Talmud Tips

For the week ending 14 December 2013 / 11 Tevet 5774

Yoma 37- 43

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“Regarding the Kohanic family of Bar Kamtzar it is said ‘the name of the wicked shall rot’ (Mishlei 10:7).”

The mishna teaches that this family which served in the second Beit Hamikdash refused to teach other people their unique manner of writing four letters with four fingers simultaneously. The gemara explains that this was wrong on their part to the point where the curse in the above verse is intended for them. The gemara explains that the practical outcome of this curse — “the name of the wicked shall rot” — is that one should not name his child with the name of a wicked person. The Maharsha explains that we learn this from the fact that the verse states “the name of the wicked shall rot” instead of just stating that “the wicked shall rot”. Tosefot also points out that although a famous dayan (judge) cited in a different masechta was named “Avishalom”, this is not the same name as the name as the wicked son of King David (Avshalom) who rebelled against his father the king and was killed.

Concerning the point in the mishna and in the gemara that this family had a special wisdom for writing simultaneously with writing utensils attached to four fingers, it is advised to see the commentary of the Maharitz Chiut. He elaborates on the greater kedusha of writing the four-letter Name of G-d all at once instead of one letter at a time, and suggests that this gemara is the source of using a type of “printing press” in place of writing — and the possible advantages in doing so.

  • Yoma 38 a&b

"From G-d’s blessing of the righteous one can learn the curse to the evildoers, and from the curse of the evildoers one can learn the blessing for the righteous.”

This is a statement is made by Rabbi Eliezer on our daf andis based on verses of blessing and curse that we find in the Torah regarding the righteous Avraham and the wicked people of S’dom.

But what is the connection between the blessing of one to the curse of the other, and vice versa? Rashi explains the meaning of our gemara that in a place where one finds a blessing of the righteous, one finds a curse to the wicked – and vice versa. The Maharsha points out that this does not seem to explain why there is a connection between the blessing and the curse.

The Sh’la Hakadosh, however, explains the connection in the following manner. He writes that this teaching refers to righteous and wicked who live together in one place, but the righteous remain righteous while the wicked stick to their errant ways. When G-d sees the righteous person and the wicked living in proximity, and the wicked remain wicked, He becomes even more disconcerted with them, as it were, since they did not learn from the nearby righteous person and improve their ways. In this sense, the righteousness of the tzaddik can be viewed as a reason for the curse and punishment of the rasha. Likewise, the bad deeds of the evildoers heighten the righteousness of the tzaddik with them, since he was so careful not to learn from their evil deeds. The outcome is that G-d rewards the righteous in connection with punishing the wicked, whose ways he did not follow.

  • Yoma 38b

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