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Steinsaltz

and now it will rain? He entered the bathhouse in a state of joy, anticipating the large sum of money he was about to receive. As the master entered the bathhouse in his joy, Nakdimon entered the Temple in a state of sadness. He wrapped himself in his prayer shawl and stood in prayer.

He said before God: Master of the Universe, it is revealed and known before You that I did not act for my own honor, nor did I act for the honor of my father’s house. Rather, I acted for Your honor, so that there should be water for the Festival pilgrims. Immediately the sky became overcast and rain fell until the twelve cisterns were filled with water, and there was even more water, so that they overflowed.

As the master left the bathhouse, Nakdimon ben Guryon left the Temple. When they met one another, Nakdimon said to him: Give me the money you owe me for the extra water you received. The official said to him: I know that the Holy One, Blessed be He, has shaken His world and caused rain to fall only for you. However, I still maintain a claim against you, by which I can legally take my coins from you, as you did not pay me on the agreed date, for the sun had already set, and therefore the rain fell onto my property.

Nakdimon went back and entered the Temple, wrapped himself in his prayer shawl, and stood in prayer. He said before God: Master of the Universe, let it be known that You have beloved ones in Your world. Immediately, the clouds scattered and the sun shined. At that time, the master said to him: If the sun had not broken through the clouds, I would have had a claim against you, by which I could have taken my coins from you. A Sage taught: Nakdimon was not his real name; rather his name was Buni. And why was he called Nakdimon? Because the sun broke through [nikdera] for him.

The Sages taught: With regard to three people, the sun broke through and shone at an irregular time for their sake: Moses, Joshua, and Nakdimon ben Guryon. The Gemara asks: Granted, the case of Nakdimon ben Guryon is known by the aforementioned tradition. The case of Joshua too is derived from a verse, as it is written: “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies” (Joshua 10:13). However, from where do we derive that the sun shined in a supernatural way for Moses?

Rabbi Elazar said: It is derived by verbal analogy between “I will begin” and “I will begin.” Here, with regard to Moses, it is written: “This day I will begin to put the dread of you and the fear of you upon the peoples that are under all the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 2:25). And there, with regard to Joshua, it is written: “On this day I will begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 3:7). The repeated use of the phrase “I will begin” indicates that all the miracles performed for Joshua were also performed for Moses.

Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said: The fact that the sun stood still for Moses is derived by a different verbal analogy, between the terms “put” and “put.” Here, with regard to Moses, it is written: “I will begin to put the dread of you” (Deuteronomy 2:25). And there, with regard to Joshua, is it written: “Then Joshua spoke to the Lord, on the day when the Lord put the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: Sun, stand still upon Gibeon, and you, moon, in the valley of Aijalon” (Joshua 10:12).

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: This idea is derived from the verse itself, as it says with regard to Moses: “This day I will begin to put the dread of you and the fear of you upon the peoples that are under all the whole heaven, who, when they hear the report of you, shall tremble, and be in anguish due to you” (Deuteronomy 2:25). When did the nations of the world tremble and when were they in anguish due to you? When the sun broke through for Moses.

§ The mishna taught: And likewise, if there is a particular city upon which it did not rain, while the surrounding area did receive rain, this is considered a divine curse, as it is written: “And I will cause it to rain on one city, but on one city I will not cause it to rain, one portion will be rained upon, and the portion upon which it did not rain shall wither” (Amos 4:7). Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: And both of the cities are faced with a curse, as one city suffers from drought while the other is afflicted with destructive storms.

This statement reverses the plain meaning of a verse. The Gemara provides other interpretations that Rav Yehuda attributed to Rav, which also run contrary to the simple meaning of a verse. “Jerusalem among them was a like a menstruating woman” (Lamentations 1:17). Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: Although the simple meaning of this verse is a curse, it can also be understood as a blessing. Jerusalem was like a menstruating woman: Just as a menstruating woman will become permitted to her husband after the conclusion of her days of ritual impurity, so too, Jerusalem will be repaired from its destruction.

Similarly, with regard to the verse: “How she has become like a widow” (Lamentations 1:1), Rav Yehuda said: This too is for a blessing. The verse states that Jerusalem is like a widow, but is not an actual widow. Rather, Jerusalem is like a woman whose husband has gone to a country overseas. Without her husband by her side she is likened to a widow, and yet he intends to return to her.

The same manner of explanation is provided for the verse: “Therefore I have also made you contemptible and base” (Malachi 2:9). Rav Yehuda said: This too can be interpreted as a blessing, as meaning that the nations view us as lowly, but nevertheless, they do not assign us unpleasant jobs. They do not appoint from us either river officials or government officials [geziripatei].

The prophet Ahijah the Shilonite cursed Israel in the following terms: “For the Lord will smite Israel as a reed is shaken in the water” (I Kings 14:15). Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: This too is for a blessing, as Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6)? The curse with which Ahijah the Shilonite cursed the Jewish people is more effective than the blessing with which Balaam the wicked blessed them.

Rabbi Yoḥanan elaborates: Ahijah the Shilonite cursed the Jewish people by comparing them to a reed: “For the Lord will smite Israel as a reed is shaken in the water.” Although it seems to be a curse, this verse is actually a blessing. Just as this reed stands in a place of water, and its shoots replenish themselves when cut, and its roots are numerous for a plant of its size, and even if all the winds in the world come and blow against it, they cannot move it from its place, rather, it sways with them until the winds subside, and the reed still stands in its place, the same applies to the Jewish people. After all the difficulties that they endure, they will ultimately survive and return home.

However, Balaam the wicked blessed the Jews by comparing them to a cedar, as it is stated: “As cedars beside the waters” (Numbers 24:6). Just as this cedar does not stand in a place of water, and its shoots do not replenish themselves, and its roots are not numerous, Balaam wished that the same should apply to the Jewish people. Furthermore, while it is true that even if all the winds in the world blow against it they will not move it from its place, once the southern wind blows against it, it uproots the cedar and turns it on its face. And not only that, but the reed merited that a quill [kulmos] is taken from it to write with it a Torah scroll, the Prophets, and the Writings. Evidently, the curse comparing Israel to a reed is better than the blessing likening them to a cedar.

The Sages further taught in praise of the reed: A person should always be soft like a reed, and he should not be stiff like a cedar. An incident occurred in which Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, came from Migdal Gedor, from his rabbi’s house, and he was riding on a donkey and strolling on the bank of the river. And he was very happy, and his head was swollen with pride because he had studied much Torah.

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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