QUESTIONS: The Gemara here concludes that one is prohibited to perform Be'ilas Mitzvah on Erev Shabbos and on Motza'i Shabbos because of the fear that one might slaughter a young bird ("Ben Of") on Shabbos for the festive meal that celebrates the marriage. The Gemara asks why there is no similar Gezeirah for when Yom Kippur occurs on a Monday: since there is a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur (Sunday), there is a fear that one might slaughter birds on Shabbos for the Se'udah of Erev Yom Kippur, and thus Yom Kippur should be postponed to Tuesday.
The Gemara answers that there is a difference between preparing a Se'udah for Erev Yom Kippur and preparing a Se'udah in honor of a marriage. When one prepares a Se'udah for Erev Yom Kippur, one prepares only for himself and thus there is no fear that he will slaughter a bird on Shabbos, as he does not have to slaughter many birds for his private Se'udah. When one prepares a Se'udah for the marriage, in contrast, he prepares for many people, and thus there is a fear that he will slaughter a bird on Shabbos. Moreover, the Se'udah of Erev Yom Kippur is held on the day of Erev Yom Kippur (Sunday), and not during the night (Motza'i Shabbos), and thus there is no fear that he will slaughter on Shabbos.
There are several questions on the Gemara.
(a) TOSFOS (DH Ela) asks why is the Gemara worried only about Erev Yom Kippur falling on Sunday? It is true that large Se'udos are held on Erev Yom Kippur, but there are many other times during the year when large meals with meat are held, such as the four times of year described in Chulin (83a; the first day of Pesach, Shemini Atzeres, Shavuos, and Rosh Hashanah). None of those times should be permitted to fall right after Shabbos. Why does the Gemara ask specifically about Erev Yom Kippur?
(b) A festive Se'udah of Sheva Berachos is held each day for seven days after the wedding, including Shabbos. Why does the Gemara not ask how a Se'udah of Sheva Berachos may be held on Shabbos if there is a fear that one might slaughter a bird on Shabbos?
Similarly, on every Shabbos large Se'udos are made. Why is there no fear that one might slaughter a bird on an ordinary Shabbos?
(c) The RITVA asks a number of other questions: Why does the Gemara mention the fear that one might slaughter a "bird" in particular, when one might also slaughter any other type of kosher animal? Why does the Gemara call it a "Ben Of," a young bird? Why does the Gemara say that the only fear is that one might slaughter the bird, and it does not mention the fear that one might cook the bird on Shabbos?
ANSWER: TOSFOS (DH Ela) explains that Erev Yom Kippur is the only day on which specifically birds are slaughtered. At all other times it is common to slaughter other animals for the festive meals. Apparently, it is only when slaughtering birds that there is a fear that one might slaughter on Shabbos.
The RITVA explains the logic behind this distinction. A person will not inadvertently commit an act of Chilul Shabbos with an act which involves a tedious labor; he will remember that it is Shabbos before he transgresses. The only concern is that he will transgress Shabbos with an act which is done easily and effortlessly. A person might inadvertently do such an act before he remembers that it is Shabbos and that the act is prohibited. Slaughtering a large animal and cooking a bird are acts that involve considerable effort, and thus there is no concern that a person will accidentally do those acts on Shabbos. The only concern is that one will do the relatively easy and swift act of slaughtering a bird on Shabbos. (See TOSFOS to Beitzah 3a, DH Gezeirah Shema.)
This is also why the Gemara says that the concern is that one might slaughter a young bird on Shabbos. A young, small bird is very easy to slaughter, and thus there is greater concern that a person will do it before he remembers that it is Shabbos.
This also explains why there is no fear that one might slaughter a bird on Shabbos for an ordinary Shabbos meal, or for the meal of the day of Sheva Berachos that coincides with Shabbos. Whenever people make large Se'udos, they usually slaughter large animals which provide a greater expression of Simchah ("Ein Simchah Ela b'Basar"). They slaughter birds only for the Se'udah of Erev Yom Kippur and for the special Se'udah that follows the Be'ilas Mitzvah (it was apparently the common practice to make such a Se'udah during the time of the Gemara, as the Rishonim here explain).
