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Today's Daf Yomi

September 22, 2014 | כ״ז באלול תשע״ד

  • This month's learning is dedicated by Debbie and Yossi Gevir to Rabbanit Michelle and the Hadran Zoom group for their kindness, support, and care during a medically challenging year.

Chagigah 14

קודם שנברא העולם ולא נבראו עמד הקדוש ברוך הוא ושתלן בכל דור ודור והן הן עזי פנים שבדור

before the creation of the world, but they were not created. The Torah was supposed to have been given a thousand generations after the world was created, as it is written: “He commanded His word for a thousand generations” (Psalms 105:8), but God gave it earlier, after only twenty-six generations, so that nine-hundred and seventy-four generations should have been created but were not. The Holy One, Blessed be He, acted by planting a few of them in each and every generation, and they are the insolent ones of the generation, as they belonged to generations that should not have been created at all.

ורב נחמן בר יצחק אמר אשר קומטו לברכה הוא דכתיב אלו תלמידי חכמים שמקמטין עצמן על דברי תורה בעולם הזה הקדוש ברוך הוא מגלה להם סוד לעולם הבא שנאמר נהר יוצק יסודם

And Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said that the verse: “Who were snatched [kumtu]” (Job 22:16), is written for a blessing, as the verse is not referring to lowly, cursed people, but to the blessed. These are Torah scholars, who shrivel [mekamtin], i.e., humble, themselves over the words of Torah in this world. The Holy One, Blessed be He, reveals a secret to them in the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “Whose foundation [yesodam] was poured out as a stream” (Job 22:16), implying that He will provide them with an abundant knowledge of secret matters [sod].

אמר ליה שמואל לחייא בר רב בר אריא תא אימא לך מילתא מהני מילי מעליותא דהוה אמר אבוך כל יומא ויומא נבראין מלאכי השרת מנהר דינור ואמרי שירה ובטלי שנאמר חדשים לבקרים רבה אמונתך ופליגא דרבי שמואל בר נחמני דאמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר רבי יונתן כל דיבור ודיבור שיוצא מפי הקדוש ברוך הוא נברא ממנו מלאך אחד שנאמר בדבר ה׳ שמים נעשו וברוח פיו כל צבאם

Shmuel said to Ḥiyya bar Rav: Son of great ones, come and I will tell you something of the great things that your father would say: Each and every day, ministering angels are created from the River Dinur, and they recite song to God and then immediately cease to exist, as it is stated: “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23), indicating that new angels praise God each morning. The Gemara comments: And this opinion disagrees with that of Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani, as Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: With each and every word that emerges from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed be He, an angel is created, as it is stated: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts” (Psalms 33:6). The hosts of heaven are the angels, who, he claims, are created from the mouth of God, rather than from the River Dinur.

כתוב אחד אומר לבושיה כתלג חיור ושער רישיה כעמר נקא וכתיב קוצותיו תלתלים שחורות כעורב לא קשיא כאן בישיבה כאן במלחמה דאמר מר אין לך נאה בישיבה אלא זקן ואין לך נאה במלחמה אלא בחור

§ The Gemara continues to reconcile verses that seem to contradict each other: One verse states: “His raiment was as white snow, and the hair of his head like pure white wool” (Daniel 7:9), and it is written: “His locks are curled, black as a raven” (Song of Songs 5:11). The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. Here the verse in Daniel is referring to when He is in the heavenly academy, while there the verse in Song of Songs speaks of when He is at war, for the Master said: There is no finer individual to study Torah in an academy than an old man, and there is no finer individual to wage war than a youth. A different metaphor is therefore used to describe God on each occasion.

כתוב אחד אומר כרסיה שביבין דינור וכתוב אחד אומר עד די כרסון רמיו ועתיק יומין יתיב לא קשיא אחד לו ואחד לדוד כדתניא אחד לו ואחד לדוד דברי רבי עקיבא אמר לו רבי יוסי הגלילי עקיבא עד מתי אתה עושה שכינה חול אלא אחד לדין ואחד לצדקה

The Gemara poses another question: One verse states: “His throne was fiery flames” (Daniel 7:9), and another phrase in the same verse states: “Till thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat,” implying the existence of two thrones. The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. One throne is for Him and one is for David, as it is taught in a baraita with regard to this issue: One throne for Him and one for David; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili said to him: Akiva, how long shall you make the Divine Presence profane, by presenting it as though one could sit next to Him? Rather, the two thrones are designated for different purposes: One for judgment and one for righteousness.

קיבלה מיניה או לא קיבלה מיניה תא שמע אחד לדין ואחד לצדקה דברי רבי עקיבא אמר לו רבי אלעזר בן עזריה עקיבא מה לך אצל הגדה כלך מדברותיך אצל נגעים ואהלות אלא אחד לכסא ואחד לשרפרף כסא לישב עליו שרפרף להדום רגליו שנאמר השמים כסאי והארץ הדום רגלי

The Gemara asks: Did Rabbi Akiva accept this rebuff from him, or did he not accept it from him? The Gemara offers a proof: Come and hear the following teaching of a different baraita: One throne is for judgment and one is for righteousness; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya said to him: Akiva, what are you doing occupying yourself with the study of aggada? This is not your field of expertise. Take [kelakh] your words to the topics of plagues and tents. Meaning, it is preferable that you teach the halakhot of the impurity of leprosy and the impurity of the dead, which are within your field of expertise. Rather, with regard to the two thrones: One throne is for a seat and one is for a small seat. The seat is to sit on, and the small seat is for His footstool, as it is stated: “The heavens are My seat, and the earth My footstool” (Isaiah 66:1).

כי אתא רב דימי אמר שמונה עשרה קללות קילל ישעיה את ישראל ולא נתקררה דעתו עד שאמר להם המקרא הזה ירהבו הנער בזקן והנקלה בנכבד

§ The Gemara stated earlier that one who studies the secrets of Torah must be “a captain of fifty and a man of favor” (Isaiah 3:3), but it did not explain the meaning of these requirements. It now returns to analyze that verse in detail. When Rav Dimi came from Israel to Babylonia, he said: Isaiah cursed Israel with eighteen curses, and his mind was not calmed, i.e., he was not satisfied, until he said to them the great curse of the following verse: “The child shall behave insolently against the aged, and the base against the honorable” (Isaiah 3:5).

