Friday, February 02, 2007

Daf Yomi - Taanis 26 - Eating Prior to Mussaf

It emerges from the Gemora that Rabbi Yehuda maintains that there will never be the Priestly Blessing by Mincha or Ne’ilah; only by Shacharis or Mussaf. This is true even on Yom Kippur. The reason given is because there is a concern that the kohen might get drunk and he is prohibited from reciting the Blessing in that state. There is generally no concern for drunkenness in the morning before Shacharis or Mussaf. Since Mincha and Ne’ilah can be recited the entire day, drunkenness is common and therefore he rules that the Blessing is not recited by those tefillos.

The Rosh states in the name of Rabbeinu Chananel that it is implicit from our Gemora that one is not allowed to eat before Mussaf for otherwise, the kohanim might get drunk before Mussaf as well.

Shulchan Aruch (O”C 286:3) rules that it is permitted to taste fruit or a little bread prior to davening Mussaf. However, eating a meal is prohibited. This would be consistent with the opinion of the Rosh.

The Bach writes that from the language of the Shulchan Aruch, he can infer that there is no prohibition against eating prior to Mussaf; rather, it has become an accepted practice and therefore drunkenness is not so common. According to the Bach, if one would be weak and he appraises that he cannot daven Mussaf without eating, he would be permitted to eat since it is only a custom not to eat.

In the sefer Shoel U’meishiv (3,1:120), he comments on the custom of some communities, where they refrain from eating prior to shaking the lulav on Sukkos. They daven Shacharis and Hallel early in the morning and then they go home to eat and afterwards return to the Shul to daven Mussaf. The Shoel U’meishiv objects to this because they are now eating before Mussaf. He writes, however, that he remembers in the year 5597, in the city of Nikolsburg, he witnessed people davening every Shabbos morning until the Torah reading, going home to eat and afterwards returning to daven Mussaf in the tenth hour of the day. When he asked them to explain this custom, they responded that the Gaon Rav Mordechai Bennet ruled that they had permission to do so since they were weak and desired to eat. This ruling is seemingly based on the Bach who maintains that there is no actual prohibition regarding eating prior to Mussaf, rather it is only a custom and therefore it can be overridden.

There are many communities where it has become the custom for the entire congregation to recite kiddush and eat a little prior to Mussaf. Rav Shmuel Rosenberg, the Av Beis Din in Unsdorf was asked if it was permitted for an individual to separate from the tzibur and daven Mussaf while everyone is making kiddush and only then would he eat. He rules that the custom of not eating prior to reciting Mussaf is an established custom and there have been many G-d fearing Torah scholars who refrain from eating prior to davening Mussaf. We cannot object to someone who wants to be stringent on himself in this regard. Furthermore, since Shulchan Aruch rules that only tasting is permitted and not an eating which will cause satiation, who can be so meticulous to discern the amount in which he is eating.

There is an argument amongst the poskim as to the amount of food that one is permitted to eat prior to davening Mussaf. Some rule that there is no set amount that is prohibited, providing that he is not eating a meal that would require Birchas Hamazon afterwards. According to this, one would be allowed to eat cake and drink coffee before he davens Mussaf. The Mishna Berura’s opinion is that one should not eat cake that measures more than the size of an egg. It is brought in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that the custom is to be lenient and one has who to rely on if he will eat cake that measures more than the size of an egg prior to davening Mussaf. (Peninei Halacha)

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 26 - Understanding Ma’amados

Understanding Ma’amados by Rabbi R. Karr

The Rama in safer Olas R’iyah says the main function of Korbanos is to teach man his mortality and show man the infiniteness of the entire universe. Korbanos show that there is no one but Hashem. Why do we burn a korban and offer an olah? It seems to be a strange gift to Hashem. Imagine I want to show my love for you by spending a lot of money on a gift and throwing it in the garbage!!! A Korban symbolizes the abolition af all that exists. Its not a negative act of desperation or destruction. Rather it is a positive act wherein I can dedicate all which I have to Hashem.

This was the function of the anshei ma’amad. They read the parshiyos of creation to teach that the world on existed and continues to exist in the merit of Korbanos (today we have Tephillos and study about the korbanos). They fasted! Why? They should have eaten because of the Yom Simcha of bringing a korban.. They daven one or two (Mussof /Niela) extra t’fillos. They were sh’luchim of all of Klal Yisrael for bring the Korban tomid.. They were elevated to the highest level of kodushah. Fasting therefore was a complement to their simcha. The fasting was indicative of their high spiritual level, as we see Moshe fasted while on Mount Sinai. To approach the Sh’khinah you must fast and elevate yourself. Extra t’fillos were a consequence of their high level of avodah and obligated them to a level of five t’fillos like Yom Kippur (based on the Ohr Hatorah: D’vorim)

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 26 - Shabbos in the Daf

Shabbos in the Daf by Reb Ben Adler

Taanis 26a

The Mishnah states that the people of the maamad who would come to Jerusalem would fast from Monday through Thursday. They would not fast on Friday, as fasting would detract from the honor of Shabbos, and they would not fast on Sunday, because it is inappropriate to depart from a day of rest and delight and become fatigued through fasting, which could lead to death, i.e. cause one to feel faint. This ruling contains a profound lesson for us as to how we are to view Shabbos every week. Shabbos is a day of rest and a day of delight, and we should savor every moment that HaShem allows us to bask in His Presence. The Gemara later (27b) states that when Shabbos ends, the neshamah yeseira, the extra soul that one is granted upon the arrival of Shabbos, departs, and one feels sad. It is incumbent upon us to anticipate the Shabbos all week, as the Shabbos literally rejuvenates our souls.

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 25 - Switching from Ashkenaz to Sfard

In the teshuvos from the Divrei Chaim (O”C 2:8), he inquires if one is allowed to switch his Nusach Hatefillah from Ashkenaz to Sfard.

The Chasam Sofer (O”C 15) writes that Nusach Sfard contains kavanos according to kabbalah which were established and partially revealed by the Arizal. The Chasam Sofer had a tradition from his Rabbeim, Reb Nosson Adler and the Haflo’ah that Nusach Ashkenaz contains kavanos according to kabbalah as well. All the kavanos contained in Nusach Sfard can also be found in Nusach Ashkenaz and both nuschaos ascent to the same place. Nusach Hatefillah can be analogous to prophecy. Thee identical prophecy can be given to two prophets but they will not be able to say it over in the identical manner. The Arizal, because he davened Sfard, incorporated all of the kavanos in their proper location because he understood the essence of the kavanos and the tefillos. If the Arizal would have davened Ashkenaz, he could have established Nusach Ashkenaz according to the precise understanding of kabbalah. According to this, one would be required to daven in the Nusach that he has accepted from his father because it is with this approach that will enable his tefillos to reach their designated place.

The Divrei Chaim quotes Mekubalim who explain the Nusach Hatefillah in a different manner. Reb Chaim Vital says in the name of the Arizal that there are twelve gates in the Heavens corresponding to the twelve tribes and each tribe has a designated entrance for their tefillos. Each gate and their approach are different than the others. It emerges that each of the tribes had their own specific Nusach Hatefillah. It is therefore incumbent on everyone to keep their particular Nusach and not switch to another since perhaps you are from one tribe and now will be davening the Nusach of another tribe. The Arizal established a Nusach that is corresponding to all twelve of the tribes. If someone does not recognize the tribe that he is from, he can daven using the Nusach Ha’Arizal and the tefillah will be accepted. Therefore, the Divrei Chaim rules that unless one is positive that he is from a specific tribe, he may switch from Nusach Ashkenaz to Nusach Sfard and it will be preferable for him to daven using the Nusach of the Arizal.

The Chasam Sofer (O”C 16) writes this concept in the name of the Maggid MiMezritz. He explains that in fact, there are thirteen gates in Heaven for our tefillos to pass through. Each gate is for one of the tribes and everyone’s tefillah can pass through the thirteenth gate. Someone who doesn’t know from which shevet he is from should therefore daven Nusach Sfard, which will pass through the thirteenth gate.

The Chasam Sofer asks on this from our Gemora. The Gemora relates an incident that Rabbi Eliezer recited the twenty-four benedictions at prayer, but he was not answered. Rabbi Akiva followed him at the reading-desk, and said: "Father and King! We have no other king but You. Only for Your sake have mercy upon us!" And his prayer was answered. The people then began to murmur (and say that Rabbi Akiva was a greater man than Rabbi Eliezer). A Heavenly voice went forth and said: It is not because Rabbi Akiva is a greater man than Rabbi. Eliezer that his prayer answered, but rather because he is forgiving, while Rabbi Eliezer is not."

It is known that Rabbi Eliezer was a Levi and according to the Arizal would be davening in the Nusach which was designated for Shevet Levi. Rabbi Akiva was a convert so he obviously was davening Nusach Sfard. How could Rabbi Akiva discharge the obligation of the entire congregation if he davened a different Nusach? This is the Chasam Sofer’s question on the explanation from the Maggid.

The Divrei Chaim disagrees with the Chasam Sofer’s question for several reasons. Firstly, he says, that it seems that the Chasam Sofer’s intent is to disagree with the explanation from the Maggid. This is a wonder indeed when it has been well established that this is the Arizal’s viewpoint and the Arizal has been well accepted amongst all the Gedolei Haposkim. The Divrei Chaim lists the Beis Yosef, Rama (not the Ramah),Alshich, Taz, Shach and Magen Avraham. He lists later Acharonim as well, such as the Chacham Tzvi, Pnei Yehoshua and Tevuos Shor who all trembled ffrom the Arizal’s words. The Chasam Sofer’s question is not on the Maggid but on the Arizal.

Secondly, he asks, the main distinction between Nusach Ashkenaz and Nusach Sfard is in Pesukei D’Zimra and not in the Shemoneh Esrei. There was no need for someone to discharge the obligation for the others in Pesukei D’Zimra. The differences in Shemoneh Esrei are not in the endings of the brochos; in the middle of the brochos there are some changes in the wording but that will not be an obstacle in the chazzan discharging the obligation for others.

Thirdly, where does it state in the Gemora that Rabbi Akiva was discharging their obligation? In the tefillos that are recited every day, each person davens by himself and fulfills his own obligation.

He asks other questions on the Chasam Sofer and concludes that one is permitted to switch from Nusach Ashkenaz to Nusach Sfard. (Peninei Halacha)

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 25 - Vinegar Can Burn

The Gemora records an incident with Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa. One Friday night, Rabbi Chanina noticed his daughter in a despondent mood. Upon asking her what the trouble was, she replied: "I got the two vessels containing oil and vinegar mixed, and poured the latter into the Shabbos lamp and lit it." He said: "My daughter! Why should that trouble you? He who has ordained that oil should burn can also ordain that vinegar should burn." We have learned in a braisa that the vinegar in that lamp burned all night and all day, until some of it was used for the Havdalah prayer.