What is the source for the custom to slaughter birds, and not animals, on those days? Apparently, since it is advisable to eat light food before the fast of Yom Kippur, it is the custom to eat fowl instead of meat. (See Insights to Megilah 6:2 for a deeper reason for why fowl is eaten on Erev Yom Kippur, based on the MAHARAL.) Similarly, the Se'udah for the Be'ilas Mitzvah was a Se'udah of fowl, because a bird is a sign of Piryah v'Rivyah, as the ME'IRI writes (see Berachos 57a and Gitin 57a).
QUESTION: Bar Kapara states that the deeds of the Tzadikim are greater than the creation of heaven and earth ("Shamayim va'Aretz") because heaven and earth were created with one hand, while the Beis ha'Mikdash -- which was the handiwork of the Tzadikim (since the deeds of the Tzadikim merited that it be built) -- was created with two hands of Hash-m, as it were.
In what sense did the building of the Beis ha'Mikdash require a second "Divine Hand," while the creation of heaven and earth did not?
ANSWER: The MAHARSHA points out that it is the "Yemin," the right hand, that created the heavens (according to the verse, Yeshayah 48:13, cited by the Gemara here), while it was the "Yad," the left hand, that created the earth. The right hand represents Hash-m's attribute of mercy (and His clearly perceived presence), or Rachamim. The left hand represents the concealment of Hash-m's mercy (and of His presence), or Din. The heavens are eternal, while everything on earth eventually perishes.
The Beis ha'Mikdash combines the two elements of Rachamim and Din. It is the place where "the heavens touch the earth" (see Bava Basra 74a and Maharsha there) -- the conduit through which Hash-m sends His blessing to this world and the place where the mundane residents of this world can clearly perceive Hash-m's presence. (This concept is alluded to by the design of the windows in the Beis ha'Mikdash, which are narrow on the inside and wide towards the outside. This design shows that a heavenly influx of blessing spreads from the Beis ha'Mikdash out to the rest of the world. See RASHI to Melachim I 6:4, and Vayikra Rabah 31:7.) In this sense the Beis ha'Mikdash was made with "both hands" of Hash-m.
We may add that the Gemara says further that the earth was created with the five fingers of Hash-m. Perhaps this alludes to the four "Yesodos," or states of physical being (Bamidbar Rabah 14:12, Zohar 2:24a) -- earth (solid), water (liquid), air (gas), and fire (energy) -- as well as the fifth Yesod, Nefesh (the spiritual element), which together describe all existence in this world.
The Gemara then says that when rain descends upon the world, people see that it is the deeds of the Tzadikim that bring about the blessings from Hash-m with His two hands. Just as the Beis ha'Mikdash is a conduit for the Berachos of Hash-m to come into the world, so, too, the Tzadikim are a conduit for the Berachos of Hash-m to come into the world. That is why the Gemara compares one's association with a Tzadik with the offering of Korbanos: bringing a present to Tzadikim is like bringing Bikurim (Kesuvos 105b), and feeding him wine is like offering Nesachim (Yoma 71a). Similarly, the Gemara says that the death of a Tzadik is akin to the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdash (Rosh Hashanah 18b).


QUESTION: Bar Kapara expounds the verse, "You shall have a Yated (shovel or peg) in addition to Azenecha (your equipment)" (Devarim 23:14). He explains that the word "Azenecha" should be read "Aznecha" (your ear), and that the verse means that if a person hears something improper being said, he should place his fingers in his ears. The verse says that one should use the "pegs" that Hash-m gave him to stop his "ears" from hearing improper things.
How does Bar Kapara's interpretation fit the straightforward context of the verse? The end of the verse clearly states that the "Yated" of the verse is to be used to dig up earth and cover excrement! Why does Bar Kapara interpret this verse as a reference to fingers, ears, and Lashon ha'Ra? Moreover, what compels Bar Kapara to read the word as "Aznecha" against the accepted reading of "Azenecha"?
(a) Based on Bar Kapara's teaching, the RAMBAM (Moreh Nevuchim 3:43) asserts that wherever the Chachamim say, "Do not read the word like this, but rather like this," they simply mean to express their teachings in a memorable manner. The verse itself, however, does not really express the thought that they are discussing. (See also SHELAH HA'KODESH (Torah she'Ba'al Peh, end of Aleph), and TORAH TEMIMAH (Bamidbar 19:21), who follow the Rambam's approach to a limited degree. The Rambam, in his "Introduction to the Mishnah," uses a similar approach to explain the significance of the "Asmachta.")
