April 22, 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 Shavuot 11. These are some highlights.

Shavuot 11: He set up wax candles for Chanukah, but before he lit them his child brought him olive oil. Can he light the olive oil instead of the wax?

A man had the practice of making his Chanukah lights most beautiful. He would always use olive oil in his chanukiah. One night of Chanukah he looked for olive oil and could not find any. The time to light was drawing near. He wanted to light on time. He took wax candles and put them into his chanukiah. As he was about to light the candles, his son ran over with an exciting discovery. The son had found a jar of olive oil. The man brought his question to the Shevut Yaakov (Shu”t Shevut Yaakov Chelek Aleph Siman 37). Was he allowed to neglect the wax candles, take them out of the chanukiah, replace them with oil and light the olive oil?

Shu”t Shevut Yaakov rules that our man needs to light the wax candles. Lighting olive oil is a more beautiful mitzvah. However, the desire for a more beautiful lighting is not sufficient reason to justify disgracing a mitzvah object. The man has put the candles in place. The candles have become mitzvah objects. To now take them away and not light them would be an insulting act. Shevut Yaakov argues that he found a similar ruling in Shu”t Beit Yaakov. If a married man dies with no children, his widow needs to perform the service of chalitza with a brother of her dead husband in order to be allowed to marry others. Ideally, chalitza should be done with the oldest brother. A married man died and left no children. The oldest brother was away. The woman began the chalitza process with a younger brother. Before the chalitza was completed, the older brother came back. Should she stop the process with the younger brother and shift to the older brother? Shu”t Beit Yaakov rules that she should finish the chalitza with the brother she had started with. Shu”t Shevut Yaakov feels that it would be an insult to a mitzvah item to leave it for a nicer mitzvah item.

Shu”t Chacham Tzvi (Siman 45) disagrees with the Shu”t Shevut Yaakov. Chacham Tzvi feels that our daf proves the Shu”t Shevut Yaakov wrong. In our daf we learn that if the nation has purchased a red cow and dedicated it as parah adumah, if they then find a nicer red cow they would remove the sanctity from the first and use the second. According to Rabbi Shimon, they would do this even if they had already slaughtered the first red cow. Apparently, dedicating an item and even starting to use it does not mean that we cannot switch to a nicer alternative. In our case, the man merely placed wax candles in the chanukiah. He has not really started the mitzvah at all with them. He can therefore certainly remove them and use the oil instead once the oil becomes available.

Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 673:6) discusses this dispute. He rules that if the man has attached the wax candles to the chanukiah and begun the blessing on them, he cannot switch to recently discovered oil. Once the man has begun the blessing the wax candles become sanctified as mitzvah objects. It is an insult to a mitzvah object to leave it for a nicer object. But, if the man has not yet started the blessing, he merely attached the wax candles to the chanukiah and then got access to olive oil, he should take the wax candles out and use the oil. Aruch Hashulchan feels Chacham Tzvi is more correct than Shu”t Shevut Yaakov. Merely putting wax candles in place does not make them into mitzvah objects. If he has access to a nicer way of fulfilling the mitzvah, he should take advantage of the opportunity just as in our gemara we learn that if the nation gets access to a nicer red cow they would leave the red cow they consecrated and use the nicer one (Mesivta).

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

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

 

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