"They, Too, Were Included in that Miracle"

  • Rav Mayer Lichtenstein

The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash


 

"They, Too, Were Included in That Miracle"

 

By Rav Mayer Lichtenstein

Translated by David Silverberg

 

 

A.     ORIGIN AND PARAMETERS

 

In several instances in the Talmud, a halakha is formulated with precisely the same wording, in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, regarding the obligation of women in certain mitzvot:

 

1)      "Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Women are obligated in Megilla reading, for they, too, were included in that miracle ['af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes']." (Megilla 4a)

2)      "Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Women are obligated in Chanuka candles, for they, too, were included in that miracle." (Shabbat 23a)

3)      "Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Women are obligated in these four cups [of wine on Pesach eve], for they, too, were included in that miracle." (Pesachim 108a)

 

All three of these mitzvot are "mitzvot asei she-ha-zeman geraman" – time-bound mitzvot.[1]  According to the standard principle established in the mishna in Kiddushin (1:7) exempting women from time-bound positive mitzvot, we would, instinctively, exempt women from these mitzvot, as well.  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, however, posits that women are in fact included in these obligations, because "they, too, were included in that miracle."[2]

 

            The Rishonim disagree as to how to explain this reason for women's inclusion in these mitzvot.  Rashi, in his commentary to Pesachim and Shabbat, explains that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi refers to the fact that each of these miracles occurred through a woman.[3]  In his commentary to Pesachim (108b, s.v. she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes), he writes,

 

"As it says (Sota 11b): In the merit of the righteous women of that generation they were redeemed.  This is also said regarding Megilla reading, for they were redeemed through Esther, and also regarding Chanuka candles, in Masekhet Shabbat (23a)." 

 

Rashi explains women's involvement in the miracle of Chanuka in his commentary to Shabbat (23a, s.v. hayu be-oto ha-nes):

 

"The Greeks decreed that all virgin brides must first sleep with the commander, and through a woman the miracle was performed."[4] 

 

            By contrast, Rashi himself offers a different explanation in his commentary to Megilla (4a, s.v. she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes):

 

"For upon the women, too, Haman decreed to destroy, kill and annihilate young and old, children and women, etc." 

 

This interpretation is adopted as well by the Tosefists, who point out that this explanation would appear to emerge from the word, "af" ("too") in this expression.  They note that this is also the implication of the parallel halakha in the Talmud Yerushalmi: "For they, too, were included in that uncertainty" – which apparently refers to the threat of annihilation.[5]

 

            This approach differs fundamentally from the first regarding the nature of the halakha in question.  Whereas the first explanation emphasizes women's obligation on the basis of their participation in the miracle's performance[6], this second approach stresses the obligation of thanksgiving to the Almighty on the part of the one for whom the miracle occurred, such that standard frameworks of exemption would not apply to him.  This notion, in terms of its religious significance and the conceptual principle latent within it, is a basic and elementary one.  It is also a far simpler reading of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's remark, and it therefore requires explanation why Rashi, in his first approach, suggested a different interpretation.

 

            It stands to reason that Rashi attempts to implicitly resolve a difficulty raised explicitly by Tosefot.[7]  Tosefot ask why Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi states his halakha only with regard to these mitzvot, and does not apply it to other mitzvot, as well.  In Megilla (4a, s.v. she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes), Tosefot write:

 

"Some have asked concerning matza – why do we need [as a source for women's inclusion in this mitzva] the 'hekesh' [textual association, which teaches] that whoever is included in the prohibition against eating [chametz] is included in the obligation to eat matza?  We can extract [their obligation] on the basis of their having been included in the miracle."

 

A similar question is posed by Tosefot in Pesachim (108b, s.v. hayu be-oto ha-nes):

 

"That which is stated, that [women] are exempt from [the obligation of] sukka, even though they were included in that miracle, of 'for I made the Israelites live [in booths]' – there we speak of a Biblical command.  But regarding the four cups [of wine on Pesach eve], the rabbis established it even for women, since they were included in that miracle."

