Daf Yomi

For the week ending 18 December 2004 / 6 Tevet 5765

Tamid 29 - Middot 35

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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The Scholarly Peacemakers

One of the best known Talmudic statements is "Torah scholars increase peace in the world."

It is so familiar not only because, in addition to its appearance in our gemara and at the conclusion of Mesechot Berachot, Yevamot, Nazir and Bechorot, it is included in our prayer service. (There is a footnote in our sefarim which already calls attention to the fact that everywhere else this statement is attributed to Rabbi Elazar in the name of Rabbi Chanina while here it is credited to Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah.)

The source for this statement is the passage (Yeshayahu 54:13): "And all your sons shall be students of G-d and there will be abundant peace for your sons." The last word in this passage - banayich which we read as "your sons" can also be read as bonaich which means "your builders," and teaches us that those who study G-ds Torah build peace in the world.

There is a reason why this particular statement appears in all of the above-mentioned places, explains Maharsha, and he relates its appearance here to the preceding account of the dialogue between Alexander of Macedonia and the Torah scholars in the south of Eretz Yisrael. When he asked them to define who is considered a wise man, a powerful one and a wealthy one, he was hinting to them to pay tribute to the philosophical wisdom he acquired as a student of Aristotle, to his power as demonstrated in conquering so many lands, and his wealth accumulated from those conquests. These Sages, however, put down this haughty conqueror by defining true wisdom as recognizing the true purpose for which man was created, true power as self-control and true wealth as being content with ones modest earnings and not accumulating wealth through aggressive military conquest.

The moral lessons thus communicated by Torah scholars to a power-thirsty militarist certainly had an impact on retraining him from unlimited warfare and they thus proved that Torah scholars indeed increase peace in the world. The extension of this is the statement of Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah that the very study of Torah also serves, in some mystical way, to increase peace in the world.

  • Tamid 32b

The Lion on the Altar

In his prophecy regarding the second Beit Hamikdash, the Prophet Yechezkel thus describes the measurements of the roof of the altar:

"And the Ariel shall be twelve cubits long by twelve cubits wide, square in its four sides." (43:16)

Why was the roof of the altar upon which were burned the sacrifices called by the name Ariel?

In his commentary, Tiferet Yisrael offers a very interesting explanation. The gemara

(Mesechta Yoma 21b) relates that the fire which descended from Heaven upon the altar was in the form of a lion. (Rashi there writes that it was a large coal which descended upon the altar in the days of King Solomon in the shape of a crouching lion and remained there until the idol-worshipping King Menashe removed it.) Ari means "lion" and El means "powerful", and this fire was indeed like a powerful lion both in its brilliant appearance and in its ability to devour liquids as well as solids.

The only problem with this brilliant explanation is what Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Kohen Gadol, says in the above-mentioned gemara about seeing this Heaven-sent fire during the Second Beit Hamikdash period in the form of a dog rather than the lion which it simulated in the first one. How then can we fathom Yechezkels prophesy about the fire on the altar roof in the Second Beit Hamikdash being a lion like Ariel?

Perhaps the answer lies in what Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura points out concerning Yechezkels prophesying about the Third Beit Hamikdash of the future as well as the second one. (In his introduction to this mesechta, Tosefot Yom Tov elaborates on how the Second Beit Hamikdash had elements of both the first and the third.) It may be assumed that in the Beit Hamikdash which Mashiach will build, the glory of a lion-shaped fire on the altar will grace it and the Prophet can already refer to it as Ariel.

  • Middot 35b

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