שמונה עשרה קללות מאי נינהו דכתיב כי הנה האדון ה׳ צבאות מסיר מירושלם ומיהודה משען ומשענה כל משען לחם וכל משען מים גבור ואיש מלחמה שופט ונביא וקוסם וזקן שר חמשים ונשוא פנים ויועץ וחכם חרשים ונבון לחש ונתתי נערים שריהם ותעלולים ימשלו בם וגו׳

The Gemara asks: What are these eighteen curses? The Gemara answers: As it is written: “For behold, the Master, the Lord of hosts, shall take away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and staff, every support of bread, and every support of water; the mighty man, and the man of war; the judge, and the prophet, and the diviner, and the elder; the captain of fifty, and the man of favor, and the counselor, and the cunning charmer, and the skillful enchanter. And I will make children their princes, and babes shall rule over them” (Isaiah 3:1–4). The eighteen items listed in these verses shall be removed from Israel.

משען אלו בעלי מקרא משענה אלו בעלי משנה כגון רבי יהודה בן תימא וחביריו פליגו בה רב פפא ורבנן חד אמר שש מאות סדרי משנה וחד אמר שבע מאות סדרי משנה

The Gemara proceeds to clarify the homiletical meaning of these terms: “Support”; these are masters of the Bible. “Staff”; these are masters of Mishna, such as Rabbi Yehuda ben Teima and his colleagues. The Gemara interjects: Rav Pappa and the Rabbis disagreed with regard to this. One of them said: They were proficient in six hundred orders of Mishna, and the other one said: In seven hundred orders of Mishna, only six of which remain today.

כל משען לחם אלו בעלי תלמוד שנאמר לכו לחמו בלחמי ושתו ביין מסכתי וכל משען מים אלו בעלי אגדה שמושכין לבו של אדם כמים באגדה גבור זה בעל שמועות ואיש מלחמה זה שיודע לישא וליתן במלחמתה של תורה שופט זה דיין שדן דין אמת לאמיתו נביא כמשמעו קוסם זה מלך שנאמר קסם על שפתי מלך זקן זה שראוי לישיבה

“Every support of bread”; these are masters of Talmud, as it is stated: “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mingled” (Proverbs 9:5). “And every support of water”; these are the masters of aggada, who draw people’s hearts like water by means of aggada. “The mighty man”; this is the master of halakhic tradition, one who masters the halakhot transmitted to him from his rabbis. “And the man of war”; this is one who knows how to engage in the discourse of Torah, generating novel teachings in the war of Torah. “A judge”; this is a judge who judges a true judgment truthfully. “A prophet”; as it literally indicates. “A diviner”; this is a king. Why is he called a diviner? For it is stated: “A divine sentence is on the lips of the king” (Proverbs 16:10). “An elder”; this is one fit for the position of head of an academy.

שר חמשים אל תקרי שר חמשים אלא שר חומשין זה שיודע לישא וליתן בחמשה חומשי תורה דבר אחר שר חמשים כדרבי אבהו דאמר רבי אבהו מכאן שאין מעמידין מתורגמן על הצבור פחות מחמשים שנה ונשוא פנים זה שנושאין פנים לדורו בעבורו למעלה כגון רבי חנינא בן דוסא למטה כגון רבי אבהו בי קיסר

“A captain of fifty,” do not read it as “sar ḥamishim,” rather read it as “sar ḥumashin”; this is one who knows how to engage in discourse with regard to the five books of [ḥamisha ḥumshei] the Torah. Alternatively, “a captain of fifty” should be understood in accordance with Rabbi Abbahu, for Rabbi Abbahu said: From here we learn that one may not appoint a disseminator over the public to transmit words of Torah or teachings of the Sages if he is less than fifty years of age. “And the man of favor”; this is one for whose sake favor is shown to his generation. The Gemara provides different examples of this: Some garner favor above, such as Rabbi Ḥanina ben Dosa, whose prayers for his generation would invariably be answered. Others gain favor below, for example: Rabbi Abbahu, who would plead Israel’s case in the house of the emperor.

יועץ שיודע לעבר שנים ולקבוע חדשים וחכם זה תלמיד המחכים את רבותיו חרשים בשעה שפותח בדברי תורה הכל נעשין כחרשין ונבון זה המבין דבר מתוך דבר לחש זה שראוי למסור לו דברי תורה שניתנה בלחש

“The counselor”; this is referring to one who knows how to intercalate years and determine months, due to his expertise in the phases of the moon and the calculation of the yearly cycle. “The cunning”; this is a student who makes his rabbis wise through his questions. “Charmer [ḥarashim]”; this is referring to one so wise that when he begins speaking matters of Torah, all those listening are as though deaf [ḥershin], as they are unable to comprehend the profundity of his comments. “The skillful”; this is one who understands something new from something else he has learned. “Enchanter [laḥash]”; this is referring to one who is worthy of having words of the Torah that were given in whispers [laḥash], i.e., the secrets of the Torah, transmitted to him.

ונתתי נערים שריהם מאי ונתתי נערים שריהם אמר רבי אלעזר אלו בני אדם שמנוערין מן המצות

The Gemara continues to interpret this verse: “And I will make children their princes” (Isaiah 3:4). The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of “And I will make children [ne’arim] their princes”? Rabbi Elazar said: These are people who are devoid [menu’arin] of mitzvot; such people will become the leaders of the nation.

ותעלולים ימשלו בם אמר רב פפא בר יעקב תעלי בני תעלי ולא נתקררה דעתו עד שאמר להם ירהבו הנער בזקן והנקלה בנכבד אלו בני אדם שמנוערין מן המצות ירהבו במי שממולא במצות כרמון והנקלה בנכבד יבא מי שחמורות דומות עליו כקלות וירהבו במי שקלות דומות עליו כחמורות

“And babes [ta’alulim] shall rule over them”; Rav Pappa bar Ya’akov said: Ta’alulim means foxes [ta’alei], sons of foxes. In other words, inferior people both in terms of deeds and in terms of lineage. And the prophet Isaiah’s mind was not calmed until he said to them: “The child shall behave insolently against the aged, and the base against the honorable” (Isaiah 3:5). “The child” [na’ar]; these are people who are devoid of mitzvot, who will behave insolently toward one who is as filled with mitzvot as a pomegranate. “And the base [nikleh] against the honorable [nikhbad]”; this means that one for whom major [kaved] transgressions are like minor ones [kalot] in his mind will come and behave insolently with one for whom even minor transgressions are like major ones in his mind.

