Yerushalmi Shekalim 8-9 The importance of being above suspicion:


the Mishna on daf 8a forbids the person  who  takes money out from the contribution boxes for use in the divine service  to wear a garment with a folded hem or even to wear  shoes or tefillin while doing so !  
This is  in case people suspect that he might have taken some money  for himself and placed them in the fold, in his shoes, or even untied the tefillin boxes and hidden some money inside. 

If he becomes poor , people might think that it is due to such wicked actions, and if he becomes rich, they might think that it is from the money he stole. 
The possibility  that the person entrusted with such holy work could abuse his power in such a way or even abuse holy items such as  Tefillin to aid his crime might be shocking , but unfortunately is as applicable today than ever. 

Two sources are brought for the requirement to be completely above  suspicion:”והייתם נקיים מה’ ומישראל “( and you shall be clean (of suspicion) from Hashem and Yisrael)- just like a person has to be  clean in deeds  in front of Hashem ( who knows all thoughts and actions), he also needs to be clean of suspicion from others who do not know his thoughts and actions .
It is thus not enough to be honest in reality, but one also has to be above any suspicion of dishonesty. 
This passuk is found in the Chumash itself ( Bamidbar 32/22) in the context of the promise made by the tribes of Reuvain, Gad, and half of Menashe  to help the other tribes conquer Eretz Yisroel proper in exchange for being allowed to settle on the other side of the Jordan. 
An alternative source is brought from Nach (Mishlei 3/4) 
“ומצא חן בשכל טוב בעיני אלוקים ואדם “( and he found grace and good intellect in the eyes of G-d and man.) 
The passuk is describing the result of one’s  following the Torah properly , and a version of it in prayer form is found in the additions we say in the benstching .
The Gemara on daf 9a brings further examples , among them :
A קווץ ( person with long hair ) should not be given this task , presumably because he might be suspected of hiding money in his hair. 
They would keep talking with him all the time he is in the room so he would not be suspected of hiding money in his mouth !
It also brings a third source for the requirement to be above above suspicion from the Navi and concludes that the first source brought from the Chumash is the clearest of all !
We have already  seen this passuk being brought as a source for this requirement in the Bavli  in our post on Pesachim 12-13 where we discussed this topic in more detail and together with other sources and examples ,  referenced our Mishna here in Shekalim.
As with everything in the Torah  , and particularly in ethical matters , it cannot be highlighted enough! 

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Pesachim 87-88 Hashem’s love for Am yisroel, and sexual imagery in Tanach and Chazal

A Special post in loving memory of my father zt’l, containing some of his teachings based on Navi and Chazal.

One of the parts of Tanach my father zt’l loved teaching was the early chapters of  Sefer Hoshea, and the teachings of Chazal on it, which are found on these daf.

While reading these, one is struck by the unusual nature of Hoshea’s first prophetic mission.

In short, Hashem tells Hoshea to marry a prostitute and have “children of prostitution” with her.

They have 2 sons and a daughter together, and Hashem tells Hoshea to call them names which denote his anger with the people of Israel.

Suddenly, the second chapter opens with a short positive message of how numerous the people of Israel will be and how Hashem will accept them back, before going back to predictions of destruction.

Whereas this is not the first example of a valid prophecy telling a Navi to do something that is usually forbidden (the עקידה  being the most famous example,) this is certainly bizarre enough to beg some explanation.

Chazal pick up on this and fill in the background- Hashem told Hoshea how the people had sinned.

Rather than begging for mercy for them, Hoshea suggests that Hashem replace them with a different nation.

Hashem then tells Hoshea to marry and prostitute and have children with her.

He then tells him to leave her and her children.  Hoshea protests that he cannot just leave his wife and children, and Hashem reveals the Mussar in the allegory.

Hoshea wouldn’t abandon his wife and kids despite their  sinful  and doubtful status, yet he expected Hashem to abandon his chosen people who had a long and proven unique relationship with him?!

Although Hoshea’s initial response might seem harsh and out of place for a leading Navi, it is not the only  case we find of such an attitude.

Chazal (Shabbos 89b ) tells us how in the future, Hashem will approach Avraham Avinu and tell him that his children have sinned, and he will reply that Hashem should destroy them. He then approaches Yaakov who has the same reaction. Only Yitzchak asks Hashem to spare them.

One cannot but notice the irony by which Avraham, known as the man of kindness who begs for mercy for the worst of sinners, seemingly gives up on his descendants, whereas Yitzchak, known as the man of absolute justice who is hardly recorded in the text as begging for mercy for anyone, is the one who comes to the rescue.

Be that as it may, it seems that there is a certain threshold beyond which even the most dedicated of our leaders lose their patience with us and stop even attempting to save us from ourselves.

As my father zt’l would often point out, this happened eventually to Eliyahu haNavi as well, who in his encounter with Hashem on Chorev spoke extremely negatively and dismissively of the Jewish people  (Melachim 19), and Hashem’s reaction was to inform him that his time as leader was over and he needed to anoint his student Elisha in his place-  A leader who gives up on his people and can no longer see the good in him gives up his right to lead his flock.

Yeshayahu  also calls the people a “nation of impure lips” and is punished by being burnt on his lips. (Yeshayahu 6)

At a certain point, after  a lifetime of fighting for his people, even Moshe Rabbeinu lost his temper and hit the rock, after which he lost the chance to lead the people into Eretz-Yisrael (Bamidbar 20/10.)

However, unlike Avraham, Eliyahu, and Moshe who reached this stage at the end of a long career of serving the people, Hoshea  and Yeshayahu display this attitude at the beginning of their prophetic careers, and rather than depriving them of their planned prophetic future, Hashem chooses to correct their attitude and give them another chance, by way of a very traumatic experience which puts their thinking right.

מעשה אבות סימן לבנים  (the actions/events of the fathers are a sign for the children-[see Tanchuma Lech Lecha 9]) and this error and subsequent correction was not limited to the founding fathers and the prophets, but can be found in Chazal themselves as well, and up to this very day.

The Gemara (Pesachim 88a) tells how when the Amora עולא came to the Babylonian center of פומבדיתא  , he was given a basket of the dates that Bavel was famous for.

When told how cheap they were, he expressed his amazement at how despite the easy availability of such incredible sustenance, the Jews of Babylon did not study Torah at night.

Later, after eating them, he got a stomach-ache.

After that, he expressed his astonishment at how despite the availability of such unhealthy food (סמא דמותא,)  the Babylonians still studied Torah at night!

We discussed in the beginning of the Masechta (see my post on Pesachim  3 ) how the Torah goes out of its way to use לשון נקיה  (clean language.)

