AVODAH ZARAH 4 - Two weeks of study material have been dedicated by Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer to honor the Yahrzeit of her father, Rav Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Rabbi Morton Weiner) Z'L, who passed away on 18 Teves 5760. May the merit of supporting and advancing Dafyomi study -- which was so important to him -- during the weeks of his Yahrzeit serve as an Iluy for his Neshamah.
1) AGADAH: TZADIKIM AND THE SUN
QUESTION: Reish Lakish (end of 3b) states that "in the World to Come, there will be no Gehinom. Rather, Hash-m will remove the sun from its sheath, and the wicked will be scorched by it and the righteous will be healed by it, as it says (Malachi 3:19), 'A sun will come which will burn like a furnace; all the wicked and all the evildoers will be like straw, and the sun will incinerate them.... But a sun of kindness will shine for those who fear Me, with healing in its rays.' Moreover, the righteous will derive pleasure from the sun, as it says (ibid.), '... and you will become sated, as fattened calves entering their pen to feed.'"
According to this account, the righteous will not need to be sheltered from the burning sun on the final Day of Judgment. On the contrary, the warmth of that day's sun will be beneficial to them rather than harmful. This, however, seems to contradict Reish Lakish's own description of the events which will take place in the future. In the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Emor #653), Reish Lakish says that "at that time (in the World to Come) Hash-m will make a Sukah (a shading shelter) for the righteous to protect them from the sun, as it says (Tehilim 27:5), 'He will conceal me in His Sukah on the day of evil; He will hide me in the seclusion of His tent'." Reish Lakish implies that the sun will be harmful to the Tzadikim, and thus they will need Hash-m to shelter them from it!
How can these two contradictory statements of Reish Lakish be reconciled? Why will the righteous both benefit from the sun and also require shelter from it?
ANSWER: To answer this question, it is necessary to explain why the sun in particular was chosen to be the agent through which Hash-m will administer punishment for the wicked and reward for the righteous. What is meant by the sun's "sheath," and why is it normally encased in this sheath? What is represented by the Sukah that Hash-m will construct for the righteous?
The Gemara (Sotah 10a) relates that the word "Shemesh" ("protector," as Rashi there explains) may be used as an appellation for Hash-m, as it says, "Hash-m is a Shemesh and a shield" (Tehilim 84:12). However, the common usage of the word "Shemesh" is a reference to the "sun." Why should the sun be referred to by the same word that denotes its Creator?
The verse states, "The heavens proclaim the glory of Hash-m... He made a tent in [the heavens] for the sun. The sun appears like a groom coming out of his bridal canopy; it rejoices like an athlete running his course. It emerges from one edge of the sky and it goes around to the other; no one can escape its heat" (Tehilim 19:2-7). In what way do "the heavens proclaim the glory of Hash-m"? The verse explains that it is through the sun's great might that Hash-m's power is demonstrated. This colossal nuclear furnace, which radiates more energy every second than mankind has consumed in history, is the source of all life on earth. Holding in tow the entire solar system through its gravitational pull, the sun's light, heat, and "wind" of ionized particles affect planets and other bodies billions of miles away. The sun, mankind's only directly observable star, is the greatest public demonstration of the awesome might and glory of Hash-m.
In fact, it was this very display of power that brought ancient civilizations to worship the sun. The Torah, however, teaches that the sun itself can do nothing to change its predetermined, natural course. It persistently "emerges from one edge of the sky and it goes around to the other." Instead of worshipping it, The Jew marvels at the great Power Who endows the sun with such tremendous might.
This is why the word "Shemesh," which is used to describe Hash-m, was borrowed as a name for the sun, Hash-m's great emissary in this world. An emissary is entitled to go by the name of his dispatcher.
In this world, however, the "sun" -- the demonstration of Hash-m's glory to man that the sun represents -- is "sheathed." It is still possible to make the mistake of thinking that the sun operates on its own, or that the sun acts according to natural principles that developed spontaneously and randomly. The "brilliance" of the sun is thus covered up in this world.
In the World to Come, however, Hash-m will take the sun out of its "sheath." As the Gemara (Berachos 17a) says, "In the world to come there will be no eating or drinking; rather, the righteous will sit and delight in the radiance of Hash-m's presence." For the righteous, the experience of closeness to Hash-m will take the place of physical pleasure. They will be able to perceive Hash-m in a way that was not possible in this world. Hence, the sun will be "taken out of its sheath." This is the reward for those who have sought throughout their lives to know Hash-m and His ways. Hash-m will reveal His glory to each one of the righteous in the World to Come in accordance with the amount of effort he invested in knowing and understanding Hash-m during his life in this world.
The wicked, on the other hand, will endure disgrace at that time. It will become abundantly clear just how much they distanced themselves from the source of eternal life during their sojourn in this world. On the final Day of Judgment, their disgrace will be revealed to all, and any existence that they merit will be granted to them only through the righteous men whom they despised during their lives. The revelation of Hash-m's presence in the World to Come will "burn" them, due to the their distance from Him.
The reward of the righteous is granted based on an evaluation of how close they were to their Creator during their lives. It therefore stands to reason that even among the righteous, each person's experience in the World to Come will be different. One will be closer to Hash-m than others in certain aspects, while another will be closer in other aspects. The righteous therefore will both "derive pleasure from the sun (the revelation of the Divine Presence)" for their accomplishments, and "be burned by the sun" for their failings. Since they are righteous, however, and they at least worked towards "knowing Hash-m," He will make them a Sukah to protect them from being scorched for their failings. Thus, Reish Lakish's two statements actually complement each other. The righteous will both be rewarded by the sun, and yet they will need protection from it.
2) HASH-M'S ANGER
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Hash-m's anger lasts for an extremely short moment of time (at most, the length of time needed to pronounce two syllables). Bil'am wanted to curse the Jewish people during that inauspicious moment of Hash-m's wrath. What curse could Bil'am possibly utter in such a short amount of time? (See also Insights to Berachos 7:1.)
(a) TOSFOS (DH Rega k'Meimra), in the name of Rebbi Eliyahu, says that as long as Bil'am's curse would begin during the time of Hash-m's anger, the rest of the curse would also be effective.
(b) Tosfos here and in Berachos (7a, DH she'Ilmalei) gives another answer. Bil'am could have said the word, "Kalem" -- "Destroy them!" in that short amount of time. Tosfos adds that according to this explanation, Hash-m not only "reversed the curse" (Devarim 23:6) in the figurative sense, but he literally reversed it. Instead of saying "Kalem" ("destroy them"), Bil'am said, "Melech" (Bamidbar 23:21). (The Hebrew letters of "Kalem," when reversed, spell "Melech".)
This approach explains the Gemara in Horayos (10b). The Gemara there teaches that a person should engage himself in the study and practice of the Torah even if his motives are insincere, for he will eventually develop a sincere motivation. The Gemara demonstrates the value of even the insincere service of Hash-m with the fact that as a result of the 42 sacrifices that Balak offered to Hash-m, he merited to have Ruth among his descendants. Rashi explains that the significance of this statement is that David ha'Melech, Ruth's great-grandson, descended from Balak. (See Insights to Nazir 23:3-4
This may be the deeper meaning behind Tosfos' statement here that Bil'am's curse of "Kalem" was reversed and became a blessing, "Melech." The very sacrifices which Bil'am had advised Balak to bring in the hope that they would lead to Moav's victory over the Jewish people (represented by the word "Kalem") achieved the opposite result. They led to the birth of David ha'Melech who would later lead the Jewish people in the defeat of their enemies, including Moav! (M. KORNFELD)