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Sanhedrin, 44

SANHEDRIN 44 (19 Cheshvan) - Dedicated l'Iluy Nishmas Chaim Mordechai ben Harav Yisrael Azriel (Feldman) of Milwaukee, by the members of his family.


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.

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 *K*en *N*ekaveh").

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 letter Dalet.

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."


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.

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 one's prayers.

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 Tefilos.

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.

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