Monday, May 18, 2015

Bechukosai: Seven sins Six punishments

Rashi in Bechukosai shows seven steps of degradation leading to complete destruction. Rav Zalman Sorotzkin in אזנים לתורה (Insights in the Torah) in his commentary on Bechukosai 26:15 connects the seven steps of transgression to the sections of the Tochacha. Rav Hirsch shows how each of the terms that prededed this pasuk show an increasing level of sin.  Abarbanel and Alshich go into detail and expand on this point showing how each of the punishments fit midah k'neged midah. Alshichshows how each group consists of seven types of suffering and how eac type of suffering is midah k'neged midah.
in verse 18, the Torah states, "I shall punish you further, sevenfold for your sins", and Rashi explains: "Seven punishments [will be given] for the seven transgressions mentioned above." Rashi is referring to seven sets of punishment, each set consisting of seven types of suffering. In the course of the section on curses, Rashi points out several more times that the punishments come in groups of seven.
After contemplating these passages, I found that although there are seven transgressions, The Torah only mentions six levels of punishment.
Transgression 1: He did not study

Punishment: The first level begins with pasuk 16 "I will assign upon you panic" and ends with verse 17. "you will flee with no one pursuing you".

Transgression 2: He did not perform

Punishment: Pasuk 18 - 20, "... I will break the pride of your might ..." through "... the tree of your land will not give its fruit."

Transgression 3: He disapproves of others who do perform.

Punishment: Pasuk 21 - 22 "... I will incite the wildlife of the field against you ... and your roads will become desolaye"

Transgression 4: He hates the Sages

Punishment: Pasuk 23 - 26. " ... I will bring upon you a sword ... you will eat and not be sated."

Transgression 5: He prevents others [from performing mitzvos]

Punishment: Pasuk 27 - 40. "... You will eat the flesh of your sons ... the land of your foes will devour you ... the will disintegrate.

Pasuk 40 appears to be a statement of teshuvah. The question is why is this treatedas part of the fifth level of punishment and not even part of the beginning of the sixth level (as a restatement of the levels of transgression as seen with the previous punishments).

Many meforshim do indeed regard this pasuk as part of the next set of punishments.

Rav Hirsch translates this as a command  ("Until they confess") and not a statement of action ("They will confess"). Thus until they confess properly, and acknowledge what they have been doing (traeting Hashem and the Torah as a secondary consideration) Hashem, will continue to treat them in a "off hand" manner.

See the comment on 26:40 - 41 in the Art Scroll Stone Chumash.

Chizkuni states that this is not really a sincere repentance but is actually just going through the motions in order to cover all the bases, just in case. [my comment] I would consider it like someone going to Yom Kippur services and "repenting" and then going to a nonkosher dinner/dance afterwards.

Vilna Gaon (Aderes Eliyau) says that while it might be sincere at the moment, it is not complete and would not cover the sins of the past. [my comment] It might be sufficient to cover the current set of sins, but it will not be sufficient to raise them back up to the previous levels.

Ohr Hachaim explains that both pasuk 40 and 41 are part of the confession and list the truths that must be acknowledged. One of the problems is that while people may acknowledge that they have sinned, they would continue in the "tradition" of their ancestors and think that the sins of the previous generation were in fact correct actions. [my comment] consider the idea of driving to shul on shabbos. Someone may admit that driving to the mall or a baseball game is incorrect, but think that driving to shul is correct. Similarly, some people have acted as if "resting on the Sabbath"includes painting pictures, going to concerts, etc.

Transgression 6: He denies [that] the mitzvos [were commande by Hashem]

Punishment:Pasuk 41 - 43 "I, too, will behave towards them with casualness, ... because their spirit rejected My decrees."

Rabbi Sorotzkin states that the "remembrance of the Avos is given in reverse order in order to state that Hashem will still accept the teshuvah even itf it its on a lower level. The three pillars of the world are תורה ועבודה וגמילות חסדים which corresponds to the Avos in the order given in the Pasuk. Rabbi Sorotzkin explains that Avraham was faced with a world of uncontrolled idolators. He could only reach them through chesed. It was impossible to begin teaching them about the service of Hashem much leass Torah. Yitzchak had people who knew about Hashem via Avraham and were ready to learn about the next level. Yaakov was able to teach the students of Avraham and Yitzchak, and was able to teach them the highest level of knowledge of Hashem and His existence.
Therefore, when this verse speaks about the beginning of return to Hashemin this verse, it promises that if the Bnai Yisrael in their repentance achieve the level of Torah study, then certainly "I will remember my covenant with Yaako", the covenant I made with him over the Torah. And even if they reach only the level of service and there are people who know how to servce Hashem among Israel, even though they havenot yet reached the level of Torah-study, Hashem will redeem them on the merit of the covenant He made with Yitzchak: "An also My covenant with Yitzchak." And if they do not reach either of these levels but there are people among the them who know how to do kindness, then Hashem will redeem them on the merit of the covenant He made with Avraham: "And also My covenant with Avraham will I remember."
No further punishments are mentioned in this parsha

Transgression 7: He denies Hashem's existence.

Rabbi Sorotzkin asks "Where, the, is the sevenths set of punishments? This matter is rather puzzling.

