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Kesuvos, 103


QUESTIONS: The Gemara relates the account of the death of Rebbi. Before he died, Rebbi told his family that after his death they should light a candle at his place, set his table, and make the bed, as was done during his lifetime. Indeed, after he died, Rebbi returned every Friday evening to his home. According to the Midrash cited by Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Rebbi even recited Kidush for his family. This occurred every Shabbos until one Shabbos night, when a neighbor came to the door and called out, and the maidservant of Rebbi's family told her to be quiet because Rebbi was present. Rebbi did not return afterwards, saying that since has become known that he has been coming back, he does not want to embarrass all of the other Tzadikim who had died but who did not have miraculous returns to their families.

A number of points in this story beg explanation.

First, why did Rebbi return only on Friday evenings?

Second, if Rebbi had died, how could he recite Kidush on behalf of his family? A dead person is exempt from Mitzvos! (REBBI AKIVA EIGER quoting SEFER CHASIDIM)

Third, the Gemara in Shabbos (152b) tells us that even the great Tzadikim do not have permission to leave their graves once they are buried, until Hashem takes everyone out of their graves together at the time of Techiyas ha'Mesim, like the verse says (Yechezkel 37:12). How, then, could Rebbi leave his grave to return home each week?

Fourth, why is Rebbi the only one of all of the Chachamim in history who merited to have such a miraculous experience? Even the holy Avos did not experience such a miracle (see Ta'anis 5a)!

Finally, what are the Chachamim trying to teach us with this cryptic Gemara?

ANSWER: To answer these questions, we must understand what was unique about Rebbi's service of Hashem. The Mishnah at end of Sotah says that when Rebbi died, "Batlah Anavah v'Yir'as Hashem" -- "humility and the fear of Hashem ceased." No Anavah and Yir'as Hashem could compare to Rebbi's.

The Gemara in Shabbos (152b) relates an incident of an Amora, Rav Achai bar Yoshiyah, who spoke with Rav Nachman from his grave, because his Neshamah was still with his body and he was able to communicate after his burial. When Rav Nachman asked him why he did not turn to dust after being buried, Rav Achai answered that the verse says, "It is jealousy that causes bones to rot" (Mishlei 14:30), and thus the body of a Tzadik who had no jealousy in his heart in his lifetime does not decompose.

According to this, it is clear that the more Anavah a person has, the less jealousy of others he has in his heart. It is only arrogance that causes a person to be jealous and covet the lot of another person. Since Rebbi was the epitome of Anavah, he had no jealousy at all and thus his bones did not rot. His body remained intact and that is how he was able to return home.

Why, though, was Rebbi granted permission to leave his grave? Rav Achai bar Yoshiyah did not have permission to leave his grave because, as he explained, Tzadikim may not leave their graves until the time of Techiyas ha'Mesim. How, then, did Rebbi leave his grave and come home each week?

The answer apparently is that Rebbi did not leave the grave in order to come back and stay among the living. He only left on Shabbos night, for the specific purpose of being with his family at the time of Kidush, and then he returned to his grave. The verse only teaches that Tzadikim have no right to "rise" from the grave, which means to dwell among the living, and Rebbi's practice of returning home each week for a short period of time was not considered "rising" from the grave.

Since his body still contained his Neshamah even after death, he was able to be obligated to do Mitzvos and to exempt others. The rest of the time, other than Shabbos night, he could not do Mitzvos (and thus was exempt because of "Ones"), because he was in the grave. On Shabbos night, when he left the grave, he was able to recite Kidush for his family.

Why was Rebbi given permission to leave the grave only for this particular Mitzvah? And why was no one else given permission to leave the grave for any Mitzvah?

The Gemara (104a) tells us that Rebbi, before he died, lifted his ten fingers towards the heavens and declared, "Ribono Shel Olam! You know... that I did not derive any pleasure from this world, even with the smallest one of my fingers! May I have peace in my eternal rest!"

Rebbi's declaration was obviously related to his trait of Anavah and total lack of any trace of arrogance. The more modest a person is, the more spiritually-attuned he is and the less he desires to benefit from this world, lest doing so cause him to be arrogant, as the Gemara says in Berachos (32a) that the more a person fills himself with the pleasures of this world, the more arrogant he becomes. The Gemara in Shabbos (118b) explains that Rebbi was called "Rabeinu ha'Kadosh" because he never put his hand below his belt; this was a preventative measure intended to prevent him from having any sensation of worldly pleasure that might lead to Aveirah. The term "Kadosh" describes this character trait, as we find that the Gemara says in Yevamos (20a) that Kedushah refers to guarding oneself from any Isur of Ervah, and to refraining from worldly pleasures even when such pleasures are permitted.

