Parshat נח – Genesis 6:16 – Was it a Window or a Rock?

Genesis 6:16 – You shall make a window (tzohar) for the ark, and to a cubit you shall finish it to the top, and the entrance of the ark you shall place in its side; you shall make it with bottom [compartments], second story [compartments], and third story [compartments].

Gemora Sanhedrin 108a: Rabbi Yochanan taught: God said to Noah, affix precious stones and pearls in the ark in order that there should be light as if it were noon.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #22

Rabbi Yochanan stated his opinion because ‘tzohar’ is from the same root as ‘tzoharaim’[afternoon]. Both these words are from the same root of zohar [shining]. The Hebrew letter tzadee (ts) can be exchanged with the Hebrew letter zayin (z) because they are from the same phonetic source. See also regarding this aggada in the Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim Chapter 1, Halacha 1.

Rabbi Yochanan’s opinion that the word ‘tzohar’ means a precious stone rather than the simple explanation of a window relates to another opinion of Rabbi Yochanan, in a different context. In Parshat Vayera (Genesis 19:17) the angels tell Lot [as he is fleeing Sodom} that he may not look back, behind him [at Sodom, as it is being destroyed.] The Midrash states that the angel actually told Lot, “you are not worthy of seeing the downfall of the wicked. Rather, you should be careful to pay attention to yourself”.

Also note that Noah is described as a “righteous person in his generation”. Rabbi Yochanan comments there and interprets this description as being a negative comment on the degree to which Noah was righteous. [In other words, “in his generation” is taken to mean, if he had lived in a different generation, his degree of righteousness would not have been remarkable.] If, for example, Noah had lived in the generation of Abraham, Noah would not have been considered especially righteous. Rabbi Yochanan also states in Midrash Rabba that Noah’s faith was flawed and he didn’t believe God’s word that He would soon bring a flood.

Thus, we see that it was clearly Rabbi Yochanan’s opinion that Noah was not fit to gaze upon the downfall of Sodom. Also, we know that if one places stones in doors and windows to let some light in – the explicit intent is to not permit looking outside. This is precisely what a window does, it allows light in and also enables those inside to look outside. It is for this reason that Rabbi Yochanan states that the tzohar was a stone rather than a window. It is consistent with his other opinion that Noah was not a perfect tzaddik. Noah was not so righteous that it was appropriate for him to be looking at the drowning of the evil men of his generation.

Editor’s Note: I like the idea that a person needs to be incredibly righteous to be permitted to look at (and presumably rejoice at) the downfall of evildoers. We, regular people, are not fitting for this. Also, note that the normal word for window is “chalon” not “tzohar”. It is for this reason that Rabbi Yochanan interprets the verse as he does.

 

Parshat בלק Bamidbar 24:2 – Damage Caused By Seeing

Bamidbar 24:2 –  Bilaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes, and the spirit of God rested upon him.”

Gemora Bava Basra 80a – What did Balaam see? He saw that the doors of the tents [of the Bnei Israel] did not directly face each other. This caused him to say that that the they are fit for the Divine Presence to dwell amongst them.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #1:

This is to say that the placement of the tents was such that one person could not see what was occurring in the tent of his neighbor. This demonstrates a quality of modesty [privacy] that thus prevents the evil eye from seeing. The Rashbam states that the source of conclusion regarding this teaching is from the fact that the verse is soon followed by another verse with Bilaam’s praise “how goodly are the Tents of Jacob; the dwelling places of Israel.” Tosafot, on the other hand state that the source of this teaching is from the second part of the original verse which states “and the spirit of God was upon him.”

One can say [perhaps] that the Rashbam was being exact in his analysis of the verses. From the fact that that our verse is followed by the praise of the tents of Jacob shows that the order of the tents found favor in [Bilaam’s] eyes to the extent that he thought it appropriate for the Divine Presence to dwell amongst them. This is why the term “dwelling place” is used. Tosafot, on the other hand, think that the source of this teaching is from the second half of the verse. They, therefore, would read it not that the “spirit of God was upon him” but rather “and the spirit of God should be upon them”. That is to say, “they are fitting for the spirit of God to dwell amongst them”.

