Monthly Archives: June 2014

Parshat במדבר Numbers18-15 – A simple emendation

Parsahat קרח- Numbers 18:15 A simple change

Numbers 18:15 “Every thing that openeth the womb, of all flesh which they offer unto the LORD, both of man and beast, shall be thine; howbeit the first-born of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem”

Kiddushin 29: “A woman is not commanded to redeem her [first born] son as the verse says ‘you shall redeem’ You shall redeem: any one commanded to redeem oneself (if not already redeemed) is commanded to redeem others.  One who is no not commanded to redeem oneself is not commanded to redeem others.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #51:

A woman is not obligated to redeem herself as will be explained in the next note. The commentators have worked hard to explain the double language in the Talmud: תפדה תפדה (you shall surely redeem)  Rashi on the Talmud explains vocalize you shall redeem (tifdeh) in the passive (tipadeh) – shall be redeemed.  There is no explanation for this.  See Maharsha and Mahashal who state that, aside from Rashi’s explanation being unclear, why not learn this ruling from the superfluous language in the verse “תפדה פדה – you shall surely redeem as in the way of Chazal to explain superfluous language such as this?  Another question is that the Rif brings the explanation cited by Rashi regarding a different matter — that a first born must redeem himself if his father did not redeem him as noted in the previous exegesis.

It appears to me that everything can be clarified with a simple change to Rashi’s explanation.  His comment ” vocalize you shall redeem (tifdeh) in the passive (tipadeh) – shall be redeemed” does not apply to this ruling regarding a woman redeeming her son.  Rather, it applies to the previous ruling that a first born, who was not redeemed, must redeem himself.  Instead of attributing his commentary to the statement in the Talmud תפדה תפדה, apply it to the statement תפדה פדה, which applies to the previous ruling that a first born who was not redeemed must redeem himself.  Thus everything makes sense and Rashi and the Rif agree.  [To recap]: One learns from vocalizing you shall redeem (tifdeh) in the passive (tipadeh) that a first born, who was not redeemed, must redeem himself.  From the superfluous language in the verse “תפדה פדה, one learns that a woman is not obligated to redeem her son.  Another way to explain this is that the Talmud associates תפדה תפדה with תפדהפדהmeaning: one should compare the different rulings of redemption because of the repeating language in the verse.  All is clear if you investigate this.

Editor’s note: This note shows the Torah Temimah’s vast knowledge of Talmud and the commentaries.  It is another example of his resolving conflicting sources as  he does many times with seemingly conflicting midrashim.  The Talmud derives three laws from this verse, each due to how these uses the verb redeem.

1) The previous exegesis: a first born who was not redeemed must redeem himself.  The Talmud learns this  from the word תפדה (shall redeem) vocalized as tipadeh (shall be redeemed)

2) This exegesis: a woman is not commanded to redeem her son  The Talmud learns this from the repetition of the verb תפדהפדה (you shall surely redeem – both in the masculine conjugation)

3) The next exegesis: A woman is not obligated to redeem herself because the verse says תפדה(you shall redeem- in the masculine conjugation).  The Torah Temimah explains in the next exegesis that a woman is not obligated to redeem herself because no one is commanded to redeem her as derived from the verse Exodus 34:20 “And the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break its neck. All the first-born of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before Me empty.”

Parsahat חקת – Bamidbar 19:14 – Non-Jews Learning Torah

Bamidbar 19:14: This is the law: if a man {adam] dies in a tent, anyone entering the tent and anything in the tent shall be unclean for seven days.

Gemora Yevamot 61a: We learn in a Beraitha that Shimon Bar Yochai says that the graves of non-Jews do not impart levitical uncleanness by an ohel [tent methodology], for it is said, [In Ezekiel 34] “And ye My sheep the sheep of My pasture, are men”; you are called men but the non-Jews are not called men.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #67:

Many commentators had difficulty explaining this Gemora. Tosafot additionally asks [how this Gemora can make sense] regarding the many places [in the Gemora] where the word “adam” specifically does include non-Jews. Further, Tosafot ask [a challenge to this Gemora] based on the Gemora in Sanhedrin 59a where it says that even a non-Jew who occupies himself with [the study of] is as great as a high priest (Cohen). We learn this teaching from the verse that says “these are the commandments that the man (ha’adam) should do, that he may live through them”. The teaching continues that the verse does not say, “That the Cohanim, Leviim or Israelim should do them rather it says “ha’adam” to teach that even a non-Jew who learns Torah is as great as a high priest”. Tosafot then answer their question by quoting Rabbenu Tam and stating that there is a distinction between the word “adam” [man] and the word “ha’adam” [the man] and they state that the word “ha’adam” [the man] would include non-Jews [but the word “adam” would not.] Apparently these words of Tosafot are only based on a tradition that they heard, since how can this distinction make sense logically? Many commenters have already tried to understand this explanation of the Tosafot; the commenters have toiled and labored to find a source for the Tosafot’s opinion.

