1) PRAYING FOR THE DOWNFALL OF THE WICKED
QUESTION: The Gemara here (and the end of 9b) says that David ha'Melech sang praise to Hash-m when he witnessed the downfall of the wicked.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin (39b) says that Hash-m does not rejoice, and the angels do not sing His praises, when Hash-m's creations expire! Why, then, did David ha'Melech rejoice and sing praise when the creations of Hash-m were being killed?
ANSWER: The Gemara in Sanhedrin says that Hash-m does not rejoice, but we may rejoice. That is why David ha'Melech was happy and sang praise when he saw the downfall of the wicked. Why, though, may we rejoice if Hash-m does not?
In Yechezkel (18:23) we read, "'Do I desire the death of the wicked man?' asks Hash-m. 'It is the return of the wicked man from his evil ways that I desire, so that he might live!'" Hash-m prefers that a person repent and realize his full potential, rather than see him destroyed due to his sins. Thus, when the time comes to punish the evildoers, it is not an occasion for Hash-m to rejoice. However, for those who were threatened by the evildoer and now find themselves delivered from harm, it is appropriate to rejoice. One is certainly expected to express his thanks to Hash-m for His beneficence.
However, the MAHARSHA here (and in Sanhedrin 39b) quotes a Midrash which seems to contradict this. The Midrash says that we recite the full Hallel only on the first day of Pesach and not on all seven days of the festival, because the Egyptians were drowned in the sea on the seventh day of Pesach. Hash-m said, "Although they were My enemies, I wrote in My Scriptures (Mishlei 24:17), 'Do not rejoice at the downfall of your enemy'" (Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei, end of 2:960; Pesikta d'Rav Kahana, end of #29). According to this Midrash, even we -- who were saved from the hands of the Egyptians -- should refrain from showing joy at the downfall of the Egyptians! How, asks the Maharsha, can this be reconciled with the assertion of the Gemara quoted above, that Hash-m does expect others to rejoice when the wicked are destroyed? The Maharsha leaves this problem unanswered here, and in Sanhedrin he suggests two solutions, both of which are difficult to reconcile with the words of the Midrash.
Perhaps we may suggest a very simple answer to the Maharsha's question. There is a basic difference between other songs of praise and Hallel. In Hallel, we repeat the verse, "Praise Hash-m, for it is good [in His eyes to do so], for His mercy is forever." The phrase "for it is good" is precisely the expression that the Gemara says is left out when the event is not good in the eyes of Hash-m, since these words imply that Hash-m is pleased with what has occurred (Rashi to Megilah 10b). Perhaps the Midrash means that the specific praise of Hallel, with its implication of Divine satisfaction, is an inappropriate form of thanksgiving on this occasion. Other praises, which contain no such implication, are appropriate, since Hash-m expects the beneficiaries of the wicked person's destruction to rejoice, as stated previously. (M. KORNFELD)
2) KING CHIZKIYAH AND THE BOOK OF CURES
OPINIONS: The Gemara says that King Chizkiyah was praised for hiding the Book of Cures. Why did Chizkiyah hide it?
(a) RASHI (DH she'Ganaz) says that he hid the Book of Cures to effectively force the Jews to rely solely on Hash-m for their healing and to pray for mercy from Him, and not to rely on the Book of Cures.
(b) The RAMBAM (Perush ha'Mishnayos to Pesachim, end of chapter 4) strongly opposes Rashi's explanation. He maintains that the use of natural means of healing does not detract in any way from one's reliance on the Almighty. He compares it to depriving a starving man of food in order to force him to pray to Hash-m for food. A person using natural remedies will still rely on Hash-m's mercy for his health because it is Hash-m Who makes those remedies work.
The Rambam explains that the Book of Cures was used by astrologers to heal illnesses through placing certain images or carvings in certain places at certain times. (The Rambam refers to it by its Greek name, "Talisman"). King Shlomo wrote it to teach the wonders of the natural world, but he did not intend it to be used in practice. Chizkiyah hid it when he saw people using it for idolatrous purposes.
(c) Alternatively, the Rambam says that the Book of Cures listed both antidotes and poisons, and people began using the poisons described in the book instead of using only the antidotes.
We might suggest that Rashi agrees that there is nothing wrong with the use of natural remedies. The Book of Cures may have recorded cures based on alternative medicines, which appeared to the layman to be related to witchcraft. Those who used the book, Chizkiyah feared, would come to believe that they could circumvent nature and rely on magical cures, and not on Hash-m's assistance, and their reliance on Hash-m would be diminished. (M. KORNFELD)