Sunday, March 30, 2014

The cause for Metzora

In the time of Chazal, there was already no actual Metzora. No one had these skin conditions, and no one was declared tamei. Rather, it was in the realm of drosh ve-kabel schar.

So, when Chazal say something like this:

 Then the kohen shall order, and the person to be cleansed shall take two live, clean birds, a cedar stick, a strip of crimson [wool], and hyssop. ד. וְצִוָּה הַכֹּהֵן וְלָקַח לַמִּטַּהֵר שְׁתֵּי צִפֳּרִים חַיּוֹת טְהֹרוֹת וְעֵץ אֶרֶז וּשְׁנִי תוֹלַעַת וְאֵזֹב:
clean [birds]: Excluding an unclean bird, [i.e., forbidden to be eaten] (see Chul. 140a). [Why are birds required for this cleansing rite?] Because lesions of tzara’ath come as a result of derogatory speech, which is done by chattering. Therefore, for his cleansing, this person is required to bring birds, which twitter constantly with chirping sounds. — [Arachin 16b] טהרות: פרט לעוף טמא. לפי שהנגעים באין על לשון הרע, שהוא מעשה פטפוטי דברים, לפיכך הוזקקו לטהרתו צפרים, שמפטפטין תמיד בצפצוף קול:
a cedar stick: Because lesions of tzara’ath come because of haughtiness [symbolized by the tall cedar]. — [Arachin 16a] ועץ ארז: לפי שהנגעים באין על גסות הרוח:
a strip of crimson [wool], and hyssop: What is the remedy that he may be healed [of his tzara’ath]? He must humble himself from his haughtiness, just as [symbolized by] the תּוֹלַעַת [lit., “a worm,” which infested the berries from which the crimson dye was extracted to color wool], and the [lowly] hyssop. — [Tanchuma 3] ושני תולעת ואזב: מה תקנתו ויתרפא, ישפיל עצמו מגאותו, כתולעת וכאזוב:

it is good to note that they weren't pointing to a specific person and saying to him / about him that his suffering was due to his own sins, and that these were the specific sins he was guilty of.

Rather, it is taking a somewhat dry and technical area of halacha with no present-day application and, besides of course discussing the actual laws, moving it to something which people could relate to and derive important life lessons from. Namely, that one should not be haughty, or say lashon hara. And then, for whatever major or minor ills, one can engage in introspection and cure oneself by working on one's middos. I don't think they really intended people to engage, regularly, in extrospection -- "that person is suffering from those ills because he is a bad guy."

And meanwhile this is different from the sense one might have arrived at by looking at the plain text, in which we don't know why this person got this affliction, there is this unknown spiritual / physical malady, and it is in the hands of the Kohen to pronounce him in one state of the other.

(Sure, they have Biblical precedent for this. For instance, Miriam, who told lashon hara. But firstly, we might consider that a specific instance of Divine wrath, rather than something from which we can extrapolate from.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

posts so far for parashat Tazria


1. Guys rule in Tazria

2. Videocast Lesson. Due to technical difficulties, I only have the first 8 minutes out of 25. Discussing Rashbam and Rashi on Isha Ki Tazria.


1. Tazria sources, 2012 edition. Further expanded.

2. Rav Mordechai Gifter on Isha Ki Tazria -- The Ramban gives two explanations of isha ki tazria, one according to Aristotle and the other according to Galen. Are they both simultaneously true, on some plane? And does this solve all our problems of Torah seeming to contradict science?

3. Why does ואת עמלני refers to sons specifically?
 Rav Chaim Kanievsky explains, based on a gemara that רוצה לעשות כל בניו זכרים יבעול וישנה, which entails greater tircha. And this is related to the beginning of parashat Tazria, and the famous derasha about how to have male children.

4. YUTorah on parashat Tazria. And for Tazria - Metzora, 2013. And for Tazria, 2014.

5. Chess in Rabbinic sources -- "Ibn Ezra wrote the following poetic riddle about the game of Chess. {J: ishkaki / shach-mat = Check Mate."

  1. Tazria sources -- further improved. For example, many more meforshei Rashi.
  2. YU Torah on parshat Tazria.
  3. Why no 'famous' derasha on Isha Ki TazriaMaybe there is. Regardless, what about the law of conservation of derashot?
  4. Why does Rashi explain the pasuk of וּבְיוֹם הֵרָאוֹת בּוֹ בָּשָׂר חַי יִטְמָא out of orderBartenura gives his answer; I give my own, that maybe it is not out of order, and if it is, it is a logical order.
  5. A Taz I can agree with --   About revisiting the midrashei halacha Rashi is merely citing, and whether we are skilled enough to do it.
  6. Why is וְכִבַּסְתֶּם translated as וּתְחַוְּרוּן?  Onkelos strays from his usual path. Is this a violation of the rule laid down by Rashi in parshat Tazria?


