THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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SANHEDRIN 44 (19 Cheshvan) - Dedicated l'Iluy Nishmas Chaim Mordechai ben
Harav Yisrael Azriel (Feldman) of Milwaukee, by the members of his family.
1) ACHAN'S "PRIVATE" SIN
QUESTION: Rebbi Nechemyah maintains that the Jewish people never accepted
Arvus for Nistaros, sins done in secret. Rather, when they crossed the
Jordan River they accepted Arvus for sins done overtly (for which they did
not have group responsibility before entering Eretz Yisrael). The Gemara
asks why, then, were the Jewish people held accountable for Achan's sin,
which was done covertly? The Gemara answers that Achan's wife and children
knew about his sin.
2) YEHOSHUA'S PRAYER
How does this answer the question? Even though his wife and children knew
about his sin, the rest of the people did not know about it! Why, then, were
36 people killed in the battle as punishment for Achan's sin, if they were
not aware of it?
(a) The CHAMRA V'CHAYEI answers that a person's wife and children are
talkative and thus they probably spread the word, so that enough people knew
about the sin.
This answer is problematic, because if Achan's family spread the word, then
Yehoshua should have known who committed the sin and he should not have
needed to ask the Urim v'Tumim.
(b) The SANHEDRI KETANAH suggests another answer. Sometimes a sin done in
private is more severe than a sin done in public, because a person who sins
in private is showing that he does not think that Hashem is watching what he
does in private, as the Gemara says in Bava Kama (79b). On the other hand, a
person might sin in private in order to prevent a great Chilul Hashem when
he is overtaken by his Yetzer ha'Ra (Mo'ed Katan 17a; see Insights there).
Rebbi Nechemyah maintains that the Jewish people are not punished for the
sins that a person does in private, because he might have sinned in private
in order to avoid a Chilul Hashem. Hashem does not punish the people
collectively for such a sin, because then the sin would become publicized
and a Chilul Hashem would result. However, if the person sins in private in
order to protect his own reputation, then even Rebbi Nechemyah agrees that
Hashem punishes collectively for such a sin done in private, so that the
people will investigate and discover such sins.
This is the intention of the Gemara's answer. The Gemara says that since
Achan was not careful to hide his sin from his wife and children, it must
have been that he was not interested in protecting the honor of Hashem, but
rather he was interested only in protecting his own reputation and thus he
did not mind if his wife and children knew about it, since they would not
tell anyone else. Since his sin was done in private to protect his own
honor, Hashem punished the Tzibur so that they should investigate and
discover his sin.
(c) The Sanhedri Ketanah answers further by saying that even if Achan's
family did not actually spread the word, it was possible for the Sanhedrin
and community leaders to investigate the matter and to reveal Achan's sin,
since his wife and children knew about it. Because of this, his sin was
considered one of Niglos.
The logic of this approach can be understood in two ways. First, the ME'IRI
explains that the group responsibility for hidden sins (according to Rebbi
Yehudah) obligates the leaders to investigate constantly whether there are
any hidden sins among their constituents. When they do not do so are they
punished for the hidden sins of others. Rebbi Nechemyah (who argues with
Rebbi Yehudah) does not hold the Sanhedrin responsible for not investigating
thoroughly enough to discover the hidden sin. However, even he admits that
the Sanhedrin must at least investigate minimally to find out if there are
any sins of which they are not yet aware. Since the wife and children of
Achan knew about his sin, a minimal amount of investigation would have
revealed it, and thus the people were held responsible.
A second way of understanding is that the reason why Hashem does not punish
the people for the private sins of an individual according to Rebbi
Nechemyah is not because the people were not able to prevent the sin, but
rather it is because even after the people are punished and they investigate
the matter, they might not be able to determine what caused their
punishment, since the sin was done in private. If they do not find the cause
of their punishment, it will look like they were punished for no reason and
this will cause a Chilul Hashem. In the case of Achan, since his wife and
children knew about the sin, it would be possible to determine the cause of
the punishment and there would be no Chilul Hashem. Therefore, even Rebbi
Nechemyah agrees that the people can be punished for such Nistaros.
