Parshas Ki Sisa

1 – Lashon Nekiyah

The Ramban explains that the expression “machatzis ha’shekel b’shekel ha’kodesh” is to be understood in the context of the Biblical shekel’s status of being employed to establish requisite values for arachin, pidyon ha’ben, the Mishkan, and every monetary value prescribed in the Torah. That, explains the Ramban, is why it is called shekel ha’kodesh, because it is the barometer and used for all these things which are kodesh. That too, adds the Ramban, is the reason why Chazal refer to the language of the Torah as lashon ha’kodesh – because all the words of Torah, Neviim, and all words of kedusha are expressed in that language. It is the language in which Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu communicates with His neviim and His people, it is the language in which the names of Hashem are expressed, it is the language with which Hashem created the universe and designated identifying names for all its component parts, and all of the malachim and the holy people such as Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Shlomo, and all the rest. The Rambam in Moreh Ha’nevuchim on the other hand, continues the Ramban, says that it is called lashon ha’kodesh because it does not contain any words to describe the reproductive organs, reproductive fluids, or excretory matter – other than in the form of sobriquets.

According to the Ramban, it is called lashon ha’kodesh because it is the language which is used for kedusha. According to the Rambam, it is called lashon ha’kodesh because it is inherently holy, without any unrefined terminology interwoven therein – a lashon nekiyah. This explanation of the Rambam provides with us with bright beacon for life in general. The implied mandate is that a Jew functions with a peh naki, a clean mouth. Speaking with lashon nekiyah is applicable regardless of what particular language one employs to converse and communicate in daily life. An example of how important this matter is can be found in the Gemara in Maseches Shabbos (33a) which says that the aveirah of nibul peh can be the cause of young people dying and has the negative power to even annul a sealed, positive Heavenly decree of 70 years. Lashon nekiyah is not only about avoiding nibul peh and other forms of forbidden speech such as lashon hara and rechilus. It includes much more. Rav Hutner once related the following anecdote during the course of a shiur that he gave. “When I was a bachur in yeshivas Slobodka, I once shared a thought that I had developed with the mashgiach of the yeshiva, Rav Avraham Grodzinsky. To make my point, I utilized a mashal of a cripple. After finishing, Rav Grodzinsky – who walked with a limp – told me as follows, ‘When talking to someone who struggles with a handicap, one should refrain from even mentioning or making reference to handicaps, cripples, and the like. You don’t want to unnecessarily cause someone emotional distress.’” That is an example of lashon nekiyah. Speaking in a fine and refined manner, making sure that one’s speech cannot possibly be tainted in any way. The more refined one’s speech is, the more he has achieved the goal of lashon nekiyah.

2 - Shabbos is Kodesh, What That Means                כי קדש היא לכם    לא:יד

The word kodesh is usually translated as holy or sacred, but those words don’t really mean all that much to us, do they?  It is important to understand what this pasuk is saying on the most basic level. We are familiar with the concept of kadshim.  There is kodesh when it comes to objects, such as korbanos, klei ha’Mikdash, and bigdei kehuna.  There is also kodesh when it comes to certain places: Har Ha’Bayis, the azaros, the Heichal and the Kodesh Ha’Kadashim.  This pasuk, in terms of pshuto shel mikra, is telling us that there is also kodesh when it comes to the stratum of time.  Just as the aforementioned objects and places are kodesh because they belong to reshus Gavoha – the domain and exclusive ownership of the Almighty – so too is the manner that we are to understand the concept of Shabbos as kodesh: it is a time that is in reshus Gavoha.  It requires us to stretch our minds to understand what this means.

3 - מעשה שבת

The Gemara (Kesubos 34a) brings three shitos regarding the status of food that was prepared on Shabbos through melachaRabi Yochanan Ha’Sandlar holds that the pasuk is making a hekesh between kodesh and Shabbos.  Accordingly, we derive: “just as it is forbidden to eat kodesh, so too is it forbidden to eat maaseh Shabbos,” foods that were prepared through melacha on Shabbos.  It’s a machlokes in the Gemara whether or not Rabi Yochanan Ha’Sandlar meant this derasha as an asmachta or as a full-fledged derasha d’Oraysah.  The other two shitosRabi Yehuda and Rabi Meir - definitely hold that the prohibition of maaseh Shabbos is d’Rabanan.  They darshen – from the fact that the pasuk says kodesh hee - “hee kodesh v’ein maaseha kodesh, Shabbos [itself] is kodesh, but not that which is prepared on it through melacha.”  In addition to that general machlokes, all three Tannaim have differing opinions regarding the specific parameters of this issurRabi Meir holds that if the food was prepared b’shogeig, it does not become assur at all, and if it was done on purpose it becomes forbidden to eat, but only for the person who actually did the melachaRabi Yehuda holds that even when done by accident, the one who did it may not eat the food until after Shabbos, and if he did it on purpose he is forbidden from eating it forever.  Rabi Yochanan Ha’Sandlar holds that when the melacha was done by accident the one who did it can never eat it and others can only eat it after Shabbos is over, and when done on purpose it becomes forbidden to everyone forever.

