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Nedarim, 50


AGADAH: The Gemara relates that when Rebbi Akiva and the daughter of Kalba Savu'a were first married, they were so poor that they had nothing to sleep on but straw. Rebbi Akiva's wife, the Gemara describes, would pull straw out of Rebbi Akiva's hair. Rebbi Akiva declared that if he had the means, he would give his wife a Yerushalayim Shel Zahav adornment. The Gemara in Shabbos (59a) relates that Rebbi Akiva kept his promise to her and eventually gave her such an adornment. Tosfos there explains that this adornment is a tiara that is worn upon the head.

The VILNA GA'ON (in Mishlei 1:9 and Shir ha'Shirim 1:10) explains that when the Chachamim gave their wives adornments, they were not simply giving them randomly-chosen pieces of jewelry. Rather, the adornments that they bought for their wives represented the unique qualities of the women. The Vilna Ga'on proves this from the Yerushalmi (Shabbos 6:1) which relates how Raban Gamliel's wife asked him to buy an adornment for her like she saw that Rebbi Akiva had bought for his wife. Raban Gamliel replied to her, "Would you do for me what she did for her husband? Rebbi Akiva's wife cut and sold her hair in order to support her husband's Torah study!"

The Vilna Ga'on explains that there are two types of adornments mentioned in the Gemara: a Yerushalayim Shel Zahav adornment, which is worn upon the head, and a gold necklace made of many parts that is worn around the neck. The head adornment, he says, was given to a wife who was outstanding in her wisdom and understanding (corresponding to Torah). The necklace adornment, made of many parts, was given to a woman who was outstanding in her many good deeds (Mitzvos). (Even when Torah is learned all day, it is considered the fulfillment of one Mitzvah, since the obligation to learn applies without a break, see Tosfos and Rosh in Berachos 12b.)

According to the Vilna Ga'on, it is possible that the incident recorded in our Gemara might have a deeper, allegorical meaning. When Rebbi Akiva's wife picked straw out of his hair, this symbolized that his head was full of secular knowledge. Like straw is inferior to the grain, secular wisdom is inferior to the wisdom of the Torah. The Gemara in Kesuvos (62b) explains that she married him because she saw his great potential to learn Torah which he had not yet actualized, and she wanted to persuade and encourage him to develop his potential. Rebbi Akiva was downhearted, believing that he would never be able to become great in Torah since he was already advanced in age and had never studied (as we learn in the famous Midrash regarding Rebbi Akiva's initial inspiration to begin learning Torah).

The Gemara says that Eliyahu came to encourage Rebbi Akiva in the form of a pauper so destitute that he did not even have straw for his wife who just gave birth to sleep on, demonstrating that he did not even have any knowledge with which to make any amount of income. This encouraged Rebbi Akiva, showing him that just like he was able to learn the labors (such as shepherding) that he had learned so far, he could also learn Torah. The Gemara is allegorically comparing giving birth to learning Torah (see Chagigah 3b). Eliyahu was hinting to Rebbi Akiva's outstanding Midah of Tzeni'us that his wife had perceived in him which is a prerequisite for learning Torah. He realized that once he had the "straw," the Derech Eretz and basic knowledge, he could go on to learn Torah. One who does not have even that basic knowledge cannot yet begin to learn Torah.

The fact that Rebbi Akiva's wife sold her hair so that he could learn Torah shows that she made a decision that Torah was more important than anything else and she would sacrifice anything for it, since the Torah is represented by the head. To commemorate her sacrifice, Rebbi Akiva bought her a Yerushalayim Shel Zahav to adorn her head.


QUESTION: The Gemara says that two people made a deal with each other. One agreed to teach the other 1000 ways to make a certain type of fruit dessert, in return for payment. However, the expert chef only taught his friend 800 ways to make the fruit dessert, and he would not teach him the rest. His friend brought him to the court of the leader of the generation, Rebbi. Rebbi said, "Our fathers have forgotten the good, while we have never known such lavishness." He was expressing his amazement that someone could know 800 ways to make a dessert.

Why, though, would someone bring his friend to the Gadol ha'Dor for such a petty matter?

A fascinating insight into this Agadah is presented by the Manostrishtcher Rebbe, RAV YEHOSHUA HESHEL RABINOWITZ, zt'l, in ERKEI YEHOSHUA (30:13). He cites Rav Moshe of Savran who explains this Gemara based on a Gemara in Moed Katan. The Gemara in Moed Katan (16b) says that David ha'Melech was able to kill 800 enemies at one time. Nevertheless, it troubled him that he did not merit the miracle of being able to 1000 enemies at one time, a merit that is mentioned in the Torah (Devarim 32:30). A Bas Kol issued forth and said that he did not merit to be able to kill 1000 at one time because of the incident of Uriyah and Bas Sheva.

RASHI there explains that because of his sin with Uriyah, "200 were taken away from him."

The VILNA GA'ON (in DIVREI ELIYAHU, Moed Katan; see also Insights to Moed Katan 16:2) asks why does Rashi say that 200 "were taken from him," implying that David indeed was able to kill 1000 enemies at one time before the sin of Uriyah? Where do we find that at some point in time before this battle, David ha'Melech was able to kill 1000 at one time? We do not find David describing his combat experience in any other place. (Indeed, RASHI K'SAV YAD does not mention that the ability to kill the extra 200 was taken away from him, since we do not find that he ever had that ability to begin with.)

