QUESTION: The Gemara discusses various applications of the concepts of "Yesh Em la'Mikra" and "Yesh Em la'Masores." Some words in the Torah, based on the Mesorah (the authoritative "tradition"), are read differently from the way that they are written. There is no question how the verse is to be read when reading the Torah, since the Mesorah specifies a certain way of reading it. However, the Tana'im disagree about how to learn Halachos from such verses. "Yesh Em la'Masores" means that Halachos are learned from the verse based on the way it is written. "Yesh Em la'Mikra" means that Halachos are learned from the verse based on the way it is read.
Why does the Gemara refer to the "strength" of the "Mikra" or the "Masores" with the word "Em" (literally "mother")? This is particularly perplexing when we consider that another method for deriving a Halachah is called "Binyan Av." A Binyan Av (lit. "building through a father" -- "father" in this sense means a Torah source) is a method in which one subject is deemed a prototype in order to apply a Halachah stated in that subject to other comparable subjects. Why is one method referred to with the word "Av," while the other is referred to with the word "Em?" Is there any significance to this difference?
ANSWERS: RAV JOSEPH PEARLMAN addresses this question (in D.A.F.'s "Questions on the Daf"). He mentions that the Talmudic Encyclopedia (Erech Binyan Av) records in the name of the Halichos Olam (Sha'ar 4) that "the manner of the Torah is to be concise and brief in its words, and its words are expanded with regard to other topics that are similar to it. This is called a 'Binyan Av' because the verse under discussion is the primary place from which other items are learned, and it is thus called the 'father' since the teacher is like a father and those who learn from him are like his children." This explanation, however, would seem to apply to the mother as well as the father. As far as why the specific terms "mother" and "father" are used the way they are, a number of answers have been suggested.
(a) This question in fact is the first question addressed by the RIF in his She'eilos u'Teshuvos. The Rif writes, "We have not heard a definitive answer with regard to this, but sometimes the masculine form (Lashon Zachar) is used, such as in 'Binyan Av'.... It appears that where the Torah makes a certain item the primary one from which to learn something else, it is called 'Av.' The feminine form is used in the term 'Yesh Em la'Mikra' because we do not learn anything from that item to any other item. 'Yesh Em la'Mikra' means merely that we rely on the way the word is read (the Keri'ah) or on the way it is written (Masores), and it is called 'Em' since the word 'Keri'ah' is a feminine form (Nekeivah)."
(b) The author of the annotations to the Teshuvos ha'Rif there quotes the SHE'EILOS U'TESHUVOS BE'ER ESEK (#59) who gives a reason for why the term is "Yesh Em l'Mikra" and not "Yesh Av." He writes that deep secrets which are not revealed are alluded to in the pronunciation and writing of the words of the Torah (Mikra and Masores). Covertness (or modesty, Tzeni'us) is a trait characteristic of the female.
(c) RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS in MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM here (#2) writes in the name of the Zohar (Shemos 276:2) that "the verse 'Kaved Es Avicha' refers to Torah she'Bichtav, and 'Kaved Es Imecha' refers to Torah she'Ba'al Peh... [and just as the father is the one whose influence ('Shefa') affects the mother, so, too, the influence of the Torah she'Bichtav is felt on Torah she'Ba'al Peh.]"
He also makes reference to RABEINU BACHYE (Devarim 33:8) who explains that there is a deep reason for why we refer to a "Binyan Av" and not to a "Binyan Em," and why we say "Yesh Em la'Mikra" and not "Yesh Av." Rabeinu Bachye writes that "a Binyan Av is never mentioned anywhere in the Gemara except when dealing with a verse in Torah she'Bichtav" (that is, no Halachah in Torah she'Ba'al Peh is derived through a Binyan Av), "and thus it is appropriate to refer to it as a Binyan Av. But when the Sages said 'Yesh Em la'Mikra,' they were referring to the tradition that was passed down through Torah she'Ba'al Peh [with regard to how to read or write the word in the Torah], and thus they called it Em and not Av...." Rabeinu Bachye continues to discuss this topic at length.
(It is important to note that ostensibly there is an inconsistency between the words of the Zohar and Rabeinu Bachye, and the words of the Vilna Ga'on and the Netziv (to Shir ha'Shirim 1:2, "Yeshakeni mi'Neshikos Pihu"), who write that the letter "Heh" represents the feminine form (as words in the feminine form in Hebrew generally end with the letter Heh), which is the Torah she'Bichtav (the five (Heh) books of the Chumash), while the letter "Vav" which is a masculine letter represents Torah she'Ba'al Peh (the six (Vav) Sedarim of the Mishnah). See also Vilna Ga'on to Yeshayah 6:13, Mishlei 16:4.
