1) INTENTION TO FULFILL THE MITZVAH OF READING THE MEGILAH
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that when a scribe reads the verses while he writes a Megilas Esther, or he expounds or proofreads the verses, he fulfills the Mitzvah to read the Megilah if he has intention (Kavanah) to do so.
The Mishnah evidently maintains that one must have Kavanah in order to fulfill a Mitzvah. However, when the Gemara in Berachos (13a) and Rosh Hashanah (28b) challenges the opinion of the Amora who maintains that the fulfillment of Mitzvos does not need Kavanah, it does not cite this Mishnah to support its challenge the same way it cites other Mishnayos (that "if one has Kavanah, he fulfills his obligation" to read Keri'as Shema and to blow the Shofar). Why does the Gemara not consider the Mishnah here as proof against the opinion that Mitzvos do not need Kavanah?
(a) The RAN explains that the Gemara here does not ask this question because the answer is inherent in the Mishnah. The Mishnah discusses a person who reads the verses of the Megilah as he writes a Megilah, expounds it, or proofreads it. Proofreading means that he does not read the words properly, but rather he skims them to ensure that they are spelled correctly. Even according to the opinion that Mitzvos do not need Kavanah, one does not fulfill his obligation to read the Megilah by reading it in such a manner, as the Gemara says in Berachos (ibid.). By including the case of one who reads the Megilah to proofread it with the case of one who reads the Megilah while he writes a new one or expounds the verses, the Mishnah implies that in all of the cases the person reads the Megilah without proper articulation, like one who proofreads. Since he does not pronounce the words properly he does not fulfill the Mitzvah "until he has Kavanah" -- that is, until he has intention to pronounce the words properly (but he does not necessarily need intention to fulfill the Mitzvah).
The Gemara in Berachos gives this answer to its question from the Mishnah there. When the Mishnah there says that one needs Kavanah in order to fulfill the Mitzvah, the Gemara explains that it refers to a person who reads the Shema only to check the spelling of the words. In order to fulfill the Mitzvah, he must have intention to read it properly (but he does not need specific intention to fulfill the Mitzvah).
(b) The TUREI EVEN rejects the Ran's answer. He argues that the case of "proofreading" is entirely different from the cases of "writing" and "expounding" the Megilah. In the latter cases, the person was already reading the Megilah properly, and the Mishnah still says that he must have Kavanah in order to fulfill the Mitzvah. Why does the Gemara not challenge the opinion that Mitzvos do not require Kavanah from those cases?
The Turei Even suggests that perhaps the Mitzvah of Megilah differs from the Mitzvos of Keri'as Shema, Teki'as Shofar, and all other Mitzvos. Everyone agrees that one must have Kavanah in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of reading the Megilah, even the opinion which says that all other Mitzvos do not need Kavanah. (This apparently is because of the special requirement of Pirsumei Nisa involved with the reading of the Megilah.) This explanation is also given by the MAGID MISHNEH (Hilchos Megilah 2:5; see LECHEM MISHNEH there who challenges it).
When the Turei Even says that everyone agrees that the Mitzvah of Megilah needs Kavanah, it is possible that he does not mean that one must have Kavanah to fulfill the Mitzvah, but rather that one must have Kavanah to verbally pronounce the words (because of Pirsumei Nisa), and he does not fulfill the Mitzvah if he pronounces them inadvertently.
The Turei Even cites proof for his approach from the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (28b). The Gemara there cites a Beraisa which states that when a person passes by a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and hears the Shofar being blown, or on Purim and hears the Megilah being read, "if he has Kavanah, he fulfills the Mitzvah." The Gemara says that the Beraisa proves that Mitzvos do require Kavanah. The Gemara rejects the proof and says that the Beraisa means that one must have Kavanah that he is hearing a Shofar (but he does not need to have Kavanah to fulfill the Mitzvah) because "perhaps he thinks it is the voice of a donkey" and not a Shofar.
The Gemara there does not address the statement of the same Beraisa that when one passes by a synagogue and hears the Megilah, he fulfills the Mitzvah if he has Kavanah. In that case, the Beraisa cannot mean that he must know that it is the Megilah being read and not a donkey making noise, because the reading of the Megilah in no way resembles the braying of a donkey! It must be that everyone agrees that one must have Kavanah for the Mitzvah of Megilah, and the Gemara's discussion in Rosh Hashanah involves only whether one must have Kavanah for other Mitzvos, such as Shofar. (See Insights to Rosh Hashanah 29:1
2) IN WHAT LANGUAGE WAS THE TORAH SAID?
