The Four Cups:  A Foundation of Jewish Thought, By Rabbi Dr. Chaim E. Schertz

The Mishna tells us that even an impoverished Jew on the night of the Seder should eat in a reclining manner, as do free and independent people, on a couch as a demonstration of freedom.  In addition, the poorest of the poor, one who only receives one meal a day from communal funds, must strive with all his might to acquire wine, including selling his garments, for four cups during the Seder, if the community does not provide it for him.  This is all done to express the concept freedom. Pesachim 99b.

It is interesting that the same effort is not required for the acquisition of Matzah even though eating Matzah is a Torah requirement while the requirement of the four cups of wine is purely Rabbinic.  Indeed, the Torah makes no mention whatsoever of the four cups of wine.

The source of this requirement is brought down in the Midrash.  “Rav Huna in the name of Rav Benaya said, ‘This (the four cups) is an allusion to the four terms of redemption that are stated prior to the Exodus from Egypt. (God says, I will remove, I will save, I will redeem, and I will take. Shemot, 6, 6-7. )’”  Bereisheet Rabba, 88:5.

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The Fragility of Faith, by Rabbi Elchanan Adler

In  describing  the  great  anxiety  experienced  by B’nei Yisrael prior to the miracle of kerias yam suf, the Torah highlights two contradictory responses: first, an expression of heartfelt prayer; second, a critique of Moshe for having brought them out of Egypt to perish in the wilderness. The Ramban explains that the Torah refers to different groups of people. Those with a deep sense of faith cried out genuinely for divine salvation, while the less noble of spirit lashed out at Moshe in bitter condemnation. (See there for additional explanations as well.) However, the ba’alei musar suggest an approach which provides a penetrating insight into the human condition. According to their interpretation, the same people who were initially inspired by sincere faith to cry out to Hashem in prayer quickly lost faith and succumbed to doubt and frustration.

As explained by R. Chaim Shmuelevitz (Sichas Mussar 5732 #7), Man is a complex creature filled with competing and conflicting impulses, good and bad, which co-exist side by side locked in constant struggle. At times the nobler parts emerge; at other times the darker side dominates. This is why we all have the capacity both of being empathetic and callous, forgiving and vindictive, altruistic and self-centered. Few people are completely saints or demons.

Nowhere are the two faces of man more strikingly apparent than in the realm of faith. On the one hand, Man has an innate need to believe in G-d. In the recesses of his heart he knows that G-d exists, and he experiences His love, concern and guiding hand. At the same time, Man resents submitting to a higher authority and is tempted to flee from G-d and assert personal autonomy. Consequently, Man may oscillate between deep faith awareness on the one hand and intense religious skepticism on the other, yearning one moment for communion with the Creator and, in the next, doubting His very existence.

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May the Korban Pessaḥ be Eaten on Upper Floors? By Rabbi Arie Folger

The Talmud Bavli, Pessaḥim 85b-86a seems to conclude unequivocally that Qodashim Qalim, including but not limited to the Qorban Pessaḥ, which may be eaten in the entire city of Yerushalayim, may only be eaten on the ground floors:

Rav said: The roofs and the upper chambers were not sanctified. But that is not so, for Rav said on the authority of R. Ḥiyya: „There was [only] as much as an olive of the Passover-offering [to eat], yet the Hallel split the roofs!“ Does that not mean that they ate on the roof and recited [the Hallel] on the roof? No: they ate on the ground and recited [it] on the roof. Yet that is not so, for surely we learned: „You must not move on after the Paschal meal to the aftermeal (the ‚Afiqoman‘)!“ and Rav said: „[That means] that they must not remove from one company to another?!“ — There is no difficulty: there it is at the time of eating; here it is not at the time of eating.

Yet, as the Minḥat Ḥinukh noted (in the Mekhon Yerushalayim edition §362:5), this halakha is glaringly missing in the Rambam. Thus, in Hilkhot Ma’aser Sheni (2:16 [18]), where he defines what does and doesn’t count as Qedushat Yerushalayim, we read:

Houses incorporated into the city wall, whose doors are to the interior of the walled in area, whose space extends outside the wall, [those parts of the building that are] within the wall are considered within for all matters; those areas that are beyond the wall we treat stringently and neither eat there [the second tithe and the fruits of the fourth year orchard], nor do we redeem [them] there. When their space was within the walled in area, but the opening of the space is outside the city wall, [those parts of the building that are] outside the wall are considered outside, and we may redeem [the second tithe and the fruits of the fourth year orchard], and we do not eat it there; while in those areas within the wall we neither eat nor redeem [them], so as to be stringent. The windows and the thickness of the wall are like the inside.

