Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Teyko, Bread of Shame and Toxic Masculinity? Bava Metzia 37-39


What Halachos Will Eliyahu Explain?

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses several scenarios where there is an unresolved disposition of ownership:

In the case of two people who deposited money with one person, and this one deposited one hundred dinars and that one deposited two hundred dinars, and when they come to collect their deposit, this one says: My deposit was two hundred dinars, and that one says: My deposit was two hundred dinars, the bailee gives one hundred dinars to this one and one hundred dinars to that one. And the rest of the money, i.e., the contested one hundred dinars, will be placed in a safe place until Elijah comes and prophetically determines the truth.

The simple reading of this idiom is that when Elijah the Prophet will arrive to herald the Mashiach, longstanding halachic disputes will be resolved. The scriptural basis for this comes from prophecies of Yeshaiyahu (11:9 and 11:3) about the future messianic times:

In all of My sacred mount 

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to GOD

As water covers the sea. 

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for GOD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

While there are more pashut ways to understand this prediction about the Mashiach, such as it is referring to a general wisdom and apprehension of the truth, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 93b) understands the Mashiach as literally deciding legal matters via divine insight. In a case such as our Gemara’s predicament, the Mashiach would know who the liar was. 

The Pesach Einayim on our Gemara says this is not a violation of the principle of the “Torah is not in Heaven”, which restricts a prophet from using prophecy to adjudicate a Torah law (Bava Metzia 59b). This is because here the Mashiach is simply acting like a lie detector test, revealing a fact. 

However, Halacha is not “fact”. It is not one decision, but is determined by the Rabbi or Sanhedrin with human intellect to understand how to apply the will of God, as expressed by that mitzvah or halacha in a particular circumstance and time. This is how we can understand that the Gemara can say, “these and those (each side of the dispute) are both the word of the living God.” Ritva (Eiruvin 13a) famously explains that every halacha has 49 aspects to allow and 49 aspects to forbid. This suggests that different situations, as well as rabbinic assessments, require different ways to enact the various aspects. Consider the following metaphor: You want to show your spouse that you love him or her. What do you do? Maybe she wants a gift? What kind of gift? Maybe he wants to hear compliments or praise? If so, what kind? So too, each halacha and mitzvah is an effort to honor and fulfill God’s will. But we need to first understand all the dimensions and then decide what is the dimension that is most called for. Once upon a time, the rabbis may have even had a tradition of various aspects or considerations within each mitzvah, and rules when each consideration is primary, which at this point we can only make guesses about. (See Rambam’s introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, in the section where he discusses halacha le-Moshe Mi-Sinai.)

Once we understand this principle, we can see how in our Gemara’s question we wait for Eliyahu to answer it, but in many other gemaras that have unresolved questions, the word used is Teyko. The word Teyko is often translated as coming from the acronym, “Tishbi Yetaretz Kushyos V’abayos – the Tishbite (Elijah) will answer the Torah questions and difficulties. While this derash on this word has been repeated by great sages and has meaning and depth as much as any derash does, which is to say a lot, it is NOT pashut peshat. Teyko is an Aramaic word which means, “Let the matter stand.” 

Now we can see how alternating the choice of the word Teyko for unresolved halachic questions, and the choice of the words “Ad Sheyavo Eliyahu” until Elijah comes, used for the resolutions of factual questions makes perfect sense. Halachic questions will not be answered in a miraculous manner during messianic times. There will be greater wisdom in general, and a functioning Sanhedrin, which will allow us to answer more questions, but the process will remain unchanged. Humans will still determine the answer, that is why we say Teyko, let it stand. There is no miraculous Deus Ex Machina that will one day solve those problems. On the other hand, when we have factual questions such as not knowing who is lying, we will count on King Mashiach to determine the truth, as prophesied by Yeshaiyahu.


Bread of Shame

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph makes an assertion about the psychology of ownership pride in order to explain the following position stated by the Mishna:

In the case of one who deposits produce with another, even if it is lost due to spoilage or vermin, the watchman may not touch it, as it is not his. 

What is the reason that the first tanna said that the watchman should not touch the produce? Rav Kahana says that it is based on the principle: A person prefers a kav (measure) of his own produce to nine kav of another’s produce. Consequently, despite the spoilage, the owner prefers that the watchman not touch the produce. 

