OPINIONS: The Gemara says that King Chizkiyah was praised by the Rabanan for
hiding away the Sefer Refu'os (the Book of Cures). What was the Sefer
Refu'os, and why did Chizkiyah hide it?
a) RASHI (DH v'Ganaz Sefer Refu'os) says the Sefer Refu'os was a book that
listed the remedies for all illnesses. By hiding it, Chizkiyah was
effectively forcing the Jews to rely on Hashem for their healing and to pray
for mercy from Him, instead of relying on the Sefer Refu'os.
(b) The RAMBAM (Perush ha'Mishnayos) takes extremely strong opposition to
Rashi's explanation. His position is that using natural means of healing
does not in any way detract from one's reliance on the Almighty. He compares
it to taking away food from a starving man so that he will pray to G-d for
food. A person will still rely on G-d's mercy for his health when using
natural remedies because it is G-d Who makes those remedies work.
Instead, the Rambam explains that the Sefer Refu'os was a collection of
astrological formulae for healing, accomplished by placing certain forms in
certain places at certain hours. It is permitted to learn from such a book,
but not to use it in practice, because of Avodah Zarah. When Chizkiyah saw
that people were using it in practice, he hid it away. (The Rambam refers to
this type of healing by its Greek name, "Talisman"). King Shlomo wrote the
Book of Cures in order to show the wonders that exist in the natural world,
but he did not intend that it should actually be used.
(c) The RAMBAM (loc. cit.) gives another explanation and says that the Book
of Cures listed poisons and the antidotes to those poisons. The purpose of
the book was to supply antidotes for the various poisons. When people began
using the book in order to know what poisons to use upon their enemies,
Chizkiyah hid it away.
How does Rashi answer the Rambam's question on his explanation? Why did
Chizkiyah hide away the book but still permit people to go to doctors?
Either way, one might lose his trust in Hashem and place his trust in the
other sources of healing!
Rashi here emphasizes that when the Sefer Refu'os was being used, people
were not humbling themselves as a result of their illness, which is what
Hashem intended when He brought the illnesses upon the people in the first
place. As long as a person was able to heal himself, he would not become
humbled. But if he had to go to a doctor and rely on someone else, he would
Alternatively, we might suggest that Rashi agrees that there is nothing
wrong with using natural remedies. The Sefer Refu'os, however, may have
recorded cures based on alternative medicines which appeared to the layman
to be related to witchcraft, or it recorded cures actually based on
supernatural means. Those who used the book, Chizkiyah feared, would come to
believe that they can circumvent nature and rely on magical cures, without
Hashem's assistance, and their reliance on Hashem would be diminished. Even
though "anything which is used for medicinal purposes is not considered to
be the way of the gentiles" (Shabbos 77a), nevertheless when Chizkiyah saw
that people tended to attribute power to forces other than Hashem, he hid
the book. (M. Kornfeld)
QUESTION: The Gemara gives a metaphor to explain why we say the verse
"Baruch Shem Kevod..." in the Shema quietly. It is comparable to a princess
who smelled delicious food. On the one hand, she will suffer from her urge
for the food if she does not have it. On the other hand, it is embarrassing
for her to ask for it outwardly. Therefore, it is brought to her quietly
without announcement. This metaphor implies that "Baruch Shem" is, for some
reason, somewhat embarrassing to express, and that is why we say it quietly.
Indeed, the NEFESH HA'CHAIM (3:6) and the Mekubalim explain that it is a
lower level of declaring the Yichud of the name of Hashem.
However, other sources indicate that "Baruch Shem" is a *higher* form of
Yichud ha'Shem, and not a lower form as our Gemara implies.
First, the TUR (OC 61) cites the Midrash that says that Moshe Rabeinu heard
the Malachim declaring "Baruch Shem Kevod...," and he wanted to incorporate
it into the prayers of the Jewish people. However, he could only institute
that it be said quietly, because it is an "otherworldly" praise which is too
lofty to be recited in this world. It is not said aloud lest it appear that
we are stealing it from the Malachim.
Second, we find that only in the Beis ha'Mikdash, the Jewish people used to
respond "Baruch Shem Kevod..." instead of "Amen" after hearing the blessings
of the Kohen Gadol (Berachos 63a, Ta'anis 16b), because "Baruch Shem" is a
loftier expression which can only be said in the holiest place.
Third, the MAHARAL (Nesiv ha'Avodah, ch. 7) writes that the reason we say
"Baruch Shem" aloud on Yom Kippur is because on that day we are elevated to
a higher realm of existence. That is also the reason Yakov Avinu said it --
because he was on a higher level of existence.
These sources seem to contradict the theme of our Gemara that implies that
"Baruch Shem" is embarrassing in some sense.
ANSWER: RAV YITZCHAK HUTNER zt'l (Yom Kippur 5:2:15) explains that both
implications are true and the two views do not conflict with each other.
They reflect different aspects of "Baruch Shem." In one sense "Baruch Shem"
is a lower, embarrassing form of praise, and in other sense, it is a
loftier, more holy form of praise.
"Baruch Shem Kevod..." means that the Name of Hashem is eternal and will
remain forever. The Name of Hashem, however, is comprised of two different
elements (50a) -- there is the name as it is written, which emphasizes the
eternalness of Hashem, and there is the name as it is pronounced (the Shem
of "Adnus"), which expresses that Hashem is the Master of the world. The
Shem of "Adnus" will only be used in this world; it has no place in the
World to Come, when the Name will be pronounced the same way that it is
written, as the Gemara earlier states. It is inappropriate to say "Baruch
Shem Kevod... le'Olam Va'ed" in reference to the Shem of "Adnus", because
since that Name is only used in this world, praising it with "Baruch Shem"
is only a praise that it will always be used in this world. This Shem of
"Adnus" is a lower level of Yichud ha'Shem; it is a Yichud for this world,
expressing the limited extent to which we are able to perceive Hashem. It
does not express the way that Hashem will be perceived in the next world.
However, when we use "Baruch Shem" in reference to the Shem of "Yud... Hei,"
then it means that the Name will be blessed in this world and in the next.
The first praise (when we use "Baruch Shem" in reference to the Shem of
"Adnus") is a lesser form of Yichud because it applies only to this world.
The second praise (when we use "Baruch Shem" in reference to the Name as it
is written) is a much higher form of Yichud. The Malachim experience and
perceive Hashem in the ultimate way, the way that His Name is written. When
they say "Baruch Shem," they are only praising that Name. So, too, in the
Beis ha'Mikdash, the people declare "Baruch Shem" in response to the Kohen
Gadol pronouncing the Name as it is written. There is no lower level Name
being used, so then "Baruch Shem" can be said aloud. That was the level of
Yakov Avinu as well.
For us, though, in this world, since the Shem is actually comprised of two
Names, when we say "Baruch Shem" it is actually two different blessings, and
one of them is indeed a lesser praise. (See Insights to Pesachim 50a.)
Therefore we say it quietly, like a person who has a message that can be
understood in two ways -- one way that is very lofty, and one way which
sounds ridiculous. He whispers it so that the wise people who understand the
lofty meanings will understand it, and they will know that he is whispering
it in order not to reveal the lofty wisdom behind it. The unlearned people
will think that he is whispering it because it is a ridiculous statement and
he is embarrassed to say it aloud. Therefore, both our Gemara, which implies
that "Baruch Shem" is a lower praise, and the other source which imply that
it is a greater praise, are both correct, since both meanings are contained
in "Baruch Shem."