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Shabbos 33


The Gemara lists punishments for various sins. For most of the punishments, the element of "Midah k'Neged Midah" (measure for measure) is obvious, but for some it is less obvious.

For the sin of stealing, a person is punished with locusts and other forms of pestilence, because such pestilence "steals" a person's livelihood. Indeed, the Sages refer to locusts as "thieves"("Masikin" -- Bava Kama 116b).

For the sins of making false or vain oaths, Chilul Hashem, and Chilul Shabbos, the population decreases and the roads are left desolate. Since a person was "Mechalel" -- that is, he took away the Kedushah from the world, causing a vacuum of emptiness to be left in its place (from the word "Chalal") -- Hashem causes the world to be empty (the population decreases and the roads are left desolate).

Abaye became sick, and Rava said that it was because of Abaye's practice of fasting often. Rava asserted that a person must make sure to eat well.

We find this difference in approach between Abaye and Rava elsewhere. Rav Ada Bar Ahavah (Bava Basra 22a) used to question why the students "eat dry bones" with Abaye, when they could be "eating fat meat" with Rava. The simple understanding, as Rashi explains there, is that the teaching of Abaye is "dry" while the teaching of Rava is based on sounder logic and "juicier." It could be that he was not only speaking figuratively, but he meant it literally as well. Since Abaye's practice was not to eat, Rav Ada felt that his ability to properly analyze the depths of a Sugya was compromised, and therefore it would be preferable to learn under Rava, who eats well and has energy to properly analyze the Sugya. (M. Kornfeld)

We find a similar difference in approach among other Amora'im, such as Rebbi Zeira and Rebbi Yirmiyah (see Insights to Berachos 30b, in the name of the CHAVAS YAIR #152, quoted by the Chafetz Chayim at the end of Sefer Chafetz Chayim).


QUESTION: The Gemara describes why Rebbi Yehudah was called the "first of the speakers in every place" and relates that once the Tana'im were discussing the virtues of the Romans. Rebbi Yehudah spoke commendably about their large marketplaces, sophisticated bridges, and bathhouses. Rebbi Yosi was silent. Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai countered Rebbi Yehudah's praise of the Romans and said that whatever they build is for their own immoral purposes.

Why were the Tana'im discussing such matters? And why did Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai speak so degradingly of the Romans for no apparent reason, when doing so could get him into trouble?

ANSWER: RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN (DIBROS MOSHE) explains that their discussion had significant Halachic ramifications. The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (3b) says that when the gentile nations claim that all they built was for the sake of the Jewish people, Hashem will rebuke them and say that they did everything for themselves and for their own personal benefit. The gentiles will not be rewarded for what they did, even though the Jews benefited from it, because they had no intention to help the Jews.

Perhaps, though, this outlook is only proper with regard to whether Hashem rewards them or not; with regard to how the Jews themselves should respond, it could be that the Jews are indeed obligated to feel and express their gratitude to the gentiles even though the gentiles *do no intend* for the Jews to benefit from what they built, and built it all for themselves.

Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai were arguing about this point. Rebbi Yehudah maintained that the Jews *are* obligated to have gratitude to the gentiles, even though the gentiles have no intention of benefiting the Jews. Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai maintained that there is no obligation to express gratitude to the gentiles since they have no intention to help the Jews. Rav Moshe Feinstein concludes that in practice, the Halachah remains undecided.

(His son, Rav Dovid Feinstein, asked from the verse that commands us, "Do not persecute the Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land." We see, then, that there *is* an obligation to show gratitude to the gentiles! Rav Moshe answers that the command not to persecute the Egyptian does not mean that one must have gratitude to him; rather, it means that one may not harm him. Alternatively, it is referring to an Egyptian *convert*. (Igros Moshe ibid.) We could also add that perhaps the verse is commanding us to have gratitude to the Egyptians because of the way the Egyptians treated the Jews in the time of *Yosef*, when they were genuinely hospitable to the Jews. Secondly, it must be emphasized that our Gemara is discussing a situation when the gentiles did not intend for the Jews to benefit *at all*, it is not discussing a situation where they intended to benefit the Jews, but had ulterior motives. In the latter category -- into which the Egyptians fall -- it is quite clear that one must show gratitude for what one has received -M. Kornfeld)

The Romans rewarded Rebbi Yehudah for praising them by giving him the honor of being the first to speak at every gathering. They punished Rebbi Yosi for being silent by exiling him to Tzipori. For Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who spoke degradingly about them, they issued a death sentence, and he was forced to flee to a cave where he spent many years in isolation.

RAV AVIGDOR MILLER explains that the reward or punishment that each Tana received was clearly an example of Divine providence, for each Tana received what his particular personality required.

Rebbi Yehudah always saw the good in everything. He lived during the Roman occupation, which was a period of great difficulty for the Jews, who were suffering from the harsh persecution of the Roman decrees. They needed a leader who would guide them with a positive attitude. Hashem therefore brought about that Rebbi Yehudah was appointed as their leader.

Rebbi Yosi always had deep reasons for all of his statements, as the Gemara (Gitin 67a) says, "Rebbi Yosi -- Nimuko Imo (the depth of reasoning is with him)". He was a thinker, and he contemplated deeply before reaching a conclusion (which is why he did not answer immediately in our Gemara). Hashem arranged that he be exiled to Tzipori, where he could think unencumbered.

Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai saw through everything to the absolute Emes (which is why he responded the way he did in our Sugya). He needed to be away from the world of falsehood in order to become fully immersed in the Toras Emes. Hashem therefore arranged that he would have to hide in a cave for thirteen years, where the truth of Torah would be revealed to him.

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