 

Quite possibly, it is this difficulty that led Rashi to explain Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's comment to mean that the miracle in each instance occurred through a woman.  This interpretation explains why Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's rule applies specifically in these contexts, since the range of instances where a miracle occurred through a woman is far more limited than the range of cases where women were included in a miracle that occurred to the nation at large.[8]

 

            My grandfather, HaGaon HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt"l, suggested an additional answer to the difficulty raised by Tosefot.  His analysis was known by word of mouth for many years, and we were recently privileged to have it included in the newly published book, Iggerot Ha-Grid Ha-levi (in Hilkhot Chanuka 4:9-11)[9][10].  In a letter written during his stay in Berlin to his father, Rav Moshe zt"l, Rav Soloveitchik wrote:

 

"It seems clear that this entire reason of 'af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes' applies only to those mitzvot where the miracle constitutes an independent halakhic entity within the actual fulfillment of the mitzva, that it [the mitzva] entails a fulfillment regarding the miracle and publicizing the miracle.  We see, for example, that [when one cannot afford both] kiddush and Chanuka candles, Chanuka candles takes precedence because of pirsumei nisa [the interest in publicizing the miracle].  At first glance, this requires explanation.  Does not kiddush also involve pirsumei nisa?  It is clear, however, that the halakha of pirsumei nisa constitutes an independent halakha and requirement within the actual mitzva act; it has nothing to do with the reason behind the mitzva, whether it is due to a miracle.  Therefore, this applies only to Chanuka candles, regarding which the halakha of the miracle and publicizing the miracle is established as part of the actual mitzva act and requirement.  Moreover, regarding Chanuka candles and Megilla reading, a separate berakha was instituted – 'she-asa nisim,' for this halakha concerning the miracle constitutes a fulfillment within the actual mitzva itself, and so a berakha is established over it.  Indeed, we find 'af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes' only regarding Chanuka candles, Megilla reading, and the four cups.  This is due to the fact that in all these mitzvot, the halakha concerning the miracle is not merely the reason behind the mitzva, but is rather established as part of the actual fulfillment and act of the mitzva, as evidenced by the special berakha instituted over it.  Regarding kiddush and matza, by contrast, although they involve a commemoration of the miracle, there is no independent halakha, requirement or entity within the actual mitzva act.  It would therefore seem that the entire factor of 'af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes' does not apply."[11]

 

            The crux of this explanation is that the factor of "af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes" as a basis for including women in a given obligation does not relate to every mitzva whose background or reason somehow involves a miracle.  This factor yields an obligation upon women only when it comes to those mitzvot where the actual mitzva is to publicize the miracle.  This unique quality, of an obligation to publicize a miracle, is what sets apart the three mitzvot regarding which Rabbi Yehoshua casts the obligation upon women, as well.  Essentially, the halakha he establishes says that one for whom a miracle is performed is obligated to publicize it.  The clearest indicator of this type of mitzva is the berakha, "she-asa nisim la-avotenu," a berakha instituted over the obligation of pirsumei nisa which one fulfills through the given mitzva.  In the context of Chanuka candles and Megilla reading, it was instituted that one recite this berakha alongside the birkat ha-mitzva recited before the performance of these mitzvot ("le-hadlik ner Chanuka;" "al mikra Megilla").  The double berakhot stem from the double requirements of these mitzvot: the mitzva act itself, and publicizing the miracle.

