1) ONE WHO FULFILLS ONLY ONE MITZVAH
OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes the verse in Yeshayah (5:14), "Therefore, She'ol (Gehinom) widens its desire and opens its mouth wide without limit." Reish Lakish explains that Gehinom "opens its mouth wide without limit" for the person "who leaves over [and does not fulfill] even one Mitzvah." Rebbi Yochanan says that this is not the meaning of the verse; Hash-m certainly does not want to find more reasons to punish the Jewish people. Rather, the verse means that Gehinom "opens its mouth" for the person who has not fulfilled a single Mitzvah.
What is the basis of the argument between Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish? Does Reish Lakish actually maintain that a person who fails to fulfill one Mitzvah -- but fulfills all of the other Mitzvos with all of their details -- will be punished in the depths of Gehinom? Does Rebbi Yochanan actually maintain that a person who fulfills none of the Mitzvos except for one will escape the punishment of Gehinom?
(a) The SEFER HA'IKARIM (3:29) explains that Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish disagree about how a person can become Shalem, whole, and achieve spiritual greatness in this world. Reish Lakish maintains that Sheleimus is achieved only though fulfilling all parts of the Torah. Rebbi Yochanan maintains that Sheleimus can be achieved through the perfect fulfillment of even one Mitzvah.
The Sefer ha'Ikarim asks a number of questions on the opinion of Reish Lakish, and he concludes, based on these questions, that the opinion of Rebbi Yochanan is the correct one. He asks that the verse states, "There is no one so righteous on the earth who does all good and does not sin" (Koheles 7:20); according to Reish Lakish, no one will merit to go to Olam ha'Ba, while the Mishnah in the beginning of this Perek says that all Jews have a share in Olam ha'Ba! Moreover, Hash-m gave the Torah and Mitzvos to the Jewish people in order to grant them the opportunity to merit Olam ha'Ba; according to Reish Lakish, having Torah and Mitzvos is a liability, not a merit!
Also, Reish Lakish's view contradicts the opinion of Rebbi Chananyah ben Akashyah (Makos 23b) who says that the reason why there are so many Mitzvos is in order to give merit to the Jewish people. The RAMBAM (Perush ha'Mishnayos to Makos 23b; see Insights to Sanhedrin 93:3) explains that when a person fulfills even one Mitzvah with no ulterior motives but entirely Lishmah and out of love for Hash-m, fulfilling every detail of the Mitzvah, he will merit Olam ha'Ba. This is clearly like the view of Rebbi Yochanan.
Finally, there are a number of examples in the Gemara of people who acquired Olam ha'Ba in one moment, through the performance of a single Mitzvah or through merely an act of proper conduct (see Kesuvos 103b, Avodah Zarah 17a, and Ta'anis 22a). How does Reish Lakish understand those cases?
(b) The BE'ER SHEVA cites the MAHARI who is perplexed with the Sefer ha'Ikarim's presentation of the view of Reish Lakish. How could the Sefer ha'Ikarim assume that Reish Lakish maintains that only one who does all of the Mitzvos merits Olam ha'Ba, contrary to the Mishnah at the beginning of the Perek, and in contradiction to all of the other sources that the Sefer ha'Ikarim cites? Moreover, according to the Sefer ha'Ikarim, Rebbi Yochanan should have refuted Reish Lakish's view from all of these sources!
The Mahari asks further that according to the Sefer ha'Ikarim's explanation, the views of both Reish Lakish and Rebbi Yochanan are difficult to understand, in light of the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (16b). The Gemara there states that there are three groups of people who are judged by Hash-m: Tzadikim, Resha'im, and Beinonim. TOSFOS explains that since a Beinoni is a person with an equal number of merits and sins, it must be that a Rasha is a person who has more sins than merits, while a Tzadik has more merits than sins. This is not compatible with the Sefer ha'Ikarim's understanding of either Rebbi Yochanan or Reish Lakish. According to Rebbi Yochanan, a person with only one Mitzvah merits Olam ha'Ba, while according to Reish Lakish, a person with many Mitzvos and only one sin does not merit Olam ha'Ba.
