1) THE STORY OF SHMUEL HA'KATAN
QUESTION: The Beraisa states that a leap year is instituted only by those invited to participate as judges. The Gemara relates that it happened once that Raban Gamliel ordered that seven judges meet him in the designated place of judgment in order to establish a leap year. When he arrived, he saw that eight judges had come. He declared, "Who came here without permission?" Shmuel ha'Katan arose and confessed that it was he who had come without permission, and that he had come because he wanted to learn the Halachah. Raban Gamliel responded that he may sit down and judge the case of the leap year, "for all of the years are fit to be judged as leap years by you." The Gemara says that it was actually a different person who had come without permission, and Shmuel ha'Katan said that it was he who had come without permission in order to save the guilty party from embarrassment.
This story is difficult to understand. If Raban Gamliel indeed invited them to come, as the Gemara says, then why did he not recognize who had come uninvited?
(a) It seems from the words of RABEINU CHANANEL that it is not necessary to actually invite the judges personally in order for them to be able to judge the case of the leap year. Rather, it suffices to invite them ambiguously, such as the way Raban Gamliel said, "Let seven judges come up." Hence, once seven had arrived, no more were included in the invitation, and the last one who came in -- the eighth -- was the one who came uninvited. Raban Gamliel did not know which judges were the seven who entered first and which one was the eighth who had entered uninvited.
(b) The RAN cites others who explain that even though Raban Gamliel knew who the guilty party was, he did not want to embarrass him by directly accusing him, and therefore he asked who had come uninvited. Shmuel ha'Katan stood up to save that person from the embarrassment of having to leave.
(c) The RAN himself suggests that Raban Gamliel did not know who was invited, since he had simply told his messenger to invite seven expert judges. This is apparent from the Gemara which quotes Raban Gamliel as saying, "Hashkimu Li," which implies that he was telling someone else to invite the judges for him.
(d) The MAHARSHA asks a number of other questions on this incident. First, why was Raban Gamliel himself not one of the seven judges? Second, why indeed did someone come without permission? Third, how could Raban Gamliel tell Shmuel ha'Katan to remain seated there as a judge if no one else left, thus leaving eight judges there, plus an uninvited person involved in establishing the leap year?
The Maharsha explains, therefore, that this was a case of miscommunication (similar to the famous incident of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza). Raban Gamliel told his messenger to summon seven expert judges, meaning six others and himself (since he, too, must be invited in order to participate). The messenger did not realize that Raban Gamliel meant to include himself, and therefore he summoned seven other judges, besides Raban Gamliel. When Raban Gamliel saw that there was a total of eight judges (including himself), he thought that someone had come uninvited. Shmuel ha'Katan, though, realized what had occurred, and he offered to leave in order to enable the leap year to be established by seven invited judges.
The Maharsha explains that when the Gemara says that it was not Shmuel ha'Katan who was uninvited, it does not mean that someone else there was uninvited whom Shmuel ha'Katan wanted to protect from embarrassment. Rather, it means that when there is an extra judge present, it is appropriate for the lowest-ranking member of the Beis Din to leave. In order to prevent the lowest-ranking person from being singled out (and embarrassed), Shmuel ha'Katan stood up and offered to leave.
(e) The YAD RAMAH answers that Raban Gamliel himself said that seven available judges should come. When Shmuel ha'Katan said that he had come not to judge but to learn, he meant that he did not want to be counted among the judges. Consequently, the appropriate number of judges were there. (This also answers the Maharsha's question, how could Raban Gamliel permit an uninvited person to establish the leap year.) (Y. MONTROSE)
2) AGADAH: THE LESSON FROM YEHOSHUA
QUESTION: The Gemara relates a list of people, beginning with Rebbi Chiya and going back as far as Yehoshua (or Moshe Rabeinu, according to one opinion), who learned from their predecessor how to act with regard to preventing another person from embarrassment.
