Daf Yomi

For the week ending 9 August 2003 / 11 Av 5763

Zevachim 62-68

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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The Silent Nephews

Rabbi Tarfon was very upset with the behavior of his nephews who sat before him and failed to carry on any discussion of Torah. In order to stimulate them he startled them by quoting the Torah passage which states that "Then again Avraham took a wife and her name was Keturah" (Bereishet 25:1), but deliberately substituting the name "Yochani" for "Keturah". His strategy worked for they quickly challenged him on this misquotation and a dialogue began.

Disappointed that it had taken so long for them to say any words of Torah he chided them for behaving like the "children of Keturah" which Rashi explains as meaning that they were like descendants of Avraham, but not like the offspring of Yitzchak and Yaakov.

But if Rabbi Tarfon wanted to chide his nephews for the lack of true Jewishness they demonstrated in failing to discuss Torah with him why did he not go two generations further and criticize them for behaving like the "children of Esav"?

Maharsha refers us to the ruling of Rambam that the children of Keturah were obligated to circumcise themselves just as were all of Avrahams male offspring. Rabbi Tarfons cutting remark was that even though his nephews were circumcised they were no better than the children of Keturah who were also circumcised but ignorant of Torah. In addition he did not wish to insult his brother-in-law by referring to him as the wicked Esav. Referring to his sister as Keturah, on the other hand, was not insulting because that name of Avrahams wife is a tribute to her righteousness, as our Sages explain that her actions were as fragrant as the ketoret incense offered upon the altar.

Zevachim 62b

Hands Only

The first indication to Shimshon that Heaven had blessed him with superhuman strength was his encounter with a young lion on his way to arrange a marriage with a Philistine woman. As the dangerous beast roared at him "a heavenly spirit descended upon him and he tore it in two as one would a kid goat" (Shoftim 14:6).

This passage is cited by our gemara as an explanation of the meaning of the word veshisa used in the Torahs instructions on preparing a fowl offered as an olah burnt sacrifice for its placement on the altar. The kohen performing these preparations was commanded to take the slaughtered body of the fowl and tear it apart without separating the two halves. This had to be done by hand and not through the use of any instrument. The proof is that the same term for such a tearing apart is found in regard to Shimshon who also used only his hands.

The only problem with this proof is that the fraction of the passage appearing in our text fails to indicate that Shimshon had no weapon and relied only on his hands. But if one takes the time to refer to the source quoted he will see that following the above-cited words the passage states that "there was nothing in his hands".

This is a classical example of how one enriches his understanding of the gemaras use of a scriptural passage by bothering to consult the source. It may be argued of course that even without this added information it would be obvious that Shimshon did it with hands alone because of the comparison to the sundering of a kid for which no instrument is required, and because this incident is mentioned as a demonstration of Shimshons prowess which is valid only if he had no weapon in hand. Nevertheless, the proof is far more convincing when the passage itself explicitly tells us what we need to know.

Zevachim 65b

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