QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan stated that the "Ever" (lit. "limb") of Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi was like a flask the size of nine Kavim. Rav Papa stated that the "Ever" of Rebbi Yochanan was like a flask the size of five Kavim (or, according to others, three Kavim). The Gemara continues and says that the "Ever" of Rav Papa himself was like a Harpanian basket. (See RASHI. According to the RITVA, "Ever" refers to the muscles of the upper arm or thigh, by which the size of a person is measured. TOSFOS RABEINU PERETZ explains that "Ever" refers to the size of their meals, as in the word "[Se'udas] Havra'ah.")
Why are the holy Sages of the Gemara discussing the sizes of the "Ever" of the Tana'im and Amora'im?
(a) TOSFOS here explains that these statements are recorded in the Gemara in order to teach that a person should not speak disparagingly about others who are of a portly size.
Perhaps the intention of Tosfos is as follows. The Gemara earlier relates that a certain noblewoman said to Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon and to Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi that "your sons are not yours." She was insulting them, saying that they were so large that it was not possible that they could have had relations with their wives. They answered her insult and proved her to be wrong. This incident indicates that large people suffer from rumors that their sons are not their own. In order to counteract such rumors, the Gemara relates that some of the Tana'im and Amora'im were very large and still were able to have children.
Alternatively, perhaps Tosfos means simply that one should not insult others for being large, since the holy Tana'im and Amora'im were large.
(b) The MAHARSHAL (cited by the Chidushei Ge'onim in the Ein Yakov) and the EIN YAKOV explain this Gemara based on the principle, "Kol ha'Gadol me'Chaveiro, Yitzro Gadol Heimenu" -- "He who is greater than his fellow man, his Yetzer [ha'Ra] is greater than his [fellow man's]." The Gemara is not referring to the physical size of the "Ever" of these Sages. Rather, it is referring to the strength of their desire which resulted from their greatness in Torah. The Gemara is emphasizing that even though their "Yetzer" was so great, they were able to conquer it. (I. Alsheich)
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rebbi Yochanan used to sit next to the Mikvah so that the women would see his beauty when they came out and would have children as beautiful and as learned as he. The Rabanan asked him, "Are you not afraid of the 'evil eye'?" Rebbi Yochanan answered that he was descended from Yosef, over whom the "evil eye" had no power.
A similar practice is recorded in the Gemara in Berachos (20a) regarding Rav Gidal, who used to sit next to the Mikvah and instruct the women on how to immerse themselves. The Rabanan asked him, "Are you not afraid of your evil inclination?" Rav Gidal answered, "They (the women) appear to me like white geese."
Why did the Rabanan not ask Rebbi Yochanan if he was afraid of his evil inclination, as they asked Rav Gidal?
(a) The BACH (Berachos 20a) and ETZ YOSEF answer that Rebbi Yochanan's eyelashes were so long that he could not see anything, as the Gemara relates in Bava Kama (117a). Therefore, Rebbi Yochanan could not see the women returning from the Mikvah, and the Rabanan were not concerned that his evil inclination might become aroused.
(b) The RASHASH (Berachos 20a) answers that since Rebbi Yochanan merely wanted the women to see his beauty as they came out, he sat at a distance from the Mikvah. Rav Gidal, however, had to sit close to the Mikvah in order to instruct the women how to immerse themselves properly.


QUESTION: The Gemara quotes a Beraisa in which Rebbi declares, "How much Piryah v'Rivyah did that evil one (Resha'ah) annul from the Jewish people!" RASHI explains that Rebbi was referring to the "Malchus ha'Resha'ah," the evil kingdom, which forcefully appointed Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon to a position of law enforcement and thereby caused him to be absent from the study hall where he would have been able to rule on issues of Dam Nidah and permit many women to be with their husbands. Rashi cites an alternate explanation which says that Rebbi was referring to the wife of Rebbi Elazar, who prevented Rebbi Elazar from going to the study hall for many years.
According to the second explanation of Rashi, how could Rebbi call Rebbi Elazar's wife a "Resha'ah"? After all, she was an "Eshes Chaver," the wife of a Talmid Chacham, and she certainly must have been a Tzadekes. Indeed, the Gemara later relates that Rebbi himself wanted to marry her after Rebbi Elazar died!
ANSWER: The BEN YEHOYADA explains that according to Rashi's second explanation, the word "Resha'ah" does not mean "wicked woman," but rather means "[the one who causes] turmoil," as in the verse, "v'Hu Yashkit u'Mi Yarshi'a" -- "When He grants tranquility, who can cause turmoil?" (Iyov 34:29). Similarly, when the verse describes the power of Sha'ul ha'Melech, it says, "uv'Chol Asher Yifneh Yarshi'a" -- "Wherever he turned, he caused upheaval" (Shmuel I 14:47; see also Koheles 7:17).
Accordingly, Rebbi meant that the wife of Rebbi Elazar caused great turmoil when she prevented her husband from going to the study hall. (I. Alsheich)