THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) THE EFFECTS OF THE SIN OF "NOV IR HA'KOHANIM"
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that when Sancheriv approached the cities
surrounding Yerushalayim, his sorcerers told him that that day was the last
day that he would be able to conquer Yerushalayim. They urged him,
therefore, to attack the city that day. Rav Huna explains that that day was
the last day that Shaul ha'Melech's sin of killing the Kohanim of the city
of Nov was still potent and could affect the outcome of the war.
Why was the sin able to affect them only until that day?
(a) The ARUCH LA'NER explains that the defeat of Sancheriv occurred on the
night of Pesach (based on the Midrash in Shemos Rabah 18, and as mentioned
in the Piyut in the Hagadah of Pesach). The TORAS CHAIM points out that the
source for this might be the words "ba'Lailah ha'Hu" (Melachim II 19:35),
which are used by the Navi with regard to the defeat of Sancheriv's army.
This is consistent with the Gemara later (95b) that says that his army was
defeated at the time that wheat becomes ripe, which occurs at the time of
Nov was a city of Kohanim. The shortage of Kohanim caused by Shaul's
destruction of Nov was felt most strongly on Erev Pesach, when all of the
Jewish people were bringing their Korban Pesach at the same time. That is
why the sin of Nov would be a stronger condemnation against the Jewish
people on Erev Pesach. If Sancheriv would have attacked the city on Erev
Pesach, he would have succeeded for this reason.
However, the wording of the Gemara implies that the sin of Nov was a sin
that extended from the time of Shaul until this day and no further, and not
that it was a sin that was revisited each year at this time.
(b) The Giv'onim sought vengeance against Shaul for killing the Kohanim of
Nov. They wanted to hang seven of his descendants (Shmuel II 21). The reason
they were affected by the death of Nov is because their sole source of
income was made through supplying water and wood to the Kohanim of Nov for
use at the Bamah of Nov. Hashem heard their complaint and told David
ha'Melech to do whatever they demanded, despite the fact that a child
normally is not punished for the sins of his father. The Gemara in Yevamos
(79a) explains that the reason Hashem agreed to their demand was in order to
make a Kidush Shem Shamayim so that other potential Gerim would see the
concern that the Jews have for the well-being of Gerim.
The RADAK adds that it was particularly important to show sensitivity to the
Giv'onim, because the Giv'onim originally converted through deceit. They
made Yehoshua swear that he would accept them as Gerim and not kill them,
before they told him that they were from the seven resident nations of
Kena'an. If the Giv'onim would die out because of their loss of livelihood
(caused by Shaul's actions), it would look as though the Jews were not
keeping their promise to the Giv'onim, and other potential Gerim would not
want to join the Jewish people. Hence, the sin of Nov did not merely involve
the death of Kohanim, but it distanced potential Gerim from joining the
This might explain why the child of Orpah was the one to avenge the death of
Nov Ir ha'Kohanim from David ha'Melech. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 99b) teaches
that Timna, the sister of Lotan, came to the family of Avraham to convert
and join his family. However, she felt that they would not accept her as a
full-fledged member of their family (since she was born through adulterous
relations, see Rashi to Bereishis 36:12). She decided that she would join
the family in a different way -- by becoming a Pilegesh (concubine) of
Elifaz, son of Esav.
The child of Timna was Amalek, the arch enemy of the Jewish people. This was
not accidental. When a potential convert, with genuine intentions, is
distanced from the Jewish people by being made to feel unfit, the
consequences for the Jewish people can be disastrous. The same occurred to
Orpah. When she was discouraged from joining the ranks of the Jews, her
children were given vast powers over the Jewish people. One of these
children was Goliath, another was Yishbi; both of them were massive warriors
who focused their efforts on fighting against the Jewish people.
This might be why Yishbi was the appropriate one to avenge from David the
death of the Kohanim of Nov. Since the death of Nov's Kohanim caused
potential converts to distance themselves from the Jewish nation, the son of
the one who was discouraged from conversion (Orpah) was the one who tried to
The sin that distanced converts from the Jewish nation could affect the
nation as long as there were potential converts whose decisions might still
be affected by what happened to Nov. We know that the number of potential
converts fluctuates in accordance with the power and prestige of the Jewish
nation among the other nations. For this reason, thousands flocked to
convert in the days of Shlomo ha'Melech (see Yevamos 25b). When the
prominence of the nation sank to its lowest point, there no longer were
potential converts, and the sin of Nov no longer bore ill effects. This
point was reached when Sancheriv conquered not only Ever ha'Yarden and the
Galil, but even the large cities of Yehudah (except for Yerushalayim). No
longer would foreigners be attracted to join the Jewish nation.
That is why the sin of Nov ceased to affect us exactly on the day that
Sancheriv destroyed all but the last vestiges of the Kingdom of Judah,
capturing the last large cities and surrounding the remaining Jews in
Yerushalayim "like birds in a cage." (M. Kornfeld)
QUESTION: The Gemara says that David ha'Melech went to "Sechor Biza'ei."
