THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
Ask A Question about the Daf
MENACHOS 39 (19 Cheshvan) - Dedicated l'Iluy Nishmas Chaim Mordechai ben
Harav Yisrael Azriel (Feldman) of Milwaukee, by the members of the Feldman
1) WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE TOP KNOT?
OPINIONS: The Gemara says that the top knot of the Tzitzis, where the
Tzitzis is attached to the garment, is a Torah requirement. This is evident
from the fact that the Torah teaches -- through the proximity of the verse
of the Mitzvah of Tzitzis to the verse of the Isur of Sha'atnez -- that
Tzitzis may be made from Sha'atnez. If a knot was not necessary mid'Oraisa,
then the Torah would not have to teach us that Tzitzis may be made from
Sha'atnez, since we could make Tzitzis merely by placing the strings of
Techeles (which are wool) into the garment (made of linen) without tying
them. The Isur of Sha'atnez would not apply, since the mixture of wool and
linen is prohibited only when the wool and linen are bonded or tied together
into a single entity. It must be that the Torah requires that the Tzitzis be
tied with a know to the garment, and thus it is also necessary for the Torah
to teach that the Mitzvah of Tzitzis overrides the Isur of Sha'atnez.
To which knot is the Gemara referring when it says that the "top knot" is
(a) RASHI (DH Kesher Elyon) explains that the "top knot" refers to the knot
at the *end* of the wound strings. That is, after the strings are wound, a
knot is tied. That knot is mid'Oraisa. Rashi explains that the reason why
this know is called the "top knot" is because a person can wind a string
around other strings and keep the strings in place by making a knot at the
end of the wound strings. On the other hand, a knot made before winding the
strings would not hold the "Gedil" (wound strings) in place. It is logical
that the Torah requires a knot that holds the wound strings in place.
However, although we understand the importance of this knot at the end of
the wound strings, it is still not clear why the Gemara refers to this knot
as the "top" knot, which implies the knot that is closest to the garment.
Why is the knot at the end of the wound strings called the "top" knot?
1. TOSFOS (DH Kesher ha'Elyon) says that we find a precedent for this
terminology from the Gemara in Nidah (13b) which says "from the Atarah and
'l'Ma'alah,'" which means *away* from the Atarah, towards the body, and not
towards the top of the Atarah.
(b) TOSFOS quotes another explanation in the name of Rashi, which does not
appear in our text of Rashi (however, it does appear in Rashi in Sanhedrin
88b, DH Kesher Elyon). This explanation states that the "top knot" indeed is
the knot closest to the garment to which the Tzitzis are attached. As we
mentioned above, we know that the top knot is required mid'Oraisa because
the Torah needs to teach that the Mitzvah of Tzitzis overrides the Isur of
Sha'atnez. If the Torah is referring to the knot after the wound strings,
the Torah would not need to teach that Sha'atnez is permitted, because the
Tzitzis would not involve Sha'atnez at all; a knot after the wound strings
would not make the woolen strings a single entity with the linen garment,
since the knot is so far removed from the garment.
2. The SHITAH MEKUBETZES (38b, #6) explains that this knot is called the
"top knot" because when a person lifts the Tzitzis in his hand (to kiss it
or to look at it), this is the knot which is at the "top." (See the
MORDECHAI for a third explanation.)
REBBI SHMUEL SHMELKA TOIVESH points out that, according to the first
explanation, the knot does not have to be present at the very end of the
wound strings. Even if the knot is preceded by a few wound strings, this
knot suffices. However, according to the second explanation, in order for
the Torah to need to teach us that Sha'atnez is permitted in Tzitzis, it
must be that the Torah requires a knot right next to the garment.
(c) The CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN in Sanhedrin (88b) quotes RABEINU DAVID who gives a
third explanation. He understands that we do not need the Torah to teach us
that Sha'atnez is permitted in Tzitzis in order to derive that the knot next
to the garment is a Torah requirement. The Gemara's teaching pertains to the
top knot after the wound strings, and the Gemara concludes that this knot is
also a Torah requirement. Even though there is *also* one knot next to the
garment, this is still not enough to consider the Tzitzis connected to the
garment, since *two* knots are required to make it bonded to the garment.
The fact that the verse needs to teach that Sha'atnez is permitted in
Tzitzis shows us that there must be *two* knots according to Torah law, one
on each side of the wound strings.
The Chidushei ha'Ran argues with this explanation for a number of reasons.
One reason is that according to Rabeinu David, who explains that the knot at
the beginning is a single knot, and the knot at the end is a single knot
(contrary to our custom of tying double knots), when the Gemara says,
"Tekifah Achas Eino Chibur" -- "one 'attachment' is not considered a
connection," it means that one knot is not a connection. This, asserts the
Ran, is not the case. Tekifah means sticking something together in any
fashion, and not necessarily tying them into a knot. Therefore, putting the
strings through the hole in the garment is one Tekifah, and making them into
a knot is considered two Tekifos. (See, however, the CHIDUSHEI HA'RASHBA to
the Gemara here who seems to agree with Rabeinu David regarding the
definition of Tekifah.) (Y. Montrose)
2) HALACHAH: DOES THE MITZVAH D'ORAISA OF TZITZIS APPLY ONLY TO A GARMENT OF
WOOL OR ALSO TO LINEN?
