THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Bava Basra, 58
BAVA BASRA 57 & 58 - dedicated by an admirer of the work of the Dafyomi
Advancement Forum, l'Iluy Nishmas Mrs. Gisela (Golda bas Reb Chaim Yitzchak
Ozer) Turkel, A"H.
1) THE GRAVES OF THE FOREFATHERS
QUESTION: Rebbi Bena'ah used to demarcate the areas of graves so that people
would avoid carrying Taharos over those areas and causing them to become
Tamei (RASHBAM), and to warn Kohanim from walking over those areas (RASHI in
Bava Metzia 85b, RITVA here). The Gemara describes what occurred when Rebbi
Bena'ah entered the burial cave of Avraham Avinu, and that of Adam
2) AGADAH: THE REWARD OF THOSE WHO HELP TZADIKIM
Why did Rebbi Bena'ah enter those caves to mark the areas of the graves?
Adam ha'Rishon and Avraham Avinu both lived before the Torah was given, when
all people had the status of Nochrim whose bodies are not Metamei through
Tum'as Ohel, according to Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai in Yevamos (61a)! Rebbi
Shimon derives from the verses that only the grave of one who is called
"Adam" is Metamei b'Ohel, excluding the graves of Nochrim who are not called
Even according to the Rabanan who argue with Rebbi Shimon and maintain that
the grave of a Nochri *is* Metamei through Tum'as Ohel, the Rabanan say this
only with regard to Nochrim who died *after* the Torah was given (Nazir
54a). Why, then, should the graves of Adam ha'Rishon and Avraham Avinu be
(a) TOSFOS answers that Avraham Avinu indeed was called "Adam," as we find
in the verse, "ha'Adam ha'Gadol" (Yehoshua 14:15). Similarly, Adam
ha'Rishon, obviously, was called "Adam."
This, however, does not answer the question that Tosfos asks according to
the Rabanan, since the Derashah from the verse still does not apply to the
time before the Torah was given, and thus the grave of Avraham Avinu still
should not be Metamei. Even according to Rebbi Shimon, the Derashah of
"Adam" applies only after the Torah was given. Hence, even though Adam
ha'Rishon and Avraham Avinu were called "Adam," nevertheless their graves
should not be Metamei! (TOSFOS, Yevamos 61, DH Kivrei)
(See RABEINU CHAIM HA'LEVI (Al ha'Shas), and SIDREI TAHAROS Ohalos 2b.)
The RAMBAN writes that Rebbi Bena'ah was marking the graves of the
forefathers out of respect and honor for them, since they fulfilled all of
the Torah. The RAN writes that since they fulfilled all of the Torah, they
had the status of Yisrael, and therefore we treat their graves like the
graves of Yisrael. See also RITVA here.
(b) TOSFOS in Nidah (70b) (and in Nazir 54a, according to the Girsa of MARAV
RANZBURG; see also TASHBATZ 3:323) gives a different way of explaining the
Gemara in Nazir, according to which everyone agrees that *before* the Torah
was given, the graves of Nochrim *were* Metamei with Tum'as Ohel, since
there was no differentiation between a Jew and a Nochri before the Torah was
(c) The NIMUKEI YOSEF explains that the purpose for marking their graves was
not to prevent Kohanim and Taharos from becoming Tamei with Tum'as Ohel.
Rather, it was to prevent them from becoming Tamei with Tum'as *Maga* by
walking on and touching the earth beneath which the bodies were buried.
The intention of the Nimukei Yosef, though, is not clear, because, as the
VILNA GA'ON (in Ohalos) explains, *earth* cannot be Metamei with Tum'as Maga
(see AYELES HA'SHACHAR here). It seems that the Nimukei Yosef's intention is
as the Vilna Ga'on explains elsewhere (ADERES ELIYAHU, Parshas Chukas). The
Vilna Ga'on says that even if the grave of a Nochri is not Metamei b'Ohel,
it is Metamei b'Maga not only if touched directly, but even if someone
merely touches the gravestone or any object that is resting directly above
the Mes. The reason for this is as follows.
