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Moed Katan, 28

MOED KATAN 28 & 29 - anonymously dedicated by an Ohev Torah and Marbitz Torah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.


QUESTION: The Gemara says that dying after being ill for five days is considered a normal death. This is learned from the death of Moshe Rabeinu. Hashem told Moshe five days before he died that his death was imminent (Devarim 31:14).

How can the Gemara learn from the death of Moshe Rabeinu that if a person is sick for five days before he dies, that is a normal death? Moshe did not become sick before he died (as the Torah says in Devarim 34:7)! (TOSFOS DH Hen)


(a) The TOSFOS HA'ROSH answers that Hashem was telling Moshe that had he not merited to die b'Neshikah (through the "kiss" of Hashem), then it would have been time for him to become sick at this point (and then die five days later). Therefore, it was an appropriate time for him to bid farewell to the Jewish people. (The MAHARSHA gives a similar answer.)

(b) The RITVA adds that the reason why Hashem built into the nature of a person that he should become sick five days before he dies is so that the person has an opportunity to conclude his worldly affairs before he leaves this world. The Gemara proves from Moshe Rabeinu that five days is an appropriate amount of time to conclude one's affairs, for we see that Hashem warned Moshe five days before his death to bid farewell to the Jewish people.

OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes Rabah who says that if one dies between the ages of fifty and sixty, this is the death of Kares. The Gemara relates that Rav Yosef made a celebration when he reached his sixtieth birthday, since he had passed the period of Kares.

Is celebrating one's sixtieth birthday a practice that should be followed? What about celebrating any birthday?

(a) A number of authorities (as cited in MINHAG YISRAEL TORAH by Rav Yosef Lewy, OC 225) write that there is reason to make some sort of celebration upon reaching a certain age, as we see from Rav Yosef's conduct in our Gemara. The CHAVAS YA'IR (#70), cited by the CHASAM SOFER on the Shulchan Aruch (OC 225:10), writes that upon reaching one's *seventieth* birthday, one should make a Se'udah and recite the blessing of "Shehecheyanu," since he has reached a full lifespan. The Chasam Sofer himself says that one should recite the blessing without the name of Hashem.

The KAF HA'CHAIM (223:29) writes that upon reaching one's *sixtieth* birthday, one should recite the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" upon a new fruit and have in mind that he is also reciting the blessing for having been saved from Kares. A source for this is the LEKET YOSHER, who relates that the TERUMAS HA'DESHEN, whenever he would make a Siyum on a Maseches, would invite men who had reached their sixtieth birthday and have them participate in his Se'udah in order to fulfill their obligation to give thanks for reaching the age of sixty.

The BEIS YISRAEL (#32) says that it is proper to make a Se'udah on one's *eightieth* birthday, since that is the age at which one has not only passed the age of Kares as it relates to the years of one's life, but has also passed the age of Kares as it relates to shortening one's lifespan (as Abaye asked Rav Yosef in our Gemara). He says that the reason people do not make such celebrations is probably because they are afraid of an "Ayin ha'Ra," and therefore they do not reveal their age.

Some authorities also permit specifically celebrating one's birthday every year. The BEN ISH CHAI (Vayera #17) writes that it is a good practice to celebrate one's birthday, "and so is the practice in our homes." Similarly, RAV YOSEF ENGEL in the GINZEI YOSEF (#4) writes that men of piety recite the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" on a new fruit or a new garment each year on their birthday. The KESAV SOFER (YD 148) writes that it was his practice to make a Siyum on a Maseches on his birthday. (It is said that the CHAFETZ CHAIM celebrated birthday parties every year during his later years, to demonstrate publicly that those who guard their tongue are rewarded with long life.)

(b) There are those, however, who renounce making such celebrations. The ARUGAS HA'BOSEM (215) writes that it is improper to make a celebration upon reaching a certain age, such as seventy, for that is the "practice of boors who walk in the ways of the other nations." The reason, he says, is because the Mishnah (Avos 3:1) states that one should realize where his eventual end will be and that he will have to give a reckoning of all of his deeds before Hashem. When one reaches the age of seventy and is coming close to that frightful moment of truth, it is certainly not an occasion to rejoice, but to tremble in fear.

It is cited in the name of the Rebbe of Satmar (DIVREI TORAH 5:88) that it is not the practice of Jews to make birthday celebrations. The reason he gives is because the Gemara in Eruvin (13b) concludes that it would have been better had man not been created. That is because once he is created, there are so many Mitzvos for him to do and so many Aveiros for him to avoid, that it is very difficult to return his soul to his Maker in a pure and unstained state. Therefore, it is inappropriate to celebrate the day on which we were born. This applies, though, only to Jews, who have the responsibility of observing the Mitzvos. Non-Jews, though, certainly may celebrate their birthdays, since they were only entrusted with the Seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach, and thus being created is not such a liability for them. This is why we find in the Torah that Pharaoh celebrated his birthday (Bereishis 40:20), while Avraham Avinu celebrated only the day on which he performed the Mitzvah of Milah for his son Yitzchak (Chasam Sofer to Bereishis 21:9).