  1. Tazria sources -- expanded
  2. All about Chazal and contemporary science. First, How did Chazal know that 'drop exudes from the brain and develops into semen'? A better question, IMHO, is how the Pythagoreans knew. Before kvetching and reinterpreting to make Chazal know this with ruach hakodesh, why not check to see if ancient science, contemporary to Chazal, asserted precisely the same thing?
  3. Next, How did Chazal know that hemophilia is transmitted by the mother's DNA? With what I think is a good answer.

  1. Tazria sources -- links by aliyah and perek to an online Mikraos Gedolos, and links to many meforshim on the parshah and haftarah.
  2. The famous midrash of Isha Ki Tazria; who promotes and who rejects the midrash (at least as peshat); and thought about the motivations for this midrash.
  3. As an alternative to the advice in the aforementioned famous midrash, Chizkuni offers other reproductive advice on how to have male children, based on contemporary science. And how he reads this into, or out of, a pasuk in Shir HaShirim.
  • Dam Tohar
    • and various unsuccessful and successful attempts to uproot this halachic entity declared by the Torah and Chazal.
  • Tekiat Shofar and Sisera's mother
    • Where parshat Tazria factors in in that a midrash there states that a woman wails and cries out 100 times when giving birth, with possible parallels to the custom of 100 shofar blasts.
  • An updated account of the midrash that if a woman is tazria first (before the man), she has a boy (isha ki tazria veyalda zachar.) The original midrash operated under the assumption that she gave forth this seed on orgasm. But there is a debated theory that if a woman ovulates before coitus, she is more likely to have male offspring, but if coitus happens before ovulation, she is more likely to have female offspring, on the basis of endurance vs. speed of the two types of sperm. This is debated for humans, but is a known matter for several animal species. A link to some of the research, plus pictures of some of the animals for which this is true.
to be continued...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

YUTorah on parashat Tazria

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rashi doesn't say the תִּנְשֶׁמֶת is the calve soriz (bat)

Here I resolve a confounding Rashi. Rashi on Shemini does not translate Atalef among the non-kosher birds, but does translate תִּנְשֶׁמֶת. And he defines it as the calve soriz, which is the bat in Old French. Yet on Yeshaya (2:20) he translates the Atalef as the calve soriz. And consistently in the gemara (Bechorot 7b, Beitza 7a) Rashi translates the Atalef as the calve soriz. What gives?

#1: One strong possibility is that really, Rashi did not define the תִּנְשֶׁמֶת as the calve soriz. He only gave a description as a winged creature similar to a mouse [corrected self here], and drew a connection to the תִּנְשֶׁמֶת which appears later in verse 20 (there, the mole). However, some "helpful" scribe supplied the definition, based on Rashi's description.

Here is the printed Rashi, as we have it today, on Vayikra 11:18:

The bat, the starling, the magpie;יח. וְאֶת הַתִּנְשֶׁמֶת וְאֶת הַקָּאָת וְאֶת הָרָחָם:
The bat: Heb. הַתִּנְשֶׁמֶת. That is calve soriz [in Old French, chauve-souris in modern French]. It resembles a mouse and flies about at night. The תִּנְשֶׁמֶת mentioned among the creeping animals (verse 30), resembles this one, insofar as it has no eyes. That [one] is called talpe [in Old French, taupe in modern French, mole in English].התנשמת: היא קלב"א שורי"ץ [עטלף] ודומה לעכבר ופורחת בלילה. ותנשמת האמורה בשרצים היא דומה לה, ואין לה עינים וקורין לה טלפ"א [חפרפרת]:

And here is Rashi as it appears in Ktav Yad Rome, from the year 1470.

Note that the initial words, which would positively identify this as the calve soriz (bat), do not exist.

A more expansive Rashi (in that it often expands, ad incorporates words from other Rishonim as well), Munich, 1233, does have this lead in of the calve soriz.

And so does this one from I don't know when and where (Cod Hebr 3):

#2: This is a bit more forced, but could we say that Rashi originally said these words about עטלף, and some scribes moved the explanation over to תִּנְשֶׁמֶת? Unlike #1, I don't have any manuscript evidence of this.

