Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chulin 5a - Mumar to be Mechalel Shabbos and Non-religious Nowadays

The gemara says that we don't accept a korban from a mumar for avoda zara or a mumar who violates shabbos publicly, but we do accept from a mumar who violates another aveira. From this the poskim derive that one who violates shabbos publicly has a reduced status in halacha, and for many things is considered like a goy. His shechita is passul, he can't be counted as a minyan, one cannot cook for him on yom tov.... Rashi explains:
דהעובד עבודת כוכבים כופר בהקב"ה, והמחלל שבת כופר במעשיו ומעיד שקר שלא שבת הקב"ה במעשה בראשית
Rashi understands that the violation of shabbos is more fundamental than mila, kashrus and other issurim in the Torah because it is a denial of G-d creating the world. However, Rashi doesn't explain why this is only true when one publicly violates the shabbos, but is not true when one privately violates the shabbos.
R. Moshe (Igros Moshe o.c. 1:33) explains the distinction and with this explains why many people nowadays wouldn't have this status. When one violates shabbos privately we consider this to be לתאבון, but when one violates shabbos publictly he is doing a very open act of rejecting Hashem as the creator who rested on shabbos. Since we aren't able to know what he is thinking, we have to look at his actions to make that determination. A public violation of shabbos indicates a rejection of the creator. Therefore, this distinction only applies when one recognizes the seriousness of shabbos and what it represents, yet makes a conscious decision to violate it publicly. But, when one has no appreciation of shabbos at all, their violation isn't a denial of Hashem and therefore it is tantamount to a private violation that we attribute to his yetzer horah getting the better of him. The Sridei Eish (R. Yechiel Yacov Weinberg) refers to this teshuva of R. Moshe and writes that he agrees with the logic.
Based on this approach many shabbos violators nowadays would have the status of a regular מומר לתאבון even if they violate shabbos publicly. However, the leniency wouldn't extend to those who grew up religious with an appreciation for shabbos and later chose to reject it.
Most non-religious Jews would have the status of מומר לתאבון, as opposed to מומר להכעיס or מומר לחלל שבת בפרהסיאץ. But, they don't have all the advantages of a mumar l'tai'avon. When the gemara speaks of a מומר לתאבון, it speaks about someone who makes decisions before he does aveiros. When he has nothing to gain and no benefit in violating, he will always decide to keep the mitzvos i.e. purchase kosher food. It is only when it is too expensive, too hard to obtain, or doesn't taste as good that he will decide to eat non-kosher. It is for this reason that when we can ascertain that he has nothing to gain by doing something wrong, he will do it right. But, for the most part, nowadays people who aren't religious, don't make any decisions at all. Meaning, they categorize themselves as "I don't keep kosher" or "I am reformed so I drive on Shabbos". Since they don't make any decisions or make any attempt to do what is right, they wouldn't be trusted to do something properly, even when there would be no gain to do it improperly. Even Rava who says that we don't say כיון דדש בה כהתירה דמי ליה - these people are כהתירא דמי ליה, where we no longer have the assumption of לא שביק התירא ואכיל איסורא.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chulin 4a - Yotzei V'nichnas

In Avoda Zara 12a, I mentioned Tosafos who says that the concept behind yotzei v'nichnas being effective is not that a spot check is good enough. Rather, the concept of יוצא ונכנס is that he creates fear on the goy who is constantly concerned that the mashgiach will show up unannounced and catch him red handed - נתפס עליו כגנב. Therefore, it is only effective in a situation where the goy has what to lose if he gets caught, and when there is a real concern that the mashgiach can and will show up an any moment.
The Cheshek Shlomo points out that the gemara in chulin 4a seems to echo this idea. The gemara says that according to Rava that yotzei v'nichnas is effective, why would the braisa speak about ישראל עומד על גביו, rather than speaking about the bigger chiddush of yotzei v'nichnas. The gemara explains - אמר לך יוצא ונכנס נמי כעובד על גביו דמי, meaning that it is the same. However, this doesn't seem to answer the gemara's question - it would still be a bigger chiddush to say that יוצא ונכנס works? The Cheshek Shlomo explains that the braisa is actually saying a big chiddush according to Rava. It is true that yotzei v'nichnas works, but one may think that it works as a spot check to allow us to assume that if now he didn't mess up now, he wouldn't have messed up at other times. By the braisa equating yotzei v'nichnas to ישראל עומד על גביו it is esentially teaching us that יוצא ונכנס works through the same method of someone being there constantly, since it creates a fear of someone walking in at any moment.
With this we can understand why Abaye disagreed with Rava and held that יוצא ונכנס doesn't work for shechita, even though it works everywhere else. The gemara seems to make a very superficial distinction between the case of the wine where the goy is in the store but not supposed to be touching it, and the case of shechita where he is actually touching it. Rashi 3b offers a deeper understanding to that distinction. Rashi explains that the reason shechita is different is that the animal is in his hand and כהרף עין שוהה או דורס - he can instantaneously with the twist of the wrist mess up the entire shechita. Since he can do so within a split second there is no longer the fear of getting caught which undermines the entire concept of יוצא ונכנס.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chulin 3b - Mumar L'hachis