With this Gemora, Reb Dovid Feinstein answers the famous question of the Beis Yosef on Chanukah. Why do we celebrate Chanukah for eight days when the miracle was only for seven?

The Sages chose Chanukah, a festival that revolves around oil's ability to burn, as the time to teach the fundamental truth that even so-called "natural" events take place only because God wants them to. When seen in the perspective of God's will, the burning of oil is no less miraculous than would be the burning of water. The Talmudic Sage Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa pithily expressed this truth in explaining a miracle that occurred in his own home. Once, his daughter realized that she had poured vinegar instead of oil into the Sabbath menorah. Rabbi Chanina calmed her, saying, "Why are you concerned! The One Who commanded oil to burn, can also command vinegar - and it will burn!" The Talmud goes on to relate that those Sabbath lights remained aflame until after the Sabbath ended (Taanis 25a). To hammer home this truth, the Sages decreed that Chanukah be observed for eight days: The last seven to commemorate the miracle of the Menorah, and the first to remind us that even the 'normal' burning of oil is only in obedience to God's wish. (Rabbi David Feinstein)

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 25 - the Ohr Sameiach on nacheim and nachamu

From Reb Chaim B.

The Rosh asks: why is it that we only recite nacheim in the shmoneh esrei of mincha on 9 Av - if it is akin to "me'ein hame'ora", a tefila based on the character of the day, we should recite it in all our tefilos just as we recite ya'aleh v'yavo in every tefila of rosh chodesh and al hanisim in every tefila of chanuka? The Ohr Sameiach (hil tefila) answers this question with a gemara in Ta'anis (25). Shmuel haKatan declared a fast, and after a full day of tefila it began to rain. The tzibur assumed this was due to their good grace, but Shmuel haKatan warned otherwise. He gave a mashal to a Master whose servant needs a certain request granted - rather than grant the favor immediatly, the Master let the servant sweat out the day in suffering and pleading and only then consented. Explains the Ohr Sameiach: if we were to say nacheim at night and again in the morning, and then follow with the leining of "ki tolid banim" and "asof asifeim", it would seem that Hashem is piling suffering on before granting our wish. By not saying nacheim until mincha at the end of the day, we go immediatly from the close of our tefila of 9 Av of "nacheim" to shabbos nachamu, where Hashem offers the response of "nachamu nachamu ami".

(Look at the comments there for another nice answer.)

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Another time, it started to rain after sunset, following an entire day of fasting and praying. When the people thought this to be a sign that Hashem had been interested to hear their prayers, Shmuel again assured them that Hashem's purpose was only to humble them with distress before alleviating their suffering. What did Shmuel believe would indicate worthiness? The Gemora answers, if the Shliach Tzibur said mashiv haruach
and the wind began to blow; or morid hageshem and it began to rain.

The question can be asked that what is the meaning of the verse that states “Before you call out, I answer you”. Kehilas Prozdor cites the Divrei Yosef who notes the Mishna (Berachos 34b) where Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa knew if his prayers for the sick were successful, by how fluently he said them. It would seem that his prayers were fluent only after and because Hashem had previously decided to heal the sick person. As Rabbi Chanina couldn't know this, he felt compelled to daven anyway. However, where the subject of the Tefilah is there, in front of the Mispalel, the prayer cannot be answered until after the Tefilah is concluded, to ensure that the Mispalel will still pray.

This may also explain the Midrash (60:4) which states that the prayers of three were immediately answered: 1) Moshe - when he concluded his Tefilah, the earth opened and swallowed Korach; 2) Shlomo - when he concluded his Tefilah, fire came down from Shomayim and consumed the Korban; 3) Eliezer - before he concluded, Rivka had already appeared. Why was Eliezer's prayer fulfilled before he concluded? Because Eliezer did not know Rivkah and therefore, he would continue to daven even after she arrived.

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 25 - Highlights

One day the wife of Rabbi Chanina said to him: "How long shall we yet be troubled with the want of our daily bread?" And he replied: "What can I do?" She said: "Pray to Hashem that He should provide you with something." He accordingly went and prayed. A hand came forth and gave him a leg of a golden table. Subsequently his wife saw in a dream that all the righteous in heaven ate on golden tables having three legs, while her table only had two. She said to Chanina: "Would you then like it, that all should eat at a table having three legs, while we should eat at one only having two? Pray to Hashem that the golden leg may be taken back." He prayed, and the leg was taken back. We have learned in a braisa that this latter miracle was even greater than the former; for we have a tradition, that it is usual for heaven to bestow but not to take back. (25a)

One Friday night, Rabbi Chanina noticed his daughter in a despondent mood. Upon asking her what the trouble was, she replied: "I got the two vessels containing oil and vinegar mixed, and poured the latter into the Shabbos lamp and lit it." He said: "My daughter! Why should that trouble you? He who has ordained that oil should burn can also ordain that vinegar should burn." We have learned in a braisa that the vinegar in that lamp burned all night and all day, until some of it was used for the Havdalah prayer. (25a)

Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa had a few goats, and he was told that his goats caused damage to others. He said: "If my goats do damage, may wolves devour them; but if they do not, may they each bring a bear impaled upon their horns." That same evening, each goat brought in a bear mounted on its horns. (25a)

A woman neighbor of Rabbi Chanina was building a house but her beams did not reach far enough. She came before Rabbi Chanina and told him her situation. Rabbi Chanina asked her, “What is your name?” She responded, “Aiku.” Rabbi Chanina blessed her that her beams should become long (Aiku can mean long). It was said that her beams protruded an amah on both sides and others say that pieces were conjoined with the beams so that they attained the required length. Plimo said that he witnessed this particular house and saw that the beams protruded an amah on each side. People told him that this is the house that Rabbi Chanina covered with beams through his tefillah. (25a)

How did Rabbi Chanina happen to have goats? Was he not a poor man? Rabbi Pinchas said: "It once happened that a man left a few chickens at the house of Rabbi Chanina, and the latter said to his wife: 'Do not use the eggs, for the chickens do not belong to us.'" Accordingly the eggs were left untouched, and in the course of time quite a number of chickens were produced, so that they became too troublesome, and Rabbi Chanina sold them and with the proceeds purchased goats. Subsequently the man who left the chickens returned to claim them. He was asked for a description of his property, which he gave correctly, whereupon Rabbi Chanina turned over the goats to him, and these are the goats that brought bears upon their horns.

Rabbi Elozar ben Pedas was extremely poor. On one occasion after being bled he found he had nothing to eat to regain his strength. He took the skin of garlic and put it in his mouth. He became faint and fell asleep. The rabbis who came to visit him saw that while he was sleeping he was crying and laughing and that a ray of light was radiating from his forehead. When he woke up they asked him why he had been crying and laughing. He answered because Hashem was sitting with me and I asked him: “How much longer will I suffer in this world? He said: ‘Elozar My son would you like me to return the world back to its beginning and recreate it so that perhaps you would be born at a more propitious time?’ I replied to Him in amazement: Despite all this effort of creating the world anew it would only be a possibility that my life would be better? I asked Him then: Which is longer the life I have already lived or what I still have to live? He answered: ‘The life you have already lived.’” Rabbi Elozar determined that he had already lived most of his years and as such, declined to have his life restarted. Hashem rewarded him for turning down the offer. As a reward, he would be given thirteen rivers of Afarsamon oil in the next world. Rabbi Elozar asked of Hashem if that will be his complete reward. Hashem responded that there must be a remainder to give to others. Rabbi Elozar requested the portions of the people who will not be receiving portions in the World to Come. Hashem flicked Rabbi Elozar on the forehead and said “My arrows have struck you.”

Rabbi Chama bar Chanina ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended, and he was told: "Why, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi would order a fast-day, and rain would commence to fall!" He said: "That was the son of Levi, and not I!" They responded: "We meant to say, that we should again congregate, and perhaps, if we prove contrite of heart, the rain will descend." They did so, and still no rain descended. He said to them: "Do you think that you deserve rain to descend?" They answered: "Yes." He said to the sky: "Cover your countenance." No results, however, were produced, and he exclaimed: "How impudent are the skies!" As he said that, they became covered, and rain commenced to fall. (25a)

Levi ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended. He said: "Creator of the universe! You did ascend to the heavens, and did sit down, but have no compassion upon Your children." As he said that, rain descended, but Levi fell and became lame.

Rabbi Elozar said that a person should never complain towards Heaven for a great person (Levi) once complained and became lame because of it. The Gemora asks that there is an incident recorded that Levi became lame for a different reason. He once demonstrated how to perform a kidah-bowing (One brings his face to the ground while standing and using only his thumbs for support, he rises back up again)in front of Rebbe and became lame because of it. The Gemora answers that it was both matters that contributed to him becoming lame. (25a)

Rabbi Chiya bar Luliani overheard clouds saying to each other that they should give rain to Ammon and Moav. He protested to Hashem that the nations which refused the Torah should not receive rain, and rain fell on the Jews instead. (25a)

Rabbi Chiya bar Luliani explained that the passuk compares a Tzadik to both a date-palm and a cedar because if he would be compared only to a date-palm and not a cedar, I would say that the Tzadik will not get resurrected in the same manner that the trunk of a date-palm does not regenerate. That is why he is compared to a cedar tree as well since the trunk of a cedar does regenerate. If he would be compared only to a cedar tree, I would say that a Tzadik will not receive rewards in the World to Come in the same manner that a cedar tree does not produce fruits. It is for this reason that he is compared to a date-palm.

The Gemora asks from a braisa regarding one who buys a tree with the intention of cutting it down and using the wood; he must leave (and not cut) some part of the tree above the ground. This is the halacha for all trees which regenerate. However, he is not required to leave any part of a cedar tree since they do not regenerate.

The Gemora answers that there are ten different types of cedar trees and some do regenerate and some do not. (25a – 25b)

The Rabbis taught: It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer ordered thirteen fast-days, but no rain descended. When the congregation dispersed after the thirteenth fast-day, he asked them if they had already ordered their graves, and they commenced to weep aloud, whereupon rain commenced to fall.

