Thursday, June 01, 2023

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 Kama 67. These are some highlights.

Bava Kama 67: Using a swimming pool as a mikvah for men

According to Jewish law, in our times, men do not usually need to immerse in a mikvah. A woman who is a niddah must immerse in a kosher mikvah. In ancient times, there was a law that a man who had slight impurity, tumat keri, was not to study Torah or recite a blessing unless he immersed in a mikvah. The sages annulled that law. Today, some men seek to go to the mikvah to add holiness to themselves and to keep the law of the past. Especially before Shabbos and Yom Tov, Kabbalists encourage men to immerse in a mikvah in order to gain the added sanctity of the special days. Can a man immerse in a swimming pool for these purposes? A swimming pool is not a kosher mikvah, since the water in the pool came through pipes. Water that traveled through city pipes has the status of mayim she’uvin, drawn water. Such water is not pure rainwater or pure well water. Perhaps, for an immersion that is not mandated by law, city water is sufficient?

Our Gemara has a lesson about mikvah. In its discussion about an object’s name changing, the Gemara quoted the Mishnah about a person who attached a board to the ground and then carved a pipe out of it. The Mishnah taught that water that would flow through that pipe into the mikvah would not disqualify the mikvah as drawn water, mayim she’uvin. The Gemara suggests that the reason for this law is that “mayim she’uvin d’Rabbanan.” Rashi explains this to mean that the law disqualifying water drawn in a vessel from use in a mikvah is Rabbinic. Biblically, even drawn water can create a mikvah. Since drawn water is a Rabbinic stringency, they were lenient when a person would attach a board to the ground and then carve a pipe out of it.

Shu”t Torah Lishmah and Divrey Torah rule, based on this Rashi, that a man may use a pool of drawn water to remove the impurity created by keri. Biblically, such a pool is a kosher mikvah. Since it is a kosher mikvah by Torah law, it can remove the spiritual damage caused by keri. One who immerses in a collection of drawn water can think all of the kavanot that the Ari prescribed for immersion. Such a pool is a Biblical mikvah. One who immerses in it on a Friday afternoon or an eve of Yom Tov draws down a great holy spirit upon himself. Divrei Yoel argued that for the immersion of men on Yom Kippur eve, as well, such a pool would be sufficient. Mayim she’uvin are satisfactory Biblically and therefore immersion in them successfully adds holiness to a man. (Mesivta)

Can gabbaim refuse to accept a Torah scroll that a gambler wishes to donate to the shul?

A wealthy man came to a shul with a desire to donate a Torah scroll. The gabbaim of the shul asked Rav Zilberstein if they were allowed to refuse the donation. The donor was a gambler. He was also known to cheat during his games. They were sure that much of his money was ill-gotten. As a result, the Torah scroll was the product of stolen funds. Wouldn’t reading from the scroll be an example of mitzvah haba’ah be’aveira, a good deed that came about through sin? Could they reject the man’s gift?

Rav Zilberstein ruled that if the man were to give the Torah scroll, they would be allowed to read from it and recite blessings upon it. Tosafot teaches that even a stolen object might not be a display of mitzvah haba’ah be’aveira. If the object was fully the property of the thief, people could use it for a mitzvah. Our Gemara teaches that despair of the original owner does not grant the thief title to the property he stole. However, despair coupled with shinuy reshut, a change in domain, would grant ownership. Thus, the gambler may have stolen money from the other players. However, they despaired of ever getting the money back. Those dollars were then transferred to the scribe to write the scroll. At that point, the gambler owed his victims the value of what he had taken from them through his cheating, but he no longer had any obligation to give them the actual dollars he had won from them, for on those dollars there was both despair and a transfer of domain. The scroll, therefore, was fully the property of the gambler. He could rightfully donate that which was fully his to the shul. There was no sin left in the scroll and all could read from it and fulfill mitzvot with it. However, if the gabbaim wished to refuse the gift they were allowed to do so. As Jews, we have an obligation to try and encourage our brethren to observe all laws. When the shul leadership would refuse the gift, they would send a message to the gambler to change his ways. A community is to be lauded when it tries to encourage its members to observe mitzvot and keep Halacha. (Chashukei Chemed)

Sign up now!