YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM)
Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
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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.
From time to time, the shiur will include instructions to stop reading and do some task on your own. This will be marked by a
Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.
Last week, we studied the Gemara's discussion of who bears financial responsibility for kibbud av va-em; must the child foot the bill when he provides services for his parent ("mi-shel ben") or is it the parent's responsibility ("mi-shel av"). The gemara made three attempts to prove that the child is responsible. The last of these proofs was based on the beraita which rules that even if a parent throws a wallet into the sea, thus exhibiting bizarre and destructive behavior, his child may not embarrass him. The beraita would seem to indicate that the wallet belongs to the child and that he thereby suffers financial loss, which is why he would get angry at the parent; nevertheless, kibbud av va-em requires that the child hold back his anger. The gemara answered that we can understand that ruling even if we assume that the parent bears fincancial responsibility: since the child stands to inherit his parents, he is naturally concerned not only with this own financial standing but with that of his parents as well.
Having mentioned that a child may not embarrass his parent even when the parent engages in destructive behavior, the gemara brings another precedent for this ruling. We are about a third of the way down on 32a.
And like that of Rabba bar Rav Huna,
for Rav Huna tore silk in the presence of Rabba his son;
he said: I will go and see if he will get angry or will not get angry.
And maybe he would get angry, and he (Rav Huna) would violate "And before a blind person do not place a stumbling block!"
He forgave his honor.
But he violates the prohibition to destroy!
He did it on the stitches.
And maybe because of this he did not get angry!
He did it to him at his time of anger.
וכי הא דרבה בר רב הונא,
דרב הונא קרע שיראי באנפי רבה בריה,
אמר: איזול איחזי אי רתח אי לא רתח.
ודלמא רתח, וקעבר אלפני עור לא תתן מכשול!
דמחיל ליה ליקריה.
והא קעבר משום בל תשחית!
דעבד ליה בפומבייני.
ודילמא משום הכי לא רתח!
דעבד ליה בשעת ריתחיה.
Rav Huna wanted to test his son, and therefore tore expensive silk garments in his son's presence in order to see if he would get angry. As mentioned above, this further emphasizes that even if the parent engages in destructive behavior, a child may not denigrate his parents.
The gemara questions the wisdom of Rav Huna's actions; if his son, Rabba, would in fact get angry, he would apparently violate the command of kibbud av. If this would happen, Rav Huna himself would actually be in violation of the prohibition of lifnei ivver, placing a stumbling block in front of a blind person. This prohibition, from Vayikra 19:14, applies to placing an actual physical stumbling block in front of a blind person, but also applies when one causes another to "stumble" in other ways. Thus, giving bad financial advice, or as in our gemara, facilitating the violation of Halakha, also constitutes a violation of lifnei ivver. Since causing his so to violate kibbud av would be a violation for Rav Huna, how could he have taken the risk of provoking Rabba? The gemara answers that Rav Huna had already forgiven his honor, and therefore Rabba would not violate kibbud av even if he were to get angry.
The gemara challenges Rav Huna's behavior yet again: Rav Huna was in apparent violation of the prohibition of bal tashchit (Devarim 20:19), a prohibition that applies to destroying items that have productive usage. The gemara answers that Rav Huna tore the garment on its stitches, in such a way that it could easily be stitched back together. Tearing a garment in such a way is not a violation of bal tashchit.
However, the gemara asks, Rav Huna's test was flawed; perhaps his son, Rabba, would not get angry because he would realize that the garment was not ruined! The gemara answers that Rav Huna conducted his test at a time when Rabba was already angry and would be unable to discern that the tear was only along the stitches.
We mentioned at the end of last week's shiur that one a practical level, we accept the opinion of Rav Natan bar Oshaya, that the obligations of kibbud av are mi-shel av, meaning that the son does not have financial responsibility for these obligations. That being the case, we may wonder how to interpret the final two cases quoted in the gemara. If the son is not required to lose money for kibbud av, why must he watch silently while his parent throws his wallet into the sea or tears expensive clothing?
