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Thought for the Day: Cleaning Garments by Shaking, Cleaning Garments with Water

Two chavrusos once went to visit R' Yaakov Kamenetsky, ztz"l, on a Shabbos afternoon in order to ask an important sh'eila.  R' Yaakov told that it was an excellent kasha and he would need to think about it.  Later, at shalosh s'udos, R' Yaakov told over the question and a straightforward terutz.  On the way home, R' Yaakov's grandson (who had witnessed both events) asked way the zeidy had not given the answer to the two yungeleit.  R' Yaakov answered that they had not come seeking an answer, but instead wanted validation of their learning by being told what a great question it was; so he accommodated them.

The Mishna Brura's job is to clarify halacha as it pertains to the daily and annual life of a Jew; nothing more and nothing less.  The Mishna Brura will give reasons for halacha, delve into the different shitos, and even engage in pilpul; but never for their own sake, always and only to clarify halacha.  I've recently taken to glancing down at the Sha'ar haTzion from time to time; there are lots of goodies there!  For example, a very lucid clarification of how Rashi explains the m'lacha of m'labein (cleaning clothes, whitening) that, oh by the way, clears up a R' Akiva Eiger question.

Siman 302 discusses cleaning (and folding) clothing on Shabbos.  The first siman says that one may not shake the dust off of new, black garment.  Rashi (on the gemara, Shabbos 147a; thank you, Dirshu) explains that shaking the dust from a new, black garment is the m'lacha d'oraisah of m'labein because dust on a new, black garment makes it look dingy.  In syef 7, the m'chaber paskens that one may not scrape mud/dirt off the outside of a garment on Shabbos because that is similar to the m'lacha of m'labein.  Explains the Mishna Brura in sk 33 that it is only like m'labein (and not the real Torah deal) because it can only be the m'lacha d'oraisah of m'labein if it uses water -- as explained by Rashi.

At this point, you are going to have to look down to the Sha'ar haTzion, sk 41, to see what's going on.  There the Mishna Brura explains that the two cases are not comparable.  According to Rashi, the m'lacha d'oraisah of m'labein means to restore the garment to it's pristine state (as far as is possible).  A new, black garment is downright unwearable when it is covered in dust, but giving it a good shake makes it good as new.  On the other hand, scraping mud or even dirt off any garment leaves a visible impression, so it's not a complete cleaning.  What Rashi means is that to do a complete job (and hence bring this up to the m'lacha d'oraisah of m'labein) requires water.  And... oh, by the way... continues Sha'ar haTzion, this answers (actually more like "takes the wind out of the sails of") R' Akiva Eiger's question on Rashi.  No big fanfare; just an addendum to a footnote.

R' Chaim Ozer once asked a talmid who had just returned from a visit to the Chafeitz Chaim what his impressions were.  "What a tzadik!", exclaimed the talmid.  "Oh, he fooled you also, I see," said the great Chaim Ozer, "He is actually one of the greatest talmidei chachamim of our time!"  Of course, they are both true.  Chachmas haTorah, the wisdom of the Creator Himself, is beyond any human comprehension.  To merit being the one to bring that wisdom to Klal Yisrael, in this case to merit being the one who brought sefer Mishna Brura to the light of this world, required extreme dedication and unflagging effort.  But in the end, it was a gift to one who made himself worthy.


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