Sunday, July 31, 2011

Predication Primer

This is meant as a supplement to my comments of three posts ago (“Esoteric”). It provides some general background.

A sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. A subject specifies what the sentence is about. A predicate says something about it.
 
A subject uses a noun to refer to something. A predicate uses a verb to express something that is done – by the thing specified in the subject.
 
There two kinds of verbs, transitive and intransitive. A transitive verb takes a direct object. This is because a transitive verb expresses action done to something. The thing on which action (as expressed by the verb) is taken (or performed) is referred to by the direct object of the (transitive) verb. This is, of course, a noun. Consequently, a sentence featuring a transitive verb has two nouns: one used by the subject and one used by the predicate. The structure of the sentence may be represented as: noun—>verb—>noun. (Example: Yosi hits a ball.)
 
An intransitive verb differs from a transitive one in that it does not take an object. The action expressed is, so to say, self-contained. With an intransitive verb, the sentence structure looks like: noun—>verb. (Example: Yosi sits.)
 
We have thus far considered the basic sentential components of subject and predicate and the words from which they are built – noun and verb. For added accuracy, we would do better to speak not of nouns and verbs but of noun phrases and verb phrases. Here we want to introduce a third type of phrase: a prepositional phrase.
 
A prepositional phrase may be appended to a noun or to a verb. In what follows, I will be interested solely in its attachment to a verb. It has two parts: preposition and object of the preposition. You all know what a preposition is; so there’s no need for me to elaborate on it. Suffice it to say, a preposition shares something important with a transitive verb, namely, that it takes an object (which in the case of a verb we refer to as a direct object). Needless to say, this object is represented by a noun.
 
A prepositional phrase may be appended to an intransitive verb (here we are not interested in its application to a transitive verb). When it is so appended, it yields the sentence structure: noun—>verb—>preposition—>noun. (Example: Yosi sits on a chair.) With this result, the (intransitive) verb is found to relate, indirectly, to the object of the preposition.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Love of Kindness

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh over the radio when I remembered something that had occurred a long time ago. It happened when I lived in Boro Park in the neighborhood of Emunas Yisroel, which I would frequent. To many of the talks of Rav Wolfson shlita, the spiritual leader (otherwise known as The Mashgiach, because he has held the position of Mashgiach in Torah Vodaath) of Emunas Yisroel, I would then go.

In this one instance, I was sitting among the gathered, listening as Rav Wolfson talked about a topic of which I have no recollection. Among the things he said was one that really caught my attention. He raised a question.

In the Shemoneh Esrei we say the beracha of sim shalom. In it, we express ourselves, saying: ki be-or fanecha nasata lanu hashem elokeinu toras chayim ve-ahavas chesed. The statement implies, seemingly, that (kivayachol) the Al-mighty has given us two separate things: toras chayim and ahavas chesed – meaning, a Torah of life and a love of kindness. This raises the question: we can all agree that He has given us a Torah of life. However, what is the basis for saying that He (kivayachol) has given us a love of kindness? Some of us are, after all, more prone to this love than others.

Rav Wolfson shlita, undoubtedly, went on the explain that we have in fact been endowed with a distinctive love of kindness, why this is so, and what the nature of this love of kindness is. In all candor, I have no recollection of what he may have said. My purpose in writing is to suggest that the question is spurious to begin with – or, at least, may be spurious.

There is a way of reading – or should I say parsing? – the statement that prevents the question from arising. It is to read the statement as referring not to two things but to one – characterized by two special features. That is to say, the statement may be read as saying that He gave us a Torah of life and of love of kindness – both epithets characterize the Torah itself. That the Torah is a Torah of life speaks for itself. That it is a Torah of love of kindness follows from the fact that the Torah teaches and encourages love of kindness. It is saturated through and through with this motif – in its laws and in the history it conveys. This is why I say that the question raised that evening in the beis hamedrash fails to get off the ground, given this perspective.

But, of course, anyone is free to adopt an opposing one.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Imperatives: Categorical and Conditional

In today’s post I would like to report to you on an Asvan De-oraysa from Reb Yosef Engle zl. He cites the Ramah in the laws of tzitzis who comments to the effect that the fact notwithstanding that, although women are not obligated in tzitzis owing to the fact that it is a time-dependent positive mitzvah, they are nevertheless permitted to don a tzitzis-bearing garment and recite a blessing upon the mitzvah, if they should so desire, and are deemed non-commanded doers of a mitzvah in so doing; nevertheless it remains improper for them to do so, inasmuch as it gives the appearance of taking on airs, which is categorically frowned upon. The Ramah buttresses his contention by pointing out that even a man is not required to wear tzitzis unless he freely chooses to don a four-cornered garment. So much for what the Ramah says. The Asvan De-oraysa seeks to take issue with the Ramah’s position that it is only on account of the fact that it is unjustifiably taking on airs that a woman is counseled not to don a talis outfitted with tzitzis. The Asvan De-oraysa wants to argue that no fulfillment of the command to wear tzitzis accrues to the woman who garbs herself in a talis to which are affixed tzitzis, at all; and that therefore this woman would be prohibited from reciting a beracha on garbing herself thusly. That no command is fulfilled by such a woman is, he wants to say, an outcome of the fact, cited by the Ramah, that the mitzvah of tzitzis is never a direct, categorical obligation on a person, even when the person is a man.

He sets out to develop a proof to the effect that a woman’s wearing a talis with tzitzis attached counts for nothing at all. His starting point is a Minchas Chinuch who comments on a Tosefos in Suka, which asks why lecha is needed to disqualify of stolen suka. Let a stolen suka be disqualified (invalidated) by dint of the fact that it is a mitzvah haba be-aveira (hereafter mhb)! To this, the Minchas Chinuch offers a striking reply that runs along the following lines. There are, he says, two kinds of positive commands (mitzvos). One kind is such that performance of the specified act is intrinsically sought. Examples abound and include such mitzvos as tefilin, lulav, etc. The other kind, by contrast, is such that the specified act is not intrinsically sought. It is merely instrumentally needed as a means of preventing a prohibited state of affairs from arising. Thus consider suka: the obligation to eat in a suka is not intrinsically sought. For had it been intrinsically sought, it would not have been left to a person’s discretion whether to partake of food and incur the obligation or not to and not incur the obligation. The obligation would have been imposed categorically and not conditionally (or contingently). As it is, a person is free not to eat at all, if he so chooses; he is imposed upon neither to eat nor, a fortiori, to do eating in a suka. The mitzvah merely states that, should he voluntarily decide to partake of food and to eat, then he should do his eating in the suka. What this means is that the performance of the act – in this instance, the act of eating in a suka – is not intrinsically sought. It arises, rather, from a need to prevent a state of affairs from arising in which the person is eating outside the suka – which is undesired. So explains the Minchas Chinuch.

