QUESTIONS OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
Alexandrus Mokdon asked ten things of the Ziknei ha'Negev (the Elders of the South):
Question #1: Which is farther -- from the heavens to the earth, or (the width of the earth) from east to west (Maharsha - from the support given for Answer #1, it is evident that this means from the eastern extreme to (where we are, in) the middle of the world)?
Answer #1 (Ziknei ha'Negev): It is farther from east to west;
Support: When the sun is in the east or west (sunrise and sunset), one can look at it, but when it is overhead, it is too strong to look at.
Answer #2 ((other) Chachamim): Both are the same -- "(Hash-m's kindness is) chi'Gevoha Shamayim Al ha'Aretz... ; chi'Rechok Mizrach mi'Ma'arav";
If one of these distances was greater, the verse would mention only the greater one!
Question: Why is the sun too strong to look at when it is overhead?
Answer: This is because it is uncovered. (When it is in the east or west, mountains intervene.)
Question #2: Which was created first -- the heavens or the land? (Maharsha; Mefaresh - or, were they created at the same time)?
Answer (Chachamim): Shamayim was created first -- "Bereishis Bara Elokim Es ha'Shamayim v'Es ha'Aretz."
Question #3: Which was created first, light or darkness?
Chachamim: There is no answer to that question.
Question: They should have said that darkness was created first -- "veha'Aretz Haisah Sohu va'Vohu v'Choshech," and afterwards it says "va'Yomer Elokim Yehi Or va'Yehi Or"!
Answer: Chachamim feared lest he ask what is above and below (the firmament, over the heads of the angels called Chayos), in front and in back (past the east and west limits of the firmament).
Question: If so, they also should not have answered that Shamayim was created first!
Answer: At first, they thought that he just happened to ask about it. When they saw that he persisted to ask about the beginning of Creation, they feared lest he ask about before that.
Question #4: Who is a Chacham?
Answer (Chachamim): A Chacham is one who foresees what will come (from his actions, and acts accordingly).
Question #5: Who is a Gibor (mighty)?
Answer (Chachamim): A Gibor is one who overcomes his Yetzer (ha'Ra).
Question #6: Who is an Ashir (rich)?
Answer (Chachamim): An Ashir is one who is happy with what he has.
HOW TO LIVE
Question #7: What should one do in order to live?
Answer (Chachamim): He should kill himself. (Mefaresh - he should lower himself; Rosh - he should toil for food to live in this world, and deny himself pleasures and toil in Torah to live in the world to come).
Question #8: What should one do in order to die?
Answer (Chachamim): He should aggrandize himself. (This brings envy and Ayin Ra'ah upon himself.)
Question #9: How can one make oneself popular (so his words will be accepted)?
Version #1 - Answer (Chachamim): He should hate (avoid contact with) the king and authorities (lest people think that he informs).
Alexandrus: I know more than you. He should love his king and authorities, and (persuade them to) do good to people (of his locale)!
Version #2 - Answer (Chachamim): He should hate (evade) kingship and authority (rather, he should be humble).
Alexandrus: I know more than you. He should love kingship and authority. If he rises to power he can do good for people!
Question #10: Is it better to live at sea or on the dry land?
Answer (Chachamim): It is better to live on the dry land. Seafarers' minds are not clear until they come to land.
Alexandrus: Which of you are wisest?
Chachamim: All of us are equal. Everything you asked, all of us agreed about the answer.
Alexandrus: Why do you oppose me? (Rosh - you do not intermarry or eat and drink with us. Mefaresh - you do not accept our god. We outnumber you, you should fear us! Maharsha - Alexandrus wanted to be praised for his wisdom, might, and welath, but Chachamim answered that he is not the true Chacham, Gibor or Ashir.)
Chachamim: The Satan deceives. (You are above now, but in the end you will descend (R. Gershom - to Gehinom)).
Alexandrus: I could kill you through a royal edict (for answering me with contempt)!
Chachamim: Indeed, you could. However, it does not befit a king to falsify his words! (You promised not to harm us.)