Rava says that a mumar l'tei'avon which is someone who will only eat issur when there is no other kosher option is allowed to do shechita, just not allowed to check the knife (since he isn't believed to do things that require very much effort). The clear implication of Rava's statement is that a mumar l'hach'is, meaning one who ignores the kosher option and opts for the non-kosher food, his shechita is invalid even bidi'eved. However, it isn't clear why we invalidate his shechita. Rashi (d.h. chutz) writes - אבל להכעיס אפילו נמצאת סכינו יפה לא, דמועד לנבל בכוונה בידים. Rashi understands that we are concerned that he will intentionally mess up in the shechita and we therefore treat his shechita as a neveila. According to Rashi he is not inherently invalid, we are just concerned for intentionally botching the shechita. It should follow that if someone was watching the mumar l'hach'is carefully and determines that he didn't violate any of the 5 halachos of shechita, it would be valid. However, Tosafos d.h. kasavar, writes that the same source that we use to exclude a goy from shechita, וזבחת, from which we learn you need to be a בר זביחה, we exclude a mumar l'hach'is. Tosafos understands that to qualify as a bar zevicha you need to be someone who believes in the importance of shechita, therefore a goy and a mumar l'hachis who completely disregard the process of shechita are passul. According to Tosafos this is an inherent p'sul and therefore a mashgiach standing over him wouldn't help, just like it wouldn't help for a goy. The Shach (2:16) understands that this is a d'oraysa exclusion, and the product is a neveila d'oraysa. The Rambam has a similar approach to Tosafos that we equate a mumar l'hach'is to a goy, but is somewhat different. According to the Rambam we learn from the pasuk of ואכלת מזבחו to exclude a goy, and include a mumar l'hachis who has status of a goy. According to the Rambam the pasuk which declares the shechita to be treif is in the context of a goy, but we equate a mumar l'hachis based on the rule that a mumar has status of a goy. Whereas according to Tosafos, the pasuk doesn't speak about a goy, rather about one who is not a בר זביחה which incorporates both a goy and mumar equally. The difference between then is whether the equating of a mumar to a goy in this context relies on a general principal that a mumar is like a goy (rambam) or just happens to be that they are both excluded for the same reason which is not believing in the rules of shechita. - see page 15 of the pdf sefer on shechita that i linked to yesterday.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chulin 2a - Women and Shechita - Eldad Hadani

