Responsibility Towards Others

19 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Michael Taubes

In Parshat Bechukotai, the Torah tells of the disasters that will befall the Jewish people if they fail to observe the laws of the Torah properly. It says that people will panic and trip over each other. The Gemara in Sanhedrin comments on this phrase, one Jew will trip over the sins of his brother. “Melamed shekol yisrael areivim zeh lazeh.” This teaches us that each Jew is responsible for another.

In Parshat Nitzavim it says, “Hanistarot l’Hashem Elokeinu v’haniglot lanu u’levanenu.” The hidden things are in Hashem‘s domain, but that which is revealed is for us and our children.” The Torah tells us that if Jews won’t observe the mitzvot, the whole community will be punished. Rashi asks, how can one person be held responsible for what another thinks? He answers, that which is hidden is not our obligation. However, we have responsibility to stop that which we have the power to stop.

There is a dot on top of the words lanu u’levanenu to teach us that our obligation to another Jew didn’t go into effect immediately. It only began when the Jews entered Israel with the covenant that was made at Har Grizim and Har Avel.

The Mishna in Rosh Hashana takes the concept of arvut further. You can perform a mitzvah on behalf of someone else, provided you are also obligated in the mitzvah. Therefore, a cheiresh (deaf mute), a shota (a deranged person), and a katan (a minor) cannot perform a mitzvah for others.

The Gemara says, even if one has already discharged his obligation he can still perform the mitzvah for someone else. Rashi explains that this is because of the rule of “Kol yisrael areivim zeh ba’zeh.” However, this does not apply to birchat hanehenin (blessings on food and pleasant smells) because the concept of arvut is only for a mitzvah that one has a responsibility to fulfill. Eating is an optional activity.

Rava asks, can you be motzi someone (fulfill someone’s obligation) with a blessing on food, when there is an obligation to eat? For example, can one person recite a blessing for someone else when eating matzah at the seder? The Rambam answers that you can. The Shulchan Aruch rules that one can recite Kiddush for others, even if one will not be eating the meal together with them. However, to be motzi someone with Hamotzi, one must eat some of the bread too.

Does the concept of arvut apply to a biblical mitzvah or to a rabbinical mitzvah or to both? The Tzlach writes in his commentary on Gemara that it only applies to biblical mitzvot. He brings proof from the Gemara in Sota that the law of arvut only took affect at Har Grizim and Har Avel. Tosfot comments that that they took upon themselves the 613 biblical mitzvot. The Tzlach infers that since at the time that arvut was introduced they only took upon themselves the biblical mitzvoth it does not apply to rabbinic mitzvot.

He brings another proof from the Rambam, who rules that if an arev did not specify an amount the arevut is worthless. He points out that while there’s a fixed body of 613 mitzvoth in the Torah there is no set amount of Rabbinic laws. Therefore, arvut does not apply there.

The Chida, the Birkei Yosef, and the Ktav Sofer disagree and maintain that the principle of arvut does apply to rabbinic mitzvot. In fact the Shaagat Aryeh says that the rule of arvut only applies to mitzvot d’rabbanun and not to d’oraysa.

How does the halachic mechanism of arvut work? Although one has already discharged his obligation, since there is another Jew who needs help, it is as if one has not fulfilled his complete obligation yet. The Chikrei Lev explains that when you do a mitzvah for someone else you connect to the person on such a deep level that in a sense his obligation becomes your obligation. According to Rav Akiva Eiger, the maximum you can do is what you were originally obligated. According to the Chikrei Lev, one’s level of obligation is irrelevant, as arvut applies in whatever way the person needs that connection.

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Copyrights

3 02 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Dayan Shlomo Cohen  

copyrights According to Jewish law one cannot buy a davar shelo ba l’olam (something that doesn’t exist or is intangible) because there is no gemirat daat (final comittment). If there’s no gemirat daat, one cannot make a kinyan (acquisition).

You can’t sell something that doesn’t exist yet because the buyer doesn’t know what he will get.

For example, if a deal is made on next year’s crops, the buyer can renege on it. However, once the supplier provides the crops, the transaction is valid because then there is gemirat daat and the kinyan has been finalized. If you buy a field together with the crops of the coming year, the sale is valid because you are acquiring the land that will produce next year’s crop.

