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ד"סב     Parashat Emor Iyar 20 5774 May 9, 2015 Vol. 24 No.
ד"סב     Parashat Emor Iyar 20 5774 May 9, 2015 Vol. 24 No.


Parashat Emor

Iyar 20 5774

May 9, 2015

Vol. 24 No. 30

Responding to the Downfall of Our Enemies

by Rabbi Jeremy Donath

Is it acceptable to celebrate the downfall of our enemies? BiNefol O’yivcha Al Tismach, UViKashlo Al Yageil Libecha,” “Don’t be happy when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles don’t celebrate” (Mishlei 24:17), seems to imply that it is clearly wrong. However, another Pasuk in Mishlei states, Avod Resha’im Rinah,” “When the wicked perish, there will be joy(11:10), which seemingly contradicts the other Pasuk! How are we to resolve these contradictory statements? One answer focuses on a nuance in the text and the fact that there are different types of adversaries. The Pasuk in Mishlei Perek 24 speaks of an Oyeiv, an enemy, which may be no more than the subject of a personal vendetta. In this case, Sefer Mishlei instructs readers, “Al Tismach” – do not be joyful at these rivals’ demises. On the other hand, the Pasuk in Perek 11 speaks of Reshaim,objectively evil people. One should rejoice over the downfall of such despicable people. An alternative answer can be found in this week’s Parashah, in which we read about the Shalosh Regalim, the three Jewish pilgrimage holidays. The Torah writes regarding the Regel of Pesach, BaYom HaRishon Mikrah KodeshBaYom HaShevi’i Mikrah Kodesh,” “The first day will be holy< the seventh day will be holy(VaYikra 23:7-8). This commandment seems redundant as it was already commanded to Bnei Yisrael before they left Egypt. Before leaving Egypt, the Jews are commanded, “UVaYom HaRishon Mikrah Kodesh… UVaYom HaShevi’i Mikrah Kodesh,” “And the first day will be holy, and the seventh day will be holy” (Shemot 12:16). The Meshech Chochmah asks why God informs Bnei Yisrael about the sanctity of the seventh day of Pesach, which commemorates the splitting of the sea, before it is split? He explains that Hashem was concerned that if He would wait until after the splitting of the sea to inform the Jews about the holy nature of the seventh day of Pesach, they might think that the holiday is celebrating how innumerous Egyptians drowned trying to cross the Yam Suf. In order to put this false notion to rest, God informed Bnei Yisrael of the sanctity of the seventh day of Pesach before the Egyptians drowned. In doing so, God also impressed upon Bnei Yisrael that Jews do not rejoice over the death of their enemies. Instead, our celebrations focus on our own salvation. Additionally, it is for this reason that Purim is celebrated on the 14 th and 15 th of Adar, and not on the 13 th , since the 13 th was the day in which we killed our enemies, and only on the 14 th and 15 th did the Jews have a chance to rest and rejoice in their freedom. As Jews, we do not celebrate our ability to exact vengeance on our enemies. Our joy focuses on the ability to overcome obstacles and live a peaceful existence.

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When we, as a people and society at large, are able to focus our appreciation on the world becoming a more peaceful and joyful place, and not on the downfall of our enemies, that is something truly worth celebrating.

“An Eye for an EyeThrough a Corrected Lens

by Zachary Orenshein (’16)