One of the opinions that has become a favorite to pick on in Hilchos Shechita is a sefer called Hilchos Eretz Yisroel by Eldad HaDani (see wiki). The first Tosafos in Chulin quotes Sefer E.Y. as the source to forbid women from shechita because דעתן קלות. Tosafos rejects this opinion by proving from the Mishna in Zevachim that woman are allowed to shecht even kodshim, so they can certainly shecht chulin. The Beis Yosef adds that the explanation of Hilchos E.Y. that they are דעתן קלות simply means that they are more prone to fainting when carrying out the gruesome shechita. Although Tosafos opinion is echoed by all the Rishonim, the Rama (1:1) writes that the minhag is for women not to shecht, which he quotes from the Agur. The Beis Yosef challenges whether there can exist a minhag "not to shecht". Although we have never heard or seen a women shechting, that would not have status of minhag - לא ראינו אינה ראיה. The Shach (1:1) disagrees with the Beis Yosef and says that when something is common and prone to happen, we do say לא ראינו is a proof, because if it was possible to happen, odds are that it would have happened. The Pri Megadim says that there are two reasons that we don't allow women to shecht: 1. they are suspect of violating lifnei iver, 2. they are prone to fainting. Therefore he rules that even bidieved one cannot eat from the shechita of a woman unless their knife was examined carefully and they have a chazaka that they can handle the gruesome shechita without fainting. The Aruch Hashulchan adds an interesting point - since there is a concern regarding the knife that it wasn't examined properly, women wouldn't be able to shecht chulin but would be able to shecht kodshim since the gemara says (zevachim 88) that they would take new knives rather than fixing nicks in the knife. This approach would undermine the proof of Tosafos that if they can shecht kodshim, they can certainly shecht chulin. I found that in the sefer of notes on Rav Eliyahuv's shiurim, he cites a possible source for the minhag that women don't shecht from kiddushin 52b. The gemara says וכי אשה בעזרה מנין, Rashi says that a women wouldn't enter the Azara. Tosafos disagrees because we don't find any issur for a woman to enter the azara. One of Tosafos proofs is that women can do shechita which would require them to enter the azara. Nevertheless, Rashi assumes that the minhag was not to let women in the azara, which could have led to a minhag to not allow women to shecht kodshim. Since they weren't shechting kodshim, it could have extended to chulin as well. The proof Tosafos in Kiddushin cites that women could enter the azara since they are allowed to do shechita is difficult in light of the gemara Chulin 2b that talks about shechting from outside the azara with a long knife (although the gemara is only speaking about using a long knife to prevent touching the animal after it is dead, Tosafos explains that since we are talking about tamei meis, we have to be speaking of a knife that is long enough for him to remain outside the azara and shecht inside the azara ) - women could have done the same.
I wrote a sefer of comments on the Chochmas Adam in Hilchos Shechita. If interested please CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Menachos 99b - Learning at ALL times

R. Elazar Moshe Horowitz (Pinsk) points out a very interesting paradox in the opinions regarding the mitzvah of limud ha'torah. R. Yishmael is the opinion who did not permit his nephew to study chochmas yevanis because the mitzvah to study Torah is incumbent on a person at ALL times, whereas R. Shimon Bar Yochai (quoted by R. Yochanan) says that one can fulfill their obligation through the reading of shema in the morning and evening. However, in the gemara Brachos 35b, it is R. Yishmael who permits working to compliment Torah study - הנהג בהן מנהג דרך ארץ, whereas R. Shimon Bar Yochai held that if one devotes himself to Torah the his work will be done by others. It comes out that R. Yishmael holds that one must learn ALWAYS, yet allows for one to do work, and R. Shimon Bar Yochai doesn't allow for work yet he holds that the mitzvah to study Torah can be fulfilled simply by reading shema?
Rav E.M. Horowitz suggests that according to R. Yishmael the demand is to learn every moment of the day, therefore one may not study other things. Yet, he allows for one to work since without the ability to earn a living one will not be able to focus on their learning - יפה ת"ת עם דרך ארץ. On the other hand, R. Shimon Bar Yochai held that there is no heter for one to stop learning in order to work, therefore the justification of those tzadikim who throughout history did work must have been based on the assumption that the mitzvah to study Torah is not at all times.
The approach within the opinion of R. Yishmael seems very plausible. The mitzvah to study torah is continuous and applies all day and night, therefore the mitzvah itself must include a dispensation for earning a living since otherwise it would be impossible to manage. However, his approach within the opinion of R. Shimon Bar Yochai is difficult. If indeed R. Shimon holds that the demand to study Torah can be fulfilled with shema, how can he put any restrictions at all on working?
It seems to me that R. Shimon Bar Yochai in Menachos is making a halachic statement regarding the fulfillment of the bare minimum requirement to study Torah. But, in Brachos he isn't making a halachic statement, he is rather recognizing a reality. If the Torah scholars would be mevatel their limud ha'torah for the purpose of earning a living, they may be permitted to do so but would still forfeit tremendous potential of achievements in their learning. R. Shimon wasn't making a halachic statement, rather he was saying that the Torah scholars shouldn't be mevatel their learning since תורה מה תהא עליה, therefore he was confident that to protect the achievements in Torah, G-d would make it so that their work will be done by others.

