Sing Baby Sing Sotah 30 Good Job Bad Job Sotah 31 Location Is Everything Sotah32
Sing Baby, Sing Sotah 30
Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses the levels of prophecy that occurred at the splitting of the Red Sea and how the Jews and Moshe responded via the prophetic singing of Az Yashir:
תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן דָּרַשׁ רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן הַיָּם נָתְנוּ עֵינֵיהֶם לוֹמַר שִׁירָה וְכֵיצַד אָמְרוּ שִׁירָה עוֹלָל מוּטָּל עַל בִּרְכֵּי אִמּוֹ וְתִינוֹק יוֹנֵק מִשְּׁדֵי אִמּוֹ כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאוּ אֶת הַשְּׁכִינָה עוֹלָל הִגְבִּיהַּ צַוָּארוֹ וְתִינוֹק שָׁמַט דַּד מִפִּיו וְאָמְרוּ זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים וְיֹנְקִים יִסַּדְתָּ עֹז
The Sages taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yosei HaGelili taught: At the time that the Jewish people ascended from the sea they resolved to sing a song of gratitude to God. And how did they recite this song? If a baby was lying on his mother’s lap or an infant was nursing from his mother’s breasts, once they saw the Divine Presence, the baby straightened his neck and the infant dropped the breast from his mouth, and they recited: “This is my God and I will glorify Him” (Exodus 15:2). As it is stated: “Out of the mouths of babies and sucklings You have founded strength” (Psalms 8:3).
The Maharal (Gevuros Hashem 5:47) makes a number of important observations in order to understand this piece of Aggadah. The idea of saying “Shirah”, spontaneous songs of praise to God, is the soul’s deep recognition and return back to God in a state of yearning and longing for attachment. A Shirah is an eruption of the created being, recognizing its Creator and gravitating in a spiritually instinctive manner to return back to its roots. Think of it like a drop of water that gravitates back to the ocean and clings to it to become one with it. This is the true meaning of the aggadic statements that the nursing babies, and even the fetuses, saw God and joined in the Shirah. Maharal says it doesn’t literally mean that suckling infants and fetuses sang to God along with the Jewish people. It means that deep in their souls, they perceived it, and were aroused by God’s presence, and sought to become attached.
Aside from this being a most beautiful and deeply insightful representation of the human spiritual longing, we also see once again that we do not need to take certain aggados literally when they don’t make a lot of sense. Even if it were a historical fact, that these fetuses and suckling babies miraculously broke out into song, it’s kind of empty of real meaning. It’s just describing a powerful miracle. You could argue, there were so many other powerful miracles at the Red Sea. This is just one more effect. However, to me, it seems like miracle overkill. What use is it for babies to prophecy and erupt into song? And how would they be normal after that anyhow? Or even if you were to argue that based on Niddah (30b-31a) every fetus learns the entire Torah while it is in utero and then forgets it, obviously, this was something greater than that. How would those suckling babies be able to develop normally after being exposed to such an intense, emotional, spiritual and intellectual experience? This is why, according to the Maharal, it is not literal, and it is a metaphor for a deep, rejoicing and expression of attachment that comes from an arousal of spiritual instincts.
Good Job, Bad Job Sotah 31
Our Gemara on aleph concludes that Iyov’s level of love and fear of God matched Avraham’s.
תַּנְיָא רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר נֶאֱמַר יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים בְּאִיּוֹב וְנֶאֱמַר יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים בְּאַבְרָהָם מָה יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים הָאָמוּר בְּאַבְרָהָם מֵאַהֲבָה אַף יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים הָאָמוּר בְּאִיּוֹב מֵאַהֲבָה
It is taught in a baraisa (Tosefta 6:1) that Rabbi Meir says: It is stated with regard to Job that he was “God-fearing” (Job 1:1), and it is stated with regard to Abraham that he was “God-fearing” (Genesis 22:12). Just as the description “God-fearing,” which is stated with regard to Abraham, is referring to Abraham’s fearing God out of love, so too, the description “God-fearing” that is stated with regard to Job indicates that Job feared God out of love.
