TalmuDigest

For the week ending 11 August 2007 / 27 Av 5767

Yevamot 100 - 106

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Two Pillars for a Longer Life

  • Yevamot 105a

"I have therefore sworn concerning the House of Eli that the sin of the House of Eli will never be atoned for through animal sacrifice or meal offering." (Shmuel I 3:14)

This was the severe judgment passed by Heaven on the descendants of the Kohen Gadol Eli because of the disgraceful manner in which his two sons conducted themselves in regard to the sacrifices offered in the Sanctuary at Shiloh. The result was that all of his descendants passed away at a very young age.

Two exceptions were the Sages Rabbah and Abaye. The first lived more than double the age of the other descendants and passed away at the age of forty while the latter lived until sixty.

"Sacrifices and meal offerings cannot achieve atonement," explained Rabbah, "but the study of Torah can."

Abaye gave a similar explanation for his comparative longevity but added to Torah study the merit of doing acts of lovingkindness.

Maharsha calls our attention to the mishna in Pirkei Avot (1:2) which states that "The world stands on three things: the study of Torah, the offering of sacrifices and the acts of lovingkindess." Since the sons of Eli profaned the sacrifices it was impossible for such service to atone for their sin because the prosecutor cannot serve as a defender. This left the other two pillars — Torah study and lovingkindness — as the remaining channels for achieving atonement.

While Rabbah put a greater stress on Torah study than on lovingkindness, he was given only twenty extra years. His disciple Abaye managed to excel in both Torah study and lovingkindess and thus gained a prolongation of forty years.

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