(Permission is granted to print and redistribute this material
as long as this header and the footer at the end are included.)


brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld

Ask A Question about the Daf

Previous daf

Sotah, 33

SOTAH 31-35 - These Dafim have been dedicated by Mrs. Estanne Abraham-Fauer in honor of the first Yahrzeit (18 Teves 5761) of her father, Reb Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Weiner). May the merit of supporting and advancing the study of the Talmud be l'Iluy Nishmaso.


QUESTION: The Gemara implies that a person should Daven in a language which the angels understand so that they will advocate on his behalf. Does this Gemara support reciting prayers such as "Malachei Rachamim" that some say in Selichos?

ANSWER: The commentators explain that this Gemara does not support the practice of reciting prayers such as "Malachei Rachamim." Even though it is true that the angels help the prayers find favor before Hashem, we are not permitted to *ask* them for their involvement. We must speak only to Hashem directly; the angels are Hashem's emissaries, not ours. We may merely make it easier for the angels to do their job by using a language which they understand.

Those whose practice is to say the prayer "Malachei Rachamim," however, are not in err. They are not making *requests* of the angels, but rather they are *acknowledging* to themselves that the angels are helping their prayers. They find support and encouragement in the knowledge that the angels are advocating on their behalf.

QUESTION: The Gemara here says that the angels do not understand the language of Aramaic. TOSFOS in Shabbos (12b, DH she'Ein Malachei ha'Shares) asks how the Gemara can say that the angels do not understand Aramaic, when we know that they understand our thoughts. If they understand the thoughts of man, certainly they understand the words that he uses to articulate those thoughts, even if those words are Aramaic!

What is Tosfos' source that angels know our thoughts? There seem to be a number of sources to the contrary, that indicate that angels do *not* know our thoughts! First, the MA'ADANEI YOM TOV (Berachos 2:6) points out that the verse says, "You [Hashem] alone know the thoughts of man" (Divrei Ha'Yamim II 6:30), and, "Who knows [the thoughts in the hearts of men]? I, Hashem, probe thoughts..." (Yirmiyah 17:9-10).

Second, the SEFAS EMES points out that the Zohar (I:101b, Parshas Va'yera) explicitly states that the angels asked Avraham where Sarah was because they only know that which Hashem lets them know. From where, then, does Tosfos know that the angels know man's thoughts?

ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON (BI'UR HA'GRA, SHULCHAN ARUCH 101:11) suggests a source for Tosfos' assertion. The Gemara (Berachos 55a) states that "Iyun Tefilah" causes one's sins to be reviewed in heaven. The Gemara explains that "Iyun Tefilah" is when a person prays and expects that his prayers will be answered because he prays with concentration. The angels, seeing this person so self-confident in his righteousness, ask Hashem to review whether he is really righteous or not and thus they examine his sins (Rashi ibid.). This implies that the angels know his thoughts, because it is only his thoughts that cause the angels to review his sins. It must be that the angels assigned to Tefilah are given permission to understand thoughts in order to appropriately advocate for or against the fulfillment of one's prayers, because part of their advocacy depends on what the person was thinking at the time that he recited his prayers.

QUESTION: In light of Tosfos' question, how are we to understand the Gemara? Why do the angels not understand Aramaic, if they understand thoughts?
(a) Perhaps Tosfos is incorrect, and the angels do not understand thoughts (as many Acharonim assert, see above).

(b) The RA'AVAD (TAMIM DE'IM, cited by the Gilyon ha'Shas in Shabbos) suggests that even though the angels understand thoughts and therefore they understand prayers that are recited in Aramaic, Hashem does not want the angels to advocate for prayers that were recited in Aramaic, lest the people start using that language for their prayers and not use Lashon ha'Kodesh. (According to the Ra'avad, this would also apply to the vernacular, no matter which language it may be. However, if a person is not able to pray in Lashon ha'Kodesh, the angels would help him, since he is not rejecting Lashon ha'Kodesh by choice.)

