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Bava Basra, 4

BAVA BASRA 3-5 - sponsored by Harav Ari Bergmann of Lawrence, N.Y., out of love for Torah and those who study it.


QUESTION: The Gemara (Bava Basra 4a) says that when Hurdus asked Bava ben Buta how he might be able to do Teshuvah for killing the Chachamim of that generation, Bava ben Buta told him, "You extinguished the light of the world (Torah) and blinded the eye of the world (the Chachamim). Therefore, you should do a Mitzvah involving the thing which brings light into the world and which is the eye of the world (the Beis ha'Mikdash)."

Why is the Beis ha'Mikdash referred to as "light" and as an "eye?"


(a) A number of sources teach that light radiated forth out of the Beis ha'Mikdash to the entire world. The Midrash says that the reason why the windows of the Beis ha'Mikdash were constructed in such a manner that they were wider on the outside than on the inside was in order for the light to go from inside the Beis ha'Mikdash and spread forth into the world, instead of light going from outside into the Beis ha'Mikdash.

TOSFOS in Shabbos (22b, DH v'Chi) writes that despite the drapings over the Mishkan which prevented light from the outside from coming in, the Kohanim did not have to bring in any candle to do work in the Mishkan since it was illuminated by the radiance of the Shechinah.

RABEINU BACHYE (in Kad ha'Kemach) writes that the presence of light indicates the Divine Presence, just as it is customary to light candles in the king's chambers in honor of the king.

Light also symbolizes the wisdom of Hashem as expressed in the Torah, and the attribute of having the proper worldview. When people came to the Beis ha'Mikdash, they were overcome with a love of Hashem's ways and a will to follow those ways, as Tosfos in Bava Metzia (21a, DH Ki) quotes from a Midrash.

The Beis ha'Mikdash is referred to as an "eye" as well, since the eye is the part of the body that is able to perceive light and to transmit what it sees to the rest of the body. Likewise, the Beis ha'Mikdash is the place which is able to receive the light of Hashem and spread it to the entire world. (The Beis ha'Mikdash is called "light" when looking at it from the perspective of what it gives to the world, and it is called "eye" from the perspective of what it receives from Above.)

(b) The Chachamim allude to the same theme when they teach that Olam ha'Zeh is compared to night, and Olam ha'Ba is compared to day (Bava Metzia 83b, Pesachim 2a). In Olam ha'Zeh, the presence of Hashem is veiled. Because of this, this world is compared to nighttime, during which there is an absence of light. In Olam ha'Ba, Hashem reveals His presence to all, and that is why it is compared to the brightness of day (see Avodah Zarah 3a).

The Chachamim further allude to this when they teach that when the verse says, "Hashem called the light 'day' and He called the darkness 'night'" (Bereishis 1:5), the verse does not mention the Name of Hashem with regard to night, because Hashem does not place His name with something associated with evil (Tosfos in Ta'anis 3a, DH v'Ilu). The Midrash does not mean that night is evil per se, but that darkness represents the lack of clarity in our perception of Hashem's presence in the world.

(c) Based on this, RAV YITZCHAK HUTNER zt'l explains the choice of words in the Mishnah at the beginning of Pesachim. The Mishnah there refers to the night of the fourteenth of Nisan (the night of Bedikas Chametz) as "Or l'Arba'ah Asar." The Gemara there explains that although the Mishnah means to say the *night* of the fourteenth and not the day, it uses the word "Or" (which literally means "light"), because that it is a more refined expression.

What is more refined about using the word "light" to refer to night, and why is that word not used except in the beginning of Pesachim (and in Kerisus 1:6)?

The answer is that the quality of the Yom Tov of Pesach is that it can reveal the light that is hidden in the darkness of night. That is, even in a time of Galus when Hashem's presence is less apparent, by reliving the miracles of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim we can see more clearly the guiding hand of Hashem in this world, and during the time of Galus, both of which (Olam ha'Zeh and Galus) are compared to night. This is why Maseches Pesachim begins by calling the night, "Or."

