Daf 30a continued

  • Rav Michael Siev

YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM)


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 11

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Key words and phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them. 

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Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.

We have been studying for a few weeks now the Gemara's discussion of a father's obligation to teach his son Torah, combined with a more general discussion of Torah study. The gemara we will study this week resumes that theme, detailing the merits of Torah study.

We begin on the second to last line of 30a.  

The rabbis taught: "And you shall teach thoroughly" -

 

that the words of Torah should be sharp in your mouth,

that if a person asks you something -

do not stammer and tell him, rather tell him immediately,

 

as it says: "Say to wisdom 'you are my sister,' etc."

And it says: "Bind them on your finger, write them on the tablet of your heart,"

and it says: "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of youth,"

and it says: "The sharp arrows of the mighty,"

and it says: "Your arrows are sharp - nations fall beneath you."

and it says: "Praiseworthy is the man who has filled his quiver with them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with enemies in the gate."

תנו רבנן: ושננתם -

שיהו דברי תורה מחודדים בפיך,

שאם ישאל לך אדם דבר -

אל תגמגם ותאמר לו, אלא אמור לו מיד,

שנאמר: אמור לחכמה אחותי את וגו',

ואומר: קשרם על אצבעותיך כתבם על לוח לבך,

ואומר: כחצים ביד גבור כן בני הנעורים,

ואומר: חצי גבור שנונים,

ואומר: חציך שנונים עמים תחתיך יפלו,

ואומר: אשרי הגבר אשר מלא את אשפתו מהם לא יבושו כי ידברו את אויבים בשער.    

The gemara quotes a beraita that introduces a well known teaching: The Torah instructs a father to "teach thoroughly" (ve-shinantam) the words or Torah to his son (Devarim 6:7). The word ve-shinantam stems from the word shinnun, which implies sharpness. Based on this, the beraita explains that "the words of Torah should be sharp in your mouth," such that if someone asks you a question you should know the answer immediately. This introduces a new level of analysis regarding the mitzva of talmud Torah (Torah study). Until now, we have addressed the issues of who must learn and teach Torah and what topics of study should be included in the curriculum. This beraita teaches that one must also achieve a high level of proficiency regarding one's studies; one should be able to answer questions immediately rather than fumbling for a response. As Rashi points out, this means that one must understand clearly what one has learned and review those studies to the point that one achieves the level of expertise mentioned in our gemara.

The beraita quotes other pesukim as well to show that one should have a high level of proficiency in one's studies. The verse in Mishlei (7:4) states, "Say to wisdom 'you are my sister,' and call understanding a close friend." Just as one knows one's sister or friend well and is comfortable with them, one should be well-versed in areas of wisdom. Rashi adds that just as everyone knows with certainty that one may not marry his sister, so should one be certain about other areas of halakha.

The beraita continues by quoting another pasuk, which immediately precedes the one we just quoted: "Bind them on your finger, write them on the tablet of your heart" (ibid. v. 3). This, too, indicates that one should have a close familiarity with the words of Torah, as they are figuratively attached to one's finger and heart.

The next set of verses that are quoted are from Tehillim. In chapter 127 (v. 4) it says: "Like arrows in the hand of the warrior, so are the children of youth." Rashi here explains that "children" refers to students, who are the spiritual children of their teachers. Thus, the students that one teaches in one's youth are like "arrows in the hand of a warrior." The beraita digresses slightly to prove that the image of arrows implies sharpness: One verse refers to the "sharp arrows of the mighty" (ibid. 120:4) and another says: "Your arrows are sharp - nations fall beneath you" (ibid. 45:6). The beraita returns to its point and cites the continuation of chapter 127 (v. 5): "Praiseworthy is the man who has filled his quiver with them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with enemies in the gate." It is praiseworthy if one fills one's "quiver" with sharp arrows, meaning if one has taught many students to be proficient ("sharp") in their studies. Clearly, one cannot produce such students if the teacher himself is not fully proficient in the subject matter. Thus, we have another proof that a person should strive for a high level of Torah knowledge.

In all, we have three additional proofs to the idea embodied in the beraita's explication of the word ve-shinantam, that one should become proficient in one's studies: the verse in Mishlei that speaks of having a close relationship with knowledge, the preceding verse which exhorts one to bind Torah on one's finger and write the words of Torah on one's heart, and the pesukim in Tehillim that instruct one to produce sharp students, which is possible only if one is himself proficient in his studies.

