THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) WHY NAKDIMON'S ACTS OF TZEDAKAH DID NOT PROTECT HIS FAMILY AGADAH:
Gemara explains that Nakdimon's daughter suffered a terrible loss of fortune
even though her father gave tremendous amounts of Tzedakah. The Gemara asks
how such a fate could befall the offspring of such a righteous man, who used
to spread out carpets of expensive wool upon which he walked and then
distributed to poor people. The Gemara answers that "he did it for his
honor." (Perhaps he had the poor people roll out the carpets for him in
return for taking the carpets when he was finished.) Because of this, the
merit of his acts of Tzedakah was not able to help his descendants in the
difficult times that ensued.
Why did Nakdimon's merit fail to protect his offspring? The Gemara in
Pesachim (8a; see Insights there) says that a person who gives a Sela to
Tzedakah and says, "I am giving this Sela to Tzedakah in order that my [ill]
son should recuperate and live," is considered a "Tzadik Gamur." Even though
the giver has personal motives, his act of Tzedakah is considered to have
been fulfilled in a full and complete manner! How, then, could Nakdimon's
acts of Tzedakah not have been considered complete acts of Tzedakah to
protect his children? (MAHARSHA)
(a) The MAHARSHA answers that although an act of Tzedakah that is
done for personal motives is considered a full Mitzvah, if it is done for
the sake of *personal honor* the act is indeed flawed. Personal honor
detracts from the Mitzvah of Tzekadah and makes the Mitzvah incomplete.
Why, though, should this be so?
1. The CHAFETZ CHAIM (cited in Chafetz Chaim Al ha'Torah) writes that honor
is not a physical experience, but a spiritual experience. Even though no
physical pleasure can replace the spiritual pleasure that Hashem gives to a
person as reward in Olam ha'Ba for his performance of Mitzvos, nevertheless
experiencing the spiritual pleasure of honor in this world can reduce the
reward that a person would otherwise receive for his performance of Mitzvos.
Accordingly, the words of the Maharsha are easily understood. The honor that
Nakdimon received from his performance of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah replaced
the reward that he and his descendants would have otherwise received, which
includes the Peros (fruits) of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah that they would have
received in this world.
(b) The CHAFETZ CHAIM, cited by the KOVETZ SHI'URIM, explains that Nakdimon
lived at the time of the Churban of the Beis ha'Mikdash, like the Gemara
says in Gitin (56a). That was a time of divine wrath (what the Gemara calls
"Idan Rischa"). The Gemara in Menachos (41a) says that although, normally, a
person is not held accountable for not doing more Mitzvos than he does (as
long as he does not transgress any Aveiros), during a time of Divine anger
Hashem does punish a person for not trying to do more Mitzvos. Similarly, at
the time of the Churban, which was certainly a time of Divine anger,
Nakdimon was punished for not giving Tzedakah in an even better manner,
although he fulfilled the Mitzvah of Tzedakah in an acceptable manner. That
is why his descendants were not protected.
2. The HAFLA'AH and BEN YEHOYADA explain that the honor Nakdimon received
from his acts of Tzedakah was not a byproduct of the Mitzvah, but it was as
if the money that he gave for Tzedakah was being used to *purchase* him that
honor by his giving it in such a public manner. As such, it was as if he was
conducting a business deal -- he was paying money to the poor in order to
purchase honor. He was effectively buying honor.
It is true that when a person gives away his money with intention that
Hashem do for him a particular favor in return, his act of Tzedakah is still
considered a full Mitzvah. However, since Nakdimon's money was given away to
purchase honor directly (and not in order to merit compensation through
Divine intervention, like the person who gave Tzedakah in order to merit the
recuperation of his child), his Mitzvah of Tzedakah was lacking. This cannot
even be compared to a person who does Mitzvos so that he should be honored
by others as a righteous person. In such a case his act is not purchasing
for himself honor; the honor comes as a byproduct at a later time. Here,
though, the act itself was an act of acquiring honor.
(c) The HAFLA'AH suggests that the fate of poverty does not always come as a
punishment. Rather, it is part of the nature of the world for some families
to become wealthy and some to become poor, based on their particular Mazal,
as the Gemara says in Shabbos (151b; see also Ta'anis 25a).
The Mitzvah of Tzedakah can save a person from punishment, but it cannot
save a person from enduring the fate that he was destined to receive. In
order to change his destiny, he has to be perfect in every way and he must
have very great merits, like Tosfos says in Shabbos (156a; DH Ein Mazal),
and one must give Tzedakah entirely Lishmah with no ulterior motives.
2) GIVING UP ONE'S LIFE IN ORDER NOT TO EMBARRASS SOMEONE AGADAH:
teaches that it is better for a person to jump into a fiery furnace than to
embarrass another person in public. The Gemara records a number of incidents
that demonstrate this precept.
The Gemara tells us in many places (such as Kesuvos 19a) that there are
three Aveiros for which a person must give up his life and not transgress:
Avodah Zarah (idolatry), Giluy Arayos (immorality), and Shefichus Damim
(murder). If, as our Gemara says, a person is required to jump into a
furnace in order to avoid embarrassing someone, why is the Aveirah of
embarrassing someone not included in that list?
(a) TOSFOS in Sotah (10b) explains that the list includes only
those Aveiros that are mentioned explicitly in the Torah. The Aveirah of
embarrassing someone and the requirement to avoid it at all costs --
although it is derived from the incident with Tamar and Yehudah -- is not an
explicitly written Mitzvah in the Torah, and thus it is not included in the
(b) RABEINU YONAH (Sha'arei Teshuvah 3:139) explains that the three Aveiros
are *general categories*, each of which includes Toldos, or subcategories of
Aveiros for which one must also give up one's life. For example, a
subcategory of Avodah Zarah is using leafs of a tree of Avodah Zarah in
order to heal oneself. (See also RAMBAN in Milchamos to Sanhedrin 74a, end
of chapter 9, and Pesachim 25a and Insights to Pesachim 25:1.) Rabeinu Yonah
explains that embarrassing one's friend is a subcategory of Shefichus Damim,
like the Gemara says in Bava Metzia (58b). Therefore, it *is* included in
the list, as a subcategory of Shefichus Damim.
(c) The ME'IRI (Sotah 10b, Berachos 43b) implies that although the Gemara
compares embarrassing one's friend to killing him and says that one must
jump into a furnace and not embarrass one's friend, the Gemara is not to be
understood literally. Rather, the Gemara is emphasizing to us the severity
of embarrassing another person ("Derech Tzachus v'He'arah"). According to
the Me'iri, the Gemara might mean that a person should subject himself to
discomfort rather than embarrass another person, like Mar Ukva and his wife
did. It is not required, though, to actually give up one's life in order to
avoid embarrassing someone. (Whether or not it is *permitted* to give up
one's life in order to avoid embarrassing someone, if one is not required to
do so, is subject to a Machlokes; see Insights to Kesuvos 3:3(c)).