It is [perhaps] possible to explain that the word “the” doesn’t apply [or make sense] when applied to a proper noun such as “the Moshe” or “the Aaron”. On the other hand the word “the” does make sense when applied to a word that includes a general category such as “the city”, “the river”, “the mountain”, “the valley”. This being the case it is possible to say that when “man” is written without “the”, it describes a particular noun, Israel [Jews] while when it is written “the man”, it includes a more general category such as the nations of the world. This explanation is a little forced.

This previous paragraph I have written just as an effort to explain and make sense of the words of Rabbenu Tam, which are apparently very astounding [and difficult to understand]. However, according to the truth, it appears that the simple understanding of the Gemora is not to imply that non-Jews are not included in the word “man”. How could that make sense? Behold this word is used to discuss the health of the body and the soul of the human species. Further, we find in many many verses where the word “man” even describes only non-Jews.

Rather, what our Gemora is saying is that in the places where God is speaking to the Jews regarding Torah and [ritual] commandments and He uses the word “man”, it is to be understood as meaning Jews and not non-Jews since they are not included in the [ritual] commandments. The Gemora then utilizes the verse in Ezekiel to say that the Jews are called “man”. However, this verse is not brought as a proof text rather as a hint or general allusion. This is also the opinion of the “Gritz Chiyut”. The particulars of the laws regarding levitical uncleanliness and non-Jews are explained in Yoreh Deah Section 372.

Editor’s note: The Torah Temimah, in this note, discusses Jewish views regarding non-Jews. In other notes, he makes the point, emphatically, that the term idolaters used the Gemora does not apply to the non-Jews of modern times but rather to the “wild people of Africa and other faraway places” who have not accepted the Seven Noachide Laws. The Torah Temimah equates the Seven Noachide Laws as an acceptance of the basic social contract that binds society together. Thus, he makes the statement that for civil laws in the modern era, Halacha regarding Jews and non-Jews is equal. For religious laws, he says that it is logical that Jewish ritual law distinguishes between Jew and non-Jew.

Parsahat קרח – Bamidbar 16:7 – Moshe’s Harsh Words Come Back

Bamidbar 16:6 and 16:7:

6. Do this, Korah and his company: Take for yourselves censers.

7. Place fire into them and put incense upon them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses he is the holy one; you have taken too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi.

Sotah 13b: “You have taken too much upon yourselves” – We learn in a Beraita that Rabbi Levi says: with the phrase “too much” Moshe informed Korah and with the phrase “too much” was Moshe himself informed. [In our verse] Moshe said “too much” to Korah. In [Parshat Vetechanan when Moshe is praying to God a lot to be allowed to enter Israel] HaShem responds to Moshe “you have prayed enough” [this is how God informed Moshe that he would not be allowed to enter Israel.]

Torah Temimah ColloquialTranslation on Note #7:

The commentators explain at great length the appropriateness of this “measure for measure” manner in which HaShem responded to Moshe when he (Moshe) asked to be allowed to enter Israel. HaShem responded by using the [exact same phrase] “too much” [and said to Moshe] don’t pray anymore, Rashi comments on this and says that God used the exact same phrase “too much”. God is very exacting with His righteous and punishes them in a ‘measure for measure’ manner. All the commenters agree that Moshe sinned by using this phrase but they don’t explain what the sin was.

It appears to me that Moshe did not sin at all in using this phrase with Korah. The implication of the phrase is to say “too much” to the sons of Levi [which both Korah and Moshe were descended from Levi]to basically say to them “you have enough honor and greatness”. Since Moshe himself was from the tribe of Levi, so he automatically included himself in the statement. That is why God, Himself, when Moshe was praying [too] much to God about himself that he should be allowed to enter Israel, God responded with the same phrase. That is, as though God were saying, “I have heeded you many times” and just as you, yourself, said, “too much [enough] is given to you, sons of Levi” therefore, don’t continue to speak and ask this of Me. We find similarly in the Aggada of CHALAK 111a that God used the thoughts of Moshe when Moshe went up to heaven, he saw God writing “be patient”. Moshe said to God, “Master of the world, be patient with the righteous.” God responded, “even with the evil-doers”. Moshe replied [quoting Psalms], “evil doers will perish”. Then when the Children of Israel sinned and Moshe prayed for them saying “God, God, be patient with them”, God responded “didn’t you tell me to [just] be patient with the righteous”? Here also when Moshe is saying that [the Bnei Levi] have enough, God reminds him of that.

