THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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SOTAH 31-35 - 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.
1) ASKING THE ANGELS TO HELP
QUESTION: The Gemara implies that a person should Daven in a language which
the angels understand so that they will advocate on his behalf. Does this
Gemara support reciting prayers such as "Malachei Rachamim" that some say in
2) PRAYING IN ARAMAIC
ANSWER: The commentators explain that this Gemara does not support the
practice of reciting prayers such as "Malachei Rachamim." Even though it is
true that the angels help the prayers find favor before Hashem, we are not
permitted to *ask* them for their involvement. We must speak only to Hashem
directly; the angels are Hashem's emissaries, not ours. We may merely make
it easier for the angels to do their job by using a language which they
Those whose practice is to say the prayer "Malachei Rachamim," however, are
not in err. They are not making *requests* of the angels, but rather they
are *acknowledging* to themselves that the angels are helping their prayers.
They find support and encouragement in the knowledge that the angels are
advocating on their behalf.
[I] DO ANGELS KNOW OUR THOUGHTS
QUESTION: The Gemara here says that the angels do not understand the
language of Aramaic. TOSFOS in Shabbos (12b, DH she'Ein Malachei ha'Shares)
asks how the Gemara can say that the angels do not understand Aramaic, when
we know that they understand our thoughts. If they understand the thoughts
of man, certainly they understand the words that he uses to articulate those
thoughts, even if those words are Aramaic!
[II] WHY DO ANGELS NOT KNOW ARAMAIC?
What is Tosfos' source that angels know our thoughts? There seem to be a
number of sources to the contrary, that indicate that angels do *not* know
our thoughts! First, the MA'ADANEI YOM TOV (Berachos 2:6) points out that
the verse says, "You [Hashem] alone know the thoughts of man" (Divrei
Ha'Yamim II 6:30), and, "Who knows [the thoughts in the hearts of men]? I,
Hashem, probe thoughts..." (Yirmiyah 17:9-10).
Second, the SEFAS EMES points out that the Zohar (I:101b, Parshas Va'yera)
explicitly states that the angels asked Avraham where Sarah was because they
only know that which Hashem lets them know. From where, then, does Tosfos
know that the angels know man's thoughts?
ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON (BI'UR HA'GRA, SHULCHAN ARUCH 101:11) suggests a
source for Tosfos' assertion. The Gemara (Berachos 55a) states that "Iyun
Tefilah" causes one's sins to be reviewed in heaven. The Gemara explains
that "Iyun Tefilah" is when a person prays and expects that his prayers will
be answered because he prays with concentration. The angels, seeing this
person so self-confident in his righteousness, ask Hashem to review whether
he is really righteous or not and thus they examine his sins (Rashi ibid.).
This implies that the angels know his thoughts, because it is only his
thoughts that cause the angels to review his sins. It must be that the
angels assigned to Tefilah are given permission to understand thoughts in
order to appropriately advocate for or against the fulfillment of one's
prayers, because part of their advocacy depends on what the person was
thinking at the time that he recited his prayers.
QUESTION: In light of Tosfos' question, how are we to understand the Gemara?
Why do the angels not understand Aramaic, if they understand thoughts?
(a) Perhaps Tosfos is incorrect, and the angels do not understand thoughts
(as many Acharonim assert, see above).
(b) The RA'AVAD (TAMIM DE'IM, cited by the Gilyon ha'Shas in Shabbos)
suggests that even though the angels understand thoughts and therefore they
understand prayers that are recited in Aramaic, Hashem does not want the
angels to advocate for prayers that were recited in Aramaic, lest the people
start using that language for their prayers and not use Lashon ha'Kodesh.
(According to the Ra'avad, this would also apply to the vernacular, no
matter which language it may be. However, if a person is not able to pray in
Lashon ha'Kodesh, the angels would help him, since he is not rejecting
Lashon ha'Kodesh by choice.)