The Mahari therefore explains that "She'ol" means the depths of Gehinom, and the offender referred to in this verse is judged in "She'ol" for generations. Reish Lakish explains that the verse does not refer to a person who simply transgresses an Aveirah, but rather to a person who always transgresses and ridicules a Mitzvas Lo Ta'aseh, a prohibition of the Torah. Such a person forfeits his share in Olam ha'Ba. When the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (17a) says that "those who sin with their bodies" are judged in Gehinom for only twelve months, after which they receive a share in Olam ha'Ba, it refers to a person who ridicules and neglects a positive commandment, a Mitzvas Aseh. Rebbi Yochanan argues with Reish Lakish and says that although such a person will be punished, this is not the person to whom the verse refers. The ominous punishment in this verse is reserved only for someone who denies the entire Torah.
(c) The BE'ER SHEVA rejects the Mahari's explanation of the argument between Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish. He asks many questions on the Mahari's explanation. One question is that in the Gemara in Horayos (11a), Rebbi Yochanan maintains that a person who intentionally neglects even one Mitzvah is considered a heretic (and is punished accordingly). According to the Mahari's explanation of the dispute here, Rebbi Yochanan in Horayos says the same thing as Reish Lakish says here, but the Gemara clearly indicates that they are arguing! Moreover, the verse in Yeshayah contains no reference or hint to a negative commandment, a Mitzvas Lo Ta'aseh, any more than to a Mitzvas Aseh.
The Be'er Sheva cites another explanation for the argument between Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish, but he refutes it as well. According to the explanation that he heard, Reish Lakish says that the verse refers to one "who leaves over [and does not fulfill] even one Chok." Rebbi Yochanan says that the verse means that Gehinom "opens its mouth" for the person who has not fulfilled a single "Chok." The word "Chok" refers to two fundamental Mitzvos, to which the Torah refers as a "Chok" -- the Mitzvah of Bris Milah and the Mitzvah of Tefilin.
Reish Lakish says that a person who fails to fulfill one of these two great Mitzvos is punished in Gehinom for twelve months, even though he fulfills the other one. Rebbi Yochanan is more lenient and says that as long as a person fulfills one of these two Mitzvos, he is not punished with this severe punishment.
The Be'er Sheva refutes this explanation from many sources. One primary source is the Beraisa (99a) that states that one who denies the Mitzvah of Bris Milah -- even though he has the merit of Torah and other good deeds -- has no share in Olam ha'Ba. Rebbi Yochanan certainly would not argue with an explicit Mishnah.
(d) The BE'ER SHEVA, therefore, offers a different explanation. As a preface to his explanation, he probes the meaning of Reish Lakish's statement. How is it possible for someone to fulfill all of the Mitzvos? There are many Mitzvos that can be done only at certain times, in certain places, or by certain people -- such as the Mitzvos unique to the Beis ha'Mikdash and the Korbanos, the Mitzvah of anointing a king, the Mitzvos of a Metzora, and many others. He cites the RAMBAM who writes that out of the 248 positive Mitzvos, only 60 of them are incumbent upon every person to fulfill. How, then, is it possible to fulfill the entire Torah and perform all of the Mitzvos? Indeed, how could Yakov have stated that although he lived with Lavan, a Rasha, he still fulfilled all of the Mitzvos (Rashi to Bereishis 32:5)?
The KIRYAS SEFER answers that delving into the laws of a Mitzvah through intensive Torah study is akin to actually fulfilling the Mitzvah. This is derived from the verse, "And you will remember and you will do all of the Mitzvos" (Bamidbar 15:39), which teaches that through learning ("remembering") the Mitzvos, one is considered to have fulfilled them.
