Sunday, February 26, 2017

An Individual Or Social Being?

לזכות נעמי מרים בת רחל לברכה והצלחה כל מעשי ידיה!!

Is man primarily an individual who also must function with a community? Or is he a "social animal" who also has a unique, individualistic side?

Both Rav Soloveichik and Rav Hutner tackled this question and came to the BEST Jewish conclusion - we are both!

Let us see:

Rav Soloveitchik refers back to the Creation story and notes that man is created alone but we also learn that "it is not good for man to be alone". This leads to the conclusion that ... 

"The answer to the problem is rather a dialectical one, namely, man is both... In fact, the greatness of man manifests itself in his inner contradiction, in his dialectical nature, in his being single and unrelated to anyone, as well as in his being thou-related and belonging to a community structure." [The Community p.8]

Rav Hutner ALSO refers to the Creation story and reaches the same conclusion:



The takeaway lesson is that we must strive to constantly be unique, sui generis, unequalled human beings and at the same time strengthen and fortify our communal connections, forge friendships etc. 

Learning And Loving

"When a person delves into God's Torah and reveals its inner light and splendor ... and enjoys the pleasure of creativity and innovation, he merits communion with the Giver of the Torah. The ideal of clinging to God is realized by means of the coupling of the intellect with the Divine Idea which is embodied in rules, laws and traditions... However, halakhic knowing does not remain sealed off in the realm of the intellect. It bursts forth into one's existential consciousness and merges with it... The idea turns into an impassioning and arousing experience; knowledge into a divine fire; strict and exacting halakhic discipline turns into a passionate love burning with a holy flame. Myriads of black letters, into which have been gathered reams of laws, explanations, questions, problems, concepts and measures, descend from the cold and placid intellect, which calmly rests on its subtle abstractions and its systematic frameworks, to the heart full of trembling, fear and yearning, and turn into sparks of the flame of a great experience which sweeps man to his Creator." ("Al Ahavas Ha-Torah," pp. 410-411)

Davening In A Purim Costume

לע"נ ר' מרדכי גימפל בן ר' אברהם משה


The prevalent custom is for people to daven on Purim while wearing their Purim costumes. This would seem problematic because one wouldn't stand before a king [or the President of the US] in a clown or other type of costume. The Mishna Brura says that when one davens the clothing he wears must be fitting for appearance before a king. 

Rav Vosner ztz"l [Shevet Halevi 10/18] say that if a non-chossid is dressed like a chossid or vice versa, it is permissible because one would wear these garments before a king.


אשר שאל בענין אשר הרבה נוהגים בתחפושת בפורים החלפת בגדים כגון ליטאי עם שטריימל או להיפך, אם מותר להתפלל בזה תפלת מנחה או מעריב עפ"י המבואר או"ח סי' צ"א שצריך כדרך שעומד לפני אנשים חשובים. הנה לדעתי אין חיצונית המלבוש קובע אלא אופן עמדו לפני השי"ת בתפלה עפ"י המבואר סי' צ"ח דיחשוב כאלו שכינה כנגדו ועומד לפני מלך העולם ועוד וכיון שמתפלל ע"פ הלכה והוא מכוסה כהלכה ואינו עושה שום שחוק אין נפ"מ באיזה בגד עומד

The clear implication is that if it is not a honorable be-kavodike garment, one may not wear it.


After asking mechila from one of the gedolei ha-dor, Rav Vosner ztz"l, I will make 2 comments.


1] On Purim, one WOULD appear before a king in a Purim costume. You see many chasidim going to their Rebbe's wearing their purim costumes and you see Bnei Yeshiva going to their Rosh Yeshiva in their Purim costumes. So PERHAPS Purim is different.


2] He seems to hold that it doesn't matter what this particular person normally wears. As long as it would be considered for a others a בגד של כבוד it is fine.

If that is the case then one need not wear a hat and jacket when he davens [which is de riguer in the Charedi world]. Since in many circles they do not wear a hat and jacket and even if the greatest king or li-havdil a gadol bi-torah would come they would wear a white shirt and dark pants but no more, then it is OK for everyone. That is hard to swallow [לא מסתבר in talmudic parlance].

