Taking in the Flow
Our Gemara on amud aleph discusses a legal process that seems odd and unfair. In certain situations, where there is strong compelling evidence on both sides and no hope to further clarify, the judges may arbitrarily decide to eddie in favor of one petitioner over the other. For example, Kesuvos (85b) deals with a case where a man’s deathbed wishes are to give his possessions to Tuvia. The problem is, there are two people named “Tuvia” in the city. Assuming no evidence is given, the judge can simply choose whom to award the bequest. This is known as Shuda De-Dayni, the “throwing” of the judges, in a sense that they can just throw out a decision.
Rashi and Tosafos argue as to the extent of this judicial privilege. Rashi says the judge is supposed to formulate an educated guess and rely on subtle indications when there is no hard evidence. The judge is to intuit who indeed was closer to the deceased, and who was the deceased more likely to favor. However, Tosafos holds that even this is not incumbent upon the judge and he may give it to either person based on his whims.
How is Tosafos’ position just? Looking through the cold hard lens of logic, one can say the point is that justice is impossible here. The judge is just expected to settle the matter and keep the peace so that there is an orderly resolution instead of ongoing quarrel. Nevertheless, it still feels wrong, and there should be a more moral basis for Tosafos’ understanding of Shuda De-Dayni.
Likutei Halakhos Choshen Mishpat Laws of Movable Property 4.2 explains that our possessions are drawn to us via divine decree. Our efforts at parnassah potentiate possession that was latent within the object. In a certain way, “It has our name on it.” Likkutei Halakhos says this is why we let the judge make a seemingly arbitrary decision because somehow he will be guided by intuition to connect the money to the owner. He compares this to a different case without evidence but strong possession on both sides, where the judges may withdraw and encourage the disputants to work out for themselves. Literally, “Whoever is stronger will prevail.”
Even according to Rashi, though the judge may be trying to look for concrete clues and indications, ultimately, the most influential factor still might be the metaphysical draw that brings possessions to a person. Believing that what is meant for you has a tendency to flow more easily can lead to a more relaxed, and non-obsessional attitude towards one’s efforts, such as we discussed earlier in Psychology of the Daf Kiddushin 59.
You Can Take the Boy Out of Midian But You Can’t Take Midian Out of the Boy
Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses a dispute regarding how long it takes for a convert to be seen by the community as a regular member of the tribe, which has halakhic implications in terms of how many generations would be allowed to marry a mamzer. If the community thought of the convert as purely Jewish, it would be maris ayin (the appearance of sin), as a full member of the tribe may not marry a mamzer. Some say it takes until people no longer remember that he was a convert, and others say it requires ten generations.
This discussion may be related to a dispute that Rav and Shmuel had concerning Yisro’s reaction to hearing about the fall of Pharaoh and his empire to the Jews. The verse uses a non-typical word to express what would seem, from the context, to be Yisro’s joy (Shemos 18:9):
וַיִּ֣חַדְּ יִתְר֔וֹ עַ֚ל כׇּל־הַטּוֹבָ֔ה
Yisro rejoiced over all the good.
While the etymology of יִּ֣חַדְּ (Vayichad) is from “chedvah” (joy), it could also be related to “chad” (sharp). Therefore, Talmud Sanhedrin (94a) needs to figure out where the sharpness that was intermingled with Yisro’s expression of joy can be found:
ויחד יתרו רב ושמואל רב אמר שהעביר חרב חדה על בשרו ושמואל אמר שנעשה חדודים חדודים כל בשרו אמר רב היינו דאמרי אינשי גיורא עד עשרה דרי לא תבזה ארמאי קמיה
It is written in the previous verse: “Vayyiḥad Yisro for all the goodness that the Lord had done to Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of Egypt” (Exodus 18:9). Rav and Shmuel disagreed with regard to the meaning of vayyiḥad. Rav says: He passed a sharp [ḥad] sword over his flesh, i.e., he circumcised himself and converted. And Shmuel says: He felt as though cuts [ḥiddudim] were made over his flesh, i.e., he had an unpleasant feeling due to the downfall of Egypt. Rav says with regard to this statement of Shmuel that this is in accordance with the adage that people say: With regard to a convert, for ten generations after his conversion, one should not disparage a gentile before him and his descendants, as they continue to identify somewhat with gentiles and remain sensitive to their pain.