Editor’s note: This is one of several places where the Torah Temimah quotes lesser known Gemoras that quote well known episodes in less than perfect light. In this Gemora, the well-known phrase that Moshe uses to critique Korah and his followers comes back to haunt him when Moshe prays to be allowed to enter Israel.

Parshat שלח Bamidbar 15:23 – Which Commands Were Only for that Time?

Bamidbar:15:23 – All that the Lord commanded you through Moses, from the day on which the Lord commanded and from then on, for all generations.

Gemora Kiddushin 29a: The School of R. Ishmael taught: whenever ‘command’ (צו) is stated its only purpose is to denote exhortation for that time and for all time. [Just for that time is shown by the verse in Parshat VeEtchanan:] “But command (צו) Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him.” Then and for all time [is shown by the verse in Bamidbar 15:23] ” as it is written, from the day on which the Lord commanded and from then on, for all generations.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #61:

The Gemora is not trying to say that the verb ‘to command’ (צו) implies that the command is an eternal command [as opposed to a command just for that time and place.] Behold, we see places where the verb “command” is used for just that time and place as in the verse “he commanded Yosef regarding his household” [Bereishis-44:1] or the verse “and Pharaoh commanded all his people”  [Shmos-1:22] and other many similar verses.

Rather, the Gemora is saying that when the verb “command” is used regarding laws and ordinances from God, then the verb “to command” is using to show that the commandment is eternal. The reason why the verb ‘command’ is different when used by God versus when used by a man is simple. A human being doesn’t have the power to command something forever; because he, himself, is not eternal. Additionally, over time the circumstances regarding whatever the particular person commanded will change and there will no longer be a need for that commandment. Or, on the other hand the circumstances would change and there would be a need to change the commandment. This, however, is not the case with the Holy One, Blessed be He. He exists forever and ever. Also, every single thing that emanated from His mouth [so to speak] is something that has eternal existence and strength.

It does merit further investigation, however, why the Gemora mentioned the verses that it does mention to prove its point. First it mentions the word “command” regarding Joshua that he should be encouraged and strengthened. Then the Gemora mentions our verse where it uses the word “command” and says explicitly “…for all generations”. [This is not a good proof because] it implies that if our verse had not added the words “…for all generations”, then the word “command” would not have  been sufficient for me to know that the commandment was for all generations. If this is the case, how can this verse be used as a proof for the statement that the word ‘command’ implies for all generations?

The explanation is that one time [is sufficient] for the Torah to reveal the fact that the word “command” when used regarding laws and ordinances [signifies forever] and it is leveraged to teach the use of the word in all other places. This teaching in our Gemora is using the “gezerat sheva” methodology as follows: “just as it says here the word ‘command’ and it means for generations, so similarly when it uses the word ‘command’ in any other place, it also means for all generations.

Editor’s Note: The Torah Temimah insightfully points out that the verse that the Gemora uses actually seems to prove the exact opposite of the Gemora’s point. It seems to me that the Torah Temimah thinks critically about every statement in the Gemora and accepts nothing at face value without analyzing it. In this case, he shows that the Gemora’s logic is comparable to a gezerah shavah and it is valid when viewed from that perspective.


Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on gezerah shavah: The gezerah shavah (“Similar laws, similar verdicts”) is the second rule of Hillel and of Rabbi Ishmael, and the seventh of Eliezer ben Jose HaGelili. This may be described as argument by analogy, which infers from the similarity of two cases that the legal decision given for the one holds good for the other also. The term “gezerah shavah” originally included arguments based on analogies either in word or in fact. Before long, however, the latter class was designated as “hekkesh,” while the phrase “gezerah shavah” was limited to analogy in the case of two different Biblical laws containing a word common to both. The gezerah shavah was originally restricted to a δὶς λεγόμενον, i.e., a word occurring only in the two passages offering the analogy. Since such a word is found nowhere else, there is no reason to assume that it bears different meanings in the two passages. The gezerah shavah consequently attaches to the word in the one passage the entire sequence of ideas which it bears in the other.

Parsahat נשא Bamidbar 6:23 – Do the Cohanim Have a Monopoly on Blessings?

