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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Masei. Blindness and Mitzvos; Long Walks; and Gaaiveh! Gaaiveh! Gaaiveh!

My mother was in the hospital this week and I didn't have the yishuv hadaas to properly organize the reactions I received via email to the previous posts about the chareidim and the draft.  I intend to do it as soon as I can.

For the time being, here are three matters that I wanted to write about.

The Gemara (Bava Kama 87b, Kiddushin 31) brings a machlokes Reb Yehuda and Chachamim whether a blind person is obligated to follow the mitzvos of the Torah.  Reb Yehuda holds he is not.  It is from our parsha of Ir Miklat, the City of Refuge, that Reb Yehuda derives his opinion.  (Chukim = dinim, Dinim = missas beis din, missas beis din = galus, and by galus it says  בלא ראות, and בלא ראות teaches us פרט לסומא, so if no galus, no missas beis din, if no missas beis din no chukim, and chukim = all mitzvos.)

Most poskim say that we hold like the Chachamim, that blind people are obligated to do mitzvos like everyone else, but some pasken like Reb Yehuda.  (Shaar Tziyun 53:41 and Minchas Chinuch 2:25)  The minhag (Mishna Berura 139:13) is that blind people can get an aliya to the Torah (even among the Sfardim, as the Tzitz Eliezer brings in vol. 11 12:2 from the Chida.)  The Mechaber, Reb Yosef Karo, paskens that a blind man may not be given an aliyah.  As I said, the minhag among both ashkenazim and sefardim has moved away from that opinion.  But I saw that someone brings that in Tzfas, where Reb Yosef Karo lived, the minhag to this day is that they do not call a blind man to the Torah.  In Tzfas, where the Mechaber lived, he is still the Mara D'Asra, and they still follow his opinion.

The idea that a great posek should be honored in his city, that the city should follow his psak even if normative halacha moves away from that opinion (to the extent that his psak would be called טעה בשיקול הדעת because the סוגיא דעלמא is not like him), is not unique to Tzfas.
  • There is, of course, the first Mishna in Reb Eliezer D'Milah, where the town of Rebbi Eliezer followed his halachos lekula even when all the rest of Klal Yisrael paskened not like Rebbi Eliezer.  
  • In the city of Reb Yosi Haglili, they used to eat chicken with milk.   (Chulin 116a)
  • A modern day example:  when people agitated for an Eiruv in Chicago, the Bnei Torah refused to become involved, because Rav Aharon Soloveichik was strongly opposed to the Eiruv, in that he was chosheish for the Rambam.  After Reb Aharon was niftar, the grass roots movement gained momentum, and of course the Chasidim and Baalei Batim didn't care about Reb Aharon's chumra, and so there are eiruvin in Chicago now.  But most Bnei Torah still do not carry, lichvod Harav Soloveichik, although the eiruv is kosher according to almost all poskim.

The Rashba (Tshuvos 1:253) says this:
אם היה רב אחד במקומם ולימדם - הן הולכים אחר דבריו. זהו חלוקת ארץ ישראל ובבל ב'תרבא דאיתרא' דאלו אוסרין ואלו מתירין ואוכלין... ואף על פי שהוא חלב דאורייתא לדברי בני בבל.
...ומן הדרך הזה, כל שנהגו לעשות כל מעשיהם על פי אחד מגדולי הפוסקים - במקום שנהגו לעשות כל מעשיהם על פי הלכות הרב אלפסי זכרונו לברכה, ובמקומות שנהגו לעשות כל מעשיהם על פי חיבור הרמב"ם ז"ל - והרי עשו אלו הגדולים כרבם.

although I have to admit that elsewhere (Tshuvos 1:1090) , he limits application of this rule:

שאלת, בארצות הללו נהגו להכשיר חתם סופר ועד (signed by the sofer and one witness) כדברי הרב אלפסי ז"ל וכבר פשט איסור בכל הארץ. מה יעשה בהן לאותן שנעשו כבר, כי אם נאסור יבוא קלקול גדול בדבר, ואפילו באותן שלא נשאו, משום פרוצות ומשום צנועות. וכיון שיש להם על מי שיסמוכו נכשיר הבאים ממדינה אחרת.
תשובה, אף על פי שרבינו יצחק הזקן ז"ל אוסר, ואנו כך דעתנו נוטה, מכל מקום כבר נהגו שם על פי הרב אלפסי ז"ל ומקומו של הרב הוא. וכל מי שנוהג על פיו שם אפשר כי אפילו בבאים שם היה מותר. וה"נ במקומו של רבי יוסי היו אוכלין בשר עוף בחלב... ולא חשו להם חכמים לפי שנהגו על פי רבם. ומכל מקום טוב הוא להזהירם שלא יהו נוהגים כן מכאן ולהבא.

Tshuvos Haran (48)-
בני מקום אחד חייבין לנהוג כדברי גדוליהן, ואפילו היכא דרבים חלוקין עליהם, כדאמרינן (שבת קל, א) במקומו של רבי אליעזר היו כורתים עצים לעשות פחמים לעשות ברזל, וכל שכן כשגדוליהם מחמירים בדבר אחד, שאין לאחד מאנשי מקומם להקל בדבר.       

and Tshuvos Rivash (256),
עוד שאלת: במקום שנהגו היתר, אם ראוי למחות באותו המנהג ולאסור אותו לגמרי? נראה שראוי לבטל המנהג ההוא, כדאמרינן בפרק קמא דראש השנה (טו, ב): 'כי נהגו במקום אסורא, מי שבקינן להו'? ואם היה דבר זה מחלוקת קדומה בין החכמים ז"ל, זה אוסר וזה מתיר, ועשו כדברי האחד להקל מפני שהיה רבם, או שחכמי המקום נטו אחר דעתו, בכגון זה מניחין אותם על מנהגם, אע"פ שיש הרבה מקומות שנהגו לאסור. כההיא דמגרומתא דרב ושמואל בפרק קמא דחולין (יח, ב); ותרבא דאייתרא בפרק אלו טרפות (נ, א)... וכההיא דלוי...וכמו שהעלמתי עין בסרקסט"ה, במה שנהגו היתר הנאה במגע כותי ביין... אבל הדברים האסורין בלי מחלוקת, שנהגו בהן היתר קצת מקומות מפני שלא ידעו שהן אסורים, זה מנהג טעות הוא, ואינו כלום. 

For a fascinating discussion of the deep significance of a Mara D'Asra, see Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhoffer's discussion here.
One paragraph to whet your interest-
Reb Tzadok draws an analogy to medicines. Different patients suffering dissimilar illnesses at distinct times require different - often opposite - Refu'as HaGuf medications. Similarly, different members of Am Yisroel in dissimilar places at distinct times in history require different - often opposite - Refu'as HaNefesh medications. Hashem created a world full of variety and differences.  (....)  The variations in Halacha correspond to the variations among human beings. (A Kabbalistic explanation of these variations along the lines of chesed and gevurah is cited in the Hakdama to Tanya). The inhabitants of the town of Rabbi Eliezer who cut down trees on Shabbos to make coals to forge knives to perform a Bris Mila that day (according to his opinion in Shabbos 130a that machshirei mila are docheh Shabbos) were therefore fulfilling a mitzva and Retzon Hashem. Their Mara D'Asra, whom Hashem had provided them as a Rofeh HaNefesh, had made such a determination. Inhabitants of any other locality who would engage in the same activity, however, would be liable to capital punishment!

The Gemara in Bava Basra 122a (אלא לקרובה ורחוקה) strongly implies that the closer a tribe's land was to Yerushalayim, the better the portion.  This is how the Rashbam learns the Gemara- because it is closer to the Kedusha of Yerushalayim, and farther from the dangerous borders.  I once heard from Reb Moshe that one can say the contrary as well- that the farther from Yerushalayim the better, because then you have to walk farther on the Shalosh Regalim, and for every step there is schar halicha (e.g., the woman Reb Yochanan talked to in Sotah 22a).  You are placed in a situation where you have to do more hachana.  I never understood how he could say that, when the pashtus of the Gemara in Bava Basra is directly opposite.  I understand that drush is more flexible, but how can you say the exact opposite of the Gemara?  I then saw that the Chasam Sofer here says exactly like Reb Moshe.
מיהו לולא דברי הרשב"ם היה אפשר לומר דרחוק היה זכות יותר דאיכא שכר פסיעות לילך למקדש 
 This is not the first time I saw a remarkable correlation between the way those two gedolim thought.

There's a news item going around about Rav Shteinman's nixing a new Beis Yaakov because it catered to frum elitism (original article in Hebrew is here.)  I want to remind everyone that around a year and a half ago, Rav Steinman expressed this opinion very forcefully and unequivocally here, or where someone came to him about whether to let in some kids whose home is more "open," and Rav Shteinman listens calmly, and discusses it in soft tones, until...  you have to watch it.  See from 3.00 for the fireworks.  Poor Rav Steinman.  It must be hard to be sane in an insane world.  In another example- Haaretz, an agenda-driven newspaper, has no credibility, but in this case they happened to tell the truth.  The protesters, by the way, were those refined souls, those אצילי בני ישראל, whose cultural legacy voiced itself in the line I quoted a few weeks ago:
  אבער בדיבור הי' נהוג בכל העולם בכל הדורות לומר ימ"ש
(ימ"ש stands, of course, for ימח שמו.)

After Reb Chaim Stein was niftar, people said "why did nobody tell me about this great man?  Why did I have to wait until it was too late before I was told of what he was?  If only I had known, I would have jumped into an airplane and gone to see him before it was too late!"

There was once a Doctor Raphael Moller, a yekke, who occasionally saw the Satmarer Rov.  One time, he came into the waiting room, and the Chasidim, seeing a yekke with a short beard, kind of squashed him into a corner.  The Rebbe heard he was there and immediately brought him in to his room, and sent his Shamosh out to tell the people in the waiting room that they should take advantage of being able to look at Dr. Moller, because in Olam Haba, they won't be allowed into the same room with him.  (Heard from Dr. Moller's grandson, Rabbi Avraham Shimon Moller.  We don't make stories up.)

Well, my friends, now you know.  There is a Rav Steinman in Bnei Brak.  Get over there and look at him.  Learn something about him before you go, about his gadlus in Torah, about how little he eats, about his indefatigable energy in chesed and avodas hashem, prepare yourself by understanding what kind of person it is that you will be looking at.  In Olam Haba, you might not have the zechus to look at him.


Tal Benschar said...

What I don't understand is if R. Steinmann expressed the opinion a year and a half ago, why the people setting up this latest Beis Yaakov did not hear about it. They went to the trouble to organize it, and then at the last minute, they asked him for a beracha, and he nixed the whole thing. And to their credit they listened. But wouldn't the wise thing to do would be to ask first?

b said...

I don't understand it either. I don't know the politics in BB, but it seems to me that there are plenty of people from whom they would have gotten a hearty yasher koach and a bracha. Apparently, they knew they would have to go to him. I assume they used the strategy of making a bracha and putting the burden on the owner of the cake to ensure you didn't make a bracha levatala- they intentionally invested so much time and effort into the project so that he couldn't possibly say no.


great unknown said...

Why did kohanim pay fortunes for the Kohen Gadol job every year when it promised a lower life expectancy than the proverbial snowball in the not-proverbial Hell?

b said...

A. They thought they were tzadikim gemurim and would be in office as long as Yochanan Kohen Gadol (Brachos 29a)

B. It's worth it for the kovod.

Any shaichus to the post?

great unknown said...

Everyone thinks "It won't happen to me. Because [fill in a reason] I'm different." Ask any smoker.

b said...

