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Avodah Zarah 2

AVODAH ZARAH 2 - Marcia and Lee Weinblatt have dedicated this Daf towards the full recovery of Mrs. Gerti (Gitl bas Golda) Kornfeld, and in honor of the recent births of their grandchildren: Gabriela Esther (to Jodi & Jacob Mugrabi), Esther Rifka (to Tal & Aylon Brandwein), Mordechai (to Aliza & Kenny Weinblatt) and Meir Yaakov (to Roni & Yehuda Blinder). MAZEL TOV!


QUESTION: The Gemara says that in the future, when Hashem will judge the nations of the world, He will grasp a Sefer Torah and say, "They who busied themselves in this (the Torah) shall come forward and receive reward."

Why does Hashem hold a Sefer Torah for this judgement? Normally, a judgement is passed based simply on Hashem's knowledge of the person's righteous or wrongful deeds. How does holding a Sefer Torah add to the judgement of the nations?


(a) The MAHARSHA explains that until the final day of judgement, even those nations that accept Hashem as the only G-d still believe that He gave a different set of laws to follow. Idolaters, while they believe that Hashem is above all of the idols, believe that He wants them to serve their idols. Others believe that Hashem commanded them to follow other books written by self-professed prophets. Hashem grasps the Sefer Torah as a means of identification, saying that this is His word that He gave to the Jewish people, and the one that He expects the world to follow. In a similar vein, the RASHBA in CHIDUSHEI AGADOS (cited by "ha'Kosev" in the EIN YAKOV) explains that the nations of the world think that the greatest pursuit that man can follow is the pursuit of knowledge and philosophy. Hashem holds the Sefer Torah in order to show that this, the Torah, is the pursuit that He desires the most.

(b) The members of the various nations of the world come to the final day of judgement thinking that they will earn their portion in the World to Come by fulfilling their seven Mitzvos of Benei Noach. They think that this is all that is expected of them. However, the truth is that this is not their only purpose in the world. Rather, the purpose of the world is for the Jewish people to observe and study the Mitzvos of the Torah. The other nations of the world exist to help the Jewish people achieve that goal. (See, for example, the Gemara in Berachos 6b (and Insights there) which says that the entire world was created to serve the one who fears Hashem.)

This explains why Yitzchak originally wanted to give the blessings of success in this world to Esav -- in order that he have the means to provide the Jewish people with all of the material benefits they need to carry out their mission. Rivka saw that Esav would not use the material wealth for the proper purpose, and therefore she advised Yakov to take the blessing meant for Esav. This is why Hashem holds the Sefer Torah at the time of judgement. Hashem is telling the nations that whoever busied themselves with supporting those who study the Torah, enabling them to accomplish their mission, will achieve a portion in Olam ha'Ba. This is why the nations present arguments to show that they indeed did help the Jewish people accomplish their mission. (Based on CHIDUSHEI GE'ONIM in the EIN YAKOV.)


QUESTION: The Gemara says that when Hashem judges nations, the kings (referring to the more important nations) are judged before the others because of two reasons. The first reason is that because of their honor, they should not be required to wait to be judged. The second reason is that they should not be judged after Hashem has reviewed the sins of all the others, because then Hashem's wrath is kindled and the judgement will be more severe.

The Gemara implies that when Hashem judges the nations, He judges one nation after the other, and He does not judge them all at the same moment. This is also evident from the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (18a) that explains that when Hashem judges the world on Rosh Hashanah, everyone passes before Hashem to be judged one at a time.

How are we to understand these statements of the Gemara in light of the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (18a) that says that the deeds of the entire world are scrutinized in a single act of scrutiny ("v'Chulan Niskarin b'Sekirah Achas")? (See MAHARSHA in Rosh Hoshanah 18a, and MAHARAL in Chidushei Agados to Rosh Hashanah 8a. See also BEN YEHOYADA in Rosh Hashanah 16a.)


(a) The CHIDA (in PESACH EINAYIM to Rosh Hashanah 16a) answers in the name of RAV YOSEF KARO (the Beis Yosef) that although everyone else is judged at the same time, the king is an exception. The king is judged separately.

The Chida points out, however, that this answer is not consistent with the Gemara's explanation that it is not proper for the king to wait while the others are being judged. If the king could have been judged at the same time as the others, then he would not have to wait!

(b) The Chida answers further in the name of the Beis Yosef that Hashem reviews everyone's actions at the same moment. However, he passes judgement for each person individually.

The Chida asks that this answer is not consistent with the other explanation that the Gemara gives for giving precedence in judgement to a king. The Gemara says that the king is judged first in order that he be judged before Hashem's anger is aroused upon reviewing the deeds of all the other people. However, if Hashem has already reviewed the deeds of all of the other people and is now judging each one individually, then His anger is already aroused, and it will not help to judge the king first!