In fact, the Rambam  (Moreh 3/8)  takes this even further and in a controversial statement highly disputed by the Ramban (Shmos 30/13), he explains that the reason why the Hebrew language is called לשון הקודש  is because among other degrading words, it has no explicit nouns for the sexual organs, nor verbs for the sexual act, using only euphemisms.

Yet any Yeshiva kid should be able to tell you that both the Tanach and Chazal are full of sensual imagery, and on our daf, multiples examples of this can be found from Shir haShirim, Hoshea, and in Chazal’s comments on them.

It is interesting to note that whereas Chazal seem to interpret the explicit imagery in Shir haShirim completely allegorically, they  significantly enhance the sexual meaning of the episode in Hoshea, painting a rather graphic picture of the career of the prostitute Hoshea marries.

It seems rather clear from this, consistent with the thesis we developed in our earlier quoted post, that despite the mandate to attempt to use euphemistic language where it is possible to do so without blurring the message, when the clearest way of teaching a message is by use of explicit imagery, the Torah and Chazal do not hold back.

The above attempts to follow the approach of Rambam- of course, it is possible, more along the lines of Ramban,  that the Torah and Chazal simply see nothing “unholy” about the use of sexual imagery in the first place, and use it rather freely, in some cases allegorically, and in some rather literally.  (see though Mishna Sanhedrin 8/1 where the term “clean language” seems to be used in this context as well as the words of the above-quoted Ramban himself who seems to admit this. It is also possible that the entire incident with Hoshea is also to be understood allegorically despite how graphically Chazal describe the details. )

Much to talk about this subject, but it will take a tour of shas to test either thesis, so l have attempted to at least start laying the foundations from our daf and continue building as we go.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Pesachim 81-82 Shaming people- Is it ever allowed?

The Mishna at the bottom of daf 81b tells us that if all or most of a קרבן פסח became impure, it needed to be burnt on the public fire.

The Gemara quotes רבי יוסי בר חיננא  who explains that this to embarrass those people who were not careful enough with their קרבן.

This seems a rather extreme penalty for something that is unlikely to have been done intentionally- After all, it is well known how harshly Chazal speak of shaming someone in public, to the point that it is compared to murder )B.M. 58b), and one can lose one’s עולם הבא for doing so (Avos 3/11.)

Chazal even said that a person should rather jump into a fiery furnace than shame his friend in public! )Brachos 43b)

Even though there is a biblical command to rebuke one’s neighbor when he does wrong, derived from the passukהוכח תוכיח את עמיתך  (Vayikra 19/17),  Chazal tell us, based on the continuation of the verse “ולא תשא עליו חטא”  that this must be done without embarrassing him (ספרא קדושים פרשה ב פרק ד אות ח)

The seriousness of shaming sinners is illustrated in a frightening story (B.M 59a) where Chazal describe how David haMelech was sitting and learning in the בית מדרש  after his terrible sin with בת-שבע.

People began to scorn him, asking him rhetorically what the punishment for committing adultery was.

His sharp reply should shake us all- “One who commits adultery deserves strength by strangulation but has a share in the world to come.  Yet one who embarrasses his friend in public has no share in the world to come.”

It seems from this statement of Chazal  that the prohibition of shaming someone in public applies towards one who has committed one of the worst sins intentionally, how much more so towards one who was somewhat negligent and didn’t stop his קרבן  from becoming impure , hardly a sin on the level of that discussed there.

This idea is also illustrated in the continuation of this very sugya on Pesachim 82a:

Although one is allowed to use the communal wood for publicly burning his impure קרבן פסח  when required, the Mishna brings a Beraisa which rules, amongst other things, that one who wishes to use his own wood is not permitted to do so.

There is a dispute between Rav Yosef  and Rava regarding why- Rav Yosef rules that it is in order not to embarrass those who do not have their own wood to bring, whereas Rava rules that it is in order to avoid them being suspected of stealing from the public when they take back their remaining wood.

We are dealing with people who are made to burn their impure sacrifices publicly in order to shame them, yet Rav Yoseif tells us that we don’t let them bring their own wood in order not to shame others who have been equally negligent but don’t have their own to bring!

Yet as if not to less us get carried away, the Gemara then continues to explain how the impure Kohanim were made to stand outside the הר הבית  on the Eastern sideת while their fellow kohanim offered up the קרבנות and Rav Yosef’s view here is that this is in order to embarrass them for not being extra careful to remain pure before Erev Pesach!

Perhaps one can argue that there is a difference between shaming that is an integral part of the prescribed punishment and shaming that comes in addition to it, or after one has already been punished.

An intrinsic part of many punishments prescribed by the Torah is shaming, which Chazal said (Brachos 12b) can get one pardoned for all his sins!

One of the primary results of מלקות (lashes)  is ונקלה אחיך לעניך (Your brother will be degraded in front of your eyes-Devarim 25/3)

On the other hand, the mitzva of rebuking a person is not  a punishment  and must be done without shaming.

Furthermore, even while a person is being punished, it seems that no more shame than that which is integral to the punishment as instituted may be applied.

As such, even a person who has been negligent and allowed most or all of his sacrifice to become impure may not be shamed any more than the prescribed punishment itself allows for.

At the very same time as he is shamed by having to publicly burn his sacrifice, we do not allow more shame to be inflicted upon him because someone else brings his own wood and he is unable too- such is the sensitivity required even when shaming a person is required!

Another possible explanation could be that although the Beis Din is required to do their professional job and punish people in ways that involves some humiliation, everyone else is still forbidden to shame the person any further, and certainly someone who is as guilty as him may certainly not be allowed to do things that could cause him shame.

Although this is the view of Rav Yosef, we have noted that Rava disagrees and does not appear concerned about him causing shame to his friend by bringing wood when his friend has none to bring.

Does this mean that he holds that when a person is already being shamed as part of his punishment, we do not have to be so sensitive as to avoid actions that could shame him further?

Not necessarily- it could be that Rava holds that one is not required to refrain from doing a positive act, such as using one’s own wood and sparing the public the expense, in order to avoid shaming someone who is unable to do so.

This is a very complex subject, and our analysis could have many practical ramifications, but my main intention here is only to raise some of the issues- Although in practise there might be times when one is indeed  permitted or even required to shame someone publicly to stop him from public transgressions that involve חלול ה’  or that others could learn from (see Rema 608/2 and M.B.there) , or in a teacher-student setting (see Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 4/5), one should only do this with correct halachik guidance and may never take a serious prohibition like this lightly in anyway.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Pesachim 57 “Their pots and pans will go to heaven”

In memory of the Av Beis Din of Cape-Town, Rabbi Desmond Maisels of blessed memory who held the fort of halachik honesty for so many decades in that beautiful city.

One of the great achievements of the past few decades in the Jewish world has been the return to observance by so many people, spear-headed by the “Baal Teshuva” movement.

