1) SHIMSHON'S WALKING STICK AND THE LOSS OF HIS EYES
QUESTION: Just before Shimshon toppled the temple of the Plishtim, he proclaimed, "My G-d, Hash-m, remember me and strengthen me just this once, O' G-d, and I will avenge myself on the Plishtim the revenge for one of my two eyes" (Shoftim 16:28). Rav explains that when Shimshon asked Hash-m to let him take revenge against the Plishtim for one of his two eyes that they blinded, Shimshon said, "Master of the Universe! Remember for me the 22 years that I led the Jewish people, during which I never asked any one of them to do so much as bring me my walking stick."
What does the fact that he judged the Jewish people for so many years without ever asking anyone to carry his staff for him have to do with asking Hash-m for reward for the loss of his eye?
ANSWER: The MAHARSHA answers that Shimshon meant that the loss of his eyes was undeserved; he did not commit any misdeed which warranted the punishment of the loss of his eyes. Shimshon was a Shofet, a judge, of the Jewish people, and he was in a position to be swayed by bribes and other influences. The Torah says that accepting bribes causes one's eyes to become blind (Shemos 23:8, Devarim 16:19). Shimshon insisted that he was always honest and upright throughout his life and he never accepted any bribes or anything that even resembled a bribe. For this reason, he never allowed anyone to do even small favor for him, even to carry his walking stick from one place to another, lest that person one day appear before him in court and Shimshon feel some sense of partiality towards the person in return for the small favor. Shimshon asserted that his blinding was undeserved and he pleaded with Hash-m to grant him revenge from the Plishtim for their injustice.
2) SHIMSHON'S 22-YEAR REIGN
QUESTION: Just before Shimshon toppled the temple of the Plishtim, he proclaimed, "My G-d, Hash-m, remember me and strengthen me just this once, O' G-d, and I will avenge myself on the Plishtim the revenge for one of my two eyes" (Shoftim 16:28). Rav explains that Shimshon was saying, Master of the Universe! Remember for me the 22 years that I led the Jewish people, during which I never asked any one of them to do so much as bring me my walking stick."
Why does the Gemara assert that Shimshon's reign lasted 22 years? The verse clearly states that Shimshon's reign lasted 20 years! The RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:88, cited in the margin of the Gemara) writes that the word "two" must be a printer's error and should be omitted from the text of the Gemara. The Ge'onim grappled with this problem and offered no solutions (Teshuvos ha'Ge'onim, Lyck, 1864, end of #45).
ANSWER: The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabah 14:9) discusses the span of Shimshon's years of leadership. The Midrash infers from the repetition of the verse which describes Shimshon's 22-year tenure as leader that he actually led the people for 40 years. The Midrash quotes the verse (Bamidbar 7:66,71), "On the tenth day... the leader of the tribe of Dan brought his offering: ... two bulls," and it comments, "These two bulls represent the two times (Shoftim 15:20 and 16:31) that it is said with regard to Shimshon (from the tribe of Dan), 'He led Yisrael for 20 years.' The phrase is repeated in order to teach that the Plishtim feared Shimshon for 20 years after his death just as they feared him for the 20 years of his life."
(The MAHARSHA here uses this Midrash to reconcile the Yerushalmi (Sotah 1:8) with the text of the Tanach and to answer a question posed by Tosfos in Shabbos (55b, DH Ma'avirim). See also TZIYON YERUSHALAYIM to the Yerushalmi there, RASHASH to Bamidbar Rabah 14:9, RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS in HA'MIKRA VEHA'MESORAH (#2), who all independently reach the same conclusion as the Maharsha.)
Perhaps the Gemara here is also bothered by the problem which the Midrash addresses: why does the verse count two 20-year periods during which Shimshon led Yisrael? The Gemara seems to reject the solution suggested by the Midrash (and the Yerushalmi), that Shimshon frightened away the Plishtim for an additional 20 years posthumously. After all, why should the Plishtim continue to fear someone who is dead? (Some commentators explain that according to the Yerushalmi, the Plishtim were not certain that Shimshon was really dead since his body was quickly removed from the wreckage by his brethren.)
