QUESTION: The Gemara describes how Rav Chaga brought Rav Huna's coffin into the burial cave in which Rebbi Chiya and his sons, Yehudah and Chizkiyah, were buried. When Chizkiyah arose to make room for Rav Huna, a terrifying pillar of fire appeared. Rav Chaga, in his fright, erected the coffin of Rav Huna in an upright position and fled the burial cave. The Gemara adds that "the reason why he was not punished was because he positioned the coffin of Rav Huna in an upright position."
What does the Gemara mean when it says that Rav Chaga was not punished for this reason? On the contrary, he should have been punished for placing Rav Huna's coffin in such a disrespectful position. (Leaving the deceased in an upright position is disrespectful to the deceased, as the Gemara says in Bava Basra 101b.)
(a) RASHI here (and RASHI KESAV YAD) implies that Rav Chaga stood up Rav Huna's coffin in front of him so that the pillar of fire would not harm him.
However, to protect oneself with the coffin of the deceased is also disrespectful. Why did it serve to protect him?
The BEN YEHOYADA explains that Rav Chaga did not attempt to shield himself with Rav Huna's coffin against the pillar of fire. Rather, Rav Chaga did not want to gaze at the pillar of fire. Gazing at the pillar fire would have been disrespectful because the pillar of fire represented the glory of Hash-m (see Chagigah 16a). His act of standing up Rav Huna's coffin was not an act of self-protection, but an act done out of honor for Hash-m and for the deceased.
(b) RAV NISAN ZAKS in his notes to the PERUSH RABEINU GERSHOM ME'OR HA'GOLAH explains that Rav Chaga's action was not an attempt to protect himself from the fire. Rather, his intention was to protect the coffin of Rav Huna from the fire by standing it upright. When Rashi says that "he stood up the coffin before the pillar of fire so that it should not harm him," he means so that it should not harm Rav Huna.
(c) The Girsa of RABEINU CHANANEL differs slightly from the Girsa in our text. According to his Girsa, the Gemara cryptically says that "the reason why the members of the household of the Reish Galusa (d'Vei Reish Galusa) were not punished was because he stood up the coffin of Rav Huna in an upright position." This is also the Girsa of RABEINU TAM in SEFER HA'YASHAR (#513) and PERUSH RABEINU SHLOMO BEN HA'YASOM and other Rishonim. The DIKDUKEI SOFRIM (in Hagahos) writes that he does not know what the Gemara means according to this Girsa.
Perhaps the Gemara according to this Girsa means as follows. The disgrace shown to Rav Huna in his burial (by being interred vertically) served as an atonement not only for him but also for his descendants who comprised the family of the Reish Galusa (as Tosfos points out, Rabeinu Chananel maintains that "Rav Huna" here refers to Rav Huna the Reish Galusa). Accordingly, the meaning of the Gemara is clear when it says, "The reason why the members of the household of the Reish Galusa were not punished was because he stood up the coffin of Rav Huna in an upright position."


QUESTION: The Gemara relates that when Rava came to the Tigris River, he asked Bar Avin to say some words of pray so that he should be saved from the water. What danger did the water pose to Rava?
(a) The YA'AVETZ writes that the Girsa of the Gemara should be changed to read "when the Tigris came" instead of "when he came to the Tigris" ("Ki Havah Asa Diglas" instead of "Ki Hava Asa l'Diglas"). The Gemara means that when the Tigris overflowed and threatened to drown Rava's city, Rava asked Bar Avin to pray.
This indeed is the text of the Gemara of RASHI KESAV YAD, and this is the way he explains the Gemara in his second explanation.
(b) The PERUSH RABEINU GERSHOM ME'OR HA'GOLAH explains that Rava was afraid when he came to the Tigris because "the waters were frightful." This is also the first explanation of RASHI KESAV YAD and the ARUCH (Erech Os). (See Berachos 59b, "the waters of the Tigris are Chadin v'Kalin"; see also RASHI to Bereishis 2:14.) Rava wanted to cross the river, but he feared that the rough waters would overturn the ferry.