(d) The source for Rav Hutner's suggestion can be found in a comment of the VILNA GA'ON in his commentary to the Hagadah regarding the question, "Why is this night (ha'Lailah ha'Zeh) different from all other nights?". We know that in Hebrew nouns are classified as either masculine or feminine. Masculine nouns must be modified by masculine adjectives and pronouns, while feminine nouns are modified by feminine adjectives and pronouns. Although there is no fixed rule to determine the gender of a particular noun, there is one principle that is consistent: When a noun ends in the vowel "Kamatz" followed by a silent letter "Heh," that word is of feminine gender. If so, "Lailah" (night) ought to be a feminine noun! Why are masculine modifiers (such as "ha'Zeh") always used with the word "Lailah?"

The question of "Mah Nishtanah," asserts the Vilna Ga'on, is why "Lailah," night, is modified by the word "Zeh," a masculine pronoun. Should it not be referred to as "ha'Lailah *ha'Zos*," with the feminine pronoun?

The Vilna Ga'on adds than not only would it be grammatically consistent for "Lailah" to be feminine, it would also be logically consistent. Night, he notes, is feminine in its very essence. It is for this reason that many positive commandments must be performed exclusively during the daytime. (Examples of these are blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, holding the Arba'as ha'Minim on Sukos, wearing Tzitzis and Tefilin, etc.) This is in accordance with the "feminine" nature of the night. Just as women are exempt from fulfilling these positive commandments (see Mishnah in Kidushin 29a), so too, the night, with its feminine element, is "exempted" from these Mitzvos.

(The source for the Vilna Ga'on's comment that night is "feminine" can be found in the Zohar (Bereishis 20b), which asserts that daytime is when *men* are actively providing for the family's livelihood, as the verse says, "The sun shines... and men go out to do their work until evening" (Tehilim 104:22-23). The woman, on the other hand, provides for her family at night. As the verse puts is, "She arises while it is still night, and she prepares sustenance for her household..." (Mishlei 31:15). In the words of the Zohar, the man "rules" during the daytime and the woman "rules" during the nighttime.)

In fact, along these same lines we may find an even deeper meaning to the Hagadah's question, the Vilna Ga'on explains. Although time-related Mitzvos Aseh normally apply only during the day, there are a small number of exceptions. The exceptions are the Mitzvos performed on the Seder night: the eating of Matzah, Maror and [in former -- and future -- times] the Korban Pesach, and the Mitzvah of relating the story of the Exodus. The Torah specifically commands that these Mitzvos be performed *exclusively* at night.

The question of the Hagadah is why the night *of Pesach* is even more "masculine" than other nights ("ha'Zeh"), being laden with positive Mitzvos. (According to this interpretation, the four questions can be seen to correspond to the four positive Mitzvos of Pesach night -- see the Mishnah's version of the four questions in Pesachim 116a, -M. Kornfeld. See also Shelah in his commentary "Matzah Shemurah" on the Hagadah, who makes a similar point in his commentary on the words "Kol Oso ha'Lailah," and Gan Raveh to Shemos 12:42.)

Intuitively, we realize that this night's masculine character must somehow be related to the broader question that we mentioned above: Why does the word "Lailah," in general, display a certain duality? Although it has the feminine "Kamatz-Heh" ending, it is consistently described using masculine modifiers.

If this is the intention of the Hagadah's question, then what is the answer to this question? The Vilna Ga'on does not elaborate on this, but the answer may be explained as follows (based on the words of the Shelah and Gan Raveh mentioned above).

The trials and tribulations of this world are compared to the night because, in the present world, we are often blind to Hashem's presence in, and control of, the world. The radiant, joyful period of the world of the future in times of Mashi'ach is compared to the day, because then Hashem will make His majesty clear for all to see. In retrospect, all events that occurred in this world will be clearly seen to have been for the best. This is the meaning of the Midrash (Shemos Rabah 18:11) that states that during our future redemption the nighttime will be lit up like the day.

