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SOTAH 49 (Siyum!) - sponsored by Jeff Ram (Atlanta/Jerusalem), an avid
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1) THE DECREES OF THE "PULMUSIM"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah discusses the Gezeiros that the Chachamim enacted
after the three vanquishing armies ("Pulmus") conquered the Jews: the Pulmus
of Aspasyanos (the Chachamim prohibited the "Ataros Chasanim" and the
"Irus"), the Pulmus of Titus (the Chachamim prohibited the "Ataros Kalos"
and the teaching of Yevanis to one's children), and the Pulmus ha'Acharon,
the last Pulmus (the Chachamim prohibited a Kalah from being taken out in an
Apiryon, a bridal canopy).
2) THE SPLENDOR OF WISDOM
What were these three different Pulmusim? Was not the army of Aspasyanos the
same army as that of Titus, like the Gemara says in Gitin (56b, which says
that Aspasyanos went back to Rome when he became Caesar and Titus took his
place as commander of the army)? Also, what was the "Pulmus ha'Acharon," the
"last" Pulmus, to which the Mishnah refers? Was it not after the Churban?
(a) The simplest explanation, based on the order in which the Pulmusim are
listed, is that the Pulmus of Aspasyanos refers to the siege of Aspasyanos
(Vespasian) on Yerushalayim, which occurred three years before the Churban
(Gitin 56a). The Pulmus of Titus was the fall of Yerushalayim in which the
Roman legions were led by Titus. The Pulmus ha'Acharon was the Milchemes Ben
Koziva (Bar Kochba), which took place 52 years after the Churban. Ben Koziva
tried to reinstate the kingship of Yisrael, but after two and a half years
he was conquered, marking the final fall of Malchus Yisrael (Rashi,
Sanhedrin 97b, DH Od Achas, and as the Seder Olam explains (ch. 30)).
This concurs with the SEDER OLAM which also refers to three Pulmusim --
those of Aspasyanos, Titus, and Milchemes Ben Koziva. (This is according to
the Girsa of the VILNA GA'ON in the Seder Olam, according to which it says
that there were two years between the first two Pulmusim.) According to all
of the Girsa'os, Ben Koziva came to power 52 years after the Churban (like
the Gemara in Sanhedrin 97b says). This is also the way the TIFERES YISRAEL
explains the Mishnah.
(b) The RAMBAM (in Perush ha'Mishnayos) explains that the Pulmus ha'Acharon
is not referring to Ben Koziva but to a Pulmus that occurred in the times of
Rabeinu ha'Kodesh (Rebbi). The "Raboseinu" who removed the Gezeirah against
the bridal canopy was Rebbi himself. Perhaps it was this modesty of Rebbi --
which led him to attribute the removal of the Gezeirah to an anonymous
"Raboseinu" and not to himself -- which prompted the early Amora'im to add
to the Mishnah here the section which discusses the losses to Klal Yisrael
with the passing of various Chachamim and ends with the cessation of Anavah
and Yir'as Chet when Rebbi passed away.
The Rambam writes that the word "Pulmus" does not mean a vanquishing army,
but rather it means the "reign" of the various leaders. Hence, the first
Gezeirah was made some time before the Churban, during the *reign* of
Aspasyanos. The second Gezeirah was made some time after the Churban, during
the reign of Titus.
According to these two explanations, how are we to understand the Gemara
later (49b) that says that the Gezeirah against learning "Chochmas Yevanis"
was made during the time of the internecine conflict between the members of
the ruling family of Beis Chashmona'i? The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (9a) tells
us that the Malchus of Hurdus, which began after the fall of Beis
Chashmona'i, was 103 years *before* the Churban. This incident (concerning
the Gezeirah made during the conflict between Beis Chashmona'i) that our
Gemara records, then, must have preceded the Pulmus of Titus by many years.
Although the Gezeirah at the time of Beis Chashmona'i was against *Chochmas*
Yevanis, and the Mishnah discusses a prohibition of *Lashon* Yevanis,
nevertheless it is clear that the Mishnah is also referring to the Gezeirah
against learning Chochmas Yevanis, since the Gemara explains that there is
no prohibition to speak the *language* of Yevanis, but only to speak the
Chochmas Yevanis (which is some form of language of verbal cues).
TOSFOS asks this question in Bava Kama (82b) and in Menachos (64b). Tosfos
answers that Klal Yisrael did not accept the original Gezeirah, and
therefore it was necessary to reinstitute it at the time of Titus, at which
time they accepted it.
Another possibility is that the word in the Mishnah should not be "v'she'Lo
Yilamed..." ("and [they decreed] *that* one should not teach his child
Yevanis"), but rather "v'Lo Yilamed" ("and one should not teach his child
child Yevanis"); this Gezeirah of teaching Yevanis is not related to the
time of the Pulmus mentioned in the Mishnah, but it is a separate Gezeirah.
