Talmud Tips

For the week ending 2 July 2016 / 26 Sivan 5776

Bava Kama 30 - 36

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

A beraita teaches: “The very early pious ones would hide and discard their sharp objects by burying them in their fields at a depth of at least three tefachim so that they would not obstruct the plow.”

Our Sages teach here that it is characteristic of righteous and pious people to be extremely careful to take special precautions so that their property would not pose a risk to others or their property. As the gemara states afterwards: Rav Yehuda said, “One who wants to be pious should fulfill (be careful in) matters regarding damages.”

In addition to the example stated in the beraita to bury the potential damagers in the field, the gemara quotes two other methods that our Sages employed to dispose of these items. “Rav Chisda would throw them into a fire. Rava would throw them into the Diglot River (Chidekel River — Rashi).” This halacha of responsibly disposing of sharp objects is codified in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 415:3, and the latter two scenarios are mentioned as examples of proper disposal.

I once wondered why the gemara mentions, and Rashi explains, that Rava disposed of his sharp items in the Chidekel River, also known as the Tigris. Why is it important to know which river it was? Also, why did he throw it there and not into a different river? After recalling the commentary of Rashi on Chumash regarding the “Four Rivers” that branched from the river that went out from Eden (Ber. 2:10-14) to water the Garden, I’d like to suggest a possible answer. Rashi describes the names of each of the four rivers, and the nature of each one. While the nature of the other three rivers was to “overflow”, the Chidekel’s nature was “kal” — “flowing lightly and gently”. Therefore it was important for the gemara to note that he disposed of his dangerous items specifically in that river, where they would be safely carried away and not wash up onto land where they could be dangerous.

  • Bava Kama 30a

Rabbi Chanina had the custom of announcing, “Let us go out to meet the queenly bride”. Rabbi Yannai would wear a special garment, and stand in his place, saying: “Come to me, my bride, come to me, my bride.”

The manner in which our great Torah Sages would welcome the beginning of Shabbat are the source of central words and themes that are incorporated into the prayer/song of “Lecha Dodi”, which is part of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service on Shabbat eve.

The Maharsha explains a number of key lessons that we learn from these Sages: Why Shabbat is called our “bride”, why it is called a “malka” (queen), why did Rabbi Chanina “go out” (quickly, in the context of the gemara) to greet the Shabbat bridal queen, whereas Rabbi Yannai called to “her” to come to him, and why did Rabbi Yannai repeat his call to the Shabbat bride.

Shabbat is the bride of the Jewish People. The Midrash states that when G-d created the world and established seven days in a week, “Shabbat” complained that each day of the week had a “mate” (the next day), but Shabbat was without a mate. G-d replied that Shabbat would be the mate and “bride” of the Jewish People, her “groom”. And since all Jews are considered “royalty”, our “bride” is a “queen”. Rabbi Chanina felt that just as it is customary for a groom to go out to greet his bride at the marriage ceremony, so too we should “go” to greet and welcome our Shabbat bride.

Rabbi Yanai, however, thought and taught otherwise. From the place where he stood he called out with an invitation to the Shabbat bride to come to the wedding chupa, and then afterwards to come to his home. And just as every bride is welcomed twice in this manner to complete the marriage, likewise Rabbi Yannai would say twice say to the Shabbat bride “to come” — “Come to the chupa and then come to our home”.

  • Bava Kama 32 a, b

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