One way to answer this discrepancy might be that there is a difference between the male/female correlation and the mother/father correlation. The former relates to Shev v'Al Ta'aseh/Kum va'Aseh, as the Vilna Ga'on discusses at length, while the latter refers to the one who affects the other and causes the other to produce. It is clearly the Torah she'Ba'al Peh which is "Parah v'Ravah," as the Gemara says in Chagigah 3b.)
(d) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM cites an opinion which suggests that the letters Alef, Heh, Vav, and Yud are referred to as the "Imos ha'Keri'ah," the "mothers of reading," since they aid the pronunciation of Hebrew words without being pronounced themselves. Since this is the same theme as Keri'ah and Masores, in which the Masores reveals the proper pronunciation of the word without itself being pronounced, we call the principle "Yesh Em l'Mikra." (The Margoliyos ha'Yam refers also to OTZER HA'KAVOD of RABEINU TURDOS ABULEFYA (Sukah 5) who asks this question, but we do not have this Sefer available.)
QUESTION: The Gemara gives many examples of Halachos that involve numbers or amounts which are derived from the way a word is read or written. For example, Beis Shamai says that the Torah writes the word "Karnos" three times when it teaches the laws of Zerikas ha'Dam of a Korban Chatas. The Torah is teaching, by writing the three words "Karnos," that the Kohen must sprinkle the blood on the corners of the Mizbe'ach six times, as each plural reading ("Yesh Em l'Mikra") of the word indicates two sprinklings. Beis Shamai understands from here that four of these implied Zerikos teach the Mitzvah to sprinkle the blood on the four corners of the Mizbe'ach, while the other two teach that the absolute minimum requirement is two sprinklings. Beis Hillel, on the other hand, maintains that laws are derived from the way the word is written ("Yesh Em la'Masores"). The word is spelled "Karnas" (in the singular form) on two occasions, and only once is it spelled "Karnos" (in the plural form). This teaches that there are only four Zerikos. It must be that the Mitzvah is to sprinkle the blood three times, and one sprinkling is the absolute minimum requirement.
However, the Gemara earlier teaches that there is a concept of "Ein Dorshin Techilos" -- we do not derive a Halachah from the first occasion that a word is mentioned when it is mentioned numerous times, since the first mention of the word is necessary to teach the simple meaning of the verse. Why, then, is the first word "Karnos" (or "Karnas" according to Beis Hillel) used as part of the Derashah?
Moreover, the Gemara itself uses the principle of "Ein Dorshin Techilos" here in its discussion of the walls of a Sukah, where each opinion disqualifies the first mention of the word and does not use it to derive an extra wall. TOSFOS (3b, DH Ein) writes that there must be a reason for why the first word is not used, and we must examine why the first word in the verses concerning the walls of a Sukah is not used, but he does not give an answer. Why is the first word not used?
ANSWER: The TORAS CHAIM proposes an important principle. The Gemara understands that although Rebbi Yoshiya (3b) might maintain that the first word is used merely for its definition, if there was another word that could have been used instead and yet the Torah still chose to use this word, then this shows that we may include the word in a Derashah and derive a Halachah from it. Based on this, he explains why, in each case, the Gemara uses or does not use the principle of "Ein Dorshin Techilos." (See there for all of his explanations.) For example, he explains that in the case of "Karnos," the Torah could have expressed the requirement of Zerikah by saying that the blood should be sprinkled "Saviv" ("around") the Mizbe'ach, without mentioning "Karnos." Since it used the word "Karnos" instead, that word (and even the first mention of it) may be used for the Derashah. Similarly, in the verse which discusses the Mitzvah of Tefilin, the Torah could have written "l'Zikaron" ("for a remembrance") instead of the word "l'Totafos." In contrast, in the verses which discuss the Mitzvah of Sukah, there is no other word that the Torah could have used to convey the same meaning. This is why the Gemara says that the first verse was needed to teach the simple meaning of Sukah. (Y. MONTROSE)


QUESTION: The Gemara records an argument between Rebbi Shimon and the Rabanan regarding the minimum number of walls required for a valid Sukah. Rebbi Shimon maintains that a Sukah must have three full walls and a fourth wall at least the width of a Tefach (see Rashi to Sukah 7a). The Rabanan maintain that a Sukah must have two full walls and a third wall at least the width of a Tefach.
