The Message of Purim Katan
Dr. Chaim Mayer Ehrman
[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]
This Motzai Shabbos is Purim Katan. It is the sixth Yahrtzeit of Rav Shimon Schwab, zt"l. It is known that Purim Katan is a day of some happiness. We do not say Tachanun, Lamnatzayach (before Uva LeTzion) and we do not say hespedim (eulogies). Rav Schwab made it known that he did not want any hespedim during his levaya (funeral). Hashem fulfilled his request, and his petirah (passing) was on Purim Katan. (If the petirah had been on a regular weekday, there would have been hespedim. The Noda BiYehuda writes that when a Jewish leader, a manhig Yisrael passes away, it is a loss for the Jewish nation, and there must be hespedim, even if the Jewish leader had said that he did not want hespedim.)
The happiness and joy of Purim is based on the victory of the Jewish nation against Amalek. There were many nations who tried to destroy Klal Yisrael. The Egyptians threw our male children into the Nile. Yet, after three generations we accept Egyptian converts into Klal Yisrael. We know that Lavan tried to destroy the Jewish nation. There is no restriction against accepting converts from the descendents of Lavan. Yet, we find an entirely different situation with respect to Amalek. We have a special commandment to eradicate the memory of Amalek. Even an animal from Amalek may not be used as a korban, a sacrifice on the mizbayach. Why is the punishment against Amalek so harsh and so severe?
Our sages say that Amalek caused more suffering and pain and anguish for Klal Yisrael than any other nation. Prior to the attack of Amalek, the nations of the world knew that Hashem punished Egypt with 10 plagues, split the Red Sea, and drowned the entire Egyptian army in the sea. It seemed that no nation in the world would ever attack the Jewish people. There would be no suffering or pain for Klal Yisrael: Nevuchadnezzar would not attack Bnei Yisrael, Titus would not attack Bnei Yisrael, the Crusades would not wipe out entire cities of Jewish people, Torquemada would not torture Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, Chmielnicki would not destroy Kehillos Yisrael in Poland and Russia, the Holocaust would not take place. However, Amalek showed the world that the Jewish nation is vulnerable. They could be attacked, and Hashem would not send a fireball to consume the attackers.
When nations wage war, one nation generally covets the resources or the land of the other nation. Amalek went to the desert to wage war against Yisrael. Did they want the desert? There are miles and miles of desert available to any nation. There is no need to wage war to claim the desert. Amalek had a goal in mind. He wanted to show that the Am Hashem, the nation that Hashem chose to be His people are vulnerable and can be attacked like any other nation. Amalek deliberately waged war against the Will of Hashem. He wanted to show that Hashem's nation is made up of mere humans and can lose a war (which happened when Moshe lowered his hands) like any other nation. What is the source of this hatred?
Rav Schwab answers this question based on the Gemora in Sanhedrin 99b. Amalek's hatred came from his mother, Timna. She was a princess from the land of Canaan. She could have lead a life of luxury and royalty. She decided to become a giyores and marry into the descendents of Avraham Avinu. She approached Yaakov Avinu, but he replied, saying "you are from Canaan, and we may have nothing to do with Canaanites." She went to Eisav, who told her that he had three wives and could not take another wife. She approached the children of Eisav and again she was rejected. Finally, Elifaz, the son of Eisav, took her as a concubine, not as a regular wife.
Timna felt totally rejected. She stooped from being a princess to a mere concubine, not even receiving a kesuba, a dowry. She realized that Hashem is the true G-d, but became very bitter because of her treatment and the respect she should have received. (Notice the warm reception Boaz gave Ruth, a princess of Moav who gave up her religion to become a giyores.) Amalek, her son, picked up the bitterness and unhappiness of Timna. He, then, decided to avenge his mother's sadness and rejection. The mussar haskell (moral lesson to be learned) is that we must try to be mekarev (bring close) everyone, to the best of our ability, and avoid rejecting any person from Avodas Hashem.
Gambling and Lotteries Part II
"Gambling and Lotteries" was the title of last week's Halacha Encounters. Who would have thought that such an "innocent" topic would generate so much feedback? In order to deal with some of the questions raised after last week's Halacha Encounters we will revisit some of the issues discussed and attempt to clarify them.
