More on this Parsha

Ha'azinu, Yom Kippur, Sukkot

This Issue's Halacha Article

Ha'azinu, Yom Kippur, Sukkot

8-23 Tishrei 5767

September-October 30-15, 2006

Vol.16 No.4

In This Issue:

Benevolent Ownership

by Rabbi Ezra Wiener

In Shirat Haazinu, Moshe tells the history of Bnei Yisrael from the time they were chosen by Hashem and foretells their future. He begins the history with the phrase (Devarim 32:10) "Yimtza'eihu BeEretz Midbar," "He (Hashem) found him (Bnei Yisrael) in a desert land." Some commentators are bothered by this choice of beginning. Didn't Hashem choose Bnei Yisrael at Yetziat Mitzrayim, before they began to travel in the Midbar? Shirat Haazinu should begin with Yetziat Mitzrayim, the ultimate display of Hashem's choice of Bnei Yisrael!

The Netziv in Haamek Davar suggests that although this Pasuk does begin the history of Bnei Yisrael, it actually refers to the earlier Pasuk (Devarim 32:6), "Halo Hu Avicha Kanecha," "Is He (Hashem) not your Father, your Purchaser?" The title "purchaser" is given to someone who saves a dying person from death or rescues a lowly soul from ignorance and barbarity and grants him knowledge and culture. In the Midbar, Bnei Yisrael lacked basic food necessities, shelter and protection from wildlife. Hashem provided for them throughout their forty year sojourn, allowing them to live as civilized people and not like animals. He also gave Bnei Yisrael the Torah and instructed them how to establish a government and orderly way of life. Hashem thus gave Bnei Yisrael both a culture and knowledge. Therefore, explains the Netziv, Shirat Haazinu begins with an account of the Midbar. The Torah wants to focus on the experience that "earned" Hashem the title "purchaser", not necessarily on the entire history of the nation.

Perhaps we can now understand a strange juxtaposition in the first Berachah of Shemoneh Esrei. We refer to Hashem as "Gomel Chasadim Tovim VeKonei HaKol," "[One who] bestow good kindnesses and [is] owner of everything." What do these two phrases have to do with each other? Using the insight of the Netziv, the meaning becomes clear. Hashem is called the owner of everything because he bestowed kindness upon everything. If such is the power of kindness, then the obligation upon all of us to show gratitude to our benefactors is great indeed.

Not for Pleasure Alone

by Ariel Herzog

It is well known that there are five activities which one is prohibited to perform on Yom Kippur: eating and drinking, washing, putting on oils, wearing leather shoes, and engaging in marital relations. It is a little less well known that there is a Machloket whether the nature of these prohibitions is a Torah one (Deoraita) or a Rabbinic one (DeRabanan). According to the Rambam (Hilchot Shvitat Asor 1:5), the prohibition to engage in all of these activities is Deoraita, but Tosafot (Yoma 77a s.v. Detnan) and the Rosh (Yoma 8:1) believe these prohibitions are DeRabanan. The root of this Machloket is based on the Gemara that says that we extract these prohibitions (except eating, which is directly learned elsewhere) from the Pasuk (Vayikra 16:31), "Shabbat Shabbaton," "A Shabbat of complete rest." The Torah could have simply stated that Yom Kippur was a "Shabbat," and that would have been adequate. Now that the Torah adds in the word "Shabbaton," it is only coming to teach us something new, namely, the additional prohibitions. This is why the Rambam rules that these are Assur MiDeoraita. According to Tosafot and the Rosh, the Pasuk is only an indirect source (an Asmachta) used to support the words of the Rabbis.