(c) The ROSH (Berachos 2:2) and the RA'AVAD (in Tamim De'im) suggest that the angels do understand Aramaic, since they understand thoughts, but it is a repulsive language to them because it is a perversion of Lashon ha'Kodesh, the holy language. They therefore do not advocate on behalf of someone who prays in Aramaic. The TOSFOS SHANTZ, though, says that our Gemara implies that the reason why the angels do not hear prayers recited in Aramaic is not because they do not like the language and consider it repulsive. Rather, it is because they do not understand it altogether, since the Gemara says that only Gavriel was able to teach the seventy languages to Yosef, and not any other Mal'ach.

(d) The ROSH and RA'AVAD (ibid.) mention another explanation. The angels only listen to Lashon ha'Kodesh and to *no* other language. The Gemara mentions Aramaic because one might have thought that the angels do listen to prayers recited in Aramaic because it closely resembles Lashon ha'Kodesh. Therefore, the Gemara says that the angels do not listen *even* to Aramaic.


QUESTIONS: The Gemara records a Machlokes between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Elazar concerning the location of Har Gerizim and Har Eival. Rebbi Yehudah mountains that they were located at the place which the Kusiyim (Shomronim) today ascribe them. The verse means that these mountains are "far from the rising sun," meaning far to the west. "Mul ha'Gilgal" means that they were "near Gilgal," in the area of Shechem. Rebbi Yehudah cites support for his opinion from the verse that says that Har Gerizim and Har Eival were near Elon Moreh, and he learns from a Gezeirah Shavah that this is the same Elon Moreh mentioned with regard to Avraham Avinu, which was located in the vicinity of Shechem, approximately 60 sixty kilometers from the place at which the Jewish people crossed the Jordan (see Tosfos, DH Mul).

Rebbi Elazar maintains that they were adjacent to the Jordan River, "far from the *setting* sun," meaning at the eastern side of Eretz Yisrael.

There are a number of questions on this Gemara.

1. From the Mishnah and Gemara it is clear that the only way Rebbi Yehudah proves that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Shechem is from a Gezeirah Shavah. Since the Tzedukim did not accept the Gezeirah Shavah, Rebbi Elazar bar'Rebbi Yosi challenged them to find another proof from the verses that Har Gerizim and Har Eival were indeed near Shechem, without relying on the Mesorah.

Why is a Gezeirah Shavah necessary to teach us that this Elon Moreh is the same Elon Moreh as the one that Avraham Avinu visited? Why would we have thought that there are two cities called Elon Moreh if we did not have the Gezeirah Shavah?

2. How can the Gemara say that Shechem is near Gilgal? The verse (Yehoshua 4:19) clearly says that Gilgal was next to the Jordan River, east of Yericho, and thus it was 60 kilometers from Shechem. Indeed, Rashi on the Chumash (Devarim 11:30) and the Yerushalmi write that if Har Gerizim and Har Eival were in Shechem, then "Mul ha'Gilgal" means "distant from Gilgal" and not "near Gilgal."

The same question may be asked about the other proofs that the Gemara brings against Rebbi Elazar to show that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Shechem. The Gemara points out that the verse describes the mountains as "in the land of the Kena'ani who live in the Aravah." If it is near the Jordan, then it is a land of hills and valleys, and not an "Aravah" (plain). Why is that? Aravah is the perfect description of the area near the Jordan, and that is why the Yam ha'Melach is called the Yam ha'Aravah (Yehoshua 3:16)! There are no hills in the immediate vicinity of the Jordan.

The Gemara further points out that the nation living near the Jordan was the Chivi, and not the Kena'ani, but Rashi brings a source which shows that Shechem, and not the Jordan River area, was the land of the Chivi. The area of the Jordan was in fact inhabited by the Kena'anim (Bamidbar 13:29)!

3. How does the Gemara answer its questions on Rebbi Elazar from the words "Eretz ha'Kena'ani" and from the words "Mul ha'Gilgal?" The Gemara only answers its question from the words "ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah!"