RASHI, in one explanation, according to the Girsa of the MAHARSHAL and EIN
YAKOV, says that this refers to "Kanigya," which means a hunting expedition.
The ARUCH (Erech Sechor Biza'ei) similarly translates this term as
"falconing." (Perhaps the word "Parsi" in Rashi should say "Peres," which is
a falcon.) A similar Gemara later (107a) describes how David ha'Melech shot
arrows at birds.
3) YISHBI'S ATTEMPTS TO KILL DAVID
It seems from here that hunting is a legitimate activity. However, the
Gemara in Avodah Zarah (18b) says that the verse in the beginning of Tehilim
(1:1), which mentions the "ways of sinners," is referring to those who
participate in hunting expeditions!
The NODA B'YEHUDAH (Yoreh De'ah 2:10) points out that the only people in
Tanach known to have been hunters were Nimrod and Esav (who were both
Resha'im). Purposeless killing of animals for the sake of the hunter's
enjoyment alone is not a Jewish activity. (See also TESHUVOS MAHARI BRUNA
Why, then, was David ha'Melech involved hunting?
ANSWER: The verse refers to David as "Admoni" (Shmuel I 16:12). The Midrash
explains that he was born under the same Mazal as Esav -- Ma'adim. The
Gemara in Shabbos (156a) says that a person born in the Mazal of Ma'adim
will be one "who spills blood." The Gemara explains that if he redirects his
tendencies in the proper way, then he will use them to become a
blood-letter, Shochet, or a Mohel. David ha'Melech, as king, was not able to
do any of those, and thus perhaps he redirected his tendency to spill blood
towards hunting animals, so that he should not kill people.
Regarding the waste and wanton destructiveness involved, perhaps David
ha'Melech wanted to use the hide of the deer for use as parchment for
writing a Sefer Torah (as we find with regard to Rebbi Chiya in Kesuvos
103b). The birds at which he shot arrows (on 107a) and the flesh of the deer
that he hunted might have been used to feed to his dogs (as we find in
Shabbos 30b, which describes the large kennels that he had).
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM (#15) suggests that David ha'Melech might have used a
very sharp arrow and shot the animal in the neck, performing a proper
Shechitah (as we find in Chulin 17b).
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that when Yishbi captured David ha'Melech, he
attempted to hill David by tying him up and folding him beneath the beam of
an olive press and sitting on it so that David would be crushed. Hashem
saved him by causing the earth to soften beneath him. When Yishbi saw that
Avishai was coming to save David, he attempted to kill David by throwing him
high into the air and then planting his spear beneath David, so that David
would land on the spear.
If Yishbi wanted to kill David ha'Melech, then why did he not simply kill
him with his sword once he had captured him? Why did he perform these
strange acts to try to kill him?
(a) The YAD RAMAH explains that even though Yishbi could have killed David
directly, he tried to kill him in a manner that would demonstrate his own
strength. He also wanted to play games with the body of David to disgrace
him and to show his own strength.
This explanation seems to be based on the verse that says that Yishbi was
wearing a new set of armor (Shmuel II 21:16). Rashi there explains that this
was Yishbi's first day as a warrior. Upon initiation, a new warrior would
try to show off his strength and ability on the first day of his involvement
(Alternatively, perhaps Yishbi attempted to kill David in these indirect
manners because he did not want to soil his brand new armor, or because it
is a sign of strength and courage to kill without drawing blood.)
(b) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM (#23) writes in the name of TESHUVOS DIVREI RAV
MESHULAM (#3), the son of the Chacham Tzvi, that when Yishbi saw that David
ha'Melech escaped from being crushed beneath the beam, he was concerned that
David saved himself through Kishuf, sorcery, and thus he would also be able
to save himself from the sword through Kishuf. Therefore, Yishbi lifted
David off of the ground, because a sorcerer is unable to use his powers of
Kishuf when he is not touching the ground, as Rashi mentions earlier (44b;
see also Sefer Chasidim #474), that a sorcerer can only use his power of
Kishuf when his feet are on the ground. In this manner, Yishbi intended to
kill David before his feet reached the ground.
(c) The Gemara says that Avishai became aware that David ha'Melech was in
mortal danger when he saw a Yonah (a dove) in distress. The Jewish nation is
compared to a Yonah, and since the nation at that moment was not in danger,
he deduced that it must be the king who was in danger. It seems that David
ha'Melech in this story is a parable for the experiences of the Jewish
people in times of exile.
