1) THE SINS OF YAROV'AM
QUESTIONS: The Gemara discusses at length the sins of Yarov'am. There are a number of questions that may be asked on the Gemara.
(a) The Gemara says that Yarov'am's Torah learning contained no falsehood ("Dofi"). The Gemara teaches that the Torah a person learns protects him from sin and brings him to repent (Sotah 21a: see Insights there in the name of the OR HA'CHAIM to Vayikra 26:3:7). Why did Yarov'am's Torah learning not protect him from sin? (CHIDA in PESACH EINAYIM)
(b) What is the connection between the Derashah of "v'Di Zahav" regarding the Egel ha'Zahav, and the story of Yarov'am? RASHI writes that the connection is simply that Yarov'am set up golden calves as Avodah Zarah, similar to the Egel ha'Zahav in the Midbar. However, there are many Derashos about calves; why should the Gemara choose specifically this one?
(c) Why does the verse say, according to the Gemara's explanation, that the people will be punished for following Yarov'am and for leaving the "one who killed the Plishti and who conquered Gas," referring to David ha'Melech? Why does the Gemara refer to David ha'Melech as the one who killed the Plishti and not simply as David ha'Melech? How is David's act of killing Golyas (the Plishti) related to the fact that the people should not have been following Yarov'am?
(d) The Gemara continues and says that Hash-m seized Yarov'am by his garment and urged him to do Teshuvah and thereby to merit to stroll with Him and with David ha'Melech in Gan Eden. Yarov'am refused because David ha'Melech would be walking before him.
What does the Gemara mean when it says that Hash-m "seized his garment" and that Yarov'am refused Hash-m's plea? (YAD RAMAH)
(e) The Gemara says that a person who eats without reciting a Berachah is compared to Yarov'am, who caused the Jewish people to sin. Why is one who eats without a Berachah compared specifically to Yarov'am, of all sinners?
(a) The OR HA'CHAIM (Vayikra 26:3:7) writes that only when one learns Torah Lishmah does the Torah that he learns have the power to protect him from sin even at times when he is not actively involved in learning. When the Gemara says that the Torah learned by Yarov'am had no falsehood, it means that he was learning Torah Lishmah until the time that Achiyah ha'Shiloni promised him kingship. After he became king, he became haughty because of his lofty position. The Gemara (Menachos 109b) relates that before Shaul ha'Melech was proclaimed king, he fled due to his humility in order to avoid receiving such great honor. However, after he became king, he lost some of his humility and wanted to kill David ha'Melech when he felt that his kingship was threatened. The rise to power affected Yarov'am's Torah learning as well, and his learning became she'Lo Lishmah, only for the purpose of gaining respect. Therefore, his learning could no longer protect him from sin during times when he was not engaged in learning.
(b) This is the connection between the discussion of Yarov'am's sin and the Derashah regarding the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav. Moshe Rabeinu complained to Hash-m that the Jewish people would not have sinned with the Egel ha'Zahav had Hash-m not given them riches. This shows that when a person unaccustomed to riches receives sudden wealth, that causes him to become arrogant and to sin (just as a lion feels satiated only after eating meat).
To explain this in more detail, the commentators ask how could Achiyah ha'Shiloni, a prophet, give the kingship to a person who was not from Shevet Yehudah? They answer that Achiyah ha'Shiloni did not anoint Yarov'am to be equal to and independent of the kings of Yehudah, but rather he was supposed to be subservient to them. However, when Yarov'am attained a position of kingship, he found it unbearable to have to be subservient to a more powerful authority, and thus he arrogantly attempted to claim the exclusive kingship for himself. This is what the Gemara (101b) means when it says that the source of Yarov'am's sins was his arrogance. He set up the idols outside of Yerushalayim in order to prevent people from going to Yerushalayim and giving honor to the Malchus Yehudah that was based there. It was the position of authority that Hash-m gave him that caused him to sin, just as the riches that He gave the Jewish people caused them to sin with the Egel ha'Zahav.
