Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • D'varim
To dedicate this lesson
Devarim 5778

At The Shabbat Table


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Av 8 5778
Convenient Covenant
David looked at the calendar and groaned. Tisha B’Av was only three days away. David was generally scrupulous to keep all the mitzvot, however, he found fasts particularly difficult. Year after year, he would approach his rabbi, and ask if there was any kind of leniency to allow David not to fast. And, year after year, the rabbi would patiently explain that, given that this was a matter of discomfort, and not danger, David was required to fast. As David got older, the challenge of fasting only intensified. It looked like David would have no choice but to fast this year, as well.
Suddenly, David remembered a law which he had heard, some time ago. A sandek of a brit which occurs on a delayed Tisha B’Av is not required to fast! "That’s it!" thought David. "This year, the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat. The fast is delayed until the 10th of Av. All I have to do is find a baby who’s having a brit on the day of the fast, and get the father to make me sandek, and then I won’t have to fast!"
David hurried to send out a message, to friends and acquaintances, and local newspapers, which said "An older man who has great difficulty fasting is seeking to be a sandek for a baby whose brit will take place on Tisha B’Av. In return, the father of the baby will receive a 5000 shekel gift."
The advertisement reached Meir, a young man who had celebrated the birth of his firstborn son, just days ago. The brit was scheduled for Tisha B’Av, and the offer was intriguing. But was it proper to sell the right to be sandek? Surely, it was better to have a great rabbi be the sandek, than a total stranger! And yet, Meir could definitely use the money. In addition, it would be a chessed to help this gentleman, who clearly has a very difficult time fasting. What should Meir do?
Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlita:

Firstly, was the man who posted the advertisement correct in requesting to be sandek on Tisha B’Av? The answer is that his actions are definitely appropriate. Rather than seeking some illegitimate way out of fasting, he is prepared to pay a substantial amount of money, in order to obtain a fully legitimate means of not having to fast. The book Milah Shleima (page 447) records that, in their later years, both Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt"l, and Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, zt"l, had sufficient reason not to fast on Tisha B’Av, due to illness. However, if Tisha B’Av was delayed that year, they would go beyond the letter of the law, and seek to be sandek at a brit, in order to have an additional reason to justify their not fasting.
As regards the father of the baby, is it proper for him to sell the right to be sandek? In our days, we generally do not do this. Rather, the father asks his father or father-in-law, or a great rabbi, to be sandek. Indeed, it is stated in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 364-1, in the Rama, that a person should make an effort to find a sandek who is great and righteous. In Peleh Yo’etz (erech milah) it says that a father should find a sandek who is a good person, because this has an influence on the soul of the child, to continue in ways of holiness, with a good heart and proper spirit.
Additionally, forgoing having a righteous sandek, in exchange for money, seems to be a belittling of the mitzva. (If this is the case, why is it that past generations sanctioned the sale of the right to be sandek? This is because, due to the wrenching poverty of the times, the new father was often incapable of even providing a festive meal in honor of the brit, without the sponsorship of the sandek.) In the case in question, the intention of the father is to spend the money on immediate needs. However, if he saves the money for when the child grows older, and spends it on furthering the child’s Torah education (for example, if the money goes toward providing him with an excellent tutor), then it is permitted to honor the advertiser with the position of sandek, because this is being done for the benefit of the child.
When I asked my brother-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, he replied that the father is permitted to give the position of sandek to the advertiser. This is because, in doing so, the father is performing the Torah commandment of chessed (performing acts of kindness). It appears that my brother-in-law’s intention is that, while it is true that there is great importance placed on procuring a righteous sandek, this is not a mitzva which is written in the Chumash. However, the commandment of "v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha" (love your neighbor as yourself) is written in the Chumash. Therefore, the Torah commandment of performing chessed takes precedence. Despite the fact that the father’s primary intention is receiving money, this is still a mitzva. This is because, even if a person does an act for the sake of a mitzva, as well as for the sake of earning a living, he is credited for having done a mitzva. (See Bi’ur Halacha, siman 38, 78)
1) The advertiser acted properly, in attempting to be a sandek
2) The father of the baby is permitted to give the position of sandek to the advertiser, and, in doing so, the father is performing the mitzva of chessed.
(This question comes from the book Upiryo Matok on Chumash Devarim)

