July 21, 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 Sanhedrin 56 and 57. These are some highlights.

Sanhedrin 56: Is there a short way to dedicate terumot and ma’asrot?

Separating terumah and ma’aser is complex. First you are to separate terumah and then ma’aser rishon. Ten percent of the ma’aser rishon is to be turned into terumat ma’aser. Ma’aser sheni is to be separated. The holiness of the ma’aser sheini is to be transmitted onto a coin. Due to the complexity of the procedure, there is an established text that is recited. When a person does not have a siddur and does not remember the text, the rabbis instruct him not to compose his own text. He is told to wait until he gets access to the standard text. Chazon Ish (Dmai 15:6) suggests an alternative. According to Chazon Ish, a person can say, “I am separating terumot and ma’asrot according to the text written in the siddur.” Such a statement is sufficient. The source for this novel ruling is our Gemara.

Our mishnah teaches about the testimony regarding cursing Hashem’s name. We do not want the exact offensive repeated. Throughout the trial everyone uses code. The judges and witnesses refer to the words said as “the accused said Yossi should hit Yossi.” If the court reaches a conclusion to convict, they can not put someone to death without hearing from witnesses the literal words he said. Everyone is cleared out of the room. The elder of the witnesses is asked what exactly was said. He repeats the curses he heard. All stand and tear their garments. The tear can never be repaired. The other witness merely says, “I heard the same.” Halacha views the witness as having said all that the first witness said. A principle emerges. Saying “I agree with what he said” means you have said the same. Saying “I am separating terumah as it is written in the book” is considered having said all that is in the book. Chazon Ish also felt that a law in Shulchan Aruch proves that such a statement is sufficient. Shulchan Aruch in Even Ha’ezer (38:1) teaches that conditions have to be phrased as Moshe phrased his condition with the sons of Reuven and Gad. If a person wants to be brief he may say, “My condition should be applied like the condition Moshe made with the sons of Gad and Reuven.” Merely citing the correct way and attesting that I want the same is enough. Same should be true with giving terumah. If I say, “I am giving terumah as per the text that is in my home,” it is enough. Chazon Ish writes that a person should not separate terumah often in this manner. It will cause him to forget the correct and proper way of dedicating terumah (Meorot Daf Hayomi).

Sanhedrin 57: Why is there no blessing on giving charity?

Generally, we are to recite a blessing before we do a mitzvah. Charity is different. We do not recite a blessing before we give charity. Why is this? Why is there no birkat hamitzvah on giving charity?

Our Gemara teaches about the obligations of gentiles. It explains that the verse about Avraham that states that he commanded his sons and his household to perform justice and charity means that he commanded his sons to carry out justice, and his household—the women—to perform charity. Yad Ramah and Ran derive from this that gentiles are obligated to perform acts of charity. They are also obligated to give money to the poor. The Rokeach (Siman 366) teaches that any obligation incumbent on all of humanity does not get a birkat hamitzvah. The language of a blessing of a mitzvah thanks Hashem “Asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and ordered us.” If the obligation is on all people, then it is not something with which He has sanctified only us. It is not something commanded only to us. A blessing is not in order.

Rambam (Hilchot Melachim 10:10) rules that if a gentile wishes to donate charity, we can accept the funds from him and we should give the money to poor non-Jews. Kesef Mishnah finds this ruling difficult. In Tractate Bava Batra (10b) there is a story about Ifra Hormiz, the mother of the Persian ruler, Shvor Malka. Ifra sent 400 dinars of charity to Rava. He accepted the funds and gave them to poor non-Jews. The Gemara says that the only reason he accepted the funds was to maintain good relations with the rulers. If there would have been no danger of negative ramifications from refusing, he would have refused the funds. Only when the merits of the nations dry out will we leave exile. Accepting charity from the nations increases their merits and causes exile to last longer. If he could, Rava would have refused Ifra’s donation. How then can Rambam rule that we should accept charity from non-Jews and give it to non-Jews? The Gemara said the only reason Rava accepted charity from non-Jews and gave it to non-Jews was political sensitivity!

Pri Ha’adama answers in the name of the Shnot Chayim (end of Parshat Masei): There is a difference between a government that donates and an individual who gives. We should not accept charity from the ruler. If the ruler gives it increases his merit and exile lasts longer. An individual gentile who donates is different. Gentiles also have an obligation to give charity. Sodom was destroyed because its residents did not support the poor and the weak. Rambam rules to accept charity from an individual. Taking from an individual does not prolong exile. Rava’s story teaches not to take charity from rulers unless we have to.

By Rabbi Zev Reichman
 (Chashukei Chemed)

Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

 

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