Whereas 60 years ago, Orthodox Judaism was considered almost dead and buried, the most vibrant and growing Jewish communities of today are found mainly in the Torah-observant world.

This trend is highly noticeable in the plethora of kosher supermarkets, Pesach products, eruvin,  mikvaos, and Torah day school that form the heart of any Jewish neighborhood.

Although many members of these communities are also involved in a large selection of outreach and charitable organizations, there seem to be many who still do not put the same focus on the area of ethical behaviour and inter-human relations as they do in the realm of ritual.

People very often get swept up in the “frumkeit” (ritualistic piety) without even realizing how it sometimes comes at the expense of other things that the Torah values even more dearly.

We have mentioned elsewhere  that the Gemara  (Brachos 17a) cautions against a person learning lots of Torah and acting in a disdainful fashion to his parents and teachers- the stereotype of the yeshiva bachur who will no longer eat in his shul Rabbi’s home because “his hechsher” is not good enough for him.

On our daf we are told how the son of בוהין used to leave פאה  (the corner of a field left for the poor) from certain vegetables, even though they are exempt from this requirement.

When בוהין  later saw poor people collecting the פאה, he told them to rather take double the amount from other produce of his that had already been tithed.

 All though פאה  is not subject to tithing , פאה  taken on vegetables is not considered פאה  and one who eats it without separating tithes is both eating טבל  and  stealing from the Levi and Kohain.

We see how easy it is to be so stringent in one mitzva that one lands up transgressing another, something that we have referred to elsewhere as a stringency that leads to a leniency, or a full-blown transgression.

We also note that rather than be seen to be strict about maaser at the expense of the poor, בוהין was prepared to double the portion collected by the poor from his own tithed produce, at great expense to himself!

Our  daf carries on painting a disturbing picture of a period when the כהונה  (priesthood) was so corrupt that the stronger kohanim used to forcibly take the portions of the weaker ones.

We are taught how Initially the skins from the sacrifices were divided amongst the kohanim on shift, but due to the above corruption, they started rather declaring them הקדש (sanctified for the Temple.)

We see the incredible irony that these thugs were still “frum” enough that they would never think of benefitting fromהקדש , but they were happy to steal from their fellow kohanim and intimidate them.

It reminds me of the famous story of the Yeshiva student who used to store his milk in the communal fridge of the yeshiva dormitory.

He noticed that certain students had been regularly drinking his milk without permission and responded by putting a sign on the milk container that read  : “not chalav yisroel!”- the stealing immediately stopped.

My father of blessed memory would often tell how his mentor, Chief Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz zt’l once intervened in the case of a very observant man who refused to give his wife a גט  (bill of divorce.)

After various warnings, he took to the pulpit to condemn his hypocrisy, noting that due to his high level of kashrus at home , he was certain that “his pots and pans will go to heaven!”

There are people who think that it is possible to serve Hashem by treating him like a king, while treating other people like slaves.

Hashem teaches us that an essential part of his service is doing good for his creations – if our service does not make the world a better place, it is not service, but rather an abomination, a point well illustrated by countless excerpts from our prophets and sages.

There are plenty “frum” people who try to follow the ethical and interpersonal elements of the Torah as precisely as they follow the rest of the commandments.

It is those people, and their leaders,  whom we should strive to emulate.

Rav Maizels zt’l  virtually created halachik observance in Cape Town, bringing standards of public kashrus and religious observance to incredible heights for a small community at the southern tip of Africa . At the same time, he always taught  by example that it is not a mitzva to be excessively stringent at the expense of others, and that growth in one’s relationship with Hashem is directly proportional to one’s growth in one’s relationship with one’s fellow human beings.

May we all merit to continue his legacy.

Pesachim 55-56 Honoring a wicked father

In the previous post, we quoted how the Gemara applied the passuk  “ועמך כולם צדיקים”  (and your nation are all righteous) to 2 different communities with opposite halachik practices, so long as they both grounded in halachically sound considerations.

This passuk is also applied at an individual level (Sanhedrin 90a) where the Mishna brings it to prove that “כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא”  (“all of Israel have a share in the world to come.”)

Yet unfortunately, neither the passuk nor the words of the Mishna are without qualifications.

The very same Mishna lists a variety of sins for which one can lose one’s portion in עולם הבא .

And on Daf 56 in our Masechta, we are told how King Chizkiyahu dragged the bones of his wicked father King Achaz on a cheap  bed made of ropes, and how the sages agreed with his actions.

The Mishna at the bottom of daf 55b tells us about 6 unusual practices of the people of Jericho, 3 of which the sages protested, and 3 of which they did not.

The Gemara opens with a Beraisa that records 6 things done by King Chizkiyahu, 3 of which the sages approved, and 3 of which they did not approve.

At face value, the only connection that stands out is the numbers of questionable practices performed and the equal split between the things that Chazal reacted negatively to and those that they were either silent  (in the case of the people of Jericho) or complementary about (in the case of Chizkiyahu.)

At a deeper level, it is possible that there many connections, and I would like to suggest one.

One of the practices of the people Jericho that Chazal did not protest was “כורכין את שמע”  (literally tying up the Shema.)

The Gemara brings various views as to what this means.  Rabbi Yehuda opines that they did not make any break between the first passuk of Shema and the first paragraph to say “ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד”  as we are accustomed to do.

The Gemara proceeds to discuss the reason that we say this verse, and notes that it was the response Yaakov gave to his sons when they all confirmed their loyalty to the faith by saying the words of the Shema in front of him.

Yaakov was afraid that like his father Yitchak and Grandfather Avraham before him, not all his progeny would follow in his path, and when he was reassured by his sons that they would do so, this famous line was his response.

Unlike Yaakov, Chizkiyahu’s grandfather, the righteous king Yotam, did not have the same fortune, and his son and successor, Achaz, become one of the most wicked kings in our history (Melachim II/ 16.)

It is a sign of the greatness of King Chizkiyahu that he was able to rise above the evil legacy of his father and rebuild a Torah society (Melachim II/18), but he too shared the misfortune of his grandfather, and his own son, Menashe, become the most wicked king we ever had (Melachim II/21.)

Perhaps the people of Jericho felt that saying the passuk “ברוך שם”  was insensitive to those who despite their righteousness, did not share the same fortune as Yaakov when it came to all their offspring, and in the tragic cases of King Yotham and King Chizkiyahu, their very heirs.

Although Chazal did not agree with them and chose to focus on the ideal experience that our last forefather, Yaakov had, they did not wish to protest given the good intentions of the people of Jericho and their strong argument.

Back to the halachik subject at hand, Chizkiyahu was praised for degrading his late wicked father by dragging him on a bed made of ropes, which seems to indicate that the mitzva of honoring one’s father does not apply to a wicked man like Achaz.