Now, one would think, at first glance, that the determining factor of this issur called maaseh Shabbos is the violation of an aveirah.  Because he transgressed the laws of Shabbos, the food produced thereby becomes forbidden.  However, there are two sources that indicate differently. Source number one is the Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 325:22).  The Pri Megadim discusses whether or not the issur of maaseh Shabbos applies when food was prepared through melacha on Shabbos by a cheiresh or shoteh (deaf-mute or halachikally not-sane).  He brings the Gemara in Yevamos (114a): Rav Yitzchak bar Bisna’s keys to the Beis Medrash were in a reshus ha’rabim on Shabbos.  Rabi Pedas told him what he could do about it.  “Bring little children there to play, and when they see the keys they’ll take them.”  The Gemara there says that Rabi Pedas is obviously of the opinion that one is not obligated to stop a katan from doing an aveirah.  The Gemara in Shabbos says that if a katan does a melacha for his parents then it is totally assur, because of the pasuk that says atah u’bincha, but here the katan took the keys as part of his own playing.  There was no indication from the adult to the katan to pick up the keys, and the katan is not picking them up for the adult. All that aside, though, says the Pri Megaim, there is an implied lack of prohibition from the angle of maaseh Shabbos.  We see that the issur of maaseh Shabbos does not apply to melacha done by a katan.  He is allowed to use the keys.  The Pri Megadim asserts, though, that a cheiresh and shoteh may be different.  A cheiresh and shoteh are inherently bnei mitzvah, just that they do not have daas.  Their mental handicap is such that they are not held accountable for what they do.  A katan, on the other hand, isn’t yet a bar mitzvah – meaning, mitzvos do not yet apply to him at all (other than for chinuch) – and his actions therefore are not classified as a halachikally significant action. That is what the Pri Megadim says.

Now, a cheiresh and shoteh are not punishable for melacha they do on Shabbos.  You cannot really consider it an aveirah if they do melacha on Shabbos.  Nevertheless, the Pri Megadim is suggesting that the issur of maaseh Shabbos does apply to food prepared through melacha by them.  This is a strong indication that the issur of maaseh Shabbos is not contingent on an aveirah having been done. Before explaining what is in fact the defining parameter of this issur, here is another source.  First, a bit of background to make it clear. There is a discussion in the Rishonim about an ill person who is considered to be in a state of pikuach nefesh (Ran, Yoma 4b in the Rif).  He needs to eat meat.  It’s Shabbos.  There is an already cooked and prepared treif steak, or we could shecht a kosher animal, salt the meat, and cook it.  What should be done?  Should we give the choleh the treif meat so as to avoid doing melacha on Shabbos, or should we shecht and cook for him kosher meat?  It’s a machlokes Rishonim. The Raavad says you give him the treif meat to avoid chilul Shabbos.

However, if the treif meat is raw and needs to be cooked, then you give him the kosher meat even though it requires an additional melacha of shechita.  The reason, explains the Raavad, is that once the halacha of pikuach nefesh is anyway mandating being mechalel Shabbos for him, the heter takes effect and allows you to do the other melachos as well.  So make it kosher. The Maharam argues with the Raavad and says that there is absolutely no reason to feed the ill person treif meat, even if it is totally prepared already.  The reason for this, says the Maharam, is that the prohibitions of Shabbos are not overridden by pikuach nefesh, rather they are completely permitted.  Hutrah, not dechuyah.  (ed. elaboration: In other words, it is not that cooking for a dangerously ill person is inherently a transgression, just that it is pushed out of the way for pikuach nefesh, rather for pikuach nefesh it is considered completely permissible.)  Therefore, asserts the Maharam, there is no reason to not do the melachos involved in preparing kosher meat for him.  Since it is pikuach nefesh, it is mutar.

Although the Maharam’s line of reasoning would apparently apply to feeding a dangerously ill person treif meat just as much as it applies to doing melacha for him on Shabbos – in other words, why don’t we say hutrah regarding the issur of treif meat as well – the fact is that there is an explicit Gemara that indicates that this is not so when it comes to maachalos asuros.  In Yoma 83a it says that when someone contracts a life-endangering illness – which demands that we feed him something of which there is only a non-kosher type available – we start off by feeding him the least severe prohibition.  Only if that does not work do we continue by feeding him items of more severe prohibition.  So we clearly see that we do not say hutrah insofar as forbidden foods is concerned.

