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Posted on October 4, 2017 (5779) By Yehoshua Alt | Series: | Level:

Minimal Pleasure

It has been said, “The sizzle is better than the steak.” The anticipated pleasure is much greater than the actual pleasure. We may imagine how great a food tastes but the actual pleasure while it is in our mouth is very minimal. In this way, the Beis Halevi[1] interpreted סרנו ממצותיך…ולא שוה לנו:[2] after we sinned, we realized that it wasn’t worth it since we didn’t attain in the sin the pleasure that we imagined (ולא שוה לנו).

This was caused by the first sin where the snake said והייתם כאלה-ים ידעי טוב ורע;[3] you will be like God knowing good and bad- that which was false. So, it was put into man a mistaken yearning- to yearn for that which is in the imagination which is a false pleasure. Even for that which is bad, man can think it is good and yearn for it.

Every pleasure is over promised and under delivered. Every pleasure has a limit whether it lasts for ten minutes or an hour. With pleasure, the first time is the best time and there is only one first time.

When people comment on their pleasurable experience, for example a vacation, they say- “It was amazing,” “I had a good time,” “I enjoyed it immensely.” Notice it is all in past tense. Once the pleasure is had, it is gone! This applies in every culture and every time period. All pleasures are limited and passing.


Man Made

Where do the generations throughout history come from? Different generations are aligned with the various parts of Adam. The Neshamos of the דור המדבר are from the head of Adam as they are the ראשית; beginning, just as the head is. Additionally, the head represents intellect[4] and that generation only learned Torah without having to work the land. What is the final period of Galus called? עקבתא דמשיחא,[5] as those in that time are from the heel (עקב) of Adam. Indeed, they are insensitive to the spiritual just as a heel is insensitive. They are on a low spiritual level just as the heel is low on the body.

In a similar way, each generation has people from different parts of Adam’s body. Moshe was from his head as he was our leader. Dovid Hamelech who isנעים זמרות ישראל; pleasing composer of the songs of Israel,[6] is from the heart of Adam as the heart represents emotion. Likewise, those who are a חזן, create music, sing and the like are from the heart of Adam. How about those who are donors to charity? They originate from Adam’s hands as this is what hands are symbolic of (work as well as giving).


Telling Words

We commonly use words such as Mishna, Gemara, Tanna and the like. Do we ever wonder where these words come from?

The wordמשנה  is related to משנה המלך[7]; deputy to the king. This is because תורה שבכתב; the written Torah, is supreme whereas Mishnayos is secondary (as inמשנה המלך) in this regard.

Where does the term Taanaim come from? Mishna means to teach.[8] Consequently, the people of the Mishna are called תנאים; teachers.

Why are those in the Gemara[9] called Amoraim? אמורא refers to an interpreter as Rashi tells us.[10] So, those in the Gemara are called Amoraim because they explain the Mishna (through Gemara).

A tractate is known as a Mesachta.[11] Where does this word come from? מסכת  means mixture as in מסכה יינה; mixed her wine.[12] This is because it is a mix of laws.[13] The Aruch explains that מסכת is related to הסכת ושמע[14]; be attentive and hear, as this is how the Oral Torah was passed on.[15]

There are six sections to Shas, known by the acronym זמן נקט. These six letters stand for the six sections-זרעים, [16]מועד, נשים, נזיקין, קדשים, טהרות . The Abarbanel explains that זמן נקט forms the acronym for Shas since we must uphold תורה שבעל פה in all times, as this is what זמן נקט means.[17]

The question is asked[18] why is Talmud Yerushalmi called so? After all, the Yeshiva of R’ Yochanan and his students who arranged Talmud Yerushalmi were in Tevarya not Yerushalayim? Furthermore, just as the Babylonian Talmud is called תלמוד בבלי, Talmud Yerushalmi should be titled תלמוד ארץ ישראל or תלמודא דבני מערבא? The answer given is that this follows the style of those from Yerushalayim as the Gemara says האי תנא ירושלמי הוא דתני לישנא קלילא; this Tanna was a Jerusalemite who taught using abbreviated language.[19]

The name for the Oral Torah is תורה שבעל פה.[20] To be congruent with תורה שבכתב it should be called תורה שבפה? This hints to that one needs to be in control of his mouth (בעל פה) to merit תורה שבעל פה, as he shouldn’t speak idle words rather words of Kedusha and Torah.[21]

Now let us discuss some of the names in Gemara where we find deeper symbolisms and meanings.

