Thursday, March 15, 2018

the relationship between korbanos and mishkan

There seems to be a basic disagreement between Ramban and Rambam regarding the relationship between korbanos and the mikdash.  Rambam writes in hil beis ha'bechira (1:1) that there is a mitzvah "la'asos beis Hashem muchan l'heyos makrivin bo korbanos" -- korbanos are the goal, mikdash is the means or context.  Ramban, on the other hand, in many places compares the mishkan to Har Sinai.  Both are places where the Shechina rested and Torah was revealed -- this is the goal.  Korbanos are just a means of attaining kapparah to prevent the Shechina from departing, the means to the end.  (We've discussed this before here, here, here, here, here, here but you want new stuff, right?)

The truth is that how you view the role of korbanos and their relationship to the mikdash may depend on which korban you are talking about.  Chatas, asham, and olah to some extent, all serve a kaparah function.  On the other hand, what about the korban tamid?  In parshas Titzaveh it's noteworthy that the tamid alone is mentioned -- absent is any reference to those other korbanos that bring kaparah.  The placement of the tamid at the end of the Terumah-Titzavehm unit, after the instructions on how to build a mishkan and make bigdei kehunah, indicates that it is the end for which everything else is the means.  The pesukim that speak of the tamid closeswith the words, "V'no'aditi shama... v'shachanti b'toch Bnei Yisrael... v'yad'u ki ani Hashem..." (29:43-46) -- the tamid itself brings about hashrah'as haShechina.

Abarbanel comments that the opening words of the parsha of tamid, "V'zeh ta'aseh al ha'mizbeiyach," are suggestive of a miyut: "zeh" -- this is the korban everything was meant for, to the exclusion of other offerings.  The Torah is telling is not to think of the mishkan just as the place to go when you need forgiveness, to offer your chatas or asham.  Ideally we should never need a chatas or asham!  The mishkan ideally is meant to be the place you offer the tamid, a korban to praise G-d and come closer to him.

In contrast, Rashi (Yeshaya 1:1) comments on the words "tzedek yalim bah" that the righteousness of the city of Yerushalayim was preserved by the tamid.  The morning offering served as a kaparah for any wrongdoing done at night and the evening korban served as a kaparah for any wrongdoing done during the day.  Whether that was the primary goal of the korban or an ancillary benefit, the fact remains that according to Rashi even the tamid served a kaparah function.  

It is possible to iron out the differences between these approaches.  Parshas Titzaveh with its focus on the tamid may reflect the "ideal" role of the mishkan, pre-cheit ha'eigel, where Klal Yisrael at least potentially stood to achieve a lasting tikun where cheit/kaparah would be no more, or have a vastly diminished role.  The reality post-cheit is that korbanos primarily serve our need for kaparah, to remove the burden of sin. 

That sets the groundwork for us to appreciate a beautiful Shem m'Shmuel that I'm you will remember when you daven musaf on Rosh Chodesh in all the coming months.  "Roshei chodashim l'amcha nasata...  s'i'rei chatas l'chapeir b'adam..."  Nebach, what can we do -- need korbanos, we need the korban of Rosh Chodesh, to bring us kaparah.  However, "mizbeiyach chadash b'Tzion tachin..." we will one day have a complete geulah and we will return to the ideal state where we won't need constant kaparah.  When that happens, "... u's'i'rei Rosh Chodesh na'aseh l'ratzon" -- we will offer the korban not to atone, but "l'ratzon," simply to come closer to Hashem, for the sake of ritzuy, to increase our favor in G-d's eyes.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

parah and shabbos

 Why read parshas parah davka on Shabbos?  Why not during the week just before rosh chodesh Nisan?  (The same question is asked with respect to all of the 4 parshiyos, as they could all just as well have been done during the week.)

Both in last week's parsha and in this week's parsha we learn the halacha that building the mishkan is not doche Shabbos.  Rashi in last week's parsha explains that the word "ach" in "ach es shabsosai tishmoru" is a miyut that excludes work on the mishkan from being done on Shabbos.  Chazal explain that the juxtaposition of Shabbos and mishkan in this week's parsha teaches the same idea.  (Why you need two limudim is not my topic -- that's a question for homework : )

Sefas Emes on last week's parsha explains: cheit ha'eigel tainted all of creation.  The world post-cheit ha'eigel was a different world; it was like the world of Adam after the cheit, after gan eden was no more.  However, the cheit could not taint Shabbos -- Shabbos stands apart from the other six days of creation and is the nekudah pnimit that can never be sullied.  Building the mishkan was a tikun for the cheit ha'eigel.  On Shabbos, you don't need that tikun -- you don't need to do meleches hamishkan to effect your tikun because on Shabbos you are in a state that needs no tikun, that is unaffected by sin.  Therefore, meleches hamisihkan is prohibited on Shabbos.

