1) HALACHAH: ADDING "ALIYOS" ON SHABBOS AND YOM TOV
OPINIONS: The Mishnah lists how many people read from the Torah on the various days on which the Torah is read. The Mishnah says that "on Yom Tov, five people read, on Yom Kippur six, and on Shabbos seven; we may not subtract [from those numbers] but we may add to them, and we read a Haftarah from the Nevi'im."
When the Mishnah says that we may add to the number of those called to the Torah, to which day (or days) does it refer? Does it refer to all three days it just mentioned -- Yom Tov, Yom Kippur, and Shabbos, or does it refer only to the last day mentioned -- Shabbos, while on Yom Tov and Yom Kippur we may not add to that number?
(a) RASHI explains that the reason why no additional people may be called to the Torah on weekdays when the Torah is read (such as Rosh Chodesh and Chol ha'Mo'ed) is because people need to go to work and do not have time to stay in the synagogue for additional Aliyos. Rashi implies that on days on which people abstain from work, such as Yom Tov, Yom Kippur, and Shabbos, we are permitted to add Aliyos.
This is also the opinion of TOSFOS (23a, DH Chad) and the RAMBAM (Hilchos Tefilah 12:16). (The HAGAHOS MAIMONIYOS on the Rambam quotes the RIVA who says that since the day of one's wedding is considered a festival (see Nega'im 3:2), we may add Aliyos on a weekday when there are several Chasanim present whose weddings are on that day and they need Aliyos. This practice is recorded by the REMA (OC 135:3). This is difficult to understand, however, because the other people in the synagogue still need to go to work and do not have time for additional Aliyos. Indeed, the MISHNAH BERURAH (135:3) points out that the Acharonim rule that we do not add Aliyos in such a situation.)
(b) The RAN cites "Yesh Mefarshim" who explain that the Mishnah refers only to the last day mentioned, Shabbos. Only on Shabbos are we permitted to add Aliyos, but not on any other day. He explains that the number of Aliyos on each day reflects the holiness and importance of that day. Each day has a specific number of Aliyos which corresponds to the degree of Kedushah of that day. Adding Aliyos on a certain day would diminish the honor of the day which is supposed to have more Aliyos. Shabbos, however, already has more Aliyos than any other day, and therefore on Shabbos we may add Aliyos.
REBBI AKIVA EIGER (in Mishnayos) points out that the Ran's opinion is contradicted by the Beraisa later (23a) in which Rebbi Akiva states that "on Yom Kippur there are seven Aliyos and on Shabbos there are six, and we may not subtract from that number but we may add to it." That opinion maintains that on Shabbos there are less Aliyos than on Yom Kippur, and yet it still permits adding Aliyos on Shabbos. (See OR GADOL.)
(Perhaps the Ran understands that when the Beraisa says "we may add to it," it refers back to the number of Aliyos on Yom Kippur, and not Shabbos. Indeed, this is how the Ran must understand the wording of the Mishnah. The Mishnah says that on Yom Tov, Yom Kippur, and Shabbos, "we may not subtract [from those numbers] but we may add to them, and we read a Haftarah from the Nevi'im." The first statement ("we may not subtract") and the third statement ("we read a Haftarah from the Nevi'im") clearly refer to all three days, while the middle statement ("we may add to it") refers only to Shabbos. The Ran apparently understands that the Mishnah means that we may add to the number of Aliyos on some, but not necessarily on all, of the abovementioned days. Similarly, the Beraisa may also mean that we may add to the number of Aliyos on some, but not all, of the days listed above -- i.e. on Yom Kippur, which has the most Aliyos, but not on Shabbos.)
RABEINU YEHONASAN MI'LUNIL suggests, like the Ran, that only on Shabbos may Aliyos be added, but he gives a different reason. He explains that Yom Tov and Yom Kippur are like Rosh Chodesh and Chol ha'Mo'ed in that additional Aliyos would be too burdensome for the people. On Yom Tov the people need to rush home after the prayers to prepare the food for the Yom Tov meal. On Yom Kippur the people are fasting; prolonging the prayer service with additional Aliyos would make the fast more difficult.
This explanation is consistent with the Beraisa later (23a) because even if there are only six Aliyos on Shabbos, we still may add Aliyos since there is no reason for the people to want to leave the synagogue sooner.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 282:1) rules like the Rambam and says that we may add Aliyos on Yom Tov, Yom Kippur, and Shabbos. The REMA agrees that this is the Halachah m'Ikar ha'Din, but he writes that we are stringent not to add Aliyos on Yom Tov and Yom Kippur in order to fulfill the Ran's opinion. The only exception is the Yom Tov of Simchas Torah. On that day we rely on the opinion of the Rambam (whose opinion is the Halachah m'Ikar ha'Din) and we add Aliyos in order for everyone to have an opportunity to read from the Torah.
2) RECITING A BERACHAH FOR A MITZVAH "OVER LA'ASIYASAH"
QUESTION: Abaye explains that when the Mishnah states that the recitation of a blessing upon the reading of the Megilah depends on the custom of the place, it refers only to the blessing after the reading of the Megilah. Before the reading of the Megilah, however, it is a Mitzvah to recite a blessing because of the principle that one must recite a blessing for a Mitzvah "Over la'Asiyasah," before he performs the Mitzvah.
Why does the Gemara use this unusual phrase and not say simply "Lifnei Asiyasah?" (See also Insights to Pesachim 7:2 and Sukah 39:1.)
