Tag Archives: Gemara

Rationalism & Kiddush Hashem

Day 19 – Brachos 20

There is an interesting Gemara that has left me puzzled.

Rav Papa asked Abaye why did miracles happens so often in previous generations and we do not see too many miracles in our generation, which seems more learned in Torah? 

Abaye responded that previous generations were Moser Nefesh Al Kidush Hashem, they were wholly dedicated to the sanctification of God’s name, and our generation is not.

Abaya then proceeds to give an example of an incident of Mesiras Nefesh of the previous generations. 

Rav Adda bar Ahava saw a non-Jewish woman who was wearing a garment made of a forbidden mixture of wool and linen [karbalta] in the marketplace. Since he thought that she was Jewish, he stood and ripped it from her. It was then divulged that she was a non-Jew and he was taken to court due to the shame that he caused her, and they assessed the payment for the shame that he caused her at four hundred zuz. Ultimately, Rav Adda said to her: What is your name? She replied: Matun. In a play on words, he said to her: Matun, her name, plus matun, the Aramaic word for two hundred, is worth four hundred zuz.

This incident leaves more questions than answers.

Firstly, how is this related to the concept of Kiddush Hashem? In fact, it seems the opposite is true, it seems like a Chilul Hashem?

Moreover, we have seen throughout our galus, million of Jews go to their death for the sanctification of God’s name. What does it mean that our generation no longer dedicates themselves for Kiddush Hashem?

Rav Kook explains this Gemara at length in Ein Ayeh. He explains that Mesirut Nesfesh al Kiddush Hashem, does not necessarily mean that they died in sanctification of God’s name. Rather, that the previous generations had a higher level of Shleimut, wholesomeness. They understood things beyond what the sechel can grasp, it was almost at a subconscious level, they saw the absolute truth of the matter and immediately acted upon it, before the thought entered the sechel and they started to rationalize their actions. They were able to daven to Hashem without Cheshbonos, just with a form of pure Emes. This is what Abaye called Kiddush Hashem – the ability to think about something through the lens of Emes and the perspective of Hashem, without rationalization. To this tefilla, Hashem can change nature and perform a miracle. 

This was the sort of Mesiras Nefesh which Rav Adda bar Ahava displayed, he saw something and acted immediately, even before he was able to discern if the woman was actually Jewish.

While we are no match for the generation of Abaya and Rava, we can learn from this that once we start rationalizing things, we lose half the truth. Let us approach Torah with Emes and achieve Shlemut and constant closeness to Hashem. 

On Sharing an Idea

Day 15 – Berachos 16

רַבִּי אַמֵּי וְרַבִּי אַסִּי הֲווֹ קָא קָטְרִין לֵיהּ גְּנָנָא לְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר. אֲמַר לְהוּ: אַדְּהָכִי וְהָכִי אֵיזִיל וְאֶשְׁמַע מִלְּתָא דְבֵי מִדְרְשָׁא, וְאֵיתֵי וְאֵימָא לְכוּ. אֲזַל אַשְׁכְּחֵיהּ לְתַנָּא דְּקָתָנֵי קַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן:

קָרָא וְטָעָה וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לְהֵיכָן טָעָה, בְּאֶמְצַע הַפֶּרֶק — יַחְזוֹר לָרֹאשׁ. בֵּין פֶּרֶק לְפֶרֶק — יַחְזוֹר לְפֶרֶק רִאשׁוֹן. בֵּין כְּתִיבָה לִכְתִיבָה — יַחְזוֹר לִכְתִיבָה רִאשׁוֹנָה.

אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: לֹא שָׁנוּ אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹּא פָּתַח בִּ״לְמַעַן יִרְבּוּ יְמֵיכֶם״, אֲבָל פָּתַח בִּ״לְמַעַן יִרְבּוּ יְמֵיכֶם״ — סִרְכֵיהּ נָקֵט וְאָתֵי.

אֲתָא וַאֲמַר לְהוּ. אֲמַרוּ לֵיהּ: אִלּוּ לֹא בָּאנוּ אֶלָּא לִשְׁמוֹעַ דָּבָר זֶה — דַּיֵּינוּ.

Berachos 16

The Gemara relates a story that Rav Ami and Rav Asi went to help Rav Elazar get ready for his wedding. As they were helping, Rav Elazar said that he would like to prepare for his wedding by learning Torah, but he will share with his friends what he learned when he comes back.

Rav Eliezer went to learn, when he came back he shared that which learned, to which his colleagues responded, if we would have traveled here just to hear this that you shared, it would have been enough. 

Rav Johnny Solomon comments that we learn from here that there is something really special and unique about sharing ideas with one another. We see how Rav Ami and Rav Asi were so taken by the idea Rav Elazar shared. We too have the ability to inspire others by the ideas we share. 

Does it Snow in Hell?

Day 14 – Berachos 15

אָמַר רַבִּי חָמָא בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא: כָּל הַקּוֹרֵא קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּמְדַקְדֵּק בְּאוֹתִיּוֹתֶיהָ מְצַנְּנִין לוֹ גֵּיהִנָּם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״בְּפָרֵשׂ שַׁדַּי מְלָכִים בָּהּ תַּשְׁלֵג בְּצַלְמוֹן״ — אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּפָרֵשׂ״ אֶלָּא ״בְּפָרֵשׁ״, אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּצַלְמוֹן״ אֶלָּא ״בְּצַלְמָוֶת״.