This is the basis of the argument between Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish. Reish Lakish maintains that in order to avoid any punishment in Gehinom, one must have fulfilled all of the Mitzvos -- by learning Torah and studying the laws of every Mitzvah. If a person refuses to learn Torah about even one Mitzvah, he must suffer some punishment (although not for twelve months) in Gehinom.
Rebbi Yochanan states that as long as a person learned ("Lamad," as the Gemara quotes Rebbi Yochanan) at least one Mitzvah in the Torah, he can receive his portion in Olam ha'Ba if he performed many of the Mitzvos. Rebbi Yochanan does not agree with Reish Lakish's view that one must learn the laws of all of the Mitzvos in order to avoid punishment in Gehinom. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE PEOPLE OF AN "IR HA'NIDACHAS" IN OLAM HA'BA
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas have no share in Olam ha'Ba.
Why should they have no share in Olam ha'Ba? The Mishnah earlier (43b) states that part of the process of Misas Beis Din is confession and repentance. Since the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas are put to death by Beis Din, they presumably must have repented immediately before their execution and thereby gained atonement! Moreover, Rava (47a) maintains that those who are killed by Beis Din achieve atonement even if they do not do Teshuvah. Why, then, do the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas have no share in Olam ha'Ba?
(a) TOSFOS earlier (47a) explains that the Mishnah refers to a case in which the people of the Ir ha'Nidachas either did not do Teshuvah (according to Abaye there), or Beis Din was unable to execute them (according to Rava there).
The ME'IRI questions this explanation. Why is it necessary for the Mishnah to teach that people who do not do Teshuvah for their sin of Avodah Zarah do not have a share in Olam ha'Ba? This is known already from the first Mishnah in this Perek! The Me'iri answers that the main intention of the Mishnah is to discuss the details of the laws of an Ir ha'Nidachas. The reason why the Mishnah mentions it at this point is that the Mishnah earlier (76b) lists those who are punished with Sayif: a Rotze'ach and the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas. The Mishnah earlier discussed the details of the Rotze'ach earlier, but not the details of an Ir ha'Nidachas. The Mishnah now returns to that topic. Since, until now, the Mishnah in this Perek has discussed those who have no share in Olam ha'Ba, it mentions that the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas have no share in Olam ha'Ba as a transition to its discussion of the details of an Ir ha'Nidachas. (According to this explanation, this Perek must precede Perek Elu Hen ha'Nechenakin, and it immediately follows the discussion of the laws of those who are put to death with Sayif. See Insights to 84:2.)
(b) However, the Mishnah gives a source for its statement that the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas have no share in Olam ha'Ba. The source is the verse, "Yatz'u Anashim Bnei Veliya'al" (Devarim 13:14). Since the Mishnah deems it necessary to give a source, it is clear that without a source it would not be obvious that they have no share in Olam ha'Ba.
(The PNEI MOSHE explains that the Mishnah's Derashah is from the word "Beliya'al," which is a contraction of "Bli Al" -- referring to those "who will not rise" at the time of Techiyas ha'Mesim. Alternatively, as the TOSFOS HA'ROSH cited by the CHAMRA V'CHAYEI explains, the Derashah is based on the word "Yatz'u," which implies that these people "have left" the rest of the Jewish people. See also BE'ER SHEVA.)
(It is clear from the opinion of RASHI (cited in Insights to 84:2) that the main intention of the Mishnah here is to teach that the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas have no share in Olam ha'Ba, and the discussion of the laws of Ir ha'Nidachas is tangential. This is because, according to Rashi, there would be no point in discussing the Ir ha'Nidachas at this point, when all of the laws of the four types of Misas Beis Din have already been discussed.)
