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Megilah, 31


OPINIONS: The Beraisa states that the Torah reading on Yom Kipur at Minchah is the Parshah of Arayos. Why is this Parshah read on Yom Kipur at Minchah?
(a) RASHI says that the Parshah of Arayos is read in order to arouse us to do Teshuvah. The sins of Arayos are very severe, carrying with them severe punishments, while at the same time they are very common, since a person lusts for them (see Chagigah 11b). Therefore, on Yom Kipur the Parshah of Arayos is read in order to arouse people to do Teshuvah from these sins.

This might also explain the Gemara in Yoma (67b) which says that the Se'ir of Yom Kipur atones for the sins of Arayos, and that is why it is called "Azazel" (see Rashi there). We know, however, that the Se'ir of Yom Kipur atones for *all* sins. Why does the Gemara say specifically that it atones for the sins of Arayos? Based on Rashi's words in our Sugya, it could be that the Gemara there is just demonstrating the effectiveness of the Se'ir of Yom Kipur in atoning for *all* sins, by giving an example of a type of sin which is very common and its punishment is very severe.

(b) TOSFOS explains that the Parshah of Arayos is read in order to prevent people from sinning with a Devar Ervah on Yom Kipur itself. Since the women dress up nicely (and come to the synagogue) in honor of Yom Kipur, the people need an extra warning to remind them of the severity of Arayos.

The RASHASH adds that the extra warning is especially appropriate in light of the Gemara at the end of Ta'anis, which describes how single women dress up nicely on Yom Kipur and look for their proper mate on that day.

(c) The MACHZOR VITRI cites the Gemara in Yoma (67b) which says that when the Torah commands, "Es Mishpatai ta'asu," it refers to Mitzvos such as Arayos, for which the reasons are obvious and we would know through common sense to refrain from such acts and to forbid them. When the verse says, "Chukosai Tishmeru," it refers to the Mitzvos which seem strange and senseless to us, such as the Se'ir la'Azazel. The Gemara adds that we must not think that the latter group are meaningless acts, but rather we must understand that they are decrees from Hashem and we do not have permission to criticize them, as the verse concludes, "Ani Hashem."

The Parshah of Arayos also ends with the words, "Ani Hashem." We read this Parshah to remind us that just like we follow Arayos willingly because we understand the sense behind the prohibitions and it is obvious why they are prohibited, so, too, we must eagerly follow the Mitzvos -- such as the Se'ir la'Azazel -- which we do not understand. We read the Parshah of Arayos on Yom Kipur, to strengthen and declare our Emunah in the Mitzvah of sending the Se'ir la'Azazel (since one who denies that validity of that Mitzvah cannot attain atonement through it).

(d) TOSFOS mentions another reason, in the name of the Midrash, for reading Parshas Arayos on Yom Kipur. We want to beseech Hashem that just like we are careful not to be Megaleh Arayos, so, too, He should not be Megaleh (expose) our Ervah (our shameful sins).

QUESTION: The Gemara says that on Simchas Torah we read Parshas v'Zos ha'Berachah, and we read as the Haftarah the chapter of "va'Ya'amod Shlomo" (Melachim I 8:22). TOSFOS points out that in some places, the Haftarah is read from "Vayehi Acharei Mos Moshe" (Yehoshua 1), which is indeed our practice today. Tosfos says that some claim that Rav Hai Ga'on instituted that chapter as the Haftarah for Simchas Yom Tov. Tosfos questions this practice, since there seems to be no reason to change from what the Gemara says explicitly.

The ROSH says that the source for reading "Veyehu Acharei Mos Moshe" as the Haftarah on Simchas Torah comes from the Yerushalmi. (This does not appear, though, in our text of the Yerushalmi.)

What is the reason that we do not follow the practice of the Gemara and we read a Haftarah on Simchas Torah which the Bavli does not mention?


(a) The ROSH (on the Mishnah) asks why the Gemara says to read "va'Ya'amod Shlomo" as the Haftarah -- it has nothing to do with the Parshah of v'Zos ha'Berachah! It is true that it discusses something relevant to the day of Simchas Torah -- the Berachah which Shlomo ha'Melech gave to the Jewish people on the last day of Sukos -- but it is not related to the Torah reading, and the Haftarah must be related to the Torah reading and not just to the day. Why does the Gemara prescribe such a Haftarah?

