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Chagigah, 12

CHAGIGAH 12 - has been generously dedicated by Lee and Marsha Weinblatt of Teaneck, N.J.


AGADAH: The Gemara records an argument between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel with regard to what was created first, the heavens (Shamayim) or the earth (Aretz). Beis Shamai says that the Shamayim was created first. Beis Hillel says that the Aretz was created first.

This Machlokes reflects a fundamental difference in ideology between the two schools. Beis Shamai always looks at the *potential* inherent in the subject ("Ko'ach"), while Beis Hillel looks at what part of that potential is realized through actions in the physical world ("Po'el").

Beis Shamai considers the primary component of creation to be the potential that it contains, because the ability to do any act in this world comes from that potential, its Ruchniyus, or spiritual, energy. The source of all Ruchniyus is the Shamayim (from which the Neshamah originates), and therefore the Shamayim is the main part of creation and had to be created first.

Beis Hillel, though, maintains that the "Po'el," the actual execution of actions in the physical world, is the primary component of creation. This is because the world was created for the sake of enabling people to *accomplish* and perfect themselves in the physical world of Olam ha'Zeh. Therefore, Beis Hillel maintains that the Aretz was created first.

This difference in ideology is found in other disputes between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel. In Shabbos (21b), Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel argue about how the Chanukah lights are to be kindled. Beis Shamai says that they are kindled in descending order, with eight lit on the first night, and one lit on the eighth night. Beis Hillel says that they are lit in ascending order, with one lit on the first night, and eight lit on the eighth night.

This dispute is based on this ideological difference. Beis Shamai maintains that the Ko'ach, or potential, is most important. Hence, on the first night of Chanukah, the oil that burned in the Menorah in the Beis ha'Mikdash not only contained the miracle for that night, but it also contained the *potential* to remain lit for the remaining seven nights. Since the oil contained the potential for eight days of miracles, we light that number of candles on the first night. Beis Hillel, on the other hand, maintains that the Po'el, the realization of the potential, is most important. Hence, on the first night of Chanukah, we only saw one actual miracle occur. By the eighth night, though, we had seen eight miracles occur.

Similarly, in Kesuvos (17a), Beis Shamai says that we praise the Kalah with whatever praiseworthy attributes that she has ("Kalah Kemos she'Hi"). This is because we praise her for her potential ability to attract a Chasan, which is measured based on the attributes inherent in her that are visible to the average person. Beis Hillel, though, says that we praise her with generous words of praise ("Kalah Na'ah v'Chasudah"), even though the average person does not see these attributes in her. This is because we look at what actually occurred: her Chasan was attracted to her, and *he* must have seen in her great cause for praise.

Also, we find that Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel argue concerning the text of the blessing over the flame on Motza'ei Shabbos. Beis Shamai says that the text is "she'Bara *Ma'or* ha'Esh," and Beis Hillel says that the text is "Borei *Me'orei* ha'Esh." Beis Shamai says that the blessing should be made on the original concept of fire that contained the potential for all future fires, and thus the blessing should be in the singular, "Me'or," since it is a single concept. Beis Hillel says that the blessing should be made on the physical fire that appears before us, which comes in many colors and may be referred to in the plural (see Berachos 52b).

(M. Kornfeld -- This approach is related to the approach presented in Insights to Berachos 52:2, in the name of the ROGATCHOVER GA'ON, in which the arguments between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai reflect an ideological debate whether to place more emphasis on the Chomer [substance] or the Tzurah [essence] of an object. The Ga'on elaborates on this in TESHUVOS TZAFNAS PANE'ACH #50 and many other places -- see the Hesped of the compiler of the Teshuvos after Teshuvah #255, Rav Zevin's L'OR HA'HALACHAH, chapter on "Snow" footnote #11, Rav Kasher's introduction to TAFNAS PANE'ACH on the Torah, Bereishis, etc.)


AGADAH: The Gemara says that the Torah describes the specific details of the creation of the land (Aretz) first (Bereishis 1:2), even though the heaven (Shamayim) was created first (Bereishis 1:1). The reason, as explained by the Gemara through a metaphor, is that the Aretz is more praiseworthy since it is not the normal manner for the Aretz to act with alacrity, and yet it nevertheless responded swiftly at the time of creation. RASHI explains what this means: "All earthly acts are sluggish, while heavenly acts take place swiftly."

The MAHARAL (GUR ARYEH to Shemos 12:17, GEVUROS HASHEM, ch. 36) develops this concept to explain the meaning of a well-known Mechilta (quoted by Rashi in Shemos 12:17). The verse says, "Guard the Matzos from becoming Chametz, for on this very day I took your multitudes out of Mitzrayim." Rashi quotes the Mechilta that says, in the name of Rebbi Yoshiyah, "Do not read the word as `Matzos,' but rather as `Mitzvos' -- `Keep the Mitzvos from becoming Chametz' -- for just as one should not allow Matzos to ferment, so should one not allow Mitzvos to 'ferment.' Rather, if a Mitzvah comes into your hand, do it immediately." The verse is teaching that all Mitzvos must be done with Zerizus, alacrity.

The Maharal raises two questions concerning this statement. First, how can Rebbi Yoshiyah change the reading of the word in the verse in order to superimpose his homiletical interpretation? Normally, there must be some indication from the theme or context of a verse that supports such interpretations. The suggested "changes" in reading is just a tool to graphically demonstrate a point that can be learned from the normal reading of the verse itself. What, then, is the connection between the simple meaning of our verse and Rebbi Yoshiyah's homily?

Second, in what way does a Mitzvah become "fermented," or spoiled, if it is not done immediately?

