THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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BECHOROS 5 (28 Sivan) - dedicated to the memory of Hagaon Rav Yisroel Zev
[ben Rav Avrohom Tzvi] Gustman, Zecher Tzadik Li'Vrachah, author of
"Kuntresei Shi'urim", renowned Dayan of pre and post-WWII Vilna, and Rosh
Yeshiva of "Yeshivas Netzach Yisrael-Ramailes" of
Vilna/Brooklyn/Yerushalayim), on the day of his Yahrzeit. Sponsored by a
number of students who merited to study under him: Harav Eliezer Stern and
Harav Zalman Stern of Brooklyn NY; Yechiel Wachtel and Michoel Starr of
1) "WAS MOSHE A THIEF OR A 'KUVYUSTUS'?"
QUESTION: Kuntrukus, a Roman officer, questioned Raban Yochanan ben Zakai
about Moshe's integrity regarding the amount of silver that he collected
from the Machtzis ha'Shekel donations. According to Kuntrukus'
calculation, there was a discrepancy in the amount of silver that was
collected and the amount that was then distributed for the building of the
Mishkan. Kuntrukus therefore asked mockingly, "Was Moshe a thief or a
Kuvyustus, or did he not know how to add?"
2) SIXTY "SHEKEL" IN ONE "MANEH"
TOSFOS (DH Kuvyustus) cites RASHI in Chulin (91b, DH Kuvyustus) who
explains that "Kuvyustus" means "kidnapper."
How, though, can it mean "kidnapper"? As Tosfos points out, Moshe's
alleged dishonesty was not due to suspected kidnapping, but to suspected
(a) TOSFOS in Bava Basra (92b, DH Kuvyustus) justifies Rashi's explanation
by explaining that stealing the Machtzis ha'Shekel is comparable to
kidnapping, because the Machtzis ha'Shekel was collected as part of the
census of the Jewish people, and thus each Machtzis ha'Shekel represented
(b) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES (#5) suggests that when the Roman officer said,
"Was Moshe a thief or a Kuvyustus," he was referring to two different
discrepancies. When he referred to Moshe as a "thief," he was referring to
the Machtzis ha'Shekel funds that were collected. When he referred to
Moshe as a "Kuvyustus," he was referring to the apparent discrepancy
regarding the number of Leviyim (which, in the preceding lines of the
Gemara, the Roman officer questioned). Since he found a discrepancy in the
number of Leviyim, he referred to Moshe as a "kidnapper."
(c) The MAHARSHA and others suggest that the Roman officer was asking,
"Did Moshe 'kidnap' half of the Jews, such that they were not to be found
at the time that the Machtzis ha'Shekel was collected from the rest?"
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes the verse in Yechezkel (45:12), "The Shekel
will be twenty Gerah. Twenty Shekels, twenty-five Shekels, and fifteen
Shekels will constitute a Maneh for you." The intention of the verse is to
add the amounts listed, teaching that there are sixty Shekels in one
Why does the verse not say simply, "Sixty Shekels will constitute a Maneh
for you"? Why does the verse divide the sum into three parts?
ANSWER: TOSFOS (DH Esrim) explains that these three parts represent the
actual measuring units used in the Beis ha'Mikdash. "Twenty Shekels" was
used as a measure for a third of a Maneh of Kodesh. "Twenty-five Shekels"
was used to measure one plain (non-Kodesh) Maneh. "Fifteen Shekels"
measured one quarter of a Maneh of Kodesh.
3) A DONKEY THAT HAS A COW
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that if a cow gives birth to a firstborn
animal that looks like a donkey, or a donkey gives birth to a firstborn
animal that looks like a horse, the laws of Bechor do not apply to it.
This is derived from the repetition of the phrase, "Peter Chamor" (in
Shemos 13:13 and 34:19), from which we learn that both the mother and the
baby must be donkeys.
The ROSH (1:4) writes that the correct text in the Mishnah is not "a
donkey that gave birth to a type of horse" but rather "a donkey that gave
birth to a type of cow." What is the intention behind the Rosh's
correction of the text of the Mishnah?
(a) The ROSH writes that it is apparent from the second part (Seifa) of
the Mishnah which asks, "And are *they* permitted to be eaten?" From the
plural "they," it is evident that there are two cases discussed in the
first part (Reisha) of the Mishnah in which the animal might be permitted
to eat. If, however, one of the cases in the Reisha is discussing a donkey
that gave birth to a type of horse, then it is obvious that the animal is
forbidden to eat, and the Mishnah would not need to ask about it. (See
TOSFOS to 6a, DH u'Mah, who writes that the text of the Mishnah should be,
"Is *it* permitted to eat?" Tosfos was also bothered by the question of
the Rosh, but, unlike the Rosh, he changes the text of the question and
not the text of the case of the Gemara.)
(b) The Rosh writes further that since the Mishnah says in the Seifa,
"When a Tamei animal gave birth to a type of Tahor animal, it is
prohibited to eat," this implies that the Reisha, too, is discussing such
a case (a donkey that gave birth to a type of cow).
The Rosh explains that the reason why the Beraisa later (6a) says that
when a donkey gave birth to a type of horse, the laws of Bechor do not
apply, is because it wants to teach that when the baby possesses some of
the Simanim of a donkey, the laws of Bechor do apply. This is a Chidush,
because a horse is not a species that has the Kedushah of Bechorah, and
therefore the Beraisa mentions this case even though the Mishnah does not
mention it (according to the opinion of the Rosh). (Even though the Gemara
rejects the assertion that the laws of Bechor apply when a donkey gave
birth to a horse, the Rosh states that the Halachah does not follow the
Gemara's rejection, but rather it follows the Beraisa. However, see the
MA'ADANEI YOM TOV (#400), who points out that the Rosh later writes that
there is a doubt regarding this matter.)
(c) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES (6a, #1) writes in the name of the Rosh that the
correct text in the Mishnah is, "A donkey that gave birth to a cow,"
because this case teaches a greater Chidush: even though the cow is a
species that generally possesses the Kedushah of Bechorah, nevertheless in
this case it is exempt from Bechorah. In a case of a donkey that gives
birth to a type of horse, it is more obvious that Bechorah does not apply,
since the laws of Bechor generally do not apply to a horse, and therefore
the Mishnah would not need to teach this law. (See also TOSFOS REBBI AKIVA
EIGER on Mishnayos.) (D. Bloom)