1) HALACHAH: PUTTING VERSES TO SONG
OPINIONS: The Gemara says that a person who makes a verse of Shir ha'Shirim into a song "brings evil to the world."
To what extent does this prohibition apply? Does the Gemara intend to prohibit making a song from any verse in the Torah and not just from Shir ha'Shirim? Are there circumstances under which one is permitted to sing a verse?
(a) RASHI says that although the Gemara mentions Shir ha'Shirim, the Halachah applies equally to any verse in the Torah. It mentions Shir ha'Shirim to teach that even though the Sefer itself was written as a Shir, a song, nevertheless one is not permitted to sing it in any other way other than with the Ta'amim (cantillational notes) that were received through tradition from Sinai.
RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN zt'l (in IGROS MOSHE YD 2:142) writes that the same prohibition should apply to statements of Torah she'Ba'al Peh, because Torah she'Ba'al Peh also must be respected and should not be made into a song that mockers play. Rav Moshe asks that one also should be prohibited from singing phrases from blessings and prayers, since they are considered like Torah she'Ba'al Peh (see Shabbos 115a).
(b) Rav Moshe Feinstein bases his argument that Torah she'Ba'al Peh and Tefilos are like Torah she'Bichtav with regard to the prohibition of making songs out of them on the logic that one should not make any part of Torah a song that will be used in a disrespectful manner by mockers, as the Beraisa says, "k'Kinor she'Menagnin Bah Letzim." It is possible, however, that this expression refers only to the second statement in the Beraisa, referring to one who reads a verse loudly during a party in order to make merriment. The first prohibition of the Beraisa, making a song out of a verse, might *not* be comparable to putting the Torah in the hands of a jester, because it is not being sung in a degrading or disgraceful manner.
The prohibition of singing verses might be based simply on the Kedushah of the words of the verses of Torah she'Bichtav, which should not be profaned by treating them like a song. The words of Torah she'Ba'al Peh, on the other hand, have no intrinsic Kedushah, but rather the Kedushah is in the *meaning* of the expression and not in the words themselves. Consequently, singing the words should be permitted; the meaning of the expression will not be degraded through the song, since it is the *words* being made into a song and not the *meaning* of the words.
Support for the view that only singing a verse in jest or merriment makes the verse like a "jester's instrument" may be found in the SEFER CHASIDIM (#147) and the LIKUTEI MAHARIL (cited by the MAGEN AVRAHAM, OC 560:10).
(c) The YAD RAMAH takes this distinction further and suggests that perhaps the prohibition applies only when the verse is sung for the sake of merriment. It certainly should be permitted to sing verses in order to praise Hash-m. However, the Ramah does not decide this matter for certain, and remains in doubt as to whether one indeed is permitted to sing a verse to extol the praises of Hash-m.
(d) Others suggest that the Gemara refers only to verses from Shir ha'Shirim. This seems to be the intention of the Zohar (2:143a, as cited by the MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM). The DIKDUKEI SOFRIM (#2) quotes the Yalkut (Kesav Yad) that also states that the Gemara's prohibition applies only to verses from Shir ha'Shirim. This is clear from the Girsa of the Yalkut (which Rashi here explicitly rejects), according to which the Beraisa reads, "One who reads a verse from Shir ha'Shirim, *or* one who makes it like a song...." The first Isur -- that of reading a verse from Shir ha'Shirim -- refers to a person who reads a verse in order to use it in the context of its literal meaning (as opposed to the intended, allegorical meaning of the verses of Shir ha'Shirim).
According to that Girsa, there are two statements in the first part of the Beraisa. It is clear that the first statement applies only to verses of Shir ha'Shirim, which speaks exclusively in allegory. Hence, the second statement -- the prohibition of making it into a song -- also applies only to Shir ha'Shirim. The reason for the prohibition is that it is very easy to misunderstand the meaning of Shir ha'Shirim, and making it into a song might cause people to show disrespect to the verses.
HALACHAH: Rav Moshe Feinstein (ibid.) writes that nowadays it is customary to sing verses, even from the Torah itself. He adds that even in his youth in Europe it was the common practice to sing songs based on verses and Tefilos. However, he concludes, a Ba'al Nefesh should be stringent upon himself and not make songs out of verses in Tanach, Torah she'Ba'al Peh, or Tefilos.
