Thursday, December 29, 2005

What is the nature of the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanukka?

Is it a mitzva of לילה? Or is it a mitzva of פרסומי ניסא? It is clear that the reason for the mitzva is פרסומי ניסא, the question is how did chazal make the takana? Did they make it a regular mitzva of לילה like so many other mitzvos or did they make the takana as well a mitzva of פרסומי ניסא?

This would seem to be a machlokes harishonim. The gemara in Shabbos wants to know why the language of משתשקע החצה עד שתכלה רגל מן השוק, is used. the gemara offers 2 answers, אי לא אדליק מדליק אי נמי לשיעורא. Tosafos there understands this to mean as wfollows. the first answer is saying that if you did not light in this time (from shkia until תכלה רגל מן השוק) you missed the mitzva and cannot do the mitzva anymore, the second answer argues and says that it is coming to tell us how long the candles must burn. the Rambam as well understands the first answer as Tosafos, the Rambam however holds that the second answer is not arguing, rather it adds another requirement, how long the candles need to burn. The Rambam understands that these 2 go together and that the shiur is not in time but rather from when you light until תכלה רגל מן השוק. This is meduyak in the Rambam because he writes that תכלה רגל מן השוק is כחצי שיעור או יתר. The Rambam clearly states that the shiur of תכלה רגל מן השוק could be longer then a half hour.

According to both Tosafos and the Rambam it would seem that the mitva is a mitzva of פרסומי ניסא and therefore if you light after תכלה רגל מן השוק you are not יוצא. The Rashba however writes that the gemara did not mean that you are not יוצא at all. Rather you are not יוצא teh way the Chachamim wanted but you are certainly יוצא the mitzva if you light at night. The Rashba clearly holds that it is a mitzva of night and therefore b'dieved the zman is all night. Lechatchila the chachamim said you should light when there is pirsumei nisa.

The same thing applies to lighting before the zman. According to the Rashba, just like you can do mitzva's of night starting from plag hamincha, you can light from plag hamincha. According to the Rambam there is no such din, lighting is not a mitzva of night and therefore before shkia is simply not the zman.

The obvious question on the Rambam is what about Friday night. The answer is that since Chanukka is 8 days and there must always be a Friday night, Chazal made a special takana on friday nigth that you can light before shkia. According to the Rashba we don't need to come on to this, it is just the regular din of doing mitzvos of night from plag.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Why aren't there 9 days of Chanukka?

What am I talking about? After all the Beis Yosef was bothered why there are 8 days so why do I want to add another day? The answer is Yom Tov Sheni shel Galuyos. Just like in Chutz Laaretz we keep 8 days of Pesach 2 days of Shavuos, etc. we should add a 9th day of Chanukka.

The Minchas Chinuch in mitzva 301 (where he discusses all the issues of Yom Tov Sheni) discusses this question as well and says that in the time of kiddush hachodesh they actually did keep 9 days of Chanukka because of sefeka d'yoma. He doesn't explain how many candles they lit each night. The Devar Avraham has a similar comment by Sefiras Haomer that in the time of Kiddush Hachodesh they counted twice because of sefeka d'yoma. RYBS did not agree with this at all, he said that you can't count twice that isn't called counting if you have a doubt what day it is. It seems to me that Chanukka is similar according to our minhag where we light the number of candles based on the day. In any case, the Minchas Chinuch states that nowadays we don't because since we really know the date and it is only minhag avosechem, we are mekeil by a d'rabbanan.

The Minchas Chinuch quotes a Ran who seems to disagree. The Ran writes by Megilla that a city where there is a doubt if it was walled from the time of Yehoshua reads on the 14th. The Ran explains as follows. Each day (the 14th and the 15th) is a safek. So in theory we should not have to read at all, on each day say safek d'rabbanan lekula. He says that we can't do this and not be mekayem the mitzva and therefore we read on the 14th and on the 15th we say safek d'rabbanan lekula. The Mishna Lemelech asks from the Ran in Pesachim. The Ran in Pesachim comments as follows. The gemara states that 2 of the 4 cups need haseba and we since don't know which 2 we do haseba for all 4. The Ran asks why not just do haseba on the first 2 and say safek d'rabbanan lekula? He answers why pick the first 2 over the last 2. This seems to contradict his position in Megilla. The Mishna Lamelech answers that there is a difference between not knowing the facts and not knowing what the takana of Chazal was. In Pesachim, we don't know what the takana was. If we pick the first 2 and chazal were really mesaken the last 2 (or vice versa), we are being mevatel completely the takana of Chazal and therefore we need to do all 4. By Megilla we have a factual safek and therefore can say safek d'rabbanan lekula.

