1. This Shabbos, which comes after the holiday of Pesach, has a unique connection with the last day of Pesach. Shabbos brings completion to all the days of the week and all facets of the week, as it says:

And the heavens and the earth...were completed! (Bereishis 2:1)

So this Shabbos uplifts and perfects the themes of the last day of Pesach.

The Gemara says that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are called “before the Shabbos,” emphasizing their connection with the following Shabbos. According to the way the calendar is set, the last (eighth) day of Pesach can never fall on Wednesday or Friday and therefore, when it occurs on Thursday that is its only opportunity to have a special connection to the Shabbos.

Shabbos bestows blessing on the following days and on the preceding days — but it gives special blessings to those days which make special preparations for it.

Of course, all the days of the week should be geared to Shabbos preparation. As the Talmud relates concerning the Tanna Shammai the Elder:

All his life he ate in honor of the Shabbos. Thus if he found a well-favored animal, he said, “Let this be for the Shabbos.” If afterwards he found one better favored he put aside the second (to save it for Shabbos) and ate the first. (Beitzah 16a)

Nevertheless, the main preparations for Shabbos begun on Thursday, and in fact some preparation should be done specifically on Thursday, as the Talmud relates:

Ezra enacted that clothes be washed on Thursday. (B. Kama 82a)

Since Thursday (this year, the eighth day of Pesach) provides the main preparations for Shabbos, it follows that Shabbos reciprocates and bestows the greatest blessings on the preceding Thursday.

The Torah portion of the week will also add some emphasis to this connection. The term Acharei (the portion) and the word Acharon (last day of Pesach) have a common meaning — they come after the preceding incidents.

The terms Acharei and Acharon refer not only to a point later or subsequent in time, but also, in degree; in a positive and progressive way. Coming after all the other days of Pesach, the last day has the perfection of all the previous days. Although on the eighth day of Pesach we find what appears to be a lenient, weaker aspect, that we permit the use of matzah which became wet, something that was prohibited for the first seven days (according to many halachic authorities: Trans.), the truth however is, that this points out the higher quality of the last day. Because the day is so lofty, being connected to Mashiach, even if there might be some slight question of leavening in the wet matzah, we can purify it and raise it to holiness.

The portion Acharei, which is studied during the week of Pesach prior to being read on Shabbos, also represents a higher level, going beyond all previous accomplishments. And when we study the daily section of the weekly portion on Acharon Shel Pesach and we “live” with the Torah portion, we then add more life into the day. Later, on Shabbos, when the entire portion of Acharei is read from the Torah, with blessings before and after, the connection of the last day of Pesach and the portion Acharei is intensified.

It would therefore be appropriate to add some points to the dialectic discussion (pilpul) on the subject of dipping the matzah into charoses,” which was begun at the farbrengen of the last day of Pesach, in connection with the Kinus Torah (Torah convention) held yesterday and again tomorrow.

The discussion revolved on a halachic topic relating to practices of the Seder which commemorate the time when G‑d revealed Himself and liberated the Jewish people. There is also a connection between the charoses and the four cups of wine which are both important and integral parts of the Seder, because the charoses must be softened by adding wine prior to the dipping. The previous Rebbe used to use the wine which overflowed from the Kiddush cup; his custom was to place the charoses into the dish under the wine cup and mix it into the wine that had overflowed — and then he would dip into the charoses. [At this point the Rebbe Shlita continued the pilpul begun on the last day of Pesach.]

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Let us conclude with the subject of liberation, for the Rogatchover said that in our days we must stress the freedom of the matzos and not the servitude.

Now, if matzah is called “bread of affliction” (with all its connotations) how can we call it bread of “freedom”?

The answer is that when we were freed our essence changed and we are no longer slaves — and everything we have is no longer connected to slavery and affliction! Moreover, we may say that it is “bread of affliction” only relative to a greater state of freedom.

During the days of Shlomo HaMelech, when the First Beis HaMikdash stood in all its glory and we were truly free, we still ate matzah and called it “bread of affliction.” Even then in the period of our greatest glory we understood that there could be a greater level of freedom — the state of the ultimate redemption of Mashiach and the eternal Beis HaMikdash. Certainly now we must stress the freedom of the matzah, but at the same time we realize that we have not yet reached absolute liberation and perfect independence.

