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Sanhedrin, 101

SANHEDRIN 101-103 (18 Teves) - dedicated by Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer to honor the third Yahrzeit of her father, Reb Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Weiner). May the merit of supporting and advancing Talmud study serve as an Iluy for his Neshamah


OPINIONS: The Gemara says that a person who makes a verse of Shir ha'Shirim into a song "brings evil to the world."

To what extent does this prohibition apply? Does the Gemara intend to prohibit making a song from any verse in the Torah, and not just from Shir ha'Shirim? Are there circumstances under which it is permitted to sing a verse?

(a) RASHI says that although the Gemara mentions Shir ha'Shirim, the Halachah applies equally to any verse in the Torah. It mentions Shir ha'Shirim to teach that even though the Sefer itself was written as a Shir, a song, nevertheless it is not permitted to sing it in any other way other than with the Ta'amim (cantillational notes) that were received through the tradition from Sinai. It seems from Rashi that it is prohibited to make a song from any verse in Tanach.

In IGROS MOSHE (YD II:142), RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN zt'l writes that the same Isur should apply to statements of Torah she'Ba'al Peh, because Torah she'Ba'al Peh also must be respected and should not be made into a song that mockers play. Rav Moshe asks that it should also be prohibited to sing phrases from Berachos and Tefilos, since they are considered like Torah she'Ba'al Peh (see Shabbos 115a).

(b) Rav Moshe Feinstein bases his argument that Torah she'Ba'al Peh and Tefilos are like Torah she'Bichtav on the logic that one should not make any part of Torah a song that will be used in a disrespectful manner by mockers, as the Beraisa says, "k'Kinor she'Menagnin Bah Letzim." It is possible, however, that this expression is referring only to the second statement in the Beraisa, regarding one who reads a verse loudly during a party in order to make merriment. The first Isur of the Beraisa, which is making a song out of a verse, might *not* be comparable to putting the Torah in the hands of a jester, because it is not being sung in a degrading or disgraceful manner.

The Isur of singing verses might simply be because of the Kedushah of the words of the verses of Torah she'Bichtav, which should not be lowered by treating them like a song. The words of Torah she'Ba'al Peh, on the other hand, have no intrinsic Kedushah, but rather the Kedushah is in the *meaning* of the expression and not in the words themselves. Consequently, it should be permitted to sing the words; the meaning of the expression will not be degraded through the song, since it is the *words* being made into a song and not the *meaning* of the words.

Support for the view that only singing a verse in jest or merriment makes the verse like a "jester's instrument" can be found in the SEFER CHASIDIM (#147) and the LIKUTEI MAHARIL (cited by the Magen Avraham in OC 560:10).

(c) The YAD RAMAH takes this distinction further and suggests that perhaps the Isur of our Gemara applies only when the verse is being sung for the sake of merriment. It is entirely permitted to sing verses in order to praise Hashem. However, the Ramah does not decide this matter for certain, and remains in doubt as to whether it is indeed permitted to sing a verse to extol the praises of Hashem.

(d) Others suggest that the Gemara is referring only to verses from Shir ha'Shirim. This seems to be the intention of the Zohar (2:143a, as cited by the MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM). The DIKDUKEI SOFRIM (#2) quotes the Yalkut (Kesav Yad) that also states that the Gemara's Isur applies only to Shir ha'Shirim. This is clear from the Girsa of the Yalkut (which Rashi here pointedly rejects), according to which the Beraisa reads, "One who reads a verse from Shir ha'Shirim, *or* one who makes it like a song...." The first Isur -- that of reading a verse from Shir ha'Shirim -- refers to a person who reads a verse in order to use it in the context of its literal meaning (as opposed to the intended, allegorical meaning of the verses of Shir ha'Shirim).

According to that Girsa, there are two statements in the first part of the Beraisa. It is clear that the first one applies only to verses of Shir ha'Shirim, which speaks exclusively in allegory. Hence, the second statement -- the Isur of making it into a song -- also applies only to Shir ha'Shirim. The reason for the Isur is because it is very easy to misunderstand the meaning of Shir ha'Shirim, and making it into a song might cause people to show disrespect to the verses.

HALACHAH: Rav Moshe Feinstein (ibid.) writes that nowadays it is customary everywhere to sing verses, even from the Torah itself. Even when he was young, he writes, it was accepted to sing songs based on verses and Tefilos. However, he concludes, a Ba'al Nefesh should be stringent upon himself and not make songs out of verses in Tanach, Torah she'Ba'al Peh, or Tefilos.