The Gemara explains the reasoning behind each opinion. Both Rebbi Shimon and the Rabanan interpret the word "Sukos" written in the Torah as plural, since that is the way it is read ("Yesh Em la'Mikra"). Consequently, each word "Sukos" implies two walls. Since the word "Sukos" is written three times, this implies that a Sukah must have six walls. Rebbi Shimon explains that one word is needed to teach the simple meaning of Sukah (RAN, and MAHARAM to Sukah 6b), which leaves two words "Sukos," which teach the requirement for four walls. A Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai teaches that one wall may be a Tefach wide, and thus the number of walls needed for a Sukah is three full walls and one wall with the width of a Tefach.
According to the Rabanan, the first word "Sukos" is used for the plain meaning of the verse, as Rebbi Shimon says. The second word "Sukos" is used to teach the law of Sechach. (Rebbi Shimon, on the other hand, maintains that the necessity for Sechach is included in the definition of a Sukah.) This is difficult to understand. If the second word "Sukos" is used to teach the law of Sechach, then only one word "Sukos" is left, and with the Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai this would teach that a Sukah needs only one full wall and one wall with the width of a Tefach.
The MAHARAM explains that the Rabanan learn that the Sechach is equivalent to a wall. This means that when the two words "Sukos" teach the requirement for four walls, one of those "walls" refers to the Sechach, so that the two words "Sukos" teach the requirement for three walls and a roof of Sechach.
However, even according to this explanation, it is not clear why the Rabanan deem it necessary to have one word "Sukos" for the simple meaning of the verse and another word "Sukos" for Sechach. Why is the need for Sechach not included in the simple meaning of the first word "Sukos"?
(a) The RAN is bothered by this question. He answers that we indeed would have known that a Sukah must have Sechach according to the Rabanan, even without the extra word. However, the extra word teaches that the Sechach has Halachic requirements that must be fulfilled (for example, it must be "Ta'aseh v'Lo Min ha'Asuy," and it must not be made from objects that are able to be Mekabel Tum'ah).
(b) The ARUCH LA'NER has difficulty with the Ran's explanation. These laws about Sechach are already derived from different verses in the Torah (see Sukah 11a). Why should this verse teach something that another verse already teaches? The ARUCH LA'NER therefore suggests a different answer. He suggests that the Rabanan -- who say that an extra word is needed to teach the requirement of Sechach -- maintain that it is not necessary to have a word "Sukos" for the simple meaning of the verse. When the Rabanan say that an extra word is necessary to teach the requirement of Sechach, they are referring to the law that all three walls must touch the Sechach (or at least be within three Tefachim of the Sechach). They learn that the six "walls" are actually three walls that each have part of the Sechach touching it (three "Sechachs"). Without the third word "Sukos," we would not be able to learn this law about Sechach (as we would derive only one full wall and one wall with the width of a Tefach, which is not a logical definition of a Sukah).
The explanation of the Aruch la'Ner has significant ramifications. There is a well-known argument among the Rishonim with regard to a Sukah that has walls that reach the required height, but which do not touch the Sechach. The ME'IRI (Sukah 2a) and RITVA maintain that such a Sukah is valid only because of the principle of "Gud Asik" (walls that are at least ten Tefachim high are considered as though they extend upward, beyond their actual height). This makes them "touch" the Sechach from the Halachic point of view.
The Ran (Sukah 4b) argues that the principle of "Gud Asik" never applies to a Sukah, because a Sukah has a special requirement of "Mechitzos Nikaros" -- the walls must be physically present and visible. According to his opinion, such a Sukah is valid even without the mechanism of "Gud Asik." Accordingly, it is clear why the Ran here in Sanhedrin does not explain the Gemara like the Aruch la'Ner; he maintains that there is no requirement for the walls to actually touch the Sechach. (See PNEI YEHOSHUA to 4b who disagrees with the Ran and gives another source for the requirement that the walls touch the Sechach.)
RAV ELYASHIV shlit'a (quoted in HE'OROS B'MASECHES SUKAH, Sukah 6b) suggests a similar answer. The REMA (OC 635) states that if one places Sechach on his Sukah before he erects the walls, his Sukah is unfit because it does not fulfill the requirement of "Ta'aseh v'Lo Min ha'Asuy." He says that the law that Sechach is invalid unless it has walls underneath it is derived from the extra word "Sukos" here, which refers to Sechach according to the Rabanan.
(c) Perhaps it is not necessary to repeat the word "Sukah" to teach that Sechach is necessary. However, when the Tana'im derive the number of walls needed for a Sukah from the number of times the word "Sukah" is repeated, the Tana Kama maintains that it is natural for the count to include the total number of walls and Sechach, since the Sechach and the walls together constitute the Sukah. Accordingly, since the Torah counts the total of Sechach plus walls (four), only three walls are implied by the verses; the fourth word "Sukah" refers not to any additional walls, but to the requirement of Sechach, which is known already from the word "Sukah" that was written "l'Gufei." In contrast, Rebbi Shimon maintains that the four walls are a complete unit unto themselves. The Sechach need not be included in the count since it serves a different purpose. (M. KORNFELD, Y. MONTROSE; see also Insights to Sukah 6:2.)