Similarly, the poskim discuss a case of a cow and its unborn calf. The seller sold the cow along with the calf. By the time it was born, prices had changed and the seller realized he had sold it too cheaply. If there was a kinyan while the calf was in his mother, he can’t ask for more money. The price originally agreed upon is binding. However, if there wasn’t a kinyan, since it was a davar shelo ba l’olam, the seller can ask for a higher price.

Selling items that are still in a supplier’s warehouse is a problem in halacha because the seller doesn’t own it yet. There is no gemirat daat. Therefore, the deal is invalid and both sides can demand a different price later on. If the seller personally obligated himself to supply the items, he must do so when they comes into his possession.

Halacha dictates that custom can create gemirat daat. The buyer trusts the seller, even though he can’t supply the item right away. Since deals involving future commodities are made all the time, there is gemirat daat and the kinyan is binding.

According to halacha, if you buy a piece of land, the property belongs to you including its airspace above until the heavens. For example, if you bought a courtyard and someone on the third floor above your property wants to build, you may stop him. However, Jewish law teaches that where one person stands to gain and the other one doesn’t lose, “Kofin al middot sedom,” beit din can force him to allow the person to build. Where there is even a small loss, this principle does not apply and the person who wants to build has to pay for the building rights.

Although the Shulchan Aruch rules that copyrights and trademarks are intangible, the majority of poskim today maintain that you can own a copyright. In certain cases, a person who steals a copyright or trademark is considered a thief. Since trademarks and copyrights are commonly bought and sold, any deal involving these things is valid.

When you know what the assets are but you don’t know how much there are, the transaction is valid. If it turns out that there was much less than the buyer anticipated, he can make a claim that he was overcharged. If it turns out to be much more, the seller can claim he undercharged.

The halacha may seem that one who receives a mistaken gift from an inheritance can keep it, because you can only acquire what you know is there. However, with regards to an inheritance, you don’t need to make a kinyan. The moment the father dies, there’s an automatic transfer of ownership to the sons. Therefore, if a son gives someone a gift from an inheritance, not knowing its true valuable, it must be returned.





Practical Judaism II: Mizmor L’Todah part 2

8 01 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Ari Jacobson 

Does one recite Hagomel after a flight? Some authorities rule not to say the bracha, because flights have become routine. Others say that if one flies over an ocean or desert then one should recite it. Rav Moshe Feinstein held that one says Hagomel after every flight because it is an act of overcoming nature. Other poskim disagree. When there’s a questionable situation, one should receive an aliyah and have in mind while answering to Barchu, to thank Hashem. Hagomel should be recited in the presence of a minyan, ideally in front of a sefer Torah, while receiving an aliyah. The Chasam Sofer explains that the bimah represents the altar and itis as if one offers a korban todah.

Several authorities say women are also required to say Hagomel. Some rule that one man and eight other women are enough to count as a quorum for this. Others maintain that ten men are necessary. Some authorities worry about modesty issues and rule that the men should be relatives. Others say she should recite the blessing from the women’s section. Some rule that because Hagomel generally requires a minyan of men, the mitzva requirement was never imposed on women. Different communities have different customs. However everyone agrees that a woman can say Mizmor L’todah.

There’s a dispute among the Rishonim as to whether one only recites Hagomel when one is saved from the four scenarios Some authorities rule that for a different hazardous situation, the blessing should be recited without shem u’malchut. Ashkenazim follow the view that any dangerous predicament requires Hagomel. Sefardim don’t say the blessing as frequently, following the view of the Shulchan Aruch. However in a situation where one is unsure if Hagomel is required, one can have special concentration in the daily recital of Mizmor l’todah.

In the future, all the various songs of praise for Hashem will be nullified except Mizmor l’todah. We say it every day because in reality we should be thanking Hashem all the time for the natural order of the world. It is recited standing up and with great joy as if one is offering a thanksgiving offering.

