1) THE DECREES OF THE "PULMUSIM"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah discusses the Gezeiros which the Chachamim enacted after the three vanquishing armies ("Pulmusim") conquered the Jews: the Pulmus of Aspasyanos (Vespasian; the Chachamim prohibited the "Ataros Chasanim" and the "Irus"), the Pulmus of Titus (the Chachamim prohibited the "Ataros Kalos" and the teaching of Yevanis to one's children), and the Pulmus ha'Acharon, the last Pulmus (the Chachamim prohibited a Kalah from being taken out in an Apiryon, a bridal canopy).
What were these three different Pulmusim? Was the army of Aspasyanos not the same army as that of Titus? The Gemara in Gitin (56b) relates that Aspasyanos returned to Rome when he became Caesar and Titus took his place as commander of the army. Also, what was the "Pulmus ha'Acharon," the last Pulmus, to which the Mishnah refers? Was it not after the Churban?
(a) The most straightforward explanation, based on the order in which the Pulmusim are listed, is that the Pulmus of Aspasyanos refers to the siege of Aspasyanos on Yerushalayim, which occurred three years before the Churban (Gitin 56a). The Pulmus of Titus refers to the fall of Yerushalayim, at which time the Roman legions were led by Titus. The Pulmus ha'Acharon was the Milchemes Ben Koziva (Bar Kochba), which occurred 52 years after the Churban. Ben Koziva attempted to reinstate the kingship of Yisrael, but after two and a half years he was conquered. His defeat marked the final fall of Malchus Yisrael (Rashi to Sanhedrin 97b, DH Od Achas).
This approach concurs with the SEDER OLAM (chapter 30) who also lists three Pulmusim -- those of Aspasyanos, Titus, and Milchemes Ben Koziva. (This is according to the Girsa of the VILNA GA'ON in the Seder Olam, according to which the Seder Olam says that there were two years between the first two Pulmusim.) According to all of the Girsa'os, Ben Koziva came to power 52 years after the Churban (as the Gemara says in Sanhedrin 97b). This is also the way the TIFERES YISRAEL explains the Mishnah.
(b) The RAMBAM (in Perush ha'Mishnayos) explains that the Pulmus ha'Acharon does not refer to Ben Koziva but to a Pulmus which occurred in the times of Rebbi, Rabeinu ha'Kodesh (Rebbi Yehudah ha'Nasi). The "Raboseinu" who removed the Gezeirah against the bridal canopy was Rebbi himself. Perhaps it was this trait of modesty of Rebbi -- which led him to attribute the removal of the Gezeirah to an anonymous "Raboseinu" and not to himself -- which prompted the early Amora'im to add to the Mishnah here the section which discusses the losses the Jewish people suffered with the passing of various Chachamim and which ends by mentioning the cessation of Anavah (humility) and Yir'as Chet (fear of sin) when Rebbi passed away.
The Rambam writes that the word "Pulmus" does not mean a vanquishing army, but rather it means the "reign" of the various leaders. Hence, the first Gezeirah was made some time before the Churban, during the reign of Aspasyanos. The second Gezeirah was made some time after the Churban, during the reign of Titus.
According to these two explanations, what is the meaning of the Gemara later (49b) which says that the Gezeirah against learning "Chochmas Yevanis" was made during the time of the internecine conflict between the members of the ruling family of Beis Chashmona'i? The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (9a) teaches that the Malchus of Hurdus (Herod), which was after the fall of Beis Chashmona'i, began 103 years before the Churban. Accordingly, the incident which the Gemara here records (the Gezeirah made during the conflict between the members of Beis Chashmona'i) must have preceded the Pulmus of Titus by many years. Although the Gezeirah at the time of Beis Chashmona'i was against Chochmas Yevanis, and the Mishnah discusses a prohibition against Lashon Yevanis, nevertheless it is clear that the Mishnah also refers to the Gezeirah against learning Chochmas Yevanis, since the Gemara explains that there is no prohibition to speak the language of Yevanis but only to speak the Chochmas Yevanis (which is a form of language of verbal cues).
TOSFOS in Bava Kama (82b) and Menachos (64b) asks this question. Tosfos answers that the Jewish people did not accept the original Gezeirah, and therefore it was necessary to reinstitute it at the time of Titus, at which time they accepted it.
Another possibility is that the word in the Mishnah should not be "v'she'Lo Yelamed..." -- "and [they decreed] that one should not teach his child Yevanis," but rather "v'Lo Yelamed" -- "and one should not teach his child Yevanis." That is, the Gezeirah against teaching Yevanis is not related to the time of the Pulmus mentioned in the Mishnah, but it is a separate Gezeirah. After the Mishnah lists the Gezeiros decreed as a Zecher l'Churban, it mentions this additional Gezeirah which dates back to the time of Malchus Beis Chashmona'i and which was instituted due to the incident that occurred during the civil war of the Chashmona'im. It was not directly a result of the Churban. The reason the Mishnah mentions it before the Gezeirah of the Pulmus ha'Acharon (the prohibition of the bridal canopy) is that the Gezeirah of the Pulmus ha'Acharon was not perpetuated, as the Mishnah says, because "Raboseinu" permitted the bridal canopy.
