Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 180:2

ב: שְׁבִיעִית, מְשַׁמֶּטֶת כָּל מִלְוֶה, בֵּין מִלְוֶה עַל-פֶּה, בֵּין מִלְוֶה בִּשְׁטָר, וַאֲפִלּוּ יֶשׁ בּוֹ אַחֲרָיוּת נְכָסִים. וּמִי שֶׁנָּתַן לַחֲבֵרוֹ מָעוֹת בְּתוֹרַת עִסְקָא, שֶׁהַדִּין הוּא ֹשֶחֶצְיָן מִלְוֶה וְחֶצְיָן פִּקָּדוֹן, הַחֵצִי שֶׁהוּא מִלְוֶה מְשַׁמֵּט, וְהַחֵצִי שֶׁהוּא פִקָּדוֹן אֵינוֹ מְשַׁמֵּט

The seventh year lays to rest every loan, whether loaned orally, whether loaned with a contract, and even if it is an item for which there is clear responsibility [e.g. land, immobile goods, or siginificant mobile ones, where the ownership is more obvious]. Someone who gave his friend money as a business investment, such that half is a loan and half is [retained but] leftin his charge, the half that is a loan is retired, but the half that is left in his charge is not.


Shemittas kesafim (the retirement of loans on the 7th year) is Torah law only when yovel (the jubilee year) is in practice, that is, when most Jews are living in Israel, and possibly even only if we’re back on the lands as divided by tribe. The Shulchan Arukh (CM 67:1), states that today this law is midivrei soferim, a rabbinic law endorsed by prophecy, a more binding sort of man-made leglislation. This appears to be the majority opinion, that it is rabbinic law. The Ramban (Seifer haZekhus) says it’s even Torahitic. On the other side, the Raavad says it’s a minhag chassidus, a practice of piety, not binding at all. The Rama (CM, ad loc) says that some say there is a custom not to practice this law at all, dating back to the days of the Rosh.

The question is understanding what the Rama is referring to — how can one have a custom to ignore a prohibition?

The Rosh himself explains that we started inserting an explicit clause in the loan that shemitah does not retire it.

The Gra says the custom is based on holding like the Raavad. The practice is an act of piety, and in Ashkenaz it became common not to follow it.

The Mahariq (shu”t #96) limits this custom to items that have acharyus nechasim. In contrast to what R’ Ganzfried writes here, the Mahariq rules that items which are clearly identifiable and don’t often change ownership were not included in the rabbinic legislation.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 180:1

סִימָן קפ – הִלְכוֹת טוֹעֵן וְנִטְעָן וְעֵדוּת

181: Laws of Shemittah of Money

א: הַסְכָּמַת רֹב הַפּוֹסְקִים דִּשְׁמִטַּת כְּסָפִים נוֹהֶגֶת גַּם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה, וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּחוּץ לָאָרֶץ. וְהָעוֹלָם נָהֲגוּ לְהָקֵל. וּכְבָר הִרְעִישׁוּ עַל זֹאת גְּדוֹלֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה, וּקְצָת מֵהֶם טָרְחוּ לְלַמֵּד זְכוּת עַל הַמִּנְהָג שֶׁסּוֹמְכִין עַל קְצָת מְקִלִין. אֲבָל מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְדַקְדֵּק בַּמִּצְוֹת, בְּוַדַּאי מְחֻיָב לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּדַעַת רֹב הַפּוֹסְקִים זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה. וּבִפְרָט שֶׁיוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֶת הַדָּבָר עַל יְדֵי פְּרוֹזְבּוּל וְלֹא יָבוֹא לִידֵי פְסִידָא. וֹּשְנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה הָיְתָה בִֹּשְנַת תרל”ה, וְתִהְיֶה אִם יִרְצֶה הַֹשֵּם בִֹּשְנַת תרמ”ב –)]וְהַבָּאוֹת, אי”ה, תש”מ, תשמ”ז, תשנ”ד, וכו

The majority of decors agree that the shemittah of money [the terminination of loans by the shemittah year, which is once every 7th year] is in practice even in these times, and even outside of the land [of Israel]. But the world got used to being lenient. The greats of Israel, whose memory is a blessing, already made much noise against this. Some of them tried to find a merit on the practice, that they are relying on the minority who are lenient. However, someone who wants to be careful with mitzvos is certainly obligated to act like the majority of decisors, whose memory is a blessing. In particular, it is possible to fix this with a pruzbul [a contract whose terms will be discussed later, whose terms place the loan outside of the law of shemittah] and he won’t [even] come to a loss.

