QUESTION: The Gemara relates that when Hash-m saw that the Bnei Noach did not observe the seven Mitzvos that were given to them, He "permitted" those acts to them at the time He gave the Torah to the Jewish people. The Gemara asks why Hash-m would make it easier for them as a result of their lack of compliance. The Gemara answers that Hash-m did not make it easier for them; rather, Hash-m decreed that even if they observe those Mitzvos, they will not receive reward in the same way that one who is commanded to fulfill a Mitzvah receives reward. Instead, they will receive reward as one who is not commanded to fulfill a Mitzvah.
Why should they not receive reward as one who is commanded? The Gemara implies that Bnei Noach are not permitted to do whatever they want, and that they will be punished for violating the seven Mitzvos. Why, then, will they not receive reward for their fulfillment of their Mitzvos as one who is commanded receives reward?
(a) The NACHALAS MOSHE in Bava Kama (38a) explains that the reason why a person receives greater reward for fulfilling Mitzvos which he is commanded to fulfill is that a person who is not commanded to fulfill a Mitzvah does not put as much effort into its fulfillment; he knows that if he has difficulty fulfilling it, he can stop his efforts and abandon it at any time. In contrast, when a person is commanded to fulfill a Mitzvah, his knowledge that he is obligated to fulfill it creates a greater burden upon him.
Accordingly, since the Bnei Noach demonstrated that the Mitzvos did not create any burden on them, they are not entitled to the reward of one who is commanded, even though they indeed are commanded. (This might be the reason why TOSFOS here and in Kidushin (31a, DH Gadol) explains the logic for why a greater reward is given to one who fulfills a Mitzvah which he is commanded to do.)
However, this does not seem to be the intention of RASHI here. Rashi (DH Lomar) writes that Bnei Noach are not commanded to fulfill their Mitzvos. In Bava Kama (38a), Rashi adds that they do not receive the reward of one who is commanded, since they are not commanded, but they also are not exempt from punishment for failure to fulfill their Mitzvos. Rashi makes a similar comment later in Avodah Zarah (6a, DH Mishum Harvachah). It seems clear from the words of Rashi that although Bnei Noach are not commanded to observe their Mitzvos such that one might have thought that they are not punished for violating them, Hash-m will punish them for violating their Mitzvos. (See also RAMBAM in Perush ha'Mishnayos to Chulin, ch. 7.)
What is the logic behind this? Why should Bnei Noach be punished for failing to fulfill Mitzvos that they are no longer obligated to fulfill? (See TESHUVOS PNEI YEHOSHUA YD 1:3 and EH 2:43, who proposes that Bnei Noach have no obligation today to fulfill the seven Mitzvos. He suggests that the Gemara here means that for the Bnei Noach, the loss of reward for fulfillment of their Mitzvos outweighs the gain of not being commanded, and that is why Hash-m revoked their Mitzvos. However, this explanation contradicts the words of all of the Rishonim who write that a Ben Noach is punished for violating any of the seven Mitzvos, even today, as the Gemara itself implies in many places.)
(b) There are two logical reasons for observing the Mitzvos. The first reason is that the observance of the Mitzvos brings positive benefit to the person and to the world around him. The second reason is that Hash-m commanded man to observe the Mitzvos, and by observing them one shows his deference and submission to Hash-m. (See CHIDUSHEI AGADOS of RAV ELCHANAN WASSERMAN zt'l Hy'd, in the end of KOVETZ HE'OROS.)
Similarly, a Ben Noach must observe the seven Mitzvos because of two reasons. The first is the strong logical basis for observing those Mitzvos: they preserve the peace and welfare of society, and thus he should be motivated to observe them for this reason. The second is that the Torah commands him to observe those Mitzvos. When Hash-m saw that the Bnei Noach were not observing the seven Mitzvos, He removed the second reason for fulfilling them. Bnei Noach now must fulfill their Mitzvos because of the necessity for universal laws of peace and order, but not because Hash-m specifically commanded them to fulfill those Mitzvos. Therefore, when they observe their Mitzvos, they will not be rewarded for fulfilling the second obligating factor (that Hash-m commanded them to observe those Mitzvos). Rather, they will be rewarded only because they are obligated by logic to observe those Mitzvos. If they violate the seven Mitzvos, then they will be punished because of this obligating factor. (The NETZIV in MEROMEI SADEH to Bava Kama 38a offers a similar answer.)


QUESTION: The Gemara relates that the only time Hash-m laughs, as it were, at his creations is on the final Day of Judgment when the nations of the world reject the Mitzvah of Sukah or throw off their Tefilin, Tzitzis, and Mezuzos to go and join the war of Gog u'Magog.
