1) HALACHAH: REBUKING A WRONGDOER
The Gemara says that a person must rebuke his fellow Jew when he sees him commit a sin, even when he knows that the sinner will not listen to him. TOSFOS (DH v'Af Al Gav) writes that the obligation to give rebuke depends on various conditions. The Poskim (see SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 608:2) discuss the details of this obligation that are relevant in practice:
(a) One must rebuke his fellow Jew when he willfully sins, even if one is certain that the recipient of the rebuke will not heed the rebuke. Consequently, when a person transgresses a prohibition that is written explicitly in the Torah, we may assume that he knows that it is forbidden and that his sin is intentional, and one must rebuke him and tell him to stop sinning.
(b) When one sees that the wrongdoer does not accept the rebuke, he should continue to rebuke him, but in private and not in public (one rebukes a sinner in public only once). Also, if the sinner committed the sin in private, one should rebuke the sinner only in private.
(c) However, if the sin is not stated explicitly in the Torah, or it is prohibited mid'Rabanan (and it is not evident that the sinner knows that it is forbidden), then when one knows for certain that the sinner will not listen to the rebuke, he is not required to tell the sinner to stop. In such a case, the rebuke would serve only to worsen the severity of the sin by causing the sinner to transgress intentionally instead of unintentionally.
(d) If, however, there is a possibility that he might listen to the rebuke, then one is obligated to rebuke him, as the Gemara here says.
2) "ZECHUS AVOS" -- THE MERIT OF OUR FOREFATHERS
QUESTION: According to several Amora'im, Zechus Avos (the merit of our forefathers) has been "used up" and no longer protects us. According to their view, why do we continue to mention the Avos and summon their Zechus in all of our prayers?
(a) TOSFOS (DH v'Shmuel) cites RABEINU TAM who answers that the Gemara means that Zechus Avos is finished; their merits cannot arouse Divine protection and help for us anymore. However, the Bris Avos is still intact. The Bris Avos is the covenant that Hash-m made with the Avos, whereby he assured them that no matter what happens, their children will never be destroyed, as the verse says, "v'Lo Yishkach Es Bris Avosecha" (Devarim 4:31).
(b) The RI says that even according to the opinion that says that Zechus Avos has ended, it has ended only for the evildoers. The Tzadikim, though, still have Zechus Avos. Shmuel, who says that Zechus Avos has ended, and Rebbi Yochanan, who says that Zechus Avos still can be aroused, are not arguing. Shmuel refers to evildoers, and Rebbi Yochanan refers to Tzadikim.
(c) Tosfos (ibid.) cites the Midrash (Vayikra Rabah) in which Rebbi Acha argues with the Amora'im in the Gemara here and states that Zechus Avos exists forever, and we will always mention it in our prayers, as the verse says, "v'Lo Yishkach Es Bris Avosecha" (loc. cit.).
3) HASH-M'S SEAL IS "EMES"
QUESTION: Rebbi Chanina says that the "seal of Hash-m is Emes." What is it about Truth (Emes) that gives it the superior position of being the seal, or signet, of Hash-m?
ANSWER: The unique nature of Truth is that it can never be forged, for if it is forged it is no longer truth! (SI'ACH SARFEI KODESH in the name of the Kotzker Rebbe)
4) UNWARRANTED DEATH
AGADAH: The Gemara concludes that "Yesh Misah b'Lo Chet..." -- "there is death without [a person having committed a] sin, and there is suffering without [a person having committed] iniquity."
How is the Gemara's conclusion to be reconciled with the verse cited at the beginning of the Gemara's discussion, "The soul that sins -- it shall die..." (Yechezkel 18:20), which states that only for a sin does one die?
Moreover, the Gemara in Berachos (7a) relates that when Moshe Rabeinu asked Hash-m why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper, Hash-m answered that suffering befalls the righteous person who is not completely righteous (Tzadik she'Eino Gamur). The Gemara there proves from verses that if a Tzadik does not sin at all, then he will not be punished for the sins of his forebears and he will not suffer. Why, then, does the Gemara here conclude that there is death without sin?