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.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Menachos 95a - Travelling of Camps in Midbar

The Meshech Chochma (Parshas Bamidbar 2:17) explains the pasuk - ונסע אוהל מועד מחנה הלוים בתוך המחנות, כאשר יחנו כן יסעו איש על ידו לדגליהם - to contrast the norm of travelling. Kavod is only applicable when people are in their formal settings. but when they are traveling there is no concept of showing kavod - אין מכבדין בדרכים. It is for this reason that the Torah insists that the arrangement of the shevatim around the mishkan be maintained even when they travel. Since the Mishkan traveled within the camp and Hashem's presence was there even at the time of travelling, as the gemara darshens (Menachos 95a) - ונסע אוהל מועד, אע"פ שנסע אוהל מועד הוא ואינו נפסל לחם הפנים ביוצא. Since the Kedusha was maintained even while travelling, it was necessary to maintain their formal formation around the mishkan.
This Meshech Chochma is very difficult in light of the gemaras conclusion that there is really no machlokes about the lechem hapanim and kodshei kodshim becoming passul. The gemara concludes that all agree that at the time of travelling, the מחנה שכינה lost it's kedusha, therefore any lechem hapanim that was off the table, and kodshei kodshim would be passul. However, the lechem hapanim that was actually on the table would not become passul. Rashi explains that the אוהל מועד did NOT retain it's status when they travelled, yet the breads on the table would not become passul based on the pasuk of ולחם התמיד עליו יהיה indicating that so long as they remain on the table, they retain their kedusha. Just as they don't become passul due to לינה, they also don't become passul due to יוצא. The gemara does conclude that there is a machlokes tana'im whether the מחנה לויה ומחנה ישראל also lose their kedusha when they travel, or whether the status of מחנה לויה וישראל remain so that the metzorah and zav are still not permitted to enter their respective camps. It seems strange for the Meshech Chochma to base himself on the drasha that even during the travels the ohel mo'ed retained it's kedusha, since it is rejected at the maskana. It seems that the Meshech Chochma understands like R.E.M. Horowitz who says that when the gemara concludes that the pasuk of ונסע אוהל מועד is for the degalim, it doesn't mean as rashi indicates that אוהל מועד is לאו דוקא. Rather, it means that for degalim we darshen ונסע אוהל מועד -אע"פ שנסע אוהל מועד הוא, but we don't use that drasha to permit kodshim to be eaten since for that we require curtains of the azarah (נראה לי דהכי קאמר, לדגלים קרא גלי שהן בקדושתן, ולא לקדשי קדשים דבעו מחיצת קלעים, ומיושב קושיות תוס' בכמה דוכתי). According to this approach, even in the conclusion of the gemara it maintains it's initial drasha that the מחנות and even the מחנה שכינה retain their kedusha, just that it wouldn't permit the eating of kodshim due to the lack of קלעים.
On a related point (assuming like rashi that the מחנה שכינה didn't retain it's kedusha during the travels) - the gemara says that the issue of the מחנה לויה וישראל retaining their status while they traveled is dependent on the machlokes whether זבין ומצורעין would be chayev misah for entering the azara when the korban pesach is being brought b'tumah. The comparison seems very strange because when the korban pesach is brought b'tumah, the machlokes hinges on whether when we permit tu'mah, we permit all tu'mah. What does this have to do with the issue of whether the camps retain their status during the time of travel? It seems to me that the machlokes between R. Eliezer and the Rabbonon is a very fundamental one. Is the status of the מחנה לויה וישראל dependent on the מחנה שכינה - in other words, is the kedusha of מחנה לויה וישראל an extension of קדושת מחנה שכינה or is their status completely independent of the קדושת מחנה שכינה. R. Eliezer holds that the kedusha status of all the machanos emanates from מחנה שכינה, therefore when a pesach is brought b'tum'ah and we don't treat מחנה שכינה with special status, the status of מחנה לויה וישראל is also lost. The Rabbonon argue and say that the kedusha of the מחנה לויה וישראל is not dependent on מחנה שכינה so that even when the מחנה שכינה is being violated, the מחנה לויה וישראל must be maintained. Similarly, when they traveled in the dessert when all agree that the מחנה שכינה didn't maintain it's status, there is a machlokes whether it is possible for מחנה לויה וישראל to retain their status and not permit זבין ומצורעין to enter the camps, respectively.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Menachos 89a - Amount of oil in Menorah

