1) SAYING "GESUNDHEIT" TO ONE WHO SNEEZES
QUESTION: The Gemara cites a Beraisa in which Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel argue whether each person in the Beis Midrash should recite his own blessing over the flame (Beis Shamai), or whether one person should recite the blessing on behalf of everyone (Beis Hillel). The Gemara explains that Beis Shamai reasons that each person should recite it individually in order to prevent Bitul Torah.
The blessing is the same whether one person says it on behalf of everyone or whether each person says it for himself. Therefore, what Bitul Torah is caused when one says the blessing for everyone?
(a) A simple answer is that it takes a long time for a large group of people to quiet down sufficiently to hear one person recite a blessing. This may be the intention of RASHI (DH Mipnei) when he says, "When one person recites the blessing for everyone, they have to quiet down from their learning in order for everyone to concentrate and listen to his blessing." (Y. SHAW)
(b) When one person recites the blessing for everyone else they have to answer, "Amen." The time that it takes to say this single word is Bitul Torah, since were they to say the blessing on their own, they would avoid the need to say this extra word. For one who thinks that a single word's worth of Bitul Torah is insignificant, the Gemara cites the practice of the academy of Raban Gamliel, in which no one would respond, "Merapei" ("Gezundheit!") -- just one word -- when someone sneezed, because it would cause Bitul Torah. (ANAF YOSEF)
2) HALACHAH: SEARCHING FOR A FLAME ON MOTZA'EI SHABBOS
OPINIONS: The Gemara says that if one does not have a flame on which to recite the blessing during Havdalah, he is not required to search for one. Why not?
(a) The RASHBA and other Rishonim point out that the only reason we recite a blessing on a flame on Motza'ei Shabbos is to commemorate Hash-m's creation of fire on the first Motza'ei Shabbos after Creation. Since the blessing is only commemorative in its purpose and not intrinsic to Havdalah itself, it is not necessary to search for a fire on which to recite the blessing.
(b) The SEFER HA'MANHIG says that the reason why one does not have to search for a flame is because Rava rules that one recites a blessing only on a flame from which he benefits. If he searches for a fire in order to recite a blessing, then he is using the fire only in order to recite a blessing and not in order to derive pleasure from it. Therefore, he may not recite a blessing on it.
It seems that there are two practical differences between the reasons of the Rashba and the Sefer ha'Manhig.
First, the Gemara says that one does not need to search for a flame on Motza'ei Shabbos. Does one need to search for Besamim? According to the Rashba who says that one does not need to search for a flame because one recites a blessing only on a flame from which he derives benefit, then certainly he does not need to search for Besamim. The blessing on Besamim is certainly only for his own personal pleasure. This is indeed how the Rashba rules in the name of the RA'AVAD.
According to the second reason, however, one should be required to search for Besamim, because once he smells them, he derives pleasure from them. It is not like light which, if he has no need for it, he does not derive any pleasure from it.
Second, the Rashba writes that on Motza'ei Yom Kippur one is required to look for a fire on which to recite the blessing, because on Motza'ei Yom Kippur we are not reciting a blessing on fire as a commemoration of the creation of fire (because fire was not created on Motza'ei Yom Kippur). Rather, on Motza'ei Yom Kippur, the blessing on a flame is an expression of Havdalah -- that Hash-m created this day different from other days, and on this day we are not allowed to use light. It may be suggested that according to the Rashba's reasoning, one is required to search for a flame on Motza'ei Yom Kippur. According to the second reason, however, Motza'ei Yom Kippur is the same as Motza'ei Shabbos in that if one must search for a flame in order to recite a blessing on it, then per force he is not deriving pleasure from the flame, and therefore he should not be required to search for a flame on Motza'ei Yom Kippur.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 297:1 and 298:1) rules like the Rashba, that one does not have to look for a flame or for Besamim on Motza'ei Shabbos. On Motza'ei Yom Kippur, though, one must go out of his way to find a flame.
3) WHEN MAY ONE ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH BEIS SHAMAI
QUESTION: The Gemara says that a certain student acted stringently in accordance with the opinion of Beis Shamai by returning to the place where he ate in order to recite Birkas ha'Mazon there, and he was rewarded with a golden wallet.
The Gemara earlier (11a) says that one may not conduct himself like Beis Shamai in a case in which Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel argue. The Gemara there says that one may not follow Beis Shamai who says that one is obligated to lie down to say the nighttime Shema, even though Beis Hillel says that one is permitted (but not obligated) to lie down. Why may one not act stringently like Beis Shamai there, while, in the case of the Gemara here, one may act stringently like Beis Shamai?
(a) REBBI AKIVA EIGER in his commentary on the Mishnayos (1:3) cites the TESHUVOS HA'REMA (#91) who says that it is acceptable to follow the ruling of Beis Shamai only when doing so will not involve a leniency in any way. In the case of the Gemara here, returning to one's place in order to recite Birkas ha'Mazon involves only a stringency. Since Beis Hillel agrees that returning to one's place is an equally acceptable (but not obligatory) way to perform the Mitzvah, one is permitted to be stringent and act accordingly. In contrast, in the case of the earlier Gemara, lying down to say the Shema involves a leniency, as it lacks the reverence that the recitation of the Shema while standing demonstrates. Since Beis Hillel there maintains that saying the Shema at night while reclining is less acceptable than saying it while standing, the Gemara says that one may not follow Beis Shamai.
(b) Rebbi Akiva Eiger himself uses the ruling of the ROSH (8:5) to answer this question. In the earlier case (11a), Beis Hillel does not maintain that it is better to say the Shema while lying down than while sitting up. He says only that one still fulfills his obligation if he is lying down. Here, however, although Beis Hillel does not require one to go back in order to say Birkas ha'Mazon, the Rosh explains that Beis Hillel certainly agrees that it is preferable to go back. That is why, here, it is permissible to be stringent like Beis Shamai. (See Insights to Berachos 11:2). (The VILNA GA'ON in Shenos Eliyahu (1:3) gives the same answer as Rebbi Akiva Eiger.)
4) TANA'IM WITH STRANGE NAMES
AGADAH: The Gemara cites a Beraisa that discusses rubbing oil on the hands before Birkas ha'Mazon. The Beraisa quotes three Tana'im with strange names: Rebbi Zilai, Rebbi Zivai, and Rebbi Zuhamai.
The MAHARATZ CHAYOS (Bava Metzia 25a) writes that it is not a coincidence that Rebbi Zuhamai discusses Zuhamah (the bad smell on the hands which oil removes). This Tana is referred to by a name that reflects the statement that he made, since this is the only time that he is mentioned in all of Shas.
RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS (in l'Cheker Shemos v'Kinuyim b'Talmud 1:25) explains that there are many people in the Gemara whose names reflect their teachings. He points out that in our Gemara, the names "Rebbi Zilai" and "Rebbi Zivai" are nicknames that stem from each one's teachings. Rav Zilai teaches that one must pour oil on his hands before he recites Birkas ha'Mazon. The name "Zilai" stems from the word "l'Hazil" which means "to pour" (see, for example, Bamidbar 24:7). Rebbi Zivai's name reflects his statement that addresses the obligation to smear oil on one's hands (he says that one is permitted to recite Birkas ha'Mazon even if he has not smeared oil on his hands). This practice gives the skin a "Ziv," or a shine.