INSIGHTS INTO THE DAILY DAF
THE MIREL BAS YAKOV MORDECHAI KORNFELD
Rosh Kollel: Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld
QUESTION: The Gemara cites two verses with contradictory implications with regard to the way in which Hash-m deals with sinners. One verse implies that He wants them to die. The other verse implies that He does not desire their deaths. The Gemara explains that when they repent He does not want them to die, but when they do not repent He desires their deaths.
TOSFOS (DH Kan b'Oseh Teshuvah) points out that the Sifri resolves the same contradiction by saying that before the heavenly decree seals their fate Hash-m does not want them to die, but after the heavenly decree has been issued He desires their deaths. The fact that the Gemara here does not give this answer implies that the Gemara maintains that even after the heavenly decree has been issued Hash-m does not want the evildoer to die if he repents.
However, this implication contradicts the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (17b) which says that Teshuvah does not help an individual after the heavenly decree has been issued. Only for an entire community does Teshuvah help at that point.
ANSWER: TOSFOS answers that the Gemara here follows the opinion of Rebbi Yitzchak in Rosh Hashanah (16a), who disagrees with the Gemara there (17b) and maintains that even an individual's Teshuvah is effective after the heavenly decree has been issued.
QUESTION: The Gemara cites two verses with contradictory implications with regard to whether Hash-m shows favor and acts with mercy even when the letter of the law calls for strict justice. One verse says that He does not show favor. The other verse says that He does show favor. The Gemara answers that before the heavenly decree has been issued He shows favor, but after the heavenly decree has been issued He does not show favor.
TOSFOS (DH Kan Kodem) asks that the Gemara in Berachos (20b) gives a different answer for the same contradiction. In Berachos, the Gemara answers that the verse that says that Hash-m shows favor refers to showing favor to the Jewish people. Hash-m shows favor to them because they are conscientious to recite Birkas ha'Mazon even after they eat a piece of bread as small as a k'Beitzah. Why does the Gemara here and in Berachos give different answers?
ANSWER: TOSFOS answers that the Gemara in Berachos agrees with the answer that the Gemara here gives. It is merely adding the reason why Hash-m shows favor to the Jewish people before the heavenly decree has been issued; Hash-m shows them favor because of their conscientiousness with regard to Birkas ha'Mazon.
This answer has significant implications. According to Tosfos' understanding, the Gemara here is saying that Hash-m shows favor only before the heavenly decree has been issued and only to the Jewish people.
(If Hash-m's "favor" means that He responds to Teshuvah and Tefilah, then this implies that Teshuvah and Tefilah are effective only for Jews but not for Nochrim. How, though, can it be that a Nochri who does Teshuvah and who prays to Hash-m is not entitled to Hash-m's mercy even before the heavenly decree has been issued? This is especially difficult to understand in light of the fact that many Nochrim merited Hash-m's mercy through their Teshuvah and Tefilah, such as the entire city of Ninveh. Perhaps Tosfos understands that in the case of Ninveh Hash-m took exception to the general rule and pardoned them in order to teach the Jewish people a lesson.)
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that the Men of Alexandria asked Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananya whether the son of the Shunamite woman (who died and was revived by Elisha) would be Metamei like a Mes after he was revived. Rebbi Yehoshua replied that only a dead person is Metamei with Tum'as Mes, and not a living person like the son of the Shunamite woman. They then asked him if the dead people who will eventually be resurrected at Techiyas ha'Mesim will require Haza'ah in order to become Tahor from Tum'as Mes. He responded that when they come back to life, we will deal with that question.
Why did the Men of Alexandria not ask the same question about the dead people who will be resurrected as they asked about the son of the Shunamite woman: is a dead person who is revived Metamei with Tum'as Mes? Similarly, why did they not ask whether the son of the Shunamite woman required Haza'ah upon his revival, just as they asked about the people who will be resurrected at Techiyas ha'Mesim?
(a) The Men of Alexandria were philosophers who did not accept the possibility that Hash-m can bring about a change in the physical nature of this world. They believed that He cannot make a dead person become a fully living person before the eventual resurrection of the dead. They therefore concluded that one of two things must have happened to the son of the Shunamite woman: either he never actually died, in which case he would not be Tamei and need Haza'ah, or he was never brought back to a state of full life and it merely appeared as though he was alive when he was actually dead, in which case he would be Tamei even after being "revived." Therefore, they asked only whether he was Metamei with Tum'as Mes; according to their beliefs, there was no option that the son of the Shunamite woman needed Haza'ah.
(Their question about the wife of Lot may have been based on the same premise. They believed that either she had been whisked away and replaced by a pillar of salt, in which case it would not be Metamei, or that the pillar of salt was really just a dead woman that looked like a pillar of salt, in which case it would be Metamei. They did not entertain the possibility that Hash-m had transformed a living woman into a pillar of salt.)
(c) The Men of Alexandria knew that the dead certainly will be brought back to life in the World to Come, and at that point the resurrected no longer will be Tamei like a dead person. Their question was only whether the resurrection would be accomplished by simply reversing the process of disintegration by rebuilding the body from a pile of dust, or whether Hash-m will put the souls of the dead into entirely new bodies, not bodies reconditioned from dust. If Techiyas ha'Mesim will occur in the first way (by reversing the process of disintegration by rebuilding the body from a pile of dust), then the newly resurrected body would need Haza'ah since it came into contact with the Rekev (remains) of its own dead body during the resurrection, rendering it Tamei. If Techiyas ha'Mesim will occur in the second way (by putting the souls of the dead into entirely new bodies), then they will not need Haza'ah since they had no physical contact with Tum'as Mes. (M. KORNFELD)