Answer: Rabbi Sorotzkin points out that the transgression as stated in the parsha is "to annul My covenant". The corresponding punishment (by midah k'neged midah) would, G-d forbid, be the annulment of Hashem's covenant with us and the total destruction of the Jewish people. After all, if we attempt to deny Hashem's existence, noting will happen. It is like someone jumping off a cliff and trying to fly through denying the law of gravity. The person will still fall to his death. However, what Hashem decrees is what happens. What Hashem denies cannot exist.

As Hashem said to Yechezkel (20:32-33):

That which has come into your minds shall certainly not be, for you say: 'We shall be like the nations ... to servewood and stone. By My life, says Hashem Elokim, I swear that with a strong hand I shall rule over you." 

Thus the Torah does not say the appropriate punishment for sinking to the seventh level of sin, for this is impossible. Instead pasuk 44 says
But despite all this, while they will be in the lands of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them - for I am Hashem their G-d

After he wrote this comment, he found a nearly identical interpretation in Divrei Chaim, a commentary on the Chumash by his grandfather Rav Chayim Sharin , זצ"ל


Friday, May 15, 2015

Rabbi Leibtag shiurim: The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years- Part One

from: Kol Torah Webmaster
to: Kol Torah
date: Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 10:06 PM
subject: Kol Torah Parashat Shemini 2015
The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years- Part One
by Reuven Herzog (‘13) and Benjy Koslowe (‘13)
Kol Torah is enormously proud to present a landmark article written by TABC alumni Reuven Herzog '13 and Benjy Koslowe '13, themselves former Kol Torah editors-in-chief. This article was originally delivered as a Shiur at TABC's summer of 2014 Tanach Kollel.
The article presents an intriguing solution to a very well-known issue regarding the compatibility of Chazal's Seder Olam and the commonly accepted historic chronology. Although dozens of articles address this issue, we believe that this article is the best article written on this subject published to date.
This article is based on a series of Shiurim given by Rav Menachem Leibtag at Yeshivat Har Etzion.
I. Introduction
The Hebrew calendar counts the current year as 5775 Anno Mundi[1]. However, many adherents to this calendar may not realize that this year stems from Seder Olam Rabbah, a late Tannaitic work. Detailing important dates and years in Jewish history, Seder Olam establishes a timeline from Adam HaRishon to the end of the Bar Kochba revolt, and it became the ubiquitous dating convention in the Jewish community around the turn of the second millennium CE.
A challenge regarding the Hebrew calendar is that the year 5775 may not be so precise. Seder Olam records that the time between the destructions of the two Batei Mikdash lasted 490 years. However, secular history records that the Churban of the first Beit HaMikdash took place in 586 BCE, and that the Churban of the second Beit HaMikdash occurred in 70 CE; this leaves us with a period of 655 years[2]. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 165 years between Seder Olam and secular history!
The “missing years” are a puzzling element of the Jewish Mesorah. They beg the question of what happened to them and whether Seder Olam was intended to be a definitive history or something else entirely.
In this article, we intend to follow Seder Olam’s chronology and explain how it reaches its conclusions, using an internally consistent methodology. Beyond this, we hope to demonstrate how Seder Olam’s inconsistency with outside sources is not a flaw; rather, it serves a tremendous purpose in the Rabbinic period.
II. Seder Olam’s Count
Seder Olam Rabbah is a Tannaitic work generally attributed to the mid-2nd century Tanna Rabi Yosi ben Chalafta. A Midrashic commentary on Jewish history, it chronicles and exegetes the stories of Tanach and a little beyond, using the historical narratives as a springboard for Chazal’s teachings and messages, similar to other Midreshei Aggadah. In fact, Seder Olam can be thought of as similar to the Midrash Rabbah collection, a “History Rabbah[3],” in that its goal is not to explicitly comment on historical facts, but rather to use stories as an educational tool.
In building its timeline, Seder Olam uses two primary sources, both stemming from the Tanach. The first and dominant source is explicit references from the books of Tanach to specific years and periods of time, combined via simple arithmetic intuition. These references are plentiful and clear enough to write the timeline almost entirely, from Adam HaRishon to the Churban of the first Beit HaMikdash. (The dating of Malchut Yehudah is slightly cloudier; we will deal with this later.) The second source is implicit references and inferences used to fill in the gaps where Tanach is more ambiguous. These are primarily used in the works post-Churban HaBayit, where dates of certain events are given, but there are no large blocks of time recorded.
II-A. From Adam HaRishon until the Beit HaMikdash’s Destruction
The first section of the timeline is incredibly easy to construct, taken almost directly from lists found in Sefer BeReishit. After the conclusion of the Gan Eden narratives there is a list of Adam’s descendants, including how long they lived, and more significantly how old they were when the next child on the list was born. As an example (BeReishit 5:12-14):
“VaYechi Keinan Shiv’im Shanah VaYoled Et Mahalaleil. VaYechi Keinan Acharei Holido Et Mahalaleil Arba’im Shanah UShemoneh Mei’ot Shanah VaYoled Banim UVanot. VaYihyu Kol Yemei Keinan Eser Shanim UTsha Mei’ot Shanah VaYamot.”
“And Keinan lived 70 years, and he gave birth to Mahalaleil. And Keinan lived 840 years after giving birth to Mahalaleil, and he gave birth to many children. And all the days of Keinan were 910 years, and he died.”
The only relevant information for us in this paragraph is how long Keinan lived before the birth of his son; everything afterwards is overlap and therefore does not help to create a contiguous timeline.
Such Pesukim are repeated almost verbatim for the entire line of Adam to Noach, ten generations in all (plus the birth of Noach’s children, the eleventh generation). The result of this timeline is a simple calculation of dates for when each person was born:
Father’s age at time of birth
Year of birth

