Extracurricular Talmud Enrichment
Talmidim of the
For many years, every Thursday evening Rabbi Scheinberg presents his students with a logical conundrum: Two seemingly contradictory laws or principles. The students are then given the opportunity to come up with a resolution.
For example, one of the questions is: When we affix mezuzot to the doors of a house, we recite the same berachah no matter how many mezuzot we are affixing – a berachah that is phrased in the singular: “Who has commanded us to affix a mezuzah.”
On the other hand, when we bring new vessels to a mikveh, the text of the berachah depends on how many vessels we intend to immerse: If there is only one vessel to be immersed, the berachah is: “Who has commanded us to immerse a vessel,” but if there are two or more vessels to be immersed, the berachah changes to: “Who has commanded us to immerse vessels.” וואס איז דער חילוק – why in the case of mezuzah is there no variation in the text, while in the case of tevilat kelim there is variation?
At the end of last week, we posed a question that relates to the topic that we are currently studying in Mesechet Sukkah. The rule we just learned is that העוסק במצוה פטור ממצוה – a person who is involved at the moment in one mitzvah is exempt from involving himself in another mitzvah. Why, then, is the law that a person who is in the middle of Keriat Shema must interrupt his Shema so as to answer to Kaddish or Kedushah? Keriat Shema is a mitzvah and so is Kaddish. וואס איז דער חילוק – why does the normal principle of a person who is involved at the moment in one mitzvah is exempt from involving himself in another mitzvah not apply in this case?
Aryeh Ackerman, one of the students in the 11-12th grade shiur, came up with a resolution (one of those proposed by Rabbi Scheinberg himself!) almost immediately. His response was based on a law he had learned in his last year's Talmud class with Rabbi Levy: The law is that one may interrupt one's Keriat Shema to greet a human being whom one fears or of whom one is in awe, such as a king. If that is the case, it is a קל וחומר – certainly the case that one may interrupt one's Keriat Shema in order to”greet” Hashem via Kaddish or Kedushah, as we are certainly in fear and in awe of the King of Kings! (The same response was given later and separately by Yehoshua Bloom.)
We hope this initiative continues to prove successful, and that other students will join in the quest to resolve these challenging problems. B'ezrat Hashem, we will be able to share some of the problems — and some of our students' chiddushim in resolving these problems — with you on these pages.