Another time it happened that Rabbi Eliezer recited the twenty-four benedictions at prayer, but he was not answered. Rabbi Akiva followed him at the reading-desk, and said: "Father and King! We have no other king but You. Only for Your sake have mercy upon us!" And his prayer was answered. The people then began to murmur (and say that Rabbi Akiva was a greater man than Rabbi Eliezer). A Heavenly voice went forth and said: It is not because Rabbi Akiva is a greater man than Rabbi. Eliezer that his prayer answered, but rather because he is forgiving, while Rabbi Eliezer is not." (25b)

The Mishna had stated that a series of fasts are declared if it did not rain. A braisa is cited which presents two opinions regarding the amount of rainfall needed to fall to be considered the end of the drought. Rabbi Meir maintains that it if the water will saturate the cavity made by a plow, there is no necessity to fast any longer. The Chachamim hold that if it is dry land, a tefach of rain is sufficient. If it is regular land, two tefachim are required. Three tefachim of rain are needed by plowed land. (Rashi learns that these are all the same amount of rainfall.) (25b)

Rabbah said that he saw an image of the angel Ridya who is the angel placed in charge of rain. The angel resembles a calf and his lips are parted. He stands between the lower and upper waters. He tells the upper waters to bring down the rain and he tells the lower waters to pour out their waters. (25b)

It was taught in a braisa that if the rain fell prior to sunrise, they are not required to fast but if the rain began falling after sunrise, they should complete the fast. That is Rabbi Meir’s opinion. Rabbi Yehuda maintains that the defining time is at midday and Rabbi Yosi holds that it is nine hours into the day.

The Gemora cites an incident where Rabbi Yehuda Nesiah declared a fast and it began to rain after sunrise. He was of the opinion that they should continue to fast. Rabbi Ami informed him that the halacha is according to Rabbi Yehuda that if it began to rain before midday, we are not required to complete the fast.

Shmuel Hakatan declared a fast, and it began to rain before sunrise. The community assumed that this was due to their credit, but Shmuel Hakatan told them otherwise. He offered a parable to a servant who requests his wages from his master. The master, wishing to show his displeasure with the servant sends his agent to pay him and this way, he will not be required to listen to his servant’s voice. Hashem was so displeased with them that He quickly sent rain, thereby avoiding having to listen to their pleas.

Another time, it started to rain after sunset, following an entire day of fasting and praying. When the people thought this to be a sign that Hashem had been interested to hear their prayers, Shmuel again assured them that Hashem's purpose was only to humble them with distress before alleviating their suffering. What did Shmuel believe would indicate worthiness? The Gemora answers, if the Shliach Tzibur said mashiv haruach
and the wind began to blow; or morid hageshem and it began to rain. (25b)

The Mishna concluded with an incident that the Chachamim declared a fast in Lod and it began to rain before midday. Rabbi Tarfon said to them that they should do eat, drink and declare a festival. They went out, ate, drank and made the day into a holiday and returned to the synagogues in the afternoon to recite Hallel Hagadol.

The Gemora asks as to why they didn’t recite hallel before they went home to eat. Abaye and Rava answer that hallel is only recited when a person is satisfied and with a full stomach. The Gemora cites an incident that Rav Pappa visited a synagogue of Abi Govar, which is near the city of Mechuza. They declared a fast on account of a drought and it began to rain before midday. They recited hallel and then went home to eat and drink. The Gemora explains that it was common for the townspeople of Mechuza to become drunk and therefore they recited hallel first. (25b – 26a)

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Thursday, February 01, 2007


The Gemora recorded an incident with Eliezer of Bartusa where a miracle occurred with his wheat at the time of his daughters wedding. The Gemora states that he donated this wheat to charity. Rashi explains that it is forbidden for one to derive benefit from a miracle. He cites the Gemora (20b) where it states regarding one who derives benefit from a miracle; it will be deducted from his merits.

Sefer Hazechus from the Chidushei Harim (Beshalach) offers another reason for this prohibition. It is written: “Hashamayim shamayim laHashem v’ha’aretz nason livnei adam,” – we are only permitted to use this world. Something that comes from a miracle and is not in the regular nature of this world was not given to us and therefore it is prohibited to derive benefit from the miracle. (I don’t understand this reason because the entire purpose of the miracle was to provide for us – how can the outcome of the miracle be considered as part of shamayim?)

It seems evident from Rashi that it is not only a pious act but rather one is forbidden to do so. Mitzapeh Eisan cites Rashi later on the same daf (24b) that would seem to contradict this idea. Rashi states regarding the incident with Rav Mari and Rav Yehuda that he didn’t want to derive benefit from the sand that miraculously turned into flour. Rashi says that it is preferable not to derive benefit from a miracle and not that it is forbidden.

Mitzapeh Eisan answers that there is a distinction between a private individual and the public. A private person like Eliezer of Bartusa is forbidden to derive benefit from a miracle; however, when it is relevant to the public, it is only a pious act for them not to derive benefit from the miracle but it is not forbidden. (See however Mitzapeh Eisan, Minachos (69b) where he would seem to indicate that there is never a prohibition against deriving benefit from a miracle.)

In the Teshuvos Daas Sofer (O”C 119), he asks on this concept from the lighting of the menorah in the Beis Hamikdosh in the times of the Chashmanoim. The halacha is that a certain amount of oil is needed in each bowl; how can the lighting of the menorah be valid if some of the oil came through a miracle? (It would seem to me that the principle of mitzvos lav lehonos nitnu should apply here.) The Maharshak adds that there is a halacha derived from the passuk ‘mashkeh Yisroel,’ that something that is forbidden for consumption by a Yisroel is forbidden to be used for the Beis Hamikdosh.

The Ben Ish Chai (Ki Savo) asks on this concept from Eliyahu who derived benefit from the flour and the oil by the episode with the ben Hatzraphis, even though that occurred through a miracle. He answers that it was permitted in that situation since the extra oil and flour was not recognizable. Every time some oil and flour was taken, it was miraculously replenished; therefore there was no prohibition against deriving benefit from the miracle.

The miracle of the oil in the menorah can be explained in the same manner. Each bowl had oil in it that did not come about via the miracle. The miracle was that the oil did not disappear. Even as it was burning, the level of the oil stayed the same. In this type of scenario, it is permitted to derive benefit from the miracle. (An explanation identical to this is brought in the name of Reb Chaim Brisker.)

The Rama (682:1) rules that one who forgets al hanisim should recite the following tefillah: Harachaman ya’aseh lanu nisim – The merciful One should perform miracles for us. The Tevuos Shor asks that if we are not permitted to benefit from a miracle and it deducts from our merits, why are we praying for a miracle. One of the answers given is that we are permitted to pray for a miracle that will sanctify Hashem’s name in the world. The merits received due to the Kiddush Hashem exceed the amount of merits that are deducted.

Many commentators ask from the fact that Klal Yisroel derived benefit from the manna, the well of Miriam and the Pillar of Clouds that traveled with them during their time in the Wilderness. The Chidah writes that this is what Klal Yisroel was asking when they initially saw the manna. They said “Man hu.” The letters of the word ‘man’ is a ‘mem’ and a ‘nun.’ This stands for ma’aseh nisim. Klal Yisroel was asking if they were permitted to receive pleasure from the manna which is completely a miracle. He adds that the logic of deducting from their merits would not apply there because the manna came about in the merit of Moshe and not because of them. Sefer Ezer Miyahuda states that regarding a miracle which is done on behalf of Klal Yisroel that sanctifies Hashem’s name; it would be permitted to derive benefit from the miracle.

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 24 - Highlights

What happened with the son and the daughter that so upset this student?
His son: One day when R' Yosi of Yokeres had workers working his fields, he was late in bringing them their daily meal, a normal duty of every employer in those days.
"We're very hungry," the workers, resting under a fig tree, complained to his son. The boy took this very much to heart.
"Fig tree, fig tree," his son said, "bring out fruit that my father's workers can eat." The fig tree produced beautiful figs, and the workers ate well.
In the meantime, R' Yosi of Yokeres appeared, apologizing for his delay. "Please don't suspect me of forgetting you," he told the workers, "I was involved in a mitzva which I couldn't leave. This is why I am late."
"Don't worry at all," the workers blessed him, "Hashem will surely fill all your needs as He has filled ours."
"Where did you find food?" R' Yosi asked them. They told him what his son had done. R' Yosi then turned to his son. "My son," he said sternly, "you troubled your Master to produce fruit before its time; therefore, you too must die before your time."
His daughter: R' Yosi of Yokeres had an exceptionally beautiful daughter. One day he saw a man undoing part of the wooden fence around his house that he might stare at the girl.
"What are you doing?" R' Yosi asked the man, "What are you looking at?"
"Rebbi," the man answered, "if I cannot have her as a wife, can I not, at least, enjoy looking at her?"
"My daughter," he later said to her, "you are causing pain to others. It would be better then that you return to the dust, and not cause men to sin on your account."

R' Yosi had a donkey which he would hire out on a daily basis. In the evening, they would send her home with the rental money on her. She would then go home. But if they put on her more or less money than they should have, she would not move from that place.
Once, they forgot on her a pair of shoes, and she would not budge. The people were puzzled until at last they found the cause. They removed the shoes from her back, and she went home. (24a)
When charity collectors would see Eliezer of Bartusa, they would hide themselves from him, for he always emptied out his pockets of all they held for tzedaka.
Once he came to the market to shop for his daughter's upcoming marriage. Again, charity collectors saw him and hid. However, he saw them first and ran after them.
"You must tell me," he ordered them, "what are you collecting for today."
"We are arranging a wedding between two orphans," they answered.
"Such a cause definitely comes before my daughter," he stated, and gave them his money. All he left for himself was one small coin with which he bought a little wheat. This wheat he threw into his storeroom, and went to learn Torah.
"What did your father buy?" his wife asked their daughter.
"I don't know," she answered, "but whatever it is, it's in the storeroom.
The daughter went to check the storeroom. The wheat so filled it that it was falling from the cracks and holes in the door. She couldn't even open the door.
She went to find her father in the beis hamedresh. "Come father," she said, "see what Hashem has done for you."
"This wheat is not to make you an extravagant wedding," he responded, "we will marry you like the Jewish poor marry, and the rest of it will go to charity. (24a)

Rabbi Yehuda Nesiah declared a fast because of a drought. He prayed for rain but to no avail. He said, “Look at the difference between Shmuel and myself. (Shmuel prayed privately and was answered with rain, but Rabbi Yehuda prayed publicly and wasn’t answered.) Woe is to my generation that had this happen to us.” He became depressed and then it began to rain. (24a)
There was a drought and the Nasi’s court declared a fast but Rabbi Yochanan and Rish Lakish were not informed about it. After realizing the next morning, Rish Lakish said to Rabbi Yochanan that they did not accept the fast from the day before. Rabbi Yochanan replied that it is not necessary since we can rely on the court of the Nasi. (24a)
The Gemora relates that once, when the Nasi declared a fast in order to bring rain but no rain appeared, a young student named Oshaya quoted a braisa that derived from the possuk: that the leadership of the people (i.e. the Nasi) were the "eyes" of the people. Just as a bride, if she has pleasing eyes, her body needs no other scrutiny, yet if they are not pleasing, her entire body requires scrutiny, so too, if the Nasi were worthy, the people would not need to undergo scrutiny. It is evident that the Nasi was also found wanting.