Ayin Tachat Ayin,” “An eye for an eye” (VaYikra 21:24), is a well-recognized Pasuk that is often associated with justice in its cruelest form repaying a cruelty with a cruelty. As a result of this common acceptance, many people find themselves surprised to read such a barbaric decree in the Torah. They will then, however, look into the matter further and not be surprised to learn that Chazal say that the commandment is actually carried out through monetary means (Bava Kamma 84a). In reality, Jews do not follow a “tit for tat” judicial system; rather, they follow a more civilized one. The issue with accepting the monetary interpretation of Ayin Tachat Ayinis that Chazal seem to be so far from simple reading of the Pasuk. It seems that they are not just explaining the Pasuk, but they are twisting it to mean something completely different, which could arouse doubts regarding the validity of Chazal. However, not only is Chazal’s interpretation rooted in the simple reading of the Pesukim, but the popular translation misses the whole point the Torah is trying to make. In Nechama Leibowitz’s book, New Studies in VaYikra, she quotes multiple sources which prove that the Torah does not expect us to literally carry out an eye for an eye. The first rejection is based on the Pasuk which precedes “an eye for an eye,” which says, VeIsh Ki Yitein Mum BaAmito KaAsher Asah Kein Yei’aseh Lo,” “And a man who inflicts an injury upon his fellow man; just as he did, so shall be done to him(VaYikra 24:19). In Bava Kamma 83b-84a, Rabi Shimon bar Yochai makes the point that if a blind man were to take out another person’s eye, it would be impossible for him to ever fulfill this Pasuk, because he is already blind and always will be. However, we cannot say that blind people are exempt from this commandment, based on the Pasuk, “Mishpat Echad Yihyeh Lachem KaGeir KaEzrach Yihyeh Ki Ani Hashem Elokeichem,” “One law there shall be for you for I am Hashem you God” (VaYikra 24:22). This Pasuk teaches us that the laws of the Torah are fair for everyone, and as a result, would not allow for this interpretation of an eye for an eye in which a blind person could not be punished. Also in this Gemara, the school of Chizkiyah is quoted as saying that it would be impossible to carry out the literal meaning of “an eye for an eye” in a case where a person was not completely blinded, because he would be unable to blind the perpetrator to the exact same extent that he was blinded. Additionally, it is likely that when attempting to punish the perpetrator by blinding him, he may die instead. As a result of























this, if one would interpret the Torah as saying that one who blinds should be blinded, it would be inconsistent with the Pasuk that says, “One law there shall be for you.” Additionally, Rambam proves that “Ayin Tachat Ayin” has to be carried out monetarily through the Pesukim, VeHikah Ish Et Rei’eihu BeEven O BeEgrof… Rak Shivto Yi’tein VeRapo Yerapei,” “If a man strikes his fellow with a stone or his fist< he shall only pay for the loss of time and have him thoroughly healed(Shemot 21:18-19). These Pesukim clearly state that someone who bruises another person has to pay for the injuries, which is very problematic with the literal interpretation of “an eye for an eye.Since “a bruise for a bruise" is carried out monetarily, “an eye for an eye” must mean the same as well. What is most startling, however, is that the language that the Torah uses for “an eye for an eye” implies that it should be carried out through monetary punishment. Nechama Leibowitz quotes Benno Jacob who says that the Hebrew word used in this Pasuk does not imply exacting punishment, but rather, compensation. The Hebrew word used is an eye Tachat an eye. Throughout Tanach, the word Tachat is used to indicate an exchange: if person A takes something from person B, person A gives something else to person B in its stead. 1 If this is true, then an eye Tachat an eye cannot mean that the punishment for blinding someone else is being blinded, because the person who was blinded does not get anything in return for losing his eye. What this must mean then, according the wording of the Pasuk, is that when person A blinds, or takes away the eyesight of, person B, person A must give person B something in return. This compensation is the money which “an eye for an eye” really refers to. What is remarkable about Chazal is that while on the surface they may seem apologetic at times, in reality, they are just studying the Torah with the attention to detail it deserves. They reveal that the Torah does not say “an eye for an eye” to promote a barbaric judicial system; rather, it is for the sake of teaching us that human bodies are holy and are not ours to maim. The Torah is obviously not teaching us to gauge out people’s eyes as a punishment, but rather, is trying to convey the great impact of harming someone else. The human body was not made to harm others it was made to be a vehicle of serving God in this world.

Lag BaOmer How to Move Forward

by Shai Rosalimsky (18)

This past Thursday, we celebrated Lag BaOmer, the 33 rd day of our 49 day count from Pesach to Shavuot. Lag BaOmer consists of celebrations, bonfires, and for most of us, an end to the period of mourning which began after Pesach. It is well known that we mourn from Pesach to Lag BaOmer because during that period of time, Rabi Akiva’s 24,000 students died. This reason for mourning is recounted in two different Gemarot, and if we look closely at them, we can learn a valuable lesson.

