THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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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
involving the Jewish people. If we look at the verses prior to the passage
of "Va'yehi bi'Neso'a," we find no clear mention of any calamity. If we
look at the verses that follow the passage, we find *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, then, is the passage of "Va'yehi bi'Neso'a" separating?
(a) RASHI explains that the Jewish people were already complaining for meat
when they left Har Sinai; the calamity of Kivros ha'Ta'avah occurred as
they left Har Sinai. Thus, when the verse before the passage of "Va'yehi
bi'Neso'a" says that "they traveled *from the mountain of Hashem* for three
days," it is referring to the calamity of Kivros ha'Ta'avah, during which
the Bnei Yisrael "traveled away from Hashem," i.e. 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, the Torah is going back and
explaining that which it merely alluded to earlier.
(b) TOSFOS (DH Purani'os) says that the calamity 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. Although this was improper conduct on the part of the
Jewish people, what exactly was the calamity (= punishment for their
actions) involved? The RAMBAN (ibid.) explains that perhaps the Jewish
people would have arrived at the border of the land of Israel immediately
after leaving Har Sinai. Instead, it took them three days to get there,
which was considered a punishment for their hasty departure.
Why is there no break between the next two calamities? Perhaps Tosfos
understood that only the Erev Rav (or the "Am," as the Torah calls them in
the Parsha 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, there is only a need to separate between the
first two calamities.
(c) The RAMBAN (ibid.) explains that the Gemara does not mean that it is
separating between *two* calamities. Rather, the passage of "Va'yehi
bi'Neso'a" serves to interrupt between *three* calamities, so that there
should not be three calamities in a row, which would make a "Chazakah" of
2) 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 from Rebbi
Nechemyah, who said that we do not read Kesuvim on Shabbos as a safeguard
to prevent people from reading business contracts on Shabbos.
3) HALACHAH: READING PERSONAL LETTERS ON SHABBOS
The ROGATCHOVER GA'ON uses this Gemara to explain 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). Why is that? The reason
for this change, explains the Rogatchover Ga'on, is the rule that our
Gemara 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 is permissible on Shabbos
(see Mishnah 115a and Rashi there)!
[Even though there are many other verses from Kesuvim in our Shabbos
prayers, we are allowed to recite them because there is no other choice,
since they do not have a closely matching verse in Nevi'im. Since they are
part of our daily prayers, it is 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, when *not*
praying, on Shabbos. (M. Kornfeld)]
(The TORAH TEMIMAH proposes, somewhat tongue in cheek, 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, SB " (the Hebrew letters "Shin" and
"Beis"), which meant that instead of Magdil, the word "Migdol" appears in
Shmuel Beis (SB). Later, printers who copied from the original printings
misinterpreted the abbreviation to mean that "Migdol" is recited on Shabbos
(which can also be abbreviated as SB).
OPINIONS: According to Rebbi Nechemyah, it is prohibited to read Kesuvim on
Shabbos as a precaution to prevent people from mistakenly thinking that it
is permitted to read their contracts and other non-sacred documents on
Shabbos, which is prohibited. Is it permitted to read personal letters on
(a) RASHI (DH Shetarei Hedyotos) says that friendly letters are also
included in the prohibition against reading contracts.
(b) The RI, cited by TOSFOS (DH v'Kol sh'Ken), permits reading personal
letters on Shabbos, on the basis that their content might involve some
urgent matter of Piku'ach Nefesh. Even if a person knows what is written in
the letter and knows that there is no matter of Piku'ach Nefesh contained
therein, RABEINU TAM permits reading such letters on the basis that the
information contained in the letters is not necessary and therefore it is
not comparable to reading contract.
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 is not allowed to read a personal letter if he knows that all it
contains is friendly chatter, because of the enactment against reading
contracts. In OC 307:14, the Shulchan Aruch is lenient like Tosfos (b) and
permits reading a new letter that one has not yet read, because it might
contain matters of Piku'ach Nefesh or other urgent matters which require
(c) The ROSH (23:1) is inclined to prohibit reading personal letters in
order to prevent people from reading their contracts as well. Although his
reasoning differs from that of Rashi (a), his ruling is the same.
(The BE'ER HA'GOLAH understands the Shulchan Aruch in 307:13 to be ruling
like Rashi (b). The Mishnah Berurah, however, understands that the Shulchan
Aruch is ruling 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 it is certainly permitted to read it on