Monthly Archives: July 2014

Parsahat מטות Numbers 32:3 – Twice as written and once in Targum

Numbers 32:3 “Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Sebam, and Nebo, and Beon,”

Berachot 8a: Ataroth, and Dibon … Rav Huna the son of Judah said in the name of Rabbi Ami: “A person should always complete his weekly Torah portions with the congregation – twice as written (in Hebrew) and once in Targum (in Aramaic translation) even Ataroth, and Dibon.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #1:

Rashi comments: even Ataroth, and Dibon, which have no Targum (they read the same in Hebrew and Aramaic).  Tosafot questions why the gemarah specifically mentions Ataroth, and Dibon as opposed to names such as Reuben, Simon, etc.  This question aside, the verse referring to Ataroth, and Dibon has the Jerusalem Targum[1] [which is also cited by Onkelos on this verse].  Tosafot explain that since Ataroth, and Dibon only have a Jerusalem Targum and no well-known one, one might think that one should read the verse in Hebrew three times.  Therefore the gemarah states that it is better to read it a third time in the Aramaic translation.  This explains the difficulty, albeit, their original question remains unanswered.  The Mesoret Hashas emends the gemarah to refer a verse in at the end of parashat Massei that refers to Dibon and Ataroth.  This verse has no Targum, however, this emendation does not answer the question of Tosafot regarding names.  Many of the commentators tried to explain this.

I wonder what led our rabbis to say that the gemarah was emphasizing once in Targum, for it appears clear to me that the intention equally applies to twice in Hebrew.  The explanation is that this verse (referring to Ataroth and Dibon) is not connected to the previous verses nor to the subsequent ones.  One could skip this verse without detracting from the meaning and continuation of the current section.  Here, one could skip from verse 2 to verse 4 without missing anything as it appears.  They said to Moses … (verse 2). The land which the Lord smote … (verse 4).  One might think that in such cases, there is no obligation to read this verse twice in Hebrew and once in Targum, rather once could skip the verse or read it only once.  The gemarah teaches otherwise, that his verse is like every other verse in the Torah, which one must read three times.

This shows the deep understanding of Chazal and their sensitivity.  Such a verse, which, as described above, has no necessary connection to the current section, such that, by omitting it one detracts nothing from the matter at hand.  Even such a verse is treated as individual and unique in the entire Torah.  Take note.

Editor’s Note: If one skips a word or an entire sentence when publicly reading the Torah, the reader must go back to correct the mistake, even if the omission does not detract from the current section.  A Torah scroll is not kosher if even one letter was omitted.  Lest one think that this does not apply to the daily study of Torah, the Torah Temimah shows the sensitivity of Chazal to every verse in the Torah.  Every verse in the Torah is unique and special.  Even if the verse seems superfluous, one must review it three times: twice in Hebrew and once in translation.


[1] There are two versions of the Jerusalem Targum: a fragmentary one and a more complete one.  The more complete one is sometimes incorrectly associated with the translation of Yonatan Ben Uziel whose translation only accompanies the prophets and Hagiographia.  Both of these provide a more homiletic translation than Onkelos who provides a more literal translation

Parsahat מטות Numbers 30:2 – Annulment of Vows

Numbers 30:2 “And Moses spoke unto the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.”

Nedarim 78a: “This is the thing.  A beraita teaches: This is the thing.  A scholar releases a vow and a husband annuls.  Based on this, Rabbi Yochanan says a scholar who uses the language of the husband [annulment] or a husband who uses the language of a scholar [release], his words are ineffective.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #2:

Regarding a husband, the Torah explicitly states in this parasha the language of annulment: “But if her husband make them null and void … (Numbers 30:13).  That a scholar releases vows, we learn from what is written later “he shall not break his word” (number 30:3).  The interpretation is that he who made the vow may not break his word, but others can break his vow for him from the language of secular.  The language of release applies to things that are secular.  The hindrance sited in the beraita is supported on the language of the verse “This is the thing” which implies it must be as written in the Torah.

The Rashbam on Baba Kama 120A, works hard to explain why switching languages does not work to annul a vow, even though the scholar and husband have the intention — to nullify the vow.  It appears simple to me since, when a scholar releases one from a vow, the vow is annulled from the beginning.  Since the scholar tries to find and opening or a reason whereby the person was unable or not allowed to make the vow, he uproots the vow from the beginning as if it never existed.  Not so the husband.  The Torah does not give him the permission to uproot his wife’s vow from the beginning, rather he is allowed to nullify it as the verse states.  The Ran writes on this matter in Nedarim that release implies retroactively uprooting and annulment implies from now henceforth.  According to this, when a scholar uses the language of annulment and a husband uses the language of release, they are using language that the Torah did not grant them, thus their words have no power.  Take Note.