Rambam covers trees (in the previous halakha), the city wall, extensions outside the city walls, buildings inaccessible from inside the city walls, but no mention of upper floors, even though those were surely a lot more common that rooms adjacent to and extending or eating into the walled area. The omission is glaring.

In another relevant passage (Hilkhot Beit ha-Beḥira 6:7) dealing with the sanctity or lack of sanctity of upper floors of the Beit ha-Miqdash, the omission of the upper floors of Yerushalayim homes is again glaring:

The chambers [by the walls of the Temple] that are built in the sacred area and that open out onto the non-sacred area, when their rooftops were level with the floor of the Temple courtyard, then their insides are considered non-sacred, while their rooftops are considered sacred. When however their rooftops are not level with the Temple courtyard, then even the rooftops are non-sacred, for rooftops and upper floors were not sanctified. Consequently, we may neither eat there most-holy sacrifices, nor slaughter there simple-holy sacrifices.

Rambam explicitly disqualifies upper floors of the Beit haMiqdash complex for the purpose of slaughtering Qodashim Qalim, and yet “forgets” to discuss the related halakha of the fitness of upper Yerushalayim floors for eating those very same qorbanot.

Are we to conclude that according to Rambam, the Qorban Pessaḥ and other Qodashim Qalim meats (and all the more so Ma’aser Sheni and the like) may be eaten on upper floors? If so, how would Rambam deal with the citation from the above explicit Gemara in Pessaḥim?

As it turns out, there are indeed explicit opinions ruling the upper floors of Yerushalayim buildings to be fir for consuming there Qodashim Qalim. The notes of Mekhon Yerushalayim to the Minḥat Ḥinukh (#15) cite Rashba (Responsa #34) as explicitly permitting the consumption of Qodashim Qalim on the rooftops of Yerushalayim. Minḥat Ḥinukh himself concedes the existence of such a view, which he finds explicitly in Maharsha Makkot 12a, who comments on a Tosafot:

He means that we do not say that the roofs weren’t sanctified, except that the rooftops of [the buildings opening onto] the Temple courtyard do not have the status of the Temple courtyard, but here, the space of Yerushalayim is like Yerushalayim.

How could such a view stand, given the explicit Gemara from Pessaḥim we cited in the beginning? Minḥat Ḥinukh makes a remarkable observation: When the Gemara there interprets sources to accord with Rav’s view, it only does so to make Rav internally consistent, as the Gemara simply cites different statements of Rav himself. Consequently, Minḥat Ḥinukh posits that the Gemara there makes no claim to the correctness of Rav’s view. Instead, says  Minḥat Ḥinukh, we may prove by glaring omission from a Mishna that an opposite view exists permitting consumption of Qodashim Qalim on upper floors and rooftops of Yerushalayim:

If a tree stands inside [the walls of Jerusalem] and leans outside, or stands outside and leans inside: from [the part of the tree] aligned with the wall and inwards should be considered inside, and from [the part of the tree] aligned with the wall and outwards should be considered outside. Olive press buildings whose openings are inside the wall but whose chambers are outside the wall, or whose openings are outside the wall but whose chambers are inside the wall: Beit Shammai says: all of it should be considered inside. Beit Hillel says: from [the part of the buildings] aligned with the wall and inwards should be considered inside, and from [the part of the buildings] aligned with the wall and outwards should be considered outside.

The chambers [by the walls of the Temple] that are built in the sacred area and that open out onto the non-sacred area, their insides are non-sacred and their roofs are sacred. If they are built in the non-sacred area and open out onto the sacred area, their insides are sacred and their roofs are non-sacred. If they are built in both the sacred area and non-sacred area and open out onto both the sacred area and the non-sacred area, [the parts of] their insides and roofs that align with the [border of the] sacred area and into the sacred area are sacred, and [the parts that] align with the [border of the] non-sacred area and into the non-sacred area are non-sacred. (Mishna Ma’aser Sheni 3:7-8)

These Mishnayot are the source of the two halakhot we cited early on from the Rambam. The very same omissions found in the Rambam are found in the Mishna, and taken together, the omission is indeed glaring enough as to constitute proof.

Such a view would, interestingly, distinguish between the upper floor of the Beit ha-Miqdash complex, which did not have sufficient sanctity to fulfill those mitsvot that must be performed in the ‘azara, and between the upper floors of Yerushalayim, which do have the same sanctity as the ground floors of the city. Why would there be such a difference?

