1) "THE ESSENTIAL BODY OF THE TORAH"
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses at length the possible permutations of the "Pischei Nidah" of a woman who is unsure about what point in her Nidah cycle she is at present.
The Mishnah in Avos (3:23) teaches, "The laws of bird-offerings and the laws concerning the beginning of Nidah periods (Pischei Nidah) are the essential body of the Torah." This certainly does not mean to exclude all other laws of the Torah. Rather, as the Gemara in Chagigah (11b) explains about a similar phrase in the Mishnah there, the Mishnah in Avos means to say that even these laws are considered to be the essential body of the Torah.
Why are these two categories of Halachah singled out for this distinction?
The TOSFOS YOM TOV
in Avos explains that neither of these Halachos apply today, since they both pertain primarily to Korbanos brought in the Beis ha'Mikdash. The Mishnah in Avos is emphasizing that even though these Halachos do not apply today, they are no less important to study than any other laws of the Torah. (See Insights to Nidah 73:2
2) THE MEANING OF "PISCHEI NIDAH"
QUESTION: The Mishnah in Avos (3:23) teaches, "The laws of bird-offerings and the laws concerning the beginning of Nidah periods (Pischei Nidah) are the essential body of the Torah" (see previous Insight). What does the Mishnah there mean when it mentions "Pischei Nidah"?
(a) RASHI there explains that "Pischei Nidah" refers to the laws discussed in the Mishnah and Gemara here in Erchin, the laws of establishing a new Nidah count for a woman who erred in her count and does not know whether she is presently in her days of Nidah or in her days of Zivah.
(b) RABEINU YONAH, however, explains the Mishnah there differently. Rabeinu Yonah explains that "Pischei Nidah" refers to the different colors of a woman's blood, some of which are Tahor and some of which are Tamei.
Why does Rabeinu Yonah not explain "Pischei Nidah" in Avos to mean the same thing that it means in the Mishnah here in Erchin?
Perhaps Rashi and Rabeinu Yonah explain "Pischei Nidah" in Avos differently because of a variation in their texts of the Mishnah there. The text of our Mishnayos there reads, "... Hen Hen Gufei Halachos." This is also the text in Rabeinu Yonah's commentary. The "Pischei Nidah" discussed here in Erchin cannot be called "Halachos," because they are merely calculations and not actual laws. Accordingly, Rabeinu Yonah does not explain that the Mishnah in Avos refers to the same topic as the Mishnah in Erchin.
Rashi's text of the Mishnah in Avos, however, reads, "... Hen Hen Gufei Torah." Certainly the calculations of the Mishnah here are included in the category of "Torah." Therefore, Rashi explains that the phraseology of the Mishnah in Avos is consistent with the phraseology of the Mishnah here, and both are referring to the calculations of Yemei Nidah and Yemei Zivah. (M. KORNFELD)
3) THE MEANING OF "KOVESH" AND "NOSEI"
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses the meaning of the verse, "Tzidkasecha k'Harerei El, Mishpatecha Tehom Rabah" -- "Your righteousness is like the mountains of mightiness, your judgments are [like] the great depths" (Tehilim 36:7). Rav Yehudah says that the simple meaning of the verse is that if not for the fact that Hash-m's righteousness is like the mighty mountains, no one would be able to endure His judgment, which penetrates the great depths. Rabah says that the verse means that Hash-m's righteousness is great because His judgment penetrates the great depths.
The Gemara relates this argument to an argument between Rebbi Elazar and Rebbi Yosi about whether the attribute of Hash-m of "Rav Chesed" means that Hash-m is "Kovesh" ("subjugates") or is "Nosei" ("bears"). What do these two phrases mean?
(a) RASHI (DH b'Mai ka'Mipalgi) explains that "Kovesh" means that Hash-m "covers" the sins of people, placing them beneath the Heavenly throne in order that they not be apparent when the person is judged, so that he will have a favorable judgment. Rashi (DH Nosei) explains that "Nosei" means that Hash-m "lifts up" the side of the scale of judgment on which the sins of a person are placed in order that the side of merits should be heavier.
Accordingly, Rabah explains that the verse of "Tzidkasecha" refers to Hash-m's attribute of hiding sins, because he follows the view of Rebbi Elazar who says that "Rav Chesed" means that Hash-m is "Kovesh" and He hides the sins in the depths under the Kisei ha'Kavod. Rav Yehudah understands "Rav Chesed" as Rebbi Yosi explains, that Hash-m "lifts up" the scales in our favor, and were it not for this attribute of righteousness, most people would not be able to survive the severity of Hash-m's judgment. (Obviously, Hash-m conducts Himself with this attribute only for those people who merit it; see RIF to Rosh Hashanah 17a.)
