Parsha Encounters



Parshas Mishpatim:

The Menorah

Elazar Yitzchok Teren

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

In this week’s parsha, Hashem instructs Moshe to make a Menorah (Shemos 25:31) hammered out from one piece. The Me’am Lo’ez on this topic provides a Medrash saying that Moshe had difficulty understanding how to lay out the design told to him. This is hinted at in the words: “Mikshah, te’aseh.” Read the first word as: mikasheh- “with difficulty,” and the word te’aseh as “will be made” rather than the more obvious ta'aseh- "you will make." This tells us that Moshe received the help of others.

The Medrash relates that Hashem proceeded with two attempts to show Moshe how the Menorah should be formed. He displayed with a flash of heavenly fire a blueprint of its base, main column and six branches. Note that the Gematriya (numerical value) of Menorah and Aish (fire) are identical - 301!

The Ba’al HaTurim points out that within the ten verses in our sedrah (25:31-40) that describe its construction, the word Menorah is mentioned seven times. This parallels the seven days of Creation. Further, he indicates that within this section there is no letter samech found. The same is true during the recounting of Creation- there is no samech. The samech has a negative connotation, because it is used as the first letter of the word Satan. [Although the word Satan begins with a sin, a samech and a sin are interchangeable.] No negative influence was involved in the creation of the world, and there could be no negative influence around the Menorah. Where a lamp is burning, no harmful forces can have an influence. As is mentioned in Berachos 43b, a Talmid Chacham should not go out alone at night in the dark to avoid such harmful influences.

The Menorah was placed on the south side of the Mishkan, opposite the Shulchan. The Gemara in Menachos 86b, as elaborated by both Rashi and Tosfos, indicates that this is proof that the Menorah is not needed for illumination. Otherwise, it would be closer to the Shulchan. Rashi also comments in parshas Beha’aloscha (Numbers 8:2) that no one should say that Hashem needs the Menorah for its light while His Shechinah dwells in the Holy Temple. That is why the wicks in each of the 6 branches point towards the middle column instead of straight up.
The question then becomes, “why a Menorah?” The six branches point to the middle column just as the six days of Creation point to the seventh day- one of rest- Shabbos. We go about our daily lives either going away from or coming back to Shabbos. It is an eternal seven-day cycle.

We count seven full weeks between Pesach and the next major holiday, Shavuos. Yosef HaTzadik envisioned seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Seven represents the limit of nature. To go beyond seven is to go beyond nature. That is why a bris is on the eighth day for a newborn child, as it is a contract with He Who is beyond nature. And that is why we use an eight-candle menorah for Chanukah. The miracle of burning oil from an undefiled canister for eight days goes beyond the “derech hatevah,” or natural order.

The purpose of the Menorah is a reminder of how to work together within the scope of the natural order. Hopefully, one day soon the seven-cup Menorah will burn in our Holy Temple.

Mr. Teren learns nightly in the Kollel.

Halacha Encounters

Gambling and Lotteries

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

“All you need is a dollar and a dream.” How does Halacha view the spending of that dollar and the dreams that follow? Is there any Halachic issue regarding the purchase of a lottery ticket? What is one’s obligation regarding separating Maaser (tithes) from his winnings?

The Background
The Mishna in Sandhedrin [3,3] tells us that those who play dice (i.e. gamblers) are disqualified from serving as judges or witnesses in the Jewish court. There is a disagreement in the Gemorah [24b] as to the reason. Rabi bar Chama’s opinion is that dice playing involves an “Asmachta”. Asmachta is a conditional offer to pay money, made with the conviction that the condition will not come to pass. When one bets money on the dice he genuinely believes he will win. Hence if he loses, he gives up money he never intended to part with. Therefore the winner of the bet is taking money not rightfully his and that money is considered Gezel Middirabanan [though not considered stealing according to Torah law nonetheless classified as stealing by Rabbinic law]. R’ Shaishes in the Gemorah argues that this is not classified as Asmachta. His reasoning is that since when one gambles he realizes there is a chance that he will lose, and chooses to gamble anyway, from the onset he’s aware he might have to part with his money and he assumes that risk. For what reason, then, is he disqualified from serving in the courts? He explains that one who engages in such activity is disqualified from serving in the courts because he is not involved in Yeshuro Shel Olam i.e. a profession making a constructive contribution to society. However, the Gemorah adds that according to this opinion it would only apply to a full time gambler.

The Halacha
The Shulchan Aruch [C.M. 370:3] rules that dice playing is forbidden and [one who takes payment] is considered gezel midirabanan. However the Rema states that the prevalent custom has been to permit this and only one who is a full time gambler would be disqualified. [As an aside the Revush [Teshuvos Revush 432] discourages gambling in very strong terms, even when permitted halachically. Regarding gambling, he cites the passuk in Mishlei [7:24] “For she has felled many victims and the number of her slain is huge.” Regarding gambling in a casino, because of the obvious pritzus [immodestly clad patrons and workers] and similar concerns, entering such a place would involve many other serious halachic issues. See Bava Basra 57b and Mishna Berura 75:7]

Lottery Tickets
Seemingly, lottery tickets should be dependent on this argument between the Shulchan Aruch and Rema. However Dayan Spitz in Mishpitei Hatorah [Volume I Siman 28] maintains that a lottery does not involve any issues of Asmachta. The reasoning is twofold. From the perspective of the sellers of the lottery tickets, they obviously intend and want to pay the winner of the lottery. Failure on their part to pay the winner would make that lottery the last one of their career. No one would purchase a ticket where payment of the winnings is in doubt. Therefore to keep their business alive they intend and want to pay the full amount. From the side or the buyer there is a different reason the issue of Asmachta is avoided. When one purchases a commodity that has a market value, it is considered a sale; as opposed to a wager. There is no claim on a sale that I didn’t really mean to buy it. Therefore when one purchases a lottery ticket which has a fair market value, the issue of Asmachta is avoided. [This reason would apply from the side of the seller as well.] To extend this point even further, R’ Spitz poses the following question: If one would rip up the ticket of his friend, how much would he be obligated to pay? What if the ticket turned out to be the winning ticket? R’ Spitz rules that based on the rule that all damages are evaluated based on their value at the time of damage, if one would rip the ticket before the drawing he would only be obligated one dollar. This would be true even if the ticket turned out to be the winning one, since at the point of damage its market value was only one dollar. In conclusion, based upon the above, that a lottery ticket is not a gamble or wager but rather a sale of an item with a market value, in addition to the fact that the seller intends and wants to pay the winner, it would be Halachically permissible to purchase a lottery ticket. Good Luck!

Maaser from Winnings
One has an obligation to separate Maaser from winnings from a lottery as he would from any other profit [Igros Moshe O.H. 4-76]. However one is only obligated to separate Maaser on the amount he actually receives after taxes [Sefer Maaser Kesafim quoting Teshuvos Afakasta Vanya Siman 88].


Rabbi Weinrib is a full-time member of the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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