אמר רב קטינא אפילו בשעת כשלונה של ירושלים לא פסקו מהם בעלי אמנה שנאמר כי יתפש איש באחיו בית אביו שמלה לך קצין תהיה לנו דברים שבני אדם מתכסין כשמלה ישנן תחת ידך

§ The Gemara continues its explanation of the chapter in Isaiah. Rav Ketina said: Even at the time of Jerusalem’s downfall, trustworthy men did not cease to exist among its people, as it is stated: “For a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, and say: You have a cloak, be our ruler” (Isaiah 3:6). The Gemara explains that they would approach someone and say to him: Things that people are careful to keep covered as with a cloak, i.e., words of Torah that are covered and concealed, are under your hand, as you are an expert with regard to them.

והמכשלה הזאת מאי והמכשלה הזאת דברים שאין בני אדם עומדין עליהן אלא אם כן נכשל בהן ישנן תחת ידך ישא ביום ההוא לאמר לא אהיה חובש ובביתי אין לחם ואין שמלה לא תשימוני קצין עם ישא אין ישא אלא לשון שבועה שנאמר לא תשא את שם ה׳ אלהיך לא אהיה חובש לא הייתי מחובשי בית המדרש ובביתי אין לחם ואין שמלה שאין בידי לא מקרא ולא משנה ולא גמרא

What is the meaning of the end of that verse: “And this stumbling block” (Isaiah 3:6)? Things that people cannot grasp unless they have stumbled over them, as they can be understood only with much effort, are under your hand. Although they will approach an individual with these statements, he “shall swear that day, saying: I will not be a healer, for in my house there is neither bread nor a cloak; you shall not make me ruler of a people” (Isaiah 3:7). When the verse states: “Shall swear [yissa],” yissa is none other than an expression of an oath, as it is stated: “You shall not take [tissa] the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:6). Therefore, the inhabitant of Jerusalem swears: “I will not be a healer [ḥovesh]” (Isaiah 3:7), which means: I was never one of those who sit [meḥovshei] in the study hall; “for in my house there is neither bread nor a cloak,” as I possess knowledge of neither the Bible, nor Mishna, nor Gemara. This shows that even at Jerusalem’s lowest spiritual ebb, its inhabitants would admit the truth and own up to their complete ignorance.

ודלמא שאני התם דאי אמר להו גמירנא אמרי ליה אימא לן הוה ליה למימר גמר ושכח מאי לא אהיה חובש לא אהיה חובש כלל

The Gemara raises a difficulty: But perhaps it is different there, for if he had said: I have learned, they would have said to him: Tell us, and people do not lie about things that can be easily verified. The Gemara rejects this claim: If he were a liar, he would have said that he learned and forgot, thereby avoiding shame. What is the meaning of “I will not be a healer,” which seems to imply that he had learned in the past? It means: I will not be a healer at all, as I have never learned. Consequently, there were trustworthy men in Jerusalem after all.

איני והאמר רבא לא חרבה ירושלים עד שפסקו ממנה בעלי אמנה שנאמר שוטטו בחוצות ירושלם וראו נא ודעו ובקשו ברחובותיה אם תמצאו איש אם יש עושה משפט מבקש אמונה ואסלח לה לא קשיא

The Gemara raises another difficulty: Is that so? But didn’t Rava say: Jerusalem was not destroyed until trustworthy men ceased to exist in it, as it is stated: “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in its broad places, if you can find a man, if there is any that acts justly, that seeks truth, and I will pardon her” (Jeremiah 5:1), implying there were no trustworthy people at that time? The Gemara answers: This is not difficult:

הא בדברי תורה הא במשא ומתן בדברי תורה הוו במשא ומתן לא הוו

This case is referring to words of Torah, while that case is referring to commerce. With regard to words of Torah, they were trustworthy; with regard to commerce, they were not.

תנו רבנן מעשה ברבן יוחנן בן זכאי שהיה רוכב על החמור והיה מהלך בדרך ורבי אלעזר בן ערך מחמר אחריו אמר לו רבי שנה לי פרק אחד במעשה מרכבה אמר לו לא כך שניתי לכם ולא במרכבה ביחיד אלא אם כן היה חכם מבין מדעתו אמר לו רבי תרשיני לומר לפניך דבר אחד שלמדתני אמר לו אמור

§ The Gemara returns to the topic of the Design of the Divine Chariot. The Sages taught: An incident occurred involving Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, who was riding on a donkey and was traveling along the way, and his student, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh, was riding a donkey behind him. Rabbi Elazar said to him: My teacher, teach me one chapter in the Design of the Divine Chariot. He said to him: Have I not taught you: And one may not expound the Design of the Divine Chariot to an individual, unless he is a Sage who understands on his own accord? Rabbi Elazar said to him: My teacher, allow me to say before you one thing that you taught me. In other words, he humbly requested to recite before him his own understanding of this issue. He said to him: Speak.

מיד ירד רבן יוחנן בן זכאי מעל החמור ונתעטף וישב על האבן תחת הזית אמר לו רבי מפני מה ירדת מעל החמור אמר אפשר אתה דורש במעשה מרכבה ושכינה עמנו ומלאכי השרת מלוין אותנו ואני ארכב על החמור מיד פתח רבי אלעזר בן ערך במעשה המרכבה ודרש וירדה אש מן השמים וסיבבה כל האילנות שבשדה פתחו כולן ואמרו שירה

Immediately, Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai alighted from the donkey, and wrapped his head in his cloak in a manner of reverence, and sat on a stone under an olive tree. Rabbi Elazar said to him: My teacher, for what reason did you alight from the donkey? He said: Is it possible that while you are expounding the Design of the Divine Chariot, and the Divine Presence is with us, and the ministering angels are accompanying us, that I should ride on a donkey? Immediately, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh began to discuss the Design of the Divine Chariot and expounded, and fire descended from heaven and encircled all the trees in the field, and all the trees began reciting song.

מה שירה אמרו הללו את ה׳ מן הארץ תנינים וכל תהומות עץ פרי וכל ארזים הללויה נענה מלאך מן האש ואמר הן הן מעשה המרכבה עמד רבן יוחנן בן זכאי ונשקו על ראשו ואמר ברוך ה׳ אלהי ישראל שנתן בן לאברהם אבינו שיודע להבין ולחקור ולדרוש במעשה מרכבה יש נאה דורש ואין נאה מקיים נאה מקיים ואין נאה דורש אתה נאה דורש ונאה מקיים אשריך אברהם אבינו שאלעזר בן ערך יצא מחלציך

What song did they recite? “Praise the Lord from the earth, sea monsters and all depths…fruit trees and all cedars…praise the Lord” (Psalms 148:7–14). An angel responded from the fire, saying: This is the very Design of the Divine Chariot, just as you expounded. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai stood and kissed Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh on his head, and said: Blessed be God, Lord of Israel, who gave our father Abraham a son like you, who knows how to understand, investigate, and expound the Design of the Divine Chariot. There are some who expound the Torah’s verses well but do not fulfill its imperatives well, and there are some who fulfill its imperatives well but do not expound its verses well, whereas you expound its verses well and fulfill its imperatives well. Happy are you, our father Abraham, that Elazar ben Arakh came from your loins.

