סקר
לקראת סיום מסכת עירובין






 

Steinsaltz

Rav and Shmuel had a dispute with regard to this episode. One says there was a miracle, and one says there was a miracle within a miracle. The Gemara explains: The one who says there was a miracle claims that there was already a forest in that place but there were no bears, and the miracle was the appearance of bears. The one who says it was a miracle within a miracle claims that neither was there a forest nor were there bears in that area. The Gemara asks with regard to the second opinion: Why was a double miracle required? And let there be bears and no forest; the forest served no role in the story, so why was it created? The Gemara explains: The forest was necessary, as bears are frightened to venture into open areas but will attack people in their natural habitat, a forest.

Rabbi Ḥanina says: Due to forty-two offerings that Balak, king of Moab, brought when he tried to have Balaam curse the Jewish people, forty-two children were broken off from Israel, in that incident involving Elisha. The Gemara asks: Is that so? Was that the reward for his offerings?

But didn’t Rav Yehuda say that Rav says: A person should always engage in Torah study and in performance of mitzvot, even if he does so not for their own sake, as through such acts performed not for their own sake, one will come to perform them for their own sake. He proves the value of a mitzva done not for its own sake: As in reward for the forty-two offerings that Balak, king of Moab, brought, he merited that Ruth descended from him, from whom King Solomon descended, about whom it is written that he brought many offerings: “A thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon offer up” (I Kings 3:4). And Rabbi Yosei ben Ḥoni similarly says: Ruth was the daughter of Eglon, son of Balak. These Sages state that Balak’s reward was to have Ruth descend from him, not that a number of Jewish people perish. The Gemara answers: His desire, in any event, was to curse the Jewish people, and his reward for sacrificing his offerings was that the curse was fulfilled in the incident involving Elisha, as well.

The Gemara returns to discussing the incident involving Elisha: “And the men of the city said to Elisha: Behold, please, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad and the land miscarries” (II Kings 2:19). The Gemara asks: But if the water is bad and the land causes women to miscarry, what is pleasant about it? Rabbi Ḥanin says: The grace of a place is upon its inhabitants, i.e., people are fond of their hometown despite its shortcomings. Rabbi Yoḥanan says: There are three graces that have a similar impact: The grace of a place upon its inhabitants; the grace of a woman upon her husband, despite her faults; and the grace of a purchased item upon its buyer, as one who has bought something views it in a positive light.

§ The Sages taught: Elisha fell ill three times. One was a punishment for inciting the bears to attack the children; and one was a punishment for pushing Gehazi away with both hands, without leaving him the option to return; and one was the sickness from which he died, as an expression of illness is stated three times in the verse about Elisha: “And Elisha became sick [ḥala] with his illness [ḥolyo] from which he would die” (II Kings 13:14). The root ḥet, lamed, heh, which indicates illness, is used twice in this verse, and it is stated once that Elisha will die.

The Sages taught: It should always be the left, weaker, hand that pushes another away and the right, stronger, hand that draws him near. In other words, even when a student is rebuffed, he should be given the opportunity to return. This is not like Elisha, who pushed Gehazi away with both hands, and not like Yehoshua ben Peraḥya, who pushed Jesus the Nazarene, one of his students, away with both hands.

The Gemara specifies: What was that incident with Elisha? As it is written: “And Naaman said: Pray, take talents” (II Kings 5:23). Naaman offered Gehazi payment for the help Elisha had given him, and when the verse recounts Elisha’s words to Gehazi, it is written: “And he said to him: Did not my heart go, when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to take money, and to take garments, and olives, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and servants, and maidservants?” (II Kings 5:26). Here Elisha criticizes Gehazi for taking the payment.

The Gemara clarifies the criticism: And did he take all that? But it was only money and garments that he took. Rabbi Yitzḥak says: At that time, Elisha was engaged in the study of the topic of the eight impure creeping animals. He said to Gehazi: Wicked one, it is time for you to receive now, in this temporal world, the reward for studying the topic of the eight impure creeping animals. This is why the verse lists eight items. The Gemara adds parenthetically that Elisha also said to Gehazi: “And the leprosy of Naaman shall cleave to you and to your descendants forever” (II Kings 5:27), and that the verse later states: “Now there were four leprous men” (II Kings 7:3), about whom Rabbi Yoḥanan says: This is referring to Gehazi and his three sons.

The verse states: “And Elisha came to Damascus” (II Kings 8:7). The Gemara asks: For what purpose did he go there? Rabbi Yoḥanan says: He went to help Gehazi in repentance, but Gehazi would not agree to repent from his evil ways. Elisha said to him: Return from your sins. Gehazi said to him: This is the tradition that I received from you: Whoever sins and caused the masses to sin is not given the opportunity to repent.