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes a Beraisa in which Rebbi Akiva says that the source for the four separate compartments in the Tefilin Shel Rosh is the word the Torah uses to refer to them. The Torah calls them "Totafos," which is a combination of the word "Tat" in the language of Katfi and the word "Pas" in the language of Afriki, both of which mean "two."
Why does the Torah teach the requirement to make four sections with two words that mean "two," when it could simply use a word that means "four"? Moreover, what does Rebbi Akiva mean when he says that the Torah uses words in foreign languages?
(a) HA'RAV DAVID COHEN shlit'a (author of OHEL DAVID, AIDI D'ZUTAR, and other works) suggests an original approach to this question. He asks that when the Jews were first commanded to wear Tefilin "as a sign on your arms and Totafos on your heads," two of the four passages from the Torah which they were supposed to insert into the Tefilin and wear upon their bodies had not yet been given to the Jewish people! The two passages "Shema Yisrael" and "v'Hayah Im Shamo'a" were taught only forty years later, just before they entered Eretz Yisrael. It must be that the Jews were required to put only two of the four passages in their Tefilin for the first forty years.
This explains why the Torah divides the total number of passages into two sets of two. This was meant to show that the insertion of the passages in the Tefilin was done in two stages: the first two of the four passages were inserted in the Tefilin when the Jews left Egypt, while the other two were inserted forty years later.
RAV MENACHEM KASHER zt'l (in TORAH SHELEIMAH, Milu'im following Parshas Bo, vol. 12, p. 249, as pointed out by Rav Chaim Schild) also discusses the issue of which passages were included in the Tefilin during the forty years of wandering in the desert. Rav Kasher cites the KASA D'HARSENA (footnotes by the author of Besamim Rosh, #24) who raises the possibility that Tefilin at that time consisted of only two passages instead of the four that the Torah requires, but remains in doubt as to whether such a hypothesis is justifiable.
However, there are Rishonim (cited by the Torah Sheleimah) who maintain that such a proposition is not viable. According to the MANHIG (Rabeinu Avraham ben Nasan ha'Yarchi, Mosad ha'Rav Kook, 1978, p. 729), the Mitzvah of Tefilin was incumbent upon the Jews only after they entered Eretz Yisrael, or, alternatively, only after they received the Torah at Har Sinai. In either case, the Manhig emphasizes that by that time, all four passages had already been taught to the Jewish people and were being worn in their Tefilin. In addition, the CHIDUSHEI HA'RASHBA (Chidushim of Rabeinu Yeshayah mi'Trani) to Menachos indeed asserts that the Jews wore Tefilin from the moment they left Egypt, but that all four passages were already taught to the Jews and were included in their Tefilin by that time. (See YOSEF DA'AS in the name of the SHELAH, the NACHAL KEDUMIM (Va'eschanan) and TALMIDEI HA'ARI.)
(b) Perhaps one may suggest another approach to understanding the words of Rebbi Akiva. In addition to the question of why the number "four" is divided into two sets of "two," we also asked why does the Torah teach these sets of two in foreign languages. Why does the Torah not use the Hebrew word for "two"? The answer may be derived from the Gemara in Berachos (6a) which teaches that Hash-m also dons Tefilin, as it were. The Gemara says in His Tefilin is the verse, "Who is like Your nation, Yisrael, a nation unique on earth" (Divrei ha'Yamim I 17:21). The Gemara there continues and explains that Hash-m indeed takes pride in the praise of the Jewish people, as the verse says, "You have given distinction to Hash-m today, and Hash-m has given you distinction today" (Devarim 26:18). Hash-m said to Yisrael, "Just as you have declared Me to be unique in the world, I shall declare you to be unique in the world."
The Gemara there is teaching that the theme of Tefilin is that Hash-m is One, and His nation is one. No other nation serves the G-d that is One, to the exclusion of all other deities. This is the deeper message of the Gemara here which says that "'Tat' in the Katfi language means 'two,' and 'Pas' in the Afriki language means 'two.'" The highest praise that any foreign nation can sing to its deity is "two." That is, all forms of Avodah Zarah involve serving any of the innumerable powers that Hash-m created in the world, as opposed to the exclusive Power of Powers that controls and decides all that happens in the universe. The ideology of idolatry of the Katfi and Afriki nations knows only the concept of "two," but not the concept of One.
