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Bava Kamma 102 

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses the status of a person’s possessions when he declares all of them as hekdesh, sanctified for the Temple. The Gemara wonders if certain necessities and obligations ought to be exempt; after all, could he have meant literally everything he owns? The Gemara rules that the clothing of his wife and his children are not included, as we assume he still meant to provide for them and meet his responsibilities toward family.


The Gemara raises a contradiction to this from a separate teaching (Mishna in Arachin 23b) that rules if a person declares all his possessions to be hekdesh, his tefillin are included. This is a seeming contradiction, as presumably, the same assumption that would exclude his wife’s and children’s clothing from being part of his pledge, should also exclude tefillin which he needs for a daily ritual obligation. The Gemara answers that regarding his tefillin, he figures by donating the value of his tefillin, he is doing a mitzvah, so somehow, it’s as important as wearing the tefillin. However, donating his wife’s and children’s clothing would cause a quarrel.

The hypothetical person in this rabbinic illustration embodied an ethos where even the mitzvah of tefillin could be secondary to a hekdesh pledge, and yet it is not acceptable to donate materials that are part of his family obligations. The lesson here is, you might believe you are pious by performing a particular mitzvah, but you must be sure it doesn’t interfere with responsibilities to your loved ones.


Maintaining a Good Image
Bava Kamma 104

Our Gemara discusses a particular kind of signet, used as an identifier, known as a Dyu-Koni, which seems to consist of some unique emblem or picture. The words Duo-Koni likely comes from the Greek word, icon, and Du is two. So perhaps a double image, or an image on two sides. (Shall we say, Du-Coin, double coin?)

The Dyu-Koni is used in many instances, particularly to connote a human form. For example, the Targum Yonasan on the verse (Bereishis 1:27) translates “Man made in G-d’s image” as “Be’Dyo-Kanei,” in G-d’s signet or form.

This Greek word is like many Greek words in the Gemara, which are mnemonically related to Hebrew words that sound similar, such as Apotekai or Prozbol. They are given Hebrew roots, even though they are Greek words. Thus Shaelah (Toldos Adam, Beis Yisrael, 4) and Nimukei Yosef (on our Gemara) explain that the word comes from the human form, and means Du-Kono, second to his Maker, i.e., Man made in G-d’s image.

What is the meaning of Man being made in G-d’s image? G-d has no body or form: “You saw no form at Mount Sinai, only a voice” (Devarim 4:12). Therefore, when the scripture describes Man as mad in G-d’s image, it means to say, by way of metaphor, some quality of similarity to G-d.

Rashbam dodges this problem by interpreting the image in the verse as not referring to G-d, but in the images of angels. As we do know, angels have some bodily form, as described in the visions of Yeshayahu (chapter 6) and Yecheskel (chapter 1).

Rashi (ibid) and Rambam (Moreh I:81, Yesodei HaTorah 4:8) understands the similarity to G-d is in Man’s intellectual capacity. The ability to reason and discern and not merely follow instincts, as an animal would do.

Meshech Chachma (ibid) emphasizes a more specific quality, that there is the ability to engage in free moral choice.

Rav Saadia Gaon (ibid) translates this quality as the ability to have dominion and authority over the other creations. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Ish Emunah Haboded, pg. 14) describes this as Man’s creative quality to master and build and shape the world around him. Man can conceive of something in his mind, and then act to create it. Similar to this, Michtav Me-Eliyahu (I p. 32) says only Man can be generous and charitable, doing kindness for others altruistically. (Dogs are very loyal and devoted animals, but I suppose Rav Dessler held that this is instinct and not moral choice. The animal instinct models a form of behavior that Man can consciously and willingly adopt, see Eiruvin (100b) and Mishlei (chapter 6) where various traits are learned from different animals (cats, ants and doves), such as fidelity and conscientiousness. But these represent models and not morality, at least for the animals.)

Maharal (3:14) explains that all humans have a spark from G-d inside us. Likkutei Torah (Acharei Mos 1:4), based on the Zohar, derives this from the verse (Bereishis 2:7) that says, “G-d blew into Man’s nostrils, the breath of life.” If we stay true to the metaphor, the Zohar notes that when someone blows into a vessel, the breath comes out of him and enters the receiving object. G-d literally blew something from Himself into Man. Each human can find the G-dly in himself, because it was put there.

I believe this explains the Midrash regarding Yosef in a deeper light. We have a tradition (Sotah 36b) that Yosef was able to overcome his lust at the last moment because he had a vision of his father appearing to him. The word used there is also “Dyo-Kono.” The simple reading is he was reminded of his father’s standards, and that may well be, but he also was reminded of the standards of his Father in Heaven. Likkutei Maharam (150) rejects that this was actually his father appearing telepathically, and says it hints at Yosef having some form of divine encounter. Yosef saw the G-dly in himself, and this strengthened him to rise above his animal instincts.



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