Fascinating New Insights Into the Life of the holy Chasam Sofer!

BS”D

Spent a wonderful first days of Sukkos at the “Destination” program at Honors Haven hotel in Ellenville, New York. Chazanim Braun and Kiss provided inspirational tefillos. I had the pleasure of delivering a lecture Tuesday afternoon introducing fascinating new insights into the life of the holy Chasam Sofer (1762-1839). I made the following points:

1) The Chasam Sofer left Frankfurt with his Rebbe, Rabbi Noson Adler, in approximately 1779, at the age of 17, after a “fight” with his father. Incidentally, his father died shortly after he left Frankfurt in 1779.

2) He did not see his mother, Raizel, from 1779 until she died in 1823 although Pressburg was a distance of only three weeks. This behavior is not understandable and requires explanation.

3) The Chasam Sofer’s brother, Yozsef, married his niece Childa at a late age. When he died in 1822, instead of the Chasam Sofer traveling to Frankfurt to facilitate the mitzvah of Chalitzah, his niece Childa came to Pressburg. Although the Halacha seems to require the sister-in-law to travel to the brother-in-laws’s city for the Chalitzah ceremony, the custom has always been that the “Choletz” is the one who travels. As in the case with his mothers passing, an explanation is needed. Perhaps, the Chasam Sofer requested permission from the Pressburg Beis Din for travel and they simply did not allow it. He was “needed” 24/7.

4) He had two brothers who both married late in life; Reb Shimon got married in 1814 when he was forty-six years old while his older brother Yozsef, married his niece (his and the Chosam Sofer’s younger sister’s daughter) Childa when he was fifty years old.

Stay tuned…more fascinating insights coming soon!

A Novel Approach to “Endowment”

At Shalosh Seudos this past Shabbos, I shared with the congregants a “cop” I had thought of many years ago when studying in Ponevez yeshivah. The author of the classic commentary on the Rambam, Mishneh L’Melech, Rebbi Yehudah Rozenes, authored an original classic work called, “Perashas Derachim”, a Biblical commentary composed of twenty-six “derashot”. It is considered a classic because it is a commentary on the Torah based on clear Halachic rulings, some of them completely novel[1].

In his fifth drasha Rebbi Rozenes makes the claim that the silver and gold vessels and clothing that the Jews took from the Egyptians (cf. Exodus 3:22; 11:2 [no mention of clothing!]; 12:34) were rightfully theirs in order to fulfill the requirement of endowment to a servant[2]. (He brings a Sifrei[3] and Rashi[4] as primary sources). He then claims that the animals that Moshe requested from Pharoh (Exodus 10:25) and actually received (Exodus 12:32, 38) were also rightfully theirs for the fulfillment of the “endowment” mitzvah. Nosson Dovid Rabinowich

Why the need for the animals to fulfill this commandment if it was already fulfilled through the vessels and the clothing? The Perashas Derachim resolves this problem by quoting a Mechilta[5] that claims the promise of Hashem to Avraham[6]: “and afterwards they will leave with great wealth” was fulfilled through this flock and cattle. Here too, the question must be asked, why couldn’t the promise to Avraham have been fulfilled by the gold, silver and clothing they had taken?

The answer Rebbi Rozenes claims is that the Mechilta agrees with the Sifrei[7] that the “great wealth” was halachically theirs due to the mitzvah of endowment and one cannot fulfill this commandment with anything that is not in the category of blessing, i.e., does not increase naturally.[8] Therefore, silver, gold and clothing cannot qualify as an “endowment”. Only through the cattle and flocks that they took from the Egyptians was the mitzvah of “endowment” fulfilled.

With proper respect to Rebbe Rozenes, I once suggested that since the Torah teaches us in this week’s parshah (8:4): “Your garment did not wear out upon you”, i.e., their clothing would grow with them, there is no reason then why the ‘endowment’ could not have been fulfilled through the clothing. Clothing that grows with it’s wearer is a tremendous intrinsic blessing and certainly qualifies.

My other serious difficulty with Rebbi Rozenes’ acceptance of the “endowment” approach of the Sifrei is that it seems to contradict the Babylonian Talmud’s understanding that the silver, gold and clothing (and, I will assume, flock and cattle) was the Jewish slaves’ salary for their two hundred and ten years of work.[9]

I welcome your thoughts.

 

[1] The famous Halachic authority, Rebbe Yosef Teumin, author of the classic “Pri Megolim” wrote and published a summary of the “Perashas Derachim.” An excellent edition of the work was published by Yitzchak Ohana in Jerusalem, 1992.

[2] Deuteronomy 15:14 : “Endow him generously from your flocks, from your threshing floor and from your wine cellar.”

[3] The Sifrei, noting the juxtaposition of the commandment of endowment to the following verse: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Hashem, your God, redeemed you: therefore, I command you regarding this matter…” makes the following point: Just as I “endowed” you in Egypt as it says (Ex. 12:36): “they emptied Egypt so, too, you should grant your servant an endowment.”

[4] Rashi, on this verse (Deut, 15:15) comments: I gave you two grants when you were slaves: from he spoils of the Exodus from Egypt and the spoils of the sea (Exodus 15:22, cf. Rashi’s comment there). Rashi’s comment is actually taken from the Sifrei and is simply suggesting that if a servant is very worthy, it is appropriate to give him a greater endowment as the Jewish slaves in Egypt received.

[5] Exodus 15:38

[6] Genesis 15:14

[7] In a future blog I hope to discuss in-depth the relationship between the Mechilta and the Sifrei.

[8] Cf. Kiddushin 16b

[9] cf. Sanhedrin 91a. Rebbi Rozenes himself quites the Gemara earlier in his drasha.