Sunday, 23 February 2014

דברי קבלה, קיום דאורייתא

Continuing his discussion of Divrei Kabbalah, Rav Soloveichik points out that, similar to many derabanan mitzvot, divrei kabbalah generally fulfill a deoraita mitzva. This, while at the same time being their own independent mitzva of lesser status.

ונראה עוד יותר, כי בכל מקום שדברי קבלה קובעים דבר חדש ע"י פירוש החובה וניסוחה בכתבי הקודש, אע"פ שהדבר בתורת חובה מיוחדת ומצוה מסוימת הוא מדברי קבלה, בעשייתה ישנו קיום מן התורה, ועל ידה באה מצוה כללית אחרת לידי מילוי גמור.(כיבוד ועונג שבת מתוך שעורים לזכר אבא מרי ז"ל(

The Rav then goes on to elaborate this principal for the three Divrei Kabbalah mitzvot that he previously discussed:

  • 4 Fasts- he argues that they fulfill the Torah mitzva of Tefilah
  • Megilah- once it was included in the Tanach, it became Torah Shebichtav and gained the status of Talmud Torah
  • Kavod Veoneg- they fulfill the obligation of שמור, by treating the day differently from a weekday as a special day

מצוה דרבנן, קיום דאורייתא

The Rav points out that this model of kium deoraita for lesser mitzvot also applies to many Derabanan mitzvot.  As an example, he brings the mitzvas of ביקור חולים, ניחום אבלים, לשמח חתן וכלה... which fulfill the mitzva of ואהבת לרעך כמוך.

You may recall that we mentioned Parshat Zachor as another example which, according to one opinion, was instituted by the sages, but fulfills the Torah commandment of remembering Amalek. (The other opinion views it as תורה מסרה לחכמים)

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Between Deoraita and Derabanan

The two main categories of mitzvot are Deoraita and Derabanan. The former is a mitzva mandated by God himself in the Torah.  The latter are rabbinic edicts, that we are Biblically mandated to follow.

Divrei Kabbalah

Rav Soloveichik, in his lecture on כיבוד ועונג שבת (in שעורים לזכר אבא מרי ז"ל) discusses a category of mitzvot that is neither here nor there: דברי קבלה. Divrei kabbala are mitzvot mentioned in Nach, as the Rav explains:
אנו משתמשים במונח דברי קבלה רק במקום שהתקנה או המצוה מדברי סופרים הוזכרה בכתבי הקודש, בנביאים או בכתובים.

These mitzvot or takanot gain their special status by virtue of the fact that they are written in Nach. The Rav explains that Nach has a status of Torah Shebichtav and that it's from this status that divrei kabbalah derive their special authority.

Anyway, let's move on to the examples the Rav brings of divrei kaballah...

Megilla Reading

The Rav points out that the Rambam's(הל' מגילה א:א) formulation in his introduction to Megillah reading is highly unusual:

קריאת המגילה בזמנה, מצות עשה מדברי סופרים. והדברים ידועים שהיא תקנת הנביאים.

The Rav explains that the mitzvot of Purim started out as normal Mitzvot Derabanan, instituted by the beit din hagadol in the form of anshei knesset hagdolah. This takana was accepted by the majority of Am Yisrael(not including the issur melacha). Then, Ester requested the anshei knesset hagdolah to make her book part of Nach. When this request was accepted, then the mitzvot of Purim were elevated to the level of divrei kabbalah by virtue of being mentioned in the Megillah.

Kavod Veoneg Shabbat

This topic also begins with an unusual wording in the Rambam(הל' שבת ל:א):

ארבעה דברים נאמרו בשבת שנים מן התורה ושנים מדברי סופרים והן מפורשין על ידי הנביאים. שבתורה זכור ושמור. ושנתפרשו על ידי הנביאים כבוד ועונג שנאמר וקראת לשבת עונג ולקדוש ה' מכובד.

The Rav says that the mitzvot of Kavod Veoneg Shabbat are also divrei kabbalah. The differ, however, from Megillah reading in that there was no Rabbinic decree that preceded their mention in Nach. The very fact that there were written down as part of Yeshayahu's prophecy, gives them their special status.

