1) RUN TO SEE NON-JEWISH KINGS
QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan said that one should always run to see non-Jewish kings, "because if he merits, he will be able to differentiate between the kings of Yisrael and non-Jewish kings." RASHI (DH she'Im Yizkeh) explains that "if he merits" refers to seeing the "honor of the Melech ha'Mashi'ach."
Rashi's explanation does not seem consistent with Rashi's explanation of the same teaching recorded earlier (9b). There, Rashi (DH she'Im Yizkeh) explains that "if he merits" refers to seeing "the greatness of the Jewish people in the World to Come."
Here (58a) Rashi emphasizes seeing the honor, while there (9b) he emphasizes seeing the greatness. In addition, here Rashi mentions the honor of Melech ha'Mashi'ach, while there Rashi mentions the greatness of the Jewish people. Why does Rashi give two different explanations for the same Gemara?
ANSWER: RAV YAKOV DAVID HOMNICK (in MARBEH SHALOM, #5) explains that there are two different aspects to the greatness of the Jews in the World to Come -- honor (i.e. respectability) and greatness (i.e. wealth). Since the Gemara here is discussing the blessing recited upon seeing a king, in which we describe how Hash-m gives from His honor to human kings, Rebbi Yochanan's statement emphasizes the honor of the Jews in the World to Come. Honor is appropriate only for a king, as is clear from the text of the blessing recited upon seeing a king. Therefore, Rashi here refers to the honor of Melech ha'Mashi'ach.
Earlier (9b), Rebbi Yehudah bar Elyakim quoted Rebbi Yochanan's statement in a different context. He showed Rebbi Zeira that it was a privilege to be taken to see the non-Jewish king. The Gemara there is discussing seeing the king's palace, rather than just seeing the king with his entourage. Therefore, the honor of the king is not immediately evident, but his wealth -- his greatness -- is! Greatness may be ascribed to all of the Jews in the World to Come, and not just to the king, to the Mashi'ach. That is why Rashi there refers to the greatness of the Jewish people.
2) RAV SHESHES "PUT HIS EYES" UPON THE HERETIC
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rav Sheshes "put his eyes" on the Tzeduki who was taunting him. If Rav Sheshes was blind, how could he "put his eyes" on him?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Hash-m returned his eyesight to him temporarily in order to punish the heretic.
(b) The MAHARSHA also says that it does not really mean that he looked at the heretic. Rather, it means that he cursed him. The MAGID TA'ALUMAH adds that the "eyes" here refer to the "Einei ha'Sechel," a higher, intellectual element of "vision" and not to the physical sense of sight.
3) HALACHAH: THE BLESSING OF "MATZIV GEVUL ALMANAH"
OPINIONS: The Gemara says that one who sees "the houses of Yisrael in their settled state" says the blessing, "Matziv Gevul Alamanah" ("He establishes the boundary of the widow"). When exactly is this blessing said?
(a) RASHI (DH Baruch Matziv), according to the first understanding of the BEIS YOSEF (OC 224), says that this blessing is recited when one sees the Beis ha'Mikdash.
(b) RASHI, according to the second understanding of the Beis Yosef, says that this blessing is recited upon seeing Jewish settlements in Eretz Yisrael during the time of the Beis ha'Mikdash (those two conditions -- in Eretz Yisrael and during the time of the Beis ha'Mikdash -- are necessary).
(c) The BACH explains that Rashi means that the blessing is recited upon seeing Jewish homes in their grandeur in Eretz Yisrael the way they were in the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash.
(d) The RIF understands that the blessing is recited upon seeing a synagogue, even outside of Eretz Yisrael (Levush).
According to the Rif's explanation, what do synagogues have to do with "the boundary of the widow"?
1. The VILNA GA'ON explains that we find in the Gemara in Megilah (29a) that in the future, Hash-m will bring all the synagogues from the Diaspora to Eretz Yisrael. He asserts that the synagogues will not be put inside Eretz Yisrael proper, to avoid taking away space from the people already residing in Eretz Yisrael. Rather, Hash-m will place the synagogues around the borders of Eretz Yisrael. That is why we recite the blessing, "He establishes the boundary of the widow," upon seeing the synagogues that will be brought from the Diaspora.
2. The EINAYIM LA'MISHPAT explains that in exile, the Jewish people is considered an Almanah, a widow. The verse at the beginning of Eichah describes the Jewish people, "like a widow" ("k'Almanah"), but not an actual widow, to intimate that her husband (Hash-m) is not gone forever, and will yet return. We therefore say this blessing when we see synagogues flourishing in the Diaspora, because they are a sign that Hash-m is returning to the Jewish people.
HALACHAH: In practice, the Halachah follows the view of the Rif, and we recite the blessing upon seeing synagogues even outside of Eretz Yisrael. However, because we are concerned about the other opinions, we do not recite the blessing with Hash-m's name (Shem u'Malchus). (SHULCHAN ARUCH 224:10, MISHNAH BERURAH 224:14)
4) RAV CHANINA BREI D'RAV IKA'S BRILLIANT BLESSING
QUESTION: Rav Papa and Rav Huna brei d'Rav Yehoshua met Rav Chanina Brei d'Rav Ika and recited two blessings upon seeing him -- the blessing for seeing a great Torah scholar, and the blessing for seeing a friend after thirty days. Rav Chanina, in turn, recited three blessings upon seeing them -- the two which they recited, and the blessing said upon seeing 600,000 Jews at one time ("Chacham ha'Razim"). Rav Papa and Rav Huna said to him, "You are so smart!" and they put their eyes upon him and he died.
Why did Rav Chanina recite such a blessing, and why did they cause his life to end when he displayed his wisdom by making such a blessing?
(a) The RAMBAN (in MILCHAMOS) explains why Rav Chanina recited the blessing for seeing 600,000 Jews when he saw only two. A Chacham's knowledge is so great that he is able to discern the thoughts of every person in Klal Yisrael. When we see 600,000 people, we recite the blessing "Chacham ha'Razim," because we praise Hash-m for creating so many different people with so many different ways of thinking. Rav Chanina made a blessing upon seeing these two Chachamim because he discerned from the aura of their countenance that they could understand the thoughts of 600,000 Jews. They saw his profound wisdom and perceptiveness, and exclaimed how smart he was. He died because, according to the simple understanding, they gave him an Ayin ha'Ra.
(b) The ASIFAS ZEKENIM cites the HILCHOS KETANOS (1:210) who writes that Rav Chanina was punished for making a Halachic ruling in front of his Rebbi, since Rav Papa and Rav Huna were the Gedolei ha'Dor.
(c) The TZAFNAS PANE'ACH (#50; see Insights to Berachos 52:2) explains why Rav Chanina was punished as follows. Beis Shamai's methodology of Halachic ruling was based on essence or quality, and not on physical appearance or quantity. Beis Shamai, who were intellectually sharper but quantitatively fewer than Beis Hillel, felt that Halachic ruling is determined by the degree of mental acumen of the people who maintain a certain opinion, and not by their physical numbers. Rav Chanina acted in accordance with the methodology of Beis Shamai when he recited a blessing on two people as if they were 600,000, as if to say that he considered the genius of these two sages to be qualitatively equivalent to the sharpness of the minds of 600,000. The Gemara earlier (11a) says that anyone who acts in accordance with the opinion of Beis Shamai is deserving of death. Therefore, Rav Chanina died.