THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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1) REDUCING THE NUMBER OF MITZVOS
QUESTION: The Gemara says that Moshe Rabeinu taught us the 613 Mitzvos, but
later Nevi'im reduced the number. David ha'Melech narrowed them down to 11,
Yeshayah made them 6, Michah made them 3, and Yeshayah then narrowed them
down to 2. Finally, Chabakuk categorized all of the Mitzvos as one single
2) MOSHE RABEINU'S PROPHECIES OF DOOM
What does the Gemara mean when it says that the number of Mitzvos was
(a) The RAMAH (cited by the BEIS ELOKIM (Sha'ar ha'Yesodos 35), the
MAHARSHA, and HA'KOSEV in the Ein Yakov; see also RITVA) explains that we
find in Sotah (21a) that the performance of Mitzvos protects a person from
the Yetzer ha'Ra (see also Avos 4:2, "Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah"). Originally,
a person merited this special protection only if he fulfilled all of the
Mitzvos of the Torah. However, David ha'Melech and the later Nevi'im prayed
that Hashem should have mercy even on the person who does not keep all of
the Mitzvos, and give the same protection to such a person.
The CHIDA (in Pesach Einayim) adds that perhaps David ha'Melech narrowed
them down to 11 Mitzvos to correspond to the 11 herbs that comprise the
Ketores, which, the Gemara in Shabbos (88a) relates, has the power to repel
the Mal'ach ha'Maves, who also is the Yetzer ha'Ra (Bava Basra 16a).
The IYUN YAKOV and KOS YESHU'OS add that perhaps the limited number of
Mitzvos that the later Nevi'im mentioned will also protect a person from
physical harm, and not only from the Yetzer ha'Ra. The Gemara in Sotah there
mentions that this is also one of the effects of Mitzvah observance.
(b) The SEFER HA'IKRIM (3:30, cited by the Beis Elokim and Maharsha) and
MAHARAL explain that the later Nevi'im saw that it was too difficult for a
person to concentrate on 613 individual Mitzvos when fulfilling each one.
They therefore placed the Mitzvos in general categories, where each category
includes a large number of the Mitzvos of the Torah. In this way, it would
be easier for a person to fulfill the entire Torah while concentrating only
on a limited number of Mitzvos.
The Maharsha adds that in truth, all of the 613 Mitzvos are based on certain
general categories, as we find that the Aseres ha'Dibros allude to all 613
Mitzvos. Moreover, all of the Mitzvos can be narrowed down to one basic
Mitzvah that encompasses all of the Mitzvos -- the Mitzvah of Emunah in
Hashem. This is the intention of David ha'Melech when he says, "Kol
Mitzvosecha Emunah" -- "All of your Mitzvos are Emunah" (Tehilim 119:86).
The Maharsha adds that this is necessarily so, since Hashem is One, and thus
His will must be one. This is why we find that Hashem Himself spoke to the
Jewish people at Sinai and told them all of the Aseres ha'Dibros at once,
and then He later began to repeat them separately so that the Jewish people
could hear each one individually. This means that from Hashem's perspective,
the Mitzvos are all one; they are all the unity of Hashem's will. However,
we cannot understand all of the Mitzvos from that perspective, and therefore
we need them to be spelled out individually, into 613 Mitzvos.
This is what the Gemara means when it introduces this discussion by saying
that we heard the Mitzvos of "Anochi" and "Lo Yiheyeh" directly from Hashem.
These two Mitzvos are the two parts to the Mitzvah of Emunah (i.e. to accept
Hashem, and not to accept any other power), and this is the Mitzvah that we
heard directly from Hashem when He began to repeat each individual Mitzvah.
It is this Mitzvah in particular that He expressed to us, because it is the
Mitzvah of Emunah which encompasses all of the Mitzvos.
(See additional approach in the Beis Elokim, ibid.)
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that Moshe Rabeinu prophesied four decrees that
the later Nevi'im rescinded. It is clear from the verses cited by the Gemara
that these Gezeiros refer to prophecies of destruction that Moshe Rabeinu
How could the later Nevi'im contradict what Moshe Rabeinu taught? The Gemara
in Sanhedrin (90a) teaches that if a prophet says a prophecy which
contradicts anything that the Torah says, he is Chayav Misah (unless it is
temporary and for a specific situation; see Yevamos 90b)!