1 A few examples of this are BeReishit 44:33, Shemot 21:26, and Iyov

The Gemara (Yevamot 62b) recounts that in between Pesach and Shavuot, 12,000 pairs of Rabi Akiva’s students died; after this tragedy, Rabi Akiva rebuilt the Torah world by teaching 5 more students, including Rabi Yehudah and Rabi Shimon. Rabi Akiva was faced with a tragic situation, and he made the best of it by restarting the Torah chain. If not for Rabi Akiva’s vision for the future, the entire line of Torah could have died out. Another Gemara (Shabbat 33b) discusses the death of Rabi Akiva’s 24,000 students, yet in this version of the story, there is no happy ending in which Rabi Akiva restarts the Torah chain. Upon examining these two Gemarot, we can find two differences. The first is that the Gemara in Yevamot tells us of the death of 12,000 pairs of students, whereas the Gemara in Shabbat tells us of the death of 24,000 students. In addition, the Gemara which refers to Rabi Akiva’s students as 12,000 pairs ends on a positive note, whereas the Gemara which refers to the students as 24,000 individuals does not have a positive end. Rav Eli Reich of Yeshivat Sha’alvim explains that these two differences are not coincidental. When Rabi Akiva’s students were viewed as 12,000 pairs, even though they tragically died, there was hope for the future, because they were viewed as groups of two students. However, when each student was viewed as an individual who was unwilling to interact with any of his fellow students, nothing positive amounted from the tragedy. We should learn from the students of Rabi Akiva the importance of Achdut, unity. If we are united, then we can face any tragedy with certainty that something positive will come from it. Hopefully, we will take this lesson to heart and enter the holiday of Shavuot as an Am Echad BeLeiv Echad, a single nation with a single heart.

A Right to Convert? Developing an Idea of Rav Soloveitchik Part One

by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik made a very brief but highly intriguing assertion in his daily Shiur at Yeshiva University in 1985 2 . He stated that every non-Jew enjoys a right to convert. Rav Soloveitchik did not present evidence for this assertion and did not develop this point at any length. However, he seemed quite certain about this point. We shall attempt to develop this idea and support it with Talmudic evidence, and we shall present some very important ramifications of this assertion of a Torah giant.

Clarifying and Modifying the Idea

We begin by clarifying Rav Soloveitchik’s assertion that a non- Jew has the right to convert only if he is committed to living a fully observant Jewish life. Otherwise, this assertion would contradict the Gemara’s (Bechorot 30b) insistence that “A non-Jew who is willing to accept the Torah except for one matter, even a nuance of rabbinic law, is not accepted for conversion.”

2 This author was present at the Shiur.

We might also modify Rav Soloveitchik’s statement in light of an equally intriguing assertion made by Rav J. David Bleich that the Torah has no concept of rights. Unlike the accepted Western attitude that, quoting the American Declaration of Independence, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” Rav Bleich argues that the Torah believes that we can be the beneficiaries only of others’ obligations. For example, a wife is not entitled to spousal support from her husband. Rather, in Rav Bleich’s view, the wife is the beneficiary of the husband’s obligation to support her. Thus, we might slightly modify Rav Soloveitchik’s formulation saying that since the Jewish People have an obligation to accept worthy converts into their midst, a committed non-Jew is the beneficiary of Am Yisrael’s obligation to accept 3 him into the Jewish community 4 . Let us explain why Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis is vitally important and proceed to support the idea from Talmudic sources.

Rav Soloveitchik’s Thesis and Jewish Thought

Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis has enormous Hashkafic (Jewish Thought) implications. It reflects the fundamental equality of Jews and non-Jews. The Seforno expresses this idea (introduction to his commentary to the Torah) as such:

“*After telling the story of the Tower of Bavel+ the Torah proceeds to relate how after the hope that all of humanity would be devoted to Hashem had vanished after three major failures 5 , Hashem separated the most righteous of all of

3 There is no obligation nor is it Halachically desirable for us to actively encourage conversion. As we shall discuss, Halachah demands that we at first discourage a non-Jew who wishes to convert. However, the Torah does want us to set a positive and attractive example for all of humanity (Kiddush Hashem) and maintain portals of entry for interested and committed non-Jews. For example, the Gemara (Pesachim 87b) states “Why are the Jewish People scattered in all countries more than any other nation? In order for converts to join them.” There is no fundamental obligation for Nochrim to convert, but the Gemara (Berachot 17b) criticizes the Nochrim of the city of Machsi’yah since not one of them converted despite the fact that they lived in a major center for Torah learning and observance and experienced many inspirational opportunities. The Gemara similarly criticizes the nation of Govai since none of its members converted. Apparently, the Torah might be displeased with those Nochri communities which did not take advantage of readily accessible opportunities for spiritual inspiration from their Jewish neighbors.