There is a Halachah in the laws of Tum'as Ohel that if an object comes
within less than a Tefach above the Mes, the Tum'ah of the Mes penetrates
the object and goes out the other side (this is called "Tum'ah Retzutzah").
The Vilna Ga'on rules that touching the object through which the Tum'ah is
penetrating is the same as touching the source of the Tum'ah (the Mes)
itself. Therefore, walking over (and touching) the grave of a Nochri would
be like touching the Mes itself (unless, of course, there is a Tefach of
space between the top of the Mes and the roof of the coffin or object above
the Mes). (According to the Nimukei Yosef's answer, then, it must be that
the graves in Me'aras ha'Machpelah were constructed as structures which
would constitute a "Kever Sasum.")
(d) The TESHUVOS BATEI KEHUNAH suggests that even though their graves were
not actually Metamei, nevertheless the people were especially Machmir with
regard to Taharos, as we find that the Rabanan instituted a number of
enactments to safeguard the Taharah of Taharos (see Chagigah 19b). (However,
in the end he rejects this explanation.)
(e) REBBI YAKOV EMDEN and the RASHASH in Bava Metzia (85b) give an entirely
different explanation for why Rebbi Bena'ah was marking the graves of Adam
ha'Rishon and Avraham Avinu. He was marking their graves not because of any
problem of Tum'as Mes, but rather so that people would know where the
Tzadikim were buried so that they could go to their graves and Daven to
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rebbi Bena'ah used to demarcate the areas
of graves (see previous Insight). The Gemara describes what Rebbi Bena'ah
saw when he entered the burial cave of Avraham Avinu, and that of Adam
ha'Rishon. He found Eliezer, the servant of Avraham Avinu, standing at the
entrance, and when he entered, he saw Sarah "checking Avraham's head."
3) AGADAH: LIKE A MONKEY BEFORE MAN
What does this mean?
ANSWER: The MESHECH CHOCHMAH (Bereishis 21:12; see also REBBI YAKOV EMDEN
(Chidushei ha'Ya'avetz ha'Aruch)) writes that the Avos developed their
unique spiritual personalities and characters over many years. Since Avraham
Avinu was born into a family of idolaters, it took a number of years until
he began to serve Hashem, and thus there was a certain degree of
imperfection in his character. The role of Sarah, and of the other Imahos,
was to refine the Midos that the Avos developed and imbue them in the next
generation, passing them to the children that the Avos would bear, while
leaving behind the imperfections. That is why Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak,
while Hagar gave birth to Yishmael; Sarah took the perfected Midos, while
Hagar took the imperfections.
This is why we find that Hashem told Avraham Avinu to follow the words of
Sarah (Bereishis 21:12). The Midrash says that she had a higher level of
Ru'ach ha'Kodesh with regard to raising children.
When the Gemara says that Rebbi Bena'ah saw "Sarah checking the head" of
Avraham Avinu, it means that she was removing from his head, so to speak,
the elements the various philosophies that Avraham Avinu had learned
throughout his life; she was picking out the purest and separating them from
the others. This alludes to what she did while she was alive, by cultivating
Avraham's Midos while removing the imperfections. Rebbi Yakov Emden adds
that "his head" refers to the youth of Avraham Avinu ("his head" in the
sense of "Rosh," beginning), when he still had not yet perfected his world
philosophy, and Sarah was taking out those philosophies of his youth.
Based on this explanation, we can understand the Gemara to be teaching us
that even the greatest Tzadik only grows with the help of others,
specifically with the help of his wife. Avraham could not have developed his
teachings and passed them on to ensuing generations if not for his wife,
Sarah. The same applies to Eliezer. Rebbi Bena'ah saw Eliezer guarding the
burial cave of Avraham Avinu, alluding to his life accomplishment of
protecting Avraham Avinu (see Bereishis 14:14 and Nedarim 32a) and to be his
link to the outside world ("Doleh u'Mashkeh m'Toraso Shel Rabo l'Acherim;"
Yoma 28b). As a result of Eliezer's help, the teachings of Avraham Avinu
were spread throughout the world.