וכשנאמרו הדברים לפני רבי יהושע היה הוא ורבי יוסי הכהן מהלכים בדרך אמרו אף אנו נדרוש במעשה מרכבה פתח רבי יהושע ודרש ואותו היום תקופת תמוז היה נתקשרו שמים בעבים ונראה כמין קשת בענן והיו מלאכי השרת מתקבצין ובאין לשמוע כבני אדם שמתקבצין ובאין לראות במזמוטי חתן וכלה

The Gemara relates: And when these matters, this story involving his colleague Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh, were recounted before Rabbi Yehoshua, he was walking along the way with Rabbi Yosei the Priest. They said: We too shall expound the Design of the Divine Chariot. Rabbi Yehoshua began expounding. And that was the day of the summer solstice, when there are no clouds in the sky. Yet the heavens became filled with clouds, and there was the appearance of a kind of rainbow in a cloud. And ministering angels gathered and came to listen, like people gathering and coming to see the rejoicing of a bridegroom and bride.

הלך רבי יוסי הכהן וסיפר דברים לפני רבן יוחנן בן זכאי ואמר אשריכם ואשרי יולדתכם אשרי עיני שכך ראו ואף אני ואתם בחלומי מסובין היינו על הר סיני ונתנה עלינו בת קול מן השמים עלו לכאן עלו לכאן טרקלין גדולים ומצעות נאות מוצעות לכם אתם ותלמידיכם ותלמידי תלמידיכם מזומנין לכת שלישית

Rabbi Yosei the Priest went and recited these matters before Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, who said to him: Happy are all of you, and happy are the mothers who gave birth to you; happy are my eyes that saw this, students such as these. As for you and I, I saw in my dream that we were seated at Mount Sinai, and a Divine Voice came to us from heaven: Ascend here, ascend here, for large halls [teraklin] and pleasant couches are made up for you. You, your students, and the students of your students are invited to the third group, those who will merit to welcome the Divine Presence.

איני והתניא רבי יוסי ברבי יהודה אומר שלשה הרצאות הן רבי יהושע הרצה דברים לפני רבן יוחנן בן זכאי רבי עקיבא הרצה לפני רבי יהושע חנניא בן חכינאי הרצה לפני רבי עקיבא ואילו רבי אלעזר בן ערך לא קא חשיב דארצי וארצו קמיה קחשיב דארצי ולא ארצו קמיה לא קא חשיב והא חנניא בן חכינאי דלא ארצו קמיה וקא חשיב דארצי מיהא קמיה מאן דארצי

The Gemara poses a question: Is that so? But isn’t it taught in a baraita: Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Yehuda, says: There are three lectures. In other words, there are three Sages with regard to whom it states that they delivered lectures on the mystical tradition: Rabbi Yehoshua lectured on these matters before Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai; Rabbi Akiva lectured before Rabbi Yehoshua; and Ḥananya ben Ḥakhinai lectured before Rabbi Akiva. However, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh was not included in the list, despite the testimony that he lectured before Rabban Yoḥanan. The Gemara explains: Those who lectured and were also lectured to were included; but those who lectured and were not lectured to were not included. The Gemara asks: But wasn’t there Ḥananya ben Ḥakhinai, who was not lectured to, and yet he is included? The Gemara answers: Ḥananya ben Ḥakhinai actually lectured before one who lectured in front of his own rabbi, so he was also included in this list.

תנו רבנן ארבעה נכנסו בפרדס ואלו הן בן עזאי ובן זומא אחר ורבי עקיבא אמר להם רבי עקיבא כשאתם מגיעין אצל אבני שיש טהור אל תאמרו מים מים משום שנאמר דובר שקרים לא יכון לנגד עיני

§ The Sages taught: Four entered the orchard [pardes], i.e., dealt with the loftiest secrets of Torah, and they are as follows: Ben Azzai; and ben Zoma; Aḥer, the other, a name for Elisha ben Avuya; and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva, the senior among them, said to them: When, upon your arrival in the upper worlds, you reach pure marble stones, do not say: Water, water, although they appear to be water, because it is stated: “He who speaks falsehood shall not be established before My eyes” (Psalms 101:7).

בן עזאי הציץ ומת עליו הכתוב אומר יקר בעיני ה׳ המותה לחסידיו בן זומא הציץ ונפגע ועליו הכתוב אומר דבש מצאת אכול דייך פן תשבענו והקאתו אחר קיצץ בנטיעות רבי עקיבא יצא בשלום

The Gemara proceeds to relate what happened to each of them: Ben Azzai glimpsed at the Divine Presence and died. And with regard to him the verse states: “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His pious ones” (Psalms 116:15). Ben Zoma glimpsed at the Divine Presence and was harmed, i.e., he lost his mind. And with regard to him the verse states: “Have you found honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for you, lest you become full from it and vomit it” (Proverbs 25:16). Aḥer chopped down the shoots of saplings. In other words, he became a heretic. Rabbi Akiva came out safely.

שאלו את בן זומא מהו לסרוסי כלבא אמר להם ובארצכם לא תעשו כל שבארצכם לא תעשו שאלו את בן זומא בתולה שעיברה מהו לכהן גדול מי חיישינן לדשמואל דאמר שמואל

The Gemara recounts the greatness of ben Zoma, who was an expert interpreter of the Torah and could find obscure proofs: They asked ben Zoma: What is the halakha with regard to castrating a dog? The prohibition against castration appears alongside the sacrificial blemishes, which may imply that it is permitted to castrate an animal that cannot be sacrificed as an offering. He said to them: The verse states “That which has its testicles bruised, or crushed, or torn, or cut, you shall not offer to God, nor shall you do so in your land” (Leviticus 22:24), from which we learn: With regard to any animal that is in your land, you shall not do such a thing. They also asked ben Zoma: A woman considered to be a virgin who became pregnant, what is the halakha? A High Priest may marry only a virgin; is he permitted to marry her? The answer depends on the following: Are we concerned for the opinion of Shmuel? Shmuel says:

  • This month's learning is dedicated by Debbie and Yossi Gevir to Rabbanit Michelle and the Hadran Zoom group for their kindness, support, and care during a medically challenging year.