Based on this, by Chanukka as well, the Ran would hold that you light on the first day and on the 9th day you would say safek d'rabbanan lekula because again our doubt is in the facts what day is it.

R' Zevin in Moadom V'Halacha brings down a cute answer as follows. The Beis Yosef asked why is Chanukka 8 days after all the miracle was only 7 days? They answer that really Chanukka is only 7 days and the 8th day is because of sefeka d'yoma. The difficulties with this answer are readily apparent but it still is cute.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The contrast between על הניסים and the gemara's account

When we look at על הניסים we see that it focuses exclusively on the נס of the war. It doesn't mention the נס of the candles whatsoever. The gemara in Shabbos however, focuses almost exclusively on the נס of the candles while neglecting the war. What is going on?

The Maharal asks how can we say hallel for the נס of the candles? Hallel is to thank Hashem for saving us, the נס of the candles was not in that category. He answers that really we say Hallel for the נס of the war.

The Pnei Yehoshua asks why was the נס of the candles needed after all, טומאה הותרה בציבור and they were all טמא? The answer is that you are right, the נס was not needed, it was a נס of לכתחילה.

With this we can understand our original question. על הניסים is part of the הודאה section of shemno esrei. There we thank hashem. Therefore we talk about the נס of the war. The נס of the candles has no place there it is not something that we need to thank hashem for. The gemara however, has a different focus. The gemara is trying to get us to focus on the yad hashem. The נס of the war was a hidden נס. It was done in a natural way. Chazal were afraid that if they focused on the נס of the war people would forget the yad hashem and think כחי ועוצם ידי (we can understand this well, just look after the 6 day war). They viewed the fact that hashem made a נס of לכתחילה as supporting this position. The נס of the candles was not needed so chazal understood that it was there to teach us something else. Namely, that just like the נס of the candles was a נס, so too the victory of the war was a נס. Therefore Chazal placed an emphasis on the נס of the candles so that we would understand that the war was a נס as well and not lose focus and fall into the trap of כחי ועוצם ידי about the war.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cute Chanukka play on words

The following story is said about the Gra. When he was little the Cheder teacher told the boys that if they told him how many candles you light on Channuka they could leave early. The Gra answered הפח נשבר ואנחנו נמלטנו. The word פח in Gematria is 88, so the Gra said break פח into 2, 44 candles and we can run away.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Where to light Chanukkah candles?

If you live in an apartment building in Israel you have a big question as to where to light Channuka candles.

There are 4 options:
1. Outside the front door of the building
2. Outside your apartment door
3. In a window facing the street
4. On your table inside

I will now explain the pros and cons of each one.

1. Outside the front door of the building - The gemara in Shabbos states that the mitzva is to light right outside your door. However, if your door opens up to a חצר (courtyard) and not the street, we pasken that you should light outside the door of the courtyard which opens to the street (this is a machlokes Rashi and Tosafos). Based on the above, many poskim say that the hall and stairwell of an apartment building is considered to be a חצר and therefore you should light outside the front door of the building. However, the Chazon Ish disagress. The Chazon Ish claims for various reasons (not for now) that the hallway and stairwell of an apartment building are not considered to be a חצר and therefore you are not יוצא if you light in front of the building as it has no connection to you.
2. Outside your door - This is problematic because it doesn't face the street and no one can see it
3. In your window - this is good if you are on a low floor, however, if you are on a higher floor above 20 Amos (approxiamtely 30 feet) then it doesn't help to put it in your window. Some poskim claim that if there are other apartments at your height around (across the street) then since those people can see it at your level, that is called a window looking out to the Reshus Harabim
4. On your table - This is the default option if you have no other choice.

The bottom line is it is hard to know what to do. I know people who light 2 menoras. 1 outside the building door to be יוצא the opinion that the hall and stairwell is a חצר, however, to be יוצא the Chazon Ish as well they light in their window as well.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Yaakov Avinu's worldview

Yaakov davens to Hashem הציליני מיד אחי מיד עשו. The Beis Halevi asks why does Yaakov mention both Esav and my brother? He only had 1 brother, why does Yaakov say save me from my brother, from Esav? He answers that Yaakov understood that there were 2 different dangers, 1 from Esav and 1 from his brother. Esav represents the threat of war and physical destruction. My brother, represents the threat of friendship and assimilation, Yaakov feared both equally. He had no interest in trying to be friends with Esav, he wanted to be left alone.