Perfect freedom and liberation — the ultimate redemption — is brought out on the last day of Pesach — through the Haftorah and the “meal of Mashiach,” and it is also seen on this Shabbos of Acharei. Acharei means that which comes after — but the real Acharei will only be at the “end of days,” in the seventh millennium, that day which will be “all Shabbos and rest for everlasting life.” The perfect liberation of the future will add to the freedom of Acharon Shel Pesach.

The lesson we must garner for our Divine service is obvious.

A Jew must strive to bring redemption to liberate the spark of holiness in everything. When he effects freedom in individual things by fulfilling Torah and mitzvos, then he can help bring the general redemption.

His attitude must also be free and liberated — by trusting and longing for the days of Mashiach:

Hence all Israelites, their prophets and sages, longed for the advent of Messianic times, that they might have relief from the wicked tyranny that does not permit them properly to occupy themselves with the study of the Torah and the observance of the commandments; that they might have ease, devote themselves to getting wisdom.... (Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah 9:2)

Free to devote themselves to the Torah and its wisdom, with no one to oppress or disturb them.

This also places upon us a responsibility regarding the gentile nations of the world, for at that future time all people will serve G‑d. How will it happen? By teaching them the Seven Noachide Laws now and by encouraging them to appreciate the peace and goodness that is in store for everyone. In preparation for that future bliss they must nowalso live their lives according to these good principles.

It is elementary that one cannot serve G‑d properly in hunger or war or other oppressive conditions, therefore all people must work together to eliminate all of these negative forces.

May this lead to positive action, spreading Torah among the Jewish people through the Mivtzoim and the Seven Noachide Laws among all the other peoples of the world.

All this should be done pleasantly and peacefully with patience, joy, glad hearts, and abundant blessing for children, health and prosperity. And all these material blessings will give us the ability to fulfill G‑d’s will in its fullness and entirety. And through our actions we will draw near and speed up the ultimate goal of the days of Mashiach — speedily and truly in our times.

2. This Shabbos also has a significant connection with last Shabbos, which was Chol HaMoed Pesach. On that Shabbos, too, there was a strong emphasis on the theme of complete redemption.

Although we normally allude to the relationship of Shabbos and the preceding or following weekdays, there exists also a benefactor-beneficiary relationship between one Shabbos and the next. This is discussed in Kabbalah and it may be understood when we realize that although each Shabbos brings its own blessing, yet, during the early moments of the Shabbos the current force of holiness is still in its embryonic stages and in order to experience the full holiness and blessing of this Shabbos you need the radiance of the full blessing of the previous week.

An example of this would be the “showbread” in the Temple which was set out on the golden table each Shabbos, where it remained till the following Shabbos when it was distributed to the Kohanim who were to be on duty during the intervening week, as well as the Kohanim who would be on duty during the following week! Clearly every Shabbos also benefits from the blessings of the previous Shabbos.

The Haftorah of Shabbos Chol HaMoed Pesach is the prophecy of Yechezkel HaNavi in the valley of the dry bones. The theme of this chapter is resurrection:

Indeed, My people, I will open your graves, I will raise you from your graves and bring you to Eretz Yisrael. And you will know that I am the L‑rd when I open your graves and raise you from your graves. And I will put My spirit into you and you shall live.... (Yechezkel 37:12-14)

On this the Gemara deduces:

Three keys the Holy One, Blessed be He, has retained in His own hands and has not entrusted to the hand of any messenger, namely...the key of the Revival of the Dead...for it is written: “And you will know that I am the L‑rd when I open your graves.” (Taanis 2b)

Clearly on Shabbos Chol HaMoed we allude to the ultimate redemption and resurrection of the time to come.

The freedom and redemption of this Yechezkel Haftorah has a loftier quality than the theme of liberation portrayed for us in the Yeshayahu Haftorah of the last day of Pesach: “To be standing at Nov.... A shoot shall come forth from the stem of Yishai...” (Yeshayahu 10:32, 11:1).