OPINIONS: The Gemara records an argument regarding the type of material that
a garment must be made from in order to be required to have Tzitzis
according to Torah law. Rachvah says in the name of Rav Yehudah that
Tzitzis-strings made out of wool or linen fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis for
clothing made out of any material, even a cloak of silk. The Gemara says
that Rav Nachman argues with this, as Rav Nachman says that a cloak of silk
is exempt from Tzitzis. The Gemara questions Rav Nachman's ruling from a
Beraisa which explicitly states that a cloak of silk is required to have
Tzitzis. The Gemara answers that the Beraisa is referring only to an
obligation d'Rabanan, and not to a Torah obligation.
What is the Halachah? Does one fulfill the Torah obligation of Tzitzis with
other materials, such as the commonly used cotton garment, or does one
fulfill only a Chiyuv d'Rabanan with a cotton garment?
(a) The RIF, RAMBAM (Hilchos Tzitzis 3:2), and SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 9:1) rule
like Rav Nachman. They write that one fulfills only a Chiyuv d'Rabanan of
Tzitzis with a garment made out of cotton.
HALACHAH: The HAGAHOS MAIMONIYOS (Hilchos Tzitzis 3:1) writes that one who
fears Hashem will make his garment out of wool in order to remove himself
from any doubt. This approach is also advanced by the AGUR (#8) in the name
of the MAHARI MOLIN. Even though the Rema in DARCHEI MOSHE (OC 9) writes
that he saw no one being careful about this, the MISHNAH BERURAH (OC 9:5)
writes that a person who fears Hashem will be stringent upon himself to make
his garment out of wool in order to ensure that he is fulfilling the Torah
obligation of Tzitzis according to all opinions. (See also ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN
OC 9:25). The Mishnah Berurah adds that it is correct for a person to do
this with both his Talis Katan and his Talis Gadol.
However, this ruling is difficult to understand. The Rambam himself (3:5)
records the opinion of Rava, who says that strings of wool or strings of
linen may be used for a garment made out of any material, while strings of
other types of material may be used only for a garment of that same
material. Rava derives this from various verses, clearly showing that he
holds that this is a Torah law. How, then, can the Rambam and the Shulchan
Aruch (see OC 9:3) quote Rava's ruling when they rule in accordance with the
view of Rav Nachman?
The BEIS YOSEF explains that the Rambam is not quoting Rava's ruling in the
same context as Rava himself expressed it. Rava maintains that strings of
wool or linen on a garment of any type of material is a fulfillment of the
Torah obligation of Tzitzis. In contrast, the Rambam -- who rules like Rav
Nachman -- maintains that for garments made of other materials (other than
wool), Rava's ruling applies as a Halachah *d'Rabanan*. The Gemara alludes
to this when it asks (while interpreting a Beraisa that makes a similar
statement) that this Halachah would be logical if it is only d'Rabanan,
since only Tzitzis of the same material (other than wool or linen) as the
garment should suffice for a garment of that material. This is also apparent
from the words of the Rambam, since he does not quote the verses from which
Rava derives his ruling.
(b) TOSFOS (DH v'Rav Nachman) quotes RASHI and RABEINU TAM who rule in
accordance with Rachvah in the name of Rav Yehudah, because Rava -- who is a
later Amora -- rules this way. This is also the opinion of the MORDECHAI
(#941), the SEMAG (Mitzvas Aseh 26), the ROSH (#18) and the TUR (OC 9). The
REMA rules in accordance with this view as well. The Rosh has great
difficulty with the Rif, who rules like Rav Nachman. Rav Yehudah, Rachvah,
and Rava all argue with Rav Nachman. Why should we rule like one Amora
The IGROS MOSHE (OC 3:1) writes that even during the summertime it is best
to wear a Talis Katan made out of wool (which presumably is the view of the
aforementioned Mishnah Berurah and the others who write that one should be
stringent, who do not differentiate between the seasons). He adds that this
was his own practice. He explains that since the Gemara (41a) says that the
Mal'ach told Rav Katina that a person will be punished during a time of
Divine wrath for not fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, one should make sure
that he is fulfilling the Torah obligation of Tzitzis whenever possible.
However, the author of ZICHRON YAKOV (quoted in the KOL HA'TORAH journal,
vol. 54, p. 237) writes that he heard that the CHAZON ISH did *not* wear
woolen Tzitzis in the summertime. He suggests several possible reasons for
the Chazon Ish's practice. It is possible that the Chazon Ish simply held
that the opinion of the Rema was correct, deeming it unnecessary to wear
wool in the summer. Alternatively, unlike the Igros Moshe quoted above, the
Chazon Ish held that since listening to the Chachamim is also a fulfillment
of the Torah, fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tzitzis in a manner which is
mid'Rabanan also serves to protect a person during a time of Divine wrath.