Friday, July 11, 2008

Prophecy Compared to Torah

Rabbi Il’a bar Yeverechyah said (Daf Yomi: Sotah 49a) : If there are two Torah scholars traveling on the road and they are not discussing Torah, they deserve to be burned, as it states: And as they (Eliyahu and Elisha) walked, walking and speaking, that behold, a chariot of fire appeared etc. The reason why the chariot of fire passed between them and did not burn them was because there was a discussion of Torah between them; if there had not been such a discussion, they would have deserved to be burned.

The Gemora in Taanis (10b) cites a Scriptural verse where Yosef instructed his brothers not to discuss Torah on their way back from Egypt since they might become distracted and lose their way. The Gemora questions this from our Gemora. The Gemora answers that one should review his learning on the road since it will not require much attention; however he should not delve into Torah study since that will distract him.

Tosfos cites a Medrash that the reason the fire appeared and they deserved to be burned was because they were discussing worthless words at the time.

The Brisker Rav asks that the Metzudos explains the conversation that Elisha was having with Eliyahu at that time. Elisha asked Eliyahu that the spirit of prophecy should rest on him with a higher level than that of Eliyahu. Eliyahu answered him that under certain conditions, that will occur. It emerges that at the time that the fire appeared they were discussing matters that should be regarded as holy and not futile words. They were discussing how the Heavenly presence will rest on Elisha. For this, they deserved to be burned?

The Brisker Rav answers that that this discussion pales in comparison to a discussion regarding Torah. When traveling on the road, one must make sure that there is Torah discourse being discussed and not other matters even if those matters are dealing with the Shechina and Prophecy.