Let us first preface:

Let no one think that in the days of Mashiach any of the laws of nature will be set aside, or any innovation be introduced into creation. The world will follow its normal course. The words of Yeshayahu (in the Haftorah of the last day of Pesach): “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the lion shall lie down with the kid,” are to be understood figuratively.... All similar expressions used in connection with the Messianic age are metaphorical. Said the rabbis: The sole difference between the present and the Messianic days is delivery from servitude to foreign powers (Sanhedrin 91a). (Rambam, Laws of Kings 12:1-2)

A profoundly perplexing question comes to mind. One of the 13 principles of faith propounded by Maimonides is the belief in the resurrection of the dead. Is there a more drastic change in the nature of the world than that?! How can the Rambam write that in the times of Mashiach there will be no new laws of nature — when the dead will rise and become alive — a most drastic version of natural law!!

It therefore becomes apparent that there will be twoeras in Messianic times. In the first there will be no changes in nature, as the Rambam describes it. But in the second era drastic changes will occur, including also the resurrection of the dead.

When the Rambam says that the world will follow its normal system, he is describing the first stage of the days of Mashiach when there will be no change in the natural world. When our servitude to foreign powers will cease, that will be the sign that the Messianic era has arrived. At that time we will interpret the verse “the wolf will dwell with the lamb” metaphorically. That is not to say that later the simple meaning will not also become true fact.

The Rambam actually adds the point that:

But no one is in a position to know the details of this and similar things until they have come to pass. (Ibid.)

Or, as he writes in his “Epistle on the Resurrection:”

These words are not absolute...and if the prophecies are to be as stated, there will be a miracle. (Chapter 6)

Hence the Rambam himself admits that it is possible that it will turn out that the intentions of the prophetic projections are literal, as stated.

Chassidic philosophy has answered the Rambam’s uncertainty by stating specifically that there will be changes in the nature of the world and the wolf will literally dwell at peace with the lamb!

Now, we may discern that the Haftorah of Acharon Shel Pesach deals with the early stages of the Messianic era, from the time of the emergence of Mashiach,

A shoot shall come forth from the stem of Yishai and a branch shall grow forth out of his roots.

As the Rambam indicated, that period will only see the independence of the Jewish people, but the world will still follow the laws of nature. The “wolf” and the “lamb” and the “small boy” are metaphors for the nations of the world which will be at peace and pay homage to the Jewish people.

In the Haftorah of Shabbos Chol HaMoed, however, we speak of a laterstage in the Messianic epoch, when the dead will rise and real changes will take place in the natural world.

Having discussed the principle that the future depends on our actions, we must therefore, now, conduct ourselves in a manner that will engender the blessed days of Mashiach. It also follows that we cannot be complacent with only practicing Divine service of the manner which evokes the earlyperiod of Mashiach, when the subjugation to foreign rule will be dissolved. The sample of that form of freedom would be doing our Divine service in a manner which shows that nothing interferes with our work.

Our present actions must actually be much higher, similar to the ultimate perfection and liberation of Mashiach and the resurrection! New laws of nature will prevail, and a new form of Divine service, which is beyond any measure and limitations of worldly parameters, must precede and precipitate it.

This Divine service, which mirrors the future existence, is pertinent to every Jew, because every Jew has in his/her soul a “spark” of Mashiach’s soul.

On the verse “a star went forth from Yaakov” the Gemara says that it refers to Mashiach (Yerushalmi, Taanis 4:5); while in Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheni 4:6, it states that the verse speaks of everyJew. To reconcile this contradiction R. Nochum of Chernobyl wrote, that in the soul of every Jew there is a spark of the soul of Mashiach, just as the soul of Mashiach represents the general Yechidah soul level of the Jewish people.

But, even more than this.

The Rambam states clearly about a Jewish king:

..for his heart is the heart of the whole congregation of Israel. (Laws of Kings 3:6)

Just as the life of a human being is indisputably dependent on the heart, similarly, since Mashiach is a Jewish king the existence of the Jewish people depends on him.