 

            This is true not only regarding Chanuka candles and Megilla reading, but regarding arba kosot (the four cups of wine on Pesach), as well.[12]  Although we do not recite the berakha, "she-asa nisim" at the seder, the Geonim write, as mentioned in Seder Rav Amram Gaon, that we omit this berakha because the content of the berakha "asher ge'alanu" recited at the seder overlaps with that of "she-asa nisim."  Rav Amram objects very strongly to those who had the practice to recite "she-asa nisim" after kiddush at the seder:

 

"One need not recite 'she-asa nisim.'  For this is what was said… by the Rosh Yeshiva: When reciting kiddush on Pesach, one need not recite over the cup [of wine], 'she-asa nisim la-avotenu.'  Why?  Because since one must recite 'for the One who performed for us all these miracles,' and there he must make mention of the bondage, slavery, miracle and redemption, one need not mention [this] here [at kiddush].  And if he mentions it twice, he utters God's Name in vain.  On Chanuka and Purim, we recite that berakha independently, for then there is no kiddush, no Haggada and no formal recounting of the miracles as on Pesach.  This is the practice of the two yeshivot, not to recite ['she-asa nisim' on Pesach]."[13]

 

This passage testifies to the fact that there were those who had such a custom.  Indeed, in some texts of the Haggada from the Geonic period found in the Cairo Geniza, the berakha of "she-asa nisim" appears.[14]  Rav Amram Gaon objects to its recitation at the seder not because it has no place at the seder, but rather, as we saw, because it is already recited at the seder, in a longer and more detailed form: the berakha of "asher ge'alanu."  This explanation has been absorbed into the literature of the Rishonim, many of whom cite Rav Amram Gaon's comments.[15]

 

            In short, the berakhot of "she-asa nisim" and "asher ge'alanu," which accompany Chanuka candles, Megilla reading and the four cups of the seder, testify to the uniqueness of these mitzvot, as mitzvot requiring one to publicize the miracle to be commemorated.  Regarding mitzvot whose very essence is pirsumei nisa, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi establishes that they include all those for whom the miracle occurred.[16]

 

            Further analysis of the relevant sugyot reveals that the halakha established by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi does not affect only women; rather, it is an all-embracing rule which affects other exemptions, as well – namely, minors and the poor.  Here, too, he refers specifically to these three mitzvot.

 

 

B.     MINORS

 

The Gemara says in Pesachim (108b):

 

"Everyone is obligated in these four cups: men, women and children.  Rabbi Yehuda said: What purpose is served by having children drink wine?  Rather, we distribute to them roasted grains and nuts on Erev Pesach in order that they do not sleep, and they will ask [questions at the seder].  It is said of Rabbi Akiva that he would distribute roasted grains and nuts to the children on Erev Pesach in order that they would not sleep, and they would ask."

 

The Rashbam there explains the reason behind children's inclusion in the obligation of arba kosot: "For they, too, were redeemed."  This resembles the reason given by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi – "for they, too, were included in that miracle."  I might add that this applies even within the view of Rabbi Yehuda, who asks, "What purpose is served by having children drink wine?"  Even Rabbi Yehuda agrees that children must be included in the seder, only in his view, they must be included in a manner suitable to them.

 

            From arba kosot we come to Megilla reading.  The mishna comments in Megilla (2:4): "Everyone is suitable to read the Megilla, except for the deaf-mute, the mentally disabled, and minors.  Rabbi Yehuda allows a minor [to read]."  The meaning of this mishna is subject to a debate among the Rishonim.  Tosefot explain that the two positions in the mishna argue with regard to a "katan she-higi'a le-chinukh" – a child who has already reached the age of education in mitzvot.  The dispute in the mishna surrounds the question as to whether a minor, who is obligated in mitzvot only mi-de'rabbanan (by force of the rabbinic obligation of chinukh), can read on behalf of adults, who are also obligated mi-de'rabbanan, and thereby fulfill their obligation on their behalf.  Tosefot describe the child's obligation as a "double de-rabbanan," in that the obligation of Megilla reading itself constitutes a rabbinic obligation, and minors' obligation in mitzvot in general exists only on the level of de-rabbanan.  The debate between the first view in the mishna and Rabbi Yehuda is thus whether a "double de-rabbanan" can fulfill the obligation on behalf of a "single de-rabbanan."[17] Other Rishonim, however, such as the Ravya and Rashba, explain, based on the sugya in the Yerushalmi, that Rabbi Yehuda's position evolves from his premise that children, too, may read the Megilla because "they, too, were included in that miracle."  The Yerushalmi, commenting on this mishna, records the following: "Bar Kapara says, one must read it before women and before children, for they, too, where included in the threat.  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi did just that: he gathered his children and members of his household and read it before them."[18]