The shemittah year was 5635, and the next one will be 5642. [For us, the previous was 5768, and the next one will be  5775.]


Currently, shemittah is once every seven years. Once the majority of the Jewish people settle Israel, perhaps only if we return to our tribal boarders, then yovel, the jubilee year comes into play, and shemittah shifts back from rabbinic to Torahitic law. At that time, the dispute as to whether the 50th, yoveil, year counts toward the shemittah cycle or not could perhaps change the date for the next shemittah from 5775.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 179:15

טו: לֹוֶה ֹשֶבָּא לִפְרוֹעַ לַמַּלְוֶה עַל יְדֵי שָׁלִיחַ, מִיָד כְּשֶׁמָּסַר אֶת הַמָּעוֹת לִידֵי הַשָּׁלִיחַ, זָכָה הַשָּׁלִיחַ בַּמָּעוֹת עֲבוּר הַמַּלְוֶה, וּכְשֶׁהַלֹּוֶה מִתְחָרֵט וְרוֹצֶה לְקַחְתָּן מִיַּד הַשָׁלִיחַ וְשְׁיִפְרַע לוֹ אַחַר כָּךְ, אָסוּר מִשּׁוּם דַּהֲוֵי לֵהּ שֶׁלֹּא מִדַּעַת, וְגַם עַל הַשָּׁלִיחַ יֵֹש אִסּוּר לְהַחֲזִירָן לַלֹּוֶה

A borrower who came to repay the lender via a messenger, as soon as he gives the money to the messenger’s hand/domain, the messenger acquires the money on behalf of the lender. And if the borrower refrets and wants to take the money [back] from the messenger’s hand and pay him [the lender] later, it is prohibited because he would have it without the knowledge [of the owner]. Also, the messenger may not return them [the monies] to the borrower.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 179:13-14

יג: הַמַּלְוֶה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ עַל הַמַּשְׁכּוֹן, שֶׁאִם לֹא יִפְרָעֶנּוּ לִזְמַן פְּלוֹנִי, יְהֵא הַמַּשְׁכּוֹן חָלוּט לוֹ, יִזָּהֵר לוֹמַר לוֹ בִּשְׁעַת הַלְוָאָה, אִם לֹא תִפְדֶה אוֹתוֹ עַד זְמַן פְּלוּנִי, יְהֵא קָנוּי לִי מֵעַכְשָׁו

Someone who lends his friend money on a collateral such that if he does not pay it in a certain time, the collateral would b, he should be careful to tell him at the time of the lending “If you do not pay it off until such-and-such a time, it should be transferred to my possession as of now.”

יד: מִי שֶׁהוּא יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁחַיָּב לַחֲבֵרוֹ, וַחֲבֵרוֹ אוֹמֵר לוֹ, וַדַּאי לִי שֶׁאֵינְךָ חַיָב לִי, פָּטוּר מִלְשַׁלֵּם לוֹ, שֶהֲרֵי מָחַל לוֹ

Someone who know he is obligated to his friend [borrowed money or objects] and his friend says to him, “It is certain to me that you do not owe me”, he is not obligated to pay him, since the lender forgave him [the loan].

Rights, Duties and Covenants

אמר רבא: כל המעביר על מדותיו מעבירין לו על כל פשעיו

Rava said: Whomever is “maavir al midosav“, they [the heavenly court] passes [ma'avirin] over all his sins for him.

– Shabbos 17b

What is this “maavir al midosav“? As we saw earlier:

The first definition will look at is provided by Rashi (ad loc). It’s one who does not mete out judgment to those who mistreat him.

The gemara (Yuma 23a) says it’s someone who forgives others when he is slighted. … How do we explain Rashi’s willingness to give a different translation to that of the gemara? Perhaps they are not so much defining ma’avir al midosav as giving examples of the behavior of someone who mastered this middah rather than the middah itself. In other words, if we view ma’avir al midosav as an attitude, we cannot see it directly in others, and therefore we look at how the person acts. The actual definition, therefore, would be a character trait that would motivate not demanding exact justice and standing on one’s rights and also motivate forgiving slights to one’s honor.