The Midrash tells us that the secret of parah adumah was understood only by Moshe.  We can't relate to it.  Sefas Emes explains that Moshe alone was absent from the camp during cheit ha'eigel and had nothing to do with it.  Moshe was untainted by sin; therefore, only he stood on the level necessary to learn parshas parah.

On Shabbos we too return to that untainted level.  The crowns we lost due to cheit ha'eigel are returned to us on Shabbos -- we are as if we are in the pre-cheit stage.  Therefore, it is davka on Shabbos that we read parah, as davka on Shabbos we have the ability to understand a little more deeply, a little like Moshe, what the parsha is all about. 

when less is more than enough

The money collected for the building of the mishkan is described as "dayam," enough, just what was needed, and "hoseir," there was extra.  Everyone asks: isn't that a contradiction in terms?  If there was just enough, then how was there be extra?

The mishkan was a microcosm of the world, and the building of mishkan parallels the creation of the world, as Midrash Tanchuma explains at length. 

Chazal tell us that Hashem created sheidim, mazikim, bad spirits, on bein ha'shemashos of erev Shabbos.  Hashem created these spirits, and then, before he created bodies for them, it was Shabbos, and so these creatures were stuck half-completed.   
Hashem is surely not like me, running into the house just before Shabbos, trying to get in one more thing, one more chore, and then your 18 minutes are up and you are stuck with that timer that wasn't set or a light not turned on.  If I was running creation so the mazikim would be like that timer that didn't get set because there was just not enough time to make it.  But Hashem can do anything, including making sure everything in creation is completed before even entering the 18 minute bonus time.  So what do Chazal mean?
Maharal explains that the mazikim and sheidim mean the world is incomplete.  Not because Hashem could not complete it, but because that is the nature of our world -- it is by definition something unfinished.  (A mazik or sheid is "bad" because it is a shorthand way of saying the world is missing something and is incomplete.)   Chazal are telling us that as great as our world is, as much ruchniyus and Torah you can find in it, as much as you can accomplish, there will always be something that is missing, some fraction that is left out no matter how hard you try.  There is always more that is beyond your grasp, beyond the grasp of what you can ever hope to accomplish.
The Mishkan reflects this reality.  There was more material brought than could be contained in the building.  The mishkan, as great as it was, could not encompass everything.  There was "hoseir," extra, but at the same time, it was "dayam," exactly enough and exactly the right amount because the extra that could not be contained, that could not be made into a finished product, a complete all-encompassing product, is a perfect reflection of our almost-but-not-quite finished world.   

Thursday, March 01, 2018

sh'eilasi u'bakashasi

We find the words sh'eila and bakasha used a few times in the megillah:  Achashveirosh asks Esther, "Mah sh'eilaseich... u'mah bakashaseich," at the first party, and she responds,"She'eilasi u'bakashashi..." is for Achashveirosh and Haman to come to the next party.  At the second party Achashveirosh repeats the question, and Esther responds, "Tinasein li nafshei b'sh'eilasi v'ami b'bakashasi..."

The GR"A (I thought I had posted this once but can't find it) writes that sh'eila is a personal request; bakasha is a request on behalf of another.  The Tiferes Shlomo points out that a sho'el is defined as "kol hana'ah shelo" -- when you borrow there is no cost to you and you enjoy all the benefits.  Esther's sh'eila is for her own life to be spared; her bakasha is for her people to be spared.

David haMelech asks of Hashem, "Achas sha'alti me'eis Hashem osa avakesh -- shivti b'veis Hashem..."  When one has the zechus to sit in the beis Hashem learning and growing it is not just to one's personal benefit -- a sh'eila -- but it is to Klal Yisrael's benefit as well, and therefore it is a bakasha as well.

The Tiferes Shlomo interprets "meshorsav sho'alim zeh la'zeh" that we say in kedusha of musaf to mean that the malachim are not serving Hashem for personal benefit.  The greatest benefit for them, what they are "sho'alim," is "zeh la'zeh," to do for each other, for the next guy.  Maybe that's what makes a malach -- when the thing that gives you the most pleasure is seeing someone else get something.

The Alshich and M'lo ha'Omer suggest that sh'eila is something that costs nothing for the giver; a bakasha is a greater request that has a cost.  When Esther responded to Achashveirosh that "sh'eilasi u'bakashasi" is for him to come to another party, what she meant is that what is for him just a sh'eila, something of no trouble, she considers a bakasha, as if she was asking him for something great and imposing upon him, and therefore it means so much more to her.

Retuning to David haMelech's words, the M'lo ha'Omer interprets as follows: "Achas sha'alti," for you Hashem, whatever I ask is a sh'eila because there is no cost, but for us, it's "osa avakesh," the equivalent request made to another person would be a bakasha.

I didn't check how they explain the pasuk, but it makes sense to say the idea of "Mah Hashem... sho'el ki im l'yirah," means you can't lose by having yiras Shamayim -- it's only something you can gain from, not an imposition.

On the other hand, "Bakeish shalom v'rodfeihu" -- true peace is something that entails bakasha.  Shalom requires compromise, and compromise means you have to be willing to give something up.  Even though it's a bakasha, shalom is worth it.

See Malbi"M for yet another approach to she'ila vs bakasha.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

anochi haster astir...

1. Chazal tell us that one cannot make a seudas Purim at night, as the pasuk tells us, "La'asos osam y'mei mishteh..." The Sefas Emes (5649) explains that a person cannot celebrate in spiritual darkness.  There are people who go through their whole lives in the spiritual equivalent of nightime -- there is no light of ruchniyus that shines in or that they let shine in.  "La'asos..." -- you have to banish that darkness with the light of Torah, banish the night and turn Purim into a day of simcha.  

2.  The hint to Esther in the Torah is the pasuk of "Anochi haster astir..."  Hester panim is not a chiddush of this pasuk alone and is sadly a feature of many eras of Jewish history, not just the story of the megillah.  The chiddush of Esther, explains the Ba'al ha'Techeiles, R' Gershon Henoch Leiner, is that we see that there is an "Anochi" behind it all.  In retrospect it was clear that from beginning to end, everything that happened the Purim story was yad Hashem.  Our challenge is to believe that "Anochi haster astir," to trust that Hashem is controlling every detail of what happens even when we don't see him.

3.  A nice Purim thought from my wife.

Monday, February 26, 2018

seeing the inside

Sometimes when you hear a shtickel torah you know right away who said it without being told.  For example, when you hear 'tzvei dinim," you think R' Chaim, or at least someone following in the footsteps of Brisk.  Even if I didn't tell you this pshat is from R' Tzvi Yehudah, I think you would immediately identify it as something only R' Kook (father or son) would say: 

The gemara at the end of Megillah writes that R' Yehoshua ben Korcha was asked, "Ba'meh he'erachta yamim?" in what merit did he live such a long life.  He responded that the great merit he had is that he never once looked at the face of a rasha.

R' Yehoshua ben Korcha was the son (according to some shitos) of R' Akiva, who was called "ka'reiach," the bald one (Bechorot 58).  He grew up at a time of political ferment and rebellion -- remember that it was R' Akiva who championed Bar Kochba and encouraged the rebellion against Rome.  Imagine R' Akiva, with his son Yehoshua, sitting in this armed camp, surrounded by tough soldiers who are preparing for war.  Imagine the environment -- an army camp is not the beis medrash; these were not all lamed vuv tzadikim in the army of Bar Kochba. 

Years later, his colleagues came to the now old R' Yehoshua and asked: we don't understand it.  You grew up surrounded by the "nationalists," surrounded by people fighting for independence, people interested in taking back the country, rough men of physical strength and courage, men who were not among the yoshvei beis medrash.  How then were you zocheh to such a long life?  How do you emerge from such an environment spiritually rich and rewarded by Hashem?

R' Yehoshua ben Korcha answered: I never looked into the face of a rasha.  You see rough men, fighting men, coarse men , resha'im-- but that's because you are only looking at the outside.  When I looked, I only saw the inside -- the greatness of their holy neshomos.

Is this not what Rav Kook, both father and son (whose yahrzeit is coming up), were all about?  They knew how to look at Jews and not see the face of a rasha -- they knew how to see the inside.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

l'ha'alos ner tamid

Even though the Torah says that oil should be taken "l'ha'alos ner tamid," the reality is that the menorah was not always burning.  According to most Rishonim the mitzvah was to light the menorah at the end of the day with enough oil for it to burn just through the night.  Rashi therefore interprets "tamid" to mean not constantly, but consistently -- it should be lit every single night.  (The korban tamid, for example, was offered consistently every day, not constantly all day.)  Ramban disagrees and writes that while the other candles of the menorah were not lit during the day, the ner ma'aravi was re-lit in the morning and always remained burning.

A few months ago by Chanukah we discussed the apparent stirah between the Rambam's view (as interpreted by the Rogatchover) that the Chashmonaim lit just the ner ma'aravi and the gemara's din that all the neiros are m'akev for the menorah to be complete.  There are two dinim at work: 1) a chiyuv to light the menorah, which can be accomplished by lighting even one ner; 2) a chiyuv for the chetftza of the menorah to be lit, which is accomplished only if all the candles are kindled.  

Perhaps this explanation sheds light (no pun intended) on Rashi/Ramban on our pasuk.  According to Rashi, our parsha is talking about the chiyuv for the cheftza shel menorah to be lit.  Therefore, "tamid" must mean consistently, not constantly, as one ner tamid does not a menorah make.  Ramban, however, understood the parsha as speaking of the chovas ha'gavra of lighting, which can be fulfilled even by kindling one candle, and therefore he interprets "tamid" to mean constantly.

