1) AGADAH: WHY ADAM HA'RISHON WAS SCARED
QUESTION: Included in Rebbi Meir's list in the Mishnah of names of idolatrous holidays (for which the three preceding days are forbidden for a Jew to conduct business with a Nochri) are the holidays of Kalanda and Setaranura. The Gemara explains that Kalanda was the eight-day festival celebrated by idolaters after Tekufas Teves, the winter solstice (from December 25 to January 1). Setaranura was the eight-day festival celebrated before Tekufas Teves (from December 17 to 24).
A Beraisa records the source for these two festivals: As the first winter solstice in the history of the world approached, Adam ha'Rishon saw that the days were getting noticeably shorter, and the nights longer. He became concerned that, as a punishment for his sin, Hash-m was taking away the light from the world and was returning the world to nothingness. He spent eight days in fasting and prayer. When the winter solstice passed and he saw the days getting longer again, he celebrated for eight days. The following year, he observed both sets of eight days as a festival to give thanks to Hash-m. This practice continued with Adam's descendants until, generations later, they corrupted the original intent of the festival and celebrated those days as a festival to their idols.
The Gemara points out that the Beraisa's account makes sense according to the opinion that the world was created in Tishrei. Since Adam ha'Rishon came into the world in Tishrei, he had never experienced days becoming shorter and thus had no way to know that it was "the way of the world." However, according to the opinion that the world was created in Nisan, by the time Tekufas Teves arrived, Adam ha'Rishon had already seen shorter and longer days. Why, then, was he scared? The Gemara answers that he never saw days as short as the shortest days of the year, before Tekufas Teves.
The RITVA asks that this Gemara is perplexing. How could Adam ha'Rishon, who had the wisdom of a Mal'ach, make such a mistake?
(a) The RITVA suggests that perhaps because of Adam's sin and his affliction, he lost his ability to think logically. However, he concludes, "Ein Meshivin b'Agadah."
(b) The RIF seems to have no problem with Adam ha'Rishon's logic. He writes that although the nights were getting longer, Adam ha'Rishon thought that it was a bad sign because sleep is one sixtieth of death (Berachos 57b). If the world was changing to a place where more time was given for sleep, then that was a sign that he was going to die.
(c) The AVODAH BERURAH quotes the YE'AROS DEVASH who explains that Adam ha'Rishon did not make a logical mistake. The ARIZAL and others write that Gan Eden is on the equator, where the length of the day and the length of the night are always equal. After he sinned, he was banished to Eretz Yisrael and its surroundings (see Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishis #34). When the days began to get shorter and the nights longer there, he feared that Hash-m wanted to make him stay in an area where it is always dark, an insufferable way to live. However, if Adam knew how the world works, as the Ritva asserts, then why was he concerned? He certainly knew that the days of Eretz Yisrael would began to get longer again. The Ye'aros Devash explains that, indeed, Adam knew this. However, he was worried that Hash-m would banish him again, when the days began to get longer in Eretz Yisrael, to a place far south of the equator where there is mostly darkness in the summer. When the days started to get longer and he was not told to move, he celebrated.
The explanation of the Ye'aros Devash does not seem consistent with our text of the Gemara, which clearly states that Adam was concerned that the world would go back to nothingness. It seems that the Ye'aros Devash did not have the words "v'Chozer l'Tohu va'Vohu" in his text of the Gemara. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE REASON FOR THE PROHIBITION AGAINST PARTAKING IN WEDDING MEALS OF NOCHRIM
OPINIONS: The Gemara earlier (8a) says that the Jews outside of Eretz Yisrael are "Ovdei Avodah Zarah b'Taharah" -- "worshippers of Avodah Zarah in purity" (see RASHI, DH b'Taharah). Although they eat their own food and drink and even have their own waiters at the wedding parties of their Nochri friends, when they eat at those parties it is as if they are eating from sacrifices of Avodah Zarah, as the verse states, "[Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they stray after their gods, and sacrifice to their gods,] and [one of them] calls you, and you eat of his sacrifice" (Shemos 34:15).
The Gemara here (8b) says that, therefore, a Jew is not allowed to accept an invitation to a meal with any Nochri who has just made a wedding until thirty days have passed. From thirty days until twelve months after the wedding, a Jew is not allowed to accept the invitation if he is told that the meal is in honor of the wedding of his son. After twelve months have passed, he is allowed to accept the invitation even if he is told that it is "in honor of the wedding." The Gemara asks that Rav Yitzchak brei d'Rav Mesharshiya went to a Nochri's meal after twelve months, and when he heard the Nochri thank his Avodah Zarah he refused to eat from the meal. The Gemara answers that Rav Yitzchak was different, since he was "an important person." RASHI (DH d'Adam Chashuv) explains that because he was very important, the Nochri was extremely happy that Rav Yitzchak attended.
These guidelines are recorded by the SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 152:1). What is the reasoning behind these guidelines?
(a) The TAZ explains that these guidelines are intended to discourage intermingling that may lead to intermarriage ("Chasnus"). This is clear from the verse which the Gemara quotes with regard to eating the sacrifices of idolaters, which is immediately followed by the verse, "And you will take from his daughters for your sons" (Shemos 34:16).
The Taz writes that he does not understand why the DERISHAH writes that he was unsure whether or not there is a leniency for the Jew to attend the Nochri's meal if not doing so will cause enmity (Eivah). If the prohibition itself is due to "Chasnus," then such a leniency clearly is never applicable. The very purpose of the Gezeirah is to prevent feelings of closeness between the Jew and the Nochri.
(b) The SHACH quotes the Derishah without making any comments, and in the NEKUDAS HA'KESEF he explains that he disagrees with the Taz. This prohibition is not due to "Chasnus," but rather it is due to the prohibition of "Lo Yishama Al Picha" -- "It should not be heard on your mouth" (Shemos 23:13). Although the literal meaning of the verse is that a Jew may not pronounce the name of foreign gods himself, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (63b) explains that it also means that a Jew should not cause someone else (even a Nochri) to mention such names. When the Nochri's Jewish friend comes to his wedding party, the Nochri is very happy and he thanks his Avodah Zarah. This was apparent from the incident with Rav Yitzchak, who did not participate further when he heard the Nochri thank his Avodah Zarah.
However, if the reason for the prohibition is not "Chasnus," then why does the Beraisa of Rebbi Yishmael quote the verse of sacrifices of idolaters which leads to intermarriage? The Shach explains that this verse is merely an Asmachta and is not the reason behind the prohibition. Accordingly, it is possible that there is a leniency in a case of Eivah, enmity (see Shulchan Aruch YD 148:12).
RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN zt"l (in IGROS MOSHE YD 2:117, end of the first paragraph) implies that the Halachah is like the Shach, when he writes that there indeed may be room for leniency in a case of Eivah. (Y. MONTROSE)