With this as background, we come to the explication of the principle that one does not fulfill a mhb. The Minchas Chinuch’s first step in delineating it is to disabuse us of the spurious notion that mhb invalidates the object with which we seek to perform a mitzvah – the case in point being a suka whose acquisition has been effected by unlawful means – thus rendering the act performed by using this object unqualified. Not so, he says: the impact of mhb is not at all analogous to that, say, of a (disqualifyingly) broken lulav, where the object is rendered invalid and therefore makes it so that an act performed by its use fails to meet the requirements of the command to perform an act using the object in question. But if this is not the operative mechanism behind mhb, then what is?

Lurking behind the Minchas Chinuch’s explanation is the following understanding. There are three things of which we need to be cognizant in considering the matter. There is, first, the object with which a mitzvah is performed. It must meet the defined specifications, if the act performed by its means is to qualify as fulfilling the designated mitzvah. (Thus, for example, a lulav must not be broken if it is to qualify.) Next, there is the performance of the act itself to consider. It must meet the necessary criteria. (A big part of what makes it a proper performance is that fact that it is performed using an object of the requisite kind.) Finally, there is still another element: it is this. The act – as fully qualified in itself – needs, further, to be accepted in fulfillment of the command. It needs to be suited for acceptance – which is to say that it needs to be deemed acceptable. It is, says the Minchas Chinuch, in regard to this last aspect that mhb enters as a desideratum.

An object’s having arisen by way of an aveira (sin, transgression) does nothing to thwart the object’s inherent validity or to impugn the integrity of an act in which it is playing a part. That is to say, it affects neither of the first two aspects of the completion of a mitzvah. The object’s having been acquired, or brought into being, through illicit means interferes, merely, with the ability of a performance that draws on it to bring about the requisite acceptance. Apart from this, however, its status as a mitzvah-object, capable of being used to discharge one’s obligation, remains intact.

Working with this understanding, the Minchas Chinuch infers that the principle of mhb applies only to the first of the two categories of positive command – that in which an action is intrinsically sought. It does not, however, apply to the second category. For only where the first category is concerned does acceptability enter as a desideratum. But where the sole purpose of a commanded act is to avert a circumstance in which something undesired is performed (for example, to prevent a state of affairs in which someone is eating outside the suka from arising), the act, considered in itself, is not something whose performance is sought. It is merely a means of obviating something repugnant. The issue, therefore, of this act’s acceptability never rises to the fore. This being so, there is nothing for the fact that the object with which the mitzvah is being performed originated in sin to infect and render ineffectual. All that remains to consider is the integrity of the performance of the act per se; and this, as noted, is not something that mhb can impinge on. This, then, is why lecha is needed to disqualify a stolen suka. Without lecha, mhb would be powerless to disqualify the performance.

So much for the Minchas Chinuch.

At this point, the Asvan De-oraysa steps up and seeks to adapt the Minchas Chinuch’s logic (as regards the inapplicability of mhb to non-categorical mitzvos) to the case of a mitzvah performed by someone who is not commanded (e.g., a woman in regard to time-sensitive mitzvos), in an ingenious way. The question his reasoning addresses is: why should someone not obligated in a mitzvah nevertheless be able to fulfill the mitzvah (by performing it)? His argument is that someone not commanded – such as a woman in regard to a time-dependent mitzvah – is able to attain fulfillment of the particular mitzvah only where it comes from the class of mitzvos whose performance is intrinsically sought. For there the element of acceptance enters as a desideratum; and a woman is able to achieve acceptance by exercising her free volition in fulfilling the command, despite not having been commanded. In other words, the element of acceptance provides a wedge with whose help a non-commanded person may enter. On the other hand, where the element of acceptance is absent – as it is in regard to mitzvos whose performance is merely instrumentally sought – an exempted person has nothing to latch onto in attempting to fulfill the mitzvah.

The very idea of fulfilling a mitzvah is, in that case, somewhat attenuated; what is really implicated is the negative idea of advertence. But someone not commanded is not someone whose abstinence averts a proscribed state of affairs. So given her exempt status, a woman can, in relation to time-sensitive commands, do nothing to advance the cause of avoidance. Her eating outside of a suka is not undesired; consequently, her eating inside one does nothing to avert an undesired state of affairs. It is entirely ineffectual. To put it starkly, her eating outside a suka is as good as her eating inside one; the situation is entirely indifferent to it. Ergo: her performance cannot constitute a fulfillment of the command.

Now, considering that, as the Ramah indicates, tzitzis falls into the classification of instrumental, conditional commands, owing to the fact that the individual is not imposed upon to don a garment of the appropriate kind but, rather, to wear tzitzis if he independently decides to don such a garment, it follows that a woman, who is totally non-commanded in regard to this mitzvah, would fail to fulfill the mitzvah, should she voluntarily act to perform it, and that therefore she should certainly not recite a beracha in conjunction with her act.

The Asvan De-oraysa buttresses his reasoning by drawing on a Tosefos in Kidushin, which suggests that, if it were not for the presence of a pasuk expressly disqualifying women from performing certain of the services associated with bringing a korban (animal sacrifice), the fact alone that the service of a korban requires being accoutered in the priestly garments and women are not permitted to wear those garments would not suffice to clinch the issue in favor of their not performing the service – the reason being, the very state of affairs whereby women are not commanded to wear the priestly garments guarantees that, in failing to wear them, they are not lacking them. Where there is no requirement there is no lack, resulting from failure to abide by the requirement. But if they are not lacking them, then their not being accoutered in them would per se be no obstacle to their performing the service (for it would be as if they were wearing them!) – but for the explicit pasuk, disqualifying them.