The human need to feel attachment and mastery over himself and his objects is a natural and important instinct, when properly moderated. This is what motivates all kinds of achievement and, as with all emotions that have been conceived and endowed from God, they represent deep patterns in the spiritual realm as well. There is a mystical concept known as Nahama De-Kisufa, which translates as “Bread of Shame.”  (Imagine a beggar who must beg for his food, but all the while feels humiliated at being a “nebuch case”. This deep idea is brilliantly expressed by the Ramchal, in Derech Hashem (Part One, The Purpose of Creation, Ch. 2):

God is the greatest form of perfection, and part of His perfect goodness is bestowing this goodness. He therefore designed a world where we can have autonomy and ability to choose. So we can earn our reward. While we can never be fully independent as God is, because there can only be one God, God gives us a shot at the sense of perfection and fulfillment. A sense of fulfillment and mastery cannot be given to someone as a gift, just as you cannot give self-esteem or confidence. God designed the conflicted human personality with its ability to be noble and sublime but equally able to be evil and small. This is in order that what we choose to do is done so freely, and has meaning.  

You might ask, if God can do anything, and He only wants to be gracious, why can’t He “rig the system” and give us the feeling of satisfaction of accomplishing, even if we are not?  The answer is that God cannot do that, anymore than He can make a stone He cannot lift, or make 1+1=3.  This is not considered an imperfection or shortcoming on God’s part when He is “bound” to a truth. For more on this, see Ralbag’s commentary on Iyov (7:21), where he quips, “Even though a rooster can say “cock-a-doodle-do” while a human cannot, we do not say that the rooster has a superior quality to that of a human.”

People are not happy when they feel overwhelmed and hopeless, but are also just as miserable when they have no challenges. We do not feel happy by trying to be happy. God built us to feel good when we are working to accomplish meaningful goals. If we do not feel overwhelmed, and we feel we are on a level and fair playing field, the hard work is exhilarating, and not draining.    


Toxic Masculinity? 

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the connotation of the Hebrew word, netisha which translates approximately as, “abandon” or “leave behind”. The Torah (Shemos 23:11) commands that produce be abandoned in the field during the Shemittah year, as no commercial conduct is allowed. 

Malbim on this verse notes that though Hebrew has another word for abandon, “Azivah”, the word “Netisha” has a stronger more distancing abandonment. It implies casting it far away. 

One of the most famous verses that use this word form comes from Mishley (1:8):

שְׁמַ֣ע בְּ֭נִי מוּסַ֣ר אָבִ֑יךָ וְאַל־תִּ֝טֹּ֗שׁ תּוֹרַ֥ת אִמֶּֽךָ׃

My son, heed the discipline (musar) of your father, And do not forsake (Titosh) the instruction (Torah) of your mother.

The Hebrew word used here to express the idea of forsaking has the same root as “Netisha”. Let us study the construct of this verse. It seems to borrow the ironic style of a set of verses related to honoring one’s father and mother. In Vayikra (19:3) it states:

אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ

You shall each revere your mother and your father.

In Shemos (20:12) it states:

כַּבֵּ֥ד אֶת־אָבִ֖יךָ וְאֶת־אִמֶּ֑ךָ

Honor your father and your mother

Rashi (Vayikra ibid, quoting Kiddushin 30b-31a) notes that in the verse discussing reverential fear, the mother is stated first. While in Shemos, when discussing honor, it mentions the father first. This is because the Torah is emphasizing the aspect that is less intuitive. One will naturally want to honor one’s mother whose role is to provide nurture, and one may naturally have more fear and respect for one’s father who often, through normal male aggression, is more strict. The Torah therefore reminds us to run against our nature, and give both parents proper respect and honor.

Here too in Mishley, we might say that a mother provides education in basic manners and decency (“share your toys, brush your teeth etc.”) which is “mussar”, while a father who represents the outside world’s rules and standards, that are legal and regulatory, are called “Torah”. Yet, Solomon is advising to heed the Mussar of your father, and the Torah of your mother, similar to the Gemara Kiddushin, to go against the basic inclinations.

If we turn our attention to the choice of the word “Netisha”, we wonder why did Solomon use such a strong form of abandonment?  By using that word form, it suggests that one ought to slightly distance the Torah of one’s mother, just not totally abandon it. I wonder if this verse is addressing the psychological-developmental challenge of the young man. To be strong, he cannot be a Mama’s boy. No matter how many times Momma says, “Ignore the bully and he will go away”, or “Take the high road and don’t descend to their level”, plain and simple, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the school and adults cannot adequately protect a child. Even according to Torah ethics, when there is no choice and imminent loss, a person can take the law into his own hands (“Adam Dan Din Leatzmo”, Bava Kamma 27b.) Once in a while, the little boy has to turn his back on his mother’s feminine and conciliatory teachings, and just plain fight back against his foes, toe to toe.

This is not just true on the micro level, it is also true on the macro level. Psychoanalytically and unconsciously, the Gentile nations of the world relate to the Jews as a feminized people. We are the artists, the intellectuals, and even carry a permanent symbol on our most masculine part of our body indicating the subjugation of an aspect of our manhood to God. The UN wants Israel to make nice and act like Ghandi, while our enemies seek to run us into the sea. No, we will not do that.  We will fight the bullies.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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