A very similar list exists in Perek 11, after the Mabul and Migdal Bavel stories, listing the generations from Sheim to Avraham:
Father’s age at time of birth
Year of birth
After Avraham’s birth, the points of reference in the Torah are more spread out, and often these references describe large blocks of time rather than individual lifespans. The Torah informs us that Avraham was 100 years old when Yitzchak was born (21:5). After Yitzchak’s birth, there are 400 years until Yetziat Mitzrayim. This is based on Seder Olam’s derivation from the Berit Bein HaBetarim that the 400 years of Avraham’s descendants dwelling in a foreign country begin with the birth of Yitzchak[6]. Thus, Yetziat Mitzrayim took place in year 2448 of Seder Olam.
The next block of time is from Yetziat Mitzrayim until the start of construction of the first Beit HaMikdash, a period Sefer Melachim informs us was 480 years (Melachim I 6:1). We can therefore establish that the Beit HaMikdash began its time in year 2928 of Seder Olam.
In order to calculate the duration of the first Beit HaMikdash, Sefer Melachim records the length of each king’s reign. Adding up the reigns of the kings from Shlomo – in whose fourth year as king the Beit HaMikdash’s existence began – to Tzidkiyahu – in whose reign it was destroyed – we have a total of 433 years[7]. However, because the dating system then was focused on the king and not on an absolute, continuous calendar (as we mentioned above), the final partial year of a king’s rule was counted as a full year, and the rest of that year was also considered to be a full year for the next king. Therefore, we can conclude that there was an extra year of overlap recorded for each king. Accounting for the 19 rulers7 and therefore 19 years of overlap, our total reduces to 414 years. We also need to remember that construction began in the fourth year of Shlomo’s reign. We therefore remove four years to give the final count of 410 years for which the first Beit HaMikdash stood. Thus, the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed in year 3338.
Length of Reign
Start of Reign[8]
Binyan Bayit Rishon 2928
3 months
3 months
433 (including overlap)
II-B. Galut Bavel and the Second Beit HaMikdash
After the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction, the records become much less comprehensive. There is no book that details a continuous history or provides dates in a larger context. All of the post-Churban Sifrei Tanach (like many of their earlier counterparts) give exclusively regnal dates. Nothing informs us how long a king ruled, or even who directly succeeded him.
When the second Beit HaMikdash begins to be built in the second year of the Persian king Daryavesh, Zecharyah retrospectively references a period of 70 years (Zecharyah 1:12). This refers to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash and Yerushalayim and the subsequent exile (with no mention of Babylonian rule, as this prophecy comes many years after the Babylonian empire fell)[9]. Therefore, the second year of Daryavesh and the beginning of the construction of the second Beit HaMikdash was in year 3338+70=3408 of Seder Olam. Construction took four years (Ezra 6:15), finishing in Daryavesh’s sixth year, year 3412.
From this point on everything becomes much murkier. There are no “anchor dates” like in Yirmiyahu 25[10]. The few dates mentioned after the construction of the second Beit HaMikdash are only in reference to the king of the time, and we do not even know for sure the order of succession, much less for how long each Persian king ruled.
The latest date recorded in Tanach about Daryavesh is his sixth year, the year in which the second Beit HaMikdash was completed. The next date we have is that of Ezra’s Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, in the seventh year of king Artachshasta (Ezra 7:7). Seder Olam assumes that these two names refer to the same king, so these two events are only one year apart[11]. The last reference we have to Daryavesh/Artachshasta is during the governorship of Nechemyah, in his 32nd year (Nechemyah Perek 12). This can be calculated to be year 3438 of Seder Olam.
This is the latest concrete date that can be found in Tanach. However, a hint to later events can be found in a vision of Daniel. In Perakim 10 and 11, in the third year of Koresh[12], Daniel receives a long, prophetic, colorful, and obscure description of much of the future political history from an angel. At the beginning of the history the angel states, “Hinei Od Sheloshah Melachim Omedim LeParas,” “Behold, three more kings will stand for Persia” (Daniel 11:2); the fourth of the line[13] will be tremendously rich, and he will be conquered by an extremely powerful king of Greece[14]. Seder Olam assumes this king to be Alexander the Great, and thus the king succeeding Daryavesh/Artachshasta is Alexander. In addition, Seder Olam twice references that the Persians ruled over Israel for 52 years, which leads to the deduction that Daryavesh/Artachshasta ruled for 36 years. (This extra time is hinted at in Sefer Nechemyah, where Nechemyah mentions that he was in Persia during Artachshasta’s 32nd year, and he took leave to return to Israel after a long period of time (Nechemyah 13:6).) Koresh took control in 3390; hence, Alexander’s reign over the Persian Empire begins in year 3442 of Seder Olam.
Seder Olam follows Alexander’s reign with a summary of the rulership until the Second Beit HaMikdash’s destruction (and then to the Bar Kochba (alt. Ben Koziba) Revolt) in a succinct teaching of Rabi Yosi[15]: 34 years of Persian rule during the existence of the Beit HaMikdash, 180 years of Greek rule, 103 years of the Chashmona’i dynasty, and 103 years of the Herodian dynasty – totaling 420 years. Bar Kochba’s rebellion was 52 years later.
In the second installment of this essay, we will bring light to issues that arise when comparing Seder Olam’s account of Bayit Sheini chronology with the conventional account of history. We will then hopefully explain how Seder Olam’s account consistently employs the methodology of Chazal to successfully arrive at its conclusions, regardless of outside chronologies.