Support for the Sanhedri Ketanah's suggestion can be found in the words of
RABEINU CHANANEL (end of 43b). Rabeinu Chananel seems to understand that,
according to Rebbi Nechemyah, the Jewish people are not punished for the
sins of another person, whether those sins are done in public or in private.
On this the Gemara asks why were the Jewish people punished for Achan's sin?
(The Gemara could also have asked where does Arvus apply.) The Gemara
answers that Achan's sin was not done publicly. On the other hand, it was
not done privately either, since his wife and children knew about it. In
such a case, the group is held responsible for the sins of the individual,
even according to Rebbi Nechemyah.
QUESTION: When Yehoshua complained to Hashem about the Jewish people's
defeat at the battle of Ai, Hashem told Yehoshua (according to Rebbi Shila)
that it was Yehoshua who was responsible for the defeat, because "your sin
is worse than their sin." What was Yehoshua's sin? Hashem had commanded him
to erect the stones and give the Berachos and Kelalos as soon as they
crossed the Jordan River, but Yehoshua only erected the stones sixty Mil
into Eretz Yisrael, far from the Jordan.
In what way was this sin of Yehoshua related to losing the battle of Ai?
Moreover, why was his sin considered so severe? Also, why did Yehoshua alter
what Hashem told him to do?
ANSWER: To answer these questions, it is enlightening to see what the
Rishonim tell us about the prayer of "Aleinu." The KOL BO (#16) writes that
he heard that Yehoshua established the prayer of Aleinu at the time that he
conquered Yericho. Yehoshua signed his name (Hoshe'a) as an inverted acronym
in the words of the prayer ("*A*leinu... *sh*e'Lo... *v*a' Anachnu... *H*u
Elokeinu"). The MEGALEH AMUKOS (252 Ofanim, #133) and the SEDER HA'YOM
(Kavanas Aleinu) add that Achan composed the words of "Al Ken Nekaveh," the
paragraph that we recited after the paragraph of Aleinu, when he was caught
with the objects that he took from Yericho and was about to be punished. He,
too, signed his named as an acronym in the beginning of the Tefilah ("*A*l
The TESHUVOS HA'GE'ONIM (cited by MACHZIK BERACHAH OC 132:2) writes that
Aleinu is a unique Tefilah, and there is no praise for Hashem that compares
to it. (See also MISHNAH BERURAH OC 132:8.) Aleinu is a proclamation of
Emunah in Hashem. In this respect, it is similar to the recitation of Shema
Yisrael. For this reason, the SEDER HA'YOM (Tefilas Minchah) writes that
some do not recite Aleinu at Minchah since we do not say Shema Yisrael at
Minchah (see Mishnah Berurah OC 132:7). This is reiterated by the BACH (OC
133:1) who writes that we recite Aleinu before returning to our homes in
order to depart Tefilah with an act of "Kabalas Ol Malchus Shamayim" and
"Yichud Hashem," acceptance of Hashem's kingship and declaring His unity.
The Seder ha'Yom (Tefilas Aleinu) takes the comparison with Shema Yisrael
further, pointing out that Aleinu begins with the letter Ayin and ends with
the letter Dalet, because it corresponds to the first verse of Shema which
has a prominent Ayin and Dalet (written enlarged in the Sefer Torah),
meaning that we are witnesses ("Ed") to Hashem's Malchus. Similarly, the
paragraph of "Al Ken Nekaveh" begins with the letter Ayin and ends with the
This might be why the PIRKEI D'REBBI ELIEZER cited by the Kol Bo (#16)
writes that Aleinu should be recited while standing, as it is such a great
praise to Hashem. (He adds that the Gematriya of "Aleinu" is the same as
that of the word "u'Me'umad," "and standing.")