The Rosh answers that it must be that the Gemara means that in addition to reading Parshas v'Zos ha'Berachah, we are to take out another Sefer Torah and read the Korbanos of Shemini Atzeres. Then, when we read the Haftarah of "va'Ya'amod Shlomo," it is indeed related to the Torah reading, as it discusses the last day of Sukos.

However, the RAN explains that the Haftarah of "va'Ya'amod Shlomo" is actually related to the reading of Parshas v'Zos ha'Berachah. We read v'Zos ha'Berachah not because it is the end of the Torah, but because Shemini Atzeres is the last of the year's Mo'adim, and at such a time, as the Jews return to their homes, we want to conclude with the blessings that Moshe blessed the Bnei Yisrael. Hence, we read v'Zos ha'Berachah. This is also the reason why Shlomo ha'Melech blessed the nation on that day; it was the end of Sukos, and he wanted to leave them with a blessing. Accordingly, the Haftarah is directly related to the reading of v'Zos ha'Berachah.

We see from the Rosh and the Ran that there are two completely different themes involved with reading v'Zos ha'Berachah. First, from the Rosh we see the theme that v'Zos ha'Berachah is read to mark the end of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah. This theme is not related to the Haftarah that the Gemara mentions. Rather, it is related to the Haftarah that we read today (Yehoshua 1), which continues where the Torah left off, at the death of Moshe.

From the Ran we see a second theme. V'Zos ha'Berachah is read because it is the blessing given to the Jewish people at the end of the Mo'adim. This theme is indeed related to the Haftarah that the Gemara tells us to read on Simchas Torah, that of "va'Ya'amod Shlomo."

This might explain why the Haftarah changed. Originally, Shemini Atzeres was not the designated day for the completion of the reading of the Torah. Some communities completed the Torah on the Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur, while others completed it at other times. In Eretz Yisrael, where the practice was to read the Torah in a three-year cycle, they certainly did not complete it each year on Shemini Atzeres. At the time of the Gemara, Shemini Atzeres was not the designated day on which the Torah was completed. Rather, they took out a Sefer Torah and read v'Zos ha'Berachah from it in order to express blessings at the end of the Mo'adim. Consistent with this reading of v'Zos ha'Berachah, the Gemara says to read "va'Ya'amod Shlomo" as the Haftarah, in which Shlomo ha'Melech also blesses the people at the end of the Mo'adim.

Later, it became the practice to complete the yearly Torah reading cycle on Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. Consequently, the purpose for reading v'Zos ha'Berachah changed. No longer was it read as an expression of blessings for the people, but rather it was read as the completion of the yearly reading of the Torah. The change in the theme of v'Zos ha'Berachah caused a change in the Haftarah, so that now we read as the Haftarah "Vayehi Acharei Mos Moshe!" (The MESHECH CHOCHMAH, end of Devarim, develops a similar theme.)


QUESTION: The Gemara says that when reading the curses in Parshas Ki Savo (in Devarim, or "Mishnah Torah"), it is permitted to pause in the middle, but when reading the curses in Parshas Bechukosai, it is not permitted to pause in the middle. The reason for the difference is that the curses in Mishnah Torah "were said in the singular (Lashon Yachid), and by Moshe himself," while those in Parshas Bechukosai "were said in the plural (Lashon Rabim), and they were said by Hashem (through Moshe)."

What does it mean that Moshe said the curses in Mishnah Torah by himself? The entire Torah was said by Hashem and written down by Moshe Rabeinu. How can the Gemara say that he said it by himself?

ANSWER: TOSFOS says that Moshe Rabeinu did not say the curses in Mishnah torah entirely by himself, but rather he said them through "Ru'ach ha'Kodesh." What does Tosfos mean by this? The rest of the Torah was also said by Moshe Rabeinu with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh! In what way does Mishnah Torah differ from the rest of the Torah?