The Maharsha proposes that the Gemara may understand instead that the two periods of Shimshon's leadership were the 20 years during which Shimshon judged and another 20 years during which he was imprisoned by the Plishtim until he escaped from his shackles and toppled their temple by breaking its support pillars. (The Tanach does not record how long he was in prison before he was brought out to perform for the crowds. It may well have been a very lengthy period of time.) Accordingly, it is understood why the Plishtim feared Shimshon during the latter 20-year period. They were afraid that Shimshon would free himself from his imprisonment even though he was bound and blind. Only after 20 years passed did they gain the audacity to publicly taunt him.
Hence, the end of the 40-year rule of the Plishtim coincided with Shimshon's martyrdom. Perhaps Shimshon brought about the downfall of the Plishtim by destroying their temple and their leaders at the time of his death! (This might be the intention of the Midrash as well when it says that Shimshon ruled for 20 years after "his death," which means that he controlled the Plishtim for 20 years after he was captured and blinded. The Midrash refers to this point in time as "after his death" because "a blind person is considered like a dead person" (Nedarim 64b).)
The original reading of the Gemara may have been "the two 20 (not 22) years that I led Israel" ("Shenayim Esrim Shanah"). Shimshon was asking Hash-m to remember the two 20-year periods during which he led the Jewish nation! Since the phrase "two 20 years" seems at first glance to be a meaningless phrase, it was "corrected" improperly by the copyists to read "20 years."
3) TAMAR, THE "GIYORES" AND "YESOMAH"
QUESTIONS: The Gemara relates that Tamar assured Yehudah, who thought that she was a Nochris, that she was permitted to marry him because she was a Giyores. When he questioned that perhaps her father was Mekadesh her to Er and Onan and thus she was forbidden to him, she assured him that she was a Yesomah at the time of her Kidushin.
(a) What did Tamar mean when she said that she was a Giyores? At that time, the Torah had not yet been given and there were no Jews and no Gerim!
(b) Also, if for some reason she was considered a Giyores, why did she need to say that she was a Yesomah in order to answer Yehudah's other concern? The law is that a "Ger she'Nisgayer k'Katan she'Nolad Dami" -- a Ger who converts is like a newborn child (Yevamos 97b), and thus she was not considered related to her Nochri father and he had no power to arrange her marriage!
(c) Moreover, why was Yehudah concerned that her Nochri father was Mekadesh her to someone? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (58b) teaches that a Nochri has only matrilineal relationship (a Nochri is considered to be related only to his or her mother), and thus a Nochri father is allowed to marry his daughter. Since there is no patrilineal relationship, why is the father permitted to be Mekadesh her to someone?
(a) RASHI explains that when Tamar said that she was a Giyores, she meant that she did not worship Avodah Zarah and therefore she was fit to marry Yehudah. RAV YAKOV EMDEN (in Hagahos ha'Ya'avetz) adds that from the times of Avraham Avinu, Avraham and his family had the status of Bnei Yisrael (see Mishneh l'Melech, beginning of Parashas Derachim). The RA'AVAD in Avodah Zarah (36b) explains that this is the reason why the Beis Din of Shem enacted a prohibition against a Jew having relations with a Nochri (marrying a Nochri or Nochris is Asur mid'Oraisa). The Gemara cites the verse (Bereishis 38:24) which describes Yehudah's intent to execute Tamar as a punishment for transgressing this decree. The Ra'avad explains that although there was no Torah or Jewish nation at the time of Yehudah, nevertheless the family of Avraham Avinu separated themselves from the other nations and made themselves a unique group which rejected Avodah Zarah and dedicated itself to the service of Hash-m. Tamar, the descendant of Shem, was part of this group.
The BRISKER RAV explains that this is why Yehudah acquitted Tamar of all charges as soon as he realized that he was her suitor. He originally wanted to execute her as a punishment for having relations with a Nochri, but once he discovered that she had relations with a Jew (himself), he acquitted her because she was guilty of no transgression.
