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Chagigah, 14

CHAGIGAH 14 & 15 - anonymously dedicated by an Ohev Torah and Marbitz Torah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.


QUESTION: Rav Katina taught that even during the time of the collapse of Jerusalem, when the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed, "men of trustworthiness did not cease [to exist]." The Gemara challenges this from a teaching of Rava, who taught that the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed because there ceased to exist men of trustworthiness. The Gemara concludes that when it came to business, there were no trustworthy people; in Torah, though, there were still trustworthy people, whom one could trust when they said that they do not know Torah.

What is so noteworthy about the fact that people were proud to be honest and say that they did not know Torah?

ANSWER: I heard from Hagaon RAV SHLOMO FISHER Shlit'a (author of Sefer Beis Yishai) that the Akeidah and Abarbanel explain that Hashem gave the Jewish people a special blessing that "men of trustworthiness in Torah would not cease to exist." The essence of this blessing is as follows. We find in the Torah (Devarim 31:21) that Hashem has promised that the Torah will never be forgotten. In order for the Torah not to be forgotten, Hashem ensured that when the elders do not know the Torah, they will admit it; this prevents the forging and misconstruing of the Torah.

Rav Fisher adds that this could explain the choice of Psalm-of-the-Day recited on Shemini Atzeres, Tehilim, chapter 12. When we read this psalm, it does not seem to be related in any way to Torah (Simchas Torah) or to Shemini Atzeres. "Save us Hashem, because... no one can be trusted anymore, everyone speaks falsely... the words of Hashem are pure words, like finely refined silver. You, Hashem, will protect them and save them forever...."

Rav Samson Refael Hirsch explains that there is a fine correlation between Pesach and Shavuos, and between Sukos and Shemini Atzeres. The first pair, Pesach and Shavuos, represents the "birth" of the nation and of the Torah. The second pair, Sukos and Shemini Atzeres, represents the continuity of the nation and the Torah.

Accordingly, Tehilim 12 is most appropriate for Shemini Atzeres, because the subject of Tehilim 12 is the special blessing that men of trustworthiness in Torah will never cease which, as we explained, is a safeguard to maintaining the continuity of the Torah. Since Shemini Atzeres is the time that represents the continuation of the nation and the protection of the Torah, it is most appropriate to discuss on this day the blessing that Hashem gave us, that the Torah will be preserved through all of the generations: "No one can be trusted anymore, everyone speaks falsely... [but] the words of Hashem (i.e. the Torah) are pure... You, Hashem, will protect them, You will preserve them from this generation forever."


AGADAH: Rebbi Akiva warned those who were entering the Pardes that when they see the "clear marble stones" they should not say, "Water! Water!" because "the speaker of falsehood shall not stand before My eyes" (Tehilim 101:7). Granted, calling a marble stone "water" is a falsehood, but why is that so terrible? Why did Rebbi Akiva warn them about this point in particular?

The Izhbitzer Rebbe, in MEI HA'SHILO'ACH (Chelek 1, Emor) and BEIS YAKOV (Ki Sisa 17) explains that Rebbi Akiva warned them not to say "Mayim" twice in order to avoid making a tragic error. Rebbi Akiva realized that those visiting the Pardes might misconstrue what they saw and think that there was a division in authority over the upper and lower realms, represented by the Mayim Elyonim and Mayim Tachtonim (upper waters and lower waters). Saying "Mayim" twice would imply that the upper and lower waters are separate and distinct from each other, implying that Hashem is not directly involved with everything that happens in the realm of the Mayim Tachtonim. The truth, though, is that all realms -- upper and lower -- are connected and are under the authority of Hashem.

When the Gemara says that Acher's failing was that "he cut off the Neti'os (plantlings)," it means that he denied Hashem's power and control over the Tachtonim. (The Ge'onim, cited in OTZAR HA'GE'ONIM, write that his sin was the attribution of authority to two deities, one of good and one of bad.) Ben Zoma -- although he was did not "cut off the Neti'os" like Acher did -- nevertheless remained confused about the matter and was uncertain of the extent of Hashem's dominion. That is why Rebbi Yehoshua, upon hearing Ben Zoma comment that there is a three-Etzba separation between the upper waters and lower waters, said that Ben Zoma is "still on the outside," meaning that he had still not come to the realization that there is no more than a "hairsbreadth" ("k'Malei Nima") of space between the upper and lower waters.

To expound on this, we might suggest that the "hairsbreadth" alludes to the Yetzer ha'Ra which is like a hair to the wicked (Sukah 52a). It is that hairsbreadth, the Yetzer ha'Ra, which is the only force which prevents the people from fully recognizing the connection and inseparability between the upper realm and the lower realm.

This might also conform with RASHI's explanation, who says that Rebbi Akiva was warning them that when they see a floor of clear marble, they should not say, "It is water! How can I walk there?" This means that they should not perceive that there is a moat around Hashem's palace, so to speak, as if He is cut off from the rest of the world.

RABEINU CHANANEL explains that "clear marble stones" comprised the wall of the palace of the Shechinah. A person should not think that the material surrounding the palace is made of water, in order to separate between the outside and inside of the palace. Rather, one should know that it is clear marble, and it is only there for the sake of the honor of Hashem. The fact that the stone is clear and transparent teaches that Hashem is connected to everything in this world even when He is in His palace, so to speak, and He sees everything through the transparent walls of His palace.

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