THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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Moed Katan, 28
MOED KATAN 28 & 29 - anonymously dedicated by an Ohev Torah and Marbitz Torah
in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.
1) A NORMAL DEATH
QUESTION: The Gemara says that dying after being ill for five days is
considered a normal death. This is learned from the death of Moshe Rabeinu.
Hashem told Moshe five days before he died that his death was imminent
2) CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY
How can the Gemara learn from the death of Moshe Rabeinu that if a person is
sick for five days before he dies, that is a normal death? Moshe did not
become sick before he died (as the Torah says in Devarim 34:7)! (TOSFOS DH
(a) The TOSFOS HA'ROSH answers that Hashem was telling Moshe that had he not
merited to die b'Neshikah (through the "kiss" of Hashem), then it would have
been time for him to become sick at this point (and then die five days
later). Therefore, it was an appropriate time for him to bid farewell to the
Jewish people. (The MAHARSHA gives a similar answer.)
(b) The RITVA adds that the reason why Hashem built into the nature of a
person that he should become sick five days before he dies is so that the
person has an opportunity to conclude his worldly affairs before he leaves
this world. The Gemara proves from Moshe Rabeinu that five days is an
appropriate amount of time to conclude one's affairs, for we see that Hashem
warned Moshe five days before his death to bid farewell to the Jewish people.
OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes Rabah who says that if one dies between the ages
of fifty and sixty, this is the death of Kares. The Gemara relates that Rav
Yosef made a celebration when he reached his sixtieth birthday, since he had
passed the period of Kares.
3) LIFE, CHILDREN, AND LIVELIHOOD
Is celebrating one's sixtieth birthday a practice that should be followed?
What about celebrating any birthday?
(a) A number of authorities (as cited in MINHAG YISRAEL TORAH by Rav Yosef
Lewy, OC 225) write that there is reason to make some sort of celebration
upon reaching a certain age, as we see from Rav Yosef's conduct in our
Gemara. The CHAVAS YA'IR (#70), cited by the CHASAM SOFER on the Shulchan
Aruch (OC 225:10), writes that upon reaching one's *seventieth* birthday, one
should make a Se'udah and recite the blessing of "Shehecheyanu," since he has
reached a full lifespan. The Chasam Sofer himself says that one should recite
the blessing without the name of Hashem.
The KAF HA'CHAIM (223:29) writes that upon reaching one's *sixtieth*
birthday, one should recite the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" upon a new fruit
and have in mind that he is also reciting the blessing for having been saved
from Kares. A source for this is the LEKET YOSHER, who relates that the
TERUMAS HA'DESHEN, whenever he would make a Siyum on a Maseches, would invite
men who had reached their sixtieth birthday and have them participate in his
Se'udah in order to fulfill their obligation to give thanks for reaching the
age of sixty.
The BEIS YISRAEL (#32) says that it is proper to make a Se'udah on one's
*eightieth* birthday, since that is the age at which one has not only passed
the age of Kares as it relates to the years of one's life, but has also
passed the age of Kares as it relates to shortening one's lifespan (as Abaye
asked Rav Yosef in our Gemara). He says that the reason people do not make
such celebrations is probably because they are afraid of an "Ayin ha'Ra," and
therefore they do not reveal their age.
Some authorities also permit specifically celebrating one's birthday every
year. The BEN ISH CHAI (Vayera #17) writes that it is a good practice to
celebrate one's birthday, "and so is the practice in our homes." Similarly,
RAV YOSEF ENGEL in the GINZEI YOSEF (#4) writes that men of piety recite the
blessing of "Shehecheyanu" on a new fruit or a new garment each year on their
birthday. The KESAV SOFER (YD 148) writes that it was his practice to make a
Siyum on a Maseches on his birthday. (It is said that the CHAFETZ CHAIM
celebrated birthday parties every year during his later years, to demonstrate
publicly that those who guard their tongue are rewarded with long life.)
(b) There are those, however, who renounce making such celebrations. The
ARUGAS HA'BOSEM (215) writes that it is improper to make a celebration upon
reaching a certain age, such as seventy, for that is the "practice of boors
who walk in the ways of the other nations." The reason, he says, is because
the Mishnah (Avos 3:1) states that one should realize where his eventual end
will be and that he will have to give a reckoning of all of his deeds before
Hashem. When one reaches the age of seventy and is coming close to that
frightful moment of truth, it is certainly not an occasion to rejoice, but to
tremble in fear.
It is cited in the name of the Rebbe of Satmar (DIVREI TORAH 5:88) that it is
not the practice of Jews to make birthday celebrations. The reason he gives
is because the Gemara in Eruvin (13b) concludes that it would have been
better had man not been created. That is because once he is created, there
are so many Mitzvos for him to do and so many Aveiros for him to avoid, that
it is very difficult to return his soul to his Maker in a pure and unstained
state. Therefore, it is inappropriate to celebrate the day on which we were
born. This applies, though, only to Jews, who have the responsibility of
observing the Mitzvos. Non-Jews, though, certainly may celebrate their
birthdays, since they were only entrusted with the Seven Mitzvos of Bnei
Noach, and thus being created is not such a liability for them. This is why
we find in the Torah that Pharaoh celebrated his birthday (Bereishis 40:20),
while Avraham Avinu celebrated only the day on which he performed the Mitzvah
of Milah for his son Yitzchak (Chasam Sofer to Bereishis 21:9).