1) The father of Abaye passed away prior to his birth whereas his mother died as soon as he was born.[22] So, the first letters of אשר בך ירחם יתום; it is with you that an orphan finds mercy, spell אביי.[23] Abaye was called נחמני because he was a young orphan that was raised and educated by Rabbah Bar Nachmani who dubbed him with his father’s name, נחמני.[24]

2) The Gemara[25] cites a disagreement as to what the ending of the Bracha on rain should be- רוב ההודאות or הא-ל ההודאות. R’ Papa said therefore one should say both of these. In ending the Bracha of Asher Yatzar, Shmuel says we recite רופא כל בשר whereas the opinion of R’ Sheishes is מפליא לעשות. R’ Papa comments we therefore say both- רופא כל בשר ומפליא לעשות.[26] In discussing what people say when the Chazzan reaches Modim, the Gemara cites many opinions as to what the formula is. R’ Papa concludes we therefore recite them all.[27] Now we can grasp why he is called פפא רב, asפפא  forms an acronym for פה פה אחד.[28]

3) R’ Tarfon ruled in a case where a cow whose womb was removed that it is a Teraifa.[29] This is hinted to in his name- ר’ טרפון- as it has the same root as טריפה.

4) The Mishna teaches that Rabban Gamliel washed himself the first night after his wife died. When his students questioned him about this since he himself taught that a mourner is forbidden to wash himself, he replied he is different because אסטניס אני- I am of delicate nature.[30] The Mekubalim say that Rabban Gamliel had an element from six Neshamos- אברהם, נחום האלקושי, יהודה בן יעקב, רב סחורה, רב טביומי, רב סימון. Rabban Gamliel therefore washed himself for these Neshamos. This is what Rabban Gamliel meant when he said אסטניס אני asאסטניס  are the first letters of אברהם, סחורה, טביומי, נחום, יהודה, סימון .[31] [1] Breishis, s.v. במסכת

[2] We say this in ודוי. The simple meaning is that we have turned away from Your commandments and Your good laws but to no avail.

[3] Breishis 3:5

[4] One who uses this in the opposite direction may become a scientist and the like.

[5] Sota 49b, Rashi s.v. בעקבות

[6] Shmuel 2, 23:1

[7] Divrei Hayamim 2, 28:7. Also Esther 10:3.

[8] One place we see this is by ושננתם לבניך; teach them to your children, which Targum Unkolos translates ותתננון לבניך (Devarim 6:7).

[9] Parenthetically, Gemara is in question form. For instance, the Gemara could say טעמא דרבי; the reason of Rebbe is…. Instead, it first asks what is the reason of Rebbe and then tells us the reason. This is because we should ask what is the reason once we hear Rebbe’s opinion.

[10] Yoma 20b, Rashi s.v. לא

[11] Titles of Mesachtos give us insight into the Mesachta. Let us take for example Mesachta Pesachim. Pesachim is in plural form. Why is it different than other Mesachtos where it is in singular form- Shabbos, Rosh Hashana, Succa and so on? (A) One answer is that there is also Pesach Sheini. Being that there are two Pesachs, it is in plural form. This also explains the wording of ערבי פסחים which is plural as it refers to Erev Pesach Rishon and Erev Pesach Sheini (Pesachim 99b, Tosafos s.v. ערב). (B) Originally, Pesachim was divided into two- Chametz and Matza, and Korbon Pesach. One was called Pesach Rishon and the other was called Pesach Sheini. Tosafos Yom Tov says it was prevalent in his time (Tosafos Yom Tov in the Hakdama to Pesachim). Regarding Mesachta דמאי, R’ Elazar Rokeach (Maaseh Rokeach on Mishnayos, pg 22) comments that the 7 chapters of דמאי correspond to the 7 shepherds. They are all hinted to in the letters of דמאי- אברהם, יצחק, יעקב, משה, אהרון, יוסף, דוד.

[12] Mishlei 9:2

[13] Tosafos Yom Tov, Hakdama to Mesachta Brachos, s.v. מסכת. See also Sefer Chasidim 928 and the Bris Olam there.

[14] Devarim 27:9

[15] See Eruvin 53a. The Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 2:4) says a limb may be amputated to save an entire body. Similarly, the sages at times went against Torah. For example, transgress one Shabbos so that many more will be kept or to write down the Oral Torah. Tangentially, even though תורה שבעל פה; Oral Torah is written down today, it is nevertheless written in a way that it is תורה שבעל פה. One instance of this is חסורי מיחסרא והכי קתני; the text is missing words and this is how you should read it (a phrase from the Gemara).

