Talmud Tips

For the week ending 4 April 2020 / 10 Nisan 5780

Shabbat 23-57

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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A Mother’s Prayer

Rav Huna said, “One who is careful to have good light on Shabbat will merit having children who are Torah scholars; one who is careful in fulfilling the mitzvah of mezuzah will merit having a beautiful home; one who is careful in fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzit will merit having beautiful clothing; one who careful in fulfilling the mitzvah of kiddush will merit many full barrels of wine (i.e. wealth).”

The halacha to have good light on Shabbat is codified in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 263. The Mishna Berurah explains that lighting candles for Shabbat is an obligation that is mainly to enhance fulfillment of the mitzvah of oneg Shabbat — enjoying Shabbat. He also cites our gemara that one

who is careful in this practice will merit children who are Torah scholars, as the Torah states, “For the lamp is a mitzvah and Torah is light.” The Mishna Berurah adds that it is therefore fitting for a woman to pray to Hashem after she lights that He will grant her children who will light up the world with Torah.

  • Shabbat 23b

The Entire Torah

Hillel answered, “Do not do to your fellow man that which is hateful to you… This is the entire Torah. The rest is elucidation. Now, go and learn it.”

This is what the Sage Hillel told the person who came to convert to Judaism on condition that he would be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot.

Hillel’s teaching to ““Do not do to your friend that which is hateful to you” is certainly a “rebranding” of the Torah mitzvah to “Love one’s fellow man as himself” (Vayikra 19:18). This teaching is a golden rule of thumb for fulfillment of every mitzvah of the Torah. It is a key principle to guide us in all that we do — not only for mitzvahs between one person and another, but also for mitzvahs between a person and Hashem (see Rashi’s definition of “your friend”).

  • Shabbat 31a

Living in Israel

Rav Yehuda said, “Anyone who leaves Bavel to go up to Eretz Yisrael transgresses a positive mitzvah of the Torah, as it says, ‘'They (the Jewish People) shall be brought to Babylon andthere they shall beuntilI (Hashem) will take heed of them... and restore them to this place (Eretz Yisrael).'” (Yirmiyahu 27:22)

This teaching of Rav Yehuda is codified by the Rambam as halacha for all times: “Just as it is forbidden to leave the chosen land for the Diaspora, it is also forbidden to leave Babylon for other lands, as Yirmiyahu states, 'They (the Jewish People) shall be brought to Babylon and there they shall be until I (Hashem) will take heed of them... and restore them to this place (Eretz Yisrael).'”

Although the Rambam teaches that it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora (with a few exceptions, as he notes), he does not teach that it is mitzvah for a person to live in Eretz Yisrael. The halachic matter of an obligation to live in Israel is a matter of well-known dispute between the Ramban and the Rambam.

The Torah states, “And you shall possess the Land and dwell in it, because I have given the Land to you as an inheritance.” (Bamidbar 33:53) The Ramban maintains that this verse teaches us that there is a mitzvah to settle in the Land of Israel, and that this mitzvah is applicable even in times of exile. “We have been commanded to inherit the Land that the Almighty One gave to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov; not to leave it in the hands of other nations and not to leave it desolate. This is what G-d commanded them in the verse, “And you shall possess the Land…”

The Rambam, however, does not count this as a mitzvah in his listing of the 613 commandments, despite his statement in the Misneh Torah that “one should always dwell in the Land of Israel,” and despite his other numerous statements regarding the greatness and sanctity of the Land. (Hilchot Melachim 5:9-12.)

(For a thorough discussion of the various opinions regarding the proper understanding of the Rambam’s position — and how he understands the verse in Sefer Bamidbar — refer to Eretz Chamda by Rav Shaul Israeli.)

  • Shabbat 41a

Mitzvah Protection

“Just as a dove is protected by it wings, so too is the Jewish nation protected by its mitzvahs.”

The gemara teaches that this comparison is alluded to in a verse of Tehillim (68:14) that describes the Jewish People and the mitzvahs as “the feathers of a dove covered with silver, and

its pinions with brilliant gold.”The Jewish nation is compared to a dove and the mitzvahs are compared to the dove’s feathers — which protect the dove from cold and from its enemies. (Rashi)

  • Shabbat 49a

Not a Mind Reader

Rabbi Zeira said, “Even though they won’t accept your rebuke, you should nevertheless rebuke them.”

Prior to this, Rabbi Zeira had told Rabbi Simon to rebuke a certain group of transgressors. However, Rabbi Simon declined to do so, claiming that his rebuking them would not effect a change in their ways for the better. To this, Rabbi Zeira countered that “Even though they won’t accept your rebuke, you should nevertheless rebuke them.” His reasoning: “How do you know for sure that they won’t accept your rebuke and change their ways?” Rabbi Zeira brings a support for his position from a teaching of Rabbi Acha b’Rabbi Chanina, as is explained in detail in the gemara.

It would seem that Rabbi Zeira’s way of thinking is obviously correct. Why would Rabbi Simon have thought differently in the first place and not have initially agreed to rebuke? From the words of Tosefot on the daf, we have the answer to this question.

Tosefot explains that Rabbi Zeira’s argument to rebuke them was because there was a doubt that perhaps the rebuke would be successful and the transgressors would do teshuva. But if it was certain that the transgressors would not heed the words of rebuke, they should not be rebuked — “Better that the transgressors remain shogeg (unaware that they were transgressing), and not be considered meizid (aware of the transgression and intentionally transgressing). Therefore, Rabbi Simon reasoned that the transgressors should not be rebuked, since they would not listen and the rebuke would only serve to make their transgression more serious (meizid). Rabbi Zeira explained to him that although he thought they would not accept his rebuke, he could not be 100% certain. And if there is a shadow of a doubt that the rebuke might work, there is a mitzvah to try one’s best. Only Hashem knows if the transgressors will reject the rebuke — or accept it.

  • Shabbat 55a

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