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Bava Basra, 10

BAVA BASRA 9 & 10 - these Dafim have been dedicated anonymously l'Iluy Nishmas Tzirel Nechamah bas Tuvya Yehudah.


QUESTION: The wicked Turnusrufus argued that the Jewish practice of supporting their poor was wrong. He likened the practice to a person who feeds a king's slave whom the king imprisoned and ordered not to be fed, and the Jewish people are slaves to the King, Hashem, as it says, "For the Jewish people are My slaves" (Vayikra 25:55). Rebbi Akiva argued that the Jewish people are not like slaves, but rather they are like children to the King, as the verse says, "You are children to Hashem your G-d" (Devarim 14:1), and certainly a king who imprisons his son and orders that his son not be fed will be happy when someone feeds his son. Turnusrufus rejoined that only when the Jews are doing the will of Hashem are they considered His children, but when they are not doing the will, they are considered His slaves and not His children. Rebbi Akiva answered that, nevertheless, the verse instructs, "Distribute your bread to the hungry, and bring the poor, who are cast out, into your house" (Yeshayah 58:7). The verse is teaching that you are to "distribute your bread to the hungry" when the poor are "cast out," meaning even when they are not doing the will of Hashem.

How, though, did Rebbi Akiva's response answer the claim of Turnusrufus that the Jews are called slaves when they are not doing the will of Hashem, and thus it is not the King's interest that they be fed?

ANSWER: The MAHARSHA explains that Rebbi Akiva was saying that even though Hashem is angry with them, they are still considered His children, as the Gemara in Kidushin (36a, according to Rebbi Meir) says: even when they are acting destructively, they are still called "Banim," as the verse says, "Banim Mashchisim" (Hoshea 2:1). Rebbi Akiva brought further proof from the verse of "the poor, who are cast out."

However, it is only the opinion of Rebbi Meir that the Jewish people are considered the children of Hashem even when they sin. Rebbi Yehudah (in Kidushin there) argues and says that when they are not acting like the children of Hashem, they are not called His children. Why did Rebbi Akiva give an answer that suffices only for the opinion of Rebbi Meir?

The RASHBA (in Teshuvos, cited by Rav Chaim Karelenstein, zt'l) says that the Halachah follows the view of Rebbi Meir and not that of Rebbi Yehudah in this regard. Hence, Rebbi Akiva was answering Turnusrufus in accordance with the Halachah. (I. Alsheich)

QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rav Papa was once ascending some steps and his foot slipped and he almost fell. He lamented that by nearly falling to his death, he almost met the fate of a person who is Chayav for desecrating the Shabbos or for worshipping Avodah Zarah, both of which are punished with Sekilah (falling to one's death, as in Kesuvos 30b). Chiya bar Rav suggested to Rav Papa that perhaps a poor person once came to him and Rav Papa did not support him, for Rebbi Yehoshua ben Karcha taught that one who hides his eyes from the needs of a poor person and does not support him is considered as if he worshipped Avodah Zarah. Rebbi Yehoshua ben Karcha derives this from a Gezeirah Shaveh.

What, though, is the logical comparison between worshipping Avodah Zarah and not helping a poor person?


(a) The MAHARSHA (9a, DH Shekulah) answers that when a person gives Tzedakah, he suffers no loss of funds as a result, because Hashem replenishes his funds for him, as the verse states, "The one who is gracious to the poor is considered to have lent money to Hashem, and He will pay him back for his kindness" (Mishlei 19:17). Accordingly, one who refrains from giving to the poor has heretical thoughts, for he says to himself that there is no one who will replenish his loss of funds. It is as if he is denying the power of Hashem and is worshipping the power of money.

(b) RAV ELCHANAN WASSERMAN (in KOVETZ SHI'URIM here) writes that one who worships Avodah Zarah does so because he believes that the idol has the ability to benefit him or to cause him to suffer. Similarly, one who refuses to give money to a poor person does so because he believes that money has the power to benefit him and that if he has less money he will suffer. Hence, he shows that he makes his welfare depending on money, and not on Hashem, and he makes money the god in whom he trusts. In truth, though, "Wealth will not help on the day of wrath" (Mishlei 11:4), and it will not save him from hardship or punishment if such is decreed upon him. On the contrary, by "suffering" as a result of giving his money to the poor, he will be saved from suffering in other ways, as we see from the incident of the nephews of Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai. The same applies to doing acts of Tzedakah with resources other than one's money, such as with one's body; by toiling and bothering oneself, or by suffering some disgrace, in order to do an act of Tzedakah or a Mitzvah, one exempts himself from a decree of toil or shame from another source. (I. Alsheich)


QUESTION: Rav Yosef brei d'Rav Yehoshua reported that he heard them saying, in the World of Truth, that "no one can stand in the place [in Olam ha'Ba] of the Harugei Malchus (those killed Al Kidush Hashem)." The Gemara asks to whom does "Harugei Malchus" refer. It cannot refer to Rebbi Akiva and the Chachamim who were murdered by the king, because even if they had not died Al Kidush Hashem, no one could compare to them. RASHI explains that this (dying Al Kidush Hashem) certainly was not the only worthy thing that they did, and that without it they were not otherwise deserving of a unique place in Olam ha'Ba. Rather, Rebbi Akiva and his colleagues were great in Torah and Mitzvos, and for that as well they were deserving of a unique place in Olam ha'Ba.

What, though, is the Gemara's question? Granted, Rebbi Akiva and his colleagues were great in Torah and Mitzvos, but perhaps this would not exclude others from being able to reach their place in Olam ha'Ba. Rather, it was the fact that they died Al Kidush Hashem that gave them the unique place in Olam ha'ba, which no one else can reach!

ANSWER: The YOSEF DA'AS quotes RAV A. NEVENTZAL who says that this Gemara is proof that greatness in Torah and Mitzvos is an achievement even greater than dying Al Kidush Hashem. Indeed, the Gemara in Megilah (16b) teaches that "Talmud Torah is greater than Hatzalas Nefashos (saving lives)," as we learn from Mordechai ha'Tzadik who was held accountable even for interrupting his learning of Torah in order to save the lives of the entire community. Similarly, the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (18a) relates that Rebbi Yosi ben Kisma said to Rebbi Chanina ben Teradyon -- who was teaching Torah even though the Romans had decreed a death sentence against anyone who does so (and, indeed, Rebbi Chanina ben Teradyon was ultimately tortured and killed for teaching Torah) -- that "from your share [in Olam ha'Ba] I should have a part!" implying that Rebbi Chanina ben Teradyon's reward for learning Torah was greater than that for dying Al Kidush Hashem. (I. Alsheich)

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