The RIF in EIN YAKOV (Rosh Hashanah 17a) understands "Kovesh" and "Nosei" the way Rashi does, and he explains that there are two primary differences between "Kovesh" and "Nosei." The first difference is that "Kovesh" means that the sin is hidden away, but it still exists and can possibly be used later against the person. "Nosei" means that Hash-m decides that the person is a Tzadik through lifting up the sins and discarding them entirely. However, "Nosei" also has its disadvantage. If the sins are merely hidden away ("Kovesh"), then they can turn into merits for the person if he does complete Teshuvah (Yoma 86b). If the sins are completely discarded, then they cannot become merits for the person if he does complete Teshuvah. This is the second difference between "Kovesh" and "Nosei."
(b) Rashi in Rosh Hashanah (17a, DH Kovesh) gives a different explanation for the attribute of "Kovesh." According to his explanation there, both "Kovesh" and "Nosei" refer to Hash-m's conduct with the scales of judgment. The opinion that Hash-m is "Kovesh" maintains that Hash-m pushes down the side of the merits, while the opinion that Hash-m is "Nosei" maintains that He lifts up the side of the sins. Accordingly, the MAHARSHA explains that when the Gemara says that Rabah follows the view of Rebbi Elazar, it must mean that Rabah understands that Hash-m's righteousness is great because the sins are outweighed by the merits that are weighted down to the great depths.
The Maharsha continues and says that Rashi is not contradicting himself when he gives two different explanations. Rather, Rashi understands that there were two different explanations for "Kovesh" based on the opinions in the different Sugyos of the Gemara. The Maharsha, however, does not explain why each Sugya understood "Kovesh" differently.
The TUREI EVEN in Rosh Hashanah explains why the Sugyos have different explanations for "Kovesh." Immediately after quoting Rebbi Elazar, the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah cites the opinion of Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael who says that Hash-m is "Ma'avir Rishon Rishon" -- He passes over and hides the first sin that a person commits and does not hold the person accountable for it. Since this is exactly how Rashi understands Rebbi Elazar's term, "Kovesh," it seems that the Gemara should have stated that Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael supports Rebbi Elazar instead of citing Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael as a different opinion! Since Rashi cannot learn that both opinions in Rosh Hashanah are saying the same thing, he gives an alternative explanation there for "Kovesh." However, Rashi maintains that the preferred and more simple explanation for "Kovesh" is the explanation he gives in Erchin, that "Kovesh" means that the sins are hidden, and not that the merits are pushed down on the scale. This is a much more compelling explanation, since Rebbi Elazar's source is the verse of "Yichbosh Avonoseinu" -- "He will hold back our sins" (Michah 7:19), which implies that "Kovesh" involves an action being done to the sins and not to the merits.
(c) The IYUN YAKOV quotes the SHELAH HA'KODESH who understands "Kovesh" differently. He explains that "Kovesh" means that the sins are pressed ("Kovesh") and packed together tightly (to make them appear less in number), while the Mitzvos are given ample room so that they appear abundant. (Y. MONTROSE)
4) OBSERVING TWO DAYS OF YOM TOV IN YERUSHALAYIM
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that the Lechem ha'Panim is eaten not earlier than nine days after it is baked, but not more than eleven days after it is baked. The Gemara in Pesachim (47a) quotes a Beraisa that says that when the two days of Rosh Hashanah fall immediately prior to Shabbos (that is, on Thursday and Friday), the Lechem ha'Panim is eaten in the Beis ha'Mikdash on the eleventh day after being baked. (There are eleven days from the time it was baked on Wednesday, the day before Rosh Hashanah, until the Shabbos of the following week, when it is eaten.)
RASHI (DH Shnei Yamim Shel Rosh Hashanah), in the end of his comments, asks why the Beraisa specifically mentions two days of Rosh Hashanah, and not two days of any Yom Tov (that is, "Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyos")? Rashi answers that "in the times of the Lechem ha'Panim there was no second day of Yom Tov."
Rashi's question and answer are difficult to understand. The Gemara is discussing the Lechem ha'Panim in the Beis ha'Mikdash, where there never were two days of Yom Tov, other than Rosh Hashanah. Even today, when two days of Yom Tov are observed outside of Eretz Yisrael, only one day of Yom Tov is observed in Yerushalayim. What does Rashi mean when he says that "in the times of the Lechem ha'Panim there was no second day of Yom Tov"? (TZELACH to Pesachim 47a)
(a) The CHASAM SOFER (Teshuvos YD 252, and in Chidushim to Pesachim 47a) writes that in his youth he brazenly suggested an answer to the TZELACH, who nodded his head in affirmation. He answered that it was possible for a situation to arise in which there indeed were two days of Yom Tov even in Yerushalayim. The Gemara in Berachos (63a) relates that during the time that the leading Torah Sages lived outside of Eretz Yisrael, they would accept the testimony of witnesses who saw the new moon, and they would establish the new month based on that testimony. Since it took time for the messengers of Beis Din to bring news of the new month to Yerushalayim, the people of Yerushalayim would have to observe two days of Yom Tov out of doubt (just as cities outside of Eretz Yisrael kept two days of Yom Tov when the Beis Din in Yerushalayim established the new month)!
