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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Halachic Lessons From Kriyas Yam Suf

(לא ימיש עמוד הענן יומם ועמוד האש לילה (שמות יג:כב – There was a cloud that led Bnai Yisrael during the day, and a pillar of fire by night. The Gemara (Shabbos 23b) deduces from this posuk that the pillar of fire arrived before the cloud left, and the cloud arrived in the morning before the pillar of fire came. The Gemara goes on to relate that RavYosef’s wife once lit Shabbos candles very close to nightfall. Rav Yosef quoted our posuk to her, seemingly indicating that the Shabbos candles should be lit while it is still day.

This is in fact better understood if we look at the end of the Braisa, that is not quoted in the Gemara. The Braisa says בא הכתוב ללמדך דרך ארץ אל ערבי שבתות that the fire should be lit while the cloud (meaning the day) is still there. So the drasha explicitly applied the lesson to Shabbos candles.

The Gemara completes the story of Rav Yosef’s wife; the next week she lit candles very early. An elderly scholar told her that it was taught that one cannot be early or late. The Torah Temima asks – saying not to be early makes sense, but obviously late doesn’t work - it’s Shabbos already! He explains that he was referring to Tosfos Shabbos in general. Although it is proper, and perhaps obligatory to add on to Shabbos, one shouldn’t add too much because then it is no longer apparent that you are adding to increase Kedushas Shabbos, it may be for convenience or some other reason. Hence, when we say that It shouldn’t be too early or too late, we are not talking about Shbbos candles per se, rather the entire concept of Tosfos Shabbos, not too early on Friday and not too late on Saturday Night.

(כי אשר ראיתם את מצרים היום לא תוסיפו לראותם עד עולם (שמות יד:יג – Hashem said, “As you have seen the Egyptians today you will never see them again forever. This seems to be a reassuring promise. However, Rav Shimon bar Yochai (JT sukkah 5:1) says that this is one of the three places the Torah warns against returning to Egypt. This is clear in Parshas Shoftim where it says “Hashem has warned you not to return to mitzrayim” However we don’t find such a warning anywhere but here. (Torah Temimah)

We know that they did in fact see the Egyptians again, shortly thereafter, when they were expelled onto the beach. The Zohar understands from here that not ‘seeing’ someone is only when they are still alive, not when they are dead.

The halachic implication of this is that if one makes a vow that they will never see a specific person again; nonetheless they may see them after they are dead when halachically necessary. [Generally speaking, Halacha frowns upon viewing cadavers].

(מה תצעק אלי (שמות יד:טו – The Gemara (Sotah 37a) tells us that as the Egyptians were closing in on the Jews Moshe Rabbeinu engaged in lengthy prayer. Hashem said to him – my beloved are (about to be) drowning in the sea and you are davening? Moshe responded, so what should I do? And Hashem answered – tell the Jews to go forward!

Prayer vs Action is a longstanding philosophical debate. It would seem from here, that when one is at a loss for a practicable solution, as Moshe was prior to Hashem’s instruction, lengthy prayer is the correct response. However, when there is an obviously practical thing to do then a short prayer and action is indeed the correct approach.

(ויבאו בני ישראל בתוך הים ביבשה (שמות יד:כב - The Gemara (Berachos 54a) learns from here that one who sees the place where we crossed the sea has to praise Hashem. Indeed, the halacha is that one makes a beracha of ‘sheasa neis leyisrael bemakom hazeh’ However in the Sheiltos (Parshas Vayishlach) it learns this halacha from a later posuk that was said after kriyas yam suf. From here the Netziv deduces that the beracha should be made at the place where the miracle finished specifically. The Torah Temimah questions this; it is not mentioned anywhere in the Gemara and Poskim as it should have been, and he brings various sources that the whole path of the miracle is eligible for blessing.

(זה קלי ואנוהו (שמות טו:ב – The Jews proclaimed that “This is my Lord and I will beautify Him”. From here Chazal learn several different lessons. It is impossible to beautify Hashem, but we do so by making our mitzvos beautiful. A beautiful sukkah, lulav, tzitzis, and sefer Torah are the examples that the Gemara (Shabbos 133b) gives. The Halacha is that one should spend up to 1/3 more for a more beautiful mitzvah. If something is required then it doesn’t fall under the penumbra of beautifying, and therefore it is important to ascertain what is required and what is for additional beautification purposes.

Another interpretation given by the Gemara (ibid) is to emulate Hashem; imitatio Dei. Rashi explains that we see this in the word ואנוהו it can be read as אני והוא I am like Him. Just as He is compassionate, so should we be. Just as He clothes the poor and feeds the hungry, so should we, and so on.

The Torah Temimah suggests that this too is a way of beautifying Hashem. By practicing and engaging in acts of compassion and loving kindness, traits that Hashem has shared with us, it brings glory to Him. He further suggests that this interpretation compliments the previous one. If one only beautifies their mitzvos, but acts toward one’s fellow in a decidedly ungodly manner, that will be a chillul Hashem, quite the opposite of what is intended. When we beautify mitzvos, in the relationship between man and God, and thus beautify Hashem. And we act in a Godly manner in our relationship between man and man, and thus beautify Hashem there as well.

Posted on 04/28 at 04:23 PM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at tzvi@torahlab.org