A problem arises, however, with the opinion of the Rambam. A Mishnah in Yoma explicitly states that according to Rabi Eliezer (whose opinion is codified as normative by the Rambam), a newly wedded woman and a king are allowed to wash their faces on Yom Kippur. If the prohibition of washing was really a Torah prohibition, how could the Rabbis even entertain the possibility of permitting a bride and a king to wash? Based on this question, the Ran (Yoma 1a in the pages of the Rif s.v. Yom Hakippurim) suggests that since the prohibition of washing was derived from the word "Shabbaton," seemingly an addition to the Pasuk, the Torah authorized the Rabbis to expand and mold the prohibition according to their will. (Only the explicit Issur of eating, derived from "VeInitem Et Nafshoteichem," is beyond the reach of Chazal) According to the Ran, the Rabbis said that any washing that would lead to pleasure is prohibited, but washing for other reasons such as a bride's desire to look nice for her husband or for a king's need to be feared is permissible.

There are two questions with which one can challenge this explanation of the Rambam's position. Firstly, elsewhere in the laws of Yom Kippur (3:1), the Rambam writes, "It is forbidden to wash on Yom Kippur, whether with hot water or with cold water, your whole body or even one limb; you are even forbidden to place your pinky finger in water." What pleasure does one derive from putting his hand into cold water? Why is it forbidden, according to the Ran, to stick even one small finger in water if one is not getting any measurable degree of pleasure?

A second question on the Ran's opinion is also based on a contradictory Halacha quoted by Rambam. He writes (3:9) regarding the prohibition to spread oil on oneself on Yom Kippur, "It is forbidden to spread oil on part of one's body just as it is forbidden to spread on the whole body, whether it is for pleasure or not for pleasure." Why would the Rambam make a distinction between washing and spreading oil? Why is washing only prohibited for pleasure, but spreading oil prohibited regardless of derived pleasure?

Perhaps the answers to these questions lie in a Gemara in Masechet Taanit. The Mishnah (12b) discusses what happens if a certain number of weeks have passed during the rainy season and rain has still not fallen. The Mishnah says that a series of fast days should be proclaimed, during which these five prohibitions are in place. The Gemara informs us that on such a day, the specific prohibition of washing is prohibited only with warm water (just like a public fast day, a Taanit Tzibur). The Gemara here (and also in two other places in Shas) notes that the prohibition of washing applies only to one's entire body, but one is permitted to wash his hands, face, and feet on such a Taanit.

The Rambam can be explained in a new light when we take this Gemara into account. Why is it that on all other public fast days on which these Issurim apply, there is only a prohibition of pleasure, as we saw in the aforementioned Gemara in Taanit, as opposed to on Yom Kippur, where the Torah disregards pleasure? Perhaps the answer lies in the reason for these prohibitions. On other fast days, the reason for the five prohibited activities is that of pleasure. On all of these types of fast days, we are forbidden to engage in these activities to stimulate us to think about the topic of the day and why we are fasting. We do not want anything to distract us from thinking about what we must. Yom Kippur, however, is a day of great joy and jubilation. We are being forgiven for our sins. Why then can't we get pleasure? The answer is that Yom Kippur is a time to connect with Hashem. It is the day that we leave this world and wear white and refrain from eating like the angels. We spend all day in Shul and engage in intimate prayer with our Creator. The purpose of the five prohibitions is for us to leave this world and, for one day, live a life of pure holiness, limiting physical activities.

On other fast days we are only prohibited to engage in activities which would lead to Hesech HaDaat, a lapse in the concentration on our reason for fasting. Washing in cold water or washing specific limbs will not lead to this. On Yom Kippur, though, we are prohibited to wash anything because that would take away from the very goal which we are trying to attain on this day. The nature of pleasure is defined differently on Yom Kippur from other fast days. This is also the reason why the Rambam when discussing smearing oil does not differentiate between whether one gains pleasure or not. The mere activity of smearing oil is a physical activity which takes away the holy status that we are supposed to have on Yom Kippur. Washing, on the other hand, would be permitted for removing dirt and the like, as the Rambam mentions in Perek 3. However, any contact with water for a purpose other than dirt removal is Halachically considered as if for pleasure, and is therefore prohibited on Yom Kippur. On other fast days, as long as this does not take away from our concentration, it is permitted.

We should all merit to reach a holier level on this day of Yom Kippur, and through that may we merit complete atonement and purification. As the Torah tells us (Vayikra 16:30), "For on this day He will atone you to purify you from all you sins, before Hashem you will become pure."

