Avodah Mailing List

Volume 12 : Number 115

Thursday, March 11 2004

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 14:24:20 +1100
From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>
Sending water for Mishloach Monos?

From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>
> Do any of the poskim speak of the possibility of being mekayem the
> Mitzva of MM with water? And if not, would a fancyly packaged bottle
> count more than water from the tap?

Since writing this, I discussed it with a dayan here, who mentioned a
Shaarei Teshuva [?] saying that MM must be a dovor choshuv, which water
is probably not.
OTOH a bottled variety that is sold in the stores - may qualify.


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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 14:35:33 +1100
From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>
big letters in the Megilla

 "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" 
> There are two big letters in the Megilla

From: Gershon Dubin gershon.dubin@juno.com
> Check the aseres benei Haman

Not if one has an '11-liner' megilah.


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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 08:09:55 +0200
From: Saul Stokar <dp22414@elbit.co.il>
Re: purim questions

In volume 12 n114, Dov Bloom (responding to a question about alternate
readings of words in the Megilla) recommends "getting hold of Rav
Mordechai Bruer's article on the subject". The article in question
can be found on line (along with many other interesting articles) at

Saul Stokar

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 08:48:13 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Re: purim questions

On 9 Mar 2004 at 11:36, Gil Student wrote:
> IIRC, the middle of Har Nof falls
> under one of the boundaries and many of its residents fall under a
> safek. I'm not sure what people there do.

We lived in the upper part of Har Nof for two years, and everyone around
us held Purim on the 15th. I believe that is also true for the lower
part of Har Nof.

The only place I know of that does otherwise is Rav Shternbuch's shul
(the Gra shul), which reads the Megilla on both days (I don't know
whether they make a bracha on the 14th).

Looking forward BE"H to Purim Meshulash again next year.... 

 - Carl

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From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
To: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>, avodah@aishdas.org
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 08:48:14 +0200
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Subject: Re: Learning as much as possible
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On 9 Mar 2004 at 20:42, Micha Berger wrote:
> But when I originally wrote, I was just thinking in terms of the
> importance of being a well-rounded Jew. I have a hard time with the
> notion that one of the amudei olam is more central than another.

My impression is that much of the "Yeshiva world" holds today that doing
chessed and the like is mostly for married men (and their wives) and not
for bochrim. And even for married men, it would be limited to times when
they would not otherwise be learning. So more for ba'alebatim than for
Klei Kodesh. But in any event, the order always is first I learn Torah
and then I do other things.

> RYBS's unfamiliarity with tenu'as hamussar aside, he clearly thought
> that a more positive approach to mussar would be a valid reason -- for
> people of that derekh -- to cut down on the time spent on gemara for
> tikkun hamiddos. (And not simply to limit other mitzvos to those times
> when the person isn't able to learn.) However, RYBS left it for others
> to explore that derekh, as it wasn't R' Chaim Brisker's, or his.

I don't think that a focus on Torah only necessarily has to exclude
tikkun ha'middos. It seems to me that there is a lot of work one can do
on oneself if one internalizes what one learns and doesn't just relate to
learning as intellectual banter to be followed by looking into a shulchan
aruch. You don't have to do tomchei Shabbos deliveries instead of going
to a shiur on Thursday nights to become a mentch.

When I was in the Gush, someone asked RAL about learning mussar. He
suggested learning Ramban al haTorah (and RAL also said a shiur in it on
Friday mornings). Curiously (or perhaps not), as was noted in a previous
thread, Ramban al haTorah is one of the four sforim that Alei Shur says
everyone should learn.

 - Carl

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for our son, 
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  
Thank you very much. 

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Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2004 20:00:37 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Re: Havdalah before Maariv

IIRC, does not Maariv on MS serve the same or a similar purpose as Maariv
on Leil Shabbos- one verbally sets aside ( Mkadesh) the Shabbos both
upon ushering it in and out. Don't we avoid having kavanah to fulfil
this Mitzvah so that we can do it during Kiddush and Havdalah?

Steve Brizel

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 09:43:24 +0200
From: S Goldstein <goldstin@netvision.net.il>

>FWIW, I would define qedushah as "separated for a purpose". Thus the
>use of the preposition "le-" in Qadosh Lashem. As well as the usage
>"harei at mequdeshas li"

You could add to your definition Rashi on the passuk kdoshim thiyu.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2004 20:09:12 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Re: Mishnah Brurah and Meiri

One of the many unique features of the CI is his running critique of areas
where the MB reversed the accepted psak, whether lchumra or lkula. Does
the CI ever mention in this context the reliance by MB on previously
unknown Rishonim such as Meiri?