What is the meaning of Hash-m's laughter, and what exactly provokes His laughter at these times?
ANSWER: Laughter occurs when a person is faced with a sudden revelation of the truth which he realizes is the opposite of what he had expected. When Sarah was informed that she would bear a child, she laughed, saying, "After I have become aged, I am becoming young again" (Bereishis 18:12). The reversal of the aging process and her ability to bear a child provoked laughter.
This is what brings about Hash-m's laughter on the Day of Judgment. The evildoers of the nations who attempted to prevent the Jewish people from fulfilling the Mitzvos will display themselves as righteous in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. The nations of the world torment the Jewish people by saying that Hash-m rejected them and they deserve whatever punishment they receive. The nations claim that they are just and G-d-fearing, and that is why they have been given dominion in this world. The epitome of their audacity will occur on the final Day of Judgment when the nations will feign wholehearted acceptance of the Mitzvos of Hash-m. When it becomes too difficult for them and they eagerly reject the Mitzvos, their true intentions will be revealed. When the truth is revealed and the nations are suddenly shown -- to the eyes of all -- to shun the Mitzvos of Hash-m, Hash-m will laugh, as it were.
In this world, the evildoer is often granted all of his worldly needs, which conceals Hash-m's disapproval of his ways. The evildoer's downfall and defeat in this world is an exception to the normal way in which Hash-m conducts this world. That is why Hash-m does not express His laughter until the end of days.
The laughter and rejoicing of Purim is based on a similar concept. Until the very end of the story of Purim, Hash-m concealed His presence. It seemed as though He had abandoned His people. Suddenly, the truth became revealed and it became obvious to all that Hash-m still watches and protects His people, even in times of exile. The downfall of Haman and Amalek was felt throughout the entire world, and it provided a spark of the revelation of the ultimate fall of evil that will occur at the end of days.
The SEFER YETZIRAH writes that the month of Adar corresponds to the spleen ("Techol") in the body. This is because the spleen is connected to laughter (Berachos 61b). Moreover, the month of Adar corresponds to the letter "Kuf," which means "monkey," an animal that provokes laughter by doing acts that seem humanlike. In this sense, the monkey represents the wicked who make themselves appear to be equal to the righteous in this world, but who actually will be revealed to be no better than animals.
The author of the Gemara's statement here is Rebbi Yitzchak, who, in the spirit of his own name, discusses the laughter of Hash-m. The name of Yitzchak Avinu reflects his attributes as well. The attribute of Yitzchak is Din, strict justice. It is when the full and complete justice of Hash-m is revealed that Hash-m laughs at the downfall of the wicked.
The Gemara in Megilah (15b) relates that Haman had 208 children. This number corresponds to the Gematriya of "Yitzchak," since Haman attempted to destroy the Jewish nation and prevent true justice from being realized. He thought that his power would remain eternally. When, in the end, Hash-m brought about Haman's downfall with a sudden turn of events and the true justice of Hash-m was revealed, the Jews had the "last laugh." (M. KORNFELD)
QUESTIONS: Rebbi Yitzchak states that Hash-m expresses laughter, as it were, only on the final Day of Judgment (see previous Insight). The Gemara questions this statement from the words of Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav, who says that during the last three hours of the day, Hash-m "laughs with the Livyasan (Leviathan)," as the verse says (Tehilim 104:26). The Gemara answers that "with His creations (Im Beriyosav) He laughs," while "on His creations (Al Beriyosav) He does not laugh" until the final Day of Judgment.
The Gemara continues and says that from the time of the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdash, Hash-m does not laugh with the Livyasan during the last four hours of the day, but rather during that time He learns Torah with the children ("Tinokos Shel Beis Raban").
The Gemara then asks what Hash-m does during the night hours. One opinion says that He performs activities similar to those that He does during the day. A second opinion says that He "rides His light-footed Cherub" ("Keruv Kal") and flies through 18,000 worlds. The third opinion says that He sits and listens to the Shirah emanating from the Chayos.
This series of Agadic statements is one of the most perplexing in all of the Gemara. Some of the more basic questions that must be addressed are:
(a) If Hash-m does not approve of laughter in this world, then why does He laugh with the Beriyos?
(b) In what way does teaching the Tinokos Shel Beis Raban provide a replacement for the Sechok, the laughter, with the Livyasan?
(c) What does the Gemara mean when it says that Hash-m "rides his Keruv Kal" through 18,000 worlds? What source is there for the existence of many worlds, and what is their significance?