A Sukkah to Build Our Trust

by Ilan Griboff

In the Siftei Chachamim, Rav Friedlander explains how Kohelet shows what we should put our trust in. In Kohelet (5:11) it says, "VeHaSava LeAshir Ainenu Maniach Lo Lishon," "A man's riches keep him from sleeping." This concept is also illustrated by a Mishnah in Avot 2:7, "Marbeh Nechasim Marbeh De'agah," "The more possessions, one has, the more he worries."

Rav Friedlander explains that a person's possessions steal his ability to feel secure. First, they make him feel self-sufficient; next, he places his trust in his own possessions. Ultimately, his whole sense of security disappears because he is putting his trust in something that can be taken from him, and he worries all the time, unable to sleep for fear that he'll losing something. It is only when a person submits himself entirely to Hashem that he is then able to sleep and feel safe.

This is the idea that is demonstrated in our building of Sukkot. At the end of the harvest season, we take ourselves from our permanent dwellings and place ourselves outside in temporary houses. We then put an unstable roof over our heads, giving us a sense of complete reliance on Hashem. It is at that point that we recognize that our successes do not come as a result of our "efforts". The world does not operate based on "Kochi VeOtzem Yadi Assah Li Et HaChayil Hazeh," "It is my [man's] strength that has created this produce," but instead on Hashem's blessings that are bestowed upon us.

A reason Ashkenazim read Kohelet on Sukkot also stems from this idea. Much of Kohelet teaches how material things are not worth anything and that Hashem is the only Being we should be putting our faith in. This idea is even expressed in the penultimate Pasuk of Kohelet (12:13- when reading Kohelet in shul, this Pasuk is repeated after the final one in order to end on a positive note): "Sof Davar HaKol Nishma Et HaElokim Yerah VeEt Mitzvotav Shemor Ki Zeh Kol HaAdam," "In conclusion, after all has been heard, fearing Hashem and keeping His commandments is man's whole duty."

We can feel secure as long as we put our complete faith in Hashem, and so doing we can be assured of His help.

Return and Repent

by Shmuly Reece

We all know that the Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva. Sefer HaTodaah (The Book of Our Heritage) explains there are two reasons for this name. On a simple level, the opening words of the Haftarah for this Shabbat are "Shuva Yisrael Ad hashem Elokecha," "Return, Israel to hashem your G-d." This choice of words teaches us that everyone has to repent. As Shlomo HaMelech assures us (Kohelet 7:20), there is no one so righteous that he has never sinned and is not in need of repentance, and there is no one so throroughly corrupt that he cannot repent (as Rabbeinu Yonah informs us many times in his Shaarei Teshuva).

Another reason why this Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuva is because it occurs during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance. For this reason, it is customary for the Rabbi of every shul to give a Shabbat Shuva Drasha wherein the Rav expands upon the concepts ofTeshuvaand emphasizes the gravity of sinning so that the people will turn their hearts toward doing Teshuva. In general, Shabbat is a time for learning Torah and davening, and a person should be even more attentive to learning Torah, davening, and reflecting upon Teshuva this Shabbat, to atone in some way for improper actions on previous Shabbatot that year (see the Drashot Yaarot Devash, cited in the Mishnah Berurah 603:2).

Shabbat Shuva is a wake up call for us to repent. Will we heed it?

Staff at time of publication:

Editor-in-Chief: Josh Markovic

Executive Editor: Avi Wollman

Publication Managers: Gavriel Metzger, Yitzchak Richmond

Publishing Managers: Shmuel Reece, Dov Rossman

Publication Editors: Gilad Barach, Ari Gartenberg, Avi Levinson

Business Manager: Jesse Nowlin

Webmaster: Michael Rosenthal

Staff: Tzvi Atkin, Josh Rubin, Doniel Sherman, Chaim Strassman, Chaim Strauss, Ephraim Tauber, Dani Yaros, Tzvi Zuckier

Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter