Talmud Tips

For the week ending 27 March 2021 / 14 Nisan 5781

Shekalim 9-15; Shekalim 16-22; Yoma 2-8; Yoma 9-15

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Library Library Library

A Divine Guarantee

Rabbi Meir says, “Whoever has established permanent residence in the Land of Israel, speaks lashon hakodesh(the holy language of the Torah), eats produce only after terumah and ma’aser has been separated, and recites the ShmaYisrael prayer in the morning and evening — can be assured of having a place in the World to Come.”

If a person lives in the place where Hashem wants him to live, speaks in the manner that Hashem wants him to speak, eats what Hashem wants him to eat and has an ongoing prayer-communication-connection to the One Hashem — he is living in accordance with his Creator’s will and will certainly merit eternal life.

  • Shekalim 9b

Black Fire and White Fire

Rabbi Pinchas said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, “The Torah that Hashem gave to Moshe was white fire into which black fire was etched, fire blended with fire, fire extracted from fire and given in fire.”

Although a Torah scroll is written with black ink, its letters must be individually surrounded by the white parchment on which it is written. Each letter must be completely surrounded by parchment. This requirement is called mukaf gvil. The white parchment around the letters is an integral part of the Torah, and, without it, the Torah scroll is invalid. These two components — black ink and white parchment — although separate in nature, join together to form a valid Torah scroll. Our Sages teach that, in an analogous fashion, the “white fire” of the Torah — i.e. the more esoteric and deeper aspects of the Torah — form a perfect mixture with the “black fire” — i.e. the more revealed and concrete aspects of the Torah — to form the unity of the Torah that Hashem gave us at Mount Sinai.

  • Shekalim 16b

Another Seventh Day

“Seven days before Yom Hakippurim…”

Our next masechta in the daf yomi cycle is called Yoma, which literally means “the day,” and is a reference to the day of Yom Kippur. It is not merely “a day” but is “the day.” Although a person may do teshuva at any time on any day of the year, and in this way be atoned of any straying from the way of Hashem, the day of Yom Kippur is one that is uniquely suited for atonement. Our Sages teach that on Yom Kippur the satan (also known as the evil inclination and the angel of death) is not allowed to tempt a person to be distanced from Hashem, thereby making our path closer to Hashem much smoother and easier.

The Maharsha explains the hint in the opening words of our mishna, a reason why it starts with the number seven when teaching about Yom Kippur. There are six work-days during the week, followed by the seventh day, Shabbat, which is holier than the other days of the week and is a day on which we refrain from all manner of work. Likewise, there are seven days of Yom Tov during the year. Six of these days are: One day of Rosh Hashanah, two Yom Tov days of Succot (perhaps more exactly expressed as the first day of Succot and eighth day, which is called Shmini Atzeret), two Yom Tov days of Pesach and one Yom Tov day of Shavuot. These six days are certainly extremely holy, but certain work-activities are permitted on them, such as cooking and carrying outdoors. The seventh Yom Tov of the year is Yom Kippur, a Yom Tov day that is holier than the other six days of Yom Tov. It is akin in nature to Shabbat and no form of work is permitted. In fact, the Torah calls Yom Kippur Shabbat Shabbaton. (Vayikra 23:32)

It is recommended to learn the continuation of the Maharsha’s commentary on this opening to our new Masechet, where he offers fascination insights into the connection and correlation between each holy day of Yom Tov and the letters of the holy Names of Hashem.

  • Yoma 2a

Who Wants To Live?

Rabbi Yochanan elaborated on the meaning of the verse:“Fear and awe of Hashem lengthens life, while the years of the wicked are cut short. (Mishlei 10:27)He said, “The First Beit Hamikdash, which lasted for 410 years, was spanned by only 18 Kohanim Gedolim, while the Second Beit Hamikdash — during which there were many unworthy Kohanim Gedolim who bought their positions from corrupt rulers — more than 300 Kohanim Gedolim served in a 280-year span of its 420-year history. The conclusion is that due to their corruption they died within a year of their appointment.”

  • Yoma 9a

Of Homes and Gates

“It is written in the Torah: ‘On the doorposts of your homes and your gates.’ (Devarim 6:9) This teaches that the mitzvah of mezuzah applies even on the gates of your provinces and cities. These places have the obligation of the mitzvah for Hamakom (literally, ‘the Place,’ a reference to Hashem, Who is the Place of the world, and not that the world is a place from Him).”

This gemara teaches that not only does the mitzvah of mezuzah apply to every halachic room of a home, but it also applies to gates that lead to these homes. More than forty years ago, this author asked HaRav Shalom Yosef Elyashiv a mezuzah question while accompanying him by foot to a Mishna Berurah shiur he regularly taught in Meah Shearim: “Is there a need to affix a mezuzah on a frame I had just made in our backyard garden from metal poles and vines that were meant as part of a pathway to our back door?” He answered that I need to affix a mezuzah on the appropriate pole-post, with a beracha, since it is considered a shaar (gate). I softly said (to myself, I thought), “Why didn’t I think of that?!” He briefly glanced over at me and we continued walking without breaking stride.

The commentaries wonder why our gemara adds the reason of “These places have the obligation of the mitzvah for Hamakom.” In the context of the teaching, they appear to be an unnecessary reason for the mitzvah, as the Torah’s words are the reason for the mitzvah — and it explicitly states “in your gates.” Here is an explanation I have seen offered for this apparent redundancy. Our Sages teach that a mezuzah arouses Divine protection for Jewish homes and the dwellers therein, and is also a factor for having a long life. But these reasons would seem to apply only to the mitzvah of affixing the mezuzah to the actual home’s doorpost, where people dwell. To this end, we are taught that affixing the mezuzah to outer gates is also a mitzvah — because Hashem commanded us to do this. We see this in the wording or our gemara, “These places have the obligation of the mitzvah for Hamakom.”

  • Yoma 11a

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