web analytics
October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part III)


QuestionsandAnswers-logo

Question: I find it very difficult to understand the punishment of death that was meted out to Rabbi Akiba’s students. If he was so great, we can assume that his students were of a superior caliber as well. If so, why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?

Zelig Aronson
Queens, NY

Answer: We began our discussion by citing the prohibition of marrying or cutting our hair for a minimum period of 34 days between Pesach and Shavuot. We observe these signs of mourning to commemorate the thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s students who died during this period.

We sought to explain the reason these students deserved such a harsh punishment. We cited a similar story concerning the Nadav and Avihu, whose hasty actions led to their fatal transgression of issuing a ruling before their master Moses, for which they were killed. Hashem is very exacting with those closest to Him. Thus, Rabbi Akiba’s students were punished even though their sin may have been minor.

* * * * *

My mashgiach ruchani, HaRav Hersh Feldman, zt”l (the Mirrer Mashgiach), delivered a “schmooze” many years ago (see “Yemei Hasefira” in his Tiferet Tzvi p. 197) on the death of Rabbi Akiba’s students.

Rabbi Feldman begins: “Other than the ctual prohibition as well as the gravity of the punishment and the tum’ah, the ritual impurity that is visited upon a person due to his haughtiness, we see that the traits of modesty and humility assist one in the acquisition of Torah knowledge.

“Our Sages (Ta’anit 7a) expound the verse (Isaiah 55:1), ‘Hoy kol tzamei lechu lamayyim… – Ho! Everyone who is thirsty, go to the water…’ The ‘water’ here is the Torah, for which we thirst. Our sages ask, ‘Why is the Torah compared to water?’ Just as water flows from an elevated place and settles in a lower place, so do the words of Torah exist only in an individual whose understanding [and very being] is humble.”

Rabbi Feldman continues by citing the Gemara in Eruvin (13b): “For three years there was a dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. These said, ‘The halacha is in agreement with our views,’ and those asserted, ‘The halacha is in agreement with our views.’ A Heavenly voice went forth and proclaimed, ‘Both are the words of the living G-d, but the halacha is in agreement with Beit Hillel.’

“The Gemara asks, ‘Now, since both are the words of the living G-d, what entitled Beit Hillel to have the halacha in agreement with their rulings?’ [This is the general rule; there are exceptions. In 18 circumstances the halacha is actually in accord with Beit Shammai – see Shabbos 13b and 17b; see also Rambam, Perush HaMishnayot on Yevamot Ch. 3, stating that when Beit Hillel rule stringently and Beit Shammai are lenient, the halacha generally follows the latter.] The Gemara answers: Because Beit Hillel were easygoing and very humble, and they would study their views and the views of Beit Shammai, and more so, they would always mention the views of Beit Shammai before theirs….”

Rabbi Feldman asks: “Since Beit Hillel were more easygoing and modest than Beit Shammai, is that [sufficient] reason to set forth the halacha in accord with them?

“We must explain: For one to hear and understand his fellow’s view and follow the logic of his reasoning to its natural conclusion, one must be graced with refined traits. One must not bear enmity to one’s fellow, nor be jealous of him, nor be contemptuous of him, which would be the result of boastfulness or haughtiness. A person who is conceited and haughty will not expend any effort to come to an understanding of his fellow’s view. Why? Obviously he considers his fellow’s view to be insignificant. It is surely not worth his while to exert any effort at understanding it. With such an approach he will never be able to comprehend his fellow’s view with any clarity.”

Rabbi Feldman continues: “Beit Hillel, however, who were easygoing and modest, traits that emanate from humility, expended great effort and toiled at understanding the views of their fellows [Beit Shammai] and to give them credit. This they did without any trace of negative personal motives. They would treat the views of their fellows deferentially, with the greatest respect, so that they would understand their decisions.

“More so, they would repeatedly study their views… They would even cite those [Beit Shammai’s] views before their own. If, after all that, they reached the conclusion that Beit Shammai’s view was incorrect and the halacha should not be as Beit Shammai established, then it was clear that the halacha should indeed follow Beit Hillel.

“This was so because weighing, deciding and understanding the matters in question was arrived at after clear analysis, without any preconceived personal notions.”

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part III)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a government meeting.
Proposed Conversion Bill, Change in Local Rabbinate Power Nixed by Netanyahu
Latest Judaism Stories
God-and the world

The creation of the world is described twice. Each description serves a unique purpose.

Questions-Answers-logo

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Lessons-in-Emunah-new

To the surprise of our protectzia-invested acquaintances, my family has thrived in our daled amos without that amenity, b’ezras Hashem.

Business-Halacha-logo

Shimon started adjusting the branches on the roof. In doing so, a branch fell off the other side of the car and hit the side-view mirror, cracking it.

I, the one who is housed inside this body, am completely and utterly spiritual.

Should we sit in the sukkah on a day that may be the eighth day when we are not commanded to sit in the sukkah at all?

For Appearance’s Sake
‘Shammai Did Not Follow Their Own Ruling’
(Yevamos 13b 14a)

If one hurts another human being, God is hurt; if one brings joy to another, God is more joyous.

I’m grateful to Hashem for everything; Just the same, I’d love a joyous Yom Tov without aggravation.

Bereshit: Life includes hard choices that challenge our decisions, leaving lingering complications.

Rabbi Fohrman:” Great evils are often wrought by those who are blithely unaware of the power they wield.”

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

The Torah emphasizes the joy of Sukkot, for after a season of labor, we celebrate our prosperity.

The encounter with the timeless stability of the divine occurs within the Sukkot.

Hashem created all human beings and it should sadden us when Hashem, their Father, does not see nachas from them.

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass
Questions-Answers-logo

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-harsh-punishments-part-iii/2012/05/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: