THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) "YANAI THE KING, STAND!"
QUESTION: The Gemara relates the tragedy underlying the reason for why we do
not judge a king of Yisrael. Yanai the king was summoned before Beis Din
during the trial of one of his servants who was being tried for murder. King
Yanai entered the Beis Din and seated himself. The great Tana, Shimon ben
Shetach, commanded, "Yanai the king, stand on your feet and let them testify
about you. And know that you are not standing before us, but before the
Creator of the world!"
King Yanai responded, "I will not do as you say, but only as your colleagues
say." The Chachamim were frightened and were not willing to be so bold as
Shimon ben Shetach, and so they hid their faces in the ground. Shimon ben
Shetach said to them, "Are you masters of thoughts? Let the true Master of
thoughts come and exact retribution from you!" Immediately, the angel
Gavriel came and beat them against the ground and they died.
As a result of this incident, it was decreed that a king not be involved in
judgement, neither being judged nor giving testimony.
Why did Shimon ben Shetach demand that Yanai stand up in the first place? We
are taught that a Talmid Chacham is not required to stand in court (Shevuos
30b), and we are also taught that the honor required for a king is
considered greater than the honor required for a Talmid Chacham, as a Talmid
Chacham is able to forego his honor, while a king is not permitted to forego
his honor (Avodah Zarah 19a)! Why, then, did Yanai have to stand? (TOSFOS,
DH Yanai ha'Melech)
(a) The RAN answers in the name of RABEINU DAVID that there is an essential
difference between the two types of honor, that of a king and that of a
Talmid Chacham. The honor due to a Talmid Chacham is because of "Kavod
ha'Torah," honor for the Torah. The reason why one must stand in Beis Din is
out of honor for the court, which is also "Kavod ha'Torah." Consequently, a
Talmid Chacham is not required to stand in court, since his "Kavod ha'Torah"
comes before that of the court. The honor of a king, in contrast, is not due
to "Kavod ha'Torah," but due to the awe of a king and his authority. A king
should still have to stand in Beis Din because to the honor that is due to
them, and the Beis Din cannot forego that honor out of awe of the king,
because the verse (Devarim 1:17) prohibits the judges from being afraid of
anyone who comes to be judged. This also seems to be the answer of TOSFOS.
The NETZIV also follows this line of reasoning. He adds that this is
apparently why Shimon ben Shetach added that "you are not standing before
us, but before the Creator of the world" -- his obligation to stand in Beis
Din was because of the Torah's prohibition that the judges are not to fear
The Ran adds that when Shimon ben Shetach told Yanai to stand "and let them
testify about you," he did not mean that Yanai should stand while testimony
was being given, because only the witnesses are required to stand at that
time. Rather, he meant that Yanai should stand at the moment that the Beis
Din announces its verdict.
(b) The ME'IRI and RABEINU YONAH (and an opinion cited by the Ran) answer
that Yanai had seated himself in Beis Din before the Beis Din gave him
permission to be seated. Even a Talmid Chacham, who is permitted to sit in
Beis Din, must wait until Beis Din gives him permission to sit.
(c) The RAN concludes with a third approach. He says that Shimon ben Shetach
simply made a mistake.
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM says that it is incredulous to say that the Av Beis
Din made a mistake, and he doubt that the Ran actually wrote these words.
If this answer indeed is the Ran's, then we might explain it as follows.
Even though Shimon ben Shetach's ruling that Yanai must stand was in error,
nevertheless the angel Gavriel came and smote the rest of the members of
Beis Din. It could be that the Chachamim deserved to be punished for not
being willing even to discuss the issue because of their fear of Yanai, and
they thereby transgressed the prohibition given to judges, "Do not fear any
person" (Devarim 1:17) and caused a Chilul Hashem. It was for that reason
that they were punished, and not because they misunderstood the Halachah.
(In a letter to the MISHNEH HALACHOS, someone suggests that the Chachamim
were punished because Torah law is determined by the ruling of the leading
scholar of that generation, even if he is in error. The Mishneh Halachos,
however, refutes the proof from this Gemara.) (Y. Montrose)
2) YAKOV, REDEEMER OF AVRAHAM
OPINIONS: The verse in Yeshayah (29:22) states, "Therefore, so has Hashem
said to the House of Yakov, who redeemed Avraham; now Yakov will not be
ashamed, and now his face will not be whitened. The Gemara asks where do we
find that Yakov redeemed Avraham? Rav Yehudah answers that Yakov redeemed
Avraham from "Tza'ar Gidul Banim," the pain of raising children. This is why
the verse states afterwards that Yakov will not be ashamed. What exactly is
this pain of raising children, and what is the embarrassment that Yakov was
(a) RASHI explains that Yakov "redeemed" Avraham from the pain of having to
raise the Shevatim, which Avraham would have had to have done.
(b) TOSFOS asks that it is not a pain to raise twelve sons, as we see from
Oved Edom who was rewarded with many sons because he took care of the Aron.
If having so many sons would have been troublesome, then it would not have
been a reward. Furthermore, Avraham himself did have many children from
Tosfos therefore explains that this pain refers not to the general pain of
raising children, but to the specific difficult events which occurred such
as the episode of Yosef and his brothers, and the way they went down to
(c) The MAHARSHA suggests that the pains mentioned here are the pains which
Yakov had to endure in order to have his children. He had to run away from
Esav, be stripped of all of his possessions, and go work for the conniving
Lavan for twenty years in order to have his family which would eventually
become the Shevatim. Moreover, he was pursued and his life threatened upon
returning from Lavan's house, and he faced the threat of war with the men of
Esav. All of these things Yakov endured in order to have the Shevatim.
The IR DAVID adds an important point. He asks why would we think Yakov
should be embarrassed? He answers that since Yakov's forebears established
the Tefilos of Shacharis and Minchah which are obligatory, while the Tefilah
that Yakov himself established, Ma'ariv, is only voluntary (Berachos 26b),
their contribution to the future of the Jewish people was greater than
Yakov's. Consequently, Yakov could be embarrassed for his minor contribution
to the daily life of the Jewish people if not for the fact that he was the
one who raised the Shevatim.
(e) The Midrash (Bereishis Rabah 63:2, Vayikra Rabah 36:4) gives a different
explanation for how Yakov saved Avraham. The Midrash explains that Avraham
was saved from the flaming furnace of Nimrod only in the merit of his future
There are different approaches to understanding this Midrash. The accepted
approach is that Avraham was much greater than Yakov. However, Hashem would
have let him die and create a Kidush Hashem if not for the fact that the
Shevatim would issue forth from his descendant, Yakov, and from whom a holy
nation would be born. Therefore, Hashem miraculously ensured that Avraham
was left unscathed by the fire (YEFEI TO'AR; RAV AVIGDOR MILLER zt'l; see
PERASHAS DERACHIM, Derush Sheni, who discusses into this topic at length).