Two obvious questions arise:

We can understand the form of the reward. Someone who forgives others is forgiven himself — it is middah keneged middah, the reward is of the same type as the act. But what is the great value of this middah that the magnitude of the reward is so great. For it to allow the overlooking of all sin would be to imply that the maavir al midosav is someone who mastered a truly central piece of the Torah’s message.

Second, what is this gemara asking of us; are we supposed to be doormats?

To understand this middah, lets look at contrasts from either side:

Western Civiliation, since the American revolution, as tended toward legal system based on defining rights. John Lock wrote of the natural writes of “life, liberty and property”. To Thomas Jefferson, these are endowed by G-d and inalienable, and (perhaps to avoid issues of slavery and what would later be called communism), “property” was replaced by “the pusuit of happiness”. But clearly, the US, and subsequently many other governments, are built on a Lockian conception of the role of law.At first glance, one would think that there is little real difference between a legal system based on defining the rights of each party, and one in which the philosophy is based on one’s duties. After all, is there a difference between granting people a right to property and giving people the duty to avoid theft and damages?

I feel, however, that there are very real differences.

First, a psychological difference. Rights are about protecting “my own” from being encroached upon by others. Rather than looking at what I’m supposed to do, the system is set up to encourage me to make sure I got mine. From which the current culture of entitlement, and the insane abuse of tort law, are a minor step — “Do I still got mine?” to “How can I get mine?” The culture is set up to encourage such a progression.

Second, a rights-based law is about maximizing autonomy. Does each person have sufficient conceptual space, to act with full liberty and freedom? There is no establishment of society’s moral stance. One watches for intereference from others, but one is making an ideal out of maximizing autonomy rather than harnessing that autonomy to some end.

This is a consequence of moral relativism. Because there is no real belief in an absolute moral standard, of a territory people’s personal standards are to map, there can be no meaningful attempt to implement one in the law. Therefore, one encourages freedom to act as an end itself, rather than as a means to greatness.

Therefore is therefore no room in a rights-based law for protecting able minded adults from themselves. So, for example, regardless of one’s position on the immorality of homosexuality, the foundational philosophy of American law does not support such a ban. (I’m not saying that’s a good thing, just observing the facts.) With the goal being the maximization of autonomy, how can one ban what two adults do behind closed doors with no direct impact on others?

However, the lack of establishment of a common moral code is itself damaging to society. No one private violation of moral code, whatever the society holds it to be, will necessarily harm others. But living in a society that doesn’t promote morality, that doesn’t work toward aiming that autonomy toward some higher end, is harmful.

So the Torah does not laud the notion of standing for one’s rights.

However, does this mean this philosophy is wrong for the US? Well, how does halakhah define what’s right for a secular government?

רבי חנניה סגן הכוהנים אומר, הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות–שאלמלא מוראה, איש את ריעהו חיים בלעו.

Rabbi Chanania, the assistant-head of the kohanim would say: You should pray for the peace of the kingdom, for without the fear of it, a person would eat his neighbor alive.

– Avos 3:2

A civil law exists to provide peace. And that the American Constitution does quite well, among the most effective systems in history.

Looking at the other side, why did the US choose a rights-bases system? England was based on duties. These were obligations and prohibitions assigned by royalty and priviledged classes. The other extreme from a rights-based law is one in which our obligations are imposed on us. If rights-based law is overly prone to a culture of entitlement and license, than a duty-based law is equally dangerous because it is prone to totalitarianism, and oppression by a dictatorship or oligarchy.

How then is halakhah structured? The Torah describes itself as a beris. (Technically, multiple berisim are found in it.) A covenant.

How does a contract differ from a covenant? A successful contract is one where the outcome is a win-win. Each party takes away what they need from the deal, in exchange for giving up something that didn’t matter as much to them.

A covenant, however, creates a new community. A marriage is not a contract, an exchange of favors. It creates a new unit, the married couple, and each enters the marriage covenant with the commitment to contribute to the wellfare of that community of two.

Halakhah is neither a system of rights nor of duties to another, it’s a covenantal system by which G-d and the Jewish people (or in the case of Noachide Law, G-d and humanity) form a community together and work to the betterment of that entity.