Or maybe that some people find life so unpleasant that to avoid feeling suicidal they find crutches that make living less burdensome. Sometimes, the crutch could be chemical. Of course, a better alternative to suicide is to find a goal and purpose. Of to get big kovod.

great unknown said...

Do the bnei torah in Chicago also respect him by not eating chodosh, or by supporting Mizrachi hashkafa? From the quoted R'Eliezer D'Milah, it seems the kovod is in following to Kulas of the Godol; did R'Aharon have any kulas to follow?

b said...

The difference is poshut. Chodosh and Mizrachi hashkafos are matters of individual behavior. An Eruv is communal. It is communal in three respects:
It is physically built around the entire community;
It requires an Eiruv Chatzeiros that includes every resident of the city and so is inherently and fundamentally communal; and
It appertains to a community- it's "the city that has an eiruv," not "the city that eats chodosh."

Since I don't anticipate getting the proper reaction to my point, I'll put it here myself:
Oh, b, well said, so classically delineated, so impervious to dispute, as monumental as a medieval stone castle.

Oh, go on, it's nothing.....

great unknown said...

And a bris is communal? Other than at the ruchniusdik level.
While I always recommend the exercise of patting yourself on the back in approbation [the Maharsha in Nedarim on yehalelcha zar v'lo, picha], sometimes it can lead to a dislocated shoulder. Or torn labrum.

b said...

Oh, I just got the shaichus of your comment about smokers to this post. They knew about Rav Shteinman's position but thought it wouldn't apply to them.

I realize that the story with Rebbi Eliezer is not the same. It was just מענין לענין באותו ענין.

Nedarim 62a, for those that want to know where it is. The passuk in Mishlei 27:2 says יהללך זר ולא פיך נוכרי ואל שפתיך. Let the other praise you, not your own mouth, the stranger and not your lips. The Maharsha there says pshat that if you are unknown, you should see to it that people realize that you are a talmid chacham (so you can serve as a role model and advisor). So he reads the passuk thus: Let the other praise you. If not, (i.e., nobody realizes who you are,) then your own mouth.

יהללך זר. ולא? פיך

Tal Benschar said...

And a bris is communal? Other than at the ruchniusdik level

What they did in R. Eliezer's community when a bris fell out on Shabbos -- chopped down trees, built a fire, created a knife and carried it through the street to where the baby was -- certainly is communal, or at least openly public.

great unknown said...

Public, certainly. But not communal in any of the three aspects listed in the comment supra at 4:16

However, I accept that your hagdara of being done in public may be dispositive.

b said...

In case great unknown was not sufficiently clear, Tal, what I was saying was that only in communal matters does kvod mara d'asra apply even after his petirah. An Eruv eminently qualifies for a communal matter. A bris, on the other hand, while it can be done with great fanfare and publicity, is not inherently a communal matter. But, as grunk said, I hear what you are suggesting; that one can inflate an inherently private matter into a communal matter by publicity and fanfare.

b said...

To sharpen the distinction: The kahal in its identity as a kahal (what others would call a kahal qua kahal) is mechabeid a great mara d'asra even after his petirah. The Asra is mechabeid the Mara d'Asra. But individuals, even befarhes'ya and the involvement of many people, would not necessarily have this din kahal.

Example: Korban Pesach is often considered to be a korban tzibur because (Yoma 51a) it comes "bichnufya." Does this really make it a korban tzibur? It's not paid for from Trumas Halishka, it's not kodshei kadashim, but as far as tuma and shabbos, it's called a korban tzibur because it's done by all of Klal Yisrael on one day. But there, the knufya aspect is central to the its nature. If one hundred thousand people decided to bring a Shlamim on the same day, it would have no din of Korban Tzibur at all. Similarly, Bris, no matter how public you make it, is not inherently communal, so it's not a tziburisheh mitzva.

Devorah said...

Thanks for that link [and paragraph] re the Mara D'Asra - now it all makes sense. Everyone is exactly where they are meant to be, whether they like it or not. We get the leaders we deserve. Ouch.