Steve Brizel

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 00:52:23 -0500
From: "Jonathan S. Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: G-d's existence

> Since science pre-narrows the field of possible hypotheses to
> non-teleological ones, the results are presumed in the assumptions.
> In simple English: the latest scientific theory will always show who the
> most reasonable explanation doesn't include G-d because their definition
> of theory requires they ignore explanations that involve G-d.

Agreed. Here are two quotes that, to my mind, show the absurdity of the
position taken by some evolutionists:

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of
some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its
extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of
the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because
we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that
the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a
material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that
we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an
apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material
explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying
to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we
cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door [Harvard geneticist Professor
Richard Lewontin, and self-proclaimed Marxist].

"Science is fundamentally a game. It is a game with one overriding and
defining rule: Rule #1: Let us see how far and to what extent we can
explain the behavior of the physical and material universe in terms of
purely physical and material causes, without invoking the supernatural"
[evolutionary biologist Richard Dickerson].

There is of course no a priori rule, other than truthfulness, in searching
for the best explanation for the phenomena under investigation (contingent
existence, fine tuning, remarkable biochemical plan and purpose and
so forth). If your search turns up empty handed despite 150 years of
intense investigation, perhaps Rule #1 needs rethinking.

> In private email RJSO suggested that directed evolution has an unnecessary
> assumption; once you invoke G-d, the evolutionary process becomes
> redundant and Occam would have you drop it.

> The problem is that simply suggesting creation doesn't explain the
> presence of the fossil record ...  The competing theories to assess are
> therefore whether one accepts an explanation of that sort, or one says
> creation was more bederekh hatevah (albeit not necessarily totally).

Once we accept the updated Cosmological argument that the only explanation
for our contingent existence is a necessary Being, with the fine tuning
as further empirical evidence that this Being exists and is an incredibly
powerful Designer, then I would agree with you that it is hard to assess
what combination of Design and derech hateva operates (but see below).

In Nature's Destiny, Michael Denton argues that all the Design
is front-loaded (at the moment of creation), with all subsequent
developments, including the Designer's plan for human life achieved by a
variety of pre-planned natural mechanisms including slow (but directed)

However, the fossil record (as the first example you quote) does not
appear to me to favour slow Evolution over rapid Design (with some
yesh-mi-yesh obviously at work). Perhaps you can explain your thinking
on the fossil record further.


[Aside: We have a wonderful Torah that undergirds our belief in HKBH
(and the plan and purpose of Maaseh Bereishis) independently of the
above considerations.

It appears to me that the Ran al Hatorah, the Pirkei de Rebbe Eliezer
(acording to the Radal) and the Haamek Davar accept rapid Divinely
directed micro-evolution during Maaseh Bereishis and subsequent to the
Mabul, but they certainly do not accept slow undirected macro-evolution
described by evolutionists. If I follow Lee Spetner's argument correctly,
this directed micro-evolution works in the complete opposite direction
to standard evolutionary theories (the information-complexity is already
all there from the start).

I find find slow incremental evolution (undirected or otherwise) hard
to fit into the Torah (i.e. perek alef and bes of Bereishis).]


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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 12:25:56 +0100
From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org>
Re: omek pshuto shel mikra

Reb Mlevinmd@aol.com wrote:
> You are right but only if you restrict your survey of Jewish interpretation
> to a narrow slice of commentators.

The major Rishonim such as Ramban, along with well known a'haronim,
such as Malbim and Abravanel, can hardly be ignored. Plus, they write
clearly, so that we have the feeling we pretty much know what they are
talking about.

> If you include midrash, chssidic
> lterature and kabbalistic commentaries, you will find no focus on Pshat
> and, in fact, the sensibility that I described.

One is never very sure of what a midrash means because there are so many
ways to interpret midrash. The literature simply says too little about
itself and is actually a collection of essays by many people, so that
there is too little material per person to become too sure about how to
interpret it. Kabbalistic literature is even more difficult, in that
we often know that they are intentionally vague about certain things,
and in that those who are less reticent do give us a different worldview,
different from what either you or any other poster has described in this
thread. I would venture to say that your statement rings most true about
late Eastern European literature, i.e. 'Hassidic writings and works like
those of the Gaon of Vilna, the Ha'ameq Davar AFAIK, and perhaps also
the post Ari kabbalistic works.