[16] Of all six sections of Mishnayos, why is only מועד in singular form? One answer is that it refers to Shabbos which is the source of Kedusha of all the Moadim. Consequently, in Parshas Emor (chapter 23), when it is mentioning the Yomim Tovim, Shabbos is the first to be mentioned (This answers the question- see Vayikra 23:3, Rashi- why Shabbos is mentioned there after it says אלה הם מועדי… if Shabbos isn’t a Yom Tov).  For this reason, the first Mesachta in the section of מועד of Shas is Mesachta Shabbos.

[17] In fact, this is why the Torah was given in the Midbar, explains R’ Moshe Feinstein, since it is a transitory place, not set. It is telling us that the Torah is not limited to a specific time or place in history. One can’t say it doesn’t apply in this society.

[18] Shem Hagdolim, Maareches Sefarim, י, footnote 33

[19] Baba Kamma 6b. At times, the Gemara (as in Brachos 8a) concludes with תיקו. One meaning is that it derives from תיקום; let it stand, as it indicates the questions still stands and the matter remains in doubt. Others say תיקו is an acronym for תשבי יתרץ קושיות ואבעיות; Eliyahu Hanavi- a native of Toshav- will resolve all the difficulties and questions (Tosafos Yom Tov to Idiyos 8:7, s.v. שנאמר).

[20] Rebbe wrote it in a code as it is very concise, missing words, etc. Rav Ashi did the same with Gemara as it is half sentences, ambiguous texts, no punctuation and the like. Due to this, the reader becomes active in the text.

[21] See Noam Elimelech, Bechukosai, s.v. ואיתא. Just as a spy’s words mean something else because he talks in code, likewise with תורה שבכתב. תורה שבעל פה deciphers the code of תורה שבכתב. For example, it says עין תחת עין; eye for an eye (Shemos 21:24). תורה שבעל פה teaches us it refers to money, not the actual eye. One outcome of this idea is that it makes it a transmission of giver and receiver. Additionally, it makes the Torah transferable to a generation such as ours. That is to say, we can translate, for instance, a fire to mean light and an ox to mean a car. Since it is based on a code, it just needs to be extrapolated.

[22] Kidushin 31b

[23] Hoshea 14:4. אביי is a contraction of אב יי (Hashem), as he was an orphan.

[24] Gittin 34b. Rashi s.v. והלכתא. The Gilyon Hashas (Gittin 34b) cites an explanation that Abaye was Rabbah’s nephew and his given name was נחמני- after his paternal grandfather. Out of respect, Rabbah didn’t want to call out his father’s name even to address someone else. He therefore called Nachmani אביי, which is Aramaic for “my father” (See Rambam, Hilchos Mamrim, 6:3 and Shuchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 240:2).

[25] Brachos 59b

[26] Brachos 60b

[27] Sota 40a. This is known as מודים דרבנן. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 127, s.v. מצאתי) says it is given this title because it was instituted by many sages.

[28] We are allowed to argue on the words of our teachers and answer their questions. However, it must not be with any haughtiness. We shouldn’t think we are as great as our Rebbe or the author of some Sefer as there are many times we don’t understand their words or intent. This is the meaning in הוי מתאבק בעפר רגליהם; sit in the dust of their feet (Avos 1:4) as מתאבק can be interpreted to wrestle as in ויאבק איש עמו; a man wrestled with him (Breishis 32:25). This means we can argue with our teachers. However, it is on condition בעפר רגליהם; with humility and submissiveness (Ruach Chaim 1:4).

[29] Bechoros 28b. The titles of different sages tell us about them. In general, רבי such as ר’ יהודה means he is a Tanna (See Shem Hagdolim, סדר תנאים ואמוראים, pg 118, Rambam in Pirush Hamishnayos, Hakdama to Zeraim). The title Rav is greater than Rebbe. Rabban is even greater. A name is even above that (as in Shimon Hatzadik, Shmaya and Avtalyon). They are called so because they are so great (Taamai Haminhagim, pg 497, quoting the Shelah).

[30] Brachos 16b. Meaning to say it wasn’t for pleasure, rather to alleviate discomfort (Tosafos, s.v. אסטניס).

[31] Nitzotzai Shimshon, Brachos 16b, pg 113

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