The Asvan De-oraysa concludeds that, mutatis mutandis, the same holds for a woman’s donning tzitzis. Since the mitzvah of tzitzis is not positive, in the sense of enjoining the person to wear a garment requiring it, but rather negative, in the sense that, once worn, the garment should not be lacking in tzitzis; and, further, since, given her exempt status, a woman’s failure to affix tzitzis to her garment cannot constitute a lack with respect to the garment she wears; it follows that when she does affix tzitzis to the garment she wears she accomplishes nothing at all, as far as fulfilling the mitzvah is concerned. The Asvan De-oraysa goes so far as to express himself by saying that a woman’s not wearing tzitzis (on the four-cornered garment she is wearing) is exactly the same as her wearing tzitzis. It is as if she were wearing tzitzis! And to support this, he cites the Gemara in Avoda Zara that says that, the fact notwithstanding that we derive from a pasuk that someone uncircumcised is unfit to perform circumcision, a woman is, nevertheless, qualified to do a circumcision, because she is as if she actually were circumcised. The Asvan De-oraysa interprets this as meaning that, since a woman is not in the kind of physical state that circumcision is meant to extricate a person from, she is accounted as actually being circumcised. That circumcision has not physically been performed on her does not detract from her status in this regard.

Similarly, by the very fact that she is exempt, a woman is not lacking tzitzis when the garment she wears is not adorned with them. But if she is not lacking them, it is exactly the same as if she were actually wearing them! Consequently, it is impossible for her to fulfill the mitzvah – by physically wearing them. They add nothing to her initial condition at all.

After some additional dialectical treatment of the topic, the Asvan De-oraysa considers the possibility that, by the forgoing reasoning, a woman should not be allowed to recite a beracha on sitting in a suka either, given that one is not required to eat in a suka but, only, to eat in a suka if one decides independently that one wants to eat. Suka is not a mitzvah whose fulfillment is intrinsically sought but only instrumentally so. Consequently, it shouldn’t be possible for her to fulfill the mitzvah! But he demurs, explaining that the situation with suka is importantly different from that of tzitzis. For in the case of suka, it is not the case that the mitzvah to eat in it is contingent on the realization of a prior condition: namely, the formation of an intention to eat. Rather, the mitzvah of suka is teishvu ke-ein taduru.

This means that the mitzvah is to live in a suka in precisely the manner in which one ordinarily lives in a home. Now, living at home is not about staying indoors all of the time. It consigns certain kinds of activity to indoor conduction, while countenancing other activity types as belonging to the outdoors. Neither does it demand that activities whose place is in the home actually be engaged in (in the home). It leaves it to the home-dweller’s discretion whether to engage in activity – such as eating and sleeping – whose place is in the home, or not to. All this is discretional. What is positively expected is merely that any activity whose place is the home will, if engaged in at all, be conducted in the home. And, says the Asvan De-oraysa, since suka life is meant to simulate home life, the suka dweller is entitled to the same exercise of discretion as he enjoys when living in his home. This is part and parcel of the fulfillment of the obligation to settle in a suka. It is teishvu ke-ein taduru.

Accordingly, there is nothing conditional about the mitzvah of suka. Far from being contingent and conditional, it is categorical. It demands that one conduct oneself as if living at home all throughout. Fulfilling this imperative, though, allows ample scope for deciding for oneself if and when one wants to eat and sleep. But when one eats and sleeps, one had better do it in the suka. This being so, a woman is quite capable of fulfilling the command as a non-commanded doer of the mitzvah. As such, she very well makes a beracha.

By taking this stance, the Asvan De-oraysa has distanced himself from the position taken by the Minchas Chinuch to the effect that suka constitutes an instrumental type of mitzvah and has only conditional (not categorical) force. Consequently, the Asvan De-oraysa is likewise deprived of the possibility of availing himself of the Minchas Chinuch’s answer to the Tosefos’ question about mhb in relation to a stolen suka. Evidently, this is a price he is willing to pay. May all be well upon us and all of Israel.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Something Bordering on the Esoteric

In the verse (Parshas Pinchas, Bamidbar 26:3) it says vayedabeir moshe ve-elazar hakohein osam be-arvos mo-av al yardein yereicho leimor. In the text we learn that G-d commanded Moshe and Elazar to count the Jewish people (from age twenty and up) in the aftermath of the plague that had consumed a large number of Jewish souls. In this verse we find Moshe and Elazar conveying this imperative to the children of Israel. But the verse employs the word osam. And it is unclear how this word is being used and, therefore, how exactly the verse is to be read.

It would be nice if we could translate the word as meaning with them and, therefore, the verse as saying that Moshe and Elazar spoke with them, meaning the with the Jewish people,...concerning the matter of the count. This is a very straightforward way of reading it – and, in fact, the way that the Seforno and the Even Ezra adopt. They have no compunctions about the verse’s use of osam.

However, others are not as sanguine. These latter are impelled by the fact that, taken straightforwardly, osam does not translate into with them. To say that osam meant with them would be to say that that it functioned as a prepositional phrase, combining the preposition with and the pronoun them. And this would make it suitable as an occupant of the position following this verse’s intransitive verb vayedabeir. It would make it possible to read the verse as saying that Moshe and Elazar spoke with the Jewish people.

However, in point of fact, osam does not standardly mean with them. Taking the meaning with them is rather reserved for the word itam (or imam). Osam, rather, means them. It is a simple pronoun, with no preposition attached. Consequently it is not suited for occupying the position of a prepositional phrase in a sentential clause governed by an intransitive verb. If it is to appear in a predicate at all, it would have to occur in a predicate in which a transitive verb governed; and it would serve as the direct object of this transitive verb.

This is why the Targum Onkelos is not content to read the verse after the fashion of the Seforno and Even Ezra. In fact, it is not only Onkelos who objects to this seemingly straightforward reading. There is also Rashi to consider. Here is Rashi’s gloss: diberu imam al zos shetziva hamakom limnosam. (Speak with them about this, that G-d has commanded for them to be counted.) The reader of this Rashi might be tempted to correlate Rashi’s invocation of the word imam with the verse’s use of osam. In that case, Rashi would come out siding with the reading of the Seforno and the Even Ezra, after all. He would be interpreting osam as imam, or with them; and he would be reading the verse as saying that Moshe and Elazar spoke with them, that is, with the Jews. However, a glance at the Sifsei Chachamim quickly disabuses us of such a na├»ve reading of Rashi.

