1) AGADAH: THE JEWISH PEOPLE'S ABILITY TO AVOID SIN
QUESTIONS: A heretic asked Rav Kahana, "You say that a man is allowed to be secluded with his wife even when she is a Nidah. Is it possible that there can be a flame in a ball of wool and it does not burn?" Rav Kahana answered that the Torah attests to the character of the Jewish people as "Sugah ba'Shoshanim" -- "fenced in with roses" (Shir ha'Shirim 7:3).
Reish Lakish derived this trait of the Jewish people from a different verse which says, "k'Felach ha'Rimon Rakasech" -- "like a section of a pomegranate is your cheek within your veil" (Shir ha'Shirim 6:7), which he reads as, "As many as a pomegranate's seeds are the merits of your unworthiest." (The word for "your cheek" -- "Rakasech" -- can be read as "Reik," or "[your] empty ones.") Rebbi Zeira said that this is evident from the verse that relates that Yitzchak noticed the fragrance of Yakov's clothes when Yakov approached him to receive the blessing. The verse says, "va'Yarach Es Re'ach Begadav" (Bereishis 27:27), which can be read, "va'Yarach Es Re'ach *Bogdav*" -- "He smelled the fragrance of even the sinners of Yisrael."
(a) What is the significance of a fence of roses, a pomegranate, and the smell of "Bogdav"?
(b) Why did each Amora need to add his own Derashah?
(a) RASHI explains that "Sugah ba'Shoshanim" means a weak fence, made of flower vines. Even a fence of roses prevents the Jewish people from sinning, and there is no need for a wall of stone.
TOSFOS explains that "Sugah ba'Shoshanim" refers to the Dam Nidah which makes a woman prohibited to her husband. Rav Kahana responded to the heretic with this verse because it refers directly to the subject of the heretic's question, a woman who is a Nidah. Rav Kahana was saying that the Torah attests that this is enough to keep a Jewish husband from sinning.
Tosfos continues and says that this is also the meaning of the verse cited by Rebbi Zeira. "He smelled the fragrance of his 'Bogdav'" means that he smelled the Dam Nidah which prevents a husband and wife from being together. The Gemara in Nidah (20b) relates how Rebbi Eliezer was able to determine whether a sample of blood was Dam Nidah by merely smelling it.
Tosfos does not explain how a pomegranate (the subject of the verse cited by Reish Lakish) is related to blood or to a Nidah. The simple explanation, in accordance with Tosfos' theme, seems to be that the pomegranate seeds are similar in color to blood, thereby indicating that even the empty ones, the sinners of Yisrael, are careful with regard to the laws of Dam Nidah.
The NETZIV (in MEROMEI SADEH) explains that the empty people to whom these Derashos refer are those who do not perform the positive commandments, for they are called "empty of Mitzvos." What, then, is their source of merit? It must be that they have merit by abstaining from sin. When one abstains from sin it is considered as though he fulfills a positive Mitzvah (see Makos 23b). In order to be rewarded for abstaining, however, one must be confronted with the possibility of doing the sin. The temptation to transgress a very severe sin which presents itself frequently is the sin of living with a Nidah, and yet even the "empty ones" of Yisrael avoid this sin. Therefore, they are considered to be full of Mitzvos.
(b) The simple reason why each Amora learned this trait of the Jewish people from a different verse is that each one wanted to quote an earlier source for this concept.
The TORAS CHAIM explains that each Amora was adding *more people* to the category of those who avoid sin. Rav Kahana referred only to people who are Tzadikim, as the Gemara earlier learns that the verse "Sugah ba'Shoshanim" refers to the Sanhedrin. Reish Lakish added people who are empty from Torah and Mitzvos, but nonetheless are careful not to sin. Rebbi Zeira included even those who actually sin.
What is Rebbi Zeira's basis for saying that people who are sinners are considered meritorious?
The EINEI SHMUEL explains Rebbi Zeira's statement based on an interpretation of RAV SA'ADYAH GA'ON. The verse states that the Jewish people will be punished because they did not serve Hash-m "with happiness and a glad heart" (Devarim 28:47). The next verse begins, "And you will serve your enemies." Rav Sa'adyah Ga'on explains that there are two types of sinners. Some sinners follow their strong desire to sin, but they are always remorseful either while doing the sin or after doing the sin. The verse does not refer to this type of sinner. Rather, the verse refers to a sinner who is happy that he is sinning and acting against the will of Hash-m. The verse, "Since you did not serve Hash-m your G-d with happiness and a glad heart," can be read, "Since, with happiness and a glad heart, you did not serve Hash-m." That is, you sinned happily, glad to transgress His will. The punishment for such a sin is that "you will serve your enemies."