But we could speculate as follows: Rashi said it about עטלף. And his purpose in referring to the תנשמת is not to address the similarity of words in both places, but to reference the other pasuk in Tanach, namely Yeshaya 2:20, which helped him make that identification of עטלף as bat:

On that day, man will cast away his silver idols and his gold idols, which they made for him, [before which] to prostrate himself to moles and to bats.כ. בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יַשְׁלִיךְ הָאָדָם אֵת אֱלִילֵי כַסְפּוֹ וְאֵת אֱלִילֵי זְהָבוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ לוֹ לְהִשְׁתַּחֲו‍ֹת לַחְפֹּר פֵּרוֹת וְלָעֲטַלֵּפִים:
to prostrate himself to moles: Heb. לַחְפֹּר פֵּרוֹת, idols in the likeness of moles, a species of rodents who dig in the earth, called talpes in O.F. [taupes in modern French].
and to bats: kalbe soric [chauvesouris in modern French]. Alternatively, this may be interpreted to mean that man will cast his idols that he made for himself, before which to prostrate himself, into pits and ditches that he finds before him when he goes to escape and hide.

A later scribe thought that Rashi was surely trying to connect the two instances of תִּנְשֶׁמֶת and explain locally how the words relate, and so reassigned the dibbur hamatchil to be תִּנְשֶׁמֶת.

Update: On the other hand, see Chullin 63a, and the Rashis there. In particular:
(תחותא) באות שבעופות - עוף הצועק בלילה צואיט"ה בלע"ז:
באות שבשרצים - טלפ"א תרי תנשמת כתיבי חד בעופות וחד בשרצים:
דבר הלמד מענינו - אחד מי"ג מדות היא:
קיפוף - ציאי"ט ולי נראה שקורין קלב"א שורי"ץ שדומה לטלפא שבשרצים:
קורפדאי - טלפ"א:

Friday, March 21, 2014

YUTorah on parashat Shemini

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ויהי ביום השמיני and how it parallels Maaseh Bereishit

I've been learning through some Torah Temimah on the parsha every week. What he does is first bring down a large collection of derashot on each phrase in each pasuk, and then discuss in detail what each derasha means and how they might have gone about deriving it.

Here, I'll present the first Torah Temima on parashat Shemini, the derasha and his discussion. And I will use that as a jumping off point for my own discussion of the derasha, and how I might bolster it.

So first, the pasuk, derasha, and comment of Torah Temima.

The pasuk is Vayikra 9:1:

וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי קָרָא מֹשֶׁה לְאַהֲרֹן וּלְבָנָיו וּלְזִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

"And it was on the eighth day that Moshe called to Aharon and his sons and the elders of Israel."

This was the eighth day of the miluim, such that the Mishkan and the kohanim are finally being inaugurated.

The derasha he cites from Megillah 10b, where it is embedded within a discussion of the word וַיְהִי, and whether it always has negative connotations. וַיְהִי בִּימֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ was certainly negative but the inauguration of the Mishkan is surely positive, as the derasha makes clear:

והכתיב (ויקרא ט, א) ויהי ביום השמיני ותניא אותו היום היתה שמחה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא כיום שנבראו בו שמים וארץ כתיב הכא ויהי ביום השמיני וכתיב התם(בראשית א, ה) ויהי (בקר) יום אחד

"But it is written: 'And it was on the eighth day' and it was taught in a brayta: That day there was joy before Hakadosh Baruch Hu like the day on which heaven and earth were created. It is written here (Vayikra 9:1) ויהי ביום השמיני and it is written there (Bereishit 1:5) ויהי (בקר) יום אחד."

Torah Temima end the quote with just the citation of ויהי בקר, which doesn't single out a specific day.

