1) THE QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED TO BE A PROPHET
QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan states that Hash-m's Shechinah dwells only upon a person who is a Gibor (powerful), Ashir (rich), Chacham (wise), and Anav (humble). Why are these four attributes (particularly power and wealth) necessary in order to receive Hash-m's presence?
(a) The RAN (in DERASHOS HA'RAN) explains that these four attributes represent the four central aspects of a person. A Navi must excel in all of them. He must be a "Chacham" -- he must have perfected his intellectual (Sichliyos) abilities. He must be an "Anav" -- he must have perfected his Midos, his character traits (humility is the highest level of Midos development; see Avodah Zarah 20b). Power and wealth represent the full development of his physical abilities.
While it is understandable that a person must be on a very high spiritual level in order to be a Navi, why is it necessary for him to excel in physical attributes?
The Ran quotes the view of the RAMBAM (Hilchos Yesodei ha'Torah 7:1) who explains that Rebbi Yochanan does not mean that one must be physically powerful and materially wealthy. Rather, he means that the Navi must be powerful in spirit, having full self-control over his physical desires and drives. He must be "rich" in that he leads a simple life and is content with what he has, in accordance with the Mishnah in Avos (4:1), "Who is the rich one? The one who is happy with his lot." (See also SICHOS MUSAR of RAV CHAIM SHMUELEVITZ zt'l (5731, #21; 5732, #28), and SHALMEI NEDARIM.)
The RAN disagrees with this explanation because the proofs cited by the Gemara indicate that a Navi must indeed be physically strong and materially wealthy (see also KESEF MISHNEH). (Moshe Rabeinu became wealthy from the fragments of precious stone upon which the Luchos were written, and he was physically able to erect the Mishkan and to lift and throw the heavy stone Luchos (see Shalmei Nedarim). The prophet Yonah was wealthy enough that he was able to hire a large, expensive boat.)
(b) The Ran explains instead that Rebbi Yochanan refers to a person who not only prophesies for himself, but who prophesies for the entire Jewish people. To merit Hash-m's presence on a personal level requires only that one be on a high spiritual level. However, a Navi who transmits Hash-m's word to the entire nation most be highly respected by all. Even the simple people who do not recognize the true value of wisdom and good Midos nevertheless respect physical power and wealth, and thus they will listen to the Navi's words. The Ran cites support for this explanation from the Gemara in Ta'anis (16a) which says that when a Ta'anis is declared, all of the residents of the town gather together and one of the elders delivers words of rebuke, and if there are no elders, a man of physical stature delivers the rebuke.
The Ran adds that it is necessary for a Navi to be physical powerful so that he not be afraid of the people to whom he relates the prophecy.
(c) RAV CHAIM of VOLOZHEN (in RU'ACH CHAIM) explains that the most important attribute of a Navi is his Anavah, humility and modesty (see Mesilas Yesharim, who describes how Anavah precedes Ru'ach ha'Kodesh). It is easy for a weak, poor person to be humble. For a powerful, wealthy person to be humble is very difficult. Hence, in order to truly excel in humility, the Navi must be powerful and wealthy and still be humble.
2) FEEDING THE FAMILY OF ONE'S FRIEND
OPINIONS: The Mishnah (38a-b) states that one who makes a Neder not to give any benefit to his friend is permitted to feed his friend's wife and children.
(a) TOSFOS explains that he is permitted to feed his friend's family only according to Chanan (33b) who permits a person to pay his friend's debts when his friend is prohibited from receiving benefit from him. Alternatively, the Mishnah follows the view of the Rabanan, and it refers to feeding the family extra food which the husband is not required to give them.
(b) The RAN disagrees and writes that even the Rabanan -- who prohibit him to repay his friend's debts -- permit him to feed his friend's children. He explains that he is permitted to feed them since he does so for the sake of the Mitzvah of helping others and not in order to pay his friend's obligation to feed his family. The RASHBA agrees with the Ran.
The Ran's opinion is problematic, however, in light of the preceding Mishnah (35b) which states that one who makes a Neder not to give any benefit to his friend is permitted to separate Terumos and Ma'aseros on behalf of his friend's produce.
According to the Ran, even the Rabanan who disagree with Chanan permit the person to separate Terumah from his own produce on behalf of his friend's produce. He explains that since he enjoys a personal gain (the right to give the Terumos to the Kohen of his choice), his act is done for his own gain and his friend benefits only indirectly ("Gerama"). The Ran writes that the RASHBA disagrees with him and says that the Rabanan who disagree with Chanan prohibit him from separating Terumos on behalf of his friend.
The Mishnah that follows (end of 38b) states that one who makes a Neder not to give any benefit to his friend is permitted to visit him when he is sick. All of the Rishonim agree that this is permitted even according to the Rabanan who disagree with Chanan.
Why do the Ran and Rashba agree that a person may feed the family of his friend who is prohibited to receive Hana'ah from him, but they disagree about whether one may separate Terumos on behalf of that friend? Moreover, why does Tosfos disagree with them in both cases? Finally, why do they all agree that one is permitted to visit his sick friend?
The Gemara in Kesuvos (108a) states that everyone agrees that one may return his friend's lost object even though his friend is prohibited to receive Hana'ah from him, because he does a Mitzvah by returning the lost object. The Gemara points out that this reasoning does not suffice to permit him to pay his friend's debts, since his friend thereby gains monetarily (by not having to pay back his loans with his own money). The Gemara answers that it is only Chanan who permits one to pay back the debts of one's friend. (See Insights to Nedarim 33:2 with regard to paying back a loan and returning a lost object.)
All of the Rishonim agree that even according to the Rabanan, the person is prohibited only from doing an "act which provides pleasure" to his friend. If the act is not done for his friend but merely causes him pleasure indirectly ("Gerama"), it is permitted. Hence, he is permitted to visit his sick friend even according to the Rabanan since he is not doing the act in order to give pleasure but rather in order to fulfill the Mitzvah, and the pleasure is merely an outcome ("Gerama") of the act.
In contrast, the Rishonim disagree about the view of the Rabanan in a case in which a person repays his friend's debts and thereby provides him with a monetary gain, the Rishonim disagree. Tosfos understands that the Rabanan maintain that as long as the person's money saves his friend from having to pay his debts himself, his friend gains and thus is obligated to compensate. Even if he paid the debts for his own personal benefit, the fact that his friend benefits from it requires him to pay the benefactor for that benefit. Therefore, the one who made the Neder is prohibited to pay any debt for his friend, since his friend benefits as a result.
The Ran understands that the Rabanan consider giving money to one's friend a monetary gain only when he pays with intent to benefit his friend. When he does the act for his own personal gain (for example, he separates Terumah from his own produce so that he will have the right to give the Terumos to the Kohen of his choice), or he does it in order to benefit others and not his friend (for example, he feeds his friend's wife and children), his friend gains only as an indirect result of the act. Accordingly, he is permitted to receive such benefit and is not required to pay for the benefit.
The Rashba agrees with the Ran only in the case of a person who feeds his friend's family. In such a case, the Rabanan agree that he has no claim against his friend. The money or food he gave to his friend's family was a gift to the family; he had no intention to pay his friend's debts. The fact that his friend gains by not having to feed his family is only an indirect outcome of his act and does not require compensation. However, in the case of the person who separates Terumah from his own produce on behalf of his friend's, the Rashba disagrees and says that the Rabanan do not permit him to do so, since he is using his own money or property to make his friend's produce usable. Although he gains some personal benefit from the act, his friend is considered as though he benefits directly since the fruit is being given for his benefit.
(According to the Rashba, the fact that he fulfills a Mitzvah by separating Terumah is not a reason to treat the benefit his friend receives as indirect benefit. The Mitzvah is merely the reason why he performs the act; the fruit, however, is being given directly for his friend's benefit. The fruit (or money) is not considered spent for his friend only when the benefactor invests (gives) the money for his own personal gain. In a case in which he merely performs a service but does not give any money, the only issue is why he performs the service; when it is a Mitzvah which he performs as a Shali'ach of Hash-m's will, his act is not considered an act of giving pleasure to his friend.)