(a) The BEIS ELOKIM (Sha'ar ha'Yesodos 35) and the MAHARAL explain that
Moshe Rabeinu's attribute was Din, or strict justice (see Sanhedrin 6b).
Moshe Rabeinu saw that the Jewish people would deserve these severe
punishments in accordance with the letter of the law. However, the later
Nevi'im, who represented the attribute of Rachamim, or mercy, prayed to
Hashem to repeal the destruction that Moshe Rabeinu foresaw. Hashem in His
mercy accepted their prayers.
(b) The KOS YESHU'OS and ARUCH LA'NER explain this further. They explain
that Moshe Rabeinu's words did not necessarily foretell the doom that they
apparently implied. Rather, his words could be interpreted in a number of
ways. Had the later Nevi'im not taught a more merciful interpretation of the
verse, then the prophecy of Moshe might have manifest itself in the severe
form of interpretation of the verse. The later Nevi'im repealed that
interpretation with their prophecies (and prayers).
The Aruch la'Ner explains how the prophecies of the later Nevi'im can be
reconciled with Moshe Rabeinu's words.
1. Amos taught that when Moshe Rabeinu said that the Jewish people will be
spared destruction only if they conduct themselves "like Yakov," his words
did not mean that the people must be as righteous as Yakov Avinu in all
respects. Rather, the verse is to be read as Rashi translates it (in Devarim
33:28): "You will be safe even when sitting alone as individuals, like the
blessing with which Yakov blessed the Jewish people (in Bereishis 48:21),
when he said that Hashem will protect the Jewish people during times of
exile, and He will eventually bring them back to Eretz Yisrael."
(Alternatively, Moshe's words meant that the Jewish people will be spared
destruction as long as they still identify themselves with the descendants
of the forefathers and with Klal Yisrael (excluding a person who
intermarries, or who rejects the covenant with Hashem by removing his Bris
Milah). He also might have meant that they would be spared destruction if
they would toil in Torah learning, which was the attribute of Yakov Avinu
2. When Moshe Rabeinu said that "you will not rest among the nations to
which you will be exiled," his words did not mean that there will never be
any respite during exile. Rather, his words are to be read as a continuation
of the previous verse, which says that "in the exile you will serve idols,
and then you will have no rest among the nations." This prophecy was
conditional on the conduct of the people; if they serve idols, then they
would have no rest in exile.
(See Aruch la'Ner, who suggests a different explanation.)
3. When Moshe Rabeinu said that the sins of fathers will be visited upon the
sons, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (27b) explains that he was referring only to
sons who follow the evil ways of their fathers.
4. When Moshe Rabeinu said "you will be lost among the nations, and the land
of your enemies will consume you" (Vayikra 26:38), our Gemara explains that
these words meant that the Jewish people will become lost like a lost
object, which its Owner will eventually search and reclaim. Alternatively,
the verse can be understood as Rashi (in Vayikra 26:38) explains. "You will
be lost" to each other due to the great distances that will separate you,
"the land of your enemies will consume you" like large fruits which are
never fully eaten, as the Gemara explains. (The Aruch la'Ner suggests that
these large fruits, "Dilu'im," were not fully eaten, because some were left
to be used as seed for the crop of the coming year; see Shevi'is 2:10.)
While some people will die in Galus, their children and future descendants
will survive and return to Eretz Yisrael.
3) "AKIVA, YOU HAVE COMFORTED US"
QUESTION: When Rebbi Akiva saw the fox emerge from the Kodesh ha'Kodashim,
he laughed. He explained that since Yeshayah connects the prophecy of Uriyah
to the prophecy of Zecharyah, this shows that the prophecy of Zecharyah --
that the Jews will return to Yerushalayim in great joy -- will come to
fruition only if that of Uriyah comes to fruition first. Uriyah prophesied
that the Har ha'Bayis will become like a desolate forest. Therefore, Rebbi
Akiva said that now that he sees the prophecy of Uriyah coming true, he has
no doubt that the prophecy of Zecharyah will come true, and that is why he
On to Shevuos
His colleagues exclaimed, "Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have
comforted us!" According to the Midrash in Eichah, they added, "May you be
comforted by beholding the herald of Mashi'ach!"
