God vs The Multiverse

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Switcharoo (Part 1: Facts)

We know that the following sugya is in an unfamiliar area (תמורה) for most people, but we'll try to give the appropriate background that will allow you to think about the problem.  Feel free to ask any questions if you think you need more information.

The Torah in Vayikra 27:10 discuses an animal that has the sanctity of a קרבן (i.e. it is designated to be brought as a sacrifice on the alter):
לֹא יַחֲלִיפֶנּוּ וְלֹא יָמִיר אֹתוֹ טוֹב בְּרָע אוֹ רַע בְּטוֹב וְאִם הָמֵר יָמִיר בְּהֵמָה בִּבְהֵמָה וְהָיָה הוּא וּתְמוּרָתוֹ יִהְיֶה קֹּדֶשׁ
You are not allowed to switch the sanctified animal for a different animal.  It doesn't matter if the original קרבן was good (i.e. has no blemish), and the substituted animal (תמורה) is bad (i.e. has a blemish); or if the original קרבן was bad, and the substituted animal is good.  If you try to switch the original קרבן for another animal, both the original animal and the substitute end up consecrated, and you get lashes. (Not a good idea to try.)

The gemara in Temura 9a brings down an argument between Rava and Abaye regarding substitution when both animals are good (a case not explicitly taken up in the verse):
תנו רבנן ממירין מן בעלי מומין על התמימים ומן התמימים על בעלי מומין... רבא אמר... חד טוב, אפי' בטוב נמי כי ממיר לקי ואביי אמר קל וחומר הוא ומה טוב ברע דעלויי קא מעלי ליה לקי טוב בטוב דכי הדדי נינהו לא כל שכן דלקי ורבא אין עונשין מן הדין ואביי אמר לך האי לאו עונשין מן הדין הוא מי גרע טוב מרע
The basic machlokes between Abaye and Rava revolves around whether we need an extra word 'טוב' in order to derive the law that you get the punishment of lashes for a substitution when both animals are good.

Rava:  We need an extra word 'טוב' to teach us that you get the punishment of lashes for substitution when both animals are good.

Abaye:  We don't need the extra word 'טוב', as we would already know it from basic logic (קל וחומר):  If the Torah explicitly prohibits substituting a good animal in the place of bad animal (where you are improving upon the original קרבן), of course you get lashes for substituting a good animal for another good animal.

Rava:  Your logic Abaye is impeccable.  Nevertheless, we do need the extra word 'טוב', as we have a general principle throughout the Torah of אין עונשין מן הדין (you cannot derive a punishment through the logic of קל וחומר).

Abaye:  This is not a problem of עונשין מן הדין.  How could substituting a good one in place of a good one, be any less prohibited than in place of a bad one?!

Rashi explains this last reply of Abaye:
ואביי אמר לך האי לאו עונשין מן הדין הוא. אלא אגלויי מילתא בעלמא היא דהיכא דגלי קרא דלקי אטוב דחולין כי מימר ליה ברע דקדש גלי נמי דאי מימר ליה בטוב דקדש לקי: דמי גרע טוב מרע. כלומר מי גרע טוב דקדש מרע דקדש כי היכי דרע דקדש כי מחליף ליה לקי ה"ה לטוב דקדש דרחמנא לא קפיד אלא דלא יחליף מידי דקדש
It's not a problem of עונשין מן הדין, as the logical reasoning is simply being used to reveal the true intent of the Torah; when it said "don't switch a good for a bad" (where you're improving the situation), what the Torah was really saying is "don't switch at all, in any situation".  This obviously includes the case of a good animal in place of another good one, as how could this be any better than switching a good animal in place of a bad one?!

How can we define the machlokes between Rava and Abaye?  What do have to understand first, before we can even begin to try to define the machlokes?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Women in Miracles (Post 5: More Svara)

We suggest that according to Tosafos, the primary obligation to publicize is only on men, those ordinarily obligated in time bound mitzvos.  However, the fact that men are involved in publicizing a miracle in which women were also beneficiaries, creates a secondary obligation on women to involve themselves too.  For women to ignore the public expression of publicizing the miraculous salvation of the nation as a whole, would be tantamount to denying its significance to them.

Thus, that which creates the obligation upon women is not the time itself (the calender day of the anniversary of the event), but rather the event of the men publicizing the miracle.  It is therefore not included under the exemption of women from time bound mitzvos.  (A similar idea was given by Rav Soloveitchik to explain why kiddush levana is not time bound.  Although the obligation takes place at a fixed time, it is not conceptually the time which obligates, but the event of the new moon.)

The new idea in Tosafos is that the obligation of women in these mitzvos is not the same as that of men.  Men have a primary obligation whereas women's obligation is secondary.

A proof for this distinction can be derived from a Tosafos in Megilla 4a which brings the position of the Behag that women cannot read the megilla for men, because men are obligated in קריאה (reading) whereas women are only obligated in שמיעה (hearing).

At first sight, this position is puzzling. Who ever heard of a mitzvah with two different forms for two groups which are both obligated?  The above svara answers this question. The primary obligation of megilla is קריאה, and this only applies to men. However, since when women witness men reading the megilla they must be involved as well, the nature of their obligation is secondary and therefore differs from that of the men.  (For a further development of the Behag's thought, see the first comment below.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Women in Miracles (Part 4: More Svara)

We are going to try to learn Tosafos as agreeing with the Rashbam about the main idea of publicizing a miracle, and only differing in a particular of that obligation.  This difference leads Tosafos to reject the Rashbam's approach to explaining אף הן היו באותו הנס, and to suggest their own approach.  In this post, we will clarify the approach of the Rashbam and discuss Tosafos' argument with the Rashbam.  (We will discuss Tosafos' own approach in the next post.)

The Rashbam maintains that the chain that perpetuates the information about the miracle is one continuous chain which is begun with those who witnessed the miracle and continued by succeeding generations.  Although the specific form of this publicizing has varied at the different stages in history, the underlying involvement in maintaining the memory of the miracle is one continuous activity of the nation, and the historical information being transmitted has never changed.  The mitzva merely gave a particular concrete form (reading megilla, lighting candles, drinking four cups of wine) to that which was being done beforehand in a more informal manner.

The key to perceiving the unity between the publicizing of the miracle that the original woman did, with the activities that we do nowadays, is to look at the information that is being transmitted in each stage.  The specific form that the message is transmitted through has been standardized (i.e. lighting a menora as opposed to the words of Yehudis telling a story), but the information content that is being transmitted is identical, and hence it is one chain of transmission.

Since it is one involvement throughout the generations, the group which is obligated to perpetuate this chain is the same at all stages of the institution.  This group is defined as all those people who were carriers of the message from the first woman until the modern era.  Since women had to be involved in the initial stage (because of their unique role), the concretization of this pirsumei nisa in the mitzva must also apply to women as well.  The mitzva is simply a standardization of the form in which the future transmission of the information continues.  The chain predates the mitzva, and the chain of necessity includes woman.

Tosafos argues that the transient obligation of pirsumei nisa upon those who witness the miracle is distinct from the permanent obligation of future generations.  The creation of a formal structure to the transmission of the information presents a clear break from the informal transmission of the message up until the institution of the mitzva.  Tosafos postulates that there is an essential difference between a chain of transmission where there is no structured form to the message, and a chain of transmission with a definite and fixed form.

Those who witnessed and were involved in the miracle publicized it to their generation in any way that was most effective.  Additionally, they also set up an independent mitzva which has a definite form for the purpose of publicizing it to all future generations. As such, the fact that women were directly involved in the miracle and in its initial transmission is irrelevant with respect to the form that the mitzva le'doros takes on.  While the information content of the two transmissions are identical, the form of the transmissions are different, and as such, they are not one chain.  Those involved in the initial transmission of the miracle (men and women) are not necessarily identical with those who constitute the chain of transmission in the future.

Why then, according to Tosafos were women included in the Rabanan's formulation of the mitzva le'doros, contrary to the ordinary pattern of mitzvos in which women are exempt from time bound mitzvos?  Tosafos explains because women too were saved/redeemed by the miracle.  What is the idea behind this answer and how does it get around the fact that ultimately, the mitzva is still time bound?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Women in Miracles (Part 3: Svara)

Far and away, what is most difficult in this sugya is explaining the Rashbam.  What is the connection between the miracle being done through a particular woman, and women of all future generations being obligated in a mitzva that publicizes the miracle?

Miracles are unique phenomenon that occur infrequently.  As the Ramban explains at the end of Bo, a miracle testifies to many important and fundamental ideas.
וכאשר ירצה האלוהים בעדה או ביחיד ויעשה עימהם מופת בשנוי מנהגו של עולם וטבעו, יתברר לכל בטול הדעות האלה כלם, כי המופת הנפלא מורה שיש לעולם אלוה מחדשו, ויודע ומשגיח ויכול...ובעבור כי הקב"ה לא יעשה אות ומופת בכל דור לעיני כל רשע או כופר, יצווה אותנו שנעשה תמיד זיכרון ואות לאשר ראו עינינו, ונעתיק הדבר אל בנינו, ובניהם לבניהם, ובניהם לדור אחרון
A miracle proves that God created the world in so far as He has dominion over the laws of nature.  It shows that God knows mankind, and that He is involved in man's affairs.  These particular miracles (Pesach, Purim, and Chanuka) also show that Hashem is close to Bnei Yisroel; when we cry out to Hashem in prayer, He answers us.  The Rambam at the very end of his introduction to the Mishne Torah explicitly says that this is one of the purposes of reading the megila:
אלא כך אנו אומרין, שהנביאים עם בית דין תיקנו וציוו לקרות המגילה בעונתה כדי להזכיר שבחו של הקדוש ברוך הוא ותשועות שעשה לנו, והיה קרוב לשווענו כדי לברכו ולהללו, וכדי להודיע לדורות הבאים שאמת מה שהבטיחנו בתורה: ומי גוי גדול אשר לו אלוהים קרובים אליו
However, God does not perform open miracles in every generation.  It is therefore incumbent upon the people who witness a miracle to spread that knowledge to others in their generation, as well as to preserve that knowledge for all future generations by relating the events they personally witnessed to their offspring.

In other words, a miracle creates an obligation to establish a transmission process that maintains the memory of the empirical observation of the miracle.  The chain of transmission starts with the first people who witnessed the miracle and continues with every generation adding another link to the chain that ultimately connects back to the original witnesses.  The people of the first generation in the chain are not merely acting to set up the mitzva, but are the first performers of the mitzva which is continued by future generations.  They are the first link in the chain.

The people of the original generation were not all equally involved in the miracle.  A few select individuals were involved in a unique way.  These were the righteous individuals that the miracle was done through.  Who the miracle is done through is not merely an afterthought.  Rather, they have a superior perspective from which to observe and transmit the miracle.

It is for this reason that the chain of transmission begins with those individuals in particular, and not from those with an inferior perspective.  Future generations continue the knowledge given to us by those select people who have the best access to the miraculous events.

Since, in these three cases (the four cups, Chanuka candles, and megila) a woman was among the select individuals who the miracle itself was done through, women as a whole must be part of the chain.  It would be impossible to exclude women from being the gavra of the mitzva for future generations, being that they are necessarily part of the mitzva in the first generation.  In other words, since a woman is at the beginning of the chain, women by definition are part of the chain of transmission and are therefore obligated in the mitzva.
Thus, in setting up these mitzvos, the Rabanan had no choice but to go against the ordinary principle of not obligating women in time bound mitzvos.

This explains the reasoning of the Rashbam.  Does Tosafos fundamentally disagree about the nature of publicizing miracles, or is there a way we can understand the position of Tosafos which is consonant with this general understanding?