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Chagigah, 27

CHAGIGAH 27 (Grand Siyum of Moed!) - dedicated by Rabbi Ari and Esther Maryles of Chicago in memory of his grandfather, Rav Shimon Maryles zt'l. He survived the destruction of European Jewry, living through immense suffering with endless trust in Hashem, and he rebuilt a family committed to Torah and Mitzvos.


QUESTION: The Gemara says that the salamander is a product of fire, and its oil serves to protect one's flesh from being burned by fire. RASHI here (DH Salamandra) and in Sanhedrin (63b, DH Salamandra) explains that the salamander is a creature which is created from a fire which has burned continuously in one place for seven years.

However, Rashi in Chulin (127a, DH ve'Salamandra) tells us that this creature is created from a fire made from myrtle branches through the use of sorcery. How do we reconcile these words of Rashi with Rashi's explanation in our Sugya which implies that no sorcery is needed for the creation of the salamander? (GILYON HA'SHAS)


(a) The CHASAM SOFER answers that sorcerers cannot create a new creature. Moreover, the Gemara in Chulin cites a verse (Vayikra 11:29) which it teaches to be referring to the salamander. How could the verse refer to a creature which is only created by sorcerers?

Rather, it must be that the salamander is a creature which loves the heat and finds comfort in the fiery depths of the earth. Sorcerers are able to bring this creature out from its hidden location with the use of sorcery. However, in order to bring out the salamander, the sorcerers must first create an appropriate habitat for it. This is accomplished by burning a fire in the same place for a length of time, as Rashi mentions in Chagigah and Sanhedrin.

(b) The ROGATCHOVER GAON (Teshuvos Tzafnas Pane'ach #234) suggests that anything which is brought about in an extraordinary, unexpected manner is referred to as "sorcery" (Keshafim). The salamander is a natural creature (as the Chasam Sofer proved), but since it comes about in such an unusual manner it can be said that it is created through the use of "sorcery."

QUESTION: The Gemara states that "the transgressors of Yisrael (Posh'ei Yisrael) are full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate." Generally, "transgressions" (Pesha'im) are considered to be the most offensive kind of sin. How, then, can "transgressors" be deemed so worthy by the Gemara?

ANSWER: REBBI SHIMON MARYLES zt'l, the Yoruslaver Rebbe (b. 1761), in TORAS SHIMON (recently translated to English by his descendant, Rabbi Ari Maryles) answered this question by quoting the following Midrash. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabah 84:19) says that after Reuven repented for his sin, Hashem promised him, "No one has ever sinned before me and done Teshuvah. My son, in reward for your having introduced Teshuvah to the world, I promise that your descendant will introduce Teshuvah as well." The Midrash goes on to identify that descendant as the prophet Hoshea, who issued a prophecy starting with the words, "Return o' Israel to Hashem your G-d" (Hoshea 14:2).

The Midrash, in asserting that Reuven was the first one to do Teshuvah, is difficult to understand, for we are taught that Adam and his son Kayin also engaged in Teshuvah! Rather, it must be that the intention of the Midrash is as follows. Reuven was the first to introduce Teshuvah as a necessary prelude to the performance of a Mitzvah (in his case, returning to rescue Yosef from the pit). The importance of doing Teshuvah prior to performing a Mitzvah is derived from the Tikunei Zohar (Tikun 6), where it states that any Mitzvah performed without an adequate blend of "fear and love" of Hashem does not succeed in rising heavenward, for these two qualities serve as the "wings" of the Mitzvah. This is hinted to in the verse, "They shall raise you up in their palms, lest you knock your foot against a stone" (Tehilim 91:12) -- the "palms" allude to the qualities of fear and love of Hashem aroused through Teshuvah which protect one's performance of a Mitzvah from the dangers of the Yetzer ha'Ra, often symbolized by a stone.