It should be noted, though, that even these opinions -- which say that there
is no reason to make a special celebration on one's birthday -- agree that
there is a special element to that day and therefore one should increase his
Torah and his Tefilah on that day, as well as increase one's acts of charity
(RAV CHAIM PALAGI in TZEDAKAH L'CHAIM). This is because on one's birthday,
one's Mazal is empowered (as the CHIDA (Chomas Anach to Iyov 3) and KORBAN
HA'EDAH (Yerushalmi Rosh Hashanah 3:8) write). Moreover, those opinions which
permit celebrating one's birthday agree that it should not be celebrated in a
frivolous, light-hearted manner, but that one should direct his focus to
expressing gratitude to Hashem for keeping him alive.
QUESTIONS: The Gemara quotes Rava who says that one's lifespan, children, and
livelihood do not depend on one's merit (Zechus), but on Mazal.
(a) How can he say that these things depend on Mazal? The Gemara (Shabbos
156a) clearly states, "Ein Mazal l'Yisrael" -- Mazal has no influence over
the destiny of the Jewish people!
(b) Second, the Torah states explicitly in a number of places that if we
follow the will of Hashem, then He will grant to us life, children, and a
livelihood (see, for example, Vayikra 26:4, Devarim 11:13, Devarim 30:16)!
How, then, can Rava say that these things do not depend on merit but on
Mazal, when the Torah clearly states that they depend on merit?
1. TOSFOS (Shabbos 156a, DH Ein) and the RITVA here explain that even though
the Gemara in Shabbos says that "Ein Mazal l'Yisrael," that means that an
exceptionally great Zechus is able to even change a person's Mazal. (The
other nations, though, have no way of changing their Mazal.) We find in
Ta'anis 25a, that even the merits of the holy Rebbi Elazar ben Pedas did not
suffice to override his Mazal.
(b) Regarding the promises mentioned in the Torah, it is clear that an
exceptional merit is not required to cause them to materialize. The Torah
says simply that "if you keep My commands, you will be rewarded...." The
RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:148, 409 -- see also RAMBAN on the Torah, Vayikra 26:11)
explains that those verses refer to the Jewish nation as a whole. When all of
the Jewish people do the will of Hashem, then Hashem grants them life,
children, and sustenance in reward for their deeds, despite their Mazal. An
individual, though, is subject to his Mazal in these areas (unless he has
2. The RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:409) adds that one person's Zechus is able to
change another person's Mazal, but one's own Zechus cannot change his Mazal.
(As in Berachos 5b, "a captive cannot free himself from jail.")
3. In another Teshuvah (5:48) the Rashba presents a different answer to this
question. Although he speaks in very vague terms, it appears that he means to
say that even when a Tzadik (who is not an exceptionally perfect Tzadik) does
not live an easy life, it is not pure "Mazal" that is at fault. Rather, other
considerations cause him to have to bear anguish. He might mean to say what
the HAGAHOS BEN ARYEH here brings from the ZOHAR and VILNA GAON -- that it is
the 13 attributes of Hashem that determine whether the Tzadik will live an
easy life or not, depending on his merits. Even if he has many merits, the 13
attributes may dictate for him to bear anguish in order to in some way
rectify sins (of his own or of others) from the past. In either case, though,
Bnei Yisrael are not subject to the true "forces of nature," as are the other
4) AGADAH: THE GREAT FUNERAL IN TIMES TO COME
Rebbi Akiva comforted Rebbi Yishmael upon the death of his sons. He said that
if the evil Achav, who only did one good thing in his life, had such a great
funeral as depicted in Zecharyah (12:1), then how much more so are the sons
of Rebbi Yishmael to be praised and eulogized. The Gemara shows that Achav
had a great funeral by citing the verse, "On that day, the mourning will be
great in Yerushalayim, like the mourning of Hadadrimon at the valley of
Megidon" (Zecharyah 12:1). Even though the verse makes no mention of Achav's
funeral, the Targum explains that the verse is saying, "On that day, the
mourning will be great in Yerushalayim, like [the two great funerals
combined,] the mourning of [Achav bar Omri, who was killed by] Hadadrimon
[ben Tavrimon in Ramos Gilad, and like the mourning of Yoshiyah bar Amon, who
was killed by Pharaoh Chagira] in the valley of Megido."
Why does the verse compare the great mourning in times to come specifically
to the mourning at these two funerals?
ANSWER: To answer this question, we first must explore who is being buried in
this funeral described in the verse.
We know that this verse is describing a funeral that will take place in the
times of the Mashiach. The Gemara in Sukah (52a) records an argument
regarding this funeral. One opinion says that it will be for Mashiach ben
Yosef, and another opinion says that it will be for the Yetzer ha'Ra, which
will be killed at that time. The Gemara there explains that in the future,
Hashem will slaughter the Yetzer ha'Ra, and both the Tzadikim and the
Resha'im will cry. The Tzadikim will cry because they will see the huge
mountain that stood before them in their service of Hashem. The Resha'im will
cry because they will see that they were not able to conquer such a small
thread which stood in their way. (See Insights to Sukah 52:1.)
The VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu) says that this is what the Targum Yonasan
means. The Targum holds like the opinion that says that the funeral will be
for the Yetzer ha'Ra. Normally, at a funeral, if the deceased was a Tzadik,
then only the Tzadikim cry. If he was a Rasha, then only the Resha'im cry. In
this case, at the funeral of the Yetzer ha'Ra, *both* groups will cry, as the
Gemara in Sukah says! Thus, it will be like the funeral of Achav -- the great
Rasha, when all the Resha'im cried, and like the funeral of Yoshiyah -- the
great Tzadik, when all of the Tzadikim cried!