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Chagigah 14

קודם שנברא העולם ולא נבראו עמד הקדוש ברוך הוא ושתלן בכל דור ודור והן הן עזי פנים שבדור

before the creation of the world, but they were not created. The Torah was supposed to have been given a thousand generations after the world was created, as it is written: “He commanded His word for a thousand generations” (Psalms 105:8), but God gave it earlier, after only twenty-six generations, so that nine-hundred and seventy-four generations should have been created but were not. The Holy One, Blessed be He, acted by planting a few of them in each and every generation, and they are the insolent ones of the generation, as they belonged to generations that should not have been created at all.

ורב נחמן בר יצחק אמר אשר קומטו לברכה הוא דכתיב אלו תלמידי חכמים שמקמטין עצמן על דברי תורה בעולם הזה הקדוש ברוך הוא מגלה להם סוד לעולם הבא שנאמר נהר יוצק יסודם

And Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said that the verse: “Who were snatched [kumtu]” (Job 22:16), is written for a blessing, as the verse is not referring to lowly, cursed people, but to the blessed. These are Torah scholars, who shrivel [mekamtin], i.e., humble, themselves over the words of Torah in this world. The Holy One, Blessed be He, reveals a secret to them in the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “Whose foundation [yesodam] was poured out as a stream” (Job 22:16), implying that He will provide them with an abundant knowledge of secret matters [sod].

אמר ליה שמואל לחייא בר רב בר אריא תא אימא לך מילתא מהני מילי מעליותא דהוה אמר אבוך כל יומא ויומא נבראין מלאכי השרת מנהר דינור ואמרי שירה ובטלי שנאמר חדשים לבקרים רבה אמונתך ופליגא דרבי שמואל בר נחמני דאמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר רבי יונתן כל דיבור ודיבור שיוצא מפי הקדוש ברוך הוא נברא ממנו מלאך אחד שנאמר בדבר ה׳ שמים נעשו וברוח פיו כל צבאם

Shmuel said to Ḥiyya bar Rav: Son of great ones, come and I will tell you something of the great things that your father would say: Each and every day, ministering angels are created from the River Dinur, and they recite song to God and then immediately cease to exist, as it is stated: “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23), indicating that new angels praise God each morning. The Gemara comments: And this opinion disagrees with that of Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani, as Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: With each and every word that emerges from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed be He, an angel is created, as it is stated: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts” (Psalms 33:6). The hosts of heaven are the angels, who, he claims, are created from the mouth of God, rather than from the River Dinur.

כתוב אחד אומר לבושיה כתלג חיור ושער רישיה כעמר נקא וכתיב קוצותיו תלתלים שחורות כעורב לא קשיא כאן בישיבה כאן במלחמה דאמר מר אין לך נאה בישיבה אלא זקן ואין לך נאה במלחמה אלא בחור

§ The Gemara continues to reconcile verses that seem to contradict each other: One verse states: “His raiment was as white snow, and the hair of his head like pure white wool” (Daniel 7:9), and it is written: “His locks are curled, black as a raven” (Song of Songs 5:11). The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. Here the verse in Daniel is referring to when He is in the heavenly academy, while there the verse in Song of Songs speaks of when He is at war, for the Master said: There is no finer individual to study Torah in an academy than an old man, and there is no finer individual to wage war than a youth. A different metaphor is therefore used to describe God on each occasion.

כתוב אחד אומר כרסיה שביבין דינור וכתוב אחד אומר עד די כרסון רמיו ועתיק יומין יתיב לא קשיא אחד לו ואחד לדוד כדתניא אחד לו ואחד לדוד דברי רבי עקיבא אמר לו רבי יוסי הגלילי עקיבא עד מתי אתה עושה שכינה חול אלא אחד לדין ואחד לצדקה

The Gemara poses another question: One verse states: “His throne was fiery flames” (Daniel 7:9), and another phrase in the same verse states: “Till thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat,” implying the existence of two thrones. The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. One throne is for Him and one is for David, as it is taught in a baraita with regard to this issue: One throne for Him and one for David; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili said to him: Akiva, how long shall you make the Divine Presence profane, by presenting it as though one could sit next to Him? Rather, the two thrones are designated for different purposes: One for judgment and one for righteousness.

קיבלה מיניה או לא קיבלה מיניה תא שמע אחד לדין ואחד לצדקה דברי רבי עקיבא אמר לו רבי אלעזר בן עזריה עקיבא מה לך אצל הגדה כלך מדברותיך אצל נגעים ואהלות אלא אחד לכסא ואחד לשרפרף כסא לישב עליו שרפרף להדום רגליו שנאמר השמים כסאי והארץ הדום רגלי

The Gemara asks: Did Rabbi Akiva accept this rebuff from him, or did he not accept it from him? The Gemara offers a proof: Come and hear the following teaching of a different baraita: One throne is for judgment and one is for righteousness; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya said to him: Akiva, what are you doing occupying yourself with the study of aggada? This is not your field of expertise. Take [kelakh] your words to the topics of plagues and tents. Meaning, it is preferable that you teach the halakhot of the impurity of leprosy and the impurity of the dead, which are within your field of expertise. Rather, with regard to the two thrones: One throne is for a seat and one is for a small seat. The seat is to sit on, and the small seat is for His footstool, as it is stated: “The heavens are My seat, and the earth My footstool” (Isaiah 66:1).

כי אתא רב דימי אמר שמונה עשרה קללות קילל ישעיה את ישראל ולא נתקררה דעתו עד שאמר להם המקרא הזה ירהבו הנער בזקן והנקלה בנכבד

§ The Gemara stated earlier that one who studies the secrets of Torah must be “a captain of fifty and a man of favor” (Isaiah 3:3), but it did not explain the meaning of these requirements. It now returns to analyze that verse in detail. When Rav Dimi came from Israel to Babylonia, he said: Isaiah cursed Israel with eighteen curses, and his mind was not calmed, i.e., he was not satisfied, until he said to them the great curse of the following verse: “The child shall behave insolently against the aged, and the base against the honorable” (Isaiah 3:5).