Last week we mentioned the disagreement in the Gemora [Sanhedrin 24B] of Rami Bar Chama and R' Shaishes as to why dice-players are disqualified from serving in our courts. Rami Bar Chama is of the opinion that dice playing is an issue of asmachta, which is a conditional offer to pay money with the conviction that the condition will not come to pass. Therefore to take the money would be an issue of gezel. [It was mentioned that this would only be gezel mideRabanan, stealing forbidden by Rabbinic law. This is the opinion of Rashi [Shevuos 47a and Rosh Hashana 21a] and other Rishonim. There are opinions that this would even constitute gezel MiDoraisa, or Biblical law. [See Ritva Rosh Hashanah 21a and Sma C.M. 370 S.K. 3] R' Shaishes disagreed, saying that since one knows there is a chance he will lose and is willing to take that risk there is no issue of asmachta. We mentioned that the Rema [C.M. 370-3] rules that the prevalent custom has been to permit this. However the Rema himself qualifies his statement that this is all when the money is given over in advance and not just promised to be paid. An example of this would be money pooled among a group where money is placed in a pot and given over to a third party to give to the winner. Since the money left the hands of those involved and is not just promised this type of gambling would be permitted according to the Rema. However, in a case where the money is only promised, there is more of an issue. The Rema [C.M. 207-13] brings one opinion, which states that one only has a right to collect money in such a case if the money was put out on the table. In addition, one would need a kinyan [formal mode of acquisition] to make the wager binding. There is another opinion that the Rema quotes, which says that one cannot collect unless in addition to the kinyan, the place where the money was placed was either owned by both parties or at least lent to both of them [see Nesivos Hamishpat C.M. 207 Biurim 12 and Pischei Choshen Kinyanim Chapter 21 s.k. 30-31].
These conditions obviously make the issue very complex and before getting involved in any sort of betting one needs a clear understanding of all the issues in order not to G-d forbid get involved in a question of gezel [stealing].
Regarding the issue of asmachta in regards to raffles run by a tzedakah organization, R' Yaakov Bloi, Shlita [Pischei Choshen Kinyan Perek 21 S.K. 32] rules as follows. He says that because it is for a tzedakah, even though one would like to win, since one's main purpose in giving is for the tzedaka there is no issue of asmachta.
On the subject of raffles and Chinese Auctions, the following question was raised. Can one use his ma'aser funds to buy tickets to a raffle or Chinese Auction run by a tzedakah organization? HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l [Iggeros Moshe O.H. 4:76] made a distinction between two forms of raffles. When a raffle is made with an unlimited number of tickets sold over a prolonged period of time, these tickets are not considered to have a true monetary value. Therefore one is not considered to have received anything in return for his money and can deduct the full amount from ma'aser. However, if there is a limited amount of tickets, or if they are sold over a short time period, then each one has a value and only the amount paid above that value can be deducted from ma'aser. R' Shimon Taub in his Sefer on tzedakah [The Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pgs. 167-168] says that Chinese Auction tickets do have an actual value since they are only sold over a short period of time. However, since one pays much more than the true value, all the amount above the value can be deducted from ma'aser. Practically speaking, though, it is very difficult to determine the amount the ticket is actually worth. HaRav Dovid Zucker, Shlita, offered the following solution. One can make a stipulation before purchasing the tickets that if he wins he pays the entire amount out of his own pocket. If not, the money will come from ma'aser and go to the organization. [See Sefer Tzedakah Umishpat from R' Yaakov Bloi page 31 who also gives this solution] R' Zucker ruled that this stipulation should really be made in all situations where one buys raffle tickets even when there is an unlimited amount over a prolonged period. Being that there are Poskim [R' Taub quoting HaGaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Shlita and R' Shmuel Felder quoting Hagon Rav Shlomo Zalman zt"l] who say that even in such a case one should not use maaser money making the above stipulation avoids all issues since one is not considered to have benefited from maaser in any way.
Rabbi Weinrib is a full-time member of the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.
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