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Friday, April 28

פרשת תזריע-מצורע - Together alone

Most of this week's parsha deals with the laws of the metzora. We are told (13:46) that the metzora must be sent outside of the camps and must dwell alone, "badad yeisheiv." The commentaries note that tzora'as comes as a punishment for loshon hora, which comes as a result of engaging in idle chatter with one's friends and others. Therefore, the punishment is fitting that the metzora must be 'excommunicated' so he can not converse with his friends and thus, surely can not tell any more loshon hora. This will give the opportunity to examine his sins and repent. According to this reasoning, it would seem that the metzora should be in total solitary confinement, without even the company of other metzoraim. This, however, is the subject of much discussion.

The first source that must be considered is an incident in Navi which is, in fact, the haftarah for Parshas Metzora which we will not be reading this year. In Melachim II 7:3 we are told that there were four metzoraim at the gateway. In the events that ensue it is clear that these men were together. However, this may not be brought as a proof one way or the other for a number of reasons. First, Chaza"l tell us that these four men were Geichazi and his sons. In the sefer Nachalas Shimon (by Rabbi Shimon Krasner of Ner Yisroel, a truly unbelievable sefer) it is pointed out that if a metzora would require absolute solitary confinement it would be because it follows the laws of "nidui," excommunication, in which no one may be within four amos of the "menudeh." However, in the Shulchan Aruch (YD 3l4:2) it is stated clearly that even one who is in nidui may be with his kids. Additionally, many commentaries point out that this particular instance of tzora'as is anomalous in that it was the result of a curse from Elisha that the tzora'as of Na'aman (see this week's haftarah) should inflict Geichazi and his sons.

Rashi on the words "badad yeisheiv" writes that "other 'temai'im' should not dwell with him." This might seem to indicate that he does in fact require solitary confinement. However, Rashi's intent is made more clear in his commentary on the gemara in Pesachim which Rashi is quoting here. There it is clear that the meaning is that other "types" of temai'im such as zav and tamei meis may not dwell with the metzora but it would seem that other metzoraim are allowed to dwell with him.

Nachalas Shimon on Melachim II deals with this issue at length and the conclusion is that it seems to be permissible. Tzafnas Pane'ach, as well, reaches the conclusion that it is allowed. Malbim here also writes that a metzora may dwell with other metzoraim and he fits into the precise definition of the word "badad," that it implies a separation but not an absolute confinement for we see the word badad referring to an entire nation at once (Bemidbar 23:9).

Nevertheless, the sefer Minchah Belulah writes that metzoraim may not dwell with each other for they are not equals.

שבת שלום
חודש טוב

Tuesday, April 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharon shel Pesach

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

    The great miracles at Yam Suf moved B'nei Yisroel to sing shirah. The pasuk that prefaces this shirah tells us (14:31) that B'nei Yisroel saw the Mighty Hand of HaShem...and the nation feared HaShem and they believed in HaShem and in Moshe, His servant.
    The ultimate defeat of the Egyptian oppression and the miracles which facilitated it brought about tremendous joy. One would have expected the initial emotion of B'nei Yisroel towards HaShem to be love, not fear.
    Perhaps this can be explained as follows: The pesukim actually recount a progression following the miracles at Yam Suf. Initially, the massive destruction, an entire army wiped away in the blink of an eye, instilled a great fear and awe in the nation. This, along with the ten plagues showed B'nei Yisroel how powerful and mighty HaShem is. This brought them to a higher level of emunah in HaShem and His prophet, Moshe. With all this recognition as a foundation, B'nei Yisroel were able to come to an even greater appreciation of HaShem's love and out of their own love, sprung forth in song. B'nei Yisroel followed the true progression of yirah to ahavah, fear to love, culminating ultimately in the shirah. This may explain the shirah's first word, "az." Rashi does his part to explain this word. But perhaps we may understand that after B'nei Yisroel established their fear and awe of HaShem's might and their belief in Moshe Rabbeinu, then they were able to rise to the next level and sing the praises of HaShem.
Have a good Yom Tov.

Tuesday, April 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seider

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.
    In the beginning of Maggid, we recite "Avadim hayinu." In this paragraph, we say that if not for the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had taken us out of Mitzrayim, we would still be slaves to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Therefore, even if we are all wise, understanding knowers of the Torah, we have a Mitzvah to tell over the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim. To say that there are two questions to be asked on this paragraph would surely not be the whole truth. However, there are two questions on which I wish to focus. First, why would we have thought that wise sages would be exempt from the mitzvah? Second, how is the first statement a reason for the second?
    As an introduction, I would like to quote a piece from R' Chaim Kunyevsky on Chanukah in Ta'ama D'kra. He asks why there is no mention of the miracle of the oil in the text of "Al HaNisim." He answers that the theme of Al HaNisim is hoda'ah, giving thanks. When it comes to giving thanks, the obligation only exists if it is something that affects us. For a miracle that only affected those at the time and has no effect on us now, there is no obligation of hoda'ah. We find that Succos is built around the miracle of HaShem's protecting us. However, since this miracle does not affect us, we don't find anything along the lines of hoda'ah in Succos. So, too, the miracle of the oil has no effect on us today. On the other hand, had B'nei Yisroel been destroyed in the war, we would not be around today. Therefore, we must give thanks for the winning of the war.
    Perhaps, what the paragraph of "Avadim Hayinu" is telling us is that we might have thought that the mitzvah of Sipur Yetzias Mitzrayim is strictly an educational one, that there is an obligation for the wise to teach those who do not know as the main source of this mitzvah is "vehigadta levincha," a requirement for the father to teach the son. Had this been so, if we were all wise sages, there would be no need to do this mitzvah for no one needs to be educated. However, this is not so. Attached to the mitzvah of Sipur Yetzias Mitzrayim is the concept of hoda'ah. We are giving thanks to HaShem for Yetzias Mitzrayim, whether we've learned about it previously or not. The Haggadah, therefore, starts by showing how the miracle affects us today, that if not for Yetzias Mitzrayim, we would still be beholden to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Because of this, there is an obligation to thank HaShem and therefore all of us are commanded to tell the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim.
Have a chag kasher ve'samei'ach!
Eliezer Bulka