> That is the rule, not the
> exception. The question then is: Why did some focus on pshat and made
> distinctions between it and drash. The Academic answer to that is that this
> approach represents a paticualr school ofthought that arose in response to
> other movements or intellectual processes. My answer is that methodological
> rigor is important so that you understand on what level you operate; once
> you learn what is pshat and what is drash, both are truth.

However, you would still need to explain how they are both true. That
is, are they both true in the same plane, or do they speak about other
kinds of truths. Example: Rashi hays a drashah of vaha<Shem> berakh et
Avraham bakol. Does the drashah mean that pshat in the verse is that he
had a daughter, does the drashah mean that her name was bakol, does the
drash mean that we know he had a daughter and our sages communicated
that through this drashah, or did Avrham not have a physical daughter,
but perhaps a sort of blessing sufficiently similar to a daughter that
'Hazal stated it in these terms? The method of reconciliation will matter
tremendously. How about when pshat and drash are in conflict?

> I think that all
> these commentators will agree to that and they all quote and use desrash.

Yes, and with a kernel of salt, since they all permit themselves to
dismiss one or another source if it doesn't seem correct to them. Why
and how is an interesting question to be asked about each and every
commentator, but all those I quoted do that.

If an important person, out of humility, does not want to rely on [the Law, as 
applicable to his case], let him behave as an ascetic. However, permission 
was not granted to record this in a book, to rule this way for the future 
generations, and to be stringent of one's own accord, unless he shall bring 
clear proofs from the Talmud [to support his argument].
	paraphrase of Rabbi Asher ben Ye'hiel, as quoted by Rabbi Yoel
	Sirkis, Ba'h, Yoreh De'ah 187:9, s.v. Umah shekatav.

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 17:39:45 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@fandz.com>
Re: Euphemisms and Idioms

Catching up on more old mail.... 

On 18 Feb 2004 at 15:04, Micha Berger wrote:
> R Akiva Miller wrote:
>> One might suggest that in all cases, a ramp allows one to sort of
>> "shuffle" along without putting much distance between the legs at
>> all, and that this cannot be done even on a very shallow staircase.
>> But according to the Mishna (Yoma 2:1) the kohanim used to "run up
>> the ramp", literally racing each other to the top, and this would
>> seem to preclude this sort of "shuffling".

> But not the kohein gadol, who also had to be accomodated. The me'il is
> generally understood to be full-length, but the kohein hedyot's
> kutones was only a shirt. Even if it was mid-calf, like our first
> cousins wear, it was nothing you'd trip on.

According to the pictures in R. Blumenthal's Bigdei Kehuna, IIRC 
(it's at home) the Kohein Gadol's ksones was longer than the me'il. 
Didn't the Kohein Hedyot wear the same ksones as the Kohein Gadol? 

 - Carl

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 11:57:20 -0500 (EST)
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Euphemisms and Idioms

Carl M. Sherer wrote:
> According to the pictures in R. Blumenthal's Bigdei Kehuna, IIRC
> (it's at home) the Kohein Gadol's ksones was longer than the me'il.  Didn't
> the Kohein Hedyot wear the same ksones as the Kohein Gadol?

The impression I got from the mention of the kesones getting dirty on
erev Pesach when the kohanim were knee-deep in blood was that the kesones
was around knee length.


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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 22:31:31 +0200
From: Dov Bloom <dovb@netvision.net.il>
Re: purim questions

The most complete article available on the web on the (mistaken?)
repeating of "lifneihem-bifneihem" and "laharog-ve'laharog" can be found
at <http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/purim/per.html>.

Yossi Peretz marshals the sources and the article is well written and
footnoted, all in Hebrew.

He gives the earliest mention of any "repeats", in the 19 th century,
and even gives the year when R Hayyim Volozhin began this as his private
hanhogo!! (1814 or 1815). The Hatam Sofer repeated psukim in his Beit
Midrash but did not want to change the prevalent minhag (lo ratza leshanot
miminhago shel olam) which of course was at that time not to read a pasuk
twice. One of the teachers of R Shlomo Ganzfried repeated a word quietly
to himself, though R S G doesn't mention this minhag in his authoritative
work "keset hasofer" which deals with all questionable words in the
megilla, and which I referred to in my post yesterday on kri-u-ktiv.