You should be aware that, based on this teaching, the Ramban, in his commentary on the beginning of Baba Basra, states that the prohibition of “hezek re’iah” [damage caused by seeing] is a direct biblical prohibition. The back and forth debate in the gemora is whether the damage is materially significant or not. The issue is not whether there is damage or not. Certainly, opening a window opposite another window or a door is certainly a biblical prohibition. Rather the debate in the gemora is on the particular details of the boundaries of the prohibition. For example, would it apply where a window faces a jointly owned courtyard or where two people want to jointly construct a shared courtyard, etc.

Also note that the Baal Atur on page 94 states that the distance that would be applicable for this prohibition of hezek re’iah has no set limit and is quite large.  This observation requires further analysis [and appears to be flawed.] Observe that in verse (Genesis 21:16) it states that Hagar stayed a distance of a ‘bow-shot’ away from Ishmael so that she would not be able to see the death of the child. From that verse we see that the distance of a bow-shot is [approximately] how far a human eye can see [accurately]. Midrash Rabbah on that verse explains that this distance is approximately 1,000 amot. One does need to say that this distance would vary from person to person. However, for Hagar, the distance was about the distance of a bow-shot.

For the halachic parameters of “hezek re’iah” that are currently applicable, see Choshen Mishpat Section 154.

Editor’s Note: My opinion is that the law of hezek re’iah should be reinforced and more widely taught. It seems to be a very significant teaching emphasizing that we should not be ‘busy-bodies’ involving ourselves in other people’s business.

Parshat חקת – Numbers 20:2 – In Whose Merit Was the Well?

Numbers 20:2 – The congregation had no water; so they assembled against Moses and Aaron.

Gemora Taanit 9a: It was taught in a Beraita as follows: Rabbi Yosi the son of Rabbi Yehuda said that the Well was given through the merit of Miriam. Therefore, when Miriam died, the Well ceased. This is proven by the verses that state “Miriam died and there was no water for the congregation.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #8

Note also the Gemora in Baba Metzia 87b where it states that the Well was given due to the merit of Abraham’s stating to his guests “let a little water be brought [for you]” (Genesis 18:4). The Maharsha asks how can it say here in our Gemora that the Well was due to the Merit of Miriam? Also, what would it mean to refer to it as the Well of Miriam if it was given due to the merit of Abraham? The Maharsha’s response is that if God had considered only the merit of Abraham, the Well would have lasted only for a short period of time. It was only through the merit of Miriam that it lasted all forty years that they were in the desert.

These words of the Maharsha seem not to make sense. How could he possibly say that Miriam’s merit was greater than Abraham’s and say that Abraham’s merit would have sufficed only for the Well to last a short period of time?!

It appears to me that the explanation of the difference between these two Gemoras is that because of the merit of Abraham, the Jews merited to have a woman of Miriam’s qualities who then, in her merit, the Well would be given that would last forty years. In this same manner are we able to explain other examples where the Pillar of Fire and the Manna are also attributed to Abraham and Also to Aaron and Moshe respectively.

Editor’s Note: I appreciated the Torah Temimah’s solution that gives honor and glory to both Abraham and Miriam and does not diminish either one.

Parshat חקת – Bamidbar 20:1 – Did Miriam Die for Our Sins?

Bamidbar 20:1 – The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

Gemora Moed Kattan 28a: It was taught in a Beraisa as follows: Rabbi Ami asked why is the narrative of the death of Miriam adjacent to the narrative of the Red Cow? He answered: to teach that just as the Red Cow atones for sins, so does the death of the righteous atone for sins.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #2

One needs to ask why the narrative of Miriam’s death is adjacent to the story of the Red Cow, specifically, and not next to many of the other ceremonies that also are meant to achieve atonement such as sacrifices or the clothing of the high priest. Perhaps one can explain the answer according to that which is stated by Rashi in the previous chapter (19:22) that the Red Cow is meant to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. This is analogous to the mother coming and atoning for her child. In other words, the mother cow (Red Cow) is atoning for the calf (Golden Calf). Then with a slight linguistic change, one can say that this is similar to the death of Miriam in her role as the mother to the Jewish People.

