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Friday, August 17, 2012

Va'eschanan, Eikev, and Re'eh. Why a Chassan Speaks; Fat is Fate; and Resentful Meshulachim

I haven't posted recently.  Here are a few things I found interesting.  I hope you find them interesting as well.

I
In Parshas Va'Eschanan, Devarim 6:7 - ודברת בם, בשבתך בביתך ובלכתך בדרך, ובשכבך ובקומך, and in Parshas Eikev, Devarim 11:19 -  ושננתם לבניך, ודברת בם, בשבתך בביתך ובלכתך בדרך, ובשכבך ובקומך , the passuk tells us that we need to learn and teach Torah.  Targum Yonasan adds, in both cases, ותהויין הגיין בהון במותביכון בבתיכון בזמן מיעסקכון בחיתונכון, which means, most probably, that you should learn Torah when you are busy with your wedding.  This is very strange, in light of the classic Chazal that the people involved in making a wedding, and certainly the Chassan, are granted a dispensation on the obligation of Limud HaTorah.  In any case, if you want an interesting source for our minhag that Chasanim say Divrei Torah at Aufrufs and Sheva Brachos, here you have it.

Truth is, I believe the reason our minhag is for a Chassan to speak at the Aufruf and Sheva Brachos because they are so distracted and busy that if they didn't have to speak, days would go by and they would not learn a word.  Now that they have to speak in public, to a critical crowd, in front of a new wife and in laws and strangers, they have no choice but to learn more diligently than usual.  This is also why a father is expected to say a Dvar Torah at a Bris.  In fact, I remember being in the delivery room when my bechor was born, and immediately thinking about what I would say at the bris.  But the Targum is interesting.

After citing the Targum and my pshat, here are the usual reasons offered to explain why chassanim speak at the Sheva Brachos.

a.  The Gemara (Sanhedrin 101) says that at every festive gathering, we should say divrei Torah:
התורה חוגרת שק ועומדת לפני הקב"ה ואומרת לפניו רבונו של עולם עשאוני בניך ככנור שמנגנין בו לצים אמר לה בתי בשעה שאוכלין ושותין במה יתעסקו אמרה לפניו רבונו של עולם אם בעלי מקרא הן יעסקו בתורה ובנביאים ובכתובים אם בעלי משנה הן יעסקו במשנה בהלכות ובהגדות ואם בעלי תלמוד הן יעסקו בהלכות פסח בפסח בהלכות עצרת בעצרת בהלכות חג בחג 
so it's not specific to a Sheva Brachos, but an application of the Gemara's general instruction to say divrei torah at festive gatherings.

b.  Many people have said that because the Gemara (Pesachim 49a) says that the marriage of the daughter of a talmid chacham to an am ha'aretz is ill fated and not a seudas mitzva:
תניא רבי שמעון אומר כל סעודה שאינה של מצוה אין תלמיד חכם רשאי להנות ממנה כגון מאי א"ר יוחנן כגון בת כהן לישראל ובת תלמיד חכם לעם הארץ דא"ר יוחנן בת כהן לישראל אין זווגן עולה יפה
so the Chassan endeavors to demonstrate that he is a talmid chacham and so it is a auspicious marriage and a seudas mitzva.  By the way, many have said that this explains why we "hak up" the Chassan, why we often interrupt him during the speech and don't let him finish his prepared divrei Torah- because we are saying that he doesn't need to prove that he's a talmid chacham, we know that he's a talmid chacham without his having to prove it to us with his speech.



II
If you're fat, it's not because you're a slovenly and undisciplined bum.  It's fate.  Regarding the passuk in Devarim 30:15 that says ראה נתתי לפניך היום את החיים ואת הטוב ואת המוות ואת הרע, the Medrash Tanchuma in Pekudei says : הקדוש ברוך הוא גוזר על הטיפה מה יהא בסופה, אם זכר אם נקבה, אם חלש גיבור, אם עני אם עשיר, אם קצר או ארוך, אם מכוער או נאה, אם עבה או דק, אם בזוי או גס. וכן גוזר על כל קורותיו. אבל אם צדיק אם רשע, לא, אלא הדבר ההוא נותנו בידו של אדם בלבד, שנאמר: ראה נתתי לפניך היום את החיים ואת הטוב, ואת המות ואת הרע (דב' ל טו).   Basically, fat is fate.  Relax and enjoy it.



III
In parshas Re'eh, the Torah objurgates a person that refuses to lend money to a fellow Jew out of fear that the borrower will take advantage of the law of Shemita and not pay back the loan.  The Torah refers to such a person as a Beli'al, the equivalent of an idolater.  The Chafetz Chaim in the intro to Ahavas Chesed discusses this, and brings the Chinuch that says it's talking about a borrower who, under the terms of the loan, should pay back before the debt-annulment of Shevi'is takes place (so we're not dealing with out-and-out Tzedaka,) but you're worried that he won't pay back on time and he'll push you off until Shevi'is comes.

משרשי המצוה כדי לחזק ולקבוע בנפשינו מדת הנדיבות ולהרחיק בתכלית ריחוק מדת הכילות, ואין נדיב יותר בעולם כמלוה מעותיו בלי משכון עם היותו יודע שהזמן קרוב להשמיט מעותיו ולהפסידו ממנו באם לא יוכל לגבותם קודם השמטה. והוציא הכתוב בלשון השמר לך לומר שאל יעלה על רוחך כי על נזק הדל אני מזהירך פן יחסר לו אשר לא תתן לו, כי לא כן הוא ועל הנוגע לך מזהירך כי יקרך עון. וזהו שאמר השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל לאמר קרבה שנת השבע שנת השמיטה של שמיטת קרקעות וכרמים וזיתים, ובהם כמונו כעניים שוים בהם, ואיך עוד אפתח ידי לתת עוד לו מממוני צדקה, נמצא העניים אוכלים אותנו בשלש פיות. דע כי לב בליעל הוא, קשה המעשה כע"ז כמ"ש ז"ל כל המעלים עינו מן הצדקה כאלו עובד ע"ז, נאמר כאן בליעל ונאמר יצאו אנשים בני בליעל.

Declining to lend such a person doesn't
sound like idolatry to me, and I'm not sure what the problem is.  It's possible that the problem is that you don't believe that Hashem will pay you back for the borrower's non-payment.  But it seems to me that to lend him money, when you have a legitimate concern about his unfairly delaying until Shevi'is, is no worse than building a fence around your land to keep out vandals.

In any case, what I want to know is this:  Does Usha's rule of Chomesh apply to loans.  Of, better, the Gaon holds that Chomesh is De'oraysa when the poor man is in front of you.  Does that rule of Chomesh apply to loans?  When are you obligated to lend money, and to what extent does this obligation extend?  And you can't say that it's a wishy washy rule, that you ought to do it but if you don't it's no big deal, because it is a very very big deal: the Torah warns you that if you don't lend the money, you are in serious trouble.  What triggers the obligation, and under what circumstances of the borrower and under what financial condition of the lender does it apply.  As we will see in a moment, it is not limited to destitute borrowers.  But it certainly doesn't apply to a profligate wastrel or a speculator that wants to invest in commodity futures.  I don't know the answer to this question, and I would be very happy to hear from someone who has something good to say about this.

