Thursday, June 20, 2019

Libi Bamizrach Va'ani B'sof Maarav

by Rabbi Hershel Schachter

The obligation to offer a korban Pesach begins at twelve noon on erev Pesach, and the korban must be offered in the Beis Hamikdash before shkia. One is considered to be "b'derech r'choka" if he is so far away from Yerushalayim on erev Pesach at noon that even if he were to walk non-stop at a reasonable pace he will still not arrive in Yerushalayim before the shkia[1]. He simply does not halachically relate to Yerushalayim; even if he could travel by horse or car and easily arrive in Yerushalayim before shkia, he is still considered b'derech r'choka. Furthermore, even if he joined with others and became a partner in someone else's korban Pesach, and he managed to arrive before the shkia, he still has not fulfilled the mitzvah[2]. Only one who is b'derech k'rova can become a partner in a korban Pesach and fulfill this mitzvah. All of those who are b'derech r'choka at noon on the fourteenth of Nissan are obligated to bring a korban Pesach sheini one month later, on the fourteenth of Iyar.

After the passing of the Nodah B'Yehuda a dispute developed amongst his close talmidim regarding the nature of this din. Why should derech r'choka be determined by the distance one can walk by foot to Yerushalayim? Was setting the requisite distance based on the pace of travel on foot built in to the very definition of the halacha of derech r'choka, and therefore how fast one could travel by other means was and is entirely irrelevant, or was travel only used as an example, since the average traveler in the days of the second Beis Ha'mikdash would travel by foot, but now that we have trains and cars and the average traveler would certainly use other means of travel, the distance of derech r'choka should be adjusted accordingly?[3]

This debate regarding korban Pesach in the late 1700s was unfortunately not relevant halacha l'maaseh since there was no Beis Ha'mikdash at the time and the korban Pesach was not being offered. The rabbonim said that when the third beis ha'mikdash will be built, techiyas ha'meisim will take place and we will be able to ask Moshe Rabbeinu this shaila.

There is, however, another halacha which is a function of this din which is relevant today. The Gemorah tells us that if someone dies and the family starts sitting shiva, and a relative who is unaware of the death shows up in the home of the aveilim before shiva is over, he picks up shiva from what they are up to and he terminates his aveilus with those who started earlier. The Gemorah[4] says, however, that this is only in cases where the relative in question came from a "makom karov". The rishonim borrow the definition of makom karov from the din of korban Pesach: if the relative was close enough to the beis ha'avel when shiva began that he would have been able to arrive within one day, his location is considered to be a makom karov. Regarding this din we cannot wait until techiyas ha'meisim and ask Moshe Rabbeinu - this halacha is relevant every day of the year even when there isn't a Beis Ha'mikdash! Later poskim ruled that since we have a rule in the Gemorah[5] that whenever there is any slight sofek in Hilchos Aveilus we go l'kula, we should be lenient and say that when the aveil was more than ten parso'os away from the beis ha'ovel but could arrive within one day if he traveled by train or by car, which is the normal way of traveling a distance today, he should end his shiva with the rest of the family.

Today the average person traveling a long distance would certainly travel by airplane, via which one can get from one side of the world to the other within one day. Should we therefore say that there is no place in the world that is called a makom rachok or a derech r'choka? Rav Moshe Feinstein was of the opinion that this cannot be. The Torah has dinim that apply only to one who is b'makom rachok and all aspects of the Torah are eternal. Rav Moshe suggested that of necessity we must limit this halacha and say that the person's location must at least be on the same continent as the beis ha'ovel in order to be considered a makom karov, and one does not halachically relate to a city on a different continent. It is for that reason that Rav Moshe felt that this din cannot apply connecting people in Eretz Yisroel and a beis ha'ovel in America.

Rav Yehuda Halevi lived in Europe when he declared, "Libi Bamizrach Va'ani B'sof Maarav", but those of us who live in America are on a different continent. As such, even if one living in America feels that his heart is really "Bamizrach", Eretz Yisroel can not be considered "his makom."
[1] The Rambam differs on this definition. See Eretz Hatzvi p. 81.

[2] Pesachim 92b – shelo hurtza

[3] Sefer Chaim U'Beracha L'Mishmeres Shalom, entry entitled Gadol Habayis, paragraph 12

[4] Moed Kattan 21b, Tosafos s.v. Makom Karov

[5] Moed Kattan 18a, halacha l'hakeil b'aveilus

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