[On the other hand] it is not clear what is meant, in general, by the statement that the death of the righteous people [somehow] cause an atonement and what would be the reasoning behind such a statement. Perhaps the answer is in accordance with the statement in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 17) when it discusses the death of Shaul (in Samuel 2, Chapter 21) where it states

“And they buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the sepulcher of Kish his father; and they did all that the king commanded. And God was entreated for the land after that.”

Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer states that since God saw that the Jewish people dealt kindly [appropriately] with Shaul’s body [after his death] in that they fasted and cried and eulogized him, God then was filled with mercy towards the Jewish people. This is the meaning of the phrase “And God was entreated for the land after that.”

Thus, it is clear from here that it isn’t the death, itself, that causes the atonement. Rather, the mourning and the honor that are given to a great person who has passed away is what what causes God to [in a corresponding way] look kindly on the Jewish people because the honor that the people are showing to the great person is, essentially, showing honor to God.

Editor’s Note: The idea that the death of a righteous person somehow, magically, causes atonement to the living is a foreign concept to Judaism. The Torah Temimah is pointing out, in this note, that it is not the death itself that causes God to show mercy to the living; rather it is the kind manner and loving mourning for the deceased that arouses God’s mercy.

 

Parshat במדבר Bamidbar 15:24 – Should Judges Have a Retirement Age?

Bamidbar 15:24 – If because of the eyes of the congregation it [the sin] was committed inadvertently, the entire congregation shall prepare a young bull as a burnt offering for a pleasing fragrance for the Lord, with its prescribed meal offering and libation, and one young he goat for a sin offering.

Gemora Horayot 4b – [If such a case happened and] the Sanhedrin taught an erroneous halacha but it was found that one of the members of the Sanhedrin was a convert, or a bastard or a “Natin” or an elderly person who cannot bear children, then this law does not apply. This is proven by the word “congregation” in our verse. In our verse the word “congregation” is used and it is also used in Numbers 35:24. Just as in that verse it means a congregation (court) where all members are appropriate to be judges so too in our verse it must mean a congregation (court) where all members are appropriate to be judges.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #64:

See also what [I have written] at length on this topic in Vayikra 4:13 (note 69) regarding a Great Court that makes an error in judgement that causes the Jewish People to sin unintentionally.  

Note also that the phrase in our verse “the eyes of the congregation” is an expression alluding to the Great Court (Sanhedrin) because, in effect, the Court acts as the eyes of the Congregation. Additionally, the Court enlightens the eyes of the Congregation through their teaching and their judgements.  Reference those notes in Vayikra to understand the Sages’ necessity for their explanation and their statement that every single member of the Court must be found to be fitting to be on the Court.

In regard to the specific phrase: “an elderly person who cannot bear children”, Rashi states “it is unclear to me why such a person is unfit to be a judge”. These words of Rashi are astounding. It states explicitly in Gemora Sanhedrin 36b that one should not appoint as a judge an old person, a eunuch or one who does not have children. The reasons for these disqualifications are that such people are not [generally] merciful.

Additionally, an elderly person, even though he had children when he was younger, nevertheless, he has forgotten the trials and tribulations of raising children and he will not be merciful. See also the commentators on the Mishna.

It is virtually certain that there is a textural error in his words or perhaps he had a different text. Certainly, the text that we have in front of us is problematic in that it combines two separate issues into one with the phrase “an elderly person who can’t bear children”. These are actually two separate, distinct issues. 1) An old person 2) One who cannot bear children (even if he is a young person.)

Note that, in fact, the Rambam in Chapter 13 Halacha 1 of Unintentional Sins writes the words “either an elderly person or one who does not have children”. Certainly, this is the correct and accurate text.

