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
1) DO THE DEAD KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS WORLD?
QUESTION: At the end of a lengthy discussion whether the dead are aware of
what is happening in this world, the Gemara (18b) concludes that even Rebbi
Yonasan (who, on 18a, asserted that the dead do not know what is happening
in this world) changed his mind and said that the dead *do* know what is
happening. He derives that from a verse that says Hashem told Moshe
Rabbeinu to relate to the deceased forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and
Yakov, that the Jewish people had entered the land of Israel. Concludes the
Gemara, it must be that the dead are aware of what goes on in this world,
because "if they do not know, what good will it do [for Moshe Rabbeinu] to
From this Gemara it seems that if the dead do not know what is happening in
this world, even if someone tells the dead about something in this world,
they do not know what is happening. They have absolutely no awareness of
This is difficult to understand, because the Gemara earlier (18b) implies
that if the dead are informed, then they *do* know what is happening. Never
did the Gemara mention the possibility that they are so removed from this
world that they have no idea what is going on even if they are told!
(a) The MAHARSHA answers that the Gemara here is addressing Rebbi Yonasan's
opinion. On Daf 18a, Rebbi Yonasan cited the verse, "The dead people do not
know *anything*" (Koheles 9:5). This reveals that Rebbi Yonasan was of the
opinion that the dead have absolutely no awareness of anything
this-worldly, even if they are informed of it.
The Gemara on 18b -- which implies that even if they do not know what is
happening in the world, they *do* know if someone informs them -- was
responding to one of Rebbi Chiya's sons who asserted that his father does
not know of their pain. Even if he does not know of their pain of his own
accord, he could know if he were informed.
(b) For what purpose did Hashem command Moshe to tell the forefathers about
the Jewish people's entry into Israel? It must have been so that the
forefathers would continue to watch their children and pray for them when
they would wage war to conquer the land. The Gemara asks, then, that if
dead people do not know what is going on the world, what good would it do
for Moshe to tell them? True, they may be aware of the events as they are
informed of them, but Moshe could not tell them when the Jews would go to
war and when to pray for them. (M. Kornfeld)
This explanation is consistent with the reading of the text that Tosfos
(Sotah 34b, DH Avosai) had in our Gemara. In Tosfos' text, there appeared
the word "Ela" ("rather") before the Gemara's answer, "So that they would
express gratitude to Moshe." According to Tosfos, this answer is not
answering the question that immediately precedes it ("If they *know* [what
is happening in the world], what is the point in telling them [what is
happening]?"), but rather, it is answering the first question, "If they *do
not know* [what is happening in the world], what is the point in telling
them [what is happening]?" The point in telling them is so that they will
appreciate what Moshe did for their children up until the point when they
entered Eretz Yisrael.
According to the Maharsha's explanation, this reading of the Gemara is not
possible. The Maharsha explained that if they do not know what is
happening, that means that they have absolutely no understanding of
anything this-worldly, and thus they could not even be grateful to Moshe
Rabbeinu for bringing the Jews to the land of Israel.
2) TRANSGRESSING THE TORAH FOR THE SAKE OF MAN'S HONOR
QUESTION: The Gemara says that if one finds Shatnez in his garment, he must
remove his garment immediately, even if he is in a public place and may be
embarrassed. One may not transgress a Mitzvah for the sake of man's honor.
The Gemara concludes (on 20a) that man's honor does not override the
Mitzvos of the Torah only when one is actively transgressing a Torah
prohibition. By wearing Shatnez, one is actively violating the prohibition.
One may, however, transgress the Torah *passively* in order to prevent
disgrace. The Gemara learns this from the rule that if there is a corpse
that needs to be buried, one may bury the corpse even if it requires him to
forego the Mitzvah of bringing the Korban Pesach or circumcizing his son.
RASHI (20a, DH Shev v'Al Ta'aseh) cites the Gemara in Yevamos (90b) which
teaches that the Rabbanan have the authority to tell us to violate a
Mitzvah in a passive fashion. For example, the Rabbanan command us not to
put Tzitzis on a four-cornered, linen garment, even though mid'Oraisa such
a garment is required to have Tzitzis. Since one is only passively
violating the Torah's command, the Rabbanan have the authority to make such
TOSFOS (Yevamos 90b, DH Kulhu Nami) asks how is wearing a four-cornered
garment without Tzitzis considered a passive infraction? Wearing a garment
without Tzitzis should be considered *actively* transgressing the Torah's
command not to don a four-cornered garment without Tzitzis, just as one
actively violates the prohibition of wearing Shatnez by wearing a garment
that is Shatnez!
TOSFOS answers that the Torah only commands us to attach Tzitzis to
a four-cornered garment that one is *wearing*. Only a moment after placing
it upon him does the obligation take effect. But at that point, the person
is *passively* wearing a garment without Tzitzis.
Our Gemara concludes that wearing a garment with Shatnez is indeed an
active transgression because the prohibition of wearing Shatnez includes
the act of *placing the garment* upon oneself. Since he initially
transgressed the prohibition actively, even though now -- while he wears
the garment -- he is only transgressing passively, he is required to remove
it immediately. (Alternatively, since he initially transgressed the
prohibition actively, all the time that the garment remains on him is
considered to be an active transgression.)
The SHA'AGAS ARYEH (#82) points out that this explanation raises a problem.
The Torah permits attaching [woolen] Tzitzis to a linen garment, because
the Mitzvah of Tzitzis overrides the prohibition of Shatnez. But how is it
permitted to put on such a garment? The very moment that he dons the
garment, he transgresses the prohibition of Shatnez, because the Mitzvah of
wearing Tzitzis (which would override the prohibition of Shatnez) takes
effect only a moment later, when the garment is already resting on his
body. The Sha'agas Aryeh leaves this question unanswered.