 

            On the basis of this passage in the Yerushalmi, the Ravya writes (569):

 

"However, it appears to me that since it attributed the reason to the fact that they were included in the threat, even a child who has not reached the age of education, but is capable of understanding, must hear Megilla reading, as it is said, 'since he is like women and ignoramuses,' and it concludes, 'Rather, pirsumei nisa' – meaning, that he knows how to ask and the miracle is publicized to them."

 

The Rashba, employing the Yerushalmi's terminology, writes: "Rabbi Yehuda, who here permits [a minor to read] – the reason is that minors, too, were included in the threat.  This is why we do not find that he argues concerning the reading of hallel or perisat shema."[19]

 

            As opposed to Tosefot, who viewed the debate in the mishna as a general dispute regarding a minor's ability to fulfill an obligation on behalf of others, the Ravya and Rashba hold that Rabbi Yehuda's position applies strictly to Megilla reading, "because minors, too, were included in the threat."

 

            Regarding Chanuka candles, the Gemara states explicitly that children do not light Chanuka candles.  Just prior to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's ruling with regard to women's obligation, the Gemara says in Shabbat (23a):

 

"Now that we have concluded that the lighting [rather than the placing of the candles] constitutes the fulfillment of the mitzva, if a deaf-mute, mentally disabled person, or minor lights – he has accomplished nothing.  A woman certainly lights, for Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Women are obligated in Chanuka candles, for they, too, were included in that miracle."

 

The Gemara thus explicitly rules that we cannot apply Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's rule to minors, and we must draw a distinction between women and minors in this regard.

 

            The Ba'al Ha-ittur, however, qualifies this assertion: "It stands to reason that [this is true only] regarding [a child] who has not reached the age of education; when, however, he reaches the age of education, a custom exists, and we follow the custom – we learn in Megilla."[20]  The text of the Ba'al Ha-ittur seems to have been corrupted, so we cite here the Ran's paraphrase of his comments: "However, the Ba'al Ha-ittur z"l wrote that if he reached the age of education, he may [light Chanuka candles], but it all depends on the custom, as it says in the Yerushalmi in Megilla, 'From here on – they established that children may read on behalf of the congregation."[21]  The Ba'al Ha-ittur builds his theory on the basis of Rabbi Yehuda's view allowing a minor to read the Megilla.  His comments imply that in his view, we may compare the halakha of a minor in the context of Chanuka candles to his status with respect to Megilla.

 

            It thus emerges from a combination of various sources that we include minors in these three mitzvot because of the factor of "af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes."

 

C.     THE POOR

 

The mishna states towards the beginning of the tenth chapter of Pesachim: "Even the poor among Israel may not eat until he sits down [for the seder].  And they may not give him fewer than four cups of wine – even from the charity plate."  This halakha is codified by the Rambam in Hilkhot Chametz U-matza (7:7).  The Rambam does not, however, cite this halakha in the context of the laws of charity in Hilkhot Matenot Aniyim.  It appears that this halakha does not stem from the standard framework of the halakhot of tzedaka.  In the seventh chapter of Hilkhot Matenot Aniyim, the Rambam rules that all needs of the poor must be cared for.  All his examples, however, involve physical or material needs.  Seemingly, the laws of tzedaka do not include the obligation to provide the spiritual needs of a poor person.  It follows, then, that the obligation to provide the poor with four cups of wine for the seder is not included in the standard laws of tzedaka, but rather constitutes an independent obligation.  This emerges clearly from the Rambam's comments in Hilkhot Chanuka (4:12):

 

"The mitzva of Chanuka candles is a particularly beloved mitzva.  A person must be meticulous in regard to it in order to make known the miracle and add to the praise of God and thanksgiving to Him for the miracles He performed for us.  Even if one has nothing to eat, other than from charity, he must borrow or sell his clothing to purchase oil and candles and light."

