Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shaved heads and Sheitels

Interestingly enough yesterday's (Shabbos) daf (נזיר כ"ח) discussed both women shaving their heads and wearing sheitels.

There is a din that a husband can annul his wife's vows including a vow of נזירות. The Mishna discuses until what point can he annul the vow and has a dispute between R' Meir (or Rebbi depending on the girsa) whether he can annul the vow after she brings her korbanos but before she shaves her head (a נזיר after he completes his נזירות has to bring a set of korbanos and then has to shave his head). R' Meir says that the husband can annul the vow even after she has brought the korbanos because he can say that he doesn't want his wife to have a shaved head (because he doesn't like it). The Gemara explains that the Tanna Kama disagrees with R' Meir because the wife can wear a wig (פאה נכרית) and the מפרש explains and that it looks like her head isn't shaved and therefore the husband has nothing to object to. R' Meir says that the husband can object to a wig that he doesn't like it.

Form this Gemara we see a number of very important points regarding both shaved heads and sheitels:

Shaved Heads

1. It is clear that married women didn't shave their heads, otherwise the husband would have nothing to object to.
2. The Gemara assumes that a woman with a shaved head does not look good and is not pleasing to her husband.

Based on the above I don't see any way to claim that a married woman must shave her head as many Chassidic groups require. In fact, we see just the opposite, that at the time of Chazal married women did not shave their heads and a woman with a shaved head was considered not attractive to her husband.


The Gemara allows a married woman to wear a shaitel and in fact according to the Tanna Kama the shaitel was relatively realistic and looked good. This would seem to support those Rishonim and Acharonim who permit shaitels.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

How does פרוזבול work?

As we approach the end of Shemitta now is the time to write a פרוזבול so that any loans that you made don't become cancelled by Shemitta.  To many people a פרוזבול seems like magic, you sign a document and poof your loans don't become cancelled. However, this is not the case. פרוזבול works within the halachic system and uses well established halachic principles.

The gemara in Gittin 36a states:
הלל התקין פרוסבול וכו': תנן התם פרוסבול אינו משמט זה אחד מן הדברים שהתקין הלל הזקן שראה את העם שנמנעו מלהלוות זה את זה ועברו על מה שכתוב בתורה (דברים טו) השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל וגו' עמד והתקין פרוסבול

Hillel saw that people were not lending money and therefore created פרוסבול so that the loans would not be canceled by shemitta.

The gemara asks on Hillel
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא משמטא שביעית והתקין הלל דלא משמטא

How could Hillel be מתקן פרוסבול when the torah says that the loan is canceled?
The gemara answers:
אמר אביי בשביעית בזמן הזה ורבי היא

Abaye answers that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. The gemara then asks the reverse question:
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא לא משמטא שביעית ותקינו רבנן דתשמט

How could the chachamim make shemitta derabbanan, min hatorah he has to pay back the loan? The gemara answers
רבא אמר הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר

Beis Din has the power min hatorah to take away your money.

The simple reading of the gemara is that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. In other words, the Rabbis don't have the power to what they want, if shemitta is min hatorah they can't do anything. In fact, this is how the Rambam (הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק ט) paskens ואין הפרוזבול מועיל אלא בשמיטת כספים בזמן הזה, שהיא מדברי סופרים; אבל שמיטה של תורה, אין הפרוזבול מועיל בה

The Raavad there argues on the Rambam and has a different interpretation of the gemara, Rashi also learns like the Raavad.

They explain the gemara as follows. Rava's answer of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר answers the original question as well. What is the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad? Here are 2 possible explanations:
1. There is a famous machlokes what is the power of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר min hatorah? Is it A) the simple translation of the words that beis din can declare your property ownerless or is it more then that, B) they can take your property and give it to someone else.

One case where this comes up is where a man is mekadesh a woman with a kinyan d'rabban, is she married min hatorah? Kinyanim d'rabban work based on הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר if we hold like A, then a kinyan d'rabbana only works m'drabbanan, min hatorah the woman has not yet received the money and therefore min hatorah is not yet married. However, according to B, a kinyan d'rabbana works min hatorah and she is married min hatorah.

Based on this we can understand the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad. The Raavad holds like B, that Beis Din can take from a and give to b, that is how a פרוזבול works, Beis Din takes the money from the borrower and gives it to the lender before shemitta, therefore there is no loan for shemitta to cancel. the Rambam on the other hand holds like A, Beis Din min hatorah can only take away your money but they cannot give it to me and therefore it doesn't help for shemitta, by shemitta they need to give you the money and they can't, and therefore shemitta cancels the loan.

The gemara there brings 2 sources from where הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is learned out. דאמר ר' יצחק מנין שהפקר ב"ד היה הפקר שנאמ' (עזרא י) וכל אשר לא יבוא לשלשת הימים כעצת השרים והזקנים יחרם כל רכושו והוא יבדל מקהל הגולה רבי אליעזר אמר מהכא (יהושוע יט) אלה הנחלות

The Rashba seems to say that the above machlokes depends on what the source is. The pasuk in Ezra is like A, Beis Din can take away your money, while the pasuk by nachala is like B (they took from 1 and gave to another). The Rambam when he brings down the din of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר quotes the pasuk in Ezra as the source, the Rambam lshitaso that הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is like A, and doesn't work for shemitta min hatorah.

2. How does shemitta cancel a loan? A) Does it cancel the monetary aspects of the loan or B) does it NOT affect the monetary aspects, rather it prohibits the lender from collecting. The Rambam holds like B, it is an issur, therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is not relevant it can't be matir issurim, the Raavad on the other hand holds like B, and therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר can restore the monetary aspects.

The gemara later on daf ל"ז has the following strange din
המחזיר חוב לחבירו בשביעית צריך שיאמר לו משמט אני ואם אמר לו אע"פ כן יקבל הימנו שנאמר (דברים טו) וזה דבר השמטה אמר רבה ותלי לי' עד דאמר הכי

If the borrower wants to return the money after shemitta anyway, he can, but the lender must first refuse. Raba says that ותלי לי the borrower can do this to the lender until he says that he wants to pay back. What does ותלי לי mean? Rashi explains the gemara literally, the lender can string the borrower up on a tree and force him to say that he wants to pay back the money. The Rosh asks how could that be? This destroys the whole din of shmitta. We can explain the machlokes like 2 above. Rashi holds that shemitta doesn't cancel the loan, the borrower is still obligated, however, the lender cannot go and collect the loan. Therefore, he can force the borrower to pay as the gemara says. The Rosh holds that the loan is cancelled and therefore how can he force the borrower?

To conclude, we see that פרוסבול is an example of chachamim working within the halachic system and not just waving their magic wand. In the area of money the chachamim have more powerful tools to work with and may be able to do more, but in the end, they need to work with the halachic tools available.