Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ein Yaakov Shabbos 2 - The Judge as a Partner of Hashem

The gemara in Shabbos (10a) states that one who properly and honestly judges a legal case is a partner to Hashem in the creation of the world.  This is very great praise, but what does it mean?

The Ein Yaakov gives two answers.  First, when two people come before a judge to litigate between them and to teach them the proper halachic resolution to a dispute in their lives, they are acknowledging a real, true belief that the Torah is min ha-shamayim and that its words are binding – and by extension, they are also expressing a belief in a number of other ikkarei emunah.  By enabling this, the judge is, in effect, bringing Hashem into the world in a very real way, and he therefore can be considered to be a partner in the creation of the world.

A second answer is based on the mishnah at the end of the first perek of Avos that states that, in the absence of the Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassadim that are the purpose of the creation of the world as a result of the churban and galus and thereby the pillars upon which it is built, the world can be supported on a makeshift basis by justice, truth, and peace.  (See the hakdama to the Ein Yaakov).  Hence, the judge, as a purveyor of justice, is helping to maintain the world, and given that the world’s maintenance requires an individual ongoing act of creation at every moment, he is actually helping Hashem create the world at this moment.  

The Maharal in Nesivos Olam (Nesiv HaDin, 1) explains why only one who engages in din can be considered a partner to Hashem, rather than, for example, one who engages in chesed.  Although a person is commanded to walk in Hashem’s ways by doing acts of chesed (per Chazal, visiting the sick, clothing the naked, escorting a bride, burying the dead, etc.), it is impossible for a person to perfectly emulate the chesed of Hashem.  

(R’ Shimon Shkop in his hakdama to Sha’arei Yosher makes a similar point by defining the kedusha (and perishus) of kedoshim tih’yu as altruism and doing things for others with no personal benefit.  Hashem, who has no needs, can truly be considered to do everything for the needs of others.  A human, though, who has personal needs, cannot physically ignore them completely in favor of the needs of others.  Hence, although he is commanded to be a kadosh by going beyond himself and limiting his selfish actions to those that are his absolute needs, he cannot reach the absolute kedusha and perishus of Hashem, for whom there are no absolute needs and hence nothing but altruism.)

However, continues the Maharal, there are no degrees of mishpat and din.  If something is a true verdict, it’s a true verdict, and if it’s not, it’s not.  Hence, if one attempts to emulate the mishpat of Hashem, he becomes a complete partner, as there is no difference qualitatively between them.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ein Ya'akov Shabbos 0, Rambam Tefillah 6 - Samuch l'mincha

The second Mishnah in Shabbos lists a number of activities that one is not allowed to do shortly before the zman mincha because of a concern that the activity will extend longer than intended, leading one to miss out on the mitzvah. However, the Mishnah concludes that if one began one of these activities, he need not interrupt in the middle (assuming that there will remain time for him to do the mitzvah after the activity ends – the Yerushalmi goes so far to say that if he does interrupt when he does not need to, he’s a hedyot, and the Aruch HaShulchan (232:21) approvingly cites this halacha with the caveat that it does not applied if he started b’issur).

The gemara elaborates upon what is considered the beginning of these activities. For a haircut, it’s putting on a ma’apores (duster?) to protect one’s clothing. For working in a tannery, it’s putting on the apron of the tanners. For a meal, it’s loosening one’s belt (per the minhag on Bavel, where they used to do this; elsewhere, it’s washing). For judging a court case, it’s where the judges wrap themselves in preparation for the case (unless they’re already so garbed from a prior case). The last activity is entering a bathhouse to bathe or shvitz. The gemara states that the beginning of this activity is mi-she-y’areh ma’aparto heimenu – when he removes his garment. Rashi and the Ran (and the Beis Yosef states that such is also the shita of Rabbeinu Yerucham) define this as being the upper garment. This seems to be supported by two diyyukim. First, all of the other initiation activities appear to be the first act done to one’s person (when applicable) in preparation for the act in question. Second, the gemara uses the same lashon of ma’aparto to describe the garment to be removed in the bathhouse and the garment to be overlaid over one’s normal clothing during a haircut.

Notably, the Rambam (Hil. Tefillah 6) explains differently, saying that the bathhouse activity is not considered initiated until he strips entirely, so that the ma’apores is the garment directly on the flesh. What is the Rambam’s shita that leads him to say differently than the other rishonim?

The Rashash, without further comment, observes that the Rif (as well as the Ran commenting on him) has a different girsa, mi-she-ya’avir ma’arparto heimenu. Perhaps one could say that ma’avir would imply removing a single superficial layer from one’s body, while m’areh is from the root of ervah, and therefore has a connotation of stripping away the last layer and revealing the bare body. This would explain the Ran’s shita, although Rashi has our girsa of ma’avir. Nevertheless, Rashi could be explained by the diyyukim described above.

My chavrusa suggested a second answer. Removing an upper garment cannot be considered a true initiation of the bathhouse process, as people remove their upper garments for a variety of reasons (indeed, the gemara on the next daf describes how some amoraim would do so prior to davening as a means of demonstrating their subjugation before Hashem). Hence, only once he removed the bottom garment is it recognizable that he has begun.