According to this it comes out that only the language of annulment is ineffective for a scholar, but all other language that implies nullification and retroactive release, such as, “permitted to you” and the like, are effective.  That which the Gemara specifies the language of release is because it specified one of the languages that imply retroactive nullification, when in truth, any such language is effective in releasing a vow.

How well this explains the words of the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim chapter 10 halachah 8) that a scholar can release a vow using any of the following language: “there is no vow”, “there is no oath”.  This is as written the all language that implies retroactive annulment is effective in releasing a vow.

The Ran on this matter in Nedarim cites these words of the Jerusalem Talmud.  He states: “it appears from the Jerusalem Talmud that a scholar can also release a vow by saying ‘there is no vow’ or ‘there is no oath'”  The commentary Shirei Korban on the Jerusalem Talmud writes “I find his words [the Ran] difficult, because they imply that a husband can use such language to nullify a vow, but our matter [in the Babylonian Talmud], implies that only a scholar, not a husband, can say “there is no vow”.

I am deeply troubled that a significant Torah Giant, such as him, erred in the words of the Ran, whose intent was clear and simple.  A scholar can also release vows saying “there is no vow”, etc.  The word also was misinterpreted to mean that a scholar also (in addition to the husband) when one should  interpret it that a scholar can also (use similar language).  I would not have written this because of the clarity, only so that a student not err by trying to find meaning in the words of the Shirei Korban who interprets the Ran as allowing to husband to nullify vows status “there is no vow”, which clearly contradicts the widely accepted halachah of the Talmud in Nedarim.

Behold, as we have written, it is clear that a scholar can release a vow using any language that implies release.  Based on this reason the halachah in Yoreh Deah 228:3 explains the process for releasing a vow.  They say three times to the person who made the vow: “permitted to you”, “allowed to you” or “pardoned to you:. The reason for stating this three times is not because the law requires it.  It became customary to say it three times for emphasis.  See the commentaries there.  It appears that the custom of saying “permitted to you, etc.”, three times, when annulling vows on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, fulfills the custom mentioned in the Shulhan Aruch.  Yet, since the release of vows mentions: all is permitted to you, all is allowed to you, all is pardoned to you (many languages of releasing vows), they have released the vow two and threefold.  Take note:

Editor’s note: On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary for one to perform the ceremony of releasing any inadvertent vows that one may have made in the previous year.  Three men sit down as a make shift court of law.  One person stands before them requesting that any inadvertent vows made in the previous year be released. After making the request, the three men sitting inform the person that he is released from his inadvertent vows.  After this annulment, the person who was standing sits down.  One of those sitting arises to request that his inadvertent vows be released.  This process repeats until all four have asked that their inadvertent vows be released.  Although this is only a custom, the Torah Temimah shows how this is rooted in the halachah.  Not only do the three men mention the release of vows three times, they also restate this using different phrases that indicate the release of vows.  In this note, the Torah Temimah also shows that halachah need not be complicated.  He clearly explains, based on earlier sources, what other commentaries worked hard to explain.  He also states that one should not overcomplicate matters such that they contradict widely accepted halachic ruling and practice.

Parshat פינחס Bamidbar 25:13 – Stay Away from Zealots

Bamidbar 25:13 – It shall be for him [Pinchas] and for his descendants after him [as] an eternal covenant of kehunah [priesthood], because he was zealous for his God and atoned for the children of Israel

Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, Chapter 9, Halacha 7:  “One who has [public] sex with an Aramean, zealots are allowed to strike him.” This teaching is not in accordance with the will of the Sages and Pinchas [also] did not act according to the will of the Sages. Rabbi Yuda the son of Pazi said that they wanted to put Pinchas in cherem [excommunication.] They would have, were it not for a holy spirit that broke forth and said, “It shall be for him and for his descendants after him as an eternal covenant of priesthood.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #31:

The commentators toiled greatly to explain the above Gemora. However, the truth is that it is very easily explained in a straightforward manner. When the Gemora says that [Pinchas] did not act in accordance with the will of the Sages, it means simply that the law that a zealot can strike/kill one who is having public sex with an Aramean is, [itself], not pleasing to the Sages.

The rationale for the Sages not approving of this law is because the law depends on the zealot who is killing the perpetrator being filled with a genuine and true zealotry on behalf of G-d. That being the case, it is impossible to give a general permission to people to strike/kill someone who is having public sex with an Aramean.

Who would be able to judge the zealot? Perhaps he is doing this for some ulterior [impure] motive and just saying that he is doing this out of a being filled with a genuine zealousness for G-d? In the meantime, he will have killed a person who was not liable for the death penalty according to the law.

This is similar to the law in Gemora Yevamos 39b where it says that it is better to perform the chalitza ceremony rather than marry your deceased brother’s wife. The reason why it is better to do chalitza rather than fulfill the mitzvah of carrying on your brother’s name is because perhaps you would be doing the mitzvah for ulterior [impure] motives. If that were the case, you would then be transgressing the [severe] prohibition of having relations with your brother’s wife!