Parenthetically, this reminds me of a well-known story about Rav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg ZT’L, who apparently had a regular American childhood along with following certain sports teams. According to the story, decades after becoming a godol, he shared with a talmid that he is so happy that the Yankees won the World Series – not because they won, but because they won and he had no reaction, indicating that he finally got over his ties and attachment to this frivolous pastime!
In any case, one could argue that Shmuel’s opinion in Sanhedrin would be aligned with the opinion in our Gemara, allowing a convert ten generations before maris ayin prohibits marrying a mamzer.
Let us analyze the foundation of the dispute between Rav and Shmuel. Rav cannot fathom that Yisro was unable to let go of his emotional attachments and identification with his old secular culture. Perhaps even further, Yisro made a clean break via the pain and sacrifice of a bris milah. We might even say that Yisro was symbolically cutting out his old gentile identification. However, Shmuel seems to hold more pragmatically, “You can take the boy out of Midian, but you can’t take Midian out of the boy,” to paraphrase the American aphorism about the country boy. Shmuel says it takes ten generations to change one’s deep affiliations despite devout intention and sacrifice, and Yisro’s pain was over hearing the downfall of his old “team,” so to speak, the Egyptians.
We find two other disputes between Rav and Shmuel that may also hinge on this idea.
In Pesachim (116a), Rav and Shmuel disagree about when the Exodus story begins:
מַתְחִיל בִּגְנוּת וּמְסַיֵּים בְּשֶׁבַח. מַי בִּגְנוּת? רַב אָמַר: ״מִתְּחִלָה עוֹבְדֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה הָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ״. [וּשְׁמוּאֵל] אָמַר: ״עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ״.
It was taught in the mishna that the father begins his answer with disgrace and concludes with glory. The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of the term: With disgrace? Rav said that one should begin by saying: At first, our forefathers were idol worshipers, before concluding with words of glory. And Shmuel said: The disgrace with which one should begin his answer is: We were slaves in Egypt.
If we follow the reasoning of our earlier analysis, we can say that Rav holds the convert must utterly uproot any vestiges of idolatry. Therefore, when we recount the Jewish experience, we start with the disgrace of our ancestors in order to renounce their idol worship. Shmuel either feels that it is against human nature or will cause too much anguish, as he said in regard to disparaging an Aramite in front of a convert. Therefore, Shmuel holds that we start the Exodus story with slavery.
Similarly, in Shabbos (33b), Rav and Shmuel argue about steps Yaakov took in Shechem to reform and uplift the neighborhood after having emerged safely from his encounter with Esau.
אֲמַר: הוֹאִיל וְאִיתְרְחִישׁ נִיסָּא אֵיזִיל אַתְקֵין מִילְּתָא. דִּכְתִיב: ״וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב שָׁלֵם״, וְאָמַר רַב: שָׁלֵם בְּגוּפוֹ, שָׁלֵם בְּמָמוֹנוֹ, שָׁלֵם בְּתוֹרָתוֹ. ״וַיִּחַן אֶת פְּנֵי הָעִיר״, אָמַר רַב: מַטְבֵּעַ תִּיקֵּן לָהֶם, וּשְׁמוּאֵל אָמַר: שְׁוָוקִים תִּיקֵן לָהֶם, וְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן אָמַר: מֶרְחֲצָאוֹת תִּיקֵן לָהֶם. אֲמַר: אִיכָּא מִלְּתָא דְּבָעֵי לְתַקּוֹנֵי? אֲמַרוּ לֵיהּ: אִיכָּא דּוּכְתָּא דְּאִית בֵּיהּ סְפֵק טוּמְאָה
Rabbi Shimon said: Since a miracle transpired for me, I will go and repair something for the sake of others in gratitude for God’s kindness, as it is written: “And Jacob came whole to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan when he came from Paddan-aram; and he graced the countenance of the city” (Genesis 33:18). Rav said, the meaning of: And Jacob came whole is: Whole in his body, whole in his money, whole in his Torah. And what did he do? And he graced the countenance of the city; he performed gracious acts to benefit the city. Rav said: Jacob established a currency for them. And Shmuel said: He established marketplaces for them.
According to Rav, an entire overhaul was necessary, symbolic of changing the currency, which essentially means changing the government, representing complete social reform. On the other hand, Shmuel’s understanding of Yaakov’s contribution to the betterment of Shechem society was less ambitious: keep the currency the same, just make marketplace reforms. In other words, work with what you have and change more slowly.
