Monday, March 03, 2014

Some interesting recent shiurim

First, Rav Herschel Schacter on Vayakhel-Pekudei, from last year.
Rabbi Hershel Schachter

The first ten minutes are about the equitable division of aliyos across parshiyos, and how maftir counts and could affect this. And how some say if add hosafos, redivide the breaks. And how some say not to add hosafos.

Then, at the 10 minute mark, something of particular interest to me, whether gematria is a "real" middah shehaTorah nidreshet bah. It isn't, but is instead a parperet lachachma, and so various derivations of laws (such as number of number of melachos on Shabbos).

Fifteen minute mark, regarding  (Shemot 35)
כו  וְכָל-הַנָּשִׁים--אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂא לִבָּן אֹתָנָה, בְּחָכְמָה:  טָווּ, אֶת-הָעִזִּים.26 And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun the goats' hair.
and Rashi writes that the women spun when it was still attached to the animal
spun the goat hair: This constituted a superior skill, for they [the women] spun it on the backs of the goats. -[from Shab. 74b]טוו את העזים: היא היתה אומנות יתירה, שמעל גבי העזים טווין אותן:

That gemara in Shabbos 74b is:

SHEARING WOOL AND BLEACHING. Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in R. Johanan's name: He who spins wool from off the animal's back on the Sabbath incurs three sin-offerings, one on account of shearing, another on account of hackling, and the third on account of spinning.13  R. Kahana said: Neither shearing, hackling, nor spinning is [done] in this manner.14  But is it not so? Surely it was taught in the name of R. Nehemiah: It was washed [direct] on the goats and spun on the goats:15  which proves that spinning direct from the animal is designated spinning? — Superior skill is different.16
Or, in Hebrew / Aramaic:
הגוזז את הצמר והמלבנו:
אמר רבה בר בר חנה א"ר יוחנן הטווה צמר שעל גבי בהמה בשבת חייב שלש חטאות אחת משום גוזז ואחת משום מנפץ ואחת משום טווה רב כהנא אמר אין דרך גזיזה בכך ואין דרך מנפץ בכך ואין דרך טווי בכך ולא והתניא משמיה דרבי נחמיה שטוף בעזים וטוו בעזים אלמא טוויה על גבי בהמה שמה טוויה חכמה יתירה שאני
(R Yonasan Eibeshitz, because of niddah, wouldn't be mekabel tuma). And at the 18:20 minute mark, the gemara Shabbos asks what if someone weaves on Shabbos while it is attached to the animal? And the answer is that it kil'achar yad, because mileches machsheves asra Torah. But meleches machsheves is by the Mishkan, and is derived from there to Shabbos. And weaving was done in the manner described above, on the animal. So how could you say that it isn't meleches machsheves?! Rashi and Tosafot have different approaches to understanding the gemara's answer (Rashi: difference between a master craftsman, who is chayav and a regular person, who is not. Meanwhile Tosafot locally explains that batla daatah etzel kol adam. So one could say that specifically in the Mishkan, for the reason mentioned, it was consider normal, as everyone was doing it this way.)

I say: perhaps we could provide an alternate answer to the setama degemara (who pulled this contradiction with Rabbi Nechemia from Shabbos 99a, rather than this idea being initially local to the sugya): that this is a legitimate dispute among Tannaim, and Rabbi Yochanan holds like Rabbi Nechemiah, and Rav Kahana holds like the Chachamim. The gemara on 99a reads:

Our Rabbis taught: The lower curtains [were made] of blue [wool], purple [wool]. crimson thread and fine linen,2  whilst the upper ones were of goats' [hair] manufacture; and greater wisdom [skill] is mentioned in connection with the upper than in connection with the lower. For whereas of the lower ones it is written, And all the women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands;3  in reference to the upper ones it is written, And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun the goats;4  and it was taught in R. Nehemiah's name: It was washed [direct] on the goats and spun on the goats.5
But the linkage between braytot is provided by the gemara, with the first brayta leaving the specific nature of the wisdom unspecified.

At the 63 minute mark, about whether we accept archaeological evidence in determining halacha. In terms of the tzitz, which was seen in Rome (yet which the Rambam paskens against the eyewitness report), two lines or one line. And an explanation why. In general we do. For instance, Rabba bar bar Chana should have seen the tzitzis of the generation of the wilderness, and they could have determined halacha on this basis. While Rav Soloveitchik seems to oppose integrating archaeological evidence, and has an explanation to that gemara, Rav Schachter appears to hold otherwise bepashtus.