Ra’avad (cf. note 13 in Minḥat Ḥinukh Mekhon Yerushalayim) posits that this was a historical accident: Had the beit din sanctified the upper floors of the Temple complex, they would have been as kosher as the ‘azara. Ra’avad acknowledges an opposing view by Rabbenu Elḥanan. Minḥat Ḥinukh seems to take an interim position, implying that the beit din could have sanctified the floors, but did not because that wasn’t part of the Divine plan as received by Tradition.

Rav Avraham Yafe-Schlesinger in his Beer Sarim (Vol. III §49) creatively suggests a meaningful answer. Drawing upon a seemingly superfluous comment by Ramban apparently needlessly explaining the obvious regarding the difference in sanctity between Yerushalayim and other cities of Yehuda, R’ Schlesinger reads into the Ramban that Yerushalayim posesses two different superimposed sources of sanctity: it has the status of the Maḥane Yisrael of the desert, a status it shares with other cities of Yehuda, and it also has an additional sanctity as being the chosen city for the Beit haMiqdash. Those sanctities are superimposed, such that, insofar as Yerushalayim is one of the cities of Yehuda and is a instance of Maḥane Yisrael, that sanctity only applies to the ground level, but insofar as Yerushalayim is also the space within which the Miqdash is located, that sanctity extends to upper floors and rooftops, as well.

One of the prooftexts R’ Schlesinger musters is from the following Mishna (Pessaḥim 7:8):

If the entire, or majority [of the, Pesach sacrifice] became impure, it must be burned in front of the palace [the Temple] with wood from the arrangement [set up for the altar]. If the lesser part of it became impure, or [concerning] notar [a sacrifice that becomes unfit, due to being left unconsumed until after the time limit for its consumption], they must burn it in their [own] courts, or on their [own] roofs, with their own wood.

Why does the Mishna specify that small amounts of Qodashim meat that became impure must be burned “in their [own] courts, or on their [own] roofs?” That is easily explained by referring to a Mishna and a Gemara. The Mishna (Pessaḥim 3:8) teaches:

And so too, one who went out of Jerusalem and remembered that he is carrying meat that is holy [consecrated]; if he has passed [Mt.] Scopus, he must burn it on the spot; and if not, he must return and burn it in front of the castle [the Temple], with wood from the arrangement [set up for the altar].

Hence we learn that sacrificial meat should preferably be burnt within a holy precinct. The Gemara (Pessaḥim 24a) elaborates:

It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Shimon says: “In the sacred place…shall be burnt with fire”; this taught that one must burn a disqualified sin-offering in the sacred place, and not outside the Temple. And I have only derived this, meaning the sin-offering. From where do I derive that disqualified offerings of the most sacred order and portions consumed on the altar, such as the fats of offerings of minor sanctity that become impure, are burned in the Temple courtyard? The verse states: “In the sacred place…shall be burnt with fire.” This indicates that any disqualified offering must be burned in the sacred place.

According to the above citations, the flesh of Qorbanot that became disqualified had to be burned ba-qodesh, in a holy place, and yet, when the flesh had been legitimately taken out of the Beit ha-Miqdash complex for eating in Yerushalayim, and subsequently became disqualified as notar, because the time limit before which the meat had to be consumed had passed, people’s own courtyards and rooftops were holy enough to burn the remaining meat up right there. Hence, argues R’ Schlesinger, the city rooftops must indeed have had the requisite sanctity.

However, R’ Schlesinger also finds that Rambam, whom until now we assumed considered the rooftops holy, oddly does not mention the rooftops as being appropriate for burning disqualified sacrificial meat. This is mysterious and left as an open question.

Anyway, having reviewed the views of the Rishonim and the sources on which they base themselves, one can surely not conclusively disqualify the fitness of rooftops and upper floors of Jerusalem from being used for eating Qodashim Qalim. Bimheira yibaneh ha-Miqdash, and we may appreciate that there are strong reasons to assume that the halakha may be lenient on this matter. Surely that may be a great relief when we try to accommodate sedarim for millions of Jews joining in for eating the Qorban Pessaḥ. May we merit to live to see this happen, amen.

 

Rabbi Arie Folger is the chief rabbi of Vienna, Austria, and a member of the Rabbinical Court of Austria. Previously, he served as the senior rabbi of the community of Basle, Switzerland, and later Munich, Germany. He was ordained at RIETS, where he learned after learning several years at the yeshivos of Gateshead, Mir Yerushalayim and Chaim Berlin and holds an MBA from New York University. He is presently a member of a chavura of German rabbis at Kollel Eretz Hemda. Rabbi Folger has held several elected positions within the Rabbinical Council of America and the Conference of Orthodox Rabbis of Germany, and is a member of the Standing Committee of the Conference of European Rabbis.