One final parallel dispute comes from Shabbos (22a) regarding whether one may light from one Chanukah lamp to another or use fringes from one tzitzis garment for another:
אִיתְּמַר: רַב אָמַר אֵין מַדְלִיקִין מִנֵר לְנֵר, וּשְׁמוּאֵל אָמַר מַדְלִיקִין. רַב אָמַר אֵין מַתִּירִין צִיצִית מִבֶּגֶד לְבֶגֶד, וּשְׁמוּאֵל אָמַר מַתִּירִין מִבֶּגֶד לְבֶגֶד. רַב אָמַר אֵין הֲלָכָה כְּרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בִּגְרִירָה, וּשְׁמוּאֵל אָמַר הֲלָכָה כְּרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בִּגְרִירָה.
Rav said: One may not light from one Hanukkah lamp to another lamp. And Shmuel said: One may light in that manner. The Gemara cites additional disputes between Rav and Shmuel. Rav said: One may not untie ritual fringes from one garment in order to affix them to another garment. And Shmuel said: One may untie them from one garment and affix them to another garment.
According to Rav, not allowing a transfer from one lamp to another is a manifestation of his standard of making a dramatic, clean break, with nothing from the past. Similarly, Shmuel allows for the old fire and the old fringes to be added onto a new garment. Shmuel allows for taking parts of the old and transitioning gradually to the new.
The Impact of Shame and Diminishment
Our Gemara on Amud Beis describes a rivalry between two sages regarding who would hold a public office. Rav Ada Bar Ahava ruled that they should split their duties, with one in charge of spiritual affairs and the other responsible for civic matters.
Rav Dovid Sperber (Afarkasta D’Anya, YD 126) used this Gemara as a basis to reject a proposal for two rabbis to serve as the chief rabbi of a city. He referenced Rav Ada Bar Ahava’s stance against “two kings using the same crown.” He also cited teachings that highlight the potential for conflict when there are two leaders, such as the practice of not anointing two High Priests simultaneously (Yerushalmmi Megillah 1:10) and that Yehoshua could not lead until Moshe passed on, as there can be “Only one leader for a generation, not two” (Sanhedrin 8a).
Assuming this perspective, it raises a question regarding the famous Midrash about the Sun and the Moon (Chulin 60b):
רבי שמעון בן פזי רמי כתיב (בראשית א, טז) ויעש אלהים את שני המאורות הגדולים וכתיב את המאור הגדול ואת המאור הקטן אמרה ירח לפני הקב”ה רבש”ע אפשר לשני מלכים שישתמשו בכתר אחד אמר לה לכי ומעטי את עצמך
Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi raises a contradiction between two verses. It is written: “And God made the two great lights” (Genesis 1:16), and it is also written in the same verse: “The greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night,” indicating that only one was great. Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi explains: When God first created the sun and the moon, they were equally bright. Then, the moon said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, is it possible for two kings to serve with one crown? One of us must be subservient to the other. God therefore said to her, i.e., the moon: If so, go and diminish yourself.
אמרה לפניו רבש”ע הואיל ואמרתי לפניך דבר הגון אמעיט את עצמי אמר לה לכי ומשול ביום ובלילה אמרה ליה מאי רבותיה דשרגא בטיהרא מאי אהני אמר לה זיל לימנו בך ישראל ימים ושנים אמרה ליה יומא נמי אי אפשר דלא מנו ביה תקופותא דכתיב (בראשית א, יד) והיו לאותות ולמועדים ולימים ושנים זיל ליקרו צדיקי בשמיך (עמוס ז, ב) יעקב הקטן שמואל הקטן (שמואל א יז, יד) דוד הקטן
She said before Him: Master of the Universe, since I said a correct observation before You, must I diminish myself? God said to her: As compensation, go and rule both during the day along with the sun and during the night. She said to Him: What is the greatness of shining alongside the sun? What use is a candle in the middle of the day? God said to her: Go; let the Jewish people count the days and years with you, and this will be your greatness. She said to Him: But the Jewish people will count with the sun as well, as it is impossible that they will not count seasons with it, as it is written: “And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). God said to her: Go; let righteous men be named after you. Just as you are called the lesser [hakatan] light, there will be Ya’akov HaKatan, i.e., Jacob our forefather (see Amos 7:2), Shmuel HaKatan the tanna, and David HaKatan, i.e., King David (see I Samuel 17:14).
