Talmud Tips

For the week ending 3 June 2017 / 9 Sivan 5777

Bava Batra 130 - 136

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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The Intensity and Joy of Torah Study

The Rabbis said about Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel: When he was involved in Torah study, every bird that flew above him was burned.

This statement concludes a beraita on our daf that is also taught in Masechta Succah 28a. The beraita teaches the lofty qualities and merits of the eighty closest students of the Sage Hillel the Elder. Thirty of them were exalted enough that the Shechina (G-d’s Divine Presence) should surround them, and thirty others were illustrious enough that the sun should stand still on their account, as it did for Yehoshua. The greatest of these disciples was Yonatan ben Uziel, about whom said, “When he was involved in Torah study, every bird that flew above him was burned.”

Rashi, Tosefot and Rabbeinu Chananel, in Masechet Succah, explain the source of this “fire from him to Heaven”. Rashi states that the malachei hasharet (Gd’s administering angels) gathered around him to listen to the words of Torah that came directly from his mouth and were the source of this effect. Rabbeinu Chananel writes that it was a result of the “Glory of the Divine Presence” being with him at his place of Torah study. Tosefot explains that when Yonatan ben Uziel was involved in Torah study, his words of Torah were as joyous as they were as when they were given at Mount Sinai. His Torah involvement was a re-creation of that seminal event of the giving of the Torah with fire, the fire that surrounded the mountain top at the time when the Torah was given by Gd to the Jewish People.

Nowadays, Yonatan ben Uziel may be best known for his translation of the Nevi’im (The Books of the Prophets, see Masechet Megillah 3a), which are read publicly in the Synagogue in our time in some communities together with the reading of the haftara on Shabbat.

  • Bava Batra 134a

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