Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

14 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
"Meoros HaDaf HaYomi" Insights into the Week's Learning

Under the Direction of Rabbi Chaim Dovid Kovalski

Stories, Mussar, Practical Halacha (Tractate "Sotah" Daf 45- 49) (Vol. 89) From the Sochatchov "Beis Medrash of Teachers of the Daf HaYomi" Bnei Brak

Contents of this Issue of Meoros HaDaf HaYomi:

* Why do Rabbonim need semichah? * Why did the chain of semichah stop? * The semichah of the "Beis Yosef" * Our sugya's connection to heart transplants * A monkey without a heart jumped for 12 hours * "Brain death" alone is not considered life's end * How could Elisha have cursed children? * The great power of words * The mitzvah of escorting guests who are leaving * The way of Avrohom Ovinu * The first kashrus organization in history * How we rely on housewives to separate ma'aseros

Edited Excerpts

44b Three from the Beis Din Hagodol in Yerushalayim

Why Do Rabbonim Need Semichah?

The Mishnah explains the halachos of the eglah arufah (Devorim 21:1-9): When a slain corpse is found in a field and the murderer is unknown, the Beis Din Hagodol in Yerushalayim would send three members of beis din to measure which city is closer to where the corpse was found. Afterwards the beis din of the closest city would bring an eglah [young heifer] to a nachal eisan [harsh wadi] that cannot be worked and cannot be sown. There in the valley they would ax the back of the heifer's neck (see v. 4). In that way the eglah would atone for am Yisroel for the shedding of innocent blood.

Today we do not have this mitzvah since only a Sanhedrin whose members have received semichah in a continuous chain from Moshe Rabbeinu have the authority to measure from the corpse until the closest city. Since we have no Sanhedrin today we cannot fulfill this mitzvah (see "Nachal Eisan" 1:3).

How was semichah done? When beis din decided it fitting to ordain a chochom to rule on dinei haTorah, the dayanim would tell him: "You R. So- and- so, are ordained and are permitted to rule dinim of kenoso [fines] (Rambam Commentary on Mishnayos Sanhedrin ch. 1). The source for the requirement of semichah is Hashem's command to Moshe Rabbeinu to ordain Yehoshua Bin Nun and the seventy Elders so that they, like Moshe, could judge Yisroel. The Elders of that generation ordained those who came after them (Rambam Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:1) and in that way the semichah was continued from one generation to the next.

The existence of the chain of semichah was necessary for many dinim of the Torah. For example, only those who received semichah could make Kiddush HaChodesh, Ibur Hashanah, and rule in capital offenses and kenosos.

Why did the chain of semichah stop? The gemora (Sanhedrin 14a) tells us that the wicked Roman Empire decreed death on anyone that awarded or received semichah. For this reason, the chachomim felt compelled to stop ordaining their talmidim. Nonetheless, the chain of semichah continued for approximately two hundred more years -- in the merit of R. Yehudah Ben Bovo who disobeyed the evil decree and awarded semichah to five of his talmidim. Eventually, the chain of semichah was broken because of decrees of shmad (Responsa Mahari BeiRav Siman 63). Hillel [the son of R. Yehudah Nesiah and the tenth generation to Hillel the Elder] was the last person to receive semichah. When Hillel saw that the chain of semichah would not continue, he arranged the yearly calendar [in the year 4118 (357 CE), 1,643 years ago] making Kiddush HaChodesh for all the coming months until we again have a Sanhedrin.

The semichah of Maran the Beis Yosef [author of the Shulchan Aruch]: About four hundred and seventy years ago R. Yaakov BeiRav [who at age 18 was appointed rav of the city Fez, Morocco] made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel and settled in Tzfas. There he awarded semichah to his four talmidim. Among them were R. Yosef Karo [the Beis Yosef] and R. Moshe Trani [the Mabit]. In giving semichah, the Mahari BeiRav relied on the opinion of the Rambam (Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11) -- that although only someone who received semichah in a continuous chain from Moshe Rabbeinu is allowed to award semichah to others, still, if all of the chachamim of Eretz Yisroel convene they have the power to renew the semichah. Accordingly, the chachomim of Tzfas - - then the majority of talmidei chachamim in Eretz Yisroel -- agreed to renew semichah and awarded it to the Mahari BeiRav who afterwards awarded it to his four talmidim.