RAV YAKOV EMDEN therefore suggests that the Mishnah refers not to the people who were persuaded to sin, but to the people who persuaded everyone else to serve Avodah Zarah. The sin of those people, who caused many others to sin, is so great that they cannot attain atonement. These are the people to whom the Mishnah refers when it says "Anshei Ir ha'Nidachas." (This proof is not clear, because the Gemara earlier (50a-b) and the Mishnah (76b) use the phrase "Anshei Ir ha'Nidachas" to refer to the people who were persuaded to sin.)
(c) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM answers that even if Misas Beis Din normally provides atonement, for the people of an Ir ha'Nidachas it does not provide atonement. Rather, they are killed not to attain atonement for the sin of Avodah Zarah, but because they deny Hash-m and therefore they must be killed in order to prevent them from influencing others. Such a death does not bring atonement. (See Insights to 72:1.)
(d) In the text of the Mishnah as it appears in the Yerushalmi, the words "they do not have a share in Olam ha'Ba" are omitted. Rather, the Mishnah immediately begins its discussion of the laws of an Ir ha'Nidachas. The Ran asserts that this is the proper Girsa of the Mishnah. This is also the Girsa of the RAN and the YAD RAMAH.
3) THE PUNISHMENT OF AN INDIVIDUAL IDOL-WORSHIPPER COMPARED WITH THE PUNISHMENT OF AN "IR HA'NIDACHAS"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that an individual idol-worshipper receives a harsh death (Sekilah) while the residents of an entire city of idol-worshippers (an Ir ha'Nidachas) receive an easier death (Sayif). However, the laws regarding their possessions are reversed: the possessions of an individual idol-worshipper do not become prohibited (and his heirs inherit his possessions when he is put to death), while the possessions of the residents of an Ir ha'Nidachas must be burned. What is the reasoning behind these laws?
(a) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM in the name of RAV AVRAHAM BINYAMIN KLUGER explains these differences based on the following rule. Two types of death sentences are issued by Beis Din. The first type is given in order to provide the transgressor with atonement. The second type is given in order to eradicate evil from the world. Nochrim receive the same punishment (Sayif) for transgressing any of the seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach, while a Jew sometimes receives a stricter punishment (such as Sekilah for idol-worship). Since the purpose of killing the Nochri for his transgression is to eradicate the evil Nochri from the world, it does not matter which punishment he receives. A Jew, however, who aspires to eternal life in Olam ha'Ba, must receive the punishment which can atone for his sin. Therefore, he might need a harsher punishment.
The same applies in the case of an Ir ha'Nidachas. The people of an Ir ha'Nidachas have no share in Olam ha'Ba (see previous Insight). Therefore, they receive the same punishment as a Nochri, since the purpose of their punishment is to eradicate the evil, and not to provide atonement. Similarly, the property of such sinful people also remains unfit for use. In contrast, an individual idol-worshipper -- although he committed a grave sin -- still receives atonement from his death because he repents in the presence of the Beis Din, before his execution. Although he receives a harsh death to atone for his sin, afterwards he is considered to have gained atonement. Consequently, after his death he is considered free of sin, and thus his property may be used.
(b) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM cites another explanation. When all of the residents of a city stray from the proper path, it is likely that most of them were led astray by a few leaders. Every individual resident of the city is not intrinsically and absolutely evil. Rebbi Shimon maintains, however, that even the property of the righteous is burned, because it can be assumed that financial concerns caused those people to reside in such an evil city. In contrast, an individual idol-worshipper is intrinsically evil. He conducts himself in a way contrary to the logical and experiential truth of the power of Hash-m. Therefore, his body must receive a harsher death. There is no reason to condemn his assets, though, which apparently had nothing to do with his transgression. This is also the reason why, in order to punish the entire city, the idol-worshippers of the Ir ha'Nidachas must have lived inside the city. The only reason why the people of the city receive a more lenient death is the mitigating factor that it was difficult for them to do the right thing in the face of such strong pressure from around them. If the people who persuaded them to serve Avodah Zarah were not from that town, then the sinners deserve the harsher death that is reserved for an individual idol-worshipper. (Y. MONTROSE)