The Nasi’s servants threw a kerchief around Oshaya and began to hurt him. The people there intervened and said, “Leave him be since he used to criticize us but we realized that all his words are for the sake of Heaven.” (24a)

Rebbe decreed a fast, but the rain did not come. Ilfa (and some say [it was] Rabbi Ilfa) went down as the chazzan in Rebbe’s presence and just as he recited: “Who causes the wind to blow,” the wind blew. As soon as he recited: “Who causes the rain to fall,” the rain came. Rebbe asked him: “Why do you merit such immediate responses?” He said to him: “I live in a remote poor place in which there is no wine for kiddush and havdalah. I make an effort and bring wine for kiddush and havdalah, and discharge their obligation for them.” (24a)

Rav visited a community that was punished by drought. He declared a fast and prayed for rain, but nothing came. Eventually someone else stepped forward in front of Rav before the ark and prayed for rain and the rain came. “What do you do that your prayers are answered immediately,” asked Rav. “I am a teacher of small children and I teach the children of the poor as well as the rich and whoever cannot afford to pay me, I do not take anything from them,” replied the old man. “Besides, I have a fish pond, and I offer fish to any boy who refuses to study, so that he comes to study.” (24a)

Rav Nachman decreed a fast, but the rain did not come. He said, “Take Nachman and throw him from the top of the wall to the ground.” (I.e. he was saying that he should be removed from his position.) He became depressed and it began to rain. (24a)

Rabbah decreed a fast. He petitioned for mercy, but the rain did not come. They said to him: “But surely when Rav Yehuda would decree a fast, the rain would come.” He said to them: “What shall I do? If on account of study; we are better than they, for in the years of Rav Yehuda all [their] study was in [the order of] Nezikin, but we teach the six orders (all six sedorim of the Mishnayos).

And when Rav Yehudah reached in Uktzin: [If] a woman was pickling vegetables in a pot,’ and some say: ‘Olives that were picked with their leaves are ritually pure,’ he said: “I see [matters that are as difficult for me to understand as all the] arguments [raised by my teachers] Rav and Shmuel here!’ And we teach Uktzin [in] thirteen academies! But nevertheless when Rav Yehuda took off one shoe, rain came, and we cry out all day, and there is no one who pays attention to us! If [this is] on account of deeds, if there is someone who saw something, let him speak! But what can the leaders of the generation do, when their generation does not seem worthy?” (24a – 24b)

R' Yehuda, on one occasion, was walking and saw people throwing bread to each other, as they would with a ball.
"I see there is an abundance of food in the world," he observed with disapproval. Shortly afterwards, a famine began.
"You are a close student of R' Yehuda," the rabbis said to Rav Kahana ben Nechunya, "invite him to go with you through the streets. That way he will notice how hungry the people are, and have mercy on them."
Rav Kahana did so. As they walked, they saw people crowding to buy dates. Even though, dates were the cheapest, most common food of those times, people were paying very high prices, and even buying the date pits.
"I see there is a famine in the land," R' Yehuda observed.
"Take off my shoes," he told his assistant, "that I may pray for Hashem's mercy." As the assistant removed the first shoe, the rain started falling. He was about to remove the second shoe, when Eliyahu HaNavi appeared.
"Stop," he cried out, "if you remove that second shoe, so much rain will fall that it will destroy the world.
"At that time," Rav Mari grandson of Shmuel later related, "I was standing on the wall overlooking the River Papa, and I saw angels in the guise of sailors bringing great quantities of sand and filling the ships there. All the sand turned into fine flour, and people began to crowd around them to buy from them.
"Don't buy from this flour," R' Yehuda instructed them, "heavenly miracles produced it, and it is preferable not to derive benefit from miracles."
The next day, boats came from Parzania, carrying wheat, and some say, rice. All were able to buy much food, and at cheap prices. (24b)
Rava by chance, came to Hagrunia. There he decreed a fast and prayed that rain should fall, but no rain fell.
"No one should eat tonight," he told the people there, "that the heavens should have mercy on us." And so they did.
The next morning he asked of them, "If anyone here received some sort of omen in a dream, please report it." R' Eliezer of Hagrunia stepped forward.
"I saw in a dream myself reading the words "Good wishes of peace to the good leader of his community from the good Lord, from whose goodness the world flourishes."
"This is an omen that this is a time of good will," Rava said, "therefore, let us now pray again." They prayed and the rain fell. (24b)
Rava's court lashed a certain man for sins he committed. As a result of his punishment however, he died. This news traveled to the courts of King Shapur, the Persian ruler of the time. He wished to punish Rava for this, however his mother Imra Hormiz, warned him, "My son, have no dealings with the Jews for whatever they ask for from Hashem, he grants them."
"What does Hashem do for them?" he asked her.
"When they ask for rain, immediately He sends it to them," she answered.
"That's because they ask for rain in the rainy season, and, even if they didn't pray for rain, it would fall," he answered, "Let me see them see them praying for rain in Tamuz, the dry season, then I will know that Hashem is with them.
She greatly admired Rava and sent him a message that he should pray intensely and ask Hashem to send rain. He did so, but no rain fell.
"Lord of the universe," he begged, "with our ears we heard it, our fathers told it to us, the great miracles you performed in the past. However we have never been privileged to see the miracles with our own eyes. Show us then Your wonders." The rains then fell so hard that the gutters overflowed, washing away the courtyards and pouring down to the Tigris River.
Rava's father appeared to him in a dream. "Is there anyone who so troubles Hashem," he asked Rava, "as you have done? Therefore change your place, do not sleep in your regular bed tonight."
Rava did so. In the morning he saw that his bed was cut up with knives. Demons had tried to kill him for asking Hashem to change nature and send rain in Tamuz. (24b)
Rav Papa decreed a fast that rain should fall, but no rain fell. The fast was long and hard for him, and he felt weak. He ate something, and then again prayed. Still, no rain fell.
"If you sir, will eat another spoon of porridge," said Rav Nachman to him jokingly, "maybe then the rain will fall."
Hearing this, Rav Papa turned red with embarrassment. He then turned again to his prayer. This time the rain fell. The hurt of his embarrassment was even more effective than his fasting to appease the heavens and bring down the rain. (24b)
Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa was once walking along the way and rain began to fall.
"Ribono shel Olam," he prayed, "the whole world sits comfortably in the shelter of their homes, and Chanina needs to suffer!" The rain then stopped falling.
When he arrived home, again he prayed, "Ribono shel Olam, the whole world is suffering, because they need rain, and Chanina (who had no fields) sits comfortably. The rain then began to fall.
"Of what use was the Kohen Gadol's prayer," R' Yosef said on hearing this story, "For the Kohen Gadol would pray on Yom Kippur that Hashem ignore the traveler who prays that the rains should stop, but R' Chanina's prayer over rid his request.
"Every day," Rav said, "a heavenly voice broadcasts: The entire world eats on account of Chanina, my precious son, yet Chanina, my precious son is so poor that he sustains himself on no more than a small quantity of carobs each week. (24b)
R' Chanina ben Dosa's wife would fire her oven on Friday, and place something in it that it may give off smoke. She did this so that her neighbors would think that she too was baking in honor of the coming Shabbos. The truth was however, that she had nothing to bake, and she only lit the oven so that she shouldn't feel embarrassment before her neighbors.
One of her neighbors was a nasty woman who resented her righteousness.
"What's all that smoke coming from R' Chanina's house," she asked herself, "they have nothing to bake." She went and knocked loudly on their door.
The wife of Chanina would make a fire in her oven on the eve of every Sabbath in order not to be ashamed before her neighbors. She had, however, one bad neighbor who said: "I know that Chanina and his wife have nothing to cook for the Sabbath, why does she make fire in her oven? I shall go and see." She went and knocked at the threshold, and Chanina's wife became ashamed and went into another room. In the meantime a miracle happened, and the oven became filled with bread. The neighbor, noticing the bread in the oven, called to Chanina's wife: "Bring the bread-shovel, or the bread will be burned!" And she replied: "I just went in for that purpose." We have learned in a braisa: Chanina's wife really did go into the next room for a shovel, because she was accustomed to have miracles happen to her. (24b – 25a)

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


The Gemora cites a braisa which expounds on a verse in Vayikra (26:4) which states “I will give your rains in their time.” The blessing described here is that the earth will not be drunk (overly drenched) with rain, nor will it be thirsty; rather it will be reasonably wet. Excessive rain makes the earth muddy and it will not be able to produce fruit.

An alternative explanation is that the “proper time” is referring to Tuesday and Friday nights. Generally, people are not outside on these nights and therefore the rains will not be a nuisance to them.

Rashi explains that people do not generally walk outside on these nights because there is a demon Igras bas Machlas who causes damage then.

The Ibn Ezra (Shmos 20:13) explains why it is that this demon comes out and haunts on these particular nights.

In the Teshuvos Az Nidb’ru, he rules that it is improper to go touring or to venture out for a walk on Friday night. He states that it is desecrating the Shabbos and can be extremely harmful. Shabbos is a day that is given to us to busy ourselves with Torah and Yiras Shamayim.

He cites the Medrash in Eichah that the reason a certain city was destroyed was because they played ball on Shabbos. He asks that playing ball on Shabbos is only a Rabbinical injunction lest one might level the holes in the ground. Why was this prohibition treated so severely? He answers that it wasn’t the particular sin that caused the tragedy, rather it was that they were treating Shabbos as if it was a regular day of the week. They were acting like the gentiles. He concludes that taking extended walks on Shabbos is precisely the opposite of what Shabbos was intended for.

The Ben Ish Chai writes that even though an outing on Shabbos is enjoyable, nevertheless one will be judged regarding this in the future. If someone would approach in middle of your business to join him in an outing, you will obviously refuse even though you know it will provide pleasure, so too, the Shabbos was given to be utilized for spiritual pleasure by studying Torah and not to venture outside, which will not lead to any positive spiritual outcome.

However, the Rama (301:2) rules that it is permitted to take walks on Shabbos. The Rama even rules that it is regarded as a mitzva and one would be permitted to make an eruv techumin (which is only permitted for a mitzva) allowing him to walk outside of his two thousand amos boundary. Tosfos Shabbos disagrees and maintains that only on Yom Tov would it be permitted to make an eruv techumin for the sake of taking an extended walk but on Shabbos, it is prohibited because walking is not considered a mitzva.

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In the days of Shimon ben Shetach, the rains would fall on Tuesday and Friday nights, when people are at home. The blessing was so great that wheat grains were the size of kidneys -- barley, the size of olives -- lentils, the size of golden dinarim.

