Friday, January 19, 2007

Daf Yomi - Taanis 11 - Sharing in the Suffering and this Week's Parsha

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav that one, who starves himself during a famine year when other Jews are in distress, will be saved from an unusual death.

Rish Lakish rules that one who has children should not engage in marital relations during a famine year.

The Gemora cites a braisa regarding one who distances himself from the community while they are suffering; two Heavenly angels will place their hands on him and declare that he should not see the comfort of the community when they are released from their affliction.

A similar braisa is cited which states that at the time when the community is suffering, one (who is not afflicted) should not say that he will go to his house, eat and drink and not be concerned about anyone else. It is said regarding one who neglects the anguish of the community that Hashem will not forgive him for this sin.

The braisa proves from Moshe that one should suffer together with the community. It is written that Moshe’s hands were heavy and he sat on a stone. The Gemora wonders why Moshe didn’t use a pillow or a mattress in order to sit comfortably. The answer given is that Moshe said if Klal Yisroel were suffering (due to the war with Amalek), he will suffer along with them.

The Maharsha writes that we learn from this Gemora that a person is obligated to share in his friend's suffering even if he is not in distress at all. The famine did not affect Yosef and the war didn't affect Moshe and yet they felt it necessary to join in the suffering.

The Ohev Yisroel comments similarly that Amalek attacked Klal Yisroel because they became lax in Torah. Moshe did not have this fault at all and nevertheless he felt obligated to share in their distress.

Rav Aharon Kotler writes that it seems from this Gemora that not sharing in the suffering of others is tantamount to desecrating Hashem's name since our Gemora cites a Scriptural verse that one will not have atonement for this sin until hid death. This is the precise verse that the Gemora in Yome mentions regarding desecrating Hashem's name. This can be explained by the following: one of Hashem's attributes is that He suffers along with Klal Yisroel. The Iyun Yaakov comments that one has to join in the distress of others because there is an obligation to attach yourself to Hashem. He is compassionate so we should be as well. someone who shirks this responsibility is desecrating Hashem's name.

I noticed a vort on this week's parsha on this topic in the sefer Ner Shabbos and my friend Reb Oizer wrote this up as well.

After listing the sons of Jacob’s two oldest sons, Reuven and Shimon, the Torah records, “And these are the names of the sons of Levi in order of their birth: Gershon, Kehas, and Merari.” Why does the Torah emphasize that it is stating the names of Levi’s sons, a point which isn’t mentioned with regards to the sons of Reuven and Shimon?

The Shelah HaKadosh answers based on Rashi’s comment (5:4) that the tribe of Levi wasn’t included in Pharaoh’s enslavement of the Jews and therefore lived relatively easy and comfortable lives. It would have been easy for them to isolate themselves in Goshen, learning Torah all day and turning a blind eye to the plight of their brethren.

In order to combat such natural feelings, Levi specifically gave his children names which would eternally remind them of the suffering of the rest of the Jews. The name Gershon alludes to the fact that the Jews were considered foreigners and temporary dwellers in Egypt, not fitting in and belonging there no matter how easy life may have been in Goshen. K’has hints to the fact that the backbreaking labor set their teeth on edge, and Merari refers to the bitterness of the Egyptian enslavement.
So many times we hear of pain and suffering – with illness, jobs, finding a spouse, raising children, or in Israel – and our first reaction is to dismiss it as not germane to our comfortable lives, but Levi teaches that the suffering of every single Jew is indeed relevant and we must feel their plight!

The Chofetz Chaim’s wife once panicked when she awoke in the middle of the night to find his bed empty. Upon finding him sleeping on the floor, he explained to his puzzled Rebbitzin that with World War I raging all around them and Jews being chased from their houses all across Europe, how could he possibly allow himself the comfort of sleeping in a comfortable bed?

Similarly, when a great fire once ravaged most of the Jewish section of the town of Brisk, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (the Rav of the town, whose house was spared) insisted on sleeping in the synagogue together with the rest of his homeless congregants in order to share in their suffering. Not at all surprising, considering that the Chofetz Chaim was a Kohen and Rav Chaim a Levi, and they clearly learned well the lessons of their great-great grandfather!


Anonymous said...

The Gemara 10b discusses that which Yaakov told his children "Why act in a conspicuous way", meaning you should not appear to be satisfied and comfortable while the children of Eisav and Yishmael sit hungry. I saw someone ask that the subsequent posuk Yaakov says " we will live and not die" implying that in fact they were in a real danger ? Perhaps we can derive from here the tremendous effect of one appearing in a cospicuous way, can come to. Yaakov felt that the jealousy (and ayin hora) from acting in such a manner can be Pikuach Nefesh.
One can wonder that if Yaakov Avinu felt this concept so important, to even bring on what would become the Golus Mitzrayim, then how has it become so acceptable of so many "heimeshe" yidden of building mansions and the like. Who knows if the tzoros we face today can be attributed to this.
Ben S.

ben said...

great vort. The Medrash states that she was called Miriam because she was born when it was very bitter for the Jews.