TalmuDigest

For the week ending 21 June 2008 / 18 Sivan 5768

Sotah 30 - 36

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
  • Levite cities and how Jews sang at splitting of the sea
  • The importance of serving G-d out of love
  • Evidence or testimony required to prohibit a suspected adulteress to remain married
  • Which things must be said in Lashon Hakodesh (Hebrew) and which in any language
  • How the blessings and curses were delivered after entering Eretz Yisrael
  • Why the declaration made along with bikurim is made aloud while the confession accompanying ma’aser is not
  • Why prayer is not said aloud
  • Sources for saying Shma, prayers and grace after meals in any language
  • The language which angels do not recognize
  • The miraculous crossing of the Jordan River
  • All about Yosef in Egypt and his descendants in Eretz Yisrael

The Original Long-Range Missile

  • Sotah 36a

In promising our ancestors Heavenly assistance in conquering the nations inhabiting the Land promised to them, G-d declared, "I will send the tzirah before you and will drive out the Chivite, Canaanite and the Chittite nations before you." (Shmot 23:28)

The tzirah, Rashi explains, was a flying insect that shot poison into the eyes of its victims and killed them.

Although it would seem that this secret weapon accompanied the Jewish armies in their invasion of Eretz Israel, we are informed in our gemara that it never crossed the Jordan River. The hint to this in the above-mentioned passage, explains Rashi, is that two of the nations mentioned – the Canaanites and Chittites – inhabited the lands of Sichon and Og on the eastern side of the Jordan. This, however, does not explain how the tzirah was employed against the Chivites on the western side of the river. The answer to this is supplied by Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish who states that the tzirah stood on the eastern bank of the river and shot its deadly poison across the Jordan. Maharsha adds to this explanation the information that the Chivites were situated near the western bank of the river and therefore within range of the tzirah's artillery.

Maharsha, however, challenges Rashi's approach based on the Chittites' location on the eastern side of the river because we find them mentioned both in Bereishet 23:3 and 27:26 in connection with the Patriarchs who lived in Chevron. He suggests another source (Yehoshua 24:10), which clearly indicates that the tzirah's main area of operation was in the land of the two Emorite kings on the eastern side of the Jordan.

What the Sages Say

"Greater is one who serves G-d out of love than one who does so out of fear for the merit of the latter has an impact upon one thousand generations while that of the former two thousand."

  • Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar - Sotah 31a

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