1) AGADAH: IS ERETZ YISRAEL UNDER THE SKY?
QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish disagree about whether the Mabul occurred in Eretz Yisrael. Reish Lakish says that the Mabul occurred in Eretz Yisrael just as it occurred in the rest of the world. Rebbi Yochanan says that the waters of the Mabul never entered Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara continues to discuss this argument at length. Later (113b), the Gemara explains that according to Rebbi Yochanan, the people in Eretz Yisrael died from the heat that spread due to the boiling waters of the Mabul.
TOSFOS (DH Lo Yarad) questions Rebbi Yochanan's opinion from the verse, "va'Yechusu Kol he'Harim... Asher Tachas Kol ha'Shamayim" -- "and they (the waters of the flood) covered all of the high mountains that are under the heavens" (Bereishis 7:19). Is Eretz Yisrael not under the heavens like all other countries? This verse is interpreted in a literal manner in the Midrash (Bereishis Rabah 32:10). The Midrash relates that Rebbi Yonasan, while on a journey, met a certain Kusi who worshipped Har Gerizim. The Kusi told Rebbi Yonasan that the he worshipped Har Gerizim because that mountain was not submerged in the waters of the Mabul, and thus it must be holy. Rebbi Yonasan's worker in charge of guiding his animals asked permission from Rebbi Yonasan to respond to the Kusi. He asked the Kusi if Har Gerizim was under the heavens. After the Kusi admit that it was, Rebbi Yonasan's assistant quoted the aforementioned verse, showing that all of the mountains under the sky were submerged in the waters of the Mabul. How, then, does Rebbi Yochanan understand the verse?
(a) TOSFOS answers that perhaps the intention of the verse is not that the water covered the entire world, but rather that the effects of the Mabul (such as the intense heat that resulted from the boiling water) blanketed even the highest of mountains. The Kusi in the incident in the Midrash maintained that Har Gerizim was not affected by the Mabul in any way. When he was challenged with this verse, he had no response, because the verse clearly states that no part of the world was unaffected by the Mabul.
(b) Alternatively, Tosfos explains that Rebbi Yochanan maintains that the verse indeed refers only to the waters of the Mabul. Although the verse says that the water covered everything under the sky, it means that wherever the water went it covered even the highest mountains. However, the verse does not mean that the water went everywhere. Accordingly, the Kusi in the incident in the Midrash could have answered the question from the verse, but he was caught off-guard by the question and did not know an answer.
(c) The YEFEI TO'AR (Devarim Rabah 3:6) gives a similar answer to Tosfos' second answer. There is a principle that "Ein Lemedin Min ha'Kelalos" -- rules do not need to be applied in an absolute manner. This principle teaches that the verse does not necessarily mean that all of the mountains under the heavens were covered by the waters of the Mabul. (See Eruvin 27a, where Rebbi Yochanan himself applies the principle of "Ein Lemedin Min ha'Kelalos.")
Another question on Rebbi Yochanan's opinion is raised by RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS (in NITZOTZEI OR here). Rebbi Yochanan in Sanhedrin (108a) says that there are three hot-springs left from the Mabul: Bilu'a of Gader, the hot-springs of Teverya, and Einah Rabasi of Biram. If Rebbi Yochanan himself says that the Mabul did not reach Eretz Yisrael, then how can he say that there are hot-springs in Eretz Yisrael leftover from the Mabul?
Rav Reuven Margoliyos answers that, apparently, the Mabul caused geological changes inside the earth that affected Eretz Yisrael, even according to Rebbi Yochanan. These geological changes caused the hot-springs to form in Eretz Yisrael. When Rebbi Yochanan says that the Mabul did not reach Eretz Yisrael, he means that the water did not come down from the heavens upon Eretz Yisrael, but not that the Mabul did not affect Eretz Yisrael in some way. He does not elaborate on whether the water also overflowed onto the land. In any event, the waters of the Mabul were not a significant cause of death, as the Gemara (113b) says that, according to Rebbi Yochanan, the people who died in Eretz Yisrael died because of the heat and not because of the waters. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) "TUM'AH" FROM THOSE WHO DIED DURING THE FLOOD
QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish disagree about whether the Mabul occurred in Eretz Yisrael. Reish Lakish says that the Mabul occurred in Eretz Yisrael just as it occurred in the rest of the world. Rebbi Yochanan says that the waters of the Mabul never entered Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara asks that if the Mabul occurred in Eretz Yisrael, then there may be dead bodies buried deep in the ground which will cause serious problems of Tum'as Mes.