 

Editor’s Note: The idea that being elderly would disqualify someone from being a judge was a new concept for me. Being married and having children is a requirement. It seems, based on this Gemora, that a certain requirement for retirement beyond a certain age is also appropriate.

Parshat במדבר Bamidbar 1:51 – Who Is a Stranger?

Bamidbar 1:51 – When the Tabernacle is set to travel, the Levites shall dismantle it; and when the Tabernacle camps, the Levites shall erect it; any outsider [non Levite] who approaches shall be put to death.

Gemora Shabbos 31a – A non-Jew asked Hillel, “Who does this verse refer to? Hillel responded: Even to King David”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #2:

The Gemora here mentions this story as a continuation of the story of the non-Jew who approached Hillel and asked to be converted on the condition that he be appointed as the High Priest. Hillel responded, “first go and learn the whole Torah.”

The non-Jew went and studied and when he reached this verse he asked what type of ‘stranger’ the verse is referring to. Hillel responded that this law regarding non-Levites [a type of hereditary priesthood] applies even to King David.

The reason for Hillel’s mentioning King David is multi-fold. First of all, perhaps this is an allusion to the Gemora Kritot (6b) where it discussed the verse in Ki Tissa regarding forbidding ‘strangers’ from deriving benefit from the anointing oil in the temple. In that particular situation the word ‘stranger’ does not apply to a King because, actually, a King is one of the people who is anointed with that oil. Nevertheless, here, however, Hillel wanted to emphasize that the word ‘stranger’ would apply to any non-Priest.

An additional reason for mentioning King David is because of the fact that King David is descended from converts [from Ruth the Moabite]. Even though it is well known that converts are especially beloved before God and even though he is King, still this verse’s severe punishment for a stranger applies even to him. Therefore, the implication is that Hillel was obliquely telling the convert that he has no chance of becoming High Priest [but that this doesn’t indicate that he is any less beloved or of a low stature.]

It is also possible that Hillel decision to choose King David as an example is a reference to the verse in Chronicles (15:2) “Thus said David that only the Levites will carry the Ark of the Lord because God has specifically chosen them for this task…”

Thus we see that King David himself was aware not to participate in a service that had been assigned to the Levites and certainly would have not desired to participate in a service assigned to the High Priest.

Editor’s Note: The idea that the law forbids someone who is not descended from the Cohanim to officiate in the temple is not meant to be an insult or any lack of stature for the non-Priest. In fact, the Torah teaches that there are 3 crowns: the crown of Priesthood, the crown of Kingship and the crown of Torah; the crown of Torah being the greatest one of all.

Additionally, for me, the message is that we are all strangers, in one way or another.

Parshat שפטים  – Deuteronomy – 17:1 – Can a Murderer Bless Others?

Deuteronomy:17:1 – You shall not sacrifice to the Lord, your God, an ox or a sheep that has in it a blemish or any bad thing, for that is an abomination to the Lord, your God.

Sifri: We learn in a beraisa that Rabbi Shimon said: One might think that just as an ox or a sheep become invalid for being used as a sacrifice if it was used for immoral sexual relations, so too a Cohen would become invalid. However, since the verse states “it is an abomination to the Lord” we see that the animal becomes invalid but not a Cohen.

Coloquial translation of Note 6:

See also the Mishna in Bechoros (7:7) where it lists reasons why an animal would become invalid yet would not apply to a Cohen. In the list, it includes animals that were used for sexual immorality and also animals that killed a person. The Tosfot Yom Tov states that in some editions of the Mishna it excludes the phrase “that were used for sexual immorality and also that killed a person”. The Tosfot Yom Tov states this because of what it says in the Gemora Bechoros (32a) that Rabbi Yochanan states that a Cohen who has killed someone is forbidden to participate in the communal blessing ceremony. A logical deduction would be that he is also forbidden from participating in the service in the temple when it was standing. This is also true of a Cohen who committed sexually immoral acts.