R' Shimon Sofer uses the symbolism of menorah as representing Torah to derech derush offer another explanation of "tamid."   It's not just when learning or sitting in shul that one should feel inspired by Torah, but rather Torah's impact should be felt throughout the day.  We need to behave and think at all times, "tamid," like people en-light-ened by the menorah, by Torah.  How does that happen?  Only if the Torah we study is "shemen zayis zach," pure and unadulterated -- 100% A+ quality of the real thing.  

The Chasam Sofer quotes the Hafla'ah who is medayek is the words "shem zayis" - -singular -- "zach."  How much oil could one olive produce?!  Yet that little bit was enough to keep the menorah lit. We sometimes excuse ourselves from trying to sparking the interest of others in Torah by saying the effort required would be too great and too demanding.  The Torah here is telling us that sometimes just a small drop of effort, of Torah, of love, is all it takes.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

zecher to the machtzis ha'shekel -- 3 coins or 1 -- Rama vs GR"A

The Rama (O.C. 694) writes that the minhag is to give three machtzis ha'shekels (bad dikduk, I know) on Ta'anis Esther because the word terumah appears 3x in parshas shekalim.  However, GR"A in Ma'aseh Rav (282) writes that the minhag is to give only one machtzis ha'shekel.

Aside from trying to understand the nekudas ha'machlokes between them, it's very hard to understand the Rama.  The reason we read parshas shekalim is to remember the annual donation of machtzis ha'shekel given to the mikdash to pay for korbanos tzibur expenses.  We once a year do something to remember this once a year donation. The additional shelakim alluded to in parshas shekalim were one-in-history donations used in constructing the mishkan.  Why do we need an annual remembrance for that?

My son pointed out that the GR"A in S"A on this Rama points you to Tos in Megillah (21) which says that on ta'aneisim we give tzedaka at mincha time.  My son suggested that the GR"A is perhaps not just explaining to us when the machtzis ha'shekel is given, but is defining for us the geder ha'din, what machtzis ha'shekel is -- it's not a zecher, but a din in hilchos tzedaka, just like tzedaka given on any ta'anis.  Therefore, the shiur is machtzis ha'shekel, not 3x a machtzis shekel.  The Rama understood that it is a zecher.

I'm not yet convinced that the GR"A there is doing anything more than explaining why the machtzis ha'shekel is given on ta'anis esther afternoon -- why not give it sometime close to when we read the parsha?   I would formulate the issue a little differently.  The GR"A sees our machtzis ha'shekel as a zecher to the machtzis ha'shekel of the mikdash.  The Rama perhaps sees giving machtzis ha'shekel as part and parcel of our kiyum of parshas shekalim.  By way of analogy, RYBS and others understood that our eating matzah on pesach night is not just a kiyum in achilas matzah, but is a kiyum in sipur as well -- it's part of how we tell the story.  So too here, perhaps Rama means that reading parshas shekalim also entails donating 3 machtzis shekalim --- davka 3, because 3 are alluded to in the parsha, and our giving is in some way an extension of the mitzvah of reading the parsha.  (I don't know if my explanation is any less dachuk, but I have no other ideas yet.) I found that R' Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel hy"d, who these days is better known as the author of Eim haBanim Smeicha, discusses this topic in his shu"t, Mishne Sachir.  (O.C. 34).  He quotes what appears to be two contradictory gemaras: On the one hand, the gemara (Meg 13) quotes Reish Lakish as teaching that the shekalim that Klal Yisrael gave in the midbar served to nullify the money Haman paid to bribe Achashveirosh.  We proved with our pocketbooks that we are dedicated to good before he even had the idea of showing his financial dedication to evil.   On the other hand, Chazal tell us (Meg 16) that Haman chanced upon Mordechai teaching hilchos kemitza of the korban mincha and remarked that the small offering of kemitza outweighed all the thousands he had poured into doing evil (Meg 16).  So which was it -- was it the shekalim donated to the Mishkan, or was it the actual offerings of the Mikdash, e.g. kemitza -- which foiled Haman's plans?

In a simplified nutshell, these two views represent the roots of the GR"A vs Rama.  According to Reish Lakish's view, the "kesef ha'kipurim" donated to the mishkan served as a kaparah not just for that generation, but for future generations as well -- for Mordechai and Esther's time, for our time, for all time.  Therefore, according to Rama we make a zecher even for the machtzis ha'shekel donated for the building of the mishkan.  However, if Haman's downfall was brought about by hilchos kemitza, it is the korbanos themselves, purchased with the single machtzis ha'shekel given annually, which is what saved us, and therefore, as GR"A writes, it is this single machtzis ha'shekel that we make a remembrance for.