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
CHAGIGAH 12 - has been generously dedicated by Lee and Marsha Weinblatt of
1) SPIRITUAL POTENTIAL, PHYSICAL ACTIONS, AND CHANUKAH
AGADAH: The Gemara records an argument between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel
with regard to what was created first, the heavens (Shamayim) or the earth
(Aretz). Beis Shamai says that the Shamayim was created first. Beis Hillel
says that the Aretz was created first.
This Machlokes reflects a fundamental difference in ideology between the two
schools. Beis Shamai always looks at the *potential* inherent in the subject
("Ko'ach"), while Beis Hillel looks at what part of that potential is
realized through actions in the physical world ("Po'el").
Beis Shamai considers the primary component of creation to be the potential
that it contains, because the ability to do any act in this world comes from
that potential, its Ruchniyus, or spiritual, energy. The source of all
Ruchniyus is the Shamayim (from which the Neshamah originates), and
therefore the Shamayim is the main part of creation and had to be created
Beis Hillel, though, maintains that the "Po'el," the actual execution of
actions in the physical world, is the primary component of creation. This is
because the world was created for the sake of enabling people to
*accomplish* and perfect themselves in the physical world of Olam ha'Zeh.
Therefore, Beis Hillel maintains that the Aretz was created first.
This difference in ideology is found in other disputes between Beis Shamai
and Beis Hillel. In Shabbos (21b), Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel argue about
how the Chanukah lights are to be kindled. Beis Shamai says that they are
kindled in descending order, with eight lit on the first night, and one lit
on the eighth night. Beis Hillel says that they are lit in ascending order,
with one lit on the first night, and eight lit on the eighth night.
This dispute is based on this ideological difference. Beis Shamai maintains
that the Ko'ach, or potential, is most important. Hence, on the first night
of Chanukah, the oil that burned in the Menorah in the Beis ha'Mikdash not
only contained the miracle for that night, but it also contained the
*potential* to remain lit for the remaining seven nights. Since the oil
contained the potential for eight days of miracles, we light that number of
candles on the first night. Beis Hillel, on the other hand, maintains that
the Po'el, the realization of the potential, is most important. Hence, on
the first night of Chanukah, we only saw one actual miracle occur. By the
eighth night, though, we had seen eight miracles occur.
Similarly, in Kesuvos (17a), Beis Shamai says that we praise the Kalah with
whatever praiseworthy attributes that she has ("Kalah Kemos she'Hi"). This
is because we praise her for her potential ability to attract a Chasan,
which is measured based on the attributes inherent in her that are visible
to the average person. Beis Hillel, though, says that we praise her with
generous words of praise ("Kalah Na'ah v'Chasudah"), even though the average
person does not see these attributes in her. This is because we look at what
actually occurred: her Chasan was attracted to her, and *he* must have seen
in her great cause for praise.
Also, we find that Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel argue concerning the text of
the blessing over the flame on Motza'ei Shabbos. Beis Shamai says that the
text is "she'Bara *Ma'or* ha'Esh," and Beis Hillel says that the text is
"Borei *Me'orei* ha'Esh." Beis Shamai says that the blessing should be made
on the original concept of fire that contained the potential for all future
fires, and thus the blessing should be in the singular, "Me'or," since it is
a single concept. Beis Hillel says that the blessing should be made on the
physical fire that appears before us, which comes in many colors and may be
referred to in the plural (see Berachos 52b).
(M. Kornfeld -- This approach is related to the approach presented in
Insights to Berachos 52:2, in the name of the ROGATCHOVER GA'ON, in which
the arguments between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai reflect an ideological
debate whether to place more emphasis on the Chomer [substance] or the
Tzurah [essence] of an object. The Ga'on elaborates on this in TESHUVOS TZAFNAS PANE'ACH #50 and many other places -- see the Hesped of the compiler
of the Teshuvos after Teshuvah #255, Rav Zevin's L'OR HA'HALACHAH, chapter
on "Snow" footnote #11, Rav Kasher's introduction to TAFNAS PANE'ACH on the
Torah, Bereishis, etc.)
