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rabbi yosef karr asked:

I don't know if you can answer this question or find someone who can. On daf 58a of baba basra there is a story about a megician who digs up corpses and strips them. the mais grabbed him by the beard. this happends twice one time R tuvi daven for him and another time the beard was cut etc.

what does this gemora mean. it is obviously very deep and hidden message. i looked in the usual sources and no comments. the Maharal has a comment but he does not really explain the aggatah. you can answer in english or hebrew

Rabbi yosef karr, passaic, usa

The Kollel replies:

Dear Rabbi Karr,

The Ben Ish Chai in his Sefer on Agada - Ben Yehoyada gives the following explanations:

1) According to Pshat, his beard was grabbed since he stuck his head in first to see if the clothes still existed and it therefore was the easiest for Rav Tuvi to grab.

2) The Amgushi took clothes since he thinks the dead are covered by dirt and clothes are not needed - so Rav Tuvi showed him that you don't need the hairs of your beard which are extra, especially the extra length.

3) The beard represents wisdom, as it grows only after one is an adult. So his beard was grabbed to show that he is not deserving the sign of wisdom since he is involved with an act of foolery.

All the best,

Reuven Weiner

The Kollel adds:

(a) I think that it is hard for you to imagine a cadaver stretching out its hand and grabbing someone's beard.

In that case, let me point out to you that the Maharal does not take the grabbing, or the beard, literally. He says that it can mean that the Amgushi became deathly ill ("grabbed by the dead"), because he disgraced Rav Tuvi. The first time he recovered fully, thanks to Abaye's prayer, but the second time his recovery wasn't complete. The marks of his illness remained with him for life ("his beard had to be cut off" before he returned).

The second explanation the Maharal offers is that the Amgushi became paralyzed or trapped by the graveside because he discgraced Rav Tuvi ("caught by his beard" - perhaps literally, if the area was rocky), and he had to be freed by Abaye's prayers.

(b) I think that if his beard, literally, had to be cut off (as is possible with the second explanation), it would rest well with the Ben Ish Chai's second suggestion.

The Amgushi wanted Rav Tuvi's shrouds because, after all, they are "not needed" in the grave. In truth, clothes are not worn just to afford protection; they also grant us respect (Shabbos 113a). They serve that purpose in the grave as well.

The Amgushi, who didn't appreciate that point, was grabbed by his *beard*. What purpose does a beard serve, if not to grant respect (see II Shmuel 10:4)? Let the Amgushi who knows nothing about respect lose [half of] his beard.

Best wishes,

Mordecai Kornfeld

Kollel Iyun Hadaf