This explanation may be inferred from the wording of the Rambam in Perush ha'Mishnayos, where he mentions the Gezeirah against Chochmas Yevanis after he explains the Gezeiros of the Pulmusim in the Mishnah. (M. KORNFELD)
(c) RASHI, however, writes that the Pulmus of Aspasyanos refers to when Aspasyanos brought the Roman armies to Yerushalayim (as mentioned in (a) above), but he writes that the Pulmus of Titus was the army which Hyrkanus brought against his brother Aristobulus, and that there were 52 years between this Pulmus and the preceding Pulmus (as the Seder Olam mentions). He writes that the Pulmus ha'Acharon was the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdash, which was also at the hands of Titus.
Rashi obviously derives from the words of the Gemara his explanation that the Pulmus of Titus was the futile war of the Chashmona'im. Rashi is bothered by the question from the Gemara: how is it possible that the Gezeirah of Lashon Yevanis was made at the time of Titus, if its source dates back to the times of the Chashmona'im (over 100 years before Titus' conquest of Yerushalayim)? Rashi answers that the Pulmus of Titus refers to the civil war of the Chashmona'im, during which Hyrkanus brought Titus to Yerushalayim to fight against his brother. (The ME'IRI also quotes the explanation of Rashi.)
This approach is problematic. How can Rashi write that Titus was brought to Yerushalayim during the conflict between Hyrkanus and Aristobulus, which occurred 52 years after Aspasyanos? It is clear that Hyrkanus and Aristobulus were from Beis Chashmona'i and that they lived long before Titus! As mentioned above, the Seder Olam mentions the period of 52 years only with regard to the war of Ben Koziva, when he points out that it occurred 52 years after the Churban. No other event is mentioned with regard to 52 years. Why does Rashi date the Malchus Chashmona'i as existing after the Churban if it was conquered 103 years before the Churban? (YA'AVETZ)
Moreover, according to Rashi, the Pulmus ha'Acharon -- which he writes was related to Titus -- must have preceded the Pulmus of Titus. How, then, can it be called the Pulmus ha'Acharon if the previously-mentioned Pulmus (of Titus) actually came after it? If the Pulmus ha'Acharon refers to the Churban, as Rashi writes, how can it be called the "last" Pulmus if the other one was 52 years after it?
Apparently, Rashi originally suggested two different explanations for the Pulmusim, the two explanations were combined in our text of Rashi. The first explanation is that the Pulmus of Titus refers back to the war of Hyrkanus and Aristobulus, which occurred much earlier (as the Gemara implies), and the reason it is called the "Pulmus of Titus" is -- as the MINCHAS YAKOV explains -- that this civil war in which the Romans were invited to fight against one of the Jewish armies is what brought about the eventual destruction of Yerushalayim at the hands of Titus. When Rashi writes that Hyrkanus brought the army of Titus to fight against his brother Aristobulus, he means that it was this act of bringing in the Roman armies that culminated in the coming of Titus. "Pulmus ha'Acharon" refers to the actual Churban at the hands of Titus years later.
The comment of Rashi that "between one and the other there were 52 years" is a second explanation of the Pulmusim, in which Rashi explains that the Pulmus of Titus is to be understood according to its straightforward meaning (as in the first explanation), that it refers to the fall of Yerushalayim at the hands of Titus. Rashi's words about the 52 years are describing the time between the destruction of Yerushalayim at the time of the Pulmus of Titus, and the Pulmus ha'Acharon. Rashi means that the Pulmus ha'Acharon was 52 years after the fall of Yerushalayim, and the Pulmus ha'Acharon refers to the war of Ben Koziva, as the Seder Olam explains.
2) THE SPLENDOR OF WISDOM
QUESTIONS: The Mishnah states that when Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai died, "Batel Ziv ha'Chochmah" -- the splendor of wisdom ceased to exist.
RASHI writes that he does not know what "Ziv ha'Chochmah" is.
Others, however, provide explanations for "Ziv ha'Chochmah." What is "Ziv ha'Chochmah, and why does Rashi not give an explanation for it?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai was profoundly wise, as the Gemara in Gitin (56a) relates. The Gemara there describes the ingenious ways which Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai contrived at the time of the Churban to save the Talmidei Chachamim. He arranged to meet the Roman general and speak with him. The general was so impressed with Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai's wisdom that he questioned why he had not come to meet him earlier. This wisdom is what the Mishnah refers to as "Ziv ha'Chochmah."