[1] Lit: Year After Creation. This title is slightly misleading, as Seder Olam begins its chronology with Adam HaRishon and makes no mention of Beri’at HaOlam.
[2] The Gregorian calendar does not include a year 0; year 1 BCE is succeeded immediately by year 1 CE.
[3] Though this would be an apt title for the work, its real title does not denote any connection. The “Rabbah” suffix merely means “big,” distinguishing it from a later chronological work also titled Seder Olam (Zuta).
[4] The Pesukim are not entirely clear here, stating only that Noach was 500 years old when he gave birth to Sheim, Cham, and Yefet. However, in the list from Sheim to Avraham, Arpachshad is stated as being born when Sheim was 100 years old, two years after the Mabul (11:10); therefore, we can deduce that Sheim was born 98 years before the Mabul. The Mabul is said to have been when Noach was 600 years old (7:6), in year 1656; thus, Sheim was born in year 1558.
[5] BeReishit 11:27 states that Terach was 70 years old when he gave birth to Avraham, Nachor, and Haran. It is assumed that Avraham was the oldest brother.
[6] This Derashah is based on the usage of the word “Zera,” offspring, in the Berit (15:13): “Yado’a Teida Ki Geir Yihyeh Zar’acha BeEretz Lo Lahem VaAvadum VeInu Otam Arba Mei’ot Shanah,” “Know well that your offspring will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and torture them four hundred years.” This “Zera” is identified by Seder Olam to match with the Pasuk (21:12), “Ki VeYitzchak Yikarei Lecha Zara,” “For in Yitzchak offspring will be called for you.”
[7] Yeho’achaz and Yehoyachin each ruled for three months, and are not even given credit for an entire year.
[8] The chronology in this table is based on a simple read of Sefer Melachim. The chronology is actually more complicated, but this is beyond the scope of this paper. For further reading, see Edwin Thiele’s The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951).
[9] Zecharyah’s reference is not explicitly about the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction, but from context it is clear that he is referring to the destruction of the Temple, Yerushalayim, and all of Yehudah.
[10] See section IV (Editor’s Note: This will appear in next week’s installment).
[11] Seder Olam uses the ambiguous language of “Hu Koresh Hu Daryavesh Hu Artachshasta” to show that sometimes multiple names refer to the same king. The Gra explains this specific reference to be that Daryavesh is named as Koresh, the “Meshiach Hashem,” by Yeshayahu; Daryavesh is awarded these extra titles because he rebuilt the Beit HaMikdash. (This association of Koresh and Daryavesh might be another element of Chazal’s “hiding” of the disappointing Shivat Tziyon-era Navi at the end of Sefer Yeshayahu. By identifying “Koresh,” who is prophesied to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, as Daryavesh, who actually did, the author removes the problem of a false prophecy. See section V-B for a further explanation of the “hidden Navi.”)
Interestingly, the Gra writes that there were three separate kings of Persia: Koresh, Daryavesh, and Artachshasta. However, he makes no mention of Achashveirosh, whom Seder Olam explicitly includes, and makes no attempt to identify him with one of the three aforementioned kings! Perhaps the Gra means only that all three of these kings, though Midrashically identified as one by Seder Olam, are separate rulers in their own right, in addition to Achashveirosh. This would pose a problem, though, with Daniel’s vision (found in Perakim 10-11 of Sefer Daniel) of the four Persian kings (including Daryavesh HaMadi).
[12] The vision begins in Perek 10 and continues in Perek 11, according to the explanation of Da’at Mikra.
[13] Presumably this includes a king before Koresh, so the fourth king in total is the third remaining. Perhaps this earlier king refers to Daryavesh HaMadi, who conquered Bavel for Persia. (Daryavesh HaMadi’s identity itself is very unclear; perhaps this is a reference to the general Gobryas who governed over Bavel for a few weeks after conquering it.) The result is that the four kings are Daryavesh HaMadi, Koresh, Achashveirosh, and Daryavesh/Artachshasta.
[14] A similar vision, though less detailed, can be found in Perek 8 of Daniel. Seder Olam cites Pesukim from both visions.
[15] The fact that this history is entirely Tannaitic and not derived from Tanach is incredibly significant. After the mention of Alexander, Seder Olam writes, “Ad Kan Hayu Nevi’im Mitnab’im BeRuach HaKodesh; MiKan VeEilach Hat Oznecha UShma Divrei Chachamim,” “Until here Nevi’im would prophesize with Divine spirit; from here and onward listen to the words of the Sages.” This marks the end of the period of Nevu’ah and a monumental transition in the nature of Judaism. The short section following even has the feel of an appendix to the primary history, that which is relevant to Tanach.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Why the descriptions of Malachim differ so greatly.

The common concept in our current society of an "angel" is that of a person with "feathery" wings. That of a "devil" is that of a person with bat wings with horns. We have the description of the merkava and other descriptions of people with six wings. We also have the description like a person with the legs fused into one pillar. In fact, it is actually a problem to use the term "angel" as too many of us automatically "see" the images from movies, television, or "religious" art in the museums. As a result, we should use the term Mal'achim, and avoid any attempt to translate it into English. I have spoken with teachers who have told me that they have had difficulties explaining some concepts when using the term "angel" that did not show up when using the term "mal'ach". THis is a practical matter rather than a matter of halacha.