This ruling would seem to imply that one should not even sing Tefilos (such as Hallel or Kel Adon) while praying. However, the MAGEN AVRAHAM (560:10) cites LIKUTEI MAHARIL who writes that while one should not sing songs from verses during parties, as our Gemara states, nevertheless it is a Mitzvah to sing parts of Hallel or other Tefilos while praying. (See also OC 51:9, "One should *sing* Mizmor l'Sodah as a song." In fact, the Tefilos we pray before "Yishtabach" are collectively referred to as "verses of *song* (Zimra)." One cannot deduce from the Maharil that singing verses to praise Hashem at times *other than* during Tefilah is prohibited, since he mentions Tefilah only in order to teach that it is a *Mitzvah* to sing during Tefilah, in order to beautify the Tefilos.) Rav Moshe Feinstein is apparently discussing singing a verse at other times ("she'Lo bi'Zemano"), but not when it is read in prayer. Similarly, the Gemara in Megilah (32a) teaches that one should "sing the Mishnah." Tosfos there writes that the Tana'im would sing the Mishnayos to facilitate memorization (see also Sefer Chasidim #238). When sung under such circumstances, it is certainly permitted to sing Torah she'Ba'al Peh.

The YABI'A OMER (vol. III, OC 15:5) cites numerous Poskim who were lenient and permitted the singing of verses from Tefilos or the Torah or even Shir ha'Shirim, even when one is not praying. He concludes that since the Yad Ramah (quoted in (c) above) himself remains in doubt as to whether it is prohibited to sing songs that honor Hashem, and the common practice is to permit it, clearly the Poskim chose the more lenient side of the Ramah's doubt. We may therefore permit, l'Chatchilah, the singing of verses.


QUESTIONS: The Gemara says that three people presented Hashem with an argument of "Alilah," a cunning argument, for their demands -- Kayin, Esav, and Menasheh. Rashi explains that they presented triumphant arguments that were irrefutable.
(a) What do these three people, or their arguments, have in common with each other? In addition, why does Rashi refer to their arguments as arguments that cannot be refuted? What makes them stronger than any other arguments?

(b) In addition, some of the arguments seem to be flawed. How could Kayin have argued that since Hashem will forgive the sins of 600,000 Jewish people in the future when they sin with the Egel ha'Zahav, then He certainly should forgive him for his sin? The sin of the Egel ha'Zahav occurred 2,400 years later! How could Kayin know that they would sin, and how could he know that Hashem would forgive them?

Also, what was the argument of Esav, that Yitzchak certainly must have more than one Berachah to give? What would Yitzchak be lacking if he would have had only one Berachah to give?


(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Rashi does not mean that their arguments could not be refuted. It is obvious that their arguments were weak. However, since they themselves believed the arguments were strong and irrefutable, if Hashem would not accede to their arguments, a Chilul Hashem would result. The MAHARAL adds that Hashem knew that these Resha'im would constantly decry the perceived unfairness of the way Hashem dealt with them.

According to this explanation, the Gemara is saying that the requests of Kayin, Esav, and Menasheh were answered even though they did not fully repent and did not deserve what they were given. Hashem gave them their requests only in order to prevent Chilul Hashem.

Perhaps a sign that the Chachamim found to show that the requests of these three people were answered grudgingly by Hashem, as it were, in order to prevent Chilul Hashem, was that although Hashem promised them what they demanded, His gift was limited and was not enduring.

In the case of Kayin, Hashem granted him life only for an additional seven generations. In the case of Esav, he was granted the Berachah only as long as the descendants of Yakov would not be doing the will of Hashem, but as soon as they repent, or when Mashi'ach comes, he loses his Berachos. In the case of Menasheh, Hashem granted him 33 more years, but, as the verse concludes (see the Mishnah, 90a), he was returned only to Yerushalayim but not to Olam ha'Ba. (M. Kornfeld)

(b) In the case of Kayin, how did Kayin know that the Jewish people would sin? The YA'AVETZ says that Kayin knew it through Nevu'ah. The TORAS CHAIM suggests that he found it in the Sefer of Adam ha'Rishon (as described in Bava Metzia 85b), in every generation and its leaders are listed.

Kayin's argument can be explained in another way. Why did Kayin base his argument on the atonement granted to the Jewish nation many generations later, when he could have based it on the fact that Hashem granted atonement to his own father, Adam ha'Rishon?

Perhaps Kayin's argument indeed was based on the fact that Hashem forgave Adam ha'Rishon. The sin of the Egel ha'Zahav was a replication of the sin of Adam ha'Rishon, as the verse says in Hoshe'a (6:7). Hashem forgave them because He forgave Adam ha'Rishon. The reason why the Gemara mentions the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav and not the sin of Adam ha'Rishon directly is because, as the Ya'avetz writes, the source for the Gemara's understanding of Kayin's argument is Kayin's own words, "*Gadol* Avoni mi'Neso" (Bereishis 4:13), which allude to the words that Moshe Rabeinu used after the Jewish people sinned with the Egel ha'Zahav, "Atah *Yigdal* Na Ko'ach Hashem" (Bamidbar 14:17), saying that Hashem's attribute of mercy is able to forgive even the most severe sin.