The commentators ask many questions on this Gemara. It seems that the common theme in the incidents related by the Gemara is the importance of preventing someone else from being embarrassed, even at the risk of being embarrassed oneself. This theme, however, does not seem related to the incident involving Yehoshua. Hash-m told Yehoshua that someone had sinned. Upon asking for the name of the sinner, Hash-m responded, "Am I a tale-bearer? Go cast lots!" This incident does not seem to involve preventing someone else from embarrassment at the expense of one's own embarrassment, but rather it teaches that one should not tell about the misdeed of one's fellow man. Even if Hash-m refused to reveal the sinner's identity in order to prevent the sinner from being embarrassed, Hash-m did not suffer any embarrassment Himself by doing so. This incident, therefore, does not seem relevant to the list of people who *embarrassed themselves* in order to prevent others from being embarrassed.
Similarly, the incident of Shechanyah does not seem consistent with the theme of the Gemara. In that incident, Shechanyah merely included himself in the sinners; he did not save anyone in particular from embarrassment.
Moreover, why is it necessary in the first place to say that each person learned this concept from his predecessor? No special source or lesson is necessary in order for a person to understand on his own the importance of preventing another person from being embarrassed!
(a) The MAHARSHAL explains that the stories related by the Gemara actually comprise two themes and not just one. The first theme is the importance of enduring personal embarrassment for one's fellow man. The second theme is enduring personal embarrassment for one's fellow man even when it is fitting that the other person be embarrassed. From Rebbi Meir's act of writing a Get for a woman who claimed that someone in his Yeshiva was Mekadesh her through Bi'ah, Rebbi Chiya understood how far a person should go in order not to embarrass another. He, therefore, was able to claim that he was the one who had eaten garlic, causing all of the students to walk out of the Yeshiva in unity to protect the identity of the one who had actually eaten garlic. Shmuel ha'Katan learned a slightly different lesson: not to embarrass someone even though he is deserving of being embarrassed. In the case of Shmuel ha'Katan, the person who had come uninvited deserved to be embarrassed. (The Maharshal understands the story like the first opinion quoted by the Ran; see previous Insight.) He learned this lesson from Shechanyah, who did not talk about those who married non-Jewish women. From where did Shechanyah know that it is appropriate to protect even serious sinners from embarrassment? He learned it from Hash-m, Who refrained from revealing the name of a person who had committed a severe sin.
(b) RAV CHAIM SHMUELEVITZ zt'l (in Sichos Musar) writes that this Gemara teaches two important lessons. The first is that when a person wants to act in a certain way, he should not act in that way based on his own logic, but rather he should act in that way only upon learning it from a Rebbi. The second is that one should base his actions on what he has learned from his own Rebbi with whom he has a relationship, and not from someone with whom he has no relationship. That is why Rebbi Chiya learned to act in that particular manner from Rebbi Meir, and not from Shmuel ha'Katan, and so on.
(c) The MAHARSHA learns that the ethical mode of conduct demonstrated in each story is not obvious and thus it needs a precedent. It is logical that one does not have to make himself into a sinner in order to protect the honor of another man. Hash-m told Yehoshua that "Yisrael sinned," when actually only one person sinned. From there we learn that although we cannot ignore the person who sinned, we also cannot single him out if we know his identity, and thus we must treat the entire group as though it had sinned. Shechanyah learned from Hash-m that he was allowed to mention that the group had sinned (and not single out the sinners), but he also understood that in order to save the sinners from embarrassment he should include himself in the group. From Shechanyah, Shmuel ha'Katan learned that a person can claim to be the sinner in order to save others from embarrassment, and he extrapolated this lesson such that he claimed to be the sinner even though he was not the sinner in order to prevent someone else from being embarrassed. If not for Shmuel ha'Katan, Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Chiya would not have known that a person can claim to be the sinner when he really is not the sinner. (Y. MONTROSE)
3) RABAN GAMLIEL'S LETTER TO THE JEWS IN CHUTZ LA'ARETZ
OPINIONS: The Gemara contrasts the "toughness" of the earlier generations of leaders with the "humility" of the later generations, pointing out that even though the earlier great leaders, such as Raban Gamliel, acted with toughness and fortitude, they nevertheless had greater humility than the later generations of leaders, who -- even though they were characterized as being humble -- did not act with the same degree of humility as the earlier generations. The Gemara attempts to prove this from the wording used by Raban Gamliel in a letter that he wrote to the Jews living outside of Eretz Yisrael. Raban Gamliel informed them of the establishment of that year as a leap year, saying that "this is what appeared correct in my eyes and in the eyes of my colleagues," deferring honor to his colleagues. In contrast, Raban Shimon ben Gamliel (the leader of the next generation) wrote in a similar letter only that "this is what appeared correct in my eyes," attributing the honor only to himself and not to his colleagues. The Gemara rejects this proof, stating that perhaps Raban Gamliel's letter was written "Basar d'Avruhu." What does this mean?