Bamidbar: 6:23 – Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: Thus shall you shall bless the children of Israel, saying to them:

Ketubos 24b: A non-Cohen who “lifts up his hands” [to do the priestly blessing] transgresses a positive commandment as it says “thus shall you bless…” – You but not a non-Cohen; A prohibition that comes due to a positive command is a “positive prohibition”.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #131:

The issue of a stranger [non-Cohen] ”lifting his hands” is that when a Cohen goes up to ‘duchan’ [raised platform]to bless Israel with the blessing of the Cohanim. That is why when we often refer to the blessing of the Cohanim we use the phrase “lifting the hands” This, thereby, distinguishes it from the general blessings that certainly one cannot say are solely allowed to the Cohanim. Every person is permitted to bless and give blessings to his neighbor. Even a non-Cohen can give blessings. The essential unique aspect of the Priestly Blessing is in this aspect of “lifting hands” as we will examine shortly.

It is appropriate to investigate the common practice that we see of people blessing each other by placing their hands on the head of the person they are blessing, as we see is the general custom in weddings, etc. How can this be the custom given what we just explained that this is something set aside only for the Cohanim? Also, as noted above, a non-Cohen doing this would transgress a implied  prohibition [there is no direct prohibition, rather it is an inferred prohibition by the fact that the Torah explicitly states that the Cohanim should bless the people.] It wouldn’t be plausible to say that the restriction of only having the Cohanim do this only applies in the Temple. I’ve never seen nor heard anyone propose that explanation and it would be an amazing proposal. Further, it would be implausible to say that the exclusivity of the Cohen for ‘lifting of hands’ only applies in a congregation of 10 men since it is a “holy service”. This is implausible because lifting of hands is only in the category of “alluded to” rather than a clear “law” as the RaN explains in Chapter 3 of Megillah.

Further, it appears to me that even for a Cohen, he is not permitted the bless this special blessing of “lifting the hands” in a time or place that is not set aside for this. The proof for this comes from the Gemora Megilla 27b where they ask Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua what merit he had to enable him to live a long life. He replied, “I never did ‘lifting of hands’ without a blessing”. On the face of it, this story is hard to understand what great merit that would be for Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua. Rather, one is forced to say that the explanation of the story is that Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua never just did the ‘lifting of hands’ but rather only did it is the time that it was a mitzvah and when he was obligated to do it with a blessing.

Note also that in the Gemora Shabbos 118b it says as follows: “Rabbi Yossi says, ‘I never opposed the words of my friends [fellow rabbis]. I know about myself that I am not a Cohen but when my friends said to me to go up to the duchan I would go up.” Tosafot comments that Rabbi Yossi didn’t know what prohibition there would be involved in him [listening to his fellow rabbis to go up to the duchan] other than the [rabbinic prohibition] of making a needless blessing [that only the Cohanim are allowed to say for the ‘lifting of hands’. By the way, it was explained to this translator that perhaps Rabbi Yossi’s “friends”, the fellow rabbis, would have the authority to override something that was just a rabbinic prohibition.]Note that these few words of Tosafot have caused much rabbinic literature to be written amongst the Rishonim and Acharonim to attempt to explain these words of Tosafot. How can they say that the only prohibition would be on making a needless blessing? Isn’t a non-Cohen who does “lifting of hands” transgressing a “positive prohibition”? Also, the words of the Rabbi Yossi himself in the Gemora are extremely hard to understand. How could it be that he himself was not concerned about transgressing this prohibition of “lifting the hands” by a non-Cohen? In all the words of the commentators on this question, I have not found a satisfactory explanation.

[Therefore], I won’t restrain myself from explaining this in a new and amazing way that I saw in the introduction to the book by Rav Yerucham. He quotes this story of Rabbi Yossi but instead of the phrase “I know about myself that I am not a Cohen” amends the wording to be “I know about myself that I am not worthy”.

According to this way of reading the text when it says that his friends wanted him to go up to the raised platform, it was not to give the priestly blessing but rather to go up to the raised platform where the great sages would give speeches to the people. The duchan was a place that was high and stood out similar to an “itstabah”. As it says in the Gemora Baba Basra 21a: “they sat at the head of the “duchna”. Also the “Aruch” it notes that in the language of Ishmaelim, they call an “itztabah” a “duchan”. This is why in Gemora Megilla 3a and it other places it mentions the Leviim in their “duchans”.

If this is the case, then the issue with Rabbi Yossi was not about “lifting of hands” but rather about him [not wanting to go up, but ultimately listening to his friends to indeed] go up to the raised platform to give a speech to the people. The text of the Gemora merely needs amendation to “kedai” from “kohen”

Editor’s note: The Torah Temimah’s enthusiasm and excitement at not restraining himself from explaining the story of Rabbi Yossi in a new and amazing way is contagious.