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Kidushin, 29

KIDUSHIN 24-30 (9-15 Sivan) - This week's study material has been dedicated by Mrs. Rita Grunberger of Queens, N.Y., in loving memory of her husband, Reb Yitzchok Yakov ben Eliyahu Grunberger. Irving Grunberger helped many people quietly in an unassuming manner and is dearly missed by all who knew him. His Yahrzeit is 10 Sivan.


QUESTION: The Gemara cites a verse to teach that a woman is not obligated to circumcise her son. However, the Mishnah teaches that a woman is exempt from all Mitzvos Aseh she'ha'Zman Gerama, and the Gemara in Eruvin (96a) teaches that if Tefilin are worn only during the day and not at night, then it is considered a Mitzvas Aseh she'ha'Zman Gerama. Why, then, do we need a verse to teach that a woman is not obligated to circumcise her son? Milah must be done during the day and cannot be done at night, and thus it is a Mitzvas Aseh she'ha'Zman Gerama from which women are exempt! (TOSFOS DH Oso)


(a) TOSFOS here and in Yevamos (72b) answers that our Gemara holds like the opinion of Rebbi Elazar bar'Rebbi Shimon (beginning of Yevamos 72b) who maintains that Milah may be performed at night when it is performed after the eighth day.

According to this answer, the Gemara in its question already knows that a woman has no obligation to circumcise her son on the eighth day, but it thought that she might be obligated to circumcise her son on a day after the eighth day (in a case of Milah she'Lo b'Zmano) according to Rebbi Elazar bar'Rebbi Shimon, as is evident from the words of Tosfos in Megilah (20a, DH Dich'siv).

(b) TOSFOS in Megilah (20a) suggests another answer. The Gemara initially thought that a woman *is* obligated to perform a Mitzvas Aseh that carries with it a punishment of Kares, even if it is a Mitzvas Aseh she'ha'Zman Gerama. (Even though the punishment of Kares only applies to the son who is left uncircumcised, and not to the mother, it nevertheless makes Milah a more important Mitzvah such that the mother can be obligated as well.)

(c) The RITVA answers that when the father does not circumcise his son, Beis Din is obligated to circumcise him (as the Gemara here says), which means that every person in Klal Yisrael has an obligation to see to it that the son is circumcised. He explains that the Gemara initially thought that the mother is no different than any other person in Klal Yisrael who must see to it that the child becomes circumcised, and thus she is obligated to circumcise the child for the benefit of the child, and not because she has a personal Mitzvah to circumcise her son. The verse therefore teaches that she is still not obligated to circumcise the child.

(d) The TOSFOS RID explains that the Mitzvah of the parent is not to perform the act of removing the son's Orlah, but rather to take the responsibility for having the son become circumcised, which means doing whatever is necessary to ensure that the child becomes circumcised, such as obtaining a Mohel and making the other preparations for the Milah. Hence, the obligation applies not only during the day, but also at night (even though the actual circumcision may be done only during the day).

The SHACH (CM 382:4) infers from the ROSH and RAMBAM that if the father knows how to do Milah, then he is obligated to circumcise his son on his own. This is also the opinion of the OR ZARU'A cited by the DARCHEI MOSHE (YD 264:1).

The Darchei Moshe and TEVU'OS SHOR (cited by the KETZOS HA'CHOSHEN CM 382:2) disagree with the Shach. They write that according to the opinion of the Tosfos Rid, it is clear that there is no Mitzvah for the father to perform the actual Milah, but rather to see to it that the son becomes circumcised.


AGADAH: The Gemara relates that there was a certain demon that resided in the study hall of Abaye. When Abaye heard that the great Rav Acha bar Yakov was coming to study in his Yeshivah, he gave instructions that no one should offer Rav Acha a place to sleep, so that he would have no choice but to sleep in the study hall and in his merit the demon would be destroyed. Rav Acha slept in the study hall, and the demon appeared to him in the form of a seven-headed serpent. Rav Acha began to pray, and each time that he prostrated himself, one of the serpent's heads fell off.

How did Rav Acha bar Yakov's prayers vanquish the serpent? How did each of his prostrations cause one head of the serpent to fall off?

(a) The MAHARSHA cites the Gemara in Bava Kama (16a) which says that the spine of a person turns into a serpent (Nachash) after seven years in the grave if the person did not bow during his lifetime at the "Modim" prayer. TOSFOS there (16b, DH v'Hu) explains the Gemara there based on the Gemara in Berachos that says that when a person bows down at "Modim," he should straighten himself like a snake (with his head coming up first). Hence, if he does not bow during "Modim," then his punishment is that his spine becomes a snake, Midah k'Neged Midah.

