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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.


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 ha'Rishon.

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 "Adam."

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 Metamei? (TOSFOS)


(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 given.

(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 Hashem there.

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."

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 Shechinah?


(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 the Shechinah.

(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.


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