4 In his introduction to his work on the laws of conversion “Nachalat Tzvi,Rav Gedalia Felder elegantly writes:

“Am Yisrael at all times opens its gates to all who wish to enter the vineyard of Hashem. It accepts all who come to be shielded beneath the wings of the Shechinah (Divine presence) and extends equal rights as a native born Jew. However, it demands from all complete rootedness in its culture and a spiritual attachment to the spirit of Am Yisrael, acceptance of the responsibility of Mitzvot, internalization of the spirit of Judaism in his soul and spirit and acceptance of the values of the nation and its way of life.

5 Adam and Chavah eating from the Eitz HaDa’at, the Dor HaMabul and the Dor HaPelagah.

humanity, Avraham and his descendants, to achieve the ultimate goal God has for humanity.

The Seforno, unlike Rabi Yehuda HaLeivi in his Sefer HaKuzari, does not believe that Hashem originally planned to create the Jewish People. He believes that Hashem’s original plan was for all of humanity to draw close to Hashem and imitate Him to the extent possible, in keeping with man’s being created in the image of Hashem 6 . Only after this plan failed did Hashem unveil a second plan and introduce the idea of an Am Segulah (special nation). This means that the Torah believes that Jews are not inherently superior to non-Jews, as Hashem wanted a special relationship with all of humanity 7 . Thus, since all of humanity should fundamentally be “Jewish,” a committed non- Jew has the right to join Am Yisrael (or we have the obligation to accept him). Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis reflects another fundamental point. The Torah undoubtedly stresses the importance of the Jewish People’s identity as the biological descendants of the Avot and Imahot. Nonetheless, The Torah believes that ideological affiliation is even more important than biological descent. For example, the Rambam instructs Ovadiah the Convert (in a famous letter) to recite “Elokeinu VEilokei Avoteinu” (our God and the God of our fathers) in Shemoneh Esrei. The Rambam explains that the mandate given to Avraham Avinu by Hashem as the Av Hamon Goyim (the father of a multitude of nations; BeReishit 17:5) allows converts to view themselves as the descendants of Avraham Avinu. In Halachic documents, the convert is designated as the daughter or son of Avraham Avinu (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 129:20). Similarly, 8 the Gemara (Gittin 57b) teaches “From among the descendants of Haman there were those who learned (or even taught 9 ) Torah in Bnei Berak.” This dramatic assertion of Chazal teaches that even descendants of Amaleik 10 are no longer considered Amaleik if they abandon the evil ideology of their ancestors 11 .

Rav Soloveitchik’s Thesis and Jewish Practice

Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis is of enormous Halachic importance as well. Suppose the members of a non-Jewish family come to a Beit Din in the United States as candidates for conversion and eventually prove to be exceptionally worthy to

6 This idea also appears in the Seforno’s introduction to his commentary to the Torah.

7 The Seforno (Shemot 19:6) similarly explains our status as a Mamlechet Kohanim as an obligation to set an example for all of humanity of developing a close relationship with Hashem.

8 For a discussion as to whether a biological descendent of the Avot and Imahot can lose his identity as a Jew see Gray Matter 1:145-149.

9 This depends on whether one pronounces the word in this passage ודמלas Lomdu (learned) or Limdu (taught). 10 Haman is regarded by Chazal as a descendent of Amaleik (Megillah 30a) since the Megillah repeatedly refers to Haman as “Agagi” and Agag was an Amaleiki king (Shmuel I Perek 15). Teshuvot Sheivet HaLevi interestingly permits the conversion of a Nochri from Germany despite the possible association of Germany with Amaleik. 11 Kesef Mishneh to Rambam Hilchot Melachim 6:4 and Chazon Ish Yoreh Dei’ah 157:5. See, though, Margaliot HaYam to Sanhedrin 96b number 13.