The Chasam Sofer asks that it’s logical to assume that all the fruits that grow in Eretz Yisroel were extremely large and not only the ones mentioned. If so, how can we derive from this passuk the Biblical measurements for many different halachos? Was a standard olive used or a large one that grew in Eretz Yisroel during the time of blessing?

Chasam Sofer states that in the same manner that the fruits were blessed to grow much larger than usual, so too the people were much larger and healthier. The required measurements for people living in Eretz Yisroel were considerably larger than people residing elsewhere but proportionally, it was the same.

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 23 - Highlights

The Gemora cites a braisa which expounds on a verse in Vayikra (26:4) which states “I will give your rains in their time.” The blessing described here is that the earth will not be drunk (overly drenched) with rain, nor will it be thirsty; rather it will be reasonably wet. Excessive rain makes the earth muddy and it will not be able to produce fruit.
An alternative explanation is that the “proper time” is referring to Tuesday and Friday nights. Generally, people are not outside on these nights and therefore the rains will not be a nuisance to them.
In the days of Shimon ben Shetach, the rains would fall on Tuesday and Friday nights, when people are at home. The blessing was so great that wheat grains were the size of kidneys -- barley, the size of olives -- lentils, the size of golden dinarim.
Similarly, in the days of Hordos, when the people engaged in renovating the Beis Hamikdosh, the rains fell only at night. The next morning, the wind scattered the clouds, the sun shone, and the people came to their work. They knew that their work was for the sake of heaven, and that the heavens had approved their efforts. (22b – 23a)
Most of the month of Adar had gone by and the rains had yet fallen. The people called to Choni HaMaagal (the circle-maker) to pray for them. He prayed but still no rain fell. He then drew a circle on the ground and stood in it.
"Lord of the universe," he cried out, "your children look to me that I'm like a member of your household, to help them. I swear by Your great name, that I will not move from this circle until You have mercy on Your children."
A small drizzle of rain began to fall.
"Rebbi," his students it to him, "it looks like we are all going to die. Such a rain cannot save us. The heavens are only sending it to release you from your oath.
"This is not the rain I asked for," Choni then prayed, "rather a rain that will fill wells, ditches and reservoirs." The rains then began to fall heavily, each drop like a barrel-full. The rabbis measured them, and found not one of them less than a log.
"Rebbi," his students cried to him, "help us that we don't die. Such a rain will destroy the world.
"Not for such a rain did I ask," he then prayed, "rather a rain of good will, of blessing and peace." The rain then began to fall in the normal way. Soon, however, so much of it had fallen that the people needed to climb up the Temple Mount to escape the flooding.
"Rebbi," they said to him, "just as you prayed that they should come down, pray now please that they should stop."
"I have a tradition," he answered them, "that one doesn't pray to stop an abundance of goodness. Even so, bring a Thanksgiving offering that we may thank Hashem for His kindness."
He rested his two hands on the animal they brought, and prayed, "Lord of the universe, Your people Yisrael who You brought out of Egypt cannot survive with an abundance of goodness, or an abundance of punishment. You were angry with us, but we could not live up to Your expectations. You sent Your blessing, and again we couldn't live up to it. May it be Your will that these rains should stop and the world should again breathe easily."
Immediately the wind blew, scattering the clouds, and the sun shone. The people went out to the fields and brought home giant mushrooms that had sprung up from this rain and all knew that they had merited Heaven's blessings.
The story concludes with the words of Shimon ben Shetach who said that Choni's words to Hashem were so presumptuous that he deserved to be excommunicated. But he cannot be punished since he has such a close, personal relationship with Hashem, that He fulfills your requests like a father to a son even after the son sins towards the father. (23a)

All his life, Choni HaMaagal was bothered by this verse, "Shir haMa'alos, when Hashem returns us to Tzion, we will have been as dreamers," (the Babylonian exile of 70 years, will all be like one long sleep). "Could it be," he asked, "that a person can sleep continuously for 70 years?"
One day, as he was walking, he saw a man planting a carob tree.
"How long will it be," he asked the man, "before this tree produces fruits?"
"Seventy years," the man answered.
"And are you certain you will still be alive then?" Choni HaMaagal asked.
"I was born into a world with carob trees," the man answered. "Just as my fathers planted trees for me to enjoy, so I plant trees for my children."
Choni HaMaagal then sat down a little distance away, to a meal. He ate and dozed off. A wall of rock sprung up around him, and hid him from view. No one could find him, and so he slept for 70 years.
When he awoke from his sleep, he saw the same man picking carobs from the tree he had planted.
"Are you the man that planted this tree?" he asked him.
"No," answered the man, "I am his grandson."
"I see," said Choni HaMaagal, "that I must have slept for 70 years." He then noticed that his donkey had been given birth to donkeys, which in turn, gave birth to still other donkeys. He went to his home.
"Is the son of Choni HaMaagal still alive?" he asked.
"No," they answered, "but his grandson is alive."
"I am Choni HaMaagal," he told them, but they would not believe him.
He went to the Beis Medrash. There he overheard the rabbis saying that this teaching shines as brightly as in the days of Choni HaMaagal. For when Choni HaMaagal would come to the Beis Medrash, he would resolve for them in an excellent way, any difficulties they had.
"I am Choni HaMaagal," he told them, but they would not believe him -- and did not honor him as a scholar of his stature needs to be honored. This hurt him deeply. He prayed to Hashem, and he died.
"This reflects what people say," said Rava, "if a person does not receive respect as he is accustomed to receiving, he is better off dead. (23a)
 Abba Chilkiya was a grandson of Choni HaMaagal. When there was a need for rain, the rabbis would send to him to pray for rain. On one such occasion, they sent two Torah scholars to him. They came to his house, but did not find him at home. They went out to the fields and found him working there. They greeted him, but he did not return the greeting. They stood respectfully at a distance waiting for him to finish. Towards evening, he started towards his home, picking up pieces of wood along the way. The wood and his hoe he carried on his one shoulder, his cloak on the other shoulder. All the way, he wore shoes but when he needed to cross through a stream of water, he removed them. When he walked in a place where there were thorns, he raised his tunic that the thorns might not tear it. As he reached home, his wife came out to greet him wearing pretty ornaments. As they entered the house, his wife walked in first, then Abba Chilkiya and finally the rabbis. Abba Chilkiya sat down to eat with his family, but did not ask his guests to join them. When dealing out bread to his children, he gave the elder one loaf and the younger two.
Afterwards he said to his wife in a low voice: "I know that these rabbis came on account of rain. Come, let us go up into the attic and pray for rain, and should the Lord have mercy on His children and cause it to rain, it will not appear as if it came about through us." They went up into the attic, and he stood in one corner, while she stood in another. The rain-cloud appeared in the direction where the wife was standing.
When he went down again, he said to the rabbis: "What has brought the rabbis here?" And they replied: "The rabbis have sent us to master that he may pray for rain." And he answered: "Blessed be the Lord, that we no longer need Abba Chilkiya 's favor." They said to him: "We well know that this rain has come only on account of the master, still we should like to know the reason for several actions on his part which appear to us surprising. Why, when we greeted the master, did he not turn his face towards us?" He replied: "I hired myself out for the day and my time was not my own, hence I did not wish to waste any." "Why did the master carry the wood on one shoulder and the garment on the other?" He said to them, "Because the garment was borrowed by me to wear, but not to use as a pad for wood." "Why did the master go barefooted all the way, and put on his shoes when coming to water?" "Because the entire way I could see what I was stepping on, but in water I could not." "Why did the master raise his dress when walking in a thorny path?" "Because if my flesh should receive a scratch, it will heal; but if the garment should become torn it cannot be mended." "Why, when the master came to the city, did his wife come forth to meet him, dressed in her best apparel?" He answered them, "In order that I may not look at any other woman." "Why did she enter first, then the master, and then we?" He replied, "Because I know nothing about you." "Why, when the master sat down to eat, did he not invite us to partake also?" "Because there was not sufficient bread for all, and I did not wish to invite you merely to receive your thanks in vain." "Why did the master give the elder child one loaf and the younger two?" "Because the elder was at home all day and probably helped himself previously, but the younger was studying Torah all day and more hungry." Why did the rain-cloud appear first in the master’s wife's corner?" "Because my wife is always at home, and when a poor man begs for a meal she always gives it to him readily, while I can but give him a zuz and he must first go and purchase food for it. Thus her charity is more effective than mine." Alternatively, her prayer was answered first because there were local bandits in our neighborhood that I prayed should die but she prayed that they should repent, which they did. (23a – 23b)
 Chanan, the hidden one, was a grandson of Choni HaMaagal. When the community needed rain the rabbis would send schoolchildren to him, to soften his heart that his prayers might pour out for them.
The children would tug at his coat, begging, "Father, father, give us rain."
"Ribono shel Olam," he would then pray, "do it for the sake of these little ones who cannot discern between a father who gives them rain and a father that doesn't give them rain."
And why did they call him Chanan, the hidden one? For when he would pray for rains, in his humility, he would hide himself from public view. (23b)
 Rabbi Zreika said to Rav Safra; come and see the difference between the strong ones of Eretz Yisroel and the pious people in Bavel. Rav Huna and Rav Chisda were the pious ones in Bavel. When there was a need for rain, they said, “Let us gather publicly and ask for compassion from Hashem. Perhaps He will accept our prayers and the rain will come down.”
Rabbi Yonah, the father of Rabbi Mani was from the strong ones in Eretz Yisroel. When the community needed rain, would ask his family to give him a sack that he might buy grain for the house. Then when he was a distance away from the house he would lower himself into a ditch, cover his head with the sack, and pray until rain began to fall. Once the rain was falling, he would go home.
"Did you buy grain," his family would ask him.
"No," he answered, "when I saw the rain falling, I thought to myself this will bring in new crops -- so why should I buy now when the prices are high?" (23b)
 The governor's household would look for ways to trouble and hurt R' Mani, son of R' Yona (mentioned in the story above). He went and prostrated himself at his father's grave.
"Father," he cried, "these people are afflicting me."
One day these same people passed by the cave where R' Yona was buried. The feet of their horses stuck to the ground there and they were unable to move at all. The riders, realizing the reason for this phenomenon, accepted on themselves never to hurt with R' Mani again, and the ground released them. (23b)
 R' Mani was a student of R' Yitzchak ben Eliyashiv. Once, he came crying to his rebbi.
"The rich members of my father-in-laws house," he complained, "trouble and afflict me."
"May they become poor," R' Yitzchak told him. Some time later, he again came to complain before R' Yitzchak.
"Now, there are pressuring me to support them," he cried, "They tell me they have nothing to eat."
"May they become rich," R' Yitzchak prayed, and so it was. (23b)
 At another time R' Mani came before R' Yitzchak. "My wife is unattractive," he complained, "and I find it difficult to look at her."
"What is her name?" R' Yitzchak asked.
"May Chana become beautiful," R' Yitzchak prayed, and so it was.
A short while later, R' Mani again came with the complaint.
"She is beautiful now," he cried, "and treats me in an arrogant and offhand way."
"If so," R' Yitzchak said, "May she again be plain." And so it was. (23b)
 Two students of R' Yitzchak ben Eliyashiv once asked him, "Rebbi, pray for us that we should be wise."
"Once, I could do this," he answered them, "whatever I would pray for, the heavens would grant me. Now, I have returned this power to the heavens, and my prayers are not accepted so easily." However, he told them this so as not to trouble the heavens too greatly. (23b)
 R' Yosi bar Avin was a student in the house of R' Yossi of Yokeres. After awhile he left him, and came to learn from Rav Ashi.
"What made you leave R' Yosi for me?" Rav Ashi asked him.
"He has no compassion for his son or daughter," R' Yossi answered, "How then can I expect him to treat me?" (23b – 24a)

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Rav Broka of Bnei Chuzaa would frequent the market of Lapat. Eliyahu HaNavi was accustomed to meeting him there.