We explained earlier (Insight #1) that the sin of Nov Ir ha'Kohanim involved
a Chilul Hashem which caused potential Gerim to distance themselves from the
Jewish people. The Chachamim teach that one of the purposes of sending the
Jewish people into exile is so that potential Gerim will see them and be
attracted to join the Jewish people (Pesachim 87b). When the Jewish people
do not conduct themselves in a befitting manner and do not attract the
Gerim, they are punished for the "sin of Nov." This might be what is alluded
to by David ha'Melech's act of hunting (an activity not consistent with
Jewish values) and eventually being ensnared by the enemy.
When the nations see that the Jewish people are not properly observing the
Mitzvos, they use a number of tactics to attempt to defeat the Jewish people
and take them away from the Torah permanently (see Rashi to Bereishis
27:40). The first tactic that they use is direct pressure on the Jewish
people by enacting decrees against them and persecuting them in order to
make their lives as Jews difficult. If the Jews put their faith in Hashem
and they accept the Gezeiros of Hashem with humility, then Hashem "softens
the earth beneath them" so that they should be able to withstand the
pressures of the nations and not be broken (see Ta'anis 20b, where the
Gemara says that a person should be soft like a reed so that he will not be
broken by the strong winds).
When the nations see that this tactic does not work, they try a different
approach. Instead of pressing the Jewish people into the ground, so to
speak, by trying to intimidate them, they throw the Jewish people "into the
air," trying to cause the Jewish people to become arrogant by making them
feel that they are like all the nations. The nations do this because they
realize that such arrogance will cause the Jews to bring about their own
demise. When Jews become assimilated with the nations, they eventually
forget the ways of their fathers and they lose their connection to Torah.
The way to halt this downfall is by using a Shem of Hashem, as Avishai used,
to keep them "in the air." The Gemara often refers to the word of the Torah
as "Shem" (see Rashi to Makos 4a, DH ha'Shem). This means that through
returning to Torah, the people can overcome the foreign influences and hold
fast to the ways of the Torah. It is sometimes necessary for a Talmid
Chacham, who has not been influenced by the assimilationist tendencies, to
go and help his brethren by teaching them Torah. (These two tactics of the
nations are hinted to in a deeper allusion in the Mishnah in Berachos (54a)
that says that a person should not interrupt his Shemoneh Esreh (which
alludes to interrupting one's concentration on Avodas Hashem) even when
there is a serpent wrapped around his ankle (referring to when the nations
are trying to humble him with their evil decrees and plots), or when a king
is greeting him (referring to when the nations treat the Jews royally,
giving them honor and enticing them to join them).
The Gemara says that David and Avishai fled, and Yishbi pursued them. The
Gemara relates that they came to a place called, "Kubi," which they
understand to mean, "Kum Bei" -- "stand up against him." However, they did
not yet have the courage to stand up against Yishbi. They then came to a
place called "Bitrei," which they understand to be hinting that "two
(b'Trei) cubs can kill the lion." They mentioned to Yishbi that his mother,
Orpah, was dead, and that weakened him and they were able to kill him.
The significance of the difference between "Kum Bei" and "b'Trei" is
implicit in Rashi's words. "Kum Bei" means that each one should stand up and
fight against Yishbi, individually. They realized that as individuals they
would not be able to defeat him. "B'Trei" implies that they would defeat him
when they join together and fight as a team. Similarly, the Talmidei
Chachamim must help the weaker Jews and fight together as a team against the
forces of assimilation. Only when the weaker members of the nation rally
around the Talmidei Chachamim will they be able to conquer the forces of
evil that oppose them. They will do this by pointing out the moral depravity
of the nations and by showing that their ways of living will never lead to
any lasting achievement. (M. Kornfeld)
4) THE ARMY OF 260 BILLION SOLDIERS
QUESTION: The Beraisa teaches that the camp of Sancheriv numbered "260
thousand myriads, minus one." The Gemara is inconclusive regarding to what
"minus one" refers.
What is the significance of the number 260, and what is the Beraisa trying
to teach with this number and by the one that is missing?
ANSWER: The verse in Yeshayah (10:15) relates Hashem's rebuke to Sancheriv.
After describing the arrogance of Sancheriv, the prophet says, "Can the ax
('Garzen') pride himself over the one who wields it, or the saw over the one
who waves it, or the stick over the one who lifts it?" The prophet's
intention is to humble Sancheriv, saying that he is no more than an ax in
the hands of Hashem, which He is utilizing to punish His people. When it is
Hashem's will to spare His people, the ax has no power of its own.
The Gematriya of the word "Garzen" is 260. The Beraisa is emphasizing that
the armies of Sancheriv were simply a "Garzen," an ax, in the hands of
Hashem, which He was using to punish the Jewish people when they were
deserving of punishment. However, Sancheriv did not recognize this. He was
"lacking One" -- he was lacking the awareness of Hashem Who is One. He was
giving credit to himself for his power, unaware that he was merely a tool in
the hands of Hashem. Hashem therefore displayed to Sancheriv the Hand that
wielded the ax when He destroyed the armies of Sancheriv. (M. Kornfeld)