This ruling implies that one should not sing even Tefilos (such as Hallel or Kel Adon) while praying. However, the MAGEN AVRAHAM (OC 560:10) cites the LIKUTEI MAHARIL who writes that while one should not sing songs from verses during parties, as the Gemara here states, it is a Mitzvah to sing parts of Hallel or other Tefilos while praying. (See also OC 51:9, "One should *sing* Mizmor l'Sodah as a song." In fact, the Tefilos said before "Yishtabach" are collectively referred to as "verses of *song* (Pesulei d'Zimra)." One cannot infer from the Maharil's words that singing verses to praise Hash-m at times *other than* during Tefilah is prohibited, since he mentions Tefilah only in order to teach that it is a *Mitzvah* to sing during Tefilah, in order to beautify the Tefilos.) Rav Moshe Feinstein apparently refers to singing a verse at other times ("she'Lo bi'Zemano"), but not when it is read in prayer. Similarly, the Gemara in Megilah (32a) teaches that one should "sing the Mishnah." Tosfos there writes that the Tana'im would sing the Mishnayos to facilitate memorization (see also Sefer Chasidim #238). When sung under such circumstances, it certainly is permitted to sing Torah she'Ba'al Peh.
The YABI'A OMER (vol. III, OC 15:5) cites numerous Poskim who were lenient and permitted the singing of verses from Tefilos, the Torah, and even Shir ha'Shirim, even when one is not praying. He concludes that since the Yad Ramah (quoted in (c) above) himself remains in doubt as to whether it is prohibited to sing songs that honor Hash-m, and the common practice is to permit it, clearly the Poskim chose the more lenient side of the Ramah's doubt. He therefore permits, l'Chatchilah, the singing of verses.
2) THE THREE VICTORIOUS ARGUMENTS
QUESTIONS: The Gemara says that three individuals posed an argument of "Alilah," a cunning argument, to Hash-m for their demands: Kayin, Esav, and Menasheh. RASHI explains that they presented triumphant arguments that were irrefutable.
(a) What do these three individuals, or their arguments, have in common with each other? Moreover, why does Rashi refer to their arguments as arguments that cannot be refuted? What makes them stronger than any other arguments?
(b) Some of the arguments seem flawed. How could Kayin have argued that since Hash-m will forgive the sins of 600,000 Jewish people in the future when they sin with the Egel ha'Zahav, He certainly should forgive him for his sin? The sin of the Egel ha'Zahav occurred 2,400 years later. How could Kayin have known that they would sin, and how could he have known that Hash-m would forgive them?
Also, what was the argument of Esav, that Yitzchak certainly must have more than one Berachah to give? What would Yitzchak be lacking if he would have had only one Berachah to give?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Rashi does not mean that their arguments could not be refuted. It is obvious that their arguments were weak. However, since *they* believed that their arguments were strong and irrefutable, if Hash-m would not accede to their arguments a Chilul Hash-m would result. The MAHARAL adds that Hash-m knew that these Resha'im would constantly decry the perceived unfairness of the way Hash-m dealt with them.
According to this explanation, the Gemara means that the requests of Kayin, Esav, and Menasheh were answered even though they did not fully repent and did not deserve what they were given. Hash-m gave them their requests only in order to prevent a Chilul Hash-m.
Perhaps an indication that shows that the requests of these three individuals were answered grudgingly by Hash-m, as it were, in order to prevent Chilul Hash-m was that although Hash-m promised them what they demanded, His gift was limited and was not enduring.
In the case of Kayin, Hash-m granted him life for only an additional seven generations. In the case of Esav, he was granted the Berachah only as long as the descendants of Yakov would not be doing the will of Hash-m, but as soon as they repent, or when Mashi'ach comes, he loses his Berachah. In the case of Menasheh, Hash-m granted him 33 more years, but, as the verse concludes (see the Mishnah, 90a), he was returned only to Yerushalayim but not to Olam ha'Ba. (M. KORNFELD)
(b) How did Kayin know that the Jewish people would sin? RAV YAKOV EMDEN explains that Kayin knew it through prophecy. The TORAS CHAIM suggests that he found it in the Sefer of Adam ha'Rishon (as described in Bava Metzia 85b), in which every generation and its leaders are listed.
Kayin's argument can be explained in another way. Why did Kayin base his argument on the atonement granted to the Jewish nation many generations later, when he could have based it on the fact that Hash-m granted atonement to his own father, Adam ha'Rishon?
Perhaps Kayin's argument indeed was based on the fact that Hash-m forgave Adam ha'Rishon. The sin of the Egel ha'Zahav was a replication of the sin of Adam ha'Rishon, as the verse says in Hoshea (6:7). Hash-m forgave them because He forgave Adam ha'Rishon. The reason why the Gemara mentions the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav and not the sin of Adam ha'Rishon directly is that, as Rav Yakov Emden writes, the source for the Gemara's understanding of Kayin's argument is Kayin's own words, "*Gadol* Avoni mi'Neso" (Bereishis 4:13), which allude to the words that Moshe Rabeinu used after the Jewish people sinned with the Egel ha'Zahav, "Atah *Yigdal* Na Ko'ach Hash-m" (Bamidbar 14:17), saying that Hash-m's attribute of mercy is able to forgive even the most severe sin.