Before jumping to any conclusions however, we need to examine the nature of and reasons for this action of Chizkiyahu.

Rashi offers two explanations:

  1. Rather than afford him the normal honors given to a king or wealthy person, he was given a poor mans treatment as an atonement for his terrible sins.
  2. This was done for the sake of Kiddush Hashem to show how a wicked man like that was disgraced and encourage other wicked people to mend their evil ways.

According to the first explanation, the actions of Chizkiyahu were for the benefit of his wicked father and helped him achieve atonement.  As such, it is possible that this was not a case of the mitzva of כבוד אב ואם    not applying to a wicked father, but rather of it being the best thing for his honor in the long term, similar perhaps to giving one’s father a curative injection.

According to the second explanation, this was not done for the long-term benefit of Achaz’s soul, but rather for the sake of the Mitzva of Kiddush Hashem.

Here again, there is no need to conclude that the mitzva of honoring parents does not apply at all to a wicked parent, but rather that the mitzva of Kiddush Hashem simply takes priority. It could well be that in a private setting, Chizkiyahu might have still shown honor to his father, and that a wicked person who did not have the same public status and power that King Achaz has, would still be entitled to a degree of כבוד.

Another difference between the two explanations in Rashi could possibly relate to the nature of Chizkiyahu’s actions:

According to the first explanation, Chizkiyahu did not necessarily degrade his father, but simply withheld honor from him.

According to the second explanation, however, Chizkiyahu intended to degrade him as a message to other wicked people, and Rashi highlights this by use of the word “שיתגנה”.

Whereas the second explanation seems to indicate that actively degrading one’s wicked father is permitted, the first merely indicates that withholding honor is acceptable.

We should also note that either way we learn this, Achaz was no longer alive at the time, and although there is a mitzva to honor parents after death as well (Kiddushin 31b) , it would be pushing things to attempt to prove anything from this case regarding honoring a wicked parent who is still alive.

Further, defining someone as wicked is a complex task, which most people are not even qualified to do, and comparing anyone to a totally wicked king like Achaz who not only sinned in the most awful ways but corrupted his people in those same ways is most of the time completely off the mark.

There are other important sugyas that are relevant to this topic (see for example Sanhedrin 85b and compare with Yevamos 22b), which ultimately lead to a significant halachik debate on this matter  (see Y.D. 240/18), but as is our way in these posts, we shall focus for now on what we can get from this daf and look forward to carrying on the discussion as the relevant sugyos come up!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

 

Pesachim 53-54 Yom-Kippur candles, good intentions, and the power of looks

In loving memory of my dear father, Moreinu haRav Avraham Benzion ben Azriel Hertz Isaacson zt’l, whose love of Torah, passion for justice, and acts of kindness inspire everything I do.

Towards the bottom of daf 53, the Gemara presents a debate that took place while Ullah was travelling on his donkey, accompanied by Rabbi Aba and רבה בר בר חנה.

First, some background:

The Mishna had discussed a difference in customs regarding whether to light candles for Yom-Kippur or not.

Unlike shabbos eve, where lighting candles was a universally accepted obligation, Yom Kippur eve had no such consensus in this regard, and whereas in some locations there was a practise to do so, in others, the practise was to refrain from this.

Keeping with the general requirement to follow local custom, the Mishna ruled that everyone must follow the custom of his place.

The Gemara pointed out that this was not an issue of being stringent or lenient ,as is the case in many of the customs we have discussed- rather, there was strong reasoning on both sides, both related to the same concern.

Before we attempt to explain this, we should note that various reasons are given for the rabbinical mitzva of lighting candles for shabbos, among them:

  1. עונג שבת  (to allow one to enjoy shabbos- it being rather difficult to do so in the dark- see Rambam Shabbos 5/1)
  2. כבוד שבת  (honoring shabbos- a banquet without light is not  honorable – see Rashi Shabbos 25b ד”ה “חובה”  and Rambam Shabbos 30/5]
  3. שלום בית  (keeping the peace at home- it being rather difficult to do so if people are constantly falling over things or bumping into one another- see Rashi, Shabbos 25b ד”ה “הדלקת נר”

Whereas all these reasons could apply, perhaps with some nuances, to Yom-Tov, Yom Kippur might indeed be different.

Whereas there is no mitzva of עונג    (enjoyment) on Yom Kippur, there might certainly be a mitzva of כבוד  , yet according to Rashi, the כבוד  provided by the candles is achieved by making the meal more distinguished, and there is no meal on Yom-Kippur!

At first glance, it seems that given the holiness of the day, שלום בית  is certainly also  an applicable reason, and having people falling over things on Yom-Kippur is hardly a reason for this.

Yet שלום בית  has multiple implications, and its most highlighted component sometimes seems to revolve around the physical and emotional relationship between man and wife, the former being limited on Yom-Kippur by the prohibition against תשמיש המיטה  (sexual relations) and other physical contact. (See Shabbos 152a where Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta refers to his אבר תשמיש  (sexual organ) as the עושה שלום בבית  (the peacemaker at home!)

It might be that the damage to this  important component of שלום בית  when people are bumping into each other, putting the husband and wife in a bad mood not suitable for such relations, is what makes shabbos candles on shabbos obligatory, and this consideration is lacking on Yom-Kippur.

However, the Gemara’s analysis of this debate does not seem to center on these considerations, but rather on the prohibition of sexual relations on Yom-Kippur. (though see later the view of Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar regarding lighting candles before Yom-Kippur that falls on Shabbos, for reasons of כבוד שבת!)

Rashi explains that on the one hand, if there is a candle lit on Yom-Kippur, people will be more likely to refrain from sexual relations due to the added prohibition of having such relations by the light of a candle (itself quite a statement, given that this seems to be a relatively mild prohibition compared to that of having sexual relations itself on Yom-Kippur, as well as the fact that everyone agrees that a candle is need on shabbos and this seems to present no such concern).

On the other hand, if one can see one’s wife on the night of Yom-Kippur, one is more likely to be attracted to her and tempted to transgress the more severe prohibition of actual sexual relations.

Whereas some explanation is needed for both above claims, the Gemara sees this as an example of how two communities can have opposite customs both with righteous intentions, applying the  passuk “ועמך כולם צדיקים לעולם ירשו ארץ. (“and your nation are all righteous people, they will forever inherit the land!)

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Another dispute is recorded regarding whether one makes the bracha בורא מאורי האש  on a candle during havdala after Yom-Kippur, or whether this bracha is reserved for motzai-shabbos.

Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as ruling that one does not, seeing as fire was created on motzai shabbos, and the bracha on it is thus reserved exclusively for that time.

רבה בר בר חנה is quoted as agreeing and as claiming that Rabbi Yochanan agreed!

