THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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MEGILAH 6-10 sponsored by a generous grant from an anonymous donor. Kollel Iyun Hadaf is indebted to him for his encouragement and support and prays that Hashem will repay him in kind.
1) TEVERYA -- THE CITY OF PEOPLE FULL OF MITZVOS
Rava (or Rabah) explains that Teverya is called "Rekes" because even the
empty ones ("Rekanin") who live there are full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate.
This is problematic, because the city was called Rekes at the time that
Yehoshua wrote his Sefer, as the Jewish people enterred Eretz Yisrael. At
that time, though, the inhabitants of Rekes were all Nochrim! What does it
mean to say that they were full of Mitzvos? It must be that Yehoshua
understood that Teverya contained some sort of power to grants its Jewish
inhabitants the propensity to be committed to serving Hashem, so that they
should be "full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate." The name of the city, Rekes,
was granted to it based on its future destiny.
However, why should Teverya be more special than any other city in Eretz
Yisrael? (TUREI EVEN)
Second, the Turei Even asks further that the Gemara (Sanhedrin 37a, Chagigah
27a) says about *all of the Jewish people* that the empty ones among them are
full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate! If so, in what way is Teverya unique?
(a) The CHIDA (in PESACH EINAYIM) answers that the reason why Teverya is so
unique is as follows. The Gemara in Shabbos (118b) says that the people in
Teverya are Mekabel Shabbos in the best possible way. Rashi there explains
that since Teverya is deep in the valley and is surrounded by mountains, the
residents bring in Shabbos early because the mountains hide the sun and it
appears to be dark before the sun actually sets. The Gemara there says
further that if someone observes Shabbos properly, then Hashem forgives him
for all of his sins, even if he has served Avodah Zarah like those in the
generation of Enosh. Therefore, in Teverya, where they keep Shabbos properly,
all of their Aveiros are forgiven, and thus they are full of Mitzvos like a
Regarding why the Gemara here mentions only that the people of Teverya are
full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate, while the Gemara elsewhere says this with
regard to all of the Jewish people, the Chida answers that when the Gemara
there (in Sanhedrin and Chagigah) says that even sinners of Israel are full
of Mitzvos, it does not mean that all of them are, but rather *most* of them
are. In Teverya, though, they are *all* full of Mitzvos.
(b) The Gemara here says that Teverya sits in the center of Eretz Yisrael.
When Teverya is called "Rekes," the name is not merely alluding to the
attribute of Teverya, but it is alluding to the attribute of *all* of Eretz
Yisrael, of which Teverya is the center. This answers both questions. Teverya
is singled out because it represents all of Eretz Yisrael, as it is in the
center. Our Gemara does not contradict the Gemara that says that all of the
Jewish people are full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate, because our Gemara
means the residents of *all* of Eretz Yisrael, in the center of which sits
Teverya, are full of Mitzvos. (M. Kornfeld)
2) AGADAH: "YAGATI U'MATZAI -- TA'AMIN"
Rebbi Yitzchak states that if a person says, "I have worked hard, but I have
not found [success]," or "I have not worked hard, but I have found
[success]," do not believe him. But if a person says, "I have worked hard and
I have found [success]," then believe him ("Yagati u'Matzasi -- Ta'amin").
3) AGADAH: EDOM'S "ITALYA"
RABEINU BACHYE shows an allusion to this in a verse in Tehilim. The verse
says, "He'emanti Ki Adaber, Ani Anisi Me'od, Ani Amarti b'Chofzi, Kol ha'Adam
Kozev" (Tehilim 116:10-11). The ordinary translation of the verse is, "I have
been faithful, even when I say, 'I suffer greatly.' I said in my haste, 'All
mankind is deceitful.'"
Rabeinu Bachye suggests that the verse can be read as follows: "I can be
trusted (He'emanti) when I say (Ki Adaber) that I worked very hard (Ani Anisi
Me'od), but if I said something quickly (i.e. I claimed success) without
working hard (Ani Amarti b'Chofzi), then anyone who says such a thing is
lying (Kol ha'Adam Kozev)."