Moreover, the reason why the Gemara mentions the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav is that the Chilul Hash-m inherent in a rejection of Kayin's argument is that Hash-m would appear prejudiced, as though He wants to do more favors for some than for others, as it were. Kayin argued that Hash-m had forgiven Adam ha'Rishon's sin out of prejudice because, he asserted, Hash-m wanted to bring forth a chosen nation from Adam ha'Rishon and that He would be willing to forgive everything so that this chosen nation should survive. The argument that Hash-m forgave 600,000 Jews was a paraphrase of Kayin's argument that Hash-m forgave Adam ha'Rishon in order that the Jewish people will come from him. Esav had a similar argument when he said that Yitzchak favors Yakov over him.
The argument of Menasheh was the opposite: Hash-m already decided to destroy the Beis ha'Mikdash and exile the people, and thus Teshuvah will not be effective.
In the case of Esav, the Maharsha explains that the reason why a Chilul Hash-m would result from Esav not receiving a Berachah is that Yitzchak's power of Berachos was given to him by Hash-m (see Rashi to Bereishis 25:5). Therefore, if Yitzchak would not have another Berachah for Esav, it would seem as though Hash-m Himself had no other Berachos to offer, since Yitzchak was given power from Hash-m to distribute Berachos.
3) IDENTIFYING NEVAT, THE FATHER OF YAROV'AM, AS MICHAH AND AS SHEVA BEN BICHRI
QUESTIONS: A Beraisa states that Nevat, the father of Yarov'am, was the same person as Michah, who lived during the times of the Shoftim. He was also the same person as Sheva ben Bichri, who lived during the times of David ha'Melech.
1. The RADAK (in Melachim I 11:26) points out that according to the verse, Sheva ben Bichri was from Shevet Binyamin (Shmuel II 20:1). Nevat, though, was from Shevet Efraim. How, then, can the Beraisa say that they are the same person?
2. The YAD RAMAH asks that if Michah was such a Rasha, then how could Hash-m have allowed him to live such an exceptionally and miraculously long life, from the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim (as the Gemara says, see RASHI DH Nismachmech b'Vinyan) until the times of Shlomo ha'Melech -- over 400 years?
ANSWER: The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM cites the EIN ELIYAHU (in his introduction to Ein Yakov) who writes that the Gemara does not mean that these three individuals were one and the same person. Rather, it means that the three of them had similar traits and characteristics.
In a similar vein, the CHIDA writes (in MAR'IS HA'AYIN) that the Gemara may be referring to the concept of Gilgul Neshamos, according to which a Neshamah can reappear in this world in the body of a different person in a different generation. (The BEN YEHOYADA questions this, because it seems that Sheva ben Bichri was still alive at the time that Nevat lived.) This is also the explanation of RAV YAKOV EMDEN later (105a).
According to both the Ein Eliyahu and the Chida, one may add that the Gemara means not only that they shared characteristics but that they were descended from each other (Michah's descendant was Sheva ben Bichri, whose descendant was Nevat), and each one acquired his evil characteristics from his grandfather. Support for this interpretation may be found in the words of RASHI to Tehilim (60:1), RADAK to Shoftim (3:8), and RABEINU BACHYE (Bereishis 31:52) who explain that Lavan, Be'or, and Kushan were related in terms of ancestry and character traits, based on the Gemara later (105a) that says that Lavan was the same person as Be'or and the same person as Kushan, who lived hundreds of years after Lavan.
(b) The BEN YEHOYADA points out that the Gemara in Bava Basra (121b) mentions another person who lived from the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim until the times of Yarov'am. The Gemara says that the life of Achiyah ha'Shiloni spanned that length of time.
This answer requires further elucidation, because the question of the Yad Ramah was based on the fact that Michah was a great Rasha. If he was so wicked, how did he merit to live so long? However, even a Rasha may be granted an exceptionally long life, such as in the case of Og Melech ha'Bashan, who lived for 400 years. Although he was a Rasha, he was rewarded for the single merit of informing Avraham Avinu about Lot's capture. The same might be true of Michah. Perhaps he lived such an exceptionally long life because he gave food to wayfarers, as the Gemara says (103b).
Regarding the conflicting ancestry of Sheva ben Bichri and Nevat, the Ben Yehoyada suggests that when the verse says that Sheva ben Bichri was "Ish Yemini," from Binyamin, it may mean that his mother was from Shevet Binyamin while his father was from Shevet Efraim, as the Gemara in Megilah (12b) writes with regard to Mordechai.