The VILNA GA'ON (cited by the OHEL YAKOV, and from there in PENINIM M'SHULCHAN HA'GRA, beginning of Parshas Devarim) says that the difference is that the rest of the Torah, until Mishnah Torah, was said by Moshe Rabeinu as he received the Nevu'ah from Hashem. As he received the Nevu'ah, it was expressed verbally ("ha'Shechinah Medaberes mi'Toch Grono"). In contrast, Moshe Rabeinu communicated Mishnah Torah to the Jewish people only after had finished receiving the Dibur from Hashem, and not at the moment that Hashem spoke to him. (See also MAHARAL in TIFERES YISRAEL ch. 43.)

Why did Moshe Rabeinu relate the curses in Mishnah Torah differently than he related them in Parshas Bechukosai? Why did he wait until his Nevu'ah had finished to relate them?

From the words of the VILNA GA'ON, it seems that all of Mishnah Torah was said in that manner, and not just the curses. The reason for this is explained by the MINCHAS ANI (RAV YAKOV ETLINGER, author of Aruch la'Ner). The Jewish people were unable to tolerate the intense holiness of Dibur directly from Hashem. Therefore, in Mishnah Torah, which is primarily a review of the Mitzvos (which is why it is called Mishnah Torah), Moshe Rabeinu spared the people of having to hear the Dibur directly from Hashem, and he told them the Nevu'ah after he received it and not at the same moment that he received it. The first time that they heard the Mitzvos (before Mishnah Torah), though, they had to hear them directly from Hashem.

The MAHARSHA in Bava Basra (88b) explains that when Moshe Rabeinu taught Mishnah Torah, he was in Arvos Mo'av, after the Jewish people had accepted upon themselves the obligation of "Arvus" -- responsibility for each other's actions (Sotah 37b). That is why, he explains, that the curses in Mishnah Torah are in the singular form, Lashon Yachid. When relating to the Jewish people the punishments for the various transgressions, Moshe Rabeinu had to tell them that each individual would be liable for punishment for the other person's sins, because of "Arvus" -- each man is responsible for the other. He had to address the people in the singular form in order to emphasize that they were even responsible for the sins of an individual member of the nation. If that communication would have come directly from Hashem, the Jewish people would have heard it in the singular form and they would have mistakenly said that Hashem was speaking in the singular form simply because He was speaking to Moshe Rabeinu, but not to each and every one of us. That is why it had to come from Moshe Rabeinu, so that it would be obvious that it was not directed only to Moshe but to every individual in the entire nation.

In contrast, the curses in Parshas Bechukosai were given before the people came to Arvos Mo'av and before they accepted the obligation of "Arvus." At that time, the only way that each and every individual would be subject to punishment is if everyone sinned. Therefore, those curses were said in the plural form, Lashon Rabim. Hashem did not need to have Moshe say it over on his own, because it was obvious, even when spoken directly from Hashem, that it was addressing the entire nation and not Moshe (since it was in the plural form).

QUESTION: A Beraisa relates that Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar said that Ezra instituted that curses in Parshas Bechukosai (Vayikra 26:14-43) be read from the Torah before Shavuos, and those of Mishneh Torah (Devarim 28:15-68) before Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara says that the reason is in order that the past year finish along with all of the curses associated with it. The Gemara explains that Shavuos is considered a new year, because the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 16a) says that on Shavuos, the world is judged regarding the fruits of trees."

There are several difficulties with understanding this Gemara.

First, why does the reading of curses before Rosh Hashanah symbolize a blessed new year? If anything, it would seem as if we are "ushering in" curses, rather than "ushering them out!" Indeed, TOSFOS (DH Klalos) says that our custom is to read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah a Parshah that does not mention curses, and to read the curses *two* weeks before Shavuos and Rosh Hashanah, in order not to read the curses immediately before Rosh Hashanah. Tosfos seems to give this "break" from curses in order *not* to read curses right before the beginning of the new year! What, then, does the Gemara mean?

Second, why read specifically the *Vayikra* set of curses before Shavuos, and the *Devarim* set before Rosh Hashanah?

Third, there are actually four Roshei Hashanah as listed in the Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah. Why, then, did Ezra institute only for two of them to "end the year and its curses" while ignoring the other two?