Let’s look how each of these three would define chessed, kindness:

  • Rights-based: There is no equivalent. By definition, a rights based law guarantees that each person gets what is due them. There is no way to phrase a concept of giving people without it being due.
  • Duty-based: I am obligated to give to the other.
  • Covenantal: I hold a resource of the covenantal community. It is not only mine, but something I was given stewardship of in my role as part of the whole.

This last definition is that of R’ Shimon Shkop, to (yet again) return to his introduction to Shaarei Yosher:

Although at first glance it seems that feelings of love for oneself and feelings of lovefor others are like competing co-wives one to the other, we have the duty to try to delve into it, to find the means to unite them, since Hashem expects both from us. This means [a person must] explain and accept the truth of the quality of his “I”, for with it the statures of [different] people are differentiated, each according to their level.The entire “I” of a coarse and lowly person is restricted only to his substance and body. Above him is someone who feels that his “I” is a synthesis of body and soul. And above him is someone who can include in his “I” all of his household and family. Someone who walks according to the way of the Torah, his “I” includes the whole Jewish people, since in truth every Jewish person is only like a limb of the body of the nation of Israel. And there are more levels in this of a person who is whole, who can connect his soul to feel that all of the world and worlds are his “I”, and he himself is only one small limb in all of creation. Then, his self-love helps him love all of the Jewish people and [even] all of creation.

In my opinion, this idea is hinted at in Hillel’s words, as he used to say, “If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am I?” It is fitting for each person to strive to be concerned for himself. But with this, he must also strive to understand that “I for myself, what am I?” If he constricts his “I” to a narrow domain, limited to what the eye can see [is him], then his “I” — what is it? Vanity and ignorable. But if his feelings are broader and include [all of] creation, that he is a great person and also like a small limb in this great body, then he is lofty and of great worth. In a great engine even the smallest screw is important if it even serves the smallest role in the engine. For the whole is made of parts, and no more than the sum of its parts.

Therefore it is appropriate to think about all the gifts of heaven “from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land” that they are given to the Jewish people as a whole. Their allotment to individuals is only in their role as caretakers until they divide it to those who need it, to each according to what is worthy for him, and to take for himself what is worthy for himself….

What then is the profound value of the maavir al midosav? It is the central middah necessary to enter a beris. It truly is the underpinning of the entire Torah, being both necessary for properly accepting the Torah, and for the relationship with your soul, with Hashem and with other people that the Torah calls from you.

Watering our Weeds

The following post (originally written Feb 2009) was greatly expanded into “Watering our Weeds” (MS Word, PDF), an essay in Daas Torah: Child and Domestic Abuse vol. I (pp. 220-233), a book by R’ Dr Daniel Eidensohn with the assistance of Dr Baruch Shulem.

In the full version, I

  • further develop the argument that the evidence of our community’s state is not consistent with the Torah’s self-description;
  • add to the point made by the Gra by comparison to a similar position held by his talmid, R’ Chaim Volozhiner;
  • draw out how our observance falls short of their descriptions of following the Torah; and
  • outline the beginnings of a plan to close that gap.

The perspective of that paper, like this blog entry, is primarily to motivate people to join this great work. The work which not coincidentally is what AishDas is all about.

However in the printed essay I also touch on the spiritual crisis caused by people hurt by an abusive authority figure, or even just disillusioned by reading of some sexual or financial scandal by someone who we thought represented Torah and Jewish Tradition:

This critical issue does not merely invoke pragmatic questions; it harbors the potential to cause a crisis of faith – for the victims certainly and for the rest of us. If we alone follow the Truth, why is it not self-evident in the ethics of our community? Can we be surprised that it leads many victims r”l of the improper behavior to conclude the Torah does not hold the truth? Or that we have “kids at risk” who perceive the gap between expectations and results as evidence of hypocrisy? The Torah describes an appealing ethical community that people would be inspired to join, not something we would have to promote and sell. And yet, despite all our efforts at kiruv, the intermarriage rate in the Diaspora is sixty times the rate of baalei teshuvah choosing to join Orthodoxy

Again, see the published version here. And now, the original, left just to preserve the pieces I didn’t think were fit to print, and to tempt you to read the full version…


In an online discussion, someone lamented the fact that National Public Radio ran a long story about sexual abuse among Chasidim (or perhaps “Ultra-Orthodox” in general; the reporter was inconsistent). He wrote that NPR’s story seemed to imply that abuse was perhaps more common among the Chassidim of Williamsburg than elsewhere.

