Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ramban & Ibn Ezra - Uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael

The following was first published in Parsha Pearls, Chayei Sarah 2001 (year not on the original) by yours truly and is presented here in its entirety for Yom Ha'atzma'ut, and also for Parshas Kedoshim.

In this week's Parsha, we learn all that Avraham did in order to procure a burial plot for his wife, Sarah. Why did the Torah deem it necessary for us to know all these facts?

The ibn Ezra explains (23:18) that the Torah wished to show us two things. One, the importance of Eretz Yisrael for both the living and the dead, and two, the fulfillment of Hashem's promise to Avraham that Eretz Yisrael will belong to him and his descendants.

The Ramban (23:19) askes on the explanations of the ibn Ezra: How does this epsode illustrate the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael for the living and the dead, just because Sarah died in Eretz Yisrael, and was buried there and not elsewhere. (If, however, she had died outside of Eretz Yisrael and was brought there for burial, this would illustrate the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael.) Furthermore, the Ramban asks, Hashem's promise was to give the entire Eretz Yisrael to the descendents of Avraham, and this episode only refers to one small field. How do we see a fulfillment of Hashem's promise to Avraham?

The Ramban therefore writes that the Torah showed us this episode for two other reasons. One, to show us that Avraham was well respected by the Bnei Cheis, a fulfillment of the divine promise of "va'agadlah shimecha - And I will make your name great." (See Perek 12, Passuk 2.) Two, to record for us the location of the graves of our forefatehrs so that we can honor those places.

My rebbie, Harav Moshe Soloveichik, Shlit"a, suggested an answer to the questions of the Ramban on the ibn Ezra. Reb Moshe said that Avraham insisted on buying the fields from Efron, while he could have acquired it from him for free. This was to show that Eretz Yisrael is our land. The definition of Eretz Yisrael, as explained by Reb Yoshe Ber, and the roshe HaYeshiva, zt"l, is that which belongs to every Jew, not as shutfus (partnership). Avraham's purchasing the field from Efron made the field belong to the Jewish people. This answers the second question of the Ramban, because now that the land belongs to every Jew, there is a fulfillment of Hashem's promise. The answer to the first question of the Ramban can be seen by the differences that exist between the purchases of different pieces of property. When one buys a regular piece of property, like a house, he may eventually sell it. The purchase of a grave, however, is eternal. To illustrate this point, Reb Moshe gave the example of Har hazeisim: the fact that there is a cemetery prevents its being given away. In this way one can still be a supporter of Eretz Yisrael, even upon death.

I would like to add that the explanations of the ibn Ezra and Ramban are influenced by the way they define the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael. The Ramban in Sefer Vayikra, Perek 18, Passuk 25, in addressing why Eretz Yisrael will eject sinners, explains that when Hashem created everything, He established a star or sign for each place. However, He created no such sign for Eretz Yisrael. Hashem Himself is the sign for Eretz Yisrael, and as such it is a holy place that cannot tolerate sinners. The Ramban says therefore that the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael is due to an external force [i.e., Hashem as the sign -ed.] , and as such he cannot learn the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael from this episode. This is because he feels it was special for a different reason, not contained in this episode. The ibn Ezra, on the other hand, holds that Eretz Yisrael is special due to maasim (deeds) we do, and therefore we can learn the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael from this Parsha, for it displays the great maasim of Avraham.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Schlissle Challa Minhag Explained

One year the shabbos after pesach, I was at someone's house, and they had baked a key in their challa. They told me it's a called schlissle challa and is (like so many other things) a segula for parnossa or something.

Last shabbos I figured out a rationale for this minhag (but not the connection to parnassa), why bake a key into the challa on the shabbos after pesach. First of all, it depends on having the minhag to give your key to the goy to whom you sell your chametz when you sell your chametz. Once you have that minhag, it makes sense that on the shabbos after Pesach, when you've bought your chametz back from the goy, you bake that key in a challa, to demonstrate that you again own your chametz (represented by the challa). Maybe the parnassa thing comes from the fact this key was used in a business transaction (the sale of the chametz) and you successfully completed that deal, so you hope your successful streak continues.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking Back - More Sources

In memory of my friend Yonatan ben Nachum who passed away Shabbos morning. In honor of my friend Jacob, who became a bone marrow stem cell donor in Yoni's zechus (and in trying to find a match for Yoni).

Note: If I have additional sources I post them as comments to their relevant posts. This post in an exception.

Over Yom Tov, I was looking through R' Chayim Heller's sefer Hamitzvos and want to add some references to previous posts. Page numbers are to Sefer Hamitzvos Leharambam, Mahaduras Hagaon Rabi Chayim Heller, published by Mossad Harav Kook.