This means that at the dawn of the era of Mashi'ach, it will become abundantly evident that even when we do not "notice" Hashem's presence during the "night" of Olam ha'Zeh, it is there all the same. When one sees things in the proper perspective, the guiding Hand of Hashem is "as clear as day." Femininity denotes privateness (since it is characteristic of women to be less conspicuous than men, Yevamos 77a). Night may "look" feminine (as denoted by the "Kamatz-Heh" ending), but it is in fact masculine in nature; Hashem's Hand can be seen if one just looks at it in the proper perspective -- that of one who has witnessed Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, "Anochi Hashem... Asher Hotzeisicha m'Eretz Mitzrayim." This explains the duality of the word "Lailah."

The Zohar (2:38a) tells us that the night of our redemption from Mitzrayim was lit up as bright as day. During that time of miraculous redemption, night "became day." The reason that the night of Pesach is imbued with such a masculine character is that it commemorates the night of the Exodus, during which Hashem's presence was "as clear to us as day." This is why the Torah, which usually assigns positive Mitzvos to the daylight hours, makes an exception in this instance. On this night, the Torah designates the nighttime for the performance of such Mitzvos.

May we soon merit to witness the ultimate manifestation of Hashem's Glory and the end to all suffering, speedily in our days.

QUESTIONS: The Mishnah teaches that since the two neighbors must share in the expenses of building a wall between them, if the wall between them later falls, then they divide the stones and the place upon which the wall stood. We assume that the wall was built by both of them on land contributed by both of them.

The Gemara asks why the Mishnah needs to teach that the two neighbors split the stones. It should be obvious that they split them (since the stones fell on the properties of both neighbors; RASHI DH Peshita)! The Gemara answers that the Mishnah's ruling is necessary in a case where the stones fall mainly on the property of *one* of the neighbors.

(a) Why is it obvious that if the stones are spread over both properties that the two neighbors split them? This case should be comparable to the case in the Mishnah in Bava Metzia (2a) which teaches that when two people are holding a Talis which each one claims is his, they split it only after making a Shevu'ah! The Gemara in Bava Metzia (7a) teaches that even if the hands of each of the two claimants are grasping an entire half of the Talis, they still may not split it without first making a Shevu'ah (see TOSFOS Bava Metzia 7a, DH Machvei). Our Mishnah, then, is teaching a great Chidush when it says that the two neighbors divide the stones without a Shevu'ah! Why, then, does the Gemara ask that this is obvious?

(b) How does the Gemara's answer explain why the Mishnah needs to teach that not only the stones but even the land upon which the wall was built belongs to both of them? Even though it is possible that all of the stones fall on the property of only one neighbor, the land upon which the wall was standing cannot be transferred to the possession of one of the neighbors!

(a) The Gemara in Bava Metzia (5b) concludes that the reason why the claimants holding the Talis must make a Shevu'ah before they divide it is because if they did not need to make a Shevu'ah, then everyone would go and seize someone else's object and claim that it was his. This concern applies when a person is physically holding an object together with another person. If an object is resting in the Chatzeros of two different people, there is no concern that a Chatzer will "seize" a person's object, and therefore they divide it without a Shevu'ah.

(b) TOSFOS (2a, DH Lefichach) explains that the Mishnah mentions only tangentially ("Agav") that the land on which the wall was standing is divided ("Agav"), when it mentions the primary Halachah that the stones are divided. The YAD RAMAH questions the answer of Tosfos and says that the Mishnah should have mentioned first that the stones are divided. Instead, the Mishnah mentioned first that the land is divided, indicating that this Halachah is also part of the Chidush of the Mishnah.

The Yad Ramah answers instead that with regard to the land, the Mishnah is teaching that even if one neighbor claims that the entire area beneath the wall is his, and the other neighbor claims that half of it is his, they split the area. We do not judge the claims like the case in the Mishnah in Bava Metzia (2a), in which one claims that the entire Talis is his while the other claims that half of it is his, in which case they split half of it, and the one claiming that all of it is his takes the other half. Here, we can be sure that they built the wall on both properties, and the one who is claiming that half is his is telling the truth.