For this reason, Rashi (s.v. she-yitol) explains that the beraita must be referring to a situation in which the father threw his own wallet into the sea. The implication is that if the father were to attempt to throw the son's wallet into the sea, the son would in fact be permitted to protest, since he is not required to lose money for the sake of kibbud av. Nevertheless, he may protest only in order to prevent the loss of money. If the father does actually throw the money into the sea, the son may not embarrass his father. The father does have to reimburse his son for the loss of money.
The Rambam (Hilkhot Mamrim 6:7) takes a different approach. In his view, a son may not embarrass his father even in order to prevent his father from throwing his, the son's, wallet into the sea. How is this consistent with the rule that kibbud av is mi-shel av, which the Rambam himself adopts (ibid. 6:3)? There are several answers to this problem and we will present two of them here:
1) Although one is not required to spend money in order to fulfill kibbud av va-em, one is not permitted to actively embarrass one's parents, thereby violating the mitzva of mora, fear or awe of one's parents, even if doing so will save one from losing money.
2) One is not required to suffer a financial loss even due to the mitzva of mora. However, one is also not permitted to embarrass one's parents. Rather, one must restrain one's emotions and reactions in such circumstances, and recoup the money later.
Back to the Gemara
The gemara introduces another ruling related to kibbud av va-em. The ruling is introduced in the context of a different halakhic discussion, as we will see. We begin from the "two-dots" on 32a.
Rav Yechezkel taught his son Rami:
[If] those [sentenced to] burning [were mixed] in with [those sentenced to] stoning -
R. Shimon says: they are judged with stoning, for burning is more severe.
Rav Yehuda his son said to him: Father, don't teach it this way;
why state that burning is more severe?
Derive it from the fact that the majority are [those sentenced to] stoning!
Rather, teach it this way: Those [sentenced to] stoning [were mixed] in with [those sentenced to] burning.
He said to him: if so, consider the end [of that mishna],
"And the sages say: they should be judged with burning, for stoning is more severe;"
Why state that stoning is more severe? Derive it from the fact that the majority are those [sentenced to] burning!
He said to him: There the Rabbis were stating to R. Shimon,
"that which you said that burning is more severe -
no, stoning is more severe."
מתני ליה רב יחזקאל לרמי בריה:
הנשרפים בנסקלים -
רבי שמעון אומר: ידונו בסקילה, שהשריפה חמורה.
אמר ליה רב יהודה בריה: אבא, לא תיתנייא הכי;
מאי איריא שריפה חמורה?
תיפוק לי דרובא נסקלים נינהו!
אלא הכי איתנייא: הנסקלים בנשרפים.
א"ל (אמר ליה): אי הכי, אימא סיפא,
וחכמים אומרים: ידונו בשריפה, שהסקילה חמורה;
מאי איריא דסקילה חמורה? תיפוק לי דרובא נשרפים נינהו!
א"ל (אמר ליה): התם רבנן הוא דקאמרו ליה לר"ש (לרבי שמעון),
דקאמרת שריפה חמורה,
לא, סקילה חמורה.
There are some transgressions for which the Torah prescribes the death penalty. Depending on the transgression, there are different methods used to carry out this sentence; stoning, burning, beheading and strangulation. The mishna in Masekhet Sanhedrin (79b) quotes a Tanna'itic dispute regarding the levels of severity of these methods. R. Shimon argues that burning is considered more severe than stoning, while the sages maintain that stoning is considered more severe; the other two methods are certainly considered of lesser severity. A ramification of this machloket (disagreement) is with regard to a situation in which people who have been sentenced to stoning and people who have been sentenced to burning become mixed together, such that we no longer remember who is supposed to get which punishment. In such a case, we will have to give all of the prisoners the less severe punishment. R. Shimon argues that this lesser punishment is stoning while R. Yehuda holds that it is burning.