Now, we return to the incident we opened up our post  with:

Rabbi Aba asked Ullah if it was true that Rabbi Yochanan had agreed that one only makes the bracha  בורא מאורי האש  on motzai shabbos, and not motzai Yom-Kippur, and Ullah responded initially by giving Rabbah bar Chana a “bad look.”

He then explained that when he quoted Rabbi Yochanan, it was not regarding this law, but rather regarding Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar’s claim regarding Yom Kippur that fell on shabbos.

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar claimed that everyone agrees that one needs to light candles on the eve of such a day, out of honor for shabbos, and Ullah had quoted Rabbi Yochanan as noting that the Chachamim did not agree, and held that it was still subject to the same debate above (note that כבוד שבת  seems according to this view to be more important than כבוד כפור  and to override the concern of being attracted to one’s wife- it also does not seem to be related to the shabbos meal)

רבה בר בר חנה then relented and accepted that Ullah was correct.

We should note that receiving a “bad look” from someone, particular a Torah leader, is not a simple thing, recalling how Rabbi Yochanan when angered by  a student’s heresy, stared at him and turned him into a pile of bones. (see Bava Basra 75a )

Yet in this case, Rav Yosef seems to see this “bad look” in a positive light, praising Ullah for the ability to communicate his disapproval with a look rather than by verbally attacking רבה בר בר חנה, and praising רבה בר בר חנה for his ability to note such disapproval and accept it, applying  a relevant passuk in משלי  to both of them.

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After asking what our custom is regarding the bracha on fire in havdala, the Gemara notes that רבי בנינין בר יפת  quoted Rabbi Yochanan (contrary to what was initially reported) as ruling that this bracha is made both on motzai shabbos and motzai Yom-Kippur, and that this is the way the people have spoken!    (note that this ruling is later qualified with the requirement that the candle used on motzai Yom-Kippur needs to be a נר ששבת  [a candle that was already lit over shabbos for permitted reasons, such as pikuach nefesh, or one that was lit before Yom-Kippur- see Rashi.])

Rashi explains that in the absence of the reason that fire was created on motzai shabbos, we require the other reason to make such a bracha, namely the fact that one is now able to use this fire for things one could not use it before (perhaps like lighting another fire with it.)

As such, we need a candle which was already burning but whose use was limited to us before Yom-Kippur ended due to the prohibition of melacha.

In conclusion, when it comes to lighting candles on erev Yom-Kippur, it seems that the usually authoritative view of Rabbi Yochanan is that it is still dependant on custom , whereas when it comes to making the bracha of בורא מאורי האש  on motzai shabbos, his view is that we do so, but only with a נר ששבת.

We have also learnt two amazing lessons in positivity, the one regarding how we view opposing halachik views as both coming from a place of righteousness, and the other regarding the benefits of using non verbal communication to resolve disputes.

As usual, counter examples to both the above could be found, but we shall focus on this angle for purposes of this post.

Pesachim 12-13 Being above suspicion and avoiding conflicts of interest

On Daf 12b, the Gemara quotes a Mishna which records a dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda regarding the last time one is permitted to eat chametz on erev Pesach.

Rabbi Meir holds that one may eat chametz until the end of the fifth hour of the day and must burn in at the beginning of the sixth hour.

Rabbi Yehuda, however, holds that one may only eat chametz until the end of the fourth hour, may keep it in one’s possession till the end of the fifth hour, and burns it in the beginning of the sixth hour.

It should be noted that the prohibition of eating and owning chametz on a biblical level only applies from midday, and that these are rabbinical “fences” designed to avoid missing the biblical deadline.

The Gemara in 13b notes that Rav Nachman ruled like Rabbi Yehuda, and later claims that Rebbe’s own ruling supported his conclusion.

It tells how someone had deposited a leather sack (see Rashi) filled with chametz with יוחנן חקוקאה  and it was bitten open by a mouse.

It was erev pesach, and the chametz was leaking out and getting lost, and he wanted to sell it to recover whatever money he could for the owner while doing so was still allowed.

Rebbe kept telling him to wait, in case the owner came and wanted to eat it, until the beginning of the fifth hour when he told him to go to the market and sell it on his behalf.

The Gemara assumes that Rebbe meant for him to sell it to non-Jews, thus implying that he agreed with Rabbi Yehuda that eating chametz during this time is already forbidden for Jews.

After all, if he meant for him to sell it to Jews and agreed with Rabbi Meir that Jews were still permitted to eat chametz during this time, he should have rather given Yochanan the option to buy it himself first and eat it during this time, rather than requiring him to make the effort to go to the market to sell it!

The Gemara refutes this suggestion, explaining that Rebbe might indeed agree with Rabbi Meir and have intended for Yochanan to sell it to Jews on behalf of the owner.

However, Rebbe did not want him to buy it himself, due to concerns for חשד (arousing suspicion.)

As Yochanan had a vested interest in fixing the price lower than the going rate in order to buy it himself, Rebbe held that it was wrong to buy it, even for the same price as others would agree to, in order not to arouse suspicion that he had indeed done so.

To back this reasoning up, it brings a Beraisa that discussed someone who collects copper coins for charity and currently has no poor people to give them to.  Due to the concern that they might go rusty, he needs to exchange them for silver coins with someone else, but he may NOT exchange them for his own silver coins, in order not to arouse suspicion that he gave himself a favorable rate.

 This would be going against the apparently biblical directive of “והייתם נקיים מה’ ומישראל ”  – “you shall be clean from Hashem and the Jewish people (Bamidbar 32/22.)

The same applies to someone who works in a soup kitchen and has excess food: He needs to sell it to someone else, but may not buy it himself from the charity, to avoid suspicion that he might give himself a better price!

This idea can be found in an explicit Mishna (Shekalim 3/2,) which tells us that the person who puts donations given to the Temple in the 3 boxes used for storing them may not wear a garment that is folded over, shoes, an amulet, or even Tefillin, in order not to arouse suspicion that he stole from them and hid the money in one of the above items (see Rambam there.)

The idea that someone would be so brazen as to un-sow Tefillin and hide stolen money in them might seem extreme , but there have indeed been cases in modern times where “religious” Jews have been caught smuggling diamonds and other things in their Tefillin, making this Mishna even more chilling  (Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky (https://torah.org/torah-portion/drasha-5757-shoftim/) tells how when consulted about this phenomena, his saintly grandfather Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky זצ”ל  compared such behavior to someone who approaches enemy lines with a white flag as if to surrender, and throws a grenade, violating a sacred symbol of peaceful intent so that others no longer trust it.)

We saw earlier in the daf cycle (Shabbos 23a) that a person is required to leave פאה (the corner of the field left for the poor) at the end of his field, for 4 different reasons, one of them being to avoid חשד  (suspicion) that he might not have left anything at all.

