SOTAH 33 (16 Kislev) - Today's Daf has been dedicated in honor of the Yahrzeit of Reb Moshe ben Eliyahu Feinberg by his daughter Libi.

QUESTION: The Gemara implies that a person should pray in a language which the angels understand so that they will advocate on his behalf. Does this Gemara support the recitation of prayers such as "Machnisei Rachamim" which some recite in Selichos during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah?
ANSWER: The commentators explain that this Gemara does not support the practice to recite prayers such as "Machnisei Rachamim." Although it is true that the angels help the prayers find favor before Hash-m, one is not permitted to ask them for their involvement. One must speak only to Hash-m directly; the angels are Hash-m's emissaries, not man's. One merely may make it easier for the angels to do their job by using a language which they understand.
Those whose practice is to recite the prayer "Machnisei Rachamim," however, are not in err. They are not making requests of the angels, but rather they are acknowledging to themselves that the angels are helping their prayers. They find support and encouragement in the knowledge that the angels are advocating on their behalf. (See a lengthy discussion of this topic in Insights to Sanhedrin 44:3.)
QUESTION: The Gemara says that the angels do not understand Aramaic. TOSFOS in Shabbos (12b, DH she'Ein Mal'achei ha'Shares) asks why the Gemara says that the angels do not understand Aramaic if they certainly understand man's thoughts. If they understand man's thoughts, certainly they understand the words he uses to articulate those thoughts, even if those words are said in Aramaic.
What is Tosfos' source that angels know man's thoughts? There seem to be a number of sources that indicate, to the contrary, that angels do not know man's thoughts. The MA'ADANEI YOM TOV (Berachos 2:6) points out that the verse says, "You [Hash-m] alone know the thoughts of man" (Divrei ha'Yamim II 6:30), and, "Who knows [the thoughts in the hearts of men]? I, Hash-m, probe thoughts..." (Yirmeyahu 17:9-10).
The SEFAS EMES points out that the Zohar (I:101b, Parshas Vayera) explicitly states that the Mal'achim asked Avraham where Sarah was because they only know that which Hash-m lets them know. From where does Tosfos know that the Mal'achim know man's thoughts?
ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON (in BI'UR HA'GRA to SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 101:11) suggests a source for Tosfos' assertion. The Gemara in Berachos (55a) states that "Iyun Tefilah" causes one's sins to be reviewed in heaven. The Gemara explains that "Iyun Tefilah" is when a person prays and expects that his prayers will be answered as a result of his concentration in prayer. The Mal'achim take note of the person's self-confidence in his righteousness and they ask Hash-m to review whether or not he is really righteous, and they thereby cause all of his sins to be examined (Rashi ibid.). This implies that the Mal'achim know his thoughts, because it is only his thoughts that cause the Mal'achim to review his sins. It must be that the Mal'achim assigned to Tefilah are given the ability to understand thoughts in order to advocate appropriately for or against the fulfillment of one's prayers, because part of their advocacy depends on what the person thinks while he prays.
However, if, as Tosfos writes, the Mal'achim understand man's thoughts, then what is the meaning of the Gemara here? Why do the Mal'achim not understand words spoken in Aramaic if they understand man's thoughts?
1. Perhaps Tosfos' assertion that Mal'achim know man's thoughts is incorrect, and they indeed do not know man's thoughts, as many Acharonim maintain (as mentioned above).
2. The RA'AVAD (in TAMIM DE'IM, cited by the Gilyon ha'Shas in Shabbos 12b) suggests that although the Mal'achim understand thoughts and, therefore, they understand prayers recited in Aramaic, Hash-m does not want them to advocate for prayers recited in Aramaic lest the people begin to use that language for their prayers instead of Lashon ha'Kodesh. (According to the Ra'avad's explanation, this concern should apply to prayers recited in any language other than Lashon ha'Kodesh.) However, if a person is unable to pray in Lashon ha'Kodesh, the Mal'achim nevertheless are given the ability to advocate on his behalf, since he is not rejecting Lashon ha'Kodesh by choice.
3. The ROSH (Berachos 2:2) and Ra'avad (ibid.) suggest that the Mal'achim do understand Aramaic, since they understand thoughts, but they are repulsed by the language because it is a perversion of Lashon ha'Kodesh, the holy language. They therefore do not advocate on behalf of one who prays in Aramaic.
4. The Rosh and Ra'avad mention another explanation. The Mal'achim listen only to Lashon ha'Kodesh and to no other language. The Gemara mentions Aramaic because one might have thought that the Mal'achim do listen to prayers recited in Aramaic because it closely resembles Lashon ha'Kodesh. Therefore, the Gemara says that the Mal'achim do not listen even to Aramaic. (See also Insights to Shabbos 12:3.)


