Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Taanis 11a - One Who Fasts is Called a Sinner

Shmuel says that anyone who fasts is called a sinner for abstaining from the worldly pleasures that he is entitled to. The gemara draws a parallel between the statement of Shmuel regarding fasting and the statement of R. Elazar HaKafar who says that a Nazir is called a sinner for abstaining from wine. R. Elazar disagrees with R. Elazar Hakafar and holds that a Nazir is called a kadosh. The gemara assumes that just as R. Elazar says that a Nazir is a kadosh, one who fasts should also be a kadosh, and therefore asks from a statement of R. Elazar himself which implies that it is forbidden to fast. The gemra concludes that as long is someone is able to withstand the fast they are called a kadosh, as is the Nazir, but if one cannot withstand it and accepts it, it is improper (persumably because they are putting themself in a situation where they are likely not to complete the fast).
Tosafos asks that the gemara in Baba Kama implies that according to Shmuel one who fasts is not called a sinner, so how does Shmuel himself consider him a sinner? Tosafos answers that based on the kal v'chomer from Nazir who R. Elazar Hakafar considers a sinner, there is no question that one who fasts is certainly a sinner. But, Shmuel admits that the mitzvah which is accomplished through the fasting overwhelms the aveira aspect of it. Tosafos compares this with one who fasts a Ta'anis for a dream on Shabbos where the benefit offsets the loss, but there is still an aspect of aveira for which the need to do teshuva - ליתיב תענית לתעניתיה. The Gevuros Ari asks that he doesn't understand the category of an action having an aspect of Mitzvah and an aspect of Aveirah at the same time. Just as when we have an aseh pushing off a lo ta'aseh, we don't consider it to be an aveira at all because the Torah wants the mitzvah to be done at the expense of the aveira; similarly here we should consider it a pure mitzvah since the mitzvah will fully compensate for offsetting the aveira?
Before we answer the question of the Gevuros Ari, we need to understand whether Tosafos applies only to Ta'anis or even to a Nazir. When R. Elazar HaKafar says that a Nazir is a sinner, will the mitzvah aspect of being a Nazir be mixed with aveirah so that there is both? From Tosafos it seems that we only consider Ta'anis to be this hybrid of mitzvah and aveirah, but Nazir is a pure aveirah. Perhaps Tosafos is assuming like the Rashash explains that R. Elazar HaKafar is only addressing a Nazir Tamei (which is the pasuk that he quotes). For the days that preceeded his tu'mah there is an aveirah without any mitzvah because those days didn't ultimately count toward nezirus. However, for a Nazir Tahor perhaps we would consider the mitzvah to completley outweigh and over compensate for the aveira so that it is not considered an aveira at all. According to this approach, by Nazir there is no middle category of partial mitzvah, partial aveirah, where the mitzvah is bigger than the aveirah. By a Nazir Tamei it is considered a pure aveira and by a Nazir Tahor it is considered a pure mitzvah (similar to aseh docheh lo ta'aseh as the gevuros ari is suggesting). However, the Maharsha (agados) points out that Tosafos in Baba Kama seems to hold that even a Nazir Tamei according to R. Elazar HaKafar would be in this middle category where there is a hybrid of mitzvah and aveirah, just that the mitzvah is greater.
Lets return to the question of the Gevuros Ari regarding the hybrid category, and not considering the mitzvah to over compensate to the aveira to the point where the aveira virtually doesn't exist. It is true that by aseh docheh lo ta'aseh we consider the mitzvah to overcompensate for the aveira to the point where we do not consider there to be any aspect of aveira at all. However, this is only because we have a gezeiras hakasuv that we learn from Tzitzis teaching us עשה דוחה לא תעשה. To me it seems that it is more comparable to a case where we allow a greater aseh to take precendence over a lesser aseh. For example, the gemara says in Pesachim that the mitzvah of Pesach for which there is kareis overrides the mitzvah of making the Tamid shel bein ha'arbayim the last korban of the day. Perhaps in that case the lesser aseh is still considered violated and one would indeed require some amount of teshuva for that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Taanis 7a - Learning From a Talmid Chacham Who Acts Improperly