On this same topic, Rabbi Ḥama, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said: Anyone who recites Shema and is punctilious in enunciating its letters, Gehenna is cooled for him, as it is stated: “When the Almighty scatters [befares] kings over it, it will snow in Tzalmon” (Psalms 68:15). Do not read befares, When He scatters, but befaresh, When he enunciates. When one enunciates the name of God with precision, God will fulfill the verse: It will snow in Tzalmon, on his behalf. Do not read beTzalmon, in Tzalmon, but betzalmavet, in the shadow of death, a reference to Gehenna. As reward for enunciating God’s name precisely, God will cool Gehenna for him.

Berachos 15 – Sefaria

The Gemara discusses the importance of not swallowing up the words in Shema and the importance of saying each word clearly. The Gemara then goes on to say that anyone who says each word slowly and clearly, Gehinnom will be cooler for them.

I found this difficult to understand, if one is saying every word of Shema clearly, he is presumably a Tzadik. So why is he going to Gehennom?

The Tzlach (Rav Yechezkel Landau, popularly known by his more famous work – Noda B’Yehuda) and the Gra (Imrei Noam) explain that this does not mean that it will be colder for Reshaim in hell. Rather, Tzaddikim go to Gehennom on their way to Gan Eden to take out any Jewish Reshaim that may be there, while there they suffer a little for the sake of the Rasha. This suffering is alleviated due to their slow pronunciation of the Shema. This concept is also found in the writings of the Arizal (Pri Eitz Chaim – Krias Shema Perek 3

(This may explain the tradition that Reb Nachman of Breslov said he will pull his Chassidim out of gehennom by their payos – Chayei Moharan #122) 

Set Your Priorities

Day 13 – Berachos 14

 רַב אִידִי בַּר אָבִין אָמַר רַב יִצְחָק בַּר אַשְׁיָאן: אָסוּר לוֹ לָאָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת חֲפָצָיו קוֹדֶם שֶׁיִּתְפַּלֵּל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״צֶדֶק לְפָנָיו יְהַלֵּךְ וְיָשֵׂם לְדֶרֶךְ פְּעָמָיו״. וְאָמַר רַב אִידִי בַּר אָבִין אָמַר רַב יִצְחָק בַּר אַשְׁיָאן: כָּל הַמִּתְפַּלֵּל וְאַחַר כָּךְ יוֹצֵא לַדֶּרֶךְ, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עוֹשֶׂה לוֹ חֲפָצָיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״צֶדֶק לְפָנָיו יְהַלֵּךְ וְיָשֵׂם לְדֶרֶךְ פְּעָמָיו״.

Berachos 14

The Gemara tells us that one should make sure not to do business before davening and that one should daven before setting out on a trip, and if you do so, Hashem will take care of you. 

Rav Shteinman (K’Ayal Ta’arog) explained that if one is going to another city or neighboring Moshav to daven there, it is muttar as the Gemara is only talking about someone who is traveling for business purposes. 

The Pela Yoetz (#59 – Derech)  tells us that if someone will be traveling after Chatzos one should even daven Mincha at home before he goes. He goes on to say that if one would do this, you are guaranteed a safe and secure journey. 

Quality & Quantity

Day 10 – Berachos 11

The Gemara is discussing the Berachos said before reciting the Shema. There is a dispute whether you say Ahava Raba or Ahavas Olam. Tosafos says that because there is a dispute, during Shacharis, one should say Ahava Raba and during Maariv one should say Ahavas Olam.

What is the difference between Ahava Raba and Ahavas Olam? Furthermore, why is Ahava Rabba said in the morning and Ahavas Olam at night?

I heard from my father, in the name of Rav Yosef Engel that the difference is one between the quality or the quantity of the love of Hashem for us.

Let’s explain.

In the morning, the world is bright and we see all the blessings of Hashem clearly, we say Ahava Rabba, that Hashem has a lot of love for us. However, as it becomes darker and we do not see so clearly the blessings of Hashem – in fact it appears to be very dark, we say Ahavas Olam. This reflects the eternal & deep love that Hashem has towards us.

Even if things are looking very dark – we recognize that Hashem still loves us and we say the Shema.

The Moment of Hashem's Anger

Day 6 – Berachos 7

The Gemara discusses the idea that Hashem has a moment of anger every day and the only one who was able to know the exact time and tap into it was Bilaam. The Gemara further discusses the length of this moment. At first the Gemara tells us that it is 1/58,888 of an hour which is 1/16th of a second. A bit later the Gemara repeats the question and tells us that it is the amount of time it takes to say “Rega”.

Tosafos asks what curse can one say in this amount of time? He answers that one can say כלם, which means to destroy them. 

Rav Yehonasan Eibschutz takes issue with this. Firstly, Kalem, is very non specific so there is no indication that he was saying to destroy the Jews. Secondly, the Passuk clearly says that HaShem gets angry every day, so how can you say that he did not get angry? He explains that there must be 2 levels of anger. On a regular day the anger lasts 1/58888 of an hour. However, during the days of Bilaam, HaShem got angry for a shorter amount of time – the time that it takes to say “rega”. 

On this the Chida strongly disagrees and says that the Yearos Dvash is arguing against the Gemara and he brings a Zohar as well stating that Hashem did not get angry during the period of Bilaam cursing the Jews. The Chida says that we have to learn that during this time HaShem did not get angry at all. 

Regarding the first question of the Yearos Dvash, the Chida explains that although Billam just said one word – “כלם”, he was always thinking about cursing the Jews, and as one can have many thoughts in a split second, his thoughts joined together with his words to effect a curse on the Jewish people.

One more thought –  the Gemara relates that HaShem gets upset from those who worship the sun as it rises and sets. The Yearos Devash explains that this is why we daven Vasikin in the morning and Maariv close to sunset,  in order that the anger should not be directed towards us.


Based on Yearos Devash Drush 9, Chida Patach Einayim Brachos 7.