(a) The NIMUKEI YOSEF (Hilchos Tefilin, DH Over) explains that "Over la'Asiyasah" means "ahead of" the Mitzvah that will be performed, and not "before" the Mitzvah will be performed. This means that one must first begin to become involved in the performance of the Mitzvah (such as by lifting the Shofar or Lulav, or by beginning to wrap the Tefilin around the arm), and then he "runs ahead" of the Mitzvah and recites the blessing immediately before the actual fulfillment of the Mitzvah.
This definition of "Over" is evident from the verse that the Gemara cites as proof for the meaning of "Over": "And Achima'atz ran... and overtook (va'Ya'avor) the Kushi" (Shmuel II 18:23). The verse says that the Kushi was ahead of Achima'atz, but Achima'atz overtook him and went before him. The second and third verses (Bereishis 33:3 and Michah 2:13) cited by the Gemara use the word "Over" in a similar manner. Yakov first lined up his family before him, and then he passed before them (Bereishis 33:3). Similarly, after the nation lines up, the king passes before them to lead them (and he does not wait in front for the formation to form behind him). (See also Insights to Nidah 63:2.)
(b) The SHA'AGAS ARYEH (#26) explains that the word "Over" can mean either before or after (in the past tense, "Avar"). The Gemara uses the unusual phraseology of "Over la'Asiyasah" in order to teach that, b'Di'eved, one may recite the blessing on a Mitzvah even after the Mitzvah has been performed, as the HAGAHOS ASHIRI (Berachos 1:13) rules (in contrast to the ruling of the RAMBAM in Hilchos Berachos 11:5).
(c) One of the Gemara's sources that the word "Over" means "before" is the verse, "Their king passed (Over) before them, and Hash-m was at their head" (Michah 2:13). Perhaps the Gemara's use of the word "Over" to describe the way a blessing must be recited alludes to another principle in the laws of blessings: every blessing must begin with a mention of the name of Hash-m and His kingship, as the Gemara teaches in Berachos (49a). This is expressed by the word "Over," which is used together with a mention of the name of Hash-m in the verse, "and Hash-m was at their head." (M. KORNFELD)
3) AGADAH: THE TEN "MA'AMAROS" WITH WHICH THE WORLD WAS CREATED
The Gemara teaches that the world was created with ten "Ma'amaros" (utterances) of Hash-m. Nine of these Ma'amaros are the word "Vayomer" which appears nine times in the description of Creation. The word "Bereishis" is considered the first Ma'amar, for a total of ten.
The CHIDUSHEI HA'RIM (Parashas Va'era; see also LIKUTEI YEHUDAH, Parshas Bo, p. 54) proposes a theory which links these ten Ma'amaros to the ten Makos which Hash-m brought upon Mitzrayim. He proposes that the ten Ma'amaros correspond to the ten Makos in an inverse order, such that the last Makah corresponds to the first Ma'amar, the ninth Makah corresponds to the second Ma'amar, and so on.
The Exodus and the ten Makos in Mitzrayim transformed the world from a place of physicality and materialism whose inhabitants did not recognize their Creator to a place in which spirituality can develop and its inhabitants can attain closeness with their Creator. The events of the Exodus bore a new nation unrestricted by the limits of physicality, a nation which recognizes its Creator and which is infused with the ability to bring the entire world to its ultimate purpose. Each Makah brought about the spiritual transformation of another Ma'amar, another primary element of Creation, in inverse order. The ninth Makah, the Plague of Darkness (Choshech), effected the transformation of the second Ma'amar, the first utterance of Hash-m which the Torah describes with the word "Vayomer" and with which Hash-m created light (Bereishis 1:3). The Makah of Choshech transformed the statement of Hash-m, "Yehi Or" -- "Let there be light," into a spiritual form by taking away the physical light of the Egyptians and giving to the Jews, in its place, a spiritual light (with which they were able to peer into the closed closets of the Egyptians, as the Midrash says).
The tenth and last Makah, Makas Bechoros (the death of the firstborn), transformed the first Ma'amar, the word "Bereishis," into a higher, spiritual form. The word "Bereishis" refers to the Jewish people, as the Midrash says, "'Bereishis' -- Bishvil Yisrael she'Nikre'u Reishis" (Bereishis Rabah 1:1). Hash-m took away the Egyptian firstborn who are called "Reishis" in the verse, "And He smote every firstborn in their land, the first (Reishis) of all their strength" (Tehilim 105:36), and He replaced them with a new, spiritual Reishis -- "Reishis Tevu'asoh (Yirmeyahu 2:3)," the Jewish people who are "Beni Bechori Yisrael" (Shemos 4:22).
The words of the Chidushei ha'Rim complement an insight said in the name of the VILNA GA'ON (Divrei Eliyahu, end of Parshas Va'era). The Vilna Ga'on says that the word "Bereishis" alludes to the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben, the redemption of the firstborn son. The six Hebrew letters that comprise the word "Bereishis" are an acronym for the words, "Ben Rishon Achar Shloshim Yom Tifdeh" -- "You shall redeem the firstborn son after thirty days." It is appropriate that this Mitzvah is alluded to in the word "Bereishis," because that word corresponds to the tenth Makah, the death of the Egyptian firstborn, which is the source for the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben (Shemos 13:15; since Hash-m spared the Jewish firstborn when He smote the Egyptian firstborn, all Jewish firstborn males have an obligation of Pidyon ha'Ben).