Here is the understanding of the verse that the Sifsei Chachamim attributes to Rashi: Moshe and Elazar spoke (with them) regarding this thing, that is, the counting of the Jewish people. In other words, osam does not correlate with imam. It correlates, rather, with this thing – which is to say, the commanded counting of the people. The motive for this departure is, evidently, a dissatisfaction with translating osam as having the meaning with them (imam). Treating osam as meaning with them is objectionable on the grounds that one looks in vain for the presence of a preposition, such as with, in the osam construction. There is none to be discerned. It is a pronoun, meaning them, plain and simple.

Now, admittedly, it is not entirely clear what the nature of the alternative that Rashi, according to the Sifsei Chachamim, offers is. There seem to be two ways of parsing it. One is to say that, like the Seforno and Even Ezra, Rashi understands the verb of the clause, which he naturally understands to be vayedabeir (speaking), to be intransitive. Consequently, it cannot be complemented by a direct object but only, if at all, by a prepositional phrase. Rashi, furthermore, identifies the prepositional phrase as being: al zos, meaning about this (thing) – this (thing) being a reference to the counting of the Jews. Al is a preposition, meaning about; and zos is a pronoun, meaning this, which Rashi understands to be referring to the commanded act of counting. Importantly, it is this last that correlates with the verse’s use of osam.

The interesting, and important, thing about this is that, although Rashi’s reading invokes the preposition al (about), it stops short of imputing this preposition to word osam itself. To do that would be to defeat the whole purpose of the exercise. Instead, it posits al, or about, as an understood preposition, one that is merely implicit. Its object is the word osam, which provides the pronoun needed to make reference to the specifics of the counting act. Consequently, although there is a preposition operating here, osam is relieved of the burden of carrying it – rightly so.

In sum, therefore, though, on this reading of Rashi, Rashi dispenses with the view that osam incorporates the preposition with, it does not, nevertheless, dispense with the view that osam incorporates the object of a preposition – them. It does, however, reorient the reference of the pronoun them, fixing it on the command to count. This, then, is one way to read the Sifsei Chachamim.

However, there is, I believe, also another. On this latter, the departure from the approach of the Seforno and Even Ezra is cleaner, i.e., more radically complete. On this reading, the verse is made out to say: Moshe and Elazar spoke osam – the command to count in its myriad details. That is, vayedabeir is used transitively; and there is no intervening preposition bridging the verb and the subsequent pronoun serving as object. There is no place for such a preposition, given that the verse is following a transitive verb-direct object structure.

Here it bears mentioning, parenthetically, that some verbs are capable of doubling up as both intransitive and transitive verbs, dibur, speaking, being a case in point. You can use it transitively and say something like: Speak your mind; Speak your words; or Speak divrei torah. And at Bereishis 24:33 we find ad im dibarti devarai. However, you can also use it intransitively, as when you say: I will speak; or I will speak to him. According to the just proposed understanding of the interpretation that the Sifsei Chachamim imputes to Rashi, vayedabeir is here used transitively. And osam, serving as its direct object, makes reference to the commanded counting of the Jewish people.

So, in sum, we have so far identified three approaches to the interpretation of the verse. On one, the verse features an intransitive verb, vayedabeir, which is complemented by osam, taken as a prepositional phrase, comprising words for with and for them (they being the children of Israel, who are spoken to) (Seforno, Even Ezra, and possibly Rashi). On another, vayedabeir, taken still as an intransitive verb, is complemented by a prepositional phrase, part of it understood and part of it made explicit. The prepositional phrase is about them. The understood part is the preposition about. And the explicitly rendered part of it is the prepositional object osam, taken as meaning them (plain and simple). Them, in turn, is interpreted as a reference to the details surrounding the commanded counting of the Jews (Rashi/Sifsei Chachamim, on the tame understanding). Finally, on yet another approach, vayedabeir is, again, understood as serving as the main verb. It is, however, used transitively; and it takes osam, understood as referring to the command to count and the surrounding details, as a direct object. At this point, we want to complete our thought and go back and look at the Onkelos’ way of reading the verse. We will find that, structurally, it has something in common with the third view just summarized (as a possible reading of the Sifsei Chachamim), although, semantically, it shares something in common with the first view (that of the Seforno and Even Ezra).

The Onkelos glosses our verse as follows: And Moshe and Elazar the kohein spoke, and they instructed to count them... In other words, the verse says nothing about to whom they spoke. It addresses, rather, the matter of what they said. And what they said was that the people were to be counted. When the verse expresses itself using the word osam, it is indeed a pronominal reference to the Jewish people; and it does indeed serve as the direct object of a transitive verb. The verb, however, is not to speakvayedabeir – but rather to count. This, moreover, is an understood verb, gathered from the context and not expressly indicated in the text itself. This is Onkelos’ interpretation.

Now, as said, structurally, the pattern followed is that of the Sifsei Chachamim on the more radical reading. For the structure of the relevant clause is: subject, transitive verb, direct object. At the same time though, the idea that osam refers to the Jewish people is preserved. And in this there is symmetry to the understanding of the Seforno and the Even Ezra (and, also, possibly Rashi). Furthermore – as is the case with the Sifsei Chachamim’s approach – the idea of counting enters into the composition of this clause. Only, it does not occupy the position of object (as it does for the Sifsei Chachamim), but rather that of the verb. At the cost of having to yank in a governing verb – to count – from the outside (as it were), the Onkelos is enabled to interpret osam in what seems is the textually natural way, as a reference to the Jewish people who were being addressed, and at the same time to execute the interpretation in a way that is faithful to the standard grammatical use of the word osam – as a simple object.

The upshot is that we are confronted with two views as to whether osam can be used to mean what itam is typically used to mean – that is, with them. Rashi (unless understood in the Sifsei Chachamim’s way), the Seforno, and the Even Ezra hold that it can; whereas Onkelos (and Rashi as understood by the Sifsei Chachamim) holds it cannot. On what, then, does this disagreement turn?

Can osam be used for itam? To answer this, we need to consider the question: Do osam and itam come from the same root? To get a purchase on this, we need, first, to consider that the root-source of both osam and itam is the word es. In either case, es is inflected so as to incorporate a pronoun meaning them. We need, next, to consider whether the two words osam and itam come from the same es or from disparate eses. Are there, then, two eses or only one?

