1) THE SIN OF THE "DOR HA'PELAGAH"
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the Mishnah's statement (107b) that the people of the Dor ha'Pelagah (the Generation of the Dispersion, which built the Tower of Bavel) have no portion in Olam ha'Ba. The Gemara asks what exactly their crime was. The commentaries point out that the Torah itself does not provide enough details to understand their sin, in contrast to the details that it provides with regard to the sin of the Dor ha'Mabul.
Why does the Torah not reveal what their sin was?
(a) The BE'ER SHEVA explains that the Torah elaborates about a sin that was committed only in order for other people to take heed and not sin in a similar manner. Accordingly, the Torah describes the primary sin of the Dor ha'Mabul -- thievery -- in order to create a deterrent for that form of conduct. However, the sin of the Dor ha'Pelagah was unique in that it resulted from the entire world being unified and acting together. Such universal cohesiveness will never again occur on such a large scale, and thus no one will ever come to commit that sin again. Therefore, there is no point in elaborating on the sin of the Dor ha'Pelagah.
(b) Alternatively, the Be'er Sheva answers that the Torah does not describe their sin because they spoke in an extremely disrespectful manner towards Hash-m. It would be a Chilul Hash-m to relate what they said.
The CHIDUSHEI HA'RADAL in his commentary to the Midrash (Bereishis Rabah 38:11) also gives this explanation. He adds that, according to another explanation of the Midrash, the reason why their specific sin is not recorded is that they were at peace with each other, and in that merit Hash-m covered up their terrible sin.
(c) The MAHARSHA's explanation of their sin gives another insight into this question. The Maharsha explains that the people of that generation wanted to rebel against Hash-m but they were afraid of the possibility of another flood. They obviously did not believe Hash-m's promise that He would never again bring such a flood. Therefore, they conspired to build a towering structure that would enable them to reach the heavens and empty the sky of its water. (See Maharsha at length.)
According to the Maharsha's approach, perhaps the reason why the Torah does not describe their sin is that it is merely a continuation of the sin of the previous generation, the Dor ha'Mabul. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE FOUR JUDGES OF SEDOM
QUESTION: The Gemara states that there were four judges in Sedom: Shakra'i, Shakrura'i, Zayafei, and Matzlei Dina.
Why does the Gemara need to teach that there were four judges in Sedom, and why are their names important?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that these four judges represent the four examples of "Sedom justice" that the Gemara describes immediately afterwards. The name of the first judge, Shakra'i (which comes from the word "Sheker," or "lie") refers to a perversion of justice and represents the judgment in the case of the person who hit his neighbor's pregnant wife, causing her to miscarry. When the judges accept the perpetrator's claim that he should not have to pay for the loss of the fetus since he can replace what he damaged by impregnating the woman, that is an injustice.
The Maharsha asserts that the name of the second judge, Shakrura'i, should actually read "Sheker Vadai" -- meaning absolute injustice. This represents the judgment in the case of a person who hit his neighbor's donkey, causing it to lose an ear. The judges tell the victim to keep the ear until it grows back. This is absolutely unjust, because the ear of an animal cannot grow back.
The name of the third judge, Zayafei, represents the way the judges of Sedom would rule in a case in which a person hit another person, wounding him and causing him to bleed. The judges would rule that the *victim* must pay the perpetrator for causing him to bleed, because the perpetrator performed the service of bloodletting for him! This is falsified logic ("Ziyuf," or "forgery"), because the victim did not need bloodletting at the time he was wounded.
The name of the fourth judge, Matzlei Dina, corresponds to the judgment in the fourth case the Gemara mentions. The judges of Sedom instituted a higher fee for one who crosses the river by foot than for one who crosses the river by bridge. This was a corruption of justice done for personal benefit ("Matzlei Dina," or a "bending of the law" for one's own benefit) done simply to raise revenue fraudulently for the city.
(b) The BEN YEHOYADA explains that these four names are the names of courts, not judges. This is why these names are in the plural form. He explains that the system of justice of the Arab rulers in his day was similar. They had four levels of courts, and each case that came before the lower courts was reviewed by the higher courts, until the case was reviewed by the highest court, which was the supreme authority. The Gemara is teaching the names of these four levels of courts in Sedom.
(c) The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM quotes the SEFER HA'MESILOS whose Girsa of the names of the four judges is Shakra'i, *Sha'arura'i*, *Gayafei*, and Matzlei Dina. He explains that the words of the Gemara are based on a verse in Yirmeyahu (23:14). The verse compares the evildoers of the Jewish people with those of the city of Sedom, and it lists four evil traits: Sha'arurah (disgracefulness), Na'of (adultery), Haloch ba'Sheker (constantly going in falsehood), and Chizku Yedei Merei'im (strengthening the hands of evildoers).
The Gemara here lists the four judges who exemplified these evil traits in Sedom. The trait of Na'of, adultery, is expressed in the name of the judge, Gayafei (according to this Girsa), which means "adulterer" in Aramaic (see, for example, Targum Onkelus to Vayikra 20:10, and Shabbos 104a). This judge ruled in the case of the man who caused the loss of a woman's fetus that he is exempt from paying for the loss because he can return a fetus to her by impregnating her.
The trait of falsehood is expressed in the name of the judge, Shakra'i, who ruled in the case of the person who severed the ear of another man's donkey that he is exempt, because the ear will grow back, a clear falsehood.
The trait of strengthening the hands of evildoers is represented by the judge, Matzlei Dina, who ruled that the victim must pay the person who wounded him.
Finally, the trait of disgracefulness is represented by the judge Sha'arura'i, who made the people pay extra money for not using the bridge to cross the river, a ruling which was disgraceful and brazen. (Y. MONTROSE)