The question is raised “is it possible that the Sages would criticize a deed that Pinchas did?” The answer is “certainly, yes.” Had it not been for the heavenly spirit breaking forth and saying that Pinchas will have an everlasting covenant because he was a true zealot, they would have actually excommunicated him. Since the Divine Spirit testified on Pinchas’ behalf saying that he was a genuine zealot, he was then exempt from excommunication.

Note that this opinion in the Jerusalem Talmud is not according to the teaching in the Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 82a that teaches that Pinchas actually asked Moshe for permission first. Truly, in the Babylonian Talmud itself there are two opinions as to whether Pinchas asked Moshe permission first or not. The Jerusalem Talmud’s opinion is that he did not ask first.

Note that according to the opinion in the Gemora Sanhedrin [in the Babylonian Talmud] that Pinchas did not ask permission first before killing Zimri, the purpose of the divine spirit [heavenly voice] breaking forth was to show that Pinchas was also not guilty of the sin of “teaching halacha in front of his teacher.” [This is a highly criticized, disrespectful thing to do.]

We see in the Gemora Eruvin 63a that the punishment for teaching halacha in front of one’s teacher is to descend to hell without having any children and further that one is brought down from one’s high position. However, since the heavenly voice came out [and testified on Pinchas’ behalf], therefore he merited to have many children and also greatness. These rewards that Pinchas received correspond exactly to what would have been the punishments if he had been liable for the sin of teaching Halacha in front of his teacher. These two exact rewards are what show that the heavenly voice saved Pinchas from being found guilty of this sin [also].

Editor’s Note: Here the Torah Temimah is explaining to us his opinion as to exactly why the Sages looked down upon Pinchas’ zealotry in killing Zimri for having public sex with an Aramean. Perhaps genuine zealotry is praiseworthy as long as it does not involve injuring anyone else. In a legal system zealotry cannot be part of the equation in judging guilt or innocence. This is because the quality of being a genuine zealot cannot be judged by human beings. Someone who appears a zealot may actually have other motives.

Parshat בלק Bamidbar 22:20 – Other People’s Money

Bamidbar 22:20 – God came to Bilaam [during] the night and said to him, “If these men have come to call for you, arise and go with them, but the word I speak to you-that you shall do.”

Gemora Makot 10b – Rava the son of Rav Huna said, “from this we learn that whichever way a man desires to go, they help him [go that way].  [We see this from the fact that] in verse 22:12 God says “Don’t go with them” and in verse 22:20 He says “Arise, go with them”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #7:

This is in accordance with the saying “Everything is in the hands of heaven except for the fear of heaven.” In this case here, God saw that in Bilaam’s evil heart he wanted to go with them, therefore God permitted him to go.

Look also in Rashi’s explanation on verse 22:18 where Bilaam states that even if Balak were to give him a house full of silver and gold, he [Bilaam] would still not be able to act against God’s will. There Rashi says as follows: “We learn here that Bilaam soul was wide and lusted after other people’s money.”

It is worthwhile to comment on the fact that we see in Pirkei Avot (9:6) as follows: “Rabbi Yosi Ben Kasma says: even if you were to give me all the silver and gold in the world I would not leave and go to a place that is not a place of Torah.” This being the case, how is it possible [for Rashi] to conclude something critical from Bilaam for using similar language?

Truthfully though, these two instances are not similar. In Pirkei Avot the situation was that a person was coming and enticing Rabbi Yosi to go and live in his city and he would be paid thousands of gold dinars for doing so.  Therefore it was appropriate for Rabbi Yosi to respond in a similar way and say that even if he were to be given all the gold in the world, he would not go. Thus we see that Rabbi Yosi responded appropriately and in the same phraseology as the enticement.

This is not the case here with Bilaam, however. In this case, Balak did not entice Bilaam with the enticement of making him rich. Rather he only promised him that he would be greatly honored as it says in verse 22:17, “I will certainly honor you”. Therefore, Bilaam should have responded in the same phraseology as the enticement and said that it wouldn’t matter how much honor Balak granted him, he still would not be able to go against the word of God.

So, why did Bilaam instead respond and say that even if he was to be given a house full of money he wouldn’t be able to go against the word of God? Certainly, this change of phraseology was because really Bilaam desired and lusted after other people’s money [and wanted to be rich.] This is according to the well-known fact that a person’s desires are often on his tongue [ie, people mention frequently the thing that they desire the most.]

Editor’s Note: I believe that the Torah Temimah here is interested in pointing out that the Gemora is not just gratuitously criticizing Bilaam.  Rather, the Gemora is pointing out how, from the wording of the Chumash itself, we see Bilaam’s lust for money.