Why do we need so many proofs? Couldn't we have gotten the point with one or two pesukim?

[Hint: Do these additional proofs add anything to the idea stated in the beraita, or are they just further proof-texts to the same idea?]

It is rather unusual for a beraita to cite numerous Scriptural sources for one concept; when it does, the gemara often asks why the different sources are necessary. It seems to me that in our case, the sources do add additional nuances to the original idea. The first pasuk quoted from Mishlei refers to Torah as a sister or friend. One knows well the people to whom one is close, but there is also a comfort level and a sense of kinship. Our relationship with Torah should not be one in which we are simply drilled by our teachers to the point that we are proficient in Halakha; we should experience a sense of comfort, of kinship, even of love for the Torah, including both the subject matter and the lifestyle it represents. Furthermore, Torah should be "bound to our finger, written on the tablet of our heart." It should accompany us wherever we go, informing our all our decisions, and it should serve as the foundation of our system of values. Finally, one who has successfully created this type of relationship with Torah will not be able to keep it to himself; he should, and will, share it with others so that the Torah can enrich their lives as well. He should ensure that they, too, are fully proficient in Torah, and this is the implication of the series of verses in Tehillim which speak of a person producing students who are also proficient in Torah. This applies not just regarding one's own son; one should train many students, so that he "fills his quiver" with them.

The gemara picks up on the end of the last pasuk quoted in the beraita, and questions its meaning. We are on the eighth line of 30b.

What is (the meaning of) "with enemies in the gate?"

R. Chiya bar Abba said: even a father and son, a teacher and student,

who are involved in Torah in one gate become enemies to each other,

and they do not move from there until they become close friends,

as it says: "the gift of Reeds,"

 

don't read "of Reeds" (be-sufa)

rather "in the end" (be-sofah).

מאי את אויבים בשער?

אמר רבי חייא בר אבא: אפי' האב ובנו, הרב ותלמידו,

שעוסקין בתורה בשער אחד נעשים אויבים זה את זה,

ואינם זזים משם עד שנעשים אוהבים זה את זה,

שנאמר: את והב בסופה,

אל תקרי בסופה 

אלא בסופה.

The beraita had interpreted the verses in Tehillim 127:4-5 as referring to producing students who are proficient in Torah. If so, the meaning of the conclusion of that selection, which speaks of the students not being embarrassed when they speak with "enemies" in the gate, presumably refers to discussions of Torah; the students will be able to hold their own while debating questions of Torah law with other people. But if so, why does the pasuk refer to the people with whom these students will discuss and debate Torah as "enemies?"

R. Chiya bar Abba explains that even close relatives can become like enemies when they debate points of Halakha. In their pursuit of truth and understanding, they may debate each other, reject each other's suggestions and challenge each other's conclusions. Nevertheless, when the discussion is over they become close friends. This is because the debate is not personal and it is therefore not insulting. Quite the opposite is true; the "combatants" are both striving to understand Torah as correctly as possible, and they recognize that the other person is also striving for that goal and that the debate actually helps both of them clarify the matter at hand. Therefore, not only do they leave on good terms, but the "battle" itself increases the love between them. This is indicated by the pasuk in Bamidbar (21:14), which states: "This is the book of wars of God; that which was given (vahev) at [the Sea of] Reeds and the rivers of Arnon." The gemara reads the word be-sufa, which refers to the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf), as be-sofah, meaning "at its conclusion." Thus, as Rashi explains, any war which arises from the "book of God," leads to "vahev" at the "end." The word vahev is similar to the word ahava, which means love. Thus, the pasuk hints to the idea that arguments about Torah increase the closeness of the participants.

Moving on the in Gemara

We resume from the "two-dots," 13 lines down on 30b.

The rabbis taught: "And you shall place" (ve-samtem) - a perfect elixir (sam tam)

the Torah is compared to an elixir of life.

A parable to one who struck his son a great blow

and placed a bandage upon his wound,

 

and said to him: "My son, as long as this bandage is upon your wound,

eat what you enjoy and drink what you enjoy,

and wash in hot water or cold water

and you have nothing to fear;

and if you remove it, it (the wound) will give rise to boils."