The gemara learns from the pasuk of כי ממנו תאכל ואותו לא תכרות that if one has a Rebbi who is a proper Talmid Chacham and acts in a manner that befits a person of his stature, one should learn from him and not separate. Tosafos explains that there is no need to seek out another Rebbi (I am reminded of a story that Rav Nota Greenblatt Shlit"a once shared. He was learning by Rav Moshe and the Mashgiach in Tiferes Yerushalayim was pushing him to leave MTJ to go learn in Lakewood by Rav Aharon, which was what everyone serious in their learning would do. He explained that at the time Rav Moshe was recognized as a posek but Rav Aharon was THE Rosh Yeshiva. He turned back to the mashgiach and said - ווו איז עס געשריבן אַז הרב אהרן איז גרעסער ווי הרב משה - where is it written that Rav Aharon is greater than Rav Moshe? To which Rav Nota commented "he looked at me as if I just told him I was a nekeiva"). But if the Rebbi doesn't act properly, he should seek out a new Rebbi and not learn from this one.
Tosafos asks from Rav Meir who would go learn from Acher and answers that a Talmid Chacham may learn from an improper Rebbi, but if one is not a Talmid Chacham they may not. It is strange that Tosafos even asks the question because it is directly dealt with by the gemara in Chagiga 15a and the gemara says a Gadol may learn from an improper Rebbi, but a Kattan may not (The Gevuros Ari understands that the distinction of the gemara is between one who is over 13 and one who is under 13, which is clearly not the approach of Tosafos. Perhaps Rashi in Chagiga - גדול היודע ליזהר ממעשיו implies like the gevuros ari). It seems from the gemara and Tosafos that so long as the Talmid is a talmid chacham who is able to discern what to learn from and what not to learn from, he may continue to study from the Rebbi who is behaving improperly.
However, the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 246:8 writes - הרב שאינו הולך בדרך טובה אע"פ שחכם גדול הוא וכל העם צריכים לו, אין למדין ממנו עד שיחזור למוטב. The Shach asks why the Shulchan Aruch doesn't make the distinction of the gemara itself and say that a Talmid Chacham is permitted to learn from an improper Rebbi? The Shach answers we find that even some of the Talmidim found in the gemara had status of a "kattan" and were not allowed to learn from improper Rebbeim, therefore nowadays the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch are assuming that everyone would have the status of a kattan and not be allowed to learn from someone who isn't acting properly. The Gilyon Marsha adds that even a proper custom that is instituted by such a person should not be followed.
I heard recently that some poskim told the talmidim of a Talmid Chacham who committed a serious aveirah that they should disregard anything that they ever heard from him because he is not a בעל מסורה. I find this approach very difficult to accept. The only discussion we ever find in the poskim is whether one can continue to learn by this person after he had committed an aveira and goes in improper ways, however, anything that he said prior to that can be quoted. Elisha Ben Avuya is quoted in Avos 4:20 for something that he said before he went off the derech and by being quoted in Avos indicates that he was very much part of the chachmei ha'mesorah. He is also quoted in Moed Kattan 20a regarding keeping aveilus on a shemuah rechokah. Clearly, the earlier teachings of such a person cannot be disregarded. It is difficult to make a distinction between Elisha Ben Avuya where we can attribute an exact time to when he changed his ways, to another Talmid Chacham. Furthermore, the Shulchan Aruch says explicitly - עד שיחזור למוטב, meaning that once he does teshuva, one can continue to learn from him. Rabbeinu Yona in avos requires being דן לכף זכות and assuming that a Talmid Chacham who sinned would have done teshuva for his aveiros.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Rosh Hashana 33a - Women for Time Bound Mitzvos

The gemara says that the machlokes whether women are allowed to blow shofar on RH is contingent on the machlokes whether they are permitted to do semicha on a korban. The gemara is not clear what the issue would be. Rashi understands that it is a general issue of bal tosif for women to do mitzvos that they are not obligated in, whereas the Ran in Kiddushin discusses it as more specific to these mitzvos (semicha is an issue of avoda b'kodshim, and shofar is an issur d'rabonon as Tosafos writes on 29b).
The gemara presents the opinion of R. Yossi (which Tosafos holds we pasken like) to say that it is a "reshus", which implies that there is nothing wrong with them doing it, but perhaps there is no advantage either. Tosafos then develops that according to R. Yossi it isn't merely a d'var ha'reshus, but it is considered a mitzvah and enough of a mitzvah for them to even make a bracha on it. Tosafos elaborates with ra'ayos to prove that women can even make a bracha on these mitzvos.
R. Akiva Eiger in the Gilyon HaShas cites the Hagahos Ashri at the end of the third perek of Succah who disagrees. The gemara/rashi in Succah implies that a lulav and esrog is not muktzah for a woman to move because since it is needed by a man, it has the status of a keli. The Hagahos Ashri deduces from this that women would not be able to make a bracha on the lulav and esrog, otherwise the gemara should have said that it isn't muktzah for them simply because they fulfill a mitzvah with it. Although the focus of the Hagahos Ashri is to argue on Rabbeinu Tam who permits a bracha to be made, it seems clear from the proof that he cites that there isn't any aspect of mitzvah that is achieved when a woman takes lulav and esrog. If there would be any aspect of a mitzvah performed in their taking lulav and esrog, it would certainly not be muktzah even if there were not men in the world who would be obligated. Therefore, it seems that the Hagahos Ashri is two steps removed from Rabbeinu Tam, by rejecting the right to make a bracha, and the considering it to be a mitzvah.
The Rambam (Hil. Tzitzis 3:9) writes that women are exempt from tzitizs but...
נשים ועבדים שרצו להתעטף בציצית מתעטפים בלא ברכה, וכן שאר מצות עשה שהנשים פטורות מהן, אם רצו לעשות אותן בלא ברכה אין ממחין בידו
The Rambam seems to hold like the Hagahos Ashri. But, why would women and avadim "want" to do these mitzvos? Is it just a mishe'gas with no value!? It seems that the Rambam would hold that there is a mitzvah for women to perform these mitzvos, and they receive reward like an אינו מצווה ועושה, but are not allowed to make a bracha. This is how the M.B. in Hilchos Shofar (589:6) explains the position of the mechaber who says that women are patur but are allowed to blow shofar on Rosh Hashana. Even though it is considered a bit of an issur to sound the shofar, they are allowed to do it since it is considered a mitzvah for them for which they receive reward. Its well known that the Rama rules in Hilchos Tzitzis, Tefillin, Shofar and Succah like Rabbeinu Tam, but even the mechaber who rules like the Rambam would seem to consider it a mitzvah, unlike the Hagahos Ashri.