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Sanhedrin, 20


QUESTION: The Mishnah states that when a Jewish king is in mourning and the Se'udas Havra'ah is brought to him, all of the people sit on the ground and the king sits on the "Dargash." In the Gemara, Ula explains that Dargash is an "Arsa d'Gada" -- a special bed designated exclusively for bringing good fortune into the home, upon which no one sits or sleeps. The Rabanan question Ula's definition of a Dargash. If a Dargash is an "Arsa d'Gada, then why do we let the king sit on it when he is an Avel, if he does not sit on it during the rest of the year? Why do we allow him more honor during Avelus? Rava answers that indeed we find that during Avelus, the Avel is given things of honor that he is not accustomed to receiving.

Why, though, is it necessary for the king to sit on a Dargash? It seems clear that the point of the Mishnah is for the king to retain his honor even while he is an Avel. Therefore, everyone else sits lower down on the ground while he sits in an elevated position. Why, though, do we seat him upon a Dargash? If we are allowing him to sit higher up in any case, then we should let him sit on a normal bed or couch ("Mitah") in the manner that he sits during the rest of the year! Why should we allow him to sit on a Dargash, which gives him more honor than he gets during the year, when it is not necessary?

ANSWER: The Gemara cites a Beraisa which teaches that an Avel must overturn all the beds in the house, even those upon which he is not sitting. This statement includes two separate Halachos: first, an Avel should not sit on a bed, and, second, the beds in the house must be overturned, even if the Avel is not sitting on them. (This is why the Beraisa later needs to teach us that a Mitah on which utensils are placed does not have to be overturned; see ROSH, Moed Katan 3:78.) The Chachamim were lenient and allowed a king to sit on an elevated place because of his honor, and therefore they removed the ban, with regard to a king, that prohibits an Avel from sitting on a bed during Avelus. However, they did not want to remove *both* Halachos -- the prohibition not to sit on bed *and* the requirement of turning over the beds in the house -- if not necessary. Therefore, they looked for something that did not have to be turned over upon which the king could sit, and that is why they enacted that the king sit on a Dargash (that does not need to be overturned), rather than on a bed (that needs to be overturned).

(The Mishnah here, and in Moed Katan (27a) is following the view of the Tana Kama in the Beraisa in Nedarim (56b) who argues with Raban Shimon ben Gamliel and holds that it is not necessary to undo the straps of the Dargash, effectively turning it over. See RAN in Nedarim 56b, DH b'Shuka.)

However, the RAMBAM (Hilchos Avel 5:18) writes that it is not enough to overturn the beds in the house; the Avel must also sit upon the overturned beds (and not on a chair, nor even on the floor). From the ruling of the Rambam it seems that the Mitzvah of turning over the beds is not fulfilled unless the Avel actually sits on an overturned bed. Although the other Rishonim (see HAGAHOS HA'HASHLAMAH and TUR) disagree with the Rambam in this point as we mentioned above, the Rambam does relate turning over the beds to sitting on an overturned bed. According to the Rambam, if the Chachamim suspended the Halachah of sitting on an overturned bed in the case of a king who is an Avel, then there should be no necessity at all for a king to overturn the beds! Consequently, since the Rambam seems to hold that the purpose of turning over the beds is in order for the Avel to sit on an overturned bed, the king might as well sit on a regular bed that is not overturned!

The answer is that the Rambam also agrees that the Halachah of sitting on an overturned bed and turning over the beds are two separate Halachos. This is clear from the fact that the Rambam writes (in Hilchos Avel 5:18) that it is only necessary for an Avel to *sleep* on an overturned bed, implying that he may *sit* on the ground and he does not need to sit on the overturned bed. This is even more evident from the Rambam's ruling earlier (Hilchos Avel 4:9) where the Rambam writes that on the first day of Avelus, the Avel may not eat from his own food, and he is obligated to sit on an overturned bed. This implies that during the remaining days of Avelus, the Avel does not have to sit on an overturned bed (but he may sit on a mat or on the floor).

