April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

 

This week we learned Bava Batra 102. These are some highlights.

Bava Batra 102: If the straps of my tefillin are very long, does the extra length have to be black?

One of the traditions of Moshe from Sinai is that tefillin straps must be black. There is a requisite length to kosher tefillin straps. For instance, the straps of the head tefillin are to be long enough to reach the belly button. What is the law about extra-long straps? If I have head straps that reach my knee, does the extra length need to be black? Biur Halacha (Siman 33:3 s.v. haretzu’ot hashechorot) was unsure about this very question. Perhaps since the Torah obligation would have been met with a shorter strap, the extra amount of leather is not considered a strap and is merely ornamentation and can be of a different color, or, it is possible that since the extra amount is attached to the rest of the strap, it is all considered one strap and the Torah’s laws mandate that tefillin straps be black to be kosher. Biur Halacha writes he is unsure of the answer to this quandary. Rav Zilberstein argues that we should count Biur Halacha as holding that the extra amount of leather must be black. He wrote that he was unsure. Tefillin are a Biblical law. When in doubt about Biblical law we are to be strict, safek d’Orayta lechumra. We must be strict and therefore require that all of the leather in the straps be black.

Rav Zilberstein suggested that our Gemara might be a source to resolve this question.

Our Gemara discusses the law of vineyards. In regard to the prohibition of kilayim, mixing seeds with grapevines, a vineyard differs from a single vine. If a single grapevine is planted, you are to distance 3 tefachim away from it to plant a seed. However, if there is a vineyard, you must keep the seed 4 amot away. A vineyard normally has rows of vines that are 4 amot away from each other. What is the law when the orchard has vines that are not 4 amot away from each other? The orchard has many vines packed in. It looks stuffed with vines. Is it considered a vineyard? Perhaps it has the status of many trees planted next to each other? Rabbi Shimon teaches that it is not a vineyard. The Sages teach that we view the intermediate vines as being about to be uprooted and it is a vineyard. The Gemara then asks about a contradiction. In regard to graveyards we have Rabbi Shimon and the Sages saying the opposite of what they said with regard to vineyards.

A single grave or two can be uprooted and reinterred. A complex of graves cannot be uprooted. What is the law when you have multiple corpses buried tightly next to each other? The normal burial order would be three corpses in an area of 4 amot. What is the law when there are five bodies in the 4 amot? Rabbi Shimon says we imagine the in-between bodies to be removed and it would be a complex of graves. The Sages say we do not consider them pulled and the area is not a graveyard. It is considered a lot of bodies buried next to each other and not an established complex of graves. In regard to vines, Rabbi Shimon does not consider them removed; in regards to bodies he does. In reference to vines the Sages consider them removed, yet about the matter of buried bodies they do not. Why the difference?

The Gemara resolves the contradiction. Rabbi Shimon feels that graves too close to each other will certainly be removed due to a desire to honor the deceased. The dead body was probably placed in the cramped grave only because it was a burial on a Friday and they ran out of time. Since it is not respectful to leave a dead body too close to another dead body it will certainly be removed and therefore is considered already removed. However, Rabbi Shimon feels that with regard to trees, the middle ones will not be removed because people do not plant trees to uproot them. This is why we view the trees as something that will stay. The fact that the trees are too close to each other causes them to remove the status of vineyard from the plantings. The Sages feel that with graves they will be not removed since it would be an insult to the deceased to move him. As a result, the body is something permanent and it breaks the status of a grave complex. However, they feel that in regard to trees, a person normally will plant multiple vines and will decide that those that become fruitful he will leave and those that are not he will uproot and use for firewood.

It emerges from our Gemara that an item is considered lasting if there is no active intent to remove it. In our case, I have no intention to remove the extra strip of strap; as a result, it should be considered lasting, part of the rest of the strap and it should have to be black.

Netziv (Meromei Sadeh, Chagiga 8b) teaches that any time you can fulfill the mitzvah with a minimal amount, if you add to that amount it is all part of the mitzvah. Consider blowing shofar on Rosh Hashanah: The basic mitzvah is to produce nine sounds. We make 100 sounds. Blowing a horn on a holiday is rabbinically prohibited in the prohibition enjoining playing instruments on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Nevertheless, we make 100 sounds on Rosh Hashanah. How can we do this? The answer is that since it is an attempt to do more of the mitzvah of shofar, it is considered the act of the mitzvah of blowing shofar. In light of Netziv’s reasoning, Rav Zilberstein ruled that I must blacken the entire strap, even the part that is more than what was needed, for the entire strap is part of the mitzvah of tefillin. (Chashukei Chemed)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 

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