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Sotah, 21

SOTAH 21-25 - These Dafim have been dedicated by Mrs. Estanne Abraham-Fauer in honor of the first Yahrzeit (18 Teves 5761) of her father, Reb Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Weiner). May the merit of supporting and advancing the study of the Talmud be l'Iluy Nishmaso.


QUESTION: The Beraisa explains that the merit of a Mitzvah is compared to candlelight, while the merit of learning Torah is compared to daylight. Just like candlelight is only a temporary protection from the dangers of the dark, so, too, a Mitzvah only protects the person temporarily. The merit of learning Torah, on the other hand, is like daylight; just like daylight is a permanent protection (for the sun continues to rise each day), so, too, the Torah is a permanent protection for a person.

Rava explains, in the Gemara's conclusion, that both Torah and Mitzvos protect a person from Yisurin -- physical afflictions in this world -- both during the time that he is involved in them (learning Torah or performing a Mitzvah), and afterwards. The Torah has the added property that during the time a person is learning, it also protects the person from the Yetzer ha'Ra (i.e. it affords spiritual protection in addition to physical protection).

How can the Gemara's conclusion be reconciled with the statement of the Beraisa? The Beraisa says that the difference between the merit of Torah and the merit of a Mitzvah is that the merit of Torah provides a more permanent protection. According to Rava, though, both the Torah and a Mitzvah offer protection from Yisurin even when a person is not involved with them! Regarding protection from the Yetzer ha'Ra, a Mitzvah does not provide *any* protection, while the Torah does provide protection. With regard to what does the Beraisa state that the Mitzvah does offer protection but its protection is less than that of the Torah? (TOSFOS DH Mitzvah)


(a) The MAHARSHA answers that the Mitzvah's protection helps only in Olam ha'Zeh. The Torah, in contrast, offers protection for the Neshamah even after the person leaves this world. It protects the Neshamah from the Yisurin of Din, judgement (like the Gemara says in Chagigah (27a), "The fire of Gehinom has no power over those who learn Torah"). (See also RASHASH and NETZIV.) In this sense the protection of the Torah is more permanent than the protection of a Mitzvah.

TOSFOS, however, does not accept this answer, perhaps because the Beraisa continues and says that there is another explanation for the difference between Torah and Mitzvos, and that is that sin can extinguish the merit of a Mitzvah (l'Asid la'Vo; see Rashi and Tosfos), but it cannot extinguish the merit of Torah. How can the Beraisa say that a sin can extinguish a Mitzvah? If a person does a Mitzvah how can he lose the reward for it by doing an Aveirah? The Beraisa must mean that the reward of the Mitzvah cannot overpower the necessity for punishment for the Aveirah. Therefore, the person will be punished for the Aveirah despite the fact that he did a Mitzvah. With regard to Torah, though, the Torah that he learned will protect him, to some extent, from being punished for his Aveiros. Hence, the "Davar Acher" of the Beraisa is expressing this difference between Torah and Mitzvos, and therefore that cannot be the same difference that is expressed in the first half of the Beraisa! Perhaps the Maharsha learns that the "Dava r Acher" is expressing the same difference but only in different terms, which Tosfos felt was improbable and thus did not accept it.

(b) The CHAFETZ CHAIM in LIKUTEI HALACHOS explains that there are two ways of learning Torah and doing Mitzvos: they can be done either Lishmah or she'Lo Lishmah. Rava -- who says that Torah protects a person from sinning only when a person is involved with it -- is discussing Torah that one learns she'Lo Lishmah, such as the Torah-learning of Doeg (Sanhedrin 106a). However, if a person learns Torah or does Mitzvos *Lishmah*, then the Torah protects him from the Yetzer ha'Ra even while he is not involved in learning Torah, and Mitzvos protect him from the Yetzer ha'Ra when he is involved in them.