This is the reason why Aleinu is used as the introduction for the Tefilah of
Malchiyos in the Musaf Shemoneh Esreh on Rosh Hashanah. We introduce
Malchiyos with Aleinu and conclude with the verse of Shema Yisrael.
Despite all of the similarities, there is an important difference between
Shema Yisrael and Aleinu. In Shema Yisrael we say "Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem
Echad," which Rashi there explains to mean that even though Hashem is only
recognized by the Jewish people now, there will come a time when His name
will be recognized by all of the peoples of the world. Aleinu, on the other
hand, includes only the first part of that proclamation -- that Hashem
separated us from all other nations that serve idolatry, while we serve
Hashem. It does not include the second part, that one day all nations will
serve Hashem. This reflects an important difference between the way Moshe
Rabeinu saw the world and the way Yehoshua saw the world. Moshe was able to
see the ultimate Tikun ha'Shalem of the world, the time the world would
reach its perfection, while Yehoshua was able to see only the world in its
present state. This might be alluded to in the statement of the Gemara (Bava
Basra 75a; see Insights there) that "the face of Moshe shines like the sun,
while the face of Yehoshua only shines like the moon." The moon is
diminished in this world and does not reflect the full majesty of Hashem.
On a deeper level, the recognition of the Achdus, Oneness, of Hashem in the
world can be brought about only through the Achdus, unity, of the Jewish
people, as we see in Berachos (6a). Moshe Rabeinu led the people in a way
that raised and united all of the Jewish people together, while Yehoshua was
not able to unite the people to the same level, and consequently the Achdus
of Hashem was not revealed to the same extent. This is reflected in the
incident involving Eldad and Meidad. Yehoshua complained to Moshe Rabeinu
that Eldad and Meidad should not be prophesizing independently of Moshe
Rabeinu. Moshe replied that he wished that the entire nation could be
prophets. We see this again in the Gemara in Sanhedrin (8a) which relates
that Moshe told Yehoshua, "You will come *with* the Jewish people into the
promised land" (Devarim 31:7), telling him that "the elders and you will
lead the people together. Hashem corrected him, insisting that he tell
Yehoshua, "You will *bring* the Jewish people into the land which I have
promised" (Devarim 31:23); Hashem told Yehoshua, "Take a stick and beat the
elders until they follow your orders! There can only be one leader in each
generation; there cannot be a joint leadership!" Yehoshua would not be able
to lead the Jews properly if other elders or prophets would join him. The
concept of joint leadership was foreign to him. This is because Yehoshua was
not able to unite the people the same way that Moshe did. This is why
Aleinu, the prayer of Yehoshua, mentions only the Malchus of Hashem in this
world and not the ultimate Achdus of Hashem, when He will be recognized as
One by all of the world.
When Hashem saw that the nation did not reach the full level of Achdus under
Yehoshua's leadership, He told Yehoshua to make sure that the nation accept
Arvus immediately upon entering Eretz Yisrael. The Arvus would complete the
unification of the people such that their conquering of the land would be
able to create a situation of "Hashem Echad," the world's recognition of
Hashem as One. Yehoshua, though, thought that Achdus needs to precede the
acceptance of Arvus in order that the Arvus should properly take effect. He
sought to accomplish this by traveling through Eretz Yisrael a distance of
sixty Mil, because the land of Eretz Yisrael also has the ability to unite
the people. That was a mistake, though, because the land can only bring
about the people's unification only after it is conquered by the Jewish
people. At the time that Yehoshua led the people into Eretz Yisrael, the
land was under the dominion of the foreign kings who served Avodah Zarah,
and thus the land was not able to bring about a unifying effect. On the
contrary, when the Jewish people crossed the Jordan River and stood together
in the bed of the split river with the water towering over their heads and
they accepted to do the Mitzvos of Hashem, they reached a point of unity to
which they never returned, but when they walked the sixty Mil, they slowly
fell from this level of unity. Had the Jewish people accepted the Arvus
immediately, the Arvus would have been perfect and would have brought about
the perfect unification of the nation, and the conquering of Eretz Yisrael
would have been the final redemption. However, because Yehoshua took the
Jewish people sixty Mil before accepting the Arvus and the fervor of their
Achdus wore off, the Arvus that they accepted did not accomplish its
purpose, and it did not reach the highest level that it could have reached.