I’m not sure if that’s true or not. Remember that with so many children, a smaller percentage would still lead to more cases. My bet is that it isn’t, and simply the existence of the study and exploring the topic make it look that way. However, just the fact that it’s not self-evident that our communities are far less plagued by these blights — from this issue to fiscal impropriety to violent crime — is itself very significant.

As I always chime in on such discussions, Torah produces noble baalei sheleimim. And mitokh shelo lishmah, ba lishmah. If our abuse and other crime statistics aren’t clearly superior to those the rest of the country’s (especially after correcting for other socio-ecomic factors) it would be experimental evidence that what the mainstay of our community is practicing isn’t Torah. And it should be obvious.

Or as R’ Harry Maryles pushed me to put it in an Avodah discussion: If we view Torah as a tool, it’s not being used for the purposes for which it was created.

It seems to me the two formulations only differ on the breadth of the definition of the word Torah. In both I’m trying to describe a community that keeps mitzvos anashim milumadah without yir’as Shamayim, simchah, hislahavus, an intent to reach qedushah, etc…. You can call that keeping the Torah but not using it for what it was meant, or you can call it not really keeping the Torah. The difference is terminology.

The topic of Torah to the soul: A comparison to rain for the ground; it causes what was planted there to grow, a cure or a poison. Similarly Torah, causes what is in his heart to grow. If what is in his heart is good, his yir’ah will grow; if what’s in his heart is a “root sprouting poison weed and wormwood” then the bitterness that’s in his head will grow.

As they wrote “the righteous will walk in it, and sinners will stumble in it” [Hoshea 14:10, as explained by Chazal], and as they wrote “To those on the right the medicine of life is in it, and to those on the left, the poison of death.” [Shabbos 88b]

Therefore one must cleanse one’s heart every day before study and after it of impure attitudes and middos with a fear of sin and good deeds.

This [process] is euphemistically called “going to the bathroom”. They were was about this they hinted when they said “Going to the bathroom is greater than all of it.” (Berakhos 8a) And when they said “Whomever spends a long time in the bathroom, it is lofty.” (Ibid 55a) Also when they said, “Get up early and go, in the evening go” (Ibid 62a) they intend to say that in his youth and in his old age he shouldn’t distance himself a great distance from his Creator so that he couldn’t be helped.

One must inspect which evil middah is strong within him, and after that clean it out. Not like those men of desire who wallow in what they want, and the desire grows greater. It requires a lot of slyness, to be “sly in yir’ah” (Abayei, Ibid 17a) in opposition to the “snake was sly”.

One who is lazy in weeding out an evil middah, isn’t helped by all the legal fences and protections that he does. For any disease which isn’t cured from within…Even the fence of the Torah which protects and saves will be useless because of his laziness. (c.f. Rava, Sotah 21a; Bei’ur haGra Mishlei 24:31, 25:5)

- Vilna Gaon as quoted in Even Sheleima 1:11

The Gra, in a quote that pretty much declares the essential need for a Mussar Lifestyle (“Mussar” with a capital M, as later developed by the movement), compares learning Torah to watering a garden. If you have beautiful plants, it will produce healthier, more beautiful plants. If you water weeds, all you get is more weeds. Learning Torah without attention to middos will simply produce more forceful personalities with bad middos. Learning without mussar (lowercase “m”, a commitment to spiritual development in general) is worse than valueless; it can be destructive!

Sadly, I think the Vilna Goan’s metaphor is born out. We live in an era where few seek to understand the ideal at any depth greater than what they absorbed in the early grades. There are few attempts at a systemic study of aggadita, or how to tie that to one’s observance of mitzvos and lifestyle. Aggadita‘s role has been reduced to nice vertlach on the parashah or a thought of Chazal with not grand picture, no grounding, no attempt to define a target to which one should aim their lives. (When it’s not merely reduced to a fantastic tale to keep younger students’ attention.)

I think that is the same social force that brought Brisk to the fore — it’s a style of learning that not only allows one to neglect such studies, but actually invites such elision. (Symptomatic: Making a siyum on a volume of gemara without making any attempt to comprehend large sections of narrative within it.)