Why, then, does Rashi say that there was no second day of Yom Tov in Yerushalayim in the times of the Lechem ha'Panim? The Chasam Sofer suggests that perhaps the verse, "v'Alisa El ha'Makom" (Devarim 17:8), teaches that as long as the Beis ha'Mikdash stands, the beginning of the new month must be established by the Sages in Eretz Yisrael, regardless of whether their counterparts in Chutz la'Aretz are greater. Accordingly, Rashi is correct that in the Beis ha'Mikdash, there was never a second day of Yom Tov.
(The wording of Rashi, "Yamim Tovim Shel Galuyos," is difficult according to this explanation, as Rav Yosef Shaul Natanson points out.)
(b) RAV YOSEF SHAUL NATANSON notes (in his comments on the famous Teshuvah of the CHACHAM TZVI (#167), who reaches the opposite conclusion; his comments can be found at the end of most printings of the Chacham Tzvi) that we see from the words of Rashi that two days of Yom Tov were always observed by the people of Yerushalayim! TOSFOS (14a, DH Shtei) explains that since people from many different locations would gather in Yerushalayim during the Yom Tov, the city would observe the most stringent customs that were common among the people. Accordingly, it can be argued that the people of the city observed two days of Yom Tov in Yerushalayim. They followed the more stringent custom of the people of Chutz la'Aretz, as people from Chutz la'Aretz were constantly present during the festival. Rashi, therefore, explains that during the times of the Lechem ha'Panim, there was not yet any rabbinical enactment to observe two days of Yom Tov outside of Eretz Yisrael (Beitzah 5b). Rather, two days were observed outside of Eretz Yisrael only when there was a doubt when the new month was established. Since there was not yet a "Minhag" per se to observe two days of Yom Tov in Chutz la'Aretz, Yerushalayim observed only one day.
(c) Perhaps when Rashi says that two days of Yom Tov were not observed "in the times" of the Lechem ha'Panim, he does not mean that in the historical era of the Beis ha'Mikdash there were not two days of Yom Tov, for that is obvious. Rather, Rashi means to say that when the Gemara discusses the duration of time from when the Lechem ha'Panim was baked until it was eaten, it is not relevant to discuss two days of any Yom Tov other than Rosh Hashanah, for the very grounds on which the question is based: such a thing does not exist in Yerushalayim. (Rashi's words are to be read as follows: "When we discuss the duration of time of the Lechem ha'Panim, there is no [pertinence to] two days of Yom Tov.")
Why does Rashi find it necessary to point this out, if it is obvious? Rashi wants to explain why other Mishnayos do not discuss "Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyos" but refer instead to two days of Rosh Hashanah. For example, the Mishnah in Shabbos (137a) teaches that it is possible for Milah to be delayed until twelve days after a birth -- when the birth occurred during Bein ha'Shemashos of Friday night, and the following week "two days of Rosh Hashanah" immediately follow Shabbos. Does this law apply to when two days of any other Yom Tov intervene as well, or may the baby be circumcised on the second day of Yom Tov?
This is actually the subject of a debate among the Rishonim. Most rule that there is no difference between Rosh Hashanah and any other Yom Tov. The TASHBETZ (3:284, cited by TESHUVOS CHASAM SOFER, YD 250) understands that this is the opinion of Rashi as well. Rashi here implies that had any other Yom Tov intervened between the baking and the eating of the Lechem ha'Panim, it also would have been necessary to bake the Lechem ha'Panim before that Yom Tov. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Milah 1:15), on the other hand, differentiates between Rosh Hashanah and other Yamim Tovim, based on the wording of the Mishnah in Shabbos.
Rashi in Pesachim attempts to refute the Rambam's proof from the wording of the Mishnah that discusses Milah. Rashi emphasizes the specific reason for why the Beraisa in Pesachim does not mention Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyos. Since this Beraisa needs to mention specifically two days of "Rosh Hashanah," the other Mishnayos that discuss a delay caused by two days of Yom Tov also mention Rosh Hashanah, even though the laws of those Mishnayos apply equally to Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyos. (M. KORNFELD)