Talmud Tips

For the week ending 30 November 2013 / 27 Kislev 5774

Yoma 23 - 29

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“Any Torah scholar who is offended and does not want revenge and does not bear a grudge is not a Torah scholar.”

This statement, made by Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Tzadok, may sound strange and unbecoming the spiritual loftiness which a Torah scholar should strive to embody. Also, it appears to contradict the behavior of the great Sage Mar Zutra, who each night forgave anyone who had slighted him during the day. (Tractate Megilla 28a)

Many explanations are offered to help us understand our gemara. One approach is that Mar Zutra wholeheartedly forgave people who slighted him on a personal level, whereas the statement in our gemara refers to a Torah scholar who was shown disrespect with respect to Heavenly matters of Torah and mitzvot. In such a case he should not forgive the other person since he dishonored not only the scholar but also the holy Torah — and this offense cannot be “repaired” unless the offender is repentant and sincerely seeks atonement and teshuva (Ritva).

  • Yoma 23a

“From the first days of the Jewish People the study of Torah in Yeshiva has never ceased.”

This statement of Rabbi Chama the son of Rabbi Chanina is based on numerous verses, all of which contain the word “zaken”. Although this word means “old” in a literal sense, it is understood here to mean “Torah wisdom acquired by yeshiva study.” The Maharsha explains that we find elsewhere (Kiddushin 32a) that the word “zaken” is understood by our Sages to be an acronym for “zeh kana chochma” — “this person has acquired Torah wisdom.”

And although the word “zaken” lacks a letter “chet” that would seem needed in order to indicate chochma wisdom, the Steipler Rav teaches that it is indicated without writing it, since Torah wisdom is the only true acquisition that a person can possess.

  • Yoma 28b

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