A Difficulty in Rabbeinu Gershom Regarding Chanukah Candles, by Yisrael Friedenberg

The Gemara in Menachos (41b) says: “It was stated: Rav holds that one may not use one candle to light another, and Shmuel holds that one may. […] Abayei said: With regard to every law but these three (including the one quoted above) [Rabba] followed the opinion of Rav, but for these three he followed Shmuel.” Rashi and others point out that the Gemara refers to the candles lit on Chanukah. (See the poskim in Orach Chayim 674 regarding other obligatory lightings.)

Rabbeinu Gershom on the Gemara explains like Rashi, that the discussion here is about Chanukah candles, but adds an explanation of Rav’s position. He writes: “[According to Rav] one may not light one candle with another because one thereby diminishes the [object of] mitzvah.” At first glance this seems innocent enough. He simply intends to explain that Rav’s objection stems from a concern that using a mitzvah-purposed candle to light other candles – even other mitzvah candles – causes the former to be somehow diminished.

Continue reading

Advertisements

What Happened to Avraham’s Chassidim? By Yisrael Friedenberg

That Avraham Avinu had disciples goes without saying. From our early youth, we have probably all heard the understanding of Chazal of the pasuk (Bereishis 12:5) “ve’es hanefesh asher asu veCharan,” meaning those people Avram and Sarai had converted to monotheism. This understanding appears in standard Chumashim in Onkelus and Rashi, and is also present in numerous other sources. (Radak attributes Onkelus’s understanding to Bereishis Rabbah 39:21, and Chizkuni quotes a Gemara in Avodah Zarah (9a) which says that this pasuk marks the first stage of Mattan Torah. This understanding appears also in the midrashim of Pesikta Zutresa and Yalkut Shimoni.)

The peculiarity with this idea is the complete lack of reference to these disciples later on. If indeed Avraham had a crowd of ‘chassidim,’ we would expect to see them in future generations as well. Why do they appear only here? What happened to them?

Continue reading