(c) This is why the verse complains that the Jewish people did not follow "the one who killed the Plishti," referring to David ha'Melech. David came to fight Golyas not with claims of power and might, but with Yir'as Shamayim, attributing all of his success to Hash-m. As a result of David's genuine intentions, Hash-m answered his Tefilos and vanquished Golyas, who personified Ga'avah, arrogance. Even after David's miraculous success he remained humble, and so he remained throughout his kingship, as the Gemara says in Megilah (11a). The verse quoted here contrasts the actions of Yarov'am, who became arrogant when he received the kingship, with the actions of David who remained humble.
(d) The Gemara says that Hash-m seized Yarov'am by his garment. The ARUCH LA'NER explains that this means that Hash-m tried to save Yarov'am from sinning through the merit of his learning Torah, which the Gemara earlier compares to a "new garment." This means that Hash-m wanted Yarov'am's Torah learning that was done Lishmah to protect him from sinning. However, since Yarov'am was no longer learning Torah Lishmah, it could not protect him.
The YAD RAMAH explains that when the Gemara says that Hash-m said to Yarov'am, "You will stroll with Me in Gan Eden," it means that Hash-m wanted to teach Yarov'am the secrets of the Torah, which are compared to "strolling in the 'Pardes.'"
Yarov'am's Torah learning did not protect him because it was affected by his arrogance, and this is what the Gemara means when it says that he did not repent because he wanted to be in front of David ha'Melech; he did not want to be subservient to the kingship of Malchei Yehudah.
(e) The Gemara compares a person who does not make a Berachah before eating to Yarov'am for the following reason. A person who does not make a Berachah rationalizes that he is doing nothing wrong (as the verse says, "Ein Poshe'a"). How does he justify himself? He makes a mistake by thinking that Hash-m already gave the land to people, as it says, "v'ha'Aretz Nasan Livnei Adam" (Tehilim 115:16). He reasons that since the land belongs to man now, one does not have to recite a Berachah before he eats. This is a mistake because, as the Gemara in Berachos (35a) points out, another verse states that everything belongs to Hash-m -- "la'Hashem ha'Aretz u'Melo'ah" (Tehilim 24:1). The Gemara answers that only after a person humbles himself to Hash-m by saying a Berachah does Hash-m give a person "ha'Aretz u'Melo'ah." The person whom the verse is discussing, who does not recite a Berachah before he eats, acts with arrogance, since he knows that Hash-m gave man the entire world to derive benefit from but he does not acknowledge that he may derive benefit from it only when he humbles himself before Hash-m. This is comparable to the sin of Yarov'am, to whom Hash-m gave Malchus on the condition that he humble himself to the Malchei Yehudah. Instead, Yarov'am became arrogant and claimed the Malchus for himself, refusing to humble himself to the kings of the house of David.
2) THE QUESTION AND ANSWER OF KING MENASHEH
QUESTION: When Rav Ashi reached Perek Chelek, he told his students that "tomorrow, we will discuss our colleagues," equating the level of scholarship of these kings (Yarov'am, Achav, and Menasheh) with his own. Menasheh appeared to him that night in a dream and rebuked him for calling him his "colleague."
Menasheh asked Rav Ashi, "Where do you cut the bread when you recite the Berachah of ha'Motzi?" Rav Ashi said that he did not know. He asked Menasheh to teach him the answer, and he told him that he would teach it in the Yeshiva, in Menasheh's name, the next day. Menasheh taught him that the Berachah is to be recited upon the first place that the bread becomes baked.
Rav Ashi consented that because Menasheh knew this Halachah, he was a much greater scholar.
Rav Ashi then asked Menasheh, "If you are so wise, then why did you worship Avodah Zarah?" Menasheh replied that the Yetzer ha'Ra was so great at that time that "even you would have lifted up your coattails and run to worship Avodah Zarah."
The following day, Rav Ashi referred to Menasheh by saying, "Let us discuss our teachers," and he did not say "our colleagues."
This exchange between Menasheh and Rav Ashi is very difficult to understand for a number of reasons.
(a) Why, of all Halachos, did Menasheh choose to discuss the Halachah of where one should cut the bread when he recites the Berachah of ha'Motzi?