We may now appreciate why our Divine service today should include aspects which will be similar to the form of Divine service at the ultimate stages of Mashiach’s time.

Our first step in that direction and its fundamental cornerstone must be the firm faithinMashiach and the hope in his advent. Believing in and longing for Mashiach must also include belief in the full gamut of the future changes that will occur. And right from the outset we must believe that ultimately the world will function in a miraculous, supernatural way in the days of Mashiach.

This point is stressed by showing precedence to the Haftorah of Shabbos Chol HaMoed Pesach — which speaks of the resurrection — and then following that with the Haftorah of the last day of Pesach that speaks of the earlystages of Mashiach.

In this respect we must apply further details.

The Rambam writes:

King Mashiach will arise.... He who does not believe in a restoration or does not look forward to the coming of the Mashiach denies not only the teachings of the prophets but also those of the Torah and Moshe our teacher.... (Ibid. 11:1)

The Rambam goes on to list details of Mashiach and his time. All these details are not figurative stories, they are firm halachic rules which we must believe in and hope for. That Mashiach will arise, that there will be no hunger, or war, and the world will know G‑d as the water covers the sea. In all these details our faith must be as strong as our faith in the Ten Commandments, for just as the Torah of Moshe, our teacher, is truth, so is the Halachah of Moshe Ben Maimon truth; for “From Moshe till Moshe none arose like Moshe.”

Those matters which the Rambam did not decide on absolutely have been explained by later Chassidic masters and likewise represent the truth. With the greatest revision of nature being the resurrection of the dead, all of this must be accepted with unswerving, immutable faith.

In our generation which truly is the time of the “footsteps of Mashiach,” our faith must be enhanced. Mashiach may come at any moment, even as a poor man riding on a donkey, or on the clouds of heaven — suddenly — and we believe — certainly — at any instant!

And so, in our generation we must emphasize, ever so strongly, our faith in Mashiach and our hope and longing for his advent, it must permeate our entire existence, in all our powers, thought, speech and action.

A Jew’s mind must be filled with the faith and hope that Mashiach will come. Then it will express itself in his/her speech. When he/she speaks with others about Mashiach it will be with enthusiasm, and passionate words from the heart, which by nature will penetrate the heart of the other and awaken the faith and hope in Mashiach.

This also includes communicating with gentiles that they, too, should strive for that state of peace and tranquility.

And then from speech it will lead to action. His observance of Torah and mitzvos, dissemination of Torah and Yiddishkeit, and spreading the wellsprings, will all be done in a manner which mirrors and engenders Messianic times — no restrictions — above the order of the world.

And this will bring the redemption closer, through our righteous Mashiach, may he come and redeem us and lead us upright to our land. And may we see the light, even before his arrival, while still in the diaspora, as it was when we were liberated from Egypt — great wonders, quickly and truly in our times.

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3. In keeping with the system recently introduced to discuss questions on Rashi submitted in the weekly journals, let us discuss several of these queries, and since we have discussed the ultimate redemption, when the number three will be emphasized, for it will be the third redemption and the Third Beis HaMikdash, we will consider three subjects in Rashi’s commentary.

(1) On the verse:

With this shall Aharon come into the holy place. (Vayikra 16:3)

Rashi comments:

The numerical value of this word (zos) is 410, being an allusion to the 410 years during which the First Temple existed. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

What problem in the plain meaning of the verse was Rashi trying to answer by bringing the symbolic “allusion” to the numerical value of the word “zos.”

In previous discussions of this verse we have analyzed why the Torah says “zos” rather than “b’eilu.” There remains however a difficult and perplexing “Klotz-Kashe.”

Surely when this verse was studied by the Jewish people under Moshe’s tutelage, they too asked the question: “Why b’zos?” and surely Rashi echoes the answer which Moshe must have given them, namely: “It has the gematria of 410, etc.” However, this is too problematic to comprehend — could or would Moshe have given a symbolic allegoric allusion to the fact that the promised Beis HaMikdash would only last 410 years, and that the Temple would be destroyed because of the sins of the Jewish people?

