Because they did not serve…

In response to my previous post, Shmuel commented:

“They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude.”

That statement alone is worth its own post, or many, for that matter…

So, a little more elaboration. Here’s the section we’re discussing:

Qabbalistically, Beis Shammai is described as embodying the sephirah of Din, strict Justice and uncompromising Truth, whereas Beis Hillel draws from the sephirah of Chessed, Generosity and Lovingkindness. This fits the observation that Beis Hillel is far more often the more lenient of the two. Also, we are told that Beis Hillel’s position was codified as law over Beis Shammai’s because Beis Shammai would only teach their own position, whereas when a member of Beis Hillel taught, he started with Beis Shammai’s position, and then his own. Procedurally, we follow Beis Hillel because they were the larger school, and halakhah follows the majority. Beis Shammai was a smaller school that had stricter entrance requirements. Also, Chessed vs. Din. But their attitude might also explain how Beis Hillel grew more rapidly.

Furthermore, the reason given for the radical increase in the number of disputes between the generation of Hillel and Shammai and those of their schools is “shelo shimshu es rabosam — they did not properly serve their mentors.” They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude. The Maharal explains that since Hillel was the nasi, his job was to distribute funds and build an infrastructure for society. His job was Chessed. Shammai, as the head of the court, had Din as a profession. The students, because of their distance from the rebbes, could not separate the differences due to their roles from the rebbeim’s approach to Torah.

The first element is a Tosefta (Chagiga 2:4), which also appears in a slightly different form in the Yerushalmi (Chagiga 1:4, Vilna ed. 8b), and the same basic idea in the Bavli (Sanhedrin 88b). It begins by telling us how machloqes was avoided in the days of the zugos, by having questioned referred up a hierarchy of courts for resolution, and once resolved, the answer was promulgated in the streets. However, “משרבו תלמידי שמאי והלל שלא שמשו כל צרכן [הרבו] מחלוקת בישראל [ונעשו כשתי תורות...] – when the number multiplied of students of Hillel and Shammai who did not serve [their mentors] as much as they needed, machloqes multiplied in Israel and it became as though there were two Torahs.” From then on they would check and inspect anyone who was wise, modest, of positive character, fearful of sin, who has a distinguished appearance and in whom people’s spirits find pleasant, and appoint him a local judge. And from there, the judge would rise up the ranks.

There is a second Tosefta (Sotah 14:1): “משרבו זהיהי\זהוהי הלב רבו מחלוקת בישראל והן שופכי דמים משרבו תלמידי שמאי והלל שלא שמשו כל צרכן הרבו מחלוקת בישראל ונעשית התורה כשתי תורות — When the number of deep-hearted multiplied, machloqes multiplied in Israel — and they spill blood. When the number multiplied of students of Hillel and Shammai who did not serve [their mentors] as much as they needed, machloqes multiplied in Israel and it became as though there were two Torahs.”

(Notice that both tie the lack of shimush, of serving one’s rebbe, to attitude and middos, not a loss of facts. The first Tosefta says that the loss forced us to select judges who are not only wise, but also of proper middos (and who people would obey). The second cites the problem with the students of Hillel and Shammai as a follow up to those whose love of sophistry led to divisions and death.)

In contrast, we have this explanation for why Yehoshuah was selected as Moshe’s successor, from Bamidbar Rabba (21:14). After dealing with the daughters of Tzelafchad’s question about inheriting their father’s land, Moshe turned to Hashem and asked about his own successor. Hashem first ruled out Moshe’s own children, since they did not sufficiently toil in Torah. But “יהושע הרבה שרתך והרבה חלק לך כבוד והוא היה משכים ומעריב בבית הועד שלך הוא היה מסדר את הספסלים והוא פורס את המחצלאות הואיל והוא שרתך בכל כחו כדאי הוא שישמש את ישראל שאינו מאבד שכרו קח לך את יהושע בן נון לקיים מה שנאמר נוצר תאנה יאכל פריה. — Yehoshua served you a lot and accorded you much honor. And he would awaken early and stay late in the evenings in your house of study. He would set up the benches and he would spread the mats. Since he served you with all his strength, is is appropriate that he serve Israel fir he does not lose his reward. Take for yourself Yehoshua bin Nun to fulfill what is days ‘The one who plants the fig shall eat its fruit.’ (Mishlei 27:18)”

The key attribute that distinguished Yehoshua from Moshe’s sons’ lack of toil in Torah was in how he served his teacher.


In Derekh haChaim (on Avos 1:15), the Maharal analyzes the structure of Avos 1:4-15. We are given the maxims of the zugos, the pairs of nasi (prince/president) and av beis din (ABD; head of the Sanhedrin) of each generation. The Mahral notes a pattern.

Generation 1:

Nasi: Yosi ben Y’oezer – Have your home open to sages, you should attach yourself to their dust, and drink their words with thirst.
ABD: Yosi ben Yochanan – Your home should be open to guest, you should be generous, minimize flirtatiousness…

In short, the Maharal notes that the nasi‘s advice has us developing our ahavah, our love of G-d, through His Torah. The ABD, however, is promoting yir’ah, warning us against an excessively material focus and greed. And the Maharal sees this pattern in each of the subsequent generations as well. The nasi is known for preaching a message of ahavah, and the head of the court, one of yir’ah.

Generation 2:

Nasi: Yehoshua ben Perachiah – Get yourself a rabbi and a friend, and judge everyone favorably — ahavah
ABD: Nitai haArbeili – Avoid a bad neighbor, don’t befriend evil people, and don’t give up in times of trouble — yir’ah

Generation 3:

Nasi: Yehudah ben Tabai – A judge should act like an advocate; when the litigants come before you, assume they’re both guilty, but when they leave, since they follow your ruling, assume they’re both righteous — ahavah
ABD: Shin’on ben Shetach – Meticulously cross-examine the witnesses, and be careful not to ask leading questions — yir’ah

Generation 4:

Nasi: Shemaya – Love work, hate leadership, and avoid government ties — ahavah
ABD: Avtalyon – Sages, be careful with your words! The wrong words could get you exile, mislead your students and lead to chillul Hashem! yir’ah

Generation 5:

Nasi: Hillel- Be like the students of Aharon: love and pursue peace, love all people and bring them to the Torah — ahavah
ABD: Shamai – Sages, be careful with your words! The wrong words could get you exile, mislead your students and lead to chillul Hashem! yir’ah

A pattern. Until we get to the students who didn’t sufficiently serve their mentors, and we needed a new sort of transmission and a new sort of leadership. No longer did we have zugos, a pair of leaders attached to the Sanhedrin. As we saw from the Tosefta, no longer was the Sanhedrin sufficient to resolve all the differences of opinion between them.

As I put it in that earlier post:

They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude. The Maharal explains that since Hillel was the nasi, his job was to distribute funds and build an infrastructure for society. His job was Chessed. Shammai, as the head of the court, had Din as a profession. The students, because of their distance from the rebbes, could not separate the differences due to their roles from the rebbeim’s approach to Torah.

And so, rather than each having a job of preaching one side of a balance, each school lost that balance. One can view the halachic process as a search to reintegrate, to become whole. And so, with balance lost, the process became far more complex, and the search for integration that much more difficult.

Yom haAtzmaut

A short but very appropriate quote from today’s Yerushalmi Daf Yomi:

ר הושעיא: רומס הייתי זיתים עם רבי חייא הגדול. ואמר לי, “כל זית שאת יכול לפשוט ידך וליטלו, אינו שכחה.”
א”ר יוחנן, “מכיון שעבר עליו ושכחו הרי הוא שכחה.”

Rabbi Hoshiah: Once I was picking olives with Rabbi Chiyya the Great. He said to me, “Any olive that you can reach back [while harvesting] and pick, is not [sufficiently forgotten to be required to be given to the poor as] shikhechah.”

Rabbi Yochanan said, “Since he passed it and forgot it, it is shikhechah.”

– Peah 6:4, Vilna ed. 30a

Heikhal haTorah - Yeshivat PonevezhYom haAtzmaut 5767

Rabbi Chiyya, the compiler of the Tosefta, was an oleh from the city near Sura in Bavel (Menachos 88b), who went to learn under Rabbi Yehudah haNasi. And he would pick olives in Israel. Mizrachi or Poalei Agudah would be proud to claim such a role model.

(By the way, why is he called “haGadol — the Great”? When he went to raise money, Rabbi Elazar ben Padas wrote the following to the communities where Rabbi Chiyya would arrive, “Behold, we are sending you a great man. His greatness is this — he is not ashamed to say ‘I don’t know’ “. [Y-mi Chagiga 7:1; Vilna ed. 7a])

Reality vs. Potential

משנה אלו דברים שבין בית שמאי ובית הלל בסעודה בית שמאי אומרים מברך על היום ואח”כ מברך על היין וב”ה אומרים מברך על היין ואח”כ מברך על היום:

Mishnah: These are the things which separate Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel with [respect to the laws of] a meal.
Beis Shammai say: [In Qiddush] bless the day [i.e. make the berakhah referring to the qedushah of Shabbos], and then bless on the wine.
And Beis Hillel say: Bless on the wine, and then bless the day.

