SHABBOS 72: THE FORTUNATE FEW
On thisdaf,we find the case of a person who worshiped idolatry. The Ramban provides an intriguing explanation of the roots of idolatry. “People used to worship the sun, the moon and the stars, since these embody various heavenly mazalos, each of which is presided over by an angel. These folk began to make many idols, each representing a different constellation or heavenly body, in the hopes that this would improve their mazel in whatever they wanted most.
“This also explains the puzzling fact that cultures even worshiped their mortal leaders. A few famous examples are Paroh, Sancheirev and Chiram. Although these people were obviously mortal, many of their subjects treated them like deities. Since the people saw that these people’s mazel was so very ascendant, they believed that by worshiping them they would attract a similar streak of success for themselves” (Ramban Al HaTorah, Shemos, Chapter 20:3-4).
SHABBOS 73: SOMETHING FROM NOTHING
It certainly appears strange that our Mishnah uses “forty less one” to teach that there are thirty-nine melachos. Don’t our sages tell us to teach bederech ketzarah, as succinctly as possible?
Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter explains this anomaly: “The Mishkan parallels everything created during the six days of creation. Since the thirty-nine melachos prohibited on Shabbos are the melachos done in the Mishkan, we see that the melachos of Shabbos allude to the melachos that served as the mechanism through which Hashem brought everything into being.
“But of course, there is one aspect of maaseh bereishis that we can never duplicate, even in representation. This is Hashem’s creation ex nihilo, yeish mei’ayin, on the first day. Although Hashem did not command us to refrain from what is impossible for us in the first place, this creation ex nihilo is alluded to in the count of melachos, since the melachos of creation which the Shabbos commemorates are actually forty. But this forty is less one by default, since we cannot replicate creation from nothing.
“Nevertheless, there is a rabbinic decree which prohibits molid on Shabbos. It is forbidden to crush snow or ice for their water, since this is considered as if we created the water, as Rashi explains on Shabbos 51. In this imperfect manner – much more remote than the other melachos – our sages forbade an action which resembles creation ex-nihilo ever so slightly” (Leket Amarim, Part II, p. 31).
SHABBOS 74: CLEARING AWAY
Thisdaf discusses the halachos of borer.
There are many more complex borer questions in an average household than most are even aware.
For example, every Friday night most families enjoy at least two courses, the fish and the main dish. Many tables are pretty full by the time the first course is finished and must be cleared away. In addition to plates, glasses and silverware, assorted bottles of drinks and various salads and serving dishes fill the table. So why isn’t clearing off the dirty dishes – an obvious case of removing the bad from the good – as problematic as any other question of borer? This is especially true if a dirty dish or an empty bottle is in direct contact with clean plates or bottles.
Interestingly, it was due to such considerations that Rav Binyomin Zilber zt”l never cleared a cluttered table himself on Shabbos. Although he had some considerations to allow it, he would only allow a child under bar or bas mitzvah to do the cleaning up.
When this question was presented to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, he disagreed. “Even if one has an empty bottle at the table which is touching a bottle or two that are full, one may remove the empty bottle. There is no borer problem in this, since this is not called a mixture. He merely removes the bottle to clear the table, not to remove the empty bottles from the full. Now, if there was a crate of bottles in which some are empty and some are full, removing an empty bottle would certainly be borer. But if one’s purpose in removing the bottles or other things from the table is to clear the table, this is permitted” (Shu”t Az Nidbaru; Shulchan Shlomo, Part II, p.359).
SHABBOS 75: OUR WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING
There is a fairly famous statement on thisdaf: “How do we know that it is a mitzvah to calculate tekufos (solstices and equinoxes) and mazalos (the rotation of the twelve constellations)? We learn this from the verse, “Ki hi chochmaschem uvinaschem le’einei ho’amim.'”
This is surely difficult to understand on a simple level. How do we demonstrate our understanding to the nations by being great astronomers? Isn’t our wisdom and understanding a spiritual quality? Surely this statement does not only apply to the ancient world before there were universities staffed with very wise astronomers who taught this wisdom but were no closer to Hashem than other non-Jews.
We can explain this based on a powerful teaching of the Toras Nosson. “The tzaddikim show us how to live above the mazalos. The first thing to understand is why we count from the moon when the non-Jews use the sun. They count from the sun since they feel that they know mostly everything and that the mysteries of life are as clear as daylight. We use the moon which fluctuates since the first step in developing a true connection with Hashem is understanding our limitations and that we must completely rely on Hashem. We are incomplete, since this world completely fools us. We naturally feel drawn to act as though only material concerns dominate the world. This is the aspect of tekufos: we understand that although we are limited, those who keep the Torah completely transcend or overpower nature. The aspect of understanding how to calculate the mazalos alludes to ascending to the source of the mazalos and transcending their influence.”
