(Permission is granted to print and redistribute this material
as long as this header and the footer at the end are included.)


brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld

Ask A Question about the Daf

Previous daf

Pesachim 56

PESACHIM 56 - (21 Tishrei) has been dedicated by Gedalliah Jawitz in honor of the Yahrzeit of Yehuda ben Simcha Volf Jawitz.


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 be humbled.

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."


Next daf


For further information on
subscriptions, archives and sponsorships,
contact Kollel Iyun Hadaf,