The CHIDA (in Pesach Einayim) quotes RAV BER (from Mezritch) who explains that Rebbi's declaration (104a) that he did not have any worldly pleasure, even from his smallest finger, alludes to this attribute of Kedushah of guarding oneself from Arayos and to refraining from worldly pleasures, as the Gemara in Shabbos (118b) describes Rebbi's cautiousness. (This is because the word "Etzba," finger, is used as a euphemism to refer to the Ever ha'Tashmish (see Pesachim 112b and Nidah 66a). The VILNA GA'ON alludes to this as well (OC 231:1).

How, though, could Rebbi attest that he never benefited from this world? It is certainly not possible that he did not eat or drink at all! TOSFOS (Avodah Zarah 11a, DH Tzenon) points out that the Gemara says that Rebbi's table was always laden with the finest of delicacies. How, then, can Rebbi say that he derived no pleasure from this world?

The Vilna Ga'on there (OC 231:1) points out that the Shulchan Aruch says that even when a person is hungry or thirsty, he should not eat or drink to fulfill his cravings, but he should have intention to eat in order to make himself strong in order to serve Hashem. The same applies to all other physical activities that a person does, such as sleeping. The Vilna Ga'on explains that Rebbi was not saying that he did not partake of any physical activity, but rather, he was saying that everything that he did do in this world was all done solely l'Shem Shamayim. Even eating delicacies can be done l'Shem Shamayim, such as when eating fine foods at the Shabbos meal for the sake of Oneg Shabbos, in order to give honor to Hashem and to His Shabbos. When Rebbi ate his meals on Shabbos, he certainly did so l'Shem Shamayim.

That explains how Rebbi returned home every Shabbos night. Since he performed the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos with such pure intentions, completely l'Shem Shamayim, when he ate while he was alive was akin to eating while he was not alive, in the sense that he did not experience any physical pleasure at all. Hence, he merited to come back after his death.

The time of greatest Oneg on Shabbos is at the nighttime meal, because eating prior to that time is prohibited, and people are especially hungry. Moreover, eating the nighttime meal with a lit candle adds to the pleasure (Yoma 74b). That might be why Rebbi said specifically to keep a candle burning for him, the table set, and the bed made for him, for these are the preparations for the primary forms of Oneg on Shabbos ("Mitah Mutza'as" either means a place to sit at the Shabbos table, or it means literally his bed upon which to sleep, as Rebbi's fulfillment of "Onah Shel Talmidei Chachamim... m'Erev Shabbos l'Erev Shabbos" (Kesuvos 62b) was done with such Kedushah that it was as if he was not doing it in the physical world).

When Rebbi said that he would not be coming back again in order not to embarrass the other Tzadikim, he meant that he did not want people to think that the other Tzadikim had some minute intention of obtaining pleasure in their eating and Tashmish and other forms of Oneg Shabbos (as the Gemara says in Nazir 23b).

Based on this explanation of the Gemara, we can better understand the message that the Gemara is teaching us. Even if Rebbi did not literally return from the grave to his home on Shabbos, the Gemara might be saying that Rebbi's family members -- who saw Rebbi experience such tremendous Kedushah on Shabbos night -- were so strongly affected by his practice during his lifetime that whenever they ate with him on Shabbos night, for them, too, it became a non-physical experience. Rebbi asked his family to continue that experience even after his death -- to light his candle and set his table so that they remember to conduct the meal the same way that he had conducted it. Indeed, their experience continued even after Rebbi had died, and they continued to eat and have Oneg Shabbos completely l'Shem Shamayim. It was as if Rebbi had come back from the grave to lead the meal for them.

One night, though, a neighbor came to the door, and the family saw the grossly physical lust for food on the face of the neighbor, and they were henceforth no longer able to relate to the Shabbos meal as they did in the past. From that time onward, "Rebbi stopped coming" to their Shabbos meal. They were not able to continue their holy practice, because once word became known to others of their holy practice, they did not have Divine assistance to continue it, lest other Tzadikim who had not reached that level become embarrassed. Moreover, because the maidservant of Rebbi's family had a minute amount of arrogance in telling the neighbor not to bother them because they were experiencing Oneg Shabbos l'Shem Shamayim, they no longer merited to have that experience.