This fear is referring to a sophisticated level of fear that comes from recognition and awe, and has an aspect of love within it as well. This is not the same as worship out of fear of punishment or hopes of reward. The Mesilas Yesharim (24:3) explains:
יש יראת העונש, וזהו המין האחד, ויש יראת הרוממות, וזהו המין הב’, שיראת החטא חלק ב’ ממנו, ונבאר עתה ענינם והבדליהם.
The first type is fear of punishment, and the second is fear of G-d’s exaltedness (Yiras Haromemus), of which Fear of Sin is the second part therein. We will now explain their matters and differences.
ראת העונש, כפשוטה שאדם ירא מעבור את פי ה’ אלהיו מפני העונשים אשר לעבירות, אם לגוף, ואם לנפש. והנה זאת קלה ודאי כי כל אדם אוהב את עצמו, ויירא לנפשו, ואין דבר שירחיק אותו מעשות דבר אחד יותר מן היראה שלא תבואהו בו איזה רעה.
Fear of punishment, as its name implies, is for a person to fear transgressing the word of the L-rd, his G-d, due to the punishments incurred for the transgression, whether to body or soul. This [type of fear] is certainly easy to attain. For every man loves himself and fears for his soul and there is nothing which keeps a person from doing something more than the fear that this thing might bring harm to him.
המין הב’ הוא יראת הרוממות, והוא שהאדם ירחק מן החטאים, ולא יעשה מפני כבודו הגדול יתברך שמו, כי איך יקל, או איך יערב לבו של בשר ודם שפל ונמאס לעשות דבר נגד רצונו של הבורא יתברך ויתעלה שמו?
The second type of fear is fear of G-d’s exaltedness (Yirat Haromemus). It means that a person distances and refrains from sin because of G-d’s great honor, blessed be His Name. For how could his heart of flesh and blood, lowly and petty, allow or dare do something against the will of the Creator, blessed and exalted be His Name?!
והנה זאת היראה אינה כל כך קלה להשיג אותה, כי לא תולד אלא מתוך ידיעה והשכלה להתבונן על רוממותו יתברך, ועל פחיתותו של האדם, כל אלה דברים מתולדות השכל המבין ומשכיל. והיא היראה אשר שמנוה לח”ב מא’ מחלקי החסידות אשר זכרנו.
This type of fear is not so easy to attain, for it will arise only out of knowledge and thought, [namely] by contemplating G-d’s exaltedness, blessed be He, and the lowliness of man. All these things are outgrowths of the intellect which understands and attains insight. This is the fear we described previously in Piety, setting it as the second part of one of the divisions of Piety.
בה יבוש האדם ויחרד בעמדו לפני קונו להתפלל או לעבוד כל עבודה, היא היראה המשובחת שנשתבחו בה חסידי עולם, והוא מה שמשה מדבר ואומר (דברים כח:נח): ליראה את השם הנכבד והנורא הזה את ה’ אלהיך.
When experiencing this fear [of G-d’s exaltedness], a person will feel shame and tremble when standing before his Maker to pray or when performing any divine service. This is the praiseworthy fear which the pious great men were praised for. It is what Moshe referred to when he said: “to fear this glorious and awesome Name, the L-rd, your G-d” (Devarim 28:58).
However, the Yerushalmi (Berachos 9:5) has a less esteemed view of Iyov:
פָּרוּשׁ יִרְאָה כְּאִיּוֹב. פָּרוּשׁ אַהֲבָה כְּאַבְרָהָם. אֵין לָךְ חָבִיב מִכּוּלָּם אֶלָּא פָּרוּשׁ אַהֲבָה כְּאַבְרָהָם.
Religious from fear, like Job. Religious from love, like Abraham. No one is beloved as much as the religious from love, like Abraham.