(c) The ROSH (Berachos 2:2) and the RA'AVAD (in Tamim De'im) suggest that
the angels do understand Aramaic, since they understand thoughts, but it is
a repulsive language to them because it is a perversion of Lashon ha'Kodesh,
the holy language. They therefore do not advocate on behalf of someone who
prays in Aramaic.
The TOSFOS SHANTZ, though, says that our Gemara implies that the reason why
the angels do not hear prayers recited in Aramaic is not because they do not
like the language and consider it repulsive. Rather, it is because they do
not understand it altogether, since the Gemara says that only Gavriel was
able to teach the seventy languages to Yosef, and not any other Mal'ach.
(d) The ROSH and RA'AVAD (ibid.) mention another explanation. The angels
only listen to Lashon ha'Kodesh and to *no* other language. The Gemara
mentions Aramaic because one might have thought that the angels do listen to
prayers recited in Aramaic because it closely resembles Lashon ha'Kodesh.
Therefore, the Gemara says that the angels do not listen *even* to Aramaic.
3) THE LOCATION OF HAR GERIZIM AND HAR EIVAL
QUESTIONS: The Gemara records a Machlokes between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi
Elazar concerning the location of Har Gerizim and Har Eival. Rebbi Yehudah
mountains that they were located at the place which the Kusiyim (Shomronim)
today ascribe them. The verse means that these mountains are "far from the
rising sun," meaning far to the west. "Mul ha'Gilgal" means that they were
"near Gilgal," in the area of Shechem. Rebbi Yehudah cites support for his
opinion from the verse that says that Har Gerizim and Har Eival were near
Elon Moreh, and he learns from a Gezeirah Shavah that this is the same Elon
Moreh mentioned with regard to Avraham Avinu, which was located in the
vicinity of Shechem, approximately 60 sixty kilometers from the place at
which the Jewish people crossed the Jordan (see Tosfos, DH Mul).
Rebbi Elazar maintains that they were adjacent to the Jordan River, "far
from the *setting* sun," meaning at the eastern side of Eretz Yisrael.
There are a number of questions on this Gemara.
1. From the Mishnah and Gemara it is clear that the only way Rebbi Yehudah
proves that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Shechem is from a Gezeirah
Shavah. Since the Tzedukim did not accept the Gezeirah Shavah, Rebbi Elazar
bar'Rebbi Yosi challenged them to find another proof from the verses that
Har Gerizim and Har Eival were indeed near Shechem, without relying on the
Why is a Gezeirah Shavah necessary to teach us that this Elon Moreh is the
same Elon Moreh as the one that Avraham Avinu visited? Why would we have
thought that there are two cities called Elon Moreh if we did not have the
2. How can the Gemara say that Shechem is near Gilgal? The verse (Yehoshua
4:19) clearly says that Gilgal was next to the Jordan River, east of
Yericho, and thus it was 60 kilometers from Shechem. Indeed, Rashi on the
Chumash (Devarim 11:30) and the Yerushalmi write that if Har Gerizim and Har
Eival were in Shechem, then "Mul ha'Gilgal" means "distant from Gilgal" and
not "near Gilgal."
The same question may be asked about the other proofs that the Gemara brings
against Rebbi Elazar to show that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near
Shechem. The Gemara points out that the verse describes the mountains as "in
the land of the Kena'ani who live in the Aravah." If it is near the Jordan,
then it is a land of hills and valleys, and not an "Aravah" (plain). Why is
that? Aravah is the perfect description of the area near the Jordan, and
that is why the Yam ha'Melach is called the Yam ha'Aravah (Yehoshua 3:16)!
There are no hills in the immediate vicinity of the Jordan.
The Gemara further points out that the nation living near the Jordan was the
Chivi, and not the Kena'ani, but Rashi brings a source which shows that
Shechem, and not the Jordan River area, was the land of the Chivi. The area
of the Jordan was in fact inhabited by the Kena'anim (Bamidbar 13:29)!
3. How does the Gemara answer its questions on Rebbi Elazar from the words
"Eretz ha'Kena'ani" and from the words "Mul ha'Gilgal?" The Gemara only
answers its question from the words "ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah!"