4. Rashi on the Chumash explains, like Rebbi Yehudah, that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are near Shechem. However, he writes that they are distant from Gilgal, and he explains that "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" means that it was in the "direction where the sun *sets*" and not where it rises, and he shows at length how the word "Acharei" is not connected to the word "Derech" and that the phrases are two separate signs of the location, both of which showing that the mountains are distant from the Jordan. What is Rashi's source for explaining the verse like this, which is not like either opinion in our Gemara? (MAHARSHA)

(a) If we take Rashi's words here at face value, we might answer these questions as follows.
1. The reason a Gezeirah Shavah is needed to teach that Elon Moreh mentioned with regard to Har Gerizim is the same Elon Moreh mentioned with regard to Avraham Avinu is because a very strong proof may be cited to show that Har Gerizim is *not* near Shechem. The verse says that the Jewish people are to accept the covenant on Har Gerizim and Har Eival "*b'Avrecha*" -- immediately after crossing the Jordan. According to Rashi and the Rishonim, this means that they went to Har Gerizim and Har Eival on the same day that they crossed the Jordan. However, we find that the Jewish people encamped that night at Gilgal (Yehoshua 4:19). How could the Jewish people have traveled a distance of 120 kilometers in one afternoon, after crossing the Jordan? Moreover, the verse says that they took with them stones from inside the Jordan and first placed them at Har Gerizim and then placed them at Gilgal. How could they carry such huge stones that distance? The only way this could have happened is through supernatural means (Gemara, beginning of 36a), and to prove that such a thing occurred we would need a Gezeirah Shavah or some other substantive proof from the verses.

2. Although the city of Gilgal at which Yehoshua and the nation encamped was east of Yericho, that is not necessarily the same city of Gilgal to which the Torah refers (in Devarim 11:30). The verse (Yehoshua 5:9) says that the place was called Gilgal because the Jewish people performed a mass Milah ceremony there after crossing the Jordan. This implies that it was not yet called Gilgal before the Jews crossed the Jordan. How then could the Torah say that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are "Mul ha'Gilgal," referring to the Gilgal of Yehoshua, which did not yet exist?

It is because of this that our Gemara seems to conclude that the Gilgal of the verse is a different Gilgal -- the one through which Eliyahu and Elisha passed (Melachim II 2:1 and 4:38), which was in Shomron, near Shechem.

The mountains or hills near the Jordan to which the Gemara refers might be the hills that border the river along the sides of the Jordan Valley. Shechem is in a more level area; it is not surrounded by a wall of mountains.

Regarding whether the area of the Jordan was the land of the Kena'ani or of the Chivi, the word "Kena'ani" can refer either to the one specific nation of the seven nations that bears that name, or it can refer generally to any of the seven nations that lived in the land of Kena'an. The verse in Bamidbar says that the Kena'ani lived near the Jordan River, referring not to the specific Kena'ani nation but to the Chivi, who were also called "Kena'anim." Rashi's proof from Shechem might be that since the Chivi lived in Shechem, which is only 60 Mil from the Jordan, they probably ruled over the Jordan valley area as well.

3. The above approach also explains why the verse says that the Jordan River (or Shechem, according to Rebbi Yehudah) is the land of the Kena'ani even though the Chivi are the ones who live there. Occasionally, the Torah refers to the Chivi as the Kena'ani, since they were one of the powerful nations that lived in Kena'an (MAHARSHA).

The Gemara does not explain how Rebbi Elazar learns "Mul ha'Gilgal." Apparently, that also was mentioned only "to show them the way," teaching that if they pass through the area facing Gilgal, it will be easier to conquer the land (Maharsha).

4. Rashi on the Chumash, who explains the verse differently than our Gemara, apparently is basing his explanation on a Midrash that learns the verse differently than our Gemara. (See answer (b).)

(b) However, a number of Acharonim (CHIDUSHEI RABEINU MEIR SIMCHAH, RASHASH, RADAL) suggest another explanation for our Gemara that answers all of our questions.