 

The Maggid Mishneh there writes:

 

"It appears that he derived this from that which is explained in the seventh chapter of Hilkhot Chametz U-matza, that even the poor among Israel may not have fewer than four cups.  The reason is because of pirsumei nisa; all the more so regarding Chanuka candles, which takes precedence over kiddush."

 

It clearly emerges from these comments that a person who cannot afford food to eat is generally exempt from mitzvot on grounds of oness (extenuating circumstances).[22]  When it comes to mitzvot involving pirsumei nisa, however, Halakha includes a poor person because of this factor of pirsumei nisa.[23]  I would add that regarding Purim, the obligation to include the poor is explicit already in Megillat Esther itself, within the framework of the mitzva of matenot aniyim (gifts to the poor – Esther 9:22).  We thus find that with regard to these three mitzvot, a poor person, too, must participate, because the standard exemption does not apply to the obligation of pirsumei nisa.

 

            We have seen, then, that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's halakha obligating women in the mitzva of pirsumei nisa actually establishes a much broader halakha, that we cannot apply standard exemptions when dealing with the obligation to publicize a miracle that occurred for a person.  The regular framework of exemptions which absolves women, minors and those without sufficient means does not take effect with regard to the mitzva of pirsumei nisa.  The beneficiary of a miracle must acknowledge his miracle and publicize the Almighty's kindness towards him.

 

D.     "PIRSUM" CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE MITZVOT

 

Towards the beginning of our discussion, I noted that the indicator that these three mitzvot are essentially mitzvot of pirsumei nisa is the berakha they all share – the berakha of "she-asa nisim."  In conclusion, I would like to point to other characteristics relating to pirsum (publicizing) shared by these mitzvot.

 

      "Pirsum," or "publicizing," means making known to others.  When we assess the characteristics of these three mitzvot, we detect that they all involve addressing other people, to whom we wish to publicize the miracle that occurred to us.

 

            Let us begin with the four cups of wine drunk at the seder.  It stands to reason that when Chazal spoke of four cups, they referred to the general context of the seder.  Given that we recite the Haggada within the framework of the four cups of wine, these cups symbolize the entire context of the evening, the focal point being the mitzva of "sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim" (telling the story of the Exodus).[24]  When the aforementioned mishna in Pesachim established that a poor person must also drink four cups of wine, it presumably includes the poor in the obligation of sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim, as well.[25]  Clearly, this mitzva is entirely geared towards retelling the story to others – to one's children.  The entirety of this mitzva involves the transmission of the story of Exodus and our sense of identification with it to the next generation.  Therefore, the Torah consistently describes this mitzva in the form of a parent telling of the Exodus to his children, and this is true in our oral tradition, as well.  The beraita in Pesachim (116a) states: 

 

"If one's son is intelligent – he asks him.  If he is not intelligent – his wife asks him.  Otherwise, he asks himself.  Even two Torah scholars who know the laws of Pesach – ask one another." 

 

The beraita describes the entire framework of this mitzva as one of questions and answers.  Even if a person conducts the seder alone, the beraita requires that he "ask himself."  He must act simultaneously as the questioner and the responder.

 

            Regarding Chanuka candles, the mitzva requires placing them outside the doorway of one's home.  The candles face the public domain and publicize the miracle to them.  Among the unique halakhot of Chanuka candles is the berakha recited when seeing them.[26]  This halakha expresses the "dialogue" between the one publicizing the miracle and the viewer who absorbs the message conveyed by the candles and recites a berakha over it.

