Parshas Ki Savo 5778
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August 31, 2018
Volume 14 Issue 24
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Dvar Torah

The Meaning of Reishis 
By Rabbi Davidi Broner
In this week's parsha, Ki Savo, we are introduced to the mitzva of Bikurim. When a resident of Eretz Yisroel sees a fruit from the Shivas Haminim beginning to blossom, he wraps a red string around the fruit and declares it Bikurim. During the period between Shavous and Succos, one would bring these fruits to the Beis Hamikdash and then read a short history of Am Yisroel, all the way from Yaakov Avinu's struggles with Lavan up until the capture of Eretz Yisroel. After that, the fruits were given to the Kohanim to eat.
The Rishonim ask: What's special about this mitzva that makes it the only one in which we review our history and give thanks to Hashem for His redemptions? The mitzva is introduced in the Torah in the following pasuk: V'lkachta M'Reishis Kol Pri Ha'adma Asher Tavi M'Artzecha etc. - You shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your land etc. The Baal Ha'akeida teaches us the significance and meaning of Reishis: It is the prologue that sets the theme for all that follows.  Therefore, taking the first fruit of one's labor, and designating it for Hashem, creates a memento for Hashem in all future growth of that year. Another aspect that explains the significance of Bikurim being Reishis is the relationship that Bikurim have to other known concepts of Reishis. Hashem is called Reishis and Eretz Yisroel is referred to as Reishis HaArotzos (first of the lands). The Baal Ha'akeida explains that our thanks for Bikurim is really a microcosm of our gratitude to Hashem as a whole and Eretz Yisroel in particular. That is why the Bikurim are only brought from the Shivas Haminim, the specialty of Eretz Yisroel. With this in mind, we can understand the special prayer that is said at the bringing of the Bikurim. We thank Hashem for the beginning of our nation: Yaakov Avinu meeting the Imaos at Lavan's house, marrying them, and producing the Shevatim. We continue with our story, reaching the chapter describing the conquering and settlement of Eretz Yisroel, the two Reishis for which we are thankful.
We see this theme of Reishis in the Hagada Shel Pesach. We discuss how Lavan "Bikesh La'akor Es Hakol" - he wanted to destroy everything. Where did he attempt to destroy us as a nation? My father always explained that Lavan told Yaakov Avinu, "Habanim Bonai V'Habonas Benosai" - Your sons are my sons and your daughters are my daughters. Lavan was expressing his desire to take a part in the upbringing and education of the children. If we allowed the Shevatim, who are our Reishis, to have their upbringing implanted with education from Lavan at their beginning, that would ruin the entirety of Am Yisroel. This fits perfectly with the Baal Ha'akeidas' explanation of Reishis and the weight it carries.
The Baal Ha'akeida also adds that our specific times for Tefilos fit with this approach. We daven Shachris as soon as the day starts and Maariv as soon as the night begins, to lend kedusha to the time period that follows by sanctifying its beginning. For those that refer to the day from midday and midnight, we have Mincha and Tikkun Chatzos. The Sfas Emes actually links tefilos with Bikurim. He brings the Medrash Tanchuma which says that when Moshe Rabbeinu saw that Bikurim will eventually be abolished, he established the three times for davening. The Sfas Emes adds that Am Yisroel themselves are referred to as Reishis HaAmim. Consequently, we have a special ability to connect to the strength that using Reishis entails. Our entire day can be affected by its start, Shachris in the morning. Moreover, the Sfas Emes says, if a Jew starts off his day by davening in the morning and ends it by learning at night, this power of Reishis endowed to us causes the entire day - the time between the tefila and limud Torah - to be considered Avodas Hashem!
We discussed how the Bikurim signify our gratitude to Hashem and His gifts to us. In addition to this, the Bikurim symbolize our desire to connect to Hashem throughout all we do, as we sanctify Reishis in an effort to leave kedusha in its wake.
As we end one year and prepare to enter another, we will begin to say Selichos this Sunday morning. The Baal Ha'akeida points out how appropriate it is to get up early and begin the day with Selichos as we prepare for judgment. We are expressing our hope to be judged as righteous by imbuing our morning - and thus the day that follows - with kedusha.
May Hashem judge us and all of Am Yisroel favorably.
Dvar Halacha
GEVINAS AKUM: Background
Part 1