The RADVAZ and others explain that according to the Rambam there are three different Halachos of how an Avel sits during Avelus. First, all of the beds must be overturned. Second, the Avel is obligated to *sleep* on an overturned bed during the entire period of his Avelus, even though he does not have to *sit* there during the last six days of the Avelus. Third, on the first day (or during the time that others must feed him and he may not eat of his own), the Avel must also *sit* on an overturned bed.

According to the Rambam, then, it seems that we may also say that the Chachamim removed the necessity for the king to sit on an overturned bed in order to maintain his honor, but they did not want to change the other two Halachos. Therefore, he still must overturn all of his beds in his house (and he must sleep on an overturned bed). When he sits at the Se'udas Havra'ah, we must seat the king upon something other than a bed, and that is why we seat him upon a Dargash. (M. Kornfeld)

QUESTION: The Gemara cites Ula who defines a "Dargash" as an "Arsa d'Gada" -- a special bed designated exclusively for bringing good fortune into the home, upon which no one sits or sleeps. This "good luck bed" was spread, but not used, in order to bring good fortune into the home. RASHI here adds that it is a type of Nichush, superstition.

How is it permitted to set up a bed in one's home for the purpose of Nichush? The Torah prohibits Nichush (Vayikra 19:26)!

In fact, the statement that the RAN cites when defining the word "Gad" ("Mazal") in "Arsa d'Gada" is a statement in Shabbos (67b) that says that a person who says, in order to improve his luck, "Let my Mazal ('Gad') become fortuitous," transgresses the prohibition against Nichush! Moreover, Rebbi Yehudah there says that "Gad" is a term used for Avodah Zarah, which he proves from a verse in Yeshayah (65:11).


(a) The ROSH (in Nedarim 56a and in Tosfos ha'Rosh) explains that the Sar of Ashirus, the divinely appointed spiritual being in charge of wealth and success, is named "Nakid," or "refined" (Pesachim 111b, Chulin 105b). A person can attract that Sar to his home by maintaining a clean and neat home. For this reason, many people had the practice of setting up a bed that was always neatly spread -- it was done in order to beckon the Sar of Ashirus to visit. (In contrast, when a house is not kept neat and tidy, the Sar of Aniyus, the divinely appointed spiritual being in charge of poverty, is able to enter. The Sar of Aniyus is named "Navil" (Pesachim ibid.), which means "untidy" and "disordered.")

The EINAYIM LA'MISHPAT explains that the Rosh is telling us what the SEFER CHASIDIM (#458) states explicitly: doing an act which works through supernatural means (Mazal, or Ru'ach ha'Tum'ah) is permitted if it is widely known that such an act brings about a certain result. Since that act has been tried and tested and found to be effective, it is not called Nichush when one relies on performing that act in order to obtain a certain result. This explains why the Chachamim cautioned against eating food that was left underneath a bed because of Ru'ach ha'Tum'ah. Similarly, it is well-known that a bed that is kept neatly spread brings success to one's home, and therefore, the Sefer Chasidim explains, it is not called Nichush. (See Shabbos 67a, where the Gemara says that anything that is known to heal is not called Nichush; see also Insights to Shabbos 67:2:c.)

It is possible that this is what Rashi means as well. The purpose of the bed is for a type of Nichush that is permitted (Rashi calls it "Nichush" only because it works through supernatural ways, but not because it is a forbidden form of Nichush).

(b) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES writes that the bed was not actually spread for good luck, but rather it was meant to welcome the heavenly emissary that Hashem sends to bring wealth to a home. By honoring the emissary, one honors the One who sent him. Hence, the bed has nothing to do with Nichush. He compares this to the Kisei Shel Eliyahu that is set up at every Bris Milah to honor the visiting emissary of Hashem, Eliyahu ha'Navi. (According to this explanation, it appears that this "emissary bed" was spread only by Jews. It was a way of showing Bitachon and confidence in Hashem that He will send His Divine emissary to bring us bountiful blessing.)

(c) The RAN answers that this "Arsa d'Gada" was not made for Mazal, luck, at all. Rather, it was a way of expressing gratitude to Hashem. By spreading a bed that is not even used, we are saying that we recognize that Hashem has blessed us with more than we need. The word "Gada" ("Mazal") in this context is a borrowed term. (Through thanking Hashem for what He has given us in the past, we will be Zocheh to have more Berachah in the home, and thus such a bed indeed brings wealth.)


QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the verses in Sefer Shmuel I (ch. 8) which discuss the appointment of a Jewish king. When the nation asked that a king be appointed over them, the prophet Shmuel warned them that they did not realize how much power the king would wield over them, and he mentioned to them many harsh powers, such as the ability to take away their children forcibly to serve him. The Gemara cites a dispute between the Amora'im Rav and Shmuel, which is the same dispute between the Tana'im Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Yosi, whether the king indeed has all of these powers mentioned by Shmuel, or whether Shmuel mentioned them only to frighten the Jewish people and deter them from their request.

TOSFOS asks that we find that Achav was punished for killing Navos because he would not give him his ancestral field. According to the opinion that the king is entitled to take anything he wants from the people, why was Achav wrong?


(a) TOSFOS gives a number of answers. One answer is that the verse (Shmuel I 8:14) implies that the king may take the property of his subjects only in order to give it to his servants, but not for his own private use. Since Achav killed Navos and took the field for his own private use, he was acting beyond his authority and therefore was punished. (See RADAK to Shmuel I 8:15, who explains that the king is permitted only to take the produce of fields and give it to his servants, meaning his army, when they go to war.)

The RAN also gives this answer, as does the YAD RAMAH and ME'IRI, and the RAMBAM (Hilchos Gezeilah 5:14) rules that this is the Halachah.

(b) Alternatively, Tosfos answers that Achav was punished because he took the field with intent to use it for idol worship. Tosfos infers that Achav wanted to use the field for idol worship from the fact that Achav said that he wanted to use the field as a "Gan Yarak" (lit. a vegetable field; Melachim I 21:2), which is an allusion to fields used for idol worship as mentioned in Sefer Yeshayah (66:17).

(c) Tosfos also suggests that Achav indeed was entitled to take the field. However, Achav asked Navos to *sell* him the field, and he did not demand that Navos give it to him for free by virtue of the power of the king. Navos, therefore, assumed that he was entitled to refuse to sell the field, since Achav was not asking for it based on his kingly rights. Consequently, Achav was wrong in killing Navos for refusing to sell him the field. The RAN also gives this answer in the name of RABEINU TAM.

(d) Tosfos cites the "NAKDAN" who explains that a king is permitted only to take distant fields, outside of the city, which are not prime real estate. The field of Navos was adjacent to the king's palace (Melachim I 21:1), and thus the king was not entitled to take such a valuable field.

(e) Tosfos answers further that perhaps a king is permitted only to take a field from someone who purchased the field, and not a field that was inherited. The field of Navos was his inherited, ancestral field (as mentioned in Melachim I 21:3), and thus Achav was not permitted to take it.

(f) Finally, Tosfos answers that the laws of absolute domain apply only to a king who rules over both Yehudah and Yisrael, and who was appointed as king by Hashem (such as through a prophet). Achav ruled over Yisrael, and not over Yehudah, and he was not appointed as king by Hashem.

The RAN argues with this answer of Tosfos. The Ran maintains that any king who was appointed by the ten tribes was considered a valid king according to Halachah with all of the rights of a Jewish king. He explains that since Hashem decreed that the nation should be divided into two kingdoms (Melachim I 11:31), it was considered as though the king of Yisrael (i.e. the ten tribes) was appointed by Hashem.

The ARUCH LA'NER explains that Tosfos does not mean that any king who is not appointed by Hashem is not a king. We find that both Moshe and Eliyahu gave kingly honor to such kings (Eliyahu to Achav). Rather, Tosfos just means that all of the harsh laws regarding the absolute rights of a king mentioned by Shmuel ha'Navi do not apply to such a king.

The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM concludes with a question on the Ran's opinion. Why should a king of the ten tribes be considered to have been appointed by Hashem? If his specific appointment was not directly through the prophecy of a prophet, then his appointment does not fit the requirement of appointing a king "whom Hashem will choose" (Devarim 17:15). (Y. Montrose)

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