This much we can acknowledge axiomatically: osam comes from the es of es and itam comes from the es of im. Here I need to digress for a moment and explain what I mean by the es of es and the es of im. For the most part, in the Torah, we find the word es used in two (seemingly different) ways. In its most ubiquitous use, it prefaces an object – as for example in es ha-or. I call this the es of es. At other times though, es is used as a synonym for im. Thus, es ha-elokim hishalech no-ach. This, then, would be the es of im. In a straightforward sense, the word osam derives from the es of es, and the word itam derives from the es of im. This concludes my digression. The question before us, therefore, resolves itself into the question of whether these two eses are actually disparate roots or one and the same.

On the assumption that they are disparate, and that osam comes from the one (the es of es) and itam from the other (the es of im), it is understandable that inflecting the word es so that it incorporates a pronoun for them should yield divergent outcomes - osam and itam, respectively - depending on the es-word being so inflected. Different roots have different (phonetic) instantiations when operated on inflectionally. On the other hand, assuming that the two eses are at bottom the same, and that therefore both outer forms (osam and itam) come from – and are underpinned by – this one root, logic would suggest that the construction obtained by appending a pronoun for them to this root should have the same outer form in either case.

Yet osam and itam obviously do not share the same outer form. This (prima facie) tells in favor of viewing the two es words (es of es and es of im) as differing in root. Still, it does not deal the opposing view a devastating blow from which it cannot recover. The difficulty posed for the opposing view may be mitigated by the consideration that, after all is said and done, the word itam serves a linguistic purpose that could not be served without it (by the presence of osam alone). It affords us a word that builds exclusively on the im sense of es and carries the meaning with them univocally. (The itam formulation means nothing but imam.) Granted that the route followed in leading from the root es to the outer manifestation of itam appears obscure to us. The fact, nevertheless, remains that a new word form (itam) had perforce to be introduced. Inevitably, its construction was not going to follow normal procedures. If it did, they would have resulted (presumably) in osam, which would have left the new word without any distinguishing marks by which to tell it apart from the naturally generated osam. Itam had of necessity to take its own form; and that makes its seemingly devious appearance acceptable. (But, as we shall want to say, introducing it does not have the effect of debarring the inflection got by incorporating the pronoun into the original es, straightforwardly, from serving in the capacity for which the special inflection, itam, is especially introduced.) The supposition that the es of es and the es of im are at root one therefore retains its viability. 

On this, I want to say, does the issue of whether osam can be used for itam depend. If there is but one es, such that both itam and osam derive from it, then even after/with the introduction (as it were) of itam, it remains possible for osam to be used as itam. For in principle, there is no reason why the forms should vary. Although itam has been introduced to provide an unambiguous way of expressing the sense of with them, this is not meant to debar osam from working alongside it and, occasionally, taking the same meaning. Sharing the same root, it has every right to do so. If, on the other hand, osam and itam come from different/desperate es-words, such that the es of im needs to take the form itam when inflected to incorporate a pronoun for them, then osam is incapable of doing duty for itam.

The Seforno and Even Ezra take the former view; Rashi and Onkelos take the latter.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

That Pivotal Moment!

The following is a comment I contributed this morning to Lori Palatnik's Lori Amost Live blog on Aish.com. The theme of her video post was Pivotal Moments.

I was about to start high school. I had been attending a yeshiva elementary school from the very beginning. But I hadn’t developed much of a taste for learning Gemara. One day, I ventured into a local yeshiva beis medrash where men, of various ages, were learning Gemara with chavrusos (study partners). I was somewhat taken aback, as I had not previously had a firsthand look at intense Torah study in action. While looking, I caught notice of someone I knew from the neighborhood; and he saw me too. He made his way over to where I was standing. He pointed to several of the people who were engrossed in learning atop their Gemaras. He told me how they had been maintaining rigorous learning schedules for quite a number of years. Some of them had no other DAY JOBS and simply stuck to learning as a day-long, life-long occupation. But others had jobs and/or professions that they would engage in for the bulk of the day. But when the anticipated hour finally arrived, they would bolt out of their offices, labs, or what have you with fierce determination and head straight for the beis hamedrash in which he and I were presently standing and talking. They would spend the next few hours in uninterrupted, rigorous learning. They did this day-in-and-day-out over a span of quite of few years. And in fact, a number of them had already grown into accomplished talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) and were recognized and sought out as authorities in Talmud and halacha. Listening to him, I was truly overwhelmed. I was overcome with ambition and formed an urge to dedicate myself to serious learning and strive to attain considerable heights in Torah knowledge and understanding. That was the moment when I resolved to pursue my high school studies within the confines of a reputable yeshiva, where I could immerse myself in Gemara learning in a very serious way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Second Specimen

Today I composed (and sent off) another becoming-acquainted-request letter to a Frumster member that I thought I would publish as a post. Please pardon the indulgence.   

Hi. I was browsing. Suddenly I came upon your profile. Immediately I took an interest. I was overcome by the enchantment of the elements of your story. Thereupon I decided to make contact. I wanted to introduce myself and open the floodgates to the possibility of our forging a connection. But I was soon overtaken by the realization of a reality. The reality was that I did not hold premium membership. Consequently, I would not be empowered to read your message, were you send me one in response to a message that I were to have sent you. Consequently, what would be the point of my sending you a message in the first place? I pondered this question intently, wanting, as I did, so diligently to open up a line of communication with you. Suddenly something profound dawned on me. It was this: I could send you a message without being deterred by the fact that any return message you were to send me would be one I was unable to open up and read, owing to the fact that I lacked premium membership. Here’s why. In the message I sent you, I could include my email address – notstamaguy at gmail dot com. That way, you would be able to respond to me, if you so chose to do, regardless of my lack of entitlement to read messages coming in to me at this website. I pondered this idea; and after a while, I came away convinced that is was very viable. So I wasted no time in composing this message and sending it off to you instantaneously. And now that you have almost finished reading it, you have got your options open before you. One of them is to write me back at my email address and allow us to engage in correspondence that, hopefully, will prove fruitful and, so to say, feed on itself. Of course, taking this route would only make sense if you possessed the desire to enter into a mutual involvement with me for, at least, exploratory purposes. But if you do, I encourage you emphatically to go ahead and do it, because I really think you’re neat!

