Saturday, 28 December 2019

Parsha: Vayigash, "Torah Temimah on Honoring Grandparents"

first posted on December 8, 2018

A must see Torah Temimah [TT] on Vayigash.

Here, the TT presents an encapsulated resource book on the issue of honoring grandparents. See TT on Vayigash 46:1The upper text quotes the Midrash Rabbah [MR] stating that the mitzvah kibbud Av trumps kibbud Avi Aviv [Literally paternal grandfather].

The Rema in Yoreh Deiah 240:24 deduces here that kibbud Avi Avi is an obligation, though a lesser obligation than kibbud Av, since it is still included in the discussion.

The TT says the following in note one below the line:
• Rema rejects Mahari Kolon who sees zero obligation.
• The GRA rejects kibbud Avi Imo [Maternal Grandfather],  thereby taking this MR very literally.
• The TT suggests that the Bavli would disagree with this MR and leaves the GRA in "Tsarich Iyyun" status.
•. He quotes several Bavlis and an interesting Rif and Rambam about miracles that occur to one's grandparents [or ancestors in general].

Quite a breadth of sources! This might give us a brand-new research topic for Parshat Vayigash


Sunday, 22 December 2019

Parsha: Miketz, "Is Avodah Zara the Same for Jew and for Gentile?"

First - Yosef identifies himself as "G-d fearing" (42:18). Later on, his servant sounds like he recognizes "Elokeichem" (43:23)  If Yosef is a G-d fearing man, then we may reasonably infer that he doesn't worship idols. However, later on,  Yosef and his servant presume that Yaakov's sons should KNOW that he is a "m'nacheish" (44:5,15).

None of the brothers, including Yehudah, challenge Yosef about this seeming contradiction. On the one hand, Yosef serves Elokim while on the other hand, he is a  "well-known" m'nacheish.  Now, if Yosef actively fears Gd, then how could Yaakov's sons know that he is a m'nacheish?

There may be room for a clever hilluq here. Although we have the 7 Mitzvot B'nei Noah, Mattan Torah hasn't yet happened. The text strongly suggests that  a Noahide is permitted to engage in activity that for a Ben Torah would constitute a form of Avodah Zarah [AZ]. In this case, worshiping G-d and still practicing Nichush regularly (as opposed to an occasional deviation).

BE"H we will follow up upon this same theme during Parshat Vo'Etchanan - namely that the criteria for AZ for a Jew seems stricter than for a non-Jew.


Parsha: Miqqetz, "Reuven and Yaakov, Miscommunication Skills"

Reuven offers to let Yaakov "kill" his two sons "et shtei bonai Tamit" (42:37) if he fails to restore Binyamin.

Yaakov refuses.

Let's presume that Rashi is correct regarding Yaakov's perspective. Rashi (42:38) explains that Yaakov saw Reuven's offer as though it were offered by a  "B'chor Shoteh." How would Yaakov gain through killing his own grandchildren?

What different perspective did Reuven have? Why did Reuven offer to let Yaakov kill two sons, and not one or four? Come to think of it, just what was Reuven thinking?

My friend, R' Joel Stern, explains Reuven's POV.  After Yehudah sells Yosef, he later buries his first two sons back in Parshat Vayeishev. Reuven didn't know why those two sons died. He assumed that it was G-d's punishment to Yehudah for "selling Yosef." Now we know why Reuven offered to risk two of his children.

Reuven offered to risk his sons based upon his perception of the deaths of Yehudah's sons. However, Yaakov was, after all, clueless about the selling of Yoseph. He couldn't have seen the connection to Yehudah. Yaakov thought Reuven's offer was "shtuyot" because it was pointless to harm his own grandchildren.

Interestingly, it seems that Reuven, like Yaakov, misunderstood related situations. Like Father Like Son?


Parsha, Miketz, "Davar Shebiqdushah Requires 10"

The Torah Temimah mentions a curiously anachronistic quotation.  Citing the Mishnah* in TB Megillah 23b [Mishnah 4:3], he states that any Davar Shebiqdushah requires ten. His list includes "... everything k'gon Qaddish Q'dusha, Bar'chu ..."

Surprise! None of those three things are actually mentioned in the Mishnah, and among theses three, arguably only Bar'chu is implied.

Although we certainly apply Davar Shebiqdushah requiring ten to these three, this Mishnah does not.

V'tzarich Iyyun. There  is a missing link here from the cases listed in that Mishnah to the one in the TT itself



* Mishnah 
. ד,ג
אין פורסין על שמע, ואין עוברין לפני התיבה, ואין נושאין את כפיהם, ואין קורין בתורה, ואין מפטירין בנביא, ואין עושין מעמד ומושב, ואין אומרין ברכת אבילים וחתנים, ואין מזמנין על המזון בשם--פחות מעשרה. ובקרקעות, תשעה וכוהן; ואדם, כיוצא בהן.