However, the Sifri explicitly disproves his comments. The Sifri state that a Cohen who commits sexually immoral acts would still be allowed to participate in the communal blessing ceremony. Further, the Tosfot Yom Tov’s observation that it would be a logical deduction to ban such a Cohen from the temple service would only be a [optional] stringency not the strict letter of the law.

In Numbers (6:27) regarding the verse “and I will bless them”, I show that the Jerusalem Talmud Gittin (5:8) explicitly states that a Cohen who has committed sexually immoral acts or who has killed someone is permitted to participate in the communal blessing ceremony.

Translator’s Note: Not only does the Torah Temimah mention his view on this once, he mentions it twice; once in Numbers (6:27) and once here. I think this indicates that he feels very strongly about this issue.

 

Parshat נשא Bamidbar 6:27 – Can a Murderer Be One Who Blesses?

Numbers 6:27 – They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, so that I will bless them.

Jerusalem Talmud, Gittin Chapter 5, Halacha 8: “From which verse do we know that a person should not say ‘this man is immoral or is a murderer and yet he is blessing me?’ God says ‘Who is it who is blessing you? It is Me, God, who is blessing you’. This is shown by our verse in the phrase ‘so that I will bless them.’”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #159:

Contrast this Gemora in the Jerusalem Talmud with the Gemora Berachos in the Babylonian Talmud (32b) where it states “Rabbi Yochanan states that any Cohen who has killed a person cannot participate and offer blessings in the communal blessing ceremony. This is proven by the verse in Isaiah (1:15) ‘And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you…your hands are full of blood. Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease to do evil.’”

Apparently, this section of the Babylonian Talmud disagrees with the above section in the Jerusalem Talmud.  The Beis Yosef explains this apparent contradiction by stating that the opinion in the Jerusalem Talmud (permitting participation by a Cohen who had killed someone) as dealing with the case where there is only a suspicion of the Cohen’s guilt. People in the community were suspecting that he was guilty. Therefore, the Gemora teaches that a suspicion of guilt is not enough to remove a person’s presumption of innocence. The Rambam agrees with this reasoning. To me, however, this does not appear to be a good explanation of the different opinions in the two Gemoras since it assumes that the Jerusalem Gemora is dealing with a situation that is actually not explicitly stated there.

Rather, it is possible to follow instead the opinion of the Tosafot in Sanhedrin (35b) who state that the Babylonian Talmud (forbidding a participation by a Cohen who had killed someone) is actually stating a stringency that is not the core legal opinion.

Alternatively, one can say that the lenient opinion of the Jerusalem Talmud is due to the fact that it is dealing with a case where the Cohen has repented. The would explain the specific phraseology used in the Talmud there. However, the Rambam in Chapter 15:3 of the Laws of Prayers stretches to say that even if a Cohen had repented, he still cannot participate and offer the communal blessings. He quotes the above verse from Isaiah to support this view. To me, this view is very astounding. Doesn’t the verse immediately follow with the advice: “Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease to do evil.”?  This verse shows that repentance does, in fact, help and would make a difference.

See also Tosfot Yom Tov (7:7) in Bechoros where it lists the various types of people who are permitted to participate and offer the communal blessings. He bases his opinion on the words of Rabbi Yochanan in the Babylonian Talmud without quoting at all the Jerusalem Talmud nor the Tosafot that I mention above nor the Beis Yosef. See also my comments in Devarim 17:1, Note 6.

Editor’s Note: Here the Torah Temimah is explaining to us the sources for his opinion that a murderer who has repented may participate and offer God’s blessings in the communal blessing ceremony.

 

Parshat  תזריע Leviticus 12:4 – Are Women Allowed to Go to Synagogue?

Leviticus 12:4 – And for thirty three days, she shall remain in the blood of purity; she shall not touch anything holy, nor may she enter the Sanctuary, until the days of her purification have been completed.