Thus, when a person performs a Mitzvah, it is necessary that there be other elements -- besides the actual execution of the action of the Mitzvah -- in order for the Mitzvah to be credited to that person in Shamayim. Those elements include fear of Hashem, love of Hashem, and doing complete Teshuvah before performing the Mitzvah, so that the Mitzvah is performed with the utmost sincerity. When a Mitzvah is performed in that manner, it acquires wings, so to speak, to fly up to Shamayim.

When a transgressor, or Posh'ei Yisrael, does a Mitzvah, he invests none of these elements into the few Mitzvos that he manages to carry out in this world. As a result, his Mitzvos have no means with which to fly heavenward, and instead they settle and accumulate around him, convincing him that he is "full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate." In contrast, the Tzadik - whose Mitzvos, borne by the thrust of his fear of Hashem, love of Hashem, and his Teshuvah, soar immediately heavenward -- always appears to himself as bereft of good deeds!

This is also the meaning of the verse (Devarim 30:2), "And you shall return to Hashem your G-d" -- first do Teshuvah, "and [then] heed His voice" -- proceed with the performance of His Mitzvos, "according to all which I command you this day" -- so that the Mitzvos can rise heavenward.

This is also the intention behind the phrase in our prayers, "May He place in our hearts love of Him and fear of Him, and [then based upon those two qualities, give us the ability] to do His will and serve Him with a perfect heart" - for it is the love and fear of Hashem, aroused through Teshuvah, which elevates one's actions.

With this idea we can also explain the Mishnah in Avos (4:21-22), "Rebbi Yakov says: This world is like an anteroom before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the anteroom, so that you might enter the banquet hall." The Mishnah continues, "He would also say: Better one hour of Teshuvah and good deeds in this world than the entire life of the World to Come, and better one hour of contentment in the World to Come than all the life of this world." What is the connection between those two statements of Rebbi Yakov? The relationship between Rebbi Yakov's two statements can be explained as follows: How should one prepare himself in the anteroom of this world for the reward of the World to Come? -By preceding the Mitzvos he does in this world with Teshuvah, so that those deeds will rise heavenward on the strength of the fear and love that is aroused through Teshuvah.

In this sense, Rebbi Yakov was actually offering a defense for his grandfather (Kidushin 39b), Elisha ben Avuyah, the Tana who became a heretic and thereafter was referred to as "Acher". The Gemara (Chagigah 15a) attributes Acher's persistence in maintaining his rebellious lifestyle to a voice he once heard echoing from behind the curtain of heaven, which said, "Return, all you wayward children - except for Acher!" We might ask that granted, the heavenly voice rejected the possibility of Acher repenting for the sins which he had already committed, but what prevented him, in the event he did feel remorse, from accumulating a new store of Mitzvos that would count in his favor for the future? In answer to this question, Rebbi Yakov offers his insight: "Better one hour of Teshuvah and good deeds in this world than the entire life of the World to Come" -- for without the spiritual advantage of Teshuvah, all the Mitzvos one does in this world have little effect. This might have been Acher's reasoning that caused him to despair of ever correcting his ways.

QUESTION: The Gemara says that the sinners of Yisrael, Posh'ei Yisrael, will not be burned by the fire of Gehenom, just like the gold upon the Mizbe'ach was not burned by the fire that burned there each day.

This statement is difficult to understand, because the Gemara earlier says that Talmidei Chachamim are not burned by the fire of Gehenom, as is derived from a Kal v'Chomer from the salamander. Just like the salamander comes from fire and its oil is fire-proof and protects a person's skin from fire, certainly Talmidei Chachamim -- whose entire bodies are fire -- will be protected from the fire of Gehenom. How can the Gemara place Talmidei Chachamim and Posh'ei Yisrael together in the same group, and say that neither will be affected by the fire of Gehenom?

ANSWER: TOSFOS YESHANIM (Eruvin 19a) answers that although the Posh'ei Yisrael will not be burned by the fire of Gehenom, nevertheless their faces will become blackened from it. Talmidei Chachamim, on the other hand, will not be harmed at all by the fire.