The Gemara is not citing the verse "ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah" in order to disprove Rebbi Elazar. Rather, it is using this verse to prove that his view is *correct*, and that Har Gerizim and Har Eival were indeed near the Jordan River, since that is where the Aravah is. The location of Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the Kusiyim, in contrast, rests between mountains and hills. Similarly, the Gemara is asking that the Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the Kusiyim is not in the land of the Kena'ani, since it is not near the Jordan; rather it is in the land of the Chivi, since it is near Shechem.

The Gemara asks further that Har Gerizim and Har Eival of the Kusiyim is not near the Gilgal of Yehoshua (which was near the Jordan). How, then, could the Torah refer to them as "Mul ha'Gilgal," near Gilgal?

This answer most of our questions:

1. The Kusiyim need explicit proof to show that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are not near the Jordan, since the entire verse seems to show that they *were* near the Jordan, near "Elonei Moreh." (Perhaps the area was called "Elonei Moreh" because the Jewish people accepted the Shevu'ah ("Alah") of the Torah ("Moreh") in that area.)

2. Now that we have explained that the Gemara is bringing support for Rebbi Elazar, we can answer all of the points we raised in the second question.

3. The Gemara does not have to explain "Mul ha'Gilgal" and "Eretz ha'Kena'ani" according to Rebbi Elazar, who says that Har Gerizim and Har Eival were near the Jordan, but only according to Rebbi Yehudah. Rebbi Elazar ben Yakov provides the answer for Rebbi Yehudah. He explains that the verse is only attempting to show the way to enter Eretz Yisrael (that is, the Jewish people should pass through "Eretz ha'Kena'ani" and through "Mul ha'Gilgal," like we said according to the first approach).

We might add that according to this approach, the verse is not just telling how the army should enter in order to conquer the nations; that would be out of place here, since this verse is not discussing the conquest of the land, but rather how to accept the Berachos and Kelalos at Har Gerizim and Har Eival.

The verse might be explaining how to travel in the simplest manner from Gilgal to Shechem. If the Jewish people would head straight west and then north from Gilgal near the Jordan, they would be traveling through hilly desert land. Rather, they should follow the Jordan Valley northward until the area that is today called "Nachal Tirtzah," which continues northwest directly to Shechem (this is the present-day route of Highway 60, from Adam Bridge to Shechem). In fact, the Navi says that when the Jordan River opened for the Jewish people to pass through, the water stopped flowing in the river bed "from the city of Adam" (Yehoshua 3:16). Perhaps this was meant to hint to them that they were supposed to continue north until that city, and then continue northwest toward Shechem. The verse was teaching them the way towards the second erecting of the stones, just like it instructed them the way to erect the first stones while crossing through the Jordan.

4. Rebbi Elazar ben Yakov translates the words "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" as the "path that *leads towards* the sun," not like Rebbi Yehudah himself who says that the word "Derech" means the path of the sun. According to Rebbi Elazar ben Yakov, the verse might be giving two different signs: the first one is "Acharei," far from the Jordan, and the second one is "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh," meaning in the direction of the setting sun (west). This might be the source of Rashi on the Chumash who explains that Har Gerizim and Har Eival are in Shechem, and he separates "Acharei" and "Derech Mevo ha'Shemesh" into two different signs, and says that Gilgal is far from Shechem. Rashi might have understood the Gemara like these Acharonim.

(According to the explanation of the Rashash and others, we must make a number of corrections in the text of the Gemara in the words of Rebbi Yehudah. The words "b'Eretz ha'Kena'ani ha'Yoshev ba'Aravah" and the words "Mul ha'Gilgal Samuch la'Gilgal" must be omitted from the statement of Rebbi Yehudah, and they must be included in the statement of Rebbi Elazar. See CHIDUSHEI RABEINU MEIR SIMCHAH.)

Next daf


For further information on
subscriptions, archives and sponsorships,
contact Kollel Iyun Hadaf,