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Friday, April 12, 2024

Eliyahu on the Daf


In Bava Metzia 30b, Rabbi Yishmael ben Rabbi Yossi encounters Hahu Gavra. He asks Rabbi Yishmael to go outside of his comfort zone and help him arrange the wood on his back. He asks him two times and Rabbi Yishmael sensed he was going to ask a third time. (See Melachim I, Chapter 18, about Eliyahu HaNavi arranging the wood for the sacrifice at Mt. Carmel) 

Eliyahu was carrying all the wood on his shoulders, and was looking for volunteers that were willing to go beyond the letter of the law, to set aside their pride, to help him carry the weight, lift the Jewish people. He was looking for people to contribute a half-zuz (reminiscent of this month's half-shekel, a reminder that we only become whole when we partner with others). 

Rabbi Yishmael helped, but then made things hefker. Eliyahu HaNavi stepped in and saved the day (as on Har HaCarmel). Rabbi Yishmael helped again, but then made things hefker again, and this time he told Eliyahu HaNavi, I declared things hefker for the the Master of the entire world to come and save us, but as for you, Eliyahu, I know that you never abandoned us.

Here’s another “HahuGavra” story from last week’s Daf, that seems to hint to Eliyahu HaNavi (Daf 35a):

“Hahu Gavra” in this context is Hashem, who entrusted His “rings,” His covenant with Jewish people, to His friend, Eliyahu HaNavi. 

When Eliyahu comes to Har Sinai, after the events of HaCarmel, Hashem turns to Eliyahu and asks, “Where are the rings?” (“What are you doing here, Eliyahu?) Eliyahu says, “I don’t know” (the Jews have abandoned your covenant). 

Hashem shows Eliyahu many signs (Hashem is not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in fire… Hashem is in the small thin voice, “Kol Demama Daka”). All the signs are done in order to indicate to Eliyahu that for him, as the prophet, to say that the covenant is lost is willful negligence, and he has to “pay,” (Shalem), ie. be at peace, have patience with them. Eliyahu refuses. 

In that case, Eliyahu “loses his palace” (his leading prophetic role is given to Elisha, and soon after Eliyahu leaves this world). Yet, as he returns to every bris, the covenant of the Jewish people is found. The rings (the covenant / the Jewish people) return to their Master, and Eliyahu HaNavi returns to his palace (he comes back to the world and announces the redemption).

Daf 42a has a whole series of HaHuGavra stories, and they pick up from where the previous one left off (these are three in a row now):

A certain man deposited money with his friend, who placed it in a willow hut (צְרִיפָא דְאוּרְבָּנֵי). This was effective against robbery but not against fire. At Har Horeb, Eliyahu had a vision that Hashem was not found in the fire (the way to approach the Jewish people was not through being too much of a Kanai, but that Hashem is found in the “still small voice,” the conscience, which, when listened to, prevents people from sinning/stealing.

A certain man deposited money with his friend, and the friend didn’t know where he placed it (this is exactly like the story in Daf 35a). Eliyahu HaNavi has to go pay/make peace. 

A certain man deposited money with his friend, who then gives it (makes peace with) his mother. Eliyahu places his mantle on Elisha, giving him already a portion in his spirituality. Elisha then tells Eliyahu he needs to kiss his father and mother good-bye first before leaving with Eliyahu. Eliyahu seems to then question whether Elisha should go with him altogether. The Halacha is that in such a case, the man is exempt. In this case, Elisha is still allowed to follow Eliyahu and become his disciple. 

A certain steward acted on behalf of orphans, who purchased an ox and transferred it to a shepherd. The Steward is Hashem, the orphans are the Jewish people (who are now being left without a leader). The ox is Elisha, the new leader (who was actually pasturing with 12 oxen (representing the 12 tribes) at the time that Eliyahu arrived. The shepherd is Eliyahu, who is to guide/mentor Elisha. When purchased, the ox did not have teeth to eat. Elisha did not want to live a physical life anymore. The ox died. Elisha slaughters the oxen with its tools, which also represents how he himself was leaving his past life behind and becoming subservient to Eliyahu.

Is anyone responsible for paying/making peace regarding Elisha’s lost (past) life? Hashem responds that He gave him an even better life now, transferring him to Eliyahu’s domain. Eliyahu responds that he gave him the option of returning, yet Elisha no longer wanted just a physical life. 

The Gemara explains that we are dealing with a situation here where there is no loss to the children, as they were able to find the Master of the ox and were compensated by Him. Through Elisha, the Jewish people would also be able to find Hashem. 

This is the case when the Master of the ox claims compensation. The trader of (who received and then gave) the ox swears that he did not know, and the shepherd pays the value of the meat for cheap. Hashem has a claim against the parents. Your son had such potential, and you did not know? The parents become satisfied with the situation, and Eliyahu allows the slaughtered oxen to become part of a celebration that takes place before Elisha leaves. 

A certain man deposits hops for the production of beer with his friend. The friend told his brewer to cast hops from a pile belonging to him, but instead the brewer cast the hops from a different pile belonging to the one that deposited them. Eliyahu deposited his portion with Elisha. Elisha had two piles, compared to Eliyahu’s one. Elisha’s servant was Gehazi. Gehazi did not properly follow Elisha’s directions. The teachings became spoiled, like the beer that became vinegar or developed thorns.

Rabbi Nissan Mindel tells of a story that describes Elisha as a “rough diamond” who could not learn Torah. Perhaps then, the ox without teeth could be a reference to Elisha’s initial inability to digest or lack of sharpness in learning. Eliyahu then shows Elisha the way. 

I couldn’t find the Midrash or any reference to the source of Rabbi Mindel’s story, but the story itself is here: 

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111915/jewish/Elijah-And-Elisha.htm; I also found a similar story here: 


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