4. Rashi on the Chumash explains, like Rebbi Yehudah, that Har Gerizim and
Har Eival are near Shechem. However, he writes that they are distant from
Gilgal, and he explains that "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" means that it was in
the "direction where the sun *sets*" and not where it rises, and he shows at
length how the word "Acharei" is not connected to the word "Derech" and that
the phrases are two separate signs of the location, both of which showing
that the mountains are distant from the Jordan. What is Rashi's source for
explaining the verse like this, which is not like either opinion in our
(a) If we take Rashi's words here at face value, we might answer these
questions as follows.
1. The reason a Gezeirah Shavah is needed to teach that Elon Moreh mentioned
with regard to Har Gerizim is the same Elon Moreh mentioned with regard to
Avraham Avinu is because a very strong proof may be cited to show that Har
Gerizim is *not* near Shechem. The verse says that the Jewish people are to
accept the covenant on Har Gerizim and Har Eival "*b'Avrecha*" --
immediately after crossing the Jordan. According to Rashi and the Rishonim,
this means that they went to Har Gerizim and Har Eival on the same day that
they crossed the Jordan. However, we find that the Jewish people encamped
that night at Gilgal (Yehoshua 4:19). How could the Jewish people have
traveled a distance of 120 kilometers in one afternoon, after crossing the
Jordan? Moreover, the verse says that they took with them stones from inside
the Jordan and first placed them at Har Gerizim and then placed them at
Gilgal. How could they carry such huge stones that distance? The only way
this could have happened is through supernatural means (Gemara, beginning of
36a), and to prove that such a thing occurred we would need a Gezeirah
Shavah or some other substantive proof from the verses.
(b) However, a number of Acharonim (CHIDUSHEI RABEINU MEIR SIMCHAH, RASHASH,
RADAL) suggest another explanation for our Gemara that answers all of our
2. Although the city of Gilgal at which Yehoshua and the nation encamped was
east of Yericho, that is not necessarily the same city of Gilgal to which
the Torah refers (in Devarim 11:30). The verse (Yehoshua 5:9) says that the
place was called Gilgal because the Jewish people performed a mass Milah
ceremony there after crossing the Jordan. This implies that it was not yet
called Gilgal before the Jews crossed the Jordan. How then could the Torah
say that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are "Mul ha'Gilgal," referring to the
Gilgal of Yehoshua, which did not yet exist?
It is because of this that our Gemara seems to conclude that the Gilgal of
the verse is a different Gilgal -- the one through which Eliyahu and Elisha
passed (Melachim II 2:1 and 4:38), which was in Shomron, near Shechem.
The mountains or hills near the Jordan to which the Gemara refers might be
the hills that border the river along the sides of the Jordan Valley.
Shechem is in a more level area; it is not surrounded by a wall of
Regarding whether the area of the Jordan was the land of the Kena'ani or of
the Chivi, the word "Kena'ani" can refer either to the one specific nation
of the seven nations that bears that name, or it can refer generally to any
of the seven nations that lived in the land of Kena'an. The verse in
Bamidbar says that the Kena'ani lived near the Jordan River, referring not
to the specific Kena'ani nation but to the Chivi, who were also called
"Kena'anim." Rashi's proof from Shechem might be that since the Chivi lived
in Shechem, which is only 60 Mil from the Jordan, they probably ruled over
the Jordan valley area as well.
3. The above approach also explains why the verse says that the Jordan River
(or Shechem, according to Rebbi Yehudah) is the land of the Kena'ani even
though the Chivi are the ones who live there. Occasionally, the Torah refers
to the Chivi as the Kena'ani, since they were one of the powerful nations
that lived in Kena'an (MAHARSHA).
The Gemara does not explain how Rebbi Elazar learns "Mul ha'Gilgal."
Apparently, that also was mentioned only "to show them the way," teaching
that if they pass through the area facing Gilgal, it will be easier to
conquer the land (Maharsha).
4. Rashi on the Chumash, who explains the verse differently than our Gemara,
apparently is basing his explanation on a Midrash that learns the verse
differently than our Gemara. (See answer (b).)
The Gemara is not citing the verse "ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah" in order to
disprove Rebbi Elazar. Rather, it is using this verse to prove that his view
is *correct*, and that Har Gerizim and Har Eival were indeed near the Jordan
River, since that is where the Aravah is. The location of Har Gerizim and
Har Eival of the Kusiyim, in contrast, rests between mountains and hills.
Similarly, the Gemara is asking that the Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the
Kusiyim is not in the land of the Kena'ani, since it is not near the Jordan;
rather it is in the land of the Chivi, since it is near Shechem.
The Gemara asks further that Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the Kusiyim is not
near the Gilgal of Yehoshua (which was near the Jordan). How, then, could
the Torah refer to them as "Mul ha'Gilgal," near Gilgal?
This answer most of our questions:
1. The Kusiyim need explicit proof to show that Har Gerizim and Har Eival
are not near the Jordan, since the entire verse seems to show that they
*were* near the Jordan, near "Elonei Moreh." (Perhaps the area was called
"Elonei Moreh" because the Jewish people accepted the Shevu'ah ("Alah") of
the Torah ("Moreh") in that area.)
2. Now that we have explained that the Gemara is bringing support for Rebbi
Elazar, we can answer all of the points we raised in the second question.
3. The Gemara does not have to explain "Mul ha'Gilgal" and "Eretz
ha'Kena'ani" according to Rebbi Elazar, who says that Har Gerizim and Har
Eival were near the Jordan, but only according to Rebbi Yehudah. Rebbi
Elazar ben Yakov provides the answer for Rebbi Yehudah. He explains that the
verse is only attempting to show the way to enter Eretz Yisrael (that is,
the Jewish people should pass through "Eretz ha'Kena'ani" and through "Mul
ha'Gilgal," like we said according to the first approach).
We might add that according to this approach, the verse is not just telling
how the army should enter in order to conquer the nations; that would be out
of place here, since this verse is not discussing the conquest of the land,
but rather how to accept the Berachos and Kelalos at Har Gerizim and Har
The verse might be explaining how to travel in the simplest manner from
Gilgal to Shechem. If the Jewish people would head straight west and then
north from Gilgal near the Jordan, they would be traveling through hilly
desert land. Rather, they should follow the Jordan Valley northward until
the area that is today called "Nachal Tirtzah," which continues northwest
directly to Shechem (this is the present-day route of Highway 60, from Adam
Bridge to Shechem). In fact, the Navi says that when the Jordan River opened
for the Jewish people to pass through, the water stopped flowing in the
river bed "from the city of Adam" (Yehoshua 3:16). Perhaps this was meant to
hint to them that they were supposed to continue north until that city, and
then continue northwest toward Shechem. The verse was teaching them the way
towards the second erecting of the stones, just like it instructed them the
way to erect the first stones while crossing through the Jordan.
4. Rebbi Elazar ben Yakov translates the words "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" as
the "path that *leads towards* the sun," not like Rebbi Yehudah himself who
says that the word "Derech" means the path of the sun. According to Rebbi
Elazar ben Yakov, the verse might be giving two different signs: the first
one is "Acharei," far from the Jordan, and the second one is "Derech Mevo
ha'Shemesh," meaning in the direction of the setting sun (west). This might
be the source of Rashi on the Chumash who explains that Har Gerizim and Har
Eival are in Shechem, and he separates "Acharei" and "Derech Mevo
ha'Shemesh" into two different signs, and says that Gilgal is far from
Shechem. Rashi might have understood the Gemara like these Acharonim.
(According to the explanation of the Rashash and others, we must make a
number of corrections in the text of the Gemara in the words of Rebbi
Yehudah. The words "b'Eretz ha'Kena'ani ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah" and the words
"Mul ha'Gilgal Samuch la'Gilgal" must be omitted from the statement of Rebbi
Yehudah, and they must be included in the statement of Rebbi Elazar. See
CHIDUSHEI RABEINU MEIR SIMCHAH.)