SHABBOS 116 (8 Tamuz) - Today's Dafyomi study is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Moshe Gottlieb, Moshe Ze'ev ben Chaim Shlomo Yosef ha'Levi z'l, who healed the sick of Jerusalem and Israel with Chesed. Dedicated by his loving family on the day of his Yahrzeit.
1) THE PARAGRAPH OF "VA'YEHI BI'NESO'A HA'ARON"
QUESTION: Raban Shimon ben Gamliel says that the paragraph of "va'Yehi bi'Neso'a" serves as a separation between two incidents of calamity that befell the Jewish people.
However, there is no clear mention of any calamity in the verses prior to the passage of "va'Yehi bi'Neso'a." Moreover, in the verses that follow that passage, there are two incidents of calamity with no separation between them -- the incident of the complainers (Mis'onenim), and the incident of the lust for meat (Kivros ha'Ta'avah). What calamities does the passage of "va'Yehi bi'Neso'a" separate?
(a) RASHI explains that the Jewish people already complained for meat when they left Har Sinai, and thus the calamity of Kivros ha'Ta'avah occurred as they left Har Sinai. When the verse before the passage of "va'Yehi bi'Neso'a" says that "they traveled from the mountain of Hash-m for three days," it refers to the calamity of Kivros ha'Ta'avah, at which the Jewish people "traveled away from Hash-m" and rebelled.
The RAMBAN (Bamidbar 10:35) explains that Rashi means that even though the Torah describes the incident of Kivros ha'Ta'avah later, it does not mean that the incident took place then. Rather, in the verses later, the Torah is describing what happened earlier.
(b) TOSFOS (DH Pur'aniyos) writes that the calamity that happened at Har Sinai, before the passage of "va'Yehi bi'Neso'a," refers to what the Midrash describes: "The Jewish people ran away from Har Sinai hastily, the way a child runs when he is let out of school." What, though, was the element of calamity inherent in this conduct? Although it was improper for the Jewish people to run away from Har Sinai, their conduct does not seem to involve a calamity (i.e., punishment for wrongful actions). The RAMBAN (ibid.) explains that perhaps the Jewish people would have arrived at the border of Eretz Yisrael immediately after they left Har Sinai, had they not run away from there. Instead, it took them three days to get there. This was considered a punishment for their hasty departure.
Why, though, is there no break between the next two calamities? Perhaps Tosfos understands that only the Erev Rav (or the "Am," as the Torah calls them in the Parshah of Kivros ha'Ta'avah) were involved in the incident of Kivros ha'Ta'avah, while the first two sins involved all of the Jewish people ("Bnei Yisrael"). Therefore, the Torah separates only between the first two calamities.
(c) The RAMBAN (ibid.) explains that the Gemara does not mean that the passage of "va'Yehi bi'Neso'a" separates two calamities. Rather, the passage of "va'Yehi bi'Neso'a" separates three calamities, so that there should not be three calamities in a row, for three consecutive calamities would be a "Chazakah" of calamities.
2) AGADAH: READING "KESUVIM" ON SHABBOS
The Mishnah (115a) states that we do not read Kesuvim on Shabbos because of "Bitul Beis ha'Midrash." The Gemara cites another reason in the name of Rebbi Nechemyah, who said that we do not read Kesuvim on Shabbos as a safeguard to prevent people from reading business contracts on Shabbos.
Based on the Gemara here, the ROGATCHOVER GA'ON explains an enigmatic change in the text of Birkas ha'Mazon on Shabbos. During the week, we say "Magdil Yeshu'os Malko," a verse from Tehilim (18:51). On Shabbos, though, we say, "Migdol Yeshu'os Malko," from Shmuel II (22:51). What is the basis for this change? The Rogatchover Ga'on explains that the reason for this change is the rule that the Gemara here expresses, that one may not learn Kesuvim on Shabbos. Since "Magdil" is from Kesuvim (Tehilim), we replace it with "Migdol" (from a parallel verse in Nevi'im), since learning from Nevi'im on Shabbos is permissible! (See Mishnah on 115a and Rashi there.)
(Even though there are many other verses from Kesuvim in the Shabbos liturgy, we may recite them because there is no other choice, as they do not have any close match in Nevi'im. Since they are part of our daily prayers, we are permitted to recite such quotes from Kesuvim. However, in Birkas ha'Mazon we change "Magdil" to "Migdol" in order to remind us of the prohibition against learning Kesuvim on Shabbos when not praying on Shabbos. -M. KORNFELD)
(The TORAH TEMIMAH proposes an interesting hypothesis to explain the change in Birkas ha'Mazon. The change in the text may stem from a misreading of an abbreviation in the early printings of Birkas ha'Mazon. In the margin next to the word "Magdil," the following appeared in parentheses: "Migdol, S.B." (the Hebrew letters "Shin" and "Beis"). The intention of that marginal note was that in Sefer Shmuel II ("Shmuel Beis," or S.B.), the word "Migdol" appears instead of "Magdil." Later printers who copied from the earlier manuscripts misinterpreted the abbreviation to mean that "Migdol" is recited on Shabbos (which can also be abbreviated as S.B.).)
3) HALACHAH: READING PERSONAL LETTERS ON SHABBOS
OPINIONS: According to Rebbi Nechemyah, the Rabanan prohibited reading Kesuvim on Shabbos as a precaution to prevent people from mistakenly thinking that they may read their business contracts and other non-sacred documents on Shabbos. May one read personal letters on Shabbos?
(a) RASHI (DH Shetarei Hedyotos) writes that friendly letters are also included in the prohibition against reading contracts.
(b) The RI, cited by TOSFOS (DH v'Kol she'Ken), permits one to read personal letters on Shabbos, on the basis that their content might involve some urgent matter of Piku'ach Nefesh. Even if a person is familiar with the contents of the letter and knows that there is no matter of Piku'ach Nefesh contained therein, RABEINU TAM permits him to read such letters on the basis that the information contained in the letters is not necessary and therefore it is not comparable to reading contracts.
(c) The ROSH (23:1) is inclined to prohibit reading personal letters, as a precaution to prevent people from reading their contracts as well. Although his reasoning differs from that of Rashi (a), his ruling is the same.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 307:13) includes personal letters in the category of contracts which are prohibited to read on Shabbos, and thus a person may not read a personal letter if he knows that it contains nothing more than friendly chatter, because of the enactment against reading contracts. In the next Halachah (307:14), the Shulchan Aruch is lenient like Tosfos (b) and permits one to read a new letter that he has not yet read, because it might contain matters of Piku'ach Nefesh or other urgent matters which require immediate attention.
(The BE'ER HA'GOLAH understands the Shulchan Aruch's first ruling (in 307:13) to be in accordance with the ruling of Rashi (a). The Mishnah Berurah, however, understands that the Shulchan Aruch rules like the Rosh (c). This may depend on whether the phrase "and letters of friendly regards" is to be read as a third type of document contained in the category of "Shetarei Hedyotos" (like Rashi) or as a totally new category of document (like the Rosh). However, as mentioned above, l'Halachah it does not seem to make any difference. -Y. SHAW)
RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN zt'l (Igros Moshe OC 4:72) writes that if a friendly letter contains Divrei Torah, then one certainly may read it on Shabbos.