The 4 Fasts

Here, the Rambam is in הל' תענית ה:ד

וארבעת ימי הצומות האלו--הרי הן מפורשין בקבלה, "צום הרביעי וצום החמישי וצום השביעי וצום העשירי" (זכריה ח,יט):  צום הרביעי--זה שבעה עשר בתמוז, שהוא בחודש הרביעי; וצום החמישי--זה תשעה באב, שהוא בחודש החמישי; וצום השביעי--זה שלושה בתשרי, שהוא בחודש השביעי; וצום העשירי--זה עשרה בטבת, שהוא בחודש העשירי.

The interesting thing here is that Zecharia's words imply that some people were already fasting on these days, but that it wasn't an official taanit tzibur ordained by the sages. By mentioning these fast days in his prophecy, the navi elevated them to official fast days on the level of Divrei Kabalah.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Reason Behind Writing a Sefer Torah

The second half of Rav M's shiur on the mitzva of writing a Sefer Torah, focused on the rationale behind the mitzva. The main chakira revolved on this question:
  • To Learn: is the purpose of the mitzva that you will have a sefer Torah ava?
  • To Connect: or perhaps it's something more akin to the King's obligation, which seems to be more about creating a relationship with the Torah: וְהָיְתָה עִמּוֹ, וְקָרָא בוֹ כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּיו--לְמַעַן יִלְמַד, לְיִרְאָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו, לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת וְאֶת-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, לַעֲשֹׂתָם. The writing it oneself is in order to develop a more personal relationship with the Torah.

1. Buying a Sefer Torah

The first nafka mina is whether one can fulfill his obligation by buying a sefer torah.

The Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvot(עשה יח) mentions the possibility of buying a sefer torah, but with the possibility of writing it oneself being a greater level of fulfillment. So the basic mitzva seems to be about having the sefer available to learn, while the connection that comes from writing it oneself is extra.

ציווי שנצטווינו שיהא לכל-זכר ממנו ספר תורה לעצמו. ואם יכתבו בידו - הרי זה משבח מאד והוא עדיף, כמו שאמרו: "כתבו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו קיבלו מהר סיני". ואם אי אפשר לו לכתבו בידו - חייב הוא לקנותו או יבקש שיכתבו בשבילו...

In the Mishneh Torah(ספר תורה ז:א), however, the Rambam doesn't mention the possibility of purchasing a sefer torah, and in fact he describes the basic mitzva as writing it oneself. So here the main pupose of the mitzva seems to be to create a connection between the writer and Torah.

מצות עשה על כל איש ואיש מישראל, לכתוב ספר תורה לעצמו:  שנאמר "ועתה, כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת" (דברים לא,יט), כלומר כתבו את התורה שיש בה שירה זו--לפי שאין כותבין את התורה, פרשייות פרשייות.  ואף על פי שהניחו לו לאדם אבותיו ספר תורה, מצוה לכתוב משלו.  ואם כתבו בידו, הרי הוא כאילו קיבלו מסיניי; ואם אינו יודע לכתוב, אחרים כותבין לו.  וכל המגיה בספר תורה, אפילו אות אחת--הרי זה כאילו כתבו, כולו.

The Rosh

A second nafka mina is the chiddush of the Rosh on מנחות ל א(brought in the טור יורה דעה ער:ג), who says that now that we keep sifrei torah in the synagogue, the mitzva is now to write chumashim and gemaras etc. The Rosh is a rather extreme example of the view that the point of the writing is to facilitate learning, so much so that he even drops the requirement of it being a kosher Sefer Torah! Note, that most of Am Yisrael seems to follow the Rosh, since we buy books, but most people aren't machmir to write their own personal sefer torah.

Other Nafka Minot

A third nafka mina is whether a lost torah needs to be replaced. If the point is learning, then you need a new one. If the point is to create the connection, that perhaps still exists even when the physical scroll is no longer in your posession.

The final nafka mina that was mentioned was the question of whether you can fulfill the mitzva by donating a scroll to the synagogue. Assuming that the point is that you should own the scroll so you can learn it, some poskim say that when you donate the scroll you shouldn't renounce your legal ownership of the scroll.