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses whether the Torah was "said" in every language or only in Hebrew. To what Halachah is this question relevant?
(a) RASHI (DH b'Chol Lashon), according to the understanding of Tosfos and the Tosfos ha'Rosh, explains that the question is relevant to any of the readings which the Torah mandates (such as Parshas Zachor, the verses recited upon bringing Bikurim (the first fruits) to the Beis ha'Mikdash, and the verses recited by a woman who performs Chalitzah). Even though the Mishnah in Sotah (32a) says that these must be read in Hebrew, the Gemara here expresses the opinion of Tana'im who argue and maintain that these sections do not need to be read in Hebrew.
(b) The RITVA understands that Rashi means to say that this question is relevant to a Torah scroll written in any other language. Does it have the same sanctity as one written in Hebrew? (If it does not have the sanctity of a Torah scroll, then it may not be used for the public Torah reading, and it need not be treated with the same care as a Torah scroll.)
(c) TOSFOS in Berachos (13a, DH b'Lashon ha'Kodesh) and the RASHBA in the name of RAV HAI GA'ON explain that the Gemara is in doubt about how the Torah was given at Har Sinai. Did Hash-m give the Torah only in Hebrew or in every language?
(d) The Ritva in the name of the RA'AVAD explains that the Gemara wants to know in what language Hash-m taught the Torah to Moshe Rabeinu, and in what language Moshe Rabeinu taught the Torah to the Jewish people. The Ra'avad adds that a practical ramification of this question is whether today one must learn Torah specifically in Hebrew in order to fulfill the commandment, "You shall ponder the Torah day and night" (Yehoshua 1:8). If the Torah was taught to Moshe Rabeinu in Hebrew, then today one fulfills his obligation to learn Torah only when he learns Torah in Hebrew. (See also Insights to Berachos 13:2.)
3) THE ORDER OF THE BLESSINGS OF SHEMONEH ESREH
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the order of the blessings of Shemoneh Esreh. The Gemara explains that the blessing for forgiveness ("Selach Lanu") is the sixth blessing because the verse (Yeshayah 55:7) teaches that Selichah (atonement) follows Teshuvah (repentance). The blessing for redemption, Ge'ulah, is the seventh blessing because the final Ge'ulah will occur in the seventh year of a Shemitah cycle (Sanhedrin 97a). The blessing for Refu'ah follows the blessing for Ge'ulah. Even though the verse (Tehilim 103:3) says that Refu'ah immediately follows Selichah, the reason to place Ge'ulah as the seventh blessing overrides that verse.
The Gemara asks why Refu'ah is the eighth blessing. It answers that since Bris Milah is performed on the eighth day, the blessing for Refu'ah was instituted as the eighth blessing.
What is the Gemara's question? The Gemara earlier quotes a verse to teach that Refu'ah immediately follows Selichah. Refu'ah, therefore, should have been the seventh blessing, but there was a stronger reason to insert Ge'ulah after Selichah as the seventh blessing (since the Ge'ulah will start in the seventh year of a Shemitah cycle) and to move Refu'ah to the eighth blessing. Why, then, does the Gemara need another reason for why Refu'ah is the eighth blessing?
(a) The MAHARSHA answers that even though the Gemara gives a reason for why Ge'ulah is the seventh blessing, the reason to mention Refu'ah immediately after Selichah as the seventh blessing should override the consideration that the Ge'ulah will occur in the seventh year. The Gemara asks why the reason to make Ge'ulah the seventh blessing overrides the reason to make Refu'ah the seventh blessing. The Gemara answers that there is an additional reason to make Refu'ah the eighth blessing.
The TUREI EVEN adds that there is another reason for why Refu'ah should be the seventh blessing and Ge'ulah the eighth. The Gemara says that the Ge'ulah will only start in the seventh year and it will continue into the following year, in which Mashi'ach ben David will come. Since there is a valid reason to make Ge'ulah the eighth blessing, the Gemara asks why Refu'ah is the eighth blessing.
(According to the explanation of the Maharsha and the Turei Even, the Gemara should not have asked, "Why is Refu'ah the eighth blessing?" but rather, "Why is Refu'ah not the seventh blessing?")
(b) The RITVA answers that since the verse that says Refu'ah follows Selichah does not mandate that Refu'ah be the seventh blessing (because the reason to make Ge'ulah the seventh blessing overrides it), there remains no indication for where the blessing of Refu'ah should be placed. Therefore, the Gemara seeks a new reason for why it is the eighth blessing.