Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Daf Yomi - Sukkah 53 - Idolatry in the Beis Hamikdosh

The Mishna states that the Kohanim would turn their faces to the West and declare that their fathers had their faces to the East and their backs to the Heichal and worshipped the sun, but we instead worship Kah, i.e. HaShem. The Gemara asks that if their faces were to the East, is it not evident that their backs were towards the Heichal? It is learned from this language that while they were worshipping the sun, they also defecated themselves. It is indeed mind boggling to even to begin to imagine that people could actually perform such a despicable act, especially in the Bais HaMikdash. Although we know that the first Bais HaMikdash was destroyed in part due to the sin of idolatry, how could the Jews have stooped to such a low level of abomination inside the Bais HaMikdash?

Rav Meir Bergman suggests the following answer. The Gemara in Sota (35a) relates the tragic episode of Uza and the Aron, the Holy Ark. The Jewish People were traveling with the Aron and Uza stretched out his hand to grab hold of the Aron. Hashem remarked that if the Aron can carry those who transport it, then the Aron can certainly carry itself. Hashem was angered by Uza’s infraction and He smote Uza al hashal. Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar disagree regarding the cause of Uza’s death. One opinion maintains that Uza was killed because he touched the Aron. The other opinion maintains that he relieved himself in front of the Aron. Rabbi Yochanan concluded by stating that Uza merited his share in the World to Come. The literal reading of this Gemara is truly astounding. Uza was the one individual from amongst the Jewish People who was chosen to watch the Aron when it was returned by the Pelishtim. The name Uza was changed from Elazar to Uza as he represented Torah which is the oz, strength, of the Jewish People. Uza served before the Aron for more than twenty years and Dovid selected Uza to transport the Ark from the house of Avinadav to Jerusalem. How is it possible that Uza descended to such a low level in such a short time span that he would actually relieve himself before the Aron and in front of the entire Jewish People? Can there be a greater desecration of Hashem's name than this? Furthermore, why did Rabbi Yochanan state that Uza merites a share in the world to come?

Rabbi Bergman suggests that 'osoh tzrochov' does not mean literally, rather Uza stretched out his hand to protect the Aron and to ensure that it didn't fall. As he was holding the Aron a thought entered his pure mind that it was indeed him that was holding up the Aron. A minor infraction for such a great person brought about his immediate demise, but he was immediately forgiven and merited a share in the world to come.

We can explain our Gemora in a similar vein. The Kohanim did not literally mean that their fathers defecated themselves, rather this was used as a euphemism to indicate that their fathers neglected to care about the honor of Hashem in the Beis Hamikdosh and brought avoda zoro into Hashem's resting place.

Reb Chaim Shmuelewitz states that the avoda zoro of baal peor is the attribute of wantonness. It indicates that a person has no restraint and the feelings or rights of others do not concern him. He is solely interested in himself. This is why Moshe Rabbeinu was buried opposite Peor. Moshe is the epithet of what it means to be interested in his task and mission of leading Klal Yisroel and his own personal concern is the farthest thing from his mind. Moshe is the faithful servant that Hashem has complete trust in him. This is why he can receive the 'klil tiferes' - the crown of glory on his head.


Tiny Sam said...

Isn't that explanation really taking the Gemora out of context?

Avromi said...

Yes - but that's precisely his point - he doesn't feel that these Gemoras can be taken literally.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at Rashi on 52a d'h hayom y'lidticha. In English, Rashi explains the possuk to mean:

Today I will reveal to the people that you are my son.

This is in reference to Moshiach!!

I don't know. It just sent shivers up my spine. Of course I do not question Rashi and the correct pshat must be recorded regardless of how reshaim will twist it.

Nevertheless, one can't be too careful how they speak.

Anonymous said...

שאין אנו עזי פנים וקשי ערף לומר
לפניך ה אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו
צדיקים אנחנו ולא חטאנו
Funny thing this Gemurah it seems they did just that?

Anonymous said...

Strange thing with the Kushim they were taken by Demons yet he says their "feet take them to their death" even funnier if I recall correctly demons have hooves no feet?

Avromi said...

I will bli neder check on both - thanks.

Avromi said...

Rabbi Margareten told me that by avoda zora it can be said that our fathers sinned since we dont have the yetzer hora anymore.

as far as the feet are concerned, it would seem that the message is that we are brought where we need to be and feet are figurative.

Anonymous said...

TO anonymous at 7:52: You have things mixed up. Just remember Christians stole our concepts, and stole them as their own and we mistakenly call them Christian, but its source is always Judaism. Rashi is actually quoting a posuk in tehillim

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that Jews believe in a literal 'son of God?'

You prove 8:03's point, "one can't be too careful how they speak!"