QUESTIONS: The Gemara records a dispute between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Elazar about the location of Har Gerizim and Har Eival. Rebbi Yehudah maintains that they are located at the place which the Kusiyim (Shomronim) today ascribe them. The verse means that these mountains are "far from the rising sun," which means far to the west. "Mul ha'Gilgal" means that they are "near Gilgal," in the area of Shechem. Rebbi Yehudah cites support for his opinion from the verse that says that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Elon Moreh, and he derives through a Gezeirah Shavah that this is the same Elon Moreh mentioned with regard to Avraham Avinu, which is located in the vicinity of Shechem, approximately sixty kilometers from the place at which the Jewish people crossed the Jordan when they entered Eretz Yisrael (see Tosfos, DH Mul).
Rebbi Elazar maintains that they are near the Jordan River, "far from the setting sun," at the eastern side of Eretz Yisrael.
There are a number of questions on this Gemara.
1. From the Mishnah and Gemara it is clear that Rebbi Yehudah's only proof that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Shechem is a Gezeirah Shavah. Since the Tzedukim did not accept the Gezeirah Shavah, Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Yosi challenged them to find another proof from the verses that Har Gerizim and Har Eival were indeed near Shechem, without relying on the Mesorah.
Why is a Gezeirah Shavah necessary to teach that the "Elon Moreh" mentioned here is the same Elon Moreh as the one Avraham Avinu visited? Why, without the Gezeirah Shavah, would one have thought that there are two cities called "Elon Moreh"?
2. Why does the Gemara say that Shechem is near Gilgal? The verse (Yehoshua 4:19) clearly says that Gilgal is next to the Jordan River, east of Yericho, and thus sixty kilometers from Shechem. Indeed, Rashi (Devarim 11:30) and the Yerushalmi state that if Har Gerizim and Har Eival are in Shechem, then "Mul ha'Gilgal" means "distant from Gilgal" and not "near Gilgal."
The same question may be asked about the other proofs the Gemara cites to disprove Rebbi Elazar and to show that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Shechem. The Gemara points out that the verse describes the mountains as "in the land of the Kena'ani who live in the Aravah." The Gemara asserts that the area near the Jordan, however, is not an "Aravah" (plain) but a land of hills and valleys. What does the Gemara mean? There are no hills in the immediate vicinity of the Jordan. The area near the Jordan is a plain, and that is why the Yam ha'Melach is called the "Yam ha'Aravah" (Yehoshua 3:16).
The Gemara further points out that the nation that lived near the Jordan was the Chivi, and not the Kena'ani, but Rashi records a source which teaches that Shechem, and not the Jordan River area, was the land of the Chivi. The area of the Jordan was in fact inhabited by the Kena'anim (Bamidbar 13:29)!
3. The Gemara answers only one of its questions on Rebbi Elazar, the question from the words "ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah." How does the Gemara answer its questions from the words "Eretz ha'Kena'ani" and from the words "Mul ha'Gilgal"?
4. Rashi on the Chumash explains, like Rebbi Yehudah, that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Shechem. However, he writes that they are distant from Gilgal, and he explains that "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" means that they are in the "direction where the sun sets" and not where it rises. Rashi describes at length how the word "Acharei" is not connected to the word "Derech" and that the phrases are two separate signs of the location, both of which show that the mountains are distant from the Jordan River. What is Rashi's source for explaining the verse like this, which is not like either opinion in the Gemara? (MAHARSHA)
(a) Based on the straightforward understanding of Rashi's words, these questions may be answered as follows.
1. A Gezeirah Shavah is needed to teach that Elon Moreh mentioned with regard to Har Gerizim is the same Elon Moreh mentioned with regard to Avraham Avinu because there is a very strong proof that Har Gerizim is not near Shechem. The verse says that the Jewish people were supposed to accept the covenant on Har Gerizim and Har Eival "b'Avrecha" -- immediately after they crossed the Jordan. According to Rashi and the Rishonim, this means that they were to go to Har Gerizim and Har Eival on the same day they crossed the Jordan. However, the verse relates that the Jewish people encamped that night at Gilgal (Yehoshua 4:19). How could the Jewish people have traveled a distance of 120 kilometers in one afternoon, after the crossing of the Jordan? Moreover, the verse says that they brought with them stones from inside the Jordan and placed them first at Har Gerizim and then at Gilgal. How could they carry such huge stones such a long distance? The only way this could have happened is through supernatural means (Gemara, beginning of 36a). To prove that such a miracle occurred, a Gezeirah Shavah or some other substantive proof from the verses is necessary.
2. Although the city of Gilgal, where Yehoshua and the nation encamped, is described as being east of Yericho, that Gilgal is not necessarily the same city of Gilgal to which the Torah refers (in Devarim 11:30). The verse (Yehoshua 5:9) says that the place was called Gilgal because the Jewish people performed a mass Milah ceremony there after they crossed the Jordan. This implies that it was not yet called Gilgal before the Jews crossed the Jordan. Accordingly, how can the Torah say that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are "Mul ha'Gilgal," referring to the Gilgal of Yehoshua, which did not yet exist?
It is because of this question that the Gemara concludes that the Gilgal of the verse is a different Gilgal -- the one through which Eliyahu and Elisha passed (Melachim II 2:1 and 4:38), which was in Shomron, near Shechem.
The mountains or hills near the Jordan to which the Gemara refers might be the hills which flank the river along the sides of the Jordan Valley. Shechem is in a more level area; it is not surrounded by a wall of mountains.