We find this idea later on in the parsha as well. The Pasuk says ויחן את פני העיר. The medrash comments that it was Friday afternoon and Yaakov made an עירוב תחומין. Interstingly enough by Avraham we found he also made an Eruv, an Eruv Tavshilin. The Meshech Chochma comments that these 2 eruvim give us insight into the character of Avraham and Yaakov. An Eruv Tavshilin represents having guests. The gemara in Pesachim explains that an Eruv Tavshilin only works because since guests may come the food is considered to be for Yom Tov. This is Avraham Avinu, looking for guests and looking outward. Yaakov though is looking inward. He has no desire to engage with the world. He understands that his task is to raise the 12 shevatim so that they can become כלל ישראל. Therefore Yaakov makes an Eruv Techumim, he sets boundaries, he says I will go no further.

We find a similar message in hilchos Channuka. If a person only has money for 1 candle on Friday night, should he use it as a Channuka candle or as a Shabbos candle? Is pirsumei nisa more important or shalom bayis? The gemara states that shalom bayis is more important and therefore he should use it for a shabbos candle. On a hashkafic level, we see the following message. Shalom Bayis comes before Pirsumei Nisa. Before a person goes out into the world to spread the word of hashem, first he needs shalom bayis. He first needs to lool inward and make sure that his house is in order. This is Yaakov Avinu, he felt that his task was to set his house in order and raise the 12 shevatim, he had no time or energy to engage with the world.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

תפילת הדרך nowadays II

A while back I posted (תפילת הדרך nowadays) about RYBS opinion about saying תפילת הדרך nowadays. Recently, I heard a short shiur on תפילת הדרך and was very happy to hear that RSZA seems to say a very similar idea to RYBS.

RSZA did not say תפילת הדרך when he traveled from Yerushayim to Bnei Brak. He explained his reasoning as follows:
  1. In many places it is not considered as if you left the ישוב for the following reasons:

    1. There are many other cars on the road

    2. The police regularly patrol the road

    3. There are houses on the side of the road

  2. Traveling by car/bus is a normal activity. Whan a person gets up and commutes to work he does not say he is going on a trip. The takana of תפילת הדרך was for someone who was יוצא לדרך, these kinds of trips are not considered יוצא לדרך.

  3. There is little or no danger of לסטים וחיות רעות

RSZA reasoning is very similar to RYBS. Basically, the world has changed and it is no longer unusual or dangerous to travel between cities and therefore the din of when you say תפילת הדרך changes as well.

Note: You cannot just be machmir and say תפילת הדרך in any case, as if you are not chayav you will be saying an unneccessary beracha which is a serious aveira.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Who was the mother of דינה?

In last week's parsha (ויצא) we have the story of the birth of Dina. Rashi there comments (based on the Medrash) that Leah understood that she was pregnant with a boy and if she had another boy then Rachel would only have 1 of the shevatim, therefore she davened and Hashem made a miracle and turned the baby into a girl, Dina.

In Parshas ויגש, the Torah writes when it lists the descendents of Yaakov, ואת דינה בתו. Rashi comments (based on the Gemara in Nidda) that we see that the Torah calls Dina the daughter of Yaakov to show us that the father is responsible for having a daughter. The Maharsha there asks, what is the proof from Dina, after all Dina started off as a boy (per the medrash in ויצא) and therefore how can any proof be brought from Dina? He answers that the תרגום יונתן has a different peshat there. The תרגום יונתן says that both Leah and Rachel were pregnant, Leah was pregnant with Yosef and Rachel with Dina and miraculously the fetuses were switched. Therefore, Dina was always a girl and the proof from the pasuk is fine because Yaakov caused Dina to be a girl.

Rashi comments (based on the medrash) on the pasuk ושאול בן הכנענית, that after what happened with Shechem, Dina made Shimon promise to marry her. The Tur asks how could Shimon marry Dina? Even בני נח are not allowed to marry their sister from their mother. The Tur answers based on the תרגום יונתן that the Yosef and Dina were switched, and therefore על פי הלכה Leah was not Dina's mother, rather Rachel was and a בן נח is allowed to marry his sister from his father.

This Tur however, raises another question, what about Yosef? Who על פי הלכה is considered to be his mother? If it is Leah, then what good was the נס? Rachel still ended up with only 1 of the shevatim. Therefore we need to differentiate and say that both Dina and Yosef were Rachel's children.

