March 1, 2020 | Brachos 58
This shiur has been dedicated by Ephraim Horowitz, l'eluy nishmas his father, שמואל בער בן אהרהם, on his yahrtzait.
“And He said: Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.
And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord;
but the Lord was not in the wind;
and after the wind an earthquake;
but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake a fire;
but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave” (I Kings 19:11–13). God’s revelation was specifically at the moment of silence.,When the king came, Rav Sheshet began to bless him. The heretic mockingly said to him: Do you bless someone you do not see? The Gemara asks: And what ultimately happened to this heretic? Some say that his friends gouged out his eyes, and some say that Rav Sheshet fixed his gaze upon him, and the heretic became a pile of bones.,As for the connection between divine and earthly royalty, the Gemara cites another story: Rabbi Sheila ordered that a man who had relations with a gentile woman be flogged. That man went to inform the king and said: There is one man among the Jews who renders judgment without the king’s authority [harmana]. The king sent a messenger [peristaka] for Rabbi Sheila to bring him to trial. When Rabbi Sheila came, they said to him: Why did you order flogging for this man? He said to them: Because he had relations with a female donkey. According to Persian law this was an extremely heinous crime, so they said to him: Do you have witnesses that he did so? He replied: Yes, and Elijah the prophet came and appeared as a person and testified. They said to Rabbi Sheila: If so, he is liable for the death penalty; why did you not sentence him to death? He replied: Since the day we were exiled from our land we do not have the authority to execute, but you, do with him as you wish.,As they considered the sentence, Rabbi Sheila praised God for saving him from danger: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, power, glory, triumph, and majesty; for all that is in heaven and on earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all” (I Chronicles 29:11). They asked him: What did you say? He told them: This is what I said: Blessed is Merciful One who grants kingdom on earth that is a microcosm of the kingdom in heaven, and granted you dominion and love of justice. They said to him: Indeed, the honor of royalty is so dear to you. They gave him a staff to symbolize his license to sit in judgment and said to him: Judge.,As he was leaving, that man said to Rabbi Sheila: Does God perform such miracles for liars? He replied: Scoundrel! Aren’t gentiles called donkeys? As it is written: “Whose flesh is as the flesh of donkeys” (Ezekiel 23:20). Rabbi Sheila saw that he was going to tell the Persian authorities that he called them donkeys. He said: This man has the legal status of a pursuer. He seeks to have me killed. And the Torah said: If one comes to kill you, kill him first. He struck him with the staff and killed him.,Rabbi Sheila said: Since a miracle was performed on my behalf with this verse that I cited, I will interpret it homiletically: Yours, O Lord, is the greatness; that is the act of creation, and so it says: “Who does great things past finding out” (Job 9:10);
And the power; that is the exodus from Egypt, as it is stated: “And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did to the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:31);
And the glory; that is the sun and the moon that stood still for Joshua, as it is stated: “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies” (Joshua 10:13);
And the triumph; that is the downfall of Rome, and so it says describing the downfall of Edom, whom the Sages identified as the forefather of Rome: “Their lifeblood is dashed against My garments and I have stained all My raiment” (Isaiah 63:3);
And the majesty; this is the war of the valleys of Arnon, as it is stated: “Wherefore it is said in the book of the Wars of the Lord: Vahev in Sufa, and the valleys of Arnon” (Numbers 21:14);
For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Yours; this is the war of Sisera, as it is stated: “They fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera” (Judges 5:20).
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord; this is the war of Amalek, and so it says: “And he said: The hand upon the throne of the Lord: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16), as then God will sit on His throne.
And you are exalted; this is the war of Gog and Magog, and so it says: “I am against you, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshekh and Tubal” (Ezekiel 38:3); and:
As head above all; Rav Ḥanan bar Rava said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: All leadership and authority, even the most insignificant, the one responsible for distributing water, is appointed by heaven.,It was taught in a baraita in the name of Rabbi Akiva:
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness; this is the splitting of the Red Sea;
the power; this is the plague of the firstborn;
the glory; this is the giving of the Torah;
the triumph; this is Jerusalem;
and the majesty; this is the Temple.
Blessed…Who formed you in judgment,
and Who nourished you in judgment,
and Who sustained you in judgment,
and collected your soul in judgment,
and in the future will raise you from the dead in judgment.
And Mar, son of Ravina, concludes the formula of this blessing in the name of Rav Naḥman:
And Who knows the number of you all,
and Who in the future will restore you to life and sustain you.
Blessed…Who revives the dead.
