Petihah Kollelet, Finishing the Third Part

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by R. Gidon Rothstein

Back to Hearing and Messengers

It has taken this painstaking review of this Petihah Kollelet to suggest this third part is about using our bodily senses in the service of Gd. The idea fits with his returning to a topic we have seen more than once, shome’a ke-oneh, the extent to which listening to a recitation can count as saying it oneself.

Messenger for Action, Speech, and Thought

To get there, he brings up shelihut, the idea a Jew can act on behalf of another, other than for sin [where the messenger should have known not to accept the job, because Gd had said otherwise]. Messengers’ ability to perform actions on behalf of others (like enact a marriage or deliver a bill of divorce) is well established; Peri Megadim notes it can work sometimes for speech, too.

For example, Rabban Gamliel at the end of Rosh HaShanah held the shaliah tzibbur, whose title actually means “messenger of the community,” fulfilled the obligation of prayer for those unable to attend. This man’s speech fulfilled their obligation, he was their messenger for words they were supposed to say [and did not hear, so this is not an example of shome’a ke-oneh, their listening being as if they said it themselves].

Terumah, the part of a harvest given to a kohen, shows a messenger can think on behalf of someone else, sometimes, because a Jew has the halachic right to appoint another Jew to separate terumah, which can be effected by thought. Bah held a messenger could not be mevatel, nullify, hametz before Pesah. Peri Megadim has struggled with it before; here he says the messenger clearly could nullify it on behalf of the other person if s/he said the nullification, and makes clear he believes a messenger generally can supply needed thoughts for whoever sent him/her.

Earlier authorities disagreed on whether one could fulfill one’s obligation in Shema by hearing it said, although the underlying issue there seems to be the extent to which hearing can count as reciting.  Peri Megadim is sure each Jew must say the first line, because that requires internal focus and acknowledgement Gd rules the world [granted that hearing someone else can count as if a person is saying some words, it cannot stimulate the internal reaction needed, I think he is saying.]

Level of Obligation and Agents/Representatives

For one Jew to represent another, s/he must be obligated to the same degree [a more surprising idea than it might seem, because it means a rabbinically obligated act differs qualitatively from a Biblically obligated one; the recitation of Grace After Meals by a Jew who ate enough only to be obligated rabbinically differs so much from what a Jew who was obligated Biblically would say, the act cannot transfer].

One of his examples stands out, a person who lives in Jerusalem could not read Megillat Ester on the fourteenth of Adar on behalf of a Jew who lives in a regular city. Since it is not his Purim, he cannot be considered obligated. It’s not obvious, though, because in this same paragraph, Peri Megadim notes that a Jew who has already fulfilled an obligation can still effectively perform it on behalf of someone else, an example of arevut, Jews’ responsibility for fellow Jews, a responsibility apparently insufficient for the Jerusalem Jew to read for the non-Jerusalem Jew.

The element of arevut, interwovenness of responsibility, makes it less clear how a minor can recite Grace After Meals for a father who ate only a rabbinic amount (less than full satiety). We seem to say that since the child is rabbinically obligated, like the father, the child can read on behalf of the father, who will listen. If arevut drives the ability of one Jew to act on behalf of another, minors would not seem to be included, since they do not have any obligations.

Shome’a Ke-Oneh to the Rescue

Peri Megadim says it’s clearly a matter of shome’a ke-oneh, the listening father counting as if he said it himself [this sees the boy’s recitation as similar enough to the father’s to count, which is not completely obvious, considering the son is obligated as a matter of hinuch, the need to be educated, where the father has a rabbinic obligation to thank Gd for food.]

The idea opens the possibility of a pre-Bar Mitzvah boy serving as shaliah tzibbur for Rosh HaShanah or Yom Kippur prayers, according to those [the majority] who say prayer is rabbinic. We prefer an older hazzan, with a wife, but the community can forego its standards if no one else can do it, and have this boy lead services.

All this assumes the minor is obligated himself. Peri Megadim points out Yerushalmi requires the father to repeat each of the words the son says, suggesting it thought the boy had no obligation (hinuch might be the father’s job). He reads the Bavli, which includes no such caveat, to assume the boy himself has an obligation, too.

Limits on Arevut

The idea matters for the question of women serving as agents for men’s mitzvah performance, because Rosh suggested women are not included in arevut, Jews’ responsibility to help each other fulfill mitzvah requirements. Back in the second part of this Petihah, Peri Megadim did not see any proof as to whether Rosh meant that only for mitzvot where women are exempt, meaning that since they need not perform this act themselves, they have no need to ensure others do, or in general, Gd decided they did not have to be part of this interconnectedness of observance [perhaps because they have other pressing duties].

Were that his view, their agency for others would be complicated.

Peri Megadim raises again here Mordechai’s views of a mamzer, a Jew born of a union banned by a capital or karet level prohibition. Mordechai thought such Jews could not write valid Torah scrolls or serve as shaliah tzibbur [the mamzer’s challenges, his exclusion from marrying ordinary Jews, might make him resistant to a full engagement with Torah or feel the necessary connection with his fellow Jews]. Eliyah Rabbah noted Shulhan Aruch omitted the idea, implying a mamzer can do so, to Peri Megadim further implying the mamzer is included in arevut.

Shulhan Aruch Orah Hayyim 53;19 allows a convert to be shaliah tzibbur, which we now understand means he is included in arevut, has become so fully a member of the community he also is required to ensure fellow Jews fulfill their obligations.

Next, the unsighted.

Unsighted as Agents, or Obligated Themselves

Peri Megadim opens with the effectiveness of an unsighted person acting as agent to betroth a woman on behalf of another Jew, sighted or not. We might not have known that, because R. Yehudah thought the unsighted were exempt from all mitzvot (Baba Kamma 87a), presumably because their experience of life varies sufficiently to not be included in our path of service of Gd.

Rabbenu Yeruham accepted R. Yehudah’s view enough to allow such a person to lead only those parts of services that are rabbinic (Hazal certainly created an obligation for such people, to avoid their seeming like non-Jews, and in doing so included them in arevut for those observances). For Rambam, who held all rabbinic ordinances create a Biblical obligation, because the verse of lo tasur,  the unsighted person has a Biblical level of obligation and arevut, and could serve as the agent of fulfillment for all other Jews.

Still, Peri Megadim sees enough room for doubt to require a bill of divorce, just in case, were the woman to later accept kiddushin/betrothal from some other man.

The agency would more clearly be effective If the man who sent the unsighted person also lacked sight, because agents represent their senders, and if they are halachically similar, the agency works. Peri Megadim supports the point with an idea of Masat Binyamin’s, a non-Jew could send an agent to represent him in buying Jews’ hametz before Pesah.

R. Yehudah had offered another verse to prove the unsighted are not subject to certain punishments, like exile for unwitting murder. Peri Megadim notes he clearly assumed they were otherwise included in prohibitions, because if they were outside the bounds of Torah law in all ways, there would be no need for other verses.

He closes this part of the Petihah with the suggestion a minor cannot read Megillah for adults because it is an obligation completely created by the rabbis (as opposed to most rabbinic legislation, which is an extension of or a protection for existing Torah law; here, he does not address the possibility Purim and its mitzvot are divrei kabbalah, attested in post-Torah scripture).

For Rambam, that would be because they are more clearly a part of lo tasur, where others would say Hazal saw more need to emphasize the obligation’s significance.

Details aside—growing to be one of my favorite phrases—this concludes the third part of this Petihah Kollelet, a tour through the role of the body and its various parts and senses in mitzvot.

About Gidon Rothstein

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