גמרא מה טעמהון דבית שמאי שהקדושת היום גרמה ליין שיבוא וכבר נתחייב בקדושת היום עד שלא בא היין מה טעמהון דבית הלל שהיין גורם לקדושת היום שתאמר ד”א היין תדיר וקדושה אינה תדירה

Talmud: What is Beis Shammai’s reason?
The sanctity of the day causes that the wine be brought, and one is already obligated to sanctify the day even when the wine hadn’t yet arrived.
What is Beis Hillel’s reason?
The wine causes that the sanctity of the day be declared.
Another thought: The wine is [relatively more] frequent, and the sanctity is not [as] frequent [and there is a rule with mitzvos, that all else being equal, the more frequent one is done first.

- Yerushalmi Shabbos 8:1, 56b

Rav Shelomo Yoseif Zevin (LeTorah uleMo’adim) comments on a famous dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai, and from it establishes a basic pattern to their philosophies. The most preferred way of lighting Chanukah lights is to differ the number with the number of days. We follow Beis Hillel, and light one on the first day, two on the second, etc… We “increase and proceed”. Beis Shammai, however, started with eight on the first day, second on the second… — “decrease and proceed”. Why?

Rav Zevin notes that there is a general pattern in their disputes. Beis Hillel see the situation in terms of what is, whereas Beis Shammai look at the potential. Since with each day, we added to what was, we also add lights in our menorah. Each day the miracle was greater than the day before. Beis Shammai look at the potential inherent in the remaining oil of the original Chanukah, as well as in our remaining Chanukah celebration. Each day there is less to look forward to, less opportunity before us. Therefore Beis Shammai reduce the number of lights as we progress.

A second, more common explanation of the difference in their basic philosophical orientation:

Qabbalistically, Beis Shammai is described as embodying the sephirah of Din, strict Justice and uncompromising Truth, whereas Beis Hillel draws from the sephirah of Chessed, Generosity and Lovingkindness. This fits the observation that Beis Hillel is far more often the more lenient of the two. Also, we are told that Beis Hillel’s position was codified as law over Beis Shammai’s because Beis Shammai would only teach their own position, whereas when a member of Beis Hillel taught, he started with Beis Shammai’s position, and then his own. Procedurally, we follow Beis Hillel because they were the larger school, and halakhah follows the majority. Beis Shammai was a smaller school that had stricter entrance requirements. Also, Chessed vs. Din. But their attitude might also explain how Beis Hillel grew more rapidly.

Furthermore, the reason given for the radical increase in the number of disputes between the generation of Hillel and Shammai and those of their schools is “shelo shimshu es rabosam — they did not properly serve their mentors.” They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude. The Maharal explains that since Hillel was the nasi, his job was to distribute funds and build an infrastructure for society. His job was Chessed. Shammai, as the head of the court, had Din as a profession. The students, because of their distance from the rebbes, could not separate the differences due to their roles from the rebbeim’s approach to Torah.


Taking thes to our opening dispute, with Beis Hillel as explained by the first opinion in the gemara

Beis Shammai say the order of blessings in the night-time Qiddush is the order in which the obligations arrived. First it became Shabbos, then you sat at the table with the cup of wine. Therefore, Qiddush should start with the sanctification of Shabbos and end with the blessing on the wine.

Beis Hillel instead focus on the order in which we are able to fulfill each obligation.

So Rav Zevin’s explanation works. Beis Shammai follows the order in which one gains the potential to do the mitzvah. Beis Hillel follows the order in which one can actualize that potential.

Also, the Sephirotic interpretation: Beis Shammai look to the obligation, the chiyuv – which also means “debt”, even though the person has no ability to fulfill it. So, blessing Shabbos comes first. Beis Hillel take a more generous approach, and don’t consider such a chiyuv to be fully real. Therefore, the sequence is when one can act upon it.

Wisdom from Eeyore

The month that starts today, אִייָר‎ or אִיָּר, borrows its name (as do all the months) from those of Babylonia, in commemoration of our exile there — and our redemption from it. In Akkadian, the month name is “Ayyaru”, meaning “blossom” — logical enough for this time of year. But that brings to mind a piece of wisdom from an eponymous character:

Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.

 - Eeyore; A.A. Milne

 

 

It’s a human decision that differentiates weeds from wildflowers.

(For more on the subject of how we choose to perceive the world we encounter, see this entry on the relationship between free will and environment.)