This portion of the Torah was learned not long after the Jews had joyously sung the Song of the Sea in which they had proclaimed:

You will bring them and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance, the place which You, L‑rd, have made for Your abode, the Sanctuary which Your hands, L‑rd, have established. (Shmos 15:18)

At this point in time the expectation was that Moshe would lead them into Eretz Yisrael, the Beis HaMikdash would be built and last forever and there would never again be an exile! This makes Rashi’s comment perplexing in the plain view of the verse, as well as the homiletical or symbolic sense.

(2) On the verse:

I will even set My face against that soul that eats blood, and I will cut him off from among his people. (Vayikra 17:10)

Rashi comments:

The word “My face” — (Ponai) is taken to mean as much as P’nai (My leisure), i.e., I will turn away (Poneh) from all My affairs and concern Myself only with him. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Several points bear clarification:

(1) The word Ponai always means face, why does Rashi change the meaning and say it means free time.

(2) Why is the prohibition of blood worse than all other negative commandments which carry the penalty of excision? Why does G‑d say here that He will put all His affairs aside just to deal with this transgression?

(3) Another question which was not broached. Since Rashi only elaborates on the word “Ponai” (face) why does Rashi also cite the word “and I will set,” in the caption of the commentary?

It should be noted that in the portion of Kedoshim, in the section dealing with the idol Molech, Rashi also cites the words “and I will set My face, etc.” (Ibid. 20:13), on which again Rashi comments that the verse refers to the leisure of G‑d which will be set aside, etc. Clearly the same lack of clarity will apply there also.

(3) On the verse:

Like the deeds of the land of Egypt wherein you abode, you shall not do.... (Ibid. 18:3)

Rashi cites the words: “Like the deeds of the land of Egypt” and comments:

This tells us that the deeds of the Egyptians and the Canaanites were more corrupt than those of all other nations, and that the district of Egypt in which the Israelites had resided was even more corrupt than all the rest of Egypt. (loc. cit.)

Rashi states further:

Whither I bring you — this again tells us that those Canaanite clans whom Israel subdued were more corrupt than all the others of them. (Ibid.)

Let us try to understand these Rashis.

(A) In the first Rashi, Rashi first cites the words of the verse and then adds the term “Canaanites.” Who mentioned Canaanites in the verse?!

(B) Having included the Canaanites (which Israel conquered) in the first case it becomes redundant for Rashi to state again that those Canaanites were the worst of the lot?!

(C) Why is it necessary to explain that the conduct of these clans was worse than other pagans or other Canaanites? The simple meaning of the verse quite clearly states the reason for G‑d’s admonition; not to learn from their evil ways. Scripture clearly states:

After the deeds of the land of Egypt wherein you abode...and the deeds of the land of Canaan wherein I will bring you — you shall not do.

The meaning seems to be elementary. G‑d must warn the Jewish people not to learn from those gentile nations among whom they did or would live and with whom they did or would comeincontact. It is irrelevant that their actions are more abominable than others. So why does Rashi deem it necessary to make that point?

The explanations:

(1) The prohibition against eating blood is more severe than other negative commandments as we see from the warning of severe punishment given by Scripture. Rashi, however, does not have to explain this distinction because the five-year-old Chumash student can reach this conclusion on his own. The five-year-old Chumash student remembers that after the deluge, G‑d told Noach that although Adam had only been given permission to eat vegetation, mankind would now be permitted to eat animal flesh. This is understood by the five-year-old Chumash student. After all, why should man have the right to take life just so that he could eat?! Yet, after the flood the human race became weaker, and therefore it became necessary to eat meat to gain strength — hence G‑d permitted flesh to Noach. But there were limitations.

Meat may not be eaten while there is still life in the animal, nor may blood be drawn and eaten while the animal is still alive. These prohibitions were part of the Seven Noachide Laws.

