Talmud Tips

For the week ending 4 February 2017 / 8 Shevat 5777

Bava Batra 11 - 17

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Rav Avdimi from Haifa said, “From the day that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, although prophecy was taken from the Navi’im (Prophets), it was not taken away from the Chachamim (Torah scholars).”

The Maharsha points out that this teaching refers to the destruction of the First Beit Hamikdash, since the last of the Navi’im — Chagai, Zecharia and Malachi — lived only until the beginning of the Second Beit Hamikdash. He explains that the expression “From the day of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash” does not mean from that exact day, but rather is meant to exclude the period of the Second Beit Hamikdash, and that there was indeed prophecy to Navi’im during the 70 years of the Babylonian exile.

The gemara originally quotes Rav Avdimi from Haifa as saying something that sounds similar to the above-quoted teaching, but is in fact quite different: “From the day that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, prophecy was taken from the Navi’im and given to the Chachamim”. This statement, however, is incorrect explains the gemara, since it implies that beforehand the Chachamim were not fit to receive prophecy, which is certainly not true. Therefore, the gemara explains what Rav Avdimi’s statement must certainly have been: “From the day that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, although prophecy was taken from the Navi’im, it was not taken from the Chachamim.” The Sage Ameimar adds that “A Chacham is ‘better’ (adif) than a Navi”, and explains how he derives this principle from a verse in Tehillim (90:12).

Rashi explains that although prophecy was taken from the Navi’im who were not Chachamim, it was not taken from the Navi’im who were Chachamim. This seems to imply that a person in the category of “Navi”, although certainly having chochma (Torah wisdom) since it is a requirement for a Navi (Masechet Nedarim 38a), did not possess the same high degree of Torah mastery to be considered a “Chacham”. (See the Maharsha, who, based on the gemara in Nedarim, presents a question on Rashi, since a Navi is required to be a Chacham, and suggests an answer that highlights a practical difference between these two categories.)

However, due to the question from the gemara in Nedarim, the Ramban offers an explanation of our Rav Avdimi’s statement that differs from Rashi’s explanation. The Ramban, in his “Chiddusim on Shas”, writes that there is an important difference between the nature of a Navi’s prophecy and that of a Chacham. The prophecy of a Navi is one that is related to the Navi in the form of a vision or “mental picture” by G-d or one of His agents (“angels”). The prophecy of a Chacham, however, is one that derives in a “manner of chochma”, not like the vision of a Navi. Rather, a Chacham “knows the truth with the Divine Spirit (Ru’ach Hakodesh) that is within him”. I heard from a great Rabbi in Jerusalem what the Ramban means, based on the verse in Mishlei (7:3) that states to “write them (words of Torah) on the tablet of your heart”. A Chacham is a person who masters the depth, breadth and essence of the Torah, and has internalized it to make it part of himself. In a sense he is “a walking Torah”. And since the Torah is the way in which G-d communicates with us, a Chacham is attuned to hear and understand the ongoing communication between the Giver of the Torah and the Chacham who is able to fully receive it.

  • Bava Batra 12a

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