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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Parashat Vayechi 5775

Part I: What Can We Learn from Genesis
A dilemma - which begins from Rashi’s first comment on the Torah where he challenges one might think the Torah should start in Exodus with the first commandment given to the Jews - is what is point of Genesis. Do we actually learn anything from the book? Can we determine how to live our lives in the time before the giving of the Torah? The question of deriving the length of mourning from Joseph’s mourning for Jacob brings up this very question. For those curious, the Babylonian Talmud bases the practice on a verse from Amos.

בראשית פרשת ויחי פרק נ
Genesis Chapter 50
(י) וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד־גֹּרֶן הָאָטָד אֲשֶׁר בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן וַיִּסְפְּדוּ־שָׁם מִסְפֵּד גָּדוֹל וְכָבֵד מְאֹד וַיַּעַשׂ לְאָבִיו אֵבֶל שִׁבְעַת יָמִים:
(10) They arrived at the threshing house of Atad which is across the Jordan river; and there they wailed a great and heavy wailing, and he made seven days of mourning for his father.

This source is the only time in Tanakh where we hear of a mourning period of seven days. It seems like a natural place to support our present day seven day mourning period (or shiva from the Hebrew for seven).

תלמוד ירושלמי (וילנא) מסכת מועד קטן פרק ג, הלכה ה
Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Moed Katan, Chapter 3, Halakha 5
מניין לאבל מן התורה שבעה [בראשית נ י] ויעש לאביו אבל שבעת ימים.

ולמידין דבר קודם למתן תורה? ר' יעקב בר אחא בשם ר' זעירה שמע לה מן הדא [ויקרא ח לה] ופתח אהל מועד תשבו יומם ולילה שבעת ימים ושמרתם את משמרת משכן ה' כשם ששימר הקדוש ברוך הוא על עולמו שבעה כך אתם שמרו על אחיכם שבעה.

ומניין ששימר הקב"ה על עולמו שבעה [בראשית ז י] ויהי לשבעת הימים ומי המבול היו על הארץ.
From where in the Torah [do we learn] that mourning is for seven [days]? “He made seven days of mourning for his father.” (Genesis 50:10).

But do we learn [from]  a matter prior to the giving of the Torah? Rebbi Ya’akov son of Acha in the name of Rebbi Ze’ira: “We learn it from this: ‘You shall sit at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days and keep charge of the watch of the dwelling place of Hashem.” (Leviticus 8:35) Just as the Holy One, blessed be He keeps watch on His world for seven, so you should keep watch on your brothers for seven.

From where [do we learn] that the Holy One, blesssed be He watched over His world for seven? “Then it was after seven days the flood waters were on the Earth.” (Genesis 7:10)

However, the Jerusalem Talmud challenges the idea in that this practice was from before the Torah. Can we really learn from the practices of people who did not yet have the Torah? I assume this dilemma happens for most newly created legal systems as to how much to abandon previous practice and how much to keep.

רמב"ם הלכות אבל פרק א, הלכה א
Maimonides Laws of Mourning, Chapter 1, Law 1
מצות עשה להתאבל על הקרובים… ואין אבילות מן התורה אלא ביום ראשון בלבד שהוא יום המיתה ויום הקבורה, אבל שאר השבעה ימים אינו דין תורה, אף על פי שנאמר בתורה ויעש לאביו אבל שבעת ימים ניתנה תורה ונתחדשה הלכה ומשה רבינו תקן להם לישראל שבעת ימי אבלות ושבעת ימי המשתה.
It is a positive commandment to mourn for relatives… but mourning from the Torah is only for the first day - which is the day of death and day of burial - but the other seven days are not a Torah law, even though it says in the Torah, “He made seven days of mourning for his father.”  [When] the Torah was given law was renewed and Moses our Rabbi established for Israel seven days of mourning and seven days of celebrating [after a wedding].
Maimonides clearly sides with the idea that the Torah renewed all law and anything that came before was not so relevant. For him, the Torah represents a large break in practice.

תורה תמימה הערות בראשית פרק נ
Torah Temimah, Notes, Genesis 50
Barukh Epstein, 20th Century Belarus
שוב פריך בירושלמי, וכי למדין מקודם מתן תורה ונוסחא אחרינא ולמדין מקודם מת"ת, בלשון בתמיה… ובאמת בכלל הענין פלא, שהרי כמה וכמה ענינים אנו למדין מקודם מת"ת, ומה ראה הירושלמי כאן לחקור ולהקשות על זה.
Further the Jerusalem Talmud challenges, “Do we learn from earlier than the giving of the Torah?” Or another version is, “We learn from before the giving of Torah?” This is the language of a question… and in truth this is a surprising matter in general, for we learn many matters from before the giving of Torah. So what here makes the Jerusalem Talmud investigate and challenge this?
The Torah Temimah challenges Maimonides’ opinion on the matter, making a claim that there was not such a harsh break in law at Sinai.