All this is logical and comprehensible, because:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood ...for it is the blood with the life.... (Ibid. 17:11)

For this reason “blood with the life” was prohibited to the sons of Noach. When it came to the Jewish people G‑d was even more strict, prohibiting the blood even afterdeath, but again for the same rationale:

For the life of all flesh, its blood expiates for his soul; therefore I said unto the children of Israel you shall not eat the blood...the life of any flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eats it shall be cut off. (Ibid.:14)

The life depends on the blood and so the Jewish people were prohibited to eat blood. It is thus logical to say that the prohibition against blood is worse than all other negative commands of the same class. For this reason, the Torah says that G‑d will set His face against those who eat blood!

We still remain with the question on Rashi’s interpretation of the word Ponai.

To answer this question we must take a closer look at the verb usually used with the term “face.” Generally the connotation of the term “face” is “seeing” or “gazing” or “shining” or “turning” as in: “...the L‑rd may turn His countenance towards you....” Although there it is used in a manner of blessing, nevertheless even in the case of punishment the idea of showing a countenance needs the appropriate verb. Here, however, Rashi notes that the verb is “I will set (place)”; this verb is completely out of context. Rashi therefore concludes that the word Ponai here must be understood in homiletic fashion as alluding to “My leisure” (P’nai) — “I will turn away from all My affairs and concern Myself only with him (to punish him).” For this reason also Rashi cites the word “and I will set” — clearly it is because of this verb that Rashi was forced to adapt the meaning of Ponai; therefore Rashi makes sure to quote it.

(2) In dealing with Rashi’s commentary on the verse “Do not follow the ways of Egypt,” let us first take another look at the verse in the context of the preceding and following verses.

First the Torah states:

Speak to the Israelites and say to them: I am G‑d your L‑rd. (Vayikra 18:2)

The discussion closes with the verse:

Follow My laws, and be careful to keep My decrees for I am G‑d your L‑rd. (Ibid.:4)

Now, if the Torah did not specifically mention that we may not do the practices of Egypt and Canaan, it would still be obvious from these sentences that anything which is not G‑d’s law or statute is prohibited and the non-Jewish customs of any nation would be prohibited.

Consequently, when Torah adds the specific prohibition, “Do not follow the ways of Egypt, etc.,” we wonder what exactly does Torah have in mind? It would be redundant to say that this new prohibition merely represents the usual pagan lifestyle; we just inferred that from verse two and four, and besides why say “Egypt” and “Canaan,” first say the “nations”!? Here we might rationalize that perhaps they are singled out because the Jews were closer to them? However, it would hardly be necessary for Scripture to repeat the warning “I am G‑d your L‑rd” twice for that reason alone?! With this rationale in mind, Rashi explains, that when the Torah lists the Egyptians and Canaanite clans in this context, they are singled out because their deeds “were more corrupt than those of other nations.” Scripture therefore must warn again and again to stay away from their acts.

What about the actual wording of Rashi, why does he seem to add the term Canaanites at a point in his commentary where it should not be? The answer is that we have here another classic case of early typesetters who misunderstood which words Rashi was quoting as captions and which words were part of Rashi’s interpretation.

The first caption is “The deeds of the land of Egypt,” however, we have here a case where Rashi wanted to explain several words in the verse, not just one word — so, in his text he quotes anotherword from the verse, namely, “Canaanite,” and he wants to say that both the Egyptians and Canaanites were the worst of the pagan nations. And special care must be taken not to follow their ways.

A second point that Rashi makes is relative to the location of the Egyptian and Canaanite clans which lived near the Jewish people. Those clans living in the areas near the Jews were worse than the others. Following this rule all the questions raised may be answered, but leave it to the “wise to gain more wisdom.”

(3) In answer to the question on “b’zos” we must remember that this took place after the sin of the Golden Calf and therefore there is a possibility for transgression, G‑d forbid, to cause the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, so that Moshe could say that it would last 410 years — the numerical value of b’zos.

Just as at the time of the Golden Calf, when G‑d gave Moshe the opportunity to pray for forgiveness and in fact G‑d did accept Moshe’s prayers not to destroy the people, here too, by saying that the term b’zos symbolically refers to the 410 years of the Beis HaMikdash, Moshe offers a chance for prayer and repentance on the part of the Jewish people to change that prophecy and not allow the Beis HaMikdash to be destroyed. Moreover, Rashi does not say that Moshe said it would be destroyed after 410 years only that there was a hint at the time of 410 years — well that could be followed by an even loftier Beis HaMikdash, perhaps the ultimate and eternal Temple.

