Daf Yomi

25 Av 1 Elul, 5762 / August 3-9, 2002

#54 - Bava Batra 135-141

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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The Secret of a Longer Life

Mamulai is what Rabbi Huna, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua, called Rabbi Bibi, the son of the Sage Abaye, when he presented a criticism of a move he had made to secure a gift he had received.

Rashbam explains that this was a reference to the region of Mamlei where the descendants of Eli the Kohen Gadol lived. This geographical designation, he points out, appears in a Midrash (Bereishet Rabba 59:1) about a visit which Rabbi Meir made to Mamlei. He noticed that there were no older people there, only dark haired youths. He surmised that they must be descendants of Eli, who was told by Hashem that as punishment for the sins of his sons, all the male adults of his household would die as young men. (Shmuel I 2:33). When they confirmed this and begged him to pray for them to enjoy long life, he told them to become involved in charity and they would be blessed with longevity.

A similar idea, adds Rashbam, is found in the gemara (Mesechta Rosh Hashana 18a) in regard to the oath taken by Hashem that the sin of the household of Eli would not be forgiven through animal sacrifices and flour offerings (ibid. 3:14). The finality of a Heavenly judgment thus accompanied by an oath did not discourage two eminent sages descended from Eli from striving for a life longer than the eighteen years which was the norm for other descendants. The Sage Rabba interpreted the Heavenly decree and oath as only ruling out sacrifices as a means of atonement, but not excluding Torah study, and lived to forty, more than twice as long as other descendants. His disciple Abaye made the same deduction but added gemilat chassadim (acts of kindness) to Torah study as a means of achieving atonement and long life. He dedicated himself to both and lived till sixty.

The aforementioned gemara also relates the story of a family not in Mamlei but in Jerusalem whose members died at the age of eighteen. When Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai learned of this he surmised that they were descendants of Eli and advised them to dedicate themselves to Torah study. They followed his advice and lived longer. In recognition of this, that family was afterwards known as Rabbi Yochanans Family.

Bava Batra 137a

The Man Who Had Everything

And Hashem blessed Avraham with everything (bakol) (Bereishet 24:1).

Both Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda understood this passage as a reference to the question of whether Avraham had a daughter. While Rabbi Meir saw the blessing as his not having a daughter, Rabbi Yehudas view is that he did indeed have a daughter and her name was Bakol (the Hebrew word for everything).

Ramban, in his commentary on the Torah, explains why it was a blessing for Avraham not to have a daughter. He certainly could not have married her to one of his cursed Canaanite neighbors. To find a husband for her in his homeland as he found there a wife for his son was also not an option. Not only would he be reluctant to let her go live with such a husband because it would mean that a child born from the righteous Sarah would have to abandon Eretz Yisrael, but he would he would also be concerned that she would become an idol worshipper like her husband. Hashem spared him this agony and made his happiness complete by withholding a daughter from him.

Rabbi Yehuda, however, viewed the lack of a daughter as something missing in the blessing of Hashem. Even a daughter was not lacking is his interpretation of the totality of this blessing. As Ramban phrases it, he had everything that people desire with nothing missing.

In regard to the significance of Rabbi Yehuda informing us that this daughters name was Bakol, there is an elaborate esoteric explanation to be found in the aforementioned commentary of Ramban.

Bava Batra 141a

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