THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
Ask A Question about the Daf
Bava Basra, 14
BAVA BASRA 14 & 15 - anonymously dedicated by an Ohev Torah and Marbitz
Torah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.
1) HALACHAH: WRITING A SEFER TORAH ON "KLAF"
OPINIONS: The Gemara cites a Beraisa which relates that the Chachamim asked
Rebbi how tall must a Sefer Torah be, and he responded that when written on
Gevil, a type of thick parchment, the Sefer Torah must be six Tefachim tall.
When they asked him how tall it must be when written on Klaf, a thinner type
of parchment, he said that he does not know.
2) THE DEATH OF RAV ACHA BAR YAKOV
We know that it is a Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai that a Sefer Torah must be
written on the type of parchment known as Gevil (as the Beraisa in Shabbos
79b states, and as the RAMBAM writes in Hilchos Tefilin 1:8). Why, then, did
Rebbi respond that he did not know how tall a Sefer Torah must be when
written on Klaf-type parchment? Rebbi should have said that a Sefer Torah
may not be written on Klaf!
The Rishonim (RABEINU CHANANEL, cited by the RAMBAN, and RASHBA) prove,
because of this question, that a Sefer Torah *may* be written on Klaf. They
argue, though, whether l'Chatchilah it must be written on Gevil, or it may
even be written l'Chatchilah on Klaf.
(a) RABEINU CHANANEL writes that it is not permitted, l'Chatchilah, to write
a Sefer Torah on Klaf, for we do not find that Rebbi (or Moshe Rabeinu)
wrote such a Sefer Torah. Rather, we may deduce from Rebbi's words only that
if a Sefer Torah was, b'Di'eved, written on Klaf, it is valid. This is also
the view of the RAMBAN and the RAMBAM (Hilchos Tefilin 1:9). (This indeed is
the practice of the communities of Teiman (Yemen), who are stringent to
write Sifrei Torah only on Gevil.)
(b) The RASHBA writes that it is permitted, l'Chatchilah, to write a Sefer
Torah on Klaf. He asserts that the fact that Rebbi did not say that one
should not, l'Chatchilah, write a Sefer Torah on Klaf shows that it may be
done even l'Chatchilah. Moreover, the Rashba says that we can prove that it
may be done l'Chatchilah based on what the masses of people do today ("Puk
Chazi Mai Ama Davar"). (I. Alsheich)
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rav Acha bar Yakov wrote only one Sefer
Torah, and it happened that it came out to be the proper measurement of its
height being the same as its circumference, a very difficult feat to
accomplish (with only a single writing). The Rabanan "set their eyes upon
him" and he died.
Why did the Rabanan set their eyes upon him? What is wrong with writing a
Sefer Torah that comes out to have the correct measurements? It does not
seem that they merely gave him an "Ayin ha'Ra" which caused him to die,
because such a thing would not come about through the Rabanan, but only
through lowly people who do not like to see their fellow man succeed.
ANSWER: The CHASAM SOFER answers that perhaps the Rabanan thought that since
his first Sefer Torah that he wrote came out with the exact measurements,
Rav Acha bar Yakov must have used the Divine Name to make it happen. They
felt it was not appropriate to use the Name of Hashem for such a purpose,
and therefore they set their eyes upon him. The punishment for using the
Divine Name for personal purpose is written in Avos (4:7): "d'Ishtamesh b
Saga, Chalaf." (I. Alsheich)
3) FITTING THE SEFER TORAH INTO THE ARON HA'KODESH
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes a Beraisa which states that a Sefer Torah's
height must be equal to the length of its circumference. Rebbi states that
the height of a Sefer Torah must be 6 Tefachim. According to the Gemara's
formula for the relationship of the value of the length of a cylindrical
shape to its circumference, the diameter of a Sefer Torah must be one-third
of its length, or 2 Tefachim.
The Gemara questions this from another Beraisa, in which Rebbi Meir states
that the Sefer Torah of Moshe Rabeinu was resting inside the Aron ha'Kodesh.
The Beraisa explains that 12 of the 15 Tefachim of the length of the Aron
(which was 2 and 1/2 Amos, or 15 Tefachim, long) were taken up by the two
Luchos, each of which was 6 Tefachim long. An additional Tefach was taken up
by the thickness of the walls, and the remaining space of 2 Tefachim was the
space in which the Sefer Torah was placed.
The Gemara asks how could the Sefer Torah fit into those 2 Tefachim? If the
height of a Sefer Torah is 6 Tefachim, then its width (diameter) must be 2
Tefachim. However, since the Sefer Torah is rolled from its two sides
towards the middle, there must be additional space left between the two
rolls. Consequently, the Sefer Torah would need more than just 2 Tefachim of
What is the Gemara's question? Perhaps the Sefer Torah was resting on its
side (with one roll on top of the other), and thus it took up less than two
Tefachim of space in the Aron! (The RASHBA writes its width was only one
Tefach. This is difficult to understand though, because a calculation of its
dimensions shows that it was more than a Tefach wide, as the
The PNEI SHLOMO addresses this question and gives an answer for the Rashba.)
Since the Sefer Torah was rolled up on two sides towards the middle of the
Sefer Torah, one roll was resting on top of the other and together they took
up less than two Tefachim of width! (RAMBAN, RASHBA)
(a) The RASHBA answers that it is not reasonable to suggest that the Sefer
Torah was resting on its side, because that is not the manner of setting
down a Sefer Torah. Setting down a Sefer Torah in such a manner is
disrespectful to the Sefer Torah.
(b) The Rashba answers further that even if the Sefer Torah was placed on
its side, the Gemara's question would still apply. There would be a Tefach
of space left between the Sefer Torah and the Luchos (as mentioned above,
the Rashba himself holds that the width of the Sefer Torah was only one
Tefach), and thus when the Aron would be carried and shaken, the Sefer Torah
might fall over.
The Rashba adds that this answer explains another question. Why does the
Gemara ask how the Sefer Torah fit into the Aron? Perhaps it was placed
upright, with the front of the two rolled sides facing the Luchos, and it
thus stood in a space of one Tefach! The Rashba answers with the same answer
that he wrote to the first question: they could not have placed the Sefer
Torah upright in the Aron, because when the Aron would be moved and shaken,
the Sefer Torah would lean over into the Tefach of space between it and the
Luchos, and it would not remain standing upright.
The Rashba gives a different answer to his second question and says simply
that it is not the manner to set down a Sefer Torah in a upright position.
The Rashba adds, however, that he has seen that in all places it is the
practice to set down the Sefer Torah in an upright position. (He concludes
by saying that placing the Sefer Torah down on its side is not respectful,
and those who do so should be admonished.) (I. Alsheich)