And unfortunately we see weeds in our garden. Well watered weeds. Talmidei chakhamim who make a splash in the national media for tax fraud. Schools founded and funded on embezzled money. Someone who prepared and teaches daf yomi who sold treif chickens for years. Or today’s news — someone selling shaatnez talisos. And even among the masses, an entire “under the table” economy designed to violate “dina demalkhusa dina” (the law of the land is the law), which undebatably applies to taxation. Disdain for Jews of other stripes. Etc… we all know the communal problems, no need to wallow in them any further.

I’m not blaming Brisker Derekh for these ills. I am actually saying the causality is in reverse: We want answers about what to do next, with no eye toward the forest for all the trees. That kind of culture will cause people to gravitate toward a modality of learning which doesn’t try to explain the tree’s relation to the forest. But also, I think that if we’re to cure the problem, advocating other modalities in our children may be part of the solution.

An aside:

I don’t think the current problem dates back to R’ Chaim’s day. In R’ Chaim’s day, the battle wasn’t against apathy, it was against competing Isms. (Thus all his antipathy against Zionism.)

Also, in R’ Chaim’s day, his message wasn’t only his lomdus. It also included his amazing lifestyle. I Googled looking for stories of RCB’s gemillas chessed, I couldn’t find a good source, so here’s some chapter headings: playing horsey with the local children (no one wanted to be the horse), playing Cowboys and Indians and being left tied up (and he wouldn’t let the gabbai untie him, the children would be disappointed; instead he waited until they got back from dinner), people coming in and out of his home (the time he put down a pen in the middle of writing chiddushim and a homeless guy walked away with it was just typical), the time he forced Brisk to be mechallel Yom Kippur to bring money for pidyon shevuyim – and the captured man was actually guilty of being an (atheistic) Communist!, etc, etc, etc…

Along the same lines as introducing means of teaching gemara which more frequently links the halakhah to the question of values is one that actually addresses rather than skims the aggadita. Few of us were given any methodology for learning those portions of the gemara. The Maharsha and Maharal are useful source texts for deriving the underlying meaning of some of those fantastical-seeming stories.

Similarly, few men have the tools to learn nevi’im acharonim, sifrei Eme”s (Iyuv, Mishlei, Tehillim), and the other parts of Nakh that inculcate basic values. (Women are sometimes more fortunate in this regard.) When we teach “Dinim Class”, we need to spend as much time on the mitzvos that lack well-defined units of measure and limits of obligation, or that relate to interpersonal or fiscal law as we do to the rites in Orach Chaim.

Much can be done without a change in what is taught, but in how it’s taught. After all, our current emphasis on Talmud Bavli dates back to before Tosafos. To them, it was already an old practice to center education on the Bavli, and they need to explain why that’s so, despite the beraisa‘s recommendation one divide one’s time equally between Tanakh, halakhah and gemara. They expected Bavli to be learned in a manner so that one pulls out from the mixture all three. These lessons of machashavah and mussar, of the inspiring conceptual ideal and the means to live up to them, could in theory be pulled from gemara alone. I believe it’s more difficult, but that question should be seriously considered before toying with a priority system that predates much of what we do from how we wash our hands upon waking up to the choice of prayers with which we embellish qeri’as Shema before going to bed.

These are the questions me must seriously explore if we are to weed our garden.

And of course, and really first, we need to constantly think about these issues in our own lives and in setting educational policy. These ideas are just to get the ball rolling, not a canonical list.

And in fact, that underlies the concept behind The AishDas Society . (Please see our Mission Statement paper. For all the time the chevrah put into honing it just so, it would be nice if people actually read it.) To quote from that paper, “To be observant not merely out of habit or upbringing, but to connect with every deed on an intellectual and emotional level.” The intellect needs the Maharal, or RSRH, or Besh”t or… AND the heart needs to be refined so that one actually translates that to action. And THAT becomes AishDas, “the synthesis of the fire and the law, a whole that is greater than its parts.” (The mission statement itself is about what TADS offers to help that actually happen.)