In order to answer this question, we must first understand why Hashem does not pass judgement on the others at the moment that He reviews their deeds. The answer might be that Hashem allows them to have time to defend themselves, as our Gemara mentions. If, during that time, they repent or accept upon themselves His justice, then their punishment will be mitigated. Accordingly, Hashem's anger is aroused only at the time that the sentence is passed, when He sees that the people have not repented or accepted His justice.

(c) Why indeed is it necessary for Hashem to review the actions of the entire world in a single moment? Perhaps the reason is because, as the RAMBAM writes (in Hilchos Teshuvah 3:2), justice is passed not only on individuals, but also on entire nations, and also on the entire world as a whole entity. If the sins of the world outweigh the Mitzvos of the world, then the world will be destroyed, as occurred in the times of Noach (as the verse states, "Ki Rabah Ra'as ha'Adam ba'Aretz," which can be translated as saying, "The evil of mankind has become the majority (outnumbering the good deeds of mankind)" (Bereishis 6:5)). In order to judge the world as a whole, Hashem must review the actions of the entire world at the same moment, as a single entity.

According to this, perhaps the Gemara is referring to two different judgements. The judgement in which people pass before Hashem one at a time is the judgement of the individual. The judgement for which the king is not made to wait outside is his judgement as an individual. Similarly, when Hashem judges nations, the nation that is most honorable is judged first, before the others. When the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah says that Hashem reviews the actions of the entire world at one moment, it is referring to the judgement that Hashem passes upon the entire world as a whole. (M. Kornfeld)

QUESTION: The Gemara relates that the Romans will come forth on the final day of judgement and claim that they deserve to be rewarded, since they built so many markets and bathhouses, and amassed a large amount of gold and silver, all for the sake of the Jewish people, so that they could learn the Torah unhindered. Hashem will reply to them, "Foolish ones! You did everything for your own benefit! You made markets to house prostitutes, bathhouses for personal indulgence, and the gold and silver that you amassed is Mine!" A similar dialogue will take place between Hashem and the nation of Paras (Persia).

How, on the final day of judgement, can these nations have the audacity to blatantly lie before Hashem and claim that all that they did was for the sake of the Jewish people? Will they not realize that the One Who knows all sees that their words are all lies?


(a) The TORAS CHAIM explains that the nations are saying not that what they did was only for the sake of the Jewish people, but rather that the Jewish people were also beneficiaries of their deeds. The Romans claim that their markets were constructed for all of the members of the nation to use, including the Jews, and therefore, they claim, they deserve to be rewarded for building markets form which the Jews benefited. The bathhouses, and the gold and silver, were also used to benefit the entire nation, including the Jews.

Hashem responds to them that their intentions were not to build markets to benefit the nation by providing them with an easy source of food and income, but rather they built them in order to provide a gathering place for prostitutes, a purpose which in no way benefited those who observed the Torah. The bathhouses were constructed not in order to make it easier to clean oneself, but in order to provide a means of self-indulgence. This, too, is not something that benefited the Jews who observed the Torah.

The gold and silver, Hashem says, was not amassed by their efforts. All of the efforts that one puts into amassing wealth are of no value if Hashem does not grant him the wealth (as we see that sometimes a minor act results in tremendous profit, and great effort results in tremendous loss of profit).

Therefore, Hashem says, they do not deserve reward for supporting the study of Torah.

The BEN YEHOYADA takes this further and says that even if the Romans do not try to claim that they built markets to provide support for the kingdom but rather to provide a gathering place for prostitutes, they still are able to claim that this benefited those who studied the Torah. The Gemara in Makos (24b) tells us that when Rebbi Akiva heard the loud merry-making and revelry of a Roman party, he laughed and said, "If Hashem provides such indulgence in this world to those who transgress His word, then all the more so will He provide reward to those who observe His word!" The Romans, on the final day of judgement, will claim that their over-indulgent practices provided an incentive for the Jews to study the Torah, based on Rebbi Akiva's logic. Hashem's response will be that this was not their true intention, and therefore they will not be rewarded for it.

According to these explanations, the Romans are still trying to "fool" Hashem, as it were, by claiming that their intentions were more well-meaning than they actually were, even though they do not say blatant lies.

(b) The BRISKER RAV (end of CHIDUSHEI HA'GRIZ AL HA'TORAH), in the name of his father, RAV CHAIM, cites the RAMBAM (in the introduction to Perush ha'Mishnayos), who asks that if Hashem's greatest desire is for people to serve Him, then why do we find that most of the people in the world are involving themselves in the pursuit of personal desires? How could Hashem have created so many "unsuccessful" creations relative to the number of "successful" ones?