3) HALACHAH: GIVING SMALL BENEFITS TO A "MUDAR HANA'AH"
OPINIONS: Rebbi Yakov states that when a person is "Madir Beno l'Talmud Torah," he is permitted "to fill a barrel of water and to light a candle."
What is Rebbi Yakov's case? Who made the Neder to prohibit whom?
The Rishonim explain the statement of Rebbi Yakov in two ways.
(a) The RAN and most Rishonim explain that Rebbi Yakov refers to a father who does not want to disturb his son's Torah learning, and therefore he makes a Neder to prohibit himself from receiving benefit from his son. Rebbi Yakov rules that his son is permitted to fill a barrel of water and to light a candle for his father, since those actions do not take a person away from his learning.
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Nedarim 6:17; see ROSH) explains that Rebbi Yakov refers to a father who sees that his son is not learning Torah. As an incentive to help his son start learning, the father makes a Neder to prohibit his son from receiving any benefit from him.
HALACHAH: According to these two explanations of the Gemara, is a person who is prohibited from receiving benefit from another permitted to receive small benefits?
According to the RAN's explanation, the Gemara's ruling does not prove that small acts of benefit are permitted in every case of a Mudar Hana'ah. In the Gemara's case, the son may perform small acts of benefit for his father only because the intent of the father's Neder was to prevent himself from disturbing his son's learning. Since such small acts do not disturb his learning, the father presumably did not intend to prohibit them. In other cases, however, in which one person made a Neder to prohibit himself from receiving benefit from another, even small acts of benefit may be prohibited.
In contrast, according to the RAMBAM's explanation, the Gemara's ruling provides proof that one is permitted to do small acts of benefit for a Mudar Hana'ah. However, it is unclear whether the Rambam would permit one to do small acts of benefit in every case of a Mudar Hana'ah. In the Gemara's case, the father made the Neder in order to discipline his son. Perhaps the father prohibited his son only from things that are important to his son, and he knows that filling a barrel of water and lighting a candle are not important to him. The ME'IRI quotes an opinion ("Gedolei ha'Rabanim") which infers from the Gemara that giving small pleasures is permitted in every case of a Mudar Hana'ah, but the Me'iri himself disagrees and argues that this case is novel and the law in other cases cannot be derived from the law in this case.
The ME'IRI and the PERISHAH (cited by the SHACH YD 223:1) write that according to the Ran's explanation (that the father prohibited himself from receiving benefit from his son in order not to interrupt his son's learning), in a case in which the father prohibited the son from receiving benefit from him in order to motivate his son to learn, the father indeed would be prohibited from doing small favors for his son such as filling a barrel of water and lighting a candle for him.
The Ran and the Rambam are consistent with their explanations in the following Gemara. Rebbi Yirmeyah says in the name of Rebbi Yochanan that one is permitted to give to his Mudar Hana'ah the "mourner's cup" or a cup to drink in the bathhouse. The Rambam (Hilchos Nedarim 6:10) writes that since he is not considered as though he gives him pleasure, he may give the cup to the Mudar Hana'ah. The Rambam is consistent with his view that one is permitted to perform small acts of benefit for a Mudar Hana'ah.
The RA'AVAD (ad loc.) disagrees with the Rambam and says that one may give the cup to the Mudar Hana'ah because he merely fills up the cup and it is a Mitzvah to do so, but not because his act is not considered an act that gives benefit. The Ra'avad is consistent with his explanation (and that of the Ran and other Rishonim) of the case of Rebbi Yakov, that one is not permitted to do small acts of benefit for a Mudar Hana'ah. Accordingly, there are no grounds to permit one to do small acts of benefit for a Mudar Hana'ah. Only where one performs a service for the sake of a Mitzvah is he permitted to do an act that will result in a small benefit for the Mudar Hana'ah.