Similarly, The Gemara (Bava Basra 8b) rules that it is forbidden for someone who is collecting money for charity to put  money that he finds in the street, or that someone gives him in repayment of a loan, in his own wallet, so that people should not think that it is charity money that he is taking for himself.

Rather, he should put it in the charity box, and transfer it to his own wallet once home. The people collecting money are also supposed to go in pairs for the same reason (Bava Basra 8b.)

We should note that unlike the practise in many corrupt areas of making traffic police work in pairs to make it more risky to accept bribes, the concern here is not even that they would steal the money but simply that they might be suspected of doing so- such is the ethical standard expected of  a Jew.

The directive to “be clean” does not only apply to monetary matters, but also to arousing suspicion of other types of improper behavior.

For example, one of the reasons that it is forbidden to enter a חורבה  (ruin ) is to avoid suspicion that one might be meeting a prostitute there (Brachos 3a and Rashi there.)

A Jew is required to not avoid corruption, but to avoid any suspicion of corrupt behave, and to always be AND appear squeaky clean.

There is a related concept called מראית עיין, where Chazal forbade  or required certain actions to avoid “looking bad.”

Whether this is an extension of the concern of חשד or an independent concept requires some analysis, which I hope to be able to do at a later opportunity.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Pesachim 3 The trade-off between clean and clear language

On the previous daf, the Mishna told us that we need to search for chametz by the light of a candle on “אור לארבעה עשר” [ lit: “the light of the 14’th.]

One of the first פסוקים  (verses) we learnt as children tells us how Hashem created “אור”  [“light”]  on the first day, called it “יום” [day], and called the “חושך”  [darkness], “לילה” [ night.]

As such, our first assumption when reading this Mishna would be that we need to search for Chametz during the day, or perhaps at first light, of the 14’th, i.e. the day before Pesach.

Yet, far from taking it for granted, the Gemara asks what “אור” is referring to, and brings a debate between Rav Huna, who says it is referring to “נגהי”  (Aramaic for “light”] and Rav Yehuda, who says that it is referring to “לילי” (Aramaic for night.)

Seemingly unbothered by the apparent bizarreness of Rav Yehuda “translating” a word “everyone” knows means “light” as “night-time”, the Gemara initially assumes that at least  Rav Huna holds that the mishna is referring to day-time, as would be our natural assumption.

Yet after bringing an array of פסוקים  that all seem to use the word “אור”  to refer to day-time, and offering seemingly forced alternate explanations of all them in a way that the word “אור”  itself might still refer to night, it brings various examples of usage in משניות  and ברייתות where the word clearly seems to refer to night.

Clearly choosing the later over the most obvious usage in the pessukim, the Gemara concludes that even Rav Huna agrees that the Mishna refers to night-time, but explains that in his town, the word “נגהי” was also used to refer to night-time.

Seeing as we are dealing with the usage of words by Chazal, it is not surprising that the Gemara chooses examples of its usage from Chazal over the simple meaning of its usage in the scriptures, but given that Chazal do sometimes use language differently to the scriptures (see for example B.M. 2a re “ראיה”), it seems strange that the Gemara feels the need to explain the פסוקים in a way that is consistent with their usage- perhaps the Torah simply uses “אור”  in its literal usage to describe light or day, and Chazal use it as a reference to “night”, for whatever reason?

The Gemara concludes that the reason why the Mishna (and by implication other statements of Chazal) use the word “אור”  in place of “חושך”  or “לילה” is in order to make use of “לישנע מעליה”  (lit. “superior language.”)

It bases this on Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s ruling that a person should never let a “דבר מגונה”- “degrading word” came out of his mouth.

This ruling is in turn based on the fact that Torah added 8 extra letters, despite the golden rule that it NEVER wastes letters or words, in order to replace the phrase ” בהמה טמאה” (impure animal )  with  “בהמה אשר איננה טהורה” (“ an animal which is not pure.”

This proof is followed by others from different Amoraim.

The school of Rabbi Yishmael then brings a similar rule requiring people to always speak with “לשון נקיה” (clean language.)

This is based on the fact that whereas something that a זב  (male impure due to an unusual emission) rides on (and thus becomes impure) is referred to as מרכב הזב (lit. something the זב  rode on), the equivalent by a woman is referred to as “מושב”  (lit. something she sits on.)

Rashi explains that seeing as riding an animal involves spreading one’s legs out to a degree, something normally considered immodest for a woman, the Torah prefers to use the more modest sounding “מושב”

They then bring another two verses to substantiate their claim, which the Gemara understand come to teach us that not only does the Torah, due to its extra sanctity, go out of its way to use clean language, but Chazal were also expected to do so.

Furthermore, not only are the Rabbis due to their stature required to do so, but one is required to do so in every day talk as well!

Perhaps this could explain why the Gemara was not satisfied to simply take the verses that refer to “אור” at face value and explain the Mishna on the basis that Chazal use the word differently.

In the case in Bava Metzia, Chazal might have  used the word “ראיה”  in the every day sense as in “seeing” even though in the language of the Torah, it usually implies “דאתיא לידיה” – something that comes into one’s hand.

However,  the idea that the Torah would never be concerned about using ‘clean language” and Chazal would be was not something the Gemara could consider, as we have seen that the greater sanctity of the Torah should make it more concerned about such things, not less so!

As such, the Gemara needs to go out of its way to show that the Torah could also have used the word “אור” in place of night, and the places where it means “light” literally can be explained in other ways.

Yet in truth, it is hard to say that words like “night” and “impure” are examples of such unclean language, and as the Gemara itself points out, the Torah itself often uses such words such as “טמא”

The Gemara thus qualifies the requirement to use “clean language” to a situation where the clean language is just as short and concise as the “less clean” alternative, in keeping with the dictum of Rav that a person should always teach his students with  concise language.

The clarity of concise language usually thus takes priority over being particular over “clean language,” at least regarding talking to one’s students.

If so, how do we explain the fact that in the examples brought earlier, the Torah indeed added extra letters in order to make use of “clean language?”

Rashi explains that this was an exception the Torah made in order to teach us the importance of using clean language wherever possible, and Tosfos adds that had the Torah not done so in that case, we would not have known that we need to be particular about using clean language in cases where it does not affect the concise nature of the statement.

The incredible implication of this seems at face value to mean that if it was not for this special exception the Torah made, we would think that using “unclean language” even for no justified reason is acceptable?

Is it possible that bad language, of which it is said “כל המנבל את פיו מעמיקים לו גהינום”   (one who dirties his mouth gets a deeper spot in hell- Shabbos 33a) would be acceptable had it not been for this unusual exception made by the Torah?

