Daf Yomi

For the week ending 1 September 2012 / 13 Elul 5772

Berachot 30 - 36

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The travelers prayer
  • Prayer in emergency situations
  • Direction of prayer
  • Musaf for the individual
  • Preparation for prayer and concentration
  • Windows in the synagogue
  • Number of daily prayers
  • Lessons from the prayer of Chana
  • Prayers of Moshe following sin of Golden Calf and for entry into Eretz Yisrael
  • Power of prayer
  • Need for reinforcement
  • When prayer may be interrupted
  • Prayer for rain and havdalah
  • Improper prayers
  • Leading the prayer service
  • Bowing in prayer
  • Status of the Baal Teshuva
  • Prayer of a tzaddik
  • Blessings on food

Woe to the Serpent

One of the many wonders connected with the great tzaddik Rabbi Chanina ben Dossa began when he was informed about a place where a serpent was attacking people. He asked to be shown the hole where the serpent hid and then placed his heel on top of it. As expected, the serpent bit him. But as unexpected, it was the serpent that died. Rabbi Chanina then carried the dead serpent on his shoulders, entered the Beit Midrash and announced to those studying there: "See, my sons, it is not the serpent which kills, but sin."

It was then that people said: "Woe to the man who encounters a serpent and woe to the serpent who encounters Rabbi Chanina ben Dossa."

The question raised by the commentaries is how was it permissible for this Sage to place himself in a situation of danger to life while relying on a miracle?

One solution to this problem refers us to an earlier gemara (17b) which states that each day a voice comes forth from Heaven announcing that the entire world is nourished in the merit of Chanina. Aware of his Divinely-appointed role as protector of the world, he was absolutely confident that he would not be harmed in coming to the rescue of the endangered public.

Another approach to which a footnote of Rabbi Akiva Eiger refers us is that since Rabbi Chaninas intention was to sanctify the Name of G-d by demonstrating that a sinless man will not be harmed, it was permissible for him to endanger himself.

Yet another solution is based on a gemara (Mesechta Shabbat 151b) which states that a wild beast can only overcome a man when he appears to it like an animal as the result of his sins. Completely confident that he was free of sin, Rabbi Chanina had no cause to fear the serpent and was not even in need of a miracle.

  • Berachot 33a

What the Sages Say

"The Jewish People committed the sin of the Gold Calf as a result of being enriched with too much gold. Their situation at that time was comparable to that of a man who washed and fed his son, hung a bag of gold coins around his neck, and placed him at the entrance to a house of ill fame. Can you expect that the son will not sin?!"

Rabbi Yochanan

  • Berachot 32a

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