(b) However, numerous Rishonim and Acharonim reject the Rambam's approach as an oversimplification. Although it is obvious that the Chachamim are not trying to change the accepted pronunciation or intention of the verse, it is still possible that the ideas they express by saying, "Do not read the word like this...," are indeed based on a lesson learned from the verse in its literal sense. (The RITVA in Rosh Hashanah (16b) disagrees with the Rambam's understanding of "Asmachta" based on a similar argument.)
A number of works have been published in defense of this text-based understanding of the tool, "Do not read the word like this..." (see SHIVREI LUCHOS, Rav Yechiel of Nemerov; KOREI B'EMES, Rav Yitzchak Bamberger of Wurtzberg).
Perhaps a novel understanding of Bar Kapara's words may be suggested based on this latter approach. (See also MAHARSHA; KOREH B'EMES, p. 39; and KLI YAKAR for other explanations.)
The VILNA GA'ON (Mishlei 24:31, Imrei No'am to Berachos 8a) shows that when the Chachamim offer advice about how to relieve oneself, aside from the simple meaning of their words they are also alluding to relieving oneself of the mental spoilage and corruption that brings a person to unacceptable behavior. If relieving oneself of excrement means abandoning unacceptable motivations, then the excrement which the verse commands one to cover might allude to hiding one's improper acts. The concept of hiding improper acts is discussed in several places. The Gemara in Chagigah (16a) says that "it is better for a person to sin in private so that he not desecrate the Name of Hash-m in public.... If a person feels an uncontrollable urge to sin, let him go to a place where he is not known, wear black clothing and do there what he desires, rather than desecrate the Name of Hash-m in public."
The Gemara there does not mean that it is acceptable to sin in private. Rather, the Chachamim are addressing an extreme case, where someone feels compelled uncontrollably to sin (see Insights there). Under such circumstances, he is advised at least to "cover up" his act. The best course of action, of course, is to control his impulses and refrain from the act. No matter how compelling it seems to him at the time, in the final analysis it is he who retains control over his desires and not vice versa. (See Insights to Moed Katan 17:2.)
There is, however, a situation in which even the Torah itself takes into account a person's uncontrollable desire and relaxes its rules: the case of the "Eshes Yefas To'ar." The Torah permits a Jewish soldier in time of war to take a woman from the defeated nation ("Eshes Yefas To'ar"). Since the women of the enemy nation are liable to arouse the desires of the Jewish soldiers (the enemy women used to dress up and apply their finest perfumes in order to seduce their captors, as Rashi (Devarim 21:13) says), the Torah permits a soldier to marry such a woman, with the logic that it is better to permit the soldiers to do something morally improper than to prohibit the act and cause them to desecrate the Torah outright (Rashi to Kidushin 21b).
Similarly, the Torah permits soldiers, when hungry, to eat prohibited foods during a war (RAMBAM, Hilchos Melachim 8:1; see, however, RAMBAN to Devarim 6:10 who differs with the Rambam on this point).
The verse which discusses the treatment of excrement in the army camp may be understood as an allusion to the unpleasant situation that arises during wartime. It may be a warning that when soldiers "leave" the normally accepted way of moral behavior, they at least should not do so publicly. They should "cover up" their actions so that they will not be seen by their fellow Jews. RABEINU BACHYE (Devarim 21:10) indeed writes that the Gemara warns the soldier to take the "Eshes Yefas To'ar" in as covert a manner as possible, and he quotes the end of the verse here to support this teaching.
The concealment of sin serves two purposes. The first is that it prevents others who might witness the sin from suffering from a weakening of their own resolve. The second is that it prevents others who might witness the sin from speaking Lashon ha'Ra about what they saw. This would cause resentment, denial, and internal quarreling among the troops. This was, in fact, a major issue during wartime, as the Ramban points out (Devarim 23:10, see also Vayikra Rabah 26:2).