When we consider how the halacha determines who the the mother of a baby is there are 3 possible alternatives:
1. Whoever conceives the child
2. Wherever the fetus is 40 days after conception (as until then it is considered מיא בעלמא and for example you are allowed to daven for the sex of the child)
3. Whoever gives birth

We see that the Tur cannot hold from 1 because even though Yosef was conceived by Leah he is considered Rachel's son. The Tur cannot hold from 3 either as the Tur holds that Dina was considered Rachel's daughter even though Leah gave birth to her. It would seem that the Tur holds like option 2.

With this we can say the following about Yosef. Leah was pregnant with Yosef but it was before 40 days while Rachel was pregnant with Dina and it was after 40 days. Therefore when they switched Yosef was less then 40 days so he was considered Rachel's son as on day 40 he was in Rachel's womb, while Dina had already passed day 40 in Rachel's womb so she was considered Rachel's daughter even though Leah gave birth to her.

It turns out according to the Tur that Rachel was the mother of both Dina and Yosef.

This Tur clearly has ramifications l'halacha with regards to surrogate mothers etc.

Monday, December 12, 2005

How do you tell if a woman is a virgin?

The gemara in Kesubos 10b has the following story. A newly married couple came to Raban Gamliel. The husband claimed that his wife had not been a virgin, she claimed that not only was she a virgin but she is still a virgin. Raban Gamliel performed the following test to determine if she was a virgin.

He took 2 women, 1 a virgin 1 not and had them sit on a barrel of wine. While sitting on the barrel he smelled their breath. The non-virgin's breath smelled like wine (because the odor of the wine went in through the opening and out through her mouth) while the virgin's breath did not smell of wine (because the odor of the wine could not get in because she was a virgin). He then performed the same test on the newly married woman and as her breath did not smell of wine proclaimed her a virgin.

This story is brought down l'halacha in Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer Siman 68) and is discussed by the early Acharonim.

The difficulty with the story should be obvious to everyone, we know now that this kind of test proves nothing and in fact is based on a completely false physiological premise. The fact that this story is quoted l'halacha further complicates the issue as the gemara clearly needs to be taken literally.

It seems clear to me that Chazal were relying on the medical knowledge of their day and that this test is not Torah M'Sinai.


Here a few additional relevant points which hopefully make things a little clearer.

1. Before doing the test on the woman in question R"G first tried it out on 2 women whose status he knew. There is a machlokes harishonim whether l'halacha we need to follow the example of R"G and test that the method actually works. Clearly according to those rishonim who believe we need to test first there is nothing to talk about nowadays.
2. If you look in shulchan aruch you will see that some of the acharonim already discuss that this test did not work in their day (I saw one suggestion that our wine is not strong enough), and therefore today this test is clearly not valid.
3. The Rambam when he brings down this halacha does not mention the specific test that R"G did, rather the Rambam just writes בודקין אותה, from the Rambam's omission of the one specific test found in the gemara one can possibly infer that the Rambam felt that the wine test did not work.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Why did Yaakov learn at the yeshiva of Shem and Ever?

At the beginning of last weeks parsha (ויצא) Rashi comments that before going to Lavan Yaakov stopped and learned at the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for 14 years. The obvious question is why? After all Yaakov was 63 when he left Beer Sheva and had learned with his father for his whole life, what did he expect to gain from Shem and Ever?

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky (and I remember R' Goldvicht saying the same idea) answers as follows. The Torah of Yitzchak was good for someone who was completely sheltered from the outside world. However, when Yaakov left his father's house to go to Lavan he needed the Torah of Shem and Ever. they had gone through the Dor Haflaga, they lived in the world. They taught Yaakov how to keep the Torah ieven in a place like Lavan's house. Yaakov needed their torah to be able to go to Lavan's house and leave saying I kept Taryag mitzvos.

Rashi comments about Yosef (בן זקונים) that Yaakov taught him all the Torah he learned from Shem and Ever. Why specifically the Torah from Shem and Ever? The answer is that yaakov knew that yosef would be in a similar situation, he would go into Galus and therefore Yosef needed this same Torah that Yaakov learned before he went to lavan.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

When do we say 4 different שמונה עשרה in 1 day?

I mean with a different nusach in the middle beracha, for example on a weekday, we say the the same exact thing 3 times so it would be considered only 1 different shemoneh esrei.