דף על הדף מועד קטן דף כ עמוד א
Daf al Ha’Daf, Moed Kattan 20a
David Avraham Mandelbaum, 20th Century
An answer in the name the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv who responded: For sure we learn from before the giving of the Torah. But mourning is different, and we do not learn about mourning from before the giving of the Torah. The reason for this is that mourning cancels out many Torah level commandments which were not obligatory before the giving of the Torah. For example, learning Torah, the commandment of getting married, the commandment of having children, and Shabbat (for those who think that enjoyment of Shabbat is from the Torah).
תירוץ בשם הגאון ר' יוסף שלום אלישיב שליט"א שהשיב: אכן למדים מקודם מתן תורה, אך אבילות שונה, ואין למדים מאבילות שקודם מתן תורה. סיבת הדבר היא, משום שאבילות מבטלת כמה וכמה מצוות דאורייתא שלא התחייבו בהם לפני מתן תורה, כגון מצות תלמוד תורה, מצות נישואין (ראה רמב"ם פ"א מהלכות אישות וספר המצוות להרמב"ם מצוה ריג), מצות פריה ורביה (ראה "משנה למלך" פ"י מהלכות מלכים ה"ז, ד"ה וראיתי בזה), שבת (לשיטת הסוברות כי "כבוד שבת" או "עונג שבת" הם מן התורה).
I think Rav Elyashiv’s explanation is a nice way to resolve our issue, but I find it somewhat ironic in that burial and mourning practices seem - in my experience - to be the practices through which most people connect to tradition. Of course, that could be the place where the Torah is most needed to create new law, especially considering some of the ancestor worship and personal injury practices surrounding ancient mourning.


Part II: The Rules of Kaddish
Kaddish has so many different customs and I think this makes it difficult in places where many mourners are saying kaddish at the same time. While the Arukh Hashulchan does not mention every practice, I thought this piece might clarify the ideas behind many of them. Here I present his take on how far we go in responding to the first piece in kaddish. Some people go all the way to the first word of the second paragraph. Here we have another practice presented which is for the congregation to respond with the entire second paragraph! Also presented are rules of bowing during kaddish (many shuls do not practice this in my experience) and standing or sitting during kaddish. For transliterated words I translated into English in parentheses.

ערוך השולחן אורח חיים סימן נו
Arukh Hashulchan OC 56
סעיף ד
עד כמה עונין אמן יהא שמיה רבה יש בזה דעות י"א שאין לענות רק עד עלמיא וזהו דעת הטור וכן משמע מהרמב"ם ע"ש

ודעת המקובלים לענות גם יתברך וזהו דעת רבינו הב"י שכתב בסעיף ג' העונים עד לעלמי עלמיא בלבד טועים הם כי אסור להפריד בין עלמיא ליתברך עכ"ל

ומקורו מהמדרש [עב"י] ושם הכונה בהפסק דיבור כמבואר למעיין שם ומ"מ נראה שגם בענייה אין להפסיק [ב"י] וכ"כ רבינו בחיי פ' שמות על פסוק ותעל שועתם אל האלהים [שמות ב, כג] וז"ל וצריך לחבר מלת עלמיא ליתברך ואין להפסיק בהם כלל כשם וכו' עכ"ל

ויש שעונים עד דאמירן בעלמא [ב"י בשם רבינו דוד אבודרהם]

ורוב העולם תפסו לעיקר כדברי רבינו הב"י שעונים עד יתברך וכן המנהג [והגר"א כתב עד עלמיא]
Article 4
How far do we  continue in responding, “Amen. May His great Name…?” (yehe shmeh rabbah) There are differing opinions in this.

There are those who say that one only answers until “a’lmaya (forever),” and this is the opinion of the Tur, and follows from the Rambam.

The opinion of the Kabbalists is to also answer with the word, “yitbarakh (He will be blessed),” and this is the opinion of our Rabbi the Beit Yosef who wrote in article 3, those who only answer, “l’almey a’lmaya (forever and ever),” are mistaken, for it is forbidden to separate between “a’lmaya” and “yitbarakh.”