Light of Creation

רבי לוי בשם רבי בזירה שלשים ושש שעות שימשה אותה האורה שנבראת ביום הראשון. שתים עשרה בערב שבת ושתים עשרה בליל שבת ושתים עשרה בשבת. והיה אדם הראשון מביט בו מסוף העולם ועד סופו כיון שלא פסקה האור התחיל כל העולם כולו משורר שנאמר (איוב לז) תחת כל השמים ישרהו למי שאורו על כנפות הארץ. כיון שיצאת שבת התחיל משמש החושך ובא ונתירא אדם ואמר אלו הוא שכתב בו (בראשית ג) הוא ישופך ראש ואתה תשופנו עקב שמא בא לנשכני ואמר (תהילים קל) אך חשך ישופני.

Rabbi Levi in the name of Rabbi Bezeirah: The Light created on the first day was used for 36 hours. 12 hours on erev Shabbos, 12 hours on the night of Shabbos, and 12 hours on Shabbos. Adam haRishon could see with it from one end of the world until its [other] end.

- Yerushalmi Berakhos 8:5, 60b

I posted a series on the Rambam’s notion of Creation, and how much it resembles the tradition of Qabbalah found in Lithuanian sources like R’ Chaim Volozhiner’s Nefesh haChaim or the works of the Leshem. (HT: The Leshem, whose writings often refer to the Moreh Nevuchim.) The Rambam speaks of a chain of forms, or thoughts, that we call angels, each contingent on the prior link of the chain, through which G-d’s Thought becomes the objects and events in this world. The Qabbalists speak of Light that descends through worlds, at each stage assuming ever more abstract forms, that cause the forms and substances of the world below it.

Two of the points made and buttressed there:

Rav Chaim Volozhiner holds that only the human soul connects this world to the higher ones, and thus events in this world only have metaphysical effects via their effects on the people involved.

I then connected this to Rav Dessler’s understanding of the Maharal’s position on miracles. The world around us isn’t some objective reality, it is colored by what our minds impose in how we as people perceive and understand things. And so, when Hashem performs a miracle, the miracle needn’t be shared by every person involved. What was blood to the Egyptians was water to the Jews.

I suggested that this is the mechanism by which the Nefesh haChaim’s principle worked. Events in this world, by changing the human soul, changed the perceiver and thus influences the world he experiences in the future.

I believe this quote from the Yerushalmi shows the link between the notion of the Supernal Light and Rav Dessler’s (rather Kantian) notion of the role of perception.

In Michtav Me’Eliyahu I, “Olamos deAsiyah veYetzirah” pp 304-312, Rav Dessler writes about the difference between the four worlds discussed in Qabbalah. As in his general pattern — which of the olamos one is in depends on how one looks at the world. There R’ Dessler writes that Adam, before the sin, was in a state such that what he considered the lowest world, the olam ha’asiyah (world of action), is the world we identify with the one above the lowest, the olam hayetzirah (world of giving forms).

Rav Dessler also discusses the difference in the consciousness of Adam before the sin in his discussion of the time of creation, in vol II pp 150-154, “Yemei Bereishis veYemai Olam”, in the section subtitled, “Zeman: Qevi’as Mahuso“. The section’s name (“Time: Establishing His Nature”) is a bit of wordplay — referring both to establishing what is the essence of time, and that that essence comes from the nature of the person.

People think of themselves as stable, and the world moves around them. But this is an error. With each moment and each impression, some of the potential of the person is actualized. It says in Nidah 30b that a baby before birth sees “from the end of the world until its [other] end”. But when he’s born, he enters the hiding caused by time, the unity of creation speaking the Unity of the Creator is concealed, and only the present seems real. In the world of action (olam ha’asiyah), every moment is fixed by the action. Every moment following the Torah adds some light to his mahus, and similarly ch”v in the reverse. Through his free will [thus connecting this definition of the time to the one in the opening of the lecture] he establishes his nature, thereby giving a flow to time.

Note that Rav Dessler places the flow of time as a feature of the lowest world, an illusion created by free will choosing actions, and thereby changing the nature of the soul who acts. Earlier in this essay, R’ Dessler writes that since Adam before the sin lacked this same kind of decision-making, we can not know how he perceived time.

To close the loop to the gemara, realize that the higher worlds are realms of lesser tzimtzum, less concealment of the Divine Light, and we get the idea that Even and Adam lost the light when they ate from the fruit, they lowered down to the olam which we now inhabit. But until then, this extra Light of the higher world let Adam, like an infant before birth, see “from one end of the world until its [other] end.”

Thus we see that the Yerushalmi describing Light as giving the ability to see — perceive — across the entire universe can be identified with Rav Dessler’s notion that one’s choice of perception defines one’s world.