4.  Again on the passuk (15:9) השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל לאמר קרבה שנת השבע שנת השמטה ורעה עינך באחיך האביון ולא תתן לו וקרא עליך אל ה' והיה בך חטא., that it is akin to idolatry to refuse a loan to a person that is in need.  From a cursory reading of the passuk, one would understand it to refer to a man who needs a loan because he is hungry or desperate for sustenance of some sort.  However, the Chinuch here in Mitzvah 488 says that it is broader, and it includes a businessman who needs a loan. 
Additionally, the Rambam applies it as a general mitzva, not limited to loans.  The Rambam brings this passuk in three places:

9 Shmitah V'Yovel 30
מי שנמנע מלהלוות את חבירו קודם השמיטה שמא יתאחר החוב שלו וישמט עבר בלא תעשה שנאמר השמר לך וגו'. וחטא גדול הוא שהרי הזהירה עליו תורה בשני לאוין שנאמר השמר לך פן וגו'. וכל מקום שנאמר השמר או פן או אל הרי זה מצות לא תעשה. והתורה הקפידה על מחשבה רעה זו וקראתו בליעל. והרי הוסיף הכתוב להזהיר ולצוות שלא ימנע אלא יתן שנאמר נתן תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו וגו'. והבטיח הקב"ה בשכר מצוה זו בעולם הזה שנאמר כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך וגו':
10 Matnas Aniyim 3
כל המעלים עיניו מן הצדקה הרי זה נקרא בליעל כמו שנקרא עובד עכו"ם בליעל. ובעכו"ם הוא אומר יצאו אנשים בני בליעל ובמעלים עיניו מן הצדקה הוא אומר השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל. ונקרא רשע שנאמר ורחמי רשעים אכזרי. ונקרא חוטא שנאמר וקרא עליך אל ה' והיה בך חטא. והקב"ה קרוב לשועת עניים שנאמר שועת עניים אתה תשמע. לפיכך צריך להזהר בצעקתם שהרי ברית כרותה להם שנאמר והיה כי יצעק אלי ושמעתי כי חנון אני:
1 Malveh V'Loveh 1
מצות עשה להלוות לעניי ישראל שנאמר אם כסף תלוה את עמי את העני עמך. יכול רשות תלמוד לומר העבט תעביטנו וגו' ומצוה זו גדולה מן הצדקה אל העני השואל שזה כבר נצרך לשאול וזה עדיין לא הגיע למדה זו. והתורה הקפידה על מי שימנע מלהלוות לעני שנאמר ורעה עינך באחיך האביון וגו':


Although our passuk refers to "your desperate brother," it is clear, again, from the Rambam in Shmita V'Yovel it is clear that he applies it to anyone who needs a loan, even if he is not an Evyon.  As I mentioned above, I don't know the extent of this obligation.

5.  The passuk says that if one refuses to give the loan, he has sinned.  The Rambam quoted above emphasizes this as well. Rashi in our passuk also says a remarkable thing about this:  The passuk says that if the poor man cries to Hashem, Hashem will listen to his cries and punish the one who refused to lend him money.  
and he will cry out [to the Lord] against you: One might think this is a requirement [namely, that this poor man is obliged to “cry out… against you”]. Therefore, Scripture says, “[On his day you shall give him his payment…] so that he will not cry against you [to the Lord]” (Deut. 24:15). - [Sifrei 15:138]וקרא עליך: יכול מצוה, תלמוד לומר (דברים כד, טו) ולא יקרא:
and it will be a sin to you: in any case, even if he does not cry [against you]. If so, why does it say,“and he will cry out… against you?” [It means that God says:] I hasten to punish in response to the one who cries out more than to the one who does not cry out. — [Sifrei]והיה בך חטא: מכל מקום, אפילו לא יקרא. אם כן למה נאמר וקרא עליך, ממהר אני ליפרע על ידי הקורא יותר ממי שאינו קורא:
Regarding the first Rashi:  Why on Earth would I have thought that the rejected applicant is obliged to cry out against the one who refused?  Regarding the second Rashi, and the passuk in general: What obligates a man to lend to another?  If a person refuses to take a lulav and esrog, if a person refuses to wear Tefillin, is the punishment so severe?  Why is this so serious here?  What right does the supplicant have to the lender's money?  So let's assume that if a person is in a position to lend money, he is a Gizbar, he is a steward of the money, not its owner, and a steward who is entrusted with assets to be used for another's benefit, and he refuses to do so, is a thief.  But this is a complaint the Hashem has against the wealthy man.  What right does the supplicant have to complain?  It's not his money, he was asking for a favor, what kind of chutzpah is it that he asks Hashem to punish the man who refused to do him a favor?  I would think that such a person is imbalanced, or a potential thief himself, because he views the money as his entitlement, when it actually belongs to the other person.  Bishlema by an item given in collateral, the lender's refusal to let the borrower use it in a time of need is unfair, because until the court takes it from the borrower and gives it finally to the lender, it is to some extent the property of the borrower.  But here, what right does the supplicant have to complain to Hashem- to the extent that you need a passuk to tell you that although he MAY complain to Hashem, he has no OBLIGATION to do so!