QUESTION: The Gemara relates that a certain "Koves" (washer), upon hearing news of the death of Rebbi, ascended to the roof and fell to his death. A Bas Kol announced that this Koves merited life in Olam ha'Ba ("Mezuman Hu l'Chayei ha'Olam ha'Ba").

How could he be "Mezuman l'Chayei ha'Olam ha'Ba" if he killed himself? We know that killing oneself is a very severe transgression, for which one is "Chayav b'Nafsho!"


(a) RAV YAKOV EMDEN explains that the death of Rebbi was so traumatic to this simple Jew that he went out of his mind. He did not consciously choose, with his working faculties, to throw himself off of the roof, and indeed he only "fell," and thus he is not held accountable for his death, but he is credited with being of such greatness that the death of the Torah sage caused him such tremendous anguish.

(b) TOSFOS quoted by the SHITAH MEKUBETZES says that we find that it is permitted for a person to kill himself in order to do Teshuvah for an Aveirah for which one is Chayav Misah. The Gemara says that the sun delayed its setting on the day of Rebbi's death in order to delay the onset of Shabbos and give time for his burial. The people were afraid that they had desecrated Shabbos by doing Melachah after the time that the sun should have set, and the Bas Kol announced to them that since they were involved in the burial of the Tzadik, they were not Chayav, but rather they are "Mezumanim l'Chayei ha'Olam ha'Ba." The simple Koves, though, who was not there at the burial, continued working even after the time that Shabbos was supposed to enter. When he realized that he had worked on Shabbos, he was worried that he had desecrated Shabbos. He was afraid that he was Chayav Sekilah, the punishment for Chilul Shabbos. The Gemara (Kesuvos 30b) says that even when the Beis Din can no longer administer capital punishment, one who is Chayav Sekilah will "fall from a roof" since that resembles the death of Sekilah. Therefore, in order to do Teshuvah, he jumped from the roof. The Bas Kol came forth and declared that he, too, is "Mezuman l'Chayei ha'Olam ha'Ba," for his Teshuvah was accepted.

QUESTION: The Gemara says that the day on which Rebbi died, "holiness ceased" ("Batlah Kedushah"). The RAN and the RAMBAN have a different text of the Gemara which says that "Kehunah ceased" ("Batlah Kehunah") on that day, implying that even the Kohanim were required to be Metamei themselves by taking part in the funeral of Rebbi.

We know that a Kohen is prohibited to Metamei himself for anyone other than his immediate relatives and for a Mes Mitzvah (one who has no one else to bury him). How, then, were the Kohanim permitted to be Metamei themselves and take part in Rebbi's burial?


(a) TOSFOS writes that RABEINU CHAIM KOHEN wanted to permit himself to take part in the burial of Rabeinu Tam, based on this Gemara. Tosfos disagrees with him and writes that a Kohen may not come into contact with Tum'ah d'Oraisa in such a situation. The Gemara was only permitting Kohanim to be Metamei themselves with a Tum'ah d'Rabanan for the honor of Rebbi. (b) The RAMBAM writes that when a Nasi, a leader of the Jewish people, dies, everyone must take part in his funeral, even Kohanim, since he is considered to be a Mes Mitzvah in respect to everyone, since everyone is required to honor him. (See also RAN on the Rif, and the RAMBAN in Toras ha'Adam (p. 131 of Hotza'as Rav Kook).)

This can be explained by the fact the Torah permits a Kohen to bury a Mes Mitzvah because of Kavod ha'Mes, the honor that is due to a deceased person. When a normal person dies, there is only a lack of respect (a disgrace to the deceased) when he goes without being buried. Consequently, a Kohen is permitted to be Metamei himself only if there is no one else to bury the deceased. In contrast, when a Nasi -- whom everyone in the nation is required to respect -- dies, there is a lack of Kavod ha'Mes if there is a single person who does not take part in his burial. Therefore, Kohanim are also required to take part in his burial. (See OR SAME'ACH, Hilchos Avel 3:8.)

The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 374) accepts the Rambam's explanation.

QUESTION: The Gemara says that the day on which Rebbi died, "holiness ceased" ("Batlah Kedushah"). The RAN and the RAMBAN have a different text of the Gemara which says that "Kehunah ceased" ("Batlah Kehunah") on that day, implying that even the Kohanim were required to be Metamei themselves by taking part in the funeral of Rebbi.