It seems to be that we need to differentiate between truly dirty language and words like “night”, “impure” ,and “riding” (in the context of a woman) that can hardly be said to be objectively dirty or rude.

It might go without saying that the former has to be avoided in all but perhaps the most extreme or necessary cases, if at all (objectively “dirty” language is found even in Tanach in reference to idol-worship for example- see Sanhedrin 63b  “ליצנותא דע”ז.)

The later, however, is part of everyday language that often cannot be avoided.

So important , however, is the sanctity of one’s speech, that even remotely negative words should be avoided wherever possible, and the Torah breaks its golden rule of never using unnecessary letters that once in order to drive home this essential point (see  ר”ן ד”ה “לישנא מעליה”  who seems to take this approach.)

Negative language inevitably leads to negative thoughts and actions, and although the Torah doesn’t avoid negative statement where absolutely necessary to make a point, as the ultimate “לקח טוב”  (good gift or teaching,) positivity is at its core, and should be at ours as well!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 85-86 The tenant and the rich man

The Mishna on Eruvin 85b tells us that someone who dwells in a store-room that opens to a courtyard needs to participate in the eruv chatzeiros, and if he does not do so, he forbids the courtyard to everyone else.

Rabbi Yehuda, however opines that if the owner of the courtyard has a תפיסת יד (hold) on it , it is not an issue.

Rashi explains that this means that if the owner uses some of the space inside the storeroom to store his own things, it is considered still to be his רשות (domain.)

The Gemara  here seems to understands this to be part of  a general rule that when the owner retains usage of the house, he can also be part of the eruv in place of the tenant.

The Gemara gives the example of a very wealthy man, Bunias, who owned courtyards and allowed others to stay in them on condition that he could keep some of his property in them.

Rashi seems to understand that he used to “lend” the houses to them, whereas the Ritva understands that he sometimes “lent” and sometimes rented them to people.

As a rental ostensibly confers a higher degree of quasi ownership than a loaned house where no money is paid, this could be very significant regarding whether some level of קנין  is required here or whether simply דירה  (long-term dwelling) is sufficient to make the inhabitant the deciding factor regarding eruvin. (See Meiri who relates this to the debate whether עירוב משום דירה או משום קנין  .)

While the possibility that a long-term inhabitant might be considered the quasi owner regarding eruvin even if he does not pay for his stay certainly seems to be assumed by Rashi, short-term guests in hotels or visitors that stay in their own cottages in one’s courtyard could well  have a different law, but see our post on Eruvin 65.

The Beraisa proceeds to tell how when Bunias arrived, Rebbe himself would tell everyone to make space for the man of “100 portions.”

When another wealthy man arrived, however, he told them to make space for the man of “200 portions.”

Rashi explains that Rebbe thought the second person was even wealthier and thus honored him according to his level of wealth!

רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי pointed out to Rebbe that Bunias was actually wealthier than the second person, and his father owned 1000 boats at sea and 1000 cities on land!

Rebbe responded that when רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי next went to visit Bunias’ father, he should tell him to send his son in fancier clothes next time (so he will know how wealthy he is and honor him accordingly [see Rashi])

The Gemara proceeds to tell us how not only Rebbe, but also Rabbi Akiva were particular about honoring the wealthy.

For those of us who are naturally put off by the idea of the wealthy in a community being giving some of the top honors, and the common practise of auctioning off the best honors to the highest bigger, it might seem difficult to accept how such great Tannaim seemed to go along with this approach?

Surely  a person should be given honors based on merit, rather than on the size of his wallet?

Surely the road to community leadership should not bypass the less fortunate?

We discussed in our post on Daf 49 that although the Torah takes social responsibilities very seriously, enforces charity and tithes, and certainly does not accept a libertarian “laizze faire” approach to economics, it also has total respect for individual property rights and for the right to generate personal wealth.

We also noted that according to one view, the entire institution of allowing one to send a messenger with bread for eruv techumin rather than having to go there oneself was to make it easier for the wealthy, and that the Torah actually treats the wealthy with great respect.

This case serves as a prime example of this  honor shown to wealthy people.

Yet by the end of the sugya, it becomes clear that this honor is not unconditional, and that it is not a contradiction to the merit based approach that the Torah is famous for(for example a learned Mamzer takes priority over an ignorant priest!)

In explaining Rabbi Akiva’s great honor for the wealthy, the Gemara brings a passuk (Tehillim 61/):

“ישב עולם לפני אלהים חסד ואמת מן ינצרהו”- read midrashically as “The world shall endure in front of Elokim,  kindness and truth will guard it”

The Gemara applies this passuk to a wealthy person and says- When will the world sit forever in front of Hashem (endure?)  When kindness and truth guard it (when the wealthy use their money to perform acts of kindness and truth.)

The Torah’s true attitude to wealth is that it was given to the wealthy in order to help the less fortunate, and that when they do this, they are actually sustaining and building the world, something very worthy of honor!

It is thus fitting that someone like Bunias should be used as an example of a wealthy man honored by Rebbe, given that he used to “lend” his properties to people, at least sometimes free of charge, to live in!

Whether a less generous wealthy man loses this right to honor completely, or should still be honored given his potential, or in the hope of encouraging him to fulfill his purpose, is of course subject to discussion, but it seems that Chazal had little tolerance for wealthy misers who refused to give some of their wealth to others, and in this regard  ממשכנין על הצדקה- we take collateral from people in order to force them to give tzedakah, sometimes in very large sums(B.B. 8b)

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha

Eruvin 55 The extended techum and Table Mountain continued, and self-sacrifice for Torah

Today’s daf has a solid mix of aggadic material and a return to the technical rules regarding how to work out the extended shabbos domain of a city.

I wish to start with the halachik side of the daf, כדרכינו בקודש, even though some of  the aggadic material precedes it, and hope to return to the Agadot thereafter.

For the sake of clarity, the אגדה includes all content in the Talmud that does not involve the halachik (legal) process, including מדרשי אגדה  that comment on the narrative portions of the Tanach or complement them and ethical and other advice- see מבוא התלמוד attributed by many to Rabbeinu Shmuel haNagid, one of the first of the Rishonim  and published at the back of מסכת ברכות  for his exact definition, though note that his view on the source and authority of agada is subject to much debate amongst the Geonim, Rishonim and later authorities (my in-depth Hebrew article on this subject is currently work in progress.)

We have already learnt that the general rule is that the techum (shabbos domain) of a city in which one is permitted to walk on Shabbos  stretches to a maximum of 2000 amos (between about 800-1000 m) from the last house in the city’s halachik borders (recall that 2 houses separated by 141 amos or more of empty space might be considered halachically to be in 2 different “cities.”

