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) DROWNED IN SALIVA
QUESTION: After mentioning that Chananyah, Misha'el, and Azaryah emerged
unscathed from the flames of the furnace, no further mention of them is made
in Tanach. The Gemara asks what happened to them, and it answers that either
they died as a result of an Ayin ha'Ra, they "drowned in saliva," or that
they left Bavel to live in Eretz Yisrael.
RASHI explains that the expression "they drowned in saliva" refers to the to
the earlier Gemara, which relates that when Chananyah, Misha'el, and Azaryah
emerged from the furnace, the nations spat at the Jewish people, saying,
"Your G-d is so marvelous, and yet you still bow to idols!" Rashi's comment
is based on the Tanchuma (Parshas Re'eh, #16), which says, "The nations spat
in front of Chananyah, Misha'el, and Azaryah when they emerged from the
furnace, and they said, 'If you knew that you had such a G-d, then how could
you bow down to the idol and cause your G-d to destroy your Beis
ha'Mikdash!' And they turned into a clod of spittle."
This Gemara is difficult to understand. First, how is it possible to drown
to death in saliva? Second, why should the spit have been directed towards
Chananyah, Misha'el, and Azaryah? It should have been directed towards all
of the other Jews who did bow down and did not defy Nebuchadnetzar!
(a) The YAD RAMAH explains that the expression is to be understood
allegorically to mean that they died of embarrassment.
Still, though, why should they have died? It was the other Jews who should
have died of embarrassment!
Perhaps he means that they died because of the knowledge that their presence
was causing such tremendous disgrace to the rest of the nation.
Consequently, their death was similar to the death of the animal with which
a person sinned carnally. The animal is put to death because of the disgrace
of the person who was executed because of the sin done with it (Sanhedrin
(b) The MAHARAL explains that drowning in spit is a metaphor for becoming an
item of disgust in the eyes of the nations (and also in the eyes of Hashem).
The Maharal explains why it was that these Tzadikim were killed for this
reason when it was the rest of the nation that should have been killed. He
answers that it was because the Tzadik is punished due to the sins of the
generation. (The Gemara in Shabbos 55a explains that this principle applies
when the Tzadikim neglected to rebuke the generation and to teach them to
change their ways. This might be part of the intention of the Maharal. The
Maharal adds that since they brought about the miracle, they deserved to
die. He might be alluding to what we suggested in our explanation of the Yad
2) THE SIX BARLEY KERNELS OF RUTH
QUESTIONS: Boaz gave to Ruth six kernels of barley. The Gemara explains that
these six kernels of barley alluded to the progeny that she was destined to
bear -- six righteous descendants who would each be blessed with six unique
qualities: David, Mashi'ach, Daniel, Chananyah, Misha'el, and Azaryah.
3) ASKING FOR REWARD FOR FULFILLING MITZVOS
(a) In what way does the giving of six barley kernels allude to six
(b) Why was Ruth destined to have specifically *six* righteous descendants,
each with *six* unique qualities? What is the significance of the number
(c) From where do the Chachamim see in the act of giving of Boaz that the
number six is used twice -- for the six descendants, and for the six
blessings that each one will have?
(a) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM explains that barley is an allusion to the
exceptionally righteous, as we find in the Gemara in Chulin (92a, and as
cited by Rashi in Sanhedrin 96b, DH Kesef; see also Berachos 57a, where the
Gemara says that seeing barley, "Se'orim," in a dream is a sign that one is
free of sin (Saru Avonosav")).
(b) The MAHARAL (Netzach Yisrael, end of Perek 31) explains that the
qualities of the number six are represented by the shape of the letter "Vav"
(the value of which is six), which is a straight, vertical line. This
vertical straightness is a sign of perfect truth, of one who does not stray
from the truth to either side. It represents those who are true and loyal to
their Creator and fit to be the leaders of the Jewish people. A vertical
line can also be viewed as a pillar that supports others. These descendants
of Ruth were like pillars of the world (see Margoliyos ha'Yam #5, who cites
a Midrash which indeed refers to these descendants of Ruth as "Amudei Olam,"
the "pillars of the world").
Boaz was showing Ruth that because of her loyalty to Hashem, she was fit to
have children who would be outstanding members of Hashem's nation.
