The Rejected Request

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Religious desires that emanate from deep spiritual feelings are not always appropriate, despite their worthy source. Sometimes people sincerely want to participate in a ritual that they cannot. My old friend R. David Silverberg offered a fantastic interpretation on last week’s Torah reading demonstrating this point, which he later learned was previously offered by the Chasam Sofer (link – see Tuesday). Comparing the similar language of the request of those impure to participate in Pesach sacrifice on the one hand and that of Tzelofchad’s daughters to obtain a portion in the land of Israel, R. Silverberg notes the differing response:

However, there is one important difference between the two stories, one which may perhaps frame the incident of the temei’im in a much different perspective. When Moshe brought the question of Tzelofchad’s daughters to God, God began his response with a firm “endorsement” of their claim: “Kein benot Tzelofchad doverot” (“Tzelofchad’s daughters speak correctly” – 27:7). He explicitly affirms the validity of their argument that they should be given their father’s estate. When it comes to pesach sheni, by contrast, we find no such recognition that the petitioners’ claim was valid. In fact, if we read their request carefully, we see that it was not granted, at least not fully…

The message, perhaps, that emerges from this contrast is that when people sincerely come forward with a petition of “lama nigara,” seeking inclusion in an area where they have previously excluded, the answer depends on the circumstances. Sometimes, as in the case of Tzelofchad’s daughters, the request will meet with halakhic approval, but in other occasions, such as the instance of the temei’im, the petition will be denied. There is no single, blanket answer to the question of “lama nigara”; each case must be carefully examined and assessed in light of established halakhic principles and norms, among other relevant factors, to determine whether or not the request could or should be granted.

See his full essay here: link – Tuesday.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

23 comments

  1. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: If you will read the Hatam Sofer carefully, you will see that in his view God did grant the request of the temeim le-nefesh, just not quite in the way they expected. His point thus is different from that of R. Silverberg.

  2. Another Approach to rejected requests:

    Zechariah 7:8-13
    And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying:
    So said the Lord of Hosts, saying: Execute true judgment and perform loving-kindness and mercy, each one of you to his brother.
    Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, or the poor man. Neither shall any of you think evil against his brother in your heart.
    But they refused to listen; and they turned a rebellious shoulder; and they made their ears heavy, not to hear.
    And they made their heart as flint, in order not to listen to the Torah and to the words that the Lord of Hosts sent, through His spirit by the earlier prophets. And there was great anger from the Lord of Hosts.
    And it came about; as He called and they did not hearken, so shall they call and I will not hearken, said the Lord of Hosts.

  3. Is this meant to comment in any way on the derasha from R. Amital that posted here at the time of his death? R. Silverberg’s pshat could be seen as saying we dont always have to listen to those who claim lamah nigarah.

  4. THERE’S A MACHLOKET AS TO WHETHER PESACH SHEINI HAS A DIN OF TASHLUMIN OR IT’S BFNEI ATZMO (NAFKA MINA-SOMEONE WAS MGAYER IN BETWEEN)
    kt

  5. Lawrence Kaplan

    It is clear that Gil has an agenda here. Except the Hatam Sofer (HS) does not support it! Again, Gil, reread the HS carefully and get back to us.

  6. Dr. Kaplan: I appreciate your correction on the Chasam Sofer. That is tafel. The ikar here is R. Silverberg’s devar Torah.

  7. “The message, perhaps, that emerges from this contrast is that when people sincerely come forward with a petition of “lama nigara,” seeking inclusion in an area where they have previously excluded, the answer depends on the circumstances. ”

    i would think the opposite – that as long as the intention is good or pure halacha/hashem gives a solution to your emotional feelings. this is the opposite of korach’s statement – kulam kedoshim – which receives a real negative response (see pikei avot of machloket shelo l’shem shamayim).

  8. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: Fine. My point though remains that, contrary to the impression you and R. Silverberg give, the HS is NOT making the same point as R. Silverberg.