It would seem to be a subjective issue based on what THIS PARTICULAR PERSON wears and if he normally wears a chasidic hat then wearing a non-chasidic hat is not appropriate for davening or vice versa. A kibbutznik may daven in sandals and a t-shirt because that is how he would appear before BN [the PM of the memshala ha-tziyonis] while for a member of the Chazon Ish Kollel it would be a terrible breech of respect to daven this way. 


Just some thoughts to stimulate discussion.....

How Many Walls In A Succah??

לע"נ ר' מרדכי גימפל בן אברהם משה 

A] There is a "famous" Tosfos [definition: Tosfos that I learned] in Rosh Hashana [כח: ד"ה ומנא תימרא] that talks about the איסור of בל תוסיף. They say that doing a mitzva more than once is NOT בל תוסיף. They add that the same applies to lulav. Only if he adds another species does he transgress the prohibition but not if he adds a second lulav or more hadassim and aravos. [See Minchas Chinuch mitzva 454/4 who wonders how Tosfos compares doing a mitzva twice to adding to the number of lulavim. The former is not בל תוסיף while the latter may well be עיי"ש].

Tosfos [at the end] tries to prove that one may add to the requisite number of Aravos from the law of succah where all one is required to build is two walls and a third that is only a tefach and still if a person builds four complete walls he is not עובר on בל תוסיף. Tosfos rejects this and says that there is no proof from Succah because the added wall[s] enhance the Succah as they make it more תשבו כעין תדורו. 

עומק דברי התוספות - There is no specific number of walls that the Torah requires. The halacha of two regular walls and a third a tefach long is what makes the Succah meet the requirement of תשבו כעין תדורו - the Succah becomes like one's home. If he builds four complete walls he is NOT adding on to the fundamental obligation of the Torah. He is just meeting the requirement of תשבו כעין תדורו in an enhanced form. IF the obligation of the Torah was 3 walls and he built a fourth then we may have a problem but that is not the case. 

B] We see from Tosfos that the wall is a חפצא דמצוה - a bonafide mitzva object. Otherwise there would be no בל תוסיף to talk about. This is significant because there is a machlokes rishonim if the wall is a חפצא דמצוה - See Rabbi Genack Shlita in his Gan Shoshanim [סימן לה].

C] One contemporary sefer wanted to suggest that Tosfos accords with the Shlah who says that building four walls is a הידור מצוה. However, MaRan HaRav Hutner in his shiurim on Succah [סימן ד and Rav Yaakov Chaim Sofer in his עוז יעקב] correctly points out that Tosfos never calls it a הידור מצוה - just more תשבו כעין תדורו. When the gemara in Shabbos [קלג] gives examples of הידור מצוה it significantly omits the notion of building a fourth wall for the Succah.

D] The mishna in Tomid says that the Kohanim would guard in three specific places. Rav Moshe Rosen [who was the Rav of the town where the Chazon Ish lived and they had a chavrusa together. He penned a multi-volume set on shas] asks why a specific number is given. Just tell me the places and I can count how many there are?! He suggests that that mishna is telling us that if the kohanim guard in more than three places it would be בל תוסיף. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank [הר צבי פרשת במדבר] rejects this based on our Tosfos. Having more than three places guarded is not בל תוסיף but enhanced שמירה just as more walls is not בל תוסיף but enhanced תשבו כעין תדורו. 

Halacha li-maaseh - Ideally one's Succah should have four walls either because it is more תשבו כעין תדורו or because it is hiddur mitzva. So paskens the Chaye Adam and others [See עוז מלכו סי' ח].

Torah is GESHMAKKKKK!!!!!

See here where this Tosfos is expanded upon with Hashem's limitless help....

עיין עוד בספר משנת חיים ע"ס דברים סי' עא לג"ר חיים מאיר הלוי שטיינברג שליט"א

Brother Esav?

לע"נ ר' מרדכי גימפל בן ר' אברהם משה

"You are passing by the border of your brother Esav". [Devarim 2/4] 

The Ramban explains that Esav is also our brother because he descends from Avraham unlike Yishmael who is no longer the seed of Avraham from the pasuk כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע - only Yitzchak is the seed off Avraham and not Yishmael.