This is what the Gemara means when it says that Hashem blamed Yehoshua for
the defeat of Ai, saying that "your sin is worse than theirs," referring to
the sin of Achan. He meant that had the Jewish people accepted Arvus right
away, it would have brought them together with a much stronger bond, and
Achan never would have separated from the people and sinned.
When Achan repented for violating the Cherem, he realized that his sin
represented the lack of unity among the people, and he wanted to correct
that problem as part of his repentance. This is reflected in his composition
of "Al Ken Nekaveh." The point of the Tefilah is that while, right now, we
are different than all of the other nations, we are hoping to see Hashem's
glory spread over all of the nations such that all nations will realize the
Kavod Hashem, and that will occur only when the Jewish people unite properly
and become "a unified nation in the land."
3) ASKING THE ANGELS FOR HELP
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes Rebbi Yochanan who says that a person should
pray that "all should strengthen his cause" and that "he should not have any
adversaries above." RASHI explains that this means that a person should pray
that the Mal'achei ha'Shares should beseech Hashem for what he needs and he
should have no prosecuting Mal'achim against his case. Similarly, we find in
Shabbos (12b) that a person should pray in Hebrew and not in Aramaic so that
the Mal'achim will understand his prayers and bring them to Hashem.
4) THE TZADIK WHO WAS BURIED IN DISGRACE
We indeed include such prayers in the Selichos, such as the prayer of
"Machnisei Rachamim" (said towards the end of the Selichos during Aseres
Yemei Teshuvah), and the Pizmon "Malachei Rachamim" (recited in Selichos on
the first Monday of "Behab"). We also find in one of the holiest Piyutim
that we address the Midas ha'Rachamim of Hashem and beseech that Midah to be
receptive to our prayers (see RASHASH).
However, this practice of addressing our prayers to Mal'achim seems to
contradict other teachings of Chazal. The Yerushalmi in Berachos (9:1) says
that when a person prays, he should not cry out to Mal'achim like Micha'el
or Gavriel, but he should pray directly to Hashem. The RAMBAM (in Sanhedrin,
Perek 11) writes in his fifth Yesod ha'Emunah -- which expresses the
prohibition against serving Avodah Zarah -- that not only should a person
not worship a Mal'ach, but he should also not make a Mal'ach a vehicle
through which to reach Hashem. Rather, one should direct his thoughts
directly to Hashem, because all other creations, including Mal'achim, have
no power and only carry out the will of Hashem. How are we to reconcile this
with our Gemara?
(a) The MAHARAL (Nesiv ha'Avodah, ch. 12) writes that our Gemara is not
telling a person to address the Mal'achim in his prayers. Rather, it is
simply saying that a person should ask for mercy from Hashem that He let the
Mal'achim help him and that he not have any opponents among the Mal'achim.
When the Gemara says in Shabbos (12b) that a person should pray in Hebrew so
that the Mal'achim understand his prayers, it does not mean that he should
address the Mal'achim. Rather, it is the duty of certain Mal'achim to bring
a person's prayers to Hashem, and if they understand his Tefilos then they
will be more effective in bringing his requests before Hashem. The prayer
itself, though, is spoken to Hashem and not to the Mal'achim. The Mal'achim
only support his prayer that is directed to Hashem.
(The ME'IRI here explains that our Gemara is not referring to the Mal'achim
at all. Rather, a person should ask that other people pray for him, since
the more people who pray for him the more effective their Tefilah will be.