With regard to whether the area of the Jordan was the land of the Kena'ani or of the Chivi, the word "Kena'ani" can refer either to the specific nation of the seven nations that bears that name, or it can refer generally to any of the seven nations that lived in the land of Kena'an. When the verse in Bamidbar says that the Kena'ani lived near the Jordan River, it refers not to the specific Kena'ani nation but to the Chivi, who were also called "Kena'anim." Rashi's proof from Shechem might be that since the Chivi lived in Shechem, which is only sixty Mil from the Jordan, they probably ruled over the Jordan valley area as well.
3. This approach also explains why the verse says that the Jordan River (or Shechem, according to Rebbi Yehudah) is the land of the Kena'ani even though the Chivi are the ones who live there. Occasionally, the Torah refers to the Chivi as the Kena'ani, since they were one of the powerful nations that lived in Kena'an (MAHARSHA).
The Gemara does not explain how Rebbi Elazar learns "Mul ha'Gilgal." Apparently, these words, too, were mentioned only "to show them the way" and to teach that if they pass through the area facing Gilgal, they will be able to conquer the land with greater ease (Maharsha).
4. Rashi on the Chumash, who explains the verse differently from the Gemara, apparently bases his explanation on a Midrash which learns the verse differently from the Gemara. (See answer (b) below.)
(b) A number of Acharonim (CHIDUSHEI RABEINU MEIR SIMCHAH, RASHASH, RADAL) suggest another explanation for the Gemara which answers all of the questions.
The Gemara does not cite the verse "ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah" in order to disprove Rebbi Elazar. Rather, it uses this verse to prove that his view is correct, and that Har Gerizim and Har Eival indeed are near the Jordan River, since that is where the Aravah is located. The location of Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the Kusiyim, in contrast, rests between mountains and hills. Similarly, the Gemara asks that the Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the Kusiyim are not in the land of the Kena'ani, since that land is not near the Jordan. Rather, they are in the land of the Chivi, which is near Shechem.
The Gemara asks further that Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the Kusiyim are not near the Gilgal of Yehoshua (which is near the Jordan). How, then, could the Torah refer to them as "Mul ha'Gilgal," near Gilgal?
This answers most of the questions posed above.
1. The Kusiyim need explicit proof to show that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are not near the Jordan, since the entire verse seems to show that they are near the Jordan, near "Elonei Moreh." (Perhaps the area was called "Elonei Moreh" because the Jewish people accepted the Shevu'ah ("Alah") of the Torah ("Moreh") in that area.)
2. Once we understand that the Gemara is bringing support for the view of Rebbi Elazar, all of the points raised in the second question are answered.
3. The Gemara does not need to explain "Mul ha'Gilgal" and "Eretz ha'Kena'ani" according to Rebbi Elazar, who says that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near the Jordan, but only according to Rebbi Yehudah. Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov provides the answer for Rebbi Yehudah. He explains that the verse describes only the way to enter Eretz Yisrael (that is, the Jewish people should pass through "Eretz ha'Kena'ani" and through "Mul ha'Gilgal," as mentioned above according to the first approach).
According to this approach, the verse is not just telling how the army should enter in order to conquer the nations; that description would be out of place here, since this verse is not discussing the conquest of the land but how to accept the Berachos and Kelalos at Har Gerizim and Har Eival.
The verse might be describing how to travel in the simplest manner from Gilgal to Shechem. If the Jewish people would head straight west and then north from Gilgal near the Jordan, they would travel through hilly desert land, a difficult trek. Rather, they should follow the Jordan Valley northward until the area that is today called "Nachal Tirtzah," which continues northwest directly to Shechem (this is the present-day route of Highway 60, from Adam Bridge to Shechem). In fact, the Navi says that when the Jordan River opened to let the Jewish people pass through, the water stopped flowing in the river bed "from the city of Adam" (Yehoshua 3:16). Perhaps this was meant to hint to them that they were supposed to continue north until that city, and then continue northwest toward Shechem. The verse was teaching them the way towards the second erecting of the stones, just as it instructed them the way to erect the first stones while crossing through the Jordan.
4. Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov translates the words "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" as the "path that leads towards the sun," in contrast to Rebbi Yehudah's explanation that the word "Derech" means the path of the sun. According to Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov, the verse may be giving two different signs: the first one is "Acharei," far from the Jordan, and the second one is "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh," in the direction of the setting sun (west). This may be the source of Rashi on the Chumash who explains that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are in Shechem, and who separates "Acharei" and "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" into two different signs and writes that Gilgal is far from Shechem. Rashi may have understood the Gemara like these Acharonim.
(According to the explanation of the Rashash and others, a number of corrections must be made in the text of the Gemara in the words of Rebbi Yehudah. The words "b'Eretz ha'Kena'ani ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah" and the words "Mul ha'Gilgal Samuch la'Gilgal" must be omitted from the statement of Rebbi Yehudah, and they must be included in the statement of Rebbi Elazar. See CHIDUSHEI RABEINU MEIR SIMCHAH.)