How could Rebbi Akiva have doubted whether the prophecies of Zecharyah or
Uriyah would come true before seeing the fox emerge from the Kodesh
ha'Kodashim? We know that "the word of Hashem always come true" (Yeshayah
(a) The RIF in the EIN YAKOV, the ANAF YOSEF there, and the ARUCH LA'NER
explain the Gemara based on the words of TOSFOS here. Tosfos points out that
it is clear from Rebbi Akiva's statement that he understood the words of
Zecharyah to be referring to the future redemption. How, though, could he be
sure that this was the intention of Zecharyah? Zecharyah's prophecy occurred
before the redemption from the Babylonian exile, Galus Bavel, at the time of
the Churban of the first Beis ha'Mikdash. Perhaps he Zecharyah was referring
to the return of the exiles from Bavel at the end of the seventy years of
exile, and not to the final redemption! This was Rebbi Akiva's doubt. When
he saw the fox coming out of the Kodesh ha'Kodashim, he realized that
Uriyah's prophecy of destruction was being fulfilled after the Churban of
the second Beis ha'Mikdash. Since the Navi tells us that the prophecy of
Zecharyah will follow the fulfillment of the prophecy of Uriyah, Rebbi Akiva
now was certain that Zecharyah's prophecy was pertaining to the future
(b) The MAHARAL (Netzach Yisrael 26) explains that Rebbi Akiva did not doubt
that the prophecy of Zecharyah would come true. He merely questioned whether
the extent of the joy that Zecharyah foresaw would apply only to a small
number of Jews, or whether the entire Jewish people would experience it. The
vastness of the destruction that came about through the prophecy of Uriyah
showed him that the Ge'ulah will also engender an unprecedented degree of
Rav Hadar Margolin, shlit'a, explains that the Maharal is alluding to what
the verse tells us in Tehilim (90:15). Hashem will send a Ge'ulah that is
proportionate to the days of affliction that we suffered. This theme is
evident even in the verses discussing the prophecy of Zecharyah (in 8:13-15,
which follow the prophecy mentioned in our Gemara), where Zecharyah says
that "just as you were accursed among the nations until now, so will Hashem
save you and you will be a blessing.... Thus Hashem says, 'As I have plotted
to punish you because your fathers angered Me, so shall I plot in these days
for the good of Yerushalayim."
The Maharal's words, however, do not seem to be consistent with Rebbi
Akiva's statement that "I was afraid that the prophecy of Zecharyah would
not be fulfilled," implying that he feared that it would not be fulfilled at
all. Perhaps we may explain his words with the following thought.
The RAMBAM (in his introduction to Perush ha'Mishnayos) writes that a
prophecy of good is never rescinded, while a prophecy of destruction can be
rescinded (see Insights to Sanhedrin 17:1:c). According to this principle,
the prophecy of Uriyah would not necessarily have to come true, while the
prophecy of Zecharyah would have to come true. However, the Navi implies
that the prophecy of Zecharyah was given with a clause; it will only come
true if the prophecy of Uriyah comes true before it. The reason for this is
because of what we wrote above -- the prophecy of Zecharyah was meant as an
appeasement for the suffering described in the prophecy of Uriyah. If there
is no suffering, then the prophecy does not have to come true. Therefore,
even though a prophecy for good normally must come about, the prophecy of
Zecharyah was an exception to this rule.
This is the meaning of Rebbi Akiva's statement. "Had the prophecy of Uriyah
not come true, I would have questioned whether the prophecy of Zecharyah
would come true at all. Now that I see that the prophecy of Uriyah has
occurred as described, I can be certain that the prophecy of Zecharyah will
also occur as he described it." For telling them this, Rebbi Akiva's
colleagues blessed him that he should merit seeing the fulfillment of the
prophecy with his own eyes. (M. Kornfeld)
May we merit to see the fulfillment of Zecharyah's prophecy in our day!