Friday, August 31, 2007

Feverish Agricultural Proclivities

Please forgive me sweetest friends! I have fever. Shmittah fever. And I want to be contagious.

In this weeks parsha we learn about the mitzva of bikkurim - bringing our first fruits to the beis hamikdash. Does this mitzva apply to the fruits of the seventh year? Of course not, you will answer me, the fruits must belong to you when you bring the bikkurim and in the shmitta year the fruits are considered ownerless [hefker]!! So it is clear that there is no mitzva to bring bikkurim in the shmitta year.

Everything is cool except for the fact that Rashi says in Parshas Mishpatim [23,19] that one MUST bring bikkurim even in the shmitta year ["af hashvi'is chayeves Bibikkurim"]. Uh-oh. The Ohr Hachaim however says explicity in this weeks parsha [Ki Savo] that one is exempt from bringing the bikkurim in the shmitta year [as we would have thought].

There is a famous dispute between the Beis Yoseph and the Maharit. The Beis Yoseph holds that one's field does not automatically become ownerless in the seventh year. The landowner must actively proclaim his field ownerless. Until he does so the field remains under his ownership. This is called Afka'asa D'gavra. The Maharit contends that the field is automatically rendered ownerless by Hashem. No human input is necessary. This is called Afka'asa D'malka.

The Acharonim suggest that maybe the opinion that says that we need to declare the land ownerless [the Beis Yoseph] would say that one is obligated to bring bikkurim from such fruits. First he should set aside the bikkurim and only then declare the land ownerless for shmitta. That would seem to be Rashi's view. The opinion that holds that the field is automatically ownerless [Maharit] would say that it is unnecessary to bring bikkurim because the field was never his in the seventh year. He never had the chance to set aside the bikkurim. That would seem to be the view of the Ohr Hachaim. But how is the Ohr Hachaim going to deal with the fact that Rashi explicitly argues with him? [The Ohr Hachaim is a much later authority and may not argue with Rashi. He didn't even mention that Rashi holds differently.]

Many Acharonim assert that there is a typo in Rashi [makes me feel better about the typos in alleyways...]. It should say "AIN hashvi'is chayeves bibikkurim" [not "af hashvi'is"] - The seventh year fruits are NOT obligated in bikkurim.

Problem solved.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


There is a halacha that if a couple has been married for 10 years and have not had a baby [G-d forbid!!] then they should get divorced so that the man can marry someone else and fulfill his mitzva of procreation [some people are pro-abortion. I am pro-creation].

The question is, that we know that a person is only obligated to spend up to one fifth of his money in order to fulfill a positive mitzva [a negative commandment - known in the parlance as a lo ta'aseh - requires one to spend every last penny!! So if I can save myself from speaking loshon hara by spending all of my money I am obligated to do so.]. Now one's wife is certainly worth more than one fifth of his money [we hope]. So why is a man obligated to lose his wife in order to fulfill the positive commandment of having children. She is worth more than a fifth???

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Crazy Is Normal

Dear Rav Alley,

I have been going out with a girl quite seriously for some time. She has Yiras Shomayim, she is pretty, she has a great personality and I really like her family. But the problem is that she has issues. I don't know if I should marry her. What do you think?

Confused Yid

Dear Yid,

I am GLAD that she has issues!!! If she wouldn't have issues you could not possibly marry her - because she would be dead!!!!!!

Only dead people don't have "issues". All living people have issues. No exceptions. Let me put it this way: If a person is a little crazy then he is normal. [I once heard a similar formulation from a giant Torah scholar.] If he is very crazy - then he is crazy. I am the first to admit that I am a little bit crazy. The reason I am not locked up in a psychiatric facility is because my craziness is within limits. But everybody is somewhat crazy. Rabbis, doctors, psychologists, lawyers, politicians, mothers, fathers etc. etc.


A man who is convinced that he is a rooster and cackles every morning at dawn has just stepped over the line. His craziness is beyond the pale. Everytime he sees a knife he starts running away at top speed because he is sure that he is about to be slaughtered. He is terrified of being nothing more than dinner. He has just gone too far. But a little bit of craziness [what is called "mishagossim" in the language of my ancestors], issues, insecurities, irrational fears, hyper-sensitivity, paranoia, low self esteem - these all afflict normal people.

Because to be normal means to be a little bit crazy. The only question is how we deal with our craziness.

Back to the girl. I don't know how serious her issues are, so that must be explored. We can talk about it privately and see if you are right for each other. But in principle, if you don't want to marry someone who makes her permanent residence in a cemetery then you must expect that she will have issues.

Love and blessings,

Always here for you,

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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