It should be noted, though, that even these opinions -- which say that there is no reason to make a special celebration on one's birthday -- agree that there is a special element to that day and therefore one should increase his Torah and his Tefilah on that day, as well as increase one's acts of charity (RAV CHAIM PALAGI in TZEDAKAH L'CHAIM). This is because on one's birthday, one's Mazal is empowered (as the CHIDA (Chomas Anach to Iyov 3) and KORBAN HA'EDAH (Yerushalmi Rosh Hashanah 3:8) write). Moreover, those opinions which permit celebrating one's birthday agree that it should not be celebrated in a frivolous, light-hearted manner, but that one should direct his focus to expressing gratitude to Hashem for keeping him alive.

QUESTIONS: The Gemara quotes Rava who says that one's lifespan, children, and livelihood do not depend on one's merit (Zechus), but on Mazal.

(a) How can he say that these things depend on Mazal? The Gemara (Shabbos 156a) clearly states, "Ein Mazal l'Yisrael" -- Mazal has no influence over the destiny of the Jewish people!

(b) Second, the Torah states explicitly in a number of places that if we follow the will of Hashem, then He will grant to us life, children, and a livelihood (see, for example, Vayikra 26:4, Devarim 11:13, Devarim 30:16)! How, then, can Rava say that these things do not depend on merit but on Mazal, when the Torah clearly states that they depend on merit?

1. TOSFOS (Shabbos 156a, DH Ein) and the RITVA here explain that even though the Gemara in Shabbos says that "Ein Mazal l'Yisrael," that means that an exceptionally great Zechus is able to even change a person's Mazal. (The other nations, though, have no way of changing their Mazal.) We find in Ta'anis 25a, that even the merits of the holy Rebbi Elazar ben Pedas did not suffice to override his Mazal.

2. The RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:409) adds that one person's Zechus is able to change another person's Mazal, but one's own Zechus cannot change his Mazal. (As in Berachos 5b, "a captive cannot free himself from jail.")

3. In another Teshuvah (5:48) the Rashba presents a different answer to this question. Although he speaks in very vague terms, it appears that he means to say that even when a Tzadik (who is not an exceptionally perfect Tzadik) does not live an easy life, it is not pure "Mazal" that is at fault. Rather, other considerations cause him to have to bear anguish. He might mean to say what the HAGAHOS BEN ARYEH here brings from the ZOHAR and VILNA GAON -- that it is the 13 attributes of Hashem that determine whether the Tzadik will live an easy life or not, depending on his merits. Even if he has many merits, the 13 attributes may dictate for him to bear anguish in order to in some way rectify sins (of his own or of others) from the past. In either case, though, Bnei Yisrael are not subject to the true "forces of nature," as are the other nations.

(b) Regarding the promises mentioned in the Torah, it is clear that an exceptional merit is not required to cause them to materialize. The Torah says simply that "if you keep My commands, you will be rewarded...." The RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:148, 409 -- see also RAMBAN on the Torah, Vayikra 26:11) explains that those verses refer to the Jewish nation as a whole. When all of the Jewish people do the will of Hashem, then Hashem grants them life, children, and sustenance in reward for their deeds, despite their Mazal. An individual, though, is subject to his Mazal in these areas (unless he has exceptional Zechuyos).


Rebbi Akiva comforted Rebbi Yishmael upon the death of his sons. He said that if the evil Achav, who only did one good thing in his life, had such a great funeral as depicted in Zecharyah (12:1), then how much more so are the sons of Rebbi Yishmael to be praised and eulogized. The Gemara shows that Achav had a great funeral by citing the verse, "On that day, the mourning will be great in Yerushalayim, like the mourning of Hadadrimon at the valley of Megidon" (Zecharyah 12:1). Even though the verse makes no mention of Achav's funeral, the Targum explains that the verse is saying, "On that day, the mourning will be great in Yerushalayim, like [the two great funerals combined,] the mourning of [Achav bar Omri, who was killed by] Hadadrimon [ben Tavrimon in Ramos Gilad, and like the mourning of Yoshiyah bar Amon, who was killed by Pharaoh Chagira] in the valley of Megido."

Why does the verse compare the great mourning in times to come specifically to the mourning at these two funerals?

ANSWER: To answer this question, we first must explore who is being buried in this funeral described in the verse.

We know that this verse is describing a funeral that will take place in the times of the Mashiach. The Gemara in Sukah (52a) records an argument regarding this funeral. One opinion says that it will be for Mashiach ben Yosef, and another opinion says that it will be for the Yetzer ha'Ra, which will be killed at that time. The Gemara there explains that in the future, Hashem will slaughter the Yetzer ha'Ra, and both the Tzadikim and the Resha'im will cry. The Tzadikim will cry because they will see the huge mountain that stood before them in their service of Hashem. The Resha'im will cry because they will see that they were not able to conquer such a small thread which stood in their way. (See Insights to Sukah 52:1.)

The VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu) says that this is what the Targum Yonasan means. The Targum holds like the opinion that says that the funeral will be for the Yetzer ha'Ra. Normally, at a funeral, if the deceased was a Tzadik, then only the Tzadikim cry. If he was a Rasha, then only the Resha'im cry. In this case, at the funeral of the Yetzer ha'Ra, *both* groups will cry, as the Gemara in Sukah says! Thus, it will be like the funeral of Achav -- the great Rasha, when all the Resha'im cried, and like the funeral of Yoshiyah -- the great Tzadik, when all of the Tzadikim cried!

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