THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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HORAYOS 12-14 - One week of study material has been dedicated by Mrs. Rita
Grunberger of Queens, N.Y., in loving memory of her husband, Reb Yitzchok
Yakov ben Eliyahu Grunberger. Irving Grunberger helped many people quietly
in an unassuming manner and is dearly missed by all who knew him. His
Yahrzeit is 10 Sivan.
1) AGADAH: CONCERN FOR "ACHERIM"
QUESTION: The Gemara explains that the Mishnah often refers to Rebbi Meir as
"Acherim," because Rebbi, the redactor of the Mishnah, did not want to refer
to Rebbi Meir by his name. Rebbi Meir had attempted to unseat Rebbi's
father, Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, from his position as Nasi, and therefore
Rebbi, in deference to his family's honor, referred to Rebbi Meir as
2) AGADAH: "HE DID NOT EVEN CALL A BLOOD-LETTER TO HIS HOUSE"
RAV NAFTALI MARYLES zt'l (1828-1890), the RAV of LITOVISK and the son of the
Yoruslaver Rebbe, Rav Shimon Maryles zt'l, points out that this Gemara
reveals a deeper meaning behind the words of RASHI in Parshas Vayishlach.
The Torah (Bereishis 32:8) says that when Yakov heard of Esav's impending
approach, "he became very afraid, and he was distressed." Rashi explains
that he became "afraid" lest he be killed, and he was "distressed" lest he
kill others ("Im Yaharog Hu Es *Acherim*"). Why, though, was Yakov worried
that he would have to kill someone else? Yakov was being pursued by Esav,
who wanted to kill him, and the Torah teaches that if one person is being
mortally pursued by another, then he is bidden to kill the pursuer in order
to protect his own life! Why, then, was Yakov concerned?
In addition, why does Rashi say that Yakov was afraid that "he would have to
kill *others* (Acherim)?" He should have said that Yakov was afraid that "he
would have to kill *Esav*!" (MAHARAL)
ANSWER: We find that the Gemara in Gitin (56a) tells us that one of the
Roman leaders, Niron (the Caesar Nero), converted and became Jewish, and one
of his descendants was Rebbi Meir. We know that the Romans descended from
Esav, as Rashi points out at the end of Vayishlach. Rashi, therefore, is
saying that Yakov was distressed that he might be forced to kill Esav and
thereby prevent the birth of Rebbi Meir, who was called "Acherim!"
Rav Naftali of Litovisk points out that we find a similar theme in Rashi in
Parshas Shemos (2:12). The Torah there tells us that before Moshe Rabeinu
killed the Egyptian slave-master, he looked to all sides to make sure "that
there was no one," which Rashi explains to mean that he looked into the
future to make sure that none of the future descendants of this Egyptian
would ever convert and become Jewish, and only then did he kill him. (SEFER
AYALAH SHLUCHAH, Parshas Shemos, republished in 2001 by his descendant,
Rabbi Ari Maryles. See also PENINIM YEKARIM, Parshas Vayishlach, and KANAH
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses whether it is better to be one who is "Sinai"
or one who is "Oker Harim." RASHI (DH Sinai and DH v'Chad) explains that
"Sinai" characterizes a Talmid Chacham who has memorized all of the
Mishnayos and Beraisos and knows them as if he had heard them directly from
Har Sinai. "Oker Harim" describes a Talmid Chacham who is extremely sharp in
his methodology of Torah learning, even though his knowledge is not as broad
as that of "Sinai."
3) WHICH IS BETTER -- "SINAI" OR "OKER HARIM"
The Gemara says that Rav Yosef was "Sinai" and Rabah was "Oker Harim." Even
though the common opinion was that being a "Sinai" was the greater
attribute, Rav Yosef deferred to Rabah and let him become the Rosh Yeshiva
instead of Rav Yosef. The Gemara comments that for all of the twenty-two
years that Rabah served as the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yosef "did not even call a
blood-letter to his house." What is the Gemara telling us with this cryptic
(a) Rashi (DH Umna) explains that this statement demonstrates the humility
of Rav Yosef. All of the years that Rabah was Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yosef never
even called a blood-letter to his own home, something which a person of
prominence certainly is entitled to do. Instead, he would go to the resident
blood-letter in Rabah's house (or to the blood-letter's own house, as Rashi
in Berachos (64a, DH Umna) explains). This was a way of showing that he was
not an important person.