2) THE SWIFTNESS OF THINGS IN SHAMAYIM, THE SLUGGISHNESS OF THINGS ON EARTH
AGADAH: The Gemara says that the Torah describes the specific details of the
creation of the land (Aretz) first (Bereishis 1:2), even though the heaven
(Shamayim) was created first (Bereishis 1:1). The reason, as explained by
the Gemara through a metaphor, is that the Aretz is more praiseworthy since
it is not the normal manner for the Aretz to act with alacrity, and yet it
nevertheless responded swiftly at the time of creation. RASHI explains what
this means: "All earthly acts are sluggish, while heavenly acts take place
3) WHAT THE WORLD STANDS ON
The MAHARAL (GUR ARYEH to Shemos 12:17, GEVUROS HASHEM, ch. 36) develops
this concept to explain the meaning of a well-known Mechilta (quoted by
Rashi in Shemos 12:17). The verse says, "Guard the Matzos from becoming
Chametz, for on this very day I took your multitudes out of Mitzrayim."
Rashi quotes the Mechilta that says, in the name of Rebbi Yoshiyah, "Do not
read the word as `Matzos,' but rather as `Mitzvos' -- `Keep the Mitzvos from
becoming Chametz' -- for just as one should not allow Matzos to ferment, so
should one not allow Mitzvos to 'ferment.' Rather, if a Mitzvah comes into
your hand, do it immediately." The verse is teaching that all Mitzvos must
be done with Zerizus, alacrity.
The Maharal raises two questions concerning this statement. First, how can
Rebbi Yoshiyah change the reading of the word in the verse in order to
superimpose his homiletical interpretation? Normally, there must be some
indication from the theme or context of a verse that supports such
interpretations. The suggested "changes" in reading is just a tool to
graphically demonstrate a point that can be learned from the normal reading
of the verse itself. What, then, is the connection between the simple
meaning of our verse and Rebbi Yoshiyah's homily?
Second, in what way does a Mitzvah become "fermented," or spoiled, if it is
not done immediately?
The Maharal addresses these two issues by assessing more carefully the
nature of the Mitzvah of Matzah. The Torah says, "Do not eat Chametz...; for
seven days you shall eat Matzos... because you left Mitzrayim in haste"
(Devarim 16:3). The Torah clearly tells us that the Mitzvah of eating Matzah
on Pesach is to remind us of the haste with which the Jews left Mitzrayim;
they were so hurried that "they baked the dough which they had taken out of
Mitzrayim into cakes of Matzah, because they were expelled from Mitzrayim
and were not able to delay" (Shemos 12:39; see also Seforno to Shemos 12:17,
and the Pesach Hagadah).
Why, though, must we remember that Yetzi'as Mitzrayim happened so swiftly
The Maharal explains that the lesson of the haste is that Hashem Himself (as
opposed to any natural force) took us out of Mitzrayim. Any act done
directly by Hashem takes place instantaneously. The reason for this is that
there is no element of mass or matter related to Hashem. A physical object
has inertia that it must overcome in order to go into motion. But Hashem,
Whose actions are purely spiritual and are unimpeded by any physical
qualities, can -- and does -- act with infinite speed. Furthermore, Hashem
exists outside of the framework of space and time, and, therefore, even when
His actions are taking place in this physical world, they can take place
without the passage of time.
This, says the Maharal, is the key to understanding the Mitzvah of Matzah.
The Matzah that we eat reminds us how rushed the events were at the time of
Yetzi'as Mitzrayim. This haste is the mark of a Divine act. It is the sign
that the hand of Hashem was at work, shaping our destiny. "`Hashem took us
out of Mitzrayim' -- It was not an angel nor a Seraph nor a messenger, but
Hashem Himself Who took us out of Mitzrayim" -- (Pesach Hagadah). Therefore,
it is necessary for us to remember the *swiftness* of the Exodus. It is the
Torah's way of insuring that the future generations will always realize the
extent of Hashem's love for the Jewish people.