(b) Why did Rav Ashi not know the answer to this question? This is a Halachah which should have been part of his daily routine.
(c) Why did his knowledge of this Halachah prove that Menasheh was so much more knowledgeable than Rav Ashi?
ANSWER: These questions are discussed at length by many of the Acharonim (see, for example, MAHARSHA, TORAS CHAIM, MAHARAL, IYUN YAKOV, AKEIDAS YITZCHAK (Sha'ar 40), CHIDA (Devarim Achadim, Derush #14), REBBI TZADOK (in RESISEI LAILAH, p. 13a)). The following explanation is based primarily on the ideas of the SHA'AREI YERUSHALAYIM cited by the MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM (#3).
(a) The preceding Gemara explains that Rebbi Avahu expounded upon the shameful sins of these three kings even though, when he was ill, he promised not to do so. When his students asked him why he did not keep his promise, he replied that "they did not change their evil ways, so why should I change my mind about discussing their wickedness?"
This attitude is based on the Derashah of Reish Lakish in Eruvin (19a). Reish Lakish there says that Resha'im do not change their evil ways even when "they stand at the gates of Gehinom" in Olam ha'Emes (see also Gitin 57a). Reish Lakish derives this from the verse that refers to evildoers after death as "ha'Posh'im Bi" -- "those who sin against me" (Yeshayah 64:24). He says that the verse uses the present tense ("ha'Posh'im") to teach that they are still sinning, even as they stand at the gates of Gehinom.
Rav Kahana in the Gemara there challenges the assertion of Reish Lakish. He points out that the word "ha'Posh'im" does not necessarily mean that they are still sinning. It also can mean that they sinned in the past. He proves this from the verse that says that Hash-m is "ha'Motzi Eschem..." -- "the One who took you out of Mitzrayim" (Vayikra 22:33). The word "ha'Motzi" is conjugated in the present tense but is used to refer to the past, and thus "ha'Posh'im" also may refer to the past tense.
Rebbi Avahu and Rav Ashi in the Gemara here seem to accept the Derashah of Reish Lakish, despite Rav Kahana's challenge to it.
The question of whether "ha'Motzi" and "ha'Posh'im" refer only to the present (and future) or also to the past is actually a Machlokes Tana'im in Berachos (38a). Rebbi Nechemyah maintains that the proper wording of the Berachah to recite on bread is "Motzi Lechem Min ha'Aretz," which means that Hash-m brought forth the bread from the ground. One should not say "ha'Motzi Lechem," because "ha'Motzi" implies that Hash-m will bring the bread from the ground, and that is not an accurate statement when one recites the Berachah, because the bread that one is eating is already present. The Rabanan argue and say that "ha'Motzi Lechem" also means that Hash-m brought forth bread from the ground, in the past.
Those who agree with Reish Lakish (who says that "ha'Posh'im" means that the Resha'im are still sinning and will continue to sin) should recite "Motzi Lechem," as Rebbi Nechemyah says. However, this is not the Halachah. The Gemara in Berachos (38b) concludes that the Halachah is that one should recite "ha'Motzi Lechem."
This was the question that Menasheh posed to Rav Ashi. Rav Ashi was prepared to discuss the wickedness of Menasheh, because he maintained that Menasheh was still following his evil ways, even at the gates of Gehinom. Rav Ashi agreed with the view of Reish Lakish that "ha'Posh'im" means that they are still sinning. For this reason, Menasheh chose to discuss the Halachah of the text of the Berachah of "ha'Motzi," because it is dependent on the teaching of Reish Lakish. He was asking that "if you, Rav Ashi, follow Reish Lakish, then why do you recite a Berachah of 'ha'Motzi' and not 'Motzi'?"
(b) If Rav Ashi followed the view of Reish Lakish, why indeed did he recite the Berachah with the word "ha'Motzi" and not "Motzi"? Why did this contradiction not occur to him? The answer is that Rav Ashi thought that the Berachah for bread is recited on the bread that Hash-m constantly brings forth from the ground, and not on the bread that the person is eating at that moment, which has already been produced.