The source for this seems to be the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (17a) which says that there is a type of sinner who will be punished by being dipped into Gehenom and immediately taken out. The Gemara there concludes that even though those sinners are not burned, their faces become blackened like the bottom of a pot from the fire of Gehenom. Similarly, the Gemara in Eruvin (19a) says that the reason Posh'ei Yisrael are not burned in Gehenom is because when they are judged to be sent to Gehenom, Avraham Avinu comes and lifts them up from there. After being there for a short period their faces are also blackened, just like the sinners mentioned in Rosh Hashanah. The Talmidei Chachamim, though, are not sent to Gehenom in the first place.

The underlying reason behind this could be as follows. The Gemara (Berachos 17a) says that inherently, it is our desire to do Hashem's will, but there are external factors which prevent us from doing His will -- the Yetzer ha'Ra and subjugation at the hands of the nations. This inner desire to do Hashem's will is expressed in the well-known ruling of the RAMBAM (Hilchos Gerushin 2:20-22), who says that if a sinner refuses to give a Get to his when he is required to, the Beis Din may strike him until he says, "Rotzeh Ani" ("I want to!"). The Rambam explains, based on the Gemara in Kidushin (50a), that in one's heart, even the Rasha wants to do the will of Hashem, and it is just external temptations and impediments that prevent him from doing so. Therefore, when he says "Rotzeh Ani," we consider his words to be coming from his inner desire, and that is why we may rely upon them and consider his giving of the Get to be done willfully and not under coercion.

That is what the Gemara means when it says that "the Posh'ei Yisrael are *filled with Mitzvos* like a pomegranate." Underneath their external shell, they are filled with Mitzvos, but they have physical lusts that prevent them from doing the will of Hashem.

The reason Jews have this inner desire to do Hashem's will is because they inherited their traits from their forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov. The Gemara (Yevamos 79a) says that the Jewish people are ingrained with certain good character traits, which they received from their forefathers, the Avos. This is what the Gemara in Eruvin means when it says that Avraham Avinu rescues the sinners from Gehenom. The Midos that they inherited from Avraham Avinu save them from Gehenom, for their inner desire was to do Hashem's will. (However, the Gemara there adds that their rescue depends on their still identifying themselves with the Jewish people, even though they sinned. If they do not identify with the Jewish people, such as one who marries a Nochri, they lose the Midos that they inherited and are not saved by Avraham Avinu.)

What does the Gemara mean by saying that the faces of the sinners become black? Perhaps we can say that the face represents the body, the external appearance of the person (in contrast to the soul; see Megilah 14a, "Hem Lo Asu Ela *l'Fanim*). The body is the source of the external lusts that prevent one's inner will to serve Hashem from being carried out. As such, the body must be punished. The Gemara (Shabbos 152a) says that the destruction of the body is part of the Din of a person. (That is why the Din lasts for twelve months, for it takes twelve months for the body to decompose, Shabbos ibid.) Decomposition of the body is a reflection of the judgment of Gehenom. The Neshamah of the sinners, however, is pulled out of Gehenom -- the Neshamah does not have to be destroyed (the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah says that they are other types of sinners who do have to have their Neshamos destroyed). This type of sinner only has his body destroyed, because his body was the source of his sins.

On the other hand, the Gemara (Bava Metzia 82b) teaches that the bodies of Tzadikim are not affected by decomposition in the grave, and their bodies remain complete and after interred. Since the Tzadik's bodily passions did not mislead him and cause him to sin, there is no reason to punish his body.

This is why our Gemara says that "the *bodies* of Talmidei Chachamim are fire," and therefore even their bodies are not destroyed in Gehenom. In contrast, the bodies of Posh'ei Yisrael do have to be destroyed, as the Tosfos Yeshanim writes, and only their Neshamos -- which are compared to the gold upon the Mizbe'ach, due to the Kedushah of the Neshamah -- are not destroyed, because their inner desire was to do the will of Hashem. (M. Kornfeld)

On to Yevamos


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