(b) Rashi adds that some have a text which states that Rav Yosef was so
subservient to Rabah that he was always learning in front of him, as a
Talmid learns before his Rav. As he devoted himself to being a loyal Talmid
to Rabah, he never had time to go to the blood-letter. According to this
explanation, the Gemara is demonstrating Rav Yosef's diligence.
(c) The TOSFOS HA'ROSH (DH Afilu) quotes others who explain that the Gemara
intends to describe the reward that Rav Yosef received for declining the
position in favor of Rabah. The Gemara is teaching that Rav Yosef did not
*need* to solicit the services of a blood-letter for all of the years that
Rabah was Rosh Yeshiva, either because whenever Rav Yosef needed to let
blood, Rabah would arrange a blood-letter for Rav Yosef (RAV HAI GA'ON), or
because -- in the merit of humbling himself -- he never became ill. In
reward for his humility he and all of his household were spared from illness
during the entire period of twenty-two years and thus did not need to have
the blood-letter come to their home (RAMAH).
Although the Girsa in the Gemara in Berachos is that Rav Yosef "did not
call" ("Kara") a blood-letter for all of those years, the Girsa here in
Horayos is that "a blood-letter did not *pass* (Chalif) by Rav Yosef's house
all of those years." Similarly, the DIKDUKEI SOFRIM in Berachos cites a
Girsa that "a blood-letter did not *approach* (Karav) Rav Yosef's house."
The Ramah apparently had the Girsa of the Gemara here in Horayos, and that
is why he explains that the Gemara is not emphasizing that Rav Yosef did not
*call* the blood-letter, but that he did not *need* a blood-letter
altogether, as the Dikdukei Sofrim here (#70) points out.
(d) The BE'ER SHEVA says that he does not understand how Rashi and the other
Rishonim can explain that Rav Yosef deferred the position due to his
humility. The Gemara in Berachos (64a) explicitly states that Rav Yosef
refused to become the Rosh Yeshiva because a Chaldean had told him that from
the time he would become Rosh Yeshiva, he would live only two more years!
Rashi there explains that Rav Yosef declined the position and let Rabah have
it instead because he understood that if he would become the Rosh Yeshiva,
he would die two years later (some texts have this Girsa in the Gemara
itself). The Gemara uses this incident to demonstrate that one who allows an
opportunity to pass because the time for it is not ripe, the time will come
when the opportunity will present itself again and he will then be able to
take advantage of it ("Kol ha'Nidcheh Mipnei ha'Sha'ah, Sha'ah Nidches
Accordingly, Rav Yosef's act of declining the position was not an act of
humility, but rather an act of Piku'ach Nefesh -- an attempt to save his
The Be'er Sheva therefore explains that here, too, the Gemara records this
incident in order to illustrate the concept of "Kol ha'Nidcheh Mipnei
ha'Sha'ah, Sha'ah Nidches mi'Panav." Because Rav Yosef allowed the
opportunity to become Rosh Yeshiva to pass, his destined time of demise was
delayed, such that the opportunity to become Rosh Yeshiva returned to him
eventually. The Gemara explains that he was so successful in delaying his
demise, that not only did he not die, but he never even needed a
blood-letter to come to his house during that entire period. (Y. Montrose)
How do the Rishonim -- who explain that Rav Yosef deferred due to his
humility -- understand the Gemara in Berachos?
1. The CHOK NASAN and the CHIDA (in SHA'AR YOSEF) answer the question of the
Be'er Sheva as follows. How could it be that Rav Yosef was frightened by the
advice of some Chaldean fortune teller? We know that the Torah commands us
not to listen to such diviners, but to put our trust in Hashem (Pesachim
113b)! How is it possible that such a great Talmid Chacham would give up the
opportunity of teaching Torah to the public because of the prediction of
some soothsayer? In addition, why does the Gemara here not make any mention
of Rav Yosef's concern for the Chaldean's predication?
The Chok Nasan explains that the reason Rav Yosef declined the position of
Rosh Yeshiva was because of his humility. However, he feared that others
would not accept his claim that he was not fit for the position, and
therefore he gave the reason of the Chaldean's prediction. The Gemara in
Berachos is telling us the reason that Rav Yosef told to everyone. Our
Gemara mentions the real reason -- his humility -- and therefore it leaves
out the reason mentioned in Berachos.