I am well aware that meshulachim and aniyim curse the people who don't give them as much as they think they're entitled to.  I've seen this many times.  But it's an ugly trait, and unfit for any normal member of Klal Yisrael.  I assume it stems from the fact that they have taken tzedaka for so long that they perceive the money in your pocket as belonging to them.  They no longer see the demarcation between what's yours and what's theirs, at least insofar as taking is concerned.  But it's not a good middah.  It is a very very bad middah.  The reason it's called "my money" is because it is my money.  What is the hava amina that the poor person is obligated to complain to Hashem????

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have said over in shiur that Chazal say idolatry is a rejection of the entire Torah. The refusal to lend close to Shemittah is like idolatry because it is a rejection of the spirit of the Torah. It's not just וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ but also seen in Re'eh, especially in the seventh aliya which follows the passukim you cited. There we are told repeatedly to watch out for the disadvantaged, the Ger, the Yasom, the Almanah, Avadim and once the Leviim are included.

thinkjudaism said...

Rabbi,I can't tell if you take the point regarding weight literally or not, and even if you think it should be taken literally, it is certainly not the only approach to these questions. are you proposing that this is what people should be taught from now on?
How can we deny what our eyes see and our doctors tell us?
This is certainly a difficult theory of providence to accept nowadays.
For a variety of views on providence, see my post( http://thinkjudaism.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/the-boy-who-fell-from-the-tree-2/ ) where i discuss mainly one point of view from chazal, but touch on several others.
shavua tov uchodesh tov

Josh F said...

According to Rav Hirsch, Idolatry is not an intellectual sin, it's a moral sin. For example by molech, we know someone who sacrifices all of his children isn't put to death (for avoda zara). There are many answers to why this is but Rav Hirsch says the point of molech is you sacrifice one child to help the fortunes of another child- so if you sacrifice all of them it's not avoda zara because you're doing it wrong. Basically avoda zara is an attempt to manipulate cosmic powers for personal gain. If we assume that avoda zara is in fact a moral crime - then the reason why refusing to lend is a crime becomes more clear- it's comparing one moral aveira (that we might not assume is so bad) to the worst of all moral aveiros to underscore the seriousness of the transgression

Barzilai said...

Aaron (anonymous) and Josh, thank you for your comments. You are certainly right; what we might see as trivial can be symptomatic of a deep and possibly fatal flaw.

thinkjudaism, no, I didn't mean what I said about weight seriously. I myself have dropped more than fifty pounds since last year, without recourse to slicing and dicing my digestive system. But I certainly do believe that there are people for whom weight problems are extremely hard, if not impossible, to overcome. There's a child in my neighborhood who is named after a grandfather who had terrible weight problems. The child's parents are very responsible and fit, and the child never saw his grandfather, but he is unfortunately morbidly obese. He apparently inherited the "I'm still hungry" gene from Grandpa.

thinkjudaism said...

Thanks for answering rabbi. congratulations on the weight loss, which i'm sure must have been extraordinarily difficult.i also agree that some people can't lose weight, or that it is almost impossible for them. Still, I'm again curious if you're tying this to genetics or also to the power of a name...
Shabbat Shalom!