  9. When it comes to pesach sheni, by contrast, we find no such recognition that the petitioners’ claim was valid. In fact, if we read their request carefully, we see that it was not granted, at least not fully.

    Maybe I’m missing something here. How does the teme’im not being fully granted their request call into question the overall validity of their request? Are all petitions that are denied ipso facto not valid?

  10. Dr. Kaplan: On re-reading the Chasam Sofer, I don’t see how you are reading the words. He writes that God did not agree or consent to their request (“lo hiskim la-zeh”) and instead gave them something else (“ve-zeh hayah tashlum sekharam”). Are you suggesting that giving them something else constituted granting their request?

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=21621&st=&pgnum=37

  11. Gil:

    R. Steinberg seems to be saying that their request was not valid. Hatam Sofer says that their request was valid.

  12. Oops. I meant to say R. Silverberg.

  13. “but in other occasions, such as the instance of the temei’im, the petition will be denied.”
    As the HS reads it (and indeed as the Torah has it) the request was not “denied,” or at least that was not the end of the story. “You can’t have X but you can have Y that adresses the same concerns in a different way” is hardly “denial.”
    If anything, the message on the not-so-subtle-subtext of this post would be that a proper response to sincere desires for activities that cacnnot be permitted is “even if the specific thing you ask for is impropper, let’s find something else, heretofore unheard of, that will adress your legitimate grievance.”

  14. That is actually how I read R. Silverberg but now I see that I might have misread him.

  15. Lawrence Kaplan

    While the Hatam Sofer says that God did not fulfill their specific request, he goes on to say that what God did grant them was the equivalent of their request.

  16. Tashlum is not equivalent. It means “in place of” or “instead of” like tashlumin for missing a tefillah. I believe I understand Hebrew, and I may be wrong, but tashlum does not mean equivalent.

  17. Reading the CS closely, I have to say that I agree with Reb Gil’s reading. It says that he did agree with them to allow them to perform the mitzvoh of korban pesach b’tumah. Instead, he paid them back by giving them the merit of being the means through which Pesach Sheini was instituted.

    So, it is clear from the CS that they never got their wish, which was to be osek in the korban pesach.

  18. “So, it is clear from the CS that they never got their wish, which was to be osek in the korban pesach.”

    Their wish was to (1) join the crowd (kenufiya) in (2) bringing the korban pesach (be-tum’ah). They did not get that, but they did get (2) to bring he korban later, be-taharah and (1) to have the parsha that becomes attributed to them expounded in the crowd (kenufiya).

    It seems pretty clear to me that the HS is saying that they did not get exactly what they asked for, but they did get something else somewhat responsive to their desire/request for inclusion.

  19. Lawrence Kaplan

    emma: I just got back to my computer and was about to make the same point as you did. Thank you for expressing it so articulately. As you correctly indicate, the key point is kenuffiyah. Just to add a bit: The HS argues that the temmeim were not so upset that they could not bring the Korban Pesach itself (since ha-osek be-mitzvah patur min ha-mitzvah), but that they coud not be a part of this public mitzvah. The HS thus emphasizes the phrase “be-tokh benei Yisreal.” So the fact that God gives them this new mitzvah bi-kenuffiyah was responsive to their demand.

  20. That’s not an equivalent reward. However, I agree that according to the CS, he was responsive to their CONCERNS/INTERESTS, but not their REQUEST, and for them established PS.

  21. Lawrence Kaplan

    But the kenuffiyah part was equivalent

  22. you can quibble over the details, but to take the original poster’s nimshal, it is clear that when a group of people asked to participate in a mitzvah they had been excluded from, Moshe’s response was to take it very seriously -so seriously that when he didn’t know of a solution, he took the matter before the Almighty. And the Almighty took their concerns seriously enough that He “came up with” a new mitzvah to address their concerns. We today don’t have a way to bring a matter before God, and there are no new mitzvot. but the obvious conclusion from the apt comparison in the post is that it is extremely important to take these kinds of complaints or requests seriously. great post!

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