Thursday, November 24, 2011

[KollelH blog] Toldos

How Did Yitzchak Eat From Eisav's Shechitah?

In this week's parshah we read about the berachos that Yitzchak had intended to give Eisav, but instead (unintentionally) gave to Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov was able to receive the berachos instead of Eisav because Yitzchak had requested Eisav to go out to the field and hunt game for him. This provided Yaakov sufficient time to prepare everything in order for him to receive the berachos. When Yitzchak requested of Eisav that he hunt game for him, he told him to "…sa na keilecha telyecha vekashtecha – sharpen your gear, your sword, and your bow" (Bereishis 27:3). Rashi explains that Yitzchak was telling Eisav to sharpen his knife so that he would shecht (slaughter) properly; thus the food would not be a neveilah. The Sifsei Chachamim explains that by sharpening his knife he would ensure that there were not any nicks on the knife. Regarding this pasuk, the ba'alei Tosafos and the Rush add that the word in the pasuk, "tzayid," is written with the letter "hay" although it is not pronounced. This is to inform us that Yitzchak taught Eisav the five (the numerical value of the letter "hay") halachos of shechitah that can disqualify a shechitah.

The Chasam Sofer (She'eilos V'teshuvos, Yoreh De'ah 15) asks the following question regarding Yitzchak's request to Eisav: Why did Yitzchak have to tell Eisav to sharpen his knife now? For if Yitzchak was indeed concerned that Eisav would otherwise not have sharpened his knife, how could he trust him now? And if Yitzchak felt confident that Eisav would generally check his knife, why was he compelled to remind him now? Similarly, one could ask why Yitzchak would now teach Eisav about hilchos shechitah. Shouldn't he have taught him many years earlier, as Eisav was already 63 years old at the time of the berachos? Additionally, the ba'alei Tosafos ask another question on this episode. The Gemara in Chullin 5a says that a mumar (heretic) is unfit to shecht. How then could Yitzchak have eaten from Eisav's shechitah, since the Gemara in Kiddushin 18a says that Eisav was a mumar?

            As a result of this and other questions, the Chasam Sofer disagrees with the Sifsei Chachamim, saying that Yitzchak told Eisav to sharpen his blade for a different reason other than to ensure that it did not contain nicks. He explains that the purpose of telling Eisav to sharpen his knife was to remove the fat that was remaining on the knife from the avodah zarah foods that Eisav's wives would serve. Generally this would not have prohibited the meat if it was rinsed, but since Yitzchak had asked for tzeli (roasted meat), as it was a korban Pesach, the meat would otherwise be prohibited unless the knife was cleaned via sharpening.

            I would like to suggest the following solution to explain the opinion of the Sifsei Chachamim: The Gemara in Chullin 4a says that there are two types of mumars: a mumar leteiavon – one who sins out of temptation – and a mumar lehachis – one who sins without temptation but solely to spite Hashem. The halacha that a mumar is disqualified from shechting only applies to a mumar lehachis. A mumar leteiavon may shecht, provided that a trustworthy person checks his knife. In order to shecht properly there must not be any nicks on the blade of the knife. If there is, the shechitah is invalid. Therefore one must carefully check the blade prior to shechting, to ensure that there are no nicks on the blade. Since the process of checking the blade is burdensome, we may not rely on a mumar leteiavon exerting himself and checking his knife properly. Thus if a mumar leteiavon shechts without anyone checking his blade for him, the shechitah is invalid – for we assume that he did not properly check his blade and there may have been a nick on it. However, if someone else checks the blade, a mumar leteiavon may shecht.

The Gemara in Kiddushin that refers to Eisav as a mumar does not specify which type of mumar he was. I suggest that perhaps Eisav was considered a mumar leteiavon, and not a mumer lehachis. Therefore, if someone else would check his knife for him, he would be allowed to shecht. Yitzchak knew that Eisav was outstanding in the mitzvah of kibud av (honoring one's father) and he was certain that Eisav would fulfill any of his requests. As a result, Yitzchak told Eisav now to sharpen his knife in order to be certain that he would check the blade. Yitzchak felt that the level of certainty whereby he knew that Eisav would follow his command was sufficient to ensure that the knife was checked – as if someone else actually checked it. Thus Eisav – a mumar leteiavon- was permitted to shecht.

Although Yitzchak had reason to be concerned that Eisav would not check his knife on his own since he was a mumar leteiavon, he nonetheless knew that commanding him to do so would be the equivalent of someone else checking his knife for him. This permitted the meat to be eaten. Based on this, we can also answer the question that the ba'alei Tosafos asked (how Yitzchak could have eaten from the shechitah of a mumar). Since Eisav was considered a mumar leteiavon, once his father commanded him to check his knife his shechitah was permitted.

