Daf Yomi

For the week ending 7 August 2004 / 20 Av 5764

Bechorot 50 - 57

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Counting Sheep

"There shall yet be sheep passed along through one who counts them" (Yirmiyahu 33:13).

This passage from the prophecy concerning the restoration of Eretz Yisrael at the end of the exile is cited by our gemara as a guideline for determining the distance between the animals owned by a Jew which makes it impossible to combine them for the purpose of animal tithing.

The literal meaning of this passage is explained by the commentaries as an expression of how Eretz Yisrael, so desolate in the time of the Prophet, will bloom again with great prosperity for its returning exiles. One understanding is that there will be such a multitude of sheep that their owner will not be capable of counting them by himself and will be compelled to appoint someone to help him.

But even this literal reading of the passage has a figurative dimension. The Jewish people are compared to sheep, and their king to a shepherd. Just as the shepherd counts his sheep to ascertain that none are missing, so too will Jews have a leader who will concern himself with every one of them.

This, of course, is a reference to the golden days ahead. The targum of Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel explicitly states that the sheep and the counting shepherd refer to the leadership which Moshiach will provide for the nation.

  • Bechorot 54b

The Dropped Egg

There is a tale in our gemara of a wondrous giant bird call bar yachni which once dropped its egg while in flight and caused massive destruction where it fell.

This account is challenged on the basis of a passage (Iyov 39:13), which describes this bird as one that goes to great lengths to place its egg in its nest and does not let it fall to earth. In that passage this bird is called by another name kenaf renanim and its relationship to its offspring is encapsulated in the word neelesa. This word is actually an acronym for three words that convey a picture of a bird with such power that it is capable of carrying high a giant egg and gently placing it in its nest.

The context of this passage is the reproof that G-d gave to Iyov, who, in his great suffering, began to have doubts about Divine Providence being involved in every aspect of nature. This birds ability to so care for its egg is but one of a myriad of examples provided to show how the Creator cares for every detail in His creation.

As regards our own gemara the response to the above challenge is that in the bombing incident the bar yachni was aware that no bird would be hatched from that egg and therefore abandoned it.

  • Bechorot 57b

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