 

So the Holy One, blessed is He, said to Israel:

"My sons, I created the evil inclination and I created the Torah as its antidote,

and if you involve yourselves in Torah you will not be delivered into its (the evil inclination's) hand,

as it says: 'if you do good, you will prevail,'

and if you do not involve yourselves in Torah you will be delivered into its hand,

as it says: 'sin rests at the door,'

and what is more, all of its (the evil inclination's) pursuits are with you,

as it says: 'and to you is its desire,'

and if you want you can rule over it, as it says: 'and you shall rule it.'"

ת"ר (=תנו רבנן): ושמתם - סם תם,

נמשלה תורה כסם חיים;

משל לאדם שהכה את בנו מכה גדולה

והניח לו רטיה על מכתו,

ואמר לו: בני, כל זמן שהרטיה זו על מכתך,

אכול מה שהנאתך ושתה מה שהנאתך,

ורחוץ בין בחמין בין בצונן

ואין אתה מתיירא;

ואם אתה מעבירה הרי היא מעלה נומי.

כך הקב"ה אמר להם לישראל:

בני, בראתי יצר הרע ובראתי לו תורה תבלין,

ואם אתם עוסקים בתורה אין אתם נמסרים בידו,

שנאמר: הלא אם תטיב שאת,

ואם אין אתם עוסקין בתורה אתם נמסרים בידו,

שנא': לפתח חטאת רובץ,

ולא עוד, אלא שכל משאו ומתנו בך,

שנאמר: ואליך תשוקתו,

ואם אתה רוצה אתה מושל בו, שנאמר: ואתה תמשל בו.

This beraita begins by examining another word that is familiar to us from the shema; "You shall place [ve-samtem] these words of mine on your hearts" (Devarim 11:18). The word ve-samtem can be divided, such that it refers to a sam tam, an elixir of life. Thus, the verse can be understood to refer to the words of Torah as an elixir of life. The beraita presents a parable of a man who struck his son, and then placed a bandage on the wound. He instructed his son to keep the bandage on the wound; if the bandage would remain on the wound it would protect the wound from any negative effects, and the son could enjoy good food and drink and could wash as he saw fit, despite the fact that such activities can aggravate wounds. If the son would remove the wound, however, it would become infected and cause harm. Similarly, God, our father, as it were, gave us an evil inclination (the "wound"). However, He provided us an antidote, which is the Torah. As long as we involve ourselves in Torah, the evil inclination will not harm us, as the pasuk (Bereshit 4:7) indicates: "If you do good, you will prevail." However, if we do not involve ourselves with Torah, we will fall pray to the evil inclination, as that very pasuk continues: "and if you do not do good, sin rests at the door." The beraita explicates the rest of the pasuk: "to you is its desire, and you shall conquer it." The evil inclination has one desire, which is to make man sin, but man is capable of conquering his evil inclination.

The gemara has provided a mashal (parable) of a child who can eat, drink and wash to his content as long as his bandage remains on his wound. However, the lesson (nimshal) does not seem to directly parallel the mashal; we do learn that the Torah ("bandage") can protect one from harm caused by the evil inclination ("wound"), but we do not hear about being able to eat, drink and wash! The Maharsha on our gemara explains that this refers to man's involvement in this world, including his experience with earthly pleasures. Such experiences have the power to lead man astray, just as certain types of activities may aggravate a wound. However, if a person is involved with Torah, his involvement with the world will not cause him to sin.

Rav Eliyahu Lopian (a well-known 20th century proponent of Mussar, ethical study) adds a further insight: In the mashal, the bandage has to be applied directly to the wound. Since the wound represents the evil inclination, and it is clear from the mashal that everyone has been struck with this "wound," it seems that the evil inclination here refers to the natural desire that everyone has to eat, drink and be involved in similar, physical activities that are necessary for one's continued health and well-being. If one applies the "bandage," representing the Torah, directly to those natural desires, the result is that one performs those activities not as goals in and of themselves but as means to a higher end; so that one can continue to serve God in the best possible fashion. If this is the case, we may freely say that one may eat, drink and wash without any concern for sin; those activities themselves have become elevated. They are no longer neutral activities that may lead a person to become carried away with an exaggerated concern for physicality, but are rather acts of Divine service.