Rebbi Zeira here adds the same thought. Even the evildoers among the Jewish people possess some merit, because they feel guilty when they sin. (See BEN YEHOYADA for an additional explanation of Rebbi Zeira's statement.) (Y. MONTROSE)
2) AGADAH: THE REASON WHY MAN WAS CREATED ALONE
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that Hash-m created man (Adam) alone in order to teach that one who destroys a single Jewish soul is considered to have destroyed the entire world. Likewise, one who saves a Jewish soul is considered to have saved the entire world. The Mishnah says that another reason for why man was created alone is so that a person will not say to his fellow man, "My ancestor was greater than yours." The Mishnah gives a number of other reasons.
The Gemara (38a) cites a Beraisa which adds more reasons for why man was created alone. One reason is so that evildoers will not say that they are evil because they are descended from an evil person (and use this as an excuse not to repent), and so that Tzadikim will not say that they are the sons of a Tzadik (and use this as an excuse not to avoid temptation to sin).
The YEFEI MAR'EH has difficulty with the entire discussion about why man was created alone. All of the animals also were created alone, just like man. Why, then, should there be any uniqueness in the fact that man was created alone?
(a) The YEFEI MAR'EH answers that at the time of Creation there was a need for more men to be created in order to settle the world. Had more men been created, the world would have been established without Kayin and Hevel having to marry their sisters. However, because of the reasons given by the Mishnah and Beraisa, it was deemed more appropriate to create only a single man.
(b) The MAHARSHA argues that this is not the point of the Gemara. The Gemara is not explaining why other men were not created together with Adam ha'Rishon. Rather, it is explaining why Adam ha'Rishon was created alone and only afterwards was Chavah created from him, unlike the creation of all of the animals, where the male and female were created as separate entities at one time.
According to the Maharsha, what does the Mishnah mean when it says that man was created alone (i.e. without Chavah, who was created from him only afterwards) so that a person will not say to his fellow man, "My ancestor was greater than yours"? Even if Adam and Chavah had been created as separate beings at the same time, everyone would still have the same ancestors!
The Maharsha explains that the Mishnah means that had Adam and Chavah been created at the same time, a person would have been able to say that his traits come from Adam and not from Chavah, while his fellow man's traits come from Chavah, or vice versa, as a person's traits may emulate those of one parent more than the other. A person would say that one of the two -- Adam or Chavah -- was more important, or better than the other, and that he resembles one of them. Since Adam and Chavah were created together as a single entity, no one can make such claims, since all human traits ultimately come from the same source. (The TIFERES YISRAEL seems to include both explanations of the question in his understanding of the Mishnah.) (Y. MONTROSE)
3) AGADAH: THE GROUND WHICH SWALLOWED THE BLOOD OF HEVEL
QUESTION: Rav Yehudah brei d'Rebbi Chiya says that from the day that the ground swallowed the blood of Hevel, it never opened again. His brother, Chizkiyah, asks that the earth opened up to swallow the sinners in the incident of Korach. Rav Yehudah answers that it opened only for a bad occurrence, and not for a good occurrence.
TOSFOS says that while *all* blood gets "swallowed" and absorbed into the ground, the blood of Hevel was unique in that it left no mark on the ground, while all other blood leaves a mark. Why does Tosfos need to mention this difference?
(a) The MAHARAM explains that Tosfos is bothered by the question of Chizkiyah. Instead of asking from Korach, Chizkiyah should have asked from the everyday occurrence of liquids being absorbed into the earth. Tosfos answers that Hevel's blood was different from all other liquids, as his blood was swallowed by the earth immediately and totally.
(b) The PARDES YOSEF (Parshas Bereishis) explains that the intent of Tosfos is to explain why the earth did what it did. Rav Yehudah implies that the earth sinned by doing something more than its usual absorption of liquids. What more did the earth do? Tosfos explains that the earth indeed did more than it was supposed to do by swallowing the blood completely without leaving a mark. This was done in order to cover up the evil deed of Kayin.
This explanation is consistent with the Midrashim (discussed by the MAHARSHA here at length) which say that Kayin and Hevel divided the world between them. After he killed Hevel, Kayin's portion of earth rushed to swallow the blood of Hevel in order to hide Kayin's sin. (Y. MONTROSE)