What Happens When We’re Slow to Fast?
It was the tenth day of the month of Av, and Yehuda was becoming a Bar Mitzva. In most years, this would be the day after the fast of Tisha B’Av, however, this year, the 9th of Av fell on Shabbat. Therefore, this year, the Jewish people fasted, instead, on Sunday, the 10th of Av.
That morning, on the 10th of Av, Yehuda went to Beit Knesset with his father. Together with the rest of the community, they sat on the floor and recited kinot, and cried over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. When they returned home, Yehuda’s father was surprised to see Yehuda go into the kitchen, and take out a loaf of bread and a container of peanut butter.
"Yehuda, what are you doing?!" Yehuda’s father exclaimed. "Today is Tisha B’Av! You’re a Bar Mitzva! Why are you eating breakfast?"
"But Abba, I thought it over, and I realized that I’m not required to fast today!" Yehuda began. "You see, today, the tenth of Av, is my thirteenth birthday. That means that yesterday, on the ninth of Av, I was only twelve years old, and I wasn’t required to fast. It’s true that, today, I am thirteen years old, but today’s fast is just to make up for the fact that Jews couldn’t fast yesterday, because it was Shabbat. I was never required in yesterday’s fast, and because today is a replacement for yesterday’s fast, I shouldn’t have to fast today, even though I’m already thirteen."
Is Yehuda correct? Is he exempt from fasting the "replacement" fast, if the "original" fast day took place before his thirteenth birthday?
The Avnei Nezer (siman 426) writes that because the fast on the tenth of Av is just a replacement for the fast which should have taken place on the ninth of Av, but was delayed due to Shabbat, and, on the ninth of Av, the boy was not obligated to fast, he is not obligated to fast on the tenth of Av.
The Avnei Nezer continues that his opinion would seem to contradict the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch, which states (based on the Rashba) that when the ninth of Av falls on Shabbat, and the fast is delayed until the tenth of Av, all of the laws of mourning are delayed until the tenth of Av, as well.
This is because, the reality is that the majority of the Beit Hamikdash actually burned on the tenth of Av, and the reason that the ninth of Av is established as a fast is only because the burning of the Beit Hamikdash began on that day. Because fasting for the Beit Hamikdash is forbidden on Shabbat, in years in which Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, the mourning of Tisha B’Av, in its entirety is pushed off until the tenth of Av, because the majority of the burning actually took place on that day.
The Avnei Nezer concludes that, if we follow the reasoning of the Shulchan Aruch, we would be compelled to say that Yehuda is required to fast on the tenth of Av, because it is not merely a replacement for the fast which would have taken place on Shabbat. Now that the fast is required to take place on the tenth of Av, the tenth of Av takes on the status of Tisha B’Av in its entirety, and Yehuda’s obligation to fast is dependent on his age on the tenth of Av, and not the ninth of Av.
The Avnei Nezer compares the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch with that of the Rama. According to the Rama, the fast on the tenth of Av is merely a replacement for the fast which should have taken place on the ninth of Av, but could not, because of Shabbat. Therefore, Shabbat of Tisha B’Av maintains some of the character of the day, and laws which relate to mourning, which do not occur in public, continue to apply on that Shabbat. Therefore, concludes the Avnei Nezer, according to the reasoning of the Shulchan Aruch, Yehuda would not have to fast on the tenth of Av.
However, Rabbi Asher Weiss, shlita, holds that, even if the fast of the tenth of Av is merely a replacement for the fast which should have taken place the day before, Yehuda would still be obligated to fast. This is because the delay and replacement of the fast affect the entire Jewish people, and, because Yehuda has taken on the obligation of keeping the mitzvot which are assigned to the Jewish people as a whole, he is obligated to keep the fast, together with everyone else.
According to the Avnei Nezer, whether or not Yehuda has to fast depends on which position one takes, regarding whether the tenth of Av fast is the primary fast, as the Shulchan Aruch states, or is merely a replacement fast, as the Rama states.
According to Rabbi Asher Weiss, the above considerations are irrelevant, and Yehuda is required to fast, like any other adult member of the Jewish people.
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