Peretz also brings extensive proofs from Massora sources, including
those I mentioned in my post on lifneihem-ve'laharog, but also adducing
additional proof from the Keter, which attests to the Massorah version
(lifneihem and ve-laharog). It is a well written article, worth being
read carefully by anyone interested in this Massora/minhag question. The
article was in the past referred to by the esteemed R D Bannett on Avoda
V 4 448 on March 20, 2000, tho he didn't give an exact URL.

Dov Bloom

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 17:34:32 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@fandz.com>
Re: Havdalah before Maariv

On 9 Mar 2004 at 20:00, Zeliglaw@aol.com wrote:
> IIRC, does not Maariv on MS serve the same or a similar purpose as
> Maariv on Leil Shabbos- one verbally sets aside ( Mkadesh) the Shabbos
> both upon ushering it in and out. Don't we avoid having kavanah to
> fulfil this Mitzvah so that we can do it during Kiddush and Havdalah?

AIUI, you are correct about Maariv on Leil Shabbos, but not on Motzei
Shabbos. On Motzei Shabbos, Ata Chonantanu allows you to do m'lacha
(essentially the same effect as saying Baruch HaMavdil). But in order to
eat, you still have to make Havdala al haKos, and therefore regardless
of your kavana, you cannot be completely yotzei havdala in tefilla.

-- Carl

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.
Thank you very much.

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 11:30:28 -0500
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: kedushah

This issue will IYH be discussed in the forthcoming Bemachashavah Techilah
piece in this week's MMD.

Gil Student

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 14:40:34 -0500
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com

> A big assignment to try to pin down the meaning of "kedusha". Maimonides
> in Yad has a sefer "Kedushah". There he has three sections of halachos:
> forbidden relations, forbidden foods and laws of shechita. It seems that
> the Rambam sees that kedusha relates to people's actions in particular
> situations in the real world. This seems to be the exact opposite of
> what was proposed. In this it seems I agree with the rebbetzin as quoted.

Regading this Rambam, I heard from the Rav (YB Soloveitchik) that in his
opinon Rambam disagreed with the well-known Rashi in parashas Kedoshim
and held that kedusha is accomplished thorugh prishus both form ervah
and forbidden foods. Not sure how shechita fits into this.


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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 14:59:38 -0500
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com
I question of treifus and science

Oofn daf 48 in Chulin, the gemara says that if you find a needle in
the liver, if it is facing with the sharp tip nto the liver it is
treif bacause we assume that it came in from the bowel. A hole in the
bowel makes the anmal treif. However, if it has the sharp end facing
in the direction out of the liver and the dull end to inside it, it is
kosher. The explanation acccording to Rashi is that the animal aspirated
it and, as the Rashi holds that the trachea and the pulmonary artery
communicate, the neeedle may ahve entered the liver without puncturigna
nything and the animal is kosher. This Rashi is very difficut according
to out current science, although this is what Galen believed.

As is now known, the two do not directly communicate.

Chullin Illuminated suggests that if the needle faces outward, the
needle may have gotten there because it pierced the bronchi and into the
pulmonary artery within the lung. The blood in the artery carried it into
the heart and from there to the liver curculaton, where it punctured
and went into the liver. In that case, the initial resulting hole is
closed by lung tissue and the animal would not be treif. He does not
think that if it pierces the pulmonary vein, it could navigate all the
turns and twists to get to the liver that way.

I would like to suggest a different possibility and ask for comments
form the scientists and kashrus experts.

Could the needle pierce the traches outside of the lung but not pierce
into the trachea itself but rather dissect along its wall so that there
is never a penetrating hole in the trachea. It would come out into the
superior vena cava inside the lung or in the same fashion as described
for the trachea. It is, I believe, for foreign objects inside the body
to travel in exactly this fashion. There would be no treifus caused in
the process of getting into the liver and it could serve as an admittedly
dochak explanation for Rashi.

Comments, please.
M. Levin

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 21:47:59 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: kedushah

On Wed, Mar 10, 2004 at 11:30:28AM -0500, Gil Student wrote:
: This issue will IYH be discussed in the forthcoming Bemachashavah Techilah
: piece in this week's MMD.

I'm afraid if I wait until MmD comes out, I'll forget to ask the following
(if it is still unanswered).

Does your definition of qadosh explain the connection to digging military
latrines ("vehayah machanekha qadosh")?