Shalom uvracha,

Sruli       

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Autobiographical

I hang out in Flatbush.
Until a few years ago, I hung out in Boro Park, where I did a lot of my growing up. But not all of it. I had done the earlier part of by growing up in the Midwest. I would return to the Midwest to take my high school education.
Up to a point, all my education was traditional yeshiva education. In elementary school, I learned the alef-beis, how to daven, Chumash, Chumash-with-Rashi, Mishnayos and, finally, beginning Gemara. In the upper elementary grades, I was also exposed to a fair amount of halacha, particularly Kitzur Shulachan Aruch. In the highest elementary grade, I received my initial introduction to works of musar: Orchos Tzadikim, Mesilas Yesharim, etc. (I neglected to mention that the curriculum also covered a certain amount of Tanach.)
As already indicated, upon completion of elementary school, I ventured out into the Midwest to attend a major yeshiva high school. My level of learning rose precipitously. From the very first, the method of instruction took a major leap forward. Previously, my classmates and I would (try to) sit at our desks, while the rebbi, sitting up front and facing us, would read a passage from the Gemara for our benefit. We would listen as attentively as possible, following the progression of his recital in our own Gemaras, which lay open (to the right page) upon our desks. Quite frequently, the rebbi, interrupting his reading, would look up and endeavor to explain to us, orally, a fine point of Talmudic reasoning. Some of us would comprehend it; some of us would not. He would routinely dote on a student whose understanding was suspect, demanding that he repeat the explanation in his own words. When the poor student proved incapable of obliging, our rebbi would next heap his attention on another student, to see if he might fare any better. Soon enough, it would become patently evident that a sizeable number of students had been left virtually clueless. At that point, the rebbi would repeat the explanation once more for everyone’s benefit. He might even retrace his steps in the reading, and commence his recital from the point at which he had originally begun. To us, sitting at our desks, this was a lesson not merely in Gemara study; it also taught us how to exercise patience and tolerance in relation to our fellow Jews.
As I had begun to say, once having arrived in yeshiva high school, I found myself confronted with a drastically altered approach. However, at this point, I’m afraid I will need to extricate myself from autobiographical mode and slip into profile mode. If you really are interested in knowing the rest of the story, you will undoubtedly flash me a message, expressing your interest. Then we can take it up together offline, or at least offsite. So let me just finish off by telling you that, after high school, I continued onto yeshiva beis medrash. And after that I went to a fancy shmancy university up in Boston where I studied philosophy and tried to gain a lot of fame. Eventually, I returned to Brooklyn and, thank G-d, made a lot of money working in computers and, also, teaching college. Here in Flatbush, I keep the company of the finest benei Torah and daven in the most select of batei medrashim. Still, there’s no reason for you to be intimidated by me, as I exude a lot of personal warmth and am, in fact, quite approachable. 
I could go on and on; but as you can see, I’m trying to keep it manageable.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ve-imru Amein

I would stand outside the door. People would walk by. Some would greet me. Some by a shake of the head. Some by saying something. Some, I would greet first. Sometimes, the rosh yeshiva Reb Chaim Epstein shlita would pass by, and offer me a greeting. Sometimes, the mashgiach Reb Moshe Wolfson shlita would do the same. Obviously, they didn’t do it because I was important. They did it to give succor to a poor, pathetic Jew.

One Friday night (Shabbos), as I stood there, I thought to ask: We conclude the Shemoneh Esrei by saying oseh shalom bimromav hu ya-aseh shalom aleinu ve-al kohl yisrael ve-imru amein. This is recited during the silent Shemoneh Esrei that we each daven individually. Whom, then, were we addressing when we said: ve-imru amein? I pondered and I pondered; and the more I pondered, the more I became perplexed by the question. When the chazan recites oseh shalom at the conclusion of the kadish, the problem does not arise. He can be understood as addressing the congregation. Indeed, the congregation responds, saying amein. But whom am I addressing when I say it, daveing the shtileh (silent) Shemoneh Esrei?

Presently, Reb Yisroel Meir Kirzner shlita walked by. I treaded toward him, greeting him with an inspired Gut Shabbos! Having received his reciprocative greeting, I blurted out, “May I ask something?” Receiving his affirmative indication, I proceeded to put my question before him. Not missing a beat, he responded, evincing a teasing demeanor. He said: “Could it be that it was the malachim who were being addressed?” Befuddled totally, I ventured no answer: I let him continue on his way, without my having said anything further.

Then there’s what happened the next day. In shul, on the corner at Mincha Gedola, I met Rabbi Kupitz (may he be well) and put the question to him. Giving me a sympathetic ear, it occurred to him to mention that I might want to consult the Magein Avraham to Shulchan Aruch Orach Cha-im, siman 61 se-if 3, in hilchos keri-as shema. I might find some pertinent discussion there. I followed through; and lo and behold, illuminating goings on unfolded before me.

Permit me to explain. The halacha says that, although one is generally not allowed to interrupt one’s recital of keri-as shema with speech, one is permitted to do so at certain points in the reading, for certain defined purposes. Pursuant to this caveat, the Mechaber says that it is, likewise, permissible to interrupt one’s reading of keri-as shema in order to answer kadish, kedusha, and barechu. The Mechaber goes so far as to say that these latter may be responsively recited even when the reader finds himself in the midst of a verse of the keri-as shema. (By contrast, the more standard dispensations only apply when the reader has completed a verse or a chapter.)

To this the Rama adds that, according to some, one may interrupt one’s reading also to utter the amein that is answered after the beracha of hakeil hakadosh and, also, the amein that is answered after the beracha of shome-a tefila. Having cited this opinion, the Rema goes on to adopt it.

We now come to the Magein Avraham. He wants to know why these two ameins enjoy the same status as kadish, kedusha, and barechu as far as interrupting one’s reading of the keri-as shema is concerned. In answering, he cites the Beis Yoseif (in the name of the Mari-a) who comments that these ameins have the status of kedusha; and this for the following reason. The amein of hakeil hakadosh marks the conclusion of the first section of the Shemoneh Esrei (the praises), while the amein of shome-a tefila concludes the second section (bakashos/requests). But, he continues, the amein following the beracha of sim shalom does not share this status; and one may not interrupt one’s reading of keri-as shema to answer it.

He is, in effect, bothered by the question: if the amein of hakeil hakadosh and that of shome-a tefila are considered words of kedusha, owing to the fact that they, respectively, mark the conclusion of another of the sections of the amida, then the amein of hamevareich es amo yisra-el bashalom should follow suit, considering that it marks off the third section of the amida (the section of thanks). To this he offers the answer that the amein of sim shalom is different, in that a yachid (individual) recites it as well, at the conclusion of the Shemoneh Esrei. (The ameins of hakeil hakados and shome-a tefila, by contrast, are only recited by the tzibur – congregation – during chazaras hashatz.) The kedusha-status of this amein is therewith diminished – and, as a result, this amein does not have the power to interrupt the keri-as shema.