After the Mishnah lists the Gezeiros that were made as a Zecher l'Churban,
it mentions this other Gezeirah which dates back to the time of Malchus Beis
Chashmona'i and which was initiated due to the incident that occurred during
the civil war of the Chashmona'im, and was not directly a result of the
Churban. The reason the Mishnah mentions it before the Gezeirah of the
Pulmus ha'Acharon (the prohibition of the bridal canopy) is because the
Gezeirah of Pulmus ha'Acharon was not perpetuated, like the Mishnah says,
because "Raboseinu" permitted the bridal canopy.
This might be inferred from the wording of the Rambam in the Perush
ha'Mishnayos when he mentions the Gezeirah against Chochmas Yevanis *after*
he explains the Gezeiros of the Pulmusim in the Mishnah. (M. Kornfeld)
(c) RASHI, however, writes that the Pulmus of Aspasyanos refers to when
Aspasyanos brought the Roman armies to Yerushalayim (like in (a) above), but
he writes that the Pulmus of Titus was the army that Hurkanos brought
against his brother Aristoblus, and that there were 52 years between this
Pulmus and the preceding Pulmus (like the Seder Olam mentions). He writes
that the Pulmus ha'Acharon was the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdash, which
was also at the hands of Titus.
Rashi obviously derives from the words of the Gemara his explanation that
the Pulmus of Titus was the futile war of the Chashmona'im. Rashi is
bothered by the question we asked from the Gemara: how could the Gezeirah of
Lashon Yevanis have been made at the time of Titus, if its source dates back
to the times of the Chashmona'im (over 100 years before Titus' conquest of
Yerushalayim)? Rashi answers that the Pulmus of titus refers to the civil
war of the Chashmona'im, during which Hurkanos brought Titus to Yerushalayim
to fight against his brother.
This approach, though, is problematic. How could Rashi write that Titus was
brought to Yerushalayim during the conflict between Hurkanos and Aristoblus,
which occurred 52 years after Aspasyanos? It is clear that Hurkanos and
Aristoblus were from Beis Chashmona'i and that they lived long before Titus!
As we saw, the Seder Olam mentions the period of 52 years only with regard
to the war of Ben Koziva, pointing out that it occurred 52 years after the
Churban. No other event is mentioned with regard to 52 years. How could
Rashi date the Malchus Chashmona'i as existing after the Churban if it was
conquered 103 years before the Churban? (YA'AVETZ)
In addition, according to Rashi, the Pulmus ha'Acharon which he writes was
related to Titus, must have preceded the Pulmus of Titus, so how could it be
called the Pulmus ha'Acharon if the previously mentioned Pulmus (of Titus)
actually came *after* it? If the Pulmus ha'Acharon is referring back to the
Churban, like Rashi writes, then how can it be called the "last" Pulmus if
the other one was 52 years after it? (The ME'IRI also quotes the explanation
It seems that Rashi originally suggested two different explanations of what
the Pulmusim were, and in our text of Rashi the two explanations were mixed
together. The first explanation is that the Pulmus of Titus refers back to
the war of Hurkanos and Aristoblus, which occurred much earlier (like the
Gemara implies), and the reason it is referred to as the "Pulmus of *Titus*"
is because -- like the MINCHAS YAKOV explains -- this civil war in which the
Romans were invited to fight against one of the Jewish armies is what
brought about the eventual destruction of Yerushalayim at the hands of
Titus. When Rashi says that Hurkanos brought in the army of Titus to fight
against his brother Aristoblus, it means that it was his act of bringing in
the Roman armies that *culminated* in the coming of Titus. "Pulmus
ha'Acharon" refers to the actual Churban at the hands of Titus years later.
The comment of Rashi that "between one and the other there were 52 years" is
a second explanation of the Pulmusim, in which Rashi is explaining that the
Pulmus of Titus is to be understood in its straightforward meaning (like the
first explanation), that it refers to the fall of Yerushalayim at the hands
of Titus, and these words of Rashi regarding the 52 years are describing the
time between the destruction of Yerushalayim at the time of the Pulmus of
Titus, and the Pulmus ha'Acharon. Rashi is saying that the Pulmus ha'Acharon
was 52 years after the fall of Yerushalayim, and it is referring to the war
of Ben Koziva, like the Seder Olam says.
QUESTIONS: The Mishnah says that when Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai died, "Batel
Ziv ha'Chochmah" -- the splendor of Chochmah, wisdom, was annulled.
RASHI writes that he does not know what "Ziv ha'Chochmah" is.
Does anyone explain what "Ziv ha'Chochmah" is, and if so, why does Rashi not
explain like that?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai was profoundly wise,
like the Gemara says in Gitin (56a). The Gemara there describes the
ingenious ways which Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai contrived at the time of the
Churban in order to save the Talmidei Chachamim. He arranged to meet the
Roman general and speak with him. The general was so impressed with Rebbi
Yochanan ben Zakai's wisdom that he questioned why he had not come to meet
him earlier. This wisdom is what our MIshnah refers to as "Ziv ha'Chochmah."