In addition, the reason why the Gemara mentions the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav is because the Chilul Hashem inherent in a rejection of Kayin's argument is that Hashem would appear prejudiced -- Hashem wants to do more favors for some than for others, as it were. Kayin argued that Hashem had forgiven Adam ha'Rishon's sin out of prejudice -- because, he asserted, Hashem wanted to bring forth a chosen nation from Adam ha'Rishon and that He would be willing to forgive everything so that this chosen nation should survive. The argument that Hashem forgave 600,000 Jews was a paraphrase of Kayin's argument that Hashem forgave Adam ha'Rishon in order that the Jewish people will come from him. Esav had a similar argument when he said that Yitzchak favors Yakov over him.

The argument of Menasheh was the opposite -- Hashem already decided to destroy the Beis ha'Mikdash and exile the people, and thus Teshuvah will not be effective.

Regarding Esav, the Maharsha explains that the Chilul Hashem that would occur from Esav not receiving a Berachah is that Yitzchak's power of Berachos was given to him by Hashem (see Rashi to Bereishis 25:5). Therefore, if Yitzchak would not have another Berachah for Esav, it would seem as though Hashem Himself had no other Berachos to offer, since Yitzchak was given power to distribute Berachos from Hashem.

QUESTIONS: A Beraisa states that Nevat, the father of Yarov'am, was the same person as Michah, who lived during the times of the Shoftim. He was also the same person as Sheva ben Bichri, who lived during the times of David ha'Melech. There are a number of questions with this Gemara.
First, the RADAK (in Melachim I 11:26) points out that according to the verse, Sheva ben Bichri was from Shevet Binyamin (Shmuel II 20:1). Nevat, though, was from Shevet Efraim! How, then, could the Beraisa say that they are the same person?

Second, the YAD RAMAH asks that if Michah was such a Rasha, then how could Hashem have allowed him to live such an exceptionally and miraculously long life, from the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim (as the Gemara says, see RASHI DH Nismachmech b'Vinyan) until the times of Shlomo ha'Melech -- over 400 years?

ANSWER: The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM cites the EIN ELIYAHU (in his introduction to Ein Yakov) who writes that the Gemara does not mean that these three individuals were one and the same person. Rather, it means that the three of them had similar traits and characteristics.

In a similar vein, the CHIDA writes (in MAR'IS HA'AYIN) that the Gemara might be referring to the concept of Gilgul Neshamos, according to which a Neshamah can reappear in this world in the body of a different person in a different generation. (The BEN YEHOYADA questions this, because it seems that Sheva ben Bichri was still alive at the time that Nevat lived.) This is also the explanation of the YA'AVETZ later (105a).

According to both the Ein Eliyahu and the Chida, we may add that the Gemara means not only that they shared characteristics but that they were descended from each other (Michah's descendant was Sheva ben Bichri, whose descendant was Nevat), and each one acquired his evil characteristics from his grandfather. Support for this interpretation can be found in the words of RASHI to Tehilim (60:1), RADAK to Shoftim (3:8), and RABEINU BACHYE (Bereishis 31:52) who explain that Lavan, Be'or, and Kushan were related in terms of ancestry and character traits, based on the Gemara later (105a) that says that Lavan was the same person as Be'or and the same person as Kushan, who lived hundreds of years after Lavan.

(b) The BEN YEHOYADA says that we find elsewhere that a person lived from the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim until the times of Yarov'am. The Gemara writes in Bava Basra (121b) that the life of Achiyah ha'Shiloni spanned that length of time.

This answer requires further elucidation, because the question of the Yad Ramah was based on the fact that Michah was a great Rasha. If he was so wicked, then how did he merit to live so long? However, we find that even a Rasha could be granted an exceptionally long life, such as in the case of Og Melech ha'Bashan, who lived 400 years. Even though he was a Rasha, he was rewarded for the single merit of informing Avraham Avinu about Lot's capture. The same might be true of Michah. Perhaps he lived such an exceptionally life because he gave food to wayfarers, as the Gemara says (103b).

Regarding the ancestry, the Ben Yehoyada suggests that when the verse says that he was "Ish Yemini," from Binyamin, it might mean that his mother was from Binyamin, while his father was from Shevet Efraim, as the Gemara in Megilah (12b) writes with regard to Mordechai.

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