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Friday, October 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah

Our night seder chaburah is concluding meseches Taanis. On that occasion, I repurposed this older shtikle and used it to answer another difficult gemara.


On Shemini Atzeres we begin to recite "mashiv haruach umorid hagashem" as discussed at the beginning of the masechta. If one is unsure if they said it, Tur (OC 114) writes that this uncertainty, like many uncertainties in halachah, is decided by means of chazakah. That is, after thirty days of reciting the phrase properly, it is considered habitual and if one is uncertain as to whether or not they have recited it, they may assume that they have. Within the thirty days one must assume that they have not become accustomed enough and have likely omitted it and must repeat shemoneh esreih.


Tur cites a tactic from Maharam miRutenberg (and adds that his father, the Rosh agreed to this) to remedy this problem even within the first thirty days. On Shemini Atzeres, he would recite the beginning of the second blessing until "mashiv haruach, etc." 90 times corresponding to the 90 times he would say it during the 30 days. This allowed him to be considered accustomed immediately and if he ever was unsure whether or not he said "mashiv haruach" he would not have to repeat shemoneh esreih.


Tur also cites the source for this trick. The mishnah (Bava Kamma 23b) relates a dispute between R' Yehudah and R' Meir regarding the establishment of an ox as a goring ox (muad.) The pasuk (Shemos 21:29) teaches that if an ox has gored already yesterday and the day before, i.e. three times, it is considered "muad," prone to gore and the consequences change. R' Yehudah takes the words of the pasuk literally and requires that three gorings take place on three separate days. R' Meir, however, considers an ox prone for goring even if it gored three times in one day. His reasoning, employed by Maharam miRutenberg, is that if spaced out gores establish the ox as prone, certainly more frequent gores will establish the same. So too, if the recitation of "mashiv haruach" 90 times in 30 days establishes one as accustomed, certainly doing so in one day should accomplish the same.


The Magen Avraham and Ta"z attack this reasoning as the halachic conclusion of the gemara is in accordance with R' Yehudah. How then can Maharam MiRutenberg employ the reasoning of R' Meir?


It would seem the same question could be asked in a later gemara (21b.) Three residents of Drokart died on a single day and Rav Nachman bar Chisda declared a fast. This is recounted in the gemara immediately after it is explained, expounding upon the mishnah, that the prerequisite for a plague is three deaths spread out over three consecutive days. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak, justifies his contemporary's ruling as being in accordance with R' Meir's opinion in Bava Kamma mentioned above. Here, too, how could Rav Nachman bar Chisda declare a fast based on an opinion which is not accepted?


The Drishah and Noda Bihudah (OC 26) give the identical answer to explain the Maharm miRutenberg. The reason why R' Yehudah disagrees with R' Meir is due to his literal interpretation of the pasuk. It is simply a gezeiras hakasuv in the specific case of shor muad. In theory, however, he completely agrees with R' Meir's logic. Therefore, although we rule halachically like R' Yehudah with respect to the laws of the ox, the reasoning of R' Meir is still valid and may be employed in our situation.


This can also be used to explain Rav Nachman bar Chisda in the later gemara. (However, if this understanding of the dispute in Bava Kamma is so compelling, we now need to understand why our mishnah would hold that it has to be spread out over 3 days.)


Have a good Shabbos and good Yom Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

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