Parshas Ki Seitsei 5757 - '97
Outline # 51
I read a paper, not long ago, which described two diverse, incompatible schools -- the kabalistic vs. the halachic. Nothing could be further from the truth. The great mekubal -- the Ari -- was a student of the author of Shita Mekubetsis, one of the most extensive talmudic commentaries. The Ari collaborated with his Rebbe in parts of the work. He is said to have devised seven distinct legal analyses -- every day -- for each talmudic subject he studied.
The Ra'avad, Ramban, Beis Yoseif, Ha'urim V'tumim, Vilna Gaon, Ba'al Hatanya, and Chasom Sofer are just a few examples of sages renowned both for their halachic and kabalistic knowledge.
Of course, the kabalistic approach to any subject may be different from the halachic one. There are rules determining what degree the Kabalah may affect the Halachah. See, for example, Mishnah Brurah 25:42.
Some people find the halachic issues mundane; in reality, the Halacha, dealing with everyday subjects, takes the spiritual concepts of the Torah, and brings them into the ordinary world. Without it, the physical world remains apart from the spiritual. With the Halacha, all aspects of our world are tied to the spirit of the Torah.
In the parsha this week, we find the mysterious commandment of Shiluach Hakein -- the sending away of the mother bird. If a person finds a mother bird sitting on its chicks or eggs, he sends away the mother before taking the young.
There are many questions regarding this mitzvah, and many different explanations. We have discussed this previously; see Savannah Kollel Insights, Vol. 2, #9 (`89). For sources, see Ramban; Rakanati; Sefer Hachinuch; Rambam al Mishnayos: Brochos, 5:3 (see Tos. Yom Tov ibid.); Moreh Nevuchim, 3:48; Kol Eliyahu, Parshas Vayeira; Hagos B'parshiyos ("Nachshoni").
The responsa of Chasom Sofer notes that according to Ramban, the mitzvah trains us in the ways of mercy. Accordingly, if one did not want to take the offspring, he should not send away the mother. To send her away needlessly would not be merciful, but, on the contrary, cruel; the Torah prohibits giving pain unnecessarily to any living creature.
However, according to the Zohar we find a different explanation entirely. When separating the mother from the offspring, the mercy of the Shechina (Divine Presence) is aroused, for she has been separated from her children for many years. Along these lines, one would perform the mitzva even if he did not want the offspring. However, when the Kabalah argues with the revealed parts of the Torah, the Halacha is in accordance with the revealed parts.
In Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deya, 392, the laws for this mitzva are discussed. The Commentaries ask if there is an obligation to perform the mitzva, and if one need take the offspring. The Commentary Beis Lechem Yehudah concludes from the Zohar that one is obligated, and should take the offspring. Even though the Halacha follows the revealed parts of the Torah over the Kabalah -- there are enough opinions in this case that agree with the Zohar -- even according to the revealed parts of learning -- to make this view definitive.
A beautiful explanation is found in Sefer Hakanah. "What a strange thing, to separate the mother from her children. This is mercy? Yes, this is mercy! When the children cry for their mother, amd she wishes to find them, an angel cries out, requesting mercy for the mother and the children to be gathered together, for the glory of the Creator. We wonder about the length of the exile; we relax with our religion, and eat and drink; but the exile of the Shechina (the Divine Presence) we don't remember. We say, `Peace for my soul -- so I will merit, so I will live,' but do we take account of our actions? See, the Torah says -- `Send away the mother bird -- to arouse mercy!' -- but they pay no attention; they study for their bodily gain, not for their souls; they learn, but they do not fulfill..." This sounds very much akin to the Rambam's famous words regarding the Shofar: It arouses us from our slumber, so that we remember to pay attention to matters of the heart...
During the festival of Sukos (two weeks following Rosh Hashanah), the Torah commands the waving of the four species: Esrog (citron), Lulav (date-palm branch), Hadas (myrtle) and Aravah (willow).
The Mishnah (Sukah 34), states that there is a debate regarding the status of an esrog that is as green as a leek. The Halacha rules that it is invalid. The Tosafos commentary (Sukah 31), however, concludes that "the esrogim which are green as leeks that we have -- are valid, because they will return to the color of other esrogim later."
Over the generations, this discussion became a great debate. What difference does it make that the color of the esrog changes later on? The commentary Bais Chadash, known as Bach, held that Tosafos intended to say that only when the color actually changes to yellow, is the fruit acceptable. Many disagreed, however, and held that if the fruit at any time becomes yellow, this indicates that it was the correct type of fruit all along. Therefore, the green esrog was kosher the whole time, even though it did not actually turn yellow until after the holiday!
Maharil pointed out that it is impossible to know in advance if the esrog will turn yellow; therefore, one should make sure that it has already begun to yellow before Sukos. On the basis of Maharil, all the modern authorities agree that one should not use an esrog which is completely dark green; it should at least have begun to turn yellow.
According to the Bach, however, it must be completely yellow. Although the custom is to be lenient, many great authorities were personally stringent. Rav Chayim of Brisk and the Brisker Rav would not make a brocha on an esrog that had any green appearance. To be continued...
(Haaros is only meant for general information, but should not be relied upon for actual Halacha. Because there are many factors to consider in each case, actual questions must be addressed to an appropriate authority.)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
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Last Revision: January 27, '97