The answer is below

The answer is on Shabbos. Maariv we say אתה קדשת, shacahris we say ישמח משה, mussaf we say תכנת שבת, and mincha we say אתה אחד. The Tur explains why there are different nuschaot for maariv, shacharis, and mincha (mussaf is always different because it needs to focus on the korban mussaf).

The Tur explains that it is כנגד 3 שבתות שבת בראשית, שבת מתן תורה, שבת שבת לעתיד לבא. In fact, this explains the nusach of each of the tefilos.

The maariv שמונה עשרה focuses on creation, we say ויכולו, this is כנגד שבת בראשית. The shacharis שמונה עשרה focuses on how Hashem gave us the mitzva of shabbos at Har Sinai, the שבת מתן תורה (as according to everyone the Torah was given on Shabbos).The mincha שמונה עשרה talks about שבת לעתיד לבא, it says how Hashem will be 1 (see the end of aleinu) meaning that we will understand and see exactly how hashem rules the world. Also we will have peace (מנוחת שלום ושלוה).

I hope this information helps us improve our kavana during davening.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why is Chabura prohibited on Shabbos?

I recently started learning כתובות and therefore from time to time I will post interesting things that come up. Believe it or not, the gemara in כתובות 5-6 is very relevant to this question about Chabura.

There are 3 opinions in the Rishonim why chabura (making a wound where blood comes out) is prohibited.

1. Rashi in Shabbas 107a states that the issur is צובע, the blood will color the skin
2. Tosafos in anumber of places states that it is because of נטילת נשמה they say מה לי קטלא כולה מה לי קטלה פלגא
3. The Rambam writes that it is based on מפרק which is a תולדה דדש

The gemara in כתובות on 5b is difficult for all 3 explanations. The gemara states as follows. The students asked: Is it permitted to have the first relations on Friday night because the blood is considered "Mifkad Pakid - held back", (and therefore NOT a chaburah) or is it forbidden because the blood comes from a "Chaburah - wound" (extracted from the membrane itself)?

In other words the gemara says that in a situation of "Mifkad Pakid - held back", there is no problem of Chabura. As an aside this is one of those problematic gemaras with regards to science, we know medically that "Mifkad Pakid - held back", is simply not true. The blood comes from the tearing of the membrane and it is like any other wound.

Let us analyze how each of the Rishonim will deal with the Gemara's distiction.

1. According to Rashi this is very difficult. If the prohibition of chabura is based on צובע who cares where the blood comes from, bottom line, his action is causing the blood to be released and color the skin. Therefore, even if it is Mifkad Pakid it should be prohibited. The Minchas Chinuch asks this and leaves Rashi וצ"ע.
2. According to Tosafos we can expain the distinction as follows. Why is causing a wound considered like killing? Because the Torah says כי הדם הוא הנפש. Therefore causing a wound that bleeds is like partially killing someone. However, this only applies to דם נפש, blood that is part of the regular circulatory process, however if the blood here is Mifkad Pakid, then it is already separated from the body and therefore is not considered דם נפש and it is permitted.
3. According to the Rambam this is very difficult. The Gemara and the Rambam himself paskens this way, states that even where the liquid is Mifkad Pakid there is an issur of מפרק, this comes up both by milking as well as by squeezing grapes and olives. Therefore, why here if the blood is Mifkad Pakid is it permitted. The acharonim give various difficult answers. The best answer is probably the following.

There are 2 aschools of thought in the Rishonim how to deal with a contradiction between 2 gemaras.
1. The 2 sugyas argue with each other
2. Find some distinction either in din or in the case to answer the contradiction.

The Rambam followed approach 1. Contradictions in gemaras did not really bother him. Therefore this gemara in כתובות is against the Rambam, but the Rambam will say that we don't pasken like that. The Baalei Hatosafos really popularized approach 2 and since then that has been the dominant approach. This has led to many explanations given to difficulties in the Rambam using this kind of approach which is really not the Rambam's approach.

I remember reading an article in Tradition about R' Chaim and the Rambam and the article made the following point. The Rambam wrote a number of teshuvos to the חכמי לוניל, who asked various questions on the Mishne Torah. Instead of giving Lomdishe R' Chaim type answers the Rambam gave baale batish answers (the girsa is wrong, the 2 sugyas argue with each other, etc.). It was said among the Briskers that R' Chaim didn't like these teshuvos. This is not to say that R' Chaim's explanations in the Rambam are wrong, rather to point out that the Rambam most probably had a different approach in learning.