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Shabbos 119


QUESTION: The Gemara relates how Rebbi Avahu, Rav Huna, Rabah, Rav Yosef, and many other Amora'im would physically involve themselves in the preparations of Shabbos. The Gemara in Kidushin (41a) adds that they performed the preparations for Shabbos even though they had servants that could do it for them.

The Gemara in Mo'ed Katan (9a) states that learning Torah is more important than all of the other Mitzvos, so that if one has before him the Mitzvah of learning Torah and another Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of learning Torah takes precedence if someone else can do the other Mitzvah. (If no other person can do the other Mitzvah, then one may stop learning Torah in order to perform it, since the purpose of learning Torah is to perform the Mitzvos.) If so, since there were others who could do these preparations for Shabbos, what allowed these Amora'im to stop learning Torah? (MISHNAH BERURAH in SHA'AR HA'TZIYUN 250:9)


(a) The SHA'AR HA'TZIYUN says that when the Gemara in Mo'ed Katan says that one does not stop learning Torah to perform a Mitzvah which can be done by someone else, it is referring to a Mitzvah which requires a certain objective to be accomplished. Since this objective can be accomplished by someone else, one may not stop learning Torah to do it himself. When the Gemara there refers to a Mitzvah which cannot be done by someone else, it means a Mitzvah which obligates the person himself to be involved, like wearing Tefilin. Preparing for Shabbos falls into the latter category; the person *himself* is required to be involved in the preparations for Shabbos, and not to merely ensure that the preparations are accomplished. (This answer is problematic, because if the Mitzvah of preparing for Shabbos obligates the person himself to be involved, how can the Gemara in Kidushin prove from these Amora'im that it is better for a person to perform a Mitzvah himself than to appoint a Shali'ach to do it? A Shali'ach cannot perform a Mitzvah that another person is personally obligated to be involved in!)

(b) The Mitzvah of honoring the Shabbos is more weighty than other Mitzvos, so that it requires that one even stop learning Torah in order to fulfill it. (Sha'ar ha'Tziyun)

(c) Perhaps these Amora'im were learning Torah (in depth) at the same time that they were doing their Shabbos preparations.


QUESTION: Rava taught that the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed because there ceased to exist men of trustworthiness. The Gemara challenges this from a teaching of Rav Katina, who said that even during the time of the collapse of Jerusalem, when the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed, "men of trustworthiness did not cease [to exist]." The Gemara concludes that when it came to business, there were no trustworthy people; in Torah, though, there were still trustworthy people, whom one could trust when they said that they do not know Torah.

What is so noteworthy about the fact that people were proud to be honest and say that they did not know Torah?

ANSWER: I heard from Hagaon RAV SHLOMO FISHER Shlit'a (author of Sefer Beis Yishai) that the Akeidah and Abarbanel explain that Hashem gave the Jewish people a special blessing that "men of trustworthiness in Torah would not cease to exist." The essence of this blessing is as follows. We find in the Torah (Devarim 31:21) that Hashem has promised that the Torah will never be forgotten. In order for the Torah not to be forgotten, Hashem ensured that when the elders do not know the Torah, they will admit it; this prevents the forging and misconstruing of the Torah.

Rav Fisher adds that this could explain the choice of Psalm-of-the-Day recited on Shemini Atzeres, Tehilim #12. When we read this psalm, it does not seem to be related in any way to Torah (Simchas Torah) or to Shemini Atzeres. "Save us Hashem, because... no one can be trusted anymore, everyone speaks falsely... the words of Hashem are pure words, like finely refined silver. You, Hashem, will protect them and save them forever...."

Rav Samson Refael Hirsch explains that there is a fine correlation between Pesach and Shavuos, and between Sukos and Shemini Atzeres. The first pair, Pesach and Shavuos, represents the "birth" of the nation and of the Torah. The second pair, Sukos and Shemini Atzeres, represents the continuity of the nation and the Torah.

Accordingly, Tehilim #12 is most appropriate for Shemini Atzeres, because the subject of Tehilim #12 is the special blessing that men of trustworthiness in Torah will never cease which, as we explained, is a safeguard to maintaining the continuity of the Torah. Since Shemini Atzeres is the time that represents the continuation of the nation and the protection of the Torah, it is most appropriate to discuss on this day the blessing that Hashem gave us, that the Torah will be preserved through all of the generations: "No one can be trusted anymore, everyone speaks falsely... [but] the words of Hashem (= the Torah) are pure... You, Hashem, will protect them, You will preserve them from this generation forever."

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