Based on the Sunday morning Halacha Shiur 
given by Rabbi Y. Biberfeld, Rosh Kollel
Written by: Ovadia Gowar

The Shulchan Aruch writes in YD 115:2: "Chazal forbade gevinas akum (cheese made by a non-Jew), because they coagulate it with ohr keivas neveilah (the stomach lining of their slaughtered animals). And even if they coagulated it with a plant agent, it is still forbidden." The Rema agrees that this is the established custom in virtually all Ashkenazi communities as well.
Gevinas akum is an example of a gezeirah (decree) that is called a "davar she'b'minyan." It means that even though Chazal had a particular reason in mind when making the original gezeirah on cheese, once they decreed it, it applied as a blanket gezeirah on all types of non-Jewish-made cheese, regardless of how it was made. Nowadays in the US, instead of using the stomach lining (called "rennet"), they use an artificial agent. Nonetheless, it is still forbidden because, as we mentioned, gevinas akum is a "davar she'b'minyan."
What is the background of this gezeirah? The Gemara in Avodah Zora (35a) says that Chazal forbade gevinas akum and then lists six opinions as to why. The six opinions are:
  1. Perhaps a venomous snake drank from the milk that was used to make the cheese
  2. Perhaps it contains some drops of milk from a non-kosher animal
  3. Perhaps they coagulated the cheese with the stomach lining of a neveilah
  4. Perhaps they smoothed the cheese with pig fat
  5. Perhaps they coagulated the cheese with vinegar made from yayin nesech
  6. Perhaps they coagulated the cheese using liquid that came from fruit that was orlah
Shmuel is the one who holds that the reason was because perhaps they coagulated the cheese with the stomach lining of a neveilah. The Rif and the Rambam both rule that the halacha is like Shmuel and this is why the Shulchan Aruch mentions only this reason out of the six.
Even if there was non-kosher rennet mixed in to coagulate the cheese, why should the cheese be forbidden? Surely only a tiny amount was used and therefore the rennet should be nullified because it is less than one in sixty? The answer is that since the rennet causes the cheese to become hard, its effect is recognizable and thus it cannot be nullified, irrespective of the small proportion it makes up.
Why does the Gemara only mention ohr keivas beheimah "neveilah?" A neveilah is an animal that wasn't slaughtered according to halacha. A neveilah's meat is forbidden from the Torah. The Gemara implies that the stomach lining of an animal that was slaughtered in accordance with halacha is ok to use in making cheese?! But surely there must be some issue of basar b'chalav with this?
Tosfos ask this kasha (difficulty). They answer that Shmuel specifically mentioned "neveilah" because it is a Torah prohibition. But there is no Torah prohibition of basar b'chalav in the making of cheese because no heat is involved. Meat and milk mixed together when cold is only forbidden m'derabbanan.
The Tzvi L'Tzaddik asks a kasha on Tosfos. Even if the cold mixture of meat and milk is not forbidden on a Torah level, it is still assur me'derabbanan and should forbid the cheese. He answers that it must be that Tosfos hold that since there is a combination of two derabbanan prohibitions ((1) cold meat and milk & (2) coagulation), Chazal did not forbid this. Therefore if kosher rennet had been used to make the cheese, the cheese would've been kosher.
So, in summary, the only concern that Chazal had with non-Jewish cheese was that it might have been made with rennet from a neveilah. Because of this concern they forbade all forms of cheese made by a non-Jew.
Next week we will look at how the gezeirah applies to "hard" and "soft" cheeses.

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