"Is there anyone in this market," Rav Broka asked Eliyahu, "worthy of the World to Come?"

"No," said Eliyahu HaNavi.

Sheorim Mitzuyanim B’halacha asks that it seems strange that there would be nobody in the entire market area that would be worthy of the World to Come.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger points out a Toras Chaim in Sanhedrin (88b) who explains the Gemora which states that every Jew has a portion in the World to Come. This is referring to a person after he dies and is punished for his sins; he then becomes eligible for the World to Come.

Rav Broka was searching for someone that is worthy for the World to Come even while he is alive.

From the answer of our Gemora, it would seem that a simple person who performs mitzvos merits a portion in the World to Come providing that he doesn’t sin.

Rav Aharon Kotler (Mishnas Reb Aharon 3, P. 243) makes a distinction between the Mishna in Avos which states that every person ahs a portion in the World to Come and our Gemora which is referring to someone who is destined for the World to Come, someone whose entire being and life can be describes as an ‘olam habodike yid.’

The Shalah Hakodosh writes that there are three levels in the World to Come. Someone can merely have a portion in the World to Come. Others can inherit the World to Come. The highest level is someone who is a ‘ben olam habah.’

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The Gemora concludes the story with Rav Broka and Eliyahu HaNavi that while they were talking, two brothers passed by. "They also," Eliyahu HaNavi whispered to Rav Broka, "are worthy of the world to come."

"What do you do?" Rav Broka asked them.

"We are happy, and we make others happy," they answered. "If we see someone sad, we make a special effort to cheer him up. Also, if we see people fighting, we make a special effort to make peace between them."

A question is asked: Why was it necessary for them to say “We are happy”? Would it not have been sufficient for them to say that they make others happy?

The Yalkut Meam Loez learns from here, that if one wants to make others happy, he himself must be happy. If they were sad people, then even if they would want to make others happy, they would not be able to.

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 22 - Highlights

Rav Broka of Bnei Chuzaa would frequent the market of Lapat. Eliyahu HaNavi was accustomed to meeting him there.
"Is there anyone in this market," Rav Broka asked Eliyahu, "worthy of the world to come?"
"No," said Eliyahu HaNavi. Then he spotted a certain man wearing black shoes, unlike the custom of the Jews, and no tzitzis in his garment.
"That man," said Eliyahu HaNavi, "is worthy of the world to come."
Rav Broka ran over to the man. "Tell me what you do," he said to him.
"Leave me today," the man answered, "and ask me tomorrow."
The next day Rav Broka spotted the man. "Tell me what you do," he said to him.
"I am a prison guard," he told him, "and I am careful to keep the men separate from the women. I place my bed between them that they shouldn't sin in any way. When I see that the non-Jews there are eying a Jewish girl, I go to great lengths to save her from them. One day, a betrothed young woman faced just such a difficulty. I took wine dregs, which look like blood, and splashed them on the bottom of her dress. She is bleeding, I told them, and they left her alone."
"Why don't you have tzitzis on your garment," Rav Broka asked him, "and why do you wear black shoes, unlike other Jews?"
"I mix with non-Jews," the man answered, "and I don't want them to recognize that I'm Jewish. In this way when I hear that the government is plotting against the Jews, I run to tell the rabbis that they may pray and nullify the decree."
"Yesterday, when I approached you," Rav Broka asked him, "you said, leave me today, ask me tomorrow. Why was that?
"I was hurrying to tell the rabbis of just such a decree," the man answered.
While they were talking, two brothers passed by. "They also," Eliyahu HaNavi whispered to Rav Broka, "are worthy of the world to come."
"What do you do?" Rav Broka asked them.
"We are happy, and we make others happy," they answered. "If we see someone sad, we make a special effort to cheer him up. Also, if we see people fighting, we make a special effort to make peace between them." (22a)

The Mishna had stated that we declare a fast and cry out when wild animals come. The Gemora cites a braisa which rules that we only cry out if the wild animals are Heaven-sent but if the animals are behaving in their usual manner, we don’t cry out. The braisa continues that it is unusual if they are seen in the city or by day. If the animal saw two people and chased them, that is considered unusual. If it killed two people but ate only one, it is regarded as unusual. Eating both would be normal since we would assume that the animal was hungry. If it climbed onto a roof and grabbed a baby from its crib, this is deemed to be Heaven-sent and therefore we would cry out.
The Gemora explains these guidelines. If the animal is seen in the city by day, that is obviously Heaven-sent; however, if it is seen in the city at night or in the fields even by day, that is usual and we do not cry out.
The Gemora explains that if an animal is in a field which is near a marsh and it stands still, that is not unusual since it could easily flee into its natural habitat; however, if it is in a field that is not near the marsh and nevertheless, it remains standing, this is unnatural and obviously Heaven-sent.
Rav Pappa explains the last halacha in the braisa to be referring to a case where a hunter builds a structure in an uninhabited area, a place that wild animals do not fear. It is nevertheless considered unusual for the animal to climb onto the roof and grab a baby and therefore we would fast and cry out. (22a)
 The Mishna had stated that we cry out on the account of the sword. The Gemora cites a Scriptural verse proving that we cry out even if a foreign army wishes to pass through the land in peace.

Pharaoh Necho and his Egyptian army wanted to pass through Eretz Yisroel on his way to fight Assyria. King Yoshiyahu heard that Pharaoh placed his faith in idolatry and decided that he will do battle with Pharaoh even though the Egyptians were coming in peace.

Yoshiyahu was shot by the archers and so many arrows pierced his body that it resembles a sieve.

The Gemora explains the reason for his death was because he should have conferred with Yirmiyah HaNavi to see if he was acting correctly by battling Pharaoh.

The pesukim do indicate that when Klal Yisroel is completely righteous, an opposing army will not pass through the land even peacefully. Yirmiyah would have informed Yoshiyahu that the generation was sinning secretly.

As Yoshiyahu was dying, Yirmiyah heard him saying, “Hashem is righteous and I rebelled against Him.”(22a – 22b)

 The Mishna had stated that they once declared a fast due to an incident when wolves devoured two children on the other side of the Jordan River.

Ulla said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadok that there once was an incident where wolves swallowed two babies and excreted them through the excretory canal. The Chachamim heard about this and stated that the flesh of the babies is considered tahor (since it is viewed as excrement and not flesh) but the bones can transmit tumah. (22b)

 The Mishna states that we call out for any catastrophe that threatens the city except for an overabundance of rain.

Rabbi Yochanan explains that it is not proper to pray for something which is good to cease.

Rami bar Rav Yud qualifies this ruling and states that in Bavel, we do cry out on the account of excessive rain since the abundance of rain will cause a great loss to the low-lying lands.

Rabbi Eliezer said that in Eretz Yisroel, we never cry out on account of excessive rain. (22b)

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Daf Yomi - Taanis 21 - Gam Zu La'Tovah

Many stories that have the theme of "Gam Zu la'Tovah,"can be found here SEPTEMBER 11TH.

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 21 - Studying in Yeshiva


Preparation for Mattan Torah
Through the Forty-Eight Acquisitions (Kinyan Torah)

Acquiring `Yishuv' can only be Done through Sitting in [Yeshiva] Study

by HaRav Matisyohu Salomon

The reason why we study the chapter of Kinyan Torah before Shavuos

The forty-eight ways to acquire Torah are enumerated in the sixth chapter of Pirkei Ovos, that is sometimes called Kinyan Torah. Even though several reasons are stated, it is worthwhile reviewing the thoughts of the Chossid Yaavetz as quoted in Midrash Shmuel as follows:
Torah can only reside in a [human] vessel which is devoid of evil traits and filled with worthwhile attributes. This is what Hashem hinted at when He said (right before Mattan Torah), "Prepare yourself for three days time. Do not approach a woman" (Shemos 19:15). The Jews were also told to launder their clothing and to purify it from the contamination and dirt which prevent a soul from ascending. All the chapters preceding this are filled with important practices which draw a person's soul closer to its Creator and rouse a person to better serve Him.

This is why it is customary to study this chapter before Shavuos, commemorating the Giving of the Torah, in order to draw Divine mercy upon those who are already worthy, as happened to our ancestors in this season. The entire chapter evokes a yearning for Torah and a love towards it. And even if the other chapters talk about this as well, this one is wholly devoted to the subject of acquiring Torah and it is a summary of all that precedes it.

To be sure, we must always strive to acquire Torah, but this particular season is more conducive to it due to the impact and inspiration which Jewish souls received at that time in history and which sparks and re-ignites our own souls at this time as well.

This chapter is called Kinyan Torah because it concerns those important traits which must precede our entering a covenant of Torah. They must enter a person like water so that he delve in Torah purely for its own sake, just as it is written about Rachel, the wife of R' Akiva. "She saw that he was unassuming and said [to him]: I will agree to be married to you on condition that you go study." In the end, he became the famous R' Akiva.

This chapter begins with the teaching of R' Meir, who was his disciple, and it is studied right before Shavuos, which commemorates the Giving of the Torah. R' Simcha Zissel of Kelm zt'l wrote a letter to his son on erev Shavuos (in Ohr RaShaZ, parshas Emor), explaining that this is why we count forty-nine days before the Giving of the Torah: they are an introduction, a preface, to the acquisition of Torah in nature, to prepare a person so that he and the Torah will be one. It is written first, "That his desire be Hashem's Torah," and afterwards, "and he shall delve in his own Torah . . . "

Upon each of the forty-eight days one should study a different `gateway' so that on the forty-ninth, they will all be united into one single entity. By being unified, a person will find it easier to enter the inner sanctum of the secrets of Torah, which is wholly sweet and preciously desirable. There is no better preparation than this.