Friday, April 7

שבת הגדול - The great promise

Unlike the other four special shabbosos leading up to Pesach, Shabbos HaGadol has no special maftir reading. Rather, there is only a special haftarah. The haftarah comes from the very end of Trei Asar, essentially the very end of the Navi portion of Tanach. It is quite difficult to find a direct connection between the haftarah and the theme of the day. The most clear correlation is the reference to the ultimate redemption and the sending of Eliyah(u) HaNavi as it relates to the great redemption of Pesach. But what of the rest of the haftarah?

There is a section of the haftarah that does bear a remote, yet interesting connection to Shabbos HaGadol. HaShem chastises B'nei Yisroel for their failure to properly fulfill the mitzvos of ma'aser and terumah. HaShem then makes a promise, (Malachi 3:10) "and challenge me with this (terumah and ma'aser), if I will not open for you the windows of the Heavens and bestow upon you never-ending blessing." Usually, we are expected to do mitzvos unconditionally and not to expect any specific reward in return. However, here we are told that we may in fact "test" HaShem with the mitzvos of terumah and ma'aser, that we will receive subsequent reward.

Although this is quite unique, there is another instance of immediate and direct reward in the Torah. Our answer to both the rasha and the eino yodei'a lish'ol reference the pasuk, (Shemos 13:8) "Ba'avur ZEH asah HaShem li betzeisi miMitzrayim," in return for this, the mitzvah of Korban Pesach, HaShem led us out of Mitzrayim. The Korban Pesach were a merit for B'nei Yisroel to be redeemed. Indeed, we rebuke the rasha by asserting that his contemptuous attitude toward the Korban Pesach would have excluded him from the redemption.

Perhaps this may be another interpretation of the term Shabbos HaGadol, referring not only to the great redemption, but to the great promise that the proper execution of the mitzvah of Korban Pesach will lead to the exodus, a comparable promise to that found in this week's special haftarah.

Pesach is a time to reaffirm our emunah. Telling over the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim is quite possibly the most efficient way to reming ourselves that HaShem is running the world. Understanding the unequivocal promise spoken about in the haftarah is a perfect way to prepare ourselves for this task.

שבת שלום

חג כשר ושמח

פרשת צו - Saving from embarassment

In this week's parsha, a number of the different types of sacrifices are discussed. With regard to the chatas offering, it is written (6:18) "In the place where the olah is slaughtered, the chatas shall be slaughtered in front of HaShem. It is Holy of Holies." A similar description is given of the asham sacrifice. "It is Holy of Holies. In the place where you slaughter the olah you shall slaughter the asham..." The obvious discrepancy between the two is that the order is switched around.

Meshech Chachmah addresses this disparity citing a gemara (Sotah 32b) which teaches "R' Yochanan said in the name of R' Shimon ben Yochai: Why was prayer decreed to be said quietly? In order not to embarrass the transgressor (who prays for forgiveness for his sins) for the Torah did not designate different areas for the slaughter of the olah and the chatas." A lesson is learned from the fact that the Torah specifically designated the identical place of slaughter for the olah and chatas (north of the altar). The chatas is brought for the inadvertent transgression of a prohibitive commandment. The olah is brought for improper thoughts of transgression which is considered less embarrassing than having actually transgressed, albeit inadvertently. One who brings a chatas offering is saved embarrassment as the onlooker cannot differentiate between a chatas and an olah for they are slaughtered in the same place.

It appears that this expression of mercy applies also to the asham which is brought for specific actual transgressions. However, writes Meshech Chachmah, the pasuk gives this lesson ultimate priority when describing the chatas by enumerating it as the first criterion for the offering because it is brought for an unintentional misdeed. Since the asham is brought for deliberate offenses, this lesson is not prioritized to the same degree and therefore, the first characteristic of the asham is that it is Holy of Holies.

What remains puzzling, is why the gemara used the chatas as the example for this lesson. Since the asham is, in fact, also slaughtered in the same place, the expression of mercy is prevalent there as well. It seemingly would have been an even stronger lesson had the gemara used the asham as the example.

שבת שלום