1) FOLLOWING ONE'S TEACHER
QUESTION: The Gemara (beginning on 43b) quotes a Beraisa that states, "The Halachah always follows the words of Beis Hillel, but one who wants to act in accordance with Beis Shamai may do so, or he may act in accordance with Beis Hillel. However, one who follows the lenient rulings of Beis Shamai and the lenient rulings of Beis Hillel is a Rasha. One who follows the stringent rulings of Beis Shamai and the stringent rulings of Beis Hillel -- of him the verse says, 'The fool walks in darkness' (Koheles 2:14). Rather, one must follow either Beis Shamai consistently, both his lenient and stringent rulings, or Beis Hillel consistently, both his lenient and stringent rulings."
The Gemara asks that this statement seems inherently contradictory. The Beraisa first states that the Halachah always follows Beis Hillel, but then it states that one who wants to follow Beis Shamai may do so! The Gemara answers that the former statement of the Beraisa was made after a Bas Kol emanated from Shamayim declaring that the Halachah always follows Beis Hillel. The latter statement of the Beraisa was made before the Bas Kol.
The Gemara here seems to contradict the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (7a) that says that when there is a dispute among the Chachamim, the Halachah follows the ruling of the one who is greater in wisdom and in number of students (see Background to Avodah Zarah 7:12
). If the disputants are equal in wisdom and in number, then the Halachah follows the stringent opinion when the dispute involves a Din d'Oraisa, and the Halachah follows the lenient opinion when the dispute involves a Din d'Rabanan.
Why does the Beraisa quoted here not follow the guidelines of the Gemara in Avodah Zarah? The Beraisa here says that before the Bas Kol declared that the Halachah follows the ruling of Beis Hillel, one could follow whomever he wanted -- either Beis Shamai or Beis Hillel. However, since neither of those schools had the advantage over the other in both wisdom or in numbers (Beis Hillel was greater in numbers, while Beis Shamai was greater in wisdom), their disputes should be treated as disputes between equals, in which case one must follow the stringent ruling with regard to matters that are mid'Oraisa, and the lenient ruling with regard to matters that are mid'Rabanan!
(With regard to how the Halachah can follow the declaration of a Bas Kol when the Gemara in Bava Metzia (59b) teaches that we do not follow a Bas Kol with regard to Halachah, see TOSFOS here (DH v'Rebbi Yehoshua Hi), in Eruvin (13b, DH Rebbi Yehoshua Hi), and in Bava Metzia (DH Lo ba'Shamayim Hi).)
ANSWER: The CHAZON ISH (YD 150:1) answers that when the Gemara in Avodah Zarah says that one must follow the stringent ruling when two Chachamim disagree about the Halachah in the case of a Din d'Oraisa, it refers only to when one of the disputants is not one's teacher. When one of the disputants is the person's teacher, then he must follow his Rebbi whether his Rebbi is stringent or lenient. One's Rebbi is defined as the teacher who lives near him and whose teachings he constantly follows in most matters. If there are two sages who live near him, he is entitled to follow the rulings of either one of them and to accept him as his Rebbi.
This applies whether the sage is alive or not, as long as his rulings are clearly known, either through his students or through his writings. Also, one may follow his Rebbi's lenient ruling even when the majority of Chachamim disagree with that ruling, as long as Beis Din did not convene to discuss the matter and decide against the minority opinion.
Accordingly, when the Beraisa says that one may follow Beis Shamai, it means that one may accept Beis Shamai as one's Rebbi and follow his rulings whether they are stringent or lenient. When the Bas Kol issued forth, the Chachamim understood that it constituted a convening of Beis Din to decide that the Halachah follows Beis Hillel, and henceforth one is not permitted to follow Beis Shamai's rulings even when they are stringent. (See also CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN.) (D. BLOOM)
2) AGADAH: ONE WHO EATS THE LABOR OF HIS HANDS
OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes Mar Zutra who says in the name of Rav Chisda, "One who learns Tanach and Mishnah and sees his own Tereifah and learns from Talmidei Chachamim (i.e. Gemara; see Rashi), about him the verse says, 'When you eat the labor of your hands, you are fortunate and it is well with you' (Tehilim 128:2). Rav Zevid explains that such a person merits to inherit two worlds -- this world and Olam ha'Ba.
