כל דבר אשר יבא באש תעבירו באש וטהר אך במי נדה יתחטא וכל אשר לא יבא באש תעבירו במים לא:כג
Hechsher keilim is the alef-beis of a kosher kitchen. In addition to purging a used utensil bought from a Goy of its non-kosher absorptions, there is also the halacha of tevilas keilim which is learned from these pesukim. It is a point of debate amongst the Rishonim if obligation to toivel dishes is a full-fledged d’Oraysah requirement, or if it is d’Rabbanan and the reference to the pesukim is an asmachta.
Regarding geirus, there are two steps (nowadays): milah and tevilah. That is the order the Gemara puts it in. There is a machlokes, though, if changing the order would invalidate the conversion. The Ramban holds that even if ger went to the mikveh first, and only afterwards got a bris milah, it still works. However, the Rashba holds that it doesn’t work. His reason is based on that which Chazal say, “Ha’poreish min ha’orlah k’poreish min ha’kever, one who separates from the foreskin is as one who has just come out of a cemetery”.
For Jews, lack of bris milah does not affect the inherent kedushas Yisrael. There were Jewish communities in Europe that wanted to enact that children who were not given a bris milah would not be registered as Jews in the official communal archives. However, Reb Chaim (Brisker) said that you cannot do that. It is wrong. He is still a Yid.
When it comes to a Goy, though, the Rashba holds that the lack of bris milah is inherently contradictory to what tevilah in a mikveh is meant to accomplish. For a ger, it’s not just a particular mitzvah. So long as he still has the orlah (foreskin), according to the Rashba, the tevilah in the mikveh cannot have its effect.
Interestingly enough, the Ritva at the end of Maseches Avodah Zarah says that the same machlokes would apply to toiveling dishes. That, according to the Rashba, so long as a dish still has non-kosher absorptions in it, tevilah in a mikveh cannot have its desired effect. Therefore, the dish absolutely must first be kashered and only then toiveled (whereas according to the Ramban changing the order does not invalidate the toiveling).
The Ramban asks, why is it that this issue of hechsher keilim only arose now by the war waged against the people of Midyan? Why wasn’t it addressed by the conquest of Sichon and Og, wherein there was quite a lot of spoils of war?
The Gemara learns out from “batim m’lei’im kol tuv, house filled with all good things” that during a Torah-mandated war it is permissible to eat otherwise forbidden foods. The Rambam holds that this is true regarding any war being waged within enemy territory (“gvul Akum”), but only if they don’t have kosher food available to eat. The Rambam puts this together with the Torah’s allowance of yefas toar, that this too is a special dispensation of “lo dibrah Torah elah k’neged yeitzer hara”. The Rambam also includes yayin nesech (wine used for avodah zarah) in this heter.
The Ramban, though, argues on all three points. 1) He holds that the heter is only regarding kibush Eretz Yisrael, conquering Eretz Yisrael. 2) It is even if they do have kosher food available; it is simply hutrah. 3) It is not a special dispensation of “dibrah Torah k’neged yeitzer hara”; it is simply completely permissible. Furthermore, adds the Ramban, the heter does not apply to yayin nesech, since yayin nesech is not just non-kosher, but it also has a requirement of expunging all things related to avodah zarah.
Accordingly, the Ramban resolves his own question. The territories of Sichon and Og did not have to be conquered now; it could have waited until the time of Mashiach. However, inherently these territories are part of nachalas Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, once Sichon and Og attacked, and it became necessary to conquer them and their land, it had a full-fledged status of kibush ha’Aretz, conquering and taking over Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, the heter of eating non-kosher food applied. Of course, then, there was no concern of non-kosher absorptions in dishes either. So that is why the topic of kashering dishes did not come up there. However, the war waged against the people of Midyan had nothing to do with kibush Eretz Yisrael – the territory if Midyon is completely chutz la’Aretz – and the heter did not apply over there. That is why it was the very first time that they needed to deal with the halachos of kashering dishes.