The ORACH CHAIM HA'KADOSH (Vayikra 26:3:7) uses this approach to defend the view of Rav Yosef who suggests that Torah protects a person from the Yetzer ha'Ra even when he is not learning. The Gemara rejects Rav Yosef's view, asking how could Doeg and Achitofel have sinned if they learned Torah and the Torah protects a person from sinning? The Orach Chaim answers that Doeg and Achitofel learned Torah she'Lo Lishmah, and that is why their Torah did not protect them while they were not learning. When Rav Yosef explains, according to the Beraisa, that Torah protects a person even when he is not learning, he was discussing Torah that one learns Lishmah. (Tosfos might have rejected this approach because of this reason itself; according to the Chafetz Chaim, Rava is not justified in rejecting Rav Yosef's explanation of the Beraisa. The Chafetz Chaim might have understood that a woman learning Torah is comparable to learning Torah she'Lo Lishmah, since she has no Chiyuv to learn. That is why Rava -- who is discussing the Torah and Mitzvos of a woman -- relate them to Torah and Mitzvos she'Lo Lishmah.)

(c) TOSFOS later in the Sugya asks another question. Rav Yosef in the Gemara says that if Achitofel would have realized that the merit of Torah protects a person, then he would not have attempted to harm David ha'Melech. The reason Achitofel thought that he could overpower David ha'Melech was because David ha'Melech seemed to be involved with the sin of Eshes Ish, and the Torah says that such an act causes the Shechinah to depart from the person and not protect him. Achitofel did not realize that David's Torah could protect him even from such an Aveirah. Tosfos (DH v'Hen) asks that the Gemara earlier says that both Torah and Mitzvos can protect a person from punishment, even while he is not involved in them. Why, then, does Rav Yosef imply that it was the unique Zechus of *Torah* that was able to protect David ha'Melech?

To answer these questions, we must first ask another question. We know that if someone sees a Talmid Chacham doing an Aveirah at night, he must assume that by the next morning the Talmid Chacham has done Teshuvah (Berachos 19a). Why, then, did Achitofel think that he could overpower David ha'Melech, if David already did Teshuvah for his sin? The answer is that the Mishnah at the end of Yoma (85b) tells us that Teshuvah alone does not suffice to atone for all sins. If a person commits the type of sin that involves Kares or Misas Beis Din, he must first undergo Yisurin in order to gain atonement. If a person commits the type of sin that involves Chilul Hashem (because the sin is publicized), he does not achieve full atonement until death. Achitofel relied on the fact that David ha'Melech would have to suffer Yisurin and death first in order to gain atonement, and therefore he reasoned that he would be successful in joining Avshalom to overpower David ha'Melech.

We may suggest that there are two different types of tragedies that can befall a person. There are those that one faces because of natural circumstances (his "Mazal"), and there are those that one faces as a direct result of his sins ("Yisurin Mechaperin"). When the Beraisa says that Torah and Mitzvos protect a person from evils even when he is not involved in Torah and Mitzvos at the moment, it might be referring to natural evils that befall him because of his Mazal. However, if a person is destined to suffer punishment because of his sins, then the Mitzvos that he does cannot protect him from punishment, since it is decreed that he must suffer to atone for his sons. Learning Torah, however, can take the place of physical suffering or even death, because the exertion involved in toiling in Torah is equivalent to physical affliction and even death (see Tamid 32a, Berachos 63b, Shabbos 88a, and Midrash Tanchuma Parshas Noach).

This explains why only Torah was able to protect David ha'Melech. David was deserving of Yisurin to atone for his sins, and only Torah could provide that degree of Yisurin for his atonement.

This also answers Rava's statement. Rava says that the merit of a Mitzvah protects a person permanently, even when he is not involved with the Mitzvah, but it only protects him from natural circumstances. If the person is deserving of punishment and needs Yisurin to atone for his sins, then only Torah can provide him protection. The Beraisa, which compares the Torah to daylight which affords more permanent protection, is referring to protection from Yisurin due to Aveiros.

Why, however, does Rava explain that the merit of a Mitzvah could protect a woman from the effects of the Mei Sotah? The Mei Sotah is punishing her for her sin of adultery, and we just explained that a Mitzvah cannot protect a person from Yisurin that come for atonement for a sin! The answer is that the punishment that comes from drinking the Mei Sotah is not the same as a normal punishment of Misas Beis Din that is administered in order to punish a wrongdoer and atone for his sins. Rather, the Mei Sotah is administered to prove whether or not she is permitted to her husband by the natural reaction that Hashem put into the world that a sinner's body reacts to the holiness of the Shem ha'Kodesh mixed with the Mei ha'Kiyor and the Afar ha'Mishkan. The merit of a Mitzvah is able to protect the woman from this "natural" calamity, even though it cannot protect her from the Yisurin that she must suffer eventually due to her sins. (M. Kornfeld)


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