The Rambam explains that even those who are not busying themselves with understanding the ways of Hashem are also accomplishing an important purpose in the world. Whether or not they realize it, they are in the world in order to provide for the others who are trying to follow the ways of Hashem and who do not have time to involve themselves in all of the mundane activities necessary to live in the world. For example, if a very wealthy and lazy person commands his servants to build for him a beautiful palace and plant for him beautiful trees, it is possible that Hashem willed this to happen just so that when one righteous person comes to that place many years later, he will be able to rest in the shade of the walls of that palace and protect himself from the heat of the sun. (See Insights to Berachos 6b.)

Although a person does not normally realize that this is the purpose of the great wealth of the wicked, Hashem sees all of this from the start. On the final day of judgement this will become revealed to the nations of the world as well. This is why they will claim that all of the markets and bathhouses that they built were built for the Jews who study the Torah. They do not mean to say that this was their conscious intention. Rather, they mean that this was the reason that Hashem enabled them to build them. Hashem replies to them that while this is true, nevertheless -- since their conscious intention was for personal gain -- they do not deserve to be rewarded for the benefit that the Jews received from them.

(The Brisker Rav there gives an example of this that occurred in his time. The Russian government commissioned the construction of the massive Trans-Siberian Railway, spanning from Moscow to Vladivostok, and which was completed in the early 1900's. The Brisker Rav states that, in hindsight, we can see that the Divine purpose of that massive undertaking was to save the lives of a large group of Yeshiva students, who managed to flee from Poland and Lithuania to Japan and escape the Nazi death sentence.)

QUESTION: The Beraisa presents the arguments of the Roman and Persian nations at the time of their final judgement. The Beraisa does not mention the arguments of the other nations. The Gemara explains that the Beraisa mentions only the arguments of Rome and Persia because those two nations are the most esteemed, since their dominion will last until Mashi'ach comes.

We know that the nation of Rome still retains power today in the form of modern western civilization which, to a great degree, is based upon the foundations of ancient Rome and the Holy Roman Empire. However, what dominion does Paras (Persia) still have today? The modern nation of Persia, now known as Iran, is a single nation like any other and is not a world power. In addition, the Chachamim tell us that the nation of Yavan (Greece) took control of the world from Persia, and thus it seems clear that Persia will *not* remain in power until the arrival of Mashi'ach! (TOSFOS RID, Mahadura Kama)

ANSWER: The IBN EZRA in Daniel (7:14) discusses Daniel's dream of four powerful animals, which allude to the four powerful nations that will rule the world. The Chachamim (in Vayikra Rabah 13:5) explain that the animals allude to the nations of Bavel (Babylon), Paras (Persia), Yavan (Greece), and Romi (Rome). The Ibn Ezra wonders why the Chachamim do not identify one of the powerful nations as the nation of Yishmael, since the descendants of Yishmael were a world power from about six hundred years after the Churban (they conquered Yerushalayim in the year 638 C.E.).

The RAMBAN (in Bamidbar 24:20, Chavel edition) answers that perhaps the dominion of Yishmael will end before Mashi'ach comes. Moreover, the Romans were the ones who exiled the Jews to the present Galus, and the nation of Yishmael did not add any new element of exile, nor did they take over all of the countries into which the Jews were exiled.

Others, however, give a different answer to the question of the Ibn Ezra. The TOSFOS RID (Avodah Zarah 2b, Mahadura Tinyana) explains that that the kingdom of Yishmael is included in what the Chachamim describe as the kingdom of Persia. Regarding the question how Persia can still be considered a world power if Yavan conquered it, the Tosfos Rid answers that Yavan conquered the portion of Persia which was subjugating the Jews in Eretz Yisrael at the time. However, the kingdom of Persia remained in control of all of the other North African and Middle-Eastern countries. The nations of Rome and Persia will remain in control of their respective areas in which Jews live until the coming of Mashi'ach. (The MAHARAL has a similar approach.)

According to this approach, the two nations whose dominion will last until Mashi'ach are the two other descendants of Avraham and Yitzchak -- Yishmael and Esav. They are considered to be the leaders of all of the other nations (see Insights to Sukah 55b). This is why Hashem offered the Torah specifically to those two nations before giving it to the Jewish people (see RASHI to Devarim 33:2).

As the CHIDA writes (in NACHAL KEDUMIM), the Jewish people responded to Hashem's offer with the words "Na'aseh v'Nishma" to counter those two nations. They said "Na'aseh" to counter Esav, and "Nishma" to counter Yishmael.

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