What is the Gemara's question? Any dead body from the time of the Mabul would be the body of a Nochri. The Halachah is that the body of a Nochri does not cause Tum'as Mes (Tum'as Ohel). Moreover, if the bodies are buried deep in the depths of the earth, why would the Tum'ah ascend? There should be no problem of Tum'as Ohel in such a case. (The KEREN ORAH, YEFEH EINAYIM, MITZPEH EISAN, and HAGAHOS YA'AVETZ all ask this question and leave it unresolved.)
(a) Perhaps one may suggest as follows. While it is true that Rebbi Shimon (Yevamos 61a) says that the corpse of a Nochri is not Metamei b'Ohel, the Chachamim disagree and maintain that the corpse of a Nochri is Metamei b'Ohel. (Indeed, many Rishonim rule like the Chachamim.) This seems to be the intention of TOSFOS and the SHITAH MEKUBETZES in Nazir (54b, DH Eretz ha'Amim) with regard to those who died in the flood.
However, another problem arises. Tosfos in Yevamos (61b, DH Kivrei) proves from the Gemara in Nazir (54a) that even the Chachamim agree that the body of a person who died before the Torah was given is not Metamei b'Ohel (but is Metamei only through Maga, contact). If there is no Tum'as Ohel before the giving of the Torah, then what Tum'ah exists from those who died in the flood? Tosfos asks similar questions from the Gemara in Bava Basra (58a) and Nidah (70b), but he does not raise the question from the Gemara here in Zevachim.
Why is there a concern for Tum'ah from those who died in the flood, and why does Tosfos (or any other Rishon) not ask this question?
(b) It is likely that the Rishonim do not ask the question because they understand that the Gemara refers to the Tum'ah of Maga. That is, the concern is that pieces of bone became mingled with the soil such that they might touch the Parah Adumah (before it is burned or while it is burned).
However, this does not answer the question according to the Rishonim who understand that the corpses from the flood could be Metamei the Parah Adumah through Ohel (for example, Tosfos in Nazir 54b cited above, and Rashi here, who mentions Kever ha'Tehom).
(c) TOSFOS in Nidah (70b, DH v'Ein; see also Tosfos to Nazir 54a, end of DH O) suggests a novel explanation for the Gemara in Nazir, according to which even Rebbi Shimon agrees that the bodies of both Jews and Nochrim are Metamei even if they died before Matan Torah, since there was no difference between the two at that time. He writes that when the Gemara in Nazir says that a "Kever Lifnei ha'Dibur" should not be Metamei b'Ohel, it refers to a Jew who died after Matan Torah but before the Mitzvah of Parah Adumah was given (see MAHARSHA there).
(d) The VILNA GA'ON (Aderes Eliyahu, Parshas Chukas) writes that although a Nochri is not Metamei b'Ohel, one becomes Tamei if he touches the top of the grave (or the dirt above the burial plot) of a Nochri (even without touching the corpse itself). The reason for this is that touching Tum'ah Retzutzah (see below) is like touching the Mes itself. (See OR SAME'ACH, Hilchos Tum'as Mes, who discusses this Chidush at length.)
(Tum'ah Retzutzah refers to case in which there is less than a Tefach between the Mes and the covering above it. In such a case, the Tum'ah of the Mes penetrates the object and goes out the other side; it is "Boka'as v'Olah, Boka'as v'Yoredes" -- it "breaks through" (Boka'as) the enclosure and goes straight up and straight down, as it were, all the way to the heavens and down to the center of the earth. Accordingly, graves deep underground certainly are Metamei whoever walks above them. If an ordinary grave has less than a Tefach of space between the body and the ceiling of the grave, the Tum'ah inside of it is Tum'ah Retzutzah. The Tum'ah is Metamei everything that is above it and below it until some form of partition keeps it inside an Ohel.)