From this year, a fascinating shiur in the halachos of Purim.
In a leap year: when does one observe a yartzeit, when does one read the megila, and when does one recite al hanisim? When Purim falls on Sunday, when does one fast? Is it proper to handle a megila with bare hands? Should one recite the final pasuk by heart, prior to the ba'al koreh? Does one recite the final bracha without a minyan? Should multiple readers, recite the megila? Should women read for themselves? Can one recite the first pasuk by heart? Can a baki, listen to the megila, without a minyan? Does one need bread, by the meal? Does one need a meal at night? Does one need a shaliach, for shalach manos? Can one recite a shehechianu on Purim, without fulfilling any of the mitzvot? Does one need to recite himself,the ten sons of Haman.

As I understand it, sending the mishloach manos by shaliach is not necessary (you can invite the person to a meal), and if you do send, sending specifically by a gadol is a silly thing to insist upon, because this is all premised on the idea that you yourself giving it would be invalid, so why then insist on shlucho shel adam kemoso.

As a general halachic approach, he seems to take the approach that one should not enter into halachically questionable areas (where it is a matter of dispute, or there is a lower level of fulfillment). For example, having a meal crossing over between Rosh Chodesh and after. Either finish before or start after, vehistalek min hasefek. And especially not in order to obtain dubious gains. For example, splitting up the laining among multiple people, because it is more exciting that way, but there is a machlokes in Shulach Aruch if you are yotzei bedieved. And this is apparently common in women's megillah reading. So too, entering into the argument of whether ten women count as a minyan for the purpose of megillah, such that you are only fulfilling bedieved. And you wouldn't say the beracha of harav et riveinu.

I wonder about this though. When Rabbi Lookstein splits up the megillah among students, despite it not being halachically optimal, it is legitimate and justified, because it is for kiruv, to keep the students committed. So perhaps we can then say that sociologically speaking, within certain communities, women's megillah readings are also at present necessary, as a different type of kiruv. While I think there is merit to this line of reasoning, I could also imagine rejoinders to it. For instance, for a specific subgroup of tenuously committed Jews, it is something of a horaas shaah, with targeted divergence from the norm and use of seichel to find the best approach for this limited scenario. But there is no danger of this becoming mainstream practice. But if splitting up aliyos is part of the way things are done in general in this general institution of women's megillah readings, then it is mainstream practice, and it is a permanent approach rather than an admitted horaas shaah. Or alternatively, perhaps within the wider cultural phenomenon of various groups asserting that halacha is an unfair patriarchal system established by men (meaning humans and meaning males), adopting non-"optimal" halachic practices and establishing that as a lechatchila halacha (or even bedieved practice) in order to satisfy this motivation would not be considered a laudatory goal.

Rabbi Hayyim Angel, in Megillat Esther: What they didn't teach us in day school. And Mekoros for it.
Rabbi Hayyim Angel

The actual discussion is at the 7:20 mark. Step 1: Don't think midrash is in the text. Pull down in order to build up. Examples:

  1. Haman's ancestor: Amalek. From Agagi. (Agag was perfectly normal Persian name.)
  2. Mordechai: From Shaul. Ben Kish. (Could say going back only 3 generations. Ibn Ezra: Why not say ben Shaul?)
  3. Religious state of Jews at the time as bad. Temple vessels, celebrating non-rebuilding. (But maybe just celebrating power of the king. But see how they listen to their leaders and fast. [I don't find this convincing. They knew at that point that there was danger to their life.] Haman accuses them of following their own laws. Opposite of assimilation. Gives midrash to emphasize this peshat point. Gives midrash from gemara in which Rashbi rejects idea suggested by students that punishment for Jews of world for participation of party. But dealing with q of why did they deserve it. Nothing distinctly Jewish in megillah.
  4. Why didn't Mordechai bow? Idol around his neck. Ibn Ezra says the same to explain it. (But not in text. Pagan festival is drawn date. But irrelevant. [Couldn't it be relevant on peshat level but only obvious to immediate readers in that generation?]) We have no idea why he is doing it.
Rebuild. Whole chapter of initial party to create vacancy for queen. Taxes in chapter ten, why? He suggests nobody matters (Mordechai vs. Haman) but Achashverosh. Hamelech appears statistically significant. Hashem named zero times. Hester Panim. Achashverosh replaces God. Reread Achashverosh's glory instead of that of Hashem. So we should be heartbroken that this is not about the Bet Hamikdash. Fasting to plead for lives. With Achashverosh rather than Yom Kippur. Palace instead of Bet HaMikdash. That is the point of all those midrashim. Mordechai paraded around. Yet still slated for destruction, so doesn't matter. Haman hanged, and king feels better, rather than reaction of Jews. Death decree still in effect. No Sasson until Mordechai has king's ring. Midrash of Ish Tzar VaOyev, she started pointing to the king. He is the real culprit, while Haman is the front. Midrash on Hu Achashverosh, from beginning to end. No character transformation, despite what you might think. So Mordechai didn't bow, fighting not just against Haman but against Achashverosh. Representative of world-view and how morality in world should be. Ch 10 is that still servants of Achashverosh, no better off.

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