QUESTION: The Gemara says that in the generation of Tzidkiyah, Hashem wanted
to destroy the world because of the sins of his generation. However, when He
saw the merits of Tzidkiyah, Hashem refrained from destroying the world. The
Gemara asks that the Navi states that Tzidkiyah himself did evil in the eyes
of Hashem (Melachim II 24:19). The Gemara answers that when the verse says
that Tzidkiyah did evil, it means that he did not stop the people of his
generation from sinning when he could have done so.
It is clear from the Gemara that Tzidkiyah was an outstanding Tzadik, since
Hashem spared the entire world in his merit. We find that he is considered a
Tzadik in other places as well, such as in Horiyos (11b), where Tzidkiyah is
referred to as "Shalom" because he was perfect in his deeds. The Gemara in
Mo'ed Katan (16b) says that Tzidkiyah is called "Kushi" because his good
deeds made him stand out like a Kushi stands out among white men. The Gemara
in Shabbos (149b) refers to him as "Tzidkiyah ha'Tzadik."
There seem to be a number of sources, however, that contradict the assertion
that Tzidkiyah was a Tzadik.
(a) The Gemara in Mo'ed Katan (20a) says that Tzidkiyah did only one
Mitzvah -- he took Yirmeyahu out of the muddy pit. This implies that he was
not a Tzadik in any other way!
How are we to reconcile these statements?
(b) In the end of Divrei ha'Yamim II (36:12), the verse says that Tzidkiyah
did evil in the eyes of Hashem; he did not humble himself before Yirmeyahu,
and he also rebelled against Nevuchadnetzar.
(c) The Gemara in Berachos (18b) proves that Resha'im are considered "dead"
even while they are living from the verse in which Yechezkel calls Tzidkiyah
"Chalal Rasha" -- "a dead, wicked person" (Yechezkel 21:30).
(a) TOSFOS in Mo'ed Katan answers that the Gemara means to say that the only
Mitzvah of Tzidkiyah that is described explicitly in the verse (Yirmeyahu
38:11) is that he pulled Yirmeyahu from the pit. He certainly did many other
RASHI in the EIN YAKOV (to Mo'ed Katan) answers that the Gemara is referring
to Mitzvos that were done immediately before his death (this is derived from
the context of the Gemara there). The Gemara says that pulling Yirmeyahu
from the pit was the only Mitzvah that Tzidkiyah did immediately before his
(b) RASHI in Divrei ha'Yamim explains that when the verse (Yirmeyahu 38:19)
says that Tzidkiyah was evil and he did not humble himself before Yirmeyahu,
it means that there were only two evil things that he did, and those are the
two that are listed in the verse. The first sin is that he did not listen to
Yirmeyahu's prophecy when Yirmeyahu told him that he should leave the city
immediately and save himself before Nevuchadnetzar arrives.
The second sin is that he did not keep his promise to Nevuchadnetzar that he
would not rebel (as the Gemara says in Shabbos there).
(c) The MAHARSHA in Berachos says that Tzidkiyah was called a Rasha there
because of the sins that the verse mentions at the end of Divrei ha'Yamim,
as mentioned above.
The PERASHAS DERACHIM (Derush 22) says that the Gemara in Berachos might be
relying on our Gemara that says that he was called "wicked" in Melachim
because he did not rebuke the sinners of his generation.
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that the sins of the kings of Yehudah became
progressively more severe. The Gemara says that Menasheh prevented Korbanos
from being brought upon the Mizbe'ach periodically. His son, Amon, stopped
the service in the Beis ha'Mikdash entirely, such that spider webs formed
upon the Mizbe'ach.
Achav taught the nation to sin with Arayos, and he was rampantly involved in
Arayos himself. Menasheh lived with his own sister. Amon lived with his own
mother. When Amon was asked how he could do such a terrible thing with the
person who gave birth to him, he answered that he was doing it only to anger
The Gemara relates that Yehoyakim said that he could do even more evil than
all of them. He declared that "we do not need His light anymore! Let Him
take it back, and we will use our glowing gold!" When he was asked that the
glowing gold also belongs to Hashem (as the verse states in Chagai 2:8), he
answered that it now belongs to man, for the verse says, "v'ha'Aretz Nasan
Livnei Adam" (Tehilim 115:16).
This Gemara is very difficult to understand. What sources does the Gemara
have to attribute these terrible acts to these kings (see MAHARSHA)? In
addition, how was Yehoyakim angering Hashem in a way worse than the others
by telling Him to take back the sun, if he knew that Hashem would not take
it away? Moreover, how can gold provide more light than the sun?
ANSWER: The verse often refers to Avodah Zarah in terms 'Zenus,' immorality
(see Devarim 31:16). When the Gemara says that Achav encouraged the nation
to involve itself in Arayos, it means that he permitted widespread service
of Avodah Zarah. When the Gemara says that Menasheh lived with his sister,
it is referring to the fact that Menasheh placed an Avodah Zarah inside the
Heichal of the Beis ha'Mikdash itself, opposite the Menorah of the Beis
ha'Mikdash, which represents the Divine wisdom of the Torah. By doing so he
intended to show his view that the wisdom learned through the service of the
Avodah Zarah outshines that of the Torah. He is referred to as living with
his sister because Chochmah, wisdom, is often alluded to as a "sister"
(based Mishlei 7:4). (See Berachos 57a, "One who lives with his sister in a
dream should expect to become wise.")
Amon placed an Avodah Zarah in the Kodesh ha'Kodashim, meaning that he
directed the entire service of the Beis ha'Mikdash towards Avodah Zarah. The
Midrash says that Hashem created man from the dirt located at the future
site of the Mizbe'ach. In that sense, the Mizbe'ach is referred to as a
person's mother, the place from which he was born. When Amon directed the
service of the Mizbe'ach towards Avodah Zarah, it is compared to an act of
immorality profaning his mother, his source of life. They asked him how he
could go so far, and he said that he was doing it only to anger Hashem. (The
Maharsha finds an allusion to his actions in his name. He is called "Amon,"
which includes the word "Em," or "mother," implying that he committed an
immoral act with his mother.)
Yehoyakim said that there is no need for the light of Hashem's sun, and that
Hashem should take it away. By mentioning the sun, he was referring to
Hashem Himself. We find in Sotah (10a) that one of the names of Hashem is
"Shemesh" (see Insights to Yoma 20b). Yehoyakim was saying that the earlier
kings -- although they served Avodah Zarah -- also served Hashem. Although
they put the service of Hashem on an equal, or lower, level than the service
of idols, they still recognized the power of Hashem. In contrast, Yehoyakim
said that he would do worse than his forebears. He said, "I will not serve
Hashem at all, but I will serve only my golden idols." The people of his
time challenged him, saying that Hashem made the entire world and it is
unreasonable to ignore Him and serve only idols; even the idol worshippers
acknowledged the existence of Hashem (see Ramban to Shemos 20:1). Yehoyakim
replied, "I do not need Hashem's kindness in order to exist in this world,
because Hashem has removed His presence from the world already and he is not
involved with it anymore" (see MAHARSHA; see Tehilim 113:4 and Malbim
there). Serving idols without serving Hashem was considered a worse sin than
serving idols together with Hashem, as we find in the Gemara in Beitzah
(25b) and in Sanhedrin (63a).