Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Grave Question: Does Time Continue In The Grave?

If a person rapes a 12-12 and a half year old girl, the pasuk says that he must pay a fine of 50 shekels to the father. The gemara [Ksubos 38b-39a] discusses what happens if she dies before the rapist is brought to judgement. 

Abaye said: If a person rapes a girl and she died before the father can bring him to court, he is absolved from paying the fine as the pasuk says etc. Rava, however wasn't so sure.... For Rava wondered what the halacha is if a boy raped a girl who was a naara [from 12 until 12 and a half] and she died, is there such a concept as בגר בקבר i.e. her reaching adulthood [12 and a half which is halachically considered full adulthood for a girl] in the grave. The gemara explains the safek: On one hand we can say that יש בגר בקבר and her child will receive the fine. Or perhaps אין בגר בקבר and her father receives the fine as is the case for every living naara. [Rava disagrees with Abaye and holds that regardless the fine is paid and the only question is who receives it]. 

The gemara then questions the premise that such a young girl could have a child and rephrases Rava's query: Do we say יש בגר בקבר and she therefore has been released from the domain of her father [a בוגרת is considered a complete adult and the father no longer has rights] and the rapist will not pay the fine because his בעל דין [the girl] is no longer alive. Or perhaps אין בגר בקבר and she is still considered a naara and the father retains his rights and the fine would be paid. 

Mar bar Rav Ashi put Rava's query this way: Does death create a din of bagrus [thereby disallowing the father from collecting the fine] or does it not [and the father would collect]. According to the first side of the question, the moment she dies, she instantly becomes a bogeres because מיתה עושה בגרות. [According to Rava she only would become a bogeres after 12 and a half years have passed since her birth but not immediately].

Explains the Gaon Hageonim Moreinu Harogochover Rav Yosef Rozen ztz"l: This gemara is engaging us in a deep philosophical discussion about the nature of "time". There are three ways of viewing time.

A] Time relates to various objects and subjects. Even after they cease to exist, time continues traveling forward as if they were still in existence. 

B] The moment the person or object ceases to exist - time stops along with it [in relationship to it of course but not completely].

C] We see a person as traveling through time and there are many dots on this journey. Every second is a dot. Imagine a long highway with millions of dots, one after the next. That is time and every dot is a second. What is stopping a person or object from getting many dots ahead of himself is the fact that he finds himself bound by a framework constricted by time. He must wait until the next second until he advances to the next dot. The moment he dies and is released from this framework, he is free to traverse this extremely broad territory we call "time" and jump completely across until he is "on the other side" [so to speak]. 

The latter understanding explains the opinion of Mar bar Rav Ashi, namely that a girl becomes a בוגרת instantaneously upon her death - מיתה עושה בגרות. She has been freed from the constrictions of time and doesn't have to wait a second in order to advance to the next dot. She jumps ahead and touches all of the dots on this long highway at once. [I MUST note that Rav Menachem Kasher (Mefaneyach Tzfunos P. 106) disputes this understanding of the words of the Rogochover. He claims that the Rogochover never suggested such a novel and almost radical idea that a person can jump ahead in time after death. He seems to understand (please look there and tell me if I am reading him right) that her status as a naara is a positive force in her life as long as she exists. This positive force prevents her from advancing forward immediately beyond naarus to bagrus. The moment she dies, this force is removed and automatically she ceases to be a naara. Not a JUMP but a removal of a barrier granting her full adult status. In other words, it is not that she is a bogeres now but that she is no longer a naara. What grants the father the right to collect the fine is her status as a naara. He loses that right when she dies because מיתה עושה בגרות meaning she has the halachic staus of a bogeres because she is no longer a naara. Rav Kasher quotes a passage from the writings of Rav Yosef Engel ztz"l to the same effect).

If we say that times continue to relate to the person, even after her demise, the halacha would be יש בגר בקבר. She might be dead, but since the requisite six months passed since her 12th birthday, her father would not be able to collect because she is out of her father's domain [possibility "A]" above].

The opinion that אין בגר בקבר will argue that after death, time ceases to play a role in this person's life [or better "death"] and he remains the same age forever.

The Torah was given by Moshe Rabbeinnu who died at 120 when he still retained his youthful exuberance [לא כהתה עינו ולא נס ליחו]. The Torah is eternally fresh and new and so is Moshe Rabbeinu [if we maintain אין בגר בקבר].


[The Rogochover makes dozens of references to this gemara and it served as a fundamental source of insight for him into the nature of time. I was helped greatly in understanding his deep words by the sefer צפונות הרוג'וצ'ובי page 18-19].