ANSWER: The masters of the hidden aspects of Torah teach that Neshamos ("souls") are corporeally transcendent. A person living in a later generation can share the Neshamah of a person who lived in an earlier generation. Scientifically (that is, on a measurable, tangible level), we can understand this in terms of Midos (character traits). That is, through following the Mitzvos of the Torah, a person perfects himself and his Midos. However, a person does not necessarily begin with perfect Midos; he may have inherited undesirable Midos from earlier generations, and thus a person may be born with certain Midos that he must overcome. His task is to break the deeply rooted ("hereditary") tendency towards evil until he no longer feels such a tendency altogether (and can no longer pass it on to his own progeny).
According to this understanding, what is the status of a person who is alive now and has never sinned? On one hand, since he has never sinned, he is a "Tzadik Gamur," absolutely righteous. On the other hand, his Neshamah -- which has traveled through time through many generations -- is tainted by sin (or, in terms of Midos, his Neshamah still has in it the roots of imperfect Midos that distance him from Hash-m to some degree, even if they have not caused him to sin actively). As such, he is only a "Tzadik she'Eino Gamur."
The Gemara concludes that "there is death without sin"; although a person himself committed no sins in his life, yet he still suffers and he still dies because of the flaws of the Neshamah, or Midos, that he inherited from his ancestors and did not correct. When the Gemara in Berachos teaches that a person dies only because of his sins, it refers to the sins of his Neshamah (Midos) of former generations. The Gemara calls such a person a "Tzadik she'Eino Gamur" -- a Tzadik who is not completely righteous -- since he did not perfect the Neshamah and Midos that he inherited.
5) ARE THERE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SCRIPTURES?
QUESTION: The Gemara derives from the way the word "Ma'avirim" is spelled ("Ma'aviram") that only one of the sons of Eli sinned. Rashi points out that even though the Gemara says that the text of the Navi is "Ma'aviram," the text of our Navi reads "Ma'avirim." REBBI AKIVA EIGER (in Gilyon ha'Shas) cites many places where the Gemara quotes a verse differently from the way it appears in the texts that we have. How are we to reconcile these differences?
(a) TOSFOS (DH Ma'avirim) says that there often are inconsistencies between the text of our Mesorah and the text of the Midrash (or Gemara). He cites an instance where the reading of the Yerushalmi differs from the reading of our texts. The Yerushalmi appears to have had the word "forty" where our texts state "twenty." Apparently, the text of the Mesorah overrides the text of the Midrash, as the Mesorah reflects the majority opinion of the early authorities. (See also CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN to Sanhedrin 4a, in the name of the RASHBA, and TESHUVOS HA'RASHBA HA'MEYUCHASOS L'RAMBAN #232.)
(b) The YAD MALACHI (#283) disputes the conclusion of Tosfos. When there is a question with regard to Chaseiros and Yeseiros (additions or omissions of a single letter that does not change the pronunciation or the meaning of the word, such as the Yud or Alef of "Bereishis"), it is possible that there indeed are two different versions. However, in a case of an entirely different word, it is not possible that an incorrect word found its way into Tanach. The Yad Malachi explains that in cases such as the Yerushalmi quoted by Tosfos, the Chachamim do not mean that the actual text of Tanach should read differently; rather, they mean that we may infer a particular understanding from the Tanach as if it read differently. (For further elucidation of this topic, see TORAH FROM THE INTERNET, Parashat Naso, by Rabbi M. KORNFELD, Judaica Press, 1998. See also the Yad Malachi there who discusses many other such instances.)
(c) Although the word discussed by the Gemara here, "Ma'avirim" or "Ma'aviram," is a case of Chaseiros and Yeseiros, perhaps the Yad Malachi's approach also applies here. That is, the Chachamim mean to teach that we should understand the verse as if it says "Ma'aviram." As Rashi himself says, "Ma'avirim" can be interpreted to mean that "the Jewish people circulated rumors about him (Eli's child, in the singular)." This is indeed how the Targum understands the verse. Therefore, even if the word in the verse is not "Ma'aviram," it is as if the verses says that only one of Eli's children sinned. (M. KORNFELD) (RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS, in Ha'Mikra veha'Mesorah #2, reaches a similar conclusion. However, the interpretation that he offers to explain the Gemara here based on a Midrash does not appear to conform to the words of the Gemara; the Midrash he quotes clearly follows the opinion of Rav Shmuel bar Nachmani, and not that of Rav.)
The RITVA in Moed Katan (28b) in fact proposes a similar approach to that of the Yad Malachi with regard to a verse in Iyov cited by the Gemara there. Even though the inconsistency in the spelling of the word involves only whether the word is Chaser or not, he does not accept the suggestion that there were different versions of the scriptures.