 

            With regard to Megilla reading, too, it is worth noting the formulation of the aforementioned halakha in the Yerushalmi:

 

"Bar Kapara says, one must read it before women and before children, for they, too, where included in the threat.  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi did just that: he gathered his children and members of his household and read it before them."

 

            The Behag writes that a woman may not read the Megilla for men to fulfill their obligation on their behalf.[27]  The explanation of this ruling appears in the Ravya (569), who writes that women are obligated to hear the Megilla, not to read the Megilla.  This approach corresponds to the formulation in the Yerushalmi.  Some Acharonim explained on this basis that the mitzva of Megilla consists of two parts: reading and hearing.[28]  It turns out, then, that regarding Megilla reading, too, the dimension of pirsum directed towards others is manifest in this two-tiered obligation.

 

 

NOTES:

 

1. Several articles discussing this topic have already been written, from different perspectives.  I will make note of two in particular, which touch upon some of the issues discussed here: Efraim Kanarfogel, "Be-inyan Af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes," Or Ha-mizrach 32, vol. 2 (5744), pp. 125-128; A Ehrlich, "'Af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes' – Le-gilgula Shel Ta'ana Shivyonit Ba-olam Ha-halakha," in Ayin Tova – Du Si'ach U-fulmus Be-tarbut Yisrael, edited Nacham Ilan, 5759, pp. 142-159.  The title of Ehrlich's article expresses the approach taken in his treatment of the topic – a diachronic presentation of the development of the discussion surrounding this subject.  By contrast, this article is written from a synchronic perspective, from the frame of reference of the halakha formulated in finalized form in the Talmud Bavli, in an attempt to demonstrate a broader manifestation of Rabi Yehoshua ben Levi's halakha concerning these mitzvot in relation to other exemptions, beyond that of women.  Over the course of our discussion we will refer the reader to relevant sections in Ehrlich's piece, absolving ourselves of having to repeat that which he has already discussed.  Kanarfogel, in his article, cites the explanation of Rav Moshe Soloveitchik zt"l regarding the unique obligation specific to these mitzvot.  This article is written in the spirit of this explanation.  Now that we have been privileged to have this approach published in Iggerot Ha-Grid Ha-levi, our discussion will focus on the relevant passage there.

 

2. Tosefot in Pesachim (108b, s.v. she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes) write, "If not for this reason, they would not be obligated, because women are exempt from time-bound mitzvot; although the obligation of four cups was instituted by the Rabbis, they instituted [their laws] resembling Torah laws."

 

3. As we learn from the Rashbam's remarks in his commentary to Pesachim (108b, s.v. she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes), this explanation originated from "our master, the Levi," a reference to Rav Yitzchak Halevi, Rashi's mentor.

 

4. Tosefot in Pesachim (108b, s.v. hayu be-oto ha-nes) understood that this refers to the story of Yehudit.  See sources cited by Ehrlich, p.152.

 

5. Tosefot, Pesachim (108b, s.v. hayu be-oto ha-nes).  I chose this formulation for this is how the halakha appears in the Yerushalmi, in the name of Bar Kapara.  It is reasonable to assume, as Ehrlich contends (pp. 145-147), that the halakha's formulation in the Yerushalmi represents the original formulation of this halakha, and that the Bavli adopted a later, more developed formulation.

 

6. See Ehrlich's suggestions, pp.155-156.

 

7. See Ehrlich, pp.153-154.

 

8. I should point out that Rabbenu Tam ruled that women must eat se'uda shelishit on Shabbat because "af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes" – they, too, were included in the miracle of the manna, which we commemorate through se'uda shelishit.  See Responsa Sefer Ha-yashar, Rosenthal edition, 70:4.  In his view, we may extend the application of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's principle to other areas.  The Maharam of Rothenberg argued with this ruling; see Teshuvot Maharam, Berlin edition, 473 (printed as well in Teshuvot U-pesakim U-minhagim Le-Maharam Mei-Rothenberg, Y.Z. Kahana edition, Jerusalem, 5717, pp. 219-220).  The Maharam writes, "In any event, this reason of 'af hen hayu' applies only when the mitzva stems from a miracle that occurred to Israel when they faced some danger and were saved, such as Megilla, the four cups and Chanuka candles."