Fourth, the early practice in Eretz Yisrael was to read the Torah in a three- year cycle (reading a third of what we read today each Shabbos), as opposed to our yearly cycle (Megilah 29b). How would those Jews keep Ezra's institution of reading the curses before Rosh Hashanah? They only read from each set of curses once in three years! (MAHARATZ CHAYOS)

ANSWER: All of these questions may point to a new understanding of Ezra's enactment. Ezra may not have enacted that we must go out of our way and read curses when Rosh Hashanah approaches. Rather, he enacted that in the course of our weekly readings, we should not read the curses shortly *after* the start of a new year, as starting a year with curses would be a bad sign. What he proposed was that when the reading of the curses in the weekly reading coincides with a Rosh Hashanah, we should be careful to advance the reading of the curses to the Shabbos *before* the new year.

This explains why the curses of Vayikra are associated with Shavuos, and those of Devarim with Rosh Hashanah. The yearly cycle of readings naturally causes those Parshiyos to be read near those holidays. For the same reason, there is no need to mention the Rosh Hashanah associated with Sukos or the Rosh Hashanah associated with Pesach in Ezra's enactment. The reading of the curses would not coincide with those new years. Finally, those who read the Torah in a three-year cycle could also keep Ezra's enactment. Since it was a *preventative* enactment and not an *active* one, if the curses would fall in a weekly reading shortly after a Rosh Hashanah, they would read them earlier, before the Rosh Hashanah. However, if they did not fall after a Rosh Hashanah, there was no obligation bidding them to *arrange* to read the curses before Shavuos or Rosh Hashanah, and thus they were not transgressing Ezra's enactment!

This explains why reading the curses before the festival is a sign of blessings for the new year. In either case, the curses must be read near the festival, due to the yearly Torah-reading cycle. Therefore, reading them before the festival as opposed to after it saves us from "starting the year with curses" and instead we usher in a year of blessing.

A more in-depth understanding, though, can be gleaned from the words of the Midrash (Tanchuma, beginning of Netzavim). The Midrash says that when the Jewish people heard the "100-less-two" curses of Devarim, aside from the 49 of Vayikra, they did not think that they would be able to survive all of them. Moshe Rabeinu calmed them, pointing out that they already sinned terribly in the desert and yet they were not destroyed. The Midrash then asks why were the Nochrim destroyed for their sins, if we were not? It answers that when the Nochrim are punished, they do not turn to Hashem, but rather they rebel due to their suffering. When the Jews are punished, however, they humble themselves and pray to Hashem. The Midrash concludes that in that sense, "the curses preserve their spiritual integrity."

It is not only the physical pain of punishment that can arouse a reaction of contrition. The prudent do not have to be punished -- the very consideration of the wrath of Hashem humbles them and brings them to turn their hearts and their prayers to their Creator. This might be the purpose of Ezra's enactment. He wanted us to read the curses and thus be aroused to repent -- before Rosh Hashanah. If we properly repent, then we will be granted a year of prosperity! This is why it is worthwhile to read the curses, as depressing as they may be, before Rosh Hashanah. Our custom is to read the curses two weeks before the festival, as Tosfos says; perhaps this is in order to give us time to repent!

Perhaps we can add to this one more observation. The number of curses in Devarim is, according to the Tanchuma, "100-less-two." This strange count could imply that there are not merely "98" curses, but 100 curses, two of which are somehow different from the others. The KLI YAKAR (beginning of Netzavim) brilliantly explains that the two different curses are those specified in the verse, "Also any sickness and any punishment that is not written in this Torah, Hashem will bring upon you" (Devarim 28:61). The "sickness" and the "punishment" in this are at the same time written ("Hashem will bring [them] upon you"), and are left unwritten ("any sickness and any punishment that is not written in this Torah"). They are the two that have been removed from the count of one hundred! If so, the full count of curses in Mishnah Torah is actually 100, and not just 98.

With this in mind, we may suggest that just as Ezra's reading of the curses of Vayikra arouse one to take heed of the 49 curses and repent, so, too, the 49 days counted in the Omer, which culminate in Shavuos, remind us of them. Similarly, just as Ezra's reading of the curses in Devarim before Rosh Hashanah reminds us to take heed of the 100 curses and repent, so, too, the 100 blasts of the Shofar heard on Rosh Hashanah arouse us to awaken from our slumber and return to Hashem! (M. Kornfeld)

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