(d) What is Hash-m's purpose in listening to the Shirah from the Chayos at night?
(a) The first step in understanding the Gemara is clarifying the difference between laughter "with His creations" and laughter "on His creations." The Sechok of Hash-m (as explained in the previous Insight) refers to the revelation of the complete truth, which will occur at the moment the world will behold the destruction of all evil. This laughter is the "Sechok Al Beriyosav," Hash-m's laughter at His creations. The Sechok comes about as a result of the downfall and destruction of the Resha'im.
"Sechok Im Beriyosav" involves a similar concept but works in a slightly different way. This expression refers to when Hash-m brings salvation not in order to destroy the wicked, but in order to protect the righteous. The Gemara (Megilah 10b) relates that Hash-m does not rejoice when the Resha'im are vanquished. When the verse (Devarim 28:63) says that Hash-m will rejoice, it specifically uses the word "Yasis" and not "Sas," emphasizing that Hash-m will cause others to rejoice at the downfall of the wicked, but He himself will not rejoice. This means that He will bring the downfall of the wicked in order to protect the righteous, but not for the inherent purpose of destroying the wicked themselves. This is the meaning of the expression of "Sechok Im Beriyosav" -- the destruction of the wicked that comes about for the sake of the righteous, rather than for the purpose of destroying the wicked.
Why will Hash-m rejoice in the destruction of the wicked in the World to Come, but he does not rejoice in their destruction in this world?
The answer to this question is that even what seems evil in this world is not entirely evil. Something entirely evil, with absolutely no positive quality, could not exist in the world. The reason why Hash-m does not rejoice in the downfall of the evil in this world is that the hidden good that is latent in the evil is also being destroyed when the evil is obliterated, and the evildoers no longer have the ability to exercise that positive quality. Their destruction is not an entirely good thing because this element of potential good is also being destroyed. The evildoers are destroyed only to protect the righteous who will suffer at their hands if Hash-m does not remove them from the world.
The Gemara in Sukah (52a) teaches that in the World to Come, Hash-m will slaughter the Yetzer ha'Ra. This means that in the World to Come, all of the good will be separated from the evil, and the pure evil that remains will have no more place in this world and will be destroyed. The world will return to the state it was in before the sin of Adam ha'Rishon. In that state, the Nachash was the embodiment of evil as an external force that was not part of the person himself. At that point in the future, evil will have no more purpose in the world and Hash-m will rejoice at its destruction. (See Insights to Megilah 10:2.)
Hash-m interacted with the world in this manner until the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed. There were times when Hash-m brought about a miraculous salvation to the Jews in a way in which the miracle was evident to all, and in a way which showed that Hash-m protects the Tzadikim. This is the laughter that was produced through the salvation, as explained earlier. However, when the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed, Hash-m no longer provided open miracles, even when He showed His salvation to the Jews (as is evident in the miracle of Purim, which was accomplished through "Hester Panim"). Hence, even when Hash-m saves the Tzadikim, the salvation no longer produces the same laughter. That is what the Gemara means when it says that Hash-m has no laughter, even with His creations, after the Churban.
In what way is Hash-m's cessation from laughter after the Churban related to Hash-m's laughing with the Livyasan? The RASHBA (in Chidushei Agados to Bava Basra 74b) discusses the deeper meaning of the allusion of the Livyasan. He explains that the Livyasan refers to a person who uses his mind properly to discriminate between good and evil. When the Sechel, the discriminating element of the mind, combines with the Nefesh -- the person's ability to think -- in such a manner, he is referred to as "Livyasan." The word "Livyasan" implies a bond (or "Chibur"), as in the verse, "ha'Pa'am Yilaveh Ishi Elai" -- "Now my husband will become attached to me" (Bereishis 29:34). It also means an adornment worn upon the head, as in the verse, "Ki Livyas Chen Hem l'Roshecha" -- "for they shall be an adornment of grace for your head" (Mishlei 1:9). The Livyasan is an allusion to the Tzadikim with whom Hash-m laughs when he destroys the Resha'im in order to provide the Tzadikim with salvation.
(b) After the Churban of the Beis ha'Mikdash, Hash-m does not reveal His presence openly, as He did when the Beis ha'Mikdash was standing, as explained earlier. His presence is revealed through the Torah, through the secrets of Torah she'Ba'al Peh, which He reveals only to the Jewish people and which no other nation is able to understand, as the verse says, "He did not do this for any other nation, and such laws they cannot understand" (Tehilim 147:20). This is what the Gemara means when it says that instead of laughing with the Livyasan, Hash-m now teaches Torah to the children; He gives them special assistance to understand the Torah. This may also explain why Hash-m's salvation comes about through the Tinokos Shel Beis Raban who are studying Torah, as occurred in the times of Mordechai and Esther, as the Midrash teaches (Esther Rabah 7:13, 9:3-4; see Insights to Megilah 16:1 and 16:3).