On Shabbat and Yom Tov we don’t say Mizmor L’todah because korbanot nedava (voluntary sacrifices) were not brought then. It is also not recited Chol Hamoed Pesach and Erev Pesach because the korban todah wasn’t offered on these days. Of the forty loaves that had to be brought, ten of them were leavened bread, which couldn’t be offered on Pesach. An offering that would have to be burnt earlier than usual was not brought either. Therefore, we don’t recite Mizmor L’todah on Erev Yom Kippur because the thanksgiving offering could not be eaten on Yom Kippur evening





Hilchot Shabbat: Final Halachot of Havdala class #17

22 11 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson 

Community Kiddush #9 Havdala is recited twice, the first time in Maariv with the blessing of Ata Chonantanu and again over a cup of wine.

Why do we say Havdala in the blessing of Atah Chonen? The Yerushalmi in Brachot says, “Im ein da’at havdala minayin.” Without intellect, it is impossible to distinguish between different things. To make Havdala, one needs a measure of intellect. On Shabbat we are focused solely on spirituality. We don’t ask for any physical needs. Havdala serves as a sanction to begin working again. Therefore, Ata Chonantanu is inserted before the first supplication of mercy in order to allow us to engage in further requests.

If you forget Ata Chonantanu, you don’t have to recite it again, if you will be reciting Havdala over wine. If you didn’t say either of them, you must recite the prayer in Shachrit. The Mishna Berura cites the Magen Avraham that the makeup prayer would be the second prayer. Rav Akiva Eiger disagrees. Ata Chonantanu should be inserted in the first prayer because one needs its sanction to engage in further supplications.

One should not eat, drink, or do work before Havdala. If you are in the middle of a bread meal that you started before the end of Shabbat you can continue eating without reciting Havdala, but if it is just a fruit or cake meal, you must stop before bein hashmoshot, thirty minutes before the stars appear. Once Shabbat ends, one should say ‘Baruch hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol’ and then work is permitted. Women who generally don’t daven Maariv should be careful to say this. Why can’t we eat or do work before Havdala? On some level it’s still Shabbat, until it is formally concluded. In addition, Chazal wanted to be sure we wouldn’t forget to make Havdala.

The cup for Havdala must not be pagum (flawed). It is filled until the wine overflows, showing our confidence in Hashem’s beneficence.

The Mishna Berura mentions that women shouldn’t drink the wine because it is possible that they are not obligated in the blessing over the flame and there’s a hefsek (break) between Hagafen and the drinking.

Many poskim maintain that one cannot fulfill Havdalah over the phone. Rav Moshe ruled that where there is no choice, it is permitted.

We smell sweet smelling spices to give us a lift after losing our neshama yeteirah, (extra soul). According to the Mishna Berura, one should not make a blessing on the spices if one can’t smell.

One should use an avuka, a candle with multiple wicks for the blessing on the flame. Most poskim do not consider electricity to be aish (fire), but some rule that an incandescent bulb does fall under this category.

There is a custom to escort the Shabbat out with a bread meal, called Melave Malka. One should eat as soon after Shabbat as possible so that it’s noticeable that it’s not just a regular meal. If one is very full then one should at least eat fruit or mezonot. Our sages tell us that the luz bone is nourished with the food of Melave Malka. The resurrection of the dead will begin from this bone. Melave Malka highlights the sanctity of Shabbat. Shabbat is not just a one day affair. It’s a reservoir of holiness that flows over into the coming week.





Community Kiddush #9

28 10 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson

Community Kiddush #9 There is a disagreement between the Gra and the Gaonim regarding what constitutes Kiddush b’makom seudah (the obligation to eat a meal after Kiddush). The Gaonim rule that wine or any Mezonot food is enough, while the Gaon maintains that it must be a bread meal. The custom is to be stringent at the Friday night Kiddush, which is a Torah commandment, and lenient during the day Kiddush, which is a Rabbinic commandment. The Shulchan Aruch and the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchato concur with the Gaonim. However, if you make Kiddush during the day on mezonot in shul, you haven’t fulfilled Kiddush according to the Gra. Therefore, Rav Soloveitchik suggests that Kiddush be repeated again at home before washing in order to designate the meal as a seudat Shabbat. Rav Moshe agrees with this practice.

The Mishne Berura notes that one should eat at least a kezayit (an olive size measurement) of mezonot, which is enough to make an Al Hamichaya (after blessing). Any mezonot will do, as long as it is from chameshet minei dagan (five grains). On Pesach, one who does not eat mezonot foods made from matza flour should drink a maleh lugma (a mouthful)of winein addition to a reviit (3.3 ounces) in place of the Mezonot.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that we should be careful to eat immediately after Kiddush.