Let every page of gemara studied remind our youth that we not only must follow halakhah, we must do so for the sake of building and being qadosh.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 179:12

יב: כְּמוֹ ֹשֶצָּרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר בִּשְׁמִירַת פִּקָּדוֹן, כָּךְ צָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר בִּשְׁמִירַת הַמַּשְׁכּוֹן בְּיוֹתֵר, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא כְּמוֹ שׁוֹמֵר שָׂכָר עַל הַמַּשְׁכּוֹן. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁהַנִּפְקָד אֵינוֹ רַשַׁאי לִמְסֹר אֶת הַפִּקָּדוֹן לְאַחֵר לְשָׁמְרוֹ, כְּמוֹ ֹשֶׁיִתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן קפח, כָּךְ אֵין הַמַּלְוֶה רַשַּׁאי לְהַפְקִיד אֶת הַמַֹּשְׁכּוֹן בְּיַד אַחֵר אוֹ לְמַשְׁכְּנוֹ שֶׁלֹּא מִדַּעַת הַבְּעָלִים

Just as one has to be careful in guarding something you were charged with, all the more so one must be careful in guarding collateral, because he is like a paid guardian [one of the four categories of guardian discussed in the gemara] for the collateral. Just as someone appointed [to guard] can not give someone else the item for them to guard (as will be explained in chapter 188) so too the lender can not give the collateral to another’s domain to appoint them [as guardian] or use it as [his own collateral] without the knowledge of the owners.


The lender is like a paid guard, whether because he gets a benefit by holding onto the collateral; it mitigates his risk of non-payment or because the loan is a mitzvah, and thus the guarding is being “paid for” with that reward. See Bava Metzi’ah 81b-82b.

We discussed numerous laws against obtaining benefit from a borrower because of a loan, since it would be a form of non-fiscal interest. And yet, even though this risk mitigation is here given implied monetary value, this reasoning does not prohibit receiving collateral. I do not have an explanation.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 179:10-11

י: מִי שֶׁיֵשׁ לוֹ ֹשְטַר-חוֹב עַל חֲבֵרוֹ, וְהַשְׁטָר בָּלָה וְהוֹלֵך לְהִמָּחֵק, יָבוֹא לִבֵית-דִּין וְיַעֲשׂוּ לוֹ קִיּוּם

Someone who has a debt contract [i.e. an IOU] on his friend, and the contract is fading and heading toward erasure, he should go to court and they will make him a permanent one.

יא: אָסוּר לְהַשְׁהוֹת שְׁטָר פָּרוּעַ בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְאַל־תַּשְׁכֵּ֖ן בְּאֹהָלֶ֣יךָ עַוְלָֽה

It is prohibited to leave a paid off [IOU] contract in one’s house, as it says “[If sin dwells in your hand, put it away] and do not give home to unrighteousness in your home.” (Job 11:14)


Note that the sin in se’if 11 isn’t that of theft, of using the contract. Just having the temptation around, or the possible chance of error (e.g. if the former lender dies and his heirs try to collect) is itself prohibited.

Special Souls

The following speech was given by my son Izzy (ישראל זרחיה) at the party we made to celebrate his becoming a bar mitzvah:

It says in this morning’s parashah [Toledos], “וַיְהִי֙ כִּֽי־זָקֵ֣ן יִצְחָ֔ק וַתִּכְהֶ֥יןָ עֵינָ֖יו מֵרְאֹ֑ת – and it was when Yitzchak got old, and his eyes weakened so that he could not see…”

There is a famous medrash about how Yitzchak became blind. Bereishis Rabba on the Akeidah tells how the angels cried over what they thought was about to be Yitzchak’s death. As they looked down at the scene, some of the angels’ tears got into Yitzchak’s eyes, and this caused his blindness.

My great-great-grandfather, Rav Yisrael Avraham Abba Krieger, asked about this. The Akeidah was a long time before Yitzchak actually became blind. In fact, our pasuk says he didn’t lose his eyesight until he was old, when it would be almost normal. If their tears caused his blindness, why did they take so long to have an effect?

Second, our pasuk has an extra word. If it would have just said “his eyes weakened” we would know that he couldn’t see. What is added to the meaning by adding the word “מֵרְאֹת – from seeing”?

His answer in Divrai Yisrael is rather long, eleven pages. But here is one idea that my great-great-grandfather raises along the way.

Rashi repeats another medrash that gives a reason for Yitzchak’s blindness. Right before we are told about his becoming blind, the Torah mentions the heartache Yitchak has from his son Eisav. Against his father’s wishes, Eisav married local Canaanite girls, who worshipped idols. From the smoke of the incense and the tears of pain that idols were brought into his own home, Yitzchak was made blind. And that is why the blindness happened just now, at this point in his life.

