THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) HALACHAH: REBUKING A WRONGDOER
The Gemara says that a person must rebuke someone whom he sees committing a
sin, even if he knows that the other person will not listen to him. TOSFOS
(DH v'Af Al Gav) points out certain conditions to this obligation.
2) "ZECHUS AVOS" -- THE MERIT OF OUR FOREFATHERS
The Poskim (OC 608:2) discuss the details that are relevant in practice:
(a) A person must rebuke someone who *willfully* sins, even if one is
certain that the sinner will not heed the rebuke. Similarly, for this
reason, if a person is transgressing a prohibition that is written
explicitly in the Torah, it is assumed that he knows that it is forbidden
and he is sinning intentionally, and therefore one must rebuke him and tell
him to stop sinning.
(b) If one sees that the wrongdoer is not accepting the rebuke, then one
should continue to rebuke him, but in private and not in public (one
rebukes a sinner in public only once). Also, if the sin was committed in
private, one should rebuke the sinner only in private.
(c) However, if the person is committing a sin that is not stated
explicitly in the Torah, or one that is prohibited mid'Rabanan (and it is
not evident that he knows it is forbidden), then if one knows for sure that
the sinner is not going to listen to the rebuke, he one is not required to
tell the sinner to stop, because rebuking him will only make his sin worse
by changing it from an unintentional sin to an intentional one.
(d) But if there is a *possibility* that he might listen to the rebuke,
then one is obligated to rebuke him, as our Gemara says.
QUESTION: According to a number of Amora'im, Zechus Avos (the merit of our
forefathers) has been "used up" and no longer protects us. If so, why do we
continue to mention the Avos in all of our prayers, summoning Zechus Avos?
3) HASHEM'S SEAL IS "EMES"
(a) TOSFOS (DH v'Shmuel) cites RABEINU TAM who answers that the Gemara
means that *Zechus* Avos is finished; their merits cannot arouse Divine
protection and help for us anymore. However, the *Bris* Avos is still
intact. The Bris Avos is the covenant that Hashem made with the Avos,
assuring them that no matter what happens, their children will never be
destroyed ("v'Lo Yishcach Es *Bris Avosecha*" - Devarim 4:31).
(b) The RI says that even according to the opinions that say that Zechus
Avos has ended, it has ended only for the evildoers. The Tzadikim, though,
still have Zechus Avos. Therefore, Shmuel, who said that Zechus Avos has
ended, and Rebbi Yochanan, who said that Zechus Avos can still be aroused,
are not arguing. Shmuel is referring to evildoers, and Rebbi Yochanan is
referring to Tzadikim.
(c) TOSFOS (ibid.) cites the MIDRASH (Vayikra Rabah) in which Rebbi Acha
argues with the Amora'im in our Gemara and states that Zechus Avos is
always extant and operative, and we will always mention it in our prayers,
as the verse states, "v'Lo Yishcach Es Bris Avosecha" (Devarim 4:31).
QUESTION: What is it about Truth (Emes) that gives it the superior position
of being the seal, or signet, of Hashem?
ANSWER: Truth can never be forged, for if it is forged it is no longer
truth! (Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh in the Kotzker Rebbe)
4) IS THERE UNWARRANTED DEATH?
QUESTION: The Gemara concludes that "Yesh Misah b'Lo Chet..." -- "there
*is* death without [a person having committed a] sin, and there *is*
suffering without [a person having committed] iniquity."
5) ARE THERE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SCRIPTURES?
First, how is this conclusion reconciled with the verse cited at the
beginning of the Gemara, "The soul that sins -- it shall die..." (Yechezkel
18:20), which proves that there is *no* death unless one sinned?
Second, the Gemara in Berachos (7a) relates that when Moshe Rabeinu asked
Hashem why suffering befalls the righteous and the wicked prosper, Hashem answered that suffering befalls the righteous person who is not
*completely* righteous (Tzadik sh'Eino Gamur). The Gemara there proves from
verses that if a Tzadik does not sin at all, then he will not be punished
for the sins of his forebears and he will not suffer from them. How, then,
can the Gemara here conclude that there *is* death without sin?
Those learned in the hidden aspects of Torah teach that Neshamos ("souls")
are corporeally transcendent. A person living in a later generation can
share the Neshamah of a person who had lived in a former generation.
