Talmud Tips

For the week ending 16 September 2017 / 25 Elul 5777

Sanhedrin 58 - 92

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Become a Supporter Library Library

Rav Nachman said, "It is forbidden to make fun of anything except for making fun of idolatry, which is permitted."

Rav Nachman explains the source for this teaching in the gemara as being based on verses in Isaiah (46:1) which ridicule, mock and laugh at idols: “Bel squats; Nebo soils himself...” Rashi (in Sefer Yeshayahu) explains that the prophet is making fun of these two Babylonian idols: The deities of Babylon squatted and soiled themselves. This is an expression of ridicule of the idols. Rashi on our daf expounds on the nature of this ridicule: Even though the idols are not animals and don’t have excrement, the verse speaks in this manner in order to make fun of idols and idolatry.

A practical example of making fun of idols in our day is the jeering at the name of the wicked Haman and the merrymaking we enjoy each year on Purim, when we celebrate the miracle of being saved from the genocidal plan of the wicked Haman who demanded being treated as an idol.

  • Sanhedrin 63b

Rabbi Meir said, “The tree that Adam ate from was a grapevine, because nothing brings weeping to the world except for (drinking) wine."

The beraita on our daf quotes three opinions regarding the identity of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Meir says it was a grape, Rabbi Yehuda holds it was wheat, and Rabbi Nechemia contends that it was a fig. Overdoing the consumption of wine is known to cause a person to act foolishly and even dangerously. Although other opinions of the identity of “Adam’s fruit” are cited in the Talmud, there is no mention of “the apple” as the forbidden fruit.

  • Sanhedrin 70a

The Rabbis taught: "Concerning one who loves his wife like himself and honors her even more than himself, raises his children properly and marries them off at an early age, it is written 'You will know that there is peace in your home’." (Iyov 5:24)

  • Sanhedrin 76b

A child shouldn’t say to his parent, “You are transgressing a law of the Torah”…

Thus begins a beraita on our daf that teaches the manner in which a child should address a parent in a “sticky” situation. Although a person’s child has a mitzvah of honoring his parents, if the child sees one of them transgressing, however, the child is not exempt from speaking up, but should be careful not to rebuke the parent directly. This would be the opposite of honoring a parent since it would cause the parent embarrassment and sadness. Rather, what should the child say?

According to the Rambam the child should pose a rhetorical question to the parent: “Is that (what you’re doing) written in the Torah (as being permitted)?” This is not directly telling the parent that the action of the parent is wrong.

Rashi, however, asserts that even speaking to the parent in this way would be lacking in showing honor to the parent. Rather, the child should say, “There is a verse in the Torah that says such-and-such”, quoting a verse that is evidence that the parent’s action is wrong. By respectfully quoting a relevant verse in this manner, the parent will understand by himself that his action is wrong, and will cease doing so without suffering embarrassment or humiliation from his child’s words.

  • Sanhedrin 81a

"The punishment of the chronic liar is that he is not believed even when he tells the truth."

This teaching in our gemara sounds eerily like the message of the fable about “the boy who cried wolf”. I have heard from many rabbis and Torah educators over the years that all of the important lessons to teach our children can be found in Torah sources, and that these “Jewish story-lessons” are the only appropriate “bedtime stories” to read to our children.

  • Sanhedrin 89b

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at ohr@ohr.edu and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions www.ohr.edu

« Back to Talmud Tips

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.