Given the references to mal'achim (angels) many "appearances" are metaphorical only. The meforshim of the mal'achim that visited Avraham (and went to S'dom) explain how three mal'achim came to Avraham and two went to S'dom. Each malach is "created" for its specific task and only "exists" for the duration of that task. This is also the explanation of the reaction when Yaakov (and later Manoach father of Shimshon) asks the name of the mal'ach. The "name" of the mal'ach only exists in relation to its task. Once that task is complete, the name is gone.
Similarly, there were three tasks required in the visit to Avrohom. The mal'ach sent to predict the birth of Yitzchak finished his task and "left". The mal'ach sent to heal Avraham either had the rescue of Lot as part of that task or became "available" for a similar task afterward, or was just replaced by the mal'ach sent to rescue Lot. The third mal'ach, to destroy S'dom, was needed as part of the three, according to many meforshim, because the fate of S'dom was not completely decided until Avrohom showed the real chesed of his acceptance of the three "men".
A mal'ach can be a person, a natural event, or a supernatural being created and sent for a purpose. There are many examples.
A TSA official who delays someone so that he misses a flight he is not supposed to be on.
A woman and child taking the seat of a person, so that he can show chesed by letting them sit together.
A traffic jam to force a person to take a particular route.
A sudden rain or a wind to blow the clouds away.
And of course the mal'achim as we see in the case of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as well as all the other times mentioned in Tanach.
Thus there is no specific "image". Additionally, one is not supposed to create images of the "residents" of heaven, but that is another question from the Ten Commandments.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Parsha Tazria - Why is Milah in the middle of Tum'ah

The beginning of Tazria speaks of how a woman is tamei for seven days with a boy. This is then followed by the repeat of the commandment for bris milah on the eighth day. The meforshim state that this allows the woman to attend the bris and that this now causes the child to be part of klal Yisroel. The Milah is then followed by the remainder of her tum'ah until she brings a sacrifice and the halacha for having given birth to a girl. After that, we have the halachos of Tzora'as (usually tranlated inaccurately as 'leprosy', see Rav Hirsch for example for this discussion).  Many meforshim ask why are the 'extra' halachos of bris milah (see sifra and maseches Shabbos 132a) given here rather than continuing the flow of tuma'a from the woman being tamei to the laws of Tzora'as. Why does Bris Mila get inserted.

Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch has stated that the numbers 6, 7, and 8 connect with Maasei Bereishis [creation] to show the way a person exists. The number 6 is the creation of the natural world. It is the set up of the laws and instincts that allow the physical world to continue and the living beings in it to exist. Shabbos, as the number 7, symbolizes the completion of the natural world and the continuation of nature without new 'explicit' creations. The number 8 therefore, symbolizes "L'ma'alah min hatevah" [above or outside of nature]. That is the beginning of a new cycle, showing a raising of human status so that Man, unlike the rest of nature can change. Man can become 'greater than the mala'chim or less than the animals'. This is hinted at in the first Rashi of Parshas Tazria which states that Rav Simlai explained that this is connected to the order of creation in which Man was created after all the animals. Just as Man was created after all the animals, the parsha of giving birth comes after the explanation of taharah for the animals. Bris Milah is the next step (L'maaleh min Hateva') of Bnai Yisroel and is required before tzora'as can occur.

We see that we are told to learn various traits from different animals, 'faithfulness from a dove', 'modesty from the cat', 'industry from the ant', ...  These traits are hard wired into the animals and are not something that they "choose" to do. However, we can see the traits and learn from them.

We can also see a reason for putting Milah in the Torah before Tzora'as because tzora'as is a completely miraculous occurrence which has not connection with the natural world. We see this because it only occurs among Bnai Yisroel. Non-Jews do not (normally - except for Naaman with Elisha) get this 'disease' and it is not treated according to the normal laws of epidemiology. It only existed during the time that spiritual matters had obvious physical effects. As a result, it is completely l'ma'aleh min hateva. A person is not quarantined for health related purposes, as was done with measles or tuberculosis. A person can only be quarantined upon declaration of the kohen and the kohen is forbidden to declare a person tamei during the chagim or during the seven days after his wedding (when health reasons would make it more necessary).

We can compare this to the halachos of tum'ah as given for people and animals. Only someone who is able to become kadosh  is able to become tamei. Tum'as neveilah [ritual impurity caused by an improperly killed animal] applies only to kosher animals (that can be slaughtered and eaten). Nonkosher species do not have this kind of tum'ah apply to them. Vegetables cannot become tamei until after they have been washed and 'made ready' (machshir le'tum'ah). Similarly, a person who can become 'greater than the angels' is also capable of becoming 'lower than the animals'. Thus, in order to be subject to the tum'ah of tzora'as, a person must become elevated to the next level of kedusha (through bris milah for a boy). This can explain why we must have the halachos of milah at this point of the Torah.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tetzaveh - Clothes make the man

Parshas Tetzaveh gives the command to make the clothes for the KohenGadol. The word for clothing,בגד [Beged], is the same root as the word for traitor. Clothing is designed to hide flaws and to present the image that one wants others to have. A uniform is designed to impress the publice with the importance of the office that the wearer holds as well as to impress the holder of the office with the seriousness with which he must treat his position. Ronald Reagan would always wear his suit in the Oval Office and insisted on conducting his business while wearing his jacket and tie. It was not to impress others with the loftiness of the position, but to show that he took the position with the seriousness that it required.