The Achronim ask on the Ramban: even though the heter of maachalos asuros applied in the war against Sichon and Og; still, why didn’t they have to be concerned about absorptions of yayin nesech in the dishes? The Ramban himself emphasized that he holds that yayin nesech is not included in the heter?! Many answer – and it is a correct, lomdisheh teirutz – that the halacha of destroying and purging avodah zarah does not apply to absorptions that are inside dishes. It so happens, that the same thing is true regarding absorptions of chametz inside dishes, that there is no requirement of destroying such chametz. The whole reason that the heter of “m’lei’im kol tuv” does not apply to yayin nesech is because of the halacha of biur avodah zarah (destroying and expunging avodah zarah); so, regarding absorptions of yayin nesech inside of dishes, where there is no requirement of biur, the heter does indeed apply.
There is yet another question that we can ask on this Ramban. Even though they didn’t have to kasher the dishes when they conquered Sichon and Og, why didn’t they have to toivel them?! Rav Yerucham Gorelick related an answer in the name of Reb Chaim: the halachah of toiveling dishes is only when you bought it from a Goy. By the war against Sichon and Og, though, they acquired ownership of those dishes from the cheirem. That is what Reb Chaim said, but I am not sure exactly what it means.
(Audio recording available here)
ונקרב את קרבן ה’…טבעת עגיל וכומז לכפר על נפשותינו לא:נ לכפר על הרהורי הלב של בנות מדין רש”י שם
The Gemarah (Shabbos 64a) says that Moshe Rabbeinu asked the soldiers, if no-one stumbled in promiscuity, why are they offering these jewelry items as an atonement? They answered, “im midei aveirah yatzanu midei hirhur lo yatzanu – we need atonement for having had thoughts of aveirah”.
The Gemara there says further “tana d’vei Rabi Yishmael mipnei mah hutzrechu Yisrael sheh’b’oso ha’dor kaparah, mipnei sheh’zanu eineihem min ha’ervah, why did the the need atonement, because their eyes were “nourished” from ervah”. Rashi says that zanu is like mazon, that they felt a tangible benefit and enjoyment with what they gazed upon with their eyes. The Maharsha argues there on Rashi and says that the word zanu is like the word znus, and what it means is simply that they needed atonement for having illicit thoughts.
Histaklus, gazing at women, is an independent aveirah. The definition that we find for this is that it is called znus ha’einayim, promiscuity of the eyes.
There seems to be a contradiction in the Rambam regarding how he defines the prohibition of histaklus. In Hilchos Issurei Biah (21:2) the Rambam lists the prohibition of gazing upon a woman’s beauty together with other prohibitions that are gezeiros d’Rabbanan that were enacted to keep people away from actual arayos. In Hilchos Teshuvah (4:4), however, he says explicitly that it is assur m’d’Oraysah under the lav of “lo sasuru”. The Rambam there lists histaklus b’arayos amongst those things that keep a person from doing teshuvah, due to people thinking that it’s not an aveirah, while the reality is that is a serious transgression.
In terms of avoiding the aveiros of looking at and/or thinking about that which is forbidden, the best way is by keeping your mind occupied with Torah thoughts. The more you are thinking in learning, the more you will be removed from these aveiros. Rav Wolbe writes in Alei Shur that when one thinks in learning, it generates a force that can protect him from seeing inappropriate things. In parshas Chayei Sarah, regarding Yitzchak avinu, it says (24:63) “va’yeitzei Yitzchak… vayisa einav vayar v’hinei hagemalim ba’im”. He saw the camels. That’s it. The implication is that he did not see Rivkah until Eliezer specifically told him about her and explained that she will now be his wife. Regarding Eisav, though, it says in parshas Vayishlach (33:5) “vayisah es einav vayar es hanashim v’es hayeladim.” The very first thing Eisav noticed was the women. What we can derive from here is that, to a great extent, what one sees will follow that with which his mind is occupied. This is likewise underscored by the fact that the Gemara in Bava Basra (168a) says that a talmid chacham should bring along an am ha’aretz with him when he goes to meet his potential wife. Why should he do this? The Gemara explains that it is in order that no-one should be able to pull a Laven-esque switch on him. Since it is not the way of talmidei chachamim to gaze upon women, it is a good idea to have an am ha’aretz there with him who will later be able to verify that the woman he is now marrying is indeed the one that he wanted to marry. Once again, we see a clear implication that one whose mind is fully occupied with thoughts of Torah simply does not see things that could arouse his yetzer hara.
