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Shabbos 17


QUESTION: The Gemara says that the day that Shamai overruled Hillel was as "difficult for the Jews as the day that the golden calf was made." What does the day that Shamai overruled Hillel have to do with the day that the golden calf was made?


(a) RASHI explains that it was a difficult day for the Jewish people, because Hillel was the Nasi, the leader of the generation, and he was exceedingly humble. The CHASAM SOFER explains that Rashi means that just like the will of the people at the sin of the golden calf overruled that of their leader (Aharon ha'Kohen; Moshe, at the time, was upon the mountain receiving the tablets of the law) and made him join them, so, too, the opinion of the contending school of thought overruled the ruling of the authority, Hillel, and subjected him to their will by having him agree with them against his own reasoning.

(b) We might take the comparison between Hillel and the sin of the golden calf one step further. We find in Avos (1:12) that Hillel said, "One should be of the disciples of Aharon and constantly pursue peace." He said "disciples of *Aharon*" and not of "*Moshe*," because it was Aharon's special trait of peace-loving and kindness that Hillel wanted people to follow. Moshe's trait was that of strict justice, which Hillel felt was not the trait that the masses should cultivate in themselves for the sake of peace among men (Sanhedrin 6b).

Thus, it was Hillel's opinion that Aharon's traits should be emulated. This was consistent with own personality. As the Gemara tells us (Shabbos 30b), "One should be patient, forgiving, and humble like Hillel, and not stand on one's honor like Shamai." We indeed find that Beis Hillel, the disciples of Hillel, almost always give the more lenient opinion and Beis Shamai the more strict one.

The day that Aharon was overruled by the people building the golden calf was the day when the traits of Aharon were found failing and the trait of Moshe, strict justice, ruled. Justice and punishment was wrought upon the Jewish people that day. Similarly, when Shamai overruled Hillel, the traits of Hillel were conquered and Shamai's traits of strict justice ruled. It was difficult for the Jewish people to live with the strictness of Beis Shamai, just like it was difficult for them to live in that state when Aharon's traits were conquered at the sin of the golden calf. (M. Kornfeld)


(1) 18 DECREES
QUESTION: The Gemara goes to great lengths to count every one of the 18 decrees that were made on the day that Beis Shamai was the majority. The first two to be counted are obviously not reading or checking for lice on Shabbos by the light of a candle, as mentioned in our Mishnah.

The same Mishnah that teaches these Halachos (11a) continues, "*Similarly*, a Zav should not eat together with a Zavah...." Doesn't that imply that the decree against a Zav and Zavah eating together is in the same category as the previous two laws, i.e. among the decrees of Beis Shamai? In fact, the Tosefta clearly specifies that it was among their decrees! Why, then wasn't this counted among the 18 decrees listed in our Gemara?


(a) TOSFOS DH Hanicha explains that it indeed is included in the count of 18. In order to avoid reaching a total of 19, we must simply count ha'Ochel Ochel Rishon and ha'Ochel Ochel Sheni as one. (Alternatively, ha'Ba Rosho v'Rubo and Tahor she'Naflu Alav... are counted as one).

(b) The RAMBAM (Perush ha'Mishnah) suggests a very novel way of interpreting the Gemara. Our Mishnah (13b) first mentions the *Halachos* of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel, then it discusses their *Gezeiros*. Later in the Gemara (top of 15a), we refer to their Gezeiros and their *disagreements* and agreements. According to Rashi and Tosfos, *all* of these terms are referring to the same 18 decrees. Originally Beis Hillel argued with Beis Shamai. Beis Hillel was won over, and stated the Halachos as listed in our Mishnah. However, the Rambam suggests that these terms refer to *3* different sets of 18.

First, there are the 18 *decrees* ("Gazru") that were made that day, which are counted in our Gemara. Next, 18 unanimous *Halachos* were announced upon the following day ("l'Machar Hushvu "). These are the laws mentioned in the Mishnah from the story of the poor man and the rich man (= *8* permutations of transgressing Shabbos through Hotza'ah) until the present Mishnah. Third, in 18 laws which were discussed that day, Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel remained in disagreement ("Nechleku"). These are the 18 laws that appear in the Mishnayos (from here until the end of the Perek) over which Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel disagree.

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