The RASHASH writes that the same point could have been taught with regard to the stones. The Gemara could have answered that the Mishnah is teaching that even if one says that all of the stones belong to him and the other says that half belong to him, they still split them. Why did the Gemara not give this answer? Perhaps it is because stones are Metaltelin, and therefore the Gemara was able to give a simpler answer and say that all of the stones fell into the property of one of the neighbors.

QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that since the two neighbors must share in the expenses of building a wall between them, if the wall between them later falls, then they divide the stones and the place upon which the wall stood. We assume that the wall was built by both of them on land contributed by both of them.

The Gemara asks why the Mishnah needs to teach that the two neighbors split the stones. It should be obvious that they split them (since the stones fell on the properties of both neighbors; RASHI DH Peshita)! The Gemara answers that the Mishnah's ruling is necessary in a case where the stones fall mainly on the property of *one* of the neighbors.

Why, though, would we have thought that the stones are *not* divided in such a case? The Rishonim offer various approaches to this question.


(a) The RASHBA explains the Gemara in a simple manner. Had the Mishnah not taught that the stones are divided, we might have thought that the one in whose property the stones fall has a Chazakah. TOSFOS (2a, DH Lefichach) rejects this explanation, because the Gemara (4b) says that if two people build a wall together in a field of grain ("Bik'ah") between their properties, it is not necessary for either of them to make a "Chazis." This implies that when no proof is present, we assume that the wall was built by both neighbors, and if it falls there is no concern that the one in whose field the stones have fallen will claim that he built the wall himself.

The Rashba rejoins that this is not a question, and that Rashi answers this question in his commentary later (4b, DH v'Lo Ya'asu). The Gemara does not mean that the lack of proof will allow us to divide the wall when it falls. Rather, it means that when a wall in a Bik'ah has no "Chazis" on either side, it is considered to be *proof* that the wall was built jointly, and not by either neighbor independently. This would not apply to the wall of a Chatzer, which the Reisha of the Mishnah discusses, because a "Chazis" cannot be used as proof of ownership in a Chatzer, as the RI MI'GASH cited by the Rosh writes.

(b) However, RASHI (DH Peshita) in a Hagahah in the name of RABEINU CHANANEL explains the Gemara differently. He writes that we would have thought that the one in whose property the wall fell could claim that the stones belong to him, since his neighbor did not protest the fact that his stones are resting in another person's domain. The Mishnah teaches that since the two neighbors owned the wall jointly when it was built, they give permission to each other to store the stones of the wall in the domain of the other. Therefore, it is as if the stones fell into jointly-owned property, in which case we would not expect either of the neighbors to protest about the location of his stones (as in Bava Metzia 116b, and Rashi there, DH Lo Kapdi). This is also how the YAD RAMAH and the ROSH (1:6) explain the Gemara.

Rabeinu Chananel does not explain the Gemara in the straightforward manner that the Rashba suggests -- that when the stones fall into the domain of one of the neighbors, that neighbor should have a Chazakah and be able to claim that he built the wall originally by himself. Instead, we take it for granted that the wall was built by both of the neighbors, and we do not consider the one in whose property the wall fell to have a Chazakah. Why is this?

Rabeinu Chananel's reasoning seems to be that such a Chazakah is considered to be a "Tefisah Achar she'Nolad ha'Safek," to be seizing an item after question about its ownership has already arisen, which is not an acceptable Chazakah, as Tosfos writes (2a, DH Lefichach). Proof for this can be found in Bava Metzia (6a), where the Gemara teaches that when two quarreling parties are holding a Talis together, and one of them snatches it away in front of Beis Din and the other party protests, it is not considered a Chazakah, since there already was a doubt about the ownership of the Talis before one party snatched it away.

The Rashba, on the other hand, differentiates between a case in which the object was snatched after it was brought to the court, and a case in which the object was snatched before it was brought to the court. In the latter case, it would be considered a Chazakah if not for the fact that a wall between two Chatzeros *must* be built by both neighbors.


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