The Maharal addresses these two issues by assessing more carefully the nature of the Mitzvah of Matzah. The Torah says, "Do not eat Chametz...; for seven days you shall eat Matzos... because you left Mitzrayim in haste" (Devarim 16:3). The Torah clearly tells us that the Mitzvah of eating Matzah on Pesach is to remind us of the haste with which the Jews left Mitzrayim; they were so hurried that "they baked the dough which they had taken out of Mitzrayim into cakes of Matzah, because they were expelled from Mitzrayim and were not able to delay" (Shemos 12:39; see also Seforno to Shemos 12:17, and the Pesach Hagadah).

Why, though, must we remember that Yetzi'as Mitzrayim happened so swiftly and suddenly?

The Maharal explains that the lesson of the haste is that Hashem Himself (as opposed to any natural force) took us out of Mitzrayim. Any act done directly by Hashem takes place instantaneously. The reason for this is that there is no element of mass or matter related to Hashem. A physical object has inertia that it must overcome in order to go into motion. But Hashem, Whose actions are purely spiritual and are unimpeded by any physical qualities, can -- and does -- act with infinite speed. Furthermore, Hashem exists outside of the framework of space and time, and, therefore, even when His actions are taking place in this physical world, they can take place without the passage of time.

This, says the Maharal, is the key to understanding the Mitzvah of Matzah. The Matzah that we eat reminds us how rushed the events were at the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim. This haste is the mark of a Divine act. It is the sign that the hand of Hashem was at work, shaping our destiny. "`Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim' -- It was not an angel nor a Seraph nor a messenger, but Hashem Himself Who took us out of Mitzrayim" -- (Pesach Hagadah). Therefore, it is necessary for us to remember the *swiftness* of the Exodus. It is the Torah's way of insuring that the future generations will always realize the extent of Hashem's love for the Jewish people.

This is the meaning of Rebbi Yoshiyah's interpretation of the verse. The reason it is so important to do a Mitzvah swiftly, explains the Maharal, is related to the swiftness of an act of Hashem. A Mitzvah is the Divine will in this world. When we perform a Mitzvah, we want to demonstrate that it is not simply a mundane act. We would like to show that we are executing the will of our Creator. Performing a Mitzvah with "Zerizus" accomplishes that. By performing a Mitzvah swiftly, we are giving it the mark of our Creator and showing that what we are doing is His will.

This is also the meaning of the "fermenting" of a Mitzvah that is not done with the desired swiftness. Doing a Mitzvah slowly makes it appear to be a worldly act ("all earthly acts are sluggish"). In this sense, it is "fermented" or "spoiled." Therefore, in order to prevent a Mitzvah from becoming a fermented, mundane act, we must perform it with the attribute of Zerizus, which is the attribute of Shamayim, of Ruchniyus, and thus we show that it is the will of Hashem.

AGADAH: The Gemara quotes Rebbi Yosi who says, "Woe to those who see but do not know what they see, and who stand and do not know upon what they stand." He proceeds to describe what supports the world. The world is supported by pillars, which are supported by water. The water is supported by mountains, which are supported by the wind (Ru'ach). The wind is supported by the tempest (Se'arah), which is supported by the mighty arm of the Holy One, Blessed is He.

Why does Rebbi Yosi bemoan the fact that people do not know what they stand on? Why do they have to know what is supporting them?

ANSWER: The MAHARSHA explains that Rebbi Yosi is saying that people do not realize that the world depends on the choices they make, and that their proper use of free choice has a great effect on the state of the world.

1. "The world is supported by the pillars" refers to the pillars of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chasadim, or the pillars of Din, Emes and Shalom, which sustain the world (Avos 1:2, 18).

2. The pillars in turn stand on water, which alludes to the Torah (Bava Kama 17a). It is the Torah which directs a person how to strengthen the pillars upon which the world stands.

3. "The water is supported by mountains" -- the mountains refer to the Avos and the Tzadikim (see Megilah 17b). This means that the Torah is supported by the Avos and other Tzadikim, for it is they who choose to use the Torah to create the three pillars of the world.

4. The mountains, in turn, are supported by the wind (Ru'ach), the Neshamah (see Bereishis 7:22), which the Tzadikim use to exercise their Bechirah, their free choice.

5. The wind is supported by the tempest (Se'arah). "Se'arah" is related to the word "Sa'ara" or "Se'ir" which refers to the Yetzer ha'Ra (which appears as a hair, Sukah 52a, and is related to Esav, or Se'ir) . The first step in activating one's Bechirah is to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra. (It is the existence of the Yetzer ha'Ra which allows the possibility of Bechirah.)

6. In turn, the Se'arah stand on the mighty arm of Hashem, which means that one who desires to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra cannot do it on his own, but he needs Hashem's assistance (as the Gemara says in Kidushin 30b).

When the Tana'im quoted in our Gemara argue how many pillars there are -- twelve, seven, or one, their Machlokes is based on the Gemara at the end of Makos. The Gemara there discusses how many primary sets of Mitzvos there are. "King David narrowed down the 613 Mitzvos to 11... Yeshayah narrowed them down further to six... until Chabakuk came and narrowed them down to one -- Emunah, faith in Hashem." The opinion in our Gemara which says that there are twelve pillars is referring to the eleven primary Mitzvos plus the Mitzvah of Emunah. The opinion which says that there are seven pillars means the six primary Mitzvos -- as Yeshayah counts them -- plus the Mitzvah of Emunah. The opinion here which says that the world stands on one pillar is in accordance with the view of Chabakuk, that there is only one primary Mitzvah and that is the Mitzvah of Emunah.

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