1) THE WORLD IN THE TIMES OF MASHI'ACH
QUESTION: There are two opinions concerning what the world will be like in the times of Mashi'ach. According to Shmuel, the world will be the same as it is now, with the exception that the Jewish people will be autonomous and not subjugated to foreign dominion. According to Rebbi Chiya bar Aba in the name of Rebbi Yochanan, the world will change fundamentally; all of the prophecies of the prophets will come true, and war and poverty will cease to exist.
The RAMBAM apparently contradicts himself when he describes the times of Mashi'ach. In Hilchos Teshuvah (8:7) the Rambam writes that all the prophecies of the prophets apply to the times of Mashi'ach, and not to Olam ha'Ba. Similarly, in Hilchos Melachim (12:1 and 5) he writes that there will be no more war or starvation in the times of Mashi'ach. The Rambam clearly rules in accordance with the opinion of Rebbi Chiya bar Aba. However, in the same chapter (12:2), the Rambam quotes the words of Shmuel, "There is no difference between this world and the times of Mashi'ach except the lack of subjugation to foreign dominion." Why does the Rambam quote the words of Shmuel who argues with Rav Chiya bar Aba and with the other statements that the Rambam writes?
ANSWER: The Rambam himself gives the key to answering this contradiction. In Hilchos Melachim (12:1), the Rambam writes that all of the prophecies in Yeshayah (ch. 11), such as the wolf will live peacefully with the sheep, are all metaphorical. They represent the fact that there will be peace between the Jews and the seventy "wolves," the other nations of the world.
The Rambam understands that Rebbi Chiya bar Aba meant that although the prophecies will come to pass in the days of Mashi'ach, the natural order of the world will not change. There will be no miraculous changes in the physical nature of the world. Any prophecy that alludes to a miraculous change is just a metaphor.
According to Shmuel, on the other hand, the prophecies will not come to pass at all in the times of Mashi'ach, and there will not be peace among the other nations. That is why the Rambam -- who says that the prophecies will come true in the time of Mashi'ach (not like Shmuel) -- can still say (using Shmuel's words) that there will be no change in the actual nature of the world. (See LECHEM MISHNEH, Hilchos Teshuvah 8:7.)
Why, then, does the Rambam use the words of Shmuel to express this thought? Shmuel himself meant his words literally when he said that there is no difference between this world and the times of Mashi'ach even with regard to peace in the world, and not just with regard to the physical nature of the world! Why does the Rambam use those same words to refer to a different concept altogether -- that there will be a significant difference between the world as it is now and the world during the times of Mashi'ach?
It is apparent from many comments of the Rambam that the Rambam prefers to use the phraseology of the Chachamim of the Gemara even when he does not rule in accordance with the opinion of the Tana or Amora who said those words. The Rambam often uses the words of the Chachamim when those words express his point, even when they were originally stated in a completely different, and even opposite, context (see, for example, Hilchos Isurei Bi'ah 1:3). Here, the words of Shmuel are quoted to express the Rambam's view, even though Shmuel himself meant something entirely different. (M. KORNFELD)
2) SINGING THE TORAH
QUESTION: Rebbi Akiva teaches, "Zamer b'Chol Yom." RASHI explains that this means that a person should constantly review what he has learned, like one who sings a song repetitively.
Rebbi Akiva apparently compares words of Torah to a song. Similarly, the Gemara in Eruvin (18b) teaches that every home in which Divrei Torah are heard at night will not be destroyed. The Gemara derives this from the verse, "He does not say, 'Where is Hash-m, my Maker, Who gives songs in the night'" (Iyov 35:10). "Songs" refer to Divrei Torah, and the verse means, "Whoever learns Torah during the night will not have to ask, 'Where is Hash-m [Who could have saved my house from being destroyed]?'"
The Gemara in Megilah (32a) also compares Divrei Torah to song. The Gemara there teaches that one should sing the words of Torah that he learns, and that it is improper for one to learn Torah without a melody ("ha'Shoneh b'Lo Zimrah").
These statements seem to contradict the Gemara in Sotah (35a; see Insights there), which says that David ha'Melech was punished for calling Divrei Torah "Zemiros," songs (Tehilim 119:54). Hash-m said to him, "Divrei Torah can be forgotten in the blink of an eye (Mishlei 23:5), and you are calling them 'Zemiros' (that are treated lightly, without concentration)!" Hash-m caused him to forget an explicit verse as punishment for treating Divrei Torah like Zemiros.
If one is prohibited from treated Divrei Torah like Zemiros, as the Gemara in Sotah states, then why does Rebbi Akiva here, and the Gemara in Eruvin and Megilah, refer to Divrei Torah as "Zemiros"?
ANSWER: Perhaps one is permitted to refer to Divrei Torah as "songs" with regard to reviewing what one has already learned. Review involves merely saying over the Divrei Torah repetitively without great concentration. In contrast, Torah that is learned in-depth with deep concentration may not be referred to as "songs."