Menasheh did not accept this argument. Why, when one eats a loaf of bread, should he thank Hash-m for all of the other bread that He constantly brings to the world? It is more logical to thank Hash-m for the actual bread that one is eating (as the Gemara in Berachos (38a) indeed asserts). This is the intent of Menasheh's words, "Where do you cut the bread when you recite the Berachah of ha'Motzi?" He meant, "If you are saying the word 'ha'Motzi' and thanking Hash-m for bread that will come, then where do you cut such bread? How can you eat from the bread for which you are thanking Hash-m if it has not yet grown?"
Rav Ashi acknowledged the question. He asked Menasheh why indeed does the blessing refer to the bread which Hash-m will bring forth from the ground in the future (since Rav Ashi agreed with Rebbi Nechemyah's statement that "ha'Motzi" implies the present and future tenses, and not the past tense).
(c) Menasheh answered that one cuts the bread and recites the Berachah on the "Heicha d'Kadim Bishula," the place where it starts to become baked. His answer may be understood based on the Yerushalmi in Berachos (6:1). The Yerushalmi cites the same dispute about whether "ha'Motzi" means that Hash-m will bring forth bread from the ground, or that Hash-m brought forth bread from the ground. However, the Yerushalmi explains that the Berachah is not being recited specifically on the bread that one is eating, since that bread did not actually grow from the ground; wheat grew from the ground and was made into bread.
When did bread actually come from the ground? Bread came directly from the ground before the sin of Adam ha'Rishon. At that time, fully formed loaves of bread grew from the ground. Only when Adam ha'Rishon sinned did Hash-m punish him by making him have to toil in order to attain bread. In the future, when Mashi'ach comes, loaves of bread again will grow directly from the ground, as the Gemara says in Kesuvos (111b).
The blessing recited over bread, according to the Yerushalmi, is to thank Hash-m for the bread which Hash-m originally made grow from the ground, and which Hash-m, in the future, will again cause to grow from the ground. Since the Berachah praises Hash-m for bread that does not exist in the world at this time, it cannot be recited on the piece of bread that the person is eating right now. This explains why the text of the Berachah is "ha'Motzi," which means that Hash-m will bring forth bread from the ground.
Menasheh alluded to this in his answer, "We bless on the bread that becomes baked first." Although the simple meaning of his words is that he was simply citing the day-to-day Halachah with regard to which part of the loaf one should eat when one recites the blessing of ha'Motzi, on a deeper level Menasheh was alluding to the fact that the Berachah is made on the bread that ripened first (ripening is also called "Bishul") -- that is, the bread of Adam ha'Rishon, which grew from the ground whole and which will again grow that way in the future. (According to the Girsa "d'Karim Rifta" -- "where the bread crusts," the Berachah may be made on either edge of the bread, but not the middle. Similarly, Menasheh was hinting that in the blessing one refers to the first and last breads of the world -- the bread from the time of Adam ha'Rishon and the bread from the time of Mashi'ach -- as opposed to the bread eaten at the present time.)
However, this approach raises an obvious question. Why does the Berachah for bread differ from all other Berachos for food? Why does the Berachah recited for bread give praise to Hash-m for the bread that will grow in the future, and it does not praise Hash-m for the bread that is being eating now, which was made from wheat that grew in the ground?
The answer is as follows. Since a person exerts so much effort into making bread, there is concern that he might become arrogant through his accomplishment and forget the great kindnesses that Hash-m does for him, as the verse says in Devarim (8:9) when it describes the abundance of bread that will exist in Eretz Yisrael and adds that the people must be careful lest they eat and become satiated and, as a result, become arrogant and forget Hash-m. In order to avoid such arrogance, one is to humble himself when he bakes bread by reminding himself that baking bread is not something to take pride in; it is a consequence that developed as a result of man's sin. It would be much better to receive the original loaves that grew directly from the ground in the time of Adam ha'Rishon, which will return in the times of Mashi'ach. By phrasing the Berachah in this way, a person is reminded not to allow his accomplishments to make him arrogant.