However, this answer does not sufficiently explain the words of the Gemara
and Rashi in Berachos, which imply that Rav Yosef himself took into account
the prediction of the Chaldean. Regarding the Gemara in Pesachim which
prohibits consulting with Chaldeans, there are a number of explanations in
the Rishonim as to why that prohibition does not apply to the case of Rav
Yosef; see Insights to Shabbos 156:1.
2. There are a number of manuscripts of the Gemara in Berachos which
entirely omit the sentence about the Chaldean's prophecy (see DIKDUKEI
SOFRIM there). However, Rashi and our Gemara do have that Girsa. In
addition, without that Girsa, it is not at all clear how the Gemara proves
the principle of "Kol ha'Nidcheh Mipnei ha'Sha'ah, Sha'ah Nidches mi'Panav."
3. The words "Kol ha'Nidcheh Mipnei ha'Sha'ah" imply that Rav Yosef deferred
the position not only because he feared for his life, but because he decided
that it was not appropriate for him to become Rosh Yeshiva at that time.
Accordingly, the Gemara in Berachos is also saying that Rav Yosef deferred
due to his humility.
Perhaps the Gemara there may be understood as follows. When Rav Yosef heard
the Chaldean's prediction, there were two possible ways that he could have
interpreted the prediction. He either could have understood that his
position of leadership would last only two years, and he deferred the
position with confidence that he would have two years of leadership later in
his life. However, this is not the standard interpretation of the
prediction. Normally, a person would understand the prediction to mean that
he would live only two years from the time that the opportunity arose for
him to become Rosh Yeshiva. This would prompt a person to take advantage of
his two remaining years and *accept* the position, rather than allow it to
become lost forever from him by letting someone else have the position
before him. The reason Rav Yosef was able to overcome the impulse to grab
the position following the second interpretation was due to his humility; he
preferred to understand the Chaldean's words to mean that he would
eventually gain the position and become Rosh Yeshiva for two years, even if
someone else takes the position now. This is how the Gemara demonstrates
that "Kol ha'Nidcheh Mipnei ha'Sha'ah, Sha'ah Nidches mi'Panav," and this is
what the Rishonim mean when they say that Rav Yosef deferred the position
due to his humility. (M. Kornfeld)
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses whether it is better for the Rosh Yeshiva to
be one who is "Sinai" or one who is "Oker Harim." RASHI (DH Sinai and DH
v'Chad) explains that "Sinai" characterizes a Talmid Chacham who has
memorized all of the Mishnayos and Beraisos and knows them as if he had
heard them directly from Har Sinai. "Oker Harim" describes a Talmid Chacham
who is extremely sharp in his methodology of Torah learning ("Mefulpal," as
Rashi says), even though his knowledge is not as broad as that of "Sinai."
On to Zevachim
The BE'ER SHEVA asks that this seems to contradict a number of other
Gemaras, which clearly teach that being "Mefulpal" is a more important
quality than having broad Torah knowledge. The Gemara in Shabbos (31a)
teaches that when a person is brought to the final judgement in the heavenly
court, he will be asked, "Pilpalta b'Chochmah" -- "Did you profoundly
analyze with wisdom the Torah's teachings?" He will not be asked whether or
not he amassed a large amount of knowledge, but only whether or not he
applied analytical skills to his knowledge.
Similarly, the Gemara in Bava Metzia (85b) relates that Reish Lakish was
unable to find the grave of Rebbi Chiya. He understood that the reason was
because he was not fit to have the grave of such a great man revealed to
him. Reish Lakish complained, saying, "Hashem! Have I not been Mefalpel in
Torah as much as he?" Hashem responded, "But you have not taught as much
Torah as he taught." This implies that it is more important to analyze the
Torah than to amass Torah knowledge.
We also find in Berachos (6b) that the part of Torah study for which a
person receives his main reward is for analyzing his learning ("Agra
(a) The BE'ER SHEVA answers that there are two types of "Pilpul." One type
is the Pilpul that comes easily to a person because he has a naturally
analytical mind. This is the type of Pilpul to which the Gemara here refers;
"Sinai" is considered greater than this type of "Oker Harim." The other
Gemaras, which discuss the greatness of one who is Mefalpel, are referring
to a person who pushes himself and forces his mind to analyze the Gemara
even when it is difficult for him. This certainly is a greater
accomplishment than that of a person who simply learns Gemara, amassing a
large amount of knowledge without analyzing it. This answer is based on the
principle taught by the Mishnah in Avos (5:23), "l'Fum Tza'ara Agra," the
reward is commensurate with the effort.