Rebbi Akiva exhorts a person to review his studies constantly, with Zemer. The Gemara in Megilah is also describing a person who reviews his learning ("ha'Shoneh"). Similarly, the Gemara in Eruvin that discusses learning at night refers to a person who reviews at night that which he learned during the day. Since it is more difficult to concentrate at night (see Sanhedrin 34b, regarding the law that Beis Din convenes only during the daytime), the night normally is designated for reviewing what one learned during the day. When David ha'Melech was criticized for referring to Torah as "Zemiros," it was because of his statement that in-depth study of the Torah provided him with solace during his times of exile, like songs that provide solace. Since he was referring to in-depth study, he should not have referred to the Torah as "Zemiros." (-Based on teachings heard from Rav Moshe Shapiro, shlit'a.)
However, in a number of other places the Torah is referred to as "Shirah," "song." (See Nedarim 38a and Chagigah 12b. This also seems to be the intent of the Gemara in Eruvin 21b on the verse, "Shiro Chamishah v'Elef," and the Gemara in Chulin 133a on the verse, "Shar b'Shirim Al Lev Ra.") The Gemara in those places does not seem to refer specifically to the act of reviewing that which one has learned. The Gemara in those places calls the Torah itself "Shirah."
The DIVREI SHALOM (5:62, see also 5:63-67) suggests, based on the words of the MAHARAL (Sanhedrin 101a), that although calling the Torah a "Zimrah" is disrespectful, calling the Torah a "Shirah" is not. A Zimrah is a lighthearted tune, such as the tune a person hums to himself when he is in a merry mood. A Shirah, though, refers to a musical composition which requires great talent and concentration to compose or perform. Referring to the Torah as "Zimrah" is disrespectful and misleading as it implies that it is not necessary to concentrate on Torah. (See also Insights to Eruvin 18:4 and Sotah 35:2.)
This approach, however, does not answer the question from the Gemara in Eruvin which says that the verse, "... Who gives Zemiros at night," refers to a person who learns Torah at night. Perhaps a simple answer may be suggested to explain why it is acceptable to refer to Divrei Torah as "Zemiros" in this context. The verse in Iyov does not refer to the Torah itself as Zemiros, but rather it refers to the person who learns Torah as one who sings Zemiros (consistent with the way that one is supposed to learn Torah, according to the Gemara in Megilah 32a). It is inappropriate only to refer to the Torah itself as "Zemiros," but not to the person who learns Torah as "one who sings." (M. KORNFELD)
3) TZADIKIM DO NOT STEAL
QUESTION: The Gemara explains the verse (Bereishis 30:14) which relates that Reuven went out into the fields at the time of "Ketzir Chitim," the wheat harvest, to pick "Duda'im." The Torah emphasizes that it was after the wheat harvest in order to teach that Tzadikim do not extend their hands to take that which does not belong to them.
RASHI here explains that this is derived from the fact that Reuven went only after the wheat harvest, when one is permitted to walk into neighboring fields without asking permission. Alternatively, Rashi on the verse there writes that this is derived from the fact that there was plenty of valuable wheat and barley from which he could have taken, and yet all he took was the worthless Duda'im.
Why was Reuven's action considered an act of righteousness, an act that is found only among Tzadikim? Had Reuven entered a private field without permission or taken wheat that did not belong to him, he would have transgressed an explicit prohibition of theft (one which is even included in the seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach)!
ANSWER: The Gemara in Bava Basra (165a) writes that most people succumb to the temptation of Gezel, stealing. The RASHBAM there explains that this does not mean that most people actively steal in an outright manner. Rather, it means that most people create a logical argument ("Moreh Heter") to permit themselves, in their business dealings, to take money which they are not truly entitled to take.
RASHI (to Bereishis 13:7) comments that the shepherds of Lot let his animals graze in the fields of others. When Avraham confronted them about the matter, they claimed that since Hash-m promised to give the land of Eretz Yisrael to Avraham, and Avraham had no heirs at that time other than Lot, they were entitled to the land because of Lot's eventual inheritance. Their logic was incorrect because Hash-m had only promised to give the land to Avraham; Avraham had not yet acquired it.
In a similar manner, Reuven easily could have permitted himself to enter a private field and take the produce with the same logic that Lot's shepherds used. The fields in which Reuven found the Duda'im belonged to his grandfather, Lavan, who was not yet blessed with male children (see Rashi to Bereishis 30:27). An ordinary person might have succumbed to the temptation to say, "These fields are ours in either case, since my mother and her sisters will certainly inherit all the possessions of my grandfather Lavan." The Gemara teaches, therefore, that Tzadikim are different. They do not build false pretenses in order to permit themselves to take what might not belong to them.
This may also explain why the Gemara does not say simply, "Tzadikim do not steal," but rather it says, "Tzadikim do not extend their hands in stolen property." "Extending the hand" refers to creating a logical justification to permit oneself to take someone else's property. (M. KORNFELD)