One who sees graves of gentiles recites: “Your mother shall be sore ashamed, she who bore you shall be confounded; behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert” (Jeremiah 50:12).,Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who sees his friend after thirty days have passed since last seeing him recites: Blessed…Who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time. One who sees his friend after twelve months recites: Blessed…Who revives the dead. As Rav said: A dead person is only forgotten from the heart after twelve months have elapsed, as it is stated: “I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind; I am like a lost vessel” (Psalms 31:13), and with regard to the laws of lost objects, it is human nature to despair of recovering a lost object after twelve months (see Bava Metzia 28a).,The Gemara relates: Rav Pappa and Rav Huna, son of Rav Yehoshua, were once walking along the road when they met Rav Ḥanina the son of Rav Ika. They said to him: When we saw you we recited two blessings over meeting you: Blessed…Who has shared of His wisdom to those who revere Him, and: Who has given us life…as they had not seen him in over a month. He said to them: I too, once I saw you, considered you in my eyes as equivalent to six hundred thousand of the house of Israel, and I recited three blessings over you. I recited those two that you recited, as well as: Blessed…Who knows all secrets, which is the blessing recited upon seeing six hundred thousand Israelites. They said to him: Are you all that clever? They fixed their gaze upon him and he died.,The Gemara continues to discuss the obligation to recite a blessing over unusual phenomena. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who sees spotted people recites: Blessed…Who makes creatures different. The Gemara raises a challenge: One who saw a person with unusually black skin, a person with unusually red skin, a person with unusually white skin [lavkan], an unusually tall and thin person, a dwarf, or one with warts [darnikos]recites: Blessed…Who makes creatures different. However, one who sees an amputee, a blind person, a flat-headed person, a lame person, one afflicted with boils, or spotted people recites: Blessed…the true Judge, not: Who makes creatures different.,The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. This, where Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says to recite: Who makes creatures different, refers to a case where the individual was spotted from when he was in his mother’s womb, since birth. While this, where one recites: The true Judge, refers to a case where the individual only became spotted after he was born. The Gemara remarks: The language of the baraita is also precise as it draws a parallel to other cases, as it taught that a spotted person is similar to an amputee, which, in general, is a handicap incurred after birth. The Gemara concludes: Indeed, conclude from this.,The Sages taught: One who sees an elephant, a monkey, or a vulture (Rashi) recites: Blessed…Who makes creatures different. One who saw beautiful or otherwise outstanding creatures or beautiful trees recites: Blessed…Who has such things in His world.,We learned in the mishna that over zikin, one recites: Whose strength and power fill the world. The Gemara asks: What are zikin? Shmuel said: A comet. Shmuel also said: The paths of the sky are as clear to me as the paths of my city, Neharde’a, except for comets, that I do not know what they are. And we learn through tradition that a comet does not pass the Orion constellation, and if it does pass Orion, the world will be destroyed. The Gemara asks: Don’t we see that comets pass Orion? The Gemara rejects this: The aura of the comet passes Orion and it appears as though the comet itself passes. Rav Huna, son of Rav Yehoshua, said a different answer: It is merely that vilon, one of the firmaments, rips and furls and the light of the next firmament is seen, and this appears like a comet. Rav Ashi said another explanation: It is not a comet that passes Orion, but a star that is uprooted from one side of Orion, and another star, from the other side of Orion, sees it and gets startled and shudders, and appears as if it is passing.,On the subject of stars, the Gemara notes that Shmuel raised a contradiction between the implications of two verses with regard to constellations. On the one hand it is written: “Who makes Ursa Major, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south” (Job 9:9); Orion precedes Pleiades. And on the other hand it is written: “He Who makes Pleiades and Orion” (Amos 5:8); Pleiades precedes Orion. So how is this reconciled? The Gemara replies: Were it not for Orion’s heat, the universe could not exist because of the cold of Pleiades; and conversely, were it not for the cold of Pleiades, the universe could not exist because of the heat of Orion.,And we learned a tradition that if the tail of the constellation Scorpio did not rest in the River of Fire, anyone stung by a scorpion would not survive. And that is what the All-Merciful said to Job of the relationship between heat and cold among the stars: “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the bands of Orion?” (Job 38:31); God alternates intensifying the power of different constellations in order to raise or lower the temperature.,With regard to Pleiades, the Gemara asks: What is Pleiades [Kima]? Why is it called by that name? Shmuel said: Because it is approximately a hundred [keme’a] stars, as that is the number of stars in that constellation; some say that they are concentrated and some say that they are dispersed.,With regard to the verse: “Who makes Ursa Major, Orion, and Pleiades” (Job 9:9), the Gemara asks: What is Ursa Major [Ash]? Rav Yehuda said: It is the star called Yota. This name was unfamiliar as well, so the Gemara asks: What is Yota? There is disagreement; some say that Yota is the group of stars comprising the tail of Aries, while others say that Yota belongs to the head of Taurus. The Gemara concludes: And it stands to reason in accordance with the opinion of the one who said that Yota is the group of stars comprising the tail of Aries, as it is written: “Or can you guide Ursa Major with her sons?” (Job 38:32); apparently it was incomplete and the tail appears