The Ran’s approach to the question of whether or not we should feed the dangerously ill person ready-made treif food or shecht and cook kosher meat for him, is that the assumption that eating treif food is a less severe transgression is erroneous.  True, chilul Shabbos is inherently more severe, however, once the shechita and act of cooking have been done, there is no more transgression involved.  Not so by treif food.  There, every additional bite of a k’zayis is another transgression.  This is not the case with food cooked on Shabbos, explains the Ran, because we do not pasken in accordance with the opinion of Rabi Yochanan Ha’Sandlar, so the food is not forbidden m’d’Oraysah. What we see from this statement of the Ran is that, if we would have paskened like Rabi Yochanan Ha’Sandlar that food cooked on Shabbos becomes assur m’d’Oraysah, the food would be considered prohibited under the category of maaseh Shabbos.  This, despite the fact that we are dealing with a case of pikuach nefesh wherein the one who cooks the food is most certainly not transgressing any aveirah!  So, once again, we see that it is not the transgression of an aveirah that serves as the determining barometer of the issur of maaseh Shabbos.  (It could be that the Ran is assuming the approach that melacha on Shabbos is dechuyah for pikuach nefesh.  In the approach of hutrah it would be much harder to assert such a statement [ed. elaboration: because if it is hutrah it should not be considered meleches Shabbos, because hutrah should mean that cooking for pikuach nefesh on Shabbos is no different than setting the table or any other completely permissible act].)

So if the transgression of an aveirah is not the defining factor, what is it then?  It is that kedusha is chal (takes effect) on the time-frame of Shabbos no differently than it takes effect on all other kadshim like korbanos, klei ha’Mikdash, and the makom ha’Mikdash.  Just like all those things are defined by their being in reshus Gavoha – the direct domain and ownership of On High – so too is Shabbos in reshus Gavoha.  Therefore, anything produced by a Jew on Shabbos is automatically classified as kodesh, and thus forbidden – irrespective of whether or not one technically violated an aveirah by so doing - simply by dint of the fact that it was made within the zman of kodesh of Shabbos.  (From the notes of Reb Naftali Eichen)

4 – Perception of Reality vs Seichel           וירא העם כי בשש משה   לב:א                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Rashi brings the Medrash that the Satan showed them an image of “Moshe Meis”, Moshe is dead.  It wasn't an eerily shaped cloud in the sky, the sky didn't go dark, there was no dramatic music playing in the background.  Rather, the pshat is that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu tests us by making the Satan the conduit through which we perceive the reality in Olam Ha’zeh.  For example, if the scientists say that the world is five billion years old and have all their proofs, we may be inclined to feel that that is the actual reality.  That is the effect the Satan has in Olam Ha’zeh!  By Klal Yisrael in the Midbar, the conduit of the Satan caused the perception of reality to be “Moshe meis”.  Moshe said he would come down, he hasn't, and it doesn't make sense for him to just be late.  Elah mai, the only option is “Moshe meis”!  The nisayon is to follow our yediah b’seichel - what we know to be true based on clear logical reasoning, and not excitedly jumping to conclusions - over our perception of the reality.  Our knowledge is that Moshe will come down, so even when faced with a seemingly conflicting reality, we must follow our seichel! Note that the key word in the sordid event of the eigel ha’zahav is “vayar”, the People saw.  That of course is referring to their perception of the reality as “Moshe meis”.  The perception that brought about the whole disaster.  It is not a coincidence that the key word in the cheit eitz ha’daas of Adam and Chava is likewise “va’teireh”, Chava perceived the fruit of the eitz ha’daas to be greatly beneficial for her – as the Nachash Ha’Kadmoni, the archetypal symbol of the Satan, had wanted to convince her.  Of course, reading the storyline, it is obvious that that was a very superficial way of looking at things.  Had she thought about the matter from an objective point of view – and not just jump to conclusions based on how she perceived the reality at that moment – she would have recognized that it was a very, very bad idea for her to eat that fruit and she would not have done it.  So too, the “vayar” of the People in the Midbar when they thought “Moshe meis” was just a superficial perception and brought them to an erroneous conclusion with tragic repercussions.  We see, then, how important it is to not get swept up in a superficial way of looking at things.  We always have to keep our wits about us and follow our seichel.  What we know.  Not what may appear to be the perceived reality at any given time. (From Reb Natan Gershonowitz and Reb Yehuda Eisenstein)

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