In so saying,it is important to note,the Beis Yoseif is alluding to an opinion that holds that everyone privately says amein at the conclusion of the (or his) Shemoneh Esrei, after the beracha of hamevareich es amo yisra-el bashalom.

Now, having cited this opinion, the Beis Yoseif goes on to cite a contravening one. It is that of the Levush, who notes that we do not go by the view that the individual says amein at the conclusion of the Shemoneh Esrei: we don’t follow this opinion. Accordingly, for us, the amein said after hamevareich es amo yisra-el bashalom is the same in status as the amein said after hakeil hakadosh and shome-a tefila. It enjoys the same level of kedusha. Therefore it has the same power as they to permit us to interrupt our reading of keri-as shema in order to answer it.

But as a counterweight to this view, the Beis Yoseif (cited still by the Magein Avraham) cites another view, that of the lch, that one should not interrupt the keri-as shema to answer the amein of sim shalom, after all. The reason he gives is this: True though it be that we don’t insert amein at the conclusion of our private recitals of the Shemoneh Esrei, we do nevertheless say amein when we follow up the Shemoneh Esrei with the refrain, oseh shalom bimromav hu ya-aseh shalom aleinu ve-al kohl yisra-el ve-imru amein. What the lch is suggesting is that this amein is somehow equivalent to (or a substitute for) an amein that might have been inserted at the conclusion of sim shalom – as far as diminishing the kedusha of the the amein said publically after the recital of sim shalom and, thus, rendering it unfit to interrupt the keri-as shema is concerned.

What we want to take away from this is the notion that ve-imru amein as said privately at the end of the amida serves a purpose akin to the purpose that amein at the end of the beracha of sim shalom serves, for those according to whom it is there uttered privately. And what is this purpose? Presumably: marking off the end of the amida.

(The observant critic will persist: “Fine, that explains why we say amein. But it does little, if anything, to assuage our concern over saying ve-imru amein. The lone, silent reciter of Shemoneh Esrei has no-one to whom to address this injunction!” Might it be, though, that he is addressing his fellow congregants? The rejoinder will be forthcoming: “No way! He is, as repeatedly said, saying the silent Shemoneh Esrei.” But perhaps not. Perhaps he has already finished the Shemoneh Esrei. He has, after all, already enunciated the verse: yihyu leratzon imrei fi... Perhaps, then, the oseh shalom prayer is a post-Shemoneh Esrei addition. In that case, it is not an intrinsically silent petition. One can address one’s fellow congregants in reciting it. Perhaps.)

After finishing with the Beis Yoseif, the Magain Avraham cites the Mateh Moshe as saying this: Even someone who davens as a yachid should say ve-imru amain after oseh shalom, at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei. For he speaks to the malachim (angels) who guard him.
When I next saw Rav Kirzner, I made sure to tell him that I knew what he had meant, standing with me one Shabbos night in winter, out there on the street.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vesein Tal Umatar

This is my English rendition of a piece from Bemechitsas Rabeinu

Faith in Prayer

Reb Yakov Michoel Hirschman shlita (head of the kollel in Toronto) related the following.  He had been a student of the gaon Reb Aharon Kotler ztl.  On the latter’s passing, he was among those who accompanied the casket carrying Reb Aharon to its final resting place, which was in Eretz Yisrael.  In the year in which this occurred, Eretz Yisrael had been beset by a devastating draught, from which the population suffered agonizingly.  At the site of the burial, a certain elderly Jew was present; and he volunteered that he had received a tradition harking back to the elders of the generation that said that if, in a time of draught, a righteous person should pass away, a samartut ratuv (wet cloth) should be placed in the grave along with the deceased.  Doing this will symbolize that the tzadik prays for rain, he adjured.  They did as he had advised when they buried the gaon ztl.  And on the night immediately following the burial, exceedingly strong rains poured down from the sky.  When Rabeinu was told this story, he retorted that he did not believe that following this man’s prescription was in fact the cause of the rain.  He averred that what precipitated the rain was the fact that this was the night on which Jews throughout the reaches of the Diaspora began to recite vesein tal umatar (“and give dew and rain”) in the Shemonah Esrei prayer.  He expressed himself, saying: “And what do you think – that this is nothing but a wagon full of dirt!?”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Letter Specimen

Frumster is running a promotion.

Frumster has two kinds of members: basic members and premium members. All members, whether basic or premium, can set up profiles, which may be viewed and read by all other members. All members can also receive messages sent them by premium members. But they cannot receive messages sent to them by basic members. It is not that their inboxes are set up so as not to be able to accommodate messages coming from basic members. A member’s inbox can accommodate any message sent to the member. The reason a member cannot receive the message of a basic member is, rather, that a mere basic member is not given the capability of composing and sending a message to another member, period. Consequently, there are no basic member-messages to be received by any member: they are simply not brought into existence. This means that it is not only a basic member who cannot receive the message of a basic member. Even a premium member cannot receive a basic member’s message, owing to the fact that a basic member simply lacks the capacity to initiate a message.

Now, I just got through saying that all inboxes, whether those of premium members or those of basic members, are capable of receiving messages. (As noted, ordinarily they will receive the messages only of premium members, since basic members lack the capacity to send messages.) At this point, I need to enter the caveat that there remains an important difference between a premium member’s capacity to receive messages and a basic member’s. A premium member can not only accumulate messages in his inbox; he can actually read those messages. A basic member, on the other hand, though able to accumulate incoming messages (coming from premium members) in his inbox, is not empowered to actually read them. To be able to do so, he needs to take out a premium subscription. Consequently, the power of a basic member is distinguished from the power of a premium member in two fundamental ways: in regard to being able to compose and send messages; and in regard to being able to read messages that have accumulated in one’s inbox.