(b) The BE'ER SHEVA and IYUN YAKOV explain the Mishnah based on the Beraisa in Sukah (28b) which says that although Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai was the smallest of the Talmidim of Hillel ha'Zaken, he was expert not only in all sections of the Torah, but in the fields of astronomy, Gematriya, Sichas Mal'achei ha'Shares, Meshalim, and many other areas of wisdom.
(c) The TOSFOS YOM TOV asks why Rashi does not explain "Ziv ha'Chochmah" in a simple manner, similar to the way he explains the "Ziv ha'Kehunah" of Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi. Rashi explains that Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi was "wise (Chacham), wealthy, and there were many Kohanim who ate at his table." The Tosfos Yom Tov suggests that Rashi probably means that Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi was a "Kohen" and wealthy (as the Gemara says in Pesachim 57a), and not that he was a "Chacham" and wealthy, and that is why he had "Ziv ha'Kehunah" (the prestige of wealth lent a splendor to his status of Kehunah). The same may be said about Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai -- that he was wise and also wealthy -- and that is why he had "Ziv ha'Chochmah."
The reason why Rashi rejects these three explanations may be inferred from a closer examination of the way Rashi explains "Ziv ha'Kehunah." Rashi writes that many Kohanim ate at the table of Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi because he was wise and rich. The Maharsha asks from where does Rashi know that many Kohanim ate at his table? The answer may be inferred from Rashi's emphasis that the "Ziv ha'Kehunah" was the splendor which Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi accorded to the Kohanim by providing them with their needs. It was not a splendor which wealth gave to Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi himself, since his wealth itself did not give splendor to the Kehunah in general.
Rashi therefore wonders what "Ziv ha'Chochmah" is. Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai's own Chochmah did not give splendor to wise people in general, unless he provided wise men with all of their needs (as Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi did with the Kohanim), but that seems highly unlikely because the category of "Chachamim" is not a category that can be easily defined or measured (in contrast with the category of Kohanim). (If Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai honored only those who excelled in their Chochmah of Torah, the Mishnah should have said that he had "Ziv ha'Torah" and not "Ziv ha'Chochmah.")
(When the Gemara on 49b paraphrases the words of the Mishnah, it quotes the Mishnah as saying, "When Rebbi Yochanan died, Batlah ha'Chochmah," and it omits the word "Ziv." This supports the explanations of the Maharsha and Be'er Sheva. However, the Girsa in the Mishnayos is "Ziv ha'Chochmah," and when the Gemara leaves out the word "Ziv" in its paraphrase it merely seems to be abbreviating the Mishnah for the sake of brevity.)
2) "THE TRAIT OF HUMILITY IS NOT GONE, FOR *I* AM STILL HERE!"
QUESTION: Maseches Sotah concludes with an explanation of the Mishnah's statement that when Rebbi died, "Batal Anavah v'Yir'as Chet," Anavah (humility) and Yir'as Chet (fear of sin) ceased to exist. Rav Yosef says that the word "Anavah" should be omitted from the Mishnah "because I am still here." Rav Nachman says that the words "Yir'as Chet" should be omitted from the Mishnah "because I am still here."
If Rav Yosef was truly humble, and Rav Nachman truly feared sin, what justification did they have for publicly praising themselves for these attributes? (See MAHARSHA, NETZIV, DIVREI ELIYAHU, BEN YEHOYADA, CHIDA, HE'OROS B'MASECHES SOTAH, and others.)
ANSWER: Perhaps Rav Yosef and Rav Nachman did not take pride in themselves for their attributes of Anavah and Yir'as Chet in general. Rather, they sought to teach to the their Talmidim the extent to which the attributes of Anavah and Yir'as Chet are supposed to be applied. They intended that their Talmidim learn about these Midos from their own particular deeds.
The Gemara in Berachos (64a) and Horayos (14a) relates that when the Rosh Yeshiva passed away, Rav Yosef was selected to be the new Rosh Yeshiva, but he declined and offered the position to Rabah instead. In order to teach his Talmidim how to conduct themselves, he pointed out his own willingness to decline such a great and prestigious honor.
The Gemara in Gitin (31b) relates that Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak refused to honor the wealthy and powerful members of the family of the Reish Galusa, because he did not consider them to be worthy of honor. (Rashi in Megilah 28b explains that Rav Nachman mentioned by the Gemara here is Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak.) Although the Gemara in Sotah (41b) teaches that one is permitted to give honor (Chanufah) to a wealthy Rasha in this world, Rav Nachman was a Yerei Chet and refused to honor Resha'im even when doing so is permitted. He wanted his Talmidim to know that he did not act in this manner simply because his personality was such that he respected nobody. He therefore prided himself publicly for demonstrating Yir'as Chet, the fear of sin, in his deeds, so that his Talmidim would learn and follow in his G-d-fearing ways.
This type of "pride" is the "eighth part of an eighth part [of one's personality] of arrogance" which even a Talmid Chacham is permitted to display, as the Gemara earlier in Sotah (5a) teaches. (M. KORNFELD)