The gemara says that the Rabbonon determined that the amount of oil necessary for each candle in the menorah was 1/2 lug of oil per night. This amount would be the right amount for even the longer nights of the winter. However, there is a machlokes in the gemara how they figured out that this was the right amount. One opinion says that began with a larger amount and when they found too much oil left over in the morning, they slowly reduced the amount that they initially put in the candle - the advantage to this approach is אין עניות במקום עשירות, we aren't concerned with "waste" in the beis hamikdash. The other opinion says that they started with a smaller amount of oil (rashi says that they began with a rivi'is - not clear where he gets that from), and when they realized that it didn't last the entire night, they slowly started to add oil - the advantage to this approach is התורה חסה על ממונן של ישראל , not to waste oil. The opinion who says that they started with a small amount of oil and when they realized it wasn't enough, they would add on the future nights, is very difficult to understand. How could they have been cheap on the oil in order to save money since it could lead to not fulfilling the mitzvah of having the candles burn all night long. This gemara seems to imply that the mitzvah of lighting the candles in the beis hamikdash was הדלקה עושה מצוה, similar to what we say by ner chanuka. However, the gemara and rambam clearly hold that the mitzvah was to hvae the candles burning all night long and the mitzvah is not fulfilled at the moment of lighting. Furthermore, even by chanuka the halacha demands that at the time of lighting there is sufficient oil to burn for the duration of the time. This should certainly be necessary by the candles in the beis hamikdash. How can there be an opinion that they began with a smaller amount of oil, and not fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the menorah?
The Nesivos HaMishpat (Chavos Da'as) has a sefer with hagahos on shulchan aruch and its commentaries called M'ginei Artetz. In Hilchos Chanuka he writes:

בספר מגיני ארץ מבעל נתהמש"פ על הל' חנוכה החליט דבמנורה שבמקדש לא אמרינן שהדלקה עושה מצוה וז"ל לכן נראה דמצוה דהדלקה דחנוכה אינו דומה למצות הדלקה דמנורה, דבנר חנוכה אין המצוה רק תחלת ההדלקה שידליק שיעור כזה, תדע דהא כבתה אין זקוק לה ומש"ה צריך לכתחלה ליתן כשיעור, משא"כ במנורה המצוה והחיוב הוא שיהיה דולק כל שיעור הזה דהא כבתה זקוק לה ומש"ה סגי אפילו כשנותן לכתחלה פחות מכשיעור רק שיראה להוסיף בכל פעם עד שידליק כל השיעור וכמ"ד ממטה למעלה (היינו מ"ד במנחות פט ע"א שמתחלה נתנו רביעית ואח"כ הוסיפו עד חצי לוג כשראו שאין סיפוק). ולפי"ז אתי שפיר בס' תרע"ג ס"ב דאמר הדלקה עושה מצוה לפיכך אם כבתה וכו' שעמד עליו הט"ז בס"ק ח' (שהקשה מה הקשר בין הדלקה עושה מצוה לכבתה אין זקוק לה, הא אף אם הנחה עושה מצוה נמי נוכל לומר שאם כבתה אין זקוק לה). ולפמש"כ אתי שפיר כיון דאין מצותה שיהיה דלוקה כל שיעור הזה כמו במנורה, רק תחלת ההדלקה לפיכך אם כבתה וכו' ואתי שפיר עכ"ל. הרי סובר דהא דנקט המחבר לשון "הדלקה עושה מצוה" לאו לאפוקי הנחה אלא לאפוקי המנורה שבבית המקדש שהמצוה לא נגמר במעשה הדלקה אלא המצוה היא שתהא דולקת ועומדת.

The Nesivos explains that the opinion who says that they started with a smaller amount of oil doesn't mean to say that they put a rivi'is in the first night and when they saw it went out early they added a little the next night. Rather, they started with a rivi'is and when they realized at 4am that it wasn't going to last until the morning, they added a little more. Then at 5am when they saw it wouldn't last they added a little more, until they realized that it would take a half lug to stay burning until the morning. This is actually very medu'yak in rashi who writes:שבתחלה נתנו רביעית ועמדו שם וראו שאין סיפוק ושוב הוסיפו עד חצי לוג. Rashi clearly holds that they stood there all night adding oil until they figured how much would be needed. The nesivos explains that this was av viable option since in the beis hamikdash we don't say הדלקה עושה מצוה, so that adding oil after it is already burning is acceptable. However, Rashi in the k'sav yad clearly writes: בתחלה רביעית הלוג, ולא דלק אלא חצי הלילה, ליל שני הוסיפו וכן כמה לילות עד ששיערו חצי לוג ללילה. Rashi in the k'sav yad holds that they would add more the next night. According to this approach it is very difficult how they could be meva'tel the mitzvah the first few nights just to save a few pennies! Rabbeinu Gershom seems to say that they originally thought that less than a half lug would be sufficient. They never made this decision in order to save money, rather because they thought that it could indeed burn all night. Eventually they realized that a half lug was necessary to burn all night, but we learn from the fact that they initially put in what they thought is the bare minimum that the Torah cares about not wasting money and it is therefore "not permitted" to add more than a half lug.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Menachos 86b - Need the Lights?