There are a number of laws related to Kiddush b’makom seudah (making Kiddush in the place where one will eat). One big room is considered one place. If you are going from one room to the next, there are opinions that hold that if you can see from the first room into the second, and you intend to eat in the second room, it’s permitted. Going from one house to another should be avoided. If there is no choice, the Mishna Berura rules that you should at least be able to see into the second house.

During the day Kiddush, there’s a custom to say the prefatory verses of V’shamru and Zachor, but according to the Rambam it’s sufficient to just recite the blessing Borei Pri Hagafen. The role of Kiddush is to establish the meal as a seduat Shabbat. We don’t recite Kiddush at the third meal (although the Rambam does recommend it), because the very fact that there’s an extra meal indicates that it’s a special seudat Shabbat.





Shabbat Shuva: Hashem’s Ways Are Straight #4

27 09 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur  byMrs. Shira Smiles  

Shabbat Shuva: Hashem's Ways Are Straight #4 The haftorah of Shabbat Shuva depicts the era of the redemption as a time of tremendous closeness and connection between Hashem and the Jewish people. The Navi tells us, “Those who return will sit in Hashem‘s shadow.” The Radak explains that the Jews will return to the land of Israel where Hashem’s presence rests. Just as bread now nourishes a person physically, when Mashiach comes mitzvot will be a basic aspect of our spiritual existence. Wheat, which is sown annually, signifies Elul. It’s a time to replant and reinvest in our relationship with Hashem. But when Mashiach comes, there will be a flourishing bond like the grapevine, which blossoms from year to year.

The haftorah compares Hashem to a tree whose head is bent down to its roots. Hashem who is up in the heavens descends to be with us. If we listen, we will eat of the fruit of the land; if we rebel we will eat the fruit of the sword. It will be according to our deeds. Sometimes we don’t see the results of our actions right away but they eventually catch up with us. The basic foundation of hashgacha pratit (Divine providence)is recognizing that everything we do is important and we are accountable for everything. The Mishna in Avot tells us “Da ma l’maala mimcha.” The Nefesh Hachayim explains, know that what comes from above, mimcha, is a result of your actions.

The prophet Hoshea tells us, “The ways of Hashem are straight, the righteous will walk along these ways and the sinners will stumble.” Hashem’s ways are correct. He knows what is in each person’s heart. If we have a problem understanding His ways, it is due to our limitations. The judgment of Hashem is measured out exactly. Yosef was meant to experience the torment of slavery, but he didn’t deserve to suffer too much along the way. Therefore Hashem made the Arab dealers carry sweet smelling spices in the wagon that carried him down to Egypt. Sometimes Hashem will punish a righteous person because he wants to give him reward in the next world. If we can understand that the trials Hashem gives us is for our benefit, then all suffering falls away. Our challenge is to find Hashem in every difficult situation.

Shabbat Shuva is a time of judgment. When Hashem‘s conduct is so exact, we should repent.

Teshuva is embracing the essence of being a servant of Hashem. It is understanding what is important in life and pursuing it. The shleimut (perfection)in a mitzva depends on the intention behind it. The same action can be a sin or a mitzva. These weeks are an opportune time to work on fulfilling Torah and mitzvot with thought and feeling.

All that we encounter in this world is a message for us to learn from. Whatever we read, see, hear, or experience is Hashem’s way of teaching us something. Sinners choose to focus on the negativity in this world. They are unable to face the reality of the truth. Hashem doesn’t put a stumbling block in front of us. Our negative choices create it. The tzaddik and rasha both have the same opportunities and abilities. What makes one person grow while another falls? Our choices. Rav Dessler writes that there is no standing still in Judaism, a person is either going up or down. A beinoni is one who is undecided. Sometimes he’ll take the route of growth and sometimes the route of sin. But there’s no such thing as being complacent. Hashem gives us so many opportunities in life. The question is how we will respond. We must focus on the vision of who we can be and what we can build. And we must always keep in mind, “Yesharim darkei Hashem. The ways of Hashem are straight.”