How fitting it is to conclude with the words of the Ohr HaChaim on Chukas where he writes: There is no commandment which does not incorporate esoteric secrets which were revealed to Moshe. A person should strive to acquire Torah through the forty-eight ways enumerated in Mishnas Chassidim, for then he becomes privy to the secrets of Torah which were revealed to Moshe at Sinai. Moshe revealed these secrets, as well as the reason and the basis for the mitzvos, to the Jews of his generation.

"And you shall heed My commandments" (Vayikra 26:3). On this posuk he comments that this can be fulfilled through acquiring the Torah in the forty-eight ways mentioned in Pirkei Ovos (Mishnas Chassidim). Not everyone who desires Torah can possess it. He must do so through the 48 steps. This is what is meant by "If you walk in My statutes." If you wish to possess Torah, you must fulfill the condition of "and you shall keep My commandments and do them." This refers to the 48 steps.

In Emunah uBitochon (chapter 3, os 9) by the Chazon Ish, it is written that the Torah is acquired through 48 ways, each of which is supernatural; one must leave behind habit, human nature and foibles, and strive for perfection until he reaches the stage where he is not disturbed or hindered in his devoted aspiration and powerful diligence.

Why is Prayer Not Included in the 48 Steps?

In maseches Niddah 70b we find: The people of Alexandria asked R' Yehoshua ben Chananya what a person should do in order to grow wise. He said: Let him increase his Torah study and reduce the time he spends in engaging in trade.

They said: But many have tried that and not succeeded. What then?

Let them ask for mercy from the One Who possesses all the wisdom, as it is written, "For Hashem shall grant wisdom; from His mouth, knowledge and understanding" (Mishlei 2:6).

What does this mean? Why did he have to suggest that they increase their study time if wisdom is dependent upon Divine mercy? Because one without the other is of no avail.

In other words, since one cannot achieve or attain anything without prayer, it is clear that even Torah knowledge cannot be acquired without accompanying prayer. In fact, the lack of prayer is a very crucial reason why so many tried to increase study time but found that they did not increase their wisdom. If this is so, it seems strange that no mention was made of prayer as one of the forty-eight ways of acquiring Torah knowledge.

We also found it written in Pirkei Ovos (1:2) that the world stands on three things: Torah, avodoh, gemilus chassodim. Rabbenu Yonah explains that avodoh signified the sacrifices, but now that the Beis Hamikdosh is destroyed our prayers take the place of those sacrifices. "And to serve Him with your whole heart." How does one serve with the heart? Through prayer.

Prayer is not only a substitute or an aid; it is a goal unto itself. Anything that is lacking in the world is purposely this way in order to get us to pray to Hashem and worship Him. Prayer is a pillar unto itself, equal to Torah and gemilus chassodim in the upkeep of the world and the channeling of Hashem's bounty to the world, both materially and spiritually.

If we lack wisdom to fully understand Torah, we must pray to Hashem for that understanding. Indeed, Torah is not different from any of the other things that require our prayers. For prayer is not so that we fill our lack in Torah, but rather, our lack in understanding Torah is so that we pray for wisdom!

The pillar of prayer is certainly not a unique requirement for the acquisition of Torah but each and every step, every acquisition, requires separate additional prayer to succeed at it, for you can't have one without the other. So you see that prayer cannot be enumerated separately from the forty- eight steps for building a Torah crown, since it must accompany each one. It is a major supporting pillar for the whole world and not merely one of the ways to gain Torah.

Acquiring `Yishuv' can only be Done through Sitting in [Yeshiva] Study

What does beyishuv (one of the 48 steps) mean?

Rashi says that one must literally sit, sit and learn, for the more one does that, the more knowledge one can absorb, as mentioned before, "What shall a person do in order to be wise? Let him increase his yeshiva."

Why, indeed, is a place of Torah study called a yeshiva? We find other names for this, such as beis medrash. But since acquiring Torah knowledge is the most difficult of all, one who doesn't have the patience, the sitzfleish to apply himself, to be diligent, to study without interruption, cannot achieve this kinyan. We shall now attempt to explain what it means "to increase one's sitting."

Studying biyeshiva was already practiced by our Ovos. We find it written in Yoma 28b that our ancestors were always involved in yeshiva and never stopped learning. "Avrohom Ovinu was old and sat in yeshiva . . . Yitzchok Ovinu was old and sat in yeshiva . . . Yaakov Ovinu was old and sat in yeshiva . . . "

Studying in Yeshiva Means Being Occupied in Eternal Life and Forsaking Temporal Life
It is written in Taanis 21a that Ilfa and R' Yochonon were studying Torah together. Being both poverty stricken, they decided to stop learning and engage in business to keep themselves alive. After all, they argued, the Torah does state that "there shall be no pauper in your midst" (Devorim 15:4). And so, they left the walls of the beis medrash.

They were sitting eating their bread near a crumbling wall which threatened to collapse, when two [invisible] angels came and one said to the other, "Let us topple the wall onto them and kill them." Why? Because, explains the gemora, they were abandoning eternal life (says Rashi - - Torah) in exchange for temporal life [preparing to earn a livelihood]. The second angel replied, "But one of them is destined to become great in Torah. His time has not yet come to die."

R' Yochonon heard this but he realized that Ilfa didn't, and he concluded that it must apply to him and not to Ilfa. "I will return to the beis medrash," he said to himself, "and fulfill the verse, `For there shall never cease to be paupers in the midst of the land.' "

At first, R' Yochonon felt it was permissible to seek his livelihood by going out to work so as not to starve, but having heard the words of the angels, he decided to enter the other category mentioned in the Torah and live in poverty.

And so, Ilfa went forth to seek his fortune, while R' Yochonon returned to the beis medrash where he was shortly afterwards appointed rosh yeshiva. It was customary at that time for those who appointed a rosh yeshiva to support him in material comfort.

And they said to Ilfa, "Had you continued to stay here and study, we would have appointed you as our head, as we did to R' Yochonon." He was very perturbed at these words and went to the harbor, where he climbed up on a high ship's mast, declaring, "Whoever has a question [in Torah] to ask, can still ask me." . . . despite the fact that I am engaging in trade and not study.
Along came R' Chiya and R' Oshiya with their questions, which Ilfa was unable to answer. Thereupon, he cast himself into the water and drowned. [This is the way it is written in Dei'ah vedibur, however there is a printers mistake. This is what Ilfa would have done if he didn't respond correctly. However, he did answer correctly and never cast himself into the water.]

R' Yochonon became a famous rosh yeshiva who had many disciples in his lifetime and after his death. To this day, his lips `murmur in the grave' each time his teachings are reviewed. In contrast, Ilfa lost his Torah knowledge, even though in his prime, he had been considered very astute and brilliant. So we cannot help but see the power of yeshiva, of sitting and persevering in study.

Let us further examine the words of the angels, "They are abandoning eternal life in exchange for temporal life." A Jew must view the world, his goal in life, as Torah being "our life and the length of our days." A Jew must bear in mind that every moment which he spends in the beis medrash is a moment of eternity. How can he countenance the thought of leaving that, of exchanging Torah study for momentary, mundane activities of no lasting value. Above all, it is denigrating the honor of Torah!

A person may, of course, argue that setting aside eternal life to engage in mundane activities is dictated by need; he is being coerced by circumstances to do so. The answer is that perhaps this is true, but he must not rely on this argument. It does not altogether address his problem. We see that at the onset, both R' Yochonon and Ilfa felt they were forced to leave their study and decided to seek work. But they made this decision on their own, when they should have asked their masters and teachers.

This was the prosecuting argument of the angels. And this argument is still as valid today as it was with regard to R' Yochonon and Ilfa. Whoever has the opportunity to remain within the sanctuary of the beis medrash, to acquire more Torah knowledge and occupy himself with eternal life, is required to do so. If at any point he feels forced to leave those walls, he must weigh this matter very carefully and consult his Torah superiors before doing so. He must realize that if he does opt to leave, he is verily abandoning eternal life in exchange for mundane life.

In Hilchos Talmud Torah (perek 3:13), the Rambam states: "For it appears that he showed no deference to the words of Torah at all. So long as he is able to continue studying Torah and does not do so, or if he studied at length and then left his study in favor of worldly pursuits - - he is considered to be abusing and offending the word of Hashem."

The Difference Between a Ben Yeshiva and a Secular Student

In Letter 74 of a compilation of his responsa and correspondence, HaRav Yitzchok Hutner zt'l writes an essay titled, "It is good for a man to bear the yoke [of Torah] in his youth." He quotes Maran HaRav Chaim Volozhiner ztvk'l who insisted on changing the terminology that was prevalent in his days regarding yeshiva life. Instead of using "yeshiva student," he preferred to call his disciples bnei yeshiva.

Why did he feel it important to change the accepted usage? By illustration, R' Yitzchok Hutner explains the difference between a secular university student who listens to lectures from his professors and the thousandfold difference of a yeshiva student listening to a shiur from his rov. He compares them to a nursing mother and a cook.

They both provide nourishment, but whereas the cook processes the material at her disposal, the nursing mother gives of herself, of her own flesh and blood. The nursing mother is feeding her infant so that he should grow and be strong; she is willing to give of her very essence for that purpose. The cook, on the other hand, is only interested in producing a tasty meal from the ingredients at hand and nothing more; she does not give anything of her own resources or essence.

This is the difference between a university lecturer and lehavdil a master teaching Torah. The latter provides his students with his own lifeblood; he gives from his quintessence, his very core. The professor merely teaches the material at his disposal, without adding any element from within himself. The moment his pride is injured, his whole spirit will be shattered.

It should also be remembered that if the rov were not teaching, he would be learning Torah on his own and improving himself, raising himself to a more exalted spiritual level, in greater measure than the mere time allotted for giving the shiur. In this aspect, as well, the Torah teacher is sacrificing his own self for the sake of his pupil.

This, then, was the pressing reason why R' Chaim changed the terminology from "yeshiva student" to "ben yeshiva" or "ben Torah." In other words, the yeshiva hall is not a place where spiritual food is prepared, but a virtual place for soul sustenance and nourishment.

This obligates the Torah student to persevere in pure yishuv, sitting power. He may be considered a student even if he comes and goes, but he is only called a ben yeshiva if he perseveres in sitting, staying put, because the act of sitting in study application is the source of a person's vitality; it is the origin of his nurture, nourishment, and his designation as a true ben Torah.