And its origin is from the midrash, but there the intention is about breaking by speaking [other words] as is explained to one who looks there. Nonetheless, it seems that also in answering one should not stop. So wrote our Rabbeinu B’achya in the portion Sh’mot on the verse, “Then their cry ascended to the God.” (Exodus 2:23) This is what he said, “And one needs to join the word a’lmaya to yitbarakh, and one should not interrupt between them at all like there, etc.”

And there are those who say all the way to “da’amiran b’al’ma (as are said in the world).” [This is all the way to the end of the next paragraph of kaddish.]

But most of the world follows the main idea according to the words of the Beit Yosef and responds up until “yitbarakh,” and this is the custom - but the GR”A wrote [one only  responds] until “a’lmaya.”
סעיף ה
הרמב"ם [סדר התפלה, נוסח הקדיש] כתב שאחר שאומר הש"ץ יתב' עונין אמן וכתב הטור שלא נהגו כן ע"ש

וכ"ש לפי מנהגינו שעונים עד יתברך ודאי לא שייך עניית אמן ואומרים יתברך וישתבח וכו' ויתעלה ויתהלל וי"א שאין לומר ויתהלל שא"צ לומר רק ז' שבחים כנגד שבעה רקיעים ומן יתברך עד ויתעלה יש ז' תיבות והאומרים זה חושבים מן וישתבח והמנהג פשוט לאומרו
Article 5
The Rambam wrote that after the prayer leader says, “yitbarakh,” we say, “Amen.” And the Tur wrote that this was not their practice.

And as  we wrote, according to our practice we respond up to “yitbarakh,” for sure this does not take a response of “amen” (since one does not usually answer, “amen,” to themselves). And they [the prayer leaders] say, “yitbarakh, v’yishtabachv’yit’aleh, v’yithallal (He will be blessed, and He will be praised, and He will be exalted, and He will be praised). And there are those who say not to say, “v’yithallal,” for one only needs seven praises comparable to the seven heavenly spheres, and from yitbarakh until v’yit’aleh are seven words. And those who say this phrase calculate [the seven praises starting] from v’yishtabach.  And the regular custom is to say it.
סעיף ז
כתבו הטור והש"ע שיש חמשה כריעות בקדיש כשאומר יתגדל כורע וכן ביהא שמיה רבה וביתברך ובבריך הוא ובואמרו אמן

וכתב הטור בשם רב נחשון גאון דד' כריעות הם לחובה ואחד של רשות אך הוא חשיב הכריעה החמישית אצל עושה שלום ע"ש

ויש שמגמגמין בכריעות אלו [הגר"א] משום דאין להוסיף על הכריעות שאמרו חכמים ונלע"ד דאינם כריעות ממש ככריעות של שמ"ע אלא לשחוח מעט וכן יש לעשות ולאחר שסיים הקדיש פוסע ג' פסיעות ואח"כ אומר עושה שלום וכו' והמנהג לכרוע קצת כדברי רב נחשון שהבאנו:
Article 7
The Tur and Shulchan Arukh wrote that there are five bows in the kaddish. When one says, “yitgadel,” one bows. And also for, “y’he shmeh rabbah,” and at, “yitbarakh,” and at, “brikh hu,” and in his saying, “amen.”

And the Tur wrote in the name of Rav Nachshon Gaon, that four of the bows are required and one is optional. But he considered the fifth bow to be the one during “oseh shalom (Who  makes peace).”

And there are those who are hesitant about these bows (the GR”A) since one should not add to the bows which are sages discussed. And in my humble opinion, that these are not real bows like in the sh’moneh esreh, but rather little bows, and that is how one should perform [them].

And after one finishes kaddish, one takes three steps and after says, “oseh shalom (Who makes peace),” and the custom is to bow a bit like the words of Rav Nachshom which we mentioned.
סעיף ט
וכתב רבינו הרמ"א שיש לעמוד כשעונין קדיש וכל דבר שבקדושה עכ"ל והמהרי"ל לא ס"ל כן וכ"כ בכונות ובכתבי האר"י ז"ל שכל קדיש שתופסו מעומד יעמוד עד אחר איש"ר וכשיושב א"צ לעמוד [מג"א סק"ד]
Article 9
Our Rabbi the Rema wrote that one should stand when one is responding to kaddish and any matter of holiness. But the Maharil did not think as such, and so wrote the AR”I that any kaddish where one is standing he should stand until after, “amen, y’he shmeh rabbah,” but when one is sitting he does not need to stand.

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