Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Mishkan, An Edifice of Kindness - Yevamos 77 - Daf Yomi

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (93b) presents a Scriptural exposition of Bar Kappara that relates, among other things, to Chananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah:

Rabbi Tanchum said: Bar Kappara expounded in Tzipori: What is the meaning g of that which is written: [Rus] said: These six barleys did he give me? Now, what is meant by six barleys? If you say it means literally “six barleys”, i.e. six kernels of barley-but was it the practice of the wealthy Boaz to give a present as trifling as six barleycorns? Certainly not! And if you say, rather, that it means he gave her six se’ahs of barley, which is a sizeable gift-but is nit the practice of a woman to carry a burden as heavy as six se’ahs of grain? How did Boaz expect Rus to carry that much barley back to her home? Rather, it indeed means that he gave her six barleycorns-not as an ordinary gift but for a symbolic purpose. For he was indicating to her that six sons [i.e. descendants] were destined to descend from her who would each be blessed with six blessings. And these six descendants were: Dovid, and the Moshiach, Daniel, Chananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah.

The Gemara shows how the six blessings of these six descendants are indicated in Scripture:

The six blessings are indicated in that which is written: And one of the retainers spoke up and said: “Behold I have seen a son of Yishai, the Bethlehemite, one who knows how to play [the harp], and one mighty in courage, and a warrior, and understanding in [all] matters, and a man of appealing looks; and Hashem is with him (etc.). Thus, Dovid is described here as being blessed with six qualities. And Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: All the praises of Dovid mentioned in this verse were said by Doeg only with an evil tongue. Rav explains what Doeg meant to intimate with each of his praises: Dovid is one who knows how to play-he is one who knows how to ask incisive Torah inquiries. Mighty-he is one who knows how to answer difficult Torah questions. A warrior-he is one who knows how to engage in the give and take of Torah debate. A man of appealing looks- he is one who displays the appealing face of his opinions in halachah, i.e. his arguments are convincing. And understanding in [all] matters-he is one who understands one matter from his knowledge of another, i.e. he possesses keen deductive abilities. And Hashem is with him-this means that the halachah accords with his opinion in every instance. In response to each successive praise of Dovid, Shaul said to them: My son Yonasan is also like him in that regard. Once, however, [Doeg] said to him and Hashem is with him, i.e. the halachah always accords with his opinion- a quality that he [Shaul], too, did not have-Shaul became disheartened and jealous of Dovid. And how do we know that Shaul did not posses this quality but Dovid did? For concerning Shaul it is written: Wherever he would turn, he would condemn, whereas concerning Dovid it is written: Wherever he would turn, he would succeed.

The Gemara proves its earlier assertion that “one of the retainers” was Doeg:

From where is it known to us that it was Doeg who praised Dovid to Shaul? It is written here in the verse cited above: And “one” of the retainers spoke up, indicating “the outstanding one” among the retainers, and it is written there in another verse: And there [in Nov] was a man-one of Shaul’s servants-on that day, detained before Hashem, and his name was Doeg the Edomite; the chief of Shaul’s shepherds.

The Gemara now shows how the six blessings of the second descendant of Ruth are indicated in Scripture:

The six blessings of the Moshiach are indicated in that which is written: And the spirit of Hashem shall rest upon him-a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of understanding and fear of Hashem.

My brother, Reb Binyomin,in his sefer on Sanhedrin explains: The Gemara presents a very subtle but profound lesson. Rus had gone to Boaz at her mother-in-law Naomi’s behest. Boaz gave Rus this present so that she not return empty-handed to her mother-in-law. From this apparently trivial episode, the Gemara derives that Rus merited having Moshiach descend from her. This theme is reflected in the building of the Mishkan. It is said: Moshe said to the Children of Israel, “See, Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah. He filled him with G-dly spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft. The Medrash elaborates on the praise that was bestowed upon Betzalel and remarks, “And all this praise, from where does it come? From the tribe of Yehudah. And from where did Betzalel merit to attain all this wisdom? In the merit of Miriam, as is said, [And it was because the midwives feared Hashem that] He made them houses. What were these houses? The house of priesthood and the house of kingship. Yocheved took priesthood and kingship. Aharon was the High Priest, and Moshe was the king, as it is said, He became king over Yeshurun… Miriam received wisdom, because from her descendants was Betzalel, and Dovid, who was a king, descended from her, as is said, [When Azuvah died, Calev married Efras ] who bore him Chur. It is said, Dovid was the son of a certain Ephrathite… this means that Dovid was a descendant of Miriam who was called Efras.

What did Miriam do to merit these great rewards? She performed acts of kindness for her people, by defying Pharaoh’s orders and allowing the Jewish male newborns to live. This “small” feat earned her the highest honor in Jewish history, to be the forerunner of the messianic destiny. Betzalel was blessed with wisdom due to Miriam’s selfless acts on behalf of her people. Boaz demonstrated to Rus that because she forsook her father and mother and the land of her birth, and went to a people whom she had not known yesterday or earlier, she would merit six descendants who would be blessed with six blessings. The most significant of these descendants is Moshiach, whose wisdom will light up the world.

Bearing this thesis in mind, we can explain a statement in the Medrash regarding the episode of Eliezer seeking a wife for Yitzchak. The Medrash writes, “Rabbi Acha said, the speech of servants in the Patriarchs house is more cherished than the Torah of their (the patriarchs) descendants (the Jewish People). The portion recording the incident of Eliezer finding a wife for Yitzchak is repeated in the Torah, and a teeming creature (sheretz) which is considered a fundamental of Torah, the law that states that its blood renders impurity like its skin is only derived from a verse.

I always wondered why the Medrash did not reference the Parshiyos of Vayakhel and Pekudei, which are essentially a repetition of Parshiyos Terumah and Tetzaveh. Now it is clear why it does not have to be mentioned. The Mishkan was built through the kindness that Miriam showed to her people. The Gemara states that Betzalel knew the letters by which heaven and earth were created. It is said, for I said, “Forever will [Your] kindness be built, which the Gemara interprets to read: Hashem created a world based on kindness. Betzalel was merely mirroring the world that Hashem created. This was a world of kindness. May we merit the reward mentioned in the Medrash. It is said, May Hashem reward your deed, and may your payment be full from Hashem, the G-d of Israel, under Whose wings you have come to seek refuge. Rabbi Chasa said: under Whose wings you have come to seek refuge. Rabbi Abun said: We know that there are wings of the land, wings of the sun, wings of the Chayos, wings of the Keruvim, and wings of the Seraphim. See how great are the strength of the righteous, and the strength of charity, and the strength of those who perform acts of kindness. They do not take refuge under the morning shade, nor under the wings of the land, nor under the wings of the sun, nor under the wings of the Chayos, the Keruvim, or the wings of the Seraphim. Rather, they take refuge in the shadow of the One who created the world, as is said, How precious is Your kindness, O G-d! Mankind takes refuge in the shelter of Your wings.