According to this understanding, the same should apply with regard to
"Sinai." If a person does not naturally remember all that he has learned,
but he has to invest a great amount of time and effort in order to retain
his learning, then he should be considered greater than the person who puts
the same amount of effort into Pilpul. The Gemara here, therefore, is
discussing a "Sinai" or "Oker Harim" who put the same amount of effort into
their achievements; either they both worked hard, or they both were blessed
with natural skills. The Gemaras which emphasize the analytical approach are
referring to a person who naturally remembers the Gemara. For such a person,
it is more important to put effort into Pilpul. (Even though such a gifted
person probably finds that the analytical skills also come easily to him,
nevertheless there is no limit to the depth of analysis of the Torah.
Therefore, it is always possible for a person to receive reward for further
analysis, as opposed to amassing Torah knowledge which, for some, never
(b) The CHOK NASAN answers that the praiseworthy quality of a person who is
"Sinai" is not that he has *learned* a lot of Torah, but rather that he
*retains* it all. The Gemara in Megilah (6b) teaches that remembering one's
learning is dependent on Siyata d'Shemaya, Divine assistance, as opposed to
the person's efforts. Therefore, a person cannot be held accountable for not
having full retention of what he has learned.
The Gemaras which state that a person's reward in Olam ha'Ba comes from his
Pilpul are referring to a person who is not necessarily blessed with a
perfect memory. Since he does not retain all that he has learned, his main
reward will not be for the amount that he has learned, but for the depth of
knowledge that he achieved in what he does remember. Since any person is
capable of attaining a certain measure of depth of understanding, he will be
held accountable if he does not attain it, and he will be rewarded if he
does analyze what he has learned according to his abilities.
This answer is based on two principles. The first is that a person's reward
is in accordance with the degree to which he has fulfilled his potential.
The second is that the reward for amassing Torah knowledge is given only to
a person who retains that knowledge; a person is not entitled to such reward
just for learning it if he does not retain the knowledge (although, of
course, he is rewarded for performing the act of the Mitzvah of learning;
see Avodah Zarah 19a ("Kovetz Al Yad Yad"), Pesachim 50a and Bava Basra 10b
("Ashrei Mi she'Ba l'Kan v'Talmudo b'Yado").
(c) Perhaps we may suggest another approach. It is clear from all of the
Gemaras cited above that the goal of a person's Torah study should be to
analyze and understand the different sources that he has learned during his
lifetime. The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (19a) teaches that a person should
spend his youth receiving the teachings of his mentors, and afterwards he
should analyze them. A person's goal should be to reach the second stage,
that of analyzing the Gemara.
The Gemara in Megilah (28b) relates that once, when a person who was an
expert in all of the Mishnayos and Beraisos died, the Amora'im could find
nothing better to say about him at his eulogy other than "we have lost a
basket-full of books." This again shows that when a person does not analyze
what he has learned, he does not achieve the ultimate objective of Torah
Similarly, the Gemara in Berachos (47b) teaches that a person is in the
category of an Am ha'Aretz if he has not "served Talmidei Chachamim" --
which RASHI there explains to refer to analyzing the sources and reasons for
the teachings of the Mishnah -- even if he has read all of the Torah and
learned all of the Mishnah.
This explains the Gemaras quoted by the Be'er Sheva which show that a person
is rewarded for Pilpul, rather than for amassing Torah knowledge.
Our Gemara is not discussing what quality provides the greater advantage to
the *person himself*, but rather what quality provides the greater advantage
to the person's *students*. The Gemara is debating who is preferable as the
Rosh Yeshiva. The Gemara concludes that even if the person who is a greater
Mefalpel is considered to have achieved a greater degree of Torah learning
than the person who has amassed more knowledge, nevertheless the one with
the greater amount of knowledge is of greater benefit to his students. The
reason for this is because a student can be Mefalpel on his own, even if his
teacher did not teach him those skills. However, he will never know the
sources unless someone first teaches them to him.
For a similar reason, the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (19a) teaches that while a
person's teacher is still alive, he should be eager to learn from his
teacher as many sources as possible, even if he forgets them and even if he
does not understand them, since he will have no other opportunity to learn
the sources (see RASHI there, DH v'Achar Kach). (M. Kornfeld)