 

9. This is cited by Kanarfogel (above, note 1) and in the work, Harerei Kedem in the name of my great-grandfather, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Soloveitchik zt"l.  Similarly, throughout all the years when I was aware of this approach only by word of mouth, it was known in the name of Rav Moshe.  However, in Iggerot Ha-Grid Ha-Levi this analysis appears in a letter written by my grandfather, Rav Yosef Dov zt"l.  He concludes the letter with the following sentence: "I do not remember whether or not I have already commented on this."  It seems likely that he himself arrived at this explanation, though this final sentence perhaps leaves open the possibility that he had heard it earlier from his father.

 

10. Iggerot Ha-Grid Ha-levi – Mikhtevei Halakha Ve-divrei Torah Shel Rabbenu Ha-gaon Yosef Dov Ha-levi Soloveitchik ztvk"l, Jerusalem, 5761.

 

11. Iggerot Ha-Grid Ha-levi, pp.91-92.

 

12. At the time when my grandfather zt"l wrote this, he seemingly was unaware of the comments of the Geonim.  For he writes, "And although we do not have this berakha with the four cups, that is because the entire concept of a berakha was never instituted with regard to the four cups, and there is not even a birkat ha-mitzva recited over the performance of this mitzva."  He suggests a different, less satisfactory explanation.  However, both Kanarfogel and Harerei Kedem bring the comments of the Geonim in the name of the Rav himself.  Apparently, he became aware of these sources after he wrote this letter his stay in Berlin, which occurred during his younger years.

 

13. Seder Rav Amram Gaon, Daniel Goldschmidt edition, Jerusalem, 5732, siman 79, p.111.

 

14. See Daniel Goldschmidt, Haggada Shel Pesach Ve-toledoteha, Jerusalem, 5720, p.6; Shmuel & Zev Safrai, Haggadat Chazal, Jerusalem, 5758, p.61.

 

15. For a summary of the relevant sources in the Rishonim, see Rav M.M. Kasher, Haggada Sheleima, Jerusalem, 5727, pp.86-89.

 

16. Kanarfogel (p.126) associates this explanation with the comments of the Maharam of Rothenberg cited above, note 8.  However, I believe that the thrust of this approach does not run entirely consistent with the Maharam.  The Maharam's objection to Rabbenu Tam's theory is due not to the absence of an obligation to publicize as a characteristic of se'uda shelishit, but rather to the nature of the miracle spoken of by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi.  According to the Maharam, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi referred only to miracles that saved Benei Yisrael from danger, which was not the case when the manna fell.  However, this does not necessarily mean that an obligation of pirsum was instituted whenever we experienced salvation from danger.

 

17. See Tosefot, Megilla 19b, s.v. ve-Rabbi Yehuda makhshir.

 

18. Yerushalmi, Megilla 2:5, 73b.

 

19. Rashba's chiddushim to Megilla, 19b, s.v. ha di-tenan chutz mei-cheresh shoteh ve-katan, C.Z. Dimitrovsky edition, p.120.

 

20. Sefer Ha-ittur, Rabbi Meir Yona edition, Tzilum Yerushalayim Publications, 5747, vol. 2, Aseret Ha-diberot, Laws of Chanuka, 115b.