According to the Vilna Ga'on, it is clear that those who died before Matan Torah will be Metamei a person (or the Parah Adumah) who touches the dirt above their graves. (M. KORNFELD)
3) AGADAH: SAVING OG FROM THE "MABUL"
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses how the Orzila d'Rima (see TOSFOS, DH Orzila, who discusses the identity of this creature) survived the Mabul. The Gemara assumes that it must have been able to survive outside the Teivah. The Gemara asks, however, that since the water outside the Teivah was boiling, the Orzila d'Rima should have succumbed to the boiling heat. The Gemara answers that the boiling heat was not absolutely lethal; it was possible to survive the boiling heat of the water, as it did not affect the Teivah itself, and it also did not affect Og, the king of Bashan, who survived the Mabul, as the Gemara in Nidah (61b, as RASHI here cites) teaches. Therefore, the Gemara concludes, it must be that a miracle occurred that kept the water around the Teivah cool. This enabled the Teivah, the Orzila d'Rima, and Og to survive.
Og's protection from the waters of the Mabul needs explanation. Why did Hash-m let him survive? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (108b) says that the people in that generation knew that Hash-m was powerful, but they thought that they could withstand any punishment that He would give them. The Gemara says that their reply to Noach's prophecy of the Mabul was, "Mabul Shel Mah" -- "what kind of Mabul [can He bring to hurt us]?" Why, then, did Hash-m let even one of them survive in a way that would apparently validate their claim that at least one of them in fact was strong enough that he could survive the Mabul?
(a) The RAMA MI'PANO in ASARAH MA'AMAROS (Ma'amar Chikur ha'Din 4:12) writes that Og was saved through the merit of his grandfather, Shamchazai. Shamchazai was one of the "Bnei Elokim" (Bereishis 6:2) who descended to this world from the heavens and proceeded to marry and have children. The Rama mi'Pano writes that Shamchazai's two sons had a dream that the Mabul was coming and they informed him of this. (The YAD YEHUDAH commentary on the Rama mi'Pano notes that this is mentioned in the "Midrash Avkir.") One of the ministering Mal'achim (see Chagigah 15a) also informed Shamchazai of the Mabul. Once he found out, Shamchazai repented. (Indeed, according to the PANIM YAFOS to Bamidbar 21:34, he also survived the Mabul.) The Rama mi'Pano cites the Gemara that describes how Og survived the Mabul, and he cites Tosfos in Nidah (61a, DH Zeh) who comments that Sichon also survived the Mabul. The Rama mi'Pano concludes that this teaches that "whoever mourns for the Tzibur (the public welfare), he and his children merit to see the comfort of the Tzibur."
(b) Perhaps one may suggest another answer. The SEFER HA'CHINUCH (Mitzvah #132) discusses the Mitzvah for the Kohanim to place a fire on the Mizbe'ach. Since the fire from Shamayim was always on the Mizbe'ach, why was it necessary for the Kohanim to place a fire there? He answers that Hash-m always hides His miracles in ways that give people grounds to believe that no miracle is happening. Hash-m wanted the Kohanim to bring a fire to the Mizbe'ach in order to obscure the fact that a miraculous fire from Shamayim was constantly there. As another example, the Sefer ha'Chinuch quotes the verse, "And Hash-m made the water move with a strong easterly wind the entire night" (Shemos 14:21). If Hash-m was performing a miracle of making the sea split, then why did He not simply split it at the moment that He wanted it to split? Why did He need to bring a strong wind and make it look as if the Jewish people were simply benefiting from a rare natural phenomenon? The Sefer ha'Chinuch concludes that this is because of the "greatness of the Master, and the lowliness of the receiver." It appears that the Sefer ha'Chinuch means that Hash-m does not want to make His miracles obvious and revealed to all either because of the unworthiness of man, or because doing so would make man more accountable for his actions. (See CHAYEI OLAM 1:19, and YOSHEV OHALIM, Parshas Tzav).
Based on this concept, it is understandable why Hash-m allowed the most powerful person or people to survive the Mabul. The fact that someone survived would give people the opportunity to doubt that perhaps Hash-m is not all-powerful. Although such a notion is obviously ridiculous, as the Mabul was foretold in a prophecy and caused unprecedented and unrepeated destruction, the fact that someone survived the Mabul provides sufficient grounds for the disbeliever to deny Hash-m's omnipotence, just as the wind at the Yam Suf and the fire brought by the Kohanim to the Mizbe'ach provide opportunity for the disbeliever to deny Hash-m's omnipotence. This makes people less responsible for their sins and, as the Chayei Olam writes, allows Hash-m to apply His attribute of Erech Apayim, letting the world survive without being punished for its sins. (See also Insights to Nidah 61:2.) (Y. MONTROSE)