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Shabbos 152


The Gemara records a conversation between Rav Nachman and Rav Achai bar Yoshiah, who was speaking from the grave. When Rav Nachman reached into the grave and felt the body of Rav Achai and saw that his body had not deteriorated, he suggested that Rav Achai leave the grave and go home, since he was able to talk and move. Rav Achai responded that only Hashem can open graves, as it says, "You will know that I am G-d when I open your graves" (Yechezkal 37:13).

It has been said that this Gemara explains a cryptic conversation that we find in Melachim II (4:18-23), in the story of the Shunamite woman whose son died and was revived by the prophet Elisha. When her husband returned from the fields, the woman did not tell him what had happened to their son. Rather, she said that she was going to the prophet. When her husband asked her why she was going to visit the prophet, all she said was, "Shalom." Why was she so secretive about the boy's death? Why did she refrain from telling her husband about it?

The answer may be that if she would have told him, then the father would have become an Onen and would have been obligated to bury his son. Once the son was buried, the prophet would not have been able to revive him -- only Hashem can open graves, as our Gemara says. That is why she did not tell her husband that their son had died -- so that the father would not be obligated to bury him and the prophet would be able to revive him!

QUESTION: The Gemara records a conversation between Rav Nachman and Rav Achai bar Yoshiah, who was speaking from the grave (see previous Insight). How was Rav Achai able to answer the questions of Rav Nachman? The Gemara (Berachos 18b) says that dead people do not know anything once they are dead; even the Avos do not know anything about this world.

Similarly, we find the Rav Bana'a had a conversation with Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, and asked him what Avraham was doing at that time. How could he have a conversation with Eliezer, who was dead, if the dead do not know what is happening?

ANSWER: The Gemara in Berachos (18b) says that although the dead are not aware of what is happening in this world, they are aware of matters that pertain to themselves. When they are addressed, and questioned about their own matters, they can therefore hear the question and reply to it.

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