Parsha: Miketz and Vayeitzei, "Parsha breaks"

All things considered, it's a wonderful thing to live in the United States, a society with the right to Freedom of Speech. Unlike driving an automobile, there is no license required. Just find a soap-box and start speaking. One of the consequences is that since speech is therefore 'free," sometimes 'you get what you pay for it." 
Lately, I've realized how much absolute nonsense can be passed off as "Torah" and how many speakers present "facts" that are really misquotes or half-truths.

I've worked in data processing for many years.  Whether a program, design, or documentation, quality control was a major part of any product. At any rate, most errors were readily discovered by users, often accompanied by embarrassing results.

One of the early mis-steps I heard years ago. A member of my old Congregation [viz. COS] would fill me every Friday night on our way home from shul. He attended a local parsha class and would share with me some of the thoughts of the weekly speaker. This one week, he told me a D'var Torah re: Vayetze that it was the ONLY Weekly Sidrah that had no [i.e. zero] Parsha breaks. I exclaimed: "That is no true! Parshas Mikketz ALSO has zero parsha breaks!" FWIW, Mikketz was my friend's own bar-mitzvah Sidrah! The D'var Torah would have probably worked even if were not the ONLY exception but I was disappointed that the speaker was not more meticulous with his facts.
Fast Forward to this past Friday Night. The speak said an excellent D'var Torah all around, but at the end he inserted a very mis-leading interpretation. He stated [as per Rashi who quotes the Midrash Rabbah] that Vayishkav Ya'akov bamakom hahu meant Ya'akov had not slept his entire 14 years at Yeshivas Sheim vo'ever. I corrected the speaker later on, in private. I explained that Rashi/Midrash meant he had not "LIED DOWN to sleep" not that in fact had never slept! The implication is quite far different. Never sleeping for x number of days is an impossibility as per the Gmara re: Nedarim. OTOH, not lying down for a period of time merely presents Ya'akov as an ascetic not as a magician! After all, my own rebbe, R. Moshe Heinemann related to us that he slept in a sofa-chair for a period [a year or so?] whilst attending Lakewood. Sleep - Yes; lying down - No. Today, I confirmed that the Midrash Rabbah Hamevo'ar specifically interprets lack of Shechiva as meaning he did not lie down in a bed any sheinas keva. This can be further confirmed by the lack of Midrash on Vayalen SHAM. Point? A story of Ya'akov's p'rishus and hasmaddah is changed to a kind of Hassidic miracle story by lack of attention to the details!
But I'm not off MY soap box yet! In another faulty transmission, a noted Rav and Talmid Chacham was discussing the reading for Shabbos Hol Mamo'ed Sukkos. In his speech, he claimed that unlike the first luchos, Moshe himself WROTE the second set! Well the passuk says: "Pesal LECHA … v'chaszvTI" that God tells Moshe to CARVE the Luchos and God will write the 2nd set! I avoided correcting this rabbi because I had corrected him in the past and I did not wish to become a pest! But it is a shame the his audience may be unaware of his transmission error.
I was just informed a few hours ago that someone had given a D'var Torah asserting that the argument between Ya'akov with Shim'on/Levi was that Ya'akov was in favor of assimilation while Shim'on/Levi were opposed. Even the audience found that one shocking! While we can question Dinah's motives "lir'os bivnos ho'oretz" as possibly wishing to incorporate local fashion into her wardrobe, attributing assimilation to Ya'akov himself is quote a stretch.

Maybe Torah Authors and Speakers should have their writings go through quality control first. In the meantime, caveat emptor.


Parsha: Vayeishev & Miketz, "I told you so!"

This d'var Torah spans these two Parshiyot. It deals with the debate between Reuven and his brothers concerning Yosef's welfare.

Reuven may be the first person recorded saying, "I told you so!" (42:22) This seems a bit misguided. Reuven was the brother who suggested throwing Yosef in the pit. This pit was no bed of roses. (Rashi 37:24). So, what did Reuven mean?

In Parshat Vayeishev (37:21,22), the text records Reuven speaking, but with two vayomer's. One is at the beginning and the other one is in the middle of his speech.

In the first vayomer, Reuven says, "don't kill him."

 In the second vayomer, he says, "don't spill blood,  throw him in the pit [instead]!"

Apparently, Reuven was interrupted between vayomer one and vayomer two. Reuven started with "Plan A," then switched to "Plan B."

When Reuven says "I told you so" (42:22), he must mean the first vayomer - because he ends, saying, "v'lo sh'matem," you didn't listen! However, the brothers did listen to Reuven when they threw Yoseph in the pit! So this must refer to a rejected Plan A.

The 2nd vayomer was plan B, tossing Yoseph into a pit.  Then they listened to Reuven! According to the P'shat, Midyanim, and not his brothers, drew Yoseph up from the pit (Rashi). It was this plan that led to the sale of Yoseph.

Plan A was the "no harm" plan. Reuven's brothers rejected it, then accepted Plan B. Yoseph was lost through this plan. Like many other compromises, it was "the pits."

Had they followed Plan A, the brothers wouldn't have been guilty or blamed from the sale of Yoseph. Having followed Plan B, Reuven laments, "I told you so."