join our people, but they are economically impoverished. Suppose as well that two of the family’s children are developmentally disabled and require special education classes. Converting this family will cost the Jewish community tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money each year. Nonetheless, if Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis is correct, the community must accept this family regardless of the financial consequences. Similarly, a devoted candidate for conversion who is socially awkward or physically handicapped must be accepted into the community even if some are (wrongly) uncomfortable with such people. Moreover, Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis teaches that converts should not be expected to pay exorbitant fees for the conversion process. While it is certainly sensible to demand payment of reasonable expenses, we must not treat conversion as an entrepreneurial opportunity 12 . The Rabbinical Council of America and the Beth Din of America articulate a very appropriate approach in their Geirut Policies and Standards (GPS) document 13 :

Fees: Conversion is a not-for-profit endeavor. Nonetheless, the candidate should be made aware at an early point in the process that he or she will bear certain reasonable expenses, including some or all of the following: Outside tutoring fees, purchase of study materials, Mikveh and Mohel costs and administrative fees to cover Beit Din costs. Each regional Beit Din should consider maintaining a “special cases” fund, for use as needed. It should share cost structures and arrangements with the RCA/BDA and the other regional Batei Din, for mutual benefit.

Finally, if Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis is correct, then it is inappropriate for Jewish communities to adopt a permanent policy to categorically reject all converts. Although Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Teshuvot Har Tzvi Yoreh Dei’ah 216) endorses such a policy adopted by a specific community presumably due to concerns of intermarriage or improper conversions, it is improper for well- established Jewish communities to maintain such a policy 14 . The following information appeared on the website of the Israeli not-for-profit organization ITIM: There are at present no recognized rabbinic conversion courts and no Orthodox conversions in any Latin American country. Residents of Latin America who wish to convert do so before a rabbinic court in the United States, or if the convert is eligible for Aliyah status in Israel.If this information is accurate, Rav Solovetichik’s thesis would require remedying this situation.

12 Charging excessive fees for Torah services is wrong for other reasons as well- see Mishnah Avot 1:13 (DeIshtameish BeTaga Chalaf) and Bechorot 4:6 with the commentary of the Bartenura.

13 Israel’s government-funded Chief Rabbinate stopped charging a conversion fee in 2005.

14 Teshuvot Minchat Asher 1:51 approves the Syrian Jewish community’s 1935 ban on conversion to prevent intermarriage. One wonders whether Rav Asher Weiss approves of continuing to uphold this ban eighty years later. It is one matter to issue the ban in 1935 when the community was struggling to adjust to American life and it is quite another eighty years later when the Syrian Jewish community in this country, Baruch Hashem, is flourishing.

First Proof to Rav Soloveitchik’s Thesis from the Rambam

The most straightforward proof to Rav Soloveitchik’s thesis is a passage from his beloved Mishneh Torah of the Rambam (Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah 13:2). The Rambam writes “In all generations when a non-Jew wishes to enter the covenant, seek shelter beneath the wings of the Shechinah [the divine presence], and accept the yoke of Torah, he requires immersion (Tevilah) in a Mikveh and Berit Milah for a male 15 .The Rambam clearly makes the conversion contingent only upon the desire of the non-Jew and his commitment to Hashem and His Torah, and not whether we believe it is in our best interest to accept him into our midst.

Second Proof to Rav Soloveitchik Timna Mother of Amaleik

Chazal’s presentation of Timnah’s (BeReishit 36:12) story constitutes highly compelling evidence to Rav Soloveitchik’s approach. Chazal (Sanhedrin 99b) explain that she was unjustifiably denied conversion by our Avot (forefathers) and out of bitterness agreed to be a concubine to Eisav’s son Eliphaz; with him, she bore Amaleik who inflicts great pain upon Israel. This Gemara is a very powerful proof that the Jewish people are forbidden to reject a committed candidate for conversation unless there is an extremely compelling reason to do so. We shall continue IY”H and B”N in our next issue present two more proofs to Rav Soloveitchik’s assertion that dedicated non- Jews are entitled to convert.

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15 In the times when the Beit HaMikdash stood, all converts were required to also bring a sacrifice at the time of their conversion. The Gemara (Keritut 9a) clarifies that conversion can occur even if the Beit HaMikdash is not functioning since the Torah (BeMidbar 15:14) describes converts’ presence among our people as a phenomenon that will occur in “all generations” (LeDoroteichem). Tosafot (Kiddushin 62b Geir) asserts that it is for this reason that a Beit Din is authorized to accept Geirim even if its members do not have authentic Semichah as a received tradition from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu (no rabbi has received such Semichah in at least one thousand years).