Monday, May 12, 2014

Eyn Yaakov on Daf Yomi, 12th of Iyar, 5774 (Rosh Hashanah Daf 4)

From Ein Yaakov: The Ethical and Inspirational Teachings of the Talmud:

R. Kahana raised a strong objection: Did Cyrus (Darius) really have a change of heart? Doesn’t it say, (4a) [Darius said,] “And whatever they require— young bulls, rams, and sheep for burnt-offerings for the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil according to the specifications of the kohanim who are in Jerusalem— shall be supplied to them, day by day, without fail” (Ezra 6: 9)? [Which proves that he gave generously toward the service in the Bet Hamikdash. Why do you say that his attitude changed?] 

Replied R. Yitzchak: Rabbi, I’ll use your own package [i.e., I’ll use the verse you cited] to refute your argument, for the next verse states,] “so that they may offer pleasing offerings to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his children” (ibid. 10), [which proves that he had a selfish motive]. 

[R. Kahana retorted:] Do you mean to say that a person who acts this way [doing good for ulterior motives] does not act properly? Surely we learned in a Baraita: If a person says, “I am donating this sela for charity in order that my children should live, and also in order that I should merit life in the World to Come,” we consider him a perfectly righteous man! 

[The Gemara answers:] This presents no difficulty; The last statement applies to a Jew [who will not rebel against God if his condition is not fulfilled and will not regret the charity he gave], whereas the Baraita speaks of a heathen [who will regret his good deed if his condition is not met]. Therefore, Cyrus’s (Darius’s) generosity , which had a condition attached to it, was not a commendable deed. 

If you prefer you may say that we know that Darius (Cyrus) had a change of heart because it says, [Darius specified how the Temple should be built: He ordered: There shall be] “three rows of marble and one row of new wood, with expenses provided for by the royal palace” (Ezra 6: 4). Why did he order the Bet Hamikdash to be built this way [with a row of wood]? He reasoned: If the Jews will rise up against me, I will burn the Temple down, [proof that he changed for the worse]. 

[The Gemara asks:] But did not Solomon do the same thing? For it says, “He then built a wall around the inner courtyard, three rows of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams” (1 Kings 6: 36)? 

[The Gemara answers:] Solomon placed the wood above the ground, whereas Darius anchored it in the foundation [which weakened the foundation and made it easier to be destroyed]; Solomon placed the wood in the building, Darius did not place it in the building; Solomon insulated the wood with plaster [making it fireproof], Darius did not cover it with plaster. 

R. Yosef, and some say , R. Yitzchak, said: How do we know that he had a change of heart? We infer it from the verse, [Nehemiah said,] “The king said to me, with the shegal sitting beside him” (Nehemiah 2: 6). What does shegal mean? Rabbah b. Lima said in Rav’s name: a she-dog [which he used for immoral purposes]. 

[The Gemara disputes this:] But if that is so, how do we interpret the verse , [Daniel berated King Belshazzar when he interpreted the handwriting on the wall,] “You exalted yourself against the Lord of Heaven, and the vessels of His House were brought before you, and you, your nobles [sheglatach], and your concubines drank wine from them” (Daniel 5: 23). Now how can shegal in this context stand for a dog? Does a dog drink wine? 

[The Gemara answers:] This is no difficulty: He had taught it to drink. 

[The Gemara asks:] But what about the verse [which describes the subservience of the nations to Israel in the days of Mashiach], “Daughters of kings are your visitors, the shegal stands erect at your right in the golden jewelry of Ophir” (Psalms 45: 10). Now, if shegal is a dog, what promise is the prophet predicting for Israel, [respect of a gold-bedecked dog]? 

[The Gemara answers:] This is what the passage means: Because the Torah is as beloved by Israel as a shegal is to the idol worshippers you have earned as a reward the gold of Ophir. 

Or if you prefer , say that generally shegal does mean “queen,” but, [as an exception to the rule], in this case Rabbah b. Lima had a tradition that it means “dog,” and the reason why in the text it is called shegal is because the king loved [this dog] as much as a queen, or maybe, because he put it on the queen’s seat. 

Or, if you prefer, say that we know that he had a change of heart because it says, [King Artaxerxes ordered his treasurers to grant Ezra whatever he requested for the building of the Bet Hamikdash,] “up to one hundred talents of silver, up to one hundred kors of wheat, up to one hundred bats of wine 3 up to one hundred bats of oil, and unlimited salt” (Ezra 7: 22). At first there was no limit, [originally he said, “and whatever they require shall be supplied to them” (ibid. 6: 9)], but now he set a limit [which proves that he had a change of heart]. 

[The Gemara suggests:] Perhaps at first he did not know what would be needed for the service in the Bet Hamikdash, [and he said to give them any amount in order to establish what they would need. After he determined their daily requirement, he ordered that it be appropriated to them. So this verse does not prove that he changed for the worse].

Finkel, Avraham Yaakov (1999-10-01). Ein Yaakov: The Ethical and Inspirational Teachings of the Talmud (p. 240). Jason Aronson, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

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