This is very strange because the gemara in Nedarim excludes Esav from the descendants of Avraham from the word ביצחק implying that only part of Yitzchak is Avraham's seed but not all of it which excludes Esav. The Chasam Sofer and many others were bothered by this Ramban.

Maran HaRav Hutner [קונטרס ברכת אבות מאמר ד] suggests that the Ramban is making a distinction between the exclusion of Esav and the exclusion of Yishmael. Yishmael was EXPLICITLY excluded by the pasuk - Yitzchak and not Yishmael. Esav was never mentioned by the pasuk. All it says is that part of Yitzchak's seed will be excluded and Esav with his free choice placed himself in that category. But it didn't have to be him. It could have been somone else as well. The gemara calls Esav a Yisrael Mumar - an apostate. We never find Yishmael being described that way. This is because a Mumar is one who does a מעשה מומרות as only Esav did. Yishmael's exclusion was not because of any specific מעשה but because of a גזירת הכתוב. 

That is why the pasuk calls Esav a brother. 

The question intrigued me so I looked around and here is what I saw....:-)

זאב יטרף דברים סי' ד', חבצלת השרון דברים עמ' לח, ותירוץ מאד נחמד ומחודש בס' חקרי לב לג"ר א"ל היימן עמ' 188, ס' לב ציון להרה"ג רא"ל לפיינסקי שליט"א עמ' 269, להורות נתן דברים עמ' י"ח, משנת חיים על דברים סימן ה', שיעורי חומש לג"ר שמחה מיימון עמ' שנ"ה, תכלת מרדכי לג"ר מרדכי גימפל

Is Change Good??

לע"נ ר' מרדכי גימפל בן ר' אברהם משה


We recently had a lengthy post about the nature of time and it is worth another [and many more] look[s]. 

The Maharal has an interesting approach to time. The gemara in the first perek of Megila says that anytime it says ויהי ["and it was". The "ו" changes the word from future to past] it is a lashon of צער. Explains the Maharal:

ויהי הוא מורה על הויה בלתי נשלמת והוא המשך זמן, והויה שהיא בזמן היא השתנות מפני שעצם ההויה הוא השתנות מענין לענין וכל שינוי רע.

נר מצוה אור חדש, עמ' סב.



The word ויהי - and it was - has a negative connotation, because it is talking about time and the defintion of time is change and change is רע. [The Rambam writes in the Moreh 2/13 כי הזמן נספח לתנועה והתנועה מקרה בנע. Time is movement and movement is change]

Why is change [and therefore time], רע? Change implies that something was wrong and therefore must be fixed.  

I recently saw an article [upon which most of this post is based] where the author suggests that Rav Kook disagrees with the Maharal and maintains that the entire world was created for the sake of change. It is not a "bi-dieved" as the Maharal would have it but the ideal, original purpose. Some proof texts:

העולמות נבראו בדרך שיוכלו לעלות ממדרגותם, כי לכן ירדו בזמן השבירה, כדי שיעלו מעט מעט. מראשי ימות עולם הגלגל סובב רק לנקודה אחת, השלמות האחרון.

אורות הקדש עמ' 20.

הכל הולך ושוטף, הכל מתעלה.

אורות הקודש ב, התעלות העולם, א.

השנויים התדירים [...] הם הם המבארים לנו את התמונה של התנועה הבלתי פוסקת, רבת העליליה, שבעולם החמרי.

שם, ג.

עולם התוהו, ושבירותיו, ותיקוניו, מורים לנו, שעוצם הרצון לתיקון, לשכלול, להויה, שהם הטוב הגמור, פועל הוא בכח מלא מאד מאד.

שם, י.

כי השלמות ההולכת ונוספת תמיד יש בה יתרון ותענוג ואיזה מין העלאה, שאנו עורגים לה כל כך, הליכה מחיל אל חיל.

שם, יז.



מהלך כל היש הוא בנוי על יסוד התשובה. ההויות מתגלות בתור ירידה מא-להיות לעולמיות, שהיא כמו השפלה ומיתה נוראה [...] וכל זה נעשה על פי המשקל העליון של שפיטת הצדק [...] אמנם ירידה זו הלא יסוד העליה העליונה גנוז בה.