Practically speaking, prior to leaving your home or Beis Medrash, prepare divrei Torah to think about. Often, a concept or thorny question to ponder – something about which you can think in depth – can work better than cursory review since it can be easier to become distracted from the latter.
(From the notes of Reb Matis Feld)
Connection to the Three Weeks
The three haftaros of each Shabbos of the three weeks – which are known as the tlasa d’puranusa – are obvious in terms of their connection to the time period. In addition to the basic content, dorshei reshumos have found an allusion in the first word of each one of the three haftaros which are: divrei, shimu, and chazon. Divrei is an allusion to dibur, speech, shimu to shemiah, hearing, and chazon to reiyah, seeing. The idea is that the areas of what we say, what we hear, and what we see, in particular, should garner our focus to correct whatever needs correcting and to avoid whatever must be avoided.
In addition to the connection of the haftaros to the specific time period, we also find in sefarim that the parshiyos ha’shavua discuss topics that are directly relevant to the theme of these days. Parshas Pinchas, which in the overwhelming majority of years is the first parsha of the three weeks, contains a lengthy description of the korbanos brought throughout the year, which is a focal component that we are missing as a result of still being in a state of galus. Parshas Matos discusses the topic of Eiver Ha’Yardein, and parshas Masei discusses the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael proper. And parshas Devarim mentions the cheit ha’meraglim which occurred on, and was a major catalyst for the destruction of Tisha b’Av.
Mourning is the topic of these days. However, it is not only the specific things that we do or don’t do that should occupy our focus. The connections that we find in the parshiyos ha’shavua to the time-period of the three weeks are there in order to bring our attention to those things that we are missing. Throughout the year, frankly speaking, it is difficult to live with a sense of lack. How many of us give any real thought to what we are missing because we are still in a state of galus and we do not have a Beis Ha’Mikdash? It’s difficult to live with that sense of lack the whole year. These days of three weeks are an opportunity. An opportunity to attain a connection to the concept of awaiting Hashem’s ultimate salvation – tzipiyah l’yeshuah – which is, of course, one of the very first things each individual will be asked when he arrives in Shamayim after 120. It is easier, during these three weeks, to connect ourselves to the sense of loss and the sense of ongoing lack. What we once had – the grandeur of Eretz Yisrael, Beis Ha’Mikdash, all the miraculous events – and what we are currently missing. Underscoring this point is the fact that roughly 20% of the kinos discuss precisely this theme. The greatness and specialness that we had when Klal Yisrael was in Eretz Yisrael with a Beis Ha’Mikdash and hashraas ha’Shechinah, and the deep sense of yearning and pining to return to that glorious, exalted state. Taking advantage of the opportunity to gain a real connection with this sense of loss and our yearning to regain what we’ve lost comprises the inner avodas ha’nefesh that these days afford us.
(Audio recording available here)
The Four Fasts, Then & Now
The Gemara in Maseches Rosh Ha’Shana (18b) says that there are three categories regarding the four fasts (of Asarah b’Teives, Shiva Asar b’Tamuz, Tisha b’Av, and Tzom Gedalyah) : 1) when there is gezeiras malchus (persecution) all four fasts are obligatory as fasts, 2) when there is no gezeiras malchus but also not shalom only Tisha b’Av is obligatory, and the rest are optional, 3) when there is shalom all four are Yamim Tovim. These different situations directly impact the status of the four fasts. However, it is a machlokes Rishonim regarding how to understand this.
Rashi holds that the time period of the second Beis Ha’Mikdash was considered a time of shalom and therefore all four “fasts” had the status of Yomtov, even Tisha B’Av. Nowadays, it depends. When it is a time of persecution, it is obligatory to fast on these four days, and when it is a time that there is no persecution, three out of the four are optional; and just Tisha b’Av remains obligatory since it is a day of extreme sorrow. That is how most Rishonim hold, just that they add that Klal Yisrael has already accepted upon themselves to fast nowadays even when there is no persecution.