My theory, which I'd have to explain at some length to show where it
comes from, is that both taharah and qedushah come from an underlying
concept of havdalah. Taharah is about "lehavdil me-", and in particular,
from the illusion that man is a mammal rather than being a soul that
lives in a mammalian body. As RSRH puts it, tum'ah is "pernicious
misconception ... that Man must - willy-nilly - submit to the power of
physical forces." Tahrah is the soul's purity from the influences of
the guf, the separation of ru'ach and nefesh. This notion of taharah as
"separation from" is why "zahav tahor" is the term for pure fold.

My definition of qedushah, as already noted here, is what seems to be
Rashi's approach.

Note that WRT kashrus, species are tamei or tahor, but shechitah and
basar-bechalav are issues of qedushah. See Devarim 14:21. One seeks
taharah in what one eats, qedushah in how.

Taharah frees you up from the wrong goals, qedushah is the application
of the resources thereby freed to the right ones.


Micha Berger             "I hear, then I forget; I see, then I remember;
micha@aishdas.org        I do, then I understand." - Confucius
http://www.aishdas.org   "Hearing doesn't compare to seeing." - Mechilta
Fax: (413) 403-9905      "We will do and we will listen." - Israelites

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Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 18:17:47 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
havdala for women on motzei shabbos purim

From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
<<At my shul, we all went home to say havdalah and then returned for
Megillah. I asked my rav about this and he said that havdalah was tadir.>>

If we daven ma'ariv with kerias shema well before the proper time because
it's a torach to gather everyone back again, why would you lechatchila go

to such a major tircha for a tadir concern? Tadir is only if it's
available to do, not if you have to go home to do it; I could see
the point of having someone make havdala in shul for everyone, for
example. But this? Major league tircha detzibura, IMHO.


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Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2004 08:23:58 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Re: Euphemisms and Idioms

On 10 Mar 2004 at 11:57, Micha Berger wrote:
> Carl M. Sherer wrote:
>> According to the pictures in R. Blumenthal's Bigdei Kehuna, IIRC
>> (it's at home) the Kohein Gadol's ksones was longer than the me'il. 
>> Didn't the Kohein Hedyot wear the same ksones as the Kohein Gadol?

> The impression I got from the mention of the kesones getting dirty on
> erev Pesach when the kohanim were knee-deep in blood was that the
> kesones was around knee length.

Blumenthal (page 36) writes that the ksones came down to "samuch
l'akeivav" (close to his heels).

 - Carl

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Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2004 13:51:52 -0500
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: Kedushah

 From this week's MMD (http://www.aishdas.org/mesukim/5764/kiSisa.pdf):

"G-d spoke to Moshe saying, 'When you take a census of the Children of
Israel. this shall they give - everyone who passes through the census
- a half shekel of the sacred shekel (shekel hakodesh) '" (Shemos
30:11-13). The method with which Moshe conducted the census was having
each person contribute half a shekel and then counting the resulting
donations. The currency used is specifically called shekel hakodesh,
which is a common enough term in Chumash,[1] but is quite curious
in itself. What about this shekel causes it to be called hakodesh -
the sacred.

Ramban[2] explains that these shekalim were considered sacred because
they were used for holy purposes. The funds gathered by this census were
donated towards the construction of the Mishkan, where G-d's presence
manifested itself and where sacrifices were brought. What could be
a holier purpose than that? Similarly, shekalim that were used for
purchasing animals and utensils for the sacrificial order, as well as for
physically maintaining the Mishkan were also referred to as "hakodesh"
because they were also used for a sacred purpose. Any currency that
is utilized in the performance of a mitzvah is money that is serving a
holy usage and, therefore, can be justly called shekel hakodesh. Thus,
money used for pidyon bechorim - redemption of the firstborns - is also
sacred currency because it is used for a mitzvah. Similarly, money used
to pay for arachin - the monetary equivalent of the donation of a person
to the Mishkan - is also called shekel hakodesh. As Rabbeinu Bachya[3]
elaborates, "Since all mitzvos are the core of holiness and some mitzvos
require this currency," the currency takes on a holiness corresponding
to its use.

Similarly, Ramban continues, Hebrew is called lashon hakodesh - the holy
language - because it was and continues to be used for holy purposes. It
was in Hebrew that G-d said "Let there be light etc." (Bereishis 1:3)
and created the world. The Torah itself was given to us in Hebrew, as
well as all of the prophecies and other biblical books. At Mount Sinai,
G-d spoke directly to the entire people of Israel in Hebrew and it was
in this language that our forefathers were named. Because Hebrew has
been used for holy purposes it is considered to be a sacred language.