The gemara emphasizes that Hashem doesn't need the light of the Menorah because all 40 years that the Jews were in the dessert they were led by the light of Hashem. Therefore the light of the menorah, and particularly the Ner Ma'aravi was an indication that the presence of Hashem is with the Jewish people. The gemara also says that the windows in the Beis HaMikdash were wide on the inside and narrow on the outside to funnel the inner light out to the world, as opposed to enabling sunlight to come from outside.
Tosafos says that a similar gemara in Shabbos makes a point of saying tha Aharon didn't need the light of the Menorah, as opposed to our gemara where the emphasis is on Hashem. I would suggest that they are both true. At the beginning of Parshas B'ha'aloscha the pasuk says אל מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות. Rashi explains that the Menorah was designed so that the 6 candles, 3 on each side, faced the center candle "Why? So that people should say that He needs the light". The Maharal explains that normally one designs a candelabra so that each candle shines in a different direction to light up the larger area. The fact that all candles faced the center is symbolic of the fact that Hashem doesn't need the light. The pasuk then continues "ויעש כן אהרן אל מול פני המנורה העלה נרותיה" and Rashi explains that this is too show the praise of Aharon that he didn't deviate in any way from what he was told. The commentaries are very troubled with this pasuk. We are speaking of Aharon the Kohein, the brother of Moshe Rabbeinu - who would think that he would deviate from the way things were done? The Maharal says that he made special effort to be meticulous so that each wick faced the middle candle. This was s delicate detail that one could have been lax in, yet Aharon did it with great precision. To build on this approach, the pasuk is trying to teach that aside from Aharon lighting the candles all facing center to show that Hashem doesn't need the light, he also did this to show that he who will be working in the mishkan, doesn't need the light. When Aharon did the lighting of the menorah to face the middle, he did so with the intention of showing that Hashem doesn't require the light and that he doesn't need the light. This pasuk may be the source of both our gemara which says that the way the menorah was lit shows that Hashem doesn't need the light, and the gemara in Shabbos which says that it shows that Aharon doesn't need the light.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Menachos 85a - Coals to New Castle

The gemara tells of a strange discussion that took place between two Egyptian sorcerers and Moshe Rabbeinu. They challenged Moshe that his "tricks" of turning the stick into a snake and water into blood are unimpressive - תבן אתה מכניס לעפריים - you are bringing more straw into a place abundant with straw. Egypt had plenty of magic so that Moshe's magic didn't impress them. Moshe responds למתא ירקא, ירקא שקול, to a place where vegetables are abundant that is where you bring your vegetables to sell. Rashi explains that the entire dialogue was silly and pointless. Since they challenged Moshe with a silly parable, he responded in kind. The message in Moshe's statement seems to be that where magic is popular, it is appreciated. The Maharsha explains that they specifically chose a parable of straw which is all the same. They were indicating to Moshe that his magic was no better than theirs. To that Moshe responds with a parable of vegetables which are all different grades and qualities, indicating that the signs he was preforming were well beyond their capabilities.
I would like to suggest an alternate approach to the conversation. The concept of bringing something unnecessary, such as coals to new castle (known as a major coal exporter), is foolish only if the goal is to sell your coal. However, if the goal is not to peddle your own wears but to show contrast in order to undermine what is already there, it is very logical to bring a higher form of the same. Their argument to Moshe is that he won't be able to use his magic to convince the Jews or Pharoh that he is an agent of G-d because it is like bringing straw to עפריים - a city that thrives on straw. To that Moshe responds that he doesn't need miracles to convince the Jews of Hashem. The Jews inherently will believe that he was sent by Hashem to take them out as promised, but they are being fooled by the magic of the Egyptians. Therefore, Moshe responds that he is bringing his high grade vegetables into a place that has low grade vegetables (as the maharsha explained), with the goal of undermining their magic. The magic of the Egyptians was the curtain blocking their vision from seeing Hashem. Once Moshe is able to show that their magic isn't special, he removes the curtain and enables them to clearly see him as the shaliach of Hashem.