The two terms that the Torah uses for the word "two" are from two different languages. This shows that no nation other than Yisrael can claim to be "unique" in serving its deity. Although different nations serve different gods (or ideologies), they all seek to accomplish the same goal. They all attempt to effect their own financial and political success by appealing to the deity of their choice. They are serving themselves, not their gods. They have no interest in introducing the rest of the world to their deity. Those who remain outside of their religion have no part in the worship of their god. Each nation stays comfortably isolated from the next with its own god. Figuratively, for every "two" that the Katfi nation cries, a corresponding "two" is shouted by the Afriki nation. The Jewish people, on the other hand, are willing to sacrifice all of their worldly possessions, even their very lives, for the service of Hash-m. Their goal is to have every being on earth realize that "Hash-m is One and His Name is One" (Rashi to Devarim 6:4). They are unique among the nations of the world in their selfless devotion to the Creator of all.
The Torah describes the Tefilin with two foreign terms for the word two to emphasize that other nations cannot put on Tefilin; they serve a god that is not one, and they do not receive the reciprocal praise of "Who is like Your nation, Yisrael, unique on earth."
Why, though, does the Torah express this point with specifically these two languages, Katfi and Afriki? Is there anything that makes these languages more appropriate to teach this message than any other language?
To answer this question, one first must determine the exact identity of these two languages. The Afriki, or African, language seems to be the language of the nation of Tarshish, as the Targum often substitutes the word "Africa" for "Tarshish" (see Melachim I 10:22). While no place named "Kataf" is mentioned in the Torah or Gemara, it is reasonable to assume that it is the language spoken in the "Isles of Kiti'im" (Yirmeyahu 2:10, Yechezkel 27:6).
Accordingly, we may propose the following suggestion. The Nevi'im state in a number of places that when Mashi'ach will come, "Tarshish" and "the far-away Isles" will learn the glory of Hash-m and they will come out to greet Mashi'ach (Yeshayah 66:19, Tehilim 72:10). Apparently, these distant places have not yet learned of the existence of the One G-d whom the Jews serve, and they still staunchly serve their idols. The time will come when they will join us in the service of Hash-m. This is why these particular languages were chosen to express the theme of the omnipotence and unity of Hash-m.
This is not the only place in the Gemara where a foreign language is introduced in order to explain a verse. In the other places as well, there is a clear reason for why the Torah uses foreign words to teach its message. For example, the Gemara in Shabbos (63b) explains that the word "Hen" in the verse, "Behold (Hen), the fear of G-d is wisdom," stems from the Greek word "henos," or "[the only] one." Why does the Torah use a Greek word to describe the wisdom of the Torah? It does so because the Greeks were renowned for valuing wisdom (see Bechoros 8b). The Torah is therefore judging wisdom in Greek terms. It is saying that even by Greek standards -- the standards of those who recognize and value wisdom -- the only true wisdom is that of the Torah. (Heard from RAV MOSHE SHAPIRO shlit'a.)
In a similar manner, the Gemara in Sukah (35a) teaches that the word "[Pri Etz] Hadar (a beautiful fruit)" (Vayikra 23:40), which refers to the Esrog, stems from the Greek word "hydra," or water. The Esrog tree requires frequent irrigation, unlike other trees. The Torah uses a form of a Greek word when it discusses beauty, because physical beauty was another quality with which the Greek nation was obsessed.
The Midrash (Shemos Rabah 36:1) quotes the verse, "Yerushalayim is the beautiful region (Nof)" (Tehilim 48:3), and explains that the verse means that Yerushalayim is as beautiful as a fully-adorned bride, "because in Greek the word for bride is 'nymph.'" When the Torah attributes beauty to Yerushalayim, or to the Jewish People (Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Tisa #18), it does so in Greek terms to teach that even the Greeks must admit that this is true beauty. (For further elucidation of the unique relationship between the beauty of Tziyon and the beauty of Yavan, see "Torah from the Internet," Parshas Miketz, section V, by Rabbi M. KORNFELD, Judaica Press, 1998.)
We are taught that "studying Mishnayos" protects the Jews in Galus from harm and leads us to merit the final redemption. This is learned through reading a word in Hoshea (8:10) as Aramaic (Bava Basra 8a, Vayikra Rabah 7:3). The Midrash goes so far as to say that the verse refers to people who learn Mishnayos in Bavel (the region where Aramaic was spoken). Bavel is the home of the Talmud Bavli, which meticulously analyzes every point of the Mishnah. Here, too, it is appropriate for a verse extolling the virtues of learning Mishnah to do so in Aramaic. (M. KORNFELD)