Passover: Why Did the Israelites go to Egypt to Begin With? By Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

Nothing is more central to Jewish identity as much as the Exodus from Egypt. Every Shabbat, Holiday—and even every day—we mention the exodus from Egypt. On Passover, we zoom in exclusively on leaving Egypt. All of this begs for the obvious question: why were we in Egypt to begin with? Why did Hashem place us there to begin with? Furthermore, how should we view the time before the Exodus—yetziat Mitzrayim? Were we “serving time” being punished in Egypt, or were we accomplishing something there?

While there are varying opinions in the Talmud as to why the Jewish people ended up in Egypt, all agree that this needs explanation.

“Rabbi Avahu said in the name of rabbi Elazar: why was Avraham Avinue punished and his sons became slaves in Egypt for two hundred and ten years? Because he made [mundane] use of Torah scholars….Shmuel says: it is because he questioned God’s ways when asking “how can I know I will inherit the land” [1] Rabbi Yochanan says it was because he prevented some people from coming into the divine faith (when he conceded to the king of Sedom and allowed him to take back his people to Sedom”.[2]

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Married to Matzah, by Rabbi Avraham Shmidman

“One who eats Matzah on Erev Pesach is as though he cohabited with his betrothed in his father in law’s home”. [Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesachim 10:1)]. While not cited by the Bavli, this quote is cited, or closely paraphrased, by many early halachic authorities (See for example Tur Orach Chaim 471). Indeed over the centuries this ambiguous ruling has been the subject of extensive discussion and debate.

In this brief essay I seek to address but two of the many obvious issues raised by this shocking statement. Firstly, why is one who eats matzah on Erev Pesach likened to an individual who is intimate with his affianced in the home of his father in law? Ordinarily, halachic rulings are presented in standard formulaic fashion. We are instructed in straightforward form about matters declared either prohibited (assur) or permitted (muttar), etc. What is meant by this evocative simile?  Secondly, what kind of matzah is the Gemara referring to in this vague ruling? Is all matzah outlawed on the eve of Pesach? Or, is this restriction limited perhaps to only the variety necessary for seder consumption, i.e. shmura matzah?

With regards the second question there exists a dispute. Some (including The Meiri and Tosfos Rid in their respective commentaries to Pesachim 99b, amongst others) insist that only matzah suitable to fulfill the mitzvah on the night of Pesach may not be eaten on Erev Pesach. The Tashbetz (3:260) and Maharam Challavah (to Pesachim 49a) are part of a group who expand the ruling of the Yerushalmi and apply it even to matzah not classified as shmura.

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Giving the Devil his Due, by Rabbi Chaim Bronstein

Does the end justify the means is a constant persistent question. Chazal and later Meforshim dealing with problematic issues in Tanach have grappled with this issue and offered surprising approaches.

The well-known Ramban dealing with the Se’ir La’azazel (Vayikya 16:8) states: therefore they offered a bribe to Sama-el on Yom HaKippurim not to nullify their sacrifice, as the Passuk declares “One lot for Hashem and one lot for Azazel” Hashem’s lot is an Olah sacrifice and the lot of Azazel is the Chatas goat with all the sins of Israel on it.

The source for this remarkable statement is Prikei D’Rabi Eliezer (46) which the Ramban quotes verbatim. He then adds by way of explanation:

“But the Torah forbade completely acceptance of (angelic) divinity and any service to them. But HKB”H commanded that on Yom HaKippurim we send a goat into the desert to the prince (power) who rules over desolate places… Not that it should be an offering from us to it- heaven forbid- rather our intention should be to fulfill the wish of our Creator who commanded us to do so.”

Even with this formulation, it seems clear that the underlying purpose is to appease or at least distract Sama-el.

The Chizkuni presents a similar approach, much more succinctly: “one lot for Azazel (i.e. Sama-el) and in order that he not nullify their sacrifice we give him a bribe”.