This is the meaning of Rebbi Yoshiyah's interpretation of the verse. The
reason it is so important to do a Mitzvah swiftly, explains the Maharal, is
related to the swiftness of an act of Hashem. A Mitzvah is the Divine will
in this world. When we perform a Mitzvah, we want to demonstrate that it is
not simply a mundane act. We would like to show that we are executing the
will of our Creator. Performing a Mitzvah with "Zerizus" accomplishes that.
By performing a Mitzvah swiftly, we are giving it the mark of our Creator
and showing that what we are doing is His will.
This is also the meaning of the "fermenting" of a Mitzvah that is not done
with the desired swiftness. Doing a Mitzvah slowly makes it appear to be a
worldly act ("all earthly acts are sluggish"). In this sense, it is
"fermented" or "spoiled." Therefore, in order to prevent a Mitzvah from
becoming a fermented, mundane act, we must perform it with the attribute of
Zerizus, which is the attribute of Shamayim, of Ruchniyus, and thus we show
that it is the will of Hashem.
AGADAH: The Gemara quotes Rebbi Yosi who says, "Woe to those who see but do
not know what they see, and who stand and do not know upon what they stand."
He proceeds to describe what supports the world. The world is supported by
pillars, which are supported by water. The water is supported by mountains,
which are supported by the wind (Ru'ach). The wind is supported by the
tempest (Se'arah), which is supported by the mighty arm of the Holy One,
Blessed is He.
Why does Rebbi Yosi bemoan the fact that people do not know what they stand
on? Why do they have to know what is supporting them?
ANSWER: The MAHARSHA explains that Rebbi Yosi is saying that people do not
realize that the world depends on the choices they make, and that their
proper use of free choice has a great effect on the state of the world.
1. "The world is supported by the pillars" refers to the pillars of Torah,
Avodah, and Gemilus Chasadim, or the pillars of Din, Emes and Shalom, which
sustain the world (Avos 1:2, 18).
2. The pillars in turn stand on water, which alludes to the Torah (Bava Kama
17a). It is the Torah which directs a person how to strengthen the pillars
upon which the world stands.
3. "The water is supported by mountains" -- the mountains refer to the Avos
and the Tzadikim (see Megilah 17b). This means that the Torah is supported
by the Avos and other Tzadikim, for it is they who choose to use the Torah
to create the three pillars of the world.
4. The mountains, in turn, are supported by the wind (Ru'ach), the Neshamah
(see Bereishis 7:22), which the Tzadikim use to exercise their Bechirah,
their free choice.
5. The wind is supported by the tempest (Se'arah). "Se'arah" is related to
the word "Sa'ara" or "Se'ir" which refers to the Yetzer ha'Ra (which appears
as a hair, Sukah 52a, and is related to Esav, or Se'ir) . The first step in
activating one's Bechirah is to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra. (It is the
existence of the Yetzer ha'Ra which allows the possibility of Bechirah.)
6. In turn, the Se'arah stand on the mighty arm of Hashem, which means that
one who desires to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra cannot do it on his own, but he
needs Hashem's assistance (as the Gemara says in Kidushin 30b).
When the Tana'im quoted in our Gemara argue how many pillars there are --
twelve, seven, or one, their Machlokes is based on the Gemara at the end of
Makos. The Gemara there discusses how many primary sets of Mitzvos there
are. "King David narrowed down the 613 Mitzvos to 11... Yeshayah narrowed
them down further to six... until Chabakuk came and narrowed them down to
one -- Emunah, faith in Hashem." The opinion in our Gemara which says that
there are twelve pillars is referring to the eleven primary Mitzvos plus the
Mitzvah of Emunah. The opinion which says that there are seven pillars means
the six primary Mitzvos -- as Yeshayah counts them -- plus the Mitzvah of
Emunah. The opinion here which says that the world stands on one pillar is
in accordance with the view of Chabakuk, that there is only one primary
Mitzvah and that is the Mitzvah of Emunah.