ALEXANDRUS' TRIP TO AFRICA
Alexandrus dressed them in purple and put gold chains on their necks, and told them that he plans to go to Africa.
Chachamim: You cannot. On the way there are Harei Choshech (mountains that totally darken the area even during the day).
Alexandrus: I am determined to go. Tell me how!
Chachamim: Take big donkeys of Egypt that can go in the dark, and balls of ropes; tie one end of the ropes where there is light, and take the other end through the dark so you will know how to return.
Alexandrus did so. He came to a city of (only) women, and planned to wage war against it.
The women: If you kill us, people will say that you killed women. (That is no sign of strength.) If we kill you, people will say you were killed by women (a great disgrace)!
(Alexandrus agreed.) He requested bread, and they gave to him gold bread on a gold table.
Alexandrus: Who can eat gold bread?
The women: (We assumed you wanted gold --) if you wanted bread, you did not need to come all the way here!
When Alexandrus left, he wrote on the gate of the city, "I, Alexandrus, was foolish until I came to an African city of women who counseled me."
When he was returning, he sat to eat bread by a stream. He had salted fish with him, and was rinsing off the salt in the stream. They absorbed a nice smell. (Rosh - they returned to life.) He concluded that the stream comes from Gan Eden.
Version #1: He (merely) washed his face in the water.
Version #2: He followed the stream to its source, the entrance to Gan Eden, and requested that it open for him.
He was told "Zeh ha'Sha'ar la'Hashem Tzadikim Yavo'u Vo." (You are not worthy to enter.)
Alexandrus: I am a king. I am important. (If you will not let me in,) give me something!
They gave him a skull (Rosh - eyeball). he put it on the scale against all his gold and silver, it outweighed them. He asked Chachamim to explain this.
Chachamim: It is of flesh and blood. It is never sated. It always seeks to draw more towards itself (Similarly, your wealth did not satisfy you, so you had to go to Africa.)
Alexandrus: How can I verify your answer?
Chachamim: Cover it with earth (so it cannot see), and then you can find its weight.
He did so, and succeeded -- "She'ol va'Avadu Lo Sisbanah v'Einei ha'Adam Lo Sisbanah" (just like the grave and Gehinom always want more to come there, also man always desires more (until he is buried in the earth)).
(Tana d'Vei Eliyahu): Gehinom is above the firmament;
Some say, it is in back of Harei Choshech (mountains that darken, like on Amud A)..
(Tana d'Vei R. Chiya): The Shechinah faces anyone who engages in Torah at night -- "Kumi Roni ba'Lailah... Nochach Pnei Hash-m."
(R. Elazar): Chachamim increase Shalom in the world -- "v'Chol Banayich Limudei Hash-m v'Rav Shelom Banayich." (We read this "Bonayich".)
CONTINUATION OF THE AVODAH
(Mishnah 1): The appointee would tell them to say one Berachah (before Shma, Ahavah Rabah. It was too early to say Yotzer Or), and they said it;
They read Aseres ha'Dibros, Shma, v'Hayah Im Shamo'a, va'Yomer, and blessed (the people - some delete this from the text) three Berachos -- Emes v'Yatziv, (the Berachah of Retzei due to the) Avodah, and Birkas Kohanim;
On Shabbos, an extra Berachah was given to the departing Mishmar.
(Mishnah 2): He said. "those who have never offered Ketores before, come for the lottery for Ketores!" It was conducted. (He said) "everyone come for the lottery for who will take limbs from the ramp to the Mizbe'ach." (Rosh - one Kohen takes all the limbs.)
R. Eliezer ben Yakov says, the ones who brought the limbs half-way up the ramp put them on the Mizbe'ach.
(Mishnah 3): Overseers in the Mikdash took back the Bigdei Kehunah from Kohanim who were not selected in any lottery, except for the pants. There were compartments for the Begadim labeled "Tashmish ha'Kelim."
(Mishnah 4): The one selected to offer Ketores took the ladle. It was like a big golden basket holding three Kavim;
The Bazach (a small spoon) was inside, overflowing with Ketores;
It had a cover (Rosh - to preserve the smell), with a ring (alternatively - a piece of a garment) on top.