(b) The BE'ER SHEVA and IYUN YAKOV explain the Mishnah based on the Beraisa
in Sukah (28b), which says that although Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai was the
smallest of the Talmidim of Hillel ha'Zaken, he was expert not only in all
sections of the Torah, but in the fields of astronomy, Gematriya, Sichas
Malachei ha'Shares, Meshalim, etc.
(c) The TOSFOS YOM TOV asks why Rashi does not explain "Ziv ha'Chochmah" in
a simple manner, similar to the way he explains the "Ziv ha'Kehunah" of
Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi. Rashi explains that Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi was
"wise (Chacham), wealthy, and there were many Kohanim who ate at his table."
The Tosfos Yom Tov says that Rashi probably means to say that Rebbi Yishmael
ben Fabi was a "Kohen" and wealthy (like the Gemara says in Pesachim 57a),
and not that he was a "Chacham" and wealthy, and that is why he had "Ziv
ha'Kehunah" (the prestige of wealth lending a splendor to his status of
Kehunah). The same can be said about Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai (that he was
*wise* and also wealthy) and that is why he had "Ziv ha'Chochmah."
The reason why Rashi rejects these three explanations may be inferred from a
closer examination of the way Rashi explains "Ziv ha'Kehunah." Rashi writes
that many Kohanim ate at the table of Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi, because he
was wise and rich. The Maharsha asks from where did Rashi learn that many
Kohanim ate at his table? The answer is that Rashi seems to be emphasizing
that the "Ziv ha'Kehunah" was the splendor that Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi
accorded to the Kohanim by providing them with their needs. It was not that
being a wealthy man gave splendor to Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi personally,
since his wealth itself did not give splendor to the Kehunah in general.
Rashi therefore wondered what "Ziv ha'Chochmah" is. Rebbi Yochanan ben
Zakai's own Chochmah did not give splendor to wise people in general, unless
he provided wise men with all of their needs (like Rebbi Yishmael ben Fabi
did with the Kohanim), but that seems highly unlikely, because the category
of "Chachamim" is not a category that can be easily defined or measured (in
contrast with the category of Kohanim). (If Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai honored
only those who excelled in their Chochmah of Torah, then the Mishnah should
have said that he had "Ziv ha'Torah" and not "Ziv ha'Chochmah.")
(When the Gemara on 49b paraphrases the words of the Mishnah, it quotes the
Mishnah as saying, "When Rebbi Yochanan died, *Batlah ha'Chochmah*,"
omitting the word "Ziv." This supports the explanations of the Maharsha and
Be'er Sheva. However, the Girsa in the Mishnayos is "Ziv ha'Chochmah," and
when the Gemara leaves out the word "Ziv" in its paraphrase, it merely seems
to be abbreviating the Mishnah for the sake of brevity.)
2) "THE TRAIT OF HUMILITY IS NOT GONE, FOR *I* AM STILL HERE!"
QUESTION: Maseches Sotah concludes with an explanation of the statement of
the Mishnah that says that when Rebbi died, "Batal Anavah v'Yir'as Chet,"
Anavah (humility) and Yir'as Chet (the fear of sin) ceased to exist. Rav
Yosef says that the word "Anavah" should be omitted from the Mishnah,
"because I am still here." Rav Nachman say that the words "Yir'as Chet"
should be omitted from the Mishnah, "because I am still here."
On to Gitin
If Rav Yosef was truly an Anav, and Rav Nachman a Yarei Chet, then how could
they publicly praise themselves for these attributes? (See MAHARSHA, NETZIV,
DIVREI ELIYAHU, BEN YEHOYADA, CHIDA, HE'OROS B'MASECHES SOTAH, and others.)
ANSWER: Perhaps Rav Yosef and Rav Nachman were not taking pride in
themselves for their attributes of Anavah and Yir'as Chet in general.
Rather, they were pointing out to the their Talmidim the extent to which the
Midos of Anavah and Yir'as Chet are supposed to be applied, in order for the
Talmidim to learn from particular deeds of Rav Yosef and Rav Nachman.
Regarding Rav Yosef, we find (Berachos 64a, Horiyos 14a) that when the Rosh
Yeshivah passed away, Rav Yosef was chosen to be the new Rosh Yeshivah, but
he declined and offered the position to Rabah instead. This is why he prided
himself in his Anavah; for the sake of teaching his Talmidim how to conduct
themselves, he was pointing out his willingness to decline even such a great
and prestigious honor.
Regarding Rav Nachman, we find that the Gemara in Gitin (31b) says that Rav
Nachman bar Yitzchak (Rashi in Megilah 28b explains that the Rav Nachman of
our Gemara is Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak) refused to honor the wealthy and
powerful members of the family of the Reish Galusa, because he did not
consider them to be worthy of honor. Although the Gemara in Sotah (41b) says
that it is permissible to give honor (Chanifah) to a wealthy Rasha in this
world, nevertheless Rav Nachman was a Yarei Chet and he refused to be
Machnif even when it was permitted. He wanted his Talmidim to learn from
this and therefore he prided himself publicly in this deed of his which
demonstrated Yir'as Chet, the fear of sin.