DAF DISCUSSIONS - NEDARIM 91

H. David Levine asks:

In mesechta Kidushin, regarding Yoreh k'Cheitz they asked, v'Chi Kol Adam Yaakov Avinu to say that if it required Bedikah let them be Bodek. How could there not be Mirsas and Lo Meshakra?

Also, something unrelated to the daf, in Kerias Shema, the second paragraph is written in third person, Anochi Metzaveh Eschem, but changes to second person in two places. It changes for v'Asafta Deganecha, etc., then back to third person for, Hishamaru Lachem, then changes again for l'Daber Bam b'shivtecha b'Veisecha. Whereas the first time, I find it easy to say that it is for all of Klal Yisrael that is the singular object, for Degancha v'Siroshcah v'Yitzharecha ???????? ???????????? ????????????, it seems very hard to say so for b'shivtecha b'Veisecha u'v'Lechtecha va'Derech u'v'Shachbeca u'v'Kumecha. All Israel may have one, "house," and may walk one, "path," but not one Shechivah and Kimah. Is there an apparent explanation?

H. David Levine, Roanoke, VA; USA

The Kollel replies:

David, it is very good to here from you again!

1) Actually, it is in not in Kidushin but in Yevamos 76a. There the Gemara says that what was so special about Yakov Avinu is that the Torah says that Reuven, who was Yakov's first child, was "the beginning of his strength" (Bereshis 49:3). This means that Reuven was born from the first drop of Zera that Yakov ever experienced. However, the Gemara in Yevamos is not discussing Yoreh k'Chetz. In our Gemara (Nedarim 91a), the wife claims that the husband is not capable of ejecting the Zera in a sufficiently powerful way to have children. She demands a divorce based on her claim that he is incapable of having children. She thinks that he is not aware of this problem and that it is only she who knows about it.

2) The Kli Yakar, on the Chumash, writes that the words in verse 13 of chapter 11 are in the plural because they refer to serving Hash-m. It is better to worship Hash-m in public, in the synagogue with the community. However, verse 14 starts to refer to the more physical acts of reaping the harvest, and then verse 15 talks about eating. It is better if everyone reaps his produce for himself and then eats at home rather than making public meals with lots of friends. Then, verse 19 tells us what to do when we sit in our home. Each individual lives in his own home and he should teach his children Torah there. These are activities which are very important to do as part of the family. Laying down to sleep and getting up in the morning are clearly private activities done in the privacy of one's home, so they are said in the singular.

3) I think if you look through this Parshah this way, you can notice how the activities best carried out in public are mentioned in the plural. This is why verse 18 describes putting on Tefilin in the plural because it is best to do this in shul with the community.

4) Here is another classic explanation for why parts of the second paragraph of Shema are in the singular form.

The Nefesh ha'Chayim (Sha'ar 1, chapter 8, in note), by Rav Chayim of Volozhin, elucidates this based on the opinion of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, cited in Berachos 35b. Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai taught a unique lesson: that it is not necessary to work for one's livelihood, but rather one should learn Torah all the time. If the Jewish people fulfil the will of Hash-m, He will make it that other peoples will provide for our physical needs, as the prophet Yeshayah (61:5) said, "And strangers will arise and graze their flock." The question now arises that the Torah does say, "And you shall gather in your grain," which seems to say clearly that we must work for our living. Rebbi Shimon retorts that this phrase is referring to people who are not doing Hash-m's will.

Of course, Rebbi Shimon put his own teaching into practice as we know that he hid in a cave for 12 years together with his son, solely studying Torah, and a fountain and carob tree were miraculously created to provide their minimal physical needs.

However, there is a problem with the way Rebbi Shimon is explaining the verse. The second paragraph of the Shema commences with, "And it shall happen if you surely listen to Hash-m's commandments," and continues to say, "And you shall gather your grain" -- implying that gathering the grain is a blessing which we receive in return for listening to Hash-m. How, then, can Rebbi Shimon say that it is only when we do not do Hash-m's will that we have to occupy ourselves with the mundane activity of reaping?

This is where the switch from plural to singular comes into play. The blessing, "And I will give the rain of your land at the right time," is a blessing given to the entire people. which is why it is in the plural form. However, the next part of the verse, "And you shall gather your grain," suddenly changes to the singular, because this is referring to an individual who was not quite on the high spriritual level that Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai demanded, and he decided to work for his living because he did not have patience to wait for the miracle to happen to him.

Obviously nobody is on the high level of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai nowadays, but at least what we ordinary human beings can learn from this is that if we try to spend as much as our day as we can learning Torah, then Hash-m will help provide us with whatever we need.

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Bloom