Friday, May 30, 2008

One Sixty-fourth

Rav Chiya bar Ashi said in the name of Rav (Daf Yomi: Sotah 5a): A Torah scholar should have one eighth of an eighth of haughtiness (so that lighthearted people should not play with him and that they will accept his rulings).

The Sheiris Hapeleitah explains this precise measurement as follows: The Gemora in Bava Basra (73b) states that Mount Tabor was four parasangs (parsa’os) high. A parsah is four mil. A mil consists of two thousand amos. Accordingly, a parsah is eight thousand amos. It emerges that Mount Tabor is thirty-two thousand amos high. Chazal tell us that Mount Sinai was five hunred amos tall, which is precisely one sixty-fourth of Mount Tabor.

The following question may be asked: If the Holy One, Blessed be He did not wish to give the Torah on Mount Tabor, for it was haughty, why did He give the Torah on a mountain at all? The Torah could have been given on a flatland, where there would be no concern for haughtiness whatsoever! It was given on Mount Sinai, a mountain which its height was one sixty-fourth of Mount Tabor to teach us that a Torah scholar should possess this small measure of haughtiness.

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His Right from his Left

In the city of Dvinsk, there was a very prestigious and scholarly man named Reb Leib. He was referred to as Reb Leib Charif, the sharp one, due to his intelligent insights in torah. He was extremely close to Reb Meir Simcha, the Ohr Sameach, and they would spend many hours in each others company discussing Torah matters together.

There was once an incident where they were both sitting in the Beis Medrash when a different scholar was delivering a lecture to thirty laymen. Reb Leib heard how the scholar was explaining a certain topic to them and immediately asked a penetrating question that the scholar was incapable of answering.

Reb Meir Simcha arose from his designated seat near the eastern wall, walked to the back of the Beis Medrash and admonished Reb Leib: “Someone that doesn’t know between his right and his left, should be asking questions in the middle of a lecture?” Reb Leib was quiet, left the Beis Medrash in embarrassment and the scholar continued on with his lecture.

All those that witnessed the incident were bewildered. Is it possible that Reb Leib Charif could ask a question that was not fit to be asked? What did he do so terrible that caused Reb Meir Simcha to react in such a manner?

Reb Leib was puzzled as well and he went to Reb Meir Simcha’s house to inquire of him why he took such offense with his question, which was seemingly a legitimate one.

Reb Meir Simcha told him: “Did I say that your question was not a valid one? No, I did not. I was repeating a Gemora in Moed Katan (and in Sotah as well).”

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who appraises his conduct (he considers the loss he might incur by performing a mitzva against the eternal reward that the mitzva will bring, and the benefit he may obtain by committing a sin against the tremendous loss that will result) will merit in seeing the salvation of Klal Yisroel through Hashem. He cites a verse in Tehillim [50:23]: Vesam derech arenu beyasha Elokim, And to him that sets his way, I will show the salvation of Hashem. Do not read it as Vesam (and to him that sets), rather, read it as Vesham, and one who appraises his way.

Rabbi Yannai had a student who would consistently ask questions during the lecture. On the Shabbos of the festival (within thirty days of the festival, the scholars would teach and discuss the laws of the festival), the student wouldn’t challenge Rabbi Yannai (since there were many people attending and if Rabbi Yannai wouldn’t know how to respond, he would be embarrassed). Rabbi Yannai said in reference to him: And to him that appraises his way, I will show the salvation of Hashem (due to the student’s careful calculation).

Reb Meir Simcha concluded: “You, Reb Leib, should have been cognizant of the difference between the right and the left of the letter sin; it was written vesam, with the letter sin, which has the dot on the left and the Gemora expounds it to mean vesham, with the letter shin, which has the dot on the right. Vesham means that one should appraise his ways and calculate his every move and word. When this scholar was lecturing in front of thirty laymen, you should not have asked a question that quite possibly could embarrass him.

(Margoliyos HaShas – Moed Katan)

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ben Azzai

Rav Yitzchak bar Yosef said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan (Daf Yomi: Sotah 4b): All of these Tannaim figured out the length of a seclusion based upon their own experience (how long it took each of them to perform the initial act of cohabitation with their own wife).

The Gemora asks: But Ben Azzai never got married (based upon the Gemora in Yevamos 63b, where Ben Azzai explained why he did not marry: “What should I do? My soul desires the Torah. The world can survive through other people.”)?

The Gemora answers: You could say that he got married and later divorced.

Alternatively, you can say that he heard this opinion from his teacher.

And if you prefer, you can say that “The secrets of Hashem are revealed to those that fear him.”

Rabbeinu Avraham min Ha’har explains that due to Ben Azzai’s tremendous desire to study Torah, he did not experience any unclean thoughts, and was therefore not obligated to get married.

Reb Elchanan Wasserman states that Ben Azzai was exempt from the mitzvah of marrying, for he was unable to cease studying Torah even for one moment.

Reb Yosef Engel writes that Ben Azzai discharged his obligation of procreation through his new insights in Torah. This is based upon the Gemora in Brochos (47b), which states that two torah scholars studying together can be regarded as three with respect to the laws of Birchas Hamazon (they could make a mezumen, even though the halacha is that three people are needed). The Rosh explains that the Torah that they are studying is regarded as the third person.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spirit of Foolishness

Rish Lakish says (Daf Yomi:Sotah 3a): A person does not sin unless a spirit of foolishness enters him.

Reb Chaim Shmuelitz asks: If so, why should a man be guilty for committing a transgression? If a spirit of foolishness entered him, it should be regarded as if it was unavoidable and he should be exempt from any punishment! It should be compared to a person who is standing on the edge of a pit and a strong wind blows and he falls into the pit. Is that his fault?

Reb Chaim explains that yes it is! It was his fault that he was even in the vicinity of the edge of the pit. Immediately, when he realized that he was near the boundary of the pit, he should have distanced himself from there. If he would have been far away from the pit, no wind, no matter how strong, would have been able to propel him into the pit. So too, it is with the spirit of foolishness that enters a person and causes him to sin. He obviously was too close to the sin in the first place that when a spirit of foolishness entered him, it was able to overpower him and cause him to sin.

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Heavenly Voice Regarding Marriage

The Gemora states: Every day, a Heavenly voice pronounces: “The daughter of this individual is designated for that man.”

Why when it is referring to the woman does it say, “The daughter of this man,” and when it is referring to the man, it says “that man”?

Tal Chaim answers: The Torah gives the right to the father to marry off his daughter and to receive the money; this right does not apply for his son.

Others answer based on Tosfos, which states that this Heavenly voice is issued forty days before the formation of the boy. At this point in time, the girl is not in existence yet and therefore it only mentions her father.

Kometz Mincha offers an alternative answer: The Gemora Bava Basra (109b) states that a man should investigate the woman’s father and her family. Regarding a woman, on the other hand, the Gemora in Kiddushin (7a) states: A woman would rather grow old together with a husband than alone; no matter whom the man might be, and therefore his family is not mentioned.

Sotah during Sefirah

It is written in the sefer, Minchas Ha’omer that it is fitting to learn Tractate Sotah, which contains forty-nine blat during the days of Sefirah, when we are counting forty-nine days.

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