A sharp and scathing controversy erupted between the gedolim of that generation. Those who opposed the renewal of semichah were headed by R. Levi Ben Chaviv [the Maharlbach], the rav rashi of Yerushalayim, who refused to accept a letter of semichah sent to him to Yerushalayim by the rabbonim of Tzfas. His reason was that the Rambam (ibid.) concludes that "this [ruling] needs to be decided." In other words, the Rambam himself did not make a final ruling about renewing semichah. Likewise, the Maharlbach claimed that after the establishment of Sanhedrin, Hillel's calendar would no longer be valid, meaning that members of Sanhedrin would have to set the months. Since today we are not sufficiently proficient in setting months we cannot take such a step. Because of the heated halachic dispute that erupted between the poskim, the chachomim of Tzfas were not able to reconstitute a Sanhedrin (Radbaz on the Rambam, ibid.), and that chain of semichah lasted only three more generations. Maran the Beis Yosef awarded semichah to the Maharam Alshich, who in turn awarded semichah to R. Chaim Vital.

Also lately some tried to bring up this topic, but gedolei hador strongly opposed the initiative. The Chazon Ish zt'l (Choshen Mishpat Likutim 1) quotes what the Radbaz wrote about his period -- that no one is fit to renew the Sanhedrin. All the more so today, writes the Chazon Ish, no one is fit. So strong and resolved was the stand of the Chazon Ish that he concluded that the entire discussion about this topic in such an orphaned generation such as ours is ludicrous.

46b We force escorting because the reward is limitless

The Mitzvah of Escorting Guests Who are Leaving

Our Daf discusses at length the mitzvah of someone to accompany his visitor who is leaving.

The law of Avrohom Ovinu: The Rambam (Hilchos Aveilus 14:1) explains that the mitzvah of escorting others is an enactment of Chazal in the spirit of the Torah command (Vayikro 19:18), "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" The one who first fulfilled this mitzvah and made it a permanent custom was Avrohom Ovinu, as the Rambam (ibid., 2) writes, "This is the law that Avrohom Ovinu enacted and is the way of kindness that he chose. He would feed travelers, give them to drink, and escort them on their way."

How far to escort?: Our Daf deals with the requirements of escorting--until what distance should we escort the traveler. The gemara sets down two different measures - - each of which has a different reason. 1) The host must escort his guest until 2000 cubits outside the city. 2) The host must escort his guest only four cubits within the city.

Can the guest waive the host's obligation to escort him? Eminent Acharonim delve deeply into why today we are not very careful about this mitzvah. The Remoh (Darchei Moshe Tur Choshen Mishpat Siman 426) writes that these days guests waive their right to be escorted by their host. Although such forgiving is sufficient so that the host does not need to escort a guest to 2000 cubits outside the city, the obligation to escort until the city's gate -- or at least four cubits within the city -- remains. The Chofetz Chaim ("Ahavas Chesed," "Hachnosas Orchim," ch. 2) explains that the mitzvah of escorting someone 2000 cubits outside the city is to honor the guest, so a guest can waive his honor. However, the mitzvah to escort a person four cubits is a segulah that guards the traveler from mishaps, and this he cannot waive since his life could depend on it.

From the Editor of Meoros HaDaf HaYomi:

The Hearts of Sons With The Hearts Of Their Fathers

Thousands of people throughout the world are now about to finish studying maseches Sotah and happily begin maseches Gittin.

Boruch Hashem, in the present cycle of Daf HaYomi, by making great efforts and studying diligently, we have completed many gemoras and have gained much Torah knowledge. How fortunate is the lot of those who set aside fixed times to toil over Hashem's Torah.

Maseches Gittin touches on subjects that relate to a very large number of areas of Torah law. For this reason, the study of this tractate particularly helps us realize that all the different areas of Torah law are inextricably tied together. We see how in sugya after sugya, a point pertinent to divorce is also pertinent to several other concepts and halachos, for the Divine Torah is one cohesive and united system of law, every piece of it being an essential part of the whole. This particular tractate also has the power to create and strengthen "togetherness." Gittin has great power to bring fathers and sons together, and create an inseparable bond between the generations.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.