As the Ramban (Nahmanides) duly notes, Rambam (Maimonides) has a very
different understanding of why Hebrew is called lashon hakodesh. In Moreh
Ne­vuchim,[4] Rambam explains that Hebrew is called sacred because it has
no specific words for uniquely male and female body parts nor for the acts
that lead to conception of a child. Nor does it have precise terms for
emissions and excretions. Rather, other terms are used euphemistically
when the Hebrew user needs to refer to such concepts. The language
itself lacks such crude terms and that - its purity and loftiness -
is why it is called the holy language.

I once heard R' Shimon Romm - a renowned student and darshan in
the pre-war and Shanghai Mirrrer Yeshiva, then a rabbi in Tel Aviv,
and later a rabbi in Washington Heights and a rosh yeshiva in Yeshiva
University until his passing - explain this dispute between Rambam and
Ramban as being a fundamental disagreement over the nature of kedushah,
holiness. According to Ramban, holiness is attained when something is used
for a holy purpose. When currency is used for a mitzvah it becomes sacred
and when a language is used to create the world and convey the Torah
it becomes sanctified. Kedushah is defined by supplementary attainments
and not by inherent status. Something must become holy by going beyond
its natural state and being taken to a holy level.

According to Rambam, however, holiness is not due to a positive usage
but to a lack of diminution of its purity. A language is inherently
sacred and only loses that status when it contains less than holy
words. Hebrew, Rambam claims, is the only language that has not lost
its holiness but, theoretically, any language that retains its purity
could have been sacred. Similarly, presumably, the Rambam would explain
that the shekel hakodesh is called holy because, as the Ramban himself
suggests at the beginning of his comments, the shekel coins used in the
Torah were entirely pure, lacking all dilution. This purity of content,
rather than its sanctity of use, is what earned for these coins the title
of holy because they have not been defiled of their inherent sanctity.

R' Romm continued that this same disagreeement can be found in the famous
dispute at the beginning of Parashas Kedoshim. The Torah[5] commands
us to be holy ("kedoshim tihyu") but remains unclear regarding exactly
what that obligation entails. Rashi[6] explains the command to mean,
"Separate yourselves from forbidden relationships and from transgression"
while Ramban[7] ex­plains the mandate to be an obligation to distance
ourselves even from that which is permissible but excessive. According to
Rashi we fulfill this obligation by adhering to the strict prohibitions
of the Torah while according to the Ramban we must go beyond the laws and
create our own stringencies.[8] In other words, Rashi understands that we
are inherently holy and we can fulfill the mandate of kedoshim tihyu by
refraining from defiling our sanctity through sin. As long as we do not
violate a pro­hibition we are, according to Rashi, holy. This, R' Romm
explained, is similar to Rambam's position we saw above that Hebrew is
inherently holy because it has not been defiled by impure words. Indeed,
we see in Rambam's halachic magnum opus Mishneh Torah that Sefer Kedushah
contains the laws regarding pro­hibited relations and foods while Sefer
Mada - specifically Hilchos Dei'os - contains the concepts of going beyond
the requirements of the law.[9] Kedushah is attained by conforming to the
prohibitions of the Torah and not by striving above that to abstinence.

Ramban, however, is con­sistent with his earlier position and contends
that holiness must be attained through additional behavior. Merely
conforming to the Torah's prohibitions does not raise someone to the
status of holiness. Rather, he must go beyond that natural state and
"sanctify himself in what is per­missible to him."[10]

[1] The Even Shoshan Concordance (Jeru­salem: 1988), p. 1204 lists
25 places in Shemos, Vayikra, and Bamidbar in which the term is used.
[2] Ad loc. [3] Ad loc. [4] Part 3, ch. 8 [5] Vayikra 19:2
[6] Ad loc.
[7] Ad loc.
[8] Cf. R. David Pardo, Maskil LeDavid who tries the bridge the gap
between Rashi and Ramban.
[9] This last point about Sefer Kedushah is not something I heard from R'
Romm but is my own thought. Cf. R' Ya'akov Kame­netsky, Emes LeYa'akov,
Vayikra 19:2 for a very different take on the Rashi and Rambam.
[10] Yevamos 20a

Gil Student

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