אורות התשובה, יא, ד.



According to the Maharal when Moshiach comes and we are redeemed this negative change will no longer be necessary.


כי יהיה לימות המשיח העולם בשלימות ובפעל אין בו שנוי כלל, ולמה יחטא והכל הוא עומד כפי מה שהוא ואין בו קנין שלימות.

Since change is only a "bi-dieved" fact of life - when Moshiach comes it won't be necessary anymore. 

Rav Kook, faithful to his shittah that change is part and parcel of the ontological nature of reality [whatever that means...] says that the world will continue changing for the better even AFTER Moshiach comes:



ההויה נוצרה בתכונה כזו, שעדי עד לא תחדל מהתעלות, כי זאת היא פעולה אין סופית.

אורות הקודש ב, התעלות העולם, טז.


In general the Maharal saw this world as bad. That is why it was created with a "ה" which denotes change. Olam Haba by contrast, which is perfect, was created with a "י" which denotes being unchanging and static. 

ואמר כי חמשה 'ויהי בימי' הוי כי ראוי שיהיו חמשה, מפני כי בהא ברא הש"י עולמו [...] ולכך הויות העולם הזה מוכן לחמשה דברים שיש בהם הויה אשר יש בהם השנוי והם צער ולא כמו עה"ב שנברא בי' שהיא אות קטנה כמו נקודות ולא יחלק אבל אות ההא [...] שייך בה חילוק ולפיכך נברא מזה הזמן שהוא מתחלק ומזה הוא מתחדש ההוויה אשר בו השנוי ומגיע מזה הצרה. [הקדמה לס' אור חדש עיי"ש]



Rav Kook said just the opposite. This world is GREAT because Hashem is constantly directing the world towards elevation.

ונמצא שהנשמה הא-להית העצמית שבהויה המחיה אותה הוא העילוי התמידי שלה, שהוא הוא יסודה הא-להי, הקורא אותה להמצא ולהשתכלל.

אורות הקודש ב, התעלות העולם, יז.


If this analysis is correct then it emerges that Rav Kook had a much more positive, rosy perspective on reality than did the Maharal.

I am not here to give "grades" and these were two Gedolei Olam who we stand before with great trepidation, awe and derech eretz. However, if one has to view and assess reality [as we all do], I believe that it is much healthier to adopt Rav Kook's much more encouraging perspective. It really boosts one mood knowing that we are here to constantly fix and grow and that is the ideal. 


In fact - the very first mitzva we were given as a nation was קידוש החודש, the mitzva of sanctifying time. 



The very first creation was time. בראשית ברא אלהים - Hashem created the beginning, for beginning denotes a time frame and before creation there was no such thing as time [such that it is not correct to say "before" creation because that implies time]. 



[See the first Rashi on Chumash "לא היה צריך להתחיל אלא מהחודש הזה לכם" in light of what we wrote here and you will have light!]


Let us conclude with the uplifting words of the Rav ztz"l:



הננו נתבעים להעלות את עצמנו, להרבות את גדולתנו, להרחיב את חכמתנו, באור החיים שמתוסף בנו הננו מוסיפים חיים ואור בכל היש, והיש כולו דוחק אותנו להמציא לו עילויו, צינורות שוטפים חפץ רצון וחיים ממלא כל היקום באים עדינו, מתעלים בעילויינו, שבים כגלי ים בשפעת שטפם, כמשברי אור בשיא חוסן מרוצתם. ואנו כולנו בעלי החפץ וההכרה קרואים אנו לפתח את היש כולו, להרחיב את גבול הוייתו, קרואים אנו להאדיר חפצנו, להבהיק הכרתנו, לעזז את יכלתנו. בלי מצרים היא שאיפתנו, ובכל מצר וגבול הננו נותנים ברכות נצחים, עז לנו בא-להים סלה את העולמים כולם אנו מנשאים, משגבים ומפארים, ונותנים פאר לא-ל חי העולמים.



אורות הקודש ב, התעלות העולם, מא.



Friday, February 24, 2017