Thus, our Gemara has nothing to do with the practice of directing one's
prayers to Mal'achim.)
Based on this, the MAHARAL strongly opposes prayers such as "Mal'achei
Rachamim" in Selichos, because one should *not* address the Mal'achim in
The CHASAM SOFER (in Teshuvos OC 166) writes, based on the Maharal, that it
would be appropriate to delete all three of these Tefilos mentioned above
from our Selichos. However, the Chasam Sofer writes that since it is the
accepted custom of the Tzibur to recite them, he does not want to separate h
imself from the Tzibur, and, therefore, he would recite together with the
Tzibur the prayers recited in public, such as the Pizmonim which address the
Mal'achim, but the prayers said quietly, such as "Mal'achei Rachamim," he
would omit. In recent years, the books of Selichos have been printed with
emendations to the Piyut which addresses the Midas ha'Rachamim so that it
should not be directly addressing the Midah.
The SIDUR OTZAR HA'TEFILOS (Introduction, ch. 3) cites a tradition that RAV
CHAIM of VOLOZHEN changed the words of the Piyut that starts "Mal'achei
Rachamim Mesharsei Elyon" to read instead, "Avos ha'Olam, Ahuvei Elyon," so
that we are asking the Avos to pray on our behalf and we are not addressing
the Mal'achim. Support from an early source for this view is found in the
words of RAV YOCHANAN TREBISCH (circa 1500) in his commentary to the Sidur,
"Kimcha d'Avishuna," as cited by the OTzar ha'Tefilos. He writes that it is
better not to say Tefilos which address Mal'achim. We find no precedent for
addressing Mal'achim anywhere in Tanach and Chazal.
(b) However, prayers which address Mal'achim have very early sources. The
Piyut which addresses the Midas ha'Rachamim was composed by RABEINU AMTI
(circa 1100). The RA'AVYAH (circa 1200) records Piyutim similar to that of
"Mal'achei Rachamim." The SHIBOLEI HA'LEKET (#282) quotes the prayer of
"Machnisei Rachamim" and defends it based on our Gemara. He also quotes the
Midrash in Shir ha'Shirim (which we do not have) which relates that "the
congregation of Yisrael asks from the Mal'achim who stand guard near the
gates of Tefilah to bring our Tefilos and tears to Hashem." This apparently
is the source for the prayer of "Mal'achei Rachamim," as MAHARI ASAD writes
in his Teshuvos (OC #21).
The Otzar ha'Tefilos cites further support from the Midrash Tanchuma (end of
Devarim) which relates that Moshe Rabeinu went to the Mal'ach called "Sar
ha'Pnim" and asked him to beseech Hashem that he not die. He also points out
that the Gemara in Berachos (60b) says that when a person enters the
bathroom, he should first say a short prayer to the Mal'achim which escort
him, asking them to help him and to wait for him.
In fact, such a Tefilah is mentioned in the Torah when Yakov Avinu said that
"the Mal'ach which has saved me from all evil should bless my children"
(Bereishis 48:16; see, however, ha'Kesav veha'Kabalah, and Perush of Rav
Sa'adyah Ga'on cited by ha'Kesav veha'Kabalah there). Similarly, it is a
very widespread custom to ask the Mal'achim that arrive in the home on
Shabbos night to bless us with peace -- "Barchuni l'Shalom." Why is it
acceptable to ask the Mal'achim if they are only messengers of Hashem, as
the Rambam writes, and they cannot do anything on their own?
1. The Otzar ha'Tefilos quotes the TESHUVOS HA'GE'ONIM of RAV SHERIRA GA'ON
("Zichron la'Rishonim," #373), who writes that there are things which a
Mal'ach can do according to his own will without requiring permission from
Hashem. This is why Yakov Avinu said that the Mal'ach should bless his
children (he writes that this Mal'ach was the "Sar ha'Pnim"). Similarly, we
find that the Mal'ach saved Lot seemingly of his own volition (see, however,
Rashi to Bereishis 19:21). Since Hashem gives Mal'achim permission to do
things on their own, Hashem also allows us to address those Mal'achim and
ask them to do things, since that is the reason why Hashem gave them
permission to do as they are requested.