(a) RASHI and TOSFOS explain that the Gemara means that perhaps Raban Gamliel's letter was written after he was removed from his position as Nasi, as related in Berachos (27b-28a). Rashi and Tosfos differ, however, with regard to why this would cause Raban Gamliel to include his colleagues in his letter.
Rashi says that undergoing such a humbling experience made Raban Gamliel more humble, and therefore his degree of humility cannot be compared with that of the leaders of later generations.
Tosfos says that after Raban Gamliel was removed from his position, he was reinstated, but he shared the title of Nasi with Rebbi Elazar ben Azaryah. Consequently, all of the rulings that were issued from his Beis Din were issued with the consent of both persons serving as Nasi, and thus Raban Gamliel was compelled to write that the decision was made with the consent of his colleague, Rebbi Elazar ben Azaryah.
The RAN agrees with Tosfos. However, he asks that if the Raban Gamliel whom the Gemara is discussing is the Raban Gamliel who was removed from his position of Nasi, then he could not have been living during the time of the Beis ha'Mikdash. How, then, could this Raban Gamliel be writing letters in which he describes as his reason for establishing a leap year that the animals and birds are not yet ready to be brought for their appropriate Korbanos (the sheep for Pesach and the birds for those who gave birth)? If the Beis ha'Mikdash was no longer standing, then why would this have been a reason to establish a leap year?
The Ran answers that even after the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed, the Beis Din judged the leap year with the assumption that the Beis ha'Mikdash would be rebuilt again any day. Therefore, the Korbanos had to be fit to be offered in the event that the Beis ha'Mikdash was rebuilt that year, and that is why they continued to take this factor into consideration when determining whether to establish a leap year. The Ran proves this from the fact that the Gemara lists "Aviv" and "Peros ha'Ilan" as reasons to establish a leap year, even though those factors are also not practically relevant without the Beis ha'Mikdash. The Ran explains that "Aviv" refers to the wheat not yet being mature enough to be brought as the Korban Omer, and that "Peros ha'Ilan" refers to the fruit that has not yet ripened enough to be brought as Bikurim at the proper time. It is evident that they still took into account these factors even after the Beis ha'Mikdash was destroyed. (The Ran adds that today's calendar is not based on these reasons. Today's calendar is based on set calculations and there is no deliberation about the establishment of leap years, as there was in the days of Raban Gamliel.)
Rashi questions the explanation that "Aviv" refers to the wheat needed for the Korban Omer. The Gemara later says that "Aviv" is a sufficient reason to establish a leap year if two out of the three regions of Eretz Yisrael are grainless (Ever ha'Yarden and the Galil, and not Yehudah). Rashi says that this proves that "Aviv" is not a factor because of the Omer, because even when two regions are grainless, the Omer still could be brought from the grain in Yehudah. Therefore, Rashi explains that "Aviv" means that Pesach must occur in the springtime, "b'Chodesh ha'Aviv" ("in the month of ripening grain"). If the grain will not yet be ripe, then the time is not the proper time in which the Torah requires that Pesach be observed and an additional month is added to the year.
(c) The MAHARATZ CHAYOS is also bothered by the question of the Ran. He concludes that the correct approach is that of the TOSFOS RABEINU PERETZ cited by the SHITAH MEKUBETZES. Tosfos Rabeinu Peretz states that the Gemara's answer of "Basar d'Avruhu" means "after they established the leap year" (i.e. they were "Me'aver" the year, making it an "Ibur Shanah"). As the Gemara earlier (11a) relates, it happened once that Raban Gamliel did not return from a trip soon enough to be able to participate in the deliberations of the establishment of a leap year, and therefore the judges made the leap year conditional on Raban Gamliel's agreement upon his return. The letter which the Gemara here discusses was written during that period. It is for this reason that Raban Gamliel included his colleagues in the letter, for it was they who had carried out the deliberations and judged the establishment of the leap year for that year, and Raban Gamliel consented to it only "after they established the leap year." (Y. MONTROSE)