Friday, April 20, 2007

Daf Yomi - Chagigah 15 - Highlights

Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Chananiah was standing on a step in the Temple Mount and Ben Zoma saw him but did not stand before him. Rabbi Yehoshua queried Ben Zoma as to where he was coming from and where he was headed. Ben Zoma responded that he was gazing into matters regarding creation and he observed that there was only a space of three fingers between the upper waters and the lower waters. This is because it is said, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters, and this means that the Divine Presence hovered like a dove hovers over its young but does not touch them. Rabbi Yehoshua told his disciples that Ben Zoma was still considered to be on the outside. The reason for this is because the verse that Ben Zoma quoted was said on the first day of creation, whereas the separation of the waters did not occur until the second day of creation. Rav Acha bar Yaakov posited that the separation of the waters was like a hair’s breath. The Chachamim maintain that the separation is like the separation between boards that are used for the construction of a bridge. Mar Zutra, and others say that it was Rav Assi, maintains that the separation was like the separation of two garments that are spread on top of each other. Some say that the separation of the waters is akin to two cups where one is stuck inside the other. (15a)

We learned earlier that Acheir entered into Pardes, i.e. heaven, by using the Name of HaShem, and this resulted in Acheir cutting off saplings, i.e. he adopted false theological beliefs. Regarding Acheir it is said, let not your mouth bring guilt on your flesh. Acheir saw that Matatron, an angel, was granted permission once a day to sit in heaven and record the merits of the Jewish People. Acheir was bewildered by this sight, because there is a tradition that in heaven there is no sitting, contention, no back, as the angels are all one-dimensional, and no fatigue. Acheir thus declared, “Perhaps there are two entities, heaven forbid!” Matatron was subsequently removed from his position and he was struck with sixty lightning rods. Matatron was told, “When you saw Acheir you should have risen.” Matatron was then given permission to erase the merits that Acheir had accrued. A Heavenly Voice then announced, “Return O wayward sons, except for Acheir. When Acheir heard this proclamation, he declared, “Since I have been banished form the World to Come, I may as well derive pleasure from this world.” Acheir then strayed to the ways of bad society, and he requested from a harlot to engage in promiscuity. The harlot asked him, “Are you not Elisha Ben Avuyah, whose name has spread throughout the land?” Acheir proceeded to pluck a radish on Shabbos, in violation of the Torah, so the harlot decaled, “He is Acheir,” i.e. he has been transformed into another person. (15a)

The Gemara records various incidents where Rabbi Meir discussed Torah subjects with Acheir, his teacher. When Rabbi Meir questioned why Acheir would not repent, Acheir responded that he had already heard from behind the barrier in heaven, “Return O wayward sons, except for Acheir.” (15a)

When Acheir died, heaven did not wish to judge him because he had engaged in Torah, yet he was not granted entry to the World to Come because he had sinned. Rabbi Meir then said, “Better that heaven judge Acheir and ultimately he will be granted entry into the World to Come. When will I die I will cause smoke to rise from his grave?” When Rabbi Meir died, smoke rose from the grave of Acheir. (15b)

The Gemara wonders how Rabbi Meir was allowed to learn Torah from Acheir, as it is said, for the lips of the Kohen shall safeguard knowledge, and people should seek teaching from his mouth; for he is an agent of HaShem, Master of Legions. This verse is understood as follows: if the master is akin to an angel of G-d, then one should seek Torah from his mouth, but if the master is not like an angel of G-d, then one should not seek Torah from his mouth. The Gemara answers that Rabbi Meir merely learned from Acheir’s teachings but not from his devious acts. Alternatively, one who is grown can study from a teacher who is not akin to an angel of G-d, but one who is young should not study from such a teacher. In the west they said that Rabbi Meir ate the outer part of the date but discarded the inner pit. (15b)

Rabbah bar Shila met Eliyahu the Prophet and asked him what HaShem was doing at that moment. Eliyahu responded that HaShem was repeating words of Torah from the mouths of all the sages except for Rabbi Meir because Rabbi Meir had studied Torah from Acheir. Rabbah bar Shila wondered about this, because Rabbi Meir was akin to one who ate the inner part of a pomegranate and discarded the rind. Eliyahu responded that now HaShem was declaring, Meir my son says thus. (15b)