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Sanhedrin, 108

SANHEDRIN 106-110 - Two weeks of study material have been dedicated by Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer to honor the third Yahrzeit of her father, Reb Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Weiner), who passed away 18 Teves 5760. May the merit of supporting and advancing Talmud study serve as an Iluy for his Neshamah


QUESTION: Rebbi Akiva states in the Mishnah that the people of the Dor ha'Midbar (the generation that went out of Mitzrayim) have no portion in the World to Come and will not even rise to be judged on the final Day of Judgement. He proves this from the verse that states, "In this desert they will expire, and there they will die" (Bamidbar 14:35). The words "they will expire" refer to their death in this world, and the extra words "they will die" refer to their death in Olam ha'Ba. In the Beraisa later (110b), Rebbi Akiva brings further support to this from the verse, "I have sworn in My anger if they (the people of the Dor ha'Midbar) will come to My resting place (Olam ha'Ba)" (Tehilim 95:11).

Rebbi Eliezer argues and states that they do have a share in Olam ha'Ba. He proves this from the verse, "Gather to Me my righteous ones who have made a treaty with Me" (Tehilim 50:5), which refers to the generation which received the Torah. In the Beraisa (110b), Rebbi Eliezer explains that the verse that Rebbi Akiva quotes from Tehilim refers only to when Hashem was angry with the people, which was a temporary state.

The opinion of Rebbi Akiva is difficult to understand. How is it possible that the generation that received the Torah will not have a portion in Olam ha'Ba? Many of them were great Tzadikim, such as Nachshon ben Aminadav, as well as the seventy elders of Moshe's Sanhedrin. Even though they were not allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael, that was because the Jewish people were judged as a nation, and thus they were included in the judgement. Alternatively, it was because of a relatively minor sin that they committed. How can Rebbi Akiva assert that they were such terrible sinners that they have no portion in Olam ha'Ba?


(a) The RAMA MI'PANO (Ma'amar Chikur ha'Din) explains that even Rebbi Akiva does not actually hold that they do not have a portion in Olam ha'Ba. Rebbi Akiva understands the verses to be saying that the people of that generation had committed sins for which they still needed to atone. He expressed this opinion in the Mishnah in a harsh manner in order to give the people of the Dor ha'Midbar the atonement that they required, for everyone who reads the Mishnah will view them in a bad light, and this disparagement will atone for their sins.

This approach of the Rama mi'Pano seems to have a basis in the Gemara in Megilah (25b). The Mishnah there states that when the Parshah of Egel ha'Zahav is read on Shabbos, the Targum translation is also read so that it will be understood. The Gemara there asks why is it necessary to teach that we read the Targum for that Parshah more than for any other Parshah? The Gemara answers that we might have thought that we should protect the honor of that generation and not translate the narrative of their evil deed. The Mishnah therefore teaches that the Targum is to be read "in order that they should receive atonement." This supports the Rama mi'Pano's statement that the Dor ha'Midbar, according to Rebbi Akiva, receives atonement through others hearing of their sin.

(b) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM quotes an opinion that this argument refers only to the sin of the spies and those who complained during that generation. The others certainly have a portion in Olam ha'Ba. He brings proof for this from many Midrashim and works of the Rishonim, which imply that the generation as a whole does have a share in the World to Come. (Y. Montrose)

QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan states that we learn from what happened to the people of the Dor ha'Mabul (the generation of the flood) how much destruction is caused by thievery. The people of that generation transgressed every sin, but their fate was sealed only because of the sin of stealing, as the verse states, "[The end of all flesh has come before Me,] because the land is filled with thievery from them, and thus I am going to destroy them from the earth."

What makes thievery more severe than any other sin, such that it was the sin that sealed their fate?


(a) The BE'ER SHEVA quotes an opinion that states that stealing is an obvious transgression, and they should have understood how detrimental it is to the social welfare. However, he rejects this explanation, because there are other sins that are just as logically detrimental, such as killing. Instead, he explains that the Gemara is based on the Mishnah in Avos (1:18). The Mishnah states that the world endures because of three things: Din, Emes, and Shalom (justice, truth, and peace). This is why the Gemara (Shabbos 10a, 119b) states that one who judges a case truthfully is considered to be a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world; without truth, the world cannot endure. Since that generation was thoroughly steeped in acts of thievery, and since there was no judgement (because the judges themselves stole), truth, or peace, the world had nothing left on which to endure.