The Maharal adds that the members of each Jewish family correspond to the
four letters of the Name of Hashem. The father of the family corresponds to
the letter Yud. The mother corresponds to the letter Heh (as the Gemara says
in Sotah 17a). The male offspring correspond to the letter Vav, like the
outstanding progeny of Ruth (the letter Vav is used, in Hebrew, as a
masculine suffix, just as Yud is used as a masculine prefix). The female
offspring correspond to the last Heh.
(c) The TORAS CHAIM explains that Boaz indeed gave *two* sets of six kernels
to Ruth. The verse (Ruth 3:15) states that "he measured six barley kernels
and set it on her." How does one "measure" six single kernels of barley? Six
kernels are *counted*, not measured! It must be that he gave her six *Se'ah*
of barley, large quantities which indeed needed to be measured. The Derashah
of our Gemara -- which says that he gave her six single kernels -- is based
on the later verse (which our Gemara quotes) in which Ruth repeats that Boaz
"gave me these six kernels of barley" (and not that he "measured" six
kernels). Boaz gave her six Se'ah, plus six kernels, to hint to her that she
would have six descendants who would have six special qualities.
The BEN YEHOYADA finds an allusion in the Gemara to the fact that there was
a double hint involving six. The Gemara says that "Remez Ramaz Lah" ("he
hinted a hint to her"), implying that Boaz made two hints to Ruth.
QUESTION: The Gemara points out that the Sefer that Nechemyah wrote is named
after Ezra and not after Nechemyah. The reason for this is because Nechemyah
erred by publicly giving credit to himself for his accomplishments when he
said, "May my G-d remember me for good, for all that I did for this nation"
(Nechemyah 5:19). The Gemara concludes that one is not supposed to make such
statements unless it is part of a prayer during a time of need.
We find this theme repeated in numerous places. The Mishnah in Avos (2:8)
says, "If you have learned a lot of Torah, do not attribute worthiness to
yourself." The Midrash (Shemos Rabah 44) says, "If you have performed a
Mitzvah, do not seek a reward." Similarly, the Mishnah in Avos (1:3) says,
"Do not be like servants who serve their master in order to receive
However, the Gemara elsewhere seems to contradict this principle. We find in
a number of places that the Amora'im publicly prided themselves in the
Mitzvos that they performed by saying "Teisi Li" -- "I will be rewarded" for
doing a certain Mitzvah (see Rashi in Shabbos 119a and Bechoros 30a, DH
Teisi Li). For example, the Gemara in Shabbos (118b) quotes Amora'im who
said, "I will be rewarded" for doing such Mitzvos as eating three meals on
Shabbos, Davening with Kavanah, and performing the Mitzvos of Tefilin and
Tzitzis properly. The Gemara later in Shabbos (119a) quotes Rava who said,
"I will be rewarded (Teisi Li) because I love Talmidei Chachamim so much
that when a Talmid Chacham has a court case, I do not go to sleep until I
research whether there is a way to exonerate him."
We find similar expressions in the Gemara in Megilah (28b-29a), Mo'ed Katan
(17a), and Erchin (16a).
How were the Amora'im justified in requesting reward for their deeds?
(a) The RIF in the EIN YAKOV (Shabbos 118b) explains that when an Amora said
"Teisi Li," he was saying that "although I might not have served Hashem in
the best possible way, at least I did this Mitzvah and therefore I should
not be punished for what I failed to do." For example, he explains that when
Rav Nachman there said that he should be rewarded because he fulfilled the
Mitzvah of having three meals on Shabbos, he was saying that even though he
did not eat the *fourth* meal that Rebbi Chidka requires, he should not be
punished, but rather he should be rewarded for what he did fulfill. When Rav
Yehudah said that he Davened with Kavanah, he was saying that even though
there are three sins in which every person stumbles every day (Bava Basra
164b), "and I certainly erred regarding two of them like everyone else,
nevertheless since I did not err with regard to the third -- Davening with
Kavanah -- I should at least be rewarded for that."
Support for this can be found in TOSFOS in Ta'anis (7a). Tosfos quotes a
Midrash in which the Amora Shmuel scorns those who waste their time studying
astronomy instead of learning Torah. When his students asked him how he
himself became an expert in astronomy, he replied "Teisi Li, that I studied
astronomy only when I was in the bathroom." He was saying that even though
he spent time on astronomy, it was done in a way that did not take him away
from learning Torah.