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4. In today’s Rambam study section we find the halachah:

Not everything is fit to be used for the covering of a booth (Sukkah); rather it must have grown from the soil.... (Laws of Sukkah 5:1)

Knowing Rambam’s meticulous specificity this statement seems strange, why does he begin “Not everything is fit...,” when he could have stated much more succinctly: “One may only cover the booth with something that grew from the soil.”

A bit further in the same chapter the Rambam rules:

A booth made under a tree is like a booth made inside a house and is invalid. (Ibid.:12)

Here again the elaboration: “is like a booth ...house” seems superfluous — just say: “is invalid”! Despite the fact that in the Gemara (Sukkah 9b) this phrase is used to derive another rule, here, however, the Rambam does not deduce that same rule and consequently it is unnecessary to quote the exact phrase of the Mishnah.

We will take up a third matter discussed in a previous farbrengen concerning Laws of Shabbos:

The male and female slaves whose Shabbos rest we are required to ensure, are slaves who have been circumcised and ritually immersed in their capacity as slaves and have undertaken to observe the commandments incumbent upon slaves. A slave who has not been circumcised and ritually immersed, but has undertaken to observe only the Seven Noachide Commandments is regarded as a resident alien, and may publicly do work for himself on the Shabbos just as an Israelite may do on the weekday. (Laws of Shabbos 20:14)

The question was: Why add the clause, “just as an Israelite...weekday,” what does this add to our comprehension of the halachah? Despite the fact that in the Gemara this term is used — because there are several opinions in the Gemara — nevertheless, once the Rambam decides on his opinion he should have written simply “may publicly do work for himself on the Shabbos,” full stop!

The explanation:

Although the Rambam’s accepted rule and method is to be very clear and specific, there are times when he quotes the wording of a Mishnah verbatim — and in such cases we must follow another rule in the Rambam:

When the Rambam quotes a Mishnaic dictum we may not apply the same analytical system of deduction which we use on the Mishnah, for the Rambam is a late author and must specify what he means. (He does not rely on our deductions as the Mishnah does.) (Yad Malachi, Rules of Rambam, ch. 24)

Consequently, while the Mishnah uses a specific term for the purpose of directing our attention to dialectic deduction, the Rambam may quote the same phrase without having the same ulterior intention.

Therefore, when the Rambam teaches that a Sukkah built under a tree is invalid he quotes the Mishnah and says “like a booth made inside a house,” because that is the language of the Mishnah.

We might add, that one might think that so long as the Sukkah projects the theme of “fragile booths,” even though it is under the shade of a tree it might be permissible, therefore the Rambam tells us very strongly — it is just like being in a house!

Now the second ponderation.

Sometimes, despite the Rambam’s obsession with clarity and brevity he also stresses literary congruity and style. So when at the conclusion of the previous chapter, when speaking of the walls of the Sukkah, he states:

Anything whatsoever is fine to serve as the wall of a booth...even a living creature.... (Ibid 4:16)

The Rambam now uses the same terminology in the case of the covering (s’chach) of the Sukkah which, conversely, may not be made of anything (only certain things)! So he states “Not everything is fit...for the covering....” and “it must be,” etc.

This same principle concerning the Rambam’s citations from the Mishnah will apply to the case of the slave who may do work on Shabbos, “just as an Israelite may do on the weekday.” This, too, is a direct quote from the Beraisa, and clearly the Rambam completes the citation without getting involved in the discussion of the Gemara.

Another point to ponder.

Why does the Rambam insert the word “publicly.” The Rambam’s intention is to indicate that these slaves are allowed to do work on Shabbos without any reservations. For although, hopefully, they will agree to change their status and become proper slaves who accept Torah, and then they will immerse themselves and be prohibited to do work on Shabbos — nevertheless there is no reason for us to add a “fence” and restrict them now. The concept of protective “fences” in Halachah applies only for mature Jews — not for minors and certainly not for Noachides.