The Gemara is saying that it is not everyone's role in life to be like
Avraham Avinu. There are some people whose names will not be remembered in
the way that others' names are remembered, but, nevertheless, their
accomplishments in this world are not less important. If their actions help
another person develop himself, then they attain to a certain extent the
same level of that person in Olam ha'Ba, just as Sarah and Eliezer share the
Me'arah of Avraham Avinu.
QUESTION: The Gemara says that a person compared to Sarah is like a monkey
compared to a man. The Gemara makes the same comparison between Sarah and
Chavah, and between Chavah and Adam ha'Rishon. The Gemara concludes that
Adam ha'Rishon before the Shechinah is like a Monkey before a person.
How can the Gemara be attributing any sort of corporeal appearance to the
(a) A monkey does not initiate thoughtful actions on its own. Instead, when
it sees a person acting in a certain way, it is able to imitate the person.
The Gemara, through the analogy of a monkey, is teaching that any Midos
Tovos that we have are only because of what the earlier generations
instilled in us. Any Tzadik, when compared to Sarah, is like a monkey
compared to a person, in the sense that his actions are more of a reflection
of what was instilled in him (by Sarah) then having been initiated on his
own. Sarah had to work hard to instill these Midos into her offspring.
Adam ha'Rishon, too, learned his Midos from the Ribono Shel Olam (see Sotah
14a). Adam ha'Rishon learned how to conduct himself by seeing the ways of
(b) A monkey does not know why its trainer does certain things. Its trainer
might appear to be causing it distress, such as by withholding food or by
frightening it, but in truth its trainer has a goal and a purpose for
training the monkey and helping it to develop. The monkey, though, has no
idea why the master is doing what it is doing. (See "Second Focus" by Rabbi
Natan Slifkin, page 202, "Sacred Monkeys.")
Sarah was able to perceive much more of Hashem's master plan than other
people are able to perceive. Adam ha'Rishon, who recognized much more of
Hashem's master plan than any other person, was still like a monkey when
compared to the Shechinah, in that no one can fully comprehend the
intentions of Hashem.
(c) The letter "Kuf" (from which the word "Kof," monkey, is derived)
represents a distortion of the will of Hashem, which comes as a result of
arrogance. The Gemara in Shabbos (104a) explains that the letters "Heh" and
"Vav" represent the Name of Hashem (see also Menachos 29a, where the Gemara
says that Hashem created this world with the letter "Heh," meaning that the
"Heh" represents what is revealed by Hashem to the people in this world).
The letter "Kuf" is a "Heh" with an elongated leg. This represents the
arrogant person, about which the Gemara (Sanhedrin 29a) says "Kol ha'Mosif
Gore'a" -- when a person is arrogant and adds to his self-image, he is
actually detracting from his own worth. Instead of being a better "Heh," the
"Kuf" is distorted; it is a distorted and laughable imitation of the "Heh,"
just like a monkey is a distorted and laughable imitation of a human being.
Adam ha'Rishon was created with Tzelem Elokim, which means that he was given
the ability to internalize all of the Midos that Hashem wants a person to
have. However, his arrogance (of desiring to be of an equal stature with
Hashem) caused a distortion of his Tzelem Elokim, as the Gemara (Chagigah
12a) says -- after Adam ha'Rishon sinned, Hashem decreased his size. This
decrease of his size was a manifestation of "Kol ha'Mosif Gore'a;" as a
result of adding to his self-image, he was actually decreased in stature.
Our Gemara is saying that any person compared with Sarah is like a monkey
compared with a person, because a person's arrogance distorts his true
worth, like a monkey is a distorted imitation of a human being. Even Adam
ha'Rishon -- who was the quintessential Tzelem Elokim -- compared with the
Shechinah which he was supposed to imitate, was like a monkey compared to a
person because he distorted his Tzelem Elokim through arrogance.