Moreover, why was losing the ability to kill an additional 200 enemies a punishment for what he did to Uriyah? How are the two connected?

Rav Moshe of Savran explains this based on the verse, "The thousand are to You, the Master of peace (Shlomo), and two hundred more to the guards of its fruit" (Shir ha'Shirim 8:12). This alludes to the responsibility of the Gadol ha'Dor to be Meyached 1000 Yichudim every day (to perceive 1000 different perspectives of Hashem's Oneness -- Hashem is referred to often as Shlomo, meaning "the King to Whom Shalom belongs," Shavuos 36b). In order to achieve the last 200 of the 1000 Yichudim, though, a person needs special Divine assistance, which is granted only to a person who is especially careful in all aspects of his moral conduct. The verse is saying, "One thousand [Yichudim may be ascribed to] You (Hashem), the Master of peace, and two hundred [of them are only given] to one who guards his fruit (to those who guard the source of reproduction)." David ha'Melech lost the ability to perceive the last 200 Yichudim because of his conduct with Uriyah and Bas Sheva.

This explains our Gemara in Nedarim that says that two people made a deal with each other. One would teach the other 1000 ways to make a certain type of fruit dessert. However, his friend only taught him 800 and would not teach him the rest.

Rav Moshe of Savran explains that these two people were actually great Tzadikim. One hired the other to teach him the 1000 Yichudim, represented by fruit desserts, for each type of dessert takes a combination of various fruits and unites them together to make a different taste. His friend was only able to teach him 800, because he had not merited to comprehend the last 200. Therefore, they came to Rebbi, the Gadol ha'Dor, who would certainly know all 1000 Yichudim and be able to teach them the remaining 200.

Rebbi, when he replied, "Our fathers said 'we have forgotten all good,' while we never have seen [such lavishness]," was hinting that he, too, did not know the other 200 Yichudim and he could not teach them. (In fact, Rebbi certainly knew the other 200 Yichudim, but he always made it a point to uphold the integrity of his forebear, David ha'Melech (Shabbos 56a). Therefore, even though his moral conduct was indeed exceptional (Shabbos 118b) he did not want to say that he had attained a greater level than David in this area, and he did not openly admit that he knew all 1000 Yichudim.) This is what Rebbi meant when he said, "Our fathers (David ha'Melech) have forgotten the good" - - they *once had* the other 200 Yichudim, but they forgot it due to the story with Uriyah. In contrast, "We never had such lavishness" -- we never learned the 1000 Yichudim to begin with. He said this out of humility and to show the greatness of David ha'Melech.

QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rebbi did not invite Bar Kapara to the wedding feast that he made for his son. Bar Kapara commented, "If Hashem grants such riches to those who transgress His will, then certainly to those who fulfill His will!" In response, Rebbi acquiesced and invited Bar Kapara. At that point, Bar Kapara commented, "If Hashem grants such riches in this world to those who keep His will, then certainly in the world to come!"

How could Bar Kapara call Rebbi one who transgresses Hashem's will just for not inviting him to the wedding? (See GILYON HA'SHAS)


(a) The SHALMEI NEDARIM explains that Bar Kapara did not mean to call Rebbi a transgressor. Rather, he made a cryptic statement so that Rebbi would misundersand it and invite him to the wedding. Later, after Rebbi invited him, Bar Kapara explained what his true intention was. Bar Kapara actually meant to explain how Rebbi meritted to receive such riches in this world, if only Resha'im are rewarded in this world. He said that if the transgressors of Hashem's will have such wealth in this world, then certainly those who fulfill Hashem's will certainly shall receive reward not only in the next world, but in this world as well (and not at the expense of their share reward in the world to come), as Rava says in Horiyos (10b).

After Rebbi invited him, he explained his intention more clearly and said that if Rebbi has received such great reward in this world, then certainly he has much reward awaiting him in Olam ha'Ba. (See the Shalmei Nedarim who also quotes the explanation of the SHEVUS YAKOV, to which the Gilyon ha'Shas refers.)

(b) The CHASAM SOFER quotes his Mechutan, Rav Bunim, who explains that Rebbi and Bar Kapara disagreed about how a person is supposed to relate to the pleasures of this world (see Insights to Berachos 30b). Rebbi did not invite Bar Kapara because he was afraid that Bar Kapara would cheer him and bring him enjoyment from the wedding. Rebbi's approach to life was not to derive any pleasure from Olam ha'Zeh "even from my small finger" (Kesuvos 104a). Bar Kapara felt that Rebbi was incorrect; one is supposed to enjoy the pleasures of this world when using them for the sake of a Mitzvah, and that is why Hashem created those pleasures. Therefore, he referred to Rebbi as one who transgresses the will of Hashem, since he did not invite Bar Kapara in order to avoid deriving benefit from this world. Rebbi eventually gave in and invited Bar Kapara to the wedding, at which point Bar Kapara commented that if Rebbi is willing to let him cheer him so that he enjoys the pleasures of this world for the sake of the Mitzvah, then he is indeed one who does the will of Hashem and certainly he will receive great reward in Olam ha'Ba.

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