Within this approach, there is the opinion of the Ramban who holds that, essentially, there is no difference between Tisha b’Av and all the rest. Therefore, holds the Ramban, when it is a time of persecution – which makes it a full-fledged obligation (and not just a minhag) – the other three fasts are a full twenty-four hours and all five inuyim apply, just like by Tisha b’Av. The reasons, maintains the Ramban, that nowadays we do not observe the other three fasts on the same level of severity as Tisha b’Av is that since it is not a time of persecution, they are voluntary. Although Klal Yisrael indeed accepted upon themselves to observe them, that minhag was only to observe them without their full severity. The Gra seems to concur with this opinion of the Ramban.
The Rambam, though, says differently. If you read it carefully, it is clear that the breakdown according to the Rambam is as follows: 1) the time of the first Beis Ha’Mikdash was considered a time of shalom (when all four “fasts” were Yamim Tovim), 2) the time of the second Beis Ha’Mikdash was considered a time of no persecution but also not shalom, and 3) nowadays, since we live with the churban, it is inherently always considered time of persecution.
So we see from the Rambam two chiddushim: number one, that during the time of the second Beis Ha’Mikdaash, Tisha b’Av was observed as a fast! This is corroborated by the fact that the Rambam says this explicitly in Pirush Ha’Mishnayos (in the first perek of Rosh Ha’Shana). But even without that, it is clear from the Rambam in Yad Ha’Chazakah that this is how he holds, if you read it carefully. This demands some sort of explanation. Why would Tisha b’Av already be considered a day of such extreme sorrow even before the second Beis Ha’Mikdash was destroyed? It is possible to posit that it is because the second Beis Ha’Mikdash was not on the level of the first Beis Ha’Mikdash (as the Gemara in Yoma 21b says that 5 things were lacking in the second Beis Ha’Mikdash: the aron ha’kodesh, the keruvim, the Heavenly fire, hashraas ha’Shechina, and ruach ha’kodesh –Editor-). Therefore, it was still necessary to mourn the loss of the first Beis Ha’Mikdash. It is worthwhile to note that the straightforward reading of the Gemara in Maseches Taanis
Chiddush number two of the Rambam is that he holds not like the Ramban who says that when it is a time of persecution the other three fasts are just as severe as Tisha b’Av and have all the same restrictions. How do we see that the Rambam does not agree with this? Because the Rambam says that nowadays it is inherently always a time of persecution – which means all four fasts are totally mandatory and not subject to minhag – and yet he does not assign the other three fasts the same halachos as Tisha b’Av. Only Tisha b’Av is a full 24 hours and has all five inuyim, but the other three fasts only are during the day and do not have all the other restrictions.
There is a well-known statement of the Maggid Mi’Mezeritch that the Shechina is in exile during the period of the Three Weeks, and that it is about this that the pasuk in Eichah says, “all of her pursuers caught up to her bein ha’meitzarim”. Meaning, during the time of Bein Ha’Meitzarim (the Three Weeks), it is relatively easy to attain connection with the Shechina. This concept is echoed in the Maharsha’s statement in Maseches Bechoros (daf 8) that the 21 days of the Three Weeks correspond to the 21 days that commence with Rosh Ha’Shana and conclude with Shemini Atzeres.
(Audio recording and notes of Reb Danny Fast)
“Who does not await Mashiach? When you walk down the street and see how difficult a state Klal Yisrael is in, how could one not want Mashiach to come? Everybody has this inherent sense of longing, it is just a matter of developing it and bringing it to the fore.”
For about ten years, I davened in the same minyan for Shacharis as Rav Twersky. About three months before the Har Nof Massacre, though, I switched to davening with the neitz minyan. Two and a half months later – only two weeks before the massacre – I bumped into Rav Twersky. He asked me what happened and why I don’t daven with the minyan anymore. I was a bit embarrassed, but I nevertheless told him the truth: “I joined a neitz kollel so that I can earn an extra 800 NIS of income a month, so I daven now with the neitz minyan.” With his trademark smile Rav Twersky responded, “Parnassah is also something!” The way he said put me completely at ease. Somehow, Rav Twersky knew just what to say to make a person feel good.