(b) Why should the father of a Nochris have the right of Kidushin of his daughter? The SHEVUS YAKOV (1:177, cited by He'oros b'Maseches Sotah) asserts that the principle of "Ger she'Nisgayer k'Katan she'Nolad Dami" does not affect all Halachos. The right of a Nochri father to marry off his daughter is not affected by this principle.
Another explanation might be that Tamar's father converted earlier, before she was born, and when she said that she was a Giyores she meant that she was following the path of her father and serving Hash-m. Alternatively, she meant that she converted after she married Er and Onan (and at the time she married Er and Onan, she was still a Nochris and -- had her father been alive -- he would have had the right to be Mekadesh her to them).
(c) Why should the father of a Nochris have the right of Kidushin of his daughter if he is not considered related to her? Apparently, the right to marry off a daughter does not stem from familial relationship, but rather from the right of protectorate that a father has over his daughter. (See Kesuvos 46a, where the Gemara compares the right to marry off one's daughter to the right to sell one's daughter as a maidservant.) Even a Nochri retains such rights over his minor offspring.
4) DAVID HA'MELECH'S MITZVAH OF MILAH
QUESTION: The Gemara gives various interpretations of the phrase, "l'David Michtam" (Tehilim 46:1). According to one explanation, "Michtam" means "Makaso Tamah" -- David ha'Melech was born "Mahul," with his Orlah already removed.
This Gemara seems to contradict the Gemara in Menachos (43b) which says that when David ha'Melech entered the bathhouse and removed his clothing, he became distressed that he was devoid of Mitzvos. When he realized that he had the Mitzvah of Milah with him, he was consoled and he rejoiced. If, however, he was born Mahul as the Gemara here says, the Milah which he had was not a Mitzvah that he performed, and he was still standing devoid of Mitzvos! (MAHARSHA)
ANSWER: The MAHARSHA answers that the Gemara in Shabbos (135a; see Insights there) records a number of opinions concerning whether a person who is born Mahul needs Hatafas Dam Bris. According to the opinion that such a person needs Hatafah, David ha'Melech rejoiced about the Mitzvah of Hatafah that was performed on him.
According to the opinion that such a person does not need Hatafah, David ha'Melech was happy simply because he was not an Arel (even though he did not actively perform the Mitzvah of Milah).
The Acharonim find the Maharsha's answer difficult to accept. The Gemara in Menachos clearly implies that David ha'Melech rejoiced because he was accompanied by Mitzvah and not merely because he was not an Arel. Indeed, the Gemara compares David ha'Melech's Mitzvah of Milah to his Mitzvos of Tefilin and Tzitzis. Moreover, even according to the opinion that a boy born with a Milah needs Hatafah, nevertheless the visible change on his body due to his lack of an Orlah did not reflect the Mitzvah of Hatafah! Why, then, did David ha'Melech view it as the Mitzvah that accompanied him everywhere?
One possible answer may be based on the words of the TESHUVOS MAHARACH OR ZARU'A. He explains that the reason why David ha'Melech rejoiced about having the Mitzvah of Milah -- even though his Mitzvah of Milah occurred many years earlier -- was because the Mitzvah of Milah is ongoing; as long as the Mitzvah is on one's flesh, one is considered to be fulfilling the Mitzvah. Accordingly, it is possible that if a person is "Moshech Orlaso" and covers up his Milah, he no longer fulfills the Mitzvah of Milah since the Milah is no longer evident.
According to the opinion that a boy born Mahul needs Hatafah, the Mitzvah he performs is not the Hatafas Dam Bris per se; rather, the Hatafah transforms the Milah into a Milah of Bris instead of a natural Milah. As long as he retains the Milah, he retains the Bris, and the Bris is the Mitzvah.
According to the opinion that a boy born Mahul does not need Hatafah, a Jewish baby born without an Orlah also represents the Bris which Hash-m makes with the person, as long as he does not tamper with it. Therefore, he still fulfills the Mitzvah of Milah every moment by virtue of having the Bris as long as he does not cover it up.