This is the lesson which Bar Kapara derives from the verse. The Torah warns the soldiers to conceal the occasional sin that they commit under duress, because revealing the sin may have a detrimental effect on the moral standards of others who hear of it. Similarly, the Gemara infers that is incumbent upon a Jew to avoid listening to someone who attempts to tell him of the moral decline of a fellow Jew, so that one not learn from his bad example or provoke his animosity.
Bar Kapara said that the verse may be read as, "You shall use a finger to stop up your ear from hearing of another Jew's misdeeds." Although this reading is not the literal translation of the verse, it is a lesson that certainly is derived from the literal meaning of the verse. (M. KORNFELD)
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses whether or not one is permitted to perform the first Be'ilah on Shabbos. The Gemara says that if the blood is "Mifkad Pakid" (stored in and separate from, and not absorbed in, the flesh), then the only reason to prohibit the first Be'ilah on Shabbos is because of the opening ("Pesach") that one makes with the act of Be'ilah. The Gemara suggests that perhaps even the concern that an opening will be made should not prohibit the act on Shabbos, because the man does not intend to make an opening but only to extract the blood. Since the formation of an opening is a "Davar she'Eino Miskaven" it should be permitted according to Rebbi Shimon. (See Chart #3.)
RASHI (DH O k'Rebbi Shimon) asks that although the formation of an opening is a "Davar she'Eino Miskaven," the Be'ilah still should be prohibited because it is a "Pesik Reshei" -- an opening certainly will be made even though he does not intend to make one, as it is not possible to extract the blood without making an opening. Rashi answers that the Gemara later (6b) relates that there are those who know how to perform Be'ilah with "Hatayah" in such a way that blood does not come out and no opening is made, and thus it is not a "Pesik Reshei." The RA'AVAD, cited by the Rashba, gives the same answer.
What does Rashi mean? The Gemara here discusses a person who has intention to extract blood. Obviously he does not do Hatayah, because with Hatayah he would not be able to extract any blood, as Rashi says. The formation of the opening should be a "Pesik Reshei" since he is trying to extract blood! (RASHBA)
(a) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES (DH v'Im Timtza Lomar l'Dam, in the name of "Kuntreisim") explains that Rashi means to say two things. Rashi is saying that there is one type of Hatayah in which no blood is extracted. There is a second type of Hatayah in which blood does come out, but in which no opening is created. The reason why it is not a "Pesik Reshei" that an opening will be made when one has intention to extract blood is because of the second type of Hatayah.
Why, though, does Rashi write that there is a type of Hatayah in which no blood comes out? Rashi is explaining the Gemara later that says that blood is "Chaburei Michbar" (absorbed in the flesh) and yet Be'ilah is permitted because a man has intention only to get personal pleasure and not to extract the blood. Why is the extraction of the blood not a "Pesik Reshei"? Rashi answers that a person can fulfill his intention to get personal pleasure without extracting blood or making an opening at all, by way of the first type of Hatayah. (See also MAHARSHA to TOSFOS DH l'Dam.)
(b) It is possible that Rashi chooses his words carefully and is following his opinion as expressed later (on 6b). There is a basic Machlokes among the Rishonim how to understand the Gemara that says that there is no "Pesik Reshei" because of the possibility to do Be'ilah with Hatayah. TOSFOS (6b, DH Lo) writes that it is not a "Pesik Reshei" only when a person does not intend to do an act of Be'ilah Gemurah (a full-fledged Be'ilah). If he intends to do a Be'ilah Gemurah, then he certainly will avoid Hatayah and Be'ilah is prohibited because the making of an opening is a "Pesik Reishei."
In contrast, Rashi understands that Hatayah is not something that one intends to do, but it is something that happens inadvertently, even when one is trying to perform a Be'ilah Gemurah (see Insights to 6b). Rashi says that even if a person intends to extract blood, the Be'ilah is permitted on Shabbos because perhaps he will do Hatayah (inadvertently) and not extract blood nor make an opening!
Tosfos (5b, DH l'Dam) and the Rashba follow their own reasoning and learn that Hatayah permits the Be'ilah only when one is not trying to perform a Be'ilah Gemurah and extract blood. If one is trying to extract blood, then obviously the Be'ilah cannot be permitted on the grounds that he might do Hatayah. That is why Tosfos must say that there is another type of Hatayah in which one extracts blood without making an opening. (M. KORNFELD)