Sunday, May 06, 2007

What do Lag BaOmer and Birchot Shema have in common?

Steg wrote this excellent post about Aveilut and Lag Ba’omer which got me to thinking about this day.

תלמוד בבלי יבמות סב ע"ב

שנים עשר אלף זוגים תלמידים היו לו לרבי עקיבא, מגבת עד אנטיפרס, וכולן מתו בפרק …. תנא: כולם מתו מפסח ועד עצרת.

R. Akivah had 12,000 pairs of pupils who died in one period… A Braitha: They all died between Pessach and Shavuot.

So where does Lag Ba’omer enter?

The sefer Hamanhig (one of the medieval Possekim) quotes in the name of the Ba’al Hamaor (R. Zerachya Halevi) that in an old Spanish text the reading was – Ad Peros Ha’atzeret. The word “Peros” is translated by some as breaking the period in half, half way between Pessach and Shavuot, and Lag Ba’omer is kind of in the middle. It is a weak explanation, as it should have been the 25th day as opposed to the 33d, but it gets even weaker.

In Minhagei Yisrael by Professor Daniel Sperber volume 4 page 239 he quotes R. Saul Lieberman who in a lengthy discussion proves that Peros means preceding or the day before thus in this context - Erev Shavuot. That being the case Steg’s Rabbi was correct and there is no real Halachik (Talmudic which as discussed many times is binding) basis for Lag Ba’omer. That is why Rambam, who tells us that he brings anonymously only the Dinim that were arrived at in the Talmud, does not mention Lag Ba’omer. [He does not bring the Dinim of Sefira as to mourning as far as I know either.]

[For further discussion see the Gra in Orach Chaim 493 who quotes the Midrash and says that Peros is 15 days before without explaining the basis for that. The Taz brings a possibility that 33 is the number of days that they died if one eliminates Shabbatot, chagim and Rosh Chodesh.]

The word Peros is discussed in the Rishonim. Rashi translates in Megilah 23b as breaking in half just as the word Perussa means breaking a loaf in half. In Hilchot Tefilah we find the following Halacha:

רמב"ם תפילה ונשיאת כפים ח:ה

וכן לא יהיה אחד מברך ברכת שמע והכל שומעים ועונין אחריו אמן אלא בעשרה, וזה הוא הנקרא פורס על שמע

One should not make the Birchot Kryat Shema while the others listen to him and answer Amen unless there are ten present. This is what is referred to as Pores al Shema. [This Halacha is part of the Tefilat Hatzibur rules. It was the custom that the Chazzan said the Berachot loud so that those who did not know them would be able to partake and be Yotze through him]

Again the same question arises what is the meaning of “Pores”? According to Rashi it would mean half and thus only the first half of Birchot Kryat Shema would require a Minyan. The assumption would be that it is because it contains the Kedusha. The second Bracha and at Ma’ariv this rule would not apply. Rambam does not distinguish and seems to read it as meaning the Berachot preceding the Shema are considered Devarim Shebikdusha and therefore require a Minyan. Thus Rambam reads further:

רמב"ם תפילה ונשיאת כפים ח:ו

וכל דבר קדושה לא יהא אלא בתוך העדה מישראל שנאמר ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל
All Devarim Shebikdusha [a category of sayings that have special status and require special treatment] must be among a community of Jews as it says I will be sanctified among the children of Israel. [“Among” connotes a communal obligation].

1 comment:

  1. pros means have
    Pros as 15 days refers to half a month

    Sefira is 49 days and can be divided roughly into 3 segments of 16 each