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Yevamos, 105

YEVAMOS 104 & 105 (6 & 7 Adar II) - have been dedicated by Harav Avi Feldman & family in memory of his father, the Tzadik Harav Yisrael Azriel ben Harav Chaim (Feldman) of Milwaukee (Yahrzeit: 6 Adar)


QUESTION: The Gemara cites two verses that discuss where a person should focus when he Davens. The two verses, though, seem to contradict each other. One verse teaches that one's eyes and heart should be towards Yerushalayim and the Beis ha'Mikdash when Davening, since that is where the Shecinah is dwelling. As Hashem told Shlomo ha'Melech, "... My eyes and My heart shall be there forever" (Melachim I 9:3). The other verse says that we should lift our hearts heavenward when we Daven -- "We shall lift our hearts with our hands to Hashem in heaven" (Eichah 3:41).

Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi explains that both verses are correct. When one Davens, he should direct his eyes downward, facing the dwelling place of the Shechinah in Eretz Yisrael, while his heart should be directed upward, towards heaven.

This seems to contradict the Gemara in Berachos (30a). The Mishnah (28b) and Gemara (30a) there state clearly that when a person Davens, he should "direct his heart" towards Eretz Yisrael (and not heavenward)! We see from there that one should turn even his heart towards Eretz Yisrael, and not just his eyes. (MAHARSHA)


(a) The ARUCH LA'NER suggests that TALMIDEI RABEINU YONAH in Berachos (22b of the pages of the Rif) was addressing this question. Rabeinu Yonah quotes the Gemara here in Yevamos and explains that when it says that one should turn his eyes downward and his heart upward, it means that he should concentrate in his heart and view himself as though he is standing in Shamayim and has no desire whatsoever for the pleasures of this world. After he does that, he is ready to Daven to Hashem. Only then, should he concentrate in his heart and view himself as if he is standing in the Beis ha'Mikdash, in this world, and then his Tefilah will be accepted.

From the words of Rabeinu Yonah we see that a person should have two Kavanos. First, one should direct his heart towards heaven, having Kavanah in his heart that he is in Shamayim and has no connection to the physical desires and pleasures of this world. Afterward, he should direct his heart towards the Beis ha'Mikdash. Thus, both the Gemara here and in Berachos are correct and do not contradict each other.

Rabeinu Yonah adds that this Kavanah of removing all physical pleasures from one's consciousness is what the Mishnah in Berachos means when it says that the Chasidim ha'Rishonim used to prepare for an hour before Davening in order to "focus their hearts to Hashem." This means that they would focus their hearts so that the only desire that filled them was to do the will of Hashem, with absolutely no craving for the pleasures of this world whatsoever.

We may add that there seems to be an allusion to this in the verse quoted by our Gemara as well. When the verse says, "... My eyes and My heart shall be there forever" (Melachim I 9:3), it might be implying that since Hashem's eyes and heart are with the Beis ha'Mikdash, it is a sign for us to focus our eyes and hearts to Eretz Yisrael. Not only should our *eyes* be directed towards Eretz Israel, but our *hearts* as well. At the same time, the other verse says that our *hearts* should be directed heavenward. From here we see that the eyes should be directed towards the dwelling place of the Shechinah, while the heart should be directed to *both* -- first, towards the Shamayim in order to remove one's desire for physical pleasures, and second, towards the Beis ha'Mikdash and the Kodesh ha'Kodashim.

AGADAH: The Gemara says that because Avdan belittled Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi and then walked slowly through the ranks of students sitting before Rebbi, he was punished with three drastic punishments. He became plagued with Tzara'as (i.e., a leper), his sons drowned at sea, and his daughter in law's were Mema'an from their husbands.

What was it about Avdan's sin that warranted such punishments?

ANSWER: (see Ein Yakov)

(a) RASHI (DH Nitztare'a) explains that Avdan unfairly criticized Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, sinning with Lashon Hara. Tzara'as is the punishment designated for Lashon Hara, as the Gemara says in Erchin 16b.

But that only explains the Tzara'as. What about the punishments of his sons, and his daughter in law's Mi'uns?

(b) The MAHARSHA explains that the death of his sons and his daughter in law's Mi'uns are two parts of a single punishment. After his sons died (childless) their wives -- who were Ketanos -- did Mi'un, so that the living brothers were not able to "build the house of the dead brothers." This was an appropriate punishment, since Avdan's criticism of Rebbi Yishmael came during a case in which a Yevamah Ketanah (who did *not* perform Mi'un) came before them to perform Chalitzah.

This answer is not completely clear, though. First, we do not find that the Yevamah that came before Rebbi was only Mekudeshes mid'Rabanan, and could perform Mi'un. Second, even had the daughters in law not performed Mi'un, they would not be real Yevamos (since their Kidushin was only mid'Rabanan). And if they did do Mi'un, than retroactively there never was a house to build to begin with.

Besides, according to the Maharsha, the dead brothers must have been Gedolim (since they were married Kidushei Mi'un, and a minor cannot become married). We find that minors are punished for the sins of their parents (Shabbos 32b and elsewhere), but we do not find that mature children should die for their father's sins!

(b) The AHAVAS EISAN on the Ein Yakov explains that the verse in Koheles (5:5) says, "Do not let your mouth bring sin upon your flesh (i.e. your sons), and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake; why should the Almighty be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?" The Gemara in Shabbos 32b explains this verse to mean that certain sins done with the mouth can cause one's children, who are minors, to die. The Midrash (Devarim Raba 6, Tanchuma Metzora 1) explains that the sin the verse is referring to is Lashon Hara. If so, it is appropriate that Avdan's children died due to his sin of Lashon Hara.

The CHAFETZ CHAIM (Shemiras ha'Lashon, Sha'ar ha'Tevunah, chapter 17) takes this further. The children drowned, since drowning is a from of choking and is similar to the disease of Askera (Kesuvos 30b), which is one of the punishments for Lashon Hara (Shabbos 33a).

(c) As for the Mi'un of the daughter in laws, it is possible that this was indeed Midah k'Neged Midah. Avdan criticized Rebbi Yishmael and walked slowly through the ranks of Talmidim while Rebbi was rendering a decision in a case of a Yevamah Ketanah, whom Avdan thought could not perform Chalitzah. Avdan was going to check whether the Yevamah was a Gedolah (and not a Ketanah), when Rebbi Yishmael corrected Rebbi on the matter, proving to him that a Ketanah is also valid for Chalitzah. To show that his punishment was related to this act, Avdan's daughter in laws did Mi'un, an act which can only be performed by Ketanos, so that he should suffer through an act that *just* a Ketanah can do. (M. Kornfeld -- see also Background to the Daf, here, at length)

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