חזייה דלא קא מיתבא דעתה אמר הקב”ה הביאו כפרה עלי שמיעטתי את הירח והיינו דאמר ר”ש בן לקיש מה נשתנה שעיר של ראש חדש שנאמר בו (במדבר כח, טו) לה’ אמר הקב”ה שעיר זה יהא כפרה על שמיעטתי את הירח
God saw that the moon was not comforted. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Bring atonement for me, since I diminished the moon. The Gemara notes: And this is what Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: What is different about the goat offering of the New Moon, that it is stated with regard to it: “For the Lord” (Numbers 28:15)? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: This goat shall be an atonement for Me for having diminished the size of the size of the moon.
While this Aggadah requires deeper exploration, we will focus on a few key points. The story is often interpreted as implying that having two kings and one crown is acceptable, with the Moon’s arrogance and jealousy leading to her suggestion of diminishing “someone.” However, as per Rav Sperber’s interpretation, the Moon had a valid point. The Gemara records her complaint as having a “correct observation” without offering a refutation. This suggests that the Moon’s perspective was indeed valid. In this context, what becomes a point of contention is the motivation behind her suggestion to diminish “someone.” Her motivation appears to be self-promotion, rather than a genuine desire for orderly leadership.
As we delve into this Aggadah, there is an interesting textual anomaly. God’s initial response to the Moon’s impudence is, “[If so], go and diminish yourself,” implying that the Moon was asked to submit and diminish herself. However, later, when God expresses regret, He says, “Bring atonement for Me, since I diminished the moon.” This suggests that God directly participated in diminishing the moon. Why does God attributes the diminishment to Himself when He initially pressured the Moon into doing it herself?
The answer may lie in the Aggadah’s emphasis on the consequences of inducing or shaming someone into self-diminishment. It suggests that when one compels or shames another into diminishing themselves, it is as if they have done it directly. This highlights the importance of motivation and intention in leadership and the potential harm in using manipulation for self-promotion.
Filling the Empty Space
This daf delves into the intricate matter of the invalidation of Challalah to marry a cohen. A challalah is a woman who either descends from a forbidden priestly marriage, such as when a Cohen marries a divorcee, or a woman who engages in such a prohibited union, like a widow who marries a Cohen Gadol. As a result, she becomes a challalah, rendering her ineligible to partake of Terumah and preventing her from marrying another Cohen in the event of widowhood.
The richness of L’shon Kodesh, the holy language, lies in its subtleties, as its words stem from a limited set of roots that are self-contained, allowing for precision and conveying deeper meanings. Gan Naul, in his introduction, addresses this linguistic uniqueness and provides an example with the terms for “Sunrise” and “Sunset,” which are distinct in Talmudic and Rabbinic Hebrew but differ in Biblical Hebrew. In the latter, it is described as the “Sun Came” or the “Sun Shone” (Bereishis 15:12, 28:11, and Koheles 1:5). Gan Naul suggests that this choice of words in Biblical Hebrew accurately represents the Sun’s movement as it appears to rise and set, but in reality, it merely comes and goes and shines, as there is no up or down in space.
Examining the word “Challalah,” it derives from “Chillul,” a term many associate with “Chillul Hashem,” a desecration of God’s name. But what does this truly signify? The Shoresh “Ch-L-L” means to hollow out. In modern Hebrew, outer space is called “challal,” denoting a vacuum or void. In Biblical contexts, a corpse is referred to as a “Challal” because it becomes an empty vessel with its soul hollowed out (Devarim 21:1). This concept is related to a “chalil,” a flute (Shemos 15:20), which is hollow; a “choleh,” an ill person (Bereishis 48:1), who is “missing something”; and a “chalon,” a window (Bereishis 6:16), which is essentially a hole in the wall.
This understanding deepens our appreciation of the term “Chillul Hashem.” Hashem fills the world with His divine presence and energy. When we commit actions that desecrate or desanctify His presence in the world, it is as if we are hollowing it out. We make the world dead of Godliness. This is why Avraham passionately pleads to spare the people of Sodom if righteous individuals exist among them (Bereishis 18:25). He recognizes that failing to enact justice with precision would result in a “Chillul,” a hollowing out, from the world of divine presence.
Returning to the term “Challalah,” it is precisely fitting because it stands apart from other invalidations in lineage. In this case, it signifies the removal and hollowing out of the holiness that once resided within her and her family due to the profane act. (For a more detailed perspective on this, refer to Malbim on Vayikra 15:1.)
Hence, in the spiritual realm, as made known by the nuances of L’shon Kodesh, the world is filled with Hashem’s presence, and sin is what hollows us out and deprives us of God’s divine flow.