שמונה עשרה קללות מאי נינהו דכתיב כי הנה האדון ה׳ צבאות מסיר מירושלם ומיהודה משען ומשענה כל משען לחם וכל משען מים גבור ואיש מלחמה שופט ונביא וקוסם וזקן שר חמשים ונשוא פנים ויועץ וחכם חרשים ונבון לחש ונתתי נערים שריהם ותעלולים ימשלו בם וגו׳

The Gemara asks: What are these eighteen curses? The Gemara answers: As it is written: “For behold, the Master, the Lord of hosts, shall take away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and staff, every support of bread, and every support of water; the mighty man, and the man of war; the judge, and the prophet, and the diviner, and the elder; the captain of fifty, and the man of favor, and the counselor, and the cunning charmer, and the skillful enchanter. And I will make children their princes, and babes shall rule over them” (Isaiah 3:1–4). The eighteen items listed in these verses shall be removed from Israel.

משען אלו בעלי מקרא משענה אלו בעלי משנה כגון רבי יהודה בן תימא וחביריו פליגו בה רב פפא ורבנן חד אמר שש מאות סדרי משנה וחד אמר שבע מאות סדרי משנה

The Gemara proceeds to clarify the homiletical meaning of these terms: “Support”; these are masters of the Bible. “Staff”; these are masters of Mishna, such as Rabbi Yehuda ben Teima and his colleagues. The Gemara interjects: Rav Pappa and the Rabbis disagreed with regard to this. One of them said: They were proficient in six hundred orders of Mishna, and the other one said: In seven hundred orders of Mishna, only six of which remain today.

כל משען לחם אלו בעלי תלמוד שנאמר לכו לחמו בלחמי ושתו ביין מסכתי וכל משען מים אלו בעלי אגדה שמושכין לבו של אדם כמים באגדה גבור זה בעל שמועות ואיש מלחמה זה שיודע לישא וליתן במלחמתה של תורה שופט זה דיין שדן דין אמת לאמיתו נביא כמשמעו קוסם זה מלך שנאמר קסם על שפתי מלך זקן זה שראוי לישיבה

“Every support of bread”; these are masters of Talmud, as it is stated: “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mingled” (Proverbs 9:5). “And every support of water”; these are the masters of aggada, who draw people’s hearts like water by means of aggada. “The mighty man”; this is the master of halakhic tradition, one who masters the halakhot transmitted to him from his rabbis. “And the man of war”; this is one who knows how to engage in the discourse of Torah, generating novel teachings in the war of Torah. “A judge”; this is a judge who judges a true judgment truthfully. “A prophet”; as it literally indicates. “A diviner”; this is a king. Why is he called a diviner? For it is stated: “A divine sentence is on the lips of the king” (Proverbs 16:10). “An elder”; this is one fit for the position of head of an academy.

שר חמשים אל תקרי שר חמשים אלא שר חומשין זה שיודע לישא וליתן בחמשה חומשי תורה דבר אחר שר חמשים כדרבי אבהו דאמר רבי אבהו מכאן שאין מעמידין מתורגמן על הצבור פחות מחמשים שנה ונשוא פנים זה שנושאין פנים לדורו בעבורו למעלה כגון רבי חנינא בן דוסא למטה כגון רבי אבהו בי קיסר

“A captain of fifty,” do not read it as “sar ḥamishim,” rather read it as “sar ḥumashin”; this is one who knows how to engage in discourse with regard to the five books of [ḥamisha ḥumshei] the Torah. Alternatively, “a captain of fifty” should be understood in accordance with Rabbi Abbahu, for Rabbi Abbahu said: From here we learn that one may not appoint a disseminator over the public to transmit words of Torah or teachings of the Sages if he is less than fifty years of age. “And the man of favor”; this is one for whose sake favor is shown to his generation. The Gemara provides different examples of this: Some garner favor above, such as Rabbi Ḥanina ben Dosa, whose prayers for his generation would invariably be answered. Others gain favor below, for example: Rabbi Abbahu, who would plead Israel’s case in the house of the emperor.

יועץ שיודע לעבר שנים ולקבוע חדשים וחכם זה תלמיד המחכים את רבותיו חרשים בשעה שפותח בדברי תורה הכל נעשין כחרשין ונבון זה המבין דבר מתוך דבר לחש זה שראוי למסור לו דברי תורה שניתנה בלחש

“The counselor”; this is referring to one who knows how to intercalate years and determine months, due to his expertise in the phases of the moon and the calculation of the yearly cycle. “The cunning”; this is a student who makes his rabbis wise through his questions. “Charmer [ḥarashim]”; this is referring to one so wise that when he begins speaking matters of Torah, all those listening are as though deaf [ḥershin], as they are unable to comprehend the profundity of his comments. “The skillful”; this is one who understands something new from something else he has learned. “Enchanter [laḥash]”; this is referring to one who is worthy of having words of the Torah that were given in whispers [laḥash], i.e., the secrets of the Torah, transmitted to him.

ונתתי נערים שריהם מאי ונתתי נערים שריהם אמר רבי אלעזר אלו בני אדם שמנוערין מן המצות

The Gemara continues to interpret this verse: “And I will make children their princes” (Isaiah 3:4). The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of “And I will make children [ne’arim] their princes”? Rabbi Elazar said: These are people who are devoid [menu’arin] of mitzvot; such people will become the leaders of the nation.

ותעלולים ימשלו בם אמר רב פפא בר יעקב תעלי בני תעלי ולא נתקררה דעתו עד שאמר להם ירהבו הנער בזקן והנקלה בנכבד אלו בני אדם שמנוערין מן המצות ירהבו במי שממולא במצות כרמון והנקלה בנכבד יבא מי שחמורות דומות עליו כקלות וירהבו במי שקלות דומות עליו כחמורות

“And babes [ta’alulim] shall rule over them”; Rav Pappa bar Ya’akov said: Ta’alulim means foxes [ta’alei], sons of foxes. In other words, inferior people both in terms of deeds and in terms of lineage. And the prophet Isaiah’s mind was not calmed until he said to them: “The child shall behave insolently against the aged, and the base against the honorable” (Isaiah 3:5). “The child” [na’ar]; these are people who are devoid of mitzvot, who will behave insolently toward one who is as filled with mitzvot as a pomegranate. “And the base [nikleh] against the honorable [nikhbad]”; this means that one for whom major [kaved] transgressions are like minor ones [kalot] in his mind will come and behave insolently with one for whom even minor transgressions are like major ones in his mind.