Often the uniform becomes so integrated with the position that it is immediately recognized at once. When this happens, a person who wears this uniform is invested with the status imparted to that position by all those who have worn it in the past. Examples of this are the Vatican Swiss Guards, the British Buckingham Palace Guards, the United States Green Berets. Noone who has not earned the right would dare wear those uniforms.  On the other hand, a uniform which attempts to impart a status which has not been earned will cause a counterproductive reaction. An example of this is the attempt by Richard Nixon to create "impressive" uniforms for the White House Guards. These uniforms were ridiculed as "comic opera" uniforms and caused the same response as the rows of medals that dictators awarded themselves as they stood in uniform to review the troops.

The Bigdei Kehuna [ clothing of the High Priest] were desingned to show the onlookers the importance of that position as well as reminding himof what hewas supposed to represent.

The Torah tells us

2You shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory.ב. וְעָשִׂיתָ בִגְדֵי קֹדֶשׁ לְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ לְכָבוֹד וּלְתִפְאָרֶת:
3And you shall speak to all the wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, and they shall make Aaron's garments to sanctify him, [so] that he serve Me [as a kohen].ג. וְאַתָּה תְּדַבֵּר אֶל כָּל חַכְמֵי לֵב אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאתִיו רוּחַ חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֶת בִּגְדֵי אַהֲרֹן לְקַדְּשׁוֹ לְכַהֲנוֹ לִי:
The purpose of the clothing was to reflect the "honor and glory" of the position of High Priest. In fact, a priest became elevated to the position by donning the "uniform". The talmud tells us that if a priest was appointed to serve on Yom Kippur because the Kohen Gadol was not able to perform the service that day, he could never go back to serving as a "regular" priest. In the send Bais Hamikdash, since the anointing oil was no longer available, a priest was inaugurated by putting on the "eight garments".

The Talmud in Maseches Shabbos 104a discusses the words for Truth (אמת - Emes) and Falsehood (שקר - Sheker). It points out that truth is made up of the first, middle and last letters of the alphabet. Each letter has a broad base and stands on its own. The letters are far apart because truth must be searched for but hold the entire world together. Maharal  notes that removal of the first letter of "emes", aleph, which as the first letter of the alphabet has a numerical value of one, the smallest numerical value, would leave the word "mes", meaning dead. If one deviates from the truth even one iota they have removed themselves from the everlasting reality and even though the majority is still true, the totality is false.

Falsehood on the other hand are the three letters before the end of the alphabet. They block off the last letter of truth from the rest of the letters. Each letter is on a point so that it cannot stand on its own. They huddle together so as to force their impression upon the onlooker. Other discussions of the meanings of two of the three letters reinforce these points (such as רק - rak meaning "but")

The three letters of "clothing" (בגד) have similar points applied to them. The second, third, and fourth letters of the alphabet are there to shield the intrinsic meaning of the person (the "aleph") from the rest of the world  The bais has a broad base standing firm and representing the "house" (bayis)  in which a person's soul lives. The Gimmel has two legs on which to stand ready to stand firm or to move in whichever way it must to protect the person. In some ways of thought, it represents the material world. The third letter the Dalet, has only one point, like the letters of sheker. It too cannot stand alone but symbolizes the "door" (delet) through which a person can interact with the world or through which the world can perceive the personality of the wearer.

The first clothing that we see in the Torah is that which Hashem made for Adam and Chava. It was only after the sin that they required external clothing. Before then, the light of their souls was so bright that the body was regarded as we regard clothes today.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Moshe and Yaakov, Yisro and Lavan - In-Laws and Out-Laws

The Torah has two sets of son-in-law father-in-law relationships that show the opposing spectrum of possibilities. We have Yaakov Avinu and Lavan the rasha as opposed to Moshe Rabbeinu and Yisro who turns out to be a tzaddik. Yaakov must ask for wages and separate himself from Lavan in order to maintain and build a family. It takes everything that Yaakov is to be able to do this. In the end he must gather all that he has accomplished and accumulated and flee for not only his life but the future existence of his family. Lavan, from the very beginning, begrudges everything that he must pay Yaakov and does his best to cheat him. This means that he is willing to destroy not only Yaakov, but his own daughters (all four of them) as well as his grandchildren.

When Lavan first runs out to greet Yaakov, we are informed that he expected that he would be coming with wealth and gifts just as Eliezer had done Note that this implies that Lavan was quite old at the time that Yaakov ran away. We can calculate that Yaakov was 91 when Yosef was born based on the fact that he was 130 when he met Par'o (and Yosef was 39). Since Lavan was old enough to get involved with his sister's marriage, 20 years before Yaakov and Esav were born, this would imply that he was on the order of 40 years older than Yaakov. This puts Lavan at around 130 years (or more) at the time that Yoseph was born.

At the very beginning, Rav S. R. Hirsch points out that Lavan is forced to offer Yaakov wages because he realizes that he is such a good worker that he cannot afford to let him go by keeping him working for nothing while pretending that he is a guest. Lavan must feel relieved that "all" Yaakov wants is his daughter Rachel and yet he cannot stop himself form attempting to cheat him. Here is an example of how Hashem uses the impulses of the rasha to accomplish the goal that He has planned. At the end, when Yaakov is forced to flee, Lavan chases after him in order to confiscate his hard earned wealth and destroy the nascent family.