The gemara relates that Rav Yechezkel once studied this mishna with his son, Rami. Rav Yechezkel taught the mishna as follows: "If those sentenced to burning were mixed with those sentenced to stoning, R. Shimon rules that they should all be stoned because burning is more severe." Rami, his son, argued that the phraseology of the mishna should be slightly different. The language employed by Rav Yechezkel implies that some prisoners sentenced to burning became mixed with a greater number of prisoners who had been sentenced to stoning. But if that were the case, the reason that all of the prisoners are stoned is not necessarily because stoning is of lesser severity but because the majority of the prisoners have been sentenced to stoning. Even if stoning was of equal, and not lesser, severity when compared to burning, the prisoners should all be stoned due to the principle of rov, that we follow the majority if we are not sure of the class to which a particular item belongs.
In order to rectify this problem, Rami suggested that the proper reading of the mishna must be, "If those sentenced to stoning were mixed with those sentenced to burning . . ." This implies that those sentenced to burning are actually the majority. Nevertheless, R. Shimon rules that they should be stoned; clearly this is because stoning is a less severe punishment.
Rav Yechezkel responded to Rami by challenging his rendering of the mishna: after stating R. Shimon's opinion, the mishna goes on to mention the opinion of the sages, who rule that the prisoners should all be executed via burning, as that is the less severe punishment. If, however, the case is that the prisoners sentenced to burning comprise the majority of the group, why is the sages' opinion interpreted as being based on the fact that stoning is more severe a punishment than burning; perhaps their ruling is due to the rule of rov!
Rami responds that the sages are not making their own independent ruling; if they were, they would indeed have used a case in which the majority of the group is comprised of those who have been sentenced to stoning. Rather, they are responding to R. Shimon's ruling: that which you said, R. Shimon, that burning is more severe, that is not the case; stoning is more severe.
The gemara continues with the continuation of this discussion, which brings us back to the laws of kibbud av va-em.
Shemu'el said to Rav Yehuda: Sharp one,
do not speak to your father this way,
as it says in a beraita: If one's father was violating the words of the Torah,
he should not say to him: "Father, you have violated the words of the Torah,"
rather he should say to him: "Father, thus is written in the Torah."
"Thus is written in the Torah" - he is causing him pain!
Rather, he should say to him: "Father, there is a verse written in the Torah as follows. . ."
א"ל (אמר ליה) שמואל לרב יהודה: שיננא,
לא תימא ליה לאבוך הכי,
דתניא: הרי שהיה אביו עובר על דברי תורה,
אל יאמר לו: אבא, עברת על דברי תורה,
אלא אומר לו: אבא, כך כתוב בתורה.
כך כתוב בתורה - צעורי קא מצער ליה!
אלא, אומר לו: אבא, מקרא כתוב בתורה כך.
Shemu'el, having heard of this exchange between Rav Yechezkel and Rami, informed his student, Rav Yehuda, that Rami's formulation in speaking to his father was inappropriate. Shemu'el at times referred to Rav Yehuda as "sharp one," due to Rav Yehuda's sharp intellect. Shemu'el quotes a beraita to this effect: one who sees his father violating halakha should not directly admonish his father, but should rather say, "Father, thus is written in the Torah."
The gemara questions how this latter formulation is any better; it amounts to the same thing, the son admonishing his father for his misdeeds! The gemara concludes that the proper formulation should actually be slightly different: "Father, there is a verse written in the Torah as follows."
It is not entirely clear from the gemara how this final formulation is any better than the formulation that the gemara rejected. There are two main explanations of this point in the commentaries:
1) Rashi on our gemara (s.v. mikra) explains that the initial formulation more directly related the pasuk that the son is quoting to the action of the father. In the final formulation, the son merely states a pasuk, and the father realizes on his own the relevance of that pasuk to his actions.
2) Rambam (Hilkhot Mamrim 6:11) explains that rather than stating the law, as implied by the first formulation quoted in the gemara, the son should mention the pasuk as though he is asking his father if his quote is correct. In this way, it does not seem as though the son is admonishing his father. The Shulchan Arukh (YD 240:11) quotes Rambam's explanation.