(b) Alternatively, the Be'er Sheva explains, the thievery in which the people were involved was representative of the destructive power of commandments that involve dealings between man and man (as opposed to dealings between man and G-d). The transgression of commandments between man and his fellow man causes punishment in this world. Stealing is the epitome of such a transgression. The victim of robbery cries out in anguish, and Hashem responds. Therefore, the Torah gives this an example of a sin for which the world was destroyed.

(c) Perhaps we may offer another explanation. We know that Noach was involved in constructing the Teivah for one hundred and twenty years in order to give the people of his generation the opportunity to repent. How strange it is, then, that not a single person repented! How can this be?

The Gemara later (108b) relates the dialogue between Noach and his generation. The Gemara says that after Noach told them that Hashem has plans to bring a great flood upon the world, they challenged him, saying, "What sort of flood will it be? If it is a flood of fire, then we have fireproof material! If it is a deluge of water, then we can stop up the water!" They did not fear Hashem, and they relied on their own power. The only other possible way they had to form a relationship with Hashem was to love Hashem for the life that He gave them. They failed in this respect as well, because they were severely lacking in the trait of Hakaras ha'Tov, recognizing the good that Hashem did for them. The Gemara in Berachos (35a) states that one who does not recite a blessing before he eats is "stealing" from Hashem, since he is not recognizing the rightful Owner. One who constantly steals shows that he believes that everything belongs to him and that he owes nothing to anyone. It is because of this evil trait of the Dor ha'Mabul demonstrated through their acts of stealing that they could not come to fulfill any Mitzvos. This is why Rebbi Yochanan says their fate was sealed by the sin of stealing. (Y. Montrose)


OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses Noach's attempt to send out the raven to discern whether or not the water had receded. When Noach sent it out, the raven immediately returned to the Teivah. The Gemara relates that the raven said to Noach, "Both Hashem and you hate me! Hashem hates me, because He selected only two birds of species to board the Teivah and survive the flood, while He selected seven of each kosher animal to survive. You hate me, because you picked me for this dangerous mission instead of picking a species that has seven birds on the Teivah. If something happens to me, the world will be missing a species. Perhaps you want to take away my wife!" Did the raven actually speak to Noach?
(a) The YAD RAMAH says that although animals do not actually talk, they nevertheless can express their thoughts through various signs that people can understand. This is similar to the type of expressions made by trees called "Sichas Dekalim," which the Gemara (Sukah 28a, Bava Basra 134a) says was understood was Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai. Certainly Noach, who was a Navi, could understand these hints as well. (Although RASHI in Sukah says that he does not know what "Sichas Dekalim" is, the ARUCH there cites an explanation from RAV SHERIRA GA'ON, who explains that when there is no wind, two people can spread out a sheet between two trees and decipher the way their branches move in a conversational manner.)

(b) The BE'ER SHEVA states that ravens cannot speak. The Gemara, rather, is describing what the raven was thinking and what it would have said had it been able to speak. Alternatively, he explains, the raven is not a creature with advanced intelligence and it was not even thinking these thoughts. Rather, the Gemara is describing what the raven *would* have said had it been an intelligent creature, in order to teach us a lesson from the actions of Noach. Similarly, RABEINU YONAH (in Berachos, page 21b of the pages of the Rif) explains that when the Gemara in Sanhedrin (100b) says that the "Torah dons sackcloth," it is merely giving a metaphor to emphasize the matter.

The TORAS CHAIM in Eruvin (100b) states resolutely that animals do not talk. The Gemara in Eruvin there says that we could have learned modesty from the behavior of the chicken. The Gemara there discusses the conversation that a chicken has with its mate. The Toras Chaim there says that not only do chickens not talk, but they also do not even think the thoughts that the Gemara there ascribes to them. Rather, Hashem merely made animals to *act* in a way that appears to be expressing certain ideas from which we can learn important lessons.

The Toras Chaim says that this is also the explanation of the incident regarding the cow chosen to be sacrificed by the false prophets of the Ba'al in the times of Eliyahu. The Midrash comments that after being chosen to be sacrificed to the Ba'al, the cow refused to move, since it did not want to be sacrificed to an idol. Only after Eliyahu spoke to it did it consent. The Toras Chaim says that not only did the cow have no idea what was going on, but it did not even understand what Eliyahu said to it! Hashem was trying to show to the people that it is wrong to follow the idol. Hashem made the animal's movements insinuate this idea. (Y. Montrose)

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