What is the theological issue at stake here between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi? I believe the Yerushalmi simply cannot accept a scenario where a devout man such as Iyov could have been tested and suffered so greatly if he was thoroughly pure and devoted to God. Thus, the Yerushalmi’s take on Iyov is that he was an obedient man, who feared God, but did not serve Him from the depth of his soul. The lesson that Iyov learned through his process was that he could not use God as his guarantor, that he would obey in order to secure his safety, because in the end, he was not safe. God owed him nothing, which at times, Iyov (ch. 9) states but also you can hear the ambivalence in his tone:
וַיַּ֥עַן אִיּ֗וֹב וַיֹּאמַֽר׃
Job said in reply:
אׇ֭מְנָם יָדַ֣עְתִּי כִי־כֵ֑ן וּמַה־יִּצְדַּ֖ק אֱנ֣וֹשׁ עִם א-ל
Indeed I know that it is so Man cannot win a suit against God.
אִם־יַ֭חְפֹּץ לָרִ֣יב עִמּ֑וֹ לֹֽא־יַ֝עֲנֶ֗נּוּ אַחַ֥ת מִנִּי־אָֽלֶף׃
If he insisted on a trial with Him,
He would not answer one charge in a thousand.
חֲכַ֣ם לֵ֭בָב וְאַמִּ֣יץ כֹּ֑חַ מִֽי־הִקְשָׁ֥ה אֵ֝לָ֗יו וַיִּשְׁלָֽם׃
Wise of heart and mighty in power—
Who ever challenged Him and came out whole?—
הַמַּעְתִּ֣יק הָ֭רִים וְלֹ֣א יָדָ֑עוּ אֲשֶׁ֖ר הֲפָכָ֣ם בְּאַפּֽוֹ׃
Him who moves mountains without their knowing it,
Who overturns them in His anger;
הַמַּרְגִּ֣יז אֶ֭רֶץ מִמְּקוֹמָ֑הּ וְ֝עַמּוּדֶ֗יהָ יִתְפַּלָּצֽוּן׃
Who shakes the earth from its place,
Till its pillars quake;
הָאֹמֵ֣ר לַ֭חֶרֶס וְלֹ֣א יִזְרָ֑ח וּבְעַ֖ד כּוֹכָבִ֣ים יַחְתֹּֽם׃
Who commands the sun not to shine;
Who seals up the stars;
נֹטֶ֣ה שָׁמַ֣יִם לְבַדּ֑וֹ וְ֝דוֹרֵ֗ךְ עַל־בָּ֥מֳתֵי יָֽם׃
Who by Himself spread out the heavens,
And trod on the back of the sea;
עֹֽשֶׂה־עָ֭שׁ כְּסִ֥יל וְכִימָ֗ה וְחַדְרֵ֥י תֵמָֽן׃
Who made the Bear and Orion,
Pleiades, and the chambers of the south wind;
עֹשֶׂ֣ה גְ֭דֹלוֹת עַד־אֵ֣ין חֵ֑קֶר וְנִפְלָא֗וֹת עַד־אֵ֥ין מִסְפָּֽר׃
Who performs great deeds which cannot be fathomed,
And wondrous things without number.
הֵ֤ן יַעֲבֹ֣ר עָ֭לַי וְלֹ֣א אֶרְאֶ֑ה וְ֝יַחֲלֹ֗ף וְֽלֹא־אָבִ֥ין לֽוֹ׃
He passes me by—I do not see Him;
He goes by me, but I do not perceive Him.
הֵ֣ן יַ֭חְתֹּף מִ֣י יְשִׁיבֶ֑נּוּ מִי־יֹאמַ֥ר אֵ֝לָ֗יו מַֽה־תַּעֲשֶֽׂה׃
He snatches away—who can stop Him?
Who can say to Him, “What are You doing?”
On the other hand, the Bavli makes no preconditions, and sees the lesson in Iyov as more extreme. Even one who worships solely out of love and devotion gets no guarantees for protection or material safety in this world. God’s ways are simply unfathomable.
Such an idea is represented later on in chapters 38-42 when God finally steps in and answers Iyov’s complaints, basically saying, “Did you create the Universe so that you understand how everything is supposed to work? Perhaps you were around at the beginning of time?”