Gemora Shavuot 17b: A ritually impure person who enters [the Sanctuary] through the roof is exempt. This is proved by the verse that states ‘one may not enter’. The verse thus teaches that if one enters the usual way one is liable but not if one enters in any other way.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #35:

Tosafot write if one enters via the roof, one is not liable because the roof of the Sanctuary does not have the category of “holy”.  Even though the Gemora Pesachim 85b states that the steps of the Sanctuary are holy, one must conclude that only the steps [which are also technically outside the Sanctuary} are holy but not the roof.

Know that what [some] Acharonim [see the Orach Chaim-Section 88] write that it is forbidden for a menstruating woman to go to synagogue because our synagogues are in the place of the Temple [in Jerusalem], requires further investigation. If this were actually the law, then women would never be able to attend synagogue. Since a woman who gave birth once would be lacking the necessary temple-sacrifice necessary to achieve the purity level of being able to enter the Sanctuary. Note that our verse specifically applies to a woman who is ritually impure due to giving birth and is ritually pure except for the fact that she hasn’t yet brought the temple-sacrifice atonement offering.

Additionally, [if menstruating women were not allowed to attend synagogue] it would be unclear how men [who are also impure due to seminal emissions] would be allowed to attend.

Therefore, one must conclude that the core law is in accordance with Rashi’s Sefer HaPardes which states that women are permitted to attend synagogue at all times. Further, the comparison of our synagogues to the Holy Temple is meant [only] exegetically and as a teaching point, but not for the purposes of deriving law. There are many additional proofs for this, but here is not the place to record them.

Further notes from the Commentary “Meshivas Nefesh” on the Torah Temimah: The Rambam writes in The Laws of the Sefer Torah Chapter 10, Section 8 as follows:

‘Anyone who is ritually impure even menstruating women, or non-Jews, are permitted to hold the Sefer Torah and read from it. This is because words of Torah are not capable of being made impure. As long as one’s hands are clean and don’t have dirt on them, but rather one washes one’s hands first and then holds the Sefer Torah [it is permitted].’

Editor’s note: In this note, the Torah Temimah again deviates from explaining the text  to make a point regarding women’s participation in religious life.

 

Parshat כי תשא  Exodus 30:13 – Are Women Obligated To Give Half Shekel Before Purim?

Exodus 30:13 – This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel. Twenty gerahs equal one shekel; half of [such] a shekel shall be an offering to the Lord.

Jerusalem Gemora Shekalim Chapter 2, Halacha 3 – Rabbi Nehemiah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai “Because they transgressed the ten commandments, that is the reason why everyone needs to give ten gerahs”.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation Note #24:

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai’s explanation is meant to explain the overall reason for the commandment to give a half a shekel. On the other hand, the prior comments of Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Nehemiah  were meant only to state why “half” a shekel needed to be given rather than a whole shekel. [Editor’s note: Check out the Torah Temimah’s comment on note 23.] Otherwise, one could ask on their explanations why Levites must also donate half a shekel since the Levites didn’t participate in the transgression of the Golden Calf. Rather, the reason for the giving of the money is so that there would be money to pay for the communal sacrifices each year as the verse states “to atone for their sins” – since that is the function of the sacrifices.

It is important to note that the custom in our day to give half a shekel in charity before the holiday of Purim is hinted at in our verse here. This is in accordance with that which is stated in Gemora Megilah 13b as follows “it was known to God [at the time this commandment was given] that in the future Haman would weigh plans [shkalim] against the Jews. There God preceded His shkalim to Haman’s shkalim.” Also look at the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim section 694 and in the Magen Avraham where they express surprise in the Maimonidean Notes that women and children are also obligated to give half a shekel before Purim. They are surprised at this because in the half a shekel mentioned in the Torah they are exempt.

In my opinion the issue is clear: in the Scriptural half a shekel the purpose was the take a census. Since women and children were not counted as part of the census, they were exempt at that time. This is not the case in the requirement to give half a shekel before Purim. This commandment is in remembrance of the miracle of Purim. Since women and children were included in that miracle, they are also obligated in the requirement to give half a shekel before Purim.

Editor’s Note: In this note, the Torah Temimah again emphasizes women’s mitzvah obligations against other authorities stating a lesser level of obligation.