Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Menachos 99b - ביטולה זהו קיומה

There is a well known phrase ביטולה של תורה זהו קיומה which seems to be an adaption and modification of the Talmudic phrase ביטולה של תורה זהו יסודה. The source for the modification is found in Rabbeinu Gershom who translates the term יסודה to mean קיומה. The connotation of the phrase ביטולה זהו קיומה is similar to that of יצא הפסדו בשכרו, meaning that sometimes it is necessary to do something against the Torah which ultimately brings about a greater fulfillment of the Torah. It is of the same genre as עת לעשות להשם הפרו תורתך, where the violation of the Torah is necessary for the greater fulfillment of the Torah. However, it seems to me that by modifying the term יסודה to קיומה, there is a potent message in the connotation that is being diluted by this change of term. Rashi explains that the term יסודה implies that through bitul torah, one can actually receive reward as if he were יושב ומייסדה ועוסק בה. Meaning, we don't simply encourage the temporary violation for the greater good that will come from it, but rather we consider the actual violation to be a constructive building of the foundation of Torah. The gemara learns this out from the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu broke the luchos and Hashem agreed that he made the correct choice. Rashi loosens the definition of ביטולה זהו יסודה to mean that one receives reward as if he was building a foundation for Torah, and derives this from Moshe where we see that Hashem sanctioned his good intentions. But, if we truly interpret that the Bitul Torah can be regarded as an actual constructive building of the Torah, we need to fine tune how exactly the breaking of the luchos would serve as a source for this concept?
The Shita Mi'Kubetzes (and Maharsha) cite the kal v'chomer that Moshe made which led him to break the luchos - מה פסח שאינו אלא מצוה אחת אמרה תורה כל בן נכר לא יאכל בו, כל התורה כולה וכל ישראל מומרים על אחת כמה וכמה. Moshe made a kal v'chomer that if we are willing to be me'vatel the mitzvah of korban pesach to avoid one who is נתנכרו מעשיו לאביו שבשמים and isn't fulfilling other mitzvos, we should certainly be mevatel the entire Torah to prevent the Jews who are mumrim from receiving it. The idea that a בן נכר doesn't bring korban pesach is that the korban pesach represents G-d's protection of the his people (separating them from the Egyptians) - therefore one who is a בן נכר and isn't worthy of this protection, the korban pesach will have the opposite effect. Similarly, giving Torah to the Jews when they are sinning will have the adverse effect that it should. Rather than providing them with zechuyos, it serves as a מקטרג to prosecute against them. Moshe's logic was that Torah which is built on a faulty foundation will not hold, therefore the foundation must be destroyed before the Torah can be built. The breaking of the luchos sends the message that they must do teshuva, so that that destruction is the first step in the construction of the foundation. From this we learn that sometimes the foundation is built by the destruction of the Torah, so that people will learn that the foundation must be improved before it can hold the weight of the Torah. This is the concept of ביטולה זהו יסודה, it is b'geder סותר על מנת לבנות במקומו where the destruction is actually the first step in the process of construction.

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