This is the acquisition of yishuv, as Rashi notes, that he amplify and increase his yishuv, for yeshiva — sitting and learning — is eternal life. Chazal tell us that one must yarbeh biyeshiva, for whoever disconnects himself from Torah is as if he is detaching himself from life.

Based on material from the sefer Matnas Chaim, by HaRav Matisyohu Salomon on the 48 Steps to acquire Torah.

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Daf Yomi - Taanis 21 - Highlights

Ilfa and R' Yochanan learned Torah in great poverty and deprivation. At a certain point, their hunger became too much for the. They therefore, decided to leave the yeshiva and engage in business. Let us fulfill the verse that says, "There shall be no poor amongst you," which instructs us not to be poor.
They left. Later, as they sat under an old wall eating, R' Yochanan overheard two angels speaking.
"Let us knock over this wall, and bury them here," said one angel to the other, "for they have abandoned their Torah study, which ensures eternal life, to pursue mundane material pursuits."
"No, leave them alone," the other angel answered. "One of them is destined for greatness, and we may not kill him."
R' Yochanan overheard this conversation. Ilfa did not.
"Did you hear anything?" R' Yochanan asked Ilfa.
"No, nothing," Ilfa answered.
"If so," R' Yochanan said to himself, "the angels must have been talking of me. Let me hurry back to the yeshiva, and fulfill there the verse, "There will not cease to be paupers amongst you."
R' Yochanan returned. Ilfa did not return. When eventually Ilfa did return, he found that R' Yochanan had been appointed Rosh Yeshiva.
"Had you remained learning here," the students told Ilfa, "you would have been appointed Rosh Yeshiva."
On hearing this, Ilfa climbed to the top of a tall ship's mast.
"If anyone here can challenge me on a teaching of R' Chiya or R' Oshiya that I cannot resolve, I will throw myself from this mast and drown."
An old man came, and asked a question. Ilfa answered it correctly. (20a)

Nachum Ish Gamzu was blind in both eyes, without hands or legs, and boils covered his entire body. He lay in shaky house, the legs of his bed in buckets of water that ants should not climb over him. His students wanted to move him to a better house. They came to carry him out.
"Children," he told them, "first take out all the furnishings and utensils, then take out my bed. For, as long as I am in this house, it will not collapse."
They took out the furnishings and utensils. Then, they took out Nachum Ish Gamzu in his bed. As they completed this, the house collapsed.
"Rebbi," his students asked him, "if you are such a tzaddik, why do we see you so badly off?"
"I did it to myself," he told them. "Once, I traveled to my father-in-law's house. With me, I had three donkey loads, one of food, one of drink, and one with fruits and sweets. A pauper approached me, standing on the road.
"Rebbi, feed me," he cried.
"Wait until I unload the donkey," I answered him. However, before I could remove anything from the donkey, he died. Seeing this I fell on his face and prayed, "May my eyes that felt no compassion for your eyes, be blinded. May my hands that showed no compassion for your hands, be cut off. May my legs that had no compassion for your legs, be amputated. Still, I could not calm down until I had added, and may my whole body be covered in boils."
"Woe to us, that we see you this way," the students lamented.
"Woe, were you not to see me in such a way," Nachum Ish Gamzu responded.
Why was Nachum Ish Gamzu so called? For, about everything that happened to him, even that which was not good, he would say, "This too, "Gam zu", is for the good," as we see in the next story:
The Jewish people needed to buy Caesar's goodwill by sending him a gift. "Who should go as our representative," they wondered. "Surely, no one is better suited for this mission than Nachum Ish Gamzu, for whom the heavens perform miracles." They sent him with a chest of precious gems and pearls.
On the way, he spent a night at a hotel. While he slept, the owners stole the gems from his chest, replacing them with dust. In the morning, he noticed the sand in the chest.
"This too is for the good," he said to himself, and continued on his mission.
He presented the chest to Caesar who opened it. Seeing the dust, he assumed that the Jews were mocking him. He was so angry, he decided to execute the entire Jewish people.
"This too is for the good," Nachum Ish Gamzu said to himself.
At that moment, Eliyahu HaNavi miraculously appeared in the guise of an important officer.
"Maybe," he said to Caesar, "this is the sand their ancestor Avraham used to fight and conquer the kings. When he threw sand at them, they died as though slaughtered by swords. When he threw straw at them, they died as though pierced by arrows."
Caesar had a particular enemy state that had resisted all his attempts to conquer it. He therefore, took the dust and tested it in the next battle. He was victorious.
He then brought Nachum Ish Gamzu into his treasure house, filled his chest with precious gems, and sent him home in honor.
Going home, Nachum Ish Gamzu again stopped at the same hotel. Eagerly, the hotel owners asked him what important gift he had brought to the Caesar that he should return in such honor.
"What I took from here," he told them, "is what I brought to Caesar."
On hearing his story, they tore their hotel apart that they might bring all of its dust to Caesar. "We have brought you the same dust that Nachum Ish Gamzu brought you," they proudly reported. "That dust came from our hotel!"
The Romans tested the dust, but it failed to produce the same results. They then executed those hotel owners. (21a)
The Mishna had stated that a city in which there is a plague should fast and cry out. The Mishna clarified this case by stating that the city must have at least five hundred foot soldiers and three people die naturally on three consecutive days.

The Gemora cites a braisa offering the city of Kfar Akko as an example of a city that contains one thousand and five hundred foot soldiers. Nine people died on three consecutive days and it was regarded as a plague. If these nine deaths occurred on one day or in the span of four days, it would not be considered a plague. A city such as Kfar Amiko, which had three deaths on three consecutive days, it is regarded as a plague. If those deaths occurred on one day or in the span of three days, it is not considered a plague.

Derokart was a city that consisted of five hundred foot soldiers and it once happened that three people died on one day. Rav Nachman bar Rav Chisda declared a fast day different than the ruling of the braisa. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak explained that this fast must be in accordance with the view of Rabbi Meir who maintains that an ox which gored three times in one day is considered a muad and is liable to pay full damages.

The Gemora records an incident which indicates Rav Nachman bar Rav Chisda’s admiration for Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak. Rav Nachman bar Rav Chisda invited Rav Nachman bar Rav Yitzchak to come live in his town amongst illustrious people. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak responded by citing a braisa which states that a person provides honor to the place in which he resides and it is not the place which deals him the honor.

The Gemora cites two Scriptural sources proving that a location does not have inherent sanctity, but rather it is due to the presence of the Shechina of the Mishkan.

Rav Nachman bar Rav Chisda said that he will go live by Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak answered him that it is better that a hundred dinar, the son of a fifty dinar (his father was referred to as Yitzchak and not Rav Yitzchak) should go to the hundred dinar, son of the hundred dinar (since he was referred to as Rav Nachman bar Rav Chisda) and not the other way around. (21a – 21b)

A plague went through the town of Sura. However, it skipped the neighborhood of Rav. People said that since Rav has many merits, he had protected them. The heavens however, showed them through a dream that this was too small matter to require any of Rav's merits. Rather, the plague stayed away in the merit of a man who lent out tools to dig graves in the local cemetery (21b)

A fire spread through the town of Derokart. However, it skipped over the neighborhood of Rav Huna. People said that since Rav Huna has many merits, he had protected them. The heavens therefore, showed them through a dream that this was too small matter to require any of Rav Huna's merits. Rather, the fire stayed away in the merit of a woman who kept her oven alight and hot, that her neighbors could use it freely. (21b)
Swarms of locusts entered the district of Rav Yehuda. People came to tell him. He decreed a fast day.
"But they're not eating any of our grain," the people protested.
"Did they bring food with them that they shouldn't touch your grain?" Rav Yehuda asked them. (21b)
They once told Rabbi Yehuda that there is a deadly plague amongst the pigs. He thereby declared a fast. The Gemora explains that the digestive system of pigs resembles those of humans and therefore the plague can affect the people as well. (21b)
They told Shmuel that in a distant place, Bei Chuzai, there was a plague. He decreed a fast day.
"Surely this place is far from us?" the people asked, "We have nothing to worry about."
"Is there a river crossing here, stopping it from coming here?" Shmuel asked them. (21b)
A plague has hit Eretz Yisrael," people told Rav Nachman [who lived in Bavel]. Rav Nachman decreed a fast day.
"If the mistress [i.e. Eretz Yisrael] has been struck, how much the more so the maidservant [Bavel] stands to suffer! Therefore, we must take precautions."
In the Gemora mentioned before, Shmuel declared a fast in one city in Bavel because of a plague in another city in Bavel even though they are both considered maidservants. The Gemora explains that this was only due to the close proximity of the two cities. (21b)

A heavenly voice would greet Abba Umana each day. "Shalom Alecha," it wished him. This was a tremendous honor. Abaye, on the other hand, only merited hearing this heavenly voice once a week on Erev Shabbos. Rava would hear this heavenly voice once a year on Yom Kippur.
Abaye felt bad that the heavens regarded him so much less than Abba Umana.
"Don't feel bad about this," the heavens told him, "your good deeds do not match his good deeds."
What would Abba Umana do? He would let blood, a common form of healing in those days, and was careful to keep his male patients separate from his female patients for reasons of modesty. Also, he had a special garment to cover his female patients. It hid their entire body except for one small hole through which he would treat them. In this way, he avoided looking at them, and indulging in improper thoughts.
Outside, in a discreet place his patients would leave money to pay for his service. Those who could afford it would pay. Those who could not afford it could leave without feeling any embarrassment. Abba Umana himself did not know who paid him and who did not. Moreover, when he saw that his patient was poor he would give him money to buy food and revive himself after the operation. If his patient was a Torah scholar, he would refuse all payment.
Abaye sent to Torah scholars to test him. He brought them into his house, gave them food and drink, and made up beds for them to rest on. He folded special woolen cloaks under the sheets that they should sleep more comfortably. In the morning, the scholars took these cloaks with them, and set out to the market. There they met Abba Umana.
"Tell us," they said to him, "how much of these cloaks worth?" They wanted check him if he would accuse them of being thieves, or under evaluate them that he might buy them back cheaply.
"Such and such is their worth," he told him
"Maybe they are worth more?" the scholars asked him.
"This is what I paid for them," Abba Umana told them.
"They are yours," the scholars told him, "we only took them from you to test you. Tell us what you thought of us when you realized we had taken them?"
"I thought," he said, "you needed to redeem captives and for this you needed money, but you were embarrassed to ask me for the money. Therefore, you took these cloaks."
"Now, please take them back," the scholars said to him.
"I don't want to take them back," he told them, "the moment I realized you had taken them, I said they should be for charity. I will take nothing back from charity."
Rava felt bad that he received heavenly greetings only once a year, whereas Abaye received them once a week.
"Don't feel bad," the heavens told him, "be glad that your merits protect the entire city." (21b – 22a)

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