Related to post Freeing your slave, part 3: Saving Soviet Jewry - A new book, David Avdi, about Rabbi Dr. David Appelbaum zt"l H"yd, a tzaddik and talmid chacham, includes two chapters - one in Hebrew and one in English - about an Israeli intelligence operation called Nativ whose purpose was to reach out to and support Soviet Jewry and encourage their attachment to Judaism, Zionism and Israel - often at great risk to both Nativ operatives and Soviet refuseniks (David Avdi, p. 48). Rav Dovid zt"l travelled to the Soviet Union (on the strength of his American passport) to teach Torah and bring support to Soviet Jewry.
R' Chayim Heller discusses about putting yourself in safek sakana to save someone else on p. 174 note 11.
R' Aaron Rakeffet (Rothkoff) recruited Rav Dovid for this operation, and I've heard he plans to publish some of his experiences in his forthcoming memoirs.

Related to Post Parshas Ki Sisa-Kiyor: see p. 24 note 8 meshichas klei hamikdash - he feels there is a contradiction between Sefer Hamitzvos and Mishna Torah if being moshech the keilim is a mitzvah ledoros or only in the midbar.

Related to post Makos Mardus see p. 32 note 83 malkin ad shetetzei nafsho, some say you don't actually hit him till he dies, but R' Heller seems to say those opinions are not borne out by other meimras.

Related to post Hosafa to Parshas Ki Sisa, Kiyor end, what Rav Chaim said - see p. 43 If someone who enters the heichal without washing at the Kiyor, even if he does not enter to do avodah, if he's chayav misah. R' Chayim Heller doesn't discuss it, but would this apply to Moshe according to the makshe in Tosfos Avodah Zarah 34? Also, on the same page regarding the source of the law that the kiyor must have enough water to wash 4 kohanim - apparently someone changed Rambam's girsa to use Rashi's pasuk.

Indirectly related to Prohibition against intermarriage post see p. 109 note 18 if you get malkus for being boel aramis even if it is not ishus.

Not related to a previous post, but is related to Daf 87b - see p. 186 note 21 - Yam Shel Shlomo Yevamos says the Rambam doesn't pasken like this gemara (about a father's ne'emanus on his son), but the Rambam does pasken it in Isurei Biah 15:16. Very strange Yam Shel Shlomo.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seder: Revava k'tzemach hasadeh

R' Gil inspired this with this post. It lacks a little polish, I apologize; I didn't have enough time to properly finish it.

I once gave a drasha in honor of my Bubbie, and part of it was this: Kiddushin 49b says that 10 measures of yofi came to the world and Jerusalem took 9 of them. What does this mean? The gemara a few lines lower says that the pasuk in Shir Hashirim 8 "achos ketana yesh lanu v'shadayim ain la" refers to Eilam that merited to learn Torah but not to teach torah. So the breasts represent the source of spiritual sustenance, (see also my Rebbie's zt"l hesped for his brother the Rav zt"l - about "birchos shadayim v'racham") and this is the yofi of Yerushalayim: Bava Basra 21a discusses the educational system and how Ben Gamla is to be commended for without him, Torah would have been forgotten in Israel. One of the takanos in teaching was that the children should be brought to Yerushalayim to learn as the pasuk says (Yeshaya 2) "ki mitzion teitzei Torah u'Dvar Hashem Miyrushalayim." Tosfos, s.v. Ki Mitzion says "because they would see great holiness and Kohanim busy in the Avodah, it would direct the heart more to the fear of heaven and to learn Torah, as the Sifrei expounds on the pasuk "l'maan tilmad l'yirah." Great is Maaser Sheni that it brings to [Torah] study, because they would stand in Yerushalayim until he ate his Maaser Sheni and he would see everyone busy in the work of heaven and avodah, he would also be directed toward yiras shamayim and to busy himself with Torah." Also, Rambam Mamrim 1:1 says בית דין הגדול שבירושלים--הם עיקר תורה שבעל פה,
והם עמוד ההוראה, ומהם חוק ומשפט יוצא לכל ישראל. The beis din hagadol in Yerushalayim - they are the main Torah Sheb'al peh, and the pillar of direction (as in teaching or psak), and from them, law and justice emanates to all of Yisrael.

In this context at the seder, shadayim nachonu, the bnei yisrael had the potential to start a great mesoratic tradition but "at eryom v'ervah," we were naked of mitzvos. We had nothing to transmit.

Now, on Pesach night, when we have to see ourselves as being freed from Egypt, a time when the Jews were were commanded several mitzvos, and specifically the seder night with the mitzvah of "vehigadta levincha" which includes teaching the halachos of the seder, not only the story of the exodus (see the answer to the Ben Chacham, and see Hagaddah Siach Hagrid), we have a responsibility and an obligation to teach Torah to our children (and other people).

(The night of the seder is indeed dedicated to the mesorah, as we have a requirement to recite the drashos on the psukim of bikkurim. My rebbe shlit"a mentioned Tshuvos Hagaonim against those who skipped the drashos, they were suspected of being karaim. I think the Rav in Siach Hagrid also discussed the importance of reciting the drashos.)

(Back to my bubbie - I said she transmitted to me Torah attitudes. She taught me how to give tzedaka. She taught me how to respect talmidei chachamim. She told me how to soak and salt meat, to kasher it, etc.)