We have also seen recently that this applies in theory, but that in practise, the distance one may walk from the last house of the city might be significantly more, for 2 reasons:

  1. The limits of the city proper might stretch significantly beyond the last house, such as when the shape of the city is irregular (non-rectangular or grid-like) in which case some open space might be included in these limits themselves.
  • The techum of the city, while theoretically stretching 2000 amos from the end of the city-proper, is effectively measured by placing a rectangular block at the corners of the city and not a circle, meaning that while the shortest this techum will extend is 2000 amos, at the diagonals, it will extend significantly more (by pythagorus.)

The first rule is not applied universally, and one needs to be familiar with all the different shapes discussed in the sugya and which other shapes would be treated like these shapes, before jumping into using this potentially very useful tool.

For example, while a circular city has a square circumscribed around it, including the empty-space outside the circle but inside the square in the city proper itself, and a trapezium seems to be  viewed as if it is was the smallest rectangle that it could fit inside, a rectangular city is left as is, and  a parallelogram could be more complex.

There is also some discussion as to whether the square needs to be on the North-East-South-West axis of the world or can face any direction.

One of the more fascinating shapes describes is the עיר העשויה כקשת – a city in the form of a bow (or rainbow.)

The Beraisa  initially taught us that we draw a fictitious line from the one extreme of the bow to the other (this line is known as the יתר and represents the string which would be pulled back by the arrow before the arrow is released ) and view all the empty space between this line and the houses of the city as part of the city-proper, measuring the techum from this line.

However, Rav Huna rules that this only applies if the length of this line is no more than 4000 amos, allowing someone whose shabbos base or house is in the middle of this line (the spot where the arrow would be placed)  to walk to the city within his own 2000 amos (see Rabbeinu Chananel for his full explanation.)

However, if the length of this line is more than 4000 amos, the empty space is not included in the city limits, and the techum is measured from each individual house.

According to Rabbah bar Rav Huna, the space between the bow and the middle of the line also needs to be less than 2000 amos in order to include the empty space in the city proper, but according to his son, Rava, this is not necessary, and Abaya supports  his lenient view, seeing as anyone in the city could reach the middle of the  line by walking first to the end of the city.

Tosfos suggests that  according to Rava son of Rabbah bar Rav Huna, if the distance between the bow and the line itself is less than 2000 amos, the 4000 amos  restriction on the length of the line might not apply due to the same reasoning of Abaya- the midpoint of the line could be accessed through the 2000 amos or less route to the bow itself- this too is subject to debate amongst the Rishonim.

Tosfos further assumes that the 4000 amos limitation on  a bow-shaped city does not apply to the case discussed earlier where a house or row of houses  protrudes outside the grid of the city. In such a case, even if it is more than 4000 amos to the fictitious parallel row of houses we draw on the opposite end, the empty space is included in the city proper. 

Although he attempts to explain the reasons for this distinction, he admits that the Ri (one of the two most senior Baalei haTosfos) holds that this limitation applies to that case as well. Once again, this topic has generated much discussion and debate amongst the Rishonim and can also affect L shaped cities.

Though there is so much more to learn and understand regarding the above and other related issues (those whose appetite has been whet might enjoy the extensive treatment of this issue in the Rashba, Ritva, Meiri and other Rishonim) ,it is now clear that including the empty natural space between the extremes of an irregularly shaped city is far more complex than it might have originally seemed.

We are not even close to theoretically allowing climbing table mountain on shabbos or Yom-Tov  even without the other multiple halachik challenges one would face (though as per accompanying images from google Earth, it seems that the “Lions Head” Mountain might fall completely within the techum of Cape Town City, and at least on Yom-Tov where carrying is less of an issue, with the guidance of the local Rabbis and eruv experts, the gorgeous trail up and down MIGHT indeed be permissible.

In the beginning of the daf, various explanations are given of the passuk “לא בשמיים היא ולא מעבר לים היא  ” – (it is not in heaven nor is it on the other side of the sea.)

I would like to focus for a minute on the explanation of רב אבדמי בר חמא בר דוסא  who derives by implication that although the Torah is indeed reachable for us, even if it were not, we would be liable to reach to the sky and cross the sea in order to get it.

There are times indeed when Torah goals seem unobtainable to us, and although we should be encouraged by the fact that in essence, they are vey much obtainable, we need to push ourselves and be prepared for self-sacrifice in order to achieve these goals despite how unobtainable they seem.

The Rosh Yeshiva זצ”ל , Rabbi Tanzer, was a prime example of someone for whom no goal was too far away when it came to his life’s mission of spreading Torah.

Starting with the literally huge distance diagonally over the Atlantic that he set out on together with his young wife, leaving behind their friends and extended families in an era of very limited communication for what was at first envisioned as a 2 year stint in Africa, he moved onto the virtually impossible goal of turning what was then a virtual spiritual wasteland into a vibrant Torah center.

This was not a job he fulfilled from the ivory tower of an office, or even a classroom, but one that took him literally from door to door begging parents to enroll their children in his fledgling Torah day-school.

Almost 6 decades later, the Yeshiva College campus has served  as the largest center of the Johannesburg Jewish Community and educated generations of students who span the Jewish world, from Rabbis and Torah teachers to businessmen and professionals, as well as some combinations of both.

Returning briefly to the more technical parts of daf, the rather superficial summary we have done above and the fastest reading of the daf reveals how an understanding of mathematics is essential to being able to make the complex calculations needed for taking full advantage of the shabbos techum- One also clearly needs some conception of how much a factor raw mathematics was in Chazal’s reasoning, something that only a good knowledge of both Chazal’s methodology and mathematics would allow.

Though those who knew him know that Rabbi Tanzer was first and fore-most a Rosh-Yeshiva who was most at home in the Beis-Midrash and who got the most joy out of those students who went on to become serious Torah Scholars, he always pushed his students to excel in their general education as well, creating a generation of students with the knowledge required not only for their chosen careers, but also for understanding many areas of Torah that are beyond the reach of those who lack this knowledge.

The Gaon of Vilna, broadly considered the greatest Torah figure in many centuries, was famous for stating that it is impossible to fully understand the Torah without understand all the forms of general (I prefer not to use the term secular) wisdom (see “haGaon” by D.E. Eliach for citation) , something he himself accomplished, and though neither he nor our Rosh Yeshiva would encourage one to give more priority to general studies than to Torah, chalila, I personally have found great benefit from the general education I received under Moreinu haRav Tanzer and his team, not just in my business, but most importantly in so many areas of my Torah Study.

Although reaching the wisdom of the Vilna Gaon is certainly like reaching for the sky, and building en empire of Torah like the Rosh Yeshiva did is certainly also above most of us, we can learn from him to be prepared to try our absolute best, and if we do so, the results will speak for themselves, with Hashem’s help!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.