Scientifically (that is, on a measurable, tangible level), we can
understand this in terms of Midos (character traits). That is, through
following the Mitzvos of the Torah, a person perfects himself and his
Midos. However, a person does not necessarily start off perfect; he may
have inherited undesirable Midos from former generations, and thus a person
may be born with certain Midos that he must overcome. His job is to break
every deeply rooted ("hereditary") tendency towards evil until he no longer
feels such a tendency altogether (and can no longer pass it on to his own
This brings us to an interesting question. A person who is alive now and
has never sinned -- how is he to be classified? On the one hand, since he
himself never sinned, he is a "Tzadik Gamur," pure and clean of sin. On the
other hand, his Neshamah -- which has been through many generations -- *is*
tainted by sin (or, in terms of Midos, his Neshamah still has in it the
roots of imperfect Midos that distance him from Hashem to some degree, even
if they have not caused him to sin actively). As such, he is only a "Tzadik
Our Gemara is concluding that the latter is true. There *is* death without
sin; a person himself committed no sins in his life, and yet he still
suffers and still dies because of the Neshamah, or Midos, that he inherited
from his ancestors and did not perfect. The Gemara in Berachos is also
correct; a person dies only because of his sins, meaning the sins of his
Neshamah/Midos that have stemmed from former generations. The Gemara calls
such a person a "Tzadik sh'Eino Gamur" -- a Tzadik who is not *completely*
righteous -- since he did not perfect the Neshamah/Midos that he inherited.
QUESTION: The Gemara learns from the way the word "Ma'avirim" is spelled
("Ma'aviram") that only one of the sons of Eli sinned. Rashi points out
that even though the Gemara says that the text of the Navi is "Ma'aviram,"
the text of our Navi reads "Ma'avirim." Rebbi Akiva Eiger, in Gilyon
ha'Shas, cites many places where Chazal quote a verse differently than the
way it appears in the texts that we have. How do we reconcile these
(a) TOSFOS (DH Ma'avirim) says that there often are argument between the
text of the Mesorah and the text of the Midrash (or Gemara). He cites an
instance where the reading of a Yerushalmi differs from the readings of our
texts; the Yerushalmi appears to have had the word "40" where our texts
state "20." Apparently, the text of the Mesorah overrides the text of the
Midrash, as the Mesorah reflects the majority opinion of the early
(b) The YAD MALACHI (#283) contends the conclusion of Tosfos. When there is
a question regarding Chaseiros and Yeseiros (single letters that do not
change the pronunciation nor the meaning of the word, such as the Yud or
Alef of "Bereishis"), it is possible that there are two different versions.
But in a case of an entirely different *word*, it is not possible that an
incorrect word drifted into Tanach. The Yad Malachi explains that in cases
such as the Yerushalmi quoted by Tosfos, Chazal are not telling us that the
text of Tanach should actually read differently; rather, they are teaching
that we can infer a particular understanding from the Tanach *as if* it
read differently. The Yerushalmi that Tosfos cites that seems to argue with
our text regarding an entire word, is not really arguing at all.
further elucidation of this topic, see TORAH FROM THE INTERNET Parashat
Naso, by Rabbi M. Kornfeld, Judaica Press, 1998. See also the Yad Malachi
there who discusses many other such instances.)
(c) Our Gemara, "Ma'avirim" versus "Ma'aviram," is a case of Chaseiros and
Yeseiros (because the question is that of an extra Yud, which is seen but
not heard). Nevertheless, perhaps what the Yad Malachi writes regarding
entire words also applies here. That is, Chazal are teaching us to
understand the verse *as if* it said "Ma'aviram." Like Rashi himself says,
"Ma'avirim" can be interpreted to mean that "the *Jewish people* passed
around bad rumors about Eli's child (singular)." That is indeed how the
Targum understands the verse. Therefore, even if the word in the verse is
not "Ma'aviram," it is *as if* it said that only one of Eli's children
sinned. (M. Kornfeld). (RAV REUVEN MARGOLIOS, Ha'Mikra v'ha'Mesorah #2,
reaches a similar conclusion. However, the interpretation that he offers to
explain our Gemara based on a Midrash does not appear to conform to the
words of our Gemara -- the Midrash is clearly following the opinion of Rav
Shmuel bar Nachmani, and not that of Rav.)