Talmud Tips

For the week ending 21 November 2015 / 9 Kislev 5776

Sotah 30 - 36

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says, “Greater is a person who does (the will of G-d) due to love than a person who does (the will of G-d) due to fear.”

This teaching is found in a beraita on our daf and has its basis in verses in Ex. 20:6, “And I (G-d) perform loving kindness to thousands (of generations) to those who love Me and to those who keep My commandments.” This is compared to that the verse in Deut. 7:9, “Know, therefore, that the L-rd, your G-d He is G-d, the faithful G-d, Who keeps the covenant and loving kindness with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.” The first verse mentions the reward for those who do the will of G-d out of love for Him adjacent to “thousands of generations”, whereas the second verse cited mentions those who keep G-d’s commandments not adjacent to love of Him, but rather adjacent to fulfilling His mitzvot. Love is mentioned earlier in the verse, not with the mention of a thousand generations, which implies that the second verse is speaking about those who do His will “only” due to fear of Him, but not due to love. The first verse teaches that the merit of doing the will of G-d due to love leads to protection for the next 2,000 generations, whereas doing His will out of fear — but not love — results in Divine protection for fewer future generations — a thousand. (Rashi)

This teaching is not “mere philosophy”; it is a halacha that is codified by the Rambam in the Laws of Repentance 2:3.

  • Sotah 31a

Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, “Why did our Sages establish that the prayer (“Shmoneh Esrei” or “Amida”) be said quietly? In order not to embarrass transgressors.”

Prayer should be said quietly, as we learn from the prayer of Chana when she prayed to bear a child, as the Torah states about her prayer, “and her voice was not heard” (Shmuel I 1:13). Our gemara teaches that this manner of prayer was established as the manner for the individual’s “silent prayer” for the entire Jewish People, so that someone who is confessing in his prayer to G-d the transgressions he has, will not be embarrassed by another person present. If the prayers needed to be said aloud, people would refrain from confessing their transgressions due to embarrassment. (Rashi) The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 101:2) teaches that a person should say his prayer quietly but not completely silently; rather he should be the only person present to hear the words of his prayer. (More details and a variety of scenarios are taught in the Shulchan Orach and in the Mishna Berura there.)

  • Sotah 32b

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