But these midrashim don’t have to be arguing. It could be that it took both events for Yitzchak to lose his sight. It was because Yitzchak once saw into heaven and experienced the tears of the angels that he was unable to handle his daughter-in-laws’ idolatry. The gap was just too big. Hashem saved someone that holy from having to fully relate to idol worship in his own home, The pasuk therefore says that his eyes were weakened not just “from seeing”, but “מֵרְאֹת – to keep him from seeing.”

We can learn from today’s parashah that much of what we call “being handicapped” is actually Hashem protecting one of His more holy souls.

There is a famous story about the Chazon Ish. In the beis medrash that the Chazon Ish would often go to, one of the regulars at minyan was a man with Downs Syndrome. When the man entered, the Chazon Ish would stand, the way we do for a rabbi or another great person when they enter the room. One of his students asked why. The Chazon Ish explained that Hashem makes some souls too special to relate to this world, so they are kept from being fully in it. Hashem instead gives them challenges that the rest of us do not have to face.

In a way, their handicap serves like Yitzchak’s blindness.

This is one of the nicer things I’ve learned volunteering and being my school’s representative for Friendship Circle, and by having Shuby as my roommate. Even though they don’t understand as much about what’s going on around them as we do, or maybe because they don’t, they face the world and deal with the really basic problems we usually ignore.

We just had a small party for some of the children for Friendship Circle and Count Me In, so that I can celebrate my bar mitzvah with them too. I hope it helps me take with me gratitude for everything Hashem gave me, and an appreciation for all the little steps to holiness that we so often take for granted.

At this point I would like to thank…

E-lokai Neshmah, redux

In an earlier post, I extrapolated from a point made by R’ YG Bechhofer, contrasting Pinocchio with Adam haRishon to give a perspective on the yeitzer hara vs. the yeitzer hatov. I wrote:

Until Adam ate the fruit, he consisted of free will and internalized yeitzer hatov (inclination to do good). He had no yeitzer hara; the inclination to do evil was external to him. … Since the desire to do evil was external, taking the form of the snake, it would have to present its argument to Adam. Adam’s only desire was to do good, so the snake’s argument would have to be a lie, presenting what it was promoting as though it were the greater good. Adam faced two conflicting stories about which path is better, and had to choose which was the truth.

In contrast to Adam, in the story of Pinocchio the main character[,] … rather than [being given] a yeitzer hatov, the call to do good is externalized as a cricket. He is told to identify with the voice in his head suggesting wrong choices, but good choices are things someone else foisted on him. … Pinocchio was set up to fail.

Here I want to suggest a similar point, but rather than on the subject of yeitzer hatov vs. yeitzer hara, on a different plane of the spiritual model.

We say in the morning berakhos, E-lokai Neshamah: “אֱ-לֹהַי נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּתַתָּ בִּי טְהוֹרָה הִיא. My G-d, the soul which you placed within me is pure.” When I gave a shiur on the topic, I asked: Who is the “me” saying “the soul which You put within me”? Aren’t I my soul (and I live within a body) — how can it be placed within “me”?

At the time I answered by raising the topic of naran, and making a distinction between various aspects of the soul. The aspect which performs conscious thought, and thus which is the “I” who I see in my mind’s mirror is the ru’ach. The neshamah, which we describe in this berakhah as still being pure, is that of the soul which exists in heaven, which “hears” man’s higher calling.

Thus, the berakhah is being said from the perspective of the ru’ach; that is the “me” that the neshamah is placed within. And we thank G-d that no matter how much our actions create illness in the rest of the soul, or soil it, we can still reestablish contact with the neshamah which remains pure.

Note that the lowest element, the nefesh, is missing. The berakhah speaks of I the ruach having within me a neshamah. The nefesh is the mammalian aspects of being a human, the soul’s faculties designed to keep us alive and that are influenced by living in a brain and exposed to hormones and physical desires.

We can therefore see E-lokai Neshmah as an exercise. We take a position similar to Adam’s, but rather than being about good vs. evil, on the plane of identifying with our higher callings rather than our more animalistic aspects. My neshamah, my drive to live a meaningful life, is within me. I can say these words, “the soul which you placed within me is pure” spending a moment identifying my neshamah as part of myself that no matter what I do remains pure, and if I choose to be aware of it, could return the rest of me to purity.