Given our foreknowledge of the outcome, would the true mussar say that Nicknor ought to have left it for the crewmen to scuttle his second gate, with the expectation that it too follow them to shore safely? This would have presumably avoided an argument. Or does that expectation amount to his beforehand reliance on a nes?
H David Levine, Roanoke, VA USA
1) There is another question here. How can we understand the account in Bavli Yoma top 38a, that after they threw the first gate into the sea; and then wanted to throw the second one in too; that Nikanor said "throw me into the sea with it!". This appears to be against the Halacha, since throwing the gate into the sea should certainly be permitted, because it might save the lives of the people on the ship. The honor of the Beis Hamikdash and its utensils is not one of the 3 cardinal sins for which one is expected to sacrifice ones life?!
2) Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt'l, in his notes on Tractate Yoma, answers that in fact Nikanor's behavior was not really in accordance with the Halacha. He should have allowed them to throw the second gate also into the sea, since this is Pikuach Nefesh. On the other hand, Nikanor was concerned about a different problem. If they would throw both gates into the sea, this would be a Chilul Hash-m. They had gone specially to Alexandria in Egypt at great expense to bring the gates, and if they would have had to throw both into the sea, this would have been a terrible disgrace for the Beis Hamikdash. So it was a Kidush Hash-m when Nikanor managed to save the other gate from being lost, and as a reward for his action; even though it did not fit in with the correct Halacha; he still merited the Kidush Hash-m of the miracle that both arrived intact. Therefore Nikanor is praised for what he did.
3) So Nikanor could not have allowed the gate to be thrown into the sea, since this was very likely to cause a Chilul Hash-m. One cannot rely on a nes if a Chilul Hash-m might be the result.
Wishing you a Healthy Summer