Now, as indicated, Frumster is running a promotion. (It runs a promotion like this from time to time.) The promotion is geared at basic members – like me, for example. It enables them to write and send messages. These messages can be received by basic and premium members alike. However, the stricture against being able to read an incoming message remains in effect. And the basic member taking advantage of the promo (like any other basic member) has no access to them. By enabling basic members to contact other (premium) members by of way of their messages, Frumster’s promotion is setting up an inducement for a basic member to take out a premium subscription (which of course costs money). For he will undoubtedly send out messages to various (premium) members. These targeted members will receive them, and some of them will likely respond with a message of their own, directed to the inbox of the originating basic member (who is taking advantage of the promotion). When that happens, the basic member who had sent the initial message will feel an uncontrollable urge to read and, possibly, answer his new interlocutor’s response-message. But Frumster won’t let him do either of these unless he subscribes in a premium way.

With this as background, I want to conclude this post by including a letter specimen of my composition, be”H – sent to a (premium) member earlier this morning.

I was moved by your friend's description of your personality, and also by the sentiments and aspirations that you have personally expressed. I have now resolved to approach you unabashedly and ask you for your cooperation in exploring a shiduch situation involving the two of us. I am what you might call a sincere black-hatter, since I do wear a black hat. Not only a black hat but, also, a dark suit, especially on Shabbos. And I'm, b"H, serious about learning and davening and doing mitzvos. But like you, I have a side interest in secular literature, and I actually studied philosophy in university. For example, I know Plato's Republic backwards and forwards. Anyway, I want to ask you if it would be alright with you if we pursued the prospect together. I'd like to mention that I'm particularly impressed by the emphasis you put on raising your son - may you have much nachas - and, iy"H, future children properly. Before signing off, I need to mention that to reach me, you'll have write me directly, as I'm not a full member of this site and, therefore, cannot read messages sent to me by way of its facilities. So if you have the inclination to get back to me, which I personally hope you do, please write me at: notstamaguy at gmail dot com.

Thank you so much, and bracha v'hatzlacha to you,

Sruli

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Laws of Shabbos from the Kitzur

Here I begin to render into English the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch at the beginning of the Laws of Shabbos: 72:1.

The holy Shabbos is the great sign and covenant that HKBH gave us, so that we may know that He fashioned heaven, earth, and all that they contain in six days and rested on the seventh day. This is, indeed, the foundation of our faith. Razal (our sages) teach us that Shabbos is as important as the entirety of all the mitzvos; and that one who properly observes the Shabbos is equal in standing to one who fulfills the entirety of the Torah. Moreover, someone who desecrates the Shabbos is the same as someone who denies the entire Torah. The verse in Ezra supports this when it says: And You descended on Mount Sinai, and You gave Your people Torah and mitzvos. You also told them about Your holy Shabbos.

72:2 Anyone who publically desecrates the Shabbos is accounted a non-Jew in all respects. If he should touch wine, it is rendered prohibited. The bread he bakes is considered bread baked by a non-Jew. So too for a dish that he cooks:it is as if a non-Jew had cooked it. (For more, see below at 72:38.) By publically is meant in the presence of ten people. It is not, however, necessary that they should actually observe him in the commission of his act. It is sufficient if they are aware that he has committed it.

72:3 This is why the prophet offers commendation and says: Praised is the person who will do this, and the man who holds steadfastly to it – the one who will guard the Shabbos and desist from flouting it... The prophet says as well that someone who keeps the Shabbos as it is commanded to be kept and, also, honors it and makes it enjoyable to the best of his ability – such a person merits to be rewarded not only in the World to Come but also in This World.

Monday, July 4, 2011

On Bennett Avenue

Arriving in WH after a drive up the FDR, I parked my car on Bennett Av and walked astride the street, making my way over to the beis hamidrash. Entering the room, I noticed that the rosh hakolel was sitting in his seat to the side of the auron, opposite the front-most wall. He was deeply immersed in a piece of learning; so I approached most cautiously, not wanting to disturb him unduly. I waited respectfully until he voluntarily looked up and recognized me. Quickly, I lunged forward, extending him a hand and offering a profuse greeting. Receiving me graciously, he responded in kind and sought at once to put me at ease.

He motioned for me to take a seat alongside him, understanding full well that I had come to discuss something with him. We began by exchanging the customary pleasantries, preparatory to getting to the matter at hand. At that point, I drew out a Gemara from under my arm and began fumbling my way through the pages, so that I might open it to a certain one. When the sought page was apprehended and appeared before me, I pointed to a Tosafos situated somewhere around the uppermost section of the daf.

The rosh kolel skimmed it intently, taking care to refresh his memory as to its content. Once satisfied, he turned to me, signaling preparedness to listen to what I had to say. I thereupon initiated the process by saying that there was something I didn’t understand. The rosh hakolel interjected smilingly, assuring me that ability to acknowledge lack of understanding was requisite to being able to achieve the same. Reassured, I proceeded to articulate the source of my difficulty.

Lest there be confusion, let me assert unceremoniously that the Tosafos in question is found in Maseches Berachos, 37a. Its d”h is: borei nefashos rabos veshesronom. What it says is that the word vechesronom, as used in this context, means necessities, i.e., things without which one cannot survive: for example, bread and water. Tosafos goes on to say that the phrase comprising the words al kohl ma shebara lehachayos bahem nefesh kohl chai means things without which man could perfectly well do, i.e., things that were created to give man pleasure: things like apples. So according to Tosafos, the beracha alludes to these two classes of thing: necessities and luxuries.

Something that emerges from Tosafos’ explication is that the word vechesronam, as used here, refers not to man’s deficiencies, which is to say, his needs, but rather to things that meet man’s needs, i.e., the food types that are necessary for satisfying man’s nutritional requirements. This is observation number one.

Observation number two is that on Tosafos’ reading, the phrase al kohl ma shebara introduces the second classification of things but not the first. This seems to make the beracha’s formulation somewhat asymmetrical. My question was this: why enter into an interpretation that incurs these two apparent anomalies, when an alternative interpretation that nicely averts them is at hand? The interpretation I have in mind is this: He creates many living things and, also, their deficiencies, i.e., the things they lack and therefore need - sources of nourishment, most notably. He creates these (living creatures) over and above, that is, in addition to, His creation of things (food) with which He sustains every living creature and meets its needs. The implication is that the creation of the latter chronologically preceded the creation of the former, which of course is true.  G-d created foodstuff, through which His subsequent creations – animals, man – would receive sustenance, before creating animals and man. By the time He had created the creatures whose sustenance would depend on the availability of food, He had already created the food.

Duly pondering my suggestion, the rosh kolel acknowledged that I had a point.