The Gemara asks: What did Gehazi do that caused the masses to sin? There are those who say that he hung a magnetic rock on Jeroboam’s calf, the golden calf that Jeroboam established as an idol, and used a magnet to pull the calf off the ground so that he suspended it between heaven and earth, i.e., caused it to hover above the ground. This seemingly miraculous occurrence caused the people to worship it even more devoutly. And there are those who say: He engraved the sacred name on its mouth, and it would say: “I am the Lord your God” and: “You shall not have other gods” (Exodus 20:2). The idol would quote the two prohibitions from the Ten Commandments against idol worship, causing people to worship it even more devoutly.

And there are those who say: Gehazi pushed the Sages away from coming before him, preventing them learning from Elisha, as it is written, after the aforementioned incident: “And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, behold this place where we are staying before you is too cramped for us” (II Kings 6:1). This proves by inference that until that time the place was not cramped, as Gehazi would turn people away.

The Gemara returns to the incident in which Yehoshua ben Peraḥya turned away Jesus the Nazarene: What is this incident? When King Yannai was killing the Sages, Shimon ben Shataḥ was hidden by his sister, Yannai’s wife, while Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya went and fled to Alexandria of Egypt. When peace was made between Yannai and the Sages, Shimon ben Shataḥ sent him the following letter: From myself, Jerusalem the holy city, to you, Alexandria of Egypt. My sister, my husband dwells within you, and I am sitting desolate. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya said: I can learn from it that there is peace, and I can return.

When he came back to Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Yehoshua arrived at a certain inn. The innkeeper stood before him, honoring him considerably, and overall they accorded him great honor. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya then sat and was praising them by saying: How beautiful is this inn. Jesus the Nazarene, one of his students, said to him: My teacher, but the eyes of the innkeeper’s wife are narrow [terutot]. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya said to him: Wicked one, is this what you are engaged in, gazing at women? He brought out four hundred shofarot and excommunicated him. Every day Jesus would come before him, but he would not accept his wish to return.

One day, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya was reciting Shema when Jesus came before him. He intended to accept him on this occasion, so he signaled to him with his hand to wait. Jesus thought he was rejecting him entirely. He therefore went and stood up a brick and worshipped it as an idol. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya said to him: Return from your sins. Jesus said to him: This is the tradition that I received from you: Anyone who sins and causes the masses to sin is not given the opportunity to repent. The Gemara explains how he caused the masses to sin: For the Master said: Jesus the Nazarene performed sorcery, and he incited the masses, and subverted the masses, and caused the Jewish people to sin.

It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: With regard to the evil inclination, to a child, and to a woman, the left hand should reject and the right hand should welcome. If one pushes too forcefully, the damage might be irreversible.

MISHNA: If the killer is found before the heifer’s neck was broken, the heifer shall go out and graze among the herd. It is not considered sacred at all, and it may rejoin the other animals. If the killer is found from the time when the heifer’s neck was broken, even if the rest of the ritual has not yet been performed, it is prohibited to benefit from the animal, despite the killer having been found; it should be buried in its place. This is because the heifer initially came for uncertainty, as the killer was unknown, and it atoned for its uncertainty and left, i.e., it fulfilled its purpose of bringing atonement and is considered a heifer whose neck is broken in all regards. If the heifer’s neck was broken and afterward the killer was found, he is killed. The ritual does not atone for him.

If one witness says: I saw the killer, and one other witness says: You did not see him; or if a woman says: I saw, and another woman says: You did not see, they would break the neck of the heifer, as without clear testimony about the identity of the killer the ritual is performed. Similarly, if one witness says: I saw the killer, and two witnesses say: You did not see, they would break the neck of the heifer, as the pair is relied upon. If two witnesses say: We saw the killer, and one witness says to them: You did not see, they would not break the neck of the heifer, as there are two witnesses to the identity of the killer.

The mishna further states: From the time when murderers proliferated, the ritual of the heifer whose neck is broken was nullified. The ritual was performed only when the identity of the murderer was completely unknown. Once there were many known murderers, the conditions for the performance of the ritual were no longer present, as the probable identity of the murderer was known. From the time when Eliezer ben Dinai, who was also called Teḥina ben Perisha, came, they renamed him: Son of a murderer. This is an example of a publicly known murderer.

The mishna teaches a similar occurrence: From the time when adulterers proliferated, the performance of the ritual of the bitter waters was nullified; they would not administer the bitter waters to the sota. And it was Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai who nullified it, as it is stated: “I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery; for they consort with lewd women” (Hosea 4:14), meaning that when the husbands are adulterers, the wives are not punished for their own adultery.

From the time when Yosei ben Yo’ezer of Tzereida and Yosei ben Yehuda of Jerusalem died, the clusters ceased, i.e., they were the last of the clusters, as explained in the Gemara, as it is stated: “There is no cluster to eat; nor first-ripe fig that my soul desires” (Micah 7:1). The mishna continues in the same vein: Yoḥanan the High Priest took away the declaration of the tithe. After his time, no one recited the passage about the elimination of tithes that had previously been said at the end of a three-year tithing cycle. He also nullified the actions of the awakeners and the strikers at the Temple.

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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