2. The ABARBANEL (ROSH AMANAH, ch. 12) writes that when Yakov prayed
"ha'Mal'ach ha'Go'el," it was not a Tefilah to the Mal'ach, but rather it
was a Tefilah to Hashem that He send His Mal'ach to do what we ask the
Mal'ach to do.
This may also be said about the Tefilah of "Barchuni l'Shalom," and prayers
such as "Mal'achei Rachamim." We are asking Hashem to have the Mal'achim
bring our Tefilos before Him, as they are supposed to do. See also TESHUVOS
SHEMESH U'TZEDAKAH (OC #23).
3. The TESHUVOS MAHARI BERUNA (#275) writes that when we pray to Hashem with
prayers such as "Machnisei Rachamim" and "Mal'achei Rachamim," we do not
expect the Mal'achim to listen to us, but rather we are displaying humility,
like a person who stands before the king and asks the king's advisors to
speak to the king on his behalf, out of his awe and reverence, and out of
his feeling of shame before the king. Accordingly, these prayers are just
expressions of humility, but we are not actually addressing the Mal'achim;
we want Hashem to hear the way we address the Mal'achim and answer our
QUESTION: Rashi records the incident in which the coffins of a Tzadik and a
Rasha were being taken to be buried and were accidentally switched. The
Tzadik was then buried with the disgrace of a Rasha, and the Rasha was
buried with the great honor that the Tzadik was supposed to receive. A
Talmid of the Tzadik, who knew about the error, was greatly distressed,
until the Tzadik came to him in a dream and told him that the burial that he
received was a punishment for a misdeed that he had done in his lifetime --
he had once heard someone defaming a Talmid Chacham and he did not defend
the Talmid Chacham. Similarly, the Rasha received an honorable burial as
reward for a Mitzvah that he once did -- he had prepared a large meal which
was then cancelled, and he gave all of the food to poor people.
Why was the Tzadik's punishment appropriate for his deed, and why was the
Rasha's reward appropriate for his deed?
ANSWER: The punishment of the Tzadik was clearly Midah k'Neged Midah,
measure for measure. Because he did not come to the defense of a Talmid
Chacham who had been insulted, thereby adding to the disgrace of the Talmid
Chacham, he, too, was disgraced by having a disgraceful burial.
The reward of the Rasha who gave his meal to poor people was also a reward
Midah k'Neged Midah. Although it appeared as though he was giving such a
large amount of Tzedakah out of the goodness of his heart, the truth was
that he was giving it only because he needed to get rid of the food anyway.
For this act he was rewarded by being buried with honor normally accorded to
a Tzadik, because the people did not realize who was inside the coffin. They
saw only the outside of the coffin and they thought it was the Tzadik, just
as the Rasha himself only gave the Tzedakah outwardly and not inwardly from
the goodness of his heart.
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM cites the ARIZAL who found an allusion in a verse to
this reward for someone who gives Tzedakah. The Gemara in Bava Basra (10b)
says that Shlomo ha'Melech was asked how great the merit of Tzedakah is, and
he answered, "See what my father said: 'He gave expansively to impoverished
people, his righteousness endures forever, and his pride will be raised with
honor' (Tehilim 112:9). The Arizal explains that "Pizar" -- "he gave
expansively," describes a person who gave Tzedakah like the Rasha mentioned
in our Gemara. He gave to the poor the food which he had prepared for
another purpose. Nevertheless, such a person is rewarded, as the end of the
verse says, in that his Tzedakah will remain as a merit for him forever, and
his reward will be that "his pride will be raised with honor" -- he will be
given a show of honor that he really does not deserve.