The Ran and Ramban quote a Yerushalmi that questions whether a Kohen may be Metamei himself for the burial of his primary teacher (Rebbi Muvhak). The Ramban concludes that since this doubt is not resolved, we must be stringent and a Kohen is prohibited to be Metamei himself for his Rebbi.

The Ramban (Toras ha'Adam, p. 144 of Hotza'as Rav Kook) concludes, with regard to the laws of Aveilus, that a Talmid observes Aveilus for one day after his Rebbi's burial (see Shulchan Aruch YD 242:25), whereas when a Nasi dies, there is no requirement for the people to observe Aveilus for even one day (see Shulchan Aruch YD 374:11).

Why is a Kohen allowed to be Metamei for a Nasi but not for his Rebbi Muvhak, while he observes Aveilus for his Rebbi, but not for a Nasi? If he observes Aveilus for his Rebbi for whom he may not become Tamei, then certainly he should observe Aveilus for a Nasi for whom he is allowed to become Tamei!

ANSWER: A Kohen is permitted to be Metamei for a Nasi in order to uphold the honor due to the Nasi (as described in the previous Insight). Since the Nasi is the leader of the Jewish people, it is considered a disgrace to him if anyone does not participate in his burial. Therefore, even a Kohen is permitted to participate. In contrast, a person's Rebbi -- although one must certainly give him honor -- does not require the same degree of honor as the leader of the Jewish people, and thus it is not a disgrace for a Rebbi not to have his Talmid bury him, as long as his family is burying him, and therefore the Kohen is prohibited from being Metamei for him.

The requirement of Aveilus, on the other hand, depends on how close the mourner is to the deceased. Since the Talmid is very close with his Rebbi and, in many ways, he is like his Rebbi's own child (Sanhedrin 19b), he is required to observe Aveilus. In contrast, even though everyone must respect the Nasi, they are not necessarily very close to him, and therefore they are not required to observe Aveilus for him.

(See also Shulchan Aruch YD 340:17, who rules that there is a Chiyuv to tear Keri'ah for both one's Rebbi and for the Nasi, since Keri'ah is a sign of distress, and not just part of Aveilus, and therefore one is required to tear Keri'ah and to express distress for both.)

QUESTION: The Gemara describes how Rebbi Chiya planted flax seeds, harvested the flax, and manufactured nets from the flax with which he caught gazelle, the meat of which he fed to poor orphans, and the hide of which he used to make parchment upon which he wrote books of Mishnah and of Chumash in order to give to children to teach them Torah.

Why did Rebbi Chiya go through all of this trouble, when he could have simply bought a finished book of Mishnah or Chumash?

ANSWER: The MAHARSHA (Bava Metzia 85b) explains that Rebbi Chiya wanted the Torah that was being taught to the children to be free of any admixture that was not l'Shem Shamayim. Had he bought the books, those books would have had an element in them that was not l'Shem Shamayim, since the seller manufactured them in order to sell and make money. Rebbi Chiya wanted every element of the Torah that the children were learning to be totally l'Shem Shamayim.

The SEFORNO (Shemos 38:21) further develops this theme. He explains that the reason the Shechinah dwelled upon the Miskkan in the Midbar, and why the Mishkan was never captured by enemies, was because the ones who made it were the Tzadikim of the generation (such as Betzalel), who built the Mishkan in complete holiness and totally l'Shem Shamayim. He says that because of that, the Mishkan was eternal and could not be taken by enemies. In contrast, the Beis ha'Mikdash of Shlomo ha'Melech was built by Nochri workers, and it eventually wore out until it had to be continually restrengthened, and in the end it was captured by the enemy. Nevertheless, since Shlomo ha'Melech at least was behind the building, it merited to have the Shechinah dwell upon it. In contrast, the second Beis ha'Mikdash was not only built by Nochri workers, but the impetus behind the building was the king Koresh, and therefore it did not even have the Shechinah dwelling upon it.

Rav Chiya wanted the Shechinah to rest upon his work, and he wanted his work to have a lasting effect, and therefore he made sure that the entire production process was done solely l'Shem Shamayim. (See also RAV YAKOV KAMINETZKY in EMES L'YAKOV, Parshas Toldos and Pekudei.)

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