It is not clear, though, how this approach will explain the other occasions
of "Teisi Li," such as when Rav Sheshes and Rav Nachman said "Teisi Li" for
fulfilling the Mitzvos of Tefilin and Tzitzis properly.
(b) The MAHARSHA in Shabbos explains that there is a certain type of reward
that a person may request. That reward is what the Mishnah in Avos (4:2)
mentions: "The reward for a Mitzvah is the opportunity to perform another
Mitzvah." The Amora'im were asking Hashem to provide them with further
opportunities to do these Mitzvos, since they put forth so much effort to
fulfill them properly in the past.
(c) TOSFOS in Bechoros (2b, DH Shema) points out that we find the expression
"Teisi Li" only with regard to actions which one is not obligated to
perform, or which most people are normally not careful to do properly. (The
Amora'im who praised themselves for keeping the Mitzvos of Tefilin and
Tzitzis were saying either that they never walked four Amos without Tefilin
or Tzitzis, as Rashi explains, or they were priding themselves because most
people were not careful about these Mitzvos; see Tosfos in Shabbos 49a, DH
k'Elisha, and Menachos 43a.)
Perhaps a person cannot demand reward for a Mitzvah, since he is obligated
to do the Mitzvah because Hashem commanded him to do it. If a person
performs a Mitzvah above and beyond the way that he is required, then
perhaps it is not considered inappropriate to as for reward. (Support for
this might be brought from the Mishnah (Avos 2:8) that says "do not
attribute worthiness to yourself, *because it was for this that you were
created*," meaning that you are obligated to learn as much as you can. (M.
(d) The RITVA in Shabbos explains that the reason the Amora'im praised
themselves for fulfilling the Mitzvos of Tefilin and Tzitzis is because they
were exceptionally outstanding in the performance of those Mitzvos, as Rashi
explains. He adds that we see from here that every Talmid Chacham should
choose one Mitzvah that he will fulfill in the most ideal fashion, being
particularly careful to fulfill its every detail.
The Ritva's words might be based on what the RAMBAM writes in Perush
ha'Mishnayos at the end of Makos. The Mishnah there (23b) states that Hashem
wanted to give man the opportunity to earn reward, and therefore He gave us
many Mitzvos. What does this mean? If we have more Mitzvos to keep, then it
is *more difficult* to keep them all and earn reward! The Rambam explains
that when a person keeps even one Mitzvah with no ulterior motives but
entirely Lishmah and out of love for Hashem, fulfilling every detail of the
Mitzvah, then he will merit Olam ha'Ba. The Mishnah, therefore, is saying
that Hashem gave so many Mitzvos so that a person would find it easy to
choose at least one of them and observe it in an outstanding manner.
Perhaps this is what the Amora'im meant to teach when they said, "Teisi Li."
They were not demanding reward, but rather they were saying that "any reward
that I receive will be because of this Mitzvah, because this is the Mitzvah
which I fulfilled in the most outstanding manner."
This also seems to be the intention of the IYEI HA'YAM cited by the ETZ
YOSEF in Shabbos. He explains that the Amora'im meant to say that "if you
see that I receive reward, then know that it is because of this Mitzvah."
This may explain an interesting point in the commentary of Rashi in Shabbos.
When the Amora'im (on 118b) say "Teisi Li" because of any of the various
Mitzvos listed there, Rashi does not explain what the words "Teisi Li" mean.
Only later (on 119a) does he explain these words, when the Gemara quotes
Rava who says "Teisi Li because I love Talmidei Chachamim." Rashi there says
"Teisi Li" means that "I will be rewarded." Why did Rashi not explain these
words earlier, when they first appear in the Gemara? (See IYUN YAKOV.)
The answer might be that had Rashi explained these words earlier, then we
would have been bothered by this question -- why are the Amora'im demanding
reward. However, when Rava said that he would receive reward for loving
Talmidei Chachamim, it was clear that he was not referring to material
reward, because he himself says earlier in Shabbos (23b) that one who loves
Talmidei Chachamim will be rewarded by having children who are Talmidei
Chachamim. It is clear that Rava was not asking to be rewarded, but rather
he was explaining that if he has children who are Talmidei Chachamim, it is
because of his love for Talmidei Chachamim. That is why Rashi waited until
there to explain the meaning of "Teisi Li." (M. Kornfeld)