This Rosh Hashana let us pray for si’yata d’shmaya to make Hashem a part of who and what we are and may we merit to be inscribed for a shana tavoh u’metukah, a sweet new year.





Practical Aspects of Yichud

19 07 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Azarya Berzon

Yichud What is the most important ingredient in life? What virtues define man?

Philosophers throughout the generation have debated this question and have come up with several theories. Early Greeks put emphasis on knowledge as the key to human success in behavior and morality. The stoics believed in self-discipline and will power. The school of Epicureans taught that contentment and banishment of fear and pain were central to human existence. Judaism accepts all these ideas as worthy but there is one overpowering virtue that defines us and that is kedusha-sanctity.

Kedoshim tiyhe ki kadosh ani“-Be holy for I am holy. The key to developing a relationship with Hashem is sanctity. There is hardly an endeavor in human behavior that is not encompassed by kedusha. Kedusha means imitating Hashem in mind and spirit and focusing our energies on that which is uplifting. One area where kedusha is stressed most is tzniut-modesty. Much emphasis has been placed by the Poskim on the halachot of yichud. A man and woman who are forbidden to each other, may not be alone in a secluded area. The laws are complex and have become even more so in contemporary society. Sociological and technological advancement such as the fact that more women have joined the workplace, adoption has become more popular, and the rise in innovations in therapy and medicine have raised many questions in halacha. There is a whole gamut of reasons why the laws of yichud need to be studied, but most compelling is that society has become so permissive and immoral.

The laws of yichud are discussed in three places in Gemara -Kiddushin, Avodah Zarah, and Sanhedrin. The Rishonim question if yichud is a Torah prohibition? The Rambam answers that it is m’divrei kabbalah because there is only an allusion to it in the Torah. For something to be m’dorayta there has to be an explicit verse telling us so. However many Rishonim counter that it is m’d’orayta  How then could the Torah allow so many leniencies in different situations?

The Smag and the Sefer Hachinuch point out a verse in Vayikra that forms the base for the prohibition of yichud, “V’el isha b’nidas tumasa lo sikorov.” What does kirva mean? According to some Rishonim kirvah is yichud. There are cases when a prohibition is deliberately vague in the Torah allowing our Sages to define the parameters, which is the case here with yichud.

What is the nature of yichud d’orayta? What defines it?  Yichud is a situation where a man is secluded with a woman who is forbidden to him. Is the Torah protecting the person from a more serious prohibition or is yichud in and of itself objectionable? The Ramchal writes that yichud is prohibited onto itself. This is also a machloket between Rashi and Tosfot. The Gemara in Kidushin asks, may a man be alone with a married woman whose husband is within the city limits? Rashi rules that it is prohibited while Tosfot maintains that it is permitted. The root of their disagreement is really how yichud is defined. Rashi maintains that yichud itself is an issur while Tosfot maintains that it is only to protect us from a more serious violation. Therefore according to Rashi even a split second is yichud while according to Tosfot it would need to be a longer duration.

The Piskei Teshuva rules that if the door is closed and unlocked, there is no issur yichud. However according to Rav Akiva Eiger the door or window must be open in a way that anyone can look in.   The Gemara in Avodah Zarah writes that King David and his beit din enacted an issur d’rabanun of yichud that a man may not be alone with an unmarried woman. The Beit din of Hillel and Shammai ruled that yichud extends to being alone with a non-Jew too. The Mishna prohibits a man from being alone with two women.  The Rashba adds that this is only d’rabanun. For yichud to be d’orayta it must be a state of perfect seclusion.

If there is a situation of yichud in a car, some poskim rule to take another woman along. Then the prohibition gets reduced m’dorayta to m’darabanun and in a car there’s less suspicion of an issur. In the presence of a young child who can serve as a chaperone, according to some Poskim between the ages of seven and nine, yichud may be permissible. Giving another man the key with the understanding that he can come in at any moment could also be a deterrent. The halacha differentiates between a man who is kosher and a paratz (one who is not careful with Jewish law). In a case of a paratz, he may not be alone even with ten women. If such a man is traveling on the road and there is a woman riding along, three men must be in the car. The same would be the case if they are alone in a secluded area or in an apartment late at night. A brother and sister may be alone in a house temporarily. They may not live together permanently.