אמר רב קטינא אפילו בשעת כשלונה של ירושלים לא פסקו מהם בעלי אמנה שנאמר כי יתפש איש באחיו בית אביו שמלה לך קצין תהיה לנו דברים שבני אדם מתכסין כשמלה ישנן תחת ידך

§ The Gemara continues its explanation of the chapter in Isaiah. Rav Ketina said: Even at the time of Jerusalem’s downfall, trustworthy men did not cease to exist among its people, as it is stated: “For a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, and say: You have a cloak, be our ruler” (Isaiah 3:6). The Gemara explains that they would approach someone and say to him: Things that people are careful to keep covered as with a cloak, i.e., words of Torah that are covered and concealed, are under your hand, as you are an expert with regard to them.

והמכשלה הזאת מאי והמכשלה הזאת דברים שאין בני אדם עומדין עליהן אלא אם כן נכשל בהן ישנן תחת ידך ישא ביום ההוא לאמר לא אהיה חובש ובביתי אין לחם ואין שמלה לא תשימוני קצין עם ישא אין ישא אלא לשון שבועה שנאמר לא תשא את שם ה׳ אלהיך לא אהיה חובש לא הייתי מחובשי בית המדרש ובביתי אין לחם ואין שמלה שאין בידי לא מקרא ולא משנה ולא גמרא

What is the meaning of the end of that verse: “And this stumbling block” (Isaiah 3:6)? Things that people cannot grasp unless they have stumbled over them, as they can be understood only with much effort, are under your hand. Although they will approach an individual with these statements, he “shall swear that day, saying: I will not be a healer, for in my house there is neither bread nor a cloak; you shall not make me ruler of a people” (Isaiah 3:7). When the verse states: “Shall swear [yissa],” yissa is none other than an expression of an oath, as it is stated: “You shall not take [tissa] the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:6). Therefore, the inhabitant of Jerusalem swears: “I will not be a healer [ḥovesh]” (Isaiah 3:7), which means: I was never one of those who sit [meḥovshei] in the study hall; “for in my house there is neither bread nor a cloak,” as I possess knowledge of neither the Bible, nor Mishna, nor Gemara. This shows that even at Jerusalem’s lowest spiritual ebb, its inhabitants would admit the truth and own up to their complete ignorance.

ודלמא שאני התם דאי אמר להו גמירנא אמרי ליה אימא לן הוה ליה למימר גמר ושכח מאי לא אהיה חובש לא אהיה חובש כלל

The Gemara raises a difficulty: But perhaps it is different there, for if he had said: I have learned, they would have said to him: Tell us, and people do not lie about things that can be easily verified. The Gemara rejects this claim: If he were a liar, he would have said that he learned and forgot, thereby avoiding shame. What is the meaning of “I will not be a healer,” which seems to imply that he had learned in the past? It means: I will not be a healer at all, as I have never learned. Consequently, there were trustworthy men in Jerusalem after all.

איני והאמר רבא לא חרבה ירושלים עד שפסקו ממנה בעלי אמנה שנאמר שוטטו בחוצות ירושלם וראו נא ודעו ובקשו ברחובותיה אם תמצאו איש אם יש עושה משפט מבקש אמונה ואסלח לה לא קשיא

The Gemara raises another difficulty: Is that so? But didn’t Rava say: Jerusalem was not destroyed until trustworthy men ceased to exist in it, as it is stated: “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in its broad places, if you can find a man, if there is any that acts justly, that seeks truth, and I will pardon her” (Jeremiah 5:1), implying there were no trustworthy people at that time? The Gemara answers: This is not difficult:

הא בדברי תורה הא במשא ומתן בדברי תורה הוו במשא ומתן לא הוו

This case is referring to words of Torah, while that case is referring to commerce. With regard to words of Torah, they were trustworthy; with regard to commerce, they were not.

תנו רבנן מעשה ברבן יוחנן בן זכאי שהיה רוכב על החמור והיה מהלך בדרך ורבי אלעזר בן ערך מחמר אחריו אמר לו רבי שנה לי פרק אחד במעשה מרכבה אמר לו לא כך שניתי לכם ולא במרכבה ביחיד אלא אם כן היה חכם מבין מדעתו אמר לו רבי תרשיני לומר לפניך דבר אחד שלמדתני אמר לו אמור

§ The Gemara returns to the topic of the Design of the Divine Chariot. The Sages taught: An incident occurred involving Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, who was riding on a donkey and was traveling along the way, and his student, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh, was riding a donkey behind him. Rabbi Elazar said to him: My teacher, teach me one chapter in the Design of the Divine Chariot. He said to him: Have I not taught you: And one may not expound the Design of the Divine Chariot to an individual, unless he is a Sage who understands on his own accord? Rabbi Elazar said to him: My teacher, allow me to say before you one thing that you taught me. In other words, he humbly requested to recite before him his own understanding of this issue. He said to him: Speak.

מיד ירד רבן יוחנן בן זכאי מעל החמור ונתעטף וישב על האבן תחת הזית אמר לו רבי מפני מה ירדת מעל החמור אמר אפשר אתה דורש במעשה מרכבה ושכינה עמנו ומלאכי השרת מלוין אותנו ואני ארכב על החמור מיד פתח רבי אלעזר בן ערך במעשה המרכבה ודרש וירדה אש מן השמים וסיבבה כל האילנות שבשדה פתחו כולן ואמרו שירה

Immediately, Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai alighted from the donkey, and wrapped his head in his cloak in a manner of reverence, and sat on a stone under an olive tree. Rabbi Elazar said to him: My teacher, for what reason did you alight from the donkey? He said: Is it possible that while you are expounding the Design of the Divine Chariot, and the Divine Presence is with us, and the ministering angels are accompanying us, that I should ride on a donkey? Immediately, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh began to discuss the Design of the Divine Chariot and expounded, and fire descended from heaven and encircled all the trees in the field, and all the trees began reciting song.

מה שירה אמרו הללו את ה׳ מן הארץ תנינים וכל תהומות עץ פרי וכל ארזים הללויה נענה מלאך מן האש ואמר הן הן מעשה המרכבה עמד רבן יוחנן בן זכאי ונשקו על ראשו ואמר ברוך ה׳ אלהי ישראל שנתן בן לאברהם אבינו שיודע להבין ולחקור ולדרוש במעשה מרכבה יש נאה דורש ואין נאה מקיים נאה מקיים ואין נאה דורש אתה נאה דורש ונאה מקיים אשריך אברהם אבינו שאלעזר בן ערך יצא מחלציך

What song did they recite? “Praise the Lord from the earth, sea monsters and all depths…fruit trees and all cedars…praise the Lord” (Psalms 148:7–14). An angel responded from the fire, saying: This is the very Design of the Divine Chariot, just as you expounded. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai stood and kissed Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh on his head, and said: Blessed be God, Lord of Israel, who gave our father Abraham a son like you, who knows how to understand, investigate, and expound the Design of the Divine Chariot. There are some who expound the Torah’s verses well but do not fulfill its imperatives well, and there are some who fulfill its imperatives well but do not expound its verses well, whereas you expound its verses well and fulfill its imperatives well. Happy are you, our father Abraham, that Elazar ben Arakh came from your loins.