                For questions or comments e-mail

Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 11/24/2011 03:57:00 PM

Sunday, November 20, 2011

[Tinsights.....Torah insights] 11/21/2011 02:30:00 AM

Greatness may be expected from the least expected people. Invest in ALL your children all you can.

Posted By Ploni to Tinsights.....Torah insights at 11/21/2011 02:30:00 AM

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

[KollelH blog] chaya sara

Did Avraham Already Own The Land?

In this weeks parsha we read of Avraham's purchase of M'aras Hamachpela. Prior to any negotiations Avraham said to the binai Chais "Ger t'toshav anochi" (23:4) - I am a stanger and a resident.  Rashi quotes a Medrish that explains the apparent paradox in Avraham's words as follows: Avraham was telling the binai Chais treat me like a stranger and sell me the property, and if not I will be forced to act as a resident and take what is rightfully mine. For Hashem has already said to me that this land will belong to my children. 

The Miforshim are bothered by this interpretation and ask the following question:  In parshas Lech Licha we learned of the dispute between Avraham's and Lot's shepherds. The passuk does not inform us regarding the details of the dispute, however Rashi does. Rashi says that Lot's shepards were risha'im and would allow their animals to graze in private property. Avraham's shepherds chastised them for this as it was stealing. In defense Lot's shepards responded that what they were doing was not stealing since Hashem gave this land to Avraham and Lot is his only inheritor (at the time). Rashi concludes by quoting the end of that passuk that says vihakinani vihaprizi az yoshaiv ba'aretz (and the Cinani and the Prizi were still occupying the land) indicating that Avraham had not yet acquired the land and therefore allowing the animals to graze in private property was indeed stealing.

The two explanations from Rashi seem to contradict one another. In this week's parsha he says that Avraham could take the land as its rightful owner, and in parshas Lech Licha he said that Avraham had not yet acquired the land.

The Chizkuni and the Sifsai Chachamim both suggest the following answer: Hashem promised Avraham that his children will inherit the land of Eretz Yisroel. In parshas Lech Licha Avraham had not yet had any offspring, therefore Hashem's promise did not come in to affect. In parshas Chaya Sarah, Yitzchok had already been born. Thus, Hashem's promise was applicable and Avraham could demand the land as its rightful owner. 

My rebbe, Reb Shmuel Birembaum zt"l, suggested another answer to this question, based on an explanation from the Malbimon on a different point in this episode. The Malbim explains that Avraham  Avinu intended on accomplishing more than merely acquiring a piece of land; he wanted to teach the public that there was an afterlife. The general consensus of that time was that there was nothing after one dies, and Avraham wanted to use this opportunity to teach them otherwise. With this the Malbim explains why Avraham informed them of his intentions with the field in the first place and continuously stressed and reiterated several times that he is acquiring the land for a burial; to instill in the binai Chais the belief that there is an afterlife.

Reb Shmuel proved from a Gemara in Gittin (47a) that there are two separate levels of acquisition; the monetary aspect and there is also a level of acquisition that affects issurim and mitzvos. For example if a non Jew acquires land in Eretz Yisroel he completely owns the land as far as monetary issues are concerned. This enables him to do whatever he pleases to the land. However regarding tiruma and ma'aser and other mitzvos the land is not considered owned by a non Jew which would exempt it from those mitzvos, rather it is obligated in these mitzvos since the non Jew cannot acquire the land on the level that affects mitzvos.

Now we can understand the seemingly contradictory explanations from Rashi. Regarding monetary issues Avraham had not yet acquired the land. However regarding mitzvos, Avraham had already acquired Eretz Yisroel. In parshas Lech Licha Rashi was addressing a monetary issue; i.e. whether one may allow his cattle graze in someone else's field. In that regard Rashi explained that the land belonged to the current residents of the land as Avraham had not yet acquired the land. In this week's parsha the issue at hand was relevant to mitzvos, as explained by the Malbim Avraham was using this acquisition as a means to teach the binai Chais to believe in afterlife. Thus Avraham was able to invoke his property rights as the matter pertained to mitzvos. 

I believe that Rashi in parshas Vayayra (18:17) seems to contradict pshat of the Sifsay Chachamim. Rashi says that Hashem informed Avraham of his plans to destroy Sedom because it belonged to him. At this point Yitzchok was not yet born, thus according to the Sifsay Chachamim the land did not yet belong to Avraham.  According to Reb Shmuel, Hashem wanted to inform Avraham of his plans since he owned the land regarding mitzvos.

Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 11/16/2011 09:33:00 PM

Monday, November 14, 2011

[Tinsights.....Torah insights] 11/14/2011 08:26:00 PM

A satisfied life belongs to the easy to satisfy personality, & to no one else.

Posted By Ploni to Tinsights.....Torah insights at 11/14/2011 08:26:00 PM

[Tinsights.....Torah insights] 11/14/2011 07:04:00 PM

It is particularly challenging for great people to raise great children.

Posted By Ploni to Tinsights.....Torah insights at 11/14/2011 07:04:00 PM

Thursday, November 3, 2011

[KollelH blog] lech licha

Why Did Avraham Not Perform A Bris Earlier?


In this weeks parsha Hashem commands Avraham in the mitzvah of bris milah. We once discussed a question that several achronim ask regarding this mitzvah, and I wanted to share some new thoughts on the matter. The achronim ask that the Gemaras in Kiddushin 82a and Yuma 28b say that Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah, even though it was not yet given. Why then did Avraham not perform a bris milah on himself earlier? Why did he wait until he was commanded to do so at age 99?

The Mizrachi on this pasuk answers that the Gemara in Kiddushin 31a says that one who performs a mitzvah when he is commanded to do so is greater than one who performs it when he is not commanded. Since this mitzvah can only be performed once Avraham decided to wait until he was commanded to perform it.  

The Brisker Rav answers that Avraham kept the entire Torah even though it was not given. However certain mitzvos, due to the lack of their physical existence, were impossible for him to perform, and therefore were not considered as if he didn't perform them.

The mitzvah of bris milah is to remove the urla (foreskin). Before Avraham was commanded to perform a bris milah, there was no concept of urla. Prior to the commandment to remove the urla, there was no distinction between the foreskin and the rest of the skin, since the foreskin was not yet considered urla. Only once the Torah commanded him to remove the urla did the foreskin become urla. Thus prior to the commandment, Avraham could not perform the mitzvah of bris milah.

With this understanding we can also answer another question. The pasuk in this week's parsha (17:3) says that when Hashem spoke to Avraham regarding the mitzvah of bris milah, Avraham fell on his face. Rashi explains that this happened because he was an urel (uncircumcised male). We find that Hashem spoke to Avraham many times before this episode, so why only now did Avraham fall on his face because he was uncircumcised? According to the p'shat of the Brisker Rav, that prior to his commandment to be circumcised the foreskin was not considered urla, we can understand why Avraham never felt the need to fall on his face while talking to Hashem until this time – because before this commandment, he was not considered an urel.

Another example of a mitzvah where the concept did not exist prior to it being commanded is the mitzvah of kiddushin. Although there was a form of marriage before the Torah was given, it was of a different status. With this the Brisker Rav explains how Yaakov Avinu was permitted to marry sisters. He explains that only under the new status of kiddushin is it forbidden to marry sisters, whereas the marital status that existed prior to the giving of the Torah did not prohibit marrying sisters.

There is another answer as to why Avraham did not perform the mitzvah of bris milah prior to being commanded to do so, even though he kept the rest of the Torah. Bris milah is a bris (covenant) between two parties. Before the other party agrees to a covenant there cannot be a covenant. Therefore, prior to being commanded to perform a bris milah,

Avraham could not do so on his own – for it would not be a bris (covenant).

            The Panim Yafos (who also authored the sefer Hafla'ah) on this pasuk offers another answer to this question. He says that the prohibition of not wounding oneself extends to binai Noach as well. Therefore prior to being commanded, Avraham could not perform a bris mila on himself as it was prohibited to wound himself. He explains that this was the reason that the people of Avraham's generation protested Avraham's performing a bris, since they were not aware of the new commandment, they argued that it was prohibited. Thus Avraham had to perform the bris himself as no one else heard the commandment.

            I was bothered by the following question after reading the answer of the Panim Yafos: How is it that we are allowed to perform a bris mila today if it is in fact a violation of the prohibition against wounding oneself or another? One cannot answer that when the wound serves a purpose it is not prohibited, since in Avraham's case there was a purpose even prior to his being commanded to do so. Perhaps one could suggest that after the commandment to perform a bris mila we can apply the rule of assay docheh lo sassay and thus one may perform a bris even though he is making a wound. This would explain why Avraham could not perform a bris prior to his being commanded to do so since we cannot apply the rule of assay doche lo sassay before there was command to do that assay.    

For questions or comments about this column, e-mail

Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 11/03/2011 09:07:00 PM