According to this, bowing at "Modim" is effective to vanquish the powers of the serpent. That is why every time Rav Acha bar Yakov bowed down, he was able to humble the serpent.

The Maharsha adds that the seven heads of the serpent corresponded to the seven powers of Tum'ah that the primeval snake brought into the world (and the seven curses given to Adam ha'Rishon, and the seven years after which the spine turns into a snake).

(b) The SEFER HA'MIKNAH adds that this is also why Yakov Avinu prostrated himself seven times before Esav when Esav approached him (Bereishis 33:3). Esav's ministering angel is identified with the primeval serpent (Midrash Rabah, end of Devarim), which has seven qualities, or powers ("Kochos"), of Tum'ah. By bowing down seven times, Yakov Avinu was able to humble the seven powers of the serpent and thereby peacefully co-exist with Esav.

(c) The Sefer ha'Miknah points out, further, that the Gematriya of the name "Yakov" (182) is equal to seven times the Gematriya of the Holy Name of Hashem (26 X 7). When his father, Yitzchak, gave seven blessings to Yakov, he endowed Yakov with seven powers of Kedushah, holiness, that are represented by his name.

But the name "Yitzchak" (208) is equal to eight times the Holy Name of Hashem (26 X 8). When Esav cried out to his father, "Have you not one blessing left for me," he wanted to receive the eighth power of holiness from his father. It is this power of Kedushah that his father gave Esav that keeps Esav, and his descendants, alive. This is alluded to in Esav's name, the Gematriya of which (376) is equal to seven times the word "Tamei" (50 X 7)), representing the seven powers of Tum'ah, plus another 26 representing the Kedushah of the Name of Hashem. When Yakov Avinu bowed down seven times, his humility (which was directed towards Hashem, and is hinted at in his name, "Yakov" -- "*Ekev Anavah* Yir'as Hashem") removed the powers of Tum'ah from Esav so that only the Ko'ach of Kedushah remained, and they were able to live like brothers (as the verse says in Bereishis 33:3 that his prostrations led to the effect of "Ad Gishto Ad *Achiv*").

(d) We might add that this is the intention of the Midrash there which says that Esav tried to bite Yakov's neck, but his neck turned as hard as stone and, as a result, Esav's teeth broke, as the verse says, "Shinei Resha'im Shibarta" -- "You broke the teeth of the wicked" (Tehilim 3:8). The Midrash means that by Yakov's humbling himself to Hashem, he was able to remove the Shen (the Gematriya of which is 350, which represents the seven powers of Tum'ah, as stated above) from Esav. This is also the intention of the Ba'al ha'Hagadah when he writes that we should respond to the wicked by "loosening his teeth" ("Hakheh Es Shinav").

This is the same Shen -- which comprises the letters "Shin" and "Nun" -- which surrounds the letter "Ches" in "Nachash" (Nun-Ches-Shin) and the letter "Tes" in "Satan" (Shin-Tes-Nun), which, when bound together, spell "Chet" (sin). The VILNA GA'ON (in Kol Eliyahu, Sanhedrin 78a) writes that this is what is alluded to by the words of the Gemara (ad loc.) "the poison of the serpent stands between his teeth ("Bein Shinav")." The letters of the word "Shen" (which represents the powers of Tum'ah, as mentioned above) enclose the "Ches" and "Tes" (which spell "Chet") in the words "Nachash" and "Satan." "Chet" is the true "poison" of the serpent that brings death to the world (see Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 29a and Gemara, Berachos 33a).

(e) We can understand the story of Rav Acha bar Yakov in a philosophical way, on the same note.

A certain "enlightened" individual, who denied the existence of Hashem and His Torah, was accustomed to enter the Beis Midrash at night, when Abaye was not there, and to weaken the faith of the students with his arguments. He would try to dissuade them from the study of Torah and enjoin them to study instead the "seven wisdoms" of the physical world, which he considered to be superior to all other forms of study.

When he entered into a discussion with Rav Acha bar Yakov, the Tzadik was able to point out to him the flaws of all the physical wisdoms. Through his Yir'as Shamayim and pure faith, which derived from his humility before his Creator, Rav Acha bar Yakov forced the "serpent" to succumb, so that he never returned to plague the students again. (M. Kornfeld)

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