וכשנאמרו הדברים לפני רבי יהושע היה הוא ורבי יוסי הכהן מהלכים בדרך אמרו אף אנו נדרוש במעשה מרכבה פתח רבי יהושע ודרש ואותו היום תקופת תמוז היה נתקשרו שמים בעבים ונראה כמין קשת בענן והיו מלאכי השרת מתקבצין ובאין לשמוע כבני אדם שמתקבצין ובאין לראות במזמוטי חתן וכלה

The Gemara relates: And when these matters, this story involving his colleague Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh, were recounted before Rabbi Yehoshua, he was walking along the way with Rabbi Yosei the Priest. They said: We too shall expound the Design of the Divine Chariot. Rabbi Yehoshua began expounding. And that was the day of the summer solstice, when there are no clouds in the sky. Yet the heavens became filled with clouds, and there was the appearance of a kind of rainbow in a cloud. And ministering angels gathered and came to listen, like people gathering and coming to see the rejoicing of a bridegroom and bride.

הלך רבי יוסי הכהן וסיפר דברים לפני רבן יוחנן בן זכאי ואמר אשריכם ואשרי יולדתכם אשרי עיני שכך ראו ואף אני ואתם בחלומי מסובין היינו על הר סיני ונתנה עלינו בת קול מן השמים עלו לכאן עלו לכאן טרקלין גדולים ומצעות נאות מוצעות לכם אתם ותלמידיכם ותלמידי תלמידיכם מזומנין לכת שלישית

Rabbi Yosei the Priest went and recited these matters before Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, who said to him: Happy are all of you, and happy are the mothers who gave birth to you; happy are my eyes that saw this, students such as these. As for you and I, I saw in my dream that we were seated at Mount Sinai, and a Divine Voice came to us from heaven: Ascend here, ascend here, for large halls [teraklin] and pleasant couches are made up for you. You, your students, and the students of your students are invited to the third group, those who will merit to welcome the Divine Presence.

איני והתניא רבי יוסי ברבי יהודה אומר שלשה הרצאות הן רבי יהושע הרצה דברים לפני רבן יוחנן בן זכאי רבי עקיבא הרצה לפני רבי יהושע חנניא בן חכינאי הרצה לפני רבי עקיבא ואילו רבי אלעזר בן ערך לא קא חשיב דארצי וארצו קמיה קחשיב דארצי ולא ארצו קמיה לא קא חשיב והא חנניא בן חכינאי דלא ארצו קמיה וקא חשיב דארצי מיהא קמיה מאן דארצי

The Gemara poses a question: Is that so? But isn’t it taught in a baraita: Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Yehuda, says: There are three lectures. In other words, there are three Sages with regard to whom it states that they delivered lectures on the mystical tradition: Rabbi Yehoshua lectured on these matters before Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai; Rabbi Akiva lectured before Rabbi Yehoshua; and Ḥananya ben Ḥakhinai lectured before Rabbi Akiva. However, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh was not included in the list, despite the testimony that he lectured before Rabban Yoḥanan. The Gemara explains: Those who lectured and were also lectured to were included; but those who lectured and were not lectured to were not included. The Gemara asks: But wasn’t there Ḥananya ben Ḥakhinai, who was not lectured to, and yet he is included? The Gemara answers: Ḥananya ben Ḥakhinai actually lectured before one who lectured in front of his own rabbi, so he was also included in this list.

תנו רבנן ארבעה נכנסו בפרדס ואלו הן בן עזאי ובן זומא אחר ורבי עקיבא אמר להם רבי עקיבא כשאתם מגיעין אצל אבני שיש טהור אל תאמרו מים מים משום שנאמר דובר שקרים לא יכון לנגד עיני

§ The Sages taught: Four entered the orchard [pardes], i.e., dealt with the loftiest secrets of Torah, and they are as follows: Ben Azzai; and ben Zoma; Aḥer, the other, a name for Elisha ben Avuya; and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva, the senior among them, said to them: When, upon your arrival in the upper worlds, you reach pure marble stones, do not say: Water, water, although they appear to be water, because it is stated: “He who speaks falsehood shall not be established before My eyes” (Psalms 101:7).

בן עזאי הציץ ומת עליו הכתוב אומר יקר בעיני ה׳ המותה לחסידיו בן זומא הציץ ונפגע ועליו הכתוב אומר דבש מצאת אכול דייך פן תשבענו והקאתו אחר קיצץ בנטיעות רבי עקיבא יצא בשלום

The Gemara proceeds to relate what happened to each of them: Ben Azzai glimpsed at the Divine Presence and died. And with regard to him the verse states: “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His pious ones” (Psalms 116:15). Ben Zoma glimpsed at the Divine Presence and was harmed, i.e., he lost his mind. And with regard to him the verse states: “Have you found honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for you, lest you become full from it and vomit it” (Proverbs 25:16). Aḥer chopped down the shoots of saplings. In other words, he became a heretic. Rabbi Akiva came out safely.

שאלו את בן זומא מהו לסרוסי כלבא אמר להם ובארצכם לא תעשו כל שבארצכם לא תעשו שאלו את בן זומא בתולה שעיברה מהו לכהן גדול מי חיישינן לדשמואל דאמר שמואל

The Gemara recounts the greatness of ben Zoma, who was an expert interpreter of the Torah and could find obscure proofs: They asked ben Zoma: What is the halakha with regard to castrating a dog? The prohibition against castration appears alongside the sacrificial blemishes, which may imply that it is permitted to castrate an animal that cannot be sacrificed as an offering. He said to them: The verse states “That which has its testicles bruised, or crushed, or torn, or cut, you shall not offer to God, nor shall you do so in your land” (Leviticus 22:24), from which we learn: With regard to any animal that is in your land, you shall not do such a thing. They also asked ben Zoma: A woman considered to be a virgin who became pregnant, what is the halakha? A High Priest may marry only a virgin; is he permitted to marry her? The answer depends on the following: Are we concerned for the opinion of Shmuel? Shmuel says:

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