast is to characterize the day as a festive day, it certainly should have to be done during the daytime, as Rava maintains.  The main part of the day is the daytime, and it would seem that an activity that should define the entire day would have to be done during the daytime. How can we make sense of Rav Ashi's position?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 2: Questions and Methodology)

The biggest difficulty we had in defining the gemara was in trying to understand the position of Rav Ashi which allows a choice of a Purim Seudah at night or at day.

Commandments tied to specific days would seem to be of two types, neither of which seems in line with RA:
(a) where the day has a character and generates an obligation to act in line with it (or define it), i.e. Shabbos and Yom Tov demand that one have meals as an expression of the various themes of these days.  In such days, since the day has two components, night and day, an obligation is generated in each. In theory, it's possible such a structure can only obligate an expression in the essence of the yom, the daytime  (perhaps this is the case with meat and wine on  yom tov), but to allow for an expression at night (the minor component) and not at day (as RA maintains here) seems difficult.

(b) where the day obligates a specific maaseh hamitzvah to be performed on it (lulav, for instance).  In such a case, the obligation is only once a day.  However, it would seem that the timing of such obligations are specific - they are either only during the daytime (i.e. shofar, lulav, etc), or only at night because of specific reasons (lighting candles, matza, etc).  It doesn't seem like there are examples where such an obligation applies to the zman of the 24 hour period as a whole (as RA holds here). While it's not impossible that the purim meal is a unique structure, the fact that we saw no precedence for something like that disturbed us.

An additional problem with (b) is that then mishte and simcha are not characteristics of the day (as would seem from the megilla), but are mere actions. What is the sense and meaning of eating the meal at night, and then waking up the next morning, going to the beis medrash like RA, and having a regular day?  What kind of a festival would the day be, because the night before you had a big meal?  A feast is eaten during the day of a festival.

Additionally, it puts such a far gap between RA and the conclusion.  What RA had in mind is a completely different concept of the festival of purim than what was going on in the world around him.  (For a further development of approach (b) to our gemara, see harirai kedem - siman 204 in old edition).

The above issue, over how to understand the implications in completely fulfilling one's obligation by only eating a meal at night, is the core issue in the sugya.  How you resolve this point determines your next step.  We believe it to be a deep point, that demands careful thought in appreciating the different possibilities available to move forward.  (Some of the comments from the previous post might be helpful in further elucidating the issue).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 1: Facts)

The gemara in megila 7b says:
אמר רבא סעודת פורים שאכלה בלילה לא יצא ידי חובתו מאי טעמא ימי משתה ושמחה כתיב רב אשי הוה יתיב קמיה דרב כהנא נגה ולא אתו רבנן אמר ליה מאי טעמא לא אתו רבנן דלמא טרידי בסעודת פורים אמר ליה ולא הוה אפשר למיכלה באורתא אמר ליה לא שמיע ליה למר הא דאמר רבא סעודת פורים שאכלה בלילה לא יצא ידי חובתו אמר ליה (אמר רבא הכי) [אמר ליה אין] תנא מיניה ארבעין זימנין ודמי ליה כמאן דמנח בכיסיה
There is a machlokes between Rav Ashi (RA) and Rava. (Rav Ashi, upon learning of Rava's position, accepted the new position and reviewed it 40 times until it was in his pocket).
RA: One can eat the purim meal at night (of the 14th) or during the day of the 14th.  Therefore, a torah scholar should eat it at night so he can devote his time to learning torah the next day.
Rava: If one eats the purim meal at night, he does not fulfill his obligation.  Rather, one can only eat the meal during the day.  This is based on the verse (Esther 9:22) that says "happy, festive days."

It might be helpful to see how the Rambam (2:14) formulates the halacha of  the purim meal.
מצות יום י"ד לבני כפרים ועיירות ויום ט"ו לבני כרכים להיותן יום שמחה ומשתה ומשלוח מנות לריעים ומתנות לאביונים. ומותר בעשיית מלאכה ואעפ"כ אין ראוי לעשות בו מלאכה. אמרו חכמים כל העושה מלאכה ביום פורים אינו רואה סימן ברכה לעולם. בני כפרים שקדמו וקראו בשני או בחמישי אם חלקו מעות לאביונים ביום קריאתן יצאו. אבל השמחה והמשתה אין עושין אותם אלא ביום י"ד. ואם הקדימו לא יצאו. וסעודת פורים שעשאה בלילה לא יצא ידי חובתו
Finally, the Rama says that one should be happy and eat a bigger meal than usual during the night time.  How does he derive this from the conclusion of the gemara?

We will ultimately try to define the main machlokes between Rava and RA.  First, what questions do we need to ask, and what issues do we need to understand before we can define the two positions?