In his commentary on the derasha he writes:
א) נראה באור הדרשה ע״פ מ״ש בב״ר פ״ג שבעת
 הקמת המשכן אמר הקב״ה נדמה בעיני כאלו
 באותו יום בראתי את עולמי, ומבואר שם הטעם
 מפני שמחחלת בריית העולם נתאוה הקב״ה ליחד
 שמו וקדושתו בעולם ע״י המשכן, וזה גופא יתבאר
 ע"פ מ״ש במגילה ל״א ב' אלמלא מעמדות לא
 נתקיימו שמים וארץ, ומעמדות היינו בקיום ביהמ״ק
 וקרבנות, כנודע [עי לפנינו בפ' פינחס בר״פ
 קרבנות], ולאשר שביום השמיני למלואים היה גמר
 הקמת המשכן, לכן דריש שגדלה ככיכול שמחתו של
 הקב״ה כיום בריאת שמים וארץ, יען דבבריאת
 שמו״א היתה רצונו ומחשבתו כביכול לברוא את העולם
 לתכלית המעמדות, ובהקמת המשכן נתקיים רצונו
 בזה, ולסמך וסימן לדבר נתן שווי המלות ויהי
 דכתיבי בשניהם
"It appears that the derasha is based on that which is written in Bereishit Rabba parasha 3 (3:9), that at the time of the erection of the Mishkan, Hashem said, 'it seems to me as if today I have created my world'. And it is explained there the reason, that from the beginning of creation Hashem desired to associate/designate [ליחד] his Name and his holiness in the world via the Mishkan. And this itself is explained via that which is written in Megillah 31b, 'if not for the Maamadot the Heavens and Earth would not have been established'. And the Maamadot were in the establishment of the Bet Hamikdash and korbanot, as is known. [See earlier, in parashat Pinchas, at the beginning of the parasha of korbanot.] And since on the eighth day of the Miluim were the completion of the erection of the Mishkan, therefore they darshened that it was as if the happiness of Hakadosh Baruch Hu was as great as the creation of Heaven and Earth, since at the creation of Heaven and Earth, His Will and Though were as if to create the world for the purpose of the Maamadot, and with the erection of the Mishkan His will was fulfilled in this. And as a support and sign to the matter the [author of the midrash] noted the equivalence of the words וַיְהִי which were written by both of them."

So, he explained the intent behind the Midrash as well as how the derasha is working.

I would note that as gezeira shavas go, this seems way too common of a word. How many places does the word וַיְהִי occur? Aside from its frequency, why specifically associate these two instances? Maybe if it is a mere mnemonic, but the idea is already established from elsewhere, as the Torah Temima establishes it.

I'd also note that in the Bereishit Rabba which the Torah Temima cited, the derasha about the Divine purpose in creation uses a different pasuk, which has Vayhi, Yom, and Rishon:

ט [תכלית הבריאה היא השראת השכינה בעולם

אמר רבי שמואל בר אמי: מתחלת ברייתו של עולם נתאוה הקב"ה לעשות שותפות בתחתונים. 

מה נפשך? 
אם לענין החשבון, לא היה צריך למימר אלא אחד שנים שלושה, או ראשון שני ושלישי, שמא אחד שני שלישי אתמהא?! 

אימתי פרע להם הקדוש ברוך הוא? 
להלן בהקמת המשכן, שנאמר: (במדבר ז) ויהי המקריב ביום הראשון את קרבנו, ראשון לברייתו של עולם. 
אמר הקב"ה: כאילו באותו יום בראתי את עולמי. 

עשר עטרות נטל אותו היום ראשון למעשה בראשית.
ראשון למלכים,
ראשון לנשיאים,
ראשון לכהונה,
ראשון לשכינה, שנא' (שמות כה) 
ועשו לי מקדש. ראשון לברכה,
ראשון לעבודה,
ראשון לאיסור הבמה,
ראשון לשחיטה בצפון,
ראשון לירידת האש, שנא' (ויקרא י) 
ותצא אש מלפני ה' וגו'. 
We find a parallel to the midrash as it appears in the gemara as it appears in the Sifra. The gemara again:

והכתיב (ויקרא ט, א) ויהי ביום השמיני ותניא אותו היום היתה שמחה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא כיום שנבראו בו שמים וארץ כתיב הכא ויהי ביום השמיני וכתיב התם (בראשית א, ה) ויהי (בקר) יום אחד

And the Sifra can be read here, 15-16. This despite the word כתיב, which is Aramaic, and could have suggested to me that this is a post-Amoraic editor offering the derasha. In the Sifra, it is כאן הוא אומר instead. And there are surrounding supports there for the joy, from צאינה וראינה בנות ציון.

Within the give-and-take of the gemara, the particulars of the derasha do not matter. The point was just that here the word ויהי is used, and we see from this other Tannaitic source that this was a day of great joy.

If I wanted to bolster the derasha, I would do so in a different manner. We already see from elsewhere that there is ambiguity, argued within Chazal in the phrase וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי. Does this mean the eighth day of the miluim? The eighth day of Nissan? One of them? Both of them? Earlier context helps clarify that the miluim was meant, but that does not necessarily mean the eighth of the miluim exclusively.

So here is another interpretation of וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי, that it is the eighth day to Creation. There were six days of creation, all the way until וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי. And then there was the seventh day, on which it was finished, וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי. And now, skip all of the intervening Chumash and pick up here with the eighth day, in which we encounter the purpose of all of creation.

So it is not (just, or perhaps even) the single word וַיְהִי. Rather, it is how the phrase is reminiscent of the days listed in Maaseh Bereishit, and how Maaseh Bereishit left off on day seven, where here we are encountering day eight.


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