The BEIS YOSEF (end of OC 560) records an argument between the RAMBAN and RABEINU YONAH regarding whether the prohibition of filling one's mouth with laughter until the final redemption (Berachos 31a) applies even when the Beis ha'Mikdash is standing, or only after the Churban of the Beis ha'Mikdash. It appears that the Rishonim argue about the definition of filling one's mouth with laughter. According to Rabeinu Yonah, who maintains that even in the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash one is prohibited to fill his mouth with laughter, "filling one's mouth with laughter" refers to laughter "Al ha'Beriyos," at the creations. Such laughter will occur only in the future, after the final Day of Judgment. According to the Ramban, who maintains that this prohibition applies only after the Churban but not while the Beis ha'Mikdash is standing, "filling one's mouth with laughter" refers to laughter "Im ha'Beriyos," with the creations. Such laughter does have a place in this world, when the Beis ha'Mikdash is standing. Laughter is permitted as long as Hash-m is revealing Himself at least in the minor way of laughing with the Beriyos (i.e. destroying the Resha'im in order to save the Tzadikim).
(c) What does the Gemara mean when it says that Hash-m rides the "Keruv Kal" through 18,000 worlds? The IYUN YAKOV points out that the source for the existence of 18,000 worlds is undoubtedly the last verse in Sefer Yechezkel (48:35) which states that "there are 18,000 surrounding [Hash-m]," which the Gemara (Sanhedrin 97b) explains is a reference to 18,000 Tzadikim who have a place in the innermost circle around Hash-m, even closer to Hash-m than the Mal'achei ha'Shares. The Gemara here refers to these Tzadikim by calling them "worlds," because the Tzadik is the foundation of the world, which enables the world to endure, as the verse says, "Tzadik Yesod Olam" (Mishlei 10:25).
The "Keruv" alludes to Keneses Yisrael, the love shown to Hash-m by the Jewish people as a whole, just as the two Keruvim in the Beis ha'Mikdash represent the relationship between Hash-m and the Jewish people (see Bava Basra 99a). "Kal" means light-footed, as in Yehudah ben Teima's statement in Avos (5:20/23), "Be as light as an eagle (Kal ka'Nesher)" to do the will of Hash-m. The Gemara is teaching that Hash-m's bond with, and protection of, the Jewish people is maintained at night, when the people are sleeping and not involved in Mitzvos, because Hash-m remembers the 18,000 Tzadikim in His inner circle, who lived throughout the generations of the history of the Jewish people and who were "Kal ka'Nesher" to give up their lives for their love of Hash-m.
(d) The other opinion states that at night, during the time when people are not involved in Mitzvos, what preserves the bond between Hash-m and the Jewish people is that Hash-m listens to the songs of praise emanating from the Chayos. The fiery Chayos also represent the Mesirus Nefesh of the Jewish people for Hash-m, for the Jewish people "burn" with an intense love for Hash-m. Their Shirah, song, is one that rises to Shamayim even while the Jewish people are sleeping. The Gemara (Chagigah 13b) teaches that the Chayos are "Chayos Esh Memalelos," which "are sometimes silent, and sometimes speaking." The song of the Chayos in Shamayim is aroused by the deeds of the Jewish people below. The praise of the Jewish people for Hash-m is sometimes vocalized, out loud, when they sing praises to Hash-m for His salvation, while sometimes their Shirah arises from their silence, when they are silent in acceptance of Hash-m's decrees, such as Aharon's silent acceptance of Hash-m's decree when his two sons were killed: "va'Yidom Aharon" (Vayikra 10:3). Silent acceptance of Hash-m's decrees is just as beloved to Hash-m as the songs of praise that are expressed at the time of a salvation. Together, these forms of song comprise the Shirah of the Chayos.
According to this opinion, the bond between Hash-m and His people is preserved at night through the Tzadikim of this world who silently endure their fate, trusting totally in Hash-m. This is especially evident during the night, as the verse says, "To relate Your kindness in the morning (i.e. the praises of Hash-m for His salvations), and Your trust in the nights (i.e. the expression of our trust in Hash-m during times of darkness)" (Tehilim 92:3). This is the song of the Chayos that Hash-m listens to throughout the night.