The Gemara describes "Italya Shel Yavan" as the great metropolis of Rome.
There were 365 markets there, like the days of the solar year, and the
smallest one was a market that sold birds. The king ate in a different market
each day. There were also 3000 bathhouses there. The entire metropolis was
surrounded on all sides -- on one side by the sea, on a second side by
mountains, a third side had an iron wall, and on a fourth side was a deep
ravine filled with gravel and sand.
What is the Gemara trying to teach us by describing this large city?
The MAHARAL (Netzach Yisrael, ch. 17) explains as follows:
(a) There were 365 market places. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabah) says that
Edom counts their year according to the sun. The power of Edom is represented
by the sun. The descendants of Yakov, though, are represented by the moon,
and thus they count the year according to the lunar months (see also Sukah
Another Midrash (Bereishis Rabah 63:12) says that everything about Esav, the
progenitor of Edom, is "red," as it demonstrates from various verses. His
name is Edom, which means red. His land is red. His food is red. His clothing
is red. The reason for this is because his power is the same as that of the
sun, which the Gemara in Bava Basra (84a) says is red. The sun appears red
because it is fiery. When metal is heated in a fire, it turns red hot.
Similarly, Esav -- whose power reflects the power of the sun -- is red. The
Jewish people, on the other hand, are represented by the moon which is called
Levanah, from the word "Lavan," or white. The moon exercises its power over
the water (such as the tides which are controlled by the moon), the opposite
of the sun, for water and fire are opposites. The market of Edom has 365
markets, corresponding to the days of the solar year, because Edom's power is
related to the sun.
(b) The smallest of the markets sold birds. The Gemara (Chulin 101a) tells us
that birds were created from muddy dirt. Since they were created with water,
they are antithetical to Edom's red, fiery, sun-like nature. That is why the
market where birds were sold was smaller than all of the other markets, for
water opposes the power of Edom.
We might ask, though, why does the Gemara not say that the fish market was
the smallest, since fish live in the water? It seems that the answer is that
since fish live only in water, they did not have *any* fish market at all in
Edom! Perhaps this is why there is a practice to eat large meals of fish and
chicken instead of meat on Erev Yom Kipur, as the Midrash mentions (cited by
TOSFOS in Kesuvos 5a). We eat fish and chicken to show that Yom Kipur is the
day that is removed from the power of Esav (cf. Yoma 20a).
(c) The king ate in a different market each day. This demonstrates how lavish
were their meals and materialism. The market where the masses shop prepares
food fit for a king!
(d) There were 3000 bathhouses. Esav expresses his power through building
marketplaces and bathhouses (Avodah Zarah 2b). This is because his power
dominates in this world, where he engages abundantly in food, drink, and
(e) The city was surrounded on four sides. On one side was the sea. This was
the western side, for the Torah always uses the word "Yam" (sea) to refer to
the west. It means that Edom's influence reaches all the way to the western
edge of civilization. The mountains were on the southern side, because
"Darom" (south) is a contraction of the words "Da Rom" ("it is high up"),
referring to the south, which is the place where the sun is when it reaches
its highest point in the sky. The influence of Edom reaches the furthermost
southern edge of civilization.
The iron wall alludes to the power of Edom reaching to the northern edge of
civilization. Iron is the material of destruction (Rashi, end of Parshas
Mishpatim). Destruction comes from the north, as the verse says in Yirmiyahu
(1:14), "From the north, the evil will be unleashed." Moreover, writes the
Maharal, everyone knows that magnets draw metal (such as iron) towards the
north, and thus iron is related to the north.
The gravel-filled ravine to the east indicates Edom's power reaching
eastward. The east is the direction where all of the heavenly bodies, the sun
and stars, rise, and therefore it is related to "Omek", a deep valley or
ravine, because it is the lowest part of the sky from which everything rises.
Low areas, therefore, are allegories for the east. The four sides around the
city of Edom show that his power extends to all four directions of the world.