In Rus (ch. 3) we find that Na’ami instructs Rus as follows:

“And you shall bathe and anoint yourself and dress (in your finest) clothing and go down to the threshing floor; do not make yourselves known to the man (Boaz) until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down take note of the place where he lies and go and uncover his feet and lie down and he will tell you what you should do”

The Alshich comments:

“Before Naami revealed her plan to Rus she explained certain matters to her (namely) that all holy matters cannot endure without having some admixture that appears to be sinful, even if it’s not actually forbidden. For example, Yaakov married two sisters, even though in his time it was not forbidden, the Torah would prohibit it. Nonetheless, his intent was pure in order to bring forth the twelve tribes of Hashem. Similarly Yehuda and Tamar even though (their relationship) involved the Mizvah of Yibum; nonetheless, the angel who directed Yehuda to join with Tamar so that from them would issue kings and prophets, did not inform him (Yehuda) that this woman was Tamar and that he would be fulfilling the Mitzvah of Yibbum. Rather the angel wanted him (Yehuda) to come unto her not in an act of marriage so that there should be attributed to their relationship something improper.

“Similarly, Naami spoke to Rus and explained- please know that the entire House of Israel depends on this pairing. For you are the woman from which will be revealed the light of Mashiach in the world. Ever matter which is extremely holy necessitates that it be mixed with some element of sin. Just as it is not possible to eat very sweet things without mixing in a little which is bitter and only then will it be palatable. This I have made known to you from Yehuda and Tamar.

The Igeres Shmuel on Rus (by the same author of the better known Medresh Shmuel on Pirkei Avos) writes in a similar vein:

All the commentaries wonder at the contrivance of Naami who advised Rus to act in a manner lacking in tznius and with brazenness, which has no place in a proper Jewish woman. One can explain, based on the fact that when the soul of Meshichan Shel David descends into the world there is always interference by Satan and the Sitra Achara. The strategy against him is to cloak (the pure) soul with a filthy and lowly garment, so then he will not sense what is transpiring, Satan will take pleasure in the garment and not touch the essence. We find this in various places:

Lot had relations with his daughters from which issued Moav and the family of Rus. Yehuda had relations with Tamar from which issued Peretz, a forbearer of David. Similarly, Yaakov married two sisters, all this was a ruse to conceal from the eyes of the Satan the greatness of the holy Neshama of Mashiach, and to ailence him with these very deeds with which he is appeased and demands, as with the Seir Hameshtaleach on Yom Kippur, to silence Satan. Since Nami knew that from this pairing would come forth the root of Yishai; therefore, she offered this advice to Rus, to conceal the matter from Satan.

In Megillas Esther, Mordechai instructs Esther to go Achasveirosh to plead for her people. Esther finally acquiesces with a final plea of “Ka’aasher Avadti Avadti”. Rashi comments based on the Gemara in Megillah (15a), “As I am lost from father’s house, I will be lost to you. For I am submitting willingly to a gentile to and will be forbidden to you. The Targum explains that just as I was taken from you against my will, so I will lose life in the world to come, for the salvation of the House of Israel.”

Esther is asked to make the supreme sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people, to voluntarily go  to Achashveirosh and be lost to Mordechai forever (or according to the Targum to give up eternal life). With such grave consequences, it is clear that what Esther was doing was clearly wrong; yet, at the same time both Esther and Mordechai understand that the salvation of the Jewish people is the greater good that must be realized.

There are many lessons to be derived from this. We live in a world of “Ohr Vechoshech Mishtamshim Beirbuvya, where light and darkness serve in a chaotic mixture”. Where the light and darkness both vie for supremecy and we are bidden to negotiate our way through the corrosive maze. When the end justifies the means and when it does not remains an eternal question.

 

 

Haman and Mordechai: Fighting Fate with Destiny, by Rabbi Ozer Glickman

“For this reason, they called the days Purim, after the pur…” (Esther 9: 26)

It is the Jewish people themselves who named the holiday Purim, a singular name unlike any other in the roster of special days on the Hebrew calendar. Shabbat is called after an act of God, the cessation of creative acts after the Six Days of Creation. Pesach is similarly named after an act of God, the passing over the houses of the Israelites. Shavuot receives its name from the weeks counted by B’nai Yisrael between the Exodus and the Giving of the Torah. Sukkot refers to the protection afforded B’nai Yisrael in the wilderness by their beneficent God. The only special days that might be said to reflect the acts of Gentiles in their name, the four fasts, are actually Israel centric.

Purim, however, named by the Jews themselves, alludes to the act of their sworn enemy, the evil Haman: the casting of lots to identify an auspicious day for their destruction. In his important work R’sisei Layla, the holy R’ Tzadok haKohen of Lublin observes the central role of the evil Haman in the name of the holiday and hence an indication of the essential character of Purim itself. R’ Tzadok associates Purim with a folk saying cited by the Gemara: “from the forest itself comes the handle of the ax” (Sanhedrin 39b). In other words, the forest produces the very tool of its own destruction, the wooden handle of the ax used to cut down its trees.

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