QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Elisheva, the wife of Aharon, had five reasons to celebrate on the inaugural day of the Mishkan. Her brother-in-law, Moshe Rabeinu, was the king, her husband became the Kohen Gadol, her son, Elazar, was the assistant Kohen Gadol, her grandson, Pinchas, was the Kohen Mashu'ach Milchamah, and her brother, Nachshon ben Aminadav, was the Nasi of Shevet Yehudah. The Gemara quotes the Beraisa to prove that Moshe Rabeinu was the king, in contrast to the Gemara earlier that he had the status of a Kohen Gadol. However, the Gemara answers that Moshe Rabeinu was both the king and had the status of a Kohen Gadol.

Many commentaries have difficulty with the assertion that Moshe Rabeinu had the Halachic status of a king. The Mechilta and Targum Yonasan (cited by RASHI to Shemos 18:12, DH va'Yavo Aharon) states that when Yisro came to the Jewish people, Moshe Rabeinu waited on the people who partook in the festive meal (regarding the nature of the meal, see SEFORNO there). A king, however, is not permitted to forgo his honor (Kesuvos 17a). If Moshe Rabeinu had the status of a king, why was he permitted to serve others at a meal?


(a) The GERESH CARMEL answers that since the verse states that their meal was "Lifnei ha'Elokim" -- "in front of Hash-m" (ibid.), it was as if Moshe Rabeinu was waiting on Hash-m, tantamount to performing Avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdash. For such Avodah, a king is allowed to forgo his honor.

(b) The BIKUREI DAVID (in a note on the PARDES YOSEF to Shemos 18:12) gives an answer based on the words of TOSFOS in Sanhedrin (19a, DH Yanai). Tosfos writes that the Mitzvas Aseh of Kavod ha'Torah is stronger than the Mitzvas Aseh of Kavod ha'Melech. The Bikurei David suggests, therefore, that an ordinary king would not have been permitted to forgo his honor in the situation of Moshe Rabeinu. However, since Moshe Rabeinu was also a Talmid Chacham, and in that situation he was permitted to forgo his honor as a Talmid Chacham, the Mitzvah of Kavod ha'Melech also was suspended since it became secondary to his Mitzvah of Kavod ha'Torah.

The Bikurei David adds that his approach is similar to the statement of the Gemara in Sukah (7a) with regard to Halachic walls. Although a certain type of wall is normally not considered a wall for the laws of Shabbos, when that type of wall is considered a wall for the laws of Sukos, it is also considered a wall for the laws of Shabbos on the day of Sukos that falls on Shabbos. This is the concept of, "Migo d'Havi Dofen l'Inyan Sukah, Havi Dofen l'Inyan Shabbos" -- "since it is a wall for Sukah, it is a wall for Shabbos."

(c) The MESHECH CHOCHMAH answers that since this incident occurred before Matan Torah, Moshe Rabeinu did not yet have the status of a king. The Meshech Chochmah infers this from the Midrash which comments on the verse (Devarim 33:5), "va'Yehi vi'Yeshurun Melech" that "Zeh Moshe" -- this refers to Moshe. The following words in the verse, "b'His'asef Roshei Am" -- "when the heads of the nation gathered," refer to Matan Torah. Accordingly, the Meshech Chochmah deduces that this means that Moshe Rabeinu became king only at Matan Torah. Consequently, he was permitted to wait on others before Matan Torah.

The Bikurei David also gives this explanation in his second answer, but he infers it from a different source. Rashi (Shemos 18:13, DH va'Yehi mi'Macharas) writes that the day after Moshe Rabeinu came down from Har Sinai, he was sitting in judgment "like a king." This implies that Moshe's status of king began after Matan Torah. (According to the Bikurei David's source, Moshe Rabeinu became king only after the second Matan Torah, on Yom Kippur.) (Y. MONTROSE)



OPINIONS: The Gemara relates a remarkable incident which provides a glimpse into the greatness of the Tana'im and Amora'im. Rav quoted a lengthy and in-depth commentary in Torah learning that he had heard from Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon in the bathroom. After presenting Rav's lengthy discourse, the Gemara asks that learning Torah in the bathroom is forbidden. The Gemara answers that "l'Onso Sha'ani" -- "if one is forced, it is different." RASHI (DH l'Onso) explains that Rebbi Elazar was so involved in his learning that he could not stop learning in the bathroom. It was as if he was "forced" to learn. (Similarly, the Yerushalmi in Berachos (3:4) quotes Rebbi Elazar as admitting that he solved many difficult logical problems regarding the subject of Tevul Yom in the bathroom. The Yerushalmi adds that Rebbi Zeira said that whenever he had a difficulty in learning and would go to the bathroom, he would gain understanding while thinking about it there. See PNEI MOSHE there.)

This answer explains the behavior of Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon; a great person may lose himself in an in-depth Sugya and not be aware of the prohibition against learning in the bathroom. However, Rav related that he heard this discourse from Rebbi Elazar in the bathroom, and he proceeded to relate it from memory. If Rav was present, why did he not bring to Rebbi Elazar's attention that he was in the bathroom and that he should stop learning?

(a) RAV YAKOV EMDEN prefaces his remarks by saying that it must be that Rav himself was outside the bathroom, since it is unreasonable to assume that Rav and Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon would walk into a bathroom together to discuss a Sugya, and both would forget the Halachah -- not only the Halachah of discussing Torah in the bathroom, but also the Halachah that two people are not supposed to go into the bathroom together and talk to each other there. It must be that Rav was outside of the bathroom listening to Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon as he discussed his learning to himself. The fact that he did not go in and interrupt shows that one is not required to stop someone who cannot restrain himself from learning Torah in the bathroom.

(b) However, the TZON KODASHIM infers from Rashi (DH l'Onso) that Rav never actually heard Rebbi Elazar learning in the bathroom. This is because Rebbi Elazar was not verbalizing his learning, but rather he was thinking in learning in the bathroom. This is why Rashi says "u'Meharher Bah" -- "and he was thinking in it." Rav related the thoughts that Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon told him afterwards, the thoughts which he had thought of while he was in the bathroom. According to this explanation, one should stop someone who is learning in the bathroom.

The EIZEHU MEKOMAN asks that the Tzon Kodashim seems to ignore the previous comment of Rashi (DH v'Heichi), in which Rashi interprets the Gemara's question on Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon "that he said this Halachah in the bathroom." This implies that he not only thought words of Torah in the bathroom, but he also spoke them.

(c) The SEFAS EMES gives a third explanation. He explains that Rav was in the bathroom when he heard a Torah discourse from Rebbi Elazar, who was outside of the bathroom. Rav could not help but listen to the discussion. However, this explanation is not consistent with the Yerushalmi in Berachos (cited earlier), which quotes Rebbi Elazar as saying that he resolved many difficulties regarding Tevul Yom in the bathroom. This presumably refers to the discussion mentioned in the Gemara here. (Y. MONTROSE)