This is similar to the reaction of Mitzraim when they chased the Bnei Yisrael to the Yam Suf. It did not bother Par'o that they had taken the wealth as much as that they were no longer slaves to be worked to death. Based on the Midrashim that we have that describe the toil and suffering of the Bnei Yisrael in Mitzraim, we see that the Egyptians were very careful not to work them in order to actually accomplish something, but to break them body and spirit. This is why we have the medrash that the store cities were carefully built on swampy land so that they would constantly collapse and have to be rebuilt. This is why the actual tasks imposed were designed to be degrading rather than useful.

Contrast this with the relationship between Yisro and Moshe. From the very beginning, Yisro welcomes Moshe into his household. He sends his daughters to invite him to come in even when all he knows is that an Egyptian exile has helped them. He makes him a member of his household and offers him his daughter Tzipporah without any indication that he demanded anything from Moshe. It is purely a matter of his recognition that Moshe Rabbeinu would be a worthy husband of his daughter. Ont hte other hand, Moshe Rabbeinu takes up his position in the family without anything further needing to be said. The torah tells us that Moshe was with Yisro for some unspecified period of time that was "long". As it says in the Pasuk

ויהי בימים הרבימ ההמ
 During those many days

Yet it then says that
ומשה רעה צאן יתרו חותנו כהן מדין
Moshe was herding the sheep of his father-in-law Yisro, the priest of Midian
 We see that in spite of the long period of time involved, neither one of them saw any need to change to original unofficial "arrangement" between them. Moshe was in charge of the flocks and Yisro was concentrating on his position as the head of the state religion. We see the implication that Moshe was not just a plain shepherd, but was in charge of the flock form a number of places. First, the flock was sufficiently large so that the seven daughters had to have taken care of them even at the time that Moshe arrived. We have the medrash that one time a lamb ran away from the flock and Moshe chased it. How could he have abandoned the flock to wander by itself to chase a single lamb? When he saw the burning bush, he went aside to see what was going on. Again, how could he abandon the flock? When Hashem told him to go to Mitzraim, there is nothing in the Torah or in the medrashim about finding someone to take over his job.

We see from references in the Torah that both Lavan and Yisro had sons after Yaakov and Moshe arrived. In the case of Yaakov and lavan, these sons inflamed the jealous feelings of there father and attempted to make the situation worse. In the case of Yisro, we see from what happens later, that the sons continued to regard Moshe as an integral member of the family. Indeed, we see from the Haftarah of Beshalach that they came and settled among the Bnei Yisrael.

Yaakov had to run away from Lavan in secrecy and the "best" that could happen was to extract a promise never to cross the boundary between them and we say each year if the Haggadah than Lavan wanted to destroy us all. Moshe after receiving the call from Hashem, goes to Yisro to get his permission to leave. Yisro respond "Lech Leshalom". He sends him with good will and, when Moshe wants to send his wife and children to safety, he takes them back with no difficulty. When Bnei Yisrael are camped at Har Sinai, he comes to meet them and is greeted with honor and joy. He actively takes part is setting up the community and gives his best advice for the future of the people.His advice becomes the bsis for the entire judicial system of Bnei Yisrael and Moshe begs him to stay with them. As I said before, we see that the entire family comes and joins Bnai Yisrael. Besides the reference in Shoftim, we have a reference in the Talmud that descendents of Yisro were members of the Sanhedrin.

This shows the difference between a tzaddik and a rasha and the effect that they can have for the rest of time.

Update: Since Yisro was the priest of Midian, he was probably a Midianite. Midian was the son of Avraham and Keturah (Hagar). We can perhaps say that he fixed the flaws in Yishmael by coming back into the family of Avraham.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

What will happen to the calendar if the Sanhedrin is re-instituted

As of 1910, Pesach was on April 24. Thirty days earlier, March 25, after the equinox, was Purim (14 Adar II). If the Sanhedrin had been re-instituted, that may have been the year that the leap year would have been postponed to the following year. This last occurred in 2005 and will occur again in 2024 (5784). Pesach that year will, according to the fixed calendar that we now use will be on 23 April, making Purim (13 Adar II) on 24 March. Since this is after the equinox, the Sanhedrin could declare that it will not be a leap year. This will pull Pesach back by thirty days (the size of the leap month) to 24 March and move everything else until the following Rosh Hashana.

The "earliest" late Pesach (as seen in the chart) is year 14 of the cycle. In 5790 (2030) Pesach will be 18 April, which is still within the allowable gap before the equinox. That Pesach will not be after April 21 until 15th of Nisan, 6664 = Tue, 22 April 2904. Thus we can theoretically use the current fixed calendar until then.

As of now, Rosh Hshana 5785 will be on 3 October 2020. Thirty days earlier would be on Tuesday, 3 September 2024. Both Cheshvan and Kislev will be 29 day months in 5784. Had we needed to (such as Rosh Hashanah occurring on Wednesday) we could have added the extra day to move it. I will assume for this post that we do not need to move it from Tuesday to Thursday (though it could have been done). Moving the date by thirty days, will change the day of the week by two days.

The following Chanukah, which is scheduled for 26 December, would then occur on Thursday December 26, would then be Tuesday November 26, while Thanksgiving would be on 21 November. With the calendar shift, the first day of Chanukah would be on November 25.