 

21. Ran on the Rif, Shabbat 10a in the Rif, s.v. hai ner Chanuka.

 

22. Although this is undoubtedly correct based on the comments of the Maggid Mishneh, it gives rise to considerable difficulty.  Why should we not include a person's spiritual needs under the category of a poor person's needs that others are commanded to provide ("sufficient for whatever he needs" – Devarim 15:8)?  Why should we deem the purchase of mitzva objects that one lacks the financial wherewithal to acquire, any less important than the purchase of clothing or means of transportation?  This seems to demonstrate that mitzvot are not considered a person's personal needs, and thus do not fall under the category of "whatever he needs."  A similar outlook is reflected in the Rambam's explanation as to the origin of birkot ha-mitzva, in Hilkhot Berakhot (1:3): "Just as we recite a berakha over benefit [such as before eating and drinking], so do we recite berakhot over every mitzva, and only then perform it."  As I heard from my grandfather, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt"l, this passage implies that birkot ha-mitzva, like birkot ha-nehenin, bear the status and quality of a "matir" – that they cause something to be permitted.  Meaning, one must approach mitzvot as belonging to the Almighty so long as he has not recited a berakha and received permission to fulfill the given mitzva.  This outlook is reflected in the obligation of tzedaka, too, which works on the assumption that mitzva objects are not classified as a person's needs.

 

23. An important distinction exists in the Rambam's writings between the four cups of Pesach and Chanuka.  Whereas with regard to the four cups he cites the mishna's formulation, "They may not give him fewer than four cups of wine," in discussing Chanuka candles he establishes that "he must borrow or sell his clothing to purchase oil and candles and light."  He thus distinguishes between the two mitzvot: whereas the obligation to pay for the four cups is cast upon others, regarding Chanuka candles the poor person himself bears the obligation.  The Rambam's formulation implies that a poor person cannot ask others to finance his purchase of oil and candles.  The explanation for this difference is simple.  Since we do not include the purchase of mitzva objects within the framework of the mitzva of tzedaka, we cannot ask others to pay for the poor person's Chanuka candles.  The unique obligation upon the poor person to light Chanuka candles, stemming from this mitzva's status as a mitzva of pirsumei nisa, casts upon him the responsibility to pay for the candles.  Fundamentally, this should be the case concerning the four cups of the seder, as well.  However, since this mitzva involves the poor person's menu of food and drink, consequently, once Halakha establishes the obligation to drink four cups of wine, we then see in this the poor person's menu for that night.  He may therefore collect the funding from charity.  We may prove this from the fact that the mishna speaks of the poor person's collection from the tamchuy – the public food charity, which provides specifically food and does not give money for the performance of mitzvot.  Clearly, then, the ability to collect from others for the four cups is based upon the year-round collection of food from charity.

 

24. The Tur writes in Orach Chayim (472): "Both men and women are obligated in them [the four cups], as well as in all mitzvot that apply that night, such as matza and marror."  And the Beit Yosef there writes: "Women are obligated in the four cups for they, too, were included in that miracle.  For this same reason we must conclude that they are obligated in all the mitzvot that apply that night, as our rabbi [the Tur] wrote."

 

25. This becomes all the more reasonable when we take into account a point made by Rav Chayim of Brisk.  He notes that Tosefot (Pesachim 99b, s.v. lo yifchatu lo) appear to wrestle with the question as to whether the obligation of four cups consists of drinking the wine, or the recitation associated with the four cups.  If this obligation involves the recitation of the Haggada, then clearly the mitzva of four cups refers to the content of the text recited at the night of the seder.  For further elaboration, see Chiddushei Maran Riz Halevi on the Rambam, Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:9.

 

26. For further clarification concerning the berakha recited over seeing Chanuka candles, see the article by my father and teacher, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, "Be-inyan Chiyuv Suma Be-ner Chanuka," in Hadarom, vol. 50 (5740), pp.184-206.

 

27. See Halakhot Gedolot, Hildesheimer edition, Jerusalem, 5732, p.406.

 

28. See Harerei Kedem, 191, 193.