Based on this explanation, Rav Ashi's response may be understood as follows. Rav Ashi asked Menasheh, "If you are so wise, then why did you worship Avodah Zarah?" He was asking, "If you are so G-d-fearing that you realized this deeper meaning underlying the Berachah recited upon eating bread, and every meal for you was a lesson in humility before Hash-m, then how did you come to worship Avodah Zarah?"
Menasheh answered that the Yetzer ha'Ra for Avodah Zarah was much stronger in his generation. The Gemara concludes that Rav Ashi acknowledged that Menasheh was a greater Talmid Chacham than he, and he called him "our teachers" rather than "our colleagues."
3) THE MERITS OF ACHAV
QUESTIONS: Rav Nachman derives from a verse (Melachim I 22:20) that Achav was "Shakul" ("balanced") -- he had an equal number of Mitzvos as Aveiros. Rav Yosef asks how can it be that Achav was "balanced"? The verse (Melachim I 21:25) states that "no one was like in Achav" in the evil that he did! The Gemara concludes that it must be that it was the merit of being generous with his money and allowing Talmidei Chachamim to benefit from his possessions that caused half of his sins to be forgiven, giving him a status of "Shakul."
This Gemara is difficult to understand.
1. Why was this Mitzvah in particular able to achieve atonement for Achav?
2. Why was this Mitzvah able to achieve atonement for specifically half of his sins, not more and not less?
3. Where does the verse mention or allude to the fact that Achav allowed Talmidei Chachamim to benefit from his possessions?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Achav's sin was that he worshipped Avodah Zarah. When a person provides food and support to Talmidei Chachamim, he is considered to be bound to the Shechinah, as the Gemara says in Kesuvos (111b). Since, on one hand, Achav was attached to his Avodah Zarah, but, on the other hand, he was considered to be bound to the Shechinah, he was considered to be half-meritorious and half-guilty.
Where is any mention made that Achav provided support for Talmidei Chachamim from his property? The Maharsha says that the source may be a Kabalah, a tradition, that Achav did such a thing. Alternatively, the Gemara refers to the incident recorded in Chulin (4b), wherein Achav made a meal and invited Yehoshafat to dine with him.
(b) The Gemara in Sotah (21a) teaches that when a person supports Talmidei Chachamim and enables them to learn Torah, he receives merit for what the Talmid Chacham learns, just as the Talmid Chacham himself receives merit.
Achav, on one hand, was guilty for the many Aveiros which he had committed, but, on the other hand, he was credited with all of the Mitzvos performed by those whom he helped to support. Therefore, he was considered "Shakul," balanced with Mitzvos and Aveiros.
The prophet relates (in Melachim I 18:4) that Ovadyah, a servant of Achav, hid one hundred Nevi'im in caves to protect them from Izevel, Achav's wife, who wanted to kill all of the Nevi'im. The verse adds that he gave them bread and water during a time of famine. From where did he procure the food which he gave them? At that time, due to the famine, food was very expensive and difficult to obtain, especially for a hundred people.
The Gemara in Chulin (4b) relates that Ovadyah worked in the royal slaughterhouse and kitchen and prepared the king's food. It is likely that Ovadyah took the food from the king's palace to sustain the Nevi'im under his care. Indeed, the Gemara there (5a) relates that the meat which the ravens brought daily to Eliyahu ha'Navi during the time of famine came directly from the slaughterhouse of Achav.
As a result of his actions, the verse (18:3) calls Ovadyah a "great G-d-fearing person" -- "Yarei Es Hash-m Me'od," as the Gemara mentions in Sanhedrin (39b). The verse there implies that Achav also knew that Ovadyah was a great Yarei Hash-m.
How, though, did Achav know that Ovadyah was a great Yarei Hash-m, if Ovadyah was considered a Yarei Hash-m because of his actions which Achav did not know about? Ovadyah was considered a Yarei Hash-m for hiding the Nevi'im, and for stealing food from Achav's kitchen, at the risk of death if caught, in order to sustain the Nevi'im. It must be that Achav did know about Ovadyah's activities, but he did not stop him. Apparently, Achav was not as intent on killing the Nevi'im as was his wife. Since Achav was prepared to let the Nevi'im subsist on food from his kitchen, he was considered meritorious for this deed. (M. KORNFELD)