The next Pesach occurs on April 13, 2025 according to the current fixed calendar. The shift would move it to March 13, which is before the equinox. As a result, the Sanhedrin would probably declare 5785 as a leap year moving Pesach back to April 15. The following year would then be back according to the fixed schedule, except that the cycle would have moved. Similar results can be expected with the new calendar, except that the Sanhedrin would keep track.

Now lets examine the entire cycle for that year  (cycle 304). The first year of that cycle is 5776 which is 2015/2016.

Note that moving Rosh Hashannah by thirty days will cause the day of the week to change by two days. If Rosh Hashanah is on Tuesday, moving it back would cause it to occur on Sunday, which is not allowed. This would mean that it needs to be moved ahead to Monday or back to Shabbos by modifying the "extra" day that could be added in Chesvan or Kislev. Similarly, moving it ahead by thirty days would cause the problem to occur Rosh Hashanah is on Monday and would move ahead to Wednesday. For the following table, I will assume that the equinox on 21 March is the critical date. Thus, if Pesach occurs after 21 April, there would need to be a modification. Those years would shown as yes in the modification column. The following year would be left blank as it would probably need to become a leap year to account for the fact that Pesach would be "too early".

YearSecularCycleleap yearPesachModifyNext Rosh Hashanah
577620160yesSat, 23 April 2016yesMon, 3 October 2016
577720171noTue, 11 April 2017
Thu, 21 September 2017
577820182noSat, 31 March 2018noMon, 10 September 2018
577920193yesSat, 20 April 2019noMon, 30 September 2019
578020204noThu, 9 April 2020noSat, 19 September 2020
578120215noSun, 28 March 2021no7 September 2021
578220226yesSat, 16 April 2022no26 September 2022
578320237noThu, 6 April 2023noSat, 16 September 2023
578420248yesTue, 23 April 2024yesThu, 3 October 2024
578520259noSun, 13 April 2025
Tue, 23 September 2025
5786202610noThu, 2 April 2026noSat, 12 September 2026
5787202711yesThu, 22 April 2027yesSat, 2 October 2027
5788202812noTue, 11 April 2028
Thu, 21 September 2028
5789202913noSat, 31 March 2029noMon, 10 September 2029
5790203014yesThu, 18 April 2030noSat, 28 September 2030
5791203115noTue, 8 April 2031noThu, 18 September 2031
5792203216noSat, 27 March 2032noMon, 6 September 2032
5793203317yesThu, 14 April 2033noSat, 24 September 2033
5794203418noTue, 4 April 2034noThu, 14 September 2034
579520350yesTue, 24 April 2035noThu, 4 October 2035

The following tableshows what would happen if the Sanhedrin "skipped" a leap year that has Purim fall after the vernal equinox so that Pesach is after April 21. The following year would then be made a leap year so that Pesach would not fall "too early". In order to estimate the date of Pesach, it will be assumed that adding the thirty days just compensates for the thirty day subtraction, so that Pesach will occur on the same day as that shown on the fixed calenday, allowing for any Cheshvan Kislev modification. This will also account for Rosh Hashanah. Instead of calculating the following Rosh Hashannah according to the full set of rules, I will subtract the 30 days and adjust if necessary by modifying the preceding Cheshvan Kislev calculation so that it does not occur on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. I will otherwise assume that Cheshvan and Kislev appear as they would in the current fixed calendar. The modification value will be -1 either Chesvan or Kislev must be changed from 30 to 29 days, +1 if either is changed from 29 to 30 days, and 0 if it is left as set in the current fixed calendar. It will be left blank if Rosh Hashanah did not change from that in the current fixed calendar.

YearSecularCycleleap yearPesachModifyNext Rosh Hashanah
577620160noWed, 23 March 20160Sat, 3 September 2016
577720171yesTue, 11 April 2017
Thu, 21 September 2017
577820182noSat, 31 March 2018
Mon, 10 September 2018
577920193yesSat, 20 April 2019
Mon, 30 September 2019
578020204noThu, 9 April 2020
Sat, 19 September 2020
578120215noSun, 28 March 2021
7 September 2021
578220226yesSat, 16 April 2022
26 September 2022
578320237noThu, 6 April 2023
Sat, 16 September 2023
578420248noSat, 23 March 20240Tue, 3 September 2024
578520259yesSun, 13 April 2025
Tue, 23 September 2025
5786202610noThu, 2 April 2026
Sat, 12 September 2026
5787202711noMon, 22 March 20270Thu, 2 September 2027
5788202812yesTue, 11 April 2028
Thu, 21 September 2028
5789202913noSat, 31 March 2029
Mon, 10 September 2029
5790203014yesThu, 18 April 2030
Sat, 28 September 2030
5791203115noTue, 8 April 2031
Thu, 18 September 2031
5792203216noSat, 27 March 2032
Mon, 6 September 2032
5793203317yesThu, 14 April 2033
Sat, 24 September 2033
5794203418noTue, 4 April 2034
Thu, 14 September 2034

This becomes the new cycle. As can be seen several of the leap years would not require modification. It is possible that the Sanhedrin would not want to change the cycle until the date of Pesach moves farther from the equinox so that all the leap years of the cycle occur after the equinox. As I said earlier, we could use the current calendar until 6664 (2904). The "latest" leap year Pesach on 23 April is only 5 days away from the "earliest" leap year Pesach so that the determination based on "season" and the physical aspects of the year would be more significant than the astronomical calculation.