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"The walls are sinking! The beautiful house that my father built is slowly sinking into the ground!"
The son was clearly distressed. His father had built this beautiful two-story home many years ago. When the elderly father passed away, two of his sons divided the house equally. One occupied the ground floor, and the other took the top floor. Now, sadly, the walls of the lower floor were sinking into the ground.
"I will go upstairs and inform my brother Shlomo about the condition of the building," he thought. "Shlomo! How are you?"
"Fine, Ephraim. What's new?"
"I have news, but it's not so good. The beautiful house that our father built is settling. My walls are sinking below ground level. It is not going to get any better. Let's raze the house now, before my apartment becomes uninhabitable, and build a new one in its place. We'll share the expenses."
"Ephraim, my apartment is fine. I'm not interested in rebuilding."
Ephraim is taken aback by that answer. Nevertheless, he proceeds to make his brother a better offer.
"Shlomo, I will pay for the entire thing. It won't cost you a penny."
"Ephraim, thank you for the offer, but I have nowhere to live while this construction is taking place."
"I will rent you a place to live, Shlomo. All expenses are on me."
"Ephraim, it's too much trouble for me to move twice."
"But Shlomo, I can't live in this apartment. It is sinking into the ground!"
"You can live there just fine, Ephraim. Just bend over to your stomach when you enter, and do the same when you leave."
The question is:
Can Shlomo refuse to allow Ephraim to rebuild even though Ephraim will pay for all expenses and inconvenience?
The answer is:
The Gemora (Bava Basra 6b, 7a) discusses this case. Rav Chama rules that the brother living in the upper floor can refuse to rebuild. The Nimukei Yosef explains that the lower floor is "meshubed" - subjugated - to the top floor, and cannot do anything that will cause damage to the top. However, there are three exceptions. One, the floor of the upper house sinks to a level of less than ten tefochim (approximately 36 inches) above ground level. Then the upper house has actually entered into the airspace of the lower house. Since the upper brother is trespassing, the lower brother no longer needs his permission to remove his house. The other two exceptions come when the brothers made a condition between them at the time they divided the house. They stipulated that if the house would sink down too far, they would both rebuild. There are two opinions how far the house can sink until they must rebuild. The first one is the height must be at least half of the length plus half of the width. The second opinion is that the house must be large enough to bring in bundles of long reeds and turn around with them in all directions. If the house has sunken beyond this point, the upper neighbor can be forced to rebuild.
This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.
"Okay, Let's fire this baby up!"
The foreman hits the switch and the wheels slowly begin to turn. The huge steam powered loom swings into action. The needles whir back and forth and the fabric begins to roll.
"How does it look Mr. Stein?"
The wealthy owner of the factory smiles.
"The machine is running very well, Joe. When will it reach full speed?"
"In about half an hour, Mr. Stein."
"Have you connected the special control valve yet, Joe?"
"Not yet Mr. Stein. Can you explain its operation to me again?"
The factory owner strokes his beard, adjusts his kippa and begins to speak.
"This machine is producing fabric for sale and profit. Do you see that building next to the factory? That is a Beis HaMedrash where young scholars are learning Torah day and night. This machine will provide the income to support them and their families. If it is running at full speed, it will produce enough profits for them to live a very comfortable life. There is one catch, however."
"The special control valve?"
"Right. It regulates the speed of the machine. This valve is sensitive to the Torah learning of the young scholars. The more they learn, the wider the valve opens, and the faster the machine runs. However, if they slack off in their learning, the machine will slow down, and their income will dwindle." "That is brilliant, Mr. Stein."
The Malbim (on Bereshis 2:1) uses this parable to explain the operation of the world. Hashem set up the laws of nature to provide sustenance for the world. They are like the machine. However, there is free will, reward and punishment. Man's deeds direct the laws of nature, just as the special control valve guides the machine. Where is this valve located? In the Shabbos. That is the day when Hashem evaluates the world, based on the deeds of man, and determines how fast the machine should be running.
The Lechem HaPanim (Show Bread) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) represented sustenance for the world. Hashem commanded that it be placed on the Shulchan (Table) just once a week. Shabbos. The Holy Day that influences the whole week. Shabbos keeps the world going. It is the source of all blessing.
Kinderlach . . .
At the beginning of Shabbos, we sing the beautiful song, "Lecha Dodi". "Come let us go greet Shabbos, for it is the source of blessing." All of the goodness that Hashem bestows upon this earth comes via the Shabbos. Therefore, we see how important this mitzvah is. Let us all do our part to strengthen and deepen our Shabbos observance. Try to be ready for Shabbos early. That way, when candle lighting time arrives, we can be relaxed and refreshed, ready to welcome the Shabbos Queen. Show Hashem how much we love His Shabbos. And He will shower us with blessing.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2013 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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