THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Moed Katan, 18
1) PHARAOH WAS ONE "AMAH" TALL
AGADAH: The Gemara says that Pharaoh was one Amah tall, his beard was one
Amah long, and his Ever was an Amah and a Zeres long.
What are Chazal trying to teach us? Was Pharaoh really such a strange looking
midget? The Acharonim address this question.
The MAHARAL (Be'er ha'Golah #5) explains that Chazal are not describing
Pharaoh's physical attributes. Rather, they are describing the measurements
that would be appropriate for him based on his deeds and his character
traits. Although it is not possible for a human being to have those physical
dimensions, had it been possible, it would have been appropriate for him. The
reasons for this are as follows.
(a) The Maharal explains that when Chazal say that he was very short, that
means that he was lowly and of low esteem. The fact that the Jewish people
fell into the hands of such a lowly person was, in one sense, a good sign,
because when the Jewish people "hit rock bottom" by being subject to such a
lowly monarch, their redemption is soon to follow. Hashem is "Magbi'ah
Shefalim" and raises them up and redeems them. (See Kesuvos 66b -- "Happy is
Yisrael, that when they are punished they are subject to the lowest of the
(b) When Chazal say that Pharaoh's Ever was an Amah *and a Zeres* long, they
are saying that he was very shameful, and that his shame was the most
outstanding of his attributes.
The BEN YEHOYADA adds that the land of Mitzrayim is called "Ervas ha'Aretz"
(Bereishis 42:9), for it was a land whose people were totally immersed in
immorality at a time when all the other nations distanced themselves from
immorality (see Rashi Bereishis 34:7, Rashi Bamidbar 22:5, Vayikra 18:3).
This is what the Gemara is stressing -- Pharaoh, the leader of Mitzrayim,
epitomized the trait of licentiousness more than anyone else.
The word "Zeres," he says, is related to the term "Zoreh" (see Yevamos 34b --
"Dash mib'Fnim v'Zoreh mib'Chutz"), which is a word that describes what the
(Similarly, this is probably what Chazal mean when they say that Pharaoh was
one Amah tall, and his beard was one Amah long. When they say that he was one
Amah tall, that means that his entire essence was concentrated on immorality,
represented by the word "Amah." When they say that his beard was one Amah
long, that means that all of his wisdom (represented by the beard) was
concentrated only on immoral pursuits.)
2) ATTEMPTING TO CHANGE ONE'S DESTINED SPOUSE
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes Shmuel who says that a person is permitted to get
engaged during Chol ha'Mo'ed. Shmuel says that the reason is because if one
tarries and waits until after the festival, perhaps someone else will pray to
marry her and will succeed in taking her away. Therefore, one may get engaged
during Chol ha'Mo'ed in order to make sure no one else gets her.
The Gemara then gives an example of how a person can take away someone else's
intended spouse through prayer. Rava saw a man praying that Hashem let him
marry a certain woman. Rava told him not to pray for such a thing, "because
if she is destined to be your wife, so she will be your wife anyway and you
do not have to pray for her, while if she is not destined to be your wife,
then you are denying Hashem." Later, Rava heard the person praying that
Hashem should take his life, or take the woman's life [so that he not have to
see the woman marry someone else -- Rashi]. Rava scolded him and said, "I
told you that you should not pray for such things."
This incident is cited by the Gemara to prove that a person's prayer can
change his destiny with regard to whom he marries. However, we see the
opposite from this incident! Rava says that one's prayers will not have any
effect on whom he marries!
(a) RASHI says (DH O' Iyhu) that the only way that a person will not be able
to marry his intended spouse is if someone else prays that one of them should
die. It is not possible to pray that someone else should marry one of the
intended partners. This is what Shmuel means when he says, "Shema Yekadmenu
Achar" -- not that someone else will marry her, but that someone might pray
that she die.
(b) The RITVA explains that after Rava told the person not to pray, the
person did not listen and he continued to pray that he be able to marry a
certain woman. Indeed, his prayers were answered and he married the woman of
his prayers. After he married her, though, the marriage was so difficult that
he prayed that either he or she should die.
At that point, Rava said, "I told you that there is nothing to gain by
praying to change your destined spouse!" Accordingly, when Rava initially
told him not to pray because "if she is not destined to be your wife, then
you are being Kofer against Hashem," he did not mean that it is impossible to
change one's destiny; he was just trying to discourage the person, for he saw
that the Shiduch would not work. ("You are being Kofer against Hashem" means
that by saying that you want to marry this woman, you are implying that you
know better than Hashem what is good for you.) The only way to pray for a
Shiduch in a beneficial way is by doing good deeds and thereby meriting a
The MAHARSHAM points out that the Yerushalmi (Beitzah 5:2) writes explicitly
that even if one changes his marital destiny through prayer, the marriage
will not work out ("Lo Kaima"). Also, the Zohar (Mishpatim 109a) says that
any children born from such a marriage will be attributed in some
metaphysical way to the man who was supposed to be the father of those
children, the predestined mate of the woman.
This also seems to be the approach of RASHI on the Rif, and the commentary of
TALMID RABEINU YECHIEL.
(c) The NIMUKEI YOSEF and the CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN explain (apparently based on
the same Yerushalmi) that if a person changes his destiny through prayer it
will not be lasting; eventually the right person will get the right wife,
because the wrong spouse will die or divorce her. Their texts of the Gemara
reads, "Kafarta Bah" instead of "Kafarta ba'Hashem" -- "if she is not
destined to be your wife, then you will be Kofer against *her*;" that is, you
will eventually realize that you are not fit for each other and you will
rebel against her. If so, Rava did not mean that it is impossible to change
one's destined spouse, because it is possible to change it *temporarily*.
That is why Shmuel permits one to get engaged on Chol ha'Mo'ed, lest somebody
else take her as his wife temporarily.