אֵיפֹ֣ה הָ֭יִיתָ בְּיׇסְדִי־אָ֑רֶץ הַ֝גֵּ֗ד אִם־יָדַ֥עְתָּ בִינָֽה׃
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Speak if you have understanding.
מִי־שָׂ֣ם מְ֭מַדֶּיהָ כִּ֣י תֵדָ֑ע א֤וֹ מִֽי־נָטָ֖ה עָלֶ֣יהָ קָּֽו׃
Do you know who fixed its dimensions
Or who measured it with a line?
עַל־מָ֭ה אֲדָנֶ֣יהָ הׇטְבָּ֑עוּ א֥וֹ מִי־יָ֝רָ֗ה אֶ֣בֶן פִּנָּתָֽהּ׃
Onto what were its bases sunk?
Who set its cornerstone
הֲנִגְל֣וּ לְ֭ךָ שַׁעֲרֵי־מָ֑וֶת וְשַׁעֲרֵ֖י צַלְמָ֣וֶת תִּרְאֶֽה׃
Have the gates of death been disclosed to you?
Have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
הִ֭תְבֹּנַנְתָּ עַד־רַחֲבֵי־אָ֑רֶץ הַ֝גֵּ֗ד אִם־יָדַ֥עְתָּ כֻלָּֽהּ׃
Have you surveyed the expanses of the earth?
If you know of these—tell Me.
אֵי־זֶ֣ה הַ֭דֶּרֶךְ יִשְׁכׇּן־א֑וֹר וְ֝חֹ֗שֶׁךְ אֵי־זֶ֥ה מְקֹמֽוֹ׃
Which path leads to where light dwells,
And where is the place of darkness,
כִּ֣י תִ֭קָּחֶנּוּ אֶל־גְּבוּל֑וֹ וְכִי־תָ֝בִ֗ין נְתִיב֥וֹת בֵּיתֽוֹ׃
That you may take it to its domain
And know the way to its home?
…and Iyov finally relents (ch. 42):
עַל־כֵּ֭ן אֶמְאַ֣ס וְנִחַ֑מְתִּי עַל־עָפָ֥ר וָאֵֽפֶר׃
Therefore, I recant and relent,
Being but dust and ashes.
…Leading to God restoring Iyov fully, now that he really understands:
Location Is Everything Sotah 32
Our gemara on Amud Beis notes that the sin offering (chattas) is sacrificed in the same location:
וּגְנוּתוֹ בְּקוֹל רָם וְהָאָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן מִשּׁוּם רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחַי מִפְּנֵי מָה תִּקְּנוּ תְּפִלָּה בְּלַחַשׁ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא לְבַיֵּישׁ אֶת עוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵירָה שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא חָלַק הַכָּתוּב מָקוֹם בֵּין חַטָּאת לְעוֹלָה
The Gemara asks: But should one really say that which is to his discredit in a loud voice? But didn’t Rabbi Yoḥanan say in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai himself: For what reason did the Sages institute that the Amida prayer should be recited in a whisper? So as not to embarrass transgressors who confess their transgressions during their prayer. There is proof that transgressors should not be embarrassed, as the verse detailing where different offerings are slaughtered does not differentiate between the place where a sin-offering is slaughtered and the place where a burnt-offering is slaughtered, so that it will not be recognized when one is bringing a sin-offering and the sinner will not be embarrassed. This shows that one should also say that which is to his discredit quietly.
The Alshich (Vayikra 6:17) adds to this thought. Actually the Olah offering and the Sin offering are really the same to God; whether we sin or offer him gifts, in the end, we cannot reach him or do anything for him. It is all for us. To God, in one sense, sin and saint are the same. But from Man’s vantage point there IS a difference. An Olah sacrifice is not eaten because it is for acts of omission, impure thoughts and other distancing from God. It is an inaction so it does not require a human action and is fully burned on the altar. A chattas sin-offering is for a sinful deed. Therefore, Man must repair and do action in this world. The Cohen eats from the sin offering, repairing and restoring objects and actions in this world, which had been corrupted and now are brought back into the service of God.