#55 - Bava Batra 142-148
How Many Sons?
How many children did Dan, son of Yaakov, have?
From what the Torah relates about the family of Yaakov entering Egypt, it appears that he had only one son.
The sons of Dan were Chushim (Bereishet 46:23)
But why does the Torah use the plural term sons if there was only one by the name Chushim?
Two different interpretations are offered by our Sages in response to this question.
The Sage Abaye cites this as evidence that a person refers to a single son in the plural. This has halachic ramifications in the case of a man who, before his death, gave away his estate to his children. Since he had a son and some daughters the question arose as to what he meant by children. Does a man refer to a single son in the plural and he therefore intended that only his son, who would be the lone heir if he made no designation before dying, should be the recipient of his gift? Or does one not call a single son children and he therefore meant to divide his estate amongst all of his children? The fact that a single son, Chushim, is referred to as the plural sons of Dan, says Abaye, is proof that a man does call a single son children.
Although the Sage Rava agrees with this in principle and even cites the passage (Bamidbar 26:8) The sons of Falu were Eliav as proof, he takes issue with the proof presented by Abaye from the son of Dan. His reservation is based on an interpretation of the passage regarding Chushim son of Dan attributed to the Academy of the Sage Chezkiyah. The name Chushim, according to this approach, was intended to reflect the large number of children which Dan would have, as many as the reeds which grow so densely together (Chushim).
Support for this approach, says Maharsha, comes from the fact that when the Torah reports the number of males over 20 in each of the tribes, the tribe of Dan had the largest number next to that of Yehuda. Tosafot deals with another problem. The Torah lists only one son of Dan in the number 70 of Yacovs family who entered Egypt. The answer, of course, is that the additional children were born to Dan after their arrival.
Bava Batra 143b
Rich Man, Poor Man
All the days of the poor man are bad, but he that is of a glad heart has a continual feast. (Mishlei 15:15)
Approaching this passage in literal fashion Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi raises the question about the totality of suffering attributed to the poor man. What about Shabbat and Yom Tov? he asks. After all, even if the poor man is very limited in the food available to him on week days, he does receive generous portions of food from the communal fund for his Shabbat and holiday meals.
The answer he supplies to this question is based on a statement of the Sage Shmuel, who was an expert physician and scientist in addition to his position as one of the leading Talmudists. A change of diet, he declared, is the beginning of digestive problems. As Rashbam explains, all week long this poor fellow eats dry bread and the radical switch to meat on Shabbat has an unpleasant effect on his system. So, in fact, all his days are problematic.
Rashi, in his commentary on Mishlei, takes an entirely different approach to explaining this passages distinction between the poor man and the one of glad heart. It is not the division between rich and poor which is being highlighted but rather the difference between one who is happy with what he has and one who always feels deprived. This passage, he writes, comes to teach man to rejoice in his portion. It is apparent that this is understood by him as a warning to the one who feels impoverished because he is not satisfied with what he has that all of his days are bad. The one who is glad of heart and rejoices with whatever he has, a lot or a little, will enjoy life like a continual feast.
Bava Batra 146a