Now we understand: When Jewslive and breathe Torah, they merit to transcend their physical and ego-driven nature, which each receives via his particular mazel. In this manner, we access the higher realm above mazel and merit protection that is supernatural. As the Alter of Kelm points out, the Talmudic statement, “How great is the shepherd who protects a lone sheep among seventy wolves,” is truly astounding. Thinking about our survival is the strongest way to build our emunah. One who demonstrates – or explains – this special balance so that even the non-Jews understand surely demonstrates our chochmah and binah.
How do we survive the daily attempts to eradicate us? The answer is mesirus nefesh. Through our self-sacrifice to overcome negative character traits, we transcend the mazalos and access the level of lemaalah min hazeman. As the Gemara in Maseches Chulin tells us, “The entire world rests on one who silences himself during times of strife” – who can restrain himself even under duress (Toras Nosson, Shabbos 75; Bais Kelm, p. 23).
SHABBOS 76: A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WISE
The Halachos Ketanos points out the great advantage of being close to chachomim. “Having a relationship with sageshas the power to help a person in very many ways. I can even provide two very clear examples. How can being close to a chochom save a person from malkos, thirty-nine lashes,and even death?
“The case where a relationship with a chochom can save a person from lashes is obvious. If one made a neder not to eat something and he violated the neder and was warned by two witnesses, he will receive thirty-nine lashes. But if he goes to a chochom and nullifies his vow, his neder will be retroactively annulled and he will not be touched.
“As far as a relationship with a chochom saving one from death, if one took a kezayis of terumah into a public domain on Shabbos, he is chayov misah. Although regular food must be the size of a grogros to incur the death penalty, regarding terumah one is obligated even with a kezayis, and this has applicationin many instances.
“But if one goes to achochom and annuls his having made the food terumah, he will be saved” (Shu”t Halachos Ketanos, part II, #43; see his answer to the contradiction to Shabbos 43).
SHABBOS 77: MODERN MEDICINE
The miracles of modern medicine are often breathtaking. But we must remember that much of the data we have that has enabled us to do so much was obtained by performing numerous experiments, especially on animals. One man wondered whether this is permitted. After all, perhaps feeding an animal something which will likely kill the animal but will show us how one or another drug works on the sickness – or if it does not work – constitutes tzar baalei chaim and is forbidden.
When this question was presented to the Shvus Yaakov, he permitted deriving benefit from experimentation on animals that results in their death. “As far as making experiments with animals to find out the effects of one drug or another, the Gemara in Shabbos 77 states that every created thing has a purpose. On Shabbos 108, we find that one may kill an animal to heal a person even if we are unsure that he will be healed through this.
“The Rama rules that it is permitted to cause animals to suffer for the sake of human needs, and the Sefer Chassidim writes clearly that there is not even a middas chassidus to avoid this. Although the Rama ends there that people refrain from plucking the feathers from a bird while it is alive because this is cruel, that is irrelevant in our case. In the case of plucking feathers, every action hurts. We see that when one’s action causes immediate pain to an animal, doing this while an animal is alive intensifies a person’s cruelty. Merely giving an animal something to eat or drink – which causes pain down the line – is certainly not problematic on any level” (Shu”t Shvus Yaakov, Part III, Siman 71]).
SHABBOS 78: KEEPING IT IN MIND
Rav Aharon of Koydenov explained the divergence of version found in the Mishnayos on this daf. The Mishnah’s version is “devek kedei sheyitein berosh hashavsheves,” while the Gemara rendersthis as shifshefes.This literally means that one is obligated for glue carried in the public domain on Shabbos if there is enough glue to place on the head of a board to trap a small bird which alights on it.
Rav Aharon would say, “A certain tzaddik who would never sleep on Shabbos would stay inspired by intoning one statement from a Mishnah over Shabbos with great longing: “’Devek! How can one merit dveykus to Hashem, kedei sheyitein berosh, so that he will keep Hashem on his mind and will not forget Him for a moment – at the very least during the holy Shabbos? The answer is ‘hashavsheves,’ a contraction of shev Shabbos, meaning if one recalls that today is Shabbos!’
“As the Toldos Yaakov Yosef writes, it is forbidden to forget about tefillin, since they contain Hashem’s Name in the parshiyos. On Shabbos, one is not obligated in tefillin because Shabbos itself is the name of Hashem, as we find in the Zohar. How much more so must one make every effort not to forget the holiness and connection of Shabbos” (Tachin Libam, p. 228; Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Parshas Beshalach).