How does this verse imply one who "sees his own Tereifah"?
(a) RASHI says that when a person enjoys the labors of his own hands and has no lust even for his own money (for he does not seek to permit his doubtful Tereifah), he certainly will not desire to steal the money of others.
(b) The MAHARSHA says that the previous verse in Tehilim says, "Happy is the one who fears Hash-m, who walks in His ways." That verse refers to a person whose animal has a condition that might render it a Tereifah, and yet, because he fears Hash-m, he does not eat from the animal because of the doubt. The verse says that such a person will be happy in Olam ha'Ba, because he refrained from eating an animal that might have been a Tereifah.
However, there is an even greater level of Avodas Hash-m, as the following verse expresses. One who "eats the labor of his hands" refers to the person who, when a doubt in Halachah arises, works hard to resolve the doubt by learning the pertinent Halachos and analyzing the issues involved. Through his toil he arrives at a conclusion permitting the item that was in doubt. As a result, he not only enjoys the labor of his hands in this world, but he also merits a share in the World to Come because of his labor in Torah. (See also Insights to Berachos 8:3.)
3) ONE WHO DESPISES GIFTS WILL LIVE
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes Rav Chisda who said, "Who is a Talmid Chacham? He who sees his own Tereifah." RASHI (DH Zeh) explains that when one's animal has a possible Tereifah and there are arguments that may be advanced to permit the animal, but the owner is stringent even though he thereby suffers a financial loss, this shows that he is a Talmid Chacham.
Rav Chisda also said, "About whom does the verse state, 'One who despises gifts will live' (Mishlei 15:27)? This refers to a person who sees his own Tereifah." Rashi explains that one who is stringent with his own Tereifah certainly is the type of person who also despises receiving gifts from others. Since he is not eager to permit even his own money (by finding a leniency to permit his animal), certainly he is not eager to take money from others.
Does the principle of "one who despises gifts will live" apply even when the Torah permits one to accept a gift (or, in the case of the Gemara here, to be lenient in the case of a doubt)?
ANSWER: The Gemara later (133a) relates that Abaye, who was a Kohen, said that he originally used to grab the Matnos Kehunah, the presents that the Kohanim are entitled to receive from animals brought as Korbanos, because he maintained that this showed a love for the Mitzvah. Later, when he heard the Beraisa that relates that the modest Kohanim did not accept their share of the Lechem ha'Panim and only the greedy took it, he desisted from accepting the Matnos Kehunah, except for once a year (on Erev Yom Kippur) so that people not forget that he was a Kohen.
The DERISHAH (YD 61:3) explains Abaye's reasoning. Abaye wanted to conduct himself beyond the letter of the law ("Lifnim mi'Shuras ha'Din") and to forego his presents so that they would be given to other Kohanim who needed them more than he. Alternatively, he did not accept the presents because he wanted to follow the verse, "One who despises gifts will live," and he did not want to receive benefit from others even though the Torah granted him that right.
Originally, Abaye took the presents because, he reasoned, it is a Mitzvah to take the presents that the Torah commands Yisraelim to give to Kohanim. When he realized that it was improper to grab them, he refrained from taking them at all, and he concluded that there is no Mitzvah for the Kohen to take them. Rather, the Torah commands the Yisrael to give them to the Kohen if the Kohen wants or